Obligatory intro note says: Yes, this is another what-happened-behind-the-Veil story. But I believe this one follows a somewhat different path.
I: Songs of the Oblivion
"There's nothing you can do, nothing ... he's gone."
The first thing he knew was a distant memory, dancing at the edges of his empty mind, so faint that he almost dismissed it. The memory gnawed at him, chilling him with some unknowable sadness and terror – a sensation of falling, a rush of numbing cold, a voice of someone screaming, a pressure in his chest as his lungs were forcibly emptied, a set of chains made from nothingness. A memory of something dark, something like death.
He couldn't understand why it would mean anything to him, but the memory struck him with an inexplicable sadness. It was as if he had lost something precious, something that no amount of wishing or praying or pleading would ever bring back. He didn't know why, but he thought he felt something inside him shrivel up at the thought, leaving only emptiness behind.
But whatever it was, he realized after a long while of contemplation, had to be over now – he could feel something soft beneath him, and the gentle breeze carried the scent of something sweet and fruity. The warmth of sunlight caressed him, so different from the chill he remembered. Safe now, he thought, not knowing what he was supposed to be safe from. He felt his lips twitch into something like a smile. I'm safe.
He opened his eyes slightly, squinting in the glare of the sun, letting his eyes adjust as he gradually took in his surroundings. The sight that greeted him was one of a broad landscape, blue sky above and green grasses below, stretching before him as far as the eye could see, with only a few distant trees disturbing the otherwise unbroken horizon. He felt a slight surprise at how endless it looked, though he wasn't sure what he had been expecting. It was more than a little overwhelming.
His smile grew as he considered how peaceful it all was.
Yet something nagged at him. The dark memory crawled back to his attention, and try though he might, he couldn't help but shiver at the replayed sensation of numbness and fear. And there was something else, too – a twinge of guilt, as if he had let someone down, someone very dear to him. The feeling confused him. He couldn't think of anyone he cared for, or even anyone he knew, but it gnawed at him all the same.
And then he realized he was alone.
There was no one else on that field. It was something he would have come to realize anyway, considering the sheer emptiness of the land before him, but somehow, on some base level, he knew that he would have smelled anyone nearby. He wondered where that thought had come from. It was a silly thought, though it seemed that the instinct was both natural and foreign. His nose twitched reflexively as he considered it.
As he pondered lazily on his situation, the sun slowly slid down from the top of the sky towards the horizon, casting a gradually lengthening shadow before him. He could feel himself growing tired, although he had done nothing but lay there on the grass since he had first awoken. Reddish streaks had begun to paint the dull blue evening sky when his eyelids, growing increasingly heavy, eventually settled shut. Tomorrow, he decided sleepily, resting his chin on the ground, he would figure out what to do about the situation. Tomorrow he would find something else with meaning.
It seemed as if he had merely closed his eyes for a second when a distant shout roused him. Blinking and yawning widely, he glanced around, taking in the rapidly darkening sky overhead. He could see the last light of the day silhouetting the trees, but there was no sign of anyone else.
"What are you doing?"
Frowning a little in confusion, he raised his head, glancing behind him curiously. However, the scenery before him only revealed a short four-legged creature that was galloping towards him, the sun just peeking over the horizon behind it. Aside from that, there was nobody else.
With a sigh, he tensed himself, preparing to face the animal. It wasn't as if it frightened him – he had the strange feeling that he'd faced worse than this, though for the life of him he couldn't say why. But at the speed it was coming, it probably meant business. The last thing he wanted was to be mauled by some random beast. Shaking his head to clear it faster, he pushed himself onto his feet.
What he hadn't expected was to fall over almost immediately, toppling forward and landing uncomfortably on his stomach. Wincing in surprise, he stared down at the ground a bit stupidly, wondering why he couldn't stand on his own two feet. He noticed for the first time there was something that looked black and furry beneath his body, and he felt rather grateful that it had cushioned the fall slightly, though the sight brought an inexplicable twinge of unease.
"Get up, you idiot! What the hell are you still here for?"
Now seriously confused, he whipped his head about wildly, but still only saw the animal coming ever closer. Half giving up on looking for the mysterious shouter, he examined the creature sprinting swiftly towards him. As it approached, he realized that it was just a fawn – and then did a double take when he realized that its fur was a deep emerald green.
His mouth fell open in astonishment, and he blinked rapidly in an attempt to clear his vision, but it remained stubbornly unchanged.
