He looped the string around the two crossed sticks again. And again. And even once more. He held his creation back to look at it. It looked like an eye. A God's Eye. That's what it was.
He snarled, snapping it in half and throwing it across the yard. He leapt out of the tree and bolted through the woods, into the back door of his house. The wood creaked and he heard glass crash and break in the next room.
They knew he was there. They knew he'd been outside.
A shriek rang through the air, an angry mother calling his name. He straightened, facing his fear and pulling up a face of pure smugness, contrary to what his insides were now feeling like.
"Yes?" He asked, walking in to the room. Red velvet covered the floor, the walls, and even the chairs around. "You screamed?"
A small bolt of lightning shot out at him. He relaxed every muscle in his body, determined not to flinch. The bolt flashed just past his ear, singeing it at the lobe.
"Don't get smart with me, you incompetent leech!" She screamed, pacing the room. Sirius rolled his eyes, but stopped as he saw the chair behind her shift ever so slightly. The huge easy chair usually faced away from the door, and you couldn't tell if anyone was sitting in it unless they either got up or moved so roughly the chair reallocated.
His father was in the room.
Sirius paled for an instant before glaring at his mother again, all questions of fear gone from his expression.
"What have I done now, Mother?" He asked crossly.
"You were outside again! How many times have I told you not to go outside?" His mother shouted. He shrugged.
"A few thousand times," He answered truthfully.
"How many more times am I going to have to tell you?"
"At least one more, always." Sirius smirked as his mother changed to a red color. She was angry.
"Calm down, please."
Sirius couldn't suppress a shudder down his arms. His father put down his evening newspaper and stood, turning to face his son. His face was uncharacteristically calm, he must be furious.
Sirius took on a face of apathy and stared him down.
His mother nodded, crossing her arms and waiting for her husband's judgment. Orion Black simply stood, staring at Sirius as if he was a bug about to be squashed.
"You, young man." He started in a chillingly tranquil voice. "You are nothing."
The pang of surprise was quickly squashed back down before his parents could detect it.
"You think you're so great," His father continued, taking a step closer to Sirius. Sirius didn't move. "You think you're so popular; those Gryffindor traitors you hang around have messed with your head."
"The past four years of your life have completely torn you away from your family, you wretch." His father continued. "And you no longer believe in the Pure-Blood way of life."
"I never have, Father," Sirius argued. "I've known James since long before Hogwarts, and you're half the man he is."
"Yes," His father let the insult slide for the moment as he took another step toward his son. "Your fraternizing with the Potter family has more than likely attributed to your ever-growing rebellion." A glint ran past his eyes. "That boy is no better than dirt, you know."
"Liar!" Sirius now took a step backward, away from his father. "You're a bloody liar."
"Do not talk that way to your father, Sirius!" Pain ran through Sirius' face. He held a hand to his cheek where a long cut now sat. Blood ran down his cheek and dripped onto the already red floor.
"That friend Pettigrew is no better," Orion went on, taking a large step forward to reach Sirius. "The fat little rat is as smart as a candy bar, which I have no doubt he uses as his daily sustenance."
Panic was now whelping up in Sirius. He pushed into the back of his mind. He can't show fear in front of them. Not when they'll throw it back in his face and make it worse.
They knew about his friends. Someone must have been spying on his for his family. Regulus, no doubt. He'd have to hex him during school in the next few weeks.
"Then there's sweet little Remus." His father smirked at Sirius' expression now. "He's a Mudblood, isn't he?"
"You shut up," He whispered.
"No matter if he is or not, there's something strange about that child; constantly disappearing every now and again. You can't trust someone who's always on the run from other people." His father went on. Sirius backed up farther, gritting his teeth to hold back his rage. "And from my information, the boy is a poof; he's nothing but an exotic faggot in both your eyes and society's."
"Shut…. Up." Sirius clamped his eyes shut, turning his head away. He'd be damned if his parents saw him cry.
"Let's be honest, son. You're hanging out with these people to spite us. They're hanging out with you for popularity." Sirius' father took a rather large step forward, grasping Sirius by the shoulders and shaking him slightly.
"They don't trust you, you know." His father whispered. "They say they're your friends now, but once that friendship's put to the test, they'll run so quickly away from you, you won't be able to see them move. You're a Black at heart, Sirius. They know that. We know that. Why don't you know that?"
Sirius swallowed his nerves and jerked himself away from his father's clutches.
"You're a LIAR!" He turned and bolted up the stairs.
Liars. They were all liars. Why should he listen to them? They knew nothing about him and his friends.
Sure, he had made friends with James Potter with full intentions of spiting his parents. The Potters were known around the Wizarding World as Blood-Traitors and Mudblood Supporters. And when the opportunity arose to make trouble for his hateful parents, Sirius couldn't help but jump at the occasion. He knew the only reason he'd tried to become friends with James was to prove he could. He had no interest in friends.
Then James showed him what having friends could do to someone. Peter and Remus had come into their group of comrades, and now Sirius couldn't imagine ever spending a day without thinking about them with absolute trust.
But was it the same for them?
Damn his father for putting these ideas in his head! Of course Peter and James trusted him beyond all belief. Of course Remus would always be there for him, as he would always be for him.
But what if the "of course's" were wrong?
What if beyond their smiling faces, beyond their shining eyes, beneath the endless laughter was a deep mistrust? What if they were his friends first, but always saw him as a Black immediately after?
