Monday, August 4th, 2003 12:00 pm
Summary: Trapped in a world where he can be neither seen nor heard, Sirius Black struggles to communicate to his friends that he may not be as dead as they think he is... and that something dreadful lurks beyond the veil.

Dedicated to the SBRL list and the noble cause of denial.

02. Through the Looking Glass

Sirius quickly discovered that it was impossible for him to get out of breath. Instead, prolonged running through the heavy, syrupy air induced a sort of all-body ache. Not that he had a body, technically, but it saved a lot of questions if he just thought of himself in those terms. His limbs felt heavy and tired, his chest hurt as if he'd been sat on by a hippogriff, and his head ached with a dull insistence. And he couldn't seem to move faster than a walking pace.

He kept running.

By the time he'd reached 12 Grimmauld Place he'd almost become used to silence instead of the thud of his feet hitting the ground. The sun was up, but its light brought little cheer to the dismal square of houses. Sirius slowed as he approached the front door, raising his hand instinctively to knock.

Then he remembered himself and, grimacing, simply walked through the solid wood into the gloomy hall. Noise immediately flooded around him; it sounded like half the Order was here, and his mother's portrait was screaming again. He ignored her and hurried towards the kitchen.

Taking the steps two at a time - except, of course, he wasn't, he was just pushing harder against the world's objections to his presence - Sirius burst through the kitchen door and almost collided with Mundungus Fletcher. He drew back hastily: he really didn't want to find out first-hand whether or not he could walk through people the same way he could walk through walls.

"--showed up at the Ministry," someone was saying anxiously, waving her arms around like an over-caffeinated windmill. "Fudge has to believe us now, he's seen him with his own eyes--"

"--guarding it all this year, and the damn thing's been smashed anyway--"

"--still can't believe it, you say it was his own cousin that killed him?"

Sirius scanned the crowd quickly. He could see Mad-Eye Moody conferring with Kingsley and a few others. There was no sign of Tonks, the Weasleys or Remus.

"Can any of you hear me?" Sirius yelled at the top of his voice. He hoped against hope that someone would turn in his direction, but no-one so much as glanced up.

Catching another glimpse of Moody gave Sirius an idea. His magical eye could see through wood, stone and invisibility cloaks - maybe it could see spirits, or whatever it was that Sirius had become.

He began to step cautiously around the edge of the room, swearing ineffectually whenever someone moved into his path. After five minutes of manoeuvering, and finding himself no closer to Moody, he finally gave up, took a deep breath, and struck out through the people thronging the kitchen.

He felt nothing, which was unnerving, but not as unnerving as realising that they felt nothing, either. No-one shivered or glanced around; no-one fainted or gasped or turned pale. He might as well have been walking through an empty room for all the reaction his presence caused.

"Mad-Eye," he called hopefully as soon as he was in earshot. "Mad-Eye, can you hear me? Can you see me?"

Moody was listening intently to the tall witch next to him, grunting occasionally and nodding his head vigorously. His magical eye swivelled in Sirius's direction... and paused. Sirius held his breath (or felt like he was holding his breath, at least) and pushed past/through Kingsley to stand right in front of the Auror.

Whose roving eye had already turned away and was now examining the fireplace.

Sirius felt like howling in frustration. After a moment's consideration he gave into the impulse, throwing his head back and letting out his pent-up fear and desperation. No-one could hear him, after all. He had turned away, half-running back towards the door, when another conversation caught his ear:

"--haven't seen Remus, is he hurt?"

"No, but they were old friends, knew each other in school - think he went upstairs - wanted to be alone--"

More than friends, Sirius wanted to say, are you blind, couldn't you see? But then, it wasn't as if they'd been obvious about it. There'd been so much else, all year, and there had just hovered between them the unspoken understanding that there would be time later on to say all the things that needed to be said...

Sirius hurried past the speakers, up the stairs and through the hall. His mother was still shouting, hurling abuse at thin air, cursing his name as if she knew he could hear her. He wondered if anyone had mentioned his 'death' to her. Probably not: he had a feeling she'd have been laughing if she knew.

He passed the rooms he'd given the Weasleys, and the ones that various Order members had used to catch a few hours sleep between shifts. The top floor was the least-used, and some of the doors were still locked, their handles dusty. An ancient, cracked mirror hung at the top of the stairs; Sirius looked instinctively for his reflection, and shuddered when he saw nothing. At the far end was the door to the attic, but he turned aside before he reached it.

