by Abaddon

The death of Sirius Black did not break them. But his body did.

The days after the loss passed in a haze. Harry mooched around Privet Drive, unsure of what to do or how to behave. Feeling disconnected from anyone and everyone, including himself, he stayed in his room and took his meals there. His family, who had given him more freedoms than ever before, was at a loss. Harry did not simply react like other children. He was clearly a freak, and a confirmed one. They insisted that Duddikins let Harry play on the Playstation, and went so far as to physically drag him away despite his tears, just to see Harry make a halfhearted attempt at playing Grand Theft Auto and give up, walking away from a game still in progress.

"The boy looks like someone died, Vernon," Aunt Petunia said sharply over dinner. Harry was cooking, as some things never change.

"Must have been that criminal bastard Godfather of his," Uncle Vernon mused. "Explains why he wasn't there with the other freaks to threaten me. Look at the way this world is heading, Petunia, and think what would happen if Labour got in."

He was too intent on browsing through The News of the World to pay much attention to Harry. Things certainly had changed since his day; page three girls had made it to page one, and the world was the better for it. Petunia didn't mind, of course; she understood what men were supposed to like, and she was probably looking forward to the day they discovered Dudders with porn, like any good mother should. They hadn't discovered the boy with porn yet, but that was probably a sign he was queer.

Neither of them noticed the sudden stiffness in Harry's face, or the flinty cast to his eyes as he mechanically and properly finished cooking dinner. Harry sat at the table and ate quietly, finishing his food before the rest of them, eyes downcast, and asked to be excused at the nearest possible opportunity.

After Petunia admonished him that he'd have to return to do the dishes, Harry simply replied that he wanted to wash up, he'd be back soon and left the table. His quiet, controlled demeanour marked him out again as some sort of bizarre aberration in the generally normal groundswell of humanity, and Vernon said so. Petunia gave him a thin lipped glare, and Vernon figured he'd have to re-discover his own masculinity that night if he wanted any action. She was getting increasingly tight with him in all manner of areas, mostly related to the boy. Other men might have thought it to be a crisis of conscience, but considerations of conscience were beyond Vernon Dudley.

He glanced over at the page one girls. Sluts. They were asking for it. Unlike his wife, who was clearing away the table and still glaring at him. Women could never really be satisfied, Vernon thought, so they had to be kept in line...

Petunia was idly scraping off the leftovers from the dishes when Dudley's playstation came crashing down from one of the first-floor windows, and totally destroyed the bed of Gardenias that had won second place in the 'Best House Garden in Surrey' competition.

First price was one by the dapper young man in Number 14, whom after the win Petunia had told everyone he was a homosexual.

After the three of them raced up the stairs, they found Harry sitting glumly on his bed, no emotion in his eyes whatsoever. He didn't deny what he'd done, and that was perhaps the most disturbing thing of all. "Can you just please lock me up and we'll get this over and done with?" he asked, and did not resist when Vernon dragged him off and placed him back in the cupboard under the stairway as punishment, getting out the electric drill and screwing the door shut.

When Petunia protested -- why would she protest now, after fifteen years? Thank God for page one girls -- Vernon assured her that the flaps he'd placed in the door would be enough for someone to push in a plate of food, or remove the bucket he'd provided so it could be cleaned. It was all in all, a rather civilised arrangement, all things considered. When his wife protested again about those wizarding chaps, Vernon gave her an affectionate smile and told her that good old fashioned English know-how and modern technology would show these types what for. After all, they were probably barely literate, or spoke one of those foreign tongues. The man with the revolving eye Vernon had already dismissed as a foreigner, and probably an illegal immigrant to boot. No self-respecting British citizen would look like that, it was perfectly obvious.

So the following day, Vernon salvaged one of the boy's unsuccessful attempts at a letter; something he'd crumpled up and thrown away before trying again. It was a rather sparse letter; just letting his disturbing friends (what kind of person would be friend to a freak except for other freaks, Vernon thought) that he was well and alright. Grabbing some of that stuff that such people used in place of paper -- where was the industry, Vernon asked himself, where was the manufacturing? -- he managed to get it into the photocopier, and the machine spat out thirty copies of the letter. More than enough for the rest of the holidays.

