"I've heard your anguish. I've heard your hearts cry
out. We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out. Set down your chains
till only faith remains. Set down your chains. And lend your voices only to
sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be
free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery. And you shall live a life
uncommon." --Jewel, "Life Uncommon"
"Sirius, I have the names…"
My voice trailed off as I entered the living room of my small
cottage. My friend, Sirius Black,
was seated on the window seat, his eyes closed, knees pulled tight, head
resting on them. He was asleep.
I let out a sigh of relief.
Well, at least he was sleeping now instead of pacing the floor of his
spare bedroom like he had the entire night before, and the night before that,
and the night before that. Come to
think of it, I didn't think Sirius had slept an entire night since he'd
arrived, over two weeks ago. I had just
turned to leave, when I heard Sirius moan.
I spun around.
Sirius was still sleeping, but his eyes were now shut
painfully tight and his grip on his knee looked almost painful. He whimpered now, a plea for help. I crossed the room and knelt beside him.
What could I do?
Wake him? Let him sleep? Sirius cried out then, shivering and my
decision was made. I gently shook him and his eyes leapt open.
He was breathing hard and it took a moment before the panic
in his eyes calmed. Then he glanced at
"Sorry, I fell asleep." He muttered. He ran his fingers through his long black
hair distractedly. It's still long, not
as long as when he first escaped, but back to its normal shoulder length, the
way he always had it in school.
"It's alright." I told him. He glanced at the pile of papers
on the desk.
"I better get back to work." he said, and pushed past me to
sit in the chair. I nodded.
"Yeah, sure." He was
shuffling through a stack when I spoke again.
"You know, Sirius, if ever you want to talk," I paused. He
glanced at me. I wondered if he misses
He hadn't seen Cassi or the twins since he left
Hogwarts. He hadn't seen Addi or Mari
since the second set of twins were born back in March, and even then that was
for only a day. I could see he needs them, but his loyalty comes first. That's always been the way with Sirius. Friends and duty comes before all else.
Harry is his duty, his reason for being here now. I know it and he knows it. We
all do. Still, that doesn't keep him
"Yeah?" he prodded me on and I came out of my dream.
"I just mean, if you ever want to talk, I'm here." I told
him. He nodded, not the reaction I was hoping for, and turned back to his work.
I sighed and closed
the door behind me. He still blamed himself, I could see that. Though he'd been free for almost three
years, Azkaban still held on fast to his soul. Well, damnit! There was no way it was going to win. I
wouldn't let it take him from me again.
I don't know why I fell asleep there, I really don't. All I
know is, one moment I was gazing at the
sky through Remus's open window, and the next
I was back there, in that
At least it wasn't as bad as those dreams I'd had the night
before. They were horrible. They made me way up screaming.
I'm not screaming now, but I was crying. Whimpering softly, like the dog I am. Until I was shaken by Remus, I had no idea
that I was even free of that damn hellhole.
But when I opened my eyes, I remembered.
I remembered it all and
it hurt. The weight was back.
I saw Remus and I knew it wasn't real, but that didn't make
it hurt any less.
"Sorry, I fell asleep." I mumbled, trying to convince him it
was just that. He didn't look convinced at all.
"It's alright." He
told me, using that quiet voice he has when he knows you're hiding something
"I better get back to work." anything is better than being
forced under that look. The one he's given me so many times before, the one of
worry and disappointment. I crossed the
room and slumped down in the chair. I really didn't want to go through these
files. But anything was better than remembering.
"You know, Sirius,"
he paused. I could feel his gaze
on my back. I closed my eyes and prayed
he wouldn't push it, "if you ever want
to talk. I'm here." I just nod. I
didn't trust my voice to answer him. Everything would come slipping out then
and he'd know, he'd know it was my fault.
He closed the door behind me and left me alone. Alone with
I had to wonder of this all consuming grief and guilt would
ever go away. The cold that surrounded me
for so many years was still
there, haunting me, pulling me under,
I've been through a lot in my life. I lost my mother at
three days old, and my father at
thirteen. From age thirteen to sixteen, I lived with my grandfather who hated
the sight of my sister and I, beating
the hell out of us any time we stepped out of line, which for me, being quite a
rebellious kid, was all the time. I hid that fact from my friends for almost
four years until, one night, it went too far and we had to leave. It was to Remus's I came. James was out of
town, so I came to him.
