Sirius is sitting down on the sand, just before the water touches the land. The salt spray doesn’t remind him of Azkaban at all, it’s baking hot and he’s alone with his thoughts. All the darkness that touches him is his own.
He’s naked, as a man. But Uncle Alphard’s cottage in Mallorca has enough anti-muggle wards on it, so he’s not worried about scaring anyone.
The last time he was here was with James and Lily and Remus and that rat, and they got naked too. Well, just the Marauders, Lily rolled her eyes as they ran into the ocean at midnight.
It’s lonelier this way, Sirius thinks, before he spots a glass bottle at the edge of his vision. It’s shrouded in mist and he knows it’s magical.
His lessons and his mother would have told him not to touch it, so he does anyways. Nothing happens for a moment, but a remarkable creature puffs out of air.
It looked like a man, tall, dark-skinned, handsome, with a shark-tooth sharp grin, but Sirius hadn’t run around with a werewolf for years to not recognize a dark creature beneath the veneers of a man.
“Good evening to you, Sirius Black,” the creature said with a grin.
Sirius cocked his head. “Is it?”
“It could be. What if I told you I could grant you your heart’s desire?”
Sirius barked out a laugh. “No one can. And not you, jinn.”
The creature took a seat on the beach next to him. “I could do it, but you wouldn’t like it. And more importantly, I wouldn’t.”
“5 points from the jinn for complete lack of clarity,” Sirius replied, without fear.
“What do you wish for most in the world?” he asked, reaching up to Sirius face’s. He slapped the hand away, but his reflexes weren’t fast enough.
“That I never gave up being James and Lily’s secret-keeper,” he said, the truth spilling out of his lips quicker than he meant to. “But go fuck yourself, that’s not your business.”
“I’m making it my business this evening. And a bit of time travel isn’t completely out of the question, but I’ve made a bargain before, with one of your little Death Eaters.”
“They’re not my death eaters!” Sirius all but growled.
“Of course, of course, my apologies,” he replied, his voice as smooth as butter. “And for all I don’t mind a little chaos, it was too much. I’ve had a productive decade with Voldemort being gone, you English wizards are high on the drama and the wishing. And there’s no way for this little interlude between wars without Lily Potter dying.”
Sirius stood up, and headed back to the cottage. “Right, I’ve had enough of this. Go find another wizard to torture.”
“This isn’t torture,” he said, pulling himself back up to his feet. “If Lily Potter didn’t make the choice to die to save her son, Voldemort wouldn’t have been stopped for a while. He slaughtered so many new bloods in his rise to the top. And little wizards and witches born of muggles are so easy with their wishes and bargains. They don’t grow up with the stories you did that make you so afraid of me right now.”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Sirius scoffed.
“A little fear is healthy, it’s fine, I can deal with it. And I want to make a deal with you—I’m just explaining that I can’t get you what you want exactly. Or rather that, I won’t.” he said, twirling a lock of his black hair aimlessly. It was practiced, easy and made Sirius more nervous.
“Right, thanks for that.”
“I can give you your heart’s desire, but in a different way.”
“You’re not my type,” Sirius replied. “I may be naked, but I’m not that easy.”
The jinn shifted, and for one horrible, beautiful moment, James Potter was staring back at him. Sirius blinked, and the Jinn was back.
Sirius was overcome with rage and grief and shifted, the bones and sinews of his body jutting into Padfoot. A jinn couldn’t torture a dog, and Padfoot would be able to smell that it wasn’t James.
“Ah, marvelous,” the Jinn said. “That’s it, just what I wanted. A beautiful grim you make, perfect for mischief.”
Sirius growled, and shifted back to a man, turning to walk up to the entrance of the sea cottage.
“It’s quite rude to ignore someone like that, Mr. Black. But you’ll hear me out. Your friend back for your Animagus, it’s quite a good trade.”
Sirius stopped dead on his feet. “I know how this goes. I don’t want an inferi, or a ghost or a half-life.”
