Chapter 69

Sirius found her upstairs. Mrs. Weasley had shown a sobbing Rochelle to his room and she was sitting there, on the edge of his bed, sniffling away the last of her tears. Although she was a fully grown woman in her late thirties, she looked like a small child, curled up on the edge of a strange bed.

Sirius sat beside her and put his arms around her, closing his eyes when she melted against him. He'd missed holding her like this; during their clandestine meetings in the Room of Requirement and later, less secretly, in his apartment. He remembered how they would clutch each other in the middle of the night whenever one of them had a nightmare. He'd probably had more nightmares in the last thirteen years without her, than he'd ever had when she was there; yet he could never forget that feeling. He closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair, feeling her head gently move as she shed the last of her tears in his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, a hint of shame coating her voice. "I ruined that. I couldn't possibly have made a bigger mess of it."

"You didn't ruin anything," Sirius whispered. He wiped away the tears that streaked her face. Her skin, though it had lost its youth, still felt soft under his fingers. "It's not your fault. I should have told you he looked like them. You weren't prepared."

"I should have expected it," Rochelle whispered. Those green eyes were still haunting her. She knew that no matter how much Sirius had warned her, nothing could have prepared her for the feeling of looking at the friend she had lost so many years ago. Her stomach felt hollow. "I knew he had her eyes; he's had them since he was a baby, but I never thought…"

Sirius rubbed her back gently. "I know. I know. I thought I was looking at James the first time I saw him too. It's not easy. But he's not them, Rochelle. He just looks like them."

Rochelle shook her head. "He looks like James, yes. But those eyes… they don't just look like Lily's eyes, Sirius, they are her eyes. I looked at those eyes every day for six years, and they've haunted me for the past thirteen. I can't… I can't look at them without feeling like I'm looking at Lily. What would she think, Sirius? That after everything we went through together, after all she did for me, I let her son grown up with Petunia? She'd never forgive me," Rochelle whispered, her voice breaking again. Sirius tightened his grip around her.

"You can't keep thinking this way, Rochelle," Sirius said firmly. "If you're going to keep feeling guilty, you'll never be able to look at him. There was nothing you could have possibly done. Tell me what you could have done differently."

Rochelle sniffed. "I… I could have taken him to France with me. Maybe I'd still have been living under a false name, but he would at least be with someone who loved him, I-"

"That's absurd. He's a child. He has the Trace on him, they'd have found him and you as well. Besides, Dumbledore would never have let you take him out of the country. It's better that he grew up here, went to Hogwarts, where he was safe."

Rochelle was silent. Her shoulders were still trembling slightly, but she couldn't argue with Sirius. He was right. No matter what she'd done, she couldn't have given Harry a happy life. Rather than make her feel better, it only upset her more. Harry had grown up without a chance at happiness. Her heart went out to him again. "I should go talk to him," she said softly. "E-explain myself."

"He's gone to bed," Sirius replied. "You can talk to him in the morning. He was a little distracted today anyway; his two best friends were made Prefects. He seemed to feel a little better after I told him neither I nor his father were ever Prefects."

Rochelle, despite the tear-stains on her cheeks, managed to raise an eyebrow at Sirius. "And I suppose you conveniently left out that his father was made Head Boy in his seventh year?"

Sirius shrugged mischievously. "Well..."

"If that boy gets through his Hogwarts years taking you and James Potter as his role models, Lily will truly never forgive me," Rochelle said with a smile. Sirius laughed too, at the thought of Lily reprimanding Harry for playing with a snitch indoors, or getting into detentions every week. The two of them paused for a moment and looked at each other. Rochelle took a deep breath. "I'm feeling better. I'm sorry I made a scene."

"You've been through a lot tonight," Sirius told her gently. "And considering I almost killed you the moment I saw you, I wouldn't say that the scene you made was the biggest. It honestly never occurred to me that you could be alive." He paused and sighed. "You couldn't have written beforehand?" he teased.

"Knowing you, I thought you'd appreciate my dramatic entrance," Rochelle replied. She sighed and pressed her head into Sirius' shoulder, inhaling his scent. Her voice got quieter. "I was so afraid that it wouldn't be the same."

"What wouldn't be the same?" he asked softly.

"Us. I… I wondered if maybe, after all those years in Azkaban, you would barely remember me. If I came here and things had changed so much… we had changed so much that you and I just wouldn't… wouldn't be the same. That maybe we wouldn't be able to love each other the way we used to."

Sirius closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "We have changed, Rochelle. I know I'm not the same young, carefree and reckless man I was fifteen years ago. And you might have changed too. But that doesn't mean that I'll ever stop loving you. The things that really matter- those will always last."

"I don't know about that," Rochelle muttered. "It was different back then. We were all united by this… this drive, this determination to do something, to fight. All these raging passions. The few years after my parents died, I was constantly filled with this bubbling anger and fearlessness," she explained. "But I don't feel angry anymore. After… after Lily and James, and you going to Azkaban, a part of me gave up. I got tired of fighting and losing. Now I'm just scared."

