I shouldn't be here, I really shouldn't. I've caused him too much pain already and he deserves so much more than pain. So much more than anything I can give him. Especially now. I'm surprised he hasn't sensed my presence already; I've been here for almost two days. But then again, maybe he has sensed it and chose to ignore me.
Whatever the case, I need to make a choice. Yes, I'm supposed to be here to inform him of everything that's happened with Voldemort's return, but beyond that I need to either face him or walk away. Though the latter is more logical, something tells me that if I do just leave, I will have lost any chance at some sort of relationship with him forever. And I need him…haven't I always? So for better or for worse, I make my decision, the choice I'd known I'd end up making eventually.
Had he looked out the window just then he'd be able to see a large, familiar black dog trotting out of the woods towards his small cottage. But I'd made sure he wasn't at the window before venturing forward…just in case I changed my mind. I didn't. Before I realized it, I was sitting on his front porch, tentatively scratching on the front door. Despite the remoteness of his locale, I didn't dare transform until I was safely inside…assuming of course he let me in.
But it was mere moments before the door opened and he smiled wearily at me. "I've been waiting for you," he murmured, his voice soft, gentle…so terribly comforting. He waved me inside, absently brushing his fingers over my fur as I walked past and he closed the door behind me. When he turned around I had already transformed, and I met his eyes willingly, though I was a bit surprised to find such a warm expression on his face. Without any words, I followed him into the very small kitchen and sat down at the table.
"Hmm?" I didn't meet his eyes, was content, instead, to gaze down at the table.
"Why have you been sitting outside my door for the past two days?" He asked softly as he went about preparing a kettle of tea.
I smiled softly and shook my head. "You knew I was there the whole time," I stated, my heart fluttering as I met warm, amber eyes. He nodded and returned my smile. "I was debating on whether or not I should come in Remus," I said honestly as he poured me a cup of tea. "If anyone found me here…well you know how much trouble that'd put you in. And that's the last thing I want. I have enough guilt weighing down my conscience to last me for far too long. I certainly don't need to add responsibility for your getting thrown into Azkaban to it," I said grimly.
He nodded in response as he sipped his tea, but I knew he didn't completely believe me. He always had been able to tell when I was lying. It was true that I'd thought carefully about Remus's safety before setting foot in his house, but there was more to it than that. Deeper reasons…things I still wasn't sure I had the courage to discuss.
"Sirius…you know you can stay here as long as you want," he murmured, the soft familiarity of that voice making me shiver. "In fact I'd like it if…don't run off too quickly, ok?" He asked, his eyes flashing with something I couldn't quite identify.
"I won't…I promise," I said soundly, surprised to find that I meant it. But it was true…I didn't want to leave him again. Only ten minutes here and it was the safest I'd felt in thirteen years. It was home. I don't know why that came as such a surprise to me. Maybe it was the fact that I was still relearning how to feel things other than pain, fear, anger and despair.
"Sirius?" I looked up from my cup of tea and back into Remus's concerned eyes. "Are you alright?" He asked.
Apparently, he'd noticed me lost in my thoughts. I smiled half-heartedly at him and shook my head. "Not really Moony…but I'm better than I've been in a long time. Just being here with you is better than…well anything," I said honestly, wishing he knew just how much I meant that.
"You must be hungry," he said, suddenly standing up and looking through the few items in his pantry. I smiled and lowered my eyes as I noticed the flush that had crept into his cheeks, the smile he couldn't hide. So maybe he did know how much my being here meant to me. Once again, I should have known…he almost always knew what I was feeling.
"Remus, you don't have to do this," I murmured, my eyes never leaving him.
"But I want to," he replied, stopping what he was doing and looking at me for a brief moment. Our eyes met and I found myself mesmerized, not able to grasp exactly what it was I saw in his eyes, just knowing it was very unexpected. I simply nodded and continued to watch him as he prepared me something to eat using a combination of Muggle utensils and magic. I started to realize, as I watched him, how much I still needed him. His very presence calmed me and let me push away the hell I'd been through – was still going through – even if just briefly.
I found myself sitting in silence in his small study after I ate, content for probably the first time in my life to just sit quietly with nothing specific to do. Well, nothing to do besides watch Remus. Watch the way his hair fell into his eyes as he read or the way he bit down on his bottom lip when something puzzled him. I think he was waiting for me to say something, to start some sort of conversation. But he seemed content enough to read while he waited, a trait that was so utterly Remus that it made me smile.
Truthfully, I wasn't ready to talk to him yet, at least not about anything important. And I don't think he was either, otherwise he'd be talking to me now rather than reading. I think we both needed to get used to being in each other's presence again before any lengthy conversations ensued. Especially me. There were so many things I still needed to explain, to confess…and I still wasn't sure I was ready to. But for now it just felt so damn good to be in the same room with him. Our brief meeting in the Shrieking Shack hadn't nearly been enough, nor had it really been the time or place for a cheerful reunion. I'm not sure how long I sat there, curled up on the small couch, watching him read, but I was sure I could go on doing it for much longer.
Eventually, he finished with whatever he was reading, looked up and smiled at me. I think he understood my need to just be near him and not say anything, yet we both knew how much that clashed with my former self-image. "Tired?" He asked softly, stifling a yawn. I wasn't, not really; I'd be content to sit up all night with him. But I knew it must be late, although I had no real concept of time anymore – I only knew night and day – and I could tell he was tired. So I nodded and followed him out of the room and up a small set of stairs, marveling, not for the first time, how very Remus this cottage was. I wondered how he'd found it.
There were only two rooms upstairs, a bedroom and a bathroom, and as he handed me a towel for a shower, he quickly told me not to argue, but I could sleep in his bed and he'd sleep downstairs on the couch. True to form, I did try to argue, telling him that sleeping on a couch was far better than anywhere I'd slept for years, but he wouldn't let me win this argument. Sighing, I smiled and him and shook my head. "Thank you Remus," I murmured. He smiled back and then, to my great surprise, he reached out and hugged me, pulling me against his warm body. I nearly fell apart then, hadn't realized, hadn't remembered just how good it felt to be in his arms. And the brief embrace in the Shrieking Shack notwithstanding, I hadn't been in his arms in almost thirteen years. I couldn't return the embrace; I wasn't sure that I knew how, but I let my rigid body relax against him, let my eyes close as I rested my head on his shoulder and breathed in his distinct scent.
After what seemed like hours he released me and absently ran his fingers over my tangled hair. "Good night Sirius," he said softly, his eyes warm and, if I wasn't mistaken, slightly teary. I swallowed hard and nodded, wishing there was something more I could give him. He turned to go back downstairs and before reason took over I grabbed his hand and called his name. He looked at me in surprise, eyes flashing briefly with everything I knew he'd been struggling to hide.
I felt my heart begin to beat with something I'd forgotten how to feel, but it was too much too soon, and I knew I couldn't handle it yet. I squeezed his hand tightly. "Thank you Moony," I murmured, my eyes never leaving his. He smiled and blinked back the tears I could plainly see shining in his eyes now. I knew he understood me by the way he merely nodded and then released my hand. And I smiled to myself as I watched him walk downstairs before stepping into the bathroom for a shower.
"I think you should use someone else James," I said firmly.
"But there's no one I trust more than you Padfoot, it only makes sense," he protested.
