Everything belongs to JKR.
Memories are wonderful things, and nobody knows this better than Sirius Black. They were what sustained him during his twelve year stay in Azkaban. They are what he lives for even now, when he is out. The biggest loss he ever suffered was losing James, but in his mind James still lives. They are still young, they still laugh and play around. They still face the world like soldiers, standing alone in the darkest of places to fight evil. And sometimes they still let loose, still get drunk off of firewhisky in his old flat, still smoke gillyweed when Lily’s not looking, just to stop themselves from falling apart.
In the back of Sirius’s mind, things are still the same as they ever were, and when he thinks nobody is looking, he escapes there to be happy again. It is easy to do, after all; things are remarkably similar. He is once again in the midst of a war against the very same wizard he fought fifteen years ago. And once more, he has a familiar young man at his side, complete with ridiculous hair and glasses. And even though he is in hiding, even though he can’t leave the horrible house he grew up in and really fight like he used to, he is sustained by the presence of Remus Lupin. Remus, the one person left in the world who can share many of his greatest memories.
Remus and James. Remus and Harry.
Remus can see right through him, he knows. Remus knows where he goes to escape and remember. Remus sees him fall down, can see where he’s broken. But Remus never says anything; he just offers a small smile and then buries his thoughts in a book or newspaper. He's hardly changed at all since they were in Hogwarts themselves, thinks Sirius. Sometimes he wonders what it’s like to be Remus; he must have nightmares of his own, after all. He was left here all alone in the world for years after losing the three friends who’d helped him through so much. Sirius can see where Remus is broken as well, but they let each other face their own demons and rarely speak of it.
Yes, memories are wonderful, indeed. They are everything to Sirius, and perhaps that’s why they can be so terrible at times as well. They are bittersweet. They make him happy, and at the same time they throw him into despair. He tries not to think about the bad ones, but sometimes they come up anyway. Sometimes, in Azkaban, the dementors caught him off guard and brought his biggest nightmares back to the surface of his mind. Those were the worst times, because it was like losing James all over again. But he never thought that the worst of his memories could still haunt him even after his escape, even after he found his godson, James’s own flesh and blood.
And still they do.
Harry smiles at him from across the room; he looks so much like James, thinks Sirius, and he smiles back slowly, almost with hesitance. He tries to distance himself somewhat; it is too easy for him to see James in Harry. Too easy for him to mix them up. He knows some people think he’s touched in the head. Maybe he is, he thinks, and he can’t think of anything that is wrong with that.
As he watches, Moody engages Harry in conversation, showing him an aged photograph and pointing out certain things on it. It takes a moment of mindless staring before Sirius registers the disturbed look that slowly creeps across Harry’s face. He pushes away from the wall he leans against in the corner to approach the pair, and he asks Moody what he’s showing Harry.
And when Moody turns to him, there he is, James, smiling back at him like he always did. Like he still does. It hits him like a flood, and Sirius says nothing for a moment, not even when he sees Harry make an escape from the corner of his eye.
And it isn’t just James. There is Lily, and the Prewett brothers. There is Dorcas Meadows, Benjy Fenwick. Caradoc catches his eye and waves in a familiar way. The Longbottoms look well; Marlene McKinnon and Edgar Bones are just as he remembers them. It is as if it is 1979, 1980 all over again. He swallows thickly and hands the picture back to Moody without a word. It leaves him feeling weak and lost.
He catches Remus eyeing him curiously, and when their gazes meet, Remus looks quickly away. Fortunately, he is spared the awkward moment by Harry’s shouts coming from above. His grey eyes float towards the ceiling in alarm, towards the sound of the voice, and within an instant he and Remus are darting up the stairs. He can hear Moody’s wooden leg clunking behind them and he pushes himself to climb even faster.
They burst through the doors in the drawing room all at once, and it is there that Sirius encounters his worst nightmare yet again.
There is James, sprawled on his back, dead on the floor. He looks just as he had on the worst night of Sirius’s life. He looks just as he had when Sirius found him, when he’d frantically dropped to his knees beside his friend and checked desperately for a pulse. He hadn’t found one, he recalls, and, not satisfied, he’d rested his head on James’s chest, listening for a heartbeat. He could remember the warmth that still lingered in his friend, as if the beautiful life that had been snuffed out was just there, just out of reach.
But all was silent then, except for his heartbroken denials and sobs. And all is silent now, aside from the cries of Mrs Weasley in the corner.
He bites his lip. Remus is quick to banish the boggart, but Sirius hardly notices when the body disappears. It is still in his mind, etched forever into his memories: the sudden end to the greatest thing in his life. His eyes linger on the spot, even as the others in the room begin to leave. Harry looks curiously at him, but he doesn’t notice this. And Remus pats his shoulder knowingly as he passes, because Remus can see James when he looks at Harry as well, and he understands what Sirius really sees in that moment.
The touch jerks him out of the nightmare. Sirius tears his eyes away and mutely follows the group back down to the celebration. He tries to shove the memory from his mind, to continue to have a good time for Harry’s sake. For Remus’s and for his own. But one never can forget a memory like that.
There is only one comfort for Sirius. James will visit him tonight while he sleeps, and there, in his dreams, the memory never happened at all. James still lives, and they go back. They are still young, they still laugh and play around. They still face the world like soldiers, standing alone in the darkest of places to fight evil. And sometimes they still let loose, still get drunk off of firewhisky in his old flat, still smoke gillyweed when Lily’s not looking, just to stop themselves from falling apart.
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