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Shadows in the Night by space333

Format: One-shot
Chapters: 1
Word Count: 4,768
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Violence

Genres: Angst
Characters: James, Lily, Sirius Black
Pairings:

First Published: 11/02/2005
Last Chapter: 11/02/2005
Last Updated: 01/14/2006

Summary:

[Winner of the Halloween Writer's Duel]. I had never wanted to be a hero; I just wanted to remain Padfoot. Tonight I felt as if I had been forced on stage, becoming the unwilling, unlucky hero of a surreal play. James and Lily were dead and I stood alone, lost in the middle of this sinister, ominous ambiance, struggling to take in the enormity of it all. And meanwhile the entire world was waiting for me to act, except I didn’t know the script.


Chapter 1: Shadows in the Night
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A/N: This is the fic that won the Halloween Writer's Duel. Thanks a lot to my beta-reader Miriam and to every one who made this duel possible, especially the HPFF staff. I know you all work hard to make this site better... you guys rock! :)


Shadows in the Night

“The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone.” ─ Henrik Ibsen

“I was scared. I set out for your parents’ house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must’ve done... what I’d done...” Sirius, PoA


**********


There are times when you stay awake for long hours listening to the night because you have just too many things on your mind. This was one of them. It wasn’t that bad, was it? I just couldn’t fall asleep.

Reaching across my bed, I turned on the radio. Tunes of a popular song I knew by heart filled my room, lighthearted and cheerful as I used to be. The Wizarding Wireless Network often reassured me, although I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because when I listened to music I usually stopped worrying about everything else.

Not tonight though. It left me lying with my head on my pillow bizarrely untouched, as if somehow the melody was ricocheting on me instead of penetrating into my ears.

I could just imagine how Remus would roll his eyes to the ceiling if I told him that. The corners of his mouth would quirk up and he would never admit that he liked hearing such an unimportant aspect of what he liked to call the perfectly uninteresting life of the famous Sirius Black.

Shaking my head quietly, I couldn’t hold back smile. We were Marauders, we were a family and we all treasured these moments when we were together. The past weeks had proved exhausting, what with Voldemort’s Death Eaters everywhere. I even think there’d been some suspicion among Order members, an unspoken tension. But at least we were still together and for that we were grateful.

My thoughts drifted to James. He’d probably whack me over the head for that comment and taunt me forever, asking repeatedly if I was high on caffeine or something, and of course I would never be able to fall asleep after that.

And Peter─

I swallowed, suddenly very awake. Peter was a great friend, but I was scared for him. No one knew he was the Potters’ Secret Keeper, did they?

Did they?

I turned off the radio and waited, feeling much less drowsy suddenly, taking note of the unsettling silence. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but an unusual sense of foreboding was invading me. I tried to stop focusing on anything: it was two in the morning and I was definitely supposed to sleep.

But in truth… what if something had happened? What if Death Eaters had found Peter?

It was beyond my control; I suddenly felt the urge to go check on him, make sure he was still safe. The boy had never really been able to look after himself.

A couple of minutes later I was stepping outside, wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans, sweater and a thin jacket carelessly thrown over my shoulders. The air was colder than I had imagined. Why? I couldn’t fathom the reason. It seemed that the temperature had dropped a good ten degrees in a few hours─ and it wasn’t only due to the fact that night had fallen.

I went directly for my motorbike without glancing back before taking off. Why should I have? It was just a routine flight.

I guess I had no idea how lucky I was back then. I didn’t know that a second could stop the course of time, nor did I comprehend that a single night could change your life forever.

“Peter?” I banged the door upon arriving. No one was answering, so that my apprehension only increased. “Come on Pete, it’s Padfoot!” Frantic, I ringed the bell. It was the middle of the night, but I no longer cared. Something was wrong.

There was no note. Drawing my wand out with hesitation, I walked slowly around the house, my steps muffled in the grass. There was nothing to be seen. I was puzzled; that, and maybe also something else as worry spread through me, clenching my heart. Maybe I was sleepy. Or maybe something really was abnormal. Please, I thought. Please let this all be nothing more than a bad joke.

How could something have gone wrong though? No one knew about the Fidelius Charm. No one. The only explanation was that Peter had done something we hadn’t expected; because otherwise there was no way that he could have been discovered.

I bit my lip, both because I had no idea what to do next and because a feeling of nausea was rising in the pit of my stomach. Lily and James were in danger. I had abandoned them, hadn’t I? I should have stayed with them in case they needed help. I had no doubt they would have done the same for me.

