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Chapter 5 : Falling Star
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A searing pain beneath his breastbone caused his laughter to dwindle and die in his throat. Vaguely, he felt his wand slide away from his fingers. The dark blue light of the Death Room filmed over with a crimson red haze of pain—the same red as his dear malevolent cousin’s spell, which had hit him before he had known what had hit him. By the time that he did, his useless legs were already collapsing beneath him. His dead weight carried him into a backwards fall—a rather graceful arc, in fact. All sound became plugged up in his ears, like he had a really bad sinus cold, and the red haze of pain faded to black. Bellatrix Lestrange’s raucous laughter echoed in his mind, as he felt the Veil in the archway behind him take him in its arms and carry him away through the actual Gate of Death itself.
Everything around him flashed white. The pain disappeared completely.
Sirius Black opened his eyes and blinked at a night sky studded with stars, the pupils dilating in his handsome gray eyes. He found himself lying on his back in a field of tall grass. His face was warm, the glittering celestial orbs against the black canvas of deep space above him brilliant, and the gentle breeze played almost lovingly with his strands of long, dashing black hair.
But…he was dead…wasn’t he…?
Sirius gasped. That was Harry, his godson! That was Harry’s voice! He wasn’t dead too, was he? Sirius trembled at the thought.
He heard Harry call his name a second time. It was echoey and far-off sounding. Sirius realized he was sort of hearing it in his head, but at the same time it sounded as though it was coming from without.
And then he heard a second voice that rang out in the same echoey, far-off sounding way.
Remus—over and over telling Harry that Sirius was gone, that there was nothing to be done. To this Harry fiercely yelled that Sirius hadn’t gone….
And he cried out Sirius’ name again…and again….
“He can’t come back, Harry…. He can’t come back, because he’s d—”
Sirius squeezed his eyes shut against a different kind of pain that writhed in the heart within him that no longer beat now, as he channeled Harry’s and Remus’ terrible grief for his own death the same way those long, shiny stick things Muggles call “antennas” channel “waves”.
Then he heard the echo of his despicable, evil, twisted, deranged cousin’s laughter…Remus cried out Harry’s name…the sound of sneakers pounding on stone floors…Harry’s wrathful cry promising vengeance…vowing he would kill Bellatrix Lestrange for murdering his godfather….
Sirius’ eyes flew open again. Harry! No! You idiot! She’ll kill you! He clambered to his feet, staggered slightly, having risen with the intention of coming to Harry’s aid, despite the fact that he couldn’t because he was dead.
And then he heard Bellatrix laughing at Harry, taunting him….
“...did you love him, little baby Potter…?”
Sirius swore and whirled around. "You leave him alone!" he shouted at his murderess cousin, despite the fact that she couldn't hear him. Desperately he searched for some way he could get to Harry, some way that he could get to him and help him.
But then he heard the cold cruel voice of Lord Voldemort himself.
NO! “Harry, God, get out of there!” Sirius cried hoarsely.
To his intense relief, however, he heard the thunderous rumble of Albus Dumbledore. Sirius thought he heard a chorus sing, “Halleluiah!” at the Hogwarts headmaster’s entrance.
He and Voldemort became locked into a battle, from what Sirius could tell by the sounds of crashes and blasts that followed. And then—
All was quiet.
Sirius stood there in the middle of that empty, glorious field veiled with the darkness of night lit only by the breathtaking stars studding the heavens above…silent…poised…listening….
And then he heard Harry give a scream, long and drawn out and horrible. It was the sound that Harry’s and Remus’ hearts must have made as they watched Sirius fall through the Veil and die…it was the sound Sirius’ heart had made when he’d watched his beloved fiancée Aurelia Vega fall through that very same Veil and die…and it was the same sound his heart had made when he faced the sight of James and Lily’s dead bodies before him….
Harry screamed and screamed, gasping in between…. And then Sirius heard Harry’s and Voldemort’s voices speak as one—he was using Harry, possessing him, and through Harry’s mouth he was asking Dumbledore if death was nothing, why does he not just kill Harry, so that the unimaginable agony that Harry now screamed out from could go away…forever….
In his mind, Sirius could see his godson writhing on the floor, screaming and shrieking, his eyes glowing red, his pupils shaped like a cat’s pupils…like slits…like a snake’s….
