Good day to you. My name is Iced Blood, and I would like to welcome you to my new project.
Anyone who has read my previous works on this website will know that I used to hate the Harry Potter series. Well, the joke was on me. When I actually broke down to read J.K. Rowling's magnum opus, I found myself enthralled. I was sold completely within the course of the first book, and found myself more and more invested with each passing volume.
This project arose, like many of my previous stories, from a desire to dig deeper. I wanted to delve into the deepest parts of these characters and this world I've come to love. One character that I felt was sorely underutilized in the series was Sirius Black. I am given to understand that many fans agree with me.
Hence, this tale begins with him, sometime during the final events of volume five.
With that said, enjoy the ride.
It was stagnant.
Stagnant, dusty, filled with blood. Of course, always blood. The walls were painted with it. His mother shrieked and waved about blood traitors whenever she had the chance, but what about traitorous blood? There was a tang in the air here, not just copper and sweat but something dark. Something like poison sludge working its way through cold, dead veins. Like larvae squirming through a corpse.
He felt it in this house; he was suffocating, he was drowning in tainted blood. The Order wondered why he was so fixated on leaving. They constantly asked him why he couldn't just sit tight and do what he could in secret, why he couldn't just hold down the fort and quit taking so many foolish chances, trying to escape. They all needed him to stay out of sight. Why couldn't he see that? Why couldn't he be content with that?
Only part of it had to do with Snape's constant backhanded jabs. Only part of it had to do with being stuck safe in secrecy while the others risked their hides in open daylight. The fact that he had always been strong—always courageous, always willing to die for the cause—and now he was entirely unable to do it. And only part of it had to do with breaking out of prison after twelve years only to be stuffed right back into another.
Most of it…was the tainted blood.
If they just could have picked another place to make up headquarters, if he hadn't vastly underestimated the sheer level of hatred he had for these walls and these windows and these damned portraits, he ventured to think that he would have been fine. Irritated, perhaps a touch stir-crazy, but generally all right. He would have found ways to make himself useful; he would have found time to enjoy himself in spite of the situation and been just fine with it because after over a decade in Hell, he deserved it.
But no. He was here.
Here, knee-deep in treachery. Here, neck-deep in darkness.
He'd escaped one circle of Hell and traded it for a deeper one. The only thing worse than having no freedom was having the illusion of it. At least the former involved some form of certainty. He'd lived in a cell for so long, and he'd thought at one point during his sentence that living in a house again—even a house he hated—would have been beautiful by comparison. Downright enchanting. But the doors still couldn't open, not for him, and the only difference now was that they were unlocked.
It was more insulting than anything else.
Sirius, last heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, had been reduced to a shameful fugitive lost and forgotten in his own blood-spattered mansion. His most esteemed parents had had such hopes for him, such expectations, such otherworldly intentions. Oh, yes, he'd been a talent. Magic flowed through him like water down the course of a river, and even as a boy he'd been so gifted. Magnificent. A man for the ages, a pillar of history.
"…Master is mumbling to himself again. He's mad. Master is tainting my mistress's house with madness. What's the great blood traitor doing, what's he doing in this room? Poor old Kreacher, what—"
"Oh, shut your flapping mouth, you senile old bat!" snarled the man who would have been a king, who would have been a god, if not for the fact that he'd been cursed with a sane mind that recognized the truth behind this masquerade of nobility. What a cosmic joke. Sirius poured a smoking liquid from a bottle at his side into a tiny glass. Taking up that glass, which was dusty and dirty like everything else in this place—including its inhabitants—and staring at it with a bitter scowl, he slammed back the shot of Blishen's and felt it sear its way down his throat. It blossomed through his middle like an explosion of liquid sunlight, and he poured again.
The decrepit elf milled about the old study looking like a maggot taking a new path of evolution. Cold grey eyes watched it move about like those of the predator that slept deep within their owner's soul. A part of Sirius wondered why he didn't just put an end to the thing; it was Kreacher's most solemn desire to join his predecessors on the wall, and it wasn't like he took any particular joy in living anymore.
Come to think of it, Sirius found he rather related to the elf on that score.
