OOO

Chapter One: Memories

OOO

I suppose you wouldn't understand. There is nothing for me now. When had there ever been? Before. There was a meaning before. Before everything happened. When someone loved me. When I loved someone—it was all before. Long before. Fourteen years before. That's when there was something. But now—now there is nothing. And it seems as though there never was.

I sit now, at the fireside, with nothing. I am lost. I'm alone. Completely alone, wrapped in my darkness. With nothing.

But no. There is something. Memories. All there is is memories. There are evil memories of the cold, the stone, and the darkness. There are vile memories of the loneliness, the emptiness, the quietness. There are painful memories of before. Before.

It was before the cold stone and the empty loneliness. Before I was lost. When I had her. I don't even remember her name now, but my memories dwell on her. They are memories that were the first things They took from me. They were the happiest. These memories that will never fade. That I will never, ever forget.

And how could I? How could I forget them? How could I forget them when in those two years after Hogwarts and before it all happened, she was everything to me. She was all I had. Sure, I had my other friends, but how could I be sure of them, of their trust? She was all I had. She was my one and only. She was my everything…

My memories of her are so clear. Many things that have come back after They took them have returned slowly, faintly, vaguely. Some are foggy, not wholly remembered. But she, the first thing They stole, has come back clearer than ever. She is still my everything, and I don't think I'll ever see her again.

She was beautiful. Her mahogany hair was long, and always up, tight, hidden, almost. Until she met me, she hid it. Because someone had told her it was beautiful, and then he had nearly killed her. So no one ever saw it down again. Then I took it down. And her grey eyes flashed like ice, until I silenced her with a kiss. And she realized that she no longer had to hide…

OOO

They were sitting by the fire, curled up on one of the red velvet couches. The fire was gradually burning down to embers, as they talked and laughed. There was snow piling up in the corners of the windows, and the sky was dark, the stars and moon hidden by the storm clouds. The embers were all that was left of the fire.

"Why do you always tie your hair up?" he asked. "Does it have to do with…Cody? Or is it something else?"

"It was Cody," she whispered, snuggling closer to him. "He…was…" she took a deep, shuddering breath, as if trying to hold back tears. "He—we were going out together. Obviously, you know that…everyone knows that. He always told me my hair was beautiful…I should have known something was wrong.

"I realized after that I never knew if he loved me for who I was or just because I was pretty. I was blinded by my…infatuation with him. I saw nothing but that he loved me—though he never said if he did. It was implied, of course, in his little smiles and winks, his sweet for-no-reason gifts, and his long, passionate kisses and embraces. I could see no wrong in him. It wasn't until afterward I realized just how stupid I was.

"It was a Saturday—and just out of the blue...he came up to me and asked if I would come with him to the Astronomy Tower, where no one would be. I only realized after how dumb I was. I knew that something wasn't right. But I ignored the warning, and followed him.

"He told me continuously that I was beautiful, that my hair was beautiful. Some sort of warning went off in my head. But of course I ignored it. 'He never acts this way,' part of me was saying. My other, stupider part ignored it. He…he kissed me again and again…"

She was crying now. He held her close and smoothed her hair. She buried her face in his chest, and he barely heard what she was saying.

"The he grabbed me. I tried to pull away—I couldn't ignore that he wasn't right now. I pulled out my wand…I didn't know what to do. He knocked it out of my hand, and when I lunged for it, he grabbed me again, and I couldn't get away. He held me by my hair over the edge of the tower. I screamed, but everyone was in classes, and no one heard. He pulled me back in and sat on me. He had a knife—he gave me this."

She ran a finger along the scar that ran down her jaw and curled in a swirl under her chin.

"I was afraid he was going to kill me…cut my throat and kill me. But he didn't. I think he came to his senses and realized what he was doing. He put the knife away and knocked me over the head. I lay there, unconscious. I think he left… No one found me until much later. It was dark when I opened my eyes…someone was standing over me—Professor Dumbledore, I think. The next thing I knew I was in the hospital wing.

"We began to avoid each other. Cody and me, I mean. He wasn't perfect any more. And I had the scar as a constant reminder, and I didn't want my hair to remind me as well. So I put it up in a way that I couldn't see any of it. I admit now, I was hiding from my fears. I haven't seen him at all—not even in the hallway—for a few months now. Sometimes I wonder if he left."

