Most often, the distance between a plan and the reality of the action was a decision, made in a split second – no more than an instant.
“Damnit, Sirius!” Moody shouted, hurling his bag across the room before rounding on you. “What were you thinking?” James blinked into existence a few seconds later, fury etched in his expression as well. He opened his mouth to yell but Moody’s own rage cut him off. “Dumbledore wanted him brought back and you let him go?”
You threw your own bag down where you stood and stalked into the kitchen– your back to both of them. “I didn’t let him go,” you countered, trying to steady your trembling hands before turning around. “He ran.”
“You warned him! We had him cornered and you hesitated!” It was James yelling this time, his usual easy manner gone. “The hell, Sirius – we told you if you couldn’t handle this not to go.”
“I’ll handle it,” you managed, slamming the glass down on the counter. “I’ll find him again and I’ll bring him in.”
“No you won’t,” James argued, taking a few long strides forward to stand mere inches in front of you. “Least of all by yourself. Your stunt showed him our cards – he won’t be this careless again.”
“Step back.” Your tone was lethal when you spoke, squaring your shoulders. A full head taller than James, his implied challenge didn’t frighten you.
Seconds ticked by like hours as the two of you stared at one another, your hands clenched tightly into fists as adrenaline and anger coursed through your veins. “Step back, James,” you repeated slowly, watching for the imperceptible movement that would define your reaction.
Moody flinched before either of you, stepping forward and grabbing James’ shoulder. “Give him some space, Potter,” he warned, pulling him back. James permitted it, but he didn’t take his eyes off of you, the ire clearly unabated.
“Come on, let’s go,” Moody prompted again, pushing James’ rucksack into his chest, forcing him to take it.
“I thought you’d be here.” Remus said, taking the stool next to you. The bartender took a few steps toward you but Lupin waived him off.
“You’ve heard what happened then?” you asked, taking another restorative sip of the beer in your hand.
He nodded. “James told me.”
“Lovely,” you remarked, tipping your glass again. Neither of you said anything for a few moments, you considering the bowl of peanuts, him seemingly considering you. “He hesitated.”
“That’s what I heard,” he replied, leaning over to take a napkin from behind the bar, folding it in half.
“That’s likely,” you said sarcastically, looking at him for the first time. His expression was conciliatory and supportive, but not disgustingly so. “No one else seemed to notice.”
“Moody did,” he supplied, folding the napkin in half again.
“You’ve talked to both of them then?” you asked, not waiting for his answer. “Excellent. I’m sure they ran straight to Dumbledore.”
“Actually,” he started, spinning the stool to face you. “They didn’t.”
You glanced over, raising your eyebrows so you didn’t have to ask the question. “I was with Lily.”
“Perfect,” you muttered to no one in particular, emptying your glass.
“She didn’t take it very well,” he said cautiously, putting the napkin down on the bar. Whatever he was about to say, this was clearly what he’d come here for. “She was furious with James. She left.”
“And what, exactly, am I supposed to do with that?” you asked, slapping a note on the bar and getting up.
“You can do whatever you’d like. I just thought you should know.”
Lupin let you leave without argument and you wandered your neighborhood a little longer than was necessary, struggling to clear your mind. The expression on your brother’s face as you bared down upon him, wand at the ready – the sorrow that crossed his eyes as you’d spoken to him for the first time in years. Something you had said or done upset him – he’d hesitated, you were sure of it but you still couldn’t discern why or what it had meant. When you tried to distract yourself from him, your mind wandered to Lily and the situation there was no less murky.
All of these thoughts were racing through your mind as you cut across the little park separating the garage’s from the building. You might not even have heard her call were it not for its pitch, high with relief.
Lily sat, perched uneasily on a swing, her feet dangling a few inches above the ground, her gloved hands wrapped tightly around the chains, tears running down her cheeks. You stared at her, bewildered for a few moments – wondering what would meet you if you chose to talk to her.
“I’m afraid,” she whispered, leaning back against your chest, tears welling in her eyes. The swing’s chains creaked under the shifting weight as you picked your feet up, allowing it to sway slightly beneath you.
“I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary,” you argued, laughing a little.
She shook her head, craning her neck to look at you. “Dumbledore seems frightened. What we’re up against – we’re not safe.”
You considered her for a moment, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, freckles peppered her face, still pretty even as tense as she was. “You’re safe here, Lily,” you’d said, endeavoring to sound reassuring.
“Safe?” she’d asked, incredulous, sitting up again. “Sirius, what about this feels safe to you?”
Grinning, you stopped the swing, letting go of the chains to pull her close enough to kiss. “What about this feels unsafe,” you asked, your lips barely brushing the skin of her throat.
“Sirius,” she whimpered, her knuckles going white as her grip tightened.
“It’s a little cold for a picnic at the park,” you said sarcastically, gesturing toward the bag at her feet. It was taking more than you’d imagined it could to force your mind to focus on the reality of the moment rather than memories of the past. Still, she didn’t say anything, so you tried again, more sternly this time. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“He could have killed you, Sirius,” she managed, letting her head drop to stare at the ground.
