When Sirius had come to, he'd been sprawled across his bed, in his room, dressed just as he had been before he'd cast the spell. He'd thought at first that it was just that the casting had knocked him unconscious. That perhaps there'd been some magical backlash. That his mother would be pushing open his door at any moment, saying his name as only she could, icy and utterly dripping with disapproval for whatever it was she expected to find him doing.
He had been desperately checking the bedclothes over for stray spell components when somebody had said his name. The voice had been male rather than female, though. And when Sirius had looked up he'd discovered a man with thinning grey-brown hair and a drooping moustache – dressed in shabby robes and holding a battered wand – standing at the foot of his bed. Really, the man had looked more like a tramp than the sort of respectable wizard usually admitted to Grimmauld Place. But all Sirius had really known was that he hadn't recognized the man's voice. Though the tone of it made it clear that the man had just seen some terribly shocking thing.
If he had known what spell Sirius had just performed, that would have more than accounted for it.
And that thought had set Sirius on the defensive, saying hotly, “Who the bloody hell are you?” whilst fumbling for his wand. And then, when that hadn't been anywhere to be found, “What're you doing in my room?” He'd had to do something to cover for his sudden attack of uncertainty at being (temporarily, please Merlin - he'd only just been allowed one) wandless.
The man hadn't looked at all worried at that, though. He'd just smiled at Sirius somewhat sadly and asked, “What year is it?”
Sirius had wondered whether the man was mad, then. Perhaps a lunatic who'd lost control of his apparition and ended up in Sirius's bedroom entirely by accident. But he'd said, as politely as he could manage, since he'd no means of defending himself if the lunatic decided to take a dislike to him, “It's 1971, sir.”
The man had just said, even more sadly, “Oh, Sirius.” And, half to himself, “It must have been before he started at Hogwarts.” And, then, after a bit of a pause, “Bloody hell, 'Sir'.” And then he'd blushed.
And Sirius had been left rather more confused than he'd been even a moment before. And feeling a bit wrong-footed, despite the fact that the room they were in was his, because the mysterious man clearly knew things he wasn't telling. But then Sirius had remembered that the man hadn't answered the question he'd asked and decided to point this fact out and perhaps mention that adults always did that.
The man had gotten his composure back and started talking before Sirius could even finish gathering breath to speak, though. He'd said, quite apologetically, “I'm terribly sorry I didn't say before – I rather forgot introductions would be necessary what with the - ,” and here he'd waved a hand about vaguely before continuing, “ But, well, my name is Remus J. Lupin, sometime professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. And other things.” He'd looked sad again, then, but there'd been a hint of pride threading through the sadness in his voice when he'd continued, “I honestly haven't the faintest idea what you've done. Oh, I'm sure that it included a spell far too complicated for an eleven-year-old wizard to be performing. And, well, by all appearances, despite whatever book you got it out of, it worked.” And he'd definitely looked and sounded rueful when he'd concluded, “The year is 1997. I suppose you'd best begin getting used to it."
Sirius hadn't quite known what to say to any of that, had sat there grappling with the tumult of thoughts which suddenly filled his head, crowned by one he couldn't quite believe the most: more than twenty years had passed; the spell had worked. Probably.
Remus J. Lupin had just said, ruefully sincere, "It is good to see you again.” And Sirius hadn't had to say anything, then.
Flying hadn't changed. It had been possibly the only thing in his newly even more lonely world that hadn't. Even though the broom he had been gifted with was two decades more advanced than the last one he had flown and the faces looking out from the Quidditch posters lining the walls of his new bedroom were two decades more aged or entirely unknown to him, the feeling of a broom handle in his hands or a cushioning charm beneath his bum or the air rushing past him as he turned into a precipitous dive – those had remained fixed, unchanging marks around which to rebuild his life.
The days he had been allowed out to fly had been nearly the only things getting him through the summer. Well, those and the prospect of going up to Hogwarts in the fall. Even though he'd not be seeing James there. Then the attack at the end of July had caused Andromeda to declare that he wouldn't be going anywhere. And he'd just been left with flying.
And then there had come the day when he had seem Dromeda beckoning to him from the ground far below, urgency evident in every movement. Sirius had dove, immediately and hard. If his flying time had had to be curtailed for the day, well, he'd end it with a flourish.
Once he'd reached the ground and dismounted his broom at her side, she'd put an arm around his shoulders and said, voice forcedly cheerful, “It's a good job you won't be going up to Hogwarts. They've got one of Voldemort's men in as headmaster - Snape.”
