Sirius . . . Again
Voices screamed inside Sirius Black's head. They pounded ruthlessly on the back of his skull, banging their tiny little fists furiously. All Sirius wanted to do was sleep. Sleep and never wake up again. Was that too much to ask for?
Yes it is, you ugly little wanker, replied the voices inside his head. Now open your eyes.
Sirius refused to grant the request. Listening to little voices in your head was one thing, but letting them order you around was quite another.
You're a knob, you are. Open your eyes.
No, Sirius was quite happy in this dream-like state, thank you very much. The real world was much too harsh. Honestly, though – Why would he want to wake up? Phiona would still be a cold-blooded killer. James, Remus, and Peter would all be scorch marks on the dungeon floor. Plus, he had a five yard Arithmancy essay due next week. Better dead then suffer through that bit of rubbish.
Fuck that for a lark, the voices squealed as they began to pound harder against his skull. Right, mate. You're asking for it.
A stabbing pain coursed through Sirius's body – it sprouted from his brain and slid down into his stomach. He groaned. Oh woe is he.
That'll teach ya. Bloody pillow-bitter.
Sirius slowly opened his eyes. Blearing light hit his pupils with brutal force, causing him to let go of a pathetic whimper. Everything around him was white – horrible, retina-burning white. Sirius reached out into this new world, fondling his environment like a zealous blind man.
"I must," he whispered to himself, "be in Heaven."
"Tough shit of that ever happening, Pads. Lucifer sent you your one-way ticket to Hell years ago."
Sirius's mental being was pulled back into reality and slapped about vigorously. He dared to let his eyes focus, only to take in the sight of the brightly lit hospital wing. He was sprawled over a white infirmary bed, surrounded by linen sheets. Lifting his pounding head off his feather pillow, Sirius caught sight of Madam Pomfrey fussing over a bed across from his own. Remus? Yes, there was Remus Lupin (very much alive) nursing down cup of tea. Peter Pettigrew was in the bed neighbouring the young werewolf and was snoozing soundly amongst cool cotton blankets.
To complete the Marauder Quartet, Sirius spied the ever-grinning James Potter in the bed next to his own. He had collected several hex marks, the worst of which cascaded from the corner of his right eye down the bridge of his long nose.
"This is Hell," Sirius moaned, his hand sliding down the side of his face. "Eternity with you stuck next to me. Bullocks, this is worse then hell."
A pillow was swiftly flung at Sirius from James's side of the fence. The feathered missile hit its target with vengeance, forcing the ailing Marauder to collapse back into his bed. "I'm dying, Jim," he groaned. "You just hit someone on their bloody death bed. I hope you feel guilty at my funeral – you better damn well throw yourself on my fucking pyre."
"You're hardly dying, Mr. Black." Madam Pomfrey, seeing that one of her patients was awake and swearing, glided to Sirius's bedside. "You have a flu – one of the worse cases of the flu I've seen in a while, mind you, but a flu all the same. You're companions, however, fared a bit worse after the explosion."
Sirius blinked his clouded eyes. "Explosion?"
"In the old dungeons, remember Sirius?" James jumped in. "We were setting off fireworks down there. Must have reacted with the old nitro – we blew that classroom sky high."
Mind spinning out of control, Sirius tried desperately to fit together the pieces of the puzzle.
Dungeons. Explosion. James pleading for his life with –
From across the room Peter gave a terrifying squeal in his sleep. Madam Pomfrey shot a quick look of suspicion towards Sirius, then hurried off to settle her other patient.
"Oh fuckin'ell Jim," Sirius swore, his words smothered by the pillow he had buried his face into. "What happened?"
"You sucked face with Phinny, that's what happened," James answered bluntly. "You pulled the fever off of her. It's running its last leg with you, mate. It's all over."
"And the best part is . . . nobody's on to the whole kibosh." James smirked, edging in closer to his fellow Marauder so adult ears in the room were shut off. "One of the candles set off a patch of nitro. Blew the whole bloody place into pieces. Me and Remus told the professors we were all fooling around with a cart of fireworks. And, now that you've got the tail end of the fever and Phinny's lost her serial killer tendencies, we're all in the clear."
Sirius's brain twisted and groaned, trying desperately to hang on to all of the information which had been flung his way. Werewolf fever, however, muddled things up for him a bit; all he seemed to retain was the word 'kibosh'. And Sirius had no idea why James would think of sausages at a time like this.
"Where's Phiona?" he managed to ask.
