Sirius had woken with Marlene’s screams echoing around the inside of his skull. It was his usual nightmare. He’d not been there the night that she’d been killed, so his sleeping mind had taken to playing out a multitude of possibilities, each more horrific than the last. He badly wanted a drink, but after Lily had seen the state of him, he’d promised her that he would stop drinking when he was feeling like this. It was already four in the afternoon, he’d slept most of the day away, but what did it matter? It had been a late one last night, he’d been tailing Bella and he’d not returned until the early hours of the morning. That was all this was… It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be awake, he’d just been tired.
He didn’t want to be awake. He didn’t want to be asleep either. He didn’t want anything anymore…
Everyday he told himself that today would be the day he returned to the flat. And everyday he backed down like a coward. He’d been at Grimmauld Place for months now, he’d never in his wildest dreams imagined that this house of horrors would be preferable, but the idea of walking around the home he had shared with Marlene was unbearable. The bed was probably still a mess from the quickie they’d had that afternoon. Her lipstick stained mug was probably still in the sink.
No. Returning to their home would destroy him…and there wasn’t enough left of him to survive it.
An unease settled in him as he walked aimlessly through the halls of Grimmauld Place, still unsure of what to do with himself. A disquiet quite unrelated to Marlene — though as each minute dragged on, it was as though he could feel her, standing just out of sight. Why had he promised Lily to lay off the booze?
Sirius crept past his mother’s portrait and went down to the kitchen, though the unease was crushing his appetite. He supposed he could visit Moony; he needed to keep an eye on him… Someone was betraying them, someone was selling them all out. He’d tried, desperately, not to believe that of Remus, and yet there was definitely someone passing information to Voldemort…
It was too late in the day, really, to go and see Lily and James. They’d be annoyed if he got Harry all excited before bed. Wasn’t that the godfather’s prerogative, though? Wind the child up and then give him back to his parents just in time for them to not be able to put him to bed without tantrums.
“Shoo.” He muttered to Kreacher and the elf gave a sarcastic bow and left the room — probably to go and complain once more to the portrait about his return. He didn’t want to be here… He just didn’t know where else to go. He was pretending that it was fine, when Prongs or Moony or Wormtail asked. Pretending that he didn’t mind being here all alone, afterall his parents were dead now, they couldn’t hurt him anymore. But he did mind. He hated this house. Maybe if Marlene had lived, they could have done something with it, maybe even made it a home if she’d really wanted it. She’d had the incredible ability of lighting up any room just with her smile.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life here if I can have her back.” He bargained to no one in particular. There was no response but the aching silence.
He was just so tired. And it wasn’t the kind of tired sleep could fix.
“She’s dead.” He told himself firmly.
Yet, he couldn’t escape that sense of foreboding. Maybe it was just the house, playing tricks with his mind. He should get out for a while, visit Moony or Wormtail. And Peter had seemed so off yesterday. Nervous, jumpy. More so than usual anyway. But it was better this way. No one in their right mind would think that Lily and James would have made Peter their secret keeper. It was a stroke of genius, even if he did say so himself. The assumption would be Sirius, and Voldemort could do whatever he liked to him and he wouldn’t reveal where they were… not that he ever would.
Even so, Peter had seemed so off. He should check on him again.
“I’m going out.” He told Kreacher. Sirius pulled on his jacket and grabbed the keys to his bike from the hallway side table. Out in the dark street he kicked it into life and shot off in the direction of Wormtail’s hiding place. He’d moved him down to London because he wanted him closer, to keep an eye on him. It wasn’t much, a ground floor bedsit — no wonder the man was getting antsy. He pulled up outside and walked around the side of the building. It was dark in Peter’s place and Sirius’s sense of foreboding increased, he was supposed to be here; Peter was supposed to let him know if he planned to go out. The kitchen window was open slightly, and he pushed it the rest of the way.
“Pete!” He called. Nothing. He wouldn’t fit through as a man, so he turned into the dog and jumped through, only just making it. It took him no time at all to know that Peter was gone. Something was wrong. He’d not been forced out; everything was tidy and he’d cleared out his stuff. Sirius turned back into himself and left through the front door. Peter had just got scared and moved, that was all. He’d just got scared… and Peter scared so easily. He took off on his bike, it was dark enough to fly it to Godric’s Hollow. He had to check that Lily and James were okay. Panic was bubbling up so thick and fast that it was getting hard to squash it back down.
