Notes, disclaimers, etc: JKR's, not mine. For vic p in the Shackin_up SeSa. Title from Robyn Hitchcock's Jewels For Sophia. Thanks to SA, tigs, Mosca, Katie, and Mare.



IN THE HAND I NEVER RELAX




Sirius sees only blackness, and then he feels himself being spat out and rolled onto a stone floor, hitting an equally hard stone thing against his back. He tries to spring up but it's more of a stumble upwards.

He hears someone laugh wetly. Sirius blinks and blinks until he can see. A bleeding Death Eater on the floor, a trail of blood from somewhere behind Sirius to where he is lying. "Look at Sirius Black," the man says. He sounds awful. His mask is torn. "You came from the Veil as well."

Sirius turns and sees nothing. A column stretching to the ceiling of black swirling nothing, bits of stone on the floor. "The Veil," Sirius says. He is not thinking straight.

"Was shattered, I see. And here we are, spat out." The Death Eater laughs again and dissolves into coughing. Sirius feels something hit him and he whirls around. His head is suddenly aching like something is trying to break out of his forehead from inside. His vision dims and blurs. He's trying to think through syrup.

"You've been trapped in the Veil for only a few weeks," the Death Eater says. "After the battle here, the Dark Lord came to the Ministry. He killed Dumbledore. We're taking over, Black. It won't be safe for you anywhere. Even Hogwarts is breached. We're winning, you little shit." Another laugh like it's his last.

The Death Eater is dying. Sirius grips his wand and says, "Stupefy." He stutters but the Death Eater twitches and then stills. Sirius lurches over and rips off the man's mask. Rupert Holmgren. Three years behind Sirius and in Ravenclaw. Odd that Sirius even remembers. Holmgren rattles and then stops breathing. He simply stops. Dead. It's not Sirius's doing, Holmgren is bleeding everywhere. Some kind of fight before the Veil disintegrated and spat them out.

Sirius takes Holmgren's wand. He might need it. This lesson, he thinks, is one he's learned. His head is thrumming in a very painful pulse and the edge of his vision is already blurring but he has to get out of the Ministry. Voldemort is winning. Harry, he has to get to Harry. Harry will be at Hogwarts, he thinks.

Hogsmeade is bright and sunny, everything rimmed with tiny halos. This is likely the side-effect of being trapped in the Veil. His vision is altered, his head is still cracked. He runs as Padfoot to Hogwarts.

It has been breached. Holmgren didn't lie. The Gryffindor tower is gone. The walls are all riddled with holes. Padfoot whimpers and sprints back into the forest. No place is safe. He sleeps buried under leaves.

In the morning things are only slightly clearer. If Voldemort is merely winning and not yet victorious, someone is still fighting. Sirius needs to find those people. He Apparates back to London.

He remembers that his face had been plastered all over Muggle and Wizard London two years ago and he could still be recognized by anyone. Sirius casts a sort of glamour, the kind Moody always favored. Moody is surely still alive somewhere: no one could kill that bastard. With Dumbledore gone, Moody will most likely be in charge.

Sirius doesn't think past Dumbledore being gone, doesn't plumb his heart for grief or anger. Harry has to be okay, he thinks. Even if Dumbledore isn't. Dumbledore is gone. Dumbledore did nothing to bring Sirius back; Dumbledore left Sirius in that house. Sirius is sure he doesn't much care. But he finds himself at Hag's Hearth, nearly sniffling over a firewhiskey. He could find something out here. Hag's Hearth never had much affiliation with any side of political conflicts. But he and Remus came here constantly after Hogwarts since the pub's one leaning was towards companions. A mealy-mouthed way to say wizards seeking wizards and witches seeking witches. Which is mealy-mouthed, too.

Any of these people could be Death Eaters or sympathizers. Or people trying to get along in a country where Voldemort ended Dumbledore. He needs to find out something more. And where Harry is. Sirius takes a deep breath. He needs a plan. A way to find Moody. Or anyone. A way to end this ache in his head. He thinks about Moody but the pain in his head surges.

A wizard slips in the chair next to him, orders a firewhisky and does not glance at Sirius. It's not a signal because there are no signals at Hag's Hearth. Sirius brought James here when they were both seventeen and James would always get more offers than him. James said it was because Sirius was intimidating and made his preferences plain. Sirius said it was because James had easy mark written all over him. He came here with Remus, too, but they would just get firewhisky and leave together. Sirius sighs.

"Having a day then?"

"Oh, mate, you've no idea." Sirius isn't about to start discussing that. "And yours?"

