The shack stands alone and largely unoccupied now, crooked as an aged old man and weakened by its deceptive age. An old gate hangs limply from its rusting hinges, thoughts of it once remaining proud and upright within its blackened frame long since abandoned as it resigns itself to the gravitational pull which had been threatening its humility for so long, and crumbing foundations and a worn exterior remain unseen by muggle eyes… they are not the only ones permitted treasures of great historical and paranormal worth.
Withered rose plants, once used to disguise the trauma of the house's lone occupant, shed their petals upon the cobbled path leading to the front door, and as blue skies fade, thick clouds of fog slowly gather on the far off horizon engulfing the landscape in a tidal wave of crusty yellow.
Through the front window an old fireplace can be seen. Thick ash covers the walls and logs of partially burnt wood can still be seen smouldering magically in the mouth of the fireplace… an illusion created years previous in a bid to distract unwelcome prying eyes.
Upstairs an old bed stands stiff and still in the far corner of a lonely room. As floorboards creak away the rhythm of long forgotten footsteps the walls scream out from their peeling paper prison. They grieve for the dead who may have breathed their last breath of air laid upon that bed, and from the far corner of the room gentle weeping ensues. As the noise continues the sound of these pathetic cries turns into a desperate wailing of uncontrollable despair… Sirius sits in the worn, padded seat of a disregarded armchair. Eyes hollow with the trauma of a troubled and painful existence.
Blackened tears of grief stain the walls with sins from the past… mirroring his own. The dressing table stands prompt, as a gentle breeze creeps in through a broken window pane and lightly lifts the curtains. The old and heavy door appears to have long since slammed shut on society… one jail sentence swapped for another, this incarceration reflecting the oppressive atmosphere of a socially challenged penitentiary.
Woven cobwebs appear to be all that holds the room together now, as history binds the dust of the ages. Thick mildew layers the window and eats away ravenously at the curtains, which cloak shattered shards of glass with their worn and faded richness.
As Sirius sits his tears of hopeless grief stain his cheeks and soak the crumpled paper tightly clutched within his trembling hands. An old book filled with moving photographs, people whom he once loved, quakes where he has laid it limply upon his lap, its frail pages carelessly left to drape over its pealing spine.
His body shakes as he tries desperately to disguise his grief, failing to stem the upheavals of his chest. As he staggers to his feet and makes his way steadily towards the window the book and its contents fall to the floor, spilling out the loose pages.
Pulling back the curtains stony eyes gaze out upon childhood dreams, happy and carefree days when one had once been four. Yet flowers now hang their heads low, their petals encrusted with the yellow puss of the dead… all his friend's gone but one, by the hand of He Who Must Not Be Named – their grief as deep and impenetrable as that concealed behind the greasy window pane which towers but a few feet above them. On the horizon blue skies reflect droplets of sweet dew, as blades of green grass bare crowns of fallen stars. A subtle ringing penetrates the skull as the church bells of Hogsmead chime in the distance.
A flowing fountain sprays out the blood of the Dark Lord, and combines the fires of the hell on earth which he once dominated with the rippling waters of a bare and lifeless pond. The sun beats down upon its icy surface, its rays reflecting the bare waters. Tiny fish lie prostrate upon the worn marble slabs at the bottom of the crystal fluid, their lifeless bodies weighed down with the weight of their grief, as sunken lily's dress their brittle bones with blankets of a vibrant green… and Sirius wonders whether this is all some sort of magical illusion, or just another turn in the rollercoaster of a life that he is yet destined to experience. He suddenly realises how much beauty, and destruction there is to the world he has been deprived of for the past twelve years.
But as Sirius returns his attentions back to the room, which he and his friends had occupied so often when they were at school, he races to retrieve the scattered pages now littering the floor. Cutting his fingers upon the splintered debris of the floorboards, concealed beneath years of dust – the by-product of neglect – he is reminded bitterly of Lupin's own pain as he was forced to endure change after agonising change within this very room – the cries of pain echoing through the shack's hollow chambers, his blood dripping across the floor, smearing the walls, and soaking the freshly laundered bed-sheets.
But that had all been a lifetime ago… and he hasn't seen his old friend in as many years.
Sirius picks himself up off the floor and makes his way over to the bed, where he sits in silence, mulling over the old and crumpled photographs. They're all there; James, Lilly, Remus, himself… Pettigrew. All so happy, so carefree, ignorant of what was destined to befall them, and the fact of the traitor in their midst. He screams in his frustration, his grief, his anger… the cry of a wild animal or a man driven mad by his own bereavement and feelings of isolation. Salty tears of grief sting his pale skin.
Suddenly however he stops, his whole body frozen in time, heart encased within a block of thick ice. His blood runs cold in his veins as he struggles to conceal his breath within his swollen bosom… a faint commotion from somewhere outside and miles away distracts him. Maybe its hope or instinct which makes him edge closer towards the door, straining to hear the commotion which ensures from outside… drawn out and intensified as it swells and travels through the hollow passage linking his current hideout to the grounds of that great castle which he spent his youth.
It is time…
There is something Sirius knows now needs be done… the Dark Lord's greatest servant cannot be allowed the chance to return to him this night.
He glances back at the collection of scattered photographs, James' face smiling up at him, and in that moment he fancies that he hears his best friend's voice in his ear, encouraging, reassuring.
Sirius knows that James would have forgiven him his weaknesses, Lily would not want to think of him blaming himself for all these years, they would want him to be able to let go. But Sirius knows that he never shall.
Though he cannot fail Harry again!
And so it is that blinded by grief and anger he pulls the door shut upon the darkened room. Slow, weary footsteps descend the stairs, as the wizard transforms into the giant dog and makes his way heavy heartedly down the passage.
The house resides in darkness until his return. Everything is going to change from this night…