They were fine. He’d get there and they’d laugh at him for overreacting. Call him a worrier and have him put Harry to bed while he whined and cried that he wanted to play with the dog.
They were fine.
Even as he told himself this, fear clawed at his insides, choking him, making it hard to breathe. He urged his bike faster and it protested slightly at the speed. It was bitter cold up in the air. He should have apparated, he hated the sensation, but he should have apparated.
Sirius spotted their house as he started to descend and it was a miracle that he didn’t crash.
The Potters’ cottage was destroyed. The once quaint and pretty dwelling was barely recognisable. Sirius staggered off his bike and gripped hold of their garden gate. He knew what he was going to find inside, it was like finding the McKinnons all over again. The front door was splintered.
No. No. No.
He could see James’s bare foot. He was in the hallway, just like Nicole had been — James’s little Nik Nak — had they both known what was awaiting them moments before it happened, or had it been a shock?
Peter had sold them out.
Sirius stumbled forwards and fell to his knees at James’s side. “James.” He groaned, gripping the front of his shirt, burying his face in the fabric. Not again, he couldn’t do this again. His first friend. His best friend. How was he supposed to…
He was in the doorway. He’d tried to buy Lily some time to escape, he knew it. James would trade his life for Lily and Harry without hesitation. Sirius straightened James’s glasses and kissed his cheek. At least he’d be back with Marley, he’d not been the same since she’d—
“Tell her I…” He started to whisper, but he couldn’t bring himself to finish.
Lily and Harry.
The house was too quiet, and Sirius’s heart plummeted another thousand feet. He couldn’t face it, he couldn’t go up there. If they’d not escaped, if they were…
And then he heard Harry cry. The most beautiful sound he’d ever heard in his whole miserable life. Harry was alive. Sirius bolted up the stairs. Harry’s bedroom door was open, the room was a mess — half destroyed — but Harry was standing in his crib, clutching the bars. Alive. At the sight of Sirius his crying stopped.
Sirius registered Lily on the floor in front of Harry’s crib and his heart shattered — what was left of it. She’d tried to shield him. Brave and wonderful Lily. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks. He picked Harry up and held him close, breathing him in. He was fine, he was perfect — except for the cut on his forehead — but, amazingly, he was okay.
“I’ve got you.” He whispered against his hair, sinking to the floor. “Sirius is here now, and I’ll never leave you.” He promised, cupping the back of his head. He hoped that he would never remember any of this. He was so young, so little... He shouldn’t remember, but some traumas had a way of sticking...
“I’ll keep him safe, Lily.” He murmured, reaching over to brush the hair off of her face. He hugged Harry tighter to him. “It’s going to be okay. I’ll take you home… Get that horrible cut cleaned up.” Sirius didn’t know how Harry had survived, but he didn’t care. He was alive and that was the important thing. “It’s you and me now, kid.” He could take care of him, he could raise him. He was going to give him the best life he could, and when he got a little older he’d tell him all about his parents, about how brilliant and brave they were. How deeply they had loved him.
They’d be just fine as long as they had each other.
“I just need to put you down so I can pack some things for you.” He whispered, but he didn’t move. He wasn’t ready to put him down yet. After a few moments though, it registered how exposed they were here, how unsafe. He set Harry back in the crib, his arms feeling painfully empty, and took a bag from the wardrobe. It was too small to fit much of Harry’s stuff, so he drew his wand and muttered “capacious extremis.” He just hoped he’d done it right, hoped that it would hold. James was always better at Charms. His heart clenched painfully at the thought.
Sirius moved quickly through the house, packing the one year old’s belongings, trying not to look at Lily and James. Sirius also gathered together some of his friends' possessions… Things Harry might like when he was older: photographs, trinkets, letters, anything he could find that would be useful to Harry or simply hold sentimental value — it took him a little longer to find their wands, neither had been armed when they’d died…
He had to keep it together. He needed to get his godson out of here. Sirius put Harry’s coat over his pyjamas and placed him in the baby sling before attaching it to himself. He waved his wand and the crib disassembled and packed itself into the bag. Aurors would be here soon, they’d take care of Lily and James. Sirius would’ve waited for them, he should wait for them, and he didn’t want to leave his friends here alone, but... he had Harry to think about now.
