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A/N: many thanks to Lucid, who very kindly accepted to be my beta for this one-shot!


What I should have told you


"Nothing is as far away as one minute ago"─ Jim Bishop


I'm Sirius. Talented, handsome, reckless and cool from the outside. But who cares what I look like? The truth is different. Hell, so much different. I’m twenty, and I’m scared.

Not of asking a girl out, not of getting in trouble with my friends, not because I initiated a fight with a guy twice as tall as me. No. I’m scared because death is roaming everywhere; I’m scared because everything is wrong in this world.

I’m scared because things are getting totally out of control, slowly but surely turning into chaos. I don’t mean out of my control─ if only─ but out of everyone’s control.

The Ministry is in disarray. Aurors are failing and dying. Everyday the Daily Prophet brings news of those who have joined Voldemort’s ranks, of those who have betrayed their families, of those who forgot years of friendship to become cold-blooded assassins. The list of the dead is so long, I always open the paper with the idea that I’ll never get to the end of it.

Yet I always read every single name; I just can’t avoid it. I need to be sure that no one I know is gone.

This afternoon, Dumbledore called me to see him at the Order of the Phoenix’s secret headquarters. He told me about the Fidelius Charm he had advised the Potters to conjure.

I keep checking over my shoulder when I come out. That’s the condition sine qua non if you want to stay alive. Either you’re careful─ even paranoid─ or you stay as reckless as you pretend to be─ and you fall in every trap awaiting you. The Constant Vigilance, as a certain Moody would say, does take all the fun out of life─ but what else can you do?

I go to find Lily and James as planned, and they seem to know I’ve just seen Dumbledore. Of course. He always plans everything.

As soon as I come in Lily and James invite me to sit in their living room and we start talking; and while I’m in front of them on the couch I can’t help wondering whether Harry, the innocent baby my friend’s holding, the one who now has me for a godfather and that I love more than anything else, will get to live in a world as dark as it is right now.

“Sirius?” James looks at me. “What do you think?” he asks hesitatingly. He’s scared too, and so is Lily. They have a son, for Christ’s sake, and they want him to stay alive.

“He’ll know it’s me,” I whisper. “James, You-know-Who won’t have a hard time figuring out I’m your Secret Keeper.”

He swallows hard, gives Harry to Lily, who is quietly listening, so he can get up and stretch his legs a bit.

“I know,” he nods with despair, taking a few steps around. He walks like a man who is feverish, and I can’t stop from asking myself whether I’m going to get up, too. It’s so hard to remain calm when you feel weak.

“Then what else do you suggest?” he looks at me with the hope that, maybe, I can find something.

I remain silent for a few seconds, trying to think of a better solution. But I’m no genius, and I see no escape.

“Take someone else,” I say finally. Then, before James has the time to ask whom, I add: “Peter. Take Peter.”

“Wormtail?” he frowns in surprise, shakes his head. “Padfoot, that’s not a good idea. Peter’s not─”

“He can be stupid sometimes,” I interrupt. Now isn’t the time to be sentimental. “He’s maybe not as serious or clever as you, but... James, why not?”

My friend doesn’t answer for a minute; I can almost see the thoughts swirling in his mind as he weighs the pros and cons. “No,” he says simply.

“But─”

“No!” He protests more vehemently.

There is an uncomfortable silence. I don’t want to argue with James; especially not today, but someone has got to say something.

“That was just an idea, I simply thought Voldemort would never suspect Peter,” I say peacefully.

He stops and comes back to sit beside Lily, seeming exhausted.

“James─” she finally says gently. “He’s got a point, you know.”

James stares at his wife, then back at me for a while. He closes his eyes. “All right,” he says. I can see his face is pale and full of sweat, and I feel like crying all of a sudden. My friend’s desperate. He’s desperate, because it looks hopeless. I know it, Lily knows it, and he knows it too. We can all feel we’re on the verge of a catastrophe.

“I’ll ask Peter this evening,” James mutters.

I nod; suddenly remembering he and Remus will arrive shortly. Lily and James had invited us all for dinner, as they often did.

“Do we tell Moony?” I ask. Again, he doesn’t reply. Damn these silences that make me wish I were somewhere else.

James bites his lips, closes his fists. We're all aware that there’s a traitor in our midst. For all we know, and as much as I hate to admit it, it could be Remus. It could be anyone.

“No.” His tone is sad but determined. He must feel like me... I detest knowing that we have to conceal information from another Marauder.

Then dinner arrives. Peter is there; Remus arrives just a minute after him. He looks tired ─ the full moon is approaching─ but he does his best to look cheerful. We all do, even if inside ourselves we tremble and we fear.

“Dumbledore told me about the Fidelius Charm,” Remus says abruptly over dinner. We all look up at him in surprise. I wonder why he’s saying that; Remus is usually cautious about what he reveals, how can he be sure we all know what he’s talking about?

“Dumbledore told me you all knew,” he continues as his reading my thoughts. "That’s why I was the last to arrive, he asked to see me.”

James and I exchange a glance. I know he’s nervous. It seems he hates mentioning it.

“How’d you like the pudding?” Peter interrupts. Good boy. He’s tactful and always knows when to change the subject.

While we’re serving ourselves more of Lily’s delicious dessert I give a glance aside and James meets my eyes. We’re both thinking the same thing; it’s good that Dumbledore informed Remus about the Fidelius Charm because it means he doesn’t suspect him. But I can see in his eyes that he won’t reveal the fact that we’re going to switch.

It isn’t even late when Remus tells us he has to leave; he’s got to rest. He says good-bye to the others, apologizing─ he always does─ because he won’t be seeing us for about a week. Well we all know what it’s like every month. If only we could ease the pain by taking his place, each of us, in turn... we gladly would.

He embraces Lily, James and Peter, then he turns to me.

“I’ll come out with you,” I offer, grabbing my coat. It’s cold outside. James, Lily and Peter stay beside the warm fire.

I open the front door, making as little noise as possible because Harry’s asleep, then I step outside after Remus.

I look at him once we’re in the street. His face is full of anxiousness, just like mine must be. We both hesitate, and then I pull him into my arms into a tight hug. He’s like a brother to me, he’s always been.

I hate myself for suspecting him, I hate myself for letting him leave, and I hate myself for what I almost consider an act of abandonment. I wish he could stay with us, as we did at Hogwarts, or that I could come to his place to watch after him as he transforms. Stick together, that’s what the voice in my head keeps saying. But I have to stay with James right now. James, Lily and Harry.

I also wish I could tell him about the change we were going to operate in the Fidelius Charm. It isn’t right not to let him in the secret. How would I react if my best friends hid something that important from me? I’d feel left out; I know it.

But I can say nothing. Not a damn word.

Remus shakes my hand and walks toward his old magic car that he’s bought cheap from an old wizard last year.

“Good night, Moony,” I mutter, my throat dry. I feel sick; somehow I got a bad feeling about all this. “See you anytime,” I wave. He waves back.

The words echo strangely in my head. See you anytime.

Little do I know that if I had told him we’d switched to Peter, it would have spared me Azkaban. And little do I know these last three words, so innocently spoken, would remain engraved in my memory forever.

Anytime turned out to be a long time.

Twelve years, in fact.




A/N: Thanks for reading; reviews would be welcomed since this is a one-shot...

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