Lily nodded as she sat down next to her husband, an almost-asleep Harry in her arms. "James is right Sirius," she said softly, her eyes moving from me to Harry.
"It's not about trust," I said impatiently, though careful to keep my voice low so as not to disturb my godson. I wished the two of them would stop arguing with me and just agree…this wasn't the first time we'd been over this. I was terrified of something happening to all three of them…especially now with what I knew...
"It's perfectly well known that I'm James's best friend and Harry's godfather," I went on quickly before my thoughts went back to things I didn't want to dwell on now…or ever. "I'm the obvious choice to be your secret-keeper. Picking someone other than me will make it harder…" I said, my eyes darting from James to Lily and finally Harry.
"We chose you Sirius because we trust you implicitly…the same reason we named you Harry's godfather," said Lily softly, her eyes never leaving mine. "If not you for our secret-keeper, then who?"
"Remus," said James quickly, easily.
I looked up sharply from Harry to his father. "No," I said softly, my heart starting to pound in my chest.
"Why not?" James asked, frowning slightly. Quickly I looked away without answering him, desperately not wanting to get into this.
"I'm going to put Harry to bed," Lily said, leaning over and kissing her husband, a look in her eyes I couldn't quite identify. I watched as James exchanged the same look with her and then kissed his sleeping son good night. I could barely breathe as that simple act suddenly threatened to overwhelm me. Watching my best friend, his eyes warm and so, so full of love as he looked at his wife and son…betrayal could take that all away. I had to make sure that didn't happen.
Once Lily had gone upstairs, James stood up and motioned me into the kitchen. "Talk to me Sirius," he said, his voice soft though very solemn. "Why shouldn't we use Remus as secret-keeper?" His eyes held a mixture of concern and curiosity. I wondered how much he knew…and how much he thoughthe knew.
"James, I don't--"
"Uh uh," he interrupted, his eyes darkening in the same way they had hundreds of times before when he became impatient. "Don't keep me in the dark. This is too important…you know that. Why shouldn't we use Remus?" He repeated. "If there's anyone I trust as much as you, it's him. He's the obvious choice after you."
I looked away from his patient and worried expression, trying so hard to keep my anger in check…not to mention my tears. Still, I said nothing, knowing he'd probably lose his temper with me soon enough, but I couldn't bring myself to say the words aloud. However, there must have been something on my face that gave it away, or maybe he just knew me that well, because he reached across the table and took my hand in his own.
"Sirius…you don't believe that…Moony is the traitor…" he said very softly, his eyes full of disbelief.
I flinched at the sound of Remus's nickname and quickly looked away from James's eyes. "Yes…I do," I whispered, shutting my eyes the second I felt tears pricking them. I would not cry over him. He didn't deserve my tears. I felt James release my hand, heard him stand up and pull a chair close to me. His kindness was my undoing, and when he squeezed my shoulders my tears began to fall. I opened my eyes to see my best friend's blurry face in front of me, a terribly sad expression painting his features. I fell forward into James's arms and felt his hands run up and down my back in an attempt to soothe me.
"Shh…Sirius…" he murmured as he held me close. I knew that he didn't know what to do or say. My crying had always unnerved him in the past, I'm sure this was no different. But he seemed to know that I needed this. Knowing me as he did, I'm sure he probably also realized that this was the first time I'd fallen apart and cried since I'd discovered what I had. Eventually I sat back in my chair, wiping at my eyes and sniffling softly, hoping I had used up my tears.
"Tell me why you think Remus is the traitor," James said softly, standing up briefly to bring me some tissues. I could tell the way his voice shook softly over the words 'Remus' and 'traitor' that he was having a very hard time fathoming this.
"At first it was just distance," I began softly, forcing myself not to cry. "He was always distracted, never seemed to have any time for…me. Then we started to fight over trivial things…things that I normally would've turned into an argument but he'd always manage to avoid. But then his distraction and distance started to turn into downright lies," I went on, my voice becoming harder, slightly angry. James looked as if he was still processing everything, but he waited patiently for me to go on. "He'd tell me he was going to one place and I'd find out he'd been somewhere else entirely. There have been nights he hasn't come home at all. And then I found…all of these clippings from the Daily Prophet…all about Voldemort. They were in a notebook, organized, and he'd written notes by almost all of them…like he was studying them…."
I stopped, unable to say anymore, the sting of my lover's betrayal cutting me deeply. But James reached out and took my hand again and waited for me to look at him. "Have you confronted him? Have you asked him about the notebook? About why he's lied to you…or why he's been so distant?" He asked me softly. I shook my head. Sighing, James squeezed my hand and looked away for a moment and then back into my eyes. "Then don't you think you might be jumping to conclusions?"
I shook my head vehemently and snatched my hand back from his. "No James, I'm not. Someone is spying on us and betraying our moves to Voldemort…someone close to us all, and from what I've discovered, from what I know…it's him. And doesn't it make sense even?" I asked, though it hurt me to do so. "You know as well as I the promises Voldemort's made to all of the creatures wizards tend to shun…like werewolves. Isn't it obvious?"
Still James shook his head, not believing me. "No Sirius, it isn't," he said softly. "You're forgetting one very important thing."
"What's that?" I asked cynically.
"This is Remus we're talking about," he said simply. "Remus, our best friend. The boy who was terrified we'd abandon him when we found out what he was. The sensible one. The kindest one of all of us. Your soul mate," he added after a moment, his eyes pleading with me. "Do you honestly believe, in your heart, that he'd betray us? Betray you?"
I wanted so badly to agree with James, to believe him and give Remus the benefit of the doubt. But despite all that I could tell James, he just didn't know what I felt. There was a change in Remus lately that I couldn't put into words. Nothing was right with us anymore. There was a horrible, aching distance that I hadn't been able to find a way around…and now maybe I'd never be able to.
"I wish I could believe in his innocence James, but I…there's too much that I know, too much I feel. Something is definitely different with him…" I whispered. "Don't use him as your secret-keeper James. Promise me," I said urgently, taking his hand in my own again and looking earnestly into his eyes.
"Padfoot, I don't believe Remus is the traitor anymore than I believe you are, but if it makes you happy, I'll use someone else," he said softly. His voice held conviction and I knew I hadn't convinced him of my lover's guilt. He was still the loyal friend. "Any suggestions then Sirius on who I should make secret-keeper?"
I nodded. "Peter."
"NO!" I woke up with a start, looking frantically at my surroundings and seeing only darkness. For one brief terrible moment, I thought I was still in Azkaban and my escape and everything since then had all been a dream. I sat up quickly and pulled my knees to my chest, my heart pounding loudly in my ears. It took a few moments for me to realize that I wasn't in Azkaban. It wasn't cold. I was in a bed; I was…at Remus's.
Almost on cue I heard the bedroom door open and watched a small light pour into the room. "Sirius?" His voice was soft and cautious as he stepped towards me.
"Remus," I breathed, suddenly wishing that when I'd woken up he'd been next to me then I could have avoided this panic. I shook my head and drew in a shaky breath.
"Are you ok?" He asked softly. "I…I heard you screaming," he whispered. The dim light, which I now realized was coming from his wand, danced over his face, showing me the great concern in his eyes. Tentatively he moved closer and finally sat down on the edge of the bed. He reached out and touched my shoulder, causing me to flinch, but before he could pull his hand back I covered it with my own and looked into his eyes. "Did you have a nightmare?" He asked, his voice soft and as comforting as it ever was.
