'There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I loved them all'
- 'In My Life', The Beatles (Lennon/McCartney)
Disclaimer : The following is not purely original fiction, but rather characters, settings, and situations as created by J.K. Rowling. No money is being made of this piece of fanfiction and can not be reproduced for any purposes but strictly private entertainment.
Chapter One - An Overprotective Canine and James's Lily
My father came back to live with me when I was six.
He died when I was seven.
Perhaps that's why I'm so overprotective, and the thought of something happening to those I love frightens me to death.
I don't grow attached to too many people; maybe I'm too scared. I love very few; I trust very few. Out of the four I loved and trusted in my teenage years, three lived in my dormitory at Hogwarts, and the other was my godmother Arabella.
"Sirius," she once said to me as we shelled crops next to the through. I was maybe fifteen years then. We had loved the farm when I was younger. Arabella liked the independence; as for me: forty acres and horses to boot! What else could a boy ask for?
But we were getting older as of the time of this conversation; Arabella grew tired more quickly and I was city-eyed - I wanted to see the world. I had big dreams that harvesting just wasn't filling.
"It's natural to grow attached to things. That's human nature. But you love them too much, lad, and it's going to hurt you when they die or grow apart. They're only things, Sirius. Worldly things."
"They're not things," I protested. "They're people."
"People. They change too. I'm getting no younger. You and your friends are growing up. When you leave school, you'll be pulled separate ways. In a few years some of you might get into a serious relationship with a girl -"
I snickered at the absurdity. "Not us, 'Bella. I date for fun, Pete's too shy, Remus just won't, and James thinks girls are another species."
"One always thinks you're all grown," retorted Arabella, who had a store of such fortune-cookie sayings for every occasion. "What about when you get different jobs?"
I hesitated a moment, keeping my eyes on my work. "What, we're going to work all day, every day?"
"Humph." Arabella exchanged a full bushel for an empty one. "There's the threat of war, lad. The Dark Lord gains more power all the time."
I clenched my teeth, willing myself not to shake. Arabella was putting a voice to my fears, and my anger at my guardian grew as dread increased. "He's an old quack," I said, with far more certainty than I felt. "Someone ought to drown him in the duckpond."
Arabella said nothing, her typical response when she thought I was getting rash and "talking nonsense".
I blinked back tears as her words repeated in my head. It was the summer between my fifth and sixth year; I was getting too old to cry every time I started worrying.
But the thought of losing my friends or Arabella terrified me. Every time I thought about it, I practically lived their deaths. I could actually feel the helplessness as Arabella died before me, or the unbearable loneliness at James's absence. Professor Ellicha says I have too vivid an imagination (McGonagall says the same thing, but I don't think it's complimentary coming from her). Soon I was crying outright, and Arabella put an arm around my shoulder.
That's one advantage of the farm over London. When I cry here, no one knows but Arabella and the chickens.
James thought the farm was the coolest thing on earth. The two of us met at a Quidditch match when we were seven, and got along so well that our families hooked us up several more times. (I think they were relived that we entertained each other; the burden was off of them.) Soon I was neglecting chores and James was spending more time here than at his own house.
The Potters were a good-natured family, but rich and had been too long. His mother was a little snobbish, but slipped me the best apple turnovers you ever tasted, and Mr. Potter was always happy to let James come over.
I think that was the chief charm for James - we didn't live in a stuffy mansion and no one fussed over a little dirt.
Everything absolutely enthralled him. He loved the fields, clambouring up the loft, making forts from bales of hay, hunting eggs, currycombing horses, swinging off the oak-rope, and sleeping on a cot off the porch roof. I was still one part bewildered and two parts miserable from my dad's death, but nothing was more distracting than this fun companion who found everything amazing and wasn't a bit ashamed to show it.
James awoke me to an important fact the day he said in wide-eyed wonder: "You actually kill your own food?"
I had never really thought of us killing the animals before. It was just a part of eating. Now, I was horrified. Arabella and I were killers, the same way the manticore had killed my dad. It took a long time for 'Bella to convince me that if we didn't hunt and slaughter, we'd die. I got a long talk on the circle of life and the food chain that evening, and was dismayed at what I perceived - we couldn't live without death?