His room had always pleased him when he was a child. It was higher up than his parents, who were glad enough to see less of him; higher than his brother, who hated to climb more stairs than he had to; high enough that from his window he could see a great swathe of sky above the dingy square that was Grimmauld Place. His room was the one place in the house that didn't fill him with angry, bitter memories, and so he'd cleared it out as soon as possible. It had even been pleasant, sometimes: candles scattered about like a dozen fallen stars; the curtains open and a new moon - weeks from full - gracing the sky; Remus stretched out by his side, the lines on his face smoothed away by sleep.

There were no candles lit now. The curtains were half-closed. The sun was making a feeble attempt to light the room, and succeeding only with a portion of it. Sirius thought that he could see more clearly than usual in the dimness, but dismissed it from his mind a moment later. Remus was lying on his side on the bed, half-curled up, very still.

Sirius's heart gave a terrified lurch and he quickly crossed the room. No. He wouldn't. Not Moony. Not my Moony. He got through twelve years... he wouldn't, he wouldn't, please don't let him be...

"Remus?" he whispered, falling to his knees so that he could look into his friend's face. He realised that Remus's eyes were open at about the same time that he saw his chest rising and falling shallowly. Sirius closed his own eyes for a second, shaky with relief.

After a time he sank to the floor, sitting as close to Remus as he could get. He knew his friend wasn't asleep - his eyes remained open, staring at nothing, blinking occasionally - but he didn't move, or speak, or even cry. It was starting to scare Sirius. He wanted to go and get someone - tell them that Remus needed company, needed someone to bring him out of this silent, grieving state - but there was no-one who could hear him.

All Sirius could do was sit with him in unacknowledged vigil, so he did. In all his life, he'd never heard of something like this happening. He wasn't a ghost, at least in the usual sense - someone should have been able to see him if he was - and he couldn't be a poltergeist or another sort of spirit, because he was utterly unable to affect the world.

Which led him to one other conclusion. What if this was what came after death? What if everyone who died was forced to remain in the world like this, unseen, unfelt, unheard? What if all around him thronged thousands of others, out of even his sight, who wailed and watched and wandered forever...

Sirius shuddered. A small sound from beside him made him look around. Remus's eyes had finally fallen shut; as Sirius watched, tears began to inch their way down his pale face. He gave another small, hitching gasp, almost-but-not-quite a sob, and suddenly rolled over onto his other side, groping blindly for a pillow to muffle the sound.

Sirius heard his own name. Then there was silence, except that Remus's shoulders would shake every so often, and his breath would catch.

If this was what lay after death, Sirius thought bleakly, then he could almost sympathise with Voldemort's crusade to escape it. This was worse than Azkaban, worse than being trapped in his parents' house for a year, worse even than the Dementor's Kiss, surely - at least then he wouldn't have known what had happened to him. Was this all there would be, forever? Watching the people he loved grieve and then forget about him?

He remembered something that Dumbledore was fond of saying: The dead we have loved never leave us. Perhaps, then, he would only be tied to the world as long as there was someone to remember him...

Dumbledore.


Hope flared suddenly from the ashes, stirring him like a long draught of a warm drink. He'd lost a lot of his respect for Dumbledore over the past year - resentment, loneliness and bitter reproach had eroded his trust in the man - but he was still a wizard more powerful than Voldemort himself. More to the point, Dumbledore had the honour of keeping company with a phoenix.

Sirius had seen Fawkes weep for Harry's sake last year, healing a ragged gash in his leg; he had heard stories of the properties of phoenix song; he knew that the creature could rise anew from death.

If he even was dead, which he still didn't really believe. He was just stuck, somewhere, somehow, and to Sirius's mind there was no such thing as a one-way door...

Sirius got carefully to his feet. Dumbledore and Fawkes were at Hogwarts, so that was where he had to go. He'd done it on foot before - admittedly as Padfoot - and he had a feeling that he wouldn't need sleep now. It would take him days, if the speed of his journey here was anything to go by, but it wasn't as if he had any pressing commitments.

At least, not that he could fulfil.

He stood for a long moment looking down at Remus, who was simply lying there in silence. He didn't want to leave him, but what could he do for him?

Hesitantly, Sirius leaned over. He felt a little silly - but at the same time, a rush of protective love flooded him, so he went ahead with his half-formed thought, and laid a ghostly kiss on the tear-damp cheek.

"I don't think I'm quite dead yet, Moony," he said with a confidence that he wasn't sure was real. "So I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Take care of yourself."