There had been some shadow of meaning in Dromeda's voice when she said Snape's name, something that Sirius felt sure would explain some facet of life he had never known if he had just known how to tease it out, but he hadn't and that had been that - his summer of echoingly lonely flying had been capped off by the knowledge that things were well on their way to becoming as horrible as the adults said they would when they thought Sirius couldn't hear them.
Sirius had always known to listen. And he'd never been a complete idiot.
Ever since flying had been ruled to be out of the question entirely, on account of the war, finding things to do had become even more of a challenge. January's dismal weather had only made things worse. As a result, Sirius had spent much of it sitting at Dromeda's kitchen table, reading his way through the lessons set by a batch of First Year textbooks Dora had brought down from the bookshelves in her room once it had become clear he'd need something to keep him busy during all the dull bits between emergencies. The books, themselves, had not been particularly well-written, for the most part, but Sirius had kept at them. Partly because there hadn't been anything better to do which wouldn't have gotten him in trouble with Dromeda (not that that stopped him doing those things, sometimes, but only when he just couldn't stand it if he didn't do something; Dromeda had always been his favorite of his cousins and now that time had taken away the girl he'd known and left in her place a woman old enough to be his mother he'd found that disappointing her left him feeling remarkably small and ashamed) - but mostly because the facts and ideas he could learn from them were surprisingly interesting.
And sometimes he had even found them useful.
He'd been able to charm the pieces of Dromeda's teapot back together. Even if he still hadn't quite figured out how to the pieces of the life he had now fit together with the pieces of the life he'd had before.
They'd not allowed him to come fight in the battle - and, now that he'd seen what the grounds of the school looked like the day after, Sirius couldn't actually be sorry that Dromeda had kept him out of the fighting and at her side to help her with Teddy.
He hadn't been meant to see the dead, but he'd slipped in anyway, stood and said goodbye to Dora and her husband, Remus. Remus J. Lupin, who had been, in that other lifetime, one of Sirius's closest friends. A fact which Sirius hadn't found out directly, but through putting together bits and pieces of things people had said and the way Lupin looked at him whenever they were in the same room and he didn't think Sirius was paying attention.
The adults had never seemed to be sure of what they should or shouldn't say to him about that other life. Oh, they hadn't quibbled about describing the broad outlines to him: his imprisonment in Azkhaban and subsequent escape and death; the deaths of James and his wife, Lily Evans; the deaths of his parents and brother; the whole of the story of Voldemort as they knew it - and, in telling that, the story of James's son, Harry.
Looking down upon Remus's still, dead face, Sirius had thought that perhaps it didn't matter if he never found out anything more than he already knew about the man. What Sirius had already discovered was perhaps enough: that Remus had been capable of kindness and love, of courage and compassion. And that while he had hardly been perfect, in the end he had done the only thing war had taught Sirius that anyone could ever do; he had tried.
Sirius had thought that perhaps he would be one of the ones to try in Remus's place, then - and walked on, going to find Dromeda and ask her what he could do to help.
He'd been second in line to be sorted. The girl in front of him had walked steadily across the hall when Professor Snape called Aubrey, Beatrice - and seated herself confidently on the sorting stool. Her robes had still looked neatly pressed and she'd had tightly curled dark hair gathered into short poofy bunches all over her head and she'd been sorted Slytherin after the hat had been on her head for hardly any time at all. The students at the Slytherin table had started clapping as soon as the hat had made the pronouncement – but the rest of the hall had joined in without terribly much delay, led by a knot of older students at the end of the Gryffindor table.
Then it had been Sirius's turn. When Professor Snape had announced Black, Sirius there'd been a bit of an odd note to his voice and his mouth had been a bit more pinched even than usual. Afterwards, the entire hall had broken out into whispering and Beatrice Aubrey had stopped walking to the Slytherin table to turn and shoot him a glare. But there'd been nothing for Sirius to do but straighten his shoulders and walk confidently forward to be sorted, thinking all the while that he'd probably never know the half of what he'd gotten up to in that other lifetime which would forever be both his and not.
Or, well, what his father had gotten up to, if one went according to the official story they were putting about.
But then he'd reached the sorting stool and picked up the sorting hat and got himself settled and put the hat on his head. And there'd been no fooling the hat.
Its voice in his head had been amused when it greeted him with a friendly, “Sirius Black. Still not Slytherin, eh?”
And Sirius had shaken his head and said apologetically, “Dromeda turned out alright, but I . . . just can't. Sorry.”