God, he was so angry, James too, when they found out. Remus
was angry with the both of us for not telling. He even lectured Addi on
it, I heard, saying that he'd told her his darkest secret, but she'd kept hers
from him, and how did that work in
their relationship? Yes, good old Moony
was dating my twin sister.
I wish them the best, I always have. But then I had Erin. Now Erin was an angel.
Long blond hair, blue eyes. She was gorgeous and kind all at the same
time. But I lost her to Voldemort. Just as I lost my parents. Erin
was killed in our seventh year, on my seventeenth birthday. She was murdered trying to save me from a
deadly curse. The guilt from that
still makes me wince and my heart twist.
And then there was Mari.
My wife now, and the most beautiful loving perfect woman I could ever ask for. But she's got a temper, she does. We used to get into so many fights, still do. God, I love her though. But I feel horrible.
We'd not had four years of marriage when I was hauled off to Azkaban, leaving
her to raise our kids alone.
Now even though I'm on the run, I have five, count 'em, five
beautiful children. Cassi, she's the
oldest, at fourteen, people always say
she looks just like me, which I suppose she does. She's got my black hair and eyes and a knack for
mischief. I love her so much. Then
there are the twins, James and Remus, they were born when I was in prison. But
they allowed me, the courtesy, my lip curls when I think of this, of naming my
own children. Jamie and Remy, we call
them. Perfect mixes of Mari and I, they are.
Jamie has my hair, but Mari's eyes. and Remy has my eyes but Mari's
hair. Then comes Orion. He was born
the year I escaped, after I hid out at Mari's a for a few weeks. He looks like Dad too, with the green eyes
that are a recessive trait in my family, and red hair from his mother, not to
mention the kindness of his grandfather
Then there are the newest additions, the second set of
twins. So far, Cassi is the only
girl. The new twins, Gemini and
Polaris, are barely three months old. I saw them once, only once, and I miss them
so much. I've missed too much of my
children's lives. At least I got to see
Cassi and the twins at Hogwarts. But
it's not enough.
It's never enough. I pulled my legs up onto the chair and
pulled my arms around them. I had no intention of going back to work, not now
when this guilt is pounding in my
veins, every heartbeat reminding me, torturing me, taunting me. James's laugh, Lily's voice, Harry's small cries as he totted around their beautiful home. "Pafoo!" that's what he screamed as he rushed into my
arms every time we came over. James
would grin proudly and Lily would smile
and he'd wrap his strong arms around her and they'd hold each other, watching
proudly as I tossed their son into the air.
I stole that from them, I did. I stole their lives from them, by my own foolishness
I never used to cry. Never.
But now the tears flowed.
It is late when I give up trying to sleep. No, not late.
Early. The sun had not even begun to
rise and won't do so for hours. I hope Sirius is sleeping, though I doubt that
My worry rises and I slip out of bed and go to the window. The moon was only a quarter, it wouldn't be
full for days. A week, even.
I sigh. Sirius's
problems are weighing more and more heavily on my shoulders. I know something
was wrong. Even though thirteen years
had passed, I know him better than I knew myself. I'd seen him go through so
But this time, it is worse. It's even worse than that month
in which he'd lain in the infirmary, unmoving after the attack on him and us by
Voldemort. . We were all so worried, but when he awoke it was better. But then in the weeks following,
you could see the guilt riddled
in his features. I know the look he now wears.
It was that look. The look of complete and agonizing guilt.
I hear a noise downstairs, like something falling. Pulling
on my robes, I go down the stairs to check.
I wonder if Sirius was up.
As I cross the hall and enter the kitchen, I see a dark
shape standing, silhouetted against the moonlight entering from the window.
His features are chiseled in pain, his eyes shut tight. His hand clasped around the handle of a….
A gun! The gun I
knew I should have gotten rid of when I bought this house. But that thought fades as Sirius raises the
I woke up screaming again.
I dreamed they found me and dragged me away. And Remus, and Mari and
Addi and Harry were there, all condemning me.
Even Lily and James refused to help me and stared disgustedly at me.
"You killed us, Sirius." James told me. And I woke up screaming.
The darkness is overwhelming, but I know where I was.
