A Rift Begins
Sirius sank onto the sofa, reaching for his boots and could feel Remus and James watching him intently. “How did you know to come?”
“Lucius was in Hogsmeade,” Remus answered, “we overheard his plans.”
“Do you know what’s going on then?”
“You’re needed at home, does it matter?” Although James had tried to disguise it, Sirius could hear the edge in his voice.
Choosing to ignore him, Sirius asked, “Where’s Peter?”
“Watching the street in case anyone else shows up,” Remus explained, shifting his weight uneasily.
Sirius glanced from one to the other, realizing that it wasn’t just James that was uncomfortable. Sirius had never been able to read Remus well, but his actions tonight were unmistakable. “What is it?”
“Sirius, do you know what you’re doing?” Remus asked quietly after only a moment’s hesitation. “Here with Lily, I mean.”
Sirius looked at him for some hint of a joke but found none. His eyes searched James’, who turned away from his gaze but not before Sirius caught the look of disapproval on his face.
When he failed to answer, Sirius’ temper flared. *** Grabbing his cloak, Sirius yanked it on. “My personal life is none of your business.”
“Since when?” James whirled to face him. “You’ve never had any problem talking about your little conquests before.”
“James!” Remus took a step forward but Sirius placed a strong arm on Remus’ chest to keep him in place.
Sirius’ voice was low, his tone more menacing than he had intended. “Do you have something you want to say to me?”
“Damn you and your self righteous attitude, Sirius! You think that you can just go about doing whatever you want and not caring about the consequences!”
“Consequences to whom, James?” Sirius asked quietly, a feeling of utter foolishness washing over him. How could he have been so blind that he didn’t see this coming?
“Lily, of course. Think about what kind of danger you’ve put her in!”
Sirius’ softened gaze met Remus’ and he reached to him for support. Sirius’ grip tightened on Remus’ shoulder and his eyes closed in painful realization.
“What?” James’ angered flared as Sirius’ diminished. “Remus knows I’m right. He’s not going to side with you!”
“This isn’t about siding with anyone,” Sirius managed. “James, I didn’t know.” Sirius’ voice broke as he said the words.
Sirius knew James wanted to retort, probably wanted to curse him to Azkaban and Sirius was prepared to face it. He deserved whatever James felt like giving him. Sirius collapsed onto the sofa, his jumbled emotions of guilt and betrayal overwhelming him.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” Remus said quietly. “I’ll just check to see if Lily’s ready to go.”
Sirius nodded his thanks, and then dropped his head into his hands.
“Don’t play the crushed victim here. I’m not buying it this time,” James said hotly as Remus disappeared. “You turned on the infamous Black charm and seduced her before she even knew what hit her, didn’t you?”
“It wasn’t like that.”
“What a pathetic response. Tell me, Sirius,” the hiss with which James said his name pierced into Sirius like no spell could, “did you tell her ‘everything else was just an illusion’?”
Sirius nodded but before he had even raised his head, James lunged for him. Sirius knew he was stronger than James. He knew he could hold him off indefinitely, but Sirius refused to defend himself.
Sirius wasn’t sure how many times James hit him before the metallic taste of blood began to fill his mouth. Through bleary eyes, Sirius could see James recoil at the sight of Sirius’ blood on his own hands. Whether he felt gratification or sorrow, Sirius couldn’t tell.
James stepped a pace away and Sirius took the opportunity to pull out his wand. Reaching it as high as he could manage, Sirius tilted it forward.
Even though he was caught off-guard by Sirius’ actions, James’ refused to be silent. “Yes, Sirius, why don’t you try a killing curse? I understand the Blacks are famous for them.”
Sirius couldn’t hide the pain James’ words caused him. That James would believe he could ever turn on his friends made Sirius’ soul ache beyond anything he’d ever experienced. After all these years, how could James’ question his loyalty? Sirius whispered, “Arcio Postim.”