“I’m going to take you home.” He whispered against Harry’s hair. Sirius zipped his jacket up around Harry to try and protect him as best he could from the cold, took one last look at James — swallowing down the lump in his throat with great difficulty — and mounted his bike once more. Lily and James would kill him if they were still...
Harry was absolutely not allowed on his bike. Much less up in the air.
He had to keep it together. He had to keep it together. He had to keep it together.
It felt even colder flying back to London, or maybe he just felt colder. He couldn’t let himself think about Lily and James, he couldn’t let himself dwell on their last moments.
Shit. The cat.
It was too late now, he’d have to go back and look for him tomorrow; he’d see if Moony or Mary could sit with Harry for a little bit. Gary could fend for himself for one night…if he’d survived the attack, that was…
“We’ve just got to make a quick stop at Grimmauld Place, then we can go back to the flat. Do you remember the flat?” Sirius asked Harry, even if he hadn’t fallen asleep, he probably wouldn’t be able to hear him over the rush of wind. It didn’t matter though, he just needed to keep talking. If he kept talking he could keep his mind busy. “Yeah, maybe not. You were probably too little the last time you were there. It’s going to be a bit of a mess. I’ve not been able to go back since—” He broke off quickly, he couldn’t let himself think about Marlene either, not now, not when he was already so fragile. He had to keep it together. “But I’ll get your crib set up and I’ll have a proper tidy up in the morning. I know Grimmauld Place is technically nicer, but you don’t want to grow up there. We’ll find somewhere bigger than the flat soon and you can have your own room again.”
Sirius touched the bike down, grabbed the bag and hurried up the steps of number twelve. He had to creep past the portrait, if he set her off, she was sure to set Harry off. Sirius hurried around the house, shoving his things into his bag. He didn’t have much, luckily. Just some clothes, the keepsakes he’d packed on that fateful night.
The flat was close enough, they didn’t need to fly, and it was so late now that the roads were quiet. Sirius didn’t dismount straight away. He stared up at the dark living room window. He could do this. He could go up there. He had to go up there. What he wanted, what he needed, didn’t matter at the moment. All that mattered now was Harry.
Still, he didn’t move. Would he be able to feel her in there? He wasn’t even sure if he wanted that. He felt Harry fidget against his chest, his movement hampered by the sling and Sirius’s jacket.
“Alright.” He muttered. “Alright, we’ll go in.” It took Sirius longer to climb the stairs to the second floor than it ever had before. It was as if his front door was getting further away with each step. Taunting him. He eventually reached it, and unlocked it with a shaking hand. Inside was exactly as he had left it.
Don’t think about her. Don’t think about anything.
Sirius busied himself in the bedroom, reassembling Harry’s crib, changing his nappy, cleaning up the cut on his forehead, settling him down. He’d deal with the kitchen tomorrow, the food in the fridge would have gone off a long time ago. He’d unpack tomorrow, too. Sirius placed Harry’s blanket over him and smoothed a hand over his hair. How was he ever going to explain that he would never see his parents again? He was too little, he would never understand that. How was he ever going to explain what had happened? Sirius wasn’t even sure what had happened.
“We’re going to be okay.” Sirius whispered softly, hating that it felt like a lie. He pointed his wand at the bag and muttered “accio Roar.” Harry’s stuffed lion shot into his hand and he placed it next to the toddler. Smiling, despite everything, as he always did, at the lack of imagination in the name. If Harry had named it, it would have been one thing, but that lack of imagination had been all James.
Sirius’s heart gave another painful clench. He shrugged off his jacket, kicked off his boots and climbed into bed — he’d been right, it was still a mess. He reached over to the bedside table and turned the small silver frame so that he could see it properly. It was a little dusty, but not enough to obscure the photograph. He and Marlene, dancing, their first Christmas as a couple. James had taken it, as he had so many others. In fact, they’d passed that camera around for years, trying to capture as many happy moments as they could. They’d known what was waiting for them around every corner; looming just out of sight, waiting to pounce…to pick them off one by one. Sirius hugged the duvet, stuffing it in his mouth to muffle the sob that rose up, he didn’t want to wake Harry.
