Harry wakes to the press of fingers on his hips and heavy breath heating his neck. His pants are being pulled down, whiskers scrape against his skin, and there's a fleeting moment of panic until he remembers.
It's not like this is the first time.
"Come on, James, open up for me," Sirius rasps. Two slick fingers prod at Harry's buttocks. Harry takes a deep breath and lets Sirius find his entrance, lets Sirius press the tip of his finger inside before he finally manages to spring into action. He rolls over and pushes Sirius away.
Sirius eyes are dark, pupils blown wide. His thin singlet falls off of one bony shoulder.
"Sirius." Harry grabs Sirius face within his hands. His unshaven cheeks scrape against Harry's palms. "Sirius. Wake up."
"Harry?" Sirius' face changes, like a sunrise dawning on his features. Harry breathes slow and deep. He drops his hands.
Sirius' face crumples. "Fuck, Harry."
"It's all right," Harry says. He lays back against the pillows. He pulls Sirius close. Sirius tucks his head into the crook of Harry's neck and dampness cools Harry's skin.
Hermione comes to tea on Thursdays at six and a quarter. Harry opens the Floo a few minutes before she steps through, then shuts it straight after.
Sirius is upstairs, napping. He's always in another part of the house whenever Hermione is here. Harry understands, but he wishes he could convince Sirius that Hermione is safe. Hermione would never hurt him or try to take him back.
Hermione is Harry's only visitor these days. But Hermione's also the only one who knows.
Harry notices the bags under her eyes as she sips her tea. He lays his hand over hers and squeezes.
"Ron misses you," she says. He nods and swallows. Keeping this secret from him must be taking its toll on her. "I think you should come back, Harry. Isn't it time?"
A lump rises in Harry's throat. He withdraws his hand and looks away.
"Not yet," he says.
"Sirius? I'm home," Harry calls out. His voice echoes throughout the quiet, still house. He adjusts to the two grocery-laden bags in his arms, celery stalks poking his cheek in the process, and he waits.
But no one answers.
His heart beats hard in his chest; it's a heavy thumping thing and it feels as if it's going to burst through his skin at any moment. He closes his eyes. He tries to take a calming breath.
"Sirius. Sirius please," he whispers.
Harry opens his eyes, and at the sight of Sirius hovering at the top of the stairs, a flood of relief overcomes him.
"Had to get a few things. We were out of food," Harry says. Sirius is so pale, skin nearly translucent. He glides down the stairs and follows Harry into the kitchen.
"It's a nice day out," Harry chatters, then immediately cringes at his ill-thought words. He sets both bags on the kitchen counter and means to turn—to apologise—but two thin arms wrap around his waist and pull him close.
Sirius buries his nose into Harry's hair. He inhales deeply. Harry feels warm and prickly all over, like his body can't quite decide if it wants to shiver or flush with heat.
"I'm Harry," he says quietly. A cool chuckle is breathed into his hair, then Sirius spins him around, arms loose at Harry's sides.
"I know," Sirius says. His brow quirks, amused. "Can't I hug my godson?"
"Of course," Harry says, then he's pulled to Sirius' chest, face pressed into the recess of Sirius' neck. He smells like the cellar—like Buckbeak—like the summer of that awful year, the last time Sirius was trapped and locked away from the rest of the world.
Harry breathes deep and holds him tighter.
The wards sing in alarm like a hundred high-pitched whistles being blown at once. Harry races down the stairs, wand in hand. His head aches so badly he can barely keep from squinting, but adrenaline pumps through his veins, carrying him forward. It isn't until he reaches the drawing room that he hears Hermione yelling his name. She and Ron are the only ones who could break through his wards, but they wouldn't—not half-past midnight, not unless...Harry can't even think it.
"Finite!" The wards snap quiet, a piercing stillness taking its place. He finds Hermione in front of his Floo. Tears fill her eyes; her wand shakes. She steps aside and that's when Harry sees him.
"Sirius?" Harry's heart stops. He runs to the prone form lying in front of the fire. Sirius isn't moving. His lips have no color, his dingy hair clings to his face and neck, and his eyes are frozen open with surprise as if no time has passed since he fell through the Veil ten years ago.
Hermione starts to speak all in a rush, something about an experiment and the Veil, but Harry can't understand her, can't hear her through the roaring in his ears. He touches Sirius' face, lays his hand flat against Sirius' cheek. Sirius is cold and so still.
"Please," Harry whispers. "Please."
A hand touches his shoulder. Harry closes his eyes.
"I'm so sorry," Hermione says quietly.
Someone exhales a ragged breath, and with a start, Harry realises Sirius has come alive beneath his hands. Harry's eyes fly open and he presses his fingers to Sirius' neck and there, ever so faint, a pulse quickens beneath his touch.
"Sirius..." Harry breathes.
Sirius lips curl into a weak smile. "Miss me?"
Most nights there is Firewhisky. They sit on the sofa and nurse two fingers while Harry tells silly stories from Hogwarts—the ones that Sirius wasn't there for—Quidditch matches, the Polyjuice incident, sneaking into the Slytherin dorms. He tells the same stories over and over again, but Sirius never grows tired of listening. Sometimes Sirius talks about Lily and Remus, and even on the rare occasion, Peter. He never speaks about James. Then they both retire to bed, warm and sleepy from drink.
But tonight, one drink becomes two, then four, and then the whole bottle is nearly empty. Sirius' arm is snug around Harry's shoulders. Harry leans into his body and shivers.