Remus's couch. Not Azkaban with it's bloody cold and torture. Not that small
suffocating cave. Remus's…
I have to get up. I
have to move. The darkness is crushing
in on me. I feel lost, alone, but maybe
it's just this heart-wrenching, mind twisting guilt that is making it hard to
I stumble to the kitchen, looking for something, anything to
make the pain stop. I just want it to
stop, to end so I don't have to see Remus's face when he thinks of James and
Lily, or Harry's when he thinks about the parents he never had. All because of
I knock into something, a small table. The drawer falls open. Out falls something hard and metallic.
Slowly, I bend to pick it up. I know what it is. I was raised a muggle, I know muggle weapons.
Hell, I was trained with them. And I can see this is a muggle gun. I have to wonder what is it doing in Remus's
house. But then, he did say he'd bought the house only recently and that the previous owner had left loads of
his things behind. This was probably one of them.
It's been so long
since I've handled a gun. I used to all that time. I was good with guns. They were my trademarks. If a Death Eater was found murdered with a
bullet, people knew who'd done it. My, or should I say Cerberus's reputation
was widely known. I turn it over and
check. It's loaded. I wonder if Remus knows that either.
I can just picture him, "Put it down, Sirius! You'll put an
eye out." But James would just grin and
"What do you do with it? Can I try?" James was full of curiosity when it came to
Just thinking of James causes my heart to contract and the
squeezing in my chest tightens.
I have to end the
pain, now. I study the gun in my hands. It would be so easy. Just reach up and pull the trigger. That would end everything. Then everyone would be much better off, knowing I was gone.
My hand tightens. Can I do it? I think of my kids, my wife,
and my sister. They've managed so
far. They don't need me, they don't
want me. This would free Mari from the
horrible bond I have her in. She'd be
free to date, turn her life around, and
start fresh. Not be tied to a wretched excuse of a man who can't even spend
more than a week with her.
My heart is pounding. It's the only sound in the whole
house. Slowly, I stare at the moon.
Only a week till it'll be full.
My decision is made now. Slowly, I raise the gun until it is
resting against my temple. I close my
"NO!" My eyes are
wrenched open as Remus grabs the gun.
I fight him for it. I'm stronger
than he is, but he's faster.
He wrenches it from my grip and tosses it out the open
window as if it were about to explode.
But it doesn't, so I do.
"What the hell are you doing!" I scream at him. He looks
shocked then yells right back,
"What am I doing? What were you doing? Trying to kill
yourself? Why, Sirius? Why? Are you
mad?" His eyes are wide, and I see
something in them. Fear, anger, horror, regret.
I can't stand his gaze and I turn away. The crushing weight is doubling now and I can
barely stand. I cannot breathe! I see a
knife, laying on the counter, reflected in the pale moonlight. One cut, and that would be it. It would all be over. All over. God, the
weight is crushing me! I have to stop
I make a dash for it, but Remus is too fast. He grabs my arm
and pulls me back, causing me to slip and fall. I curl up in a ball
against the cabinets. Maybe if I curl up small enough, he'll go away.
I close my eyes. but I jerk when I feel his hand touching my shoulder.
"Sirius?" I try to
shove him away. But he won't leave.
'Sirius, what's wrong?"
"No," I mumble. "Leave me alone, please."
I'll never leave you alone." He
says, gently. I open my eyes and he's
there, smiling gently.
It's too much.
I break down. All my reserves come crashing down and the sobs come.
I bury my face in Remus's offered shoulder and I cry. All I know is Remus is there, that's
all I need right now.
He's standing there, the gun in his hands, pointing at his head. No! he's not actually thinking about!
No! The wolf in me springs to action
before the human can realize what's going on.
I reach him just as his finger tightens and I wrench the gun out of his grasp. He goes for
it again, a crazed look in his eyes and I
force him back. Then I toss it
out the window. At least he can't get
"What the hell are you doing?" he yells at me. Fury builds in me.
"What am I doing?" I shout back, "What were you doing? Trying to kill yourself?" His eyes still
have that crazed glassy look, the one that's not really Sirius, he is
staring at me, looking so
scared. I have to understand, I have to
know. What makes my best friend feel so
alone that he feels there is no other way?
"Why, Sirius? Why? Are you mad?" I'm still angry. He opens his mouth, then closes it
again. He's looking around the room,
desperate now. His eyes fall on the knife. The long one, I used to make our
sandwiches this morning. He moves to it, but I pull him back. He stumbles and falls. I move to help him, but he curls up into the
smallest ball imaginable. His shoulders are shaking. It's strange how such a tall lanky man can curl up into such a small ball.
