A/N: So this is it folks. Really, finally the last chapter. *sniff* I said I would be fast, didn't I?
A great big hug goes to Inigeshi, who made a beautiful picture for this story. The first fanart somebody ever did for one of my stories and it is really super cute! Check it out! The link is on my profile.
Also thank you, all you wonderful people who reviewed the last chapter, which was one of my personal favourites. My wonderful anonymous reviewers, who I can't reply to individually: ShaylaShiera, HebHibHob, BloOm, lunapia and krabi: Thank you very much for the praise and support and for not stabbing me with sharp objects.
And oh yes, the sequel is coming. The official title will be 'The Heart's Desire'. I have things planned for it, that will make your eyes bleed. But actually I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, and I think I might go for some fluff now and then too. *grins* I have a lot of ideas, but not all are fully developed yet. Still, I'll try to not let you hanging too long. I don't tend to plan a story out in all its details - honestly I mostly make it up as I go... ; ) - but of course I do need to plan the main plot-lines the story will follow. But now enough of my rambling. Enjoy this last installment of 'The Promise'!
- Epilogue -
'I have to stop doing this.' was the first thought that popped up in Sirius Black's mind, as it slowly struggled through the layers of dizziness and throbbing pain to the realms of consciousness. 'White.' he thought next. 'Soft.' Well, there was a difference at least. For a few moments he let himself linger in this place between sleep and wakefulness, too tired to care all that much what this white place was. He was sure that with his luck it wouldn't be heaven. And he doubted heaven would have headaches like his one, which seemed to be the mother of all headaches.
Someone was sitting next to him. Tall, long white hair and beard, serene smile. Maybe he shouldn't rule out heaven so quickly. He chuckled, but stopped quickly when the pain in his head exploded, as the whole family of headaches seemed to join it.
„I would gladly say, it's good to see you're back, Mr. Black... if you would care to join me?"
Not God after all. One rank lower. Albus Dumbledore.
„I have a potion here, that your healer left, which should help you with your headache."
Sirius blinked again, this time managing to keep his eyes open, at least a little. „Where?" he croaked, almost cringing himself when he heard the rasp that had do be his voice.
„You're in St. Mungo's." Dumbledore said, understanding that he wasn't inquiring about the location of the potion, but rather of himself. „We were worried for a while, you had quite thoroughly exhausted your magic. Although I have to say, that was extraordinary. I can't remember having seen you doing wandless magic before."
Sirius coughed, and took the potion Dumbledore handed him after conjuring another pillow at the younger wizards back. „I haven't. No idea what I was doing... " He bowed his head and for a moment silently stared at his hands, which were clutching the goblet tightly. The look he cast at Dumbledore was careful and he hesitated before a whisper escaped his lips. „Harry?"
Dumbledore smiled at him warmly. „Young Harry is quite alright, although he has been very worried about you." He ducked his head a little to catch the young man's eyes and sparkling blue met stormy grey. „You saved his life, Sirius. More then that, you saved his soul."
Sirius whole body sagged and he buried his face in his hands, goblet wobbling precariously on his lap. „I thought..." He took a deep breath, trying to steady his emotions. „I thought I might have been too late," he whispered.
„You were just in time and you did amazingly. James and Lily obviously knew what they were doing."
„They did," said another voice tinged with too many emotions to decipher. Sirius head shot up and his eyes met those of Remus Lupin, standing in the doorway, a smile gracing his features but his eyes troubled. „You're awake," he said and Sirius could only nod.
Remus. Had it been real? Had Moony really saved him? Then did he... Sirius dropped his gaze. No, he couldn't assume... Moony had no reason to believe him. From the corner of his eye he saw Remus slowly stepping closer to his bed. There was only one chair, on the opposite side, the one occupied by Albus Dumbledore, and Remus seemed to hesitate. But after an audible intake of breath he carefully lowered himself on the brink of the mattress.
„I think I will leave you two for a moment, while I call upon Arthur Weasley." Dumbledore said, raising from the chair, his blue eyes twinkling merrily.
„Arthur is at home?" Remus asked slightly confused.
„You might have been too preoccupied to notice, Remus, but it is Christmas." Dumbledore smiled at the embarrassed werewolf and left, quietly closing the door in his wake.
„So... Christmas already." Sirius mumbled awkwardly and not really able to meet Remus eyes.
„Yes," Remus said, voice sounding strained. „You've been out for almost five days." Sirius looked up at his friend surprised. „It was quite a lot, what with the soul leaving your body for a while, and the wandless Patronus thing, and of course the pneumonia."
„Pneumonia?" Sirius asked dumbly.
