Disclaimer: I don't own anything that belongs to J.K. Rowling...I just borrow it so that I can live and cry there. Enjoy.
"I've got to get going," Sirius says, standing up. James stands too, but Lily remains seated as baby Harry is sleeping on her lap.
"How much time do you have?" James asks, and Lily looks up with worry.
"Until what?" she asks, and the friends can hear the ache in her voice…the pain of not knowing what she's scared of.
"Dumbledore has a job for me," Sirius says. "And I've got to do it tonight."
"But I thought you were supposed to be in hiding, like us." Her words are choked on unshed tears, and her voice comes out as a whisper.
"But I'm the only one who can do it…I have to get into the Ministry tonight. I have to search someone's office."
"Please Sirius," Lily whispers. "Don't go."
"I have to," he says. "It's really important. This could tell us who's been slipping information out of the Auror office. Please Lily; don't look at me like that." James sits down next to his wife and puts an arm around her shoulders as Sirius turns away. Harry yawns and gurgles nonsense in his sleep.
"We'd better put him to bed, Lily," James says quietly.
"I'll show myself to the door," Sirius says with a shadow of his usual grin. James nods, and Lily hands him the baby. She stands up and hugs Sirius tightly. He hugs her back, and whispers to her not to worry, that everything will be okay—even if he knows that nothing's okay during these dark times. Lily pulls away, sniffing, and takes her son back from his father. She flashes a brave smile at Sirius then heads upstairs to put Harry in bed. Now it's only James and Sirius in the living room, and they drop their false smiles and sigh heavily.
"Good luck, Sirius," James murmurs. He knows how dangerous this is. But then again, he knows that everywhere is dangerous, and nowhere is safe. He tries to make a joke, to smile, to do something happy that would have been too easy to do back when they had been in school. But all the words die on his tongue before they can come out, and the smile falters because he feels like he is going to cry.
Sirius also tries to say something, but it comes out as a strangled noise, barely discernible as speech. He tries to tell James that he's scared, that he wants to stay here, and not leave until everything in the world is put to right again. He wants to say that he loves them, the Potters, James and Lily and Harry, and that he would do—and is doing—anything and everything to keep them safe. He tries to say that even though he's brave, he wishes he had someone who would protect him. He tries to say that sometimes he feels like a little kid, scared, lost, and alone, and all he wants to do is sit down and cry and cry until there are no more tears for him to shed. But every time he opens his lips to say one of these things, the words won't come, and he chokes on the lump of tears in his throat.
James holds out his hand, but Sirius ignores it and gives his best friend a hug instead. James hugs him back, and they stand that way for a while, silently communicating all they can't say. But Sirius knows that it's time for him to go, and the vein of fear running through his heart throbs painfully.
He lets go of James and backs away toward to door. He puts his hand on the doorknob but doesn't turn it. His eyes meet James' and they look at each other, as if memorizing the others' face and soul. Sirius takes a deep breath and when he speaks, his voice rasps as though forced out.
"Good-bye, James," he says. "Good luck."
"Yeah, good luck Sirius," James murmurs, and his voice has risen in pitch. "Good-bye."
"I'll see you soon," Sirius says. "I'll see you real soon."
"Okay, Padfoot," James says. "When you finish your job, you can stop by. I'm sure one of us will be up."
"Yeah…yeah," Sirius can't say what he wants to, so he settles for what he can. "Real soon, Prongs. I'll see you real soon." He turns the knob and opens the door. "Tell Lily," he says, "and Harry. Tell them…I'll see you all real soon."
"I'll tell them," James says. Sirius nods.
He turns and there's a faint pop and a black dog is loping away from the Potter's house in Godric's Hollow. Padfoot can't tell why there's such a sense of fear this night. He doesn't think he's ever been so afraid. His mind tumbles, looking for answers, as he runs down the street. By the time he reaches his answer, he's in the next village, a half hour away.
The fear isn't connected to the job at the Ministry tonight. The fear is coming from the place he just left. There is something wrong at the Potters'. And he has a bad feeling about this. He runs a few more steps, before whirling around. He turns down a side street, looking for an alley where he can transform. But he finds himself lost in a crowd of trick-or-treaters, dressed as witches and goblins and ghosts. They shriek with delight to find him, and they all bend down to pet him. He shakes his head and growls. He doesn't have time for this. He hates to do it, but he snaps at the hands around him. The children back away in fear, and he runs on, his fear growing stronger by the minute.
