"Let me feel, I don't care if I breakdown
Let me fall, even if I hit the ground
And if I...
Cry a little
Die a little
At least I know I lived, just a little..."

-Let Me Fall, By Bethany Joy Lenz

Lost Children

To him, she will always be the first year with a particularly sharp tongue and wounded eyes. Even now when her face has gone sickly gaunt and waxy, Severus remembers the resilience and senses it lying dormant under her too pale skin. No one and no thing could successfully rob Farren Graham of her fire. It is in her blood—determined before she had even left the womb. Severus is sure that, had he been able to ask her mother about the experience, she would have said that Farren had entered the world already swinging fists.

Usually when you see someone waiting beside a sickly patient in the hospital, they show some sign of boredom or exhaustion or apprehension. But Severus simply sits perfectly erect, neither nervous nor bored. Just waiting. Severus has been—and always will be—waiting for Farren. He inwardly accepts this fact now. A year ago he may have denied it—said it was just a prolonged fancy or fascination. But lately feelings aren't as ignorable as they used to be. He feels how Farren has changed him. He has become accustomed to having to wait for her; and even more against his nature, he does this patiently and with understanding. While she grieves for Sirius and their lost love, he will be waiting for her to realize that their love had never been lost.

But it hadn't all been waiting with Farren. Sometimes it had been arguing and bickering and fighting and even teasing—or a combination of all three. Severus remembers on one occasion when they (he) had tired of potion-making, and Farren had successfully managed to "distract" him. After they had finished, she lay across his lap languidly on the couch in knickers as he read a book on advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts. He peered down from his reading and sat back a little further to appreciate the view of her colorful knickers hugging her curves. She seemed to be in some sort of reverie, smirking ever so slightly as she idly touched the skin above her hip.

"You know," she said suddenly, still tenderly gliding fingers along the place, "I've been thinking about getting a tattoo here."

Snape raised a dubious eyebrow. He has always hated tattoos, finding them barbaric and rather distasteful. "Oh really? Of what?"

That cat-like grin widened. "Something simple. Like an 'S'."

Initially Severus swelled with arrogance and pride, sure that she meant an 'S' for him. He momentarily entertained the idea of having his initial imprinted on her skin. Though quite an unhealthy thought, he enjoyed the concept of having something to prove that she was his and only his.

But then a realization suddenly made him deflate and he narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. "For whom would this "S" be for? …Him or me?"

Glad that he had caught on to her little game, Farren giggled and crossed her arms. "Who says it's for either of you, you chauvinistic pig."

Anger flared in his chest and he shoved her off of him. She fell onto the hard stone floor rather unceremoniously.

"Hey!" she interjected, rubbing the bottom he had been admiring moments before.

"That was too far."

Farren's face lost all traces of indignation and playfulness. She looked down at the ground ashamedly. "I'm sorry. You're right. That was stupid of me." She gazed up at him with those big blue eyes. "Forgive me?"

He bent down so that he was inches away from her face. She closed her eyes and puckered her pink lips in anticipation. But he didn't kiss her. He grabbed her chin and made her look up at him. "That won't work this time." He released her chin and returned to his book.

But he wasn't really reading. He was hyper aware that she remained on the floor and didn't move a muscle or say a word. Though tempted to see what precisely she was doing, Snape refused to give in and acknowledge her. The minutes trickled by slowly and still not a sound. Finally, unable to take it, he flung the book away. "Will you stop!?"

She didn't seem surprised by his outburst. "I'm not doing anything."

He made a frustrated noise in his throat. "Exactly! Stop making me feel like the bad person!"

"I don't mean to. I'm sorry."

Severus sighed exasperatedly, rubbing his eyes with his palms. He should have been used to this by now but the madness never stopped. "Let's just forget it, okay?"

Instantly, she became reanimated. "Okay!" She got back onto her knees and crawled back towards him. But just as she was about to jump back onto the couch, she paused.

"I have an idea," she said.

"Congratulations! What a novelty. We should cele—"

She interrupted his insult by suddenly grabbing his knees and opening his legs wide. "How about I make it up to you and then we forget about it?"