And the hat had hmmed consideringly at that and said, “No, no – you're quite right. You've no native sense of cunning. Never did, really. Though you can keep a secret. And you're still quite the brave one, but not Gryffindor this time, either, I think.”
And Sirius hadn't been able to be disappointed by that judgment for more than a second. Gryffindor without James wouldn't have been half the adventure. And, anyway, these days adventure didn't seem all it once been cracked up to be.
The hat had continued in its musings, said thoughtfully, “Loyal and intelligent, both. But – oh-ho! – you don't half have a thirst for knowledge. Right, then, Ravenclaw it is!” And at just that moment it had shouted out the one word of his new house name for all the school to hear.
Much of the hall had spent a moment stunned into silence, but the younger Ravenclaws had begun clapping nearly immediately – and their elders took up the cheer only moments later. And there'd been ragged cheers from a few other corners of the hall, as well.
Sirius hadn't known what one was supposed to say to the Sorting Hat when it had finished with you, but he'd thought a brief thanks at it, put it back on the sorting stool, and set off across the hall to meet his new housemates and watch the rest of the sorting.
In short order, Sirius's year of Ravenclaws had gained Alexander Clearwater and Mark Cresswell, Alice Fawcett and Fiona MacDougal, as well as a Harper and a Hooper and a Jones and a Robins. And a few students more, there being a sorting-and-a-half to take care of. And each of them had received a warm welcome from the newest Ravenclaw prefects, Orla Quirke and Stewart Ackerly.
Around Sirius his housemates had talked and talked and talked. Alice and Fiona had started a heated discussion concerning the most effective chasing techniques. Mark Cresswell had begun discussing spell structure with the Jones whose first name Sirius had missed. Another corner of the table had taken up potions ingredients – and yet another group of students had begun to extol the virtues of the Hogwarts' food. Sirius had made a comment here or there, but had found himself feeling unnaturally subdued and somehow reluctant to join in fully.
And then Professor Snape had announced yet another name - Ross, Ryan, this time. Sirius had looked up by instinct – he had thought he remembered once knowing a family of Rosses. This Ross, though – this Ryan – he had stopped Sirius cold. He was a skinny dark-haired boy, dressed in the standard school robes and not particularly prepossessing when viewed from behind. But once he'd seated himself on the sorting stool, then – then it all came together. The messy hair and pale skin and pointy chin and darkish eyes framed by round-lensed glasses had all combined to leave Sirius feeling as though he'd seen a ghost.
It hadn't been James Potter, of course. It couldn't have been unless he'd made similar plans to Sirius's all without saying a word about them. And he wouldn't have had reason to. James had been the charmed one of the two of them, the one with the perfect life of doting parents and everything he could ever want, the life Sirius had wanted desperately for his own.
The resemblance had still been terribly uncanny, though. And when the hat had sorted Ryan Ross into Ravenclaw all Sirius had been able to do was sit and stare as Ross removed the Sorting Hat, set it back on the stool and walked towards the Ravenclaw table, directly towards Sirius it had seemed.
That hadn't been so, of course. Ryan Ross had ended up rather a distance down the table from Sirius, in one of the few empty places still left. And Sirius had been left to sit with his thoughts in silence, feeling entirely unsure of what one was meant to do when faced with what seemed a living ghost of the boy who had once been ones best friend in the entire world.
Sirius sometimes still sees James when he looks at Ryan, but it isn't always, now. Three months of sneaking out to go flying at night has taken care of that. Ryan isn't as naturally reckless as James, nor has he had a lifetime to learn to fly a broom. He isn't bad at it, particularly considering the fact that he's only recently learned to fly. But he's clumsy and bad at watching where he's going and tends to drift off into thought about something else when he's meant to be paying attention to controlling his broom.
He's also Sirius's favorite person at Hogwarts, the only boy in their year who hadn't had any preconceived notions about what a Black would be like, what somebody related to Sirius Black would be like, prior to meeting him. And someday Sirius thinks Ryan might be more than that, that Sirius might someday be more than that to him. That someday Ryan might allow Sirius to help him lay his ghosts to rest.
Sirius would like to have the chance to try.
For now, he's content to be a twelve-year-old wizard with a broom, to be able to take leave of the earth, to lose the whens and whys of who he is in the thrill of speed and the pull of gravity. For now, flight can be the language he and Ryan share, the language that erases two decades, an ocean and the wizarding/muggle divide. For now he is content with their being united by their house alliegance and a shared amazement at the fact that they can skim over the newfallen snow blanketing the Quidditch field without ever touching it.
Tonight is for the sky; coming back to earth can wait til morning.