Sirius grabbed his head and fell to his knees. He felt Harry’s thoughts running brokenly through his mind as he shrieked and convulsed with his throes of intense suffering. Inside his head he was begging for death, begging to die so that the pain could end....
Harry… he thought desperately. You can lick this, kid. I’m right here with you. I always will be. I’m a part of you…and so’s your dad…and your mum…and Remus…. Remember me, Harry…please….
Harry went on begging for death…bemoaning that death could be nothing compared to this….
And then he’d see Sirius again….
Sirius’ heart melted.
The vision of Harry writhing in agonizing torture disappeared.
Sirius smiled as relief coursed through him, certain that Harry was all right now. He wouldn’t feel all right for a long while, Sirius knew that only too well. In fact, he was quite sure that Harry would be up for smashing a few things and shouting at the top of his lungs a bit, but with time….
“Moony’ll be there for him, mate,” said a voice behind Sirius, and the very fact that Sirius had not heard it in over fourteen years made the hairs on the back of his neck stand erect. “Moony’ll look after him as best as he can. We know he will.”
Sirius’ non-existent breath caught in his chest. A hard lump in his throat formed. His stilled heart fluttered as if alive again, and he jumped to his feet and whirled around to see—
No glasses, but otherwise…there was no doubt that it was him.
Sirius’ eyes stung. His frozen heart cried out with joy, as he and James opened their arms, each one beaming affectionately at the other.
Sirius bounded over, and the two friends pulled each other into a rough embrace.
And then they were both laughing, and James lifted Sirius off of his feet and swung him around and around, before locking his head under his arm and giving him a playful noogie.
When Sirius pulled away they held each other by the shoulders at arms’ lengths.
Sirius stammered he was so happy, “My God, I—it’s—I can’t—you’re here!”
James was beaming broadly. “I’m here! And so are you!” He looked Sirius over with his hazel eyes and added, his expression becoming abruptly sober, “How did it happen?” in a hushed voice.
Sirius took the cue and turned sober too, also lowering his voice. “You mean…how did I die?”
James cursed Sirius’ deranged cousin under his breath.
They released each other, and then James threw one arm around Sirius’ shoulders and started to steer him through the field.
“Where’re we going?” Sirius asked, twining his arm around James.
James grinned almost mischievously. “To see Lily and the others, of course.”
Sirius mentally smacked himself in the forehead. “How could I be so daft?” And then more of James’ reply sank in. “What others…?” A bubbling excitement stirred vigorously in the pit of his stomach. “Is—Is Aurelia…?”
James smile widened.
Sirius could hardly get his breath he was overwhelmed with so much emotion, so much anticipation. Within moments he was going to be reunited with the woman he’d loved more than any other in life….
His palms started to sweat. This added a sense of embarrassment: sweaty palms made him feel so juvenile.
James could tell the thought of seeing Aurelia again after so long was making his friend so excited that he was scared. He hoped that maybe he could help him relax a bit by taking him to see Lily first. He said, “Here we are.”
Sirius looked up, and saw with amazement that they were no longer in the field, but in a glade with a quaint little cottage, the front door of which opened, and there stood—
“Lily!” Sirius crowed.
“Sirius!” Lily ran down the little cobblestone walk, and then across the front lawn.
James let go of Sirius so that Sirius could scoop up Lily and spin her around and around in the air, the both of them laughing gloriously. When they finally stopped and Sirius set her down, he said, “Look at you! You haven’t aged a day!”
“Still the same old charmer, I see,” Lily teased with an impish grin.
“And I don’t see a trace of Azkaban on you at all,” said James.
Sirius looked at James confusedly. “How did you know…?”
James quickly explained about how he’d been able to see Sirius get arrested all those years ago, and then how a little while later, he’d been able to see him as an Azkaban escapee.
Sirius was lost for words when James had finished. “Incredible….”
“Why don’t we three take a little walk together?” Lily asked. “Catch up? Eh?”
“That sounds excellent,” said James. He started off toward the forest, and Sirius and Lily fell into step with him.
Naturally Lily inquired about how Sirius had died, and when he told her, she shook her head and said, “What a shame. She’s so twisted and evil she’d kill her own cousin without turning a hair.”
