"You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?"
- Albus Dumbledore
"You're moping, mate. You do know that you look pathetic when you do that, right?"
Sirius groans, a low sound that makes his throat vibrate only slightly before the room turns quiet again. He isn't sure he likes the quiet. He never has, really, but right now he thinks he rather go mad in silence.
"You might think slobbering all over the pillow is sexy but it isn't. I can't say much for your breath either."
So he might need a shower, so what? It isn't the end of the world not to wash for a few days, he knows that quite well. It isn't the end of the world to lie in bed for a bit either. He has nowhere to go anyway.
"This isn't Azkaban. Don't make it your own prison."
It might not be but it's pretty damn close. Instead of the cold he's suffocating and going mad. He has learned he doesn't need Dementors for that. The world is slipping and him with it.
He doesn't hope for silence.
* * *
They are hiding under the High Table, right between McGonagall and Slughorn's legs, biting their lips to keep from laughing. They inch a bit to the left, the invisibility cloak thrown carefully over them and they wait.
There's no need for words. Sirius has learned to read James' every expression, every tilt of the head, pursing of the lips and widening of the eyes, and he knows the moment he's supposed to act.
James swishes his wand with careless grace. A simple precise movement in perfect synchrony with Sirius' own. They hear the explosion and it's their cue to move.
They crawl quickly to the end of the table, straighten up and move to one of the hidden corners of the Great Hall. They can see their work now, the beautiful small twisters they created sweeping over the room, taking cutlery, tables, pumpkins and students alike.
A very irritated Professor Hornsker flies pass them, a victim of one of their more enthusiastic mini tornados, and Sirius and James are hugging, laughing too hard to notice the invisibility cloak slipping down or a very unimpressed Professor McGonagall staring down at them and trying to yell over the heavy noises of the wind and chaos in the room.
Their laughs mix as one, their eyes meeting and twinkling with mirth. Mischief managed.
* * *
"We thought we give you a special treat, Black. To help you celebrate your nasty trick."
He doesn't know the name of the Auror but he remembers the face, it's the same one that looked down at him with rage and contempt as he was led away in chains.
The colds slips into the cell like needles piercing his skin and lungs and he knows, by now he knows very well, what's happening. He shuts his eyes, covers his face with his arms, even though he's learned is useless, and tries not to think, not to be there.
It's worse than before, worse than ever, and Sirius thinks this is it. This is as far as he can go, as much as he can bear so he opens his eyes, takes a deep breath and lets himself break.
It's far away. It's a memory, maybe. Hope. Maybe he broke. This might be death.
"No, Padfoot." Stronger now. And then the voice is urging, challenging, filled with mischief and trust and warmth and everything that's James, everything Sirius has forgotten, everything the Dementors have taken away.
"Fight, you stupid git. Fight!"
He buries his nails on the hard stone floor and a sound that's a scream, a laugh and a sob at once, escapes his lips. He's not done yet. He grins and feels James grinning back at him. Not by a long shot.
* * *
The air is fresh and a bit chilly but the sky is clear. The crescent moon gives them enough light to see, not too much, but really, half the fun is in the risk.
"Too slow, Black!" James taunts and flies by him, impossibly fast, navigating through the trees as if it was the middle of the day and the dangerous shapes weren't more than dim shadows.
"I'll show you slow, Potter," Sirius grumbles and leans down on his broom in one quick reckless move. He's almost hit by a branch but he manages to veer to the left at the last second. He doesn't slow, not at all, not when James already has the advantage. James might be the Quidditch star but Sirius isn't one to be outdone.
Sirius escapes two close encounters with tree branches and one with a very aggressive owl before he realizes James is letting him follow. He's being subtle about it but Sirius knows James' style and he can see that if James were alone he would be at the other side of the forest by now.
"You're a git!," Sirius yells.
James' laugh is rich and clear in the night sky. "You love me!" he replies.
Sirius pokes his tongue out at him and tries to catch up.
* * *
He has never liked the heath. He likes the snow, the cold air on his face and the bite of the rain when it pours just before winter. He thought he might like a change. He had enough of the painful hopeless cold to last a lifetime, but the heath is worse.
His clothes stick to his skin, sweat runs down the side of his face and the beers warm before he can drink the bottle whole.
"It's called a cooling spell, Padfoot. You've only done it a thousand times."
Sirius holds his wand and flicks it slightly. The bottle is soon covered in frost and the beer is once again bitter and refreshing sliding down his throat.
A laugh. "You are hopeless."
Sirius agrees. He's always been. He takes a swig of his beer and wipes his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Things are heating up. You'll need to go back soon."
No one is talking about the weather. "I will," Sirius agrees, even though he knows he's hopeless. He will anyway. It's better than melting away.
A small breeze comes through the window and ruffles Sirius' hair. He smiles and finishes his beer.
"Drink one for me, mate."
Sirius cools a new bottle and holds it up in a silent salute. He drinks it all in one swig.
* * *
"We might die," James says and it's all so sudden, all so out of the blue that Sirius sobers up immediately.
"Today." James' voice is low and thoughtful. "We won today."
The gash on his arm starts to throb, reminding Sirius they hadn't made it unharmed. He ignores it. "Then we die."
"We die," James repeats. "Others shall fight."
Sirius laughs but it's not his usual loud one. "As if the Great James Potter would let death stop him."
James grins. "Well, I am bloody brilliant."
Sirius punches him in the arm and then freezes when he sees the pain in James' face and remembers the injury on James' shoulder. "Sorry, mate."
James shakes his head. "It's alright." He grins. "It will take more than that to bring the Great James Potter down."
Sirius doesn't doubt it for a moment.
* * *
A wicked grin spreads on his face. The air is cool down here and plenty and he takes deep breaths in between spells and dives. He's alive and he can feel the rush of the duel.
He doesn't think. His instincts do the work and he dances the deathly dance once more. Quick, swift, dangerous.
"I was afraid you were getting old."
And the voice is filled with laughter and mirth and Sirius is sixteen again and flying. James grins.
Sirius grins back, even as he falls, even as he knows there'll be no coming back this time.
We fight, Sirius understands.
"We fight," James agrees.
And this time Sirius laughs, loud and rich; James' laugh and his own becoming one once again.
- The End -