He was not so much of a coward to commit suicide. But all the same, it was almost impossible to remember what it felt like to enjoy waking up in the morning anymore. He tried to remember how it had been when he was younger, full of that old teenage arrogance, swaggering about school without a care in the damned world. He tried to remember how it had felt to have a smile on his face at nearly every waking moment that wasn't faker than a leprechaun's coin.
So he drank.
It wasn't as though he had anything better to do.
At first, when he started seeing another person at random intervals during his aimless patrols through the halls of 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius thought it was one of three things: one, he was hallucinating; two, a ghost had taken up residence—and wouldn't that be a sweet bit of irony?—and had finally chosen to reveal itself; three, another member of the Order of the Phoenix had come to keep tabs on him and wasn't nearly as good at stealth as they thought.
This last was the most comforting, and that made it the least likely in Sirius's opinion. More likely it was the first. After all, hadn't he always suspected this house of sucking the sanity out of its dwellers? Why shouldn't he be seeing random apparitions in every hazy, dusty shadow? There was a romantic sort of beauty to it, really, and at the moment he was just drunk enough to appreciate it. He even managed a little laugh as he walked, and tipped an invisible hat when he saw it the next time, next to a bare coatrack nestled in an abandoned corner. If he'd been sober, Sirius might have wondered why he even bothered with coatracks; nobody stayed long enough to bother taking off a coat, and even if someone had, it seemed a distant bit of folly to bother. After all, the point was the keep the place clean and orderly.
And 12 Grimmauld Place hadn't been clean or orderly in over a decade.
Sirius ignored the apparition, at least at first. The steel in him, buried deep within him where even Dementors couldn't penetrate, refused to allow him to give up what remained of his sanity. Not after all that he'd been through in a life that felt increasingly disjointed from itself, as though he were an observer of someone else's existence; someone who looked suspiciously like himself, but was entirely too gaunt and disheveled. Sirius had always been rather proud of his appearance. Whenever he looked in a mirror these days, a part of him insisted that he was looking at a piece of particularly grim artwork.
Eventually, though, he started actively looking for the ghost/hallucination whenever he patrolled. It had become an event, a silent companion. Whenever Sirius stopped to think about how pathetic it was that he was now reduced to relying on a mental dislodging for company, he fell back on an old friend for support: good old Bleshin. He'd never had much of a taste for Firewhisky until about six months ago. These days, however, he'd come to lean on the blaze-and-bloom haze to keep the voices of the Order out of his traitorous ears.
"Unlike you, I do not have unlimited leisure time."
"It's not down to you to decide what's good for Harry!"
"Master was a nasty ungrateful swine who broke his mother's heart."
Sirius sighed heavily, hating himself as he fished a flask out of his pocket and took a long draw, knowing better than anyone that he was turning into a right sloppy mess; if he didn't take control of himself soon, he might well end up…well…
"Nearing the point I'd rather let them catch me," the former heir to the Noble and Most Ancient Whatever muttered under his breath, as if he could keep his words from the walls themselves, "just so things might get a bit more interesting."
He knew he was in a bad way when he realized just how tantalizing that idea was.
Sirius sought out the shadow, the stranger without a face, and found it lurking on the second floor next to a closet. "I'm going mad," he stated matter-of-factly, stopping in the hallway like he thought the thing would answer him. "I'm out of Azkaban, my name's been cleared for anyone that's worth a damn, and I can feel my brain slipping out of my own head. Half-expect it to fall right out of my ears and splatter all over the floor." He drew from the flask again, then stuffed it back into his pocket with an angry jerk. "I'm pathetic."
The shadow-ghost didn't vanish like it usually did, didn't fade into the wall to find its next haunt. It stayed there, and Sirius could somehow sense that it was watching him. He wondered absurdly if hallucinations had eyes, and his hand went for his wand. His instincts weren't entirely gone, and if there was one thing Sirius Black had always been—regardless of anything his tainted blood and lack of sobriety had to say on the matter—it was quick on the draw.
And then he dropped it. His entire body went stiff—and his scattered mind regained its focus out of shock—when he heard a voice, smooth and dark and tinged with laughter, say:
"…I know. Why else would I be here?"