He didn't tell her that he had seen Cody yesterday, crying in the boys' bathroom on the third floor. When he had asked what was wrong, Cody had answered with a single word: her. He had known immediately that Cody meant the girl he had beaten. He knew Cody was sorry about it. But that girl was totally his now…and there was no way he was giving her back.

Slowly he reached over and slid the elastic out of her hair. She gasped and pulled away, slightly. He ran his fingers through its mahogany length, and sighed deeply.

"It's gorgeous," he whispered. Her eyes filled with more tears.

"I never thought I'd hear that again. I never—" He silenced her with a kiss. She gasped again, and then relaxed in his embrace. He pulled away softly.

"How many times over the past few months have I told you? I love you for who you are, not what you look like. How many times do I have to tell you? I love you I love you I love you! You don't have to hide anymore…I can protect you now. You'll never have to hide again. I promise I'll always protect you…always…" They kissed again.

OOO

The memory faded, and I found myself staring into the fire. It had burned down to embers, so much like that night, so many years ago. That had to be sixth year—back when we were sixteen. Now I was older, wiser, perhaps. But I still loved her. Where was she now?

With a pang of sorrow, I realized what I'd done. I had promised to protect her. I had failed her. I had—no, that…that rat had landed me in Azkaban. And then there was no one to protect her.

"What have I done?" I whispered. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I let them fall. There was a soft noise behind me. I could tell the door was opening, but I didn't turn around to see who it was.

"Sirius?" a voice said quietly. I dashed my tears away quickly and turned to look at him.

"Harry?" I asked. "Is something wrong?"

"No." He pulled up a chair, and sat beside me, also staring into the fire. "I just couldn't sleep, that's all."

"Neither could I." More tears burned behind my eyes, and I turned away, standing up to fetch some butterbeer for the two of us. I sat back down, and handed Harry one of the tankards. We sat in silence for a while, staring at the fire. It wasn't a particularly comfortable silence, but it wasn't tense either. It was just…I don't know…silence.

"What are you thinking?" Harry said suddenly. I jumped slightly, but didn't speak for a few moments. I sighed and the thought crossed my mind that Harry was thinking that I wouldn't answer.

"I'm thinking about…someone…"

"Okay."

"Someone I knew…a long time ago. You don't know her…she—she was…I don't know how to describe it. She was…everything…" I brushed away a few more tears, and if Harry noticed, he didn't say anything. "You?" I asked. "What are you thinking of?"

"Nothing in particular," he said. "Well, yes…er."

"Are you thinking of someone as well?"

"Yes. Of…him."

"Voldemort? You normally use his name. What's up?"

"Well, it didn't seem right—I mean. Maybe it's just the darkness, night, you know. It just didn't feel right, saying his name." I nodded and we fell silent again. This silence was even less comfortable than it had been before. The fire was burning down again, Harry having poked it up while I had gotten the butterbeer. When there were just embers left, Harry stood up.

"Listen, thanks, Sirius," he said.

"What for?" I asked, looking up at him.

"For listening." He smiled crookedly and headed up the stairs. The door closed quietly behind him. I stared after him for a minute. Listening? To what? Then I realized what my godson had meant. It wasn't really listening to words or anything like that…it was listening to what he was thinking—well, not really. I guess it was more like just, being there for him. I smiled wryly. It was ironic how his presence had not quite helped me in the same way.

I buried my face in my hands and gave myself over completely to tears. Where was Remus when you needed him? The quiet, intelligent, courageous man had always had a calming affect on me, even while we were at school, those long years ago. But now, more often than not, he was away on secret missions for Dumbledore. His latest one was tracking a certain, suspicious vampire, who Dumbledore personally needed to speak to. The vampire was proving difficult and sneaky, and I thought it probably had something to do the fact that, vampires and werewolves loathed each other. But Remus was the only person for the job.

I looked up at the fire and stared at the embers. My thoughts returned to my everything, the only woman I'd loved. The spheres of glowing red in the fireplace blurred as more tears fell. This was not my usual self. I never cried. The last time I had cried was in Azkaban—about the third year in. After that, I hadn't cried again. Not for eleven years.

Finally, my silent sobs stopped and my tears ran dry. There was a single ember left burning. Darkness settled around me like a cloak and I stood up. It was long past midnight, getting on toward dawn. I sighed and headed up the stairs. I closed the door to the kitchen softly behind me and moved like a shadow across the hall. I headed up the stairs to the last floor before the attic. I turned to the room on the right and headed in. only one candle was burning.