There was no answer, and after a long, painful pause, Sirius turned away.

He'd just have to find a way back as quickly as possible.




The knock on the door was hesitant. It said a lot about the person knocking. It said, Perhaps he'd rather be left alone and Maybe I'm worrying for nothing. Remus thought that probably, if he ignored it, the knocker would talk themselves out of coming into the room to check on him.

The handle turned. Well, couldn't be right every time. Sirius always teased him about it, but Sirius wasn't right all the time either. In fact, Sirius was always doing stupid things. Like charging into a pack of Death Eaters alone. Like taunting when he should have been ducking. Like getting himself killed.

Oh, God.


"Remus?"

Molly Weasley's voice was as tentative as her knock had been. Remus didn't answer, and a moment later heard the door swing fully open. He wished she'd go away. He didn't want to talk to her. Talking meant thinking, and he didn't want to think. He'd wept a bit some time ago, but even that had ebbed away into silence.

It was like staring into the sun: afterward your eyes were clouded with the bright afterimage and you couldn't see anything else. It had all happened so fast - Snape's urgent summons, the Order's departure, the battle in the Death Chamber - it was a scant few hours since Remus had walked into this very room to find Sirius pacing uneasily, waiting for someone to tell him if Harry had returned from the Forest yet. He couldn't seem to blink the memories away. He couldn't accept that in an instant the world had changed.

He couldn't... do this... again...

"Remus," Molly said again, her tone softer but more certain. He could hear the pity in it - no, be fair, not pity: compassion - and the concern of a mother's instinctive desire to comfort. "You... shouldn't be alone."

Why not? I was alone for twelve years. We were living on borrowed time anyway, so why do I still feel cheated?

He didn't move. Footsteps crossed the room, and he felt the bed move slightly under her weight as she sat down.

Sirius never could understand that, no matter how sneakily he lowered himself, the mattress would always shift and alert his target to his presence, and then he'd jump half out of his skin when Remus would ask, quite calmly, what he was doing, and Sirius would say, 'I thought you were asleep,' and Remus would roll over and smile and Sirius would--


Molly's hand came to rest on his shoulder, and Remus suddenly remembered comforting her after the Boggart had shown her each of her family dead in turn. He wondered why it hadn't become, for him, Sirius lying still and cold - what did it say about him that his fear had been, as always, the moon whose pull forced him into slavery? But then, he'd never thought that Sirius could die - not brave, brash, laughing Sirius who'd already returned once from darkness that might as well have been death.

Sirius wasn't allowed to die, he thought angrily, not when he hadn't really been alive for the last fifteen years.

It wasn't fair.

He was aware of Molly speaking to him, comforting nonsense tinged with an edge of helplessness. She couldn't do anything if he wouldn't respond to her. He felt a kind of bitter satisfaction at the thought. Her hand was still on his shoulder, strangely warm against the cold spilling out of his heart and through his veins.

He opened his mouth to ask her to leave, but what came out, eerily calm, was, "He's gone."

A pause.

"I'm so sorry, Remus."

Was she really? he wondered, knowing that she had never really approved of Sirius, and a moment later he was shocked at himself. It did something to clear his head. It wasn't right to resent Molly for trying to help. There were other people to be angry with. Bellatrix Lestrange. Albus Dumbledore. Voldemort. Harry.

No. It's not his fault.


The numbness was retreating, torn apart by a whirling of pain that wanted to become a scream, but couldn't seem to fight its way through years and years of self control. Unsteadily, he sat up, shrugging away from Molly's touch with a half-formed dismissal on his lips.

It died when he saw tears on her cheeks.

Instead he just looked at her mutely, needing something he couldn't ask for, and she, understanding, enfolded him in her arms like a mother or a sister or just, perhaps, a good friend, and then he found that he could cry again after all.




The wrenching sensation caught Sirius three or four days later, somewhere just past Edinburgh. He stumbled - inasmuch as he could stumble - and shook his head, raising a hand to his eyes. The world... had suddenly... distorted - the lights of the city where spinning - for a second everything went white...

"Sirius Black!"

And with the echo of his name still ringing in his ears, Sirius found himself standing in front of his godson.

Harry looked - tired. Worn. In fact, there was an air about him that reminded Sirius painfully of Remus - the air of one too old for their youth. His cheeks were tinged with a faintly unhealthy flush, as he stared intently a small, square object held up before his face.

The two-way mirror, Sirius realised.

It had called him here.