James's smirk vanished somewhat as he nodded to the left. A hospital bed stood in the corner. Sheets draped down from the ceiling, forming a canopy over this make-shift sanctuary. "I reckon she's in there," the Marauder murmured. "Don't know for sure, though. They might have taken her to St. Mungo's."
Without a second thought, Sirius slowly persuaded his body out of bed. His legs protested and his head squealed with pain, but he continued forward with a shuffling motion. Five . . . seven . . . thirteen steps to the canopied bedside. He glanced back at James, who was nervously chewing at his bottom lip, and then stepped inside the white chamber.
Any author of the Romanic nature would have set Phiona in an angelic light. This is how Sirius wanted to picture her – a delicate porcelain doll sleeping soundlessly under blankets as white as snow.
But, of course, this was Phiona Love – One-hundred and twenty kilo rugby players were more delicate than this frizzy-haired bint.
"Wotcher, Sirius." Phiona turned a page of the Daily Prophet (Sport and Gaming Section) which sat on her lap. She sported a gash across her forehead, which had been magically stitched up, as well as brisk discolouration around her eyes. Her torso was wrapped tightly in bandages, supporting several broken ribs. So much for Sirius's porcelain doll. "I was wondering when you'd drag your skinny arse over here to visit."
Feeling horribly light-headed, Sirius plopped down at the foot of Phiona's bed. "You okay?" he asked.
"Grabbed worse during Quidditch games. Though, it looks like I fared better then you." Phiona glanced up from her paper. "You look like you've eaten something Jim cooked up for you. Or, should I say, something that James had cooked, eaten, and then regurgitated onto your dinner plate. What did you catch? Flu?"
"Something like that." Sirius gave into his body's protests and collapsed onto the bed, his head resting on one of Phiona's knee. "Phinny?" he cooed, trying to sound as pathetic as humanly possible.
"Do you remember . . . how you got here?"
"I reckon it had something to do with my dad fucking me mum." Phiona gave a little sniffle. "Stop me if I'm wrong."
Sirius gave a disgusted groan. "You know damn well what I mean, you twat."
Phiona raised an eyebrow and let her newspaper drop to the floor. "You know, the lot of you must have gotten me absolutely soused out of my mind. Pomfrey told me that I helped set off fireworks in the old dungeons and that we blew the place out of existence. But I don't remember even being down in the dungeons – the only thing I can truly remember is that –" she paused, glancing over Sirius with suspicion, "– you kissed me. Again."
Sirius felt as though he was going to blow his groceries all over the white sanctuary of sheets. "I . . . erm . . . I never –"
"You did. Don't throw me all this rubbish that you didn't, because you bloody well did."
"Phiona, I didn't mean—"
"Oh, he's calling me Phiona now." The witch quickly jerked her legs out from under the Marauder. The back of Sirius's skull bounced dully off the end of the mattress. "Who the hell do you think you are, Black?"
Sirius winced. Oh, Phiona was going to absolutely whale on him. "Dog's bollocks?"
"Close," Phiona hissed. "Why did you kiss me?"
So, here stood the incredibly ill Sirius at the crossroads of doom. He could tell her the truth. He could ramble on and on about Remus and his werewolf fever. The question was, however, would Phiona believe him? That variable could twist either way – and each twist would bring Sirius a bit more pain.
But there was another truth he could tell Phiona. One that he had let simmer inside of him for several years. It may not have been the right time or place to divulge in that sort of information. But . . . she was leaving so soon. The end of the year was drawing closer – Sirius was running out of time.
This time was as good as any other.
"Phin, I was . . . sick for a while –"
"Sick in the head?"
"Ye—No. No, that's not what I mean." Sirius closed his tired eyes, feeling the decrepit hospital mattress sink in below him. "I . . . had the flu a while back. But, it made me realize something that I wouldn't have admitted to otherwise." He rolled over onto his side in order to face Phiona. This was a long and painful process – his body had suddenly decided that it didn't very much like taking orders from him anymore. "I've realized that . . . I've . . ." Sirius's stomach twisted suddenly. "I've fallen in love with you."
There was silence – a moment of cold which hit Sirius harshly. Phiona stared at him with wide eyes. Shock and disbelief, Sirius assumed, must have been flowing down her veins. The witch said nothing – but her eyes . . . began to tear up. Tears of joy?
Just when Sirius let himself slip back into the state of relief, however, Phiona Love threw her shaggy head back into the air and burst into a fit of laughter. Giant tears streaked down her face.
"Oh . . . oh God. You almost sounded . . . sounded serious!"