His only answer is a snort. Sirius should have said that. He hazards a glance and the wizard is his own age, completely non-descript. They manage to discuss nothing at all while lighting fags and eating pumpkin seeds. Sirius should hate himself for flirting and lining up a shag in the alley when he should be looking for Moody. He should be making a difference.

But it might heal his head which only hurts worse when he thinks of Moody or of Harry.

Then they've made it to the alley and Sirius uses the advantage of his height to push the bloke against the wall. Bloke doesn't object and they're rather frantically opening belts and unzipping trousers. "What's your name?" Sirius mutters against the man's neck. "I'd like something to shout when we finish."

Sirius hears a small laugh and he feels the man's long hand on his cock so he almost misses the answering whisper of "Rob." Made-up name, Sirius thinks. He simply does. But he'll worry later. Now he thinks about Rob and his cock pushing up against Sirius's and the delicious smell of outside he hadn't noticed before. Cigarette smoke and refuse piled against the other wall, it's almost a kind of perfume. It could be the sex talking. His head hurts less when he closes his eyes and lets it happen. It feels familiar as well.

They've both gotten off and Sirius steps back to clean himself up and let "Rob" do the same. Rob says, "You didn't shout my name."

"It's not your name, right?" Sirius grins. He looks as Rob takes out his wand and in that moment of the blink of the spell, Rob's glamour slips.

It's Remus. "Remus," Sirius says. It's the best thing that's happened to him all day. Remus is alive and well and right there. Everything will be all right, now. "You're shit at keeping that glamour up."

Remus holds his wand up. "Who are you?"

Sirius mutters the spell to undo his own glamour. "Why, it's me. It's Sirius."

His answer is a stunning spell Sirius doesn't see coming until it smacks into his forehead.

*

Sirius awakes in a rush, another spell. He blinks and remembers everything. Voldemort is winning and Remus felled him with a stunner. His head still hurts.

Remus says, "Why did you have two wands on you?"

"Mine. And the one I took from the Death Eater, Holmgren, in the room where the Veil was." Sirius tries to sit up straighter, but Remus has him magically bound to the chair. "You remember, that Veil I was trapped in that no one bothered to get me out of. Last time you found me, I had none, remember?"

"Sirius Black is dead," Remus says. He sounds rather angry about it, at least. It's nice to think he was mourned a little. Though, it's been mere weeks and Remus is getting off in back alleys already, that's less nice.

"No, Sirius Black is bound to this chair. Unless you know more than one."

"Thankfully, there was only one. It's been an hour and the polyjuice potion would have worn off. Wherever they would have found hair from him. So they used some other enchantment." Remus stands and walks away from where Sirius can see him. "Holmgren?"

"Rupert Holmgren, that Ravenclaw who was behind us. He was in the room, where the remains of the Veil were. He told me a few weeks had passed. Voldemort killed Dumbledore. Hogwarts in shambles. Not really good news." Sirius sighs. "And now you have me bound to a chair. I'm a little confused."

Remus says, from somewhere behind him, "Holmgren lied. It's been two years since you, since Sirius died by falling through the Veil. In that time, yes, Dumbledore was killed but so was Voldemort. That was three days ago. Most all the Death Eaters have been captured now."

There's silence for a few minutes and Sirius feels he has been patient enough. "Harry's all right, then? So? Remus? Still sitting here."

"I'm quite aware," Remus says. He walks around and sits in front of Sirius. "Drink this." He tips the potion to Sirius's mouth and Sirius swallows. It tastes foul.

"This is proof I am who I say I am because I trust you, Remus." Sirius shudders. He blinks again and his head doesn't hurt. "You cured my head ache. Cheers."

"The last spell Holmgren's wand cast was a kind of confundus charm. I gave you the potion to counteract it. That's most likely why you believed Holmgren."

"It was rather foolish of me." Sirius says. "But he was there."

"What were you planning to do?" Remus sits back. His hands shake a little.

"Find Moody and the Order."

"By finding a nice diversion at Hag's? Is Moody usually there?"

Sirius nearly laughs. "I was under the influence of a confundus charm. I wasn't thinking rationally. I thought there was a place I could get information."

"And yet your irrational thinking was remarkably similar to your rational thinking, if I remember your youth correctly."

"You think I'm Sirius? Then why do you still have me bound to the chair?"

Remus stands up and says, "Your actions seem consistent with the Sirius Black I knew. And there's no magic acting on you to change your appearance or alter your memories. Or affect mine. The Veil was destroyed in the final battle in the Ministry, shortly after Holmgren fell in. Perhaps you were there in stasis of some sort."

