Chapter 2 : Chapter Two
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A skinny teenager lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling with such intensity that his eyes began to play tricks on him with colors and textures he knew didn’t exist on his ceiling. His messy black hair was only slightly longer than he normally kept it, and his glasses were beginning to smear his vision from not being cleaned in half a month. That’s all he had done in the past two weeks, stare. He stared at the ceiling in his bedroom, and when he had to move to use the bathroom, he stared blankly ahead of him, seeing nothing other than the same void his room presented him with. He didn’t eat, he didn’t sleep, he breathed barely enough to keep himself alive. Why he bothered with breathing at all, he didn’t know; his godfather couldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe, so why should he himself be allowed such a luxury as inhaling fresh air? After all, it wasn’t as if Sirius had died by Voldemort’s doing or even his own; no, he, Harry, had brought his godfather to his death, he was the one who went to the Department of Mysteries, he was the one who ran to the room with the cursed Veil, he was the one who, after freeing himself from Lupin’s hold, ran after Bellatrix instead of pulling Sirius out.
He didn’t care that Lupin told him Sirius was dead; he still should have pulled his godfather out from behind the Veil, and then maybe, maybe, something could have been done to save him. But no, after realizing that Sirius wouldn’t - no, couldn’t - come back, he ran to get revenge for something that was his own fault. There was one thing that bothered the teenager almost as much as the thought of his late godfather though; if he had been the one to do all of this, why hadn’t he been the one to die? He deserved it, so much more that Sirius did. But then, he deserved to suffer for his actions much more than Sirius did. . .
Sirius Black had followed his friend to what James called a more “secluded” area; although how Prongs came to figure this spot was different from any other, the Animagus didn’t know, it all looked like an empty abyss filled with a purposeless dark mist to him. He couldn’t even make out what exactly it was that held up everyone in Hell; there was no distinct floor, wall, or any other structure for that matter.
“Okay, now should be good,” James said, surveying their surroundings one last time before turning back to his friend.
“Alright. . .” Prongs had said that they needed to wait before doing anything other than sitting there, where ever they were, so Sirius was still virtually clueless regarding anything that was happening. All he knew was that he was sitting in Hell with his deceased best mate, and he was slowly going mad with only those facts to satisfy his reeling mind.
“I don’t know everything about this place, but I know we can’t be too loud or move too much; if we’re found out by the wrong people, Lily and I both could be moved down here permanently.”
“What do you mean ‘by the wrong people’?” Sirius asked slowly. They were sitting in plain sight, as far as he could tell, and he wasn’t quite sure he understood how anyone in Hell would be considered the ‘right’ people.
“Well,” James said, running a hand through his hair as he thought, “let’s just say that decisions after death aren’t always permanent.” He looked around as he had so many times for the past. . . Sirius didn’t actually know how long he had been there, but he did know it was too long.
“The Veil is a glitch,” James finally settled on saying. “And the fact that it is, is the only reason you’re not . . . well, you’re not dead, but I don’t think you’re exactly what you’d call ‘alive’ either.”
Sirius made to stand up, wanting to feel the comfort of the familiar action of pacing while he thought over what James had said.
“Padfoot!” James hissed, pulling his friend back down and quickly scanning their surroundings for any signs of a disturbance. Seeing none, he said, “Don’t draw attention to us! Trust me when I say you don’t even want to think about the consequences of that.”
“To tell you the truth, mate,” Sirius said earnestly, “I’m having a hard time understanding what it is exactly we shouldn’t be drawing the attention of.”
“Well for starters,” Prongs said, pointing to one - yet none in particular - of the many faceless forms that aimlessly wandered the place, “you do see them, right?”
“Yes. . .” Padfoot stated slowly; he’d have to be blind not to see them; their corpse-like skin was the only contrast to the unending darkness around them.
“They can see us just as well as—Okay, maybe not just as well as we can see them, but they do know we’re here.”
“Really?” Sirius asked, looking at the residents of Hell, searching them for any sign that they noticed him and his companion in the least. “They don’t seem to.” It wasn’t that he doubted James’ word, but these. . . Sirius guessed they’d be people, acted like nothing out of the normal was going on; and according to James, people who weren’t meant to be in Hell didn’t usually end up there.
“Sirius,” James started, as if he were explaining the obvious, “they’re the eternally damned; if we’re not doing anything that could benefit them, do you really think they’d care what we’re doing here?”
