The Sugar Quill
Author: Artemisa  Story: Black Garden  Chapter: Black Garden
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Summary - What happened to Sirius after he fell through the veil

Summary - What happened to Sirius after he fell through the veil? Just what is the veiled arch and where would it take you? Half-parody half-serious version of events during and after OotP.

Disclaimer - Sirius Black belongs to the talented J.K.Rowling and the nice people at Warner. The plot is inspired by her work except the parts that are not so good. But if she who owns HP likes this, she can keep it. DEATH and his garden belongs to Terry Pratchett. If you don't know who he is, I suggest you find out.

Thanks to my beta reader PirateQueen, who made sure I did not confuse too much with my rambling. Any confusing ramblings left are completely my fault.

********

Black Garden

Act I

"Sirius!"

"He's gone Harry. He's..."

"No. He is not dead. Not Sirius."

********

Act II

But I'm always serious. The old joke came automatically in response even before he was truly conscious. Harry's and Moony's voices echoed in his head. Dead? How could I be dead and still hearing things? Maybe they were seeing things. He wasn't seeing anything. He tried to clear his head and found himself lying on grass. Black grass he noted, he'd always been proud of his ability to notice things like that. He was surrounded by black grass, black trees and black flowers being attended by, of course, black bees. He'd never thought there could be so many shades of the same color yet all of them black.

Sirius Black in a black landscape, how appropriate.

He was fuzzy on how he had come to be in this interesting (and black) garden. He'd been at the Ministry, fighting, out of Grimmauld Place for the first time in months. Harry had been there. Sirius’ face lit up at the thought of his godson, he'd been particularly proud of the way he'd seen the kid handle himself in a rumble. They had been in the Ministry looking for Harry and his friends so why was he here? He tried to go over the facts as he remembered, but there was a blank on why he was here instead of facing down his least favorite cousin and laughing at her attempts to curse him. Had he been knocked out or something?

He spotted a tumbledown formation of rocks that resembled some sort of partial wall or maybe even an archway. Impossible to tell for sure from its severely damaged state.

Looks familiar.

Shaking his head to dispel the feeling, he looked around trying to get his bearings and spotted what seemed like a house or cottage. Heading towards it on instinct more than rational thought, he noted the black stone pathways and manicured lawn (black). There was no sign of life (or color).

He entered the house and was surprised to note that it seemed to be a lot bigger on the inside than it had looked on the outside. Enlargement Charms? He wondered as he appraised the hall where he stood. Shinning marble floors and chandeliers surrounded him; bone and skull decorations liberally applied to most, if not all, available surfaces.

Mum probably took decorating tips from a place like this.

The most interesting piece of furniture was a large pendulum clock that would have made Edgar Allan Poe quit the macabre writing business and set up a joke shop. There were no hands on the face and the pendulum was a scythe, slicing up the air itself as it swung. It also picked up the skull and bones motif that was prevalent in the place. For some reason, this did not unsettle him like his own ancestral home did. There was a feeling that they were there because it was what was expected than a real intent to frighten anyone.

He moved towards a mazelike hallway to see if he could find someone to explain where he was. After a while he did find someone but it was not as helpful as he had hoped.

A hunched over old man was looking at him with a combined expression of annoyance and disdain. He smelled of fried food. "Who are you?"

"I'm Black," he responded.

The man looked him over with a critical gaze. "You look more pasty faced to me, not getting enough sun?"

Of course I haven't! I've been locked up for months. "It's my name. Sirius Black. Who are you?"

"I'm Albert." The man said as if that explained everything. It didn't. "The master is not here right now so you'd better go back the way you came from."

"I don't know how I got here."

Albert sniffled his contempt. "That is not my problem youngster. Your sort has been making him work overtime and he needs the peace and quiet."

"But..."

"You heard me, I have errands to do and can't be bothered with you. Leave."

The strange old man turned and apparently dismissed him without a further thought. He resumed his muttering and disappeared into another corridor in this mazelike place before Sirius could react.

Well that was as helpful as meeting Kreatcher. I wonder who his master is and why would he be overworked by my sort. Did he mean wizards?

He retraced his steps back to the hall and to his surprise; there was a tall figure there. Walking towards him, wearing a swishing black cloak and with some sort of staff in its hands, there was a glint of white where its face should be. Death Eater. It was a different sort of robes but the mask was enough of a clue. He dropped into a crouch and aimed a stunner at the rapidly approaching figure. The figure blocked the spell with the staff, which gleamed dangerously.

STOP.

The word shivered through him and he knew that it had bypassed his ears and spoken directly to his brain. If he had been in his Animagus his hackles would have risen. As it was, the hair in the back of his neck stood at attention.

"Who are you?" he whispered.