Snape watched her position herself between his open legs and he could not suppress a smirk. Chuckling, he sighed as he put his face in his hands. "Farren, you have an unstoppable gift for getting your way."

She'd smiled. "I know."

…Thinking back now, Snape has difficulty remembering the bad parts. In the end, he can only recall how many times she'd made him laugh, and how good it had felt to be inside her, and how much he'd loved her.

Soft mumbles from her lips brought Severus instantly back to the present. Her eyes flutter open and suddenly he remembers why he has always waited for her. Because she had always, faithfully, come back to him. Eventually.

If the waxy skin and chapped lips hadn't been enough to send a pang to his heart, her weak smile surely did it.

"Severus," she sighs. "I thought you'd never speak to me again."

These words wake something else in him. His resolve wanes and he remembers why his love is now tainted with that metallic taste of hate. She'd chosen Him. Of all the people in the world—Black. Her intentions had been to live her life out with that pitiful excuse of a man and probably marry him. She had been perfectly fine with letting him, Severus, die alone while they went off and lived happily ever after and produced beautiful, empty-headed, arrogant, little cretins for children.

With these lies in his head, Snape turns the full force of his bitterness and hatred toward her. He watches the little smile falter, then crumble. Severus sees all his evil in Farren's face then—all the proof for what he had always known. That he has been and always will be a lost cause. In a twisted way, this relieves him. No more will he have to watch that shimmering faith and adoration in those eyes, knowing that somehow or another he'd disappoint her. Yes, now he is free and won't have to pretend anymore.

"Oh god, don't you dare," Farren's voice is frighteningly vehement. "I see what you're doing. And don't you dare use me as an excuse to turn your back on the world. My being a selfish bitch doesn't give you the right to give up. No matter what I or anyone else does, you make your own decisions. No one makes you choose a path—so if you give in now there's only yourself to blame!"

The truth in her words breaks him. But he cannot let her see his cowardice, so he turns his fear into anger. He is stone, an ice sculpture as he answers. "Do not concern yourself with whether you have affected me negatively—or positively for that matter. I assure you, you are not nearly important enough." Farren's lips part slightly in what appears to be a silent scream. "In fact I came here only to inform you that what minuet fascination you once held for me has flickered and died. Recent events have allowed me to see you for what you truly are: an object of excessively skin deep, if not false, beauty and a deeply defected nature that will insure you loneliness."

Severus has always relied on the ability to appear entirely detached while his insides burned. But this is by far the hardest time he's ever had to do it.

Her reaction is the most frightening part. No tears fill her eyes, her cheeks do not rosy with anger, and she does not attempt to brush him off with a laugh or smile. She seems dead inside; as though—finally—it had become too much. It is like parts of her brain have simply shut down in an attempt to salvage what sanity remained.

Severus realizes too late the full extent of what he had just done. Blinded by visions of revenge, he'd forgotten that despite everything, he still cares for Farren. And she him. And that breaking her as she'd done him only served to pain himself further.

Unsuccessfully, he racks his brain for any sort of words that might repair the damage—something that might lessen the sickening feeling in his gut. But nothing comes to him and he just sits there, horrified by what he'd done. In a desperate need to comfort her, he begins lamely, "Farren, I—"

She shakes her head once. "Don't. I know I am a terrible person and I know I deserve all of that. But please, try to find it in your heart to give me the mercy I don't deserve. And leave. Please, just leave and let me be alone."

He opens his mouth but falls silent. Wordlessly, Severus stands and turns to leave the sharp-tongued, wounded-eyed first year. As he begins to exit, her voice stops him dead in his tracks.

"You know," she says softly to his back, "I think I figured out why I chose the two of you—I realize now what connected us all. We are—all three of us—lost. We're just a bunch of lost kids feeling in the dark for something to hold onto. And that's why I chose you. That's why I loved you both."

It has suddenly become difficult for him to breath. "That's funny," Snape says in a voice barely audible. "I knew that was why I loved you the moment I saw you seven years ago."

And with that, he leaves her.

