Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: Sirius, after the fall.
Original story: Elysium, by noldo_
lights go out and i can't be saved
tides that i tried to swim against
have brought me down upon my knees
oh, i beg, i beg and plead singing
His blood pounds in his veins as he pursues Bellatrix, the sound of the battle ringing in his ears, curses and hexes and jinxes bubbling effortlessly to the front of his memory. Behind him, he can hear Remus casting with his usual devastating precision, Harry wielding something like his own Marauder's arsenal, and Sirius laughs with pride and delight as his world explodes in magic of a thousand colors.
In the sudden rush of his lost youth, he forgets that as fast as he has always been, Bella can sometimes be faster. Turning half a beat too late, he stumbles even as Remus shouts a warning, and the impact of the hex unbalances him just enough to fall, and fall, and fall.
Sirius opens his eyes.
come out of things unsaid
shoot an apple off my head and a
trouble that can't be named
a tiger's waiting to be tamed singing
The sunlight is brighter than he remembers, the color of the sky somehow more vivid than it seemed when he looked out at it through glass or bars. Even the grass beneath his feet is softer than he expected, though it might be the novelty of curling his bare toes against the rich earth after so many years locked indoors.
"I knew you'd be here eventually."
Distracted from his contemplation of the outdoors, Sirius looks down. "Reg-!"
Regulus looks all of eighteen- eighteen when he died, eighteen forever, Sirius thinks- and vaguely surprised. Sprawled out inelegantly on the grass, he looks more like the brother Sirius remembers from their childhood, indecorous and comfortable, than the distant stranger from their years at Hogwarts.
"Does this mean I'm dead?" Sirius asks.
"Interestingly enough, it seems you aren't quite," Regulus replies, frowning. "How did that happen?"
A faint flutter of grey lurks at the edges of Sirius' memory. "There was a veil, in the Department of Mysteries. I think Bella knocked me through."
"Ah. You're somewhere in between, then."
Regulus shrugs. "Don't know, really. I think it means you can choose where you want to go, here."
Sirius blinks helplessly, thoroughly confused. "Um."
"Heaven's all about remembering, isn't it? It's all looking back. But you- you're not quite dead yet, so you ought to be able to go outside the bounds of Heaven."
Sirius flops down on his belly to consider, enjoying the sun warm on his back. Regulus closes his eyes, turning his face toward the light. He looks, Sirius thinks, so very bloody young, like there hadn't been fifteen, sixteen years between. For him, there hadn't.
"Are you going, then?" Regulus asks him, abruptly, pushing dark hair out of his eyes.
"Why'd you ask?"
"Because." Regulus looks up, knowing. "Because this isn't it, for you, is it? This isn't what you wanted. Not all, I mean."
Sirius wants to say no, no, not at all, I don't want anything else, not really, knows even as he opens his mouth that it would be a lie. "Maybe not. It's some of it, though." When he stands, feeling almost as though he is unfolding, he thinks, but doesn't say I'll find the rest.
"I sort of envy you, really. Heaven's nice and all, but this in-between business has got a lot of possibilities."
"I'm not sure I know what that means."
Regulus rolls his eyes. "Well, I'm sure I don't know either, but it's all mind over matter, isn't it? Hypothetically speaking, that is."
"Hypothetically, yes." Sirius agrees, the thought of debating what constitutes matter making his head spin. He turns. "Is it all right if I don't know where I'm going?"
"Have you ever?"
"Typically Gryffindor of you," Regulus snorts. "Come back when you're done. I'll be here, won't I? Waiting."
Sirius grins, uptilted, crooked. "Don't wait for me. It'll be a long time."
Regulus waves his hand airily, brushing away unwelcome thoughts, in a king's magnanimous dismissal. "I've got a long time. All the time in the world."
His laugh follows Sirius out of his heaven.
confusion that never stops
closing walls and ticking clocks gonna
come back and take you home
i could not stop that you now know singing
There is a path of sorts, unassumingly- not paved, not quite, but Sirius can't decide what it's made of. (It looks like white stone, but seven years of Marauding and one Peter Pettigrew have taught him never to take things at face value.) Unassuming, then. It reminds him a little of that book Remus read to him once, back in Second Year- Alice in Wonderland. He hasn't thought about it in years, but now he half expects to see the Cheshire cat appear on one of the trees at the roadside.
