Disclaimer: Anything you recognise
does not belong to me, however much I wish that it did. Instead, it all belongs
to J. K. Rowling. However, anything you do not recognise does belong to me.
Summary: “Laugher gave him comfort; it gave him security.
It spread to others, and no one would think you were upset if you laughed. You laugh when you are happy, he
thought. That is what everyone thinks …”
for the “Spring Challenge: To Laugh or Cry” on MNFF.
Author’s Note: Well, this
was a very interesting story for me to write. It sort of came out of nowhere,
really, and I just had to write it down. A ‘Thank You’ goes to PirateQueen for beta-ing.
Now, I present for your enjoyment, Laughter.
Green light. Bright, rushing, green light
hurling through the air, the intense colour absorbing the entire room. Destruction. Falling bodies, high-pitched
laughter, pain-filled screams. Pleading, screaming again — both in agony
and grief, it makes no difference. The screams sound the same, in the end. More falling forms, people collapsing who will never rise again.
A baby crying, and no one answering. A fire erupting, a house collapsing, and no one noticing. Thick, dark smoke towering upwards, blotting out the moon and stars.
It is choking the air. Breathing is impossible, but unnecessary.
What use do the dead have for breath, anyway?
Flames — bright, hot, orange flames — wrapping around walls,
doors, furniture, everything. It is destroying it all, making no distinction
between the treasures or the trash. Light-coloured wood is turning scorching
black because of the fire; it is burning and breaking, turning quickly to ash
that is floating away in the slight breeze.
Two bodies lying in the rubble. The fire is not harming them, but they are not
moving. Eyes staring dull and lifeless at that dark, night
sky. They are not blinking. The mischievous light has disappeared in his
hazel gaze; her emerald pair no longer sparkles with joy. The warm skin is no
longer; it is cold, pale … dead —
He jerks his head up suddenly, surprised by the harsh sound. The sound of the
wooden gavel hitting the desk tears his assaulted mind from the troubling
thoughts, and for the briefest of moments, he thinks that he could be grateful.
But the thought disappears as quickly as it comes, especially as the exhaustion
seeps through his entire body at the simple movement of his head.
Never has he felt so tired, so weary, so drained — both physically and
emotionally. Not even after those long nights studying did his body feel like
this; working for the Order had still allowed him to feel rested, for the most
part. Even after those long nights on the full moon —
No, he thinks. He does not want to think about that. He does not want
his mind to go back to those memories because if it goes to those happier
times, it will, eventually, go back to the terrors that the sound of the gavel
had torn him from.
The sound of the gavel surprises him; it makes him jump, makes him flinch, but
the other people in the room do not seem to notice. They really had not noticed
much about him for hours, if he is honest with himself. In the beginning, he
tried speaking to them, but they did not listen.
He does not try as hard to be heard now.
A voice is speaking to him. He is distantly aware of it, and he knows who it
is. The man is looking at him; he can feel the hatred emanating from the gaze.
But he does not raise his head to meet the stare. Perhaps, in the past, he
might have done so.
Now, however, he does not see the point.
He knows that he should probably answer the man. But why?
he thinks, half-heartedly. They do not listen to him
when he does speak.
They just ignore him, believing what they want, regardless of the words that
come from his mouth. It is pointless, then, to waste the energy and time to
“Do you hear me, Black?” says the voice again.
Apparently, the man really wanted an answer. Maybe, this will be the time that
the man listens.
But he does not hold much hope for such actions.
Slowly, he raises his head and looks into the cold eyes of Bartemius
Crouch. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement still holds the
wooden gavel in his firm grip, and Crouch is staring maliciously at him. His
face is fanatical, almost like he possesses a hunger and yearning that has
remained unfulfilled. And perhaps, it always will be.
But Sirius stops looking at Crouch after awhile. He is no longer capable of
holding the intense gaze like he could only days ago. Instead, he stares at the
ground, and what an interesting ground it was, too. He can see the ornate
wooden legs of Crouch’s desk — the legs are formed into swirling dragons; he
can see it when he focuses on the structure. The maroon-coloured rug needs to
be cleaned, and there is a stain of some spilled drink at his feet, but other
than that, the floor of Crouch’s office is quite nice. It is a floor that is
truly befitting a Ministry official like him, at least.
He stares at the floor, and at the floor alone. Everything
else he blots out from his sight; they are things he does not wish to see. He
does not want to see the chains on his ankles — the same chains that clink
and clang whenever he makes a movement, the sounds echoing jarringly in
his head. He does not want to see the iron shackles on his wrists, either.
