by Te
July 26, 2003

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine. I'm sure they're

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

Acknowledgments: To Deb for not running away when I
told her about this. To Jane for audiencing.

Feedback: Adored. leytelj@gmail.com


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

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.

It's just...

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

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*

And in those moments, it all starts to make sense. Just a

"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

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

"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.

"Her eyes..."

"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

Well, Harry has always known that sometimes sacrifices
had to be made.

"Harry," he says, in a voice like stones rumbling down a

And Harry closes his eyes and holds on tight.