The Sugar Quill
Author: Queenie  Story: Dogma  Chapter: Default
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Beyond the Veil


By Queenie

Disclaimers: Sirius Black and co. belong to J.K. Rowling. Christian doctrine is Christian doctrine.  But Buddhist concept is fun too.  That is all. Thank you.  Enjoy.


            I was aware, dimly, that someone had entered -- some kid was yelling "DUBBLEDORE!" but I was past caring.  I was fighting with Bellatrix Lestrange -- actually fighting -- for the first time in months, being able to vent my anger. Anger against Dumbledore, for never letting me out of 12 Grimmauld Place -- anger at my mother, with her twisted Pureblooded notions -- Bellatrix herself, for what she did to the Longbottoms -- every resentful feeling I had ever had was being released onto Bellatrix. Only problem was, she blocked excellently, so every act of revenge on was turned into a wand wave and a cackle on her part.  Damn that woman.

            Now I was able to act, and to live, and Harry was nearby, so close -- I was hearing dull whispers from somewhere behind me, but I couldn't pay attention -- I dodged her Stupefy and shouted at her, "Come on, you can do better than that!" and I laughed.

            And then her second curse hit me.

            I'm still not sure of what happened -- there must have been a curtain behind me, and I fell through it.  There was only a sensation of falling, of scents and sights and touch and taste and sounds fading into nothing… a scream…

"HE -- IS -- NOT -- DEAD!  SIRIUS!"



"Sirius Galileo Black!"

A clear voice and bright light knocked Sirius awake.  "Where am I?" he asked.

"Welcome to the afterlife, Mr. Black." The cheerful speaker was a man with white hair who appeared not much older than fifty, sitting behind a desk. He was dressed in simple white and there was a bright flame, it seemed, on top of his head, with the light reflecting off the walls. Sirius couldn't look at it.  The man stood up from behind his desk and held out his hand.  "I'm Saint Peter.  Pleasure to meet you."

Sirius shook his hand, dazed.  "W -- where am I?"

"You are at the gate," he waved his hand to indicate the pale room around him. "The gate to the afterlife."

"Afterlife? What afterlife? I'm an…"

"Agnostic. I know. You were never one for religion, although when you moved in with the Potters, you respected their beliefs and went to Christmas services." At Sirius' baffled expression, he lightly said, "Oh, we haven't quite been stalking you, but religion is just in our records."  He went to a filing cabinet and pulled out a drawer.  "It's actually not as important as some people would think -- religion, I mean -- now, let's see -- Sirius Galileo Black…"

Sirius looked all around himself.  The room was rather small with very light gray walls.  There were benches all around, padded with simple black leather. The light in the room seemed to be electric, like Muggle wiring, but it was as clear as sunlight.  One of the walls had a figure looking over a fence carved on to it, with 'Kilroy Was Here' over that.  On the farthest wall, there was a mahogany door, the darkness of it contrasting with the mother-of-pearl color of the walls.  "So…" Sirius said slowly.  "I'm dead?"


"How… did this … happen?"

"You fell behind the veil.  It's a strange way to go, directly behind the veil like that, but it happens every now and then."

"No -- " Sirius touched the smooth walls, refusing to believe it.  "This has to be a dream…"

"Nope, that's what a lot of folks say, but this isn't a dream.  I'm being dead serious.  Or rather, you're dead Sirius." Ba-dum chh!

There was a sudden burst of drum music, ending with a cymbal crash and a burst of laughter.  Sirius jumped, and then looked all around. 

"What was that?"

"Oh, that's Tim. He's our musical coordinator for the Pearly Gates.  Recommended by St. Cecilia.  Depending on the person, he'll play opera -- " strains of 'Stranger in Paradise' floated through the air "-- that 'rock and roll' stuff --" Sirius was bombarded with some song about ticking away a dull day "-- or anything we think is appropriate."

"I would have never thought the afterlife would have a laugh track." Sirius said dazedly.

"Oh, you'd be surprised.  Mostly the music is to relax people who come in here -- death is kind of shocking the first time around, you know.  All right… let's see, now…" he looked over a file, muttering, "very large Newfoundland…"

"My Animagus form, right?" Sirius inquired, but St. Peter ignored the dead man.

"Deadly sins -- a fair deal more pride than the average person, murderous intent, several times, but only killed once, in defense of yourself and a group of seven…"

He continued to study the file.  Meanwhile, Sirius was recalling what he had been told -- the afterlife.  He was dead.  He wouldn't see Harry, or Remus, again.  Ever.  Or at least, for a very long time. No more snowball fights, no scent of fresh air, or the taste of a hot steak… Sirius suddenly wanted to be alone, very badly.

"I'm in hell," he said softly.  "I'm in a small room with a laugh track and a guy with a head that's on fire."