"Sirius?" I ask,
reaching out to touch his shoulder.
He flinches and pulls away. But I don't give up.
"Sirius, what's wrong?"
"No," I hear him say, his voice muffled by his arm, "Leave
me alone, please." There is a pleading tone to his voice I don't like. It
scares me. It's not Sirius.
"Never." I tell him, meaning every word, "I'll never leave
He glances at me,
and I try to smile reassuringly. Then
he scrambles up and clings to me and
begins to sob. I can only hold him close,
feeling every shattering sob
wrenched from his throat.
It is a long time before he stops.
The morning light awakens me. I open my eyes to find myself
laying on my couch bed. Funny, I think. I thought I was in the
Then the memories of
last night rush into my mind.
Oh God! Remus must think I'm a coward now. He knows it
As if summoned by my thoughts, Remus enters, bearing a tray
of food and two cups, along with a small smile.
"Morning." He says, rather cheerfully. I gaze at him fearfully, then scramble to my feet. The dog in me whimpers for some sort of
"Sit down, Sirius, and eat." Remus orders with the tone of
someone telling a dog to sit. I do,
watching him, the dog
apprehensive. After I finish the
sandwiches and tea, he sighs.
"Sirius, we need to talk." Oh God, here it comes. I close my
"Why?" just the one word, why. It just takes that to make my hand start shaking again.
I close my eyes.
"Just tell me what you're thinking." He says quietly. I take a long breath, trying to steady myself.
The pain is still there, crushing and suffocating me, but the desire to end it is no longer there. I say the one
thing to Remus I know will tell him
"It's my fault."
Tears leak out. God, I haven't cried this much in my life. But now that I've started, I can't stop.
"It's my fault they died. I shouldn't have tried to change it. I should have let it
go, shouldn't have changed. I never
should have told them to use Peter.
It's my fault. It's my fault
they died, and that Harry doesn't have them. It's my fault you had to leave
Hogwarts, both times. It's my fault you
and Addi never settled down, I left
Mari with the kids, I left you alone, I did it all, Moony! It's my fault!" The words are ripping out of me just as sobs
begin their turn.
"Sirius, look at me." I can't. I turn away.
"It wasn't your fault."
He says. I shake my head.
He grabs my shoulder and forces
me to look at him, but I avoid his eyes.
"It wasn't your fault."
It's more forceful now. I still
refuse to look at him and he grabs my face and forces me to look right in his
"It wasn't your fault." I can't tell him. I know it is. I know.
"It was, Moony. It was-"
he interrupts me.
"It. Wasn't. Your. Fault." He says each word slowly, meaning
every bit of it. I frown. For years, I have gone by the belief that
it is. That everything could have been prevented if only I hadn't been a fool. Now a hint of doubt creeps into my analogy.
"Say it." he tells
"But it was-"
"Say it!" he growls.
Then slowly, as if saying these four words is draining me of
all the strength I possess, I speak.
"It wasn't my fault."
I helped him back to
his bed that night and covered him up. I prayed the dreams would leave him
alone tonight, and thankfully they did.
I slipped out only for a minute, to make some lunch later.
And when I return, Sirius is awake.
"Morning," I say. He glances at me, then realization dawns.
He remembers. He leaps off the couch
and looks around franticly. I can
practically see the dog in him urging
him to run.
I sigh. "Sit, Sirius." If he wants to be a dog, I'll treat
him like a dog, "Sit down and eat." He
obeys, but I can see his eyes glancing
to the door far too often.
When he's done, I take the tray back. When I return, he hasn't moved. I sit down across from him in a chair.
"Sirius, we need to talk." I see panic in his eyes. not the
crazed look from last night, just a
flight instinct he's visibly fighting.
He knows this is it.
"Why?" Just the one
word makes his panic build. The wolf in
me, only just beginning to show this
time of month, can smell the fear on him. I continue.
"Tell me why." I say, "Tell me. I need to understand." He shakes his head.
"Just say what you're thinking." I try to smile
encouragingly at him. He takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes as he begins.
"It's my fault."
That one sentence makes it all clear. God, he still doesn't think that.
Does he? I wonder. He can't. He knows it was Peter, he knows I don't
blame him. Or does he? That wild look
in his eyes last night frightened me.