"It's okay to be scared."

"We had so much then," she continued. Her eyes were filling with tears. "I had almost everything, and in a short span of time, I lost it all. Now there's so little left, and I'm not willing to sacrifice it for anything. Not again. I refuse to lose everything I love to another war."

Sirius looked down at her. He could see her fear, her desperate attempts to cling onto anything that was left of her life. He closed his eyes and pressed his head to hers. "Darling, war involves risks. That's how it's always been. And if we don't fight, who will?"

"Somebody else," Rochelle whispered desperately. "Haven't we done and lost enough? Why must we always be the ones putting our lives on the line? Can't we live what's left in peace?"

Sirius looked down at her. His eyes showed confusion and hurt. "Rochelle, I don't understand what you're trying to say. How can you live in peace when there's a war to be fought? We failed last time, but now we might actually succeed."

Rochelle took a deep breath. Her eyes were shimmering with tears. She wasn't sure how to say this in a way he would understand, and she could almost feel the anger radiating off him. "Sirius, I came back here because I love you. You're the only thing I have left, which I haven't already lost. And… and if You-Know-Who... if he's back, and there's another war, then I don't want to be a part of it. Can you understand that?"

"No, I can't," Sirius replied. "If you really think you've lost everything, then you should be the first person fighting because you have nothing left to lose."

"I have you left to lose," she whispered. "Sirius, if you love me, promise me I won't lose you to this war."

Sirius sat up. "You're asking me to promise not to fight. Rochelle, I can't do that. If the Order needs me, then I will do anything I can to help them. This is bigger than both of us."

Rochelle was silent as she stood up and turned her back to him to hide her tears. She could feel her heart breaking. Why couldn't he understand? War, fighting, all of it was so futile. The most important thing was to cling on to whatever you loved and never let it go. After all that pain, she just wanted to live a quiet, stress-free life with the man she loved. "You mean it's more important than both of us," she whispered.

Sirius was quiet. "I never said that."

Rochelle could feel the tears streaming down her face as she hugged herself, her shoulder shaking. What higher power existed that was so hell-bent on depriving her of any happiness in life? She remembered everything that Voldemort had taken from her- her parents, her brother, her friends, the 13 years of a miserable, lonely existence she'd lived in hiding while the man she loved rotted away in a prison. And yet, having lost so much, it wasn't over. Sirius would still fight. She would lose him too; permanently this time. There would truly be nothing left to live for.

"Rochelle," Sirius whispered, slowly approaching her from behind. His arms wrapped around her waist. They were thinner than they used to be, but his grip was still firm. He pressed his face into her neck, gently breathing her scent as he kissed her skin. "I love you. I love you so much. You are what kept me alive all these years in that hell-hole. Don't turn away from me now."

"Can you promise me you won't die in this war?" she whispered, as his lips gently pressed against the skin of her neck. She closed her eyes, feeling more tears stream down her face as her hands clutched the arms she had wrapped around her waist closer to her. "Can you promise?"

"Nobody can promise they won't die," Sirius said softly. "We can only live in this moment. We're together right now, Rochelle. Don't ruin the present with worries of the future."

Rochelle was silent. The present wasn't enough for her. She wanted a future, she wanted to know that they would both be together and alive. Was that too much to ask for? But Sirius would never understand. His hands were caressing her waist, his lips moving upwards from her neck to her face. "You're so beautiful," he whispered, turning her to face him. His eyes roved over her face. "I'd almost forgotten how beautiful you are."

The tiny part of Rochelle that was still holding onto her insecurities let go on hearing those words. A heat was starting to rise inside of her; one that had been dormant for so long, she'd forgotten how it used to feel. "And you're still the same charmer," she replied with a smile. Sirius pressed his lips to hers, slowly claiming them. She could feel her knees going weak, her arms wrapped around his neck to keep herself upright.

Their bodies pressed together as they slowly explored each other; recognizing things that were the same and familiarizing themselves with what was different. The moustache was new; Rochelle felt an excited tingling whenever it tickled her skin as he kissed her. Sirius' hands raked through her hair, remembering how they'd spent hours lying together in bed as he caressed it and how she would sleepily scold him and tell him to stop tugging it.

Rochelle gasped as Sirius' hands slipped under her clothing, his cold skin sending shivers down her spine. Her fingers clutched at his shoulders tightly, his eyes closing in pleasure. "It's been so long," she whispered. Her eyes opened as she looked at him. "It's been so long."

"I know, darling," Sirius replied gently. There was a pain in his voice too, along with the dark undertones of passion. He held her closer, never wanting to let go. "I know. It'll be all right."

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A/N – Thanks so much for reading, guys! Sorry, I know my updates aren't very regular, nor can I promise that they will be. But I hope to get a few more chapters out for this story anyway.