When it was sunny, I was your normal kid, but I had a little secret pastime for rainy days when I locked myself in my room. I developed the most perfect ecosystems I could possibly wrangle, ruthlessly killing off Species X to save all of Species Y. I never shared this with anyone save James. Thank goodness. I was pretty embarrassed about it when I got older and learned a bit more.
I was fanatical about death. If Arabella caught a sniffle, I'd force her into bed. Temper tantrums can be quite persuasive. If she had to kill a pig, I'd go inside and claim a sudden urge to clean. (Arabella saw right through that.) If there was a funeral, I instantly had a stomach sickness (and this didn't require too much acting). She humoured me, probably figuring I'd grow out of it. I never did, but I matured in it.
At one point, James concluded that he just had to ride a horse. Arabella's "boys will be boys" philosophy led to use going out so James could learn hands-on - by ourselves. We had two pieces of advice: If any horses were hurt, she'd cut up our limbs to make catnip; if we rode Black Thunder, she'd hang us upside down in the well by our toes.
Mind you, James was a brilliant flyer. But on the ground, he was a bit of a klutz. And his graceful expertise did not - did not - extent to horses. To make matters worse, he fell in love with Pebbles, a feisty brown-and-white fireball of a crossbreed. (Naturally, I loved Pebbles as well, but I felt generous and rode the dapple-grey Silver Key.)
Pebbles was surprisingly placid. She let James saddle clumsily. She let him climb on. She let him get flustered. She let him give wrong commands.
Then she spooked.
Off went the pair, Pebbles galloping off the trail, James holding on for dear life, and - typical of my friend - laughing as he was tossed.
I ordered Key to move, but she rolled an eye to me. I hopped off just in time to see James fly through the air, landing with a sickening thud, crack, and holler.
I winced and then screamed myself, out of reflex. Rushing to him, I thanked the grass for being so soft. He was sprawled on the ground, limbs askew, and his leg in an angle no leg should ever be. He was also crying after the shock passed - James was a tough kid, don't get me wrong, but when you're eight (and two-thirds, we were quick to assure others) and have a broken leg, you will cry.
"Sirius - I'm okay -" he said through gritted teeth as I grew hysterical " - just - just get Arabella - I think my leg's on fire -"
Fire! I hated fire. I ran for Arabella.
As you probably would guess, Arabella did not cut us up for catnip, although both horses were quite upset, and after she healed his leg, James was resting on the couch (Arabella's orders) laughing and generally seeing it as a great joke, colouring the incident highly.
"It was pretty graceful, wasn't it? Just sort of flew up there, and I could see everything - just sort of flew - and then came down - and only this" - he motioned to his mending limb " - left to show for it."
James had thoroughly enjoyed it. I was miserable on several counts: first, I felt like a complete baby for having made such a big deal out of it and screaming more than James had, and secondly, just the image of that blood and bone had me flinching. And James's face twisted with pain ran through my mind's eye again and again. I hated it. The helplessness - I hadn't been able to help - and the fact he was hurt.
You can imagine how I felt later having a friend who got broken bones as a pretty regular thing - every month, in fact. Learning my dorm mate and latest partner-in-crime was a werewolf wasn't too traumatic. Learning what the transformations consisted of was. I actually - gasp - did research on this subject. I pestered Madam Pomfrey. I'm sure she lived to rue the day I found out Remus's condition. I interrogated Remus, against his will; he preferred not to talk of it. I don't know why I pressed on if I hated what I heard so much, but I did. I had to know.
I used to stare at James and Peter in awe. On full moon nights they'd be sound asleep sooner or later. I never was. I practically lived through the night with Remus. I imagined I could hear him. I stared out the window at the Whomping Willow for hours, desperate for the night to end. I'd rush to the hospital wing first thing that morning, no matter how many times Pomfrey waved me off.
James and Peter made light of it. They were concerned, of course, but until we had finished our Miracle Something-Or-Another, they considered it Remus's problem. They couldn't do anything right then; might as well get some sleep. Had to be awake to get his History of Magic notes the next day, after all (he said sarcastically). I couldn't; I never slept those nights.