But he's not done.
"It's my fault they died. I shouldn't have tried to change it. I should have let it go,
shouldn't have changed. I never should have told them to use Peter. It's my fault. It's my fault they died, and that Harry doesn't have them. It's
my fault you had to leave Hogwarts, both times. It's my fault you and Addi
never settled down, I left Mari with the kids, I left you alone, I did
it all, Moony! It's my fault!" He's
I have to make him understand! I have to beat it into his
head if all else fails! I owe it to James, Lily, Mari, Addi, Harry. I owe it to Sirius. Goddamnit, I owe it to
myself! I cannot, will not lose my last best friend. I can't be the only one
left again. I refuse!
"Sirius, look at me." He turned away, his shoulders shaking.
I try again.
"It wasn't your fault."
I tell him. He shakes his head.
He has to understand, he has to!
"It wasn't your fault."
It came out as more of a growl than I meant to. But he's not looking at me. I grab his arm and pull him around, making him face me.
"It wasn't your fault." I repeat. He shakes his head.
"It was, Moony. It was-"
God! I want to just slap him and force him to say it. I make him look me in the eye.
"It. Wasn't. Your. Fault." I pronounce each word, slowly.
Then he frowns, as if he's thinking about something. Good, Sirius, think it
"Say it." I tell
him. He glances at me.
"But it was-" I cut
him off. I don't want to hear it.
"Say it!" I growl. Then softly, so softly, I can barely
hear, he says the words.
"It wasn't my fault."
That night I slept soundly for the first time in years. I
had one dream, only one. I'll never forget it?
I was sitting on my bed, back in Hogwarts. I
saw the curtains be dragged aside and Remus, James, and Peter, leapt
onto my bed. They were laughing. They
didn't look a year over sixteen.
"We missed you, Padfoot." James told me.
"Sorry." I said.
'Don't worry about it. Everyone gets colds." Remus said, grinning.
I smiled. Then James grinned.
"Happy Birthday!" He tossed a small brown wrapped
package at me.
"It's too bad, you're sick on your birthday." Remus said,
"But we got you a gift anyway."
"Your real party will wait till you get better." Peter said,
"Wormtail!" James and Remus yelled at him. I grinned,
getting the feeling he wasn't supposed to say anything.
"Go on. Open it." Remus told me. I tore off the paper, and found a small photo frame. It was bordered with iron casts of dogs, deer, wolves and
rats. Set in the bottom were the words,
Together forever, never apart. Maybe in distance, but never at heart. Our motto.
Then I saw the picture.
It was of all six of us, taken
two years ago on the beach.
James, Remus, Peter, Lily, Erin, Addi and I all grinned at the camera,
I smiled, slowly.
"You guys are the best."
"Well, you'll never forget us." James said, smiling. Then
his face changed. He was older, twenty now.
We were standing outside his home in Godrics Hollow. Lily was waiting
for him in the doorway, her arms wrapped around Harry.
James looked at me
long and hard.
"Friends never say goodbye, Sirius. They only say
hello." My throat was tight and I
Then Lily came up to him. "It's not your fault,
Sirius." She said, in her beautiful
voice. She reached up and kissed me,
once on each cheek. James smiled.
"Take care of Moony and Harry for me. We trust you, Padfoot."
He told me. One look in their eyes and I know.
I know I am forgiven. I smile.
Then I close my eyes.
When I open them, I see Remus sitting in that damned old
rocking chair. He's sleeping. He has insisted on sleeping in the same room with
me since it happened. But he doesn't
have to worry anymore.
"I will, James. I promise.
I'll take care of Remus and Harry.
I swear." And I intend to keep
my promise. As long as I have my friends and my family, I'll survive. For now,
I have Remus. And that is all I need.
A few days after
everything calmed down a bit, I called Mari and he spoke to her for a long
time. She visited, brining all the
kids. That helped some, along with
letters from Harry, and Addi, who
reassured him they didn't blame him in
We have a long way to go.
Sirius still blames himself
sometimes. But he's getting better. I
can see the weight of guilt is gone, no longer crushing him as it did. It's almost as if he's had some sort of forgiveness. I hope so. It's a small
step on this long road he walks, but at
least he won't be alone.
My friend is back. Al last, after all these years, I'm not
alone anymore. And that is all I need.