You scoffed, shaking your head. “James would like knowing you thought so much of him.”
“Not James,” she corrected, looking at you again. “Regulus.”
“Him too,” you joked darkly.
“Don’t kid, I’m serious.”
Whether it was alcohol, hunger, cold or exhaustion that motivated your mood, you found yourself more irritable than normal. Her hedging caught on your last nerve. “We can’t stay here,” you replied, your voice far sharper than you’d intended.
“I can’t go home,” she answered, her voice breaking as she looked at you.
“I didn’t think for an instant you intended to.” Her eyes widened as you spoke, glistening under the street lamps as you watched her impatiently.
“What do you think?” she asked, clearly stung by your words.
“I think,” you started, taking hold of the chains impulsively, pushing back to lift her to eye level, “I think that something happened between you and James and you’re looking for a place to hide.” She shook her head feebly, no longer crying. “But I also think if you come home with me, I’m not letting you go again,” you warned.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked, hedging again.
You sighed, backing away and releasing the swing – putting feet between you again instead of inches. “It means exactly what I said. If you’re not ready for that, stay with a friend.”
“Are you sure we’re allowed to be in here?” she asked, ducking underneath the spider webs that curtained the doorway.
“Why, are you afraid?” you asked, your tone patronizing as you turned to look at her.
Lily rolled her eyes. “Not afraid, just careful,” she replied, taking a few tentative steps towards you. “I feel like I’m going to fall through the floorboards every time I take a step.”
“That’s likely.” You smirked, aiming your beam of wand light at her feet and extending your free hand for hers.
“Why are we here again?” she asked, stumbling over a loose, moth eaten rug.
You pulled her closer, steadying her step. “Because you were afraid someone would see us on the swing set,” you reminded her, taking the wand from her hand gently and sliding them both in your pocket.
“Right, take me into a haunted house and take my wand. That’s nice,” she quipped half-heartedly, intertwining her fingers with your own.
“Give a girl everything she asks for and still, she complains.”
She hesitated for a fraction of a second before rising up onto her tip toes to kiss you. “You haven’t come anywhere near to giving me everything I want,” she murmured.
“Really?” you asked, mischief evident in your voice. She bit her lip, considering you before shaking her head. “What is it that you want, Lily – exactly?”
She didn’t answer , struggling weakly to free her hands as you pressed her back against the wall. “Nice try,” you whispered, pinning her wrists at her sides. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath before opening them again, the faintest hint of a whimper escaping her lips. “Lily,” you prompted again, pulling away from her. “Exactly.”
“Sirius,” she whined, pressing her palms flat to the wall and trying to push herself forward, closer to you. “Don’t tease.”
“I’m not teasing,” you answered sternly, leaning in to run your teeth across the skin of her throat. “I’m not touching you until you tell me precisely what you want.”
She froze beneath you, her eyes locked with yours – temporarily terrified. “I…” she started, trailing off, completely at a loss for words. You grinned, her green eyes open wide, the line of her jaw pronounced as she parted her lips, trying to speak.
“Oh, but you are absolutely gorgeous,” you whispered, releasing her wrists to pull her t-shirt over her head. She complied willingly, and it was your turn to take a steadying breath as she freed her arms to tug at your belt buckle.
Sounds in the hallway startled you awake, lurching you from the comfort of your dreams into the cruelty of reality without an effort at apology. You sat bolt upright, leaping out of bed with remarkable agility for a man with a hangover before remembering that you’d given Lupin a key and crumpling onto the mattress again.
“James stopped by.” Lupin was at the kitchen table when you ventured out of your bedroom, yawning heavily, a spoon in one hand, the paper in the other.
“He asked if either of us had seen Lily. I told him I’d ask you when you woke up,” he continued, unphased by your reaction. You opened the cupboard and searched the shelves, annoyed. “You might want to send her home soon,” he added nonchalantly.
“Send her home?” you asked, rounding on him. “She’s not here.”
“She’s not?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at you uneasily.
Your tone was indignant, your expression matching it as you answered him. “No.”
You recounted your conversation for him, leaving out only the details you felt were inspired by drunkenness rather than rational thinking and he listened politely, waiting for you to finish before emitting any response at all. “We should go find her then,” he said simply, getting calmly to his feet.
“Why should I go find her?’ you asked, incredulous. “I gave her the choice. She chose not to stay – that’s on her.” The struggle to modulate the anger in your voice only got worse the longer the two of you talked. Her decision hadn’t surprised you, so your reaction to it was confusing, but more than that, Remus’ response was a shock. He’d stayed quiet and cool – betraying nary a reaction – but even that seemed to speak volumes.
“Sirius, you need to go find her,” he urged again, the cracks in his façade beginning to show.
“Why?” you asked again, more serious this time.
“Because she’s leaving him.”
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