He sent it off with that unruly and rabid pet of the boy's, hitting out with it with the handle of his umbrella until the owl stopped nipping at him and went on its way. Satisfied, Vernon retired for the night and showed Petunia just how much masculinity he had, page one girls be damned.

At one a.m., the Order arrived, and they demanded the boy back. Vernon was more than happy to hand him over.


Harry spent his days at Grimmauld Place largely the same way he had at Privet Drive, not that anyone would have known. He sat in chairs, ignored his booklist for Sixth Year, didn't talk to anyone except in a series of grunts and non-committal monosyllabic phrases, and had Remus tearing his hair out over him by the end of the week. No-one, not even Remus, seemed to be able to get into his self-imposed fugue. Both Kingsley and Remus had ended up snapping and yelling at him, and Harry took their harshly spoken accusations of selfishness just as he did their muttered apologies a few days later: with the same few words that meant little, and empty eyes that saw nothing.

He didn't help with the cleaning of the house. He didn't talk to anyone; not even Ron and Hermione when they were shuttled to the house to try to get through to him. Ron had ended up letting go with every pent up negative and hurtful emotion Harry had ever instilled in him, and Hermione had pleaded until her voice was hoarse. Harry had just watched them, the trace of a smile on his lips, and refused to respond. Both had left Grimmauld Place crying.

The one reaction he did have to anything was dinner one night, a few days into his second week, when Molly had finally mentioned the name, Sirius' name, and how it figured that of course that family would build a house that desired to go down with the family. Harry had let his fork fall to his plate with a clutter, and calmly asked Molly how she could talk of families, when her favourite son was a worse traitor than Bellatrix or Narcissa had ever been. As the gathered house guests sat, too shocked to protest or even react, Harry continued, speaking in that calm, even, devoid of either the spite or hate which would make his words easy to dismiss. He made full mention of the fact that Percy had always looked up to her far beyond his father, or any of his other brothers. Perhaps then, his beliefs were her fault. And perhaps if he died, as he probably would, too ignorant to realise how dangerous things were, Molly would be so proud of her dead son, the Ministry martyr.

Molly fled from the kitchen in tears, and Harry calmly wiped his mouth and rose from the table. When Kingsley made to restrain him, Harry kneed him in the guts and continued on up to his room, locking the door behind him.

There was little to be done besides continue the cleaning; little that could be done, and little that anyone wanted to do. It was far more preferable to not deal with things, than deal and be unable to change them.

The following evening, Tonks turned up out of the blue. They certainly weren't expecting her, and with the added security following certain recent events, the Order liked to be informed of such things. Even after Kreacher had run away, it paid to be reasonably paranoid when it came to security. She simply wlaked off the street, not bothering to check if anyone was watching, and tapped her foot impatiently until the house extruded its front back into normal space-time and nonchalantly breezed in through the first door.

Remus was about to give her a warning word. Snape was ready to flay her alive with his tongue.

"They've found the body," Tonks said, and all words died on their lips.

One after the other, Arthur, Molly, Remus and Snape fell over each other in their eagerness to ascertain the circumstances. Albus was summoned, and when he arrived, she told her story again. Tonks and Kingsley had been working late at the Ministry doing paperwork -- yes, paperwork, she insisted, at a few knowing glances -- when they were summoned to the Department of Mysteries. Apparently Something Had Happened and their superiors wanted someone nice and expendable in case anything went wrong, and look there were two expendables just ready and waiting. Drawing their wands, they joined a D.M.L.E. team at the entrance to the Department and crept inside.

Within the walls they found the veil blowing as if in a wind, and the dead, stiff body of Sirius Black on the floor. Forensic wizards said that rigor mortis had only set in hours ago, rather than the weeks it should have. The veil was blamed, the Minister called, and Tonks and Kingsley were politely asked to leave.