He hadn't noticed until now that he was crying. Had his parents really messed with him that much? Was he still able to be influenced by their support or opinions, even when he constantly told himself he wouldn't care?
Well, no matter, the crying had to stop. Black's did cry, and Sirius was no exception. He almost scratched the tears away, burying his head into his pillow and awaiting another night of insomnia.
A few months later sat Sirius exactly where he wanted to be. In the Gryffindor Common room, talking with his friends like nothing had changed. It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday, where they were dutifully awaiting the full moon for the night. Sirius took pride in comforting Remus in the hours before, especially when he couldn't be there this time for detention. He made it his personal mission in life to make Remus laugh.
"It won't be so bad tonight," James insisted.
"It's always bad," Remus countered coldly, as was his custom on these days.
"But you'll have us, mate, and a whole Sunday to recover. You won't even miss any classes!" Peter replied. Remus shrugged.
"Well, I guess that's a good thing."
"And you can still help us with ours!" Sirius added. Remus chuckled a bit.
"Well it is Double Potions Monday, and I just can't take that kind of pressure without my live Potions Book." Sirius wrapped his arms around Remus, giving him a tight hug. This made Remus laugh out loud.
"I guess you would fail." He shrugged. "All right, so maybe it's a little better than usual. At least we're not in a Blue Moon month."
"We don't have another one of those until next year, Moony. Don't worry; we look ahead for this stuff." Sirius reassured him. James pulled out the calendar to prove it.
"Thanks, guys." Remus shivered slightly. "You're always there for me."
Something was wrong, Padfoot could sense it. It took all he could muster to not transform in front of Professor McGonagall during his detention and bolt from the classroom in dog-form.
His mind didn't know where he was going. He let his feet lead him. Up one flight of stairs, around three corridors, to the left of the Old Hag, down two stairs….
He was in front of the Hospital Wing.
He frowned. Remus should've been transformed for another few hours or so, at least. Why was Padfoot leading him here?
"Hello?" He called into the ward, taking a few steps. Two boys stood huddled over a bed, where Madam Pomfrey was busy treating someone. "Prongs? What happened?"
James whirled around, eyeing Sirius. Sirius frowned, cocking an eyebrow.
"Is something wrong?" He asked again. "Where's Moony?"
James exchanged glances with Peter. Both looked worn out and a little bloody. Sirius wondered if maybe they'd been a bit late in transforming with Remus and got attacked. Worrying, he closed the distance between them and stared at both of them, utterly confused.
The two boys moved away from the bed and simply made Sirius more confused.
Severus Snape lay on the bed, his face slashed and a little beaten up.
"Whoa!" Sirius looked away. "What happened to him? Did you two find him?"
"We did find him," He whispered so Madam Pomfrey couldn't hear. He sounded angry. Furious, even. "Guess where?"
"This is Snape, how can you expect me to know that answer?" Sirius asked.
James swallowed harshly and looked away, balling his hands into fists. He waited until Madam Pomfrey left for her office and cast a silencing bubble around the three Marauders.
"We found him in the Shrieking Shack!" James bellowed. Sirius' mouth dropped.
"What?" He became suddenly worried. "Is he okay? Did he get hurt at all? What about Remus? Is Remus all right?"
James punched him.
Not the friendly kind of punch, like in the stomach that only knocks the air out of you, but an all-out, I'm-going-to-kill-you punch to the jaw.
Sirius sprawled on the floor, more shocked than ever.
"You bastard!" James yelled. "You aren't even man enough to admit it!"
"Admit what?" Sirius stood shakily, rubbing his jaw. "I have no clue what you're talking about!"
"You little liar!" James screamed, throwing his arms in the air. "We have the confession from Snape himself, you idiot, so just give it up and own up to what you did!"
"I would gladly do so," Sirius seethed. "If I knew what I was being accused of."
James screamed in rage.
"How could you do this to us?" He yelled. "We're your friends; we've been here for you for five years now. Does that mean anything to you?"
"It means everything to me!" Sirius replied just as loudly. "But I'd rather like to know exactly what I'm being accused of doing!"
"You told Snape about Remus!"
Sirius' mouth dropped again. His eyes widened and his mind was blank in disbelief.
"What?" He asked in a whisper. James huffed.
"That's right," He growled. "We know. Snivellus told us before he passed out. You told him about Remus and that he should go check it out for himself."
"I—what—no!" Sirius shook his head. "I didn't! How could I? I've been with you guys all day."
"He says you told him over the summer." Peter interjected, finally gaining the courage to speak.
"Is that what you've been doing over the summer when we get no word from you? Fraternizing with the Slytherins and Pure Bloods?"
"I don't have a choice in that matter, James!" Sirius argued. "My parents make me do that." He shifted his glance from person to person. "But I swear, guys, I didn't tell him anything."
"Yeah, right," Peter muttered. "Why would he tell us that you did, then?"
"I don't know!" Sirius yanked at his hair.
"Why would he think to blame you if you hadn't done it?" James hollered.
Sirius took a deep breath, willing himself not to cry. He clenched his fists together and stood straight.
"Are you going to believe a Slytherin—who we've been at war with for the past five years—over one of your fellow Marauders?"
James was shaking. He was so angry; Sirius became wary of other fists that might come flying toward him.
But nothing threatened Sirius. James took a shaky lungful of air and spoke.
"You are no Marauder."
There was pain behind what he said. Sirius could feel it. His voice had cracked mid sentence, and he kept his eyes wide open so he wouldn't blink tears.