And I became a nightmarish sort of overseer for Rem. He would tease me, either amused or exasperated, about my tendencies. I watched over him like a hawk. "Eat." "Sleep." "Rest." "I'll do your homework." "Are you resting?" "Go to the hospital wing." He used to pretend I had placed an Imperius Curse on him, or he was some sort of robot, blinding obeying (I'm hard to not listen to - useful skill). "Yes, master. Your wish is my command" when he was too tired to think up anything more original, and stuff far more creative when he wasn't. I ignored all of it, so I don't remember.
Apart from physical health, I also grew upset when it hit me that on full moons, Remus wasn't Remus. I was possessive. I liked things exactly the way they were. I detested change. I developed a sort of mania against the moon, blaming it for taking my friend. The girls in our year and House sometimes challenged us to cards, and during Hearts I would always try to collect the hearts and Queen of Spades, just for the satisfaction of shouting: "Shot the moon!" I lost a lot of games that way.
This started my fanatical streak on change. I hated when anyone wasn't acting as they should. I remember on one particularly stormy day at Hogwarts, Snape came into the Great Hall at dinner completely soaked. I enjoyed the sight for a while, until I visited Hagrid later. He said Snape had gone outside to the edge of the forest, remembering that his dog was still outside, and Hagrid was busy helping Professor Kettleburn.
"And - and drowned it?" I asked.
Hagrid looked bemused. "No, he brough' 'im back inside. Dried 'im off an' all."
I sat in a horrified sort of trace. Hagrid snapped his fingers in front of my face.
Peter, who had accompanied me, laughed. "Poor Sirius. Simply can't stand the thought of Snape acting like a human being… can you, Sirius?"
"No!" I cried, jaw hanging somewhere along my collar.
Even Hagrid chuckled. Peter was nearly choking.
"Don't suffocate yourself," I told him automatically.
"Would it help if I tol' you he lef' the floor muddy?"
"No!… well, yeah, that sounds like him." I guess they were mocking me, teasing me in a friendly sort of way, but I barely noticed.
I think I was the hardest campaigner when we were looking for some way to help Remus. When we couldn't find a cure, James and Peter aimlessly looked around… maybe a way to numb the pain… maybe easier healing charms… I was adamant, however. If I couldn't stop the transformation, I would be there with him for it.
Still, I was nearly sick when I saw the actual change, and the effects firsthand. The change itself was horrific; I knew why Remus hadn't wanted us to see it. I looked away.
But I couldn't afterward. I was there to help him, and I'd do that first. What we all first noticed was his right shoulder, which was heavily mangled and bleeding and twisted from where he had charged the walls before we arrived. It looked even worse than James's leg had. Some sort of blabbing was coming out of my mouth, I guess, 'cause Remus told me faintly:
"Sirius, calm down." (Those words were said a lot throughout my life. "Black, slow down, shut up, sit down, calm down.") "It's not bad… it'll get fixed."
James had to drag me by the arm from the Shack. "You do a swell job of trying to get us caught," he grinned.
I was so shaken and my mind so far away that his words washed over me.
"Sirius says he's glad to be of service," Peter said helpfully.
I was still in for the worst, however. A few weeks afterward Remus caught me alone, saying that if this kept up Pomfrey would be suspicious.
"At how… in one piece… you are?" I asked sarcastically.
"Yes. Next time, I need you to bang me up a bit. We can have a wrestling match or something; whatever it is, as long as I get injured." He proceeded with a few details. All I heard was that I would have to purposefully inflict pain on him. I nearly fainted from the thought.
"No, Remus, I can't."
His words of reason were lost on me. I gave him a fourth of my attention, concentrating on how to end this discussion. I needed a wild card often in these conversations, when even my friends get impatient with my whims. Luckily, I have one; it's the name my mum was so kind as to bestow upon me.
"You're just not serious."
"Yes I am."
Got 'im! I slammed the table with my fist. "No! You're Remus; I'm Sirius. Get it straight, Lupin!"
Everyone denies that's funny. Remus buried his head in his arms a moment, muffling a sound that didn't seem quite like a groan of superiority. "Right," he said at last. "Back to the topic at hand."
Damn. I can never distract him. And, of course, he won. Remus always wins the big battles.
When we became Animagi, I was a huge black dog. James burst into hysterical laughter when he saw the complete transformation for the first time.