It had become a ritual for the past week now. Every night, Sirius goes into James' trunk while everyone is asleep, and procures the Invisibility Cloak. He doesn't even need the Marauder's Map anymore; Hogwarts' secrets are already permanently engrained in his head. Usually there is no one but her in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey's remedies conquer mostly every wound or incident in a timely fashion. Except for hers. But Sirius suspects this is more to do with Farren's will to get better than Madam Pomfrey's healing abilities.

He doesn't do much but watch her. Sometimes he transforms and sleeps curled on the floor beside her, others he stays there till the early hours of the morning and then returns to the dormitories. Tonight would have to be a short trip due to the full moon looming in the sky and Lupin's transformation. He had assured the marauders that he simply needed to procure more sherry from the kitchen and then he would join them in the forest. Sirius isn't certain whether James and the others are aware of the truth and is even less certain whether Farren is. Sometimes he is comforted by the fact that the cloak had never failed them before. But then one night Farren had stared so intensely at the exact spot where he stood, that Sirius wondered whether she couldn't simply sense his presence.

Tonight he gets the same feeling. As he quietly situates himself on the Hospital Wing's floor, she goes dead still. And then she lifts herself up slightly into a sitting position, as though preparing to speak. After a slight pause, she reaches for her wand on the bedside table. Weary, Sirius watches Farren raise the mahogany stick. But the charm she hums under her breath is almost sing-song, and the movement of the wand like a dance. A beam of splintering yellow light emits from the wand and Sirius is further bewildered. The light is different from that of Lumos; more like a projection than a flashlight. But then several different colors join the yellow light and slowly Sirius makes out a projected image of the Hogwarts ground.

He recognizes flashes of Lily and Celia, both laughing hysterically as Farren made crude, juvenile expressions. And then those images fall away to the scene of a striking, voluptuous woman holding a baby with a single curl escaping her otherwise bald head. Sirius probably shouldn't have been surprised to see his own face staring back at him, but he is. It is them, lying in the grass beneath the stars. The night she gave herself to him. Sirius can hardly recognize who that person is anymore. He can't imagine that, not long ago, that had been him with the huge smile on his face—the kind of smile that truly reaches the eyes. He can't imagine that not long ago, that had been them, unbroken and with such potential.

And Sirius probably shouldn't feel that sharp pang when he sees the flickering image of Him, but he does. The pain, it seems, does not ease with time. Snape was brewing a steaming pot of potion, the sweat making his black hair stick to his forehead. And there she was, dancing to unheard music in a circle around him. He shot her a look of annoyance as he wiped his hair from his eyes. She saw this, but did not stop dancing. Instead she moved closer and began to rub her bum along his side. Snape tried to keep the pretense of annoyance but failed miserably. He grinned and seemed to exhale gustily. Then he wound his hand up and smacked her squarely in the arse.

There are still more images of both Sirius and Snape. For some horrifying, masochistic reason, Sirius cannot stop watching. His brain screams at him to go, run, forget this ever happened. And yet a louder part of him can't move a muscle.

The day before he had watched Snape's meeting with her. He'd heard what she had said about them: that they—all three of them— were like lost children. And he realized then that that truly is what Farren had been to him. She'd been a home, a future with someone to call family. A real family. She'd been a second chance, a hope for a new life. But that's gone now.

Somewhere deep down, Sirius knows that Farren had never meant to hurt him. Deep down he understands that unwittingly, she'd fallen in love with both of them. But it proved to be much more practical to make her out to be this kind of monster in his head, a whore who didn't care about anyone. And if Sirius can make himself believe this lie well enough, then maybe then it'd be just a little easier to stop loving her.

The last images flicker and die and the smile slips away from Farren's lips. She lifts her hand to where the faces of the people she loves had been moments before. There is something so horribly sad and pathetic about the scene. Like watching a child try to make sense of the concept of permanence and loss.

But suddenly, her eyes light up with some new idea or hope. A little laugh bubbles from her and she says words that Sirius does not understand…"No, but I see yours…" she whispers to herself, as though repeating what she'd heard several times before. And then with an energy Sirius hadn't seen her display in days, Farren summons both a piece of paper and a pen.

