It was funny how many times his heart had shattered, how many times he had broken the bottle of firewhiskey against the wall and stared at the sticky blood on his hands and swore never again would he let a comrade die. It was funny how the jagged shards of his heart would throb again when Sirius thrust him against the wall and shouted goddamnit, wake up, Prongs, when Remus gave him that tender smile that bordered on a laugh or when Peter mustered a joke that was so sodding terrible it was almost funny.

It was funny how he was going to die; how he could never press his lips against his wife’s again, would never laugh as his son (oh, god, not Harry, not Lily) hurtled into a vase again and would never sodding fight for what he believed in again. Frank had told him once, eyes red as they stared at the graves of dreams and rotting corpses spanning out into the darkness, “their memories will live on in us, and that’s how we’ll fight -- they’re not that dead yet.” His head lolled back, gasping out into the night, hazel-flecked eyes hating and loving all at once and then not at all.

Because James Potter had died and wasn’t that a hell of a joke?

There wasn’t darkness but rather a train of memories, flitting by and barely skimming over his already cold hands as he clawed the air, desperate to clutch onto one. He did, and it pulled him forward, his feet dragging him back as he descended into warmth. He thought death was cold, and maybe it was, but they were still warm. They were young, a gleam of certainty and of life flushing their faces and pushing each other as they attempted to commentate on the Quidditch match when the lions weren’t in the game.

“You sodding cheaters,” Sirius shouted out, “you evil little buggers, you -- YES, YES GET THAT SNITCH BEFORE I FREEZE MY ARSE OFF.”

“Someone scored a goal, but I can’t tell who because Sirius is in the way,” Peter had said conversationally, a faint smile on his mouth even as he burrowed into his cloak.

“WE’RE THE KINGS,” Sirius whooped gleefully, and Remus only laughed as his friend tottered off his crane-like stance on the commentator box.

“I’ll quit you lot someday,” Remus warned them, the tease evident in his smile.

“Please, we’re friends forever,” James had told the two of them assuredly. “Can’t get rid of me so easily, Lupin.”

“Shame,” Remus responded, but his smirk had softened into a hopeful smile.

James caught all of their hands together -- “ergh, Prongs, stop with the damn sentiment” -- and had declared to his friends and the hundreds in the Quidditch pitch below them, “mates forever.”

“UN - UN - UNTIL DEATH DO US APART.” Sirius Black was ridiculous, but he was bloody fantastic as well.

Only now, death had done them apart, and James’ grip slackened, and the threads of the memory came loose. He attempted again to hold on, but now they went by too fast, and James could only see vibrant glimpses of laughter, heartbreak, stolen kisses and firewhiskey.

That was life.

This was death.

: :

It didn’t hit him, not at first. All he could do was stand there amongst the bystanders, stricken with horror and disbelief as he watched his best mate scream at Peter. Scream he’d kill him. No. Hell, no? What the hell was happening? “Sirius, mate.” James reached for Sirius’s shoulder before he remembered -- oh, yes, he was dead.

It wasn’t until the air was thick with death, Peter gone and Sirius laughing up at the gray sky, that he remembered who he had entrusted his secret, his life to. Every cutting laugh stabbed him with the sickening feeling of betrayal. “No,” he breathed out, shaking his head over and over again. “No.”

Peter could not have betrayed him.

: :

Nothing. Remus was a shadow of the man he used to be, a fleeting remainder of a man with a hoarse laugh and a fight that couldn’t be quenched by anything. It was strange how Remus could ever look into the mirror and see a monster when James could only see a crumbling man.

He wondered which was worse.

Remus only walked through the streets of London day after day, dry-eyed and aching. Searching for something. Empty. “Fuck, Remus.” James gripped onto his mate’s shoulder, shaking him insistently. “You bastard, you damned bastard -- be okay, dammit.”

It was funny how he was most alive when he was screaming at the moon, yellow-white eyes sickeningly vibrant with the rage of a broken man.

: :

Fists clenched, knuckles white, James watched as the rat tail skimmed his son’s wrist. The traitor. The coward. The liar. It was almost okay when Harry’s mouth widened, green eyes (Lily’s eyes) gleaming, and broke into a laugh.

It was the same laugh Harry had when he was little -- innocent and carefree.

For the first time in a long time, his death felt worth it.

: :

Death was not peaceful. Death wasn’t like falling asleep. In death, he was useless, unable to fight, unable to do. It was anger and pain, fresh waves of it every day, every moment. He could only watch over them as they wasted away, and it was only in those few instances -- Remus mustering a smile for that wide-eyed girl with pink hair, Sirius attempting to flirt even with his mangy dog-like hair, Harry’s slow grin as he managed a wisp of silver -- that he felt a gleam of hope.

This was one of those times.

Justice, oh, god, finally -- justice. James watched as Peter, once his friend, begged for mercy from each and every one of them and felt hope. That maybe it could be okay. He’d get what was coming to him, the restlessness of death. Perhaps death was too good for him, but it was justice, and he’d burn in the flames of hell. Lily had told him that once, “if we die, we’ll be with the angels, singing down lullabies to Harry.”

“All of us?” He had asked her, unconvinced.

“No.” Her green eyes were set on his, firm and hard. “Some of us God won’t be merciful to. Some of us will burn in hell.”

Peter would be one of those.

When that cowardly rat reached for Harry, he expected the same response from his son, expected it when he saw the gleam of disgust in son’s eyes. Only there was mercy. “Harry,” he hoarsely rasped out. “He doesn’t deserve to live.” Why the hell would he do this? He deserved nothing. Nothing. James wouldn’t have, Peter had said, pleading for his life. Oh, yes, he bloody well would have. He could have killed him without regret, killed him for the years he had lost with his son, killed him for the man he had broken, killed him for everything he had done.

Only Harry thought better of his father, didn’t think him a killer.

James stumbled down to his knees, face in his hands and tried to force out a sob. Only there were no tears after life. Just pain. Just pain.

: :

Sirius Black was dead.

(A ghost of a laugh as he fell backwards into the veil, the guts to laugh at the greatest fucking joke in life. Death. He died, laughing at death.)

: :

Peter Pettigrew was dead.

(His own silver hand clenched around his throat, his act of mercy, of kindness, twisted against him. Another joke, not one of death but of darkness, of greed and of power. James turned away as the life vanished from his mate’s eyes -- it had been long since he had forgiven him. He had been dead too long to hate any longer.)

: :

Remus Lupin was dead.

(The body was splayed out, hands still laced into his wife’s. He had left his son behind for a victory, for a better world. James knelt by him, clutching the other hand and promising it would be. This time, it would be.)

: :

“Till death do us apart.”

“Funny that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’ll be sorry, too, Wormtail. Just not yet.”

“Friends forever?”

“You’re such a sap, Prongs.”

“Friends forever.”

The stag lowered his shoulder so the rat could leap on, and the dog began bounding into the forest after the wolf, the stag following shortly after. They had their forever.

The end and happily ever after.

(“Sodding finally.”)

Hello! This happens to be my entry for Slytherin's House Cup Prompt 3 to show how friendship can last through the dark and light moments to a literal eternity -- even after death. I'd like to thank Steph (sugar & spice@tda) for making me a fantastic banner as well as Chels and luvinpadfoot for helping me with this. Reviews are loved.

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