„Yeah, from... you know... when you saved me." Remus glanced at him. „Thank you for that."
Sirius looked at him, obviously lost for words and Remus wished he could still read his friend like he could back in school. But then maybe he had never really been good at it, after all Sirius had been hiding a lot from them without anyone ever knowing.
„Should I..." Remus indicated at the now empty chair on the other side of the bed.
„No!" Sirius' hand moved over the covers towards Remus', but stopped before they actually touched. „No." he said more quietly. „It's fine."
„You know this is almost like role reversal." Remus said with a nervous little laugh.
„What do you mean?"
„You, lying in a hospital bed, and me sitting next to you. Like back in the old days. Only then it was mostly me in the bed." Remus smiled at the man, he had been able to call a brother once, sheepishly. But Sirius' eyes were still unreadable. „I should have brought chocolate," Remus almost stuttered. „It's what you always did... but I didn't know you were awake," he finished lamely.
However, this got him the smallest flicker of a smile from his friend, but then it was gone as fast as it had appeared.
„Remus, I... I know it's not enough... it can never be enough, but... I'm sorry." Sirius said quietly.
There was a painful tightening in his chest, and without thinking Remus reached for Sirius' hand, that still laid on top of the covers. „No, Padfoot, it's me who is sorry! I should have never doubted you, I should have believed in you... I'm sorry, Padfoot, I'm so sorry."
Sirius looked at him then and his grey-blue eyes shimmered with something close to awe. „You believe me." he said, the words spoken almost reverently, like they were a precious treasure, of which Sirius wasn't sure if he would be allowed to keep it.
„I do." Remus hastened to assure him. „I should have done so from the start! But I didn't, and I'm so sorry, but then I saw Harry... and he was... and you were... and you saved him. Twice. Or thrice even, if you count the Dursleys, which you should, and... And you saved me. I betrayed you and you saved me." He felt tears at the corners of his eyes now, and tried to blink them away, feeling foolish.
But that changed when Sirius gave his hand the lightest squeeze and when he spoke and Remus looked back at him, he saw a telltale wetness in his eyes as well. „I betrayed you first, Moony," he whispered, and warmth spread through Remus at Sirius' use of his childhood nickname. „I... I didn't tell you. About the change. I didn't tell you, because I thought... I was afraid... that you might be the traitor."
Remus nodded. He had already guessed that much, and it hurt, but he could hardly blame Sirius for a crime that he had committed himself, and even worse. Sirius had not let him rot in Azkaban for seven whole years. „I know," he said shamefaced. „But now we can prove that it was Peter." Sirius looked at him confused. „We found him, Padfoot. We found Peter."
Sirius hand clenched his in a painful grip for a moment and when he met his eyes they were flashing with rage. For a moment Remus could see the hot-tempered youth he had known at Hogwarts in front of him.
„Where is he?" Sirius pressed out through gritted teeth.
„In the Ministry. He is denying everything of course, but don't worry. Albus has a plan."
„That rat!" Sirius choked. „That miserable bastard of a perfidious rat!"
Remus slid a little up on the bed, placing his hand on Sirius' shoulder in as much of an attempt to comfort his friend, as it was to steady himself. „We will deal with him," he said quietly, „we will deal with him in time. Right now you are important. You and Harry."
Sirius looked up at him, and right there and then Remus could see the fear in his eyes, the panic. He looked so young and so... breakable. „What will happen now?" he asked with a slight waver in his voice.
„Albus spoke with the Minister, yesterday. Well, actually I think he might have threatened him." Remus said with a helpless little laugh. „He was furious, said MacNair extorted the confession from you. That you didn't even know what you were signing. I think your healer backed him up. And then of course Dementors going after Harry wouldn't be a headline Fudge is interested in seeing on the front of the Prophet. He signed the petition for an official trial, with Albus acting as your advocate. He normally holds the position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, but in this case he said his services would be of better use while speaking for the defence. It's not done yet, Sirius. But you'll finally get what they denied you for all those years. A fair chance. A chance to be heard. A chance to prove to them that you are innocent."
He didn't say 'us', and he hoped that Sirius had noticed.
Sirius felt like his head was swirling, or his brain was at least. A trial? And Albus Dumbledore, supposedly the most powerful wizard of this age, asking to speak for his defence? Dumbledore believed him? He caught Remus eyes disbelievingly, watched that gentle smile spreading over his face, like he remembered so well from the shy boy he had met on the first day at Hogwarts. They believed him. Merlin, they believed him!
As if on cue, there was a knock and then the door opened to the smiling face of his new 'advocate'. Merlin's pants, that thought would need getting used to.