Her laughter got louder. She grabbed her side, the humour chaffing against her broken ribs.
Well, Sirius thought, at least she's taking it well.
"I should k–kill you." Phiona stumbled over her words as her laughter quickened. "When I s-s-stop laughing, tell me why you k-kissed me, you b-b-b-bastard!"
The Marauder wanted to commit suicide. Right then and there. He began to wonder how many bed sheets it would take to make a noose.
"Phiona," he mumbled, eyes focused on the white sheets which surrounded them. "I'm serious."
This set the witch off on another spree of guffaws. Sirius hoped that her ribs hurt. Really badly.
"Sirius is serious! Sweet Jesus . . . would you c-c-cut it out? I don't think I can –" Phiona never got to finish, for, in a fit of blind hilarity, she rolled right out of her bed, landing with a dull thump on the ground. Her right leg caught one of the poles which were holding up the curtains; it hooked around, bringing the white sheets floating down on top of them both.
"Well then, feeling a bit better, are we?"
Sirius let the white sheet glide over his face and fall across his back. Madam Pomfrey was standing over him, looking as though he was a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
He wanted to explain, but that would take too much effort.
"Back to bed." The nurse grabbed Sirius and hauled him up on his feet. "The both of you."
Sirius Black stumbled back to his bed. The Walk of Shame. Of course, from the look on James's face, it would be hence forth referred to as the "The Shuffle of Emasculating Disgrace".
He sat back into his bed, pulling his covers up to his chin, and let his glance move to the side. Madam Pomfrey was fixing the white sheets across Phiona's bed. Sirius couldn't help but notice that, even as the curtains moved across to hide her face, the witch was no longer laughing.
High banners wrapped tightly around the six Quidditch posts, flooded over the stadiums, and washed across the pitch. Unlike their brothers and sisters inside the castle, the flags of the four houses flew as one. Canary twisted with blue, crimson tangoed with green – the badger, the eagle, the lion, and the serpent stood side by side, watching together as their children marched onto the field below.
The seventh years walked in two lines, stretching the length of the pitch. Each were decorated in full wizarding robes – males in black, females in white – as well as pointed sorcery hats and tightly wound rope made with the four colours of the houses. The rope hung forward, its ends hanging by the wearers' ankles.
Today they were the future. The next generation of the wizarding world. The daring ones let their eyes slip up onto the stadiums, where thousands sat in waiting. Each and every glance settled on the seventh years as they divided up in one choreographed movement and realigned into their separate seats.
The Professors were lined up on a short wooden platform which had been placed in front of the seventh year's seats. Each of these elders was dressed in crimson ceremonial robe, reflecting the ancient wisdom of the Druids. Even the behemoth groundskeeper did his best to look respectable by wearing several new Woodwolf pelts across his massive shoulders.
The voice echoed across the field and over the stands. It cut through the air easily, for there was nothing but silence in its way. Of course, when Albus Dumbledore spoke, the masses edged closer to listen.
"I look down at the faces placed before me," Dumbledore spoke, eyes twinkling, "and see children of the past. I have watched you succeed in your studies, overcome obstacles, and thrive with your fellow man. I have also, as I recall, pulled several of you from the mouth of our giant squid."
A fresh fit of guffaws echoed around general vicinity of the Gryffindor Beaters.
Dumbledore gave a simple smile, then continued. "But you are no longer children," he said, his voice growing in strength. "You are now the wizards and witches of our future. And I must be the first to congratulate you on serving seven long years at Hogwarts. May the years ahead of you be a bit less chaotic than the years behind you."
Instead of cheering and stomping their feet, each and every seventh year stood from their seats in one smooth movement and silently raised their wands. The line of Professors mimicked the movement, letting their wands point straight into the blue sky above. Dumbledore was the last to do so.
"Draco Verdios!" his voice boomed.
"Interius Proliterais!" the seventh years answered.
In a burst of sparks, white beams simultaneously shot out of the raised wands. The lights burst upwards then curved together, forming a star-like spectacle above their heads. It pulsated, then – as if it was egged on by the cheers and yells of the stands – the formation exploded, showering the graduating seventh years in red sparks. No one below seemed to care what the colour of their future held for them. They could finally break the silence with cheers, whoops, tears, and embraces. They were finished with Hogwarts – now everything was up to them.
Albus Dumbledore gave a small sigh as the colours brushed past his face. "Red this time," he mumbled to himself as the bedlam in front of him started to spawn. "Sacrifice. Bloodshed – What is to come of this?"