I nodded. "I get them quite frequently…which is why I try to avoid sleep when at all possible." He smiled slightly at that and shifted so he sat more fully on the bed, closer to me.
"What was it about?" He asked. Now was my chance. I could finally confess one of my sins, perhaps my greatest one. I knew him well enough to know he wouldn't condemn me…and besides it wasn't like he didn't already know some of it anyway. But as the dream floated back to me with a frightening clarity, the words got stuck in my head.
"I don't remember," I lied, lowering my eyes. I'm sure he knew I was lying, but he didn't say anything. He squeezed my shoulder once more and then drew his hand back.
"I'm right downstairs Sirius if you need anything," he murmured.
As he stood up a sudden, desperate need took over me and I reached out and grasped his arm. "Stay Remus," I whispered, looking up and meeting his eyes unguarded for the first time since I'd arrived.
"Please Remus, I…I need you." That was quite an understatement and I wondered briefly if he knew that. I'd always needed him. Outwardly, I was the strong one, the outgoing and loud one leading us everywhere. But inside, Remus had always been my rock, had given me the security I'd never really known before his love. And right now that security was what I so desperately needed.
Nodding finally in agreement, Remus lifted the blankets I was still cowering beneath and slipped into bed next to me. Old habits took over quickly and before either of us could think about our actions, we were holding one another. An overwhelming sense of safety washed over me, causing me to push closer to him and tighten my grip around his waist. Eagerly I sought out the warmth of is body, drowning out the cold that lingered in my heart. The sound of his steady heartbeat, his soft distinct scent and the way his arms tightened around me…it lulled me to sleep and I knew there'd be no more nightmares, not now. "You'll stay all night Moony?" I asked softly.
"Yes," he replied in a whisper. Just before I fell asleep I felt him kiss my forehead and brush his fingers over my cheek. I couldn't have felt safer.
I woke up on my back yawning and then looking around the small room before letting my eyes linger on Remus. My breathing hitched at the sight of him, asleep on his stomach, head turned towards me. His mouth was open slightly, his hair falling over his eyes…he looked so young and peaceful. His arm rested snugly across my waist, a warm weight that made me smile. Laying here with him I could almost forget the world around me, and everything that had happened to ruin my life. If I shut my eyes again I was sure I could find, somewhere deep in my heart, happy memories of my past that I'd all but lost to the dementors.
Remus stirred moments later, looking up at me with a sleepy smile. I had to restrain a sudden, powerful urge to kiss him, and felt my cheeks flush under his gaze. "You slept ok?" He asked as he sat up. "No more nightmares?"
I shook my head. "No, I slept fine…thanks to you," I said softly, smiling at him.
He stared at me for a few moments, returning my smile before standing up and stretching. "Breakfast?"
"Moony…I lied to you last night," I said abruptly, ignoring his question. He looked at me questioningly and waited. "I did remember my nightmare, but I--"
"You didn't want to talk about it," he interrupted. "I understand."
I shook my head. "No Remus, I do want to talk about it. I need to. It's just…I'm not quite ready yet." I looked down, away from his steady gaze. I felt guilty, for lying yes, and even more so for what I'd dreamt. Rationally, I knew that it was all in the past and that I already had Remus's forgiveness for the majority of what had happened, but the guilt persisted. After all he didn't understand all that I'd done….
He walked back over to the bed, sat down and cupped my face in his hands. "I'm here for you Sirius, whenever you need to talk. I need you to understand that I'm not going to abandon you. I can't. I…I need you as much as you need me. I always have…and I don't think you ever really realized that," he said quietly.
I knew he hadn't said this to hurt me, but the hurt in his eyes was enough. Before I could attempt an apology or anything of the sort, he pressed his lips to mine and pulled me close. It was a short, passionate kiss, and although I didn't really kiss him back, I certainly didn't push him away. And when he pulled back I tipped his chin up and smiled into his eyes. My smile growing with every second, I pulled him closer, one hand around his back, the other in his soft hair. That simple kiss had spread an amazing warmth through my entire body, similar to the secure warmth I'd felt from being in his arms last night. And I started to believe, for the first time in years, that maybe I could finally escape my nightmares.
I couldn't even remember the last time I'd sat outside in the sun, but I was confident it had never felt this good. Remus had decided to spend a good portion of the day outside gardening and doing some various repairs on the cottage. The gardening he did by hand because he enjoyed it, the repairs, which he didn't enjoy, were done much more quickly with the use of his wand. At first I refused to come outside at all, fearful of anyone seeing me. However, after only a few minutes my curiosity and restlessness got the better of me and I carefully slipped onto the back porch after transforming back into a dog. But it was hot outside and the thick, black dog hair did little to keep me cool. After several reassurances from Remus that no one remotely interested in the whereabouts of Sirius Black lived anywhere near him, I transformed back into human form and let myself enjoy the sunshine on my skin.
I spent a good portion of the morning sitting in the grass; watching Remus and listening to him tell me about teaching at Hogwarts. I could tell, easily, from the way he talked, how much he loved it. I added being responsible for his resignation to my list of things to feel guilty for, though I didn't tell him because I knew he'd say it wasn't my fault.
When I wasn't watching Remus I lay comfortably in the grass and stared up at the sky. Memories floated back to me unexpectedly. Happy memories this time, of Hogwarts, of being young and carefree, of my friends. I could remember hot, clear days like this one and sitting around in the grass with James, Remus and Peter. Listening to James complain about 'that Lily Evans girl,' exchanging knowing glances with Remus as he peeked over one of the books he was forever reading. Surprised, I blinked and looked over to where Remus was, intending to share my memory, but he wasn't there. I sat up a little, breathing easier when I saw him through the window of the cottage looking for something.
Too content to move, I lay back in the grass again, looking up at the few clouds dotting the otherwise clear, blue. My memories returned again after a few minutes, but they were different now. They were after Hogwarts, mostly of Remus and I. No specific memories came to me, just a stream of different images…I wished I could have those times back. Right now I wasn't at all certain that I'd ever truly be free again. Fate had snatched away my happiness, Remus's happiness and the lives of our friends. I was so very tired of suffering; of running…I'd be very content with no excitement for quite a while. I just wanted to be at peace. At peace with the world, with Remus and Harry and, most of all, with myself. My memories.
"Remus?" I called his name as I shut the door behind me and tossed my jacket on a box in the hall. We'd just moved to a new, larger flat a month ago and still hadn't unpacked everything…I guess now we never would. As I entered the living room, I stopped dead and looked around the room in surprise. There were candles everywhere, sitting on the furniture, the floor and floating in the air. Remus stood in the middle of it all, a warm smile on his face as he looked at me. He was beautiful; I couldn't deny that no matter how mistrustful of him I was. Beautiful, even though he was betraying us all. "What's all this?" I asked, unable to keep the coldness out of my voice.
His smile slipped a notch, but it didn't completely fade. He walked over to where I still stood in the doorway and cupped my face in his hands. I shivered slightly at his touch, part of me yearning for it, the other itching to pull away. But then he kissed me and I could only respond. It was so natural to slip my arms around his waist and kiss him back. It wasn't fair. How could I feel so safe and loved in his arms when I knew he'd been lying to me?