Sirius shrugged; Prongs had a point after all. He wouldn’t be surprised if most of those . . . people had been completely self-serving during life, so why would they treat death any differently? Looking more closely at the faceless figures, Sirius saw something he almost could not believe had evaded him before: While the actual features were far too blurred to make out, the faint outlines of undeniable pain dominated their faces. Expressions were contorted in a way even the Cruciatus Curse could not achieve; and Sirius instantly felt a rush of relief - and gratitude - that James had told him this barbaric torment was not his fate.
“Just to clear this up, mate,” Sirius said somewhat shakily after his grisly discovery, “what are we going to do here?”
Harry listened as steady footfalls made their way up the stairs. He grudgingly wondered who the Order had sent to check up on him now. He knew he was supposed to be writing at least once every three days, but he simply couldn’t bring himself to write a letter. Only Sirius had been writing him letters. . .
‘Don’t think about that!’ he mentally scolded himself.
The young wizard listened intently, willing himself to focus solely on the sounds of the footsteps, making their way ever closer to his room; behind the door of which hid his pitiful existence. They were too heavy to belong to old Mrs. Figg, whom - Harry assumed - Dumbledore had sent to check up on him five times already since summer had begun. Or was it six? He didn’t know, nor did he care; he didn’t do anything more than let her know he was still living and that the Dursleys had been treating him just fine. Of course, that only meant that anything she found wrong with him - his too-skinny frame, his depression, the deadened look behind his eyes - had been the cause of his own self-neglect; and Harry, had he cared enough to think about it, would have been sure that she relayed this information to Dumbledore.
Focusing back on the footsteps, Harry only guessed that it was an Order member; after all, they were too heavy to belong to his aunt, but too light to tell the coming of his uncle or cousin, and since he didn’t hear any of those three screaming downstairs, he could only assume it wasn’t a Death Eater.
There was a light knock on the door before it was slowly pushed open.
“Harry?” It was Lupin.
The teenager could recognize his ex-professor’s voice anywhere. Not that it encouraged him to make any acknowledgement that another person had entered his bedroom.
Harry felt a slight shift in his position as the bed sunk where Lupin had sat down.
“This all has to do with Sirius, doesn’t it?” The werewolf had phrased it as a question, but it came out as a statement.
Harry didn’t answer; instead, he held back fresh tears that threatened to spill over as a lump caught in his throat. His ex-defense teacher half-forced and half-helped him into a sitting position, looking the boy over. Harry kept his hollowed eyes downcast. He didn’t want Lupin, or anyone for that matter, to see him like this, but especially not Lupin; Sirius had been Lupin’s best friend, and he, Harry, had killed him. Harry didn’t deserve to mourn over his godfather’s death.
Moony, though, must have heard the near-silent, strangled cry that forced its way through the boy’s lips as he fought, desperately, to bite back all emotions that threatened to rise within him. Slowly, cautiously, Lupin put an arm around the young wizard’s shoulders. He could feel as Harry battled to keep said shoulders from shaking under his touch.
Harry wanted so desperately to be able to lean into Lupin’s embrace, or almost anyone’s, to feel secure arms wrap around him, to hear soothing words of comfort whispered into his ear. But he couldn’t. It was his own fault Sirius was dead, and now he had to pay for it.
“Harry. . .” Lupin started again, waiting for a response. He continued, even though he had received none. “Dumbledore didn’t send me today. . . I wanted to check up on you myself.” The boy he was addressing made no notion that he had heard the man, but Remus continued anyways. “Dumbledore did say, though, that you were to stay here until your birthday or later. . . But. . .” This was hard for the werewolf to say; the Headmaster of Hogwarts was trusting him not to do just what he was just about to. “If you want to get out of here, for a day or so or the rest of the summer, I’ll take you with me when I leave here. We wouldn’t have to go to Grimmauld Place.” He had added in the last bit, hoping to crush any fear Harry may have had of going back there; Lupin knew sure as hell he wanted nothing to do with the place.
Harry only shook his head sadly. He had just killed the man’s best friend; he couldn’t burden him with his presence for any length of time after that.
Lupin nodded slowly and sadly, not wanting to leave Harry like this, but accepting his decision all the same. “Alright.” He stood, much in the same manner as he had nodded his head. He walked silently to the door, turning around to face the teenager, a part of him hoping Harry would ask him not to leave, or take him up on his offer. “If you change your mind, or need anything at all, just to talk even, owl me. Okay?”
Harry nodded, still refusing to look at his past professor. With a last concerned, and almost disappointed, sigh, he left, leaving Harry alone to the numb emptiness of his being once more.