After all, he does not need to see them with his eyes to know that they are
there … because the chains are already heavy and cold on his skin. He does not
need to see the restraints; he can feel them — and the feeling is
far more potent than the sight could ever be.
“Black!” Crouch’s voice is sharp, cold — like his
eyes. His exclamation surprises Sirius … surprises him so much that a response
escapes his previously quiet mouth.
“What?” he says, but he cannot even make that simple word come out naturally
from his lips. It is different — distant and removed. The word is not in the
voice of Sirius. Sirius's voice is one of amusement, strength, pride … not this
depressed and defeated voice, not this lost and lifeless tone. There is
supposed to be youth and life in his voice — He is not supposed to sound like
he is old and dying.
The difference in his tone is too strong to bear. It is just another thing that
reminds him of the lost innocence even more, and he can feel the liquid tears
that are burning as they seek release from his eyes. What James’s death alone
did not achieve, what seeing his godson leave with Hagrid
did not achieve, what being brought to the Ministry by twenty Aurors and Hit Wizards did not achieve … the realisation of
the change in his voice does.
“Are you going to talk?” hisses Crouch. His voice is low, quiet, like he is
telling a secret that only the two of them are aware of. The Ministry official
pauses for a moment; he waits for a reply.
But Sirius does not answer. He is too tired to care anymore, especially since
they do not listen to him.
“Admit your loyalty to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
“I am not a Death Eater!” exclaims Sirius, the accusation succeeding in finally
getting a rise out of him. He breaks his vow of silence with those words,
knowing all the while, however, that his denial is pointless … but still hoping
all the same. It is a human instinct, after all — To
hope even in the most hopeless of situations.
And Sirius clings to that fragile hope — Because it
shows he is human.
“Never,” he says, “have I been loyal to Voldemort —”
“You. Are. A. Black,” says Crouch, as if that
is all the evidence that he needs.
The four words hang in the air for several moments. With four words, time seems
to stop and Sirius feels his mind freeze. Any retort he wanted to say
evaporates before it makes it to his tongue or leaves his mouth. Out of
everything that Crouch had said, these four, simple words hit him the hardest,
and he does not know how to respond.
But Crouch does not appear to notice.
“Your entire family is Dark, has ties to You-Know-Who, and you, Black, were
just seen killing thirteen people!” spats the older man. There is some
spit flying from his mouth in a very undignified
manner. He looks mad, really, and far from the skilled professional that he
presents to the public. The public does not get to see this deranged side of Barty Crouch.
Only criminals do. Only those who are going to a fate that will prevent them
from telling anyone else do. Only people like Sirius Black get to see Bartemius Crouch in his madness.
Only those without any hope get to see political officials act this way.
And as that feeling of utter hopeless descends upon Sirius, wrapping its cold
claws around his heart and soul and making his mind fully realise the
extensiveness of the losses he has recently felt, Sirius starts to laugh.
It is just a small sound in the beginning, before it slowly gets louder and
clearer. He cannot help it, and he cannot bring himself to stop the sounds
either. The laughter is the only way to express the loss of hope, the loss of
innocence, the loss of truth.
The laughter also helps him to hide away.
As a child, he would hide behind the laughter. Laughter gave him comfort; it
gave him security. It spread to others, and no one would think you were upset
if you laughed. You laugh when you are happy, he thought. That is
what everyone thinks …
When he laughed at his family’s scorning letters, no one questioned it. When he
laughed at the looks of disappointment and embarrassment that shone in his
mother’s eyes, no one wondered for a moment whether or not he was all right.
When he laughed at the hatred shown by his brother, or the lack of acknowledgement
he received from his cousins, no one thought that such actions hurt him, that
they pierced his heart in a way that not even his friends could fully heal.
When Sirius laughed, everyone believed it to mean that he was content. They
believed that he was innocent, carefree, mischievous, and happy. They did not
think for a second that the laughter hid anything.
“He is not dead,” says Sirius, glancing up at Crouch, who seems slightly
surprised by the words. The older man is glaring at him with a mixture of
disgust and disbelief, apparently unnerved by Sirius's laughter. His laughter
fades slightly, but a large smile remains on his face. “I didn’t kill anyone,
Crouch, and Peter's not dead.”
Listen to me, he silently pleads with whoever might hear him. Believe
But, like he thought, no one does. At least, Crouch does not listen.
