Gone Gently
by Victoria P.

One minute he's laughing and dueling with cousin Bellatrix, finally doing something instead of rotting in that damned mausoleum of a house. The next minute he's falling.

He feels a breeze, hears a soft whoosh that reminds him vaguely of the beat of dragons' wings.

And then he's flat on his back, staring up at a dark-haired young woman dressed in black. A heavy silver ankh gleams dully around her neck. He thinks he's seen her before but he can't put a finger on where or when.

He hears Harry calling for him and he scrambles to his feet. She holds out a hand and he reaches for it, but doesn't take it. Not yet. Could be some sort of trap.

She smiles at him, and he knows her. Part of him has wished for this for a while now, though he tried to hide it. And he has responsibilities, people who depend on him.

"Harry--" he says. "Harry needs me." He pushes his hair out of his eyes. "And Remus. Shit. Remus--"

"I'm sorry."

"Can't you do something? I mean--"

"Not this time."

"Will I see James?"

"That depends on you."

"I've seen you before," he says. "I met your sisters."

"I know."

Her hand is still reaching for him, and he still hesitates to take it, to admit that he really is dead. When he wished for it, on endless winter afternoons while Remus was out on Order business and he was alone in the house with Kreacher and his mother's portrait, he never imagined it actually happening. He never thought about anything beyond sloughing off his skin and getting away from everything.

Now he realizes that 'everything' includes Harry, includes Remus. Includes the Weasleys, Hermione, and Tonks. Even includes changing into Padfoot.

"I'm not ready," he says. "I thought I was, but I'm not."

"You really are," she replies. "All you have to do is take my hand."

"I--" He hates being at a loss for words, especially now. If he thinks fast enough, maybe he can still talk his way out of this, the way he used to talk McGonagall 'round in school. If he thinks hard enough, maybe he can work out a way to escape, the way he escaped Azkaban. He's never let insurmountable odds stand in his way, and he's not about to start now.

But the words don't come, and Death is not susceptible to his charm.

"It was a short life, Sirius Black, and a painful one," she says, "but you were loved, and you loved in return. Not everyone can say that."

Her smile makes his heart ache, but he reaches out and takes her hand, and leaves the world behind.


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