I remembered the Marauders’ golden rules. Surely Peter hadn’t forgotten them? It was he who had come up with the idea after all, so long ago. We’d just completed the Marauders’ Map and he had pointed out that we were bound together now, that we were all part of something special. We picked four unforgettable sentences, a motto than would last forever.

It was he, Peter, who had spoken first. He had been smiling by then; a truthful, heartfelt smile that I would never forget. “Always act in the best interests of the Marauders.”

I had considered it for an instant. “Never leave one behind.”

“Never forget about times like these,” Remus had added.

James hadn’t spoken for a while, and then he had looked at each of us, in turn. I still remembered the chill that had ran down my spine; James’s gaze had burned with an intensity that would have made anyone shiver. “Never give up on anything,” he had finally said gravely, before adding in a whisper, “Never.”

Cold ran down my spine as I remembered that warm afternoon. I was so afraid I would never be that happy ever again. We’d been what, fifteen? We were already imagining ourselves fighting in battles, superheroes and immortal, like all fifteen-year-olds dream of being.

We didn’t know what war was like; we had never yet been faced with the sheer brutality of it all.

And the uncertainty. The lack of information might even be worse. I didn’t understand yet what had really happened between James, Lily and Peter. Or maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I had already understood but wanted to keep the idea of a betrayal buried deep, as if somehow, by thinking about something else, I could change what I feared could have already occurred.

I later didn’t remember the ride to Godric’s Hollow. All I know is that when I arrived it felt like the world had shattered before me.

The street was silent and dark, surrounded only by a slight, disquieting mist, and that undisturbed stillness was worse than anything I had imagined. I suppose arriving in the midst of a battle scene would have been a thousand times better than this eerie immobility that froze me to the bone.

My motorbike fell to the pavement with a sickening sound. There was a time when I would have hated anyone who inflicted that to my bike, but it was now the least of my worries. I was staring across the street, just staring, unable to take my eyes off what were now nothing but ruins. I just stood there with a mixture of incomprehension and shock, disbelief and horror; and meanwhile I knew, although I desperately wanted to send the thought away, that I was already too late.

I walked into the ruins as if driven by an invisible force, stumbling on the uneven pavement but always going forward, ignoring the dust that was floating in the air and suffocating me, ignoring the fact that the place might not be secured. I already had an idea of what I would find; I had already understood what must have happened. All that was left to do now was acknowledge the truth─ but I couldn’t do that. Surely James was still alive… James was immortal, James was a Marauder, James couldn’t die. And yet─

“Sirius?”

I jumped, gripping the railway, a foot on the first step, about to climb the stairs because I knew I would find someone… something…

A large shape was emerging from the shadows of the living room. “Hagrid?” My voice rasped, quivering slightly, full of a combination of hope and dread. Hagrid had to tell me James was alive, he just had to. “Hagrid─” I muttered. God. I needed to know so badly. “Are they still alive?”

Hagrid hesitated. I had never wanted so much to have the answer and at the same time, I knew it would have been better if I had never heard it. “Harry’s alive.”

“He is?” I could see a sparkle of optimism. If Harry was still alive, it probably meant either James or Lily had been able to flee with him.

Hagrid shook his head slowly, weakly, as if he, too, found it difficult to speak. “James is─” Hagrid designated the top of the stairs. “I just foun’ Harry, an’ put him in the livin’ room when I heard someone comin’ .” He paused then added quietly, “Lily’s body was in the livin’ room. She musta tried ter flee with Harry.”

I didn’t understand. It sounded like James and Lily were dead but not Harry, and it didn’t fit. “Where’s Voldemort?” I couldn’t keep the fury out of my voice but it was still controlled, my underlying wariness showing through.

“Gone.” Hagrid had taken out a huge handkerchief. He blew his nose. “Died when he tried ter kill Harry.”

The news left me strangely unmoved. The most powerful dark wizard was gone and Hagrid was telling me it was because he hadn’t been able to harm a baby, but tonight I felt like nothing would ever surprise me again. For months I would never have dreamt of seeing Voldemort defeated. Now that it had become true, though, I felt more like crying that rejoicing.

Because it had all gone so terribly wrong... Lily and James were supposed to be celebrating with me right now…

Hagrid slowly turned away from me and entered the living room again. I had started to comprehend what must have happened. My friends had gone upstairs to get Harry, Lily had started to flee with him, and James had remained upstairs to duel with Voldemort.

No.

If Lily was dead, it only meant that Voldemort, and not my friend, had won the fight.