"First of all," the saint said as if he'd explained this several times before, "my head is not on fire, this tongue of flame -- as I will thank you to call it -- is a sign that I'm a person of some distinction around here, and second of all, let us get down to business. I'd say you're due for a few hundred years in Purgatory…"

"A few hundred years?" Sirius shouted in outrage.  St. Peter shushed him and said "Don't worry, they go by really quickly, they even have board games in the waiting room. As I said, you can either take five hundred years in Purgatory, or…"

He paused.  Sirius listened, intent.  There was an 'or'?

"Or you can be reborn.  It's your choice."
            "Be reborn?" Sirius cocked an eyebrow.  "You mean like be reincarnated?"

"Not as a human," St. Peter explained, "but as an animal.  You can live on Earth again and reduce your Purgatory time until you die.  Unless you'd rather take…"

"Are you kidding?" Sirius shouted, his voice echoing.  "Of course I'll be reborn!  How soon?  Can I choose what I want to be?  Will I be able to tell Harry?  Or… anyone?"

"Well, there is a yes and a no.  You can choose what you'd like to be…"

"A large, black dog," Sirius said quickly.  "Just like my Animagus form is… was… yeah."

"But you will not be able to communicate with any human being."


"You will not be able to speak or communicate at all save through barking and standard dog communication.  You will think and act like a dog.  You will not carry any memories of your former life.  In other words, you will be a dog in the surest sense of the word.  Are you still sure?"

"Yes," Sirius said.  "Yes."  In his mind flashed the thought, 'If I really am dead -- and I'm not sure I am -- I can't face James without being sure that I've fulfilled my godfatherly duty.'

"Well, then," Said St. Peter, making one small note in the file, "I suppose that is that.  Good luck, Sirius. Again."  He then went up to his desk and pressed a small red button.  A slab in the floor opened up and there was a brief comical moment where Sirius was suspended in midair and the next instant there was nothing but a few clouds. 

St. Peter chuckled.  "Another one goes down," he said.  "Strange thing," he added to Tim, "whenever I press that button, I'm sometimes unsure if I'm pressing 'Reincarnate' or 'Reject'.  And you know what happens on 'Reject' --"

Tim's response was to start playing Meatloaf's song: "But like a bat out of hell I'll be gone when the morning comes…"


"Hey, someone get Lepkowski here!"

"What's going on?"

"Milk's starting to have her puppies!"

"Now?  How many pups?"

"Get Lepkowski!"

            On a warm June night, two trainers at the Search & Rescue: Canine Division were crouched by the kennel of Milky Way, one of the rescue dogs.  A Newfoundland with a strong pedigree, the puppies of her first litter were almost assuredly going to be as faithful companions as their mother.  Casey and Ruby were urging on the dog while another volunteer brought a towel.  Finally there were four healthy puppies lying in the kennel next to the large female, illuminated by the bare bulb in the ceiling.  Ruby sighed with content.  Casey, a fairly new recruit, looked puzzled.

            "They're bald," he said.

            "Well, human babies aren't much prettier," said Ruby coaxingly, half to the puppies.  "When they get bigger they'll get cuter."

            "Ruby!" called someone from down the hall.  "Telephone!"

            Ruby got up and said to Casey, "Be a dear and name them, will you?"

            "What?" Casey looked at her.  "But I'm -- how?"

            "Simple -- her name is Milky Way, just give them -- starry names.  Vega, Betelgeuse -- something like that.  But remember, they should have one strong syllable.  Not too difficult.  You know the naming scheme."
            "Yeah, I know." Suddenly Casey was left alone in front of a litter of bald puppies.  He looked at them and then tried to recall all the stars he knew about.

            "Okay, you can be -- Polaris --" he pointed at the first bald lump, "and you'll be -- Centauri.  I'll call you Cygnus, and you --" he scrutinized the last puppy, then smiled.  "You shall be Procyon." 


            A year and a half passed.  A whistle sounded.  The four black dogs lined up.  Their trainer called their names.

            "Centauri!  Cygnus!  Polaris!  Procyon!"

            All of the dogs straightened at the sounds of their names.  The trainer gave the signal for them to sit.  All four went down on their haunches.  Next the signal to bark was given.  As in one voice, three of the dogs gave loud, commanding barks.  The second dog gave two barks. 

            "No, Cyg," said the trainer harshly.  Cygnus bowed her head.  The trainer then took them out into the open, where several volunteers had hidden themselves.   Two short bursts came from the whistle.  The dogs bounded out and in a few moments all of the five volunteers had been found.  "Very good!" the trainer chortled, rubbing all four dogs on the head.  "Very good!  I'd say that you're almost ready to go out and rescue!"  He chuckled and rubbed them all affectionately on the head.  "Good dogs.  Good dogs."

            "Mr. Lepkowski," said an assistant coming up with a clipboard, "What do you think?"

            "I'd think --" said Lepkowski, scratching on dog on the ear and another on the belly, "That these dogs are ready."

            A few days later the dogs were being driven to their first-ever rescue mission.  "A skier called for help about a half-hour ago," the driver rattled off.  "Says he broke his leg.  This is in upper Scotland, right?"