Lily and James.
The sight of them staring, unseeing, was burned into his mind. He couldn’t close his eyes. He didn’t want to sleep, he didn’t want to think…didn’t want to be left alone with this crushing agony.
And all because of him. The rat. Honestly, they should’ve known.
A burning hatred for Peter ignited in his soul. He wanted to go after him, hunt him down, kill him. How could he have betrayed them like that? James would have died to protect Peter. And that miserable, pathetic little coward had sold them out…
But then, it had been his idea to use Peter. He’d told Lily and James to do it. They were dead because of him. As good as if he’d raised his wand and killed them himself.
Sirius screamed into the duvet. Squeezing his eyes shut against the onslaught of tears. The guilt, the shame, the agony were drowning him. He couldn’t breathe. He was choking on his own grief.
Four of the eight Gryffindors — half of them — were now gone. Erased from the world, at twenty-one, in the span of three months. Marlene, then Dorcas, then James, then Lily. How long did the rest of them have left?
No. He couldn’t think like that. He needed to stay alive for Harry. He was his responsibility now; the one good thing that he had left.
Lily and James were dead.
He looked over at Harry, he was still asleep, though he wouldn’t be for much longer if whoever was outside didn’t shut up. Sirius forced himself out of bed. “Who is it?” He asked, pressing the button on the wall.
It sounded like Hagrid, but he drew his wand as he let him in all the same. He waited, looking through the peephole in the front door. Hardly daring to breath. When the giant of a man appeared in the hallway, he slid the chain across and opened the door. Had it been anyone but Hagrid he wouldn’t have risked it, but it wasn’t easy to impersonate a half-giant.
“This is a surprise.” Sirius said bluntly. He didn’t want company right now. He wanted to be left alone with his misery. Harry started to cry. He was awake, probably hungry, probably needed changing. Sirius didn’t have time for company right now. He led Hagrid inside and crossed to the kitchen. He found an unopened packet of crackers, they would have to keep Harry going until he got him dressed and went shopping.
“I’m so sorry about Lily an’ James. There was no one better.” Hagrid said, blowing his nose on a spotted handkerchief. Sirius made a non committal noise in his throat. He wasn’t ready to talk about them with anyone else just yet.
“What do you want, Hagrid?” Sirius sighed, he didn’t mean to sound so rude, but he had stuff to do.
“I’ve come for Harry. Dumbledore is takin’ him ter live with his Aunt an’ Uncle.” Hagrid said. Sirius stared at him, hardly able to believe what he’d just heard. Taking Harry to live with Lily’s bitch of a sister and her awful husband? No. “Dumbledore’s orders.” Hagrid said simply. Sirius felt the floor disappear from beneath him. He had lost everything. Marlene and the beautiful future they’d almost had. James and Lily. Now they wanted to take Harry from him too.
No. Absolutely not. Lily and James had always said that if anything happened to them, they wanted Sirius to take care of Harry. He would have bet all of his gold that Petunia’s name had never even come up.
“Alright.” Sirius said calmly, doing some quick thinking. Hagrid would be easy to fool. He was so trusting, so trusting it was almost dangerous. “Why don’t you put the kettle on and make us a cup of tea…there won’t be any milk so it’ll have to be black…and I’ll get Harry ready, change his nappy, pack his things… say goodbye.”
“Good man.” Hagrid said, patting his shoulder. Sirius felt his knees buckle slightly from the force. He returned to the bedroom, his heart pounding, and gave Harry a cracker to chew on while he changed his nappy. He’d get him some proper breakfast as soon as he could. They would have to run. There was nothing else for it. Gringotts would be open in half an hour, he’d take out as much gold as he could carry and they’d flee. Sirius put on Harry’s hat and coat and picked him up.
“Think you can stay quiet for Padfoot?” He whispered, stepping into his boots. Harry watched curiously as he waved his wand at the crib and it packed itself once more. Sirius grabbed the bag, crept through the flat, passing quickly by the kitchen, and closed the front door carefully behind him. He moved far quicker down the stairs than he had come up them, mounted the bike outside, took one last look at the flat above, and kicked it into life.
They’d have to kill him if they wanted to take Harry.