I needed to find James so badly.

Climbing two steps at a time, I reached the corridor upstairs incredibly fast. Through a broken window filtered some light, white and unreal, illuminating the macabre scene. I was petrified, looking intently at the body of James, unable to think because my mind had gone blank, completely blank.

I had heard of heroes, but I wasn’t one of them. I had never wanted to be one. I wasn’t powerful; I was just Sirius Black, the handsome Sirius Black, the troublemaker. I stood there, my body numb, staring hypnotised at the lifeless form of James, at the cold, white face of the best friend I’d ever had.

His body was untouched; it was as if he had just been stunned. His eyes were wide open with shock, frozen in an expression of surprise and fear, a scream having never left his lips. His too young features were polished, smooth like the skin of a child─ cold, too. So cold. It only reminded me more of the abominable treason Peter had committed, that tonight innocent souls had been stolen.

I bent over him but gods, he simply wasn’t moving.

I knew what Avada Kedavra meant. Those single two words were greater than anything else in the world; they could take a life in the flicker of the second, they were definite, there was no coming back. The curse had torn apart my world, it had stolen my heart.

“James,” I muttered quietly. It wasn’t a question; it was a plea. It was all there; all my frustration, desperation, disbelief and anger, all the shame I felt at being alive, all concealed into that single word. Less than two hours before, I was annoyed because I had trouble sleeping. It seemed so stupid now in contrast to what had happened, that such petty details might have irritated me. Would James really have laughed? I wasn’t so sure anymore. I could no longer imagine his soft, young features breaking into a wide grin, no more than I could picture James whacking me over the head.

My hands were shaking so badly it was a wonder they didn’t fall off. I stared at them. Tonight they weren’t mine any longer; they belonged to a stranger, just like the mirthless laugh that escaped my throat. It scared me because I didn’t recognize my own voice. Who would I see, if I looked into a mirror? I had already changed. It had only needed a couple of seconds, just the time to understand what had happened.

Something was flapping inside a pocket of James’s brown jacket. Through a daze I reached for it and retrieved his Golden Snitch. We’d offered him one after having grown tired seeing him nicking one from Hogwarts to carry around. James’s Snitch had a story of its own; James wouldn’t have been James without Lily, Harry and his Snitch.

The fragile object was trying to free itself from my grip. I let it go; it was intolerable to hold it while James lay in front of me. He seemed so… alive. All I needed to do was shake him, and he’d wake up and say, surprise!

I would have given anything I possessed ─ jacket, motorbike alike─ to see him moving one more time.

Just one more time.

James, you idiot.

I stared unseeingly at a spot on James’s right cheek, feeling like a monster that had done nothing to save his friends. Over the course of the past few days I had repeatedly told James I wanted to stay close in case something happened, but he had obstinately refused. I wish I had insisted more.

Because I should have died tonight, and James didn’t let me.

I guess I should have gone to see Lily too, but right now it was James I had in front of me. I had been the brother he never had, and he was the brother that I should have had.

Well, that brother was gone. I had to turn away now. I couldn’t cry, I wasn’t allowed to, because I was a warrior, and God, I remembered what James had said, and I just couldn’t give up. We were all warriors, nothing less.

And nothing more.

“Sirius,” someone called quietly from behind me. Hagrid had climbed the stairs, holding Harry. “Yeh shouldn’t stay here.”

I almost asked, “where else should I go”? But then Hagrid walked away, taking Harry with him, disappearing down the stairs. However much I wanted to stay with James I knew I had to get Harry back. I was his godfather and it was my duty to watch after him now. Even if seeing him grow up would mean having to live with the ghost of James, it was so much better than nothing at all…

I had been mistaken all along. I had always listened to Dumbledore’s speeches, always believed he was right in thinking that we could one day live in a world of peace. If this was the price of it, if I had to watch my friends die, then I didn’t want it. Even fear was better than losing them. Dumbledore’s dream would never come true; it was nothing more than an unattainable illusion.

Time could erase pain and grief, but war left scars that would never totally disappear.

I gave one last fleeting look at James before leaving. “Good night, brother.” My voice caught. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat that would never go away.

Sleep well.

My eyes burning, I followed Hagrid, taking step after step, walking as slowly as if I were on the edge of a cliff. I stared unseeingly at the ruins on my way out, at the destroyed furniture and at Lily and James’s scattered possessions. The Snitch was still with me. When I arrived outside it stretched its wings, flying above my head as though daring James to come out and try to catch it. It looked terribly lonely without its owner.

