Sirius Black lies in his cell and dreams of times gone by - of Quidditch and witches and the way she used to stare at him as if to say, No, not you. I know you better than that. You're not a Black.
The leering hooded figures don't count anymore, they've stopped jeering and clearing his head of all things good, as they should.
He clutches the paper, and thinks of how he hated her, with her words of honesty and nobility and doing the right thing all the time. He's contemplated suicide, but he thinks it'd be bloody awkward if he had to meet up with James in heaven, what with him knowing he'd been lusting after his wife for nearly two decades.
He needs to redeem himself before he can die. To find Harry and make it up to the father he betrayed.
Lily remembers the times before it began; when she was young and reckless and hated James and his games. She hated Black too, but made allowances for that; he was handsome and smart and charming and cool, and looked deep inside her and she felt it too. He teased her and pleased her, but she doesn't feel like she ever truly loved him, not the way she loves James. James has her heart, Harry has her soul. It's simple - there's no room for anyone else. Sometimes, when she's lying awake but still dreaming, she wonders what that means Sirius had.
A while ago, before she fell in love with James, she used to find it difficult to think of them as a separate entity. They were James and Sirius, Sirius and James. Always together, even when they were apart, sharing one mind, one heart. They were brothers by choice; they chose to be Romulus and Remus, Cain and Abel. But Cain killed Abel, Lily thinks anxiously.
She split them up, she ponders with guilt. It's only natural that Sirius came after her eventually, to try and make them one again.
"I know I can't control you," she sobs. He sneers at her tears and remembers a time; she's the splinter inside him, the reason he can't sleep anymore. "I wish we could go back to hating each other."
"So do I," he mutters.
And then James proposes and it's all happy families; she's walked down the aisle, a vision in white, and she sees the two of them up ahead, and she's not sure which one she'd rather have in her bed tonight.
Marlene McKinnon comes to Lily one night, skin white with fright and the look of someone who hasn't slept in days. She shows her the purpling bruises on her arms and the blood in her hair and Lily goes into denial about who put it there.
She finds him later that evening sitting alone in a bar, head in his hands, a shell of the man he was before it all started. He stares right through her for the first time in her life and she starts to believe that maybe his soul really is as dark as his name after all.
"Why did you do it?"
He stares like she's not there and mutters, "As if you care."
"I don't want you to be our Secret Keeper any more."
It's a knife through his heart, the world has stopped turning, his stomach is churning and all he can stammer is, "Why the hell not?"
"Because you're dangerous. And unstable."
"It never bothered you before."
"Well, that was then."
"No ... if I remember correctly, it was what you liked best ..." He reaches out towards her, something dangerous jumping in his eyes.
"You're drunk, Sirius."
"You, coming to me, late at night, crying, saying he wasn't enough for you ..."
"He's your best friend Sirius. Your brother."
"And your husband."
Lily snatches up her bag and runs away from the scene. She's crying and dying inside, wondering what she's become.
She writes him a letter believing it'll make things get better; she fills it with anecdotes and emptiness and jokes. It's a secret pact, one of many her and James have sent him over the years - but this time it's just from her.
She never does find out that he kept this one in a pocket close to his heart, when he threw the others away the next day.
Harry questions him one day, about James and himself and his mother and Snape and Remus and Peter and everyone else who belonged to those golden days (but they've all gone away).
His most feeling response is, "I loved your mum and dad."
He feels a little bit better, knowing he's not lying for once.