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Sirius Black stood on the empty train platform, staring into the distance. The Hogwarts Express was nowhere to be seen. He wondered vaguely if he had missed it, but as in many dreams, important questions just didn’t seem important enough to dwell on. Instead, Sirius glanced around. Platform 9 ¾ was deserted. Not an owl shrieked, nor a student clamored in a crowd with friends, desperate to tell about his or her summer. No one stood anywhere in sight. He had never seen the platform so empty.

Sirius spun slowly around, his robes making a soft swishing noise as he turned. He had been certain his best friends James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew, would already be at the train station when he arrived, eagerly awaiting the start of their sixth year at Hogwarts. Even his brother Regulus was nowhere in sight.

“Sirius,” a soft voice said, neither female nor male. The sound was eaten up by the cavernous platform, leaving not an echo or trace that the voice had spoken.

Sirius started and groped in his pocket for his wand—it wasn’t there.

Sirius,” the disembodied voice repeated. “Have you ever felt quite so alone?”

Sirius glared around the empty platform, still searching for the speaker. “I’m not alone,” he snapped. “I have my friends and my brother—even if he’s a git. They’re here somewhere.”

“You don’t have a brother,” the voice said scornfully. “Not anymore. And your friends will never truly understand what it’s like. How could they? They still have families. You? You’re alone.”

“Shut up,” Sirius said, but his voice wavered. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I?” the voice asked.

The platform dissolved around him, and Sirius felt himself drifting as the dream ended. Was he really alone?

“Sirius,” a much-more-solid voice called as he awoke slowly from his restless night of sleep. “Wake up, mate. The train’ll leave without us if you’re too slow.”

That voice belonged to James Potter, Sirius’s best friend. Three months earlier, right after the end of their fifth year at Hogwarts, Sirius had finally had enough of his parents’ oppressive pureblood ideals and their constant criticism of him, and he had left. James’s parents had accepted him like a second son, and he had lived with them ever since.

Sirius groaned and slung an arm over his face, blocking out the light that streamed in through the high windows in the Potters’ spare bedroom. When Sirius had arrived in the middle of the night all those months ago, he had felt terrible that he would be putting the Potters out, but he hadn’t even finished explaining himself before James’s mother had gently led him upstairs and down the hall to the guest room he had stayed in occasionally during holidays over the last five years. Inside, the Potters had already changed the room to Sirius’s every need. He would later ask James how they knew what he liked and how they’d been so ready for him—and James would admit to telling his parents of Sirius’s terrible home situation—but in that moment, Sirius was so touched that he couldn’t say a word.

“I barely slept at all,” Sirius grumbled sourly, listening to James bustle around the room. “I don’t care about sixth year. Can’t I just sleep?”

James laughed somewhere across the room. “Nah,” he said. A few thunks indicated that he had tossed things into Sirius’s open trunk, and a final, loud thud was James kicking the lid shut. Sirius jerked his head up at the sudden noise. “We’ve got more pranks planned for this year,” James continued. “You came up with quite a few of them yourself. I’d hate for you to miss the carry-through.”

Sirius sighed and pushed himself into a sitting position on the soft bed, running one hand through his tussled black hair. “I suppose so,” he said wearily.

James waved a careless hand and headed for the door. “Get up,” he called as he left the room. “Mum’s making eggs.”

Sirius couldn’t help but smile at James’s words. Over the last three months, Mrs. Potter had never failed to treat Sirius the same as she treated James (and in some situations, better, since she tended to blame James for any mischief they caused and trust that Sirius was an angel who her boy had just dragged into his antics). Sirius knew when he went downstairs that she would have a plate for him in the spot they had allocated him at the breakfast table, and there would be three eggs over easy and two pieces of rye toast. And she wouldn’t force him to drink any nasty pumpkin juice, but if she could find it, there would be guava juice instead, even though no one else but Sirius drank it.

“I’m not alone,” Sirius muttered angrily to the empty room, hating that his dream had made him doubt. Of course he had people who cared about him. What did it matter if his own family wanted him dead? Sirius sighed and shook his dark thoughts away as he climbed out of bed and started to get ready for the day.

At breakfast, everything he had thought Mrs. Potter would do, she had done, and more. The spacious kitchen smelled heavenly, scents of toasted bread and salted eggs wafting through the air. It made Sirius’s mouth water as he dropped into his place at the table and began shoveling food into his mouth without a single thought to his manners—something he never could have done at his parents’ house. Mrs. Potter only smiled at him fondly and asked where his trunk was—she had darned all of his socks and stitched labels into his new robes. He answered, and she kissed his forehead as she went to finish his packing.

