The Roof and Crown of Things

By Kathryn


I jolt awake from an unfulfilling sleep. The walls of the bedroom that Sirius and I share are splattered with nightmarish shadows, which my myopic, spectacle-less eyes further distort. My eyes are tired and sting where the air hits them. I want to close them, and never open them again.

Beside me, embedded within a veritable cocoon made of sheets and a blanket, Sirius trembles against an imaginary cold. In Azkaban, they don't have blankets, or linen sheets; they don't have warmth. In Azkaban, they don't have comfort. For twelve years, my Sirius slept on a frigid floor without a blanket in which to fold himself. Now, all he wants is to be folded, and bent at the creases (to press the small amount of his former self that remains into the center of his being). He wants to be folded neatly, precisely, never tangled. This I can understand-it took so long for him to untangle himself the last time he was treated carelessly.

Sirius Black, my godfather and lover, sleeps soundly. He trembles sometimes, as I've said. But I don't mind that he steals all of the blankets on our low, sagging bed (low so that the fall onto the floor during particularly violent nightmares is not so far-sagging because of our copious nighttime activities.) I don't mind.

Tonight, it is even a thing of good fortune, the depths of his slumber.

Like the swing of a baseball bat as it splits the air to meet the ball, I swing my legs over the side of the bed with decisiveness. I don't flinch when my feet hit the floor, although it's the dead of winter and the flagstones are blocks of ice (like the kind they use to build igloos). My temperature is unnaturally high. Blood pounds erratically against the walls of my veins, begging to be let out. It throbs in a manner that is almost painful, and I know the only way to rid myself of the incessant beat is to appease it. It wants out. Well, then. It seems we want the same thing.

My feet lead me into our cluttered kitchen. A cupboard door gapes open, revealing the wealth of its contents soaked in a bath of black shadows. On the table lies the aftermath of the apple peeling contest that Sirius and I held after dinner: cores of red apples, and shiny brown-black seeds resting in two sunny yellow bowls with white stripes around the rims, and two unbroken rings of apple peels.

I ignore the open cupboard, and move toward the table. Beside the bowl on the right (which winks cheerfully up at me in the moonlight from the window) is my penknife. The penknife I used to peel the skin of my apple so that it remained intact, forming one long graceful spiral. The penknife that was a gift from my lover, before the thought of making love to him ever entered my mind.

Perhaps, there is a kind of symbolism or irony in the fact that, within five minutes, I will be using this penknife (this representation of the man who brought me back to life) to end my life. However, I don't plan on spending my last moments analyzing it.

My blood is still singing.

It's so hot, this fever world of mine. I can almost feel the ice blocks of the floor melting and splintering beneath my feet.

The penknife rests in my palm, a mere slice of glinting silver to my defective eyes. The blade of the knife bears into my flesh at the wrist, then carves a long line almost up to the crook of my elbow, and a clean line of blood (so red it's almost black) appears, flowering immediately into a Gryffindorian torrent, a solar flare of heat that drip drip drips down my arm. I proceed to draw a horizontal slash across the same wrist, so that my final creation resembles a 'T'. I repeat the process with my other wrist. As my veins empty themselves of life, I feel them refilling with something akin to hope.

My body sags, like the bed where Sirius and I have shared so many sweaty, smoldering nights. I lose my balance-fall into the table, sending one of the cheerful bowls crashing to the floor, where it shatters into a million pieces.

My Sirius, my godfather, my lover, is a sound sleeper. But I hear movements in our bedroom as he's jerked awake; hear him call my name as he realizes I'm not there. You see, Sirius Black is also a man of extremes. He used to be a man of either whispers or bellows, intense love or perfect hate. Not anymore. He doesn't talk to many people anymore. He loves even fewer. He's still the kind of man who either does nothing or everything, though, and this is how he wakes-one second unconscious with sleep, the next, awake and alert, as if he's never been to bed at all.

There are footsteps pounding in the hallway, loud and frantic like the beat of my heart. Sirius appears, standing frozen beneath the doorframe. An ice sculpture. Cold, unmoved. Or perhaps he is just in shock.

Yes, that must be it. Peripherally, I see black-red blood glittering on the flagstones, each globule like a ruby that has eaten the shadows in the crevices between the stones.

My lover's eyes (blue like glaciers and the lips of drowned men; blue like an isotope of loneliness that somehow isn't quite so bad) aren't enough to hold me here anymore. But they manage to cradle and cushion my body where it's jarred against the hard stones, so that I only feel the exquisiteness of half-death.

As I've said, this half-death fills me with a half-hope. I think, maybe, that these 16 years (16 years. So long I spent filling myself up only to drain myself away in four gratifying slashes and the drip drip drip of blood) of thumbscrews and Chinese water-torture, of sleep deprivation, were worth living, just for the bliss of the eternal rest that awaits me (only 17 breaths away).

My fingers clutch at the penknife, even though they're becoming cold, and my body weak. It is my window to peace.

Sirius, my godfather, and lover, does nothing halfway. He barrels across the white-walled kitchen like a train, and the words that he chokes out past a layer of tears (already beginning to drip like my blood) collide with each other like cars in a traffic jam.

I can't hear him, only see his lips (red like cherry Popsicles; red like bloodshot eyes and the stripes on candy canes) as they shape those jumbled words. The pulse of blood in my ears has stopped and a hollow echo has taken its place.

Sirius. He makes love to me, and it feels like the sun is shining on my face, warm and approving.

When I'm not here to turn away while he brushes his teeth (he doesn't like me to see him with toothpaste in his mouth) he feels my absence and it aches like it does when you hold your breath for too long. I know-he told me with his eyes.

I know what it means, to be without air. Once, when I was five, I got to go with Dudley to his once-a-week swimming lesson and when the instructor's back was turned, Dudley held me under the water until a little girl called Marnie Haze saw and threatened to pull down his swimming trunks if he didn't let me up. I felt it (the desperate, hungry ache) then, but now, the solution isn't quite so simple.

Sirius shivers; always shivers, and I fold myself around him, and then a blanket around us. I wish, and he reminds me of what I have. He hangs his head (even the way I slide my thumb across his lower lip, and kiss him when he's been crying don't calm the sea of blood and emotion crashing in the cavity of his chest), and I know it's not enough.

With black hair (black like the clothes of a mourner; black like the pupils in his blue blue eyes and the ink on the adoption papers that say I'm his) mussed from sleep, Sirius bends over me. His tears fall onto my cheeks and run down like they're mine, dampening the corners of my mouth and leaving a salty taste. He trembles (like Ginny's bottom lip when Ron's said one too many insensitive things), and lies down beside me on the flagstones, thin plaid pajamas marinating in the pools of my blood. He rests his dark head on my chest.

The brown-black of glistening apple seeds, the ruby-black of my own blood, and the pitch black of Sirius's hair meld together in charcoal swirls.

I am enveloped by the blackness, and it is as though I am passing through a dark tunnel, before I see the light. The proverbial white light at the end of the tunnel. And here it is, within my reach.

I have passed through the window, into peace.



Return to Archive