James turned just in time to see where Sirius’ spell was aimed – Lily had appeared in silence and only Sirius seemed to have felt her presence. Sirius’ spell had slammed the door inches from her face, sealing her away from the entire scene.
Sirius could hear the note of apology in James’ voice but he was unwilling to listen and shook his head. Reaching for his discarded white shirt, Sirius crumbled it into a ball and held it tightly to his face to try and stop the bleeding.
“How long, James?” Sirius asked softly.
“How long what?”
Sirius glanced to see the plastered look of innocence James had on his face and, even in his misery, Sirius couldn’t help but grin. “How long have you been in love with Lily Evans?”
Sirius watched as James struggled with himself and, for the briefest moment, Sirius thought James was going to start punching him again. But James sank onto the couch beside Sirius, his hands automatically running through his disheveled hair. James sighed heavily and bent forward to mimic Sirius’ position.
“This isn’t about Lily,” he answered calmly. “This is about you and the person you are turning in to.”
Sirius tilted his head toward James, wondering if he could have been so horribly mistaken about James’ emotions. He found it hard to believe he could have misread James so greatly. But, Sirius reasoned, hadn’t James been certain Sirius was placing a killing curse on him? Sirius shook his head wondering just when a rift of misunderstanding had developed between them.
“And just what am I becoming?”
The effective of James’ insult was instantaneous. Sirius shoved James into the couch as he headed for the door. “I have to go.”
“Sirius,” James voice was once more apologetic and he grabbed Sirius’ arm.
Sirius wrenched free. “If you want her, take her. But don’t come into my home and start passing down your damn muggle judgments on my actions.”
“Spoken like a true Black.” James replied easily.
“I am a Black, James, and you can either accept it or not.”
“I accepted it a long time ago, Sirius. What I won’t accept is this willingness to accept death that you’re carrying around because you feel the need to atone for your family’s sins.”
Sirius blanched but before he could retort, James continued. “The only reason you don’t welcome death is because you feel the need to protect me and the other Marauders and now Lily.” James’ voice grew soft. “Yes, Sirius, I know what you were doing tonight. The moment she decided to go with you I knew. I could have tried to stop it, but I let her go. And do you know why? Because I know behind that calm facade, you are terrified Snape or Voldemort or some other dark wizard is going to hurt her. And I know,” James touched Sirius’ arm lightly. “Being with you was the safest place she could be.”
Sirius pulled on his cloak, moving slowly as if in a trance. “I have to go,” he managed quietly.
“Sirius, I know you. I know you better than I know myself,” James’ voice was pleading. “Whatever’s going on with Lily, Sirius, you know you’re the one who’s going to pay for it. I can see the guilty in your eyes every time she touches you. I thought maybe she was what you needed…that she could keep you sane through all this.” James shook his head. “I was wrong. She’s distracting you and you’re likely to be killed for it. I’m not talking about Voldemort. I’m talking about this battle with your family.”
“You know nothing of what I’m facing,” Sirius cut in quietly.
“No, because you won’t let me! You’ve done your damnedest to keep me away from your family for ten years. How could I possibly know?”
“I’m protecting you.”
“I know you believe that, but Sirius,” James touched his shoulder, “this is one time where refusing to let me in could get us both killed.”
It took Sirius a moment to decide and, when he did, Sirius rushed to say it before he changed his mind. “Get the invisibility cloak.”
“You want to see my world, James? You want to know what I go home to?” Sirius growled. “I refuse to give you an opportunity to question my loyalty.”
“It’s time you judged for yourself,” Sirius whispered darkly. “My family is waiting.”
A/N: I know it’s heavy in dialogue, but after the drama of the last chapter I figured everyone could use a break. And, to be honest, the tension between the characters was so heavy I couldn’t really see them focusing on anything other than combative dialogue. Thanks to everyone who’s stayed around for this…it looks like there will only be a few more chapters until the end. I appreciate everyone’s help and support throughout this!
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