Sirius blushed as James rolled his eyes across the breakfast table. Sirius wasn’t used to a having a mother-figure who doted on him and cared where he was and what he was doing. When he had first come to the Potters’, he was afraid he would feel constricted by how much they cared about him, but instead he just felt loved…and that was a feeling he didn’t know how to put into words.

“So,” James said, pushing his glasses higher on his long nose, “who’s our first target this year?” His brown eyes glinted mischievously, and Sirius almost sighed…but this was his best friend. If James wanted to prank people and have fun, who was Sirius to tell him not to? Just because Sirius was having a bad day…he pushed the feelings down inside him.

“Is Snivellus too obvious?” Sirius asked. He absentmindedly polished his plate with the crust of his toast. He didn’t know how to tell James that his heart just wasn’t in it today. He was Sirius Black, troublemaker extraordinaire. He couldn’t just not cause mischief.

Sirius looked back at James to see a curious expression on his best friend’s face. James looked—if Sirius wasn’t mistaken—guilty. He muttered something indistinguishable and looked down at his empty plate.

“What was that, Prongs?” Sirius asked, perking up for the first time that day. He sensed there would soon be an opportunity to mock his best friend, and he never gave those up.

James swirled a finger on the wooden tabletop and gazed out the bay window at the neatly-trimmed garden behind his family’s home. “Lily doesn’t like when we go after Snape,” he muttered.

Sirius grinned wickedly, his black eyes lighting up. “Still on about her, yes?” he asked, knowing full-well that James’s crush hadn’t dissipated over the summer—he had just gotten better about not mentioning it.

“This is going to be my year,” James said firmly, not rising to Sirius’s bating. “You’ll see. So we have to lay off Snape.”

Sirius sighed. “You’re no fun,” he muttered.

“What about Regulus and his friends?” James asked, perking up. “We haven’t made your brother squirm in months.”

Now it was Sirius’s turn to look away. The waves of uncertainty that his dream had brought on washed over him once again. He swallowed a lump in his throat, fought off the persistent chanting in his head—you’re alone, you’re alone, you’re alone—and forced a smile.

“I don’t know if that’ll work after this past spring,” Sirius admitted.

James’s face fell. “Oh,” he said, “Padfoot, I’m sorry. I didn’t think about how you leaving would change things. I didn’t…” He trailed off as Mrs. Potter came back into this kitchen.

She smiled widely at the two boys, either ignoring or not noticing the awkwardness between them. “Time to go!” she said happily. “Tristan and I will side-along apparate with you to get us all to the station.” The tiny woman levered Sirius out of his chair effortlessly and marched him down the narrow, carpeted hallway towards the front door.

James’s parents were older, and his mother’s hair had gone prematurely gray, so it wasn’t uncommon for people to think that Mrs. Potter was actually James’s grandmother. Luckily, the small woman, with her ready smile and cheerful laugh, never minded. Now, she towed Sirius to where Mr. Potter stood at the door. He had already sent their trunks and Sirius’s owl along ahead of them, and he reached out to link arms with James as his son arrived. Side-by-side, Sirius could see exactly what James would look like in fifty years. It was eerie.

“Got everything?” Mr. Potter asked, straightening his glasses in exactly the same manner James had done a few minutes earlier.

Mrs. Potter nodded and wrapped her arm around Sirius’s firmly. “Don’t let go,” she warned the boys.

James and Sirius nodded, and the older Potters spun on the spot, squeezing all four of them into darkness.

The goodbyes at King’s Cross were brief. Sirius wasn’t used to anyone seeing him off, so he forced a smile and said his farewells and thanked the Potters profusely for welcoming him into their home for the summer. After several “it was nothing”s and even more “you’re welcome anytime”s, Sirius and James said their final goodbyes and walked towards the Hogwarts Express.

James bounded onto the train immediately, headed for the usual compartment that the Marauders shared and shouting for Sirius to hurry up. Sirius, however, was frozen. Steps from the train, his eyes fell on his younger brother, Regulus.

Regulus, the proud son of the Black family sociopaths, was already dressed in his crisp Slytherin uniform and robes. His black hair was combed neatly out of his face, and he was smirking in a holier-than-thou way. Normally, Sirius wouldn’t have spared him a thought…

…but he hadn’t seen Regulus in three months. And he hadn’t seen the two adults who stood with him either. The train’s whistle sounded, but Sirius only heard it distantly as he stared at his younger brother and his parents. His parents, who had never come to see them off while Sirius was a part of the family, who had never so much as spared a thought for their older son as year after year he left for Hogwarts and Gryffindor House…They stood with their younger son, proud and happy to see him return to school. Their backs were straight, their black eyes haughty, but not unkind, as they looked at their younger son—their heir.