"Oh - Merlin's - beard," he managed between great gasps of breath, practically rolling on the floor. " - Sirius - I knew it -"
I glanced at a mirror in our secret room changed back. Unlike with James, changing back was the easy part for me. It was becoming the dog that was tricky at first. "You know," I said, with great dignity, "most people aren't so amused when they see a Grim."
Peter then laughed as well. Remus didn't; he was too keyed up over what might happen if we did it wrong.
That set James off worse. He apparently hadn't thought of that. "Sirius - a Grim - this is rich - this is great - a Grim."
"Yeah, well, I'm happy, too," I said sarcastically. "Now everyone'll shriek when they see me."
"Everyone does that anyway," Peter ribbed.
"The greatest part - Sirius - canine - perfect," James grinned. "Overprotective canine. You must've done the spell right; it nailed you perfectly, Snuffles." James always called me Snuffles since my phobia of anyone catching a cold.
"Don't call me Snuffles!"
"Look! He growls, too!"
"But really." James turned to Peter and Remus for backup. "Don't you get it? You know how overbearing he is - 'Grab your cloak!' 'Wash your hands!' 'Don't talk!' 'Don't move!' 'Eat your veggies!'."
"That's true…" Remus acknowledged.
James gave me a half-smirk. "You'd make a great dad sometime, Sirius. If any witch would dare marry you. Perhaps you'll have to adopt the kid."
I pretended to throw things at him, including hexes. If this all sounds like James was being a bit of a git, he wasn't, really. That was just his way of showing friendship. I think I was about as bad. And I knew that at anytime I needed him, he'd be there for me, and he'd help me through the not-so-lighthearted times when calling me "Snuffles" would not cut it. I sort of liked his barbs. It was different before I met him; Arabella is wonderful and I owe her a lot, but she is old-fashioned.
Then the horrific happened in our sixth year. Well, several horrific things happened that year - we were children of a war and daily saw our classmates lose their relatives, including some of our own, and that was also the year that I nearly destroyed my friendship with Remus permanently (and I still don't pretend to understand his logic, but that's another story). The real horrific thing, however, was that my confident assurance to Arabella regarding Marauders and the fairer sex was smashed to blistering bits: James found girls might be another species, but they were an amazing one. Or, to be more precise, one girl was amazing: a quiet, focused, tough Muggle-born Gryffindor witch in our year, with fiery red hair and big brilliant green eyes. Yes, you guessed it: Her name was Lily Viola Evans.
How it happened? I don't know. Lily was a fun classmate, nothing more, to me. We talked, we teased, we studied, and we completely forgot about the other when they were out of sight. One Friday Night Fling, it seemed to slowly change. James was attacked by those little demons that no Defence Against the Dark Arts course ever seems to warn you against - teenage hormones.
Before I knew it, one day Jasmine Whitby comes up to me, asking: "Where is she?"
"She who?" I asked blankly, thinking of Katya Peterson or Florence van Durischk, the two girls that came immediately to my mind whether I liked them or not. They were the girls of our year.
"You know. James's girlfriend, you dolt."
"James's - James's what? Who?!" I hollered, earning a reproving glance from Professor McGonagall as she passed us in the corridor. I ignored it.
"Lily, of course!"
You could have shoved a flobberworm down my throat and I doubt I'd've noticed. Wait - James - my James, my best friend in the whole wide world, my unofficial brother - and Lily were going out?
Ashen-faced, I shakily asked James about it that evening in the common room with my usual lack of tact. Peter rolled his eyes in exasperation, all too used to my way of asking such things, and Remus gave me a look that mimicked McGonagall's eerily.
"There's nothing like that between Lil and me," James assured me, perhaps a bit too quickly. "That's just the Jorkins-want-to-bes getting excitable. Lily's just a good friend - she is a good friend, right?" I had never seen James look so vulnerable and in need of a vote of confidence as he looked about at us, waiting for us to answer his question. Usually James gave the encouragement to us. I nodded, simply because I wanted to return him the favour. Remus and Peter affirmed it as well, probably partly for the same reason I had, and probably partly because they did like Lily reasonably well.
I hated Lily. I detested Lily. I wanted Lily to vanish with a poof of smoke and brimstone and little pink clouds and quacking noises. 'Bye-'bye.