Sirius and James both nodded somberly.
And then, seeming to decide to get one more grim and uncomfortable topic out of the way, Lily asked somewhat tentatively, “And…you wouldn’t happen to know…anything about…Severus…?”
James rolled his eyes, but made no comment.
Sirius on the other hand snorted. “He’s in the Order this time.”
“WHAT?” James’ jaw dropped to hear this piece of information.
“Sirius…” Lily moaned.
Sirius sighed. “I’m sorry, Lily. I know you still regret losing his friendship, and you still care about him and all, but I mean…I don’t give a troll’s arse about him, to be perfectly honest. I—I just don’t trust him.”
“I wouldn’t either,” said James, unable to help himself. “How’d he get in the Order anyway?”
“Dumbledore trusts him for some unknown reason,” said Sirius rather wearily. “And I suppose if Dumbledore trusts him….”
The conversation went into an awkward lull for a moment, and all they could hear was the crunching of their feet on the forest path, and the tweets of bird song, and squirrel chatter, and other such animals floating amongst the trees.
“Well…how’s Harry?” Lily asked, eager to hear more news of her son’s life.
James was eager too. “Yeah, how is he? Does he know you’re…?”
Sirius smiled sadly. “He knows. But…he’ll be okay. Probably kicking himself right now though…poor kid…. He had a tough year at school. Hardly anyone would believe him about Voldemort being back.” Quickly he told them about Fudge’s bout of paranoia of Dumbledore lying about Voldemort being back in order to destabilize the Ministry and take over himself, and about Dolores Umbridge being placed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts in order to help the Ministry interfere with the school’s proceedings and keep Dumbledore’s “threat” under control, and all of the nasty publicity and such from the Daily Prophet, and all the people who’d been calling Harry a nutter right to his face, and then about the interview Harry had given in the Quibbler about Voldemort being back as a bid to get his side of the story out in the media.
James and Lily laughed when they heard this. “The Quibbler! That’s wonderful!”
And then Sirius went on to tell them about how Harry and his friends formed Dumbledore’s Army, in order to learn how to defend themselves properly, since the system wasn’t allowing it out of stupid, idiotic paranoia.
“He did that…?” James breathed. “Do you hear that, Lily? Our son…he did that….”
Lily nodded, so filled with pride and love, throat too tight to speak.
James could see that Sirius was proud too, because he too could only smile, his eyes bright.
“He’s a good kid,” he said quietly. He cleared his throat and added, “And like you said before, Padfoot—he’s got Moony. He’ll keep an eye on Harry…in his own way.”
“How’s he doing?” James asked. “Does he know you’re dead as well?”
“Yeah, he saw it happen too,” said Sirius. “I heard him: he had to hold Harry back from coming into the Veil after me. Otherwise Harry would be here with us right now. He was saving Harry’s life…although I’ll bet he wanted to dive in after me too…. I could hear it in his voice….”
“Oh, Remus.” Lily grew sad. “He’s all alone, now….”
To their surprise however, Sirius smiled, and this time it was without a trace of melancholy. “I’m not so sure about that. He’s…er…engaged, you see.”
James and Lily stared at him, looked at each other, and then back at Sirius.
“You mean like,” Lily said slowly, “engaged…to be married?”
James and Lily both grinned from ear to ear.
“That’s brilliant!” Lily cried, and Sirius thought he saw tears in her eyes. “He told me once that he thought he’d never get married to anybody! He had it in his head that no one would want to marry him, even though he was just about the sweetest bloke in the world!”
“I’ll bet it was because of his furry little problem,” James mused, savoring a moment of reminiscing when he’d been alive, and he’d always refer to his other best friend Remus’ lycanthropy as a “furry little problem”. Pulling himself back to the present, he added, “I’m not surprised though. The way people treat werewolves….” He shook his head. “It’s sad. It’s just sad.”
Sirius and Lily nodded gravely with him.
But then the three of them brightened when James asked next: “So, who’s the lucky bird? He asked you to be best man, I’ll bet.”
Sirius grinned. “Who else?” He sighed. “Too bad I can’t be there now though.”
“That is a shame,” Lily agreed. “But he and she’ve still got each other.”
“Is it a she?” James asked.
Lily punched him on the arm.