Instead, the path blurs underfoot, flickering and shifting in his peripheral vision. Sirius frowns at it, willing it to coalesce, but instead it ripples into something resembling glass, the glare from the reflected sunlight so strong that he is nearly blinded. "Oi, enough already," he growls, slipping into the focus he reserves for shifting into Padfoot.
When he can see again, he is sixteen, and Snape is standing in front of him with a sneer on his face.
"- Lupin, Black," Snape is saying in the greasy tone he used to adopt when he wanted to sound haughty. "I never knew you were so concerned." Sirius grimaces in distaste- why is he standing in this moment, out of all the moments in his life?- before turning his attention to their conversation.
His mouth moves without thought. "Yes, well, some of us are actually human, Snivellus." Oh, but he remembers this conversation; the swell of rage in his body is unmistakable, even after all these years.
"Some of us?" Snape parries, in his most insinuating tone, and the sixteen-year-old part of Sirius sees red even as the older part of his consciousness whispers in the back of his mind: oh, god, no.
"Yes, unlike you, that is," he retorts, lip curling in a dog-like snarl.
"Ooh, touchy, touchy," Snape says, feigning shock. "A little defensive about our boyfriend, are we? Of course, boyfriend might be a bit of a loose term; after all, your first one's abandoned you for Evans now, hasn't he?"
"Of course you'd be unable to differentiate between a brother and a lover, Snape. James has always been my brother."
"What's this? Not going to deny the other?"
Don't say it. Don't say it. Remus doesn't deserve it. Sirius forces the litany to the forefront of his swirling thoughts, and the seething adolescent rage suddenly snaps, crumbling and falling away.
"My, my, is that jealousy I hear? I don't kiss and tell."
What? Sirius thinks with a jolt of surprise, as Hogwarts spins and fades around him to reveal the path beneath his feet.
Even as he flounders in the aftermath of this impossibility, a calm voice says, "So that's what he said to piss you off so. I never did get the full story."
Sirius whirls, aching at the familiar tone.
come out upon my seas
cursed missed opportunities
am i a part of the cure?
or am i part of the disease? singing
His face is just as Sirius remembers it, wry and amused, glasses glinting under that mop of hair. One corner of his mouth turns up as Sirius stares, waiting for the words tumbling about in his head to spill over, for all the world as if they were brainstorming for a prank.
"I was," Sirius mumbles. "Was. An idiot. Am an idiot. You shouldn't even be here, and it's my fault you are, and I am an absolute fool, and Harry needs somebody-"
James looks at him, raises an eyebrow. Neither of them need words for this sort of thing, not really, not with the way they always knew each other inside out. ('Black-and-Potter', Remus had said, teasing them. 'Potter-and-Black', running them together in his head. 'Blotter'. Which, he had added, considering Sirius's handwriting, was rather appropriate.) A turn, a lift of the head, a hand-tilt could mean almost anything.
"Don't," James says, sighing, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, "be bloody daft," and just like that the insistent guilty memories fold themselves up, neatly, carefully, and are gone in a trail of dust. It feels oddly empty, in a strange sort of way, to be without all the little lingering whispers of doubt and regret and the end of a world, after so many years.
Sirius laughs, a choked-off little sound. "That- it didn't happen."
"So I gathered. You seemed to have changed the script."
"But what does that mean?"
"Probably that you're alive, for one," James says wryly. "Dead people can't really do that sort of thing."
"It's all about looking back," Sirius echoes.
"Yes." James pushes his glasses up his nose. "Most of us revisit the biggest mistakes we've made in our lives. You might want to think about that."
Sirius stares at him, incredulous. "That one? I was an idiot, yes, but-" He stops, frustrated, running a hand through his hair. "I switched places with Peter as your Secret-Keeper. I left Harry in a fit of blind rage to go after him when he betrayed you- which, by the way, means that I betrayed you, by proxy- and he ended up with the Dursleys, instead of with someone who loved him. There's a very long list of mistakes I've made, James, and that's the biggest?"
James looks at him soberly. "When you switched with Peter, it made perfect sense. You were the most obvious candidate, and Peter was the least."
"He was always being overlooked," Sirius says bitterly.
"Exactly. Even by the three of us, who loved him." Sirius splutters. "Are you going to deny it? He ruined us, yes, but when we were in Hogwarts, he was still one of us. You did what you thought was right at the time. Peter's actions are his own."
James shrugs. "Which is worse? Reacting to a friend's betrayal, or betraying someone who loves you?"
Sirius looks down, ashamed. "He always did forgive us too easily."