As the last of the warning sparks began to disappear, the contents of the stadiums began to file out onto the pitch. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, distant long lost relatives – They swarmed by the hundreds, each one carving through the throng to find their graduate. The rest of the Hogwartians filed onto the grass as well – congratulating their friends and fellow classmates by the masses.
Sirius Black, usually the first to dive into a massive crowd, stood back and let the party move on without him. His fellow Marauders didn't seem to notice that one of their numbers was missing – Sirius watched them carefully as they curved through the masses towards Devon Turner, Brinker Hadley, Thomas Benecke, and Phiona Love.
Sirius stuffed his hands into his pockets. Someone brushed past his right shoulder, but his glance was glued to the scene in front of him. Phiona was laughing with her companions. Unlike the rest of the female population of the seventh years, Phiona had yet to shed a tear. Even as she received a bouquet of wild flowers from Peter, a brotherly hug from James, and a soft kiss on the cheek from Remus – nothing but happiness sprung from her.
She was leaving her friends, her home . . . but still no tears came.
Sirius was thrown back into reality as a strong grip caught his shoulder. A large bearded man had appeared next to him. He wore a weathered leather cloak and a hiltch hat – figuratively spitting in the eye of formal attire.
"Hello, Mr. Love. Sir." Sirius added the last bit without thinking. Phiona's father was a man who demanded respect – and if he didn't get respect, he would demand a blunt object to bash your brains out with.
Love gave a grin, doing his best not to make it look as though he was baring his teeth. "Never fought I'd see ther day," he said, his gruff voice etching the words into Sirius's bones. "Me only daughter's gone 'n grown up on me now."
"All six through Hogwarts, sir?" Sirius asked. Love's family, the Marauder knew from experience, was the only safe subject when in conversations with the massive man. Anything else might lead you into a bloody nose, a broken rib, or a horse head under the covers of your bed. "Phin's the last of your family to come through?"
"Aye." Love nodded, sniffing a bit. "Five of her brothers out befer her. Too bad, though . . ."
The grip tightened on Sirius's shoulder, as if cuing him to continue the conversation.
"Too bad what, sir?"
"Phee's the only Gryffindor in family. Except fer her mater, godblessher." Love sniffed again. "Shame, it is. A right shame."
A bit of Lion pride twanged in Sirius's heart. "Gryffindor's a good house, sir," he said, though a bit meekly. "I'm the only one in my family too."
"A family of Slytherins don't breed up Gryffindors, lad. Written in nature, that is." Love chuckled. "Reckon you and me Phee are couple'a right oddballs."
Sirius's eyes travelled over Phiona Love once more. Her five brothers, all wearing the green and silver patch of their former house, were swarming around her. She was still laughing, Sirius noticed. Why didn't she waver? Did she forget that she wasn't going to see these people again for years?
"I've been finking . . .the bitty one does take after Esme." Love broke the silence. "Hope fer somefing better fer Phinny, though. Gryffindors, in our family . . . when they pop up, lad, they don't last as long as they're supposed'ta."
Phiona's father, Sirius knew, never had a way with words. And comparing Phiona to her dead mother wasn't exactly a strong point to launch a conversation off of. Sirius knew little of the event; as expected, Phiona was less then chatty when it came up. Remus said that they had once talked about it in the hospital wing the night before a full moon. The witch and the young werewolf seemed to have deep discussions each month in order to wrangle his thoughts into a straight queue. And the control of ones thoughts were most important the night before the transformation.
'Death is a usual subject,' Remus confessed to Sirius when questioned about it. 'And Phin . . . knows a lot about it. Her mother died several months after Phinny was born. She told me, Sirius, that her mum just . . . disappeared. They didn't even find the body.'
"Sirius Black chatting up my dad, eh? No good can come of this. No good at all."
Sirius looked up – meeting the dark eyes of Phiona Love. She gave a half-smirk, one corner of her mouth curling while the other stayed in place. Another brief chuckle was squeezed out of her, causing her pointy features to scrunch up comically. Sirius blinked, stumbling over words which had formed somewhere in the back of his throat. Before he could grab a sentence, Mr. Love squashed Phiona in a bearish embrace.
"Me wee Duckie." Love cooed – or, Sirius believed, try to coo. It came out more like a dull grumble than anything else."Isn't there anyway ta get yer ta stay in Sheffield? Got plenty a'—"
"Sorry, Dad." Phiona wiggled out of hug. "I need to go out for a bit of an adventure."
"Aye, yer do." Love gave a bit of a sigh, which quickly turned into a gruff cough. "Yer brothers 'n me'll miss ya, though."