Curiosity gets the better of him. Sirius never has been very practiced at denying impulses. So despite the fact that he might risk being exposed and that the longer he waited, the more suspicious his friends would be, Sirius very carefully moves to read over her shoulder.

The first words he makes out are "Dear Severus…" For some reason this hurts worse than seeing the boy's face in her memories. Somehow knowing that, in this instance, she had thought of Snape before him is just too much for Sirius.

He turns towards the exit, deciding that now is the best time to rejoin the marauders. But, as though of their own volition, his feet stop. Sirius gets the inexplicable feeling that this will be the last time he sees Farren Graham. Perhaps this is because his heart had been quicker than his mind in realizing that the self-torment would end now. Tonight. The time had come to let Farren go—to do his best to forget she ever existed.

So Sirius turns and watches the curly-haired girl one final time. He asks himself the question he had been wondering ever since he first learned of her betrayal: in the end, had it been worth it? Given the choice, would he, Sirius, elect to never have known her? Would he forgo all that she had shown him, given him, taught him about himself if it spared him the pain he suffered now? He hadn't had an answer before, but the prospect of leaving her for good made things oddly clear. No matter how much he hates her, no matter how much turmoil she'd caused him, Sirius wouldn't give up what they'd shared for anything.

Sirius realizes that this fact will be the most bravery he'd ever display in his life. And it is also the reason why Farren Graham is a true Gryffindor, despite her lack of loyalty to him and other Gryffindor qualities. Because they both had the courage to endure the pain, if it meant they came out just a little more fulfilled.

Silently, he says his goodbyes to her. She has finished writing her letter and now lies fast asleep in the hospital bed. Unable to resist, he walks back to her side. Removing the cloak, he bends down and says almost inaudibly, "Goodbye, Miss Graham." And then, very lightly, he presses his lips to her cheek. He tries to think of something that would encompass everything he had to say to her. Something which explained that though he could never forgive her, he would never stop loving her. That after everything, it had been worth it. That the lost child in him had somehow found a home.

"Thank you," he says simply.

And without another thought, he exits the hospital wing and finds his friends deep within the black forest.

She wakes startled—as though someone had jolted her with an electric shock. Amazed, Farren touches her cheek. It is tingling.

She feels him. He had been there moments—maybe even seconds before. She knows. Somehow, after being with a person so intimately, your body just becomes hyper aware of their presence. It must, she believes, have something to do with the chemicals and electric signals the brain sends through the body.

Her muscles are jittery, making her fingers twitch as she holds them up to her head. This time, she can't let him go without an explanation.

The floor is ice to her bare feet. Distantly, she knows that going out into the European countryside night in nothing more than a nightgown probably isn't the best idea. But in the window, she sees the enormous black dog bounding across the Hogwarts grounds, heading straight for the black forest. And so, she runs.

With her pale blond hair and the emanating whiteness of her skin, Farren appears as a beacon of moonlight, an apparition. When she reaches the forest, she suddenly notices the stinging on her feet. Slightly surprised, she spots the streams of blood oozing from shallow wounds up and down her legs. She begins to run; sure that Sirius is only just out of her line of vision, skirting behind that tree or that shrub in front of her. And then her human legs become inadequate to sustain her speed. The sound of her heavy, over sized paws matches the heartbeat thumping within her chest.

But suddenly, the lioness stops. She smells him. It is that musk which somehow manages to spread warmth throughout her veins and simultaneously gives her that swooping sensation of falling. Curiously, the smell does not lead further into the forest, but toward the borders. Toward the alcove.

Feverishly, she follows that scent. Her eyes play tricks on her constantly, making her jump in expectation to see the mass of black fur at every turn. But she doesn't.

She wonders where Cheiron is—whether he senses her frantic mood. For some odd reason, Farren has the bizarre feeling that he cannot. She wishes he were there with her. She wishes he would come gliding through the darkness, touching her with that cooling aura.

In the darkness, a bark sounds. With the speed of a feline on the hunt, she listens. Another bark, then another, and finally a howl.

