What-Ifs

Summary:
An almost sequel to Famous Last Words. Sirius dwells on the what-ifs. What if everything was perfect?

Rated K+ for mentions of character death.

Disclaimer: All living characters belong to JKR. Two dead characters – Julia (Harlan) Black and Marie (Harlan) Black – are mine. Quite a few dead characters belong to JKR as well. Together, we make a happy family of mass murderers, huh? (Okay, I only killed two people... in this fandom... so far...)

A/N: VERY IMPORTANT – PLEASE READ BEFORE CONTINUING:

This is a sequel to Famous Last Words. It probably makes sense on its own; I think it does, since a good chunk of it has nothing to do with a certain death. But you have been warned, here and now: if you don't want to learn about the death – not even the details, just mentioning it almost in passing – and another fact, which sort of concludes this one-shot, then don't read this.

Otherwise, enjoy! And please tell me what you think, as always.

(1215 words)

"Sirius, what's wrong?" Lupin asks, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "What's plaguing you today?"

Sirius says nothing, lost in space. Unbeknownst to the werewolf, he is dwelling on what-ifs.

What if the Rat hadn't gotten away? Well, Sirius is a free man, that's for sure. There is a trial, and the Rat is found guilty, and he, Sirius Black, is cleared of all charges. He and Harry are having the summer of their lives together. It is like having his old friend back. But that only is, if what if.

What if the Rat hadn't faked his own death all of those years ago? Sirius never becomes a mass murderer. He doesn't spend time in Azkaban, and is a different man by now. He knows Harry for more than the short time which they've had together because of the older man's twelve-year stunt in the wizard prison. He might be more matured in those twelve years of living a real life; he might be settled down some by now. But that only is, if what if.

What if Sirius had taken Harry from the beginning, and not the Muggles? Pettigrew may never accuse Sirius of betraying Lily and James if he has Harry to watch over. Harry might be a different person if he grows up with love instead of hate. But that only is, if what if.

What if Lily and James never died? Would they all still now, so many years later, be fighting Voldemort? Would they ever have the means to overcome him, or would he constantly be a threat to the community, wizarding and Muggle alike? Would Harry, on the other hand, have a better life? Would he have brothers, sisters – siblings? Would he know real, unconditional love through his childhood? What would he know about the world differently, if Sirius had been the Potters' Secret-Keeper instead of the Rat? Who will know? Who can ever know, with all of these what-ifs? What if?

What if the Rat never became one of Voldemort's pawns? The Potters all live, and their son has a good life, and optimistic childhood instead of an oppressive one. Sirius has his friends to lean on, through that time that never truly got over, that time when he's still recovering from Julia's death. He had them, in truth, then, but he didn't really have them; the Potters had each other, and their son; Remus had himself; the Rat had his new master. But had the Rat never served this new master, the friends would be closer, brought together by the terror of war. The Rat, it turns out, never knows about Julia – they were never Death Eaters at the same time, for she died before he joined, and his 'friends' never thought to tell him. Sirius looks at this old wound with some emotion he can't place. The wound certain is old, and scabbed over; Lily and James respected Sirius's wishes not to talk about her, about Julia; Remus, on the other hand, knows that talking it out of his system is exactly what Sirius needs, even if he won't admit it, but the werewolf can't approach Sirius and say that outright very well.

Meanwhile, Sirius dwells on what-ifs.

What if Julia hadn't died? Suddenly, Sirius has not-so-fleeting visions of a grown Julia, with a daughter a year older than Harry. She cries over the death of the Potters without the gusto to rejoice over the end of Voldemort. She screams that it was an outrage, an injustice, a scandal – Sirius Black wouldn't do a thing like that! – when she hears the story of the "mass murderer" while caring for her two-year-old. She lays rather low for years, neither a Death Eater nor an Order member, but she tells her daughter about the girl's father, about Sirius's damn brother. She is overjoyed at her daughter's acceptance into Hogwarts; she goes to Dumbledore and tells him of her dilemma; Dumbledore figures her a way out of it; she relaxes into life. She is joyed – and not as secretly as was probably prudent – when Sirius brakes out of Azkaban; she learns, from her daughter and Dumbledore and the paper and careful guesses, what happened that night in the Shrieking Shack, and she wishes she could have been there; she writes a letter to Sirius, explaining everything; their friendship heals in seconds. Julia and her daughter and Sirius live in that secluded old house of hers and here he is, sitting and staring into the fireplace, dwelling on the what-ifs that would bring their friends back, and there she is, looking concerned, reaching out for him, bending down like she about to kiss him and Sirius is about to pull her close and kiss her, finally, and then –

And then Sirius vision clears and it isn't Julia about to kiss him at all, but Remus worriedly asking him if he's okay; he's been trying to get a response for a while now and Sirius had better respond soon or Remus is going to cart him off to the insane asylum, so naturally, Sirius becomes alert.

"Thank Merlin you finally starting paying attention; I was honestly worried about your mental health there," Remus says. "What in Merlin's name were you so focused on?"

"What-ifs," Sirius replies. Remus raises his eyebrows, a Look that clearly says, What-ifs about what? "Julia," Sirius explains. Remus nods knowingly.

"She's gone, Sirius, and you can't change that." Sirius seems not to hear Remus's words, or chooses to regard them if he has heard.

"What if she had lived, Remus?" Sirius wonders, still stuck in those dreadful what-ifs. He has another vision of Julia's beautiful daughter, so much like her mother in looks at that age, but with an air about her that reminds Sirius of his brother, of himself. Sirius can see the Black shining through Julia's daughter who was never born, and it saddens him to see how easily he could kid himself into believing that this non-existent child is his own, with her care-free good looks and confident nature and lack of regard for getting into heaps trouble and natural talent for pulling great pranks and that dark side that everyone knows is there that no one wants to acknowledge that comes out at the worst of times, and there's also something else, something that Sirius can't place but that he recognizes as something that he never had that his brother did – and presumably Julia – which is her mother's unconditional love from the moment she was born.

And her eyes. They're not Julia's warm hazel ones or Sirius's all-too-familiar grey ones, but they are grey, and they are familiar, and they are definitely, without a doubt, his brother's. And Sirius is so shocked and stuck that not even the what-ifs can agree with him that he stumbles out of his trance for good, but not before hearing the one thing he has been waiting for.

"Sirius, what happened? I'm not joking this time, mate; I'm seriously concerned about your mental health."

"Marie," Sirius whispers.

"What?" Remus asks, clearly not catching Sirius's whispered word.

"Marie," he repeats, only slightly louder; "her name is Marie."

A/N: Does the ending make sense? Do you get that Julia's daughter who never existed would be named Marie? Because my friend was reading it and she didn't get it, so I had to explain it to her. So, I hope you get it – espeically now.