July 26, 2003
Disclaimers: Not even close to mine. I'm sure they're relieved.
Spoilers: Big ones for OotP.
Summary: It's not over.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Contains content some readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: This pretty much had to happen. I'm just saying.
Acknowledgments: To Deb for not running away when I told her about this. To Jane for audiencing.
Feedback: Adored. firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry still doesn't like the house much, but he didn't really have much choice in the matter.
And, well, it's not a bad house on its face. It's clean now, and inhabited by nothing more frightening than even-more-vague-than-usual ghosts. The portraits have, for the most part, abandoned their posts. It's quiet in the evenings, and the fire is warm enough in the study. There are books so old and thick they're nearly alive, and sometimes Harry wishes he were more like Hermione, because some of the books would surely make her happy.
Hermione hasn't been happy for a long time, he thinks.
She doesn't visit.
Only Ron does, and he carries a heavy weight of duty with him. Harry can smell Molly Weasley in the food he sometimes brings, can feel Dumbledore's gaze like two great stones falling out of Ron's eyes.
Ron doesn't stay long.
And, at first, it had made Harry resentful. Weren't they supposed to be friends? Didn't Ron understand?
But in the end, Harry had forgiven him, and all the rest of them, too. There's a burden to being Harry Potter, or even being within Harry Potter's sphere of influence. There's a certain degree of stress and tension there that he couldn't ask anyone to share.
And, besides, it's not as if he's alone.
Sirius is a darker mass of shadow in the corner. It's nothing particularly magical, and nothing even in his pose: sprawled like a teenager in an overstuffed chair.
Harry thinks it's the silence.
Sirius never says much of anything. Or rather, he doesn't unless he's been... triggered somehow. The rest of the time Sirius spends in a series of sprawls and sullen stalks, making his way through the house in a way that's not at all ghostly, even if it isn't, especially, alive.
His hair is long and thick, and the firelight catches deep red highlights that Harry hadn't noticed were there before... before.
His hands are pale, the fingers long and busy on the fabric of the chair, moving like albino spiders, or like a collection of bones.
Harry shakes himself like a dog. No. Not like bones. Alive. Alive.
And he knows it is, perhaps, more than a little creepy. After all, they'd all seen Sirius fall, seen him disappear through the veil, eyes already glazing over, but they should've known better.
He's a Gryffindor, or at least he had been. More than that, he is who he is. He couldn't have let it end. Not like that.
Not after listening to Dumbledore's little confession. Not after a year spent being tortured and mocked and ignored.
Not, not after finally getting something like a chance to touch, to see, to hold on to his godfather.
They couldn't have expected him to just leave it like that.
Though, of course, they'd expected just that.
Sometimes, when it's quiet like this, when the old house settles and creaks around him like a dark and hungry beast, Harry thinks of red eyes and diaries and the simple, ravenous joy of the snake.
Thinks of the path he could've walked if he'd been just that slightest bit stupider, or crueler, or just more pure blooded.
And in those moments, it all starts to make sense. Just a little.
"Sirius," he says, and watches as the man hears him. Notices him. The fire glints off the surfaces of his eyes like a blood moon on the lake, and Harry very carefully, very thoroughly, doesn't remember what it took to get the man here.
What he'd had to give up, what he'd had to see, and what the wet mud of Sirius' dank and empty grave had felt like as it seeped into his shoes and insinuated itself under his fingernails and -- no.
"Come here," he says, and Sirius smiles. His even, white teeth are the brightest thing in the room, in the whole house, and Harry hates it, he hates it, but it was the only place Sirius -- this Sirius -- would stay.
The safest place.
And Sirius crouches at his feet, cool, rough hands on his face, knocking Harry's glasses askew and righting them again.
"James... I thought you were --"
"It's me, Sirius. Harry."
Sirius frowns, and this is the worst part, the most dangerous part. Sometimes... sometimes Sirius doesn't seem to remember at all, or even want to, and when Harry reminds him who he is, he just... shuts down.
Curls into himself on the thick, old carpeting and rocks and rocks and doesn't make a sound. "It's okay," he says, and Sirius looks up again quickly, almost sharply.
"Yes, yes that's it..."
And Sirius smiles like a sunrise, and crushes Harry to him in a hug that would crack ribs if Harry hadn't learned how to position himself for them. Sirius strokes his hair and holds him close and hums something low and faintly cracked from deep in his chest.
His hair smells like earth, and he's only warm on the right -- the side that had been closest to the fire -- but it's good, it's so good, and Harry needs this.
The first kiss is on his temple, cool and soft. The next comes quickly, and the next, and the next, until Sirius's thick, dry tongue is pushing between Harry's lips, until his hands are hard on Harry's hips, pulling him in close, and holding him there.
He needs this.
And if this is what Sirius needs to feel at home, to feel safe...
Well, Harry has always known that sometimes sacrifices had to be made.
"Harry," he says, in a voice like stones rumbling down a mountain.
And Harry closes his eyes and holds on tight.
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