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It's like waking up from a vague nightmare of cold and horror, and coming face to face with twelve years ago.

You may as well be a student, seeing Harry for the first time. Only the self-control, steel and iron -- you visualize it as hard rock, metal -- that's kept you sane this long keeps you from whispering, "James".

~

This is what really happens when you leave school: you lose track of people.

It didn't happen on purpose; it never does. You lose track of people, and things, and places, and all of a sudden you wake up and it's twelve years later and you've moved on.

It's so easy to lose track of time.

With time, everything becomes easier, everything becomes easier to handle, to absorb, to swallow. Those years between Hogwarts and Lily and James' deaths put perspective on so many things.

It was strange at the time, almost strange now, thinking about it. The truth of the matter is you all grew up, you grew up in two years. You're children, and then bang, you're full fledged adults with a marriage, then a baby in your midst, and secrets, and fear, and the whole thing.

That picture of Sirius laughing, it was almost, believable. Edgy, he'd been. Touchy. Hard to handle.

~

School is years off, and visualizing him you see that stranger, laughing. It used to be funny that everyone joked about how Sirius's Animagus form was a premonition of death.

~

That place, deep in the pit of your belly, that tightens up in the wake of bad news.

"Quiet!" The children, of course, shut up; and thank god, because this is bad news, even if this isn't what you're fearing it is. "Stay where you are."

But of course it's what you fear it is because bad news always is. Your belly is tight.

~

Harry was always a quiet baby, he was quiet and happy. The picture you have of him in your head is as a baby, and of course he's aged too, these past years, but you never quite expect the boy that faces you, flames flickering over his face and goddamned if that isn't James peering out of his worried face.

Two minutes ago you were asleep, the old familiar nightmares and now that apparition, that face followed you from sleep to wake. Right down to the glasses.

You tell yourself silently that nothing's wrong, and then the door slides open and proves you wrong.

~

Shiver. "None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks."

Not much of a lie.

~

Flocks of geese, migrating. Any time a motorcycle goes past. Not everything reminds you of what was; no, life marches steadily forward despite car wrecks, train wrecks, and tragedies. Harry, Harry is alive, and not -- from Dumbledore's report, at any rate -- an emotional basketcase. People deal. You dealt.

You deal.

Life happens while you're waiting for something else.