I just borrowed these characters and now I am giving them back.

14. The Last Act of Love

It seemed to Sirius that they had never before shared a kiss such as this one. It wasn't a secret, furtive kiss like the many that had passed between them in the early days, nor was it the passionate kiss that preceded and accompanied sex. It was a solid kiss. The kiss that spoke of commitment and the togetherness that lasts forever. They made love that night in the sitting room. Beneath the tapestry of the Black family tree they consummated their love and their plan for a life together. Looking up at all of the names of his ancestors as they swooped along the embroidered branches of the family tree, Sirius noticed for the first time that this hallmark of Grimmauld Place was not sinister but breathtakingly beautiful. He was a part of that tree, after all, and the rot that wore through some of it's branches did not have to touch him. He had the power to strengthen it and let it reach ever higher towards the sunlight with Remus and Harry as his family. He felt his body melt into Remus' as they moved closer and closer to that moment of pure, sensual ecstacy.

"Accio blanket," Remus called out as they lay naked and spent on the floor. An old quilt flew into the room, covering their entwined limbs. They lay together quietly, catching their breaths and listening to the reliable pendulum of the grandfather clock moving back and forth.

"Perhaps I have spent too much time mourning James and not appreciating all he has given to me," Sirius said finally "I lost my best friend and I've spent years blaming myself for his death. But James loved me. He would not want me to have years spent in misery. I believe now that it was he who brought us together again through Harry in the Shrieking Shack just two years ago, the same place where we spend such good times together as boys. When he was alive, I always felt that James and I had a connection and it is that same connection now linking me to you and to Harry. For so long I felt that I had betrayed both Harry and James by suggesting that Wormtail be the Secret Keeper, but now I see it differently. I see that Harry is James' gift to us for our enduring friendship with him. James made it possible for us to be together now and to love one another as much as he loved Lily. Our love for one another came about so unexpectedly. What are the chances this would have happened without some other-worldly intervention?"

"Like a ghost?" Remus asked, skeptically.

"More like spirits of the dead. A spirit that watches over us and through their love they guide us in making the right decisions."

"An interesting theory," Remus acknowledged, shifting in Sirius' arms to get closer. "I promise when I die, I will watch over you from the great beyond."

"And I will do the same, because I know I will still love you even then."

The next few days went along blissfully and Sirius no longer felt that Grimmauld Place was a prison. Remus had been right: as long as they were together any place could be happy. "When everything is over and we no longer have to worry about the Dark Lord or the Ministry of Magic hunting me down," Sirius began his inqiry. they were sitting together in the music room, listening to the piano play a sonata. "What would you think about living here permanantly?"

"You mean stay at Grimmauld Place?" Remus asked incredulously, "I thought you hated this place."

"I do, or rather I did. I hated what it stands for and how I felt I could never fit in with my parents world. But now I've come to realize that with you, I can erase all the evil that lives here and replace it with something beautiful. Besides, there's plenty of room for Harry to stay whenever he wants. And someday, perhaps, he will have his own family and... well, I'm thinking ahead. I just like the idea of you and I working together, fixing the place up, making it something that we can be proud of for future generations."

Remus bent over and kissed him. "I think it's a wonderful idea. And I have another idea: we should tell Tonks about us."

"Why?" Sirius asked sitting up straighter. He hadn't thought of Tonks for days, not since he had accused Remus of fancying her and at the sound of her name, the old feelings of desire and jealously began to invade him like an unwanted illness.

"Because," Remus began, running his hands along Sirius' shoulders. "She is also a part of our family. I think she should know that. We both love and admire her and if she does have feelings...well, like you said the other night about her feeling a certain way about me, she needs to know in no uncertain terms that those feelings will never be reciprocated. I love you and there has never been, will never be, anyone else."

Sirius knew it was time to let go, to release those unrealistic hopes and fantasies, and to embrace the new life he had found for himself. Tonk could still be a part of their lives, but in the way she was meant to be: as a cousin and a friend. "Yes," Sirius said, reaching up towards Remus face. "It is time for her to know."

In bed that night Sirius once again felt himself moving beyond the chains of the past. He felt finally free from the confusion his feelings for Tonks had weighed upon him. He had felt at times guilty for betraying Remus' trust and at other times jealous that she prefered Remus. All that was gone now as he gave himself to Remus fully, enjoying the feel of Remus' body and the rapid beating of his heart.

It was days before they saw Tonks and when they did she burst into Grimmauld Place looking uncharacteristically distracted. "Tonks!" Sirius said in greeting. "I'm so glad you're here! There's something I need to..."

"I'm sorry, Sirius," Tonks cut across. "But I need to speak with Remus right away. I'm here on urgent business for the Order." Her hair was as dark as his and held back from her face with a hair clip, making their family resemblance even more pronounced.

"What is it?" Remus asked, entering the room with a concerned look on his face.