He transforms in a dark alley and Apparates with a faint pop to a different village. He appears in another dark alley, and runs to the main street. There's something wrong, really, really wrong. He picks up his pace. He turns a corner and sees the little grey cottage that Peter had picked as his hide-out. The front door is wide open. Sirius darts inside, and screams his friend's name into the empty silence. There is no answer. Peter is gone.
He sinks to the ground and his eyes find the dust. It's not disturbed in any way. He gets up and searches the rest of the house. There are no broken windows. All the clothes and dishes are put away neatly. There is no sign of a struggle.
And then it hits him. Peter left. Peter left because he was the traitor…
The fear in Sirius throbs so much that it feels as if something were clawing at his heart, ripping it from his chest. He whirls around so fast, unable to think, he does what he has automatically done for almost eleven years: he goes to James.
He ignores the shouts of the trick-or-treaters around him as he shoves them aside, looking for his dark alley. He finds it and Apparates to Godric's Hollow so fast he wonders in the back of his mind how he manages to not splinch himself.
The third dark alley materializes before him, and he's running almost before his feet hit the ground. He's running at a flat-out sprint, and the stitch in his side hurts almost as much as the fear.
"Please," he pants out loud, uncaring if anyone hears. "Please, don't let me be too late."
He skids to a stop in front of the Potter's house; only, there's not much of the house left. The front door is hanging weirdly off its hinges, and part of the roof has fallen in. A kind of cold dread settles on his heart, and his brain disconnects from the rest of him.
He sinks to the ground amidst the ruins and screams his grief for the world to hear. He can see the bodies of James and Lily, and his brain won't register what his eyes can see. They can't be dead…please, they can't be dead. But they were. And he has never felt such a burning pain ever before. He wants to scream, and howl, and cry until he can't anymore. He feels the tears running down his face and they burn him as though he was on fire, but he doesn't care. He stares up at the sky without seeing it and lets the tears stream down his face. He stays that way for a long time.
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He said that he would see them again real soon. But real soon turns out to be too long. Real soon is fifteen years. And he wept inside for all fifteen of them. Even when he sees Harry again, he can't help thinking that it was James he promised to see, and fifteen years was too long.
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The Veil feels soft and cold as it wraps around his shoulders. He falls backward, and he reaches out for something to grab a hold on to stop himself, but instead, someone catches him from behind.
"Hey, Padfoot," says a familiar voice, and his face breaks into a smile.
"Hey, Prongs," he responds.
"Sirius!" Lily squeals and rushes forward to engulf him in a hug.
"Hey, Lily," he says, laughing. She pulls away and giggles, wiping tears from her eyes.
"I can't believe you're here!" James exclaims.
"Yeah, me neither." He glances back at the Veil, and his smile falters. He thinks he can see Harry through it, screaming. He sighs. "You'll be okay, Harry," he murmurs under his breath, "And I'll see you real soon." Then he turns toward James and Lily and smiles again. He rugby-tackles James and they roll over, laughing. They plunge down a grassy hill and fall apart at the bottom. James sits up, but Sirius stays lying down and Lily comes running, and they are all laughing. They sit in silence for a few minutes and then Sirius sits up suddenly.
"Its' great to see you guys," he says, and they nod.
"It's been too long," Lily says.
"Yeah, I wanted to say something about that," Sirius says, and holds up a hand to stall James' protest. "I promised I'd see you real soon…but it took me about fifteen years. That put me out a bit, but I'm just thinking. If we've got all the time in the world here…fifteen years is nothing, right?" They nodded. "So I did see you real soon, didn't I?"
They laugh again, and Sirius lies back down in the tall grass. James makes a whistle out of a particularly long stalk, and Lily braids some together. Suddenly, Sirius giggles, and says, "Oh, I've got to tell you what your son has been getting up to." James and Lily look up eagerly, and Sirius looks back up the hill to where the Veil flutters in the non-existent wind. Real soon, Harry, he thinks. We'll see you real, real soon.
And he doesn't know if Harry heard him, but he hopes he did, and he doesn't forget his promise as he launches into the tales of all the adventures Harry has had since he was one year old.
A/N: The idea of Sirius telling stories about Harry to James and Lily in the afterlife comes from animaguspawz, whose stories are absolutely amazing, by the way. I forgot to put that up at the top...oh well, down here works just as well. Padfoot plushies to reviewers! ;)