The fawn's brilliantly colored fur was indeed obviously green, even in the fading light. Its white face and lower body seemed to shine in the darkness, revealing its strangely determined-looking face. He noticed that its large eyes were narrowed in some sort of determination. Mind reeling at its strange appearance, he shifted his gaze a little and noticed the yellow flower sitting on its head, nestled between two large ears. He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in amusement.
There was some sort of white scarf tied around its neck, just above a sack similarly hanging from it, bouncing against its flank as it continued to run. He wondered why that was. Perhaps it was some sort of strange messenger animal, or else someone's lost pet. The breeze wafted from its direction, and he picked up its scent: fear and fury, tinged with an odd grassy flavor.
He sighed, starting to push himself onto his feet again. Well, pet or not, it was about to attack him, and the owners would just have to forgive him for defending himself.
Then the fawn opened its mouth and shouted, "Damn it, dog, get the hell out of here!"
He froze and toppled over again, too shocked to register hitting the ground. "You talked …" he mumbled, with a throat that felt strained and unused. His own voice seemed rather strange, but that was nothing. Deer were not supposed to talk.
A disgusted snort was his only reply.
As the fawn drew into his line of vision, he could only cringe. Up close, it seemed to be far larger than it'd originally appeared to be, perhaps even as large as himself. If only he could actually stand up and take the little thing on like the beast it was! But that seemed out of the question. He'd been unnervingly unbalanced the last two times he'd tried … and now that he thought about it, his body did feel a little strange …
But when the fawn, never slacking in speed, at last loomed over him, it simply ducked its head down, bit his ear hard, and charged on as it dragged him backwards through the grass.
"Ow ow ow ow ow!" he howled, feeling tears sting his eyes at the surprisingly painful grip of its teeth. "Ow ow ow! Put me down!"
He heard it mumble something through its strained breath that sounded suspiciously like "Idiot".
Letting out a long, quiet moan of pain, he peeked through his squinting, tear-stained vision at the long furrow left in the grass beneath him. And somehow the furry thing beneath him was being dragged along as well, which was strange. Then again, compared to waking up in a strange field with no memory, and having a talking green fawn haul him along by the ear, it all seemed relatively … relatively mundane …
There were a couple of black paws dragging beneath him as well. That was odd. Had he been lying on top of some creature this whole time? He hoped not. Whatever it was, it was certainly huge. And those white, bone-like bands around its ankles were a bit unnerving as well. Where were his own feet?
He let his blurry gaze travel lower, noting the stout legs they were connected to, then the short triangular tail and reddish belly above that, then the similarly colored chest and the black forepaws dragged along at the sides …
His chin touched the furry chest, and he suddenly realized that he was looking over a reddish, somewhat long snout.
"No," he moaned, horror rising in him as he put the pieces together. "No, no, no, no, no …"
The fawn grumbled something irritably.
"No, no, what is, what is this, why am I, I like this, no, no, no, no, no—"
"Be quiet!" the fawn snapped around its mouthful of his ear. "They'll be waking up, you git!"
"No …" He shook slightly, ignoring the extra pain that motion sent into his bitten ear. "No, no, this can't be happening, no …" He began to breathe rapidly, flinching as he realized how sharp some of those teeth were. "What am I, I'm some kind of, I'm an animal!"
And he let loose a terrified howl, though he quickly clamped down on it.
"Shut up!" hissed the fawn, now sounding more fearful than angry. "Shut up, you stupid Houndour!"
"I don't even know what that is," he gasped, panting harder now.
Up ahead of them, where the hapless Houndour couldn't see, the topmost edge of the sun flared briefly, sidled beneath the horizon, and vanished, leaving only the faintest traces of light in its wake.
"Damn it," the fawn whispered, ignoring the other's whimpers as it bit down on his ear harder and flew into a new burst of speed.
A terrible screeching sound like tortured violins wailed across the fields, and the breeze morphed abruptly into a vicious wind, carrying a hint of staleness as it grew into an eerie, unnatural howl. The noise grated against the Houndour's ears, and he yelped in shock and confusion. Why was all this happening to him? What was going on?
There was a soft, hair-raising hiss as all of the grass abruptly shriveled and died, bright green fading to dull gold, to deep tawny, to the color of long-dried blood. The dried-out stalks shivered in the wind. The fawn huffed nervously, not slacking in its stride.
The Houndour winced. Why did the ground feel rock-hard? "What's going on?" he managed to call over the howling gale.
To his surprise, the fawn grunted the answer through its gritted teeth. "The reason why nobody sticks around in Eversive Fields until nightfall, idiot."