“He’s gone,” I muttered. I couldn’t say anything else. I was still struggling to take in the enormity of it all. I was the one who had just understood that a second could change the course of a life; that in a flashing second you could lose everything, from your friends to your sanity. I was just lost; I no longer had a sense of what was right and wrong. All I knew was that Lily and James were gone, and that it was Peter, on top of it all, who had betrayed them.

The worst of it was to be unable to do anything. I wanted to shout and scream and curse the world at the same time, because I was so terribly powerless. And at the same time I wanted nothing more than to put an end to this agony. The ground seemed so welcoming… perhaps I could lie there and try to forget…

Who could I turn to now? No one.

Sweat beaded my forehead. Even my hands were sticky and damp; panic was washing over me like a contagious plague. Somehow, through my desperation, I had kept hope in the back of my mind. Dumbledore had never failed yet; surely he would get me out of this one too? The answer was no. Dumbledore, just like everyone else, would believe I had been the Potters’ Secret-Keeper, because we hadn’t deemed it necessary to inform him otherwise.

I thought of Remus, and I wanted to kick myself. We hadn’t even told him. He could have betrayed us, couldn’t he? I laughed again, a joyless laugh, more because of my growing desperation. Where was Remus? Sleeping? Would he wake up unaware of what had happened? Probably. Would he scream and cry when he discovered the truth? Probably.

Would he hate me?

I froze. I so desperately wanted to answer no, but I couldn’t do that, because Remus’s opinion about me would change in one single night. I could already picture the disbelief on his face, then the rage. Remus would hate me more than he had ever hated Voldemort, because Voldemort had been evil since the beginning. It would upset him to think I was the traitor as much as it upset me to know that it was Peter.

Well, Remus, it hurts. It hurts so much.

Friendship was so precious, I wanted to cry now that it was gone. For all these years I knew I was happy; I just hadn’t realized what it truly meant. Well, James would never be there, never again, to laugh at me because I couldn’t sleep.

Hagrid was walking farther now. I caught up with him. I summoned enough courage to do what I must for the orphan I had in front of me. “Hagrid, give Harry to me,” I requested. My voice sounded quite detached, flat and much unlike me. “I’m his godfather, I’ll look after him.”

Hgrid shook his head. “I can’t. Dumbledore’s orders. Harry goes ter his Aunt and Uncle’s.”

“His─” I barely remembered Lily had a sister. They had never sounded like nice folks, quite the opposite in fact. My voice became more urgent. “I made a promise to Lily and James; I told them I’d look after Harry if something happened. I’m his godfather.”

Hagrid wasn’t listening, standing near me and my motorbike I had picked up from the ground, more to have something to squeeze and let my rage onto than because I was considering leaving.

“Hagrid. Just give me Harry.” A note of desperation filtered in my voice. If everybody thought I was the traitor, I had better flee and leave behind everything they could use to track me down. Maybe Hagrid hadn’t understood yet─ I had never been so glad he was sometimes slow on the uptake.

Aurors would think I was the traitor, but it didn’t matter. As long as I had the opportunity to tell them to catch Peter it would be fine, even if I had to remain in prison for a few days while they sorted everything.

Maybe if they took me away to Azkaban, they could take away the grief too.

Yes, I must flee so the world would know what pain a boy named Peter had inflicted on his friends. I must so everybody knew what had happened to the ones who had once called themselves the Marauders.

“Please…” I repeated again. There were so many things left to do now.

“Yeh should leave,” Hagrid only answered. He seemed to be waiting for something, holding this small wrapped bundle in his arms that seemed to be no bigger than one of his large hands. Harry wasn’t crying, although the large cut on his forehead must be quite painful. That scar would never go away, no more than the hole in my heart that was deepening as the seconds flew by.

“No…” I was giving up, struggling to keep a steady face. My voice cracked and I turned away, taking in a deep, shaky breath.

“Sirius,” Hagrid lay a hand on one of my shoulders. “Sirius… hey─ it’ll be all right…”

Hagrid was trying to comfort me, but I didn’t want his sympathy. I wanted nobody’s compassion.

I just wanted my friends back.

“Just leave,” I murmured. “Hagrid, just go and take care of Harry. Watch after him for me.” I felt like I was sentencing myself to my own death. All I had left to do now was to seal my grave. “I’m staying.” I couldn’t go now, it would feel too much like saying good-bye forever. “Here, take this.” I tilted my chin at my motorbike. Hagrid gave me a questioning glance. “Hagrid, take it,” I repeated forcefully.