            "Yeah," said Lepkowski, the only other human passenger.  "You get a lot of strange happenings there.  So dogs, are you ready?"

            This time the dogs didn't bark, they only wagged their tails slightly.  They were trained not to excite in any vehicle.

            "They seem to be all right," said their trainer. "Don't worry, Mr. Skier, you're in good paws."



            "Thank you so much!  Thank you, thank you --"

            "It's not a problem," said the trainer to the American skier.  "Polaris caught on your scent right away.  Thank our dogs."

            "Thank you, thank you thank you --"

            The other trainer's attention was caught by something else.  Procyon was standing a little bit apart from the other dogs, his ears perked up and his nose sniffing at something.  Suddenly, he gave a loud bark and took off.

            The cry of "Procyon!" faded on the wind.  The black dog leapt over copse and bramble, following some unknown scent until he finally came to a mound in the snow and started to dig. 

            "Procyon --" the other trainer had caught up with him.  "What in the world --"

            Then he stopped. Procyon was digging out a hand.  Now an arm, clad in a tattered black sleeve, appeared.  Pro stopped digging and clamped his mouth on the fabric.  With a fierce tug a shoulder and head appeared.  It was a boy, about sixteen or seventeen, with black hair and broken glasses.  His face was deathly pale. 

            "Oh my God…" whispered the trainer. "Procyon, stay," he said forcefully, and then ran back for help.

Procyon stayed, licking the face of the boy again and again.  For an instant the eyes fluttered open. 

"S-- s-- Sirius?" The name was as faint as the falling snow.  The boy's mouth seemed to relax, as though starting to smile, before he fell into unconsciousness again.  Procyon did not leave his station, but kept licking the boy's face and hands.  

            "Here he is." Medics arrived quickly.  The boy was lifted onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. 

            "Hey -- he's saying something," one of the medics said.  They could barely catch the boy's words.

            "What was that?  'That's -- something, I think."

            "No, it sounded like 'that's peachy'."

            "The kid could've been saying Thessalonians, that's what I heard."

            "Umm…" one young woman hesitated. "I heard 'Thanks, Padfoot.'"

            Everyone ignored her.

            "Good work, Pro," said the trainer.  Procyon's eyes followed the ambulance until it drove out of sight, around the corner.  Then he slowly followed the other three dogs into the car.



            Albus Dumbledore sat at his desk.  A moment passed and then he got up and quickly started pacing around the room.  Gradually, a tiny toot-toot came from a quill on his desk.  Albus rushed to the quill.  It started to write out, in Minerva McGonagall's tidy hand,

            He's here.  He's at the hospital.  He has one broken ankle and a slight case of hypothermia, but he briefly woke up when I arrived and recognized me.  I contacted St. Mungo's officials and they're on their way.

            Albus sat down again and composed a short reply, his mind not even aware of what his hand wrote.  When it was over, he rested his brow on his hand and breathed a long, low sigh.



            "Welcome back, Mr. Black.  You can stop scratching yourself."

            "Huh?" Sirius stopped, then turned around.  "Why was my foot behind my ear?"

            "I said you could stop scratching yourself," St. Peter helped the other man up from the floor.  "I must say, you're back a bit suddenly.  I had been expecting you to come in another few years."

            Sirius shook his head.  "What happened?  How did I get here?  My last memory was of running through an alley, and suddenly a loud bang, like --"

            "It was a gunshot." St. Peter turned back to his desk and brought out a newspaper.  "This will explain."

            Sirius looked down.

                                                Suspect Caught By Rescue Dogs

Joseph Terrill, (23) was caught yesterday by the Edinburgh Search & Rescue Facility.  The suspect has been accused of theft, kidnapping, assault, and abusing a police officer.  Casey, the dog trainer who helped to capture the suspect, gives his view of the story.

"I just noticed right away that Centauri, one of our dogs, had picked up a strange scent.  Soon she was barking and started following it, and our other dogs just came after her."

One dog was killed by gunfire.



            "And that dog would be you, Sirius."  St. Peter took away the newspaper and folded it.

            Sirius stood there for a minute.  "… Ah."

            St. Peter stood behind his desk.  "You now have three hundred years in Purgatory.  Do you want to go?  James and Lily are waiting for you."

            "…Wait," Sirius looked up.  "That boy that I rescued -- the one in Scotland --"

            "Yes," said St. Peter.

            "I -- I smelled him, and I thought he was Harry, but I couldn't be sure.  Was it --?"

            St. Peter nodded.  "Yes, it was."

            "Okay," said Sirius.  "That's all that I wanted to know.  I'll go now."

            St. Peter smiled.  Then he walked over to the door and took out a key.

            "Wait --"

            St. Peter looked over his shoulder. "Yes?"

            Sirius paused, then, slowly, he asked, "Will -- will I see him again?"

            "Yes." The answer was without doubt, without hesitation. "Now, welcome home," he said, opening the door.





The End


... No, Really

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