"Sirius," he whispered as our kiss broke. His eyes held so much love; I could barely breathe.
"Things have been pretty distant between us lately," he said softly, his fingers running through my hair and over the back of my neck. "I've missed you," he went on, eyes still so very sincere. "And I know it's been partly my fault, partly yours. We're both under so much stress because of everything going on with the Order. But I don't want us to fall apart. I love you Sirius. I don't want to fight with you anymore and I can't stand this distance."
"Remus," I breathed, so very close to tears. I ran my fingers through his hair and let them rest on the side of this face. Would it be so bad if I just forgot his treason for a night? He wasn't the one selling us all to Voldemort, he was just Remus. My sweet, loving Remus. "I've missed you too," I said softly, blinking back my tears. "And I don't want to fight with you anymore either." He smiled and kissed me again, his lips so sweet, his arms so warm.
I was dying inside.
"I made us dinner," he said, pulling back from our embrace and taking my hand in his. The little dining alcove by the window, I noticed, was lit with several candles too. We ate in relative silence, the distance that had been so prominent between us as of late returning just a bit. But when we finished eating, Remus cleared the dishes with a wave of his wand and then led me to the couch.
Had things been normal, we probably would've started out talking, but it was automatic for me to pull him against me, to curl up in his arms and kiss him. It was better this way, not talking. I couldn't bear to hear him lie to me, but I needed to be close to him. His eyes, his touch, his kiss…they were all still so full of love. How could he love me and betray me at the same time? But I pushed all of those thoughts away as we made love. I lost all of my doubts and my anger inside of him. Lost my heart as I whispered his name and told him I loved him over and over again. It just didn't seem possible that Remus was capable of such duality. How could he lie to me and give his allegiance to Voldemort and then love me so completely, so truthfully? It didn't seem possible. Maybe James was right. "I love you Remus," I said yet again as we lay in each other's arms. I kissed him softly before shutting my eyes and letting myself fall asleep in his arms for the first time in weeks.
I woke up a couple hours later, cold and alone. It took me a few minutes to orient myself and recall why I was asleep on the couch. Then I remembered and realized Remus was now gone. I got up slowly and pulled on my clothes, wondering where he was. My suspicion of him quite high again, I crept quietly out into the hall and noticed a dim light coming from his study. I made my way silently down the hall and peered in the doorway, careful not to be seen. He was smiling to himself as he attached a letter to a small owl on the windowsill and then watched it fly away. Quickly, I moved away so he wouldn't see me and crept back down the hall to the front door.
So he couldn't even stay with me through the night, had to send something off to Voldemort… Sirius trusts me, they all do…don't worry, they don't suspect a thing…
I glanced back over my shoulder once more, part of me so desperate to stay. "Goodbye Remus," I whispered and then quietly slipped out the door.
Tears cold against my face, I set off for Peter's hideout, figuring I'd check and make sure he was safe. I had to do something to keep my mind off of Remus. But Peter wasn't there…yet nothing seemed out of place. A chill ran up my spine and I knew, right away, that something was terribly wrong. Trying to stay rational and not let my sudden fear get out of control, I did the first thing I could think of and set off for James's house.
A cold, cold feeling of shock and horror spread over me the instant I arrived. "No," I whispered in disbelief, unable to process what I was seeing. It couldn't be. How could I have been so horribly, horribly wrong? And then, as I looked closer, my world blurred before me. I felt dizzy, I felt sick…there was no air to breathe.
"James." There, among the ruins of his house lay my beautiful best friend. I forced myself to move, shaking off my frozen state of terror, and made my way through the rubble to him. I fell to my knees and reached out to touch his face. "Jamie?" I whispered, calling him by the nickname I knew he hated. I half-expected him to open his eyes, scowl at me and tell me not to call him that. "Wake up James," I begged, running my fingers over the dirt on his face, trying to straighten his unruly hair.
For a few brief moments, I tried to be rational. I felt for his pulse, checked to see if he was breathing. But I knew he wasn't. I knew he was gone. And I knew it was my fault. "Jamie no," I moaned, a grief I had never known washing over my entire body. I pulled his lifeless body into my arms, ran my fingers through his hair and kissed his forehead. I squeezed my eyes shut as I held him, desperate to block out this pain. I couldn't stop my sobs and despite my efforts, tears continued to slip past my closed eyelids. There was a small voice in my head telling me to get up, that there was something else I should be concerned with, but for the moment all I knew was James.
When there was finally a brief respite in my tears, I opened my eyes and looked down at my best friend again. I almost lost my mind to grief with a brief glance at the ground where I saw James's glasses lying, cracked and smudged. My hand trembled as I reached for them, sobs escaping from my lips no matter how hard I tried to stop. As gently as I could I lay James back on the ground and carefully put his glasses on. I leaned over him again and kissed his forehead. "I love you Prongs," I whispered, smoothing my fingers over his hair and cheeks one last time before I stood up.
The moment I looked away from James my insides turned over again as I thought of Lily and…Harry. Frantically I searched through the remains of their house, crying out again in grief when I found Lily's body. I already knew, but my heart wouldn't let me pass her by. I felt for her pulse, though I knew it wouldn't be there, squeezed my eyes shut with pain and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
A sudden noise behind me had me whipping around, wand out, ready to attack. The last thing I expected to see was Hagrid picking something up out of the rubble. Wiping my tears off my face, I went over to him and felt my knees tremble when I saw what he was holding. "Harry," I breathed, staring down into my godson's eyes. I saw Lily staring back at me through James's face and I almost collapsed in anguish. Although Hagrid refused to give him to me, telling me Dumbledore wanted Harry placed with his aunt and uncle, I was just relieved that he was alive. I was sure I'd get Harry back later, but for the moment it was probably best if he stayed somewhere out of harm's way. Before he left, Hagrid shocked me by stating that Voldemort had been destroyed…apparently by failing to kill Harry. But the news didn't really bring me any happiness. I'd be perfectly fine with Voldemort living forever if it meant bringing back James and Lily.
As I watched Hagrid fly away with Harry on my motorbike, my grief started to turn into rage. There was one person responsible for all this and I intended to make him pay with his life. My heart wanted me to go home, to find Remus and seek comfort and…forgiveness. Again, I marveled at the fact that I had been so very, very wrong. Why hadn't I been able to see Peter for what he was? Why had it never even remotely crossed my mind that he could be the traitor? How could I have possibly thought my kind, beloved Remus could have done this?
I couldn't go home to him. Not yet. I had to find Peter. I had to avenge James and Lily before I could think of seeing Remus and begging his forgiveness…
"Sirius, please wake up."
I heard Remus's voice, felt his hand on my cheek. He sounded worried. And then the thought struck me…it hadn't been just another daily nightmare; I wasn't in Azkaban anymore. I opened my eyes, looked up into his amber gaze and then proceeded to burst into tears. I expected Remus to be taken aback or maybe even frustrated with me, but instead he only offered me a quiet comfort, pulling me into his warm arms and soothing his hands over my hair and back.