Hope flooded him in glorious waves. Perhaps if he went back to London and found his own mirror, he'd be able to talk to Harry? Perhaps, if his godson looked up, he'd be able to see him?

"Harry--" Sirius began excitedly.

Harry, who had been sitting like a statue, made a sudden, vicious movement that sent the mirror flying into his trunk. There was the sound of breaking glass. He glanced up, directly at - or rather, through - Sirius, and then jumped up and crossed the room as if he hoped to break the floor beneath his feet.

Sirius closed his eyes for a moment, fighting bitter disappointment. He moved over to the trunk, hoping against hope that the mirror hadn't shattered after all. A dozen glittering shards mocked him, reflecting back his hopeless face among Harry's shoes and clothes.

Sirius groaned. Then his eyes widened in shock.

He could see his reflection in the mirror.

He leaned forward. At that second, Harry flung a bundle of his possessions down into the trunk, obscuring the broken mirror. Sirius swore loudly.

"Dammit, Harry, would it kill you to look before you go chucking your stuff around?" he yelled angrily, glaring at his godson, who naturally paid no attention.

Sirius gritted his teeth, sat down on a nearby bed - at least, it helped if he told himself he was sitting on the bed, and not just positioning himself in midair - and watched Harry storm back and forth between his bed and his trunk. He could see himself in the mirror. So, could anyone else see him in the mirror? Would Harry have seen his reflection if he'd happened to look down? Sirius thought he would. Which made it all the more frustrating to watch as clothing was haphazardly strewn on top of it.

No, wait. All was not lost – there were the other mirrors, of course! But his own was in a drawer by his bed - would Remus clear out his room, Sirius wondered, or would they just leave it? It wasn't like he had all that many possessions. Sirius was struck, for a moment, by the image of himself turning up alive in the middle of an auction outside his house, like the hobbit in that Muggle book Moony used to like...

Harry had stopped in mid-motion. The look on his face was painful - so full of hope, but so jaded. Like he really, truly believed something, but at the same time there was a part of him that just knew it wasn't going to come true.

Then the boy dropped the robes he'd been holding and threw himself across the room, wrenching the door open and vanishing.

"Hey! Wait!" shouted Sirius uselessly. He hesitated, but his curiosity overcame him. He followed Harry out of the room.

Unfortunately his godson had already disappeared, and Sirius couldn't move at much more than a fast walking pace even when he was running. He spent a long time searching various corridors and classrooms, muttering swearwords to himself. He paused for a moment by a large, gilt-framed mirror to see if it showed his reflection, and was disappointed when it didn't. He passed the Great Hall, where the leaving feast was taking place, and spent a few minutes checking that Harry wasn't there. He paused in front of Dumbledore, who took not the slightest bit of notice.

Depressed, Sirius meandered out of the Hall (it was very uncomfortable watching the students eat and knowing that he hadn't even felt hungry for days) and headed in the direction of the Gryffindor tower. Perhaps Harry had gone back there. On the way he detoured into McGonagall's office (to see if she really had a cat basket under her desk), Filch's locked supply cupboard (he and James never had managed to get into it - the contents were, however, rather disappointing) and a girls' toilet (just because he could). He was starting to think that this having no body thing would be fun if he could use it at will.

It was in the toilets that he happened to glance into a mirror... and saw himself looking back.

Sirius all but fell over in shock. He stared, disbelieving, at his reflection. He looked sort of pale and faint, but he was definitely there. He took a step towards the mirror.

His reflection vanished.

Sirius growled softly and stepped carefully backwards. There he was again - it was like he was stepping into and out of a special zone where he was visible. He experimented by moving a couple of paces to right and left. Sure enough, as soon as he moved out of one particular spot, his reflection disappeared.

Sirius regarded himself in some confusion. What was special about this portion of the mirror? He moved aside again, experimentally, and caught sight of something else in the reflection.

He turned round to get a better look. Hanging on the wall behind him - opposite the big mirror - was another, smaller one, the glass spotted and chipped. The two mirrors had been positioned to reflect each other. Probably so the girls could do their hair, or something, Sirius thought.

He waved a hand in the space between the mirrors. Sure enough, he could see it reflected in them both.

"Okay," he said aloud, thinking quickly. "So one mirror doesn't show me, but two mirrors do."

Sirius moved back into the gap between the mirrors, taking a sort of comfort from seeing himself reflected there. One mirror didn't work. But Harry's mirror had been enchanted, linked to another - so that one showed him, too. Sirius began to pace back and forth, glancing at himself every time he passed the second mirror. How could he use this?