"Yes." James sits down, toppling backward into the grass, and Sirius looks around, noticing for the first time that he is back from- wherever that was. The sky is mellowing towards sunset, and so he slouches down next to James and watches its color slowly change to a richer, darker blue.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Do?" Sirius asks, confused.
"You're alive; you can change things." James gives him a long-suffering look: you idiot. "Are you going back?"
For a moment, Sirius wants to stay, just lying in the grass with James, their hair all messed up and tangled together, inseparable now as they have always been; to wait for Lily to arrive, and make her laugh and smack him. But then he thinks of Harry, who has no one, and Remus, tired and worn from fifteen-odd years alone, and he knows: a Marauder never leaves a man behind.
"As soon as I can figure out where to go," he says.
James rolls his eyes. "You're in heaven right now, aren't you? Here, you always find what you're looking for. Seek, and ye shall find."
"Insufferable git." A smirk.
"Mangy dog." A grin.
Sirius gets up, reluctantly. "What are you going to do, then?"
"I think," James says, stretching out luxuriously on the grass, "I'll wait for a while. Old friends have to be along some time, after all."
"Yeah," Sirius says. "Yeah, they do." After a moment's thought, he shifts into Padfoot, whose sense of direction has always been better than his own. He puts his paws on James' shoulders, tail wagging, and licks a long slobbery trail up the side of his face before trotting off along the path into the rising dark.
and nothing else compares
It takes only a moment away from James for him to realize that Padfoot can't smell, here. The glaring absence of it nearly sends him into a panic- how can he find his way home without a trail?- and he has to shift back into Sirius to wait for his heart rate to slow down before he tries again.
It feels like having something amputated, Sirius thinks as Padfoot sniffs the not-air, to have the usual olfactory overload suddenly taken away. He doesn't have words to describe the sense of wrongness, of being the only living thing in a world of... existential vacuum.
Seek and ye shall find. Padfoot closes his eyes, and remembers: the smell of Remus, tea-warm and roughly canine and inviting; the smell of Harry, socks and broomsticks and grass-stained boy. The lack of smell abates a little bit. Padfoot turns toward it and begins to walk.
He can't say when the feeling of the ground beneath him changes, or how, but suddenly there is a pop of sensation, and Padfoot breathes in, reveling deliriously in the jumble of smells. Car grease and exhaust and smog, overlaid with the faint acidity of London rain and the distinctive fuzz of protective magic. Blood magic. Sirius opens his eyes.
Grimmauld Place looks just the way he left it, looming grotesquely before his eyes, and yet there is something different about it. Sirius walks up to the door, which looks no less imposing than it was before, and grabs the knocker before he can reconsider.
"Yes?" a familiar voice calls, and Sirius' heart jumps into his throat.
"I thought I'd give you some warning before I dropped in," he says, and opens the door.
Harry looks stunned, a dusting rag drooping in his lax fingers and cobwebs festooned about his hair and glasses. "Sirius?" he rasps.
Sirius shifts into Padfoot and back in answer. "Harry."
A dusty ball of teenaged boy cannons into him, knocking him flat on his back. "Oof," he says. Harry's arms are locked tight around his ribs in a bruising grip.
"We thought you were dead," Harry mumbles through his shirt. "Remus and I only came back to do spring cleaning."
"Remus is here?" Sirius wheezes, sitting up.
"I'm by the front door," Harry shouts. "We've got a visitor."
"Er, Harry, I don't know if this is a good idea-" Sirius stops dead.
Remus looks back at him, shock and disbelief written clearly across his face. "You're dead," he whispers.
"Not quite, apparently," Sirius replies, shifting so that Harry's bony behind is no longer stabbing him in the thigh. "Heaven is really kind of boring, you know."
Remus stares some more. "You really are Sirius, aren't you?" He crosses the floor in two strides, cheeks flushing, and whacks him sharply on the head before hauling him up to squeeze him breathless. "You absolute wanker, what took you so long?" Sirius closes his eyes at Remus' voice, full of worry and relief and brotherly affection.
James' voice rings through his head. Which is worse? Reacting to a friend's betrayal, or betraying someone who loves you? Sirius freezes for a moment. Oh, that sneaky bastard, he thinks, but James always was good about keeping secrets. He leans back in Remus' arms, and yes, maybe not-so-brotherly, then.
"It's good to be back, Moony."
"It's good to have you home," Remus returns as Harry shoves his way between them, grinning from ear to ear, and yes, Sirius thinks, as the world opens up before them with tentative possibility, yes, it is.
home, home, where i wanted to go