I hated and detested and despised those who took it for granted that the two were going out, telling them off heatedly, repeating James's word and usually dragging in a red-faced friend to the circle of gossipers who said otherwise to confirm it. But I left Lily well enough alone until the day later in the year, when James, in a would-be casual tone, confided to me that he had asked Lily to be his girlfriend "for real".
I forced my mouth shut - I had been gaping outright - and swallowed.
"Lil's special," James whispered, mostly to himself, but of course the two of us were one - most people called both of us "Blotter", right?
With those two innocent words from my lovestruck, starry-eyed (well, I'm exaggerating a bit now) my attitude to Lily turned from fairly amiable to downright cold. I snubbed her, gave her a cool shoulder and shrug, pretended to contract sudden deafness when she spoke, ignored her words and actions, and generally left everyone else to entertain her - although James did a good job of it all by himself. In short, I acted like a git. Severus-Snape-levels of rudeness.
But I couldn't help it. I would nearly cry every night, because my best friend was being dragged by a redheaded elf to a world I could not follow, and he was changing and growing too fast for me to keep up. James wasn't a complete part of me anyone - he wasn't even a different person. He belonged to someone else as well.
"Sirius, you've got to quit this!" Peter cried after a month or two of this behaviour.
"Quit what?" I asked waspishly, stuffing half-finished essays into my schoolbag. I knew what he was going to say; he and Remus had been talking in undertones too often lately, and I had caught the whispered word "Lily". Somehow, I knew they weren't discussing Herbology.
"Quit treating Lily like she's some sort of - of - of garbage on your shoe, or something! It's terrible, Sirius - d'you ever hear yourself?" As usual when Peter got excitable, his voice turned rather high-pitched and squeaky. I knew by this he was highly upset.
"No, don't want to."
"Padfoot, you're making James miserable," Remus spoke up. In contrast to Peter, his voice was a little sharp, but quiet and calm. His composure sometimes scared me. "Have you been watching lately?"
"Gets too disgusting when he's staring at Lily with hearts in his eyes."
"Those hearts are very pretty," Peter said solemnly, but his joke fell flat as Remus pressed on.
"Well, look past that and see how he acts. He doesn't know what to do - he keeps worrying about your reaction while dying as he thinks of breaking up with Lily. You may not have noticed, but he hasn't slept in two days and he's skived off six classes in three days."
This caught my attention. James never shared my insomnia and was dedicated enough to classes to be made prefect (okay, so it was probably more the fact that he was really talented and had a good memory). Actually, I had always thought of James having a perfect life, far removed from the mortal world of worries and fears. I think we all did. I should've known better, but I guess I hadn't. "N-No - he… what?"
Remus repeated it, very deadpan.
"How d'you know all this?" I asked, a little defencively. James was my best friend, and I was supposed to know most about him.
Peter rolled his eyes. " 'Cause we pay attention." Furthermore, I was to discover James and Remus had been having long talks of their own that had excluded me, another thing completely new and foreign to me. I was used to being in the thick of all our affairs.
This awoke me enough so's that evening at dinner, I politely asked Lily if she'd like me to pass her a second helping of the stew. "It's very good," I said, forcing a painful smile.
Lily looked skeptical, probably wondering how I had poisoned it. She accepted politely but tried to hide it under her plate. Oh, well. It was a start, and James was glancing at me in surprise, but not displeasure. Over the next few days, as I kept up my more civil act, I realised Remus and Peter were right - he did look much more happy and at ease when I didn't pick a fight with her at every turn. In fact, he was walking on air.
But I still didn't like her, and I felt my stomach churn at the sight of her. I grimaced at the thought of spending prolonged periods of time with her. I left defending her against "Mudblood-haters" to the others. However, I make a real effort to be nice, hoping that perhaps I'd find out what James found so incredible about her.
I hadn't found it by the end of sixth year, when James's mother was reported missing. He was distraught for days, growing more and more pensive as the suspense slowly ate away at his complexion. By the time we found Mrs. Potter was dead, it was almost a relief, although James and I were terribly upset.
I had rarely seen James cry before, but he did now, quietly and nobly - always so noble: he permitted himself to cry, but only when we were alone, usual only the two of us, although the other two saw their share of his spells as well. I think Peter and Remus were of more help; as usual when faced with death, I cried as well.