„I don't want to interrupt your reconciliation," Dumbledore said, „but I have another visitor who longs to see you, Sirius."
And then he opened the door wider and revealed a small black haired boy standing next to him, looking nervous and excited.
He felt his cheeks strain, as they erupted in a wide smile, he felt the tears prickling at the corner of his eyes, and he couldn't for the hell of it remember a single word which he could have pressed through his tightening throat. So he simply held his arms open.
The first two steps into the room were tentative and shy, but then Harry seemed to lose all restrain and ran and jumped onto the bed, slinging his arms around his godfather and pressing himself into his chest, as Sirius closed his arms around him in a tight embrace.
...holding Harry, protecting Harry, saving Harry...
It was like an echo in Sirius' mind, as he clutched the small quivering body against him. „It's alright, pup." He murmured, stroking over his godson's back and his dishevelled hair. „I've got you. And you've got me." It probably hadn't been longer than a week or two, since he had held Harry in his arms, but it felt like the first time after an eternity. He couldn't let go. He wouldn't let go. He had almost lost him and he would never again let him go.
When he had been lying in his cell, in the Ministry, or on that windy rock, surrounded by Dementors, he had never even dreamed that such a day would come, when he would have Harry in his arms and Remus at his side. When maybe he would not have to be alone anymore. When he set foot into Azkaban, he had accepted that his life was over. It was the price he had to pay for his mistakes. The mistakes that had cost the life of the people he loved, his family. And now... had he paid enough? Had he finally been forgiven, when James had told him, that his life had still a much more important purpose? A long forgotten feeling stirred in Sirius. The will to fight. For the ones he loved, but also for himself. He felt the darkness that had always been with him, lurking in the corner, but he ignored it. He pulled Harry even closer. He looked in Remus' hopeful and smiling eyes. That was what he would fight for. For them. For his family.
He couldn't have said later, how long they had stayed like this, Harry no more willing to end the embrace, than he was. When Sirius finally loosened his hold, so that he could see his godson's face, tears were running down Harry's flushed cheeks and he snuggled deeper into his arms again. „I heard you say goodbye." Harry whispered.
Sirius frowned. „What... what do you mean pup?"
„When you were at that dark place and you thought you would die. You said that you loved me..." Sirius smiled at the boy in his lap, while his eyes were still as confused as before. But then, at Harry's next words, he visibly froze. „And you said you wished you had done something better but that the only thing that mattered was that I was safe... But it's not!" Harry sniffled. „I want to be with you, Sirius!" he whispered. „Can I be with you now?"
„I love you, Harry. I wish I could have done better. But you'll be safe. That's all that matters."
Utterly dumbfounded Sirius looked up at Remus. „He threw a fit," his friend explained. „He was sure you were in danger, and that we had to go and rescue you. When we came to the Ministry, you were already in the Execution Chamber. If he hadn't been so persistent, we would have been too late."
Looking back down at Harry in amazement, he met the eager, open eyes of a child, who did not fully understand the consequences of what had just been spoken of, and would hopefully never need to. His small, beautiful godson was leaning into him with all the trust a normal eight-year old should have, and that had taken Harry so long to develop. He savoured that, as he pressed him even tighter against his chest. Planting a kiss on top of his head, he mumbled into his hair. „I have known from the start, you would be the one to save me."
When he looked back up, Remus and Dumbledore were watching him silently, but he had caught the quick knowing glance between them. He frowned. „How?" he asked, knowing that he wouldn't have to elaborate further what he was asking.
„I might have an inkling..." Dumbledore spoke up for the first time since he'd come back. „I think it might in fact be the same reason, why you were able to find Harry in a snow storm, or break my extraordinary powerful binding charm in your uncle's cabin. It probably was the reason you managed to break out of Azkaban, and I'm sure it was the power behind that amazing bit of magic you, performed in the dungeons."
„What exactly did I do?" Sirius asked, feeling slightly lost and left out.
„I'm not all that sure either, but I think you cast something like a lasting local Shield Patronus, very rare in itself, even more so if done wandless and in your condition. Like I said earlier, extraordinary."
Sirius looked at him, still confused. „But I don't know how to do that."
„You would not need to, if it was spontaneous." Dumbledore explained and then paused, before he asked his next question. „Sirius, do you know what a 'Wizard's Oath' is?"
„I think I have heard of it, but I don't know exactly..." He gave a helpless shrug. What was Dumbledore on about?