Sirius laughed. “Yes, it’s a she. But you won’t believe who it is.”
“Just tell us who it is!” Lily and James chorused exasperatedly.
Sirius gave them a sly smile. “You remember my second cousin, Nymphadora Tonks…?”
James and Lily sucked in their breath.
“No WAY!” Lily exclaimed. “Sirius, that’s wonderful!”
“You two almost became related then!” said James. “By marriage, of course though. Still, that’s brilliant he’s found himself a girl. The poor bloke needed a bird. I always knew it.”
“I’ve never seen him quite that happy,” Sirius admitted.
“Really?” said Lily. “Oh, Sirius.... Are they really in love?”
Sirius’ smile became soft. “It was a bit like watching you two fall in love again. Only, Nymphadora—I mean, Tonks, she prefers to be addressed by her surname now—I mean I knew it, I knew she’d grow to hate that name once she got to Hogwarts—but anyways, Tonks doesn’t consider him a toerag….”
The color rose in Lily’s cheeks slightly, and James put an arm around her and planted a kiss atop her dark red hair.
“But,” Sirius went on, “he’s just over the moon for her—er, no pun intended—anyway, he really is. I mean yeah there’s a huge age gap and all, but I have to say I think they’re a perfect fit: she’s loads of fun, and he’s no fun at all.”
All three of them laughed at this, and James chortled, “It’s a good thing Moony isn’t here to hear you say that, Padfoot….”
The three old friends stopped at the sound of the voice. They looked up the path ahead of them, and standing there a few feet away from them, facing them with his hands behind his back and his resemblance to Sirius more pronounced than ever, was Sirius’ little brother, Regulus Black.
The air suddenly grew thick with choking tension.
Sirius glared venomously back at his kid brother. “Regulus….”
“Sirius…” Lily said warningly, but Sirius pretended not to have heard her.
He went on fixing his burning eyes at Regulus, and said, “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be IN HELL?!”
“Sirius!” Lily snapped.
Regulus, however, appeared unfazed by his older brother’s viciousness, and looked at James and Lily. “Would you give us a couple of moments alone, please?”
James took Lily’s hand in his, and she squeezed his in return. They nodded, backing away into the trees and dissolving out of sight, but not before James said to Sirius: “Just listen to him, mate. It’s important….”
Sirius’ expression of disgust changed to one of bewildered anger. He whirled around to face his brother. “What? Don’t tell me he’s on your side? James would never betray me like that!”
“He’s on both our sides,” said Regulus calmly, “for you and I are on the same side now.”
Sirius snorted. “Yeah. And Severus Snape is just the bloke to go to when you need a hug.”
“Look, I redeemed myself before I died!” For the first time, a note of urgency could be heard in Regulus’ voice. “In fact, I died because I redeemed myself.” He ripped back the left sleeve of his Death Eater’s robes, and showed Sirius the absence of the Dark Mark created by his dying.
Sirius snorted at this and folded his arms. “Oh yeah? How?”
Regulus smoothed his sleeve back down so that it covered his arm once more, and after a moment’s hesitation took a cautious step forward. “Did you get a chance to go back home at all? Before you died?”
“Unfortunately. I was imprisoned there because I was still a wanted man.”
“Wanted man? What for?”
“I believe we were discussing your redemption, not mine.”
Regulus closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out. He opened his eyes and asked: “How’s Kreacher been doing?”
“Ew, God, don’t even go there!” Sirius shouted. “You think I want to think about that disgusting little snotrag now that I’m rid of him for good?”
“You see, Sirius! That was always your problem! You were never nice to Kreacher!”
“I was! Until he sank his teeth into my ankle! Ratted me out about my secret childhood Muggle friend, Edward Griffin! And that got Eddy murdered by Mum’s cousin! I could never forgive Kreacher for that!”
“Look, I was wrong! We were all wrong about the Dark Lord! His idea of a world purged of Muggles and Muggle-borns and half-bloods was all wrong! All, all wrong!”
“Oh yeah? And when’d you figure that out?”
“Kreacher was only doing what Mum and Dad ordered him to do! House-elves only support the opinions of their masters because their masters tell them too! And Kreacher just sided with them, because they were the masters of the house, and you weren’t! What else was he supposed to do? Disobey them and get punished with clothes?!”