He stared ahead, still completely unsure as to what was going on – and then his heart practically leapt out of his chest: on the dark horizon. He could see the huge, spiky shape of what he'd thought was tall tree swaying in the wind. He'd been absolutely sure of it ten minutes ago. But it wasn't.
It was moving.
"Deer," he called out hesitantly, "there's something out there."
The fawn only ran on. Behind them, the Houndour could see the not-tree's faint outline swing its many limbs wildly to and fro, creating a whipping sound that was audible even at their increasingly large distance. He thought he could feel the ground tremble slightly beneath them, as if from some sound far too deep for either of them to hear. He wondered in horror if it could be the not-tree creature, growling.
But the fawn continued to run on, seemingly oblivious to his shock, and little by little, agonizingly slowly, the not-tree faded gradually into the distance, until it was only a mere speck on the dark horizon. Yet the unknowable shrieking sound continued to hurt his ears, never wavering in pitch or volume, always continuing on in that high-pitched, eldritch whine.
With all that nerve-wracking and painful experience, it seemed to be hours later that the fawn at last began to slow its run. Curious and more than a bit apprehensive, the Houndour tried to turn his head, but he found himself cringing in pain at the renewed surge of pain lancing through his ear. "Are we almost out?" he asked a bit nervously.
Still the fawn did not reply.
They had only traveled on for a few more minutes when the fawn skidded to a halt, letting go of the Houndour's ear as it did so. Yelping in surprise, he rolled over a couple of times through the rust-colored grass, until the momentum of their flight quickly ran out. Finding himself lying flat on his back, he let himself simply remain still for a moment, squeezing his eyes shut as the tooth-marks in his ear throbbed with a vengeance. Ten, twenty, thirty seconds passed before his breathing slowed to normal and the pain had died down to a tolerable level.
He let his eyes flicker upwards, and then abruptly scrambled to his feet backed hastily away as he realized why the fawn had stopped.
They had reached a wall. At least, that was as apt a description as he could put to it: the void-like thing stretched upwards and to the sides as far as the eye could see, a barrier of such complete and utter blackness and foulness and emptiness that even the starless sky above seemed a little less menacing in comparison.
"We can't get through the bloody thing to the next field, not until morning." The nearby fawn sighed in exasperation. "Damn it."
And it turned and stalked some ways away from the terrible wall, as if it were no more than an inconvenience. The Houndour, still shivering in fright, followed it cautiously until they both stopped about twenty yards away, which was still far too close to the thing for his comfort.
"We'll wait here," the fawn said tersely, settling down into the dead grass. "No falling asleep until we can get through the barrier tomorrow."
The Houndour nodded mutely, laying himself down nearby and cowering a little as the air shrieked and the wind wailed above them. Trying to calm his wildly beating heart, he attempted to clear his mind of all this, lying to himself that this was all just a dream, a silly, stupid little dream and he would wake up in his own bed soon, his own warm, soft bed with bright sunshine warming his face and someone whispering to him to get up, and he would remember who he was very easily, and laugh at all this before it slipped away into the oblivion where all forgotten things go …
But then he remembered the cold, and the screaming, and the feeling of something like death, and he knew that it was all real, terrifyingly real. He buried his muzzle in his paws, moaning quietly.
The scream stood out to him particularly. Why did it make him feel as if he had failed somehow? There was such anguish and horror and rage in that scream, as if someone perfectly sane had snapped into something primal. And yet, there was a sense of rationality behind it, an obscured word that embodied shattered hopes and dreams, as if the one who screamed had lost something too and was calling after it, perhaps even now.
Perhaps the screamer, whoever it was, had lost him. Were there others where the Houndour had come from, others who loved him and missed him and wished him to return? Considering the events that'd happened so far, it didn't seem particularly likely, but it made him feel a little better.
"S … S …" he mumbled, trying to make out what word had been screamed after him. "S … S … Sirius." Blinking in surprise, he lifted his head to glance up at the fawn, eyes shining in wonder. "My name's Sirius!" he said, a feeling of excitement starting to creep up in him. "What's yours?"
The fawn merely snorted quietly, not taking its eyes off of the horizon.
Realizing that it didn't intend to answer in the slightest, the newly self-discovered Sirius sighed softly and lay his head back on his paws, trying to relax a little. Well, fawn or not, he'd relearned his own name. That was certainly a start.
After all, in the midst of the terrible screeching and the prospect of an uncomfortably long night, it was nice to know that a little of himself had been found.