Hagrid came closer and I let go of the handlebar, taking my fingers off it as though it was burning. I shut my eyes. “I won’t need it anymore.”

That was right. I no longer needed it. That motorbike, the one I loved so much, was already gone for me. It was no longer mine. I had already become someone else, whether I wanted it or not─ and gods only knew that I didn’t want it.

Hagrid was staring at me. I didn’t know how I looked but it must have been quite scary, because he then asked quietly, “Yeh all right?”

No.

“I’m just… a bit shaken.” The words were out before I could think them through. It was probably very close to being the understatement of the century.

Hagrid started the engine of my bike. When he spoke next, it was no more than a whisper compared to the sound it made in the quiet night. “See yeh around.”

I held back a scathing retort─ but no longer had the courage for that. I already knew that I would probably not see Hagrid for a very long time. The motorbike took off in the night, taking away Hagrid, taking away Harry, and with them everything that I had left in this life that was no longer mine. I tried to stop thinking of James and Lily. If I started to mourn them now, I feared I would never be able to stop.

I stood utterly alone now. I felt as if I had been forced on stage, becoming the unwilling, unlucky hero of a surreal play. The slight, chilly breeze was ruffling the leaves in the trees and making the hair on my shoulders flutter. Added to the full moon, the streetlamps projected a dim, unreal light that cast out of proportion shadows on the ground. The only sound around came from the slow, never-ending lament playing inside my head. Sounds of popular tunes had long left my ears; all that remained was this heartbreaking funeral waltz that sounded as if it were being played on a dying violin.

I could just imagine the incongruity of it all: the suspense, the sinister and ominous ambiance, and I in the middle of it who failed to fill in my part. Yes, that was it. I was on stage, I was supposed to act, and I didn’t know the script.

Never before had I experienced such incomprehensible feelings: a mix of emotions I couldn’t sort out and even less hope to understand. All I registered was the pain, an unbearable pain that seemed to radiate through my clothes. It was so sharp, so genuine, so excruciating that it was a wonder no one else felt it. But the street was empty, the houses silent and seeming to exist only in another world. I didn’t understand why the public was missing.

Walking on unsteady legs I went to lean against the half-destroyed façade of my friends’ house, resting my head against the glacial stones, wrapping my arms around myself and trying to close my jacket tighter. I was shivering, but it wasn’t only due to the wind.

My heart had turned as cold as the night.

I wanted to stop the course of time, but one couldn’t do that, even being a wizard. I felt like I was going down, sinking faster and faster to the bottom of an impossibly deep ocean. I couldn’t breath but I could think of no way to rise back to the surface. It wasn’t just tonight that was wrong; it was this whole, entire world, and this war that should never have been started.

I rubbed my eyes, realising that it wasn’t a play but a nightmare. Well, no, not even a nightmare─ it was worse. Way worse. In a nightmare, you woke up.

Now I was fighting hard against the tears, my hands clenched so hard that my fingernails dug painfully into my palms.

Never forget, never give up.

I was a warrior, I was strong. I couldn’t cry, I wouldn’t cry.

God, I would not cry.

For many, it would become a night of legend. For me, nothing more than the night when I lost everything, even my name. I would no longer be the young, innocent, reckless Padfoot. I would just be Sirius Black; the most infamous prisoner in the world.

If only I could forget what had happened tonight, just drift into the oblivion of sleep or death so as to delete completely and thoroughly every moment of the horror I had witnessed. They were playing endlessly into my mind, images of the past, images of James and Lily’s wedding day, images of what we had been. Images of James’s oddly twisted body, of the stupefaction and terror on his face. If only these last images could become nothing more than shadows in the night. But the ghosts were whispering to me, they wouldn’t go away.

It was, I think, when I felt the first tear roll down my cheek. I didn’t wipe it away. How many girls would have stared at me incredulously, if they had seen the handsome Sirius Black lose control like that? I didn’t care. There was no one to see me cry.

I would have thirteen years for that.

The Snitch was still above me, but it was flying farther and farther away now. I made no effort to catch it. Soon it would vanish, swallowed by the darkness, just like James and Lily, and I couldn’t change anything about it.

I was drowning, breaking from the inside, and no one knew, no one understood, no one would come to help me. Not a soul on earth would ever be able to revive the flame in my heart that had already died.

James’s Golden Snitch did a final circle over my head before it zoomed away, a flutter of wings in the wind, a sparkle of gold in the shadowy night.


The End.




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