"Dumbledore is truly gone? How's Harry?"

Remus sinks down into his chair. "Harry's fine. As much as he can be. Dumbledore's gone since last year. It's very complicated."

Sirius tries to tap his fingers. "Really, would be very happy to be unbound now."

Remus smiles. He says the spell as he hands Sirius his wand. "You understand my concern."

"I do." Sirius doesn't stand up. "I feel rather robbed. Yesterday I thought there was a battle still to be fought, Harry to be protected. And two days ago, I was in my parents' house. I know it wasn't two days ago, but it feels like that, you understand?" He can finally slump in the chair. "And here it's been fifteen years since we last did that."

Remus walks away and comes back with a tray with tea and biscuits. "For me, it's been seventeen. And I never would have if I'd known it was you."

"You'd have been too busy binding me to chairs, I suppose."

"Even assuming all the various circumstances were less strange, Sirius, we're done with that, aren't we?" Remus sips his coffee like he's saying nothing.

"Yes, I understood what you were saying this year. Two years ago." Ever since Dumbledore started directing Sirius's life, Remus had been saying in a load of ways that that part of their lives was over. Sirius understood then but it's less understandable now that everything's okay and Harry is all right.

Remus stares at him for a moment, utterly unreadable. Sirius had barely been able to get what twenty-one year old Remus meant with his looks and silences, he was shit at dealing with thirty-five, thirty-seven, however-old-they-were-now Remus. Sirius sighs. "What do we do now, Remus?"

"I should let everyone know you're back."

"It would be nice to see Harry. I suppose I'm allowed to be outside now?" He can have his life back for the first time since he was twenty-one. And Remus.

Remus waves his wand and his patronus flies out. So it's still the same message system, Sirius sees. Remus says, "You were cleared shortly after your death. And Harry will be thrilled to see you."

"I hope he binds me to a chair, as well. Though we'll be skipping the shagging in the alley." Sirius winces at the very thought. "Please forget I said that."

"Gladly. I think Harry's girl might be a little upset at that, as well."

"He's got a girl? A girl, really? I wouldn't have thought Harry – well, clearly I was wrong." Sirius laughs. "Good on him."

"Ginny Weasley. Another redhead," Remus says, smiling. "Who knew such things were passed from father to son?"

Sirius says, "She's no Lily."

Remus laughs and stands up. He keeps laughing and laughing like some attack of hysteria. Sirius would ask but he already knows. "I thought you were dead," Remus says between gasps. "You are never gone, I should have known."

The last time Sirius saw this much of Remus, they were fifteen. So he looks away.

Then Remus sits down and wipes at his eyes. He says quickly, "Your glamour was more attractive than you are now." That's the Remus Sirius remembers from last year, three years ago.

"I've lost my beauty," Sirius says. He suppresses another wince. It's a silly thing to miss. He wonders if it matters to Remus. "Where your glamour looked a fair amount like you, really. I suppose we're both now tired old men who can only hope to find someone like ourselves for those last remaining years."

"All hundred and twenty odd we might have left, yes." Remus smiles.

"Why were you celebrating at Hag's Hearth, Remus?"

Remus looks away and stops smiling. "Celebrations are finally winding down. And I found myself wondering, well, what happens after this. No more Order, Dumbledore's -- Dumbledore gone." Remus sighs. "A little break from that seemed in order."

"I've probably got pots of money, you know." Sirius says, "You could stay with me. That's something to do." He says it quickly as if he can convince Remus to agree if he doesn't quite hear it right.

Remus stares. "I suppose that's a position."

"Oh, I've got a position for you," Sirius says, grinning. "And we won't have to live at my parents' cursed house."

"Sirius," Remus says. It sounds like no. But it's not quite a no yet.

"Remus. I do mean it. Do you think you can get rid of me?"

There's a knock at the door, a series of them. Someone is very upset. Remus says, "My message was received."

Sirius stands up and reaches for Remus. "Please, Remus." He kisses him Remus and this is something else Sirius hasn't done since he was twenty-one. Did he even do it in the alley? It doesn't matter. He's kissing him now and it's still everything. He steps back and waits. It's forever.

Remus shakes his head and starts to walk to the door. He stops in the middle of the room. The knocking sounds like the door will be broken down. Remus turns and says, "We could get our old flat in London." He's smiling. "This is mental," he says, laughing. Not quite as hysterical.

Sirius smiles as Remus opens the door.

THE END.

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