Remus had a two-way mirror. Sirius stopped moving, staring at his reflection happily as he thought about this. If he could just get Remus to look in the mirror...

That was when the world went cold.

Sirius shuddered. He'd become so used to feeling nothing that the sudden chill was almost unbearable. He expected to see his breath steaming in the air in front of him. The light was fading from the room, he realised with a rush of alarm. Suddenly he couldn't see anything except himself, reflected in a bright square of glass, wide-eyed and startled.

There were voices. He could hear people whispering, laughing, taunting, cajoling. He thought, for a second, that he was back in Azkaban, that the Dementors were coming.

"No... no..." he whispered, backing away. "I'm... I'm innocent, I didn't do it..."

Sirius took another step backwards, fleeing the mirror. He ran through the wall, hoping to leave the chill behind, but it followed him like the incoming tide. Sirius glanced behind him as he ran, and saw the walls of the corridor blackening as if a tarnish were creeping over them.

What the hell is going on?


Had he done something by stepping between the mirrors? Was this some sort of trap? He sped around a corner, through the walls of two classrooms, and flung himself down a flight of stairs. Perhaps, if he got to where there were people, they'd be able to stop it even if they couldn't see him...

The doors of the Great Hall had been flung open; students spilled out, chattering and laughing. The feast was over. Sirius ran through them, turning to see their reactions to what was happening.

Nobody batted an eyelid.

Sirius stared in horror as shadows raced up the walls, touching the enchanted ceiling and spreading tendrils all around the hall. It was like a giant, multi-fingered hand groping its way around the room in eager search of something.

Or someone. Himself, Sirius rather thought, being as no-one else could even see it.

He turned and fled up the length of the hall, hoping against hope that Dumbledore could do something. The Headmaster was talking to Snape, totally unaware of the darkness all around them. Sirius turned to run again and realised that he was surrounded. The shadows were creeping across the floor. He backed up towards Dumbledore. The shadows touched Snape's robes...

Snape broke off his conversation with Dumbledore and looked startled; then a strange mixture of anger and fear crossed his face. Dumbledore looked at him inquiringly, but Snape made a sharp, decisive motion with one hand.

Sirius suddenly felt the chill lift. The darkness hesitated, then fled back as if it were rolling in on itself. The oppressive sense of menace was gone.

"-- was that?" Dumbledore was saying quietly.

Snape was looking around with narrowed eyes. For one wild moment, Sirius was torn between hoping that his old nemesis could see him, and praying that he couldn't. Snape's eyes flickered right through him, however, and the hook-nosed man turned back to the Headmaster.

"I'm not sure," he said in a low voice. "It felt like an attack, but it was not directed at either of us."

"Legilimency?" Dumbledore asked, his blue gaze sharp.

Snape hesitated. "No..." he said slowly. "No, not that. It was like..." He broke off. Sirius waited hopefully, but the Potions Master didn't elaborate further.

"Well," Dumbledore said, and Sirius noticed for the first time how tired he looked and sounded, "I must away... so much to do... good luck, Severus."

Snape nodded curtly and turned to go, long cape billowing. Dumbledore followed, leaving Sirius alone and shaken.

What the hell was that? He sat down at the teachers' table and wished he could rest his elbows on it. Was it really after me, or was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time? And how did Snape of all people stop it when no-one else could even see it?

Sirius got up again and paced about restlessly. He found himself shooting nervous glances at the walls. He had a reckless urge to get as far away from Hogwarts as possible. Something knew he was here. Something had tried to harm him - he wasn't even going to entertain the idea that the creeping darkness had been of good intent. It had felt like... like Dementors.

Sirius shuddered. He had walked himself to the end of the hall now; he peered cautiously out of the doors. No students in sight, and no malevolent shadows either. He took a deep, steadying breath. Whatever it was, it had gone.

Belatedly, he remembered his plan to find Fawkes. Now was, presumably, as good a time as any, so he turned his steps in the direction of the Headmaster's office.

Voices floated down the corridor ahead of him; Sirius paused and listened. He realised that one of them was Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost. The other was unfamiliar to him.

"... but really, shouldn't we tell someone?" Nick was saying.

"It is no concern of theirs," replied a woman's voice, soft but very clear. "They could not even see it, and besides, the darkness cannot touch them..."

"Still," said Nick uncertainly, "mightn't the Headmaster be able to shed some light on it? I've never seen anything like that in all my centuries..."