“Quite clever of you. It’ll be him, body and soul.”
“From when?” Sirius asked, having a vision of a newborn James being plopped into his arms. He couldn’t be trusted with a child.
“I can do from his death day, or younger if that’s where your tastes lie.”
Sirius shook his head before a terrible vision popped into his mind.
“And he’ll be here, not blasting his way out of his grave with his wand?”
The jinn shrugged. “Makes no difference to me, sure.”
Sirius rubbed his eyes and tried to picture James in 1981. The memory was so bright and so far away . “I can’t do that to him.”
“You’d rather turn into a very large dog than bring your godson back his father. I get it. It matters little to me, I just wanted to meet you. The dog star wizard who can turn into a dog, the last male of a thousand-year-old line. Good day to you, Sirius Black.”
Oh god, Harry. He had barely thought of his godson, that bright, wonderful 13-year old boy who didn’t know him, but still saved his life
Who was he to deny Harry this? Or deny himself.
“Wait,” Sirius croaked. “Would you make a vow? I have a spare wand inside.”
The jinn smiled, and Sirius’s sense of unease grew “I have little need for your sticks, but I’ll agree to your vow.”
The jinn followed Sirius into the small cottage, while he drew his wand. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he was razor-thin and his face looked gaunt. His hair was cut but messy and he looked like a shadow of his former self. Not like the man James remembered.
Sirius looked down at himself and decided he should at least be partially dressed before engaging in some no-doubt dubious magic. He summoned himself some pants, holding a finger up before the jinn could speak.
“Are you ready?” it asked him.
“Yeah, I’m going to need more than that,” he said. “You know the magic in words, wizard.”
“Yes,” Sirius whispered.
“Do you, Sirius Orion Black, swear to give me your animagus ability in return for me re-animating James Potter’s corpse with his soul pulled from the beyond?”
At those words, Sirius stilled, but he was always in for a knut, out for a galleon.
A golden glow filled the room and Sirius could feel a deep magic being pulled out of his bones, his cartilage, the deepest parts of him. The loss ached.
But he couldn’t mourn for long. The jinn chanted in a language Sirius didn’t understand until, in the small dining room of the cottage, a body appeared on the floor.
It was James—or it was once him-- dressed in his finest dress robes, hands clutching his wand.
Sirius hadn’t seen the burial robes, he was in Azkaban, but preservation charms don’t last forever and the earth’s own magic and rot had set in. It was a corpse, a long-dead thing, the robes were in better shape than his flesh. There were chunks missing that decay or animals took.
Sirius doubled over, trying not to choke on the bile in his throat.
The chanting resumed, and the decay reversed slowly, his skin and hair growing back centimetre by centimetre until he looked like he could be sleeping, except for the lack of breath.
“Almost done,” he said proudly, gesturing to James on the floor. “Just needs his soul back. I’ve asked, he should probably come.”
“Probably?! We had a deal,” Sirius shouted.
“Well, I can’t make him, but I made an assumption,” he explained. “I have no power over that…but he died a violent death before he even hit a quarter-century. He’s at peace, but he had his life and son stolen from him, there’s things he’d want from this earth yet. Of course, I could be wrong, and you’ll get your power back, no harm, no foul.”
Sirius stared at his friend, so still in death, when in life he was so full of movement. He even kicked and mumbled in his sleep, he was never like this, it was a cruel mockery of his life.
He kept staring until James’s eyes opened and he gasped in air.
“Ah, there he is,” the jinn replied. “Pleasure doing business with you, Sirius Black.”
At that, the jinn apparated away without a sound, and Sirius ran over to James, touching his not-yet-warm skin.
He could hear him struggle to breath in and out, putting his hand to his chest.
“Easy, Prongs,” he said, helping him to sit in a chair.
“Oh, Padfoot,” James said, his voice cracking from a decade of disuse. “What did you do?”