"Shh…come on Sirius, let's go inside," he murmured, his lips against my ear. I shivered through my sobs and gripped tightly to him. He pulled back just a little bit, though my grip didn't allow him much room. His face was inches from mine and when he whispered my name again, his warm breath fanned out over my face. He brushed my tears away with his fingers and smiled very gently. I nodded and allowed him to pull me to my feet. He slipped his arm around my waist and kept me steady as we walked inside. Remus…my rock.
I still hadn't said anything as he sat me down on the couch in his study. "I'll be right back Padfoot," he said softly, running his fingers through my hair and looking into my eyes. How I wanted to reach out and pull him down to me, kiss him, hold him… "I'm going to make us some tea." He hesitated briefly, eyes flashing downward and then up again, that amber gaze going straight to my heart. Then he kissed me for the second time that day. It was deeper than the kiss this morning, yet softer.
"Remus," I sighed, returning his kiss very lightly. "Hurry back, I want to…to talk to you about my dreams. About everything." He nodded, his eyes never leaving mine as he pressed another soft kiss to my lips. It didn't take long. I figured he must have used his wand to heat the water, rather than brew it the Muggle way, though I knew that was what he preferred. When he returned, I was glad to find that I still wanted to talk, to tell him everything. We sat in silence for a little while, sipping tea, him waiting patiently I knew and me wondering where to begin.
"You dream about them all the time don't you?" He asked suddenly. "About Lily and James."
I looked at him in surprise. "How did you know?"
He smiled softly and pushed an unruly strand of hair behind his ear. I found myself wishing I had done it instead. "I didn't really," he replied. "I just guessed…it makes sense."
I nodded and looked away from his kind, caring eyes. "I've had the same dream almost every night since they put me in Azkaban," I said grimly, hoping my voice didn't shake. I was sure that before everything was over I'd be in tears, so I didn't want to start too early. "It's always the same…the night I found them. But sometimes, like today, there's more. More of what happened that same night." I glanced at him again and noticed by the way his eyes suddenly looked away and he nervously stirred his tea that he knew exactly what I meant. "Yes Remus…the last night we had together," I whispered.
He looked up at me again, his eyes full of an unguarded pain. It made my heart ache as I realized, probably for the first time what he must have suffered after that. "When I came back to the living room you were gone," he murmured, eyes too sad for me to meet them.
"And for twelve years you had to live with the thought that after we'd made love, I'd gone out and betrayed our friends to Voldemort," I finished for him, a new wave of grief flooding my veins. He nodded and looked away from me into a past that I couldn't see. My poor Remus, forced to live alone and isolated for twelve years in a world that already mistrusted and hated him for something he had no control over. And I was no better…worse even. I had mistrusted him too.
"I should have believed in you," he whispered. "I should have known that you never would have betrayed them…"
"Remus, no," I said, reaching out and taking his hand in mine. "You had no way of knowing and there was so much evidence that it had been me. Please don't blame yourself," I implored, reaching out impulsively with my other hand to cup his cheek. "How could you have known? I never told you Peter and I had switched or even where I'd gone that night. And I should have come back to you first rather than hunt for Peter right away."
"But I should have known," he insisted, biting down on his bottom lip. "You were my heart and soul," he whispered, eyes cast downwards. "How could I have ever doubted your innocence?"
"You can't blame yourself," I murmured, shifting closer to him. "I'm the one to blame…I made the bigger mistake," I whispered. His arms reached out to pull me close, both of us seeking comfort as well as giving it. "You don't know Remus, you don't realize how much of it is my fault," I said, my voice trembling. He kissed my forehead and ran his fingers over my cheek.
"It's not your fault you trusted Peter…we all did," he said as he pulled back slightly. I found myself suddenly desperate to keep touching him while I talked, needing to know he was still here, needing the simple comfort his touch granted me.
"That's true," I said, my voice low. I forced myself to look up and meet his eyes, swallowing hard over the lump in my throat. "But the person I should have trusted Remus…was you," I said hoarsely, my voice threatening to break. He waited patiently, his arms still around me loosely, his eyes sorrowful, but kind. "I didn't trust you Moony," I said softly, my eyes darting from him to the floor to the wall behind him. I was very frightened that Remus would be angry with me for what I'd let happen. I felt, in all honesty, that once he knew the truth, he'd blame me, as I still blamed myself for the deaths of Lily and James. But I had to tell him; I needed to make this confession before I could even begin to look for peace. "I had convinced myself that…that you were the traitor," I said, choking over the words. My throat threatened to close up and my eyes stung with tears, but I couldn't stop yet.
"Sirius, you don't have to--"
"No Remus, please don't stop me," I begged, meeting his eyes. He nodded, took one of my hands in his own and laced our fingers together. For a few moments, I could do nothing but stare at our hands, suddenly seized with the idea that if I went on, he'd wrench his hand away. "You had been so distant," I finally said, determined to tell him everything. "We were always fighting and…and there were times you lied to me about where you'd been; there were nights you never came home…" I paused, remembering, to my surprise, the way I'd felt back then. Even before I'd suspected him…it had been excruciating to feel us falling apart.
"Those were terrible times Sirius," he murmured, drawing me out of my painful memories. "We were both under so much stress, drifting apart…it started to be hard to be sure of who you could trust."
I shook my head. "But I should have trusted you," I repeated.
"Sirius, it's no different than what I did," he protested, trying, I knew, to ease my pain and guilt. "I believed you to be guilty."
"No Remus, this is completely different," I replied. "You were given proof. You thought I was their secret-keeper, I was there when Peter faked his death and killed all of those Muggles…it could have easily been me. And I…I was still in such shock, so angry, so devastated that I never denied what I was accused of. I just let them take me away. But Remus, I had nothing to prove to me you were the traitor…but I believed it nonetheless."
"I should have told you more," he said quietly. "I was doing several things for the Order that I wasn't supposed to discuss. I didn't want to lie to you, but I did want to protect you."
I swallowed hard and nodded. "That makes perfect sense now, and if I'd had the decency to ask you back then, I could have prevented so much. But I just let my suspicions stew…your absences, our fighting…that notebook."
He looked at me in surprise, a small smile on his face. "You knew about that?" He asked. "I burned it after I'd found out you were the one who'd betrayed us."
"What was it?"
"Just what it looked like," he replied. "I was keeping track of Voldemort and the Death Eaters' attacks…looking for a pattern, for something, anything that would lead us to the person leaking information."
I squeezed my eyes shut and ran my free hand through my hair, a fresh wave of self-disgust crashing over me. How could I, after everything we'd meant to one another, have just assumed, with so little proof, that he was the traitor? Why hadn't I confronted him? Why hadn't I asked? So much would be different now….
"Remus…I told James I thought you were the traitor," I said softly after a few moments. I opened my eyes again to see him sitting very still, his eyes still compassionate, though slightly guarded now. "I was telling him and Lily to change secret-keepers. They didn't want to and when Lily finally asked whom else they should use, James immediately said…you," I said, watching several emotions flicker over his face. "I told him no." My voice had dropped to a whisper as I fought fiercely against the tears that threatened to fall. Remus's grip on my hand loosened ever so slightly causing my heart to flutter in fear. I didn't think I could bear it if he abandoned me now. "I told him not to use you because you…you were the traitor," I said, my voice shaking. "But Remus, he never believed me," I rushed on, my voice adamant. I squeezed his hand, wishing he'd say something, wishing the pain in his eyes would disappear. "James trusted you completely. He only used Peter because…I asked him to." My voice broke then and my tears finally fell and before I could even think to resist he had pulled me into his arms. I clung to him, despite the notion I had that I didn't deserve his comfort. "He trusted you Remus. It was…me who didn't," I sobbed, my body trembling. "And I should have! Then…then Prongs would have made…you secret-keeper and they'd still be--"
"No, you can't think like that Sirius," he said quickly, pulling back and taking my face in his hands. There were tears in his eyes and his expression was so very sad, yet there was no anger, no disgust…both things I had expected to see. "You don't know what would've happened," he said softly.