But the words probably stung Sirius more. His father's words rang through his ears at that exact moment. His fists drooped and his mouth hung open.
"They say they're your friends now, but once that friendship's put to the test, they'll run so quickly away from you, you won't be able to see them move."
His eye twitched. His hands were in his hair and trying to rip it out before he knew it. The conflicting thoughts in his head panged agonizingly, different sets of emotions battled for dominancy. Bite your tongue out, scream, punch something, pass out, fall over, die, run away, kill Snape, find Remus, pull your hair out. Curse, break something—James' nose, your hand, anything—stop the pain, make an excuse, don't listen to—
"They don't trust you, you know."
"They're hanging out with you for popularity."
"You are nothing."
"You can't trust someone who's always on the run from other people."
"You're a Black at heart, Sirius. They know that."
A Black at heart.
Something inside Sirius snapped; a small cord in the back of his brain shattered to pieces, and with a cold indignation, he shut the pain from his eyes frigidly.
He'd be damned if he let them see him cry.
He saved his sanity by cutting himself off from his friends. He pulled air into his lungs through his nostrils until he couldn't draw any more.
Sirius turned and left.
He came early in the morning, before James or Peter would even think of being up. But even then, Remus would still be up. Even mornings after the full moon, he would be up this early in the morning.
Sirius walked into the Hospital Wing, instantly catching sight of Severus Snape. The boy was awake now; he lay staring at the ceiling. His arms were crossed and he held a smirk as Sirius entered.
Sirius strove to the left, where he knew Remus would be lying awake. He pulled back the curtains and stared at the battered werewolf.
He looked much like he usually did on days after the full moon; his arms were cut and scarred, and his ribs stuck out from his body as he breathed slowly. Sirius took in the sight quietly, as if Remus hadn't recognized him yet.
Merlin, Remus was beautiful, even in this horrible state.
"Moony," He made his presence officially known, with his crackling voice.
Remus turned to stare at him, a glare in his expression.
"You've got some nerve coming here."
The last bit of hope Sirius had stored leapt off of its pedestal with a noose around its neck. He could feel it struggling from the pressure and the lack of air in his head, gurgling and giving off death rattles.
"Remus," Maybe there was chance to save the hope, to cut the rope that held it to its death. "I didn't do it, I swear."
"Yeah, right." Remus snarled. "That's not what Severus said!"
"Why is everyone taking Snivellus' word over mine?" Sirius whimpered, practically begging for a reason to save his hope.
"He was nearly beaten to death, Sirius." Remus seethed. "I almost killed him. He's lucky I didn't bite him, did you realize that?" Sirius wasn't given a chance to respond. "But I don't think you did. You usually have the brains to think before you speak, but I guess this time you thought of the laugh before the consequences."
Hope was just shot in the thigh with a rifle. It screeched helplessly, still kicking and suffocating slowly.
"Remus," Sirius had to do something, quickly, before he lost what was left of his sanity. "I didn't do anything."
"James said you told him about it over the summer." Remus continued, sitting up on the hospital bed. "And you talked him into it just two or three nights ago." Remus sealed his eyes shut. "Why would you do that to us, Sirius? We're your friends!"
"I didn't do it, Remus!" Sirius insisted. Remus growled.
"And still you deny it, even when we've caught you in your lie!"
"Stop lying!" Remus threw his covers off and fought to stand up. Sirius held out a hand and gripped Remus by the arm. Remus yanked his arm away, leaving a throbbing feeling in his fingertips. "Why do you continue to lie to us after we already have a confession?"
Sirius was close to ripping his hair out. His eyes blazed dangerously and even Remus took a step back to keep out of range. He kept his voice gravely quiet.
"Why would you believe a Slytherin over me?"
"Not this again," He murmured. "Get out. I don't want you talking to me until you can tell me the truth."
Dumbfounded, Sirius could do nothing but stare. His eyes stared unblinkingly at Remus as the boy flopped back onto the bed and turned his back to Sirius. His jaw dropped and his legs refused to move.
Suddenly feeling very alone and humiliated, Sirius turned and left the curtained-off room.
He knew it was going to happen soon. It didn't surprise him when Professor McGonagall came into tell him he'd been summoned by the Headmaster. Apparently his old friends had expected it, as well. He glanced at their expressions before leaving.
James had a look of glee on his face. He was always one to hold a grudge, and he was big on justice. He'd probably been waiting for this moment for the last two days, since it happened.
Peter looked slightly sympathetic. He was a very believable person, and he had more than likely spent the last two days going over everything that happened, looking for an answer.
Remus had a stony look of cold indifference. He met Sirius' pleading expression callously before switching back to his book. He took a deep breath, shrugged, and flipped a page, completely oblivious to Sirius.
An icy shiver ran down Sirius' spine. He wouldn't be getting any help from any of them. He would be on his own. He couldn't help but hear his father's words ring through his head with a new clarity. The truth panged though his head and his heart, and he strangled a crazed sob before it could reach his lips.
"They say they're your friends now, but once that friendship's put to the test, they'll run so quickly away from you, you won't be able to see them move. You're a Black at heart, Sirius. They know that. We know that. Why don't you know that?"
His father had been right. That knowledge alone nearly killed him. The light dimmed from his eyes and his empathy split in two, severing itself with a dull blade to keep his sanity.
His father was right.
He was a Black. His friends had known that all along. They'd just been waiting for him to screw up, and now they had their chance.