Sirius rounded a corner and could see, up ahead, Nearly-Headless Nick and a ghostly woman whom he vaguely remembered from his schooldays. She had tended to haunt the library, and on one particular occasion had given him a nasty shock in the Restricted Section. The two were coming towards him, floating at a leisurely pace, and Sirius wondered whether to stand aside or simply let them walk through him.

The question was resolved when Nearly-Headless Nick glanced up, jumped so hard that his head fell off his shoulders, and exclaimed, "Good heavens! Sirius Black!"

Sirius stared, dumbfounded.

The woman looked him up and down with an expression of interest, before turning to help Nick restore his head to its proper place.

"You can see me?"

"Of course," said the woman softly, just as Nick said, "Clear as day!"

"Then I am a ghost?" Sirius asked, his heart sinking.

Nick glided forward, looking at him closely.

"You don't seem to be," he said thoughtfully. The ghost reached out and tried to lift Sirius's arm; his hand passed straight through it. "No. Ghosts can touch one another, you see."

"But you can see me - and hear me." Sirius found himself grinning in sheer relief.

"Indeed." Nick circled around him once, making no attempt to hide his curiosity. "Strangely enough, I have just been discussing your recent, er - demise - with young Harry. I had assured him that you would not be back. You did not - forgive me for saying so - seem the type."

"I'm not exactly back," Sirius explained quickly. "I don't think I went anywhere. I'm sure I didn't die."

The two ghosts looked confused.

"And yet, many witnesses would claim otherwise," murmured the woman.

"Arianwen is right: a large number of people seem fairly certain that you're dead," Nick said. "Ah - have you met Arianwen, Sirius? Good friend of mine - you may have seen her on occasion..."

"Most glad to have made your acquaintance," said the ghostly Arianwen.

Sirius nodded impatiently in her direction. He didn't have time for this. "Look, can we talk for a minute?"

The ghosts nodded (Nick's head wobbling dangerously), and Nick led the way through a nearby wall into an empty classroom. Sirius quickly outlined what had happened in the Death Chamber and his efforts to communicate with the rest of the world.

When he was done, the two ghosts were oddly silent.

"Well?" Sirius asked nervously.

"Most strange," said Arianwen softly. She glided towards him and raised her hands to either side of his face, her ghostly fingers hovering a hairsbreadth away. "It is written that none living can pass the veil, and yet you clearly did not come there as one of the dead."

Sirius blinked. He realised that he could feel... something radiating from her hands. Neither warmth nor chill, but merely a... sensation of something.

"The Gateway's not something we talk about, you see," Nick was saying. He fiddled uncomfortably with his ruff. "Those of us who remain here... refused to pass through it. So we don't... know what's on the other side."

Sirius snorted. "Not a lot, as far as I can tell." He took a step backwards to get away from Arianwen's hands. She dropped her arms to her sides, still regarding him opaquely.

"You are not on the other side," she said tranquilly. "However you came to pass the threshold, you were unable either to advance or retreat. You stand between the worlds, in a kind of limbo, if you will. The space between reflections. The echoworld of a mirrored mirror."

Sirius stared at her....right...

"And... is that good? Bad? Is there a way back?"

Arianwen frowned. "I know not. This has happened before, I believe - there is mention of it in the oldest books - but I know not if the lost souls were ever retrieved."

"Great." Sirius sighed, throwing his head back and stretching to relieve a non-existent ache. "So I'm not dead, but I might as well be, and to top it all off the shadows around here don't seem to like me."

Nick let out a small exclamation. Sirius looked at him curiously.

"You saw what happened earlier?" the ghost asked anxiously.

"Yeah." Sirius shivered convulsively. "More to the point, I think it... whatever it was... was after me."

Arianwen's eyes had gone rather wide. She glanced around nervously. Nick looked equally worried.

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure." Sirius tried to catch his eye. "Nick? What is it? Do you know what that was?"

"I don't know... what it was, precisely," Nick said slowly. "But there's something else you should know. This... place that you're in... I don't pretend to know much about it... but I know that you are not alone there."

A chill ran down Sirius's spine.

"What?"

Nearly-Headless Nick looked away. "Certain magics can influence that space - legilimency, occlumency, dream magic... as can certain creatures... thestrals, I suspect, may sense your presence, as may the phoenix. And..." He hesitated.

Arianwen finished his sentence, her quiet voice hard.

"As may the Dementors, who prey upon such souls as yours."

- end chapter two -