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Reality Unshattered

Sirius smiled happily, giving his godson a huge hug. The ten-year- old's face was blurry and Sirius couldn't quite make out his features, but he was a beautiful blend of James and Lily. "Uncle Sirius!" Harry yelled happily, though Sirius couldn't really pinpoint what his voice sounded like. "Are you staying all summer? I got my Hogwarts letter, so if you stay longer, I won't get to see you."

Sirius grinned. "You'll make a good Gryffindor," he told the enthusiastic, blurry boy. Why was Harry so out of focus? Sirius, troubled over this, turned away from Harry, to James. "How have you been, Prongs?" he asked.

"Great," James replied with his easy smile. "What about you? How has life been treating you? It's been almost two weeks since we've talked."

Sirius shrugged. "Life's been alright."

Before Sirius could elaborate into details that he didn't know, Lily came out carrying a plate piled with fresh cookies. "So glad to see you again, Siri," she greeted warmly. "Where's Remus?"

Remus? Oh yes, Moony should be here too, Sirius decided idly. He appeared, small and smiling next to Sirius. "Hi Lily, it's nice to see you." Remus was still young, just like Lily and James, not old like Sirius. Sirius had to be nine years older than the rest. He puzzled for a moment. That wasn't right, was it? Not at all. He changed, now matching the others in age.

"Paddy, doesn't Lily look wonderful?" Remus asked. "You'd never be able to tell that she'd just had a baby a few months ago!"

That's right, Sirius remembered. When they were this age, Harry had just been born. Sirius stared at the happy ten-year-old, watched as he was abruptly changed into a baby, held delicately in Lily's arms. No one was smiling now, because when Harry was a baby like this, times were scary and everyone was too frightened to smile.

"Where's Wormtail?" James asked, because Peter was a friend.

No one spoke, but then Peter came and everyone relaxed. James hugged him tightly because James always hugged his best friends, and Peter hugged back -- but no he didn't, because Peter never hugged anyone back, he just looked scared.

"Lily and I are going into hiding," James said with a hand around Lily. "We're going to use the--"

"Don't tell me!" Remus cried, looking upset. "Don't you dare tell me anything. I'm a dark creature, you can't tell me things like that. You can't tell me where you're going and you'd better not tell me what charms you're going to use to protect yourself.

James hugged him. "Sorry, Moony. You can go play with Harry if you want, while we talk."

Moony shook his head. "No, it's alright. I'm going to leave." He looked sad, frustrated, helpless. "Goodbye, James," he smiled vaguely. "I'll see you when this ends." The two men shared a tight, brotherly hug. He left without further fanfare.

"We'll use the Fidelius Charm," James said in a hushed voice. "Siri, we want you to be our Secret Keeper."

"Yes, of course," Sirius agreed but -- no, he'd never agreed. The words tumbled from his mouth as if his previous agreement had never been said, "No, I can't. They'd suspect me. You know I'd rather die than give you up, but I don't want to take a chance like that. Give your secret to Dumbledore or, or... Wormtail! Yeah, isn't that a great idea? Who would suspect 'Tail?"

As he finished saying this, a flash of green light lit up and James and Lily faded away. Harry looked at him helplessly, but was snatched away from him, roaring off on Sirius' own precious motorbike. Only Peter was left, smiling maliciously. No wait, that wasn't his expression. Peter was scared! But this time, the change didn't occur, and Wormtail's face continued in its malicious smiling. Another explosion and this time he could see a rat scampering away.

He was alone now, except for the Dementors that were bearing down on him, and they were real.

Sirius opened his eyes. Azkaban He'd been here how long? Ten years? Eleven? Twelve? Did it matter? Not really. Because the Dementors were here, and they ruined his daydreams, never let him have more than a brief reprieve from suffering before they devoured his emotions.

Reality unshattered.