Kingsley continued doing the paperwork and distracted any eyes that may have been upon them while Tonks slipped out of a little used exit and quickly made her way across the city to Camden Town, and Grimmauld Place.

The action to be taken was decided upon quickly; Albus would go with Arthur and Remus and Harry and pay a little visit to their elected representative, before he did something regretful and they had to exercise their feelings in ways other than voting. Tonks would stay there, and keep guard with Snape. Harry was roused, and his expression finally grew tight, and angry at the news, quickly dressing in warm clothes as Molly fussed about him.

And then they left. The walk to the Ministry was bracing in the night London air, and none of them bothered to talk. They found the Ministry guarded, of course, but thanks to Arthur's reservoir of goodwill amongst the staff, Dumbledore's bluster and Harry's steely-eyed distemper (would you want to be on the bad side of the Boy Who Lived, Remus asked the guards) they managed to bluff their way into seeing Fudge.

The Minister was in the Department of Mysteries as they entered, consulting with his advisors and experts about what to do with the body, and he smiled to himself when he saw what company he'd been graced with. The capitulation he'd made two months ago still stung him, and this was certainly a chance for petty revenge.

"Weasley," he called, snapping his fingers, and Percy jumped to stand besides him.

"Yes, sir?" Percy ignored the glare Harry gave him, and glared right back when he thought Dumbledore wasn't looking.

"Have the body dragged out and burnt, will you?" Fudge said, smirking at them as Percy gave orders to several D.M.L.E. people.

"No!" Harry screamed and everyone in the room turned to face him. "You can't touch the body!" Remus and Arthur were quick enough to catch him before he lunged for the Minister, hands curled into claws, and more than madness in his eyes. Holding him up by the arms, they lifted Harry off the floor, and his legs peddled air as he struggled and spat.

"A traitor's fate, Cornelius?" Dumbledore asked calmly, as if discussing the weather. Harry thrashed about again. "The punishment of burning is an old one."

"Would you prefer I have the body drawn and quartered, Albus?" Fudge responded, one eyebrow raised.

"You can't do this to him! He's NO TRAITOR."

Cornelius Fudge deftly removed one of his gloves, and smacked Harry in the face with it, a wet slapping sound as leather met skin. Just as deftly he put it back on, daring anyone to question him. "Have him removed, Albus, or I'm afraid the Boy Who Lived may have treated for emotional instability."

At one look from Dumbledore, Remus and Arthur bundled Harry out, still yelling and screaming, and Ministry employees scurried left right and centre, dragging the limp corpse into the corridor before they were the next to suffer the Minister's wrath.

"Do you hate me so much, Cornelius?" Dumbledore wondered, and all the understanding in the world was in his tone. Fudge visibly flinched, before smoothing back his hair with a gloved hand.

"I think you'll find Black's verdict still stands, unless you have new evidence to put before the Wizengamot?" Fudge's entire being was a challenge, and Albus Dumbledore quailed before it, nodding both in departure and admission as he left the building.

The following day, the Prophet had a huge front page headline detailing Black's 'execution' for 'crimes against the state'. It reported that he had finally been apprehended the past night while 'breaking into' the Ministry and being caught by a team of Aurors. There was a scuffle, and Black had been killed while trying to escape -- the number of Stunning spells was apparently too much for his heart to cope with. Of course, the Ministry Aurors were heroes, braving such an evil mastermind. They had to be, and no-one bothered to contradict the force of history.

The closest thing he had to the funeral was the reading of his will. The Wizengamot clerk calmly read out the document, and despite the findings of guilt in the Black matter, announced that the Ministry had gracious and generously decided not to confiscate the family's remaining assets, including the House at Number 12, Grimmauld Place. As the last direct descendant of that particular branch, Sirius' will stood, and in turned that even fifteen years ago, when the will was dated, he had bequeathed the house and all its contents to one Remus J. Lupin.