"You wouldn't have betrayed them," I whimpered, my hands gripping tightly to him now. "Voldemort wouldn't have found them…they'd still be--"
"Sirius stop," He cut me off again. "Don't dwell on this," he pleaded softly, his thumbs caressing my cheeks. "No matter what happened differently, the end still could have turned out the same."
He pressed his fingers to my lips and shook his head, his eyes full of a sudden desperation. "Please Sirius," he said softly. I noticed suddenly the way he was trembling and the tears that shimmered brightly in his eyes. "Neither of us know for sure that things would've changed," he said softly, his voice shaky. "Don't dwell on this anymore Padfoot…please," he whispered. "James wouldn't want that." He swiped a hand over his eyes, brushing away tears. "And neither do I. Don't live in the past Sirius. Live here, now…with me."
I fell forward into his arms, choking on sobs and blinded by tears. He held me tightly as I buried my face in his neck. He was crying too; I could feel his tears as they slipped down his cheeks, could feel the way his slender body trembled. We grieved together, as we should have all those years ago, for James and Lily and for Harry, who would never know his wonderful parents. And for us.
"I can see them every time I close my eyes," I whispered after several minutes, after I'd managed to stop crying. "The way I found them that night…" I paused, swallowing hard and finally pulling back from his embrace. Gently, without even thinking, I wiped the tears off of his face, then let my fingers rest at the side of his neck. "I'd never felt that kind of pain Remus," I went on softly, surprised to find my voice steady. "Finding him lying there…beautiful, vibrant, loving James…cold and still…I felt like I'd be crushed by pain. And then…then there was the knowledge that I had been so wrong. Remus, I…I don't know how or why I had ever been able to believe that you'd betray us," I said softly. "And yes, it's in the past, but the fact still remains that I doubted you, doubted the trust and love we shared…and I still need your forgiveness," I whispered, looking deeply into his eyes.
He nodded, leaned forward and kissed me gently. "I forgive you," he murmured, eyes locked on mine. "For everything."
"Remus," I breathed, my chest tight with emotion. He smiled and ran his fingertips over the side of my face. I didn't know what to say to him; there was no way I could put into words everything I was feeling. But his smile told me simply that, as always, he understood. Filled suddenly with relief and the beginnings of a peace I had sought for so long, I flung my arms around his neck and kissed him warmly, smiling at his obvious surprise. I didn't want to let him go ever again. Our future was still uncertain, I knew, but for the moment I had everything I had ever wanted in my arms.
As our kisses grew more passionate, they began stirring something warm inside of me…something I'd forgotten how to feel. I pulled him closer, threading my fingers through his hair, whimpering softly deep in my throat as he explored my mouth with his tongue. Of all the memories and feelings that had been stolen from me in Azkaban, Remus's kisses hadn't been one of them. I had never forgotten his soft lips or the way he tasted. In fact, Remus in general was the only small bit of happiness I'd allowed myself to feel every once in a while.
With a sigh I finally broke apart from him, smiling at the sight before me. Beautiful Remus with his glowing eyes, disheveled hair and swollen lips. For that moment, all his years of painful heartache seemed to fade away and he looked young again…the young man I had fallen in love with long ago. I pulled him close again, hoping he could understand that I still couldn't give him everything, no matter how much I wanted to. I simply needed more time. We stayed that way for a while, wrapped in each other's arms, too content to move.
"Remus?" I asked after several minutes of quiet. "That night…the last night we had together, when I woke up you were gone and I found you in your study sending an owl to someone. I assumed it was to Voldemort at the time. That was why I left actually," I said softly, happy that my voice didn't tremble. "What were you sending?"
I heard him sigh and when I looked up I was surprised to see tears in his eyes. "I was sending a letter to James," he whispered. I waited, saying nothing, happy to pay him back and listen quietly. "A few days earlier I had gone to see him, to ask for his help," he began, voice soft, eyes sad again. "I told him how we'd been fighting, how we'd barely spoken to each other in weeks. I told him I missed you so badly. I asked for his help, if he had any ideas on what I could do to fix things…" He stopped for a moment and ran his fingers through his hair. I could tell, easily, how hard this was for him. "He would have already known by then that you thought I was the traitor, but he didn't say anything, didn't ask me any questions…"
"Because he was a loyal friend…his trust in you never wavered Remus," I said softly, still somewhat angry with myself. But Remus had given me his forgiveness and I didn't want to dwell in the past any longer.
"He suggested I just do something simple," Remus went on. "Make you dinner…be honest with you and tell you how much I loved you," he said softly. "I remember staying with him for a while after that, talking about nothing in particular…giving ourselves a break from the war and everything going on…" He stopped again, his voice trembling slightly.
"Remus…" I pulled him close again, hoping to comfort him. I knew all too well what it felt like to get lost in the past.
"That was the last time I saw him," he whispered. My heart ached for him, for the pain I knew he must have suffered for so many years. "Before I left I told him to be careful, to take care of Lily and Harry and I…hugged him and…something in me seemed to know that I'd…never see him again," he said brokenly, the tears in his eyes spilling over.
I leaned forward, kissed his forehead and pulled his head down to my chest and let him cry. His tears were silent but his body shook with sobs no matter how tightly I held him. I knew what he was crying for and it broke my heart terribly. It wasn't just James, it was Lily, Harry, even Peter and of course, me. He had lost so much so quickly, and knowing Remus as I did, I was certain he'd rarely allowed himself the luxury of real tears. It wasn't fair that out of all of us Remus had been left behind to suffer alone for so long. He'd suffered enough his whole life, mostly alone, except for those precious years of friendship and later love he'd been granted. I promised myself then that I'd do everything within my power to keep him from suffering again.
Eventually, his tears subsided and he drew himself up out of my arms and met my eyes. I wiped away his remaining tears and smiled softly. He cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his hair, cheeks slightly flushed. He was beautiful. "I sent an owl to James that night to thank him and to tell him that you and I had started to work things out…" Again, I was hit with a stab of guilt. If I had only stayed and asked him…but by then it would have been too late. "He never would have received it…"
It was automatic, even after so long and so much time apart for us to just have the need to stay close. We were both silent, more than content to hold one another as the day slowly faded away. I didn't know, nor did I care, how long we sat there, both of us probably more comfortable and at peace than we'd been in a long time.
"Hmm?" When he said nothing, I lifted my head off his chest and met his eyes. He looked nervous yet he smiled at me.
"I…I love you," he said softly, his cheeks flushing. He glanced down at the floor and then back into my eyes. What I saw there took my breath away. He still loved me. Years of separation and betrayal, the anguish he had suffered…and yet he still loved me. I had wondered about that many times since my escape, had dreamed about him and his feelings…but I'd never allowed myself hope, not really.