The figure was now beside him. Taller than he was and with a hooded robe of a sort, more like a cowl. What the fugitive wizard had mistaken for a staff was in fact a scythe, so sharp that from certain angles the blade was invisible. But the grinning face was the real giveaway, not that a face like that could do anything but grin. Almost all skulls do. There was some sort of bluish light coming from the sockets and he could feel as if his thoughts were being read.

Oddly enough, there was nothing really outwardly menacing about this seven-foot-tall animated skeleton dressed in black swishing robes and holding a sharp scythe. Said apparition was now moving towards the entrance where an umbrella stand was and placed the scythe inside. Just like any other man might lay down his briefcase and umbrella after a long day's work.

I'M SURE YOU CAN TAKE A GUESS, SIRIUS MARCUS BLACK, the apparition said as it turned back to him.

"You are death."

NOT DEATH, DEATH. The figure said, a bit reproachfully.

"Sorry. My mistake."

Death tilted its skull to the side as if puzzled.

WELL?

"Well what?"

WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?

"I don't know. I was fighting and then I was here in your garden I suppose." Of course, who else would have an all black garden?

SHOW ME.

Not really knowing why, he walked back outside towards the spot in the garden where he had woken up. "Here."

But Death was not looking at the ground; instead his hollow sockets stared at the tumbledown rock wall Sirius had noticed before.

YOU WALKED THROUGH THE ARCH?

"What arch?"

Death waved a bony hand toward the rocks and they were surrounded with a flickering bluish light for a moment and reformed themselves into an archway with a floating curtain of sorts that was flapping in some unfelt breeze. Sirius recognized it as the arch that had been on the dais behind him when he had laughed at Bellatrix’s attempts to hex him. A few seconds later, the rocks had settled down to their former tumbledown appearance.

YOU FELL THROUGH THE ARCH.

"What is it?"

A BACK DOOR OF SORTS TO THIS PLACE. MY COUNTRY.

Death's country, probably not a safe thing for a mortal to do. "What is something like that doing in the Ministry?"

YOUR SORT DO A LOT OF THINGS IN THE NAME OF KNOWLEDGE. I'M FAIRLY SURE THE LAST WORDS TO BE HEARD BEFORE THE UNIVERSE COLLAPSES WILL BE "WHAT DOES THIS DO?"

Sirius smiled in spite of himself. "Can you send me back?" he asked hopefully. He would see Harry again.

NO.

His shoulders slumped. "So I'm dead." And yet it was a relief to know it. The worst had happened and he could move on with his life. In a sense. His only fear now was running into James and Lily in the afterlife after messing up so badly as a godparent to Harry. He hoped Remus would do a better job.

YES. AND NO.

"Well, that was enlightening." The wizard said with a flicker of anger.

Instead of answering, Death reached inside its robes and pulled out something, which now lay on a bony palm. It was a sand timekeeper; Sirius could read his name on it in golden letters. The Animagus saw something like fine grains in the bottom bulb and some still on the topside but the grains were not flowing between the bulbs. An experimental shake did not alter its condition.

YOU SEE? THERE IS STILL TIME ON IT. YOU DIED BEFORE YOUR TIME AND YOU CAN'T GO BACK OR MOVE FORWARD UNTIL THE TIME IS SPENT.

"How much time did I have left?"

ABOUT TEN YEARS. GIVE OR TAKE A MONTH.

"Do you know how it was supposed to happen?" He had always wondered how he'd meet his end.

Death snapped its fingers and a book appeared in front of him. He read the last page in it.

HOW UNUSUAL. YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DIE AT THE HANDS OF AN OVEREXCITED DOGCATCHER.

"What?!" he exclaimed. Maybe I took James’ advice and made the change permanent.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY HE CONFUSES YOU WITH A DOG.

"Ah, I'm an Animagus. I can turn into a dog," which he proceeded to demonstrate.

OH. I'M MORE OF A CAT PERSON MYSELF, Death observed when he turned back to his human self.

********

They were in Death's study polishing off some biscuits and tea that Albert had served them after a spirited game of chess. Sirius had been checkmated mercilessly. 

"So I can't go back and I won't go forward until it has run through. Can I give it to someone else?"

THAT WOULD BE HIGHLY IRREGULAR.

"So is me dying early."

HMM.

"What harm would it do? I could give someone ten more years of happiness."

OR YOU COULD BE EXTENDING PAIN OR REGRET FOR MORE THAN SOMEONE COULD BEAR. WHAT HAPPENS STAYS HAPPENED. IT IS MORE COMPLICATED TO CHANGE WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

"I don't hear you coming up with any ideas."

THERE COULD BE ANOTHER WAY.

"Well?"

YOU COULD GO BACK.