Remus was on the verge of tears as he left the small, cramped office -- the duty had been undertaken by an Assistant Deputy Clerk, the lowest paid civil servant imaginable, and only one person had been allowed to attend for fear that "such a criminal as Black gained a certain notoriety through the understandable, if saddening, claims of innocence by his remaining friends" as the Minister said, the "few friends he hadn't managed to kill."

When he reached Grimmauld Place, the other members of the Order -- and Harry -- watched as he shuffled around the empty, old house, bent by a burden beyond his years. He touched every surface, caressing wood and carpet, velvet, leather and tile as if taking the very substance of the house into himself, learning it anew. Spent after the operation which took the remainder of the afternoon and well into the night, Remus finally kicked open the door to what was once Sirius' bedroom, ignoring the dust and the clutter as he curled himself upon the musty bed linen, and cried himself to sleep.

The following morning he calmly announced that he and Sirius had been lovers and asked Harry to pass the toast. No-one batted an eyelid, of course; it was long suspected but never confirmed, and there was no more sympathy left to give. Words seemed hollow and meaningless in the aftermath, cheap as if robbed of sentiment by the very idea there was a reason for Remus to grieve. Harry tried to say something, but Remus just hugged him tight and fierce, and the toast went cold on the plate.

The week after the funeral was Remus' transformation, but for some reason he forgot to take his Wolfsbane, even though Snape had gone to the trouble of mixing it and providing it on schedule. Without it, he transformed, and unrestrained, bounded out of the house and onto the streets of London. He was found raving and baying at the moon in Hyde Park a few hours later by a team of D.M.L.E. officials. As was the procedure in such cases, any stray werewolf had to be put down to guard against chance discovery by Muggles or damage to property or person. Carting the body away, it transformed back in the early hours of the morning, and the identity of said werewolf was revealed.

The entire household had been up all night in search, but as sunlight creeped over the rooftops of South London, Auror and Order member alike returned to house and hearth and school and ministry, leaving Kingsley and Harry alone in Grimmauld Place.

A short while later Arthur turned up on the doorstep in what appeared to be a state of shock, all but stumbling inside. He apologised for his demeanour, very properly, and told Harry he was very sorry. The Minister himself had come to see him to apologise for the mistake. Fudge even wrote a card. But then, he'd said that werewolves looked the same, didn't they?

Harry slit his wrists two days later. Tonks and Kingsley both managed to bust down the bathroom door that he'd carefully charmed shut, but they were too late. The following weekend, Harry was given the funeral neither his Godfather nor Remus had received.

It wasn't so much the death that hit them: they'd become hardened to loss now, and blunt to pain. Ron and Hermione held hands at the service and managed to get through all the hymns and the eulogies and well-wishings without shedding a tear, but to be hit so hard and so fast left them all vulnerable. In the days and nights that followed, those loyal to Dumbledore and to the vision of a peaceful future looked in the mirror one after the other, seeing lines that were not there previously, and asked who would break next.

Kingsley attempted to find out where Sirius' ashes had been laid, or where Remus grave was, but too many questions to the wrong people got him all the sort of attention he didn't wanted. He received a lecture on how not to associate the 'wrong type of people', was demoted to assist the D.M.L.E on a series of purse snatchings in Diagon Alley, docked a week's pay, and was left chasing teenagers out for a lark and too quick with an accio charm before he finally quit the Ministry in disgust after a month.

After a series of official protests, Dumbledore too was carted off to Azkaban and imprisoned for sedition and endangering the life of a minor: after all, Harry was his responsibility, and he had failed Harry. In court, Dumbledore had answered every charge but that, and it was that that led to a sentence of twenty years. Guilt takes many forms, and only one is self-destruction.

On the day before school started again, Voldemort made his move, bathing the world in fire and blood and war and this time there were no heroes to protect them, and all because of the one body in the world that could bring destiny crashing down.

And in the real world, Vernon Dursley sipped his tea, ate his dinner, and quietly admired the front page of The News of the World. Some months later a few officials stopped by from the P.M's office, and informed Vernon that due to a change in relations between the two governments etc. etc. sign on the dotted line here sir, they would never have anything to do with magic ever again.


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