„When a wizard makes an oath with particularly strong determination or emotion, his magic can create a bond that will make him more inclined to fulfill what he promised. It is not like an Unbreakable Vow, who condemns the one who breaks it to a painful death. It's more like the obligation, the need to act on it, is implemented in the wizard himself. It has been said, that depending on the determination, the devotion and the magical abilities of the wizard, such an oath can create an exceptionally strong bond between the one who makes the promise, and the one the promise is given to."
Dumbledore raised his eyes to Sirius'. „On the day Harry got his Wizard's Blessing, and you held him to accept the role and title of godfather, you promised something." Sirius eyes grew wide in shock. How the hell would Albus know about that? „You probably didn't noticed, but just for a moment when you stood there, you were surrounded by a faint silver sparkle. An oath, such as I have just described, is often accompanied by a visible 'outbreak' of magic. I don't know if anybody else saw it, but Remus and Lily noticed as well."
„Lily was very touched that you cared so much about Harry, that your oath would be that strong." Remus said with a smile at his friend. „But neither one of us could have anticipated how strong it really was."
„I'm still not sure I understand..."
„That is quite understandable." Dumbledore said with a smile. „I'm afraid only very few is known about this kind of magic, so all I can do is take an educated guess. It seems that when you made a promise to Harry that day, this oath created a bond between the two of you. It might make you especially perceptive to his feelings and needs, but mostly it seems to give you ways and means of protecting Harry that exceed your normal abilities by far. It strengthens your magic, heightens your instincts and can maybe even create something like a telepathic connection when one of you, especially Harry, is in danger."
Curiosity twinkling in his blue eyes, Dumbledore asked, „Sirius, may I inquire, what it was that you promised that day, exactly?"
Feeling overwhelmed and still slightly dumbfounded by what he just had heard, Sirius looked down at his godson, who had closed his eyes and seemed to be dozing off.
James and Lily stood on a low platform in front of a colourful arch of summer-flowers. Lily's hair was glowing like copper in the sunlight, while James looked as ruffled as he always did, but slightly more humble, his pride now directed at his wife and the sleeping baby she was holding. Both looked at Sirius with broad smiles and he felt a strange weakness in his knees. Looking at the little baby-boy in Lily's arms, a feeling rose in his chest, that seemed to press against its confines, as if it was too big to be held there. He didn't know what was wrong with him! Sirius Black didn't get embarrassed or teary eyed, especially not in front of so many people... But it still awed him that somebody would trust him with such a tiny, beautiful and so horribly vulnerable thing.
He walked up the steps to James and Lily and little Harry. Dumbledore stood behind them, his blue eyes twinkling. And then Lily placed the little bundle in Sirius arms, and he looked down at this astounding new person, with his tiny hands and his tiny feet and the little button of a nose. He had the softest down of black hair gracing his little head.
And then Harry opened his eyes, green as the hills, and looked at Sirius and his heart stopped. In this second Sirius was lost forever and a love more fiercely than he had ever known erupted in him.
He stepped under the arch and looked in the bright eyes of his godson, and then he bowed his head and made a whispered promise.
„In the darkness, holding on by a thread, I will come for you. Don't be afraid. You can trust me... because I've always known you and nothing will harm you. I will fight all your monsters and shield you from foes. I will hold you and always care for you. We belong now. And I will be there to make you laugh and dry all your tears. Because I love you... Believe me, I won't let you down! I'll be by your side, what ever may come. Nothing will stop me! And I will protect you with my life... this I promise."
but to be continued in the up-coming
Will Sirius be able to prove his innocence?
And what interests has Lucius Malfoy in the outcome?
Will Remus and Sirius bridge the gap of hurt and betrayal?
And what happens when an old childhood enemy is brought into the mix?
Will Harry finally find a family?
But which one will it be?
For the answers, watch out for:
THE HEART'S DESIRE
by Zaira Albereo
A/N: Alright. There you are. That was a Happy End,wasn't it? Not enough? Then read the sequel! All you still want to know will be resolved there. Just keep in mind the author sometimes is a drama queen. So no cries for unrealistically easy solutions in the first chapter! *looks stern* ; )
What's left to say? I feel immensely proud, strangely sad and exhausted like a well wrung towel. That's my first ever finished and published fan fiction. Working on it was great, mostly because of all your wonderful feedback. I know some of you lost faith in me on the way, but I would not have wanted to play it any other way. Sorry, for the headaches, emotional outbreaks or nervous breakdowns I might have caused. I hope this isn't goodbye and I see you all, or rather hear from you, when I start posting the sequel.
What ever it is, I would be overjoyed to hear you praise and abuse me!
Please, wonderful readers, one last time: Be so kind and leave a review.