"Remus," Tonks said, turning away from Sirius. "It's Harry. He's gone to the Department of Mysteries. We got word that he believes that Sirius is there and has gone to save him."

"Me?" Sirius questioned with surprise. "Why would he think I was there?"

"It's obviously a trick to get the prophecy. The Dark Lord is playing with his mind, so we must go there immediately. Quick, Remus!"

"I'm coming, too." Sirius told them, firmly and calmly.

"No, Sirius you must wait here and ..."

"And what? Tonks, you more than anyone should know that I can't do that. Harry needs me. He needs to see that I'm alright and I need to do anything I can to save my godson."

Tonks turned to Remus, silently asking for him to intervene, but Remus did not. Instead he nodded at Sirius. "Let's go," he said. "All of us."

"Will it be okay?" Tonks asked Remus.

"Yes," Remus told her. "Everything will be fine." He reached for Sirius' hand and squeezed it, but Tonks had already turned toward the door and missed the gesture.

They arrived at the Department of Mysteries at the same time as the other Order members and the battle between the Death Eaters and the students was already underway. Sirius, Remus, and Tonks rushed in, deflecting hexes and calling out curses. Even though it had been years since he had dueled and he no longer had his old wand, Sirius was still as skillful as ever. He felt almost elated in the midst of confusion and distruction. He felt purposeful. He was with those he loved most, protecting Harry as he had promised James long ago. Sirius felt the pain of those twelve long years in Azkaban and the last two years he had spent in hiding melt away because now he was in the perfect moment where love and his life's mission met. It was as invigorating as sex: to be needed and to give to those he cared about most of all. This too was an act of love. He felt invincible.

And then he saw Tonks fall.

Sirius looked from his cousin's immobile figure to the woman with whom she had been dueling. At the same moment he and Bellatrix suddenly noticed each other's presence and he saw the sadistic delight in her eyes as she cast her next curse towards him . To him, she embodied the evils of the Black family, the very things that he had vowed to overcome through his love for Remus and their plan to be a family with Harry. He directed his curse towards her and all she stood for. She smiled as she dodged it. Her expression mocked him. "Missed again!" he imagined her thinking.

"Is that he best you can do?" He taunted her next shot barely missed him. He knew her weaknesses and Bellatrix hated to lose. He wondered if she even realized that Tonks was her niece. They looked so much alike with Tonks hair as it was that day, dark and flowing against the marble steps. He heard Bella's laughter and saw she was getting ready to fire at him again. He just didn't expect that it would hit him.

And when it did, everything immediately changed. It was as if time remained still, yet he was free from its grasp. He thought for a moment that time would now begin to move backward and the events of those fateful seconds could be erased. He would move more quickly this time and strike Bellatrix before she got him. He would live and she would....but, as he looked down at his chest to where the curse had hit him, he realized that there was no turning back.

The voices behind the veil began to call his name, but he was not ready. He looked at all the people in the room with him and for the first time he could see into their hearts. He saw their pain, their joys, the loves they had, and those that they had lost. He focused first on Tonks, who still lay crumpled upon the stairs. He could see how much she loved Remus and how it pained her that Remus did not seem to notice her. He then turned to look at Remus, whose heart he knew almost as well as his own. He could see how full of love Remus was and knew how hurt Remus would be now that he was gone. He saw Remus' deep desire for a child: a desire he only recently had expressed to Sirius.

Sirius felt a stange power within himself and he knew suddenly that he could grant the wishes of both Remus and Tonks. He smiled at them both, knowing that his love for both of them was stronger than the curse that had taken his life. With his last breath, he breathed a new life into both of them. They would be well, he knew now. They would be happy.

Harry. He wanted to give something to Harry too, so he would know that Sirius would always be with him. He saw the pain within Harry as Harry realized what had happened. But before he could breathe a bright future for his godson as he had for his lover, the veil opened and he saw the figures that had been waiting behind it.

He saw his parents and felt their regret that they had never reconciled with their son before they had died. Sirius silently forgave them. He then saw Regulus and learned what his brother had done in an effort to stop Voldemort. He admired that act of solitary bravery and remembered how much he missed being with his brother.

Then he saw James. Lily stood behind him looking more beautiful than ever. She smiled at him and James reached out his hand. It was time to go. Sirius reached towards the veil, took James' hand and walked in to join them.

A/N: Ashes of the Phoenix, The Secret Keepers, The Prisoner of Memory, and A Goblet of Blood are a quartet of stories that connect with each other, exploring the love between Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. All four stories are interwoven, scenes from one story appear in another, and the characters remain consistant. If you want to know what happens to Remus after Sirius' death, it picks up in The Secret Keepers in a chapter entitled "Vigil."

Thank you so much for reading this. It is reader like you who keep writers going. A special thanks to those who took the time to write reviews. I've appreciated them tremendously. I continue to check for reviews of all my stories and I will write back if you like.


- SomethingBorrowed.