Phiona took her father's giant, paw-like hand in her own. "You'll get over it in a few weeks – as soon as Quinn brings the new clutch of Opaleye eggs in, you won't even remember me."
"Er . . . How many're in the clutch?"
"I'll talk to you later, Dad." Phiona grinned as she gave her father one last hug. "Our class has a Portkey to catch."
Phiona's glance finally caught Sirius's eyes. Her grin seemed to fade a little.
"I better be off ter collect yer brothers." Love clamped a hand on Sirius's shoulder again and bent down to the Marauder's height. "Take care of her, Black," he growled, "or I'll take care of you."
Phiona gave a soft guffaw as she watched her father fade into the background. "He didn't just threaten you, did he?"
"Only somewhat," Sirius answered. "How soon do you have to leave?"
"Soon." Phiona bit her lower lip. "Our whole year catches the same Portkey to some place called Godrick's Hollow – the Ministry collects us up, tags us, and sets us off back into the wild."
Both Gryffindors, past and present, looked out onto the pitch. Sirius's hand brushed against Phiona, causing an extreme burst of heat to run the length of his arm. "And you're shipping off to a dragon sanctuary?"
"Yep. There's one in Brazil that's holding a spot open for me."
"You told the rest?"
"Remus and Peter were happy for me. But James . . ." There was that grin again. "James threatened disembowelment and a lifetime of living in his closet."
"Mr. and Mrs. Potter are nice people," Sirius put in. "They've put up with me for years – I'm sure they could tolerate you."
There was another pause. Dumbledore and his staff had begun to collect the graduates so the field had begun to clear out quickly.
"I'll . . . owl you," Phiona said suddenly, "when I get to wherever I'm getting to."
"And I'll send you some sweets – Maybe I'll stop through China and pick up those illegal fire-starter suckers you like."
"Sirius." There was a swift, almost sheepish movement as Phiona collected her friend in an embrace. "I'll miss you."
Sirius couldn't reply.
"Thank you for everything." Phiona pressed her cheek against Sirius's neck. He felt the wetness of tears on his skin. "Take care of yourself."
"And make sure James doesn't kill himself." Phiona slowly moved away from the embrace. "Take care of Remus – Keep him safe, Padfoot. I can't –"
Sirius grabbed hold of her hand. She didn't fight the capture. "Phinny."
"I've got to go, Sirius."
"Phiona." Sirius's grip tightened. After years of this, he'd be damned if he let her go this time. "I have to tell you something."
"No," she interrupted, her voice a bit harsher. "No you don't. You don't need to tell me anything."
"Listen to me, Phiona."
She took a step back and stumbled out of his grasp. "I'm leaving, Sirius. Leaving. Half a world away." There was a swift silence. "Don't," she whispered, "make this more difficult than it already is."
"I know, Sirius. Whatever it is you think you need to tell me, I already know." Phiona's dark eyes finally travelled over the Marauder in front of her. "We just both have to . . . forget about it."
Sirius's fist tightened. "How the hell do you expect me to do that?"
"What you . . . what I – whatever there is, it will fade when I'm gone." Phiona gave a week shrug, eyes darting to the side. "All I can promise you – all I can give you – is my friendship, Sirius."
"Phiona, please listen to me."
"Friendship, you bastard." She refused to let her glance drift back to Sirius. "We've survived this long. Friendship. Nothing more, nothing less."
It felt as though Sirius had just been hit with a tough jab to the stomach. He felt every dull heart beat against his rib cage. But he managed a thin, forced smile. "Friends." This was what Phiona wanted. So that was the way it would be. Sirius would have to swallow his emotion and, once again, lock it up inside. "Friends," he repeated.
There was another hug. And a daring kiss on the forehead; something insignificant and meaningless to Sirius at that point, but a kiss all the same. Phiona said something . . . something about being nice to Peter and Remus or something about torturing James – Sirius didn't bother to listen. A simple, empty goodbye echoed from his lips.
Then she was gone.
"It'll be hard." A hand clamped onto Sirius's shoulder. "It'll be hard without Phin. You okay, Pads?"
"Won't be the same without her, Jim."
James shot his companion a sidewise glance. "I'm sure we'll get on fine. We've got one more year to raise as much hell as humanly possible. We'll make her proud."
Sirius gave a crooked grin. For old-time's sake. "You think we can top this year?"
"Padfoot." James chuckled, his dark eyes watching the last bit of sun set over the empty Quidditch pitch. "The shit hasn't even begun to hit the fan."