"Hmm." With a finger, Sirius paints a path along Harry's shoulder to his collar, brushing Harry's skin, then travels back down again. "Maybe we should open another bottle."
"Yeah," Harry breathes. He turns his head, forehead brushing against the prickly line of Sirius' jaw. Sirius' touch makes his skin tingle, and his insides jump and twist around in his stomach. He slides a hand to Sirius' knee. Sirius shifts, settling further into the cushions, and his legs part ever so slightly.
Harry's heart thuds so loudly he's certain Sirius must be able to hear it.
"Sirius?" Harry looks up. His mouth is dry, and he licks his lips to wet them. Sirius' eyes darken, something dangerous glittering beneath the surface. His fingers sneak into Harry's hair, thumb dragging along the back of Harry's neck.
"It's all right, if you want." Harry gathers his courage and slides his hand up Sirius' thigh, fingers following the seam of his trousers.
"What's all right?" His voice is rough like his throat is sore and Harry fills with desire. He reaches the apex of Sirius' thighs and his breath catches in his throat. Denim strains beneath Harry's palm. Sirius is thick, heavy and alive, and Harry's desire morphs into pure need, zinging throughout his body.
Sirius sinks further into the couch. Harry has the mad desire to crawl into his lap and buck against him like an animal, but Sirius' gaze holds him still. He simply feels Sirius. Feels him throb.
"You can pretend, if you want," Harry whispers. "You can pretend I'm him."
In the blink of an eye, the couch is empty, as if Sirius Apparated in his haste to get away. Harry's heart sinks. He twists on the couch just in time to see Sirius' back as he retreats up the stairs. Harry wants to say something, anything, but nothing short of Obliviate will erase his stupid mistake.
"It's late." Sirius' voice drifts down the stairs. "Go to bed, Harry."
Harry falls back into the cushions, squeezes his eyes shut, and breathes slow and deep. The tears come anyway.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione says. She hasn't touched her tea, but Harry can't blame her. He's not been to the shops in a while, and all he has left is what he found in the back of the cupboards. "Kingsley said he can't keep your spot open any longer."
"That's fine? But Harry, you loved being an Auror. I'm certain if you went to him today—or even tomorrow, you could..."
Harry grits his teeth and Hermione's voice trails off. She clears her throat. "Perhaps you could help George out at his shop, then. I could ask Ron to--"
"I don't need a job, Hermione."
"No, but you need to get out of this house."
Harry recognizes the familiar gleam of determination in her eyes, and she rushes on before he can respond, her words stumbling out over one another in her haste.
"You could move in with us. Ron misses you, Harry. He doesn't understand but if you told him what happened, I know he'd forgive you. I know this has been hard on you, but it's been months, now, and this place isn't good for you, can't you see that?"
"You want me to leave?" Harry gapes at her. He can see tears prickling the corner of her eyes, but all it does is stoke his ire. "How can I leave him? Don't you know he needs me?"
"You never ask about him, you know. Ask how he's doing, or offer to help, and now you want me to leave him all alone? Ignore him as you do? Have you gone mad, Hermione?"
Harry sits rigid in his chair, his napkin balled up in a fist. His head swims, his spine tingling with white-hot anger. He barely registers her face, twisted in confusion, but her eyes are dry. Her lip quivers.
Finally she speaks, so softly Harry has to strain to hear her.
"Who are you talking about, Harry?"
Panic seizes Harry's chest. "Don't you remember?"
"You brought him here. You brought him to me so I could take care of him."
"Harry...." The touch of her hand burns scalding hot. Harry shakes all over.
"Sirius is dead."
The wards sing in alarm like a hundred high-pitched whistles being blown at once, but the shrill is muted and hazy as if it can't pierce the fog in Harry's head. He moves down the stairs in slow motion, his footsteps echoing in his ears, until he sees Hermione, until he sees the roaring green fire at her back, until he sees the body, lying motionless at her feet.
Harry stumbles over and sinks to his knees. The tears come, hot and thick, stinging his eyes. His throat is hoarse. Someone is screaming. He shakes Sirius' shoulders, shakes him so hard, his head hits the floor with a deafening thud.
Hermione tugs at him, but he yanks out of her hold and pushes her away.
He presses Sirius' face between his palms, gazes into Sirius' dull lifeless eyes.
"No," Harry chokes out. "Please, Sirius. Wake up. Wake up."
A constricting warmth envelopes him. He struggles and fights, but his bones ache and the warmth is overwhelming; he can't break free.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I tried to...I wanted to save him. I'm sorry."
Arms tighten around his chest, springy brown curls stick to his cheeks and his chin. He squeezes his eyes shut and goes limp. The fog carries him away.
Harry's eyes blink open.
Cotton sheets twist around his waist and thighs like a half-formed cocoon. He struggles out of them, then pulls them up flat over his chest, and sinks back down into the comfort of his mattress. Dim morning light filters in through the dusty window. Harry rolls to his side. He stares at the wall. Any minute now...
The house is still, quiet, the only sound Harry's soft slow breaths.
Harry closes his eyes.
"Please, Sirius," he whispers. "Please."
The bed dips. A body shifts beneath the sheets behind him. Whiskers scrape against his neck, hands tug his pyjama bottoms down over his hips, and a voice, raspy and low, whispers, "Mine."
Harry doesn't pull away.