The older wizard ignores Sirius's words and glances up to a man standing behind
Sirius and next to the door. Sirius does not look up at this man, but he does
not need to in order to know what he looks like. He saw him when the Auror brought him into Crouch’s office, and he knows that
the man’s name is ‘Something’ Shacklebolt. He knows
that the Auror is tall, muscular, and very
dark-skinned. Sirius knows that Shacklebolt’s face is
completely devoid of expression, too; not even the gravity of the crime that
Sirius is accused of is enough to make an expression appear on Shacklebolt’s face.
That grim acceptance — the sort that can only be gained by years of seeing the
horrible sides of humanity — prevents Shacklebolt
from showing any feeling. Such is not fair, really, but what else can one do
when faced with bitter and cruel reality?
Sirius sees Crouch nod his head to the man, and Shacklebolt
moves to open the wooden door. His steps are slow, yet sure; prepared, yet
still hesitant. And when he opens the door, it is then that Sirius feels them.
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
The coldness rushes through him as the creatures approach, and the voices in
his head become louder. He feels the temperature in the room plunge, and his
ears detect the slow, rattling breath of the dark, soulless entities hovering
at his back. In his head, screams join the voices of memories — memories of his
family, of his friends …
“You are an utter disgrace, Sirius!”
His sight wants to blur as the coldness in the room falls even further, and the
volume of the screams and voices increases in his mind.
“How could you, Padfoot? I trusted you!”
It seems impossible to Sirius that he is not screaming himself — or that the
other people in the room cannot hear the screams in his head. After all,
everything is so loud.
“Choose Peter as your Secret-Keeper.”
Shivers race up and down his spine, and he shakes in the chains, making the clinking
and clanging of the iron links echo around the office. He does not care
about the sound now, though. All he wants is to get away; struggling seems like
the only way to achieve it. But it is pointless; the chains do not give, and he
is still trapped — bound, and with no escape.
“I’m sorry, James … It’s my fault … I’m sorry.”
Sirius is distantly aware of the other people in the room; he can vaguely make
out the sound of Crouch’s voice and the sound of Shacklebolt’s
heavy footsteps. He knows when he is pulled from his chair, too. Sirius can
feel the cold hands on him — those long, decaying fingers wrapping themselves
around his arm, his shoulders, and bringing him to his feet.
The voices increase when the creatures touch him.
“Lily and James, Sirius! How could you?”
He does not just hear the voices anymore. As the Dementors
lead him from the office, they draw deep breaths, the rattling sounds of which
make something like ice form around his heart. Instinctively, he tries to jerk
away, but they do not let him. The Dementors grasp
tighter and breathe deeper. Sirius fights them for a bit, struggling to
maintain his hold on his own soul. It is what they want, he knows.
But the Dementors just continuing prying for it, and
as they seek it, the memories flicker more vividly in Sirius's mind. Not only
does he hear them; now, he sees them, too.
His mother, her greying hair hanging about her face, glares at him from
across the dinner table. An emotion of near loathing shines in her eyes, and he
feels it directed at him. Even at twelve years old, he does not please his
“If you walk out that door, Sirius, you will no longer be a member of this
family.” The stern voice of his father causes him to halt briefly in his walk
down the corridor, his body only steps from the front door. Sirius's breathing
is heavy from the previous arguments of the night and some blood still flows
from a large cut on his face.
“Your father is being kind, boy,” hisses his mother. She makes to block his
path to the door, but Orion holds his wife back. “You will be dead to us, do you understand?”
Sirius stares at both of his parents, but does not see the love that a part of
him still hopes to see, even after all these years. Not even his brother, who’s
watching from the shadows on the staircase and out of the sight of Orion and Walburga Black, gives him a reason to stay….
Two bodies are lying in the burning rubble. The blazing fires that are
crackling nearby are not harming them, but the bodies are not moving. Their
eyes — dull and lifeless — stare into the night sky, but they are not blinking.
The mischievous light has disappeared from his friend’s — his brother’s — hazel
gaze; and her emerald pair is no longer sparkling with joy. He holds his
brother, but the warm skin is no longer; instead, it is cold, pale … dead —
And as the Dementors lead
him away, he finds that the laughter is gone. For the first time in his life,
Sirius realises that he cannot hide behind the laughter.
It is dead.
Author’s Note: Thank you so much for reading, and I
hope you enjoyed it. I experimented a bit with the writing style, so please, don’t hesitate to leave your opinion.