Hatred swelled into his core, a fierce malice slithered into his essence and wrapped itself around his heart. It constricted around his lungs, almost making him pass out. His friends had expected this from him. To the point where they were quick to disbelieve him when the chance arose.
Fine. If they didn't want to acknowledge him, he wouldn't give them the pleasure of receiving any sort of excuse from him.
He tilted his chin into the air, sniffed loudly, and walked stiffly out of the Common Room.
"Would you mind telling me your side of the story?" Dumbledore sat in his chair, leaning back and popping a lemon drop in his mouth.
Sirius sat in this all-too-familiar chair, crossing his arms resentfully and rolling his eyes.
"There's no use in tell it," He snarled spitefully. "You'll just believe what you've already been told." Dumbledore blinked, shifting his ever-calculating gaze from Sirius to his motionless fingers, inches from his mouth.
"Will I?" He asked, pushing the bowl of candies toward Sirius. "And why is that?"
"Because I'm a Black." Sirius snarled, kicking one leg over the other and leaning back in his own chair.
The look Dumbledore was giving him now resembled something Sirius would call shock.
"Suddenly it matters to you what your surname is?" Dumbledore questioned, staring down through the bridge of his half-moon glasses.
"Apparently so," Sirius growled. "Everyone else always cared, so I figured, why not join the crowd?" If they'd wanted Hope to die, they should have not talked to him in the first place so he could have joined the crowd sooner.
There was silence for a moment as Dumbledore pushed the lemon drops closer to the fifth-year.
Sirius was irritated enough, but the scratching sound the bowl of candies made as they were nudged in his direction maddened him further. His arm lurched forward and then swept in the opposite direction, striking at the bowl and knocking it to the floor.
"So tell me your side of the story." Dumbledore suggested, ignoring the sudden outburst of anger after a sorrow-filled glance toward the candies. Sirius sighed. He knew he would end up telling what had happened, and he didn't want to waste time. He took a deep breath and started.
"I didn't do it."
"So what did you do?"
"I went to detention with Min—Professor McGonagall. I got a horrible feeling and decided to act on it, so I ran to the hospital wing and found Snivellus half-mangled to death. James and Peter said that I told the slimy little Slytherin about Remus' lycanthropy, but I swear I didn't. I don't even talk to the idiot unless I'm hexing him." Dumbledore gave him that shrewd look through the top of his glasses again.
"You didn't tell him?"
Sirius once again stared dumbstruck. His mouth opened in a desperate attempt to get words out, but he couldn't get more than a few incredulous squeaks.
And suddenly the words were running out before he could have a chance to stop them, calculate them, form them into regular sentences.
"I wouldn't do that. Not to my friends! I'm not just hanging out with them for popularity! I'm not a Slytherin, and damn it, I'm not nothing!" He stood up and kicked the chair out from underneath him, smashing the legs with his foot. "I'm not, I'm not, I'm NOT!"
His breathing was erratic, his fists doubled up and his longer-than-usual nails dug into the palms of his hands and drew blood. Dumbledore stood, a new kind of glint in his eyes.
"Thank you, Mr. Black," His tone was unreadable, and it sucked the rest of Sirius' optimism from him. "That will be all."
"I'm not to be punished?" Sirius seemed a little puzzled. Dumbledore shook his head sadly.
"No," He started. "Before this is over, I think you'll put yourself through enough."
Sirius growled, wiping his nose angrily as he looked over the window of the owlery. He stared at the ground, rubbing his gloves together. His breath came out; he saw the puffs of air ascend into the sky. His ebony hair drifted into his face and guarded his vision from what he was waiting for.
It wasn't like he wouldn't be able to hear the wings flapping.
While Dumbledore didn't see fit to punish him two weeks ago at their meeting, Professor McGonagall was intent on writing to his parents and informing them on the situation, and on Sirius' current disposition.
It wasn't Sirius' fault he'd punched that Ravenclaw yesterday. The Ravenclaw mocked his friendlessness and his face accidentally found its way to Sirius' fist. It entirely wasn't his fault.
It also wasn't his fault that the Hufflepuff the day before had been sent to the Infirmary with one wing for an arm. Sirius clearly remembered The Hufflepuff taunting him while he was in a surly mood (which was always, now) and had warned him that "hey, there's a hex flying at you, you'd better duck."
Not that it mattered. They lived in the same dorm room and still the Marauders refused to speak to him. He didn't mind, though. After a while the pain dulled down to a blunt dig in his side, and soon he could ignore his loneliness altogether.
That didn't stop the surliness from settling in, though. If the Marauders couldn't stand to be around him, no one would. He made sure of that. Even the Sirius Black Fan Club was having second thoughts about him.
He was just getting over the loss of his closest confidents. Thinking about them wasn't that hard anymore; he'd closed off any emotion that would allow him to cry for them or around them. For his own survival he'd configured his mind to go instantly from sad or panicked to backed-into-a-corner angry. He lashed out at anything or anyone who reminded him of his old friends, to suppress his rage and his agony.
The telltale flap of wings brought Sirius out of his irritated thoughts, and a large, brown owl seated itself on the window sill next to Sirius.
With trembling hands Sirius took the letter from the owl. He broke the family seal on the front and tore the letter from the envelope.
He shrieked. There were only four words on the parchment in his hands, written in his father's script with thin, spiky loops and jerky, sudden curves.
"I told you so."