It was as if Sirius’s nightmare was coming true, but reality made it so much worse. In reality, the platform was packed with people hurrying onto the steaming train behind him. Crowds of students jostled each other, shouting and talking and laughing. Owls screeched; cats hissed; the train whistled again, and Sirius Black stood completely still in the middle of it all.

He watched as his father shook Regulus’s hand and his mother brushed his hair off his forehead. They turned and left, never having noticed Sirius, and Regulus stepped onto the train, to any onlookers, an only child off to school.

Sirius had never felt so alone in his entire life.

“Come on!” a voice groaned behind him, and James reached out of the train door and yanked Sirius inside. He didn’t notice the crestfallen expression on his best friend’s face or the quivering of his hands as he fought to keep his composure. “Moony and Wormtail are waiting! They say you’re better at laughing at their jokes than me.”

Sirius followed James down the corridor and sat in the compartment with his three friends. He forced his laughs at just the right moments and smiled just as easily as if nothing was wrong, but by the time they were halfway to Hogwarts, he didn’t know if he could take it anymore. Excusing himself from the Marauders, Sirius left the compartment and hurried to the end of the train, his hands shaking again.

The window was open in the corridor past the last compartment, and Sirius stood next to it gulping in the cool night air and trying not to let the voice from his dream creep back into his mind.

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, he told himself over and over again. Regulus was always a git anyway. And Mother and Father are terrible. You know that. Don’t let them do this to you.

He tried to convince himself to calm down, but he couldn’t. Every time he thought of Regulus, he didn’t see the proud young man from the train platform; he saw his little brother, ten years old and afraid of lightning, hiding under Sirius’s sheets and making him promise not to tell their parents. He saw the first person he’d ever played Quidditch with, the first person he’d ever confided in. He saw the Regulus who’d written him a secret note when he’d been sorted into Gryffindor, and with misspelled words scattered through it, had told his big brother “ill love you furever, even when mummy and dad are mad that your in griffindoor.”

Have you ever felt quite so alone?

Sirius choked back a sob and pressed his large palms against his closed eyes. What was he thinking leaving his family? What was he thinking leaving Regulus? He had two years left at Hogwarts, and he was supposed to pretend like he didn’t know his own brother?

“Sirius?” a quiet voice asked.

Sirius jerked upright from where he leaned on the wall and hastily wiped his eyes. “Hi Lily,” he said with a forced smile. “How’s it going?”

Lily Evans frowned, her delicate mouth pulling down at the corners. She tugged her robes straight absentmindedly, and looked at him, her green eyes intense. “Are you okay?” she asked.

Sirius’s shoulders slouched. How could this be happening? Of everyone to find him in a moment of weakness, it had to be Lily. Lily, perfect Lily, who cared too much, who never hesitated to try to help…Lily, who thought of everyone before herself, was asking him if he was okay.

She reached a soft hand out and rested it on Sirius’s arm, and suddenly his doubts and fears and sadness melted away. Here was Lily, the kindest of the Gryffindors, a girl who wasn’t technically his friend, looking out for him. He wasn’t alone. He thought of James who had told his parents Sirius’s favorite colors so they could be sure that his room at their house was how he liked it. He thought of Remus who was too quiet but always smiled when Sirius made a joke, even if he tried to hide that smile behind a scolding. He thought of Peter who never failed to rise when Sirius bated him to sneak out or prank someone, who always wanted to please. And he thought of Lily Evans…Lily whose parents had both died in the last eighteen months, who was standing beside him with a hand on his arm asking if he was okay.

“I will be,” Sirius said at last, and he smiled. He let Lily walk him back to his compartment (and pretended not to notice when she spoke only to James), and mentally, he flipped a rude hand gesture at his dream. He might not have a biological family anymore, but he was far from alone.


Author's Note: Thank you to the two challenges which helped inspire this story! I almost never write for the Marauders (I've only done it one other time six and a half years ago!), but this was fun! I hope my characterization isn't horrendous. Also, thank you to Beeezie (Branwen) and her stories about James's parents that have become my head canon (and inspired Mr. Potter's name, Tristan). This was quite the challenge for me, but I'm glad I fought through it. Thank you for reading, and I'd love if you left a review!

Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered (or comments you'd like to say!), please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums! There's a link on my author's page!


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