By the end of year he seemed to be recovering amazingly well. We knew, however, what was on his mind, and it was on ours as well. The last night of that year we were all awake in our dormitory and gave up the pretense of sleeping. We huddled together in front of our fire (it was a chilly June evening, the remnants of a winter that was reluctant to leave us alone).
"Write," Peter ordered abruptly, as we stared either into the flames or the window outside by turns.
"We'll write," we echoed dully, all feeling a little empty. We were facing a summer apart, and knew we were stronger together than separate, and it was to be a summer we smelled more war in, more losses, more confusion, more fear for us as we grew up against our will into this battle-torn world.
"If any of you can come to the farm…" I added. It was doubtful. James had to help his father, Peter his mother, and Remus was stuck with his uncle, who was damned if he let his nephew have an inch of room to breathe.
"We'll try it," Remus said when no one else replied. It was a hollow promise. Richaden Lupin would never let him, and Remus wouldn't've anyway - he was still distant with me since the incident with Snape.
I nodded anyway. Remus was pale; I knew he hadn't slept the past week at all.
There was another long silence. I tried to break it with: "Aren't we a cheerful lot?" but it grated on the mood like a badly tuned musical saw. I fell to thinking again of what we all were - was the attack on Mrs. Potter the wedge that would eventually envelop us all?
"If anything ever happens to me," I spoke up suddenly, this time more serious (and with no intention of my horrible serious/Sirius puns), "I want you to all take care of Arabella - promise me. Please."
All three met my eyes and promised solemnly. I had never felt so grateful before, or realised before how lucky I was to have sincere, loyal friends.
"If I died, watch for my mother and sister," Peter added. "I want to make sure they're always taken care of…"
We all promised again. I thought of Penelope and Plumy Pettigrew. Peter's mother was wispy, paranoid, and sickly - I couldn't confess any great sympathy for her, despite her having been widowed for years. Plumy, his sister, had a mental retardation syndrome that no one had been able to cure. She tried Hogwarts for a year before she and Mrs. Pettigrew decided to give it up - too much trouble and strain on her, and it advanced her very little.
Peter and I glanced at James and Remus, waiting for their requests. Morbidly enough, it was as if we were making our spoken last will and testaments.
"You first, Moony."
Remus sighed almost impeccably and considered it a moment, looking intently into the fire as if for answers. Finally he looked back up to us. "We all know I don't care about my uncle; he can take care of himself. Watch for my sister and her husband, but I think they're okay, too. What I really want, if I'm not around, is for you three to take care of each other and yourselves, don't do anything stupid. I mean it!" he added sternly as I snorted slightly. "No - no - getting yourselves in jail or blowing up London or draining the Atlantic or anything. You all mean more to me than anything now. I couldn't stand it if you weren't happy."
We promised yet again, although I couldn't help but add teasingly: "We're the only ones left for you to care for? You lead a sordid life, Remus."
He half-heartedly pretended to throw a pillow at me. I recognised the look in his eyes as the one he got when thinking of his own parents.
Now we turned out attention to James. The fire cast a half-silhouette of his fine-featured face and distinctive dark hair impressively, making him look far older for a moment. "My - my father, of course. Although he's pretty strong-minded; not sure what you could do. Most of my relatives are dead, but my aunt Lonnie, for instance - watch them for me, please. And - and Lily." He stared fixedly at all of us. "No matter what, make sure Lily's all right. I'd live and die for her and want you to do the same."
My throat tightened. How did Lily get into a conversation of our nearest and dearest? And wasn't James being a little demanding?
No more than you were, Sirius, I told myself.
"Of course, James," Remus said quietly. "We will."
"Always," Peter promised.
Three sets of eyes turned, none too discreetly (although I think they tried to) toward me. I swallowed furiously, trying to hide it. Tears sprung to my eyes, but I blinked them back and met James's slate grey ones as heartfeltly as I could. Which wasn't difficult. Lily or no Lily - this was James.
"Yes, James. I would. No matter what."
James sighed, relief crossing his face, but he looked at me affectionately. "Your word is law, Sirius. It's a sure thing, your word."