He fought with his hands. His fingers itched to rip the paper to shreds. He struggled to keep his digits from doing the deed. With an exertion that most people could never match, he delicately folded up the parchment and tucked it into his robe pocket.
This letter would be his liberation from the pain. His father had been right all along. His friends weren't his friends after all, and they had deserted him rather than believe him. Was that all he was to them? Some expendable person they would just throw away when they started to doubt him?
No. He told himself. He shook his head roughly. Thinking like that wouldn't do him any good. It would only make him grow more unstable than he already was, and he needed time away from those destructive thoughts to heal before he could try and tackle them.
The new voice made him jump. He backed into a corner and listened as footsteps came closer to his only way out. He trained his ears in that direction and scowled. The shocking pain wracked through his chest again, and even as he fought it back into submission, he knew this would be a tough battle.
"What are you talking about, Remus?"
"I heard someone scream."
"Oh, come on, it could have been anything, you could have—"
The three Marauders stopped as they met Sirius' cold glare.
He would not let them affect him.
He'd be damned if they saw a Black cry.
"Oh," James' voice didn't have its usual hard edge to it. It confused Sirius slightly, though he refused to let his uncertainty show. "It's you."
"Well, I'm sorry," Sirius drawled. He made a deliberate circle around the three Marauders, keeping his distance until he came close to the exit. "If I knew you would be coming up here, I would have made sure to be on the other side of the castle." He made his voice as vindictive as possible. Instinctively, the others backed up away from the door. He turned about it to leave. "Good day."
Remus' arm flew into his path, blocking his escape. Sirius growled like a dog. He stopped himself from shoving Remus out of the way and looked over the werewolf.
Remus looked worse for wear. His eyes had sunken in and he looked as if he hadn't brushed his auburn hair in weeks. His pretty golden eyes were puffy red-lined now, like he'd been crying nonstop for a long time. It made Sirius want to reach out and make him stop feeling so horribly. Sirius wanted to take him in his arms and hold him until he didn't suffer such dreadful emotions.
But then he realized that if he tried to take Remus in his arms, Remus would strike at him, cry out, and he would have three angry Marauders on him again.
Instead of doing what he wanted to do, he sighed and swallowed thickly.
"What do you want?" He wrangled with his tone to keep it from breaking and seem like he was begging.
"I want my friend back."
Sirius blinked, daring himself to believe what Remus was saying. He glanced at the boy, locking eyes with him. Remus seemed sincere.
"Do you?" Sirius decided to answer a question with a question.
"More than anything," Remus continued. Sirius could see his arm shaking with nervousness as he held it before Sirius, stopping his getaway. "James and Peter do, too. We talked it over last night."
Well… maybe it wouldn't hurt him to hear them out.
"Go on," Sirius encouraged. He wouldn't let his voice sound hopeful.
"We've missed you these last few weeks, Sirius." Remus' voice was quiet. The boy did it on purpose, to make Sirius listen. "It hasn't been the same without you around."
Sirius slightly relaxed and allowed his eyes to brighten a little bit. Remus seemed sure of himself. Maybe they'd realized that he hadn't told all along; maybe they were willing to apologize.
Yes, now that he thought about it, he'd let himself suffer these past few weeks, hoping the time would come when his friends would find out the truth and acknowledge him. They would welcome him back again, and they'd sit around laughing again, getting drunk and pulling pranks until their throats closed up from too much laughter.
Yes, they would—
"We're willing to forget the mistakes you made, and we'll forgive you for what you did," Remus continued.
Sirius' eyes snapped back toward Remus. The motion made Remus jerk slightly. Sirius' eyes transformed back into their listless, unforgiving glaze and he scoffed, trying to kill the dire—nearly suicidal at this point—sob before it reached his throat. The letter rang in his head again.
"I told you so."
"I told you so."
"I told you so."
"I told you so."
"I told you so."
"I don't want it," He grumbled.
Remus looked stunned. James closed his eyes and shook his head, as if he knew what was going to happen. Peter hiccupped, a sure-fire way to tell when he was surprised beyond belief.
"I don't want to be forgiven for something I didn't do." Sirius slapped Remus' hand away from the doorway. "If you're going to believe a Slytherin over one of your best friends, then I don't know why I keep hanging around, when I know you're never going to believe me."
Remus stared with his mouth open in unconcealed astonishment. His eyes glared daggers and when he spoke, he meant for acid to pour from his mouth and do as much damage as it could. Sirius could feel the hurt coming from him.
"What?" He repeated. "You won't take my forgiveness?"
"I did nothing that needs to be forgiven," Sirius answered, starting to walk away. "If you won't believe me, you're not the friends I thought you were."
"We're not the friends?" Remus yelled. Sirius continued walking down the spiraling steps, away from the furious boy. "What about you? Walking away from us with your head hung low; as if you were guilty you nearly caused the death of one of your enemies." He took a breath and continued, just as loudly. "But that's to be expected of you, I suppose. Taught to think of your personal gain before others, isn't that right?" He drew in as much air as he could and cried out in a loud voice. "Always the Black at heart."
"Remus!" James hissed. "You went too far—"
"No I didn't," Remus interrupted. "I'm stating what no one else is willing to. He's acting like a Black. A cold, malicious, conniving, Black. But it's to be expected, what with him living around them all his life. Why shouldn't he betray anyone at first glance?"
"You take that back," Sirius pleaded, allowing his voice to break finally. He fists shook.
"Remus, maybe you'd better—"
"I won't, I tell you!"
