A/N:This fic was inspired by this line from OotP: Sirius was staring at the patch of carpet where the boggart, pretending to be Harry's body, had lain. (OotP, Ch 9, "The Woes of Mrs. Weasley")

Disclaimer:The Harry Potter universe and characters belong to J. K. Rowling and her publishers, Warner Bros., etc. "What's that you've got there, Moody?" and all dialogue after they enter the drawing room until Molly says goodnight is taken directly from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and is the property of J. K. Rowling and her publishers, etc.

Just a Boggart

31 August. To Sirius it seemed to have come all of sudden, this last day before imprisonment again.

He wished he had not allowed himself to hope those brief days between Harry's arrival at number twelve and his disciplinary hearing. Sirius felt disgusted with himself when he admitted that he had hoped Harry would get expelled. What sort of godfather wished his godson would become an outcast? Yet there had been that tiniest possibly that Harry wouldn't go back to school … that Sirius wouldn't have to be alone anymore…

Only Harry hadn't been expelled, and now the last of the nineteen days between his hearing and his departure was drawing to a close. And Molly was having a party.

It was all very fine, Sirius supposed, to celebrate discipline and maturity and shiny gold prefect badges –– all the things he'd never been interested in. He just wished they didn't have to do it the night before he had to return to solitary confinement.

Technically, he supposed, it wasn't really solitary; Remus was there most of the time. But Remus had never understood Sirius the way James had. James knew how to empathize with Sirius's frustration; Remus didn't.

Even now, as Kingsley expounded on all the reasons Dumbledore should have made Harry a prefect, Remus stood beside Sirius, impassive, calmly assuring Kingsley that Dumbledore "had his reasons", not bothered that Harry was leaving, not caring that James was once again going where Sirius could not follow.

Sirius, only half-listening to Kingsley, looked around as he heard his name. Mad-Eye was standing a few feet away, enthusiastically showing something to Harry, who looked far less pleased by whatever Mad-Eye was holding.

"What's that you've got there, Mad-Eye?" asked Sirius, intrigued.

Mad-Eye turned away from Harry, and Harry seemed to seize the opportunity to dash out of the kitchen. Sirius opened his mouth to call after him, but was distracted as Mad-Eye handed him an old photograph.

"Original Order of the Phoenix."

Sirius's eyes widened: his own face was smiling up at him, surrounded by people he had half forgotten. Dorcas Meadowes beamed on one side of his photographic counterpart, Gideon Prewett on the other, both long since dead, but Sirius hardly noticed them. James sat directly in front of him, grinning and waving enthusiastically. As Sirius watched, the Sirius in the photograph raised a glass and the movement caught James's eye; he looked up, and he and Sirius exchanged grins.

"Remus," Sirius croaked, groping at the air behind him for Remus's arm. "Remus, look at this."

"Something wrong?" Remus had turned from his conversation with Kingsley to see what Sirius was looking at. "Ah," he added in comprehension, staring at the photograph. "Original Order, is it, Mad-Eye?"

Mad-Eye nodded.

"I'd forgotten we took this," said Remus. He tried to take the photo from Sirius, but Sirius wouldn't let it go; he continued to stare at James's familiar grin.

"Everyone looks so young," said Remus, who did not seem to be looking at James at all. "Just look at Emmeline." He pointed at the witch standing beside the Remus in the photograph. "And Sturgis, as well."

Sirius tore his eyes away from James to see what Remus was pointing at, and noticed the wizard standing next to Sturgis: Caradoc Dearborn, who had disappeared about a month before Sirius had been imprisoned.

"Did you ever find him?" he asked, pointing at Caradoc.

"I'm afraid not," answered Remus.

"Remus," interrupted Mad-Eye, "you'd better get up to the drawing room. Molly's having trouble with that boggart." He pointed at the ceiling, and seeing his magical eye was also pointed upward, Sirius understood. Dropping the photo, he followed Remus as he dashed out of the kitchen and up the stairs, Mad-Eye bringing up the rear. They darted into the drawing room, and Sirius stopped short. All the air seemed to vanish from his lungs.

Harry lay on the floor, his eyes open and glassy. He was unmistakably dead.

Sirius stared at him. No, not Harry, not Harry too. He heard faintly, as if it were coming from a great distance away, Remus's voice saying, "What's going on?" and then,"Riddikulus!"

Harry's body disappeared, and in a distant part of his mind, Sirius understood what had happened. He took a deep, calming breath, but his eyes didn't move from the spot Harry's body had vanished. At the sight of that body, it had all come back.

He was jumping off his motorbike in front of the half-ruined house in Godric's Hollow; he was bursting through the door; and there, at the foot of the stairs, he saw him: James lying face up, his mouth open, his eyes wide and expressionless …

"… and P-P-Percy's not talking to us." Sirius suddenly became aware that Molly was speaking. "What if something d-d-dreadful happens and we had never m-m-made up?"

He'd never made up with Remus before Azkaban. That was one of the many things that had haunted him in prison: they'd never made up after that last awful fight; and he never got the chance to apologize for thinking Remus was a traitor or for handing James and Lily over to the actual spy.

"This isn't like last time," he heard Remus say. "The Order are better prepared, we've got a head start, we know what Voldemort's up to ––" Remus broke off as Molly squeaked at Voldemort's name.

But hadn't they thought they knew what Voldemort was up to last time, as well? Wasn't that the reason James and Lily had gone into hiding in the first place? And it wasn't as if that –– but Sirius abruptly stopped this line of thought.

