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“Take it, Sirius.” Lily tried to push the cup of