"Take it back, Remus," Sirius was practically begging by now, pleading, imploring Remus not to confirm with irrevocability that his father's words were true.
"You know what, Sirius?" Remus' eyes flashed. "Go to hell."
Sirius looked over the side of the stairs, raising an eyebrow. When he looked back he could see James poised to leap at him, as if he expected Sirius to jump.
Sirius expected to jump. It was a long drop, from his estimation, he would be unconscious and unaware of any pain when he hit the ground, and a fall like that would kill him instantly. Yes, that would get him and the forgiveness that he obviously needed out of Remus' hair.
But no, he thought. Now that he was alone he would have to lean on his family teachings to survive. Giving an enemy what they want is out of the question. If Remus wanted him gone, he'd have to do it by force.
So Sirius sniffed loudly, placing his coldest, hardest stare into his eyes and bowed deeply at the waist, spreading his arms out to his sides. He stayed there for two seconds before rising. He met Remus' hurt, angry stare with his blank one.
"Sirius is already there."
Remus kicked the wall. He threw hexes at the large bricks in the dungeon and screamed within the Marauders' Silent Charm.
Peter squeaked quietly. James winced, a little more than frightened at the day's events.
At first he thought that Sirius was just vain, trying to get his friends to believe a lie that he didn't send Snape down the Willow. He thought that Sirius had gone too far with the pranks. James had never wanted to kill anyone, and when he heard Snape say that Sirius told him about Remus, James thought he would be sick. Who was his friend, anyway?
But now he wasn't so sure.
It'd been two weeks since that horribly incident, so why hadn't Sirius come clean, yet? If they obviously weren't going to believe his lie, why would he cling to it like he did? The look on his face that morning in the owlery made James think that Sirius had a choice of saving hope or saving sanity, and to choose one would mean to brutally murder the other. The look in Sirius' eyes said that he would give almost anything to have his friends back.
But not forgiveness.
The one thing Remus was willing to offer Sirius was slain, its throat cut and bleeding on the owlery floor. When Remus was talking about reconciliation, James could see Sirius' eyes soften; he looked as if he was going to open up and let them be his friends again. But the moment Remus said they'd forgive him for the mistakes he made, the look that made Sirius—well, not Sirius—came back.
And if that wasn't bad enough, James now thought that Sirius was completely suicidal, what with his looking over the owlery staircase to see how long the fall was. Then during the potions lesson he went and did the whole potion by himself, James was sure he was going to make it blow up on himself and kept a watch on him the whole time, his wand poised to counter.
James was now starting to think that maybe Sirius was telling the truth.
Remus hadn't been happy to hear James speculate on the subject. Obviously, he was still hurting from the rejection that morning.
"How can you even think that?" Remus shouted, hitting another dungeon wall.
"Were you even paying attention this morning?" James asked. "When you started talking, he looked just about ready to do anything to have us talk to him again."
"Well, he didn't much feel like apologizing." Remus spat.
"Maybe he's got nothing to apologize for," James suggested meekly. Remus growled.
"So you believe him now?"
"Why would he lie for two weeks and not want a chance to get back with us like he obviously wants to do?"
"Prove it," Remus challenged. "Prove that he might be telling the truth, and I'll listen."
James frowned. How could he prove that Sirius was telling the truth? There were certainly no witnesses to Snape's story, since it happened over the summer, and Snape hadn't brought any friends with him on his little adventure down the Whomping Willow.
But he might brag about it.
James threw his backpack to the ground and opened it suddenly, pulling out the Invisibility Cloak. He looked around to make sure no one was looking and threw it over the three, shrinking the Silent Charm to fit just underneath the cloak and around them.
"Now come on," James ordered.
"Where are we going?" Remus asked.
"The Slytherin Common Room."
It wasn't the first time they'd broken into the Slytherin Common Room. It certainly wouldn't be the last. They slipped in quietly, looking around for a nice place to stake out so they could hear all but not be heard.
Lucky for them, Snape and some of his friends were in the Common Room, and apparently talking—bragging, more like—about their accomplishments. James pushed Peter and Remus into the nearby corner and stopped to listen.
"Yeah, I got Narcissa to go out on a date with me," Lucius bragged, flipping his long blonde hair back and readjusting himself on the Slytherin couch. "Our families are expecting us to marry, anyway, but sometimes women have to have an extra push into agreeing the first time, you know?"
They laughed their agreement. Bellatrix slapped Lucius over the head, Narcissa being her sister and all.
"Yeah, well," Regulus hit his chest proudly. "My parents congratulated me on such a good plot to bringing our family back together."
"Yes, I hear the Black unity has been strained for the last five or so years," Bella contributed. "Ever since your dear brother started school here."
"There's no need to worry about that anymore." Regulus smugly added. "Thanks to old Severus here."
"Ah, brought the Black family back together, did you?" Lucius sneered. Snape shrugged.
"I'm all about unity," He smoothed his greasy black hair back behind him and stood to flip his chair around backwards to sit in.
"So what did he do?" Bellatrix asked. "It must have been extremely hard."
"I don't know details," Regulus insisted, thumping Snape on the back harshly. "I just suggested to my parents that they show my brother what his friends would really think of him if some doubt should happen to appear. Snape did the rest."
"Oh!" Bella clapped her hands together and laughed maliciously. "Is that why you were in the Hospital Wing for a few days two weeks back?"
"It was," Snape admitted.
