Years later, there was a knock on Andromeda's door.
Who could it be? She thought vaguely. "Just a moment," she called. She wiped her floury hands on her apron and hurried to open the door.
When she saw who it was, she just about fainted.
She fell forward into Sirius Black's arms, and he hugged her, and for a moment they were both crying and laughing at the same time.
Andromeda suddenly realized a mass murderer was at her doorstep. She drew back and slapped him across the face.
"Meda," he whispered hoarsely. "I swear. I didn't do it."
Something in his voice made Andromeda believe him. He explained his story well into the night, adding all the details and putting in where he went wrong and what he could've done to prevent it. He didn't have to. Andromeda believed him.
"I knew it," she whispered as he finally drew a breath. "I knew you were innocent. At the back of my – not my brain, my brain was too stupid to catch on, but my heart – at the back of my heart I knew it." She laughed. She laughed and laughed. "I was right."
Sirius smiled wryly. "I forgot how much you loved that." She slapped him again, playfully this time.
You're with me tonight, Siri..
Then she remembered a letter, stuffed at the back of her closet from years and years and years ago.
"Remember when I used to sing to you?" she said softly.
Sirius tipped his head back and thought for a moment, his grin fading into a thoughtful but not unhappy expression. "Yes," he said quietly. "yes, I do." He grinned again, although it looked vaguely forced. "Gawsh, Andromeda, how on earth d'ya remember things like this?"
Andromeda smiled. "I have my ways," she said softly.
Sirius laughed. She'd forgotten his bark like laugh. She'd forgotten everything about him. She leaned closer to him and ran her hand across his face. It was dirty and his eyes were haunted, his nose had a smudge across it and there were tear stains so deeply engraved in his face they would never disappear, and there was a mysterious scar running across his long nose, but he was Sirius, her Sirius, and he was back with her.
"Siri.." she whispered, and for the first time he didn't scowl.
"Aaaaaaaandddiii," he whispered, and then without meaning to she was crying and crying. He hugged her tightly, and she noted without really seeing that tears were rolling down his own face.
"You're home," she whispered.
"I can't stay, you know that," he said sadly. "I probably can't even visit. But when they clear my name – when they find out about that rat – then I'll come here everyday. Every single day."
"Promise?" whispered Andromeda.
"Promise," said Sirius, and Andromeda was reminded of herself.
"Why'd'ya have to go, 'Meda?" a nine year old Sirius asked sadly as Andromeda hurried around her room, throwing her things into her trunk.
"Hogwarts, Sirius, remember?" reminded Andromeda gently. "But I'll come back. I'll come back, maybe not for the holidays, but in summer. And then we can put toads in Bella's bed, and splash each other, and catch fireflies. We'll catch fireflies every night. Every single night."
"Promise?" whispered Sirius.
"Promise," said Andromeda.
"And then we can put toads in Bella's bed," said Andromeda, unable to resist, "and splash each other – "
"And catch fireflies," Sirius finished, and the light came back into his haunted eyes as a true Sirius smile broke across his face. "We'll catch fireflies every night. Every single night."
"And we did, that summer," said Andromeda softly. "Remember? We'd go out every night with that jar that was magicked to be big as outside on the inside, and plain normal on the outside – "
"I couldn't get enough of that," laughed Sirius. "'Big as the outside on the inside, Meda! Isn't that the funniest thing ever?'"
"We probably caught tens of millions that summer," said Andromeda softly. "Remember what you used them for?"
Sirius smiled. "I never admitted it, no matter what Bellatrix said," he said. "Not a nightlight..I just liked to watch them flash."
"No one believed me, did they?"
"None of us except Reggie."
Sirius sucked in his lips. "Regulus," he said quietly. "He isn't my Reggie anymore."
Andromeda touched Sirius's wrist. "He was only a child," she said quietly. "He did what he thought was right. He was never as brave as you, Siri. His judgment was bad, but he wasn't bad."
"He joined the Death Eaters, Meda," said Sirius angrily. "He joined the Death Eaters."
"Maybe he had a good reason," said Andromeda quietly.
"A good reason?" uttered Sirius. "He joined the Death Eaters."
Andromeda touched her cousin's arm. "You murdered your best friends."
"I didn't – "
"If Regulus was alive," stated Andromeda, "in his eyes, you would've. Never judge, Sirius. Thinking that you were guilty was the most enormous mistake of my life, do you know that? It cost me years of misery. Today I learned not to judge people. Because what you think isn't always true."
"I highly doubt the person who joined the Death Eaters was my brother's evil twin," snorted Sirius.
"Sirius," said Andromeda, tinging on irked, "if someone told me that it was really Peter who killed the Potters and that he could turn into a rat and he blew up the street and cut off his own finger and everything else that happened, I would've thrown them out and told them to come back when they were sober."
Sirius bit his lip. "I just..." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Meda, I don't..I never would've..and now..I suppose..but what if..and I don't want to get my hopes up..you know?"
"No, I have no idea," said Andromeda frankly, "but I kind of see where you're coming from."
"It was how I felt," said Andromeda simply, "when I started to think that maybe you were innocent."
Sirius sighed. "Things were simpler in Azkaban," he joked, and he and his cousin laughed.
"Speaking of Azkaban," Andromeda said after a pause, "how in the world did you get here?"
"Bit of that charm that makes you look like a chameleon," explained Sirius, leaning his chair back on two legs. "'Course, it's not all that reliable, I had to argue every single member of the Order separately for three weeks before convincing them that I simply had to come see you..after convincing them of that they wanted me to drink half a dozen potions and wear twelve cloaks or something..but in the end Dumbledore said this would be okay for a quick nip down the memory lane with my favorite cousin."
Andromeda laughed like bells. "Oh, Sirius, I can't believe you're here," she moaned happily, reaching forward once more, feeling his face carefully, checking that he was entirely real. "You're real, you're real...I was so...Siri, you can't imagine how it was for me...I sobbed for years...and years...every night.."
"I'm here now, Meda," he murmured, hugging her like there was no tomorrow, because for all he knew there wouldn't be, but that didn't matter, because there was a today. "I'm here now, here with you, here tonight."