Recipient: the participants and watchers of the siriusisnotdead exchange
Title: Glaciers Melting in the Dead of Night
Character: Sirius gen
Warning: descent into madness; AU
Word Count: 1,042
Summary: He hates Grimmauld Place, has always hated it since his youth spent in this goddamned house.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta for going through this; you know who you are. Many apologies to krystal_moon (aka siriusdenialmod) for the lateness of this. The title is a line from “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse.
He hates Grimmauld Place, has always hated it since his youth spent in this goddamned house. It's an aversion so deeply rooted within him that when he comes near it for the first time since his resurrection, his skin begins to itch. First the left leg, then the right, and from there it moves upwards, to his stomach and lower back, the chest, then to the arms and finally his neck and chin and nose and eyebrows – as if insects were crawling up him the nearer he got.
In the dead of night, when he's alone for the first time and all the times after, he learns that whatever he does, there's no way to get these tiny, invisible beasts off him. He scratches himself so hard he draws blood and there's skin under his fingernails (and not even then does he stop). He bathes (and Merlin does it smart) and rubs himself with alcohol, hoping it will kill them, but it doesn't help. Nothing helps. The insects keep climbing scratching biting, at the same time at a maddeningly slow pace and at a frightening speed – he can't decide which, for the insects (no, he forgets, it's the aversion) deactivates any rationality he has left since Azkaban and the Veil.
He has managed to keep away from Grimmauld Place virtually all his adult life. He hasn't been there since he left home for good to live with the Potters and then later moved on to a place of his own, on to Azkaban and back out again (except for that goddamn following year), into the Veil and out once more.
And now, now he's stuck inside the house he's sworn never to return to, again (and he thinks the word again is what defines his life, now), and there's nothing he can do to get out and make the itching stop. They've set up wards to keep him from going out (he's tried twice within the first week), for his own security, or so they say. They are concerned about him and his sanity.
If they just knew.
He tries drinking, which seems to help a little, but it's not yet enough. Alcohol has one major side-effect: the stupor you're drinking yourself into wears off at some point in time, whatever you do, and the morning after is never a pleasant experience. And it doesn't help anyway – the itching is ever-present, grows stronger, even, proportional to how his aversion grows with every second he spends in that house. But, he thinks, trying can never hurt, can it? The illusion that the itching is dulled by the alcohol is there, after all, even while he scratches himself raw (again and again and yet again).
Then the illusion shatters one day, he doesn't quite know the reason (he suspects it might have been one of those disgusted glances Snape shot him, or one of the searching looks from Remus, or perhaps the way the coffee tasted), and he realizes that the reverse of that statement is true after all (because trying does hurt). By then the bottle has already become his addiction, however, and he can't cut the tie loose. It wasn't so bad after Azkaban, when he'd been drinking as well – but then it was merely to escape the truths of the past. Now it's something else entirely – it's to escape of the truths of the present (and how can one escape the present anyway?). He begins to think of himself as weak because whatever he does, it never ends well or doesn't end at all, as this continuous nightmare he's living teaches him. Twelve years in hell, and just when he thought that had ended (and he'd been at peace behind the Veil) his friends rescue him, and look where that brought him.
Back. Again. To everything he doesn't want anymore, doesn't care for any longer. What's a war outside when he's fighting one within?
He's back in that goddamn house, and now it's worse because he still can't go out (they say a lot about the reasons, but he doesn't know truth from lies any longer; he keeps shutting them out) and he itches, and this time the alcohol doesn't change anything.
But it's his friends who did this to him in all their naiveté, because they thought he'd been captured and lived a life worse than that he'd lived in Azkaban (how were they supposed to know?), so he suffers. He doesn't want them to worry any more than they already do (he knows they whisper about his drinking and his depression behind his back); it wouldn't be fair, especially not to James, who already has enough to worry about (and yes, he does know it's Harry but honestly, who cares? Past. Present. It's all one great fog). If suffering is what he's been born for (and seemingly it is), then at least that he will do well, and doesn't he do it well? The Order members are staring at him, he hears them think – disgrace – and yes, he guesses he's getting the job done, for once in his life.
Still his skin is itching (driving him madder by the second), and still he is drinking (and the stares and the whispers fade, or perhaps he has). The significant change after a few weeks (months? years?), though, is that the two aren't related any longer, although the one is the cause for the other. The equation – drinking makes the itching go away – doesn't have the expected result; it's been falsified. Slowly he's beginning to think there won't ever be anything to solve his problem, but that's not of any consequence to him any longer, he'll just have to learn to live with it since he won't get out of there ever again (the war will have an end? Haha. Tell me another).
Hope is something only the good can afford, and he isn't one of them. That he came back from hell and from heaven later doesn't make him good (he's never regretted any word he said or any hex he's thrown in all his life); doesn't make him strong.
And he's set out to prove that to the world, even if the world consists only of himself.