'I cannot consider Death as anything but a removal from one room to another.' – William Blake
"Come on, you can do better than that!"
Through the veil and past the whispers, Sirius Black fell in a graceful arc and landed in the room that had haunted him for thirteen years.
And he wept. He was here again, trapped behind solid stone with nothing but the crashing of angry waves outside. Suddenly, Harry's voice echoed in his head;
"SIRIUS! SIRIUS! Get him, save him, he's only just gone through!"
He curled up into a ball and squeezed his eyes shut. He needed to block it out. It was too raw, too painful. He couldn't face this now. If he couldn't hear Harry, he could just pretend he was back in Azkaban, plotting his escape.
Why was here? If he was dead, shouldn't he be going...On? Why was he trapped here, not going on, not going back; stuck in limbo beyond the veil.
Once the initial hysteria had muted to a dull despair, he realised things weren't quite the same as Azkaban. For a start, there was no door, there was just cold stone where the door used to be. And he could no longer hear the desperate cries of other inmates. All could hear were the waves.
Crash, crash, crash.
It seemed he was alone here.
Well, there may be changes, but they certainly weren't good ones. He gave a laugh that didn't sound like his, it turned temporarily in a violent sob, before changing back to a delirious laugh.
Bizarrely cheery, he pulled himself up against the wall, clinging onto the high bars of the window. He caught a glimpse outside at the waves, the only thing he could find that was real. He tasted the salt in the air and licked his lips. An odd sort of joy hit him and he relaxed his mind for just a moment.
"HE – IS – NOT – DEAD! SIRIUS!"
Sirius let himself drop down from the bars, covering his ears with his hands. Ignore it. There was nothing he could do now. He was gone. He was far away.
And then realised he wasn't hungry. He'd never been hungry had he? He couldn't remember; all he knew was that this stone block was all he had. Once, his friends were all he had. And then this room and a fierce determination to escape was all he had. And then he had Harry. Unable to stop himself, he began to think of it; he began to think of all of them. James, Lily, Harry, Remus...his friends, the ones he loved more than anything. And he couldn't block that out anymore.
He wept again but not for himself, for them. All they'd been through, all they'd done, the struggles they faced...it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair!
"SHE KILLED SIRIUS! SHE KILLED HIM – I'll KILL HER!"
Sirius' head shot up from his hands and he found himself saying hoarsely,
"No, Harry! Not for me! Don't kill for me!"
An incredible desire to protect Harry overwhelmed him and he stood, feeling oddly invigorated.
"I thought you were here to avenge my dear cousin!"
"I am! Crucio!"
Desperation clawed at his chest and Sirius slammed his fists on where the door had been in his cell before, Bellatrix's screams and Harry's ragged sobs in his ears as though he was there with him.
"NO! NOT FOR ME HARRY!"
And then it all stopped.
A beautiful silence surrounded him like a blanket and the wind no longer howled through the rocks. All Sirius could hear was his own gasping, his fists aching dully. He felt a hand on his shoulder and tensed.
He knew he should turn around and face his fate. Surely this is what he'd been waiting for, what he'd been held here for. But he couldn't. He was rooted to the spot.
Sirius froze. He knew that voice. He knew it like he knew his own name.
"Padfoot, it's me you twonk."
Finally he turned and saw what he thought was impossible. James Potter. His best friend.
"Of course!" James laughed softly. "Who else to help you through?"
Sirius laughed too and threw his arms around James who hugged back, slapping each other on the back. They parted and James placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"You're ready now. All you needed to do was show you care and accept what happened to you. Trust you to make a meal of it, eh?"
"Ready for what?"
James gave him a smile, making his eyes crinkle and Sirius saw his eyes glisten with unshed tears. "Ready to go on."
Sirius stared and nodded. So this is what he needed, time to come to terms with his death, time to realise he was ready.
"Let's go, Prongs."
And the last words the world heard from Sirius Black was:
"So how's Lily? She'd better not have lost her figure in death."
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