"Can we have details?" Lucius asked.
"I was just supposed to take the information Mr. Black supplied me and use it to cause his friends to be furious with him. I did something, and after I got caught I told them that Sirius told me about it and that I should try it." Snape shrugged.
Three mouths dropped.
"What kind of information did Mr. Black give you?" Bella asked. Regulus huffed, crossing his arms and looking frustrated.
"Father won't tell me what it was he told Severus," He explained. "And Dumbledore forbade Severus to talk about it."
"Looks like you'll never know," Snape taunted.
James was hurdled out of the conversation as Remus stamped his foot.
"I've seen enough," Remus whispered harshly. Even with the Silent Charm around the cloak, it was still necessary to speak quietly. "Can we go now?"
James nudged Peter, who looked sick, and together the three came bolting out of the Slytherin Common Room. James pulled the Invisibility Cloak from above them, and none of them stopped running until they were safely in their own dorm room.
Sirius cringed again, bringing his knees up to his chest, looking over the side of the Astronomy Tower. He sat on the windowsill, blinking away silent tears.
Why was he crying? The tears wouldn't help him. His friends weren't coming back. He'd accepted that. His mind had accepted it. Why couldn't his soul?
He wiped away the offending tears angrily, shaking his head roughly and nearly losing balance. He looked over the side of the sill, judging how long it would take him to fall unconscious if he happened to fall.
No one would care, really. What was he to the world? A Black. Blacks cared about no one but themselves. Why should anyone care about a Black?
He still didn't understand fully what had happened. He was being blamed for something a Slytherin accused him of doing. His friends had hated him for even the thought of him doing something against them.
Was it really so hard to trust him?
It's not like he went around blabbing everyone secrets. He'd yet to tell anyone about his beloved Remus' "furry little problem". No one but him knew that Peter had a glandular problem that somehow caused him to gain more weight than was necessary. And he'd never told that James sometimes wanted Lily to be his so much that he cried himself to sleep, and even sometimes crawled into Sirius' bed to make sure he wasn't by himself during the night.
There was no reason at all for him to be treated like this.
Yet they still insisted on regarding him as a horrible person; as a Black.
He was just about to the breaking point.
Which is why—metaphorically speaking—he was sitting on the edge of the highest possible window he could think of.
It slightly surprised him when he smelled the presence of someone else in the tower with him. He had come up here hours ago; he probably hadn't moved since then. It was freezing outside and had been for at least an hour. He'd refused to move the whole time. He just sat there, letting the cold seep into him. His pours absorbed it, reveled in it, nearly worshipped it. It was as if he was acclimating himself to the life of a cold, hard, emotionless Black.
The smell became stronger. He didn't care to identify it. He barely even registered it as he stared out into the starless night, not really focusing on anything in particular.
He could hear the footsteps now, in his subconscious. They sounded rushed; frantic, even. Then, they came to a stop.
"Would you do it?"
He knew there was someone behind him. Yet he still let it surprise him when they spoke. He, however, couldn't bring his muscles to jump. The cold had gotten to him, he figured, and made all of his movements languid, relaxed, almost lethargic.
He licked his lips slowly, leaning his head back and anchoring his feet on the other side of the window.
"Do what, Remus?"
Even his voice was exhausted; tired of life. He could see Remus flinch out of the corner of his eye.
"Would you jump?" Remus specified, slowly taking a step forward, as not to scare Sirius.
Sirius sighed, staring down at the fall once again.
"No," He held the word out for longer than he should have. Maybe he was a little too cold. "I was just thinking about how fast the numbers would drop."
"What numbers?" Remus whispered.
"Of the days we have left."
Sirius turned his head around to stare at Remus, and was slightly surprised at what he saw.
Remus had a look of sheer horror on his face. Sirius blinked at a snail's pace, his eyes still locked with Remus'. Then he half-snarled and shivered as another wave of cold ran through him. He ignored it.
"What do you want, Remus?" He pleaded. "If you want to be alone up here, then tell me so I can just—"
That startled Sirius, and he jolted almost completely out of the windowsill. Remus hissed and was at Sirius' side in an instant, gripping his arm tightly, his nails digging into Sirius' robed upper arm.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." Remus whispered.
"You can let me go now, Remus." Sirius stated, trying his hardest to sound cold when he wanted nothing better than for Remus to clasp onto him and never let him go.
He was so cold.
"No," Remus managed to keep his voice level. "I need to talk to you."
Sirius tried to yank his arm away from Remus, only to lose his balance and almost fall off the Astronomy Tower. Remus hauled him backwards, and he fell off of the windowsill and onto Remus.
When they hit the floor, it struck Remus just how delirious Sirius might actually be. He was extremely cold; Remus' skin was numbed and he hadn't been touching him for more than half a minute.
But the weight placed above him wasn't out of place. On the contrary, Sirius' body fell perfectly in place with Remus'. If the situation wasn't so serious, he would have shifted to be a little more comfortable.
"I'm tired of talking, Remus," Sirius tried weakly to rise. Remus held him there. He apparently couldn't feel the heat warm up Sirius' face to the point of burning his frozen skin. "I don't much see the point anymore."
"I want to apologize." Sirius froze. His muscles tensed up and he refused even to breathe. "More than that, I want to beg your forgiveness. I've made a horrible mistake."
Hope was trying to revive itself. Sirius could almost see it lying next to him, its arms shaking as it tried with all the strength it had left to push itself into a standing position. He kicked at it frantically, shoving it back onto the ground, trying to kill it, hoping against Hope that it would stay dead for once.
