Author's Note: Sirius' Epilogue, following Chapter 35 of OotP, which of course, there are spoilers for.
Beyond the Veil
Sirius passed through the curtain
He heard Harry screaming his name.
Heard Remus' choked voice.
His eyes caught a glimpse of his last best friend holding onto the boy he'd loved as a son, keeping Harry from following him beyond the veil.
It was the last thing he ever saw.
Everything went black.
In the fading distance, he heard Harry's final scream. "SIRIUS!"
And everything else died away. His godson's scream echoed in his ears. It would for all eternity.
He did not know how long passed before the dark receded, and gentle light took its place. He was standing, which he hadn't been before. Sirius blinked in the sudden brightness, trying to reconcile it with the dark corridors of the Department of Mysteries that he had just left, and then he remembered. He had left. He had passed through the veil, felled by Bella's spell. He'd been foolish, he'd been stupid, he'd been rash—just like he had been all his life. His life.
He was dead.
He blinked again and glanced down at himself. He still wore the same robes and his body looked the same, yet…he knew. This was the end, and the light was bright.
The abrupt whiteness occupied so much of his attention that he almost missed the two figures walking towards him. There was one witch and one wizard, both his own age. Both seemed solid and alive, but he knew they couldn't be. They were smiling as they approached, seemingly confident and comfortable in this disturbingly white and featureless landscape.
The unruly black hair and glasses of the wizard made his heart shatter in his breast.
His voice sounded hollow and sore to his ears, if he really was hearing it at all. Tears blurred his vision, but Sirius couldn't even bring himself to blink. He could only stare, feeling the warm wetness rushing down his cheeks, and for the first time, it occurred to him how much James looked like Harry, and not the other way around.Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry…
"Hey, mate." The whisper was almost as emotional as his own, and suddenly James was there, within reach, where he hadn't been for fourteen long years.
They embraced, and Sirius thought he saw Lily wipe a tear away.
Sirius clung to James, fearful that this was some dream—one from which he was unsure if he wanted to wake or not. On one hand, Harry…and on the other, James. But he knew he couldn't go back. He only prayed that he could stay.
Finally, he found his voice once more. "I'm so sorry," Sirius whispered. The words came out in a tumbled mash. "I shouldn't have suggested you use Peter…shouldn't have gone after him and left Harry alone…I wish I could have stayed with him…I'm so sorry I couldn't be there for him like you would have wanted—"
"Be quiet, Sirius." James gripped him tightly. "I don't blame you. You did everything you could, and then more—and I'm glad he got to know you when we couldn't be there…"
They were both crying. "I didn't mean to…God, James, I'm sorry…"
"I know," his best friend whispered. "And as much of this is my fault as yours—but for anything that needs forgiving, I forgive you."
Even the years in Azkaban didn't seem too high a price to pay for hearing those words. A lump filled up his throat, and he couldn't speak. I wish… Sirius closed his eyes, and felt fourteen years of bitterness slowly drift away. James seemed to have sensed it, too, because after a final squeeze, his friend pulled away.
"You going to at least say hi to Lily, Padfoot?"
"Yeah." Despite himself, and somehow, Sirius found himself smiling. It was one of the few real smiles he had felt in years and was the first with real freedom behind it. "Hey, Lily."
"Hello, Sirius." Her voice was exactly as he'd remembered it. It was almost too perfect, and Lily hugged him with the same warmth she always had, even if her eyes were more melancholy than they had once been.
"Is this real?" he whispered. Sirius had never really believed in life after death, but seeing James and Lily was enough to lift the fourteen years of solitude and pain away from his soul. Knowing they were here, if not in the flesh then in something just as real…he'd never dared to believe. He'd always just known they were gone, and it was his fault.
"As real as there is, Sirius," James replied, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him forward. "Come on. Let's go inside."
"Inside? There's more?" Sirius looked around blankly. All he saw was white.
"Of course there is," Lily chuckled. "This is just the entranceway, or the area between life and death. Here we can see the world of the living." She gestured, and just to his right where he hadn't seen it before, Sirius caught glimpse of the room he'd just left. The image was wispy, flickering as if seen through a defective Foe Glass, but it was still there. Harry and the others were gone.
It took a moment before the full importance of what she'd said sunk into him. "You can see…?"
"Yeah." James' arm tightened around his shoulders. "That's why I should be thanking you, mate. Thanks for keeping Harry safe, and for being…for being his dad when I couldn't."
Sirius turned to look at James and felt tears cloud his vision once more. "I could never be you, James," he whispered. "And I wasn't there nearly enough."
Emotion threatened to choke him. God, oh, God…Harry… I'm so sorry… He wished his godson could hear him. Harry deserved far better. Sirius swallowed and felt the tears fall, barely able to focus on James through the pain.
But Harry's father smiled. "Yes, you were. You've been his family, and he'll remember that, especially when he needs it most. Harry will always remember that."
James' arm tightened around him once more.
"Come on, Sirius. Let's go home."