"Remus…" He shook his head, still smiling, and then he kissed me. I could feel his heart in his kiss, knew how very much he loved me, how it was so much more than I deserve or had ever deserved. Yet I still couldn't bring myself to say the words out loud again, to admit what I still felt, had always felt, for him. I wanted to tell him, to look into his eyes and watch them soften as I said those three all-important words. But I just wasn't quite sure I could yet…no matter how true the sentiment behind them would be. However, true to form as always, Remus seemed to understand, and when our kiss broke, we went back to holding each other silently and letting time pass slowly all around us.
Remus was sleeping peacefully at my side, breathing deeply, face untroubled…I hoped his dreams were sweet. Smiling, I pressed a soft kiss to his forehead before creeping carefully out of bed. After spending most of my days on the run not sleeping, it was hard to fall back into a pattern of everyday sleep so I was rather restless.
Downstairs, I noticed a small light spilling out of Remus's study and frowned, sure that neither of us had left any candles lit. The moment I opened the door I froze. I think my heart stopped beating for a good ten seconds before I could recover. It just wasn't possible.
My voice was at best a whisper. It wasn't possible. Wasn't at all possible that he could be sitting there on the same couch Remus and I had sat on hours earlier. He smiled at me, eyes glowing though he looked slightly exasperated. He didn't look a day older than the last time I saw him. Same untidy, dark hair, same eyes, same grin… Slowly, I began to realize that none of this was real. He wasn't real; it had to be a dream. The disappointment was unsurprisingly crushing.
"Yes, you're dreaming Padfoot," he said softly. His voice made my heart ache painfully. I wanted to wake up as much as I didn't. "Quit trying to wake yourself up and get over here," he said impatiently. I stayed where I was, frozen in the doorway. He sighed, shook his head and stood up. "How many times…" he muttered under his breath as he raised his eyes and smiled at me again. "Sirius, you're dreaming, but it's not an ordinary dream. You won't remember any of this when you wake up. I wish you could, both for your sake and mine," he said hurriedly, his eyes full of a familiar amused sort of impatience. "Because, you see, Padfoot, if you could remember these…visits, then I wouldn't have to give this same explanation every time."
"Every…every time?" I whispered, not really able to comprehend his words at the moment. He was right about one thing…this was not an ordinary dream. This was more real than any dream I'd ever had…or according to him, any dream I'd been able to remember. He stepped closer to me and I drew in a sharp breath, suddenly terrified that if he came any closer he'd disappear.
"I'm not just a dream," he went on, his voice still soft. That same voice I remembered so very well. "I can't really explain it…not in any way you'd really understand. I'm not a ghost; I can only visit you in your dreams. But you won't remember the dream when you wake up. You may remember feelings, thoughts…but you'll have no actual memory of me," he said, smiling. "And yes Sirius, I've explained this to you every time I visit." His smile widened just a bit as he slowly reached his hand out to touch my shoulder. I jumped and bit down on my lower lip as I felt him grip my arm. He was so real! My chest was tight, my throat too constricted to speak without my voice breaking. "I've visited your dreams several nights a week for twelve years," he murmured, cautiously putting his other hand on my other shoulder. I think maybe I'd inadvertently wake up if he moved too quickly. "You didn't think I'd leave you all alone in Azkaban did you?" He asked, reprovingly, a gentle smile on his face. I couldn't breathe, my heart ached and the tears stinging my eyes started to spill over. "Promise you won't wake up if I hug you?" He asked, smirking. "You have before you know."
I shook my head, barely able to see him through my tears. "I promise," I said hoarsely. My knees trembled when he wrapped his arms around me, a sob escaping my lips as I clung to him. "I'm so…sorry James!" I cried. "It's all my fault and--"
"No, no, no," he murmured, running his hands soothingly up and down my back. "It's not your fault Padfoot. You have nothing to be sorry for," he said softly. The teasing edge to his voice was gone and when he pulled back slightly, I saw only compassion and sadness in his eyes. "See, this is why I wish you could remember. So you could accept my forgiveness and forgive yourself." He sighed softly and ran his hand over my hair. "I meant what I said Sirius," he said, leading me gently to the couch so we could sit down. I'd managed to stop crying and remained content when he stayed close to me and kept his hand on my shoulder. "I visited your dreams several nights a week while you were in Azkaban," he repeated, his eyes suddenly darkening with sorrow. "I couldn't stand seeing you in there, watching you fall apart and sink into despair…it horrified me." He stopped for a moment, taking the time to smile again softly, though his eyes still looked upset. "My being there helped you sleep; it gave you peace. But I was careful, then, to make sure you woke up with nothing, not even a thought or feeling…lest the dementors torment you more to steal it." His eyes flashed angrily as he spoke.
I still wasn't sure if this was just my dream talking, but what he said made sense. There had always been an erratic pattern to my sleep in Azkaban and some nights I had slept peacefully – presumably when he was visiting my dreams. The other nights had been fitful and restless. "Why can't I remember?" I asked softly.
He smiled, his eyes sparkling mischievously once more. "You just can't," he said simply. "It's not just you though," he went on. "Remus never remembers either."
"Remus?" I asked, astonished.
He laughed. "Well, where do you think I was the nights I wasn't visiting you?"
"I don't know…heaven. Somewhere good people are supposed to be when they die…" I muttered. It took me a second to realize I'd just been sarcastic with him…just another bantering conversation between us, right? That was hardly the case.
But he laughed again and punched me lightly on the shoulder. "You're allowed to laugh Sirius," he scolded. When I looked up his eyes were fixed on mine, a familiar grin etched on his face. I had to laugh with him just so I wouldn't start to cry. "I couldn't leave Remus all alone either. He was devastated by everything that had happened," he said softly, his smile fading. "I swear Sirius, I told him every time that it hadn't been you…that you were innocent, in the hopes he'd somehow remember. But these dreams can't be remembered…that's just the way it is."
"What good would it have done anyway?" I asked bitterly.
He raised an eyebrow, looking slightly surprised. "You know what it would have done," he said sternly, though a small smile still lit his face. "He would have moved heaven and earth to get you out of there had he known you were innocent. As it is, my visits helped to keep you alive in his heart, even if he couldn't believe you to be not guilty in his head. And now…he still loves you."
It was my turn to look surprised, and I couldn't help the smile that tugged at the corners of my lips. "Were you spying on us? Is that what you do with your spare time?" I teased, surprised that this was coming so easy. Shouldn't I still be crying?
He laughed again, a sound that I'd missed far too much. "That's why I'm here," he said, ignoring my question. "I've come to give you some advice, because I'll be damned if I let you screw this up." I said nothing, but looked at him skeptically, wondering what was next. "He loves you," he repeated. "Sirius, don't you dare get it into your head that you're not good enough for him or that he deserves more…because what Remus deserves is you. You are the one he loves, has always loved, and if you think by walking away from him, you're being noble and he'll be better off, you're wrong. I don't think he would survive losing you again, anymore than you'd survive losing him…and you need to admit that."