I lit a few more and went to the dresser. I opened the bottom drawer and pulled a set of folded robes out of it. I pressed a hidden button and the bottom of the drawer popped up. In the secret compartment, there was a simple, plain box, which I pulled out. I closed the drawer and sat down in the rocking chair.

I pulled the lid off the box, and looked inside. Pictures. My old pictures from back at school and then from those two years after Hogwarts but before it all happened. There was a picture of James and Lily on their wedding—and I was standing next to them, best man, laughing. There was another of Remus and James. Some of Peter. More of Remus, more of James. One of James tutoring Lily in transfiguration. Many of James and me, or Remus and me. There was one of Severus Snape, our most hated enemy, advancing on James. Snape in the picture had pink-and-purple hair. I laughed softly at that one.

Then there were pictures of her. That mahogany hair falling down around her waist. So many pictures of her. In one of them, she was mock glaring at me, and in another I was holding her. There was the "blackmail picture", as James had called it, of me kissing her under the mistletoe at the Gryffindor Christmas party in seventh year. There was even a picture of her sleeping, where she looked so much softer than she did normally. Because she was tough on the inside, and would stand up to anyone or anything, except Cody.

Then the pictures of those two years. James' nineteenth birthday party, Remus', Lily's, mine. Hers. There were many more of James' and Lily's wedding. There was more than one of the day Harry was born and of his first birthday. So many pictures…

The second to last one had to be the saddest…it was all of us. All of us… On the last day we had gotten together before the fateful thirty-first of October. This probably would have been dated October twenty-fifth…Peter's last birthday. It was James and Lily, Remus, me and her, and Peter…even baby Harry, in his mother's arms. I found I was again crying, and I was slightly angry.

I found a pair of scissors and carefully cut Peter out of the picture. The five of us remained. I stared at it, and then tacked it to the wall, where I could see it, from the bed or the rocking chair. I hung up a few more of Remus and James and Lily, and her and me. Then I sat back down. I was about to put the pictures I hadn't hung back in the box when I noticed something else—two things, actually.

One was a picture that had been drawn by hand. It was us, in our animal forms. There was Prongs, noble and tall, Moony, looking slightly surly for being in wolf from, but happy being with his friends. Wormtail, his tail caught under Padfoot's playful paw. Padfoot himself, dog-grinning and playful. Flightsong, Lily's nightingale form was perched in Prong's antlers, and Shadow, the small black jaguar that was her, looking regal as Padfoot stared at her. She was pretending not to laugh at him. I had to smile at this. I tacked it up in the center of my collage and looked at the other thing I had picked up.

It was a letter. And it was from her…it was dated for a time while I was in Azkaban. I was confused. It was unopened…I'd never read it. She must've put it here, thinking I'd never find it, I thought. Sadly, I slit the envelope and pulled out the sheet of parchment within. I was right:

Sirius, my love, my only,

You'll never see this, will you? You're stuck in the most horrid place in the world…I've tried to visit you, but the Dementors won't let me in. I'm going to Ireland. The Ministry hinted that I was next on the hit list for them to toss in Azkaban…I guess they think that if I'm you're girlfriend I've got to be in league with Him too. They don't understand.

I know it wasn't you who betrayed Lily and James. I know it was that lying rat, Wormtail. I've told Remus as much, but I don't think he believed me. I'm going to change my name and hide myself away from the world. He'll be the only one of the five of us left. I hope he doesn't lose it.

Know that I'll never stop loving you, no matter what. I'm going to find an old friend in Ireland…not that it matters. I just think that maybe you need to know that. I'll be safe with her… Margaret understands I need to hide, but I don't think she'd put up with you…she's good as sisters go, but she's lacking in the sense of humor department.

I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you. I could go on like that for pages and pages, but I don't have time. The train is coming in five minutes to take me to the ferry to take me to Ireland. I'll never forget you, and I'll never stop loving you. Good-bye my love. I love you.

Your Everything,

Renee

I sat up the rest of the night, rereading the letter, over and over until the words were etched into my brain, and I was crying again. As the light outside my window grew brighter and brighter, my tears stopped and the letter dropped out of my hand as I fell asleep, loving her more and more…and knowing now, that I had to find her—even if it was the last thing I'd ever do…