Sirius brings the bike down quickly and jumps off before it touches the ground. It's not until he's standing on the Potters' doorstep that he realizes he knows their location, which can only mean one thing.
But he can't think it. Betrayal is still an impossibility, which renders death beyond impossible. Peter would never betray them because they would never betray him. James wouldn't die because – that's just not something James would do. And Lily and Harry wouldn't die if James were there to protect them. Sirius's friends – his family – are alive behind that door because they have to be.
There is no Dark Mark over the house. The moon is the only thing in the sky, hanging like a comma between the thought and the unthought, the yes and the therefore. The lane is quiet, the windows of the other houses darkened.
He can walk away from this, he thinks. He doesn't have to know anything. He can go to the pub, get pissed, find Remus.
Remus is innocent.
The realization slides in like a knife and twists between his ribs.
Remus is innocent. Every breath hurts. If the Potters are dead, Remus is innocent. He says it again and again to himself, until Remus is innocent becomes synonymous with the Potters are dead.
Remus is innocent is a thought he can bear, so he begins to chant the words under his breath and while doing this, he climbs the last step and reaches for the doorknob.
The door is unlocked and stands slightly ajar, something he hadn't been able to see from the spot to which he'd arrived. He nudges it open another few inches. The front corridor is dark.
Wand held before him, Sirius proceeds. The floorboards creak beneath his boots. The only other sound is the splash of running water coming to him from the direction of the kitchen. Sirius follows it, enters the dark room with trepidation, but there's no one here.
Something crunches under the soles of his boots. A quick sweep of his wand reveals the fragments of a shattered dish and, on the other side of the kitchen, close to the stairs that lead to the first floor, an outstretched arm.
It's James's, and Sirius knows it, though the arm is only illuminated for a fraction of a second.
Days from now, and for years to come, whenever the Dementors come near, Sirius will remember how he crossed that kitchen floor and crashed to his knees beside James's body. He will cross that floor so many times that the threads of memory will begin to fray and it will no longer be clear to him what happened when.
Does he scream first, or beat James's chest with his fists? Does he next squeeze the stiffening fingers, or tap the cracked glasses with his wand and whisper frantically "Reparo," as if that could possibly help?
One thing he will always know to be true: the baby's thin wail comes after he has all but destroyed the house. When he is standing astride James's waist and his hair and shoulders are dusted with plaster and glass fragments and, tilting back his head, he can see the sliver of moon through the gash in the ceiling, then he hears it.
It sounds so distant, but it's coming from the room directly above, and it dimly occurs to Sirius that he could have killed Harry. It occurs to him before he's quite aware of the fact that Voldemort did not kill Harry.
He drops to James's side again and touches his cheek. Then he moves his hand slowly over James's empty eyes and closes them forever. He considers leaving James's glasses on the floor by his head, but no, unless he was pissed out of his mind, James never fell asleep with his glasses on; he always remembered to take them off. Without his glasses now, James looks like he's only sleeping, and Sirius can't have that, so he takes the glasses and puts them on James's face.
Upstairs, Harry continues to cry, but Sirius spends a few more moments crouched by his friend. The world seems to teeter; in Sirius's mind it tilts suddenly and everything goes spilling into the dark unknown. If it's possible to crawl back up, Sirius doesn't care.
"I had plans," he explains to no one who can hear him. "Don't you see? You fucking arsehole, we had plans. What were you thinking, checking out now? Prongs, what were you thinking?"
He babbles until the words clog his throat. Then, without thinking, he bends over James and kisses his half-parted lips.
A chaste kiss, the only breath and warmth his own.
He rises stiffly, and starts up the stairs. The banister is splintered, and several steps broken; he stumbles twice, bruising his shin the first time, scraping his hand the second.
Harry's bedroom is at the top of the stairs, and it's from here that the crying emanates. The door to this room has been blasted off its hinges, but not by Sirius.
He steps over the broken planks, and trips over Lily.
She's lying on her back, as James was, her red hair spilling around her. In the dim light of Sirius's wand, her hair is the color of blood. Her own wand lies a few feet away from her slack fingers.
Sirius studies her face with little comprehension.
"Lily. You stupid bitch. He died for you. Couldn't you've had the sense to live?"
But it seems unsporting to needle Lily when she can't sass him back.
I can never needle Lily again.
Even the unspoken thought has an hysterical tint.
The kiss, thinks Sirius. The kiss I took from James belongs to her.
So he kneels beside her and kisses her lips, which are as cold as James's.
Then he goes to find Harry.
He hasn't stopped crying. This makes him easy to locate even in the darkness and amid the toppled, broken furniture. Sirius finds him beside an overturned chest of drawers, scoops him up in his arms, and holds him so tightly against his chest that his cries are momentarily choked from his lips.
When they resume there's a more desperate tone to them. You're here, Sirius takes to be their meaning. You're here, now do something.
"I'm sorry." He kisses Harry's damp, silky hair. "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. They're dead. I'm sorry."
He kisses the baby's forehead and tastes blood.
Holding Harry with one arm, Sirius raises his wand. Harry wails and bats at the lighted tip, but Sirius holds it just out of his reach. One glance confirms his fear; it's fresh blood, and it's clearly Harry's. It's coming from a lightning-shaped cut on his forehead. That it doesn't appear to be a deep cut relieves Sirius only a little.
"I'm sorry," he whispers again. "So sorry."
What now? As powerful a witch as Lily was, it seems impossible to Sirius that she could have died killing or even driving off Voldemort. It seems equally impossible that Voldemort could have scrupled to kill a child.
Yet there's no sign of him here. If he had lingered, Sirius is certain that he would not have made it to James's side alive, let alone Lily's and Harry's. He hadn't thought before entering the house, but then, he hadn't thought before blasting holes in the roof and walls.
What now? He can't see beyond this moment. Even as Harry continues to bawl and minutes pass, each one comes as a surprise. Time insinuates itself between Sirius and everything he knew and loved. Ahead in the darkness, Peter is in need of killing.
"Shh," Sirius hears himself croon to Harry. "Shh, then. It'll be all right."
A hollow promise. He can't leave Harry with that. (Is he leaving? When? And how will he even find Peter?)
The back of Sirius's hand has been scraped bloody by broken glass. "Look," he says desperately, and holds his hand to Harry's bleeding forehead. "Look. We've got the same blood, now. Just a drop, but it'll have to do. We're bound to each other now. D'you see? It means I'll come back for you, wherever I go."
It's a made-up oath, but Harry can't know that, and in some region of his mind that hasn't been razed to the ground, Sirius believes it.
"I'll always come for you. I promise."