Sirius sat on the cold rim of one of James’ makeshifts goal posts at two o’clock in the morning, his shivering fingers ghosting over charms on a bracelet. There were only four charms so far, a wolf, a dog, a heart, and a feather, all silver and shining in the light of the moon. He leaned his head against the circular metal, frowning and sighing. He still couldn’t believe they’d stunned and tied him up to bring him back, though he knew it had been necessary. He never would have willingly.
His fingers slipped, and the charm bracelet slid right out of his stiff fingers. He watched it tumble through the moonlight and the dark air before it crashed into the many inches of snow blanketing the backyard. He stayed a moment longer before levitating his broom back up to him from where he’d dropped it earlier and descending back to the ground to look for the bracelet. He found it before long, tucking it away in his pocket, before heading toward the door. Mrs. Potter was waiting there, frowning and with her arms crossed.
“Not only are you barefoot,” she began, “But your hair is also wet.” She sighed and pulled him farther into the house, flicking her hand at the back door to close it. “Tell me what troubles you?”
“I’d rather not, Mrs. P,” he said with a frown that seemed permanently etched onto his mouth, “Lily keeps telling me it will all be alright in the end, that all of this will calm and I’ll have Iris back.”
“I won’t pretend I know what’s going on, but Lily is right.”
“She usually is. I think I’ll just go upstairs.”
“Get warm,” she ordered before sending him off.
Sirius took a hot shower, melting the icicles out of his curls, before he changed into sweatpants, a t-shirt, socks, and a sweatshirt. He huddled underneath his blankets and continued to fiddle with the charms before he finally sighed and turned over, leaving the bracelet on his nightstand. He didn’t sleep.
He drifted on the edge of his bed and on the edge of sleep. He stared at the stars, he soaked in the moonlight, and he buried his head in his pillows when a wolf howled from the woods at the edge of James’ backyard. He wished for death.
Morning came with James and a steaming bowl of oatmeal. He pushed at Sirius until he sat against the headboard, and they ate together, side by side, in silence and comfortable. “Lily said the potion will be ready in a week,” he finally said, and Sirius nodded. He knew that was Lily’s way of dealing with the loss of her friend, but Sirius couldn’t fake that well. “We’re going to find her,” James tried to assure, but Sirius just let out a snort and turned his glassy eyes away.
“We’re never going to find her. Your parents won’t let us out of the house for more than an hour, and she’s in the middle of the mountains in New Zealand.”
“Ian is there.”
“Ian said he was leaving soon. Before long, that house will be abandoned, and Iris will be alone in the mountains with no company but Ariel, and the cold that stole the human lives of those other wolves. She won’t last up there. Damn it, James, don’t you see? Put her there long enough, and she’ll never come back, even if we find her.” James looked at him in confusion, but Sirius just got off the bed and left the room in a fury. He remembered so clearly looking into the eyes of those wolves and knowing that they would never be human again, no matter how hot they got. Too long in the cold had frozen them into their fur, and they would never know skin again. And Iris was lost somewhere in that cold.
“She’s as good as dead,” Sirius said softly to the empty hallway, “She is. Just give her up.”
“Cap three vials of your potion and bring them forward, and I shall allow them to sit overnight before we test them on Wednesday. Please dispose of your excess in the proper manner. Four inches on your expected outcome due first thing Wednesday morning, to be corrected if your potion fails. Details on corrections will be given at the end of class on Wednesday. Black, please stay.”
While the rest of the class filed out toward the Great Hall, Sirius went ahead to Slughorn’s desk and watched as their professor put the rest of the vials away in a cabinet before turning to him with a sad smile.
“I may not be the best person to give you advice, nor may you want to hear it, but I wish to offer my sincerest condolences on Miss Vlokx’s disappearance. Can nothing be done?”
“She’s gone, Professor. If I may,” he said, inclining his head toward the door.
“Often people in our lives that we love seem to vanish as though they’d never existed,” Slughorn said, sitting behind his desk and nodding toward the door. As Sirius took his exit, Slughorn’s voice followed him, “As often as they vanish, however, is no truth of their character. We mustn’t judge or despair over those who we cannot find, but, rather, await for their return with a light heart. Be ready, Mister Black.”
Sirius had stopped in the doorway to the classroom in the dungeons, his heart pounding in his chest and blood rushing in his ears. When
Iris returned, he had to be sure he was ready.
“Padfoot?” came Remus’ voice as he finally left the classroom, but he continued on past him, James, Peter, and Lily, mind set.
“Sirius, mate, where are you going?” James called, trying to hurry after him, but he was halted when Lily touched his arm.
“Let me.” And James allowed her, much to Sirius’ thanks.
“You’re quite possibly the most brilliant witch I’ve ever met,” Sirius began, and Lily smiled, “but your heart is stained with this, as is mine. I need a favor from you.”
