I love the friendship between Sirius and James. I just thought of this…moment, and I wanted to write it down. Hope you enjoy it.

I don't own Harry Potter. If I did, I'd go back and write stories about the Marauders.

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James knew it like he knew the voice of a friend, the motor of that motorcycle. It was, in a way, a friend. Sirius' pet. He rolled over and looked at the clock. One in the morning. He sighed. If he was here, now, it meant he needed him. He kissed Lilly's bare shoulder, smiling when she stirred and mumbled something unintelligible in her sleep. Carefully, so as not to wake her, he pulled his glasses on and grabbed his wand, stuffing it in the back pocket of his flannel pajamas and heading quietly downstairs.

He wasn't surprised to find Sirius leaning against the railing of the back porch, waiting for him. "Knew you'd come down."

"Yes , well, the bike is hard to miss, Pads."

Sirius didn't turn to look at him. "Didn't wake Lilly did I?"

"No. She's a sound sleeper."

"Good."

He still wasn't looking at him. Stepping forward, James slid a hand over his shoulder. "Sirius, mate… What's wrong?"

Sirius tapped his lighter on the railing, pulling out a cigarette with his other hand. "Regulus."

"He's always been a prick. What'd he do this time?"

Sirius inhaled deeply on his smoke, eyes intently staring into the darkness. "He's a Death Eater."

No matter what else Sirius' younger brother had been, James had never expected this. Well, maybe he had. That was what some nagging voice at the back of his brain said, anyway. He had known the boy was going bad, had known that he gravitated toward the 'power' of the dark, had known he had followed his family into Slytherin but still… There were Slytherin's who weren't Death Eaters. There were assholes who weren't Death Eaters. Regulus had always been both but how he had hoped he'd just be that. A Slytherin asshole, hateful to his brother but technically harmless. Stunned into silence, he had fallen into a sort of shock. Until he looked at Sirius. His hands were shaking slightly around the cigarette, determinedly unshed tears gathering in his eyes. "Sirius… I'm so sorry. Damn, I'm so sorry…"

"I knew he was no good, you know, I just…I just didn't know this. I mean we hadn't talked in years so I don't guess it matters much, right? I mean he's just another one of them now, you know, just one of them. The enemy." His words slurred just enough to give him away.

"You're drunk."

"Wouldn't you be?" A single tear slipped from his left eye. He didn't bother to brush it away. If there was one person he didn't mind crying in front of, it was James.

Yes, of course he would have been. "Right. " He had ridden the bike here, drunk. Well…James could address that issue later. Now wasn't the time. He was in one piece. It didn't matter.

"I keep… Seeing him when he was little, you know? Before they had really corrupted him, when he seemed like he looked up to me, and he had this toy broomstick and he'd follow me around the house and I was so annoyed but really I wasn't because…I liked that he thought something of me. I liked being the big brother and I thought that…It'd be great, you know, and I'd be the good big brother and I'd always be there for him, always look out for him. Then he grew up, we lost touch and he…He hated me." Sirius swallowed hard, another tear escaping. "And I hate him."

"No, you don't. Or you wouldn't be here." It was gentle, easy, less an admonishment than a statement of a fact that he knew Sirius needed to hear. He gripped his shoulder hard, reassuring his best friend through the contact.

"I can't love him." He barely got it out, a hoarse whisper into the cold wind.

"You can't stop."

His tears fell harder now, beyond his control. James pulled him into a rough hug. He had been able to take him in when he ran from home, every time. This time was different. He could never take him far enough to run from the pain. But he could, maybe, shield him from the worst of it. Or, at least, share it. When his sobs slowed, then stopped, James shoved him back to arms length, communicating with his eyes the words he couldn't really say. That he was his brother. And he would never leave. "Stay here tonight. You're drunk, I don't want you back on that thing."

Sirius nodded, exhausted and defeated. His head drooped as he followed James through the familiar steps to the living room couch, only looking up when he was sitting on its edge. "When will it end?"

"The war? Or the pain?"

"Either. Both."

He wanted to tell him, soon. Soon, Padfoot. Then you can be happy. We can all be happy. But he had never been able to lie, not to him. "Someday, the war will end. Somehow I doubt the pain ever will."

Sirius laughed, harsh and barklike. He appreciated the truth. He was at the bottom of the stairs before he heard it, soft as the breeze. "Prongs…thanks, mate."

It didn't require an answer. He had done nothing out of the ordinary. Sirius was his, and as his, his responsibility. His to take care of, to look after, to have good times and bad with. Wasn't that the definition of a brother? He could never fill the void Regulus had left, but at least… At least Sirius would never be alone so long as he lived. That, at least, he could promise.

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And he lived…not long. But he loved him. And that's what, to me, makes their friendship so beautiful and so tragic. They would have each died for the other. I love it.

Anyway, wrote this one in the morning. Appropriate. Hope you liked it.