She pushes faster, despite the fact that her body, even in animal form, is demanding rest. Is he in trouble? Is he hurt? Has Remus escaped—did they need her help?

Farren manages to convince herself that by reaching Sirius in this time of need, she would redeem herself. He would forgive her, love her—

At that moment, the lioness is sent flying off course by the collision with a large mass. It isn't until she hits the ground that Farren even realizes that the colliding mass had attached itself onto her neck with what feels like fangs.

Stunned, she wrestles furiously to face her surprise attacker. But the hold is too strong and she succeeds only in deepening the wound. Finally she catches a glance at an ugly, multi-colored wolf which had her flesh clenched within its jaws. In her desperate thrashing, the cat manages to reach the beast's leg. Quick as a flash, she bites. The sound of breaking bone crunches sickeningly in her head, and then the taste of blood floods onto her tongue. Although the wound she deals is not nearly as fatal as her attacker's had been, for one blinding moment of triumph the lioness believes she has won—or at the very least scrapped the chance to escape. The wolf snarls and limps off her, whimpering. Waves of pain roar through her, but it doesn't matter. She might win, she might conquer, she might survive. She can return to Hogwarts and retell the story of her lucky escape to those who still loved her and they would hold her and say how much they care for her and how glad they are that she is alive. Triumphant, she lunges to deal another blow to the wolf…

Ropes lash out from the abyss of trees. They catch the lioness' golden body in midair and tie her to the trunk of an oak tree. The open wound sears from the contact, blinding her momentarily with the pain.

"Could you not handle one filthy mudblood on your own, Greyback," says the taunting voice of Bellatrix Black.

The wolf growls, barring its dirtied teeth.

"But I suppose Wormtail did fail to mention she was an animagus. No matter, I can finish—"

But she stops, smiling at the snarling beast. Bellatrix simultaneously inclines her head and lowers her wand, as if to say, "As you wish."

The wolf turns back to the bound and immobile lioness. In that moment, she sees her own death starring back at her from those black, unyielding eyes. Those eyes hold only one desire: to kill her. The cries that emit from the cat are that of pain past endurance. Flesh is torn from her side once, twice, three consecutive times.

"That's enough," says Bellatrix with her crazed gaze fixed upon the prisoner. "I want to watch the bitch bleed." But suddenly the demented smile fades and her eyes widen in fear. "Did you hear that?"

The lioness listens along with her murderers. She recognizes the sounds.

"We must leave—"

The wolf whines sadly and almost seems to pout.

"Just forget it, you idiot beast. Just leave her. She is as good as dead. Nothing can help her now."

And then as though they had never been there at all, the Death Eaters disappear.

The noises that had scared away her attackers had not been people at all. They are centaurs, and suddenly Farren realizes why she hadn't felt Cheiron before. Because Cheiron had met his end. And now the new leader, probably Rhoecus, would never interfere with the fates. And she was fated to die. The centaurs would not save her.

When the sounds of hooves become inaudible, the only thing left for her is to wait as her life drained with every drop of blood that hit the dirt. Would she see Cheiron when she died? Do centaurs go to the same after-life as witches and wizards? Would Eileen and Ella be there? Would they be disappointed in her for not fulfilling the purpose they had set before her? For not loving successfully? For failing miserably.

While she lies there slumped against the tree, alone, Farren's form morphs due to the pain. She forgets to think of her body as a vessel (how could it be when it hurt this much?). She is two-legged again, with a mane which oddly does not transpire to her animagus form. And after the shift, she begins to feel less and less of her body—as though it is falling away slowly. In fact, she now feels nothing more than the sluggish beat of her own heartbeat. She wishes it would stop. Anything would be better than having the end hanging over her like this. For the first time Farren is welcoming darkness, beckoning for it to take her once and for all.

But then suddenly she spots movement in trees. A black figure running. For a horror filled moment, Farren is sure it must be the wolfman back again to taste more of her. She imagines what horrific pleasures he had returned for. Panic brings all remaining consciousness back to her as she awaits her torture—

…But then the light of the moon sends the cloaked figure into sharp relief. She spots the abnormally large nose, the marble-pale skin, the simultaneously sinewy and twitchy movements. It is not her tormenter. It is her prince.