“Anything,” she said with a firm nod.
“Don’t let James come looking for me tonight,” Sirius said before disappearing through a door before Lily could stop him. Too late she realized they were the stairs to the Owlery and he’d locked the door.
Her suspicions were proven neither wrong nor right as night came. James anxiously stared over at the portrait hole every so often. They hadn’t seen Sirius since before dinner, though he had been in Transfiguration, so Lily knew, at least for the time being, he was still safely in England. She never imagined he might be in danger in England, though.
Sirius rubbed his arms against the raw night air that surrounded the Astronomy tower, an unwanted shiver pulling through him. It was past midnight, past curfew, though that didn’t make a difference. He heard the door creak at the midpoint, and it was only another ten minutes before Severus Snape slipped out of the shadows.
“You knew it wasn’t her handwriting, and you still came,” Sirius said, shaking his head.
“It was her owl,” Snape replied icily, “What do you want, Black?”
“I am swallowing every ounce of pride and hatred, Snape,” Sirius finally spat, turning to face the Slytherin, “I need your help.”
“Oh? And why should I ever aid you?”
“The Marauders will not be hostile to you, from this moment on, until death does claim us all. And we will do our share to prevent any misgivings from the other Houses, as well,” Sirius said, his fingers curled into fists. “Do you have any other price?”
“What do you need?” Snape demanded.
Sirius stood there a moment before looking down, his breath escaping him. “I can’t save her on my own, and I wanted your opinion. Lily and James and whoever else I ask won’t be able to tell me to my face.” He dug in his robes for one of the vials of golden liquid and proffered it.
Snape stood there nearly three minutes, staring at the potion, sniffing it, weighing it in his hands, and a whole manner of other things before he looked back up at Sirius with a derisive smirk. “You want to know how much of your
life it will cost to save Vlokx’s.” He stared at Sirius some time before holding out the potion, “Because that will only take away one factor, the cold, but in a decade or so, the wolf will claim her, and you want to erase that factor, as well. People talk,” he answered Sirius’ shocked expression, “Whether I heard it from Lily, her friends, or those who have guessed, half the school knows. I only have one other request to add to your offer.” Sirius nodded, and Snape suddenly looked weary. “Just tell Lily I’m sorry,” he paused to sigh before straightening and heading for the door, “I’ll see you in the spring, Black.”
The wolf blinked, one green and one blue, staring out at the house on the mountain. It was locked away in a human memory, how she knew this place, but she was continually drawn to it. And so she continued to stare, unmoving, unknowing. Something inside of her was shouting at her, pushing memories with strange colors and human voices into her mind. The wolf growled and fell onto her belly, burying her face in the snow. She hated these images, things she didn’t understand what they were or how she found them.
She’d seen this one a few times, the image of a boy, almost a man, with wild black hair, hazel eyes, and round glasses, screaming before she forgot what color looked like and he was just a blurry shape before her skin ripped and her muscles tore, and she was in the snow. She could hear his voice. Iris. Iris. Iris.
It rang in her head like a warning, but she didn’t know what it meant. She could see him, blurred in black and white, hands cupped around his mouth, his voice so loud
. Iris. Iris. Iris.
Everytime she heard his voice, another image came to her, unbidden, one that she found strangely familiar. She knew the boy in this one, knew his black curls, grey eyes, and soft touch. “Sirius,”
a girl’s voice always said, but it was pronounced wrong, like Iris
but with an s at the beginning. Sigh-ris. And then his voice, so gentle, “Iris.”
Iris. Iris. Iris.
It rang in her head like a warning.
One of the other wolves had attacked her, and she was miles from them now, nursing her wounds in the bitter night and freezing snow. They didn’t like her because she wasn’t one of them. Iris
. She didn’t know what she was, but these colorful images made her head swim. There was something inside of her begging to be let out.
She remembered saying that. Saying that. Saying
. The something started to make sense, and the wolf stood on her three strong paws, the other curled up. Humans said things, and something inside of her was begging to be let out. She stared at the house again, she saw the boy with the glasses again, and then she saw his face, crystal clear in front of her. “Iris,”
he said, but he said it right. Eye-ris.
The wolf started forward delicately. Everything in her nature screamed at her to stop, but his grey eyes pulled her forward. The something inside of her that was begging to be let out was screaming Iris, Iris, Iris
like a warning in her head, and she knew she had to go back. Go back. She had told him to go back, and now he was gone. Iris
She scratched at the door, desperate, small whimpers forming in her throat until it opened and someone she didn’t recognize opened the door. She turned to bolt, but his voice echoed like a gunshot in the cold mountain, “Iris.”
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Everything otherwise recognizable belongs to Maggie Stiefvater.
HOW INTENSE WAS THAT.