"You said you couldn't send me back."

NOT AS SIRIUS BLACK. NOT AS A HUMAN. BUT YOU COULD GO BACK IN A DIFFERENT SHAPE UNTIL YOUR TIME IS UP.

"Reincarnate as an animal? I don't believe in reincarnation!"

REINCARNATION BELIEVES IN YOU.

"Oh." He looked again around the study trying to make a decision. It has to be better than staying here for ten years. It's not like I don't know what fleas are like. "Before I make a decision, could you show me how much time others have left?"

IT DOES NOT DO TO DWELL ON WHAT CAN'T BE CHANGED.

"Please, I just need to know it was worth it."

I WILL SHOW YOU THREE LIVES. CHOOSE WELL.

"Remus Lupin."

Another timekeeper showed up on the bony palm, golden like his own and with glowing grains flowing through the glass bulbs, without realizing it he reached out and touched it and it was like reaching towards his friend. He could feel Moony's pain and his strength. He would survive. He raised his eyes but did not dare ask how much time his friend had.

HE WILL HAVE ENOUGH TIME.

He nodded and thought a bit. "Albus Dumbledore."

Moony's timekeeper disappeared and a different one showed up. It was slightly larger, but there were worryingly very few grains left to run through the bulbs. He took a sharp intake of breath at what it would mean for his former headmaster and teacher.

HE LIVES BY SHEER FORCE OF WILL. HE WILL LAY DOWN HIS BURDENS SOON AND HAVE SOME WELL-EARNED REST.

Sirius hoped the headmaster would have enough time. Then he said the name that had been foremost in his mind but also the one he was the most frightened of.

A third timekeeper appeared. It was different from the ones he had seen so far, changing colors as he watched it, and it seemed to glow from within. There was a lightning-shaped crack on the upper bulb. The grains in it were acting strangely, swirling around inside the bulbs and seemingly flowed downwards and upwards at the same time. It would be impossible to tell when this life would end. He reached a finger to it and he could feel despair and hope mingled in it and tears sprang into his eyes.

A VERY UNIQUE LIFE. HE CAN AND WILL BE ABLE TO CHOOSE WHEN TO MOVE ON.

"Not everyone can do that." Sirius said with wonder.

NO. BUT CERTAIN LIVES ARE CATALYSTS. HE AFFECTS OTHERS IN MANY WAYS AND AS SUCH HE CAN CHOOSE WHEN TO STOP.

"Thank you." He said and the timekeeper vanished. "I've made my decision. I'll go back. As close as I can be to the last life you showed me."

If a skull had been able to look serious and downhearted, this one would. The glowing sockets regarded him for a moment.

VERY WELL. GOOD LUCK.

The blue-eyed skull vanished and Sirius found himself in a tunnel, bathed in white light walking towards the dark. It was calling him.

********

Act III

Three children were crowding around a cardboard box on the floor exclaiming over something inside of it. A more detached observer might noted that there was a blanket inside the box and that four small puppies were there, moving clumsily, overlarge feet and closed eyes indicating that they had just been born just a few hours ago. Three of them were golden brown and the fourth, the smallest one, was black with a white spot on its forehead.

"Aren't they cute?"

"When will they open their eyes?"

"Can we name them?"

"Can we keep them?"

This last question was directed towards a large man sitting on the corner with a veterinarian's jacket over his clothes. He looked tired as he watched over a larger dog that was now sleeping. He patted it comfortingly and moved over to the children with a smile.

"I think we should find them nice homes of their own. Maybe close by so we can see them every once in a while."

"Wasn't it lucky that that boy found Missy and brought her in?"

"Very lucky. Missy was in trouble and he risked being bitten by carrying her here." He responded.

"He said his name was Harry. Do you think he will come back?"

"He said he would," he said reassuringly.

"Could we give one of them to him? He looked very nice. And lonely."

He had indeed. The boy – no, the young man - had a disturbingly far away look in his startling green eyes but at the same time he'd looked very concerned about the creature he'd been carrying, for several blocks from his account. Missy had let herself be rescued by a complete stranger and that in itself was a good recommendation to the veterinarian. He often trusted Missy's judgment more than his own sometimes.

"Which one?" He asked the children.

"The black one. The one with the star on its forehead. Black like his hair and with a mark like he had. They match." Said the smallest child using the kind of logic that had baffled parents for generations. The other two nodded their agreement.

He looked over at the puppies and saw that the mark on the puppy's forehead did indeed look a bit like a star. A dog with a star. Wasn't there a star that was called the 'dog star'? He pushed the thought away as being too fanciful for daylight.

"We'll ask him and Missy when he comes back." He decided. "Let's give her some peace so she can rest."

And so a new tale begins...

 

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