They weren't better prepared, either; the majority of the wizarding world thought they were power-hungry liars, lunatics, and criminals. But that, at least, would be remedied soon enough.

"Don't worry about Percy. He'll come round," he assured Molly. "It's a matter of time before Voldemort moves into the open; once he does, the whole Ministry's going to be begging us to forgive them." Fourteen years late. "And I'm not sure I'll be accepting their apology."

"And as for who's going to look after Ron and Ginny if you and Arthur died," added Remus, and Sirius frowned, trying to remember when Ron and Ginny had come into the conversation. "What do you think we'd do, let them starve?"

Well, wasn't that what they had done with Harry, sending him to live with those awful relatives of Lily's? It would have been kinder to leave him on the streets. He and Remus may have been unable to care for a child, but it wasn't as if every original Order member were a convicted murderer or a werewolf. Or dead? said an awful voice in the back of his mind. Who would you have had take him, then? Marlene McKinnon? The bits of Benjy Fenwick?

"Goodnight, then," said Molly shakily. "And please, don't tell Arthur. I wouldn't want him to know I thought –– I think ­­––"

"Don't worry," said Remus gently, and behind him Mad-Eye grunted and Harry mumbled incoherently. No one seemed to notice that Sirius wasn't saying anything at all.

Molly, Mad-Eye, and Harry left the room, but Sirius's eyes moved back to the spot where Harry's dead body had lain … the body that had looked so much like James's …

"Sirius?" said Remus quietly, coming to stand next to him, but Sirius didn't reply. Remus followed his gaze and seemed to understand at once. "Sirius," he repeated, very gently.

"I see them dead all the time," muttered Sirius, unconsciously echoing Molly Weasley. "In Azkaban I used to dream about it, James lying there in the rubble ––"

"Stop it!" said Remus sharply.

"–– staring up at me, his eyes empty ––"

"I said stop it!" Remus grabbed Sirius's arm and pulled him around so that he couldn't see the patch of moonlit floor where the boggart had been. Now Sirius didn't seem to want to look at him.

"That's not something you need to relive," Remus hissed. "This isn't Azkaban."

Sirius gave one of his bark-like laughs.

"Not to you," he said shortly. He wrenched his arm free.

"Sirius," sighed Remus exasperatedly, and though Sirius still wouldn't look at Remus, he knew Remus was stopping himself rolling his eyes with great difficulty … or would have been if he were the kind of person who rolled his eyes.

"Oh, like you can tell me how to feel," snarled Sirius, and now he was looking at Remus, and his eyes were blazing, "when you can go out and go on duty and be useful! When you'd never set foot in this house before! When it doesn't remind you of the childhood you've tried to forget! When it doesn't remind you of him!"

"What makes you think," said Remus, "that I don't mourn James just as much as you do?" His tone was surprisingly even. No, not really surprising; Remus never lost control.

"Mourn James as much as me?" Sirius laughed incredulously. "Look at you with Harry, you with that boggart!"

"The boggart?" Remus repeated blankly.

"He was dead, he was lying there dead, and it didn't even phase you! You just said Riddikuluslike it was nothing, like –– like it was just a boggart or something!"

"It was just a boggart," said Remus quietly.

"No it wasn't!" Sirius shouted. "It wasn't just a boggart, it was that boggart, it was Harry dead!"

Remus stared at him.

"And you just got rid of it like it didn't even matter if the last bit of James was destroyed." Sirius's voice broke. He looked down at the floor.

"Sirius." Remus gently placed his hand on Sirius's shoulder. "Harry isn't James."

Sirius's head snapped up, incredulity etched in his features once more.

"Thanks, Molly."

"All right," said Remus, in a tone that was as close to snapping as Sirius had ever heard him use; he jerked his hand off Sirius's shoulder as he spoke. "But she has a point, Sirius. Do you even listen to yourself? You don't separate past from present. Harry, James; James, Harry; it's all interchangeable to you. But it's not, Sirius."

"I get it, Remus," Sirius growled. "But that doesn't change the fact that if Harry died ––"

"James would be dead either way," said Remus softly. "He's not coming back, Sirius."

"I know he's not!"

"Well then ––"

"Look, it's not your fault he's dead! Do you get that? It's not your fault!"

"You didn't know."

"But James did!" Sirius was shouting again, furious that Remus was taking this conversation so stoically. He remembered the confrontation with Peter in the Shrieking Shack; Remus hadn't shown his emotions then, either.

Remus frowned. "He obviously didn't."

Sirius gave a frustrated growl. Why didn't Remus understand? And more importantly, why didn't he seem to care?

"You weren't there! He didn't want it to be anyone but me! He knew it should be me! And I told him no! I told him Peter! I told him everything!"

"Sirius, that's enough," said Remus firmly. "This isn't something you need to go over and over again. What happened happened. It's over."

But it wasn't over. That was the very thing no one seemed to understand: it wasn't over! It would never be over! But Remus should understand; he must understand!

Remus had turned to leave the room, but Sirius grabbed his arm and pulled him back around.

"Sirius," Remus began, and he looked and sounded truly exasperated now.

"You don't talk," Sirius snarled. "You never talk! Not to me; not to anyone! Not ever! But look me in the eye and tell me it's because you have nothing to say!"

Remus's eyes widened, and for the second time in his life, Sirius fully appreciated that Remus was a werewolf; when Remus spoke, his voice shook slightly –– from anger or some other emotion, Sirius couldn't tell.

"I said," Remus whispered, "that's enough." And pulling his arm free, he left Sirius alone.