Remus could sense Sirius' caution. After all, he could only imagine how skittish he was feeling after that rough row that morning.
"We all did," He went on, sliding toward the wall, dragging Sirius with him. He now sat, leaning his back against the stony, moss-covered wall, still with his arms clasped firmly around Sirius. "And we all feel horrible about it."
"I—" Sirius cringed at the hope in his own voice. Maybe he hadn't succeeded in fully killing it. "What are you talking about?"
"Peter, James and I snuck into the Slytherin Common Room after Potions." Remus explained. "We heard Snape more or less confess to framing you for the whole thing."
No, no, no. He was losing. Hope was now on its knees; no matter how much he clawed or bit at it, it would just keep standing.
"Sirius," Remus shifted his arms, pulling at the tips of Sirius' hair and twirling them around his index finger. Sirius tensed his muscles tighter. "We know how wrong we were. We misjudged you to the point where it's sick. We took Snape's word over yours."
Remus could feel Sirius relax his muscles, only in the slightest. He jumped at the advantage.
"And we made you feel horrible." Remus continued quickly, not giving Sirius a chance to think and find things to contradict. "We treated you coldly and shut you out of our lives. And you—you just—you almost—" Remus chocked, unable to continue.
Sirius couldn't fight the hope anymore. It started fighting back, slapping him around as it gained more and more ground. He saw as Hope stood completely up, unwounded and more alive than ever.
No, no, no. This was bad. You'll kill Sanity! I know you will!
"Sirius?" Remus nudged at Sirius. "Please say something, Sirius. Sirius?"
Sirius looked up at Remus. His darkened eyes met Remus' pleading ones, and he could tell that both sets had unshed tears in their eyes.
"I—I just—" Sirius shifted, turning around in Remus' arms so he could face the werewolf. "I want—I want to—"
And then they were kissing. There was no method to it, and it certainly wasn't perfect. There were teeth and it was wet and sloppy. But it was also desperate, and needy, and oh, Remus was kissing back, and it was as perfect as they needed it to be.
Sirius swiped his tongue harshly across Remus' lower lip, earning a shattered gasp from the werewolf. He slid his tongue inside Remus' mouth and began exploring hungrily, frantically. Remus sat still, letting Sirius toy with him, sensing that this was needed, hoping that Sirius would accept his apology.
Then they were broken apart, and Remus was staring Sirius in the face. He could feel the tears that had finally fallen from his eyes practically freeze to his cheeks, and he reached out to cup Sirius' cheek, using his thumb to wipe away the tears that also streaked down his own cheeks. He gave Sirius a small smile, full of glee at being forgiven in such a way.
Sirius—for the first time in two weeks—also broke into a smile, however small it may have been. Then he lunged forward, wrapping his arms around Remus, and buried his cold face into Remus' warm shoulder.
"It's all right," He whispered, his lips brushing against Remus' neck in such a way that made Remus shiver, and not for the warm contrast his breath made to the cold.
Remus took one hand off of Sirius' waist for a moment—to his delight, emitting a whimper from Sirius—and found his wand, casting a quick Warming Charm before quickly reattaching his hand to Sirius, swirling his fingers in calming motions on Sirius' back.
How long they stayed up there, no one knows. Sometime in the night, Remus made Sirius stand, draped one of the Animagus' arms around his shoulders, and helped him walk back to the Gryffindor Common Room.
As they opened the portrait and crawled through the opening, James and Peter came rushing to meet them, throwing their arms around Sirius and practically yelling over each other to get in the most sincere apology. Once they both hugged Sirius and got all the admissions of guilt out in the open, they began fussing over how cold he was. They threw him onto the couch in front of the blazing fire and attempted to throw blankets on him.
Sirius refused the blankets, instead reaching an arm out to clasp onto Remus and yanking him onto the couch with him.
Remus cried out in surprise, but gladly took the chance to once again have his arms wrapped firmly around Sirius.
James and Peter seemed a little surprised to see Remus situation himself behind Sirius, with Sirius laying completely back, resting his head on Remus' chest. Remus sent them both semi-desperate; semi-understanding glances before they both nodded. They both said their goodbyes and left. Anything more they had to say could be said in the morning.
Sirius sighed contently, feeling Remus rest his chin on the top of his head.
"I really am sorry, you know," Remus whispered, not any louder than the crackling fire in front of them.
Sirius moved his head to the side to look upward at Remus.
"I know," He answered, reaching upward and touching their lips together once again.
Sirius closed his eyes and fully relaxed for the first time in almost a month. After some thought, Sirius shrugged, laughing cheerfully into their second—and more passionate—kiss.
Maybe Hope wasn't so bad, after all.
Thirty pages long, guys. I don't know if it's any good, but I hope it is.
There wasn't really a point to writing this. I just felt like it. The mood changes so many times in it, too. I hope I didn't mess it up. It's another "The Willow" fic, because I like writing them. Just a little "What if" story that could have happened.
I don't have a lot to talk about, but I want you guys to know that I'm taking one-shot suggestions if you want. I need a title and two genres. And you can put restrictions on it, too. Anything you want, guys. Go nuts.
Sirius isn't alive and paired forever with Remus. Sadly, Harry isn't with Draco. Tonks and Ginny haven't been told off and run out of Hogwarts/Europe. Therefore, Harry Potter is not mine. Sorry.