"No," Severus says softly, shaking his head. "No."

The ropes are cut, and suddenly Farren is falling. Her useless limbs send her flying limply towards the ground. She awaits the collision she is certain she will be able to feel, but something catches her. Frantic hands are upon her and she tries to make sense of their urgency. She cannot comprehend what those hands wish to accomplish so hastily when death had already claimed her long ago.

But as she watches him search relentlessly for signs of life, Farren regains a sense of urgency. Severus—she had forgotten about him while she preparing for death. Who will be there to understand him when she was gone? Who will trust him unwaveringly? Who will continue the futile and endless amount of hope for him? Who will match him? Who will love him as she has? As she always will.

With all her might, Farren fights back the black nothingness. She asks god or fate or whatever force wishes to claim her, to wait just a few moments longer.

Snape is murmuring her name over and over again. "Farren… Farren … Farren… I love you." The words are spoken in nothing louder than a whisper, but she hears. They seem to carry through the breeze that brushes against Farren's cheek, and a tear trickles from her bloodied eyelids.

"Severus—" It hurts to talk. But still nothing is more important than that he understand. "I will always be with you."

He moans as if someone has stabbed a stake through his heart.

"As long as there is any good left in you at all—I will be there. It is me. You are so brilliant. So wonderful. My prince."

He rakes her face with his hands, trying frantically to wipe the blood from her face. "There's too much," he quivers desperately. "There's too much blood! I can't see you. I can't see your face."

An incredible revelation dawns upon her. Farren remembers a long-lost dream which she had once had on a night that feels like centuries ago. With all remaining strength, she touches him. "No… But I see yours."

The boy leaned forward to press his lips against hers for one last time. The kiss was unlike any other. It was warm, so warm. Not hot, but perfectly warm. With a gut-wrenching pang Severus realized how little they'd kissed during those hours spent in the room of requirement, pretending to work on Potions and essays when they were really playing their game of stolen glances and grins.

He didn't need to feel Farren's body go limp in his arms to understand that she had gone. He watched as those complicated blue eyes slipped into a single-colored simplicity, and he knew. Touching fingers to his lips, Severus got the distinct impression that she had taken the warmth with her, leaving him colder and emptier than ever before.

Snape couldn't move. A part of his brain instructed him to run, escape from this horrifying truth. And yet another part of him could stay there forever, holding her lifeless body in a pool of the still lukewarm blood.

Here she lay; the glamour gone, making her appear smaller than usual, and more fragile than she had ever allowed herself to be. Snape could not have imagined Farren ever looking so frail before then.

He looked away, searching for something that could distract him from the disgusting frailty. Unfortunately what caught his attention was the wound on Farren's neck. Snape recognized those bites. He had studied them during fifth year, when he had tried so desperately to get the marauders expelled…

They were werewolf bites.

A demented fury filled Snape, causing his entire body to shake. And he welcomed it. Anger. Delicious and familiar anger. The sadness disappeared in the wake of the companion he had had all his life.

And then he was running. "BLACK!" he screeched into the trees. "LUPIN!"

There was only one werewolf that resided at Hogwarts. And Snape would kill him. He would rip him in half, tear the flesh from his bones—"LUPIN!!!"

"Will you stop shouting like an idiot!" Sirius emerged from the dark shadows, murder in his gaze. But it was nothing–nothing–compared to the other boy's.

"IT'S YOUR FAULT! YOU AND YOU'RE FUCKING FRIENDS KILLED HER—!"

"What are you babbling about?"

"SHE'S DEAD, YOU IDIOT! Farren's dead and Lupin killed her! You told him too—"

"You're lying." Horror had filled Sirius's eyes and the color had drained from his features. But it was all fake. Snape knew it was a lie. He'd murdered her.

"Lying!?" Snape grabbed Sirius, dragging him toward the place where her corpse lay. "There!" and he threw him to the floor. At any other time this would have been impossible for Snape to do. But Sirius seemed to have lost the ability to fight.