“Fine! But you still didn’t answer my question: when did you get it into your thick skull that Voldemort was a lunatic who got it all wrong? That what he was doing was an abomination and that there was no excuse for it?!”
“When he got to me, Sirius! When he got to me!” Regulus was shaking as much as Sirius was now, as he pounded his chest furiously with his fist to indicate himself.
“Oh what?” Sirius started talking in a mock-baby voice uncannily like the one his murderess cousin Bellatrix had used on numerous occasions as a cruel taunting mechanism. “When widdle baby Weguwus got cowd feet? Hmmm? Did Vowdy-mowt’s big bad Deaf Eataws come and get you when you wuh asweep in yaw beddy-bye?”
Regulus gave a roar a rage and lunged forward.
But Sirius was ready. He and Regulus had been through enough wrestling matches when they’d been kids, although Sirius had to admit it had been a while, so he was a tad rusty….
They brought each other to the ground, tearing and grabbing and punching and biting and slapping and hitting each other.
“He used Kreacher and then left him to die!” Regulus snarled, smacking Sirius’ jaw.
“Good on Voldemort! First decent thing I’ve heard him do!” Sirius retorted as he punched at every bit of Regulus he could get to.
“He didn’t tell me he was going to do that! He’d just said he’d needed him!” Regulus shouted back, kicking at Sirius’ chest as he scrambled to get away.
Sirius threw himself forward and wrapped his arms around Regulus’ legs, pinning him to the ground. “So, is that it? You figured out Voldemort was a big, fat liar and you decided you’d had it? What? He broke your heart with a stupid little lie?”
“I loved Kreacher as you hated him!” Regulus spat, squirming in Sirius’ grasp. “You’ve no idea how shaken I was when I found out he’d just—abandoned him! Left him to die! Kreacher was a wreck!”
“So what, you tried to avenge him and got killed in the process?!”
“No, I tried to stop the Dark Lord!”
Sirius relaxed his hold on his brother’s legs. “You what?”
Regulus heaved a sigh, his demeanor calmed. “Look: Kreacher was someone I could talk to. He meant something to me. There were times when I didn’t see him as a house-elf at all, but just as a friend. I could never talk to you about things. You hated me because I was on Mum and Dad’s side. Because I got into Slytherin. Because I became Mum and Dad’s favorite.”
He hadn’t said it tauntingly: he’d said it matter-of-factly. But that didn’t matter. That last one was sill the last straw for Sirius. “Shut up!” He lashed out, tightening his grip on Regulus’ legs again. “I never cared about that!”
Regulus peered over his shoulder at him. He raised his eyebrows. “Alright. I won’t go there. But do you want to know what I did, or not?”
Sirius relaxed his grip once more, but did not release him. “Yes.”
“Then let me go, and let me tell you. Face to face. Without you leaping at me every five words I speak trying to rip me to shreds.”
Sirius hesitated, and then slowly, he let go of Regulus’ legs and sat up cross-legged on the ground.
Regulus sat up as well, rubbing his shins and drawing his knees up to his chest. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and began. “About a year after I’d joined the Dark Lord, we learned that the Dark Lord was in dire need of the assistance of a house-elf for a very special and important task. I volunteered Kreacher at once.” He swallowed, and guilt and self-blame flashed in his gray eyes that were so like his brother’s. “As soon as it was settled, I went home to tell Kreacher the news. Kreacher was delighted that I had volunteered him, he got tears in his eyes he was so happy to have received such an honor.”
Sirius was surprised to hear the note of sarcasm in Regulus’ tone when he said the word “honor”.
“So I sent Kreacher off,” Regulus went on, “hoping deep down that…that he’d be alright.” He took another deep breath. “But when Kreacher didn’t come home…I—I got worried. And then I received a message from the Dark Lord, telling me that he was quite pleased that my house-elf could be of such good use to him, and that he would be dying a hero’s death this night for his and my loyalty to him.
“Without another thought, I called Kreacher home, hoping it was not too late. When Kreacher appeared before the hearth in our kitchen, I—I was so relieved. I said, ‘Kreacher! Thank God, you’re okay!’ and poor Kreacher was sobbing, his eyes full of fear. I asked him what had happened and he told me.”