"Jamie!" I exclaimed, unable to keep the smile off my face. He stopped his rampage and scowled at me, no doubt because I had used the hated nickname. I reached out; no longer terrified he'd disappear, and touched his shoulder. "I have no intention of leaving Remus…ever again," I said softly, though with a conviction I was slightly surprised by. "And I still love him too, I always have…I just need a little bit of time. It's been so long since I've had any sense of normality or known anything but pain. But believe me, Prongs," I murmured, smiling over his treasured nickname. "I'm not going to leave him. I can't. I love him…and I need him."
He smiled. "Good…now I don't have to argue with you," he said.
"What good would it have done anyway?" I teased. "Since I won't be remembering any of this."
He scowled at me, though not for long as he was unable to keep his lips from turning up into a smile. "Well if you could remember," he quipped. "I wouldn't have to deal with you sobbing and crying all over me every time." I stared at him, wide-eyed for a moment, feigning shock, and just when his teasing smile had almost faded I grinned. "Bastard," he muttered.
We both laughed and despite the easiness of the situation, it still hurt like hell to know that when I woke up I'd have no memory of this. "James, is it just me and Remus you visit?" I asked after a few moments. "What about…what about Harry?" His smile quickly faded and he lowered his eyes, an obvious sadness covering him. "I'm sorry Prongs," I murmured, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder.
He covered my hand with his own and looked up into his eyes again. "It's ok Sirius," he murmured. "Yes, I have visited Harry, but…but not often. I can't, it's too painful." His voice was just a whisper now, the sadness emanating from him so palpable I felt that I could almost touch it. "Seeing him, even in his dreams, and talking to him, I…it hurts more than you can know Padfoot," he whispered. I watched silently, my heart aching as a tear slipped down his cheek. He was absolutely right. My pain seemed to dim next to what he felt, even if he was dead. I couldn't imagine the heartache he felt having to watch Harry grow up without being able to be there with and for him. And I knew how very much he loved his son.
"But I'd suffer that pain every night if I thought it was good for him," he went on, hastily wiping his tears away. "It's different with him than with you or Remus. I can bring both of you a relative peace, but with Harry…he always wakes up as if from a nightmare and he's always sadder afterwards." He stopped again and I felt him squeeze my hand. He swallowed hard and I watched in silent desperation as his eyes filled with tears again. "I don't want to bring him any pain. I want him to be happy Sirius," he said brokenly, his voice trembling no matter how hard he fought against it. Even now, as a dream, James was reluctant to brazenly show his emotions…so very different from myself. "And I haven't visited him since…well since his last encounter with Voldemort…when he saw Lily and I," he said softly, his eyes darkening. "I'm afraid it might make things worse if I visit him now…he's had so much pain already, I…I can't bring myself to cause him anymore. "
He looked so upset, so broken I couldn't resist embracing him. "I swear James, I'll do everything in my power to protect him. I'll watch over him…as best I can anyway, since I can't really be with him," I said softly, yet somewhat bitterly. "On second thought, maybe you should have made Remus his godfather."
He pulled back from our embrace, tears gone, and smiled at me. "I chose you Sirius," he said softly, with conviction. "I don't regret it. But I know Remus will watch over him too." He looked away from me, across the room and out the window to where the very faint beginnings of the sunrise could be seen.
"Don't," I whispered, staring intently at him, a feeling of dread creeping over me.
He turned back to me and smiled sadly. "I have to Sirius," he murmured. "And you can't live forever in your dreams…especially now. Harry needs you and so does Remus."
"But I miss you Jamie…so much," I pleaded softly.
He nodded as he stood up and reached for my hand. "I know," he said simply. We stared at each other silently for a few moments, so much unsaid passing between us. I didn't want to forget. I needed to remember this. Remember that he was at peace, that he forgave me, didn't blame me…I just needed to remember him. "Don't worry Sirius," he said softly as he hugged me again. "I'll never leave you all alone. I love you."
"I love you too Prongs," I said softly, squeezing my eyes shut as I returned his embrace and held onto him as tightly as I could.
I woke up rather suddenly and sat up abruptly before I realized where I was. A worried looking Remus woke up seconds later and grasped my arm. "What's wrong? Did you have another nightmare?" He asked softly.
I looked down at him and shook my head before lying down again and turning onto my side to face him. "No, it wasn't a nightmare, it was a good dream," I said softly, smiling as it came back to me. "It was another memory actually…of our first kiss. Do you remember?"
His face softened, brightening with a warm smile. "Of course I do," he murmured. "Seventh year…the last visit to Hogsmeade before Christmas. You'd been so nervous and jumpy for the past week yet none of us knew why."
"James knew," I said, grinning.
"I'd always thought so," Remus replied with a knowing smile.
"I'd told him over the summer that I'd fallen in love with you," I explained. "He seemed less surprised by the news than me."
Remus smirked and then laughed softly. "That figures," he said. "He even went so far as to tell me it was about time when I admitted my feelings to him."
"That was before our kiss, I presume?"
He nodded. "Yeah, about two weeks or so."
I shook my head and laughed. "That's why he kept encouraging me to make my move, because he knew you felt the same."
"But he wouldn't have just told you and betray my trust," Remus said, nodding.
"I think he might have if we hadn't kissed that day and finally admitted our feelings. I think he was getting rather sick of us both." We both laughed and I moved closer to him, comfortably slipping my arm around his waist. "I was nervous that whole week leading up to Hogsmeade because I'd told James I was finally going to tell you I loved you," I murmured after a few moments, unconsciously reaching up to brush a stray lock of hair from his face.
Neither of us said anything for a few moments, remembering the rush of happiness we'd felt that day, the knowledge that we'd found love with each other. "Remus?" He looked into my eyes, the same look written there that I'd first seen all those years ago in Hogsmeade. I could hardly believe he still loved me as much as he did then. Something in my subconscious prodded me at that moment, forcing my feelings to the surface. What was the point of pretending anymore? Yes, I needed some time to get used to all of this, but…this was Remus! Remus, who still loved me, who had saved me in every way possible…my soul mate.
"What is it Sirius?" He asked softly, looking into my eyes.
I swallowed hard and pulled him even closer. Nervously I brought my hand to the side of his face, my fingers trembling slightly. "I love you," I whispered, never breaking our eye contact, making sure he knew I meant the words with my entire heart and soul. The smile that slowly turned his lips up brightened his entire face and made his eyes sparkle. He looked so young and carefree again…almost innocent.
"I love you too," he replied, leaning closer and resting his forehead against my own. I sighed and slipped my hand to the back of his head and pulled his lips down to meet mine. This kiss, more so than any of the others we'd shared since I'd arrived here, made me melt. I fell for him all over again, wanting nothing more than what I'd dreamed of for so long. Peace.
Even in my youth, I'd always been searching for peace; though my rash, outgoing personality certainly belied that. And then, from the first moment Remus had admitted to me that he loved me, from the first kiss we'd shared I'd known that he was the only one that would always give me that serenity, would be my home, my love, my life. And now, having lost him for so long, having lost everything, it was fitting that another simple, soft kiss would take me back so long ago and renew my hope for the future. A future full of love that I'd be able to share with Remus. A future where I could begin to lay my demons to rest and look back on the past with more fondness than bitterness. I was allowed to dream again, to hope and love. I could finally escape my nightmares. Love granted me that, a love that had passed the most difficult of tests. We would go on, together, and we would live. For James, for Lily, for Harry, and most of all, for one another.