Small noises were escaping him and he was touching her face and hair. "Remus got away. W-we couldn't stop him. I've been looking all n-night—"

But Sirius couldn't speak anymore because he crumbled to the ground and started to sob uncontrollably.

And then something seemed to break within Severus as he watched his enemy clutching the corpse of the woman he had loved. He couldn't care anymore. He couldn't feel. He was numb. "Well you can stop searching now. I don't think the wolf is hungry anymore."

And he left Sirius and walked back up to the castle. It was only when he got out of the Forbidden Forest that he heard the ear-splitting scream of a man bleeding from the inside.

XXXXX

Sirius stared at the dormitory door. No one would interrupt him once he was inside. Professor McGonagall had assured him of that, in an attempt to comfort him. But it wasn't comforting at all. It only made him think of how he would enter the Girls Dormitory–her dormitory–and no one would come to pull him out. There would be no going back once he was in. Sirius felt sure that he would remain there for an eternity.

He took a deep breath and turned the knob.

The room was very ordinary. Just like the one he occupied with James, Peter and Lupin, only with the obvious markings of female inhabitants. Several headshots of renowned Quidditch players winked and grinned back at him from the walls. There were photos of famous singers and bands. Only one poster remained unmoving. It was of a lion.

As he walked toward the picture, Sirius was further convinced the quarters belonged to Farren Graham. The bed was in utter disarray and several little notes stuck to the bedpost's ceiling. Some of those notes were quotes, others reminders.

One said: Do the Arithmancy essay!

The one beside it said: PICK YOUR DAMN KNICKERS OFF THE FLOOR! - Celia

Still another read: Did you remember to eat dinner? My Easter chocolates are getting quite stale now, and they will not suffice as a meal for much longer. – Lily

Sirius pulled this note from the headboard, rereading it for no particular reason. Something on the wood caught his eye: an engraved letter. It was an H. He pulled more notes away, revealing even more letters. An O, a W, and then an S.

In an odd hysteria, Sirius ripped every yellow note from the bedpost. His chest was heaving and a wild madness pumped through his veins. The more papers he ripped away, he began to recognize sentences. When the wood was bare, he was covered in the colorful papers. He read:

"How strange that with the entire world's hatred weighing upon my shoulders, I can summon only memories of sweetness. How strange that in the end, all that matters is how his smile ignited light within me and thawed through the very center of my heart. And how by touching his ice-cold cheek, I helped heal, if only minutely, his internal wounds. And how I loved them both so very much—how wonderful it had all been. How strange it is that in the end I think only upon these things and how I can never regret what I did for love. Because in the end, no one and no thing can take that away from me. Because above all else, I loved. And in the end, that's all that matters… How strange…"

His fingers moved as if of their own volition. They traced every individually carved letter, catching some splinters that stuck from out of the wood. He saw in slight wonder that his hands were trembling. In fact his entire body shook. He was… crying.

The hot tears slid down his nose, landing quick and fast against the red covers. He was almost certain that the space beside him on the mattress was indented slightly, as though She had only just risen from it after they made love. As though she was now hobbling back into her knickers, toppling over a little in the effort. It was as though she laughed after having caught him watching her with that obvious fondness in his gaze. It was as though she clambered back onto the bed, and whispered to him, "Look at us, Padfoot. If I didn't know any better, I'd think we were happy..."

What Sirius wanted more than anything at that moment was to see her chew her bottom lip once more. Or brush the hair out of her eyes. Or scratch her nose with the end of her quill. Something small and completely unremarkable. Something that would disprove this incomprehensible reality that, somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, Farren Graham's body lay motionless. That she was not smiling, or smirking, or laughing, or getting angry. That she never would again. That she was dead.

He traced the words on the headboard once more.

"…Because above all else I loved…"

Author's Note: THE STORY IS NOT OVER! There is a verrry lengthy epilogue which will take me a while to write, but I promise will come out. Keep and eye out for it. Don't forget about the story! Also, the past tense at the end of the story was on purpose.