And right then and there, Regulus relayed to Sirius Kreacher’s tale of what he had seen and been forced to do on the island in the lake deep inside the cave by the sea.
“I mean I couldn’t believe it! On top of what that potion had done—forcing Kreacher into a world of pain and reliving his worst memories, like some sort of potion composed of a cross between the effects of a dementor and the effects a Cruciatus Curse ten-fold—he just left him there to die….” Regulus had become palpably distraught by this. He swallowed hard. “I told Kreacher to stay home and stay hidden for a while. In the meantime, I went over it all in my mind. And I did some digging too. And I…I figured out what the locket was. It was a—a Horcrux.”
Sirius’ eyes widened, and he sucked in his breath. “My God….”
“I knew it had to be destroyed,” said Regulus. And then his eyes filled with such a tortured sorrow such as Sirius had never seen before. “But I wish to God I’d figured how to destroy it. I could have told Kreacher. But it was just that…there wasn’t time. As soon as I learned what the locket was, I formed a plan to stop him, to bring him down. I could no longer serve a master who had tried to murder one of my dearest companions without a care about it. So I went to the cavern myself…I took Kreacher along…and…and….” The breath that Regulus no longer breathed became shallow. His eyes shined as he gazed at his older brother. “I told Kreacher…to leave me there…. I told him…to go home…and not to tell Mum and Dad…or anyone else in the family about what I was about to do…I didn’t want them harmed for my sake…not even you…and then I…I drank—”
“You didn’t drink it?” Sirius gasped.
“I had to.” Regulus’ face was bent with anguish. “I drank it all…. God, Sirius…. That stuff was hell…liquefied…it tore at my insides like a fiery acid…and I heard terrible things…and every fight you and I had…all those times we’d nearly killed each other…every person I’d ever killed in the Dark Lord’s service, pleading with me…I felt their pain as I tortured and murdered them…my whole world was agony…. I wanted to die….”
Regulus, trembling all over, swallowed hard before he continued.
“When it was all over…I lay gasping and shaking on the ground…. My mouth was so dry. I was so thirsty…. I ordered Kreacher to swap the lockets…and then take the original one home with him…and destroy it…. I used the one Mum and Dad had given me as a present for joining the Death Eaters as the decoy…and then I ordered him to get in the boat…he got in…crying…I could hardly bear it…and once he was safely away from where the Inferi would be able to get him, I managed to conjure a goblet, and crawled to the water’s edge…and drank…I was so thirsty anyway…I’d never been more thirsty…it was worth it….”
Sirius stared dumbstruck at Regulus’ eyes…so full of misery.
“And the Inferi came,” Regulus said, lowering his voice to a near-whisper, “and they dragged me down…into the darkness….” He broke off, shut his eyes, and shuddered.
For a while they simply sat in silence, with the only sound being the forest wildlife.
Then Sirius said quietly, “Reg…I’m sorry….”
“Forget it,” Regulus said at once, seeming to recompose himself, drag himself up from the shadows of the terrible memory of his pain-filled and horrific death.
“No,” Sirius said more loudly. “I mean…the locket…we...the one you wanted to have Kreacher destroy…we…threw it out….”
Regulus stared at him. His eyes became very round. “You what?” he croaked.
“Look, I didn’t know,” said Sirius defensively. “And I still hated the lot of you! Especially since I never thought I’d have to come home again, and there I was, locked up in the house of my terrible childhood because I was still a fugitive from the law! But—But Kreacher might’ve salvaged it: he salvaged a lot of the stuff we tried to throw away! Okay? Look, I really am sorry!”
For a moment, he thought his brother was going to lunge at him again, but instead, Regulus sighed and said with resignation, “Okay. I forgive you. But only if you forgive me.”
“I do,” said Sirius sincerely.
Regulus gave a nod. “Good.”
There was another tense silence between them.
And then, awkwardly, they edged closer to one another…and shook hands. And at first, the shake was cold, and reluctant, but it warmed somewhat a couple of moments later, as they looked at each other, two brothers who could finally call the other their brother without a shred of shame.
When they let go, Regulus surprised Sirius again with a smile. It was a sly one, but it was a smile all the same. And he said: “So, now it’s your turn to tell me: why were you a fugitive from the law?”
To this, Sirius returned the smile, feeling for the first time a sort of yearning, long-forgotten warmth in the company of his little brother, and said, “Well, Reg, it’s quite a tale, let me tell you, and it has to do with a rat named Peter Pettigrew….”
By the time Sirius had finished his story, Regulus gave Sirius an oddly admiring grin. “I guess we both sort of ended up loose cannons, eh?”
Sirius laughed. “Yeah. Funny, ain’t it?”
“Yeah.” Regulus laughed too, and then he said, “Hey, bro: I’ve got something really special for you.”
Sirius raised his eyebrows, amused. “Oh really? What is it?”
Regulus’ smile was mischievous. “You’ll see. Just take my hand.” He held it out.
Sirius shook his head, chuckled softly, and took his brother’s hand. The moment he did, everything around him whirled in a haze of spinning color. And then a second later, it stopped, as abruptly as it had started. Sirius shook his head and released Regulus’ hand. He looked around, and saw that they were back at the glade where James and Lily’s cottage was. But now it was sunset, and their cottage was a bit far off. Closer to them, there was another cottage, which was slightly different in its design.
Regulus stood, and then helped Sirius up, for Sirius was too stunned to stand on his own for the moment.
“Where are we?” he asked breathlessly as a cloud of fireflies erupted from a patch of grass to their left and floated in a glowing cloud of dots. They shined like the stars peeping through the sun’s dying rays in the sky.
“This is where I leave you for now,” said Regulus.
Sirius saw him walking backwards, away from him, but never taking his eyes from him.
“I’ll see you around,” Regulus added, giving a farewell wave, “but at present, I think you’d like some privacy.”
But Regulus disappeared into the darkness, and vanished without a trace.
“Regulus, wait!” Sirius called, taking a step closer to where his brother had dematerialized.
Sirius froze. That voice…. He looked to the cottage nearby, and saw that the front door had been opened, and as golden light spilled out from within it, he perceived a silhouette in the doorway…a womanly and sexy hour-glass figure…in the dim light of the evening, he saw that her hair was long…and…golden…perhaps…?
“Sirius! Is that you?” The voice was full of an anguished hope that squeezed at Sirius’ heart.
The voice belonged to a woman he’d loved more deeply than any other when he’d been alive, dead these past fourteen years…. Since her death, he had never again loved another, not even half as much as he’d loved her….
“A-Aurelia?” he croaked, striding towards the woman, hardly daring to believe it, his stalled heart beating so fast….
He’d waited so long….
He’d often feared that death held no afterlife…and that this moment would never come for him….
“Sirius!” the woman gasped. She broke into a jog down the path that led up to the front door, her beautiful hair flying behind her….
She ran straight into his arms, and he caught her swiftly and held her as close as humanly possibly, breathing in her scent…the scent he’d missed so much….
“Aurelia…is it really you, baby…?” he whispered, his voice breaking, his heart crying out with a painful joy.
“It’s me, love,” Aurelia wept into his shoulder. “It’s really me…oh Sirius….”
The moon rose, full and bright above him, and they were both bathed in silvery light.
Sirius pulled back, his eyes stinging with tears, and saw himself reflected in the pools of his own beloved’s golden orbs, bright with tears of her own joy at finally being with him again after so long….
He caught her face in his hands…her skin was so wonderfully soft…just as he remembered…. “Is this real?” he choked, his throat closing up.
It seemed Aurelia’s throat already had closed up, because she simply nodded, smiling through her tears that gleamed like tiny silver pearls as they rolled down her cheeks….
Sirius brushed away her tears tenderly with his thumbs. And then he took her mouth with his, kissing her deeply…and both their tears flowed unchecked as they clutched each other…kissed and touched and stroked each other in the pale lunar beams illuminating them from above….
Sirius’ stilled heart raced faster with each caress. And then he had that awful burning sensation that his insides were on the verge of exploding. Quickly he broke their kiss and swept her off of her feet and carried her in his arms towards the cottage.
Aurelia gave a squeal of surprised delight when he scooped her up so unexpectedly.
He nibbled on her ear as he brought her over the threshold and kicked the door shut behind him.
“Sirius, be careful to watch where you’re going,” Aurelia laughed.
As she said this, Sirius nearly tripped over some unidentifiable piece of furniture—a stool perhaps. He, however, was far more interested in a bed. Or a sofa. Whichever was closer. A bed had more space though.
And Aurelia directed him towards the bedroom.
He moved as if in a dream, nibbling on her ear delicately all the way until they were in the dark bedroom.
The room lit up with a sultrily dim light at the mental command of Aurelia.
Sirius identified the bed and laid her down gently, at last able to see her in a far better light than that of the silvery moon, not that she wasn’t pretty in it. But now in the dull gold light of the bedroom mixed with the gold of her beautiful golden hair, she looked up at him, her golden eyes full of such yearning love that his heart broke and pieced itself back together at the same time watching her, after so long living without her…without her voice…her touch….
He tossed off the jacket he had died in and sat beside her on the edge of the bed, reached down and stroked her wonderful hair, so soft…so beautiful…. He laid his head down, settling his ear right over her no-longer-beating-heart, which beat at the speed of a humming bird’s wings…. His did the same as she gently stroked and brushed her fingers over and over through his shoulder-length black hair….
“Your hair’s longer,” she commented softly.
“Do you not like it?” Sirius was afraid she didn’t.
Aurelia smiled that glorious smile he remembered so well even after so long of not seeing it, her aureate eyes bright. “I adore it,” she said huskily, tangling her fingers in the raven-black locks.
Sirius closed his eyes, nuzzled her, drank her in with the next intake of his non-existent breath, and whispered her name.
She whispered his.
He raised his head and looked at her again.
Her smile grew quavery as she framed his face in her hands.
He smiled back, his grey eyes swimming with as much love as her golden ones was in return.
“I love you, Sirius.”
“I love you too, Aurelia. So much….”
He loved her so much it hurt, even now, when he was dead. When they were both dead.
He liked the idea of that.
He reached over and traced the features of her face with his fingertip. He felt her hands travel seductively down his throat. The sensation sent shivers through him. And his gut clenched with pleasure as she felt him start to unbutton the vest in which he’d died.
Over in the cottage next door, James watched Lily working on another one of her paintings.
“I’ll bet they’re doing it right now,” he said suddenly.
Lily nearly dropped the paintbrush. “James!” But she was suppressing laughter.
“I’m just saying….”
“James, if you’re in the mood just say so.”
“Only if you are, love.”
Lily’s motionless heart turned over. “Oh James….” She set down her paintbrush and went over to where he sat on the sofa, slid into his waiting arms, kissed his smiling mouth, slowly and gently guiding him down to lie on his back.
Both their eyes were closed.
James took her face gently in his hands, raked his fingers through her fiery red hair.
Lily deepened the kiss, and expertly began to unbutton his shirt at the same time.
Regulus meanwhile, stood on the porch of the lake house he’d dreamed up for himself, chewing on a toothpick.
A young woman wrapped up in the bed sheets as if it were a magnificent, white strapless gown, came out onto the porch to join him, nuzzled against him. She had pretty, crimped, dark brown hair that spilled over her shoulders, and wonderful brown eyes, full of umbrous warmth. Her name was Persephone.
They had never known each other in life, only in death. But in death, they had been going steady since they’d met.
While making love to her this evening, Regulus had told her about his meeting with Sirius.
When he mentioned that he’d been in Azkaban, she had given him a funny, strange look and became thoughtful. Now as she pressed her front against him, she said into his shoulder, “I remember where I met your brother. It was in Azkaban, where I died.”
“Oh?” Regulus raised his eyebrows. He flicked his toothpick into the water, turned around and drew her into the shelter of his arms.
“I was with him in his cell for a time,” she said, her beautiful eyes suddenly overbright. “You remember I told you I was really sick in there?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“I died in his arms.”
Persephone smiled back.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” said Persephone, and kissed him full on the lips.
The brilliant shooting stars that fell from the black skies sang for all the lovers there basking in the throes of young love.
Through the window, Sirius and Aurelia lay in each other's arms in Aurelia's bedroom at her cottage, and they both spotted the stars falling outside.
"Make a wish," Sirius whispered in her ear.
Aurelia smiled. "I don't need to. I have all of my wishes right here with me."
And as the falling stars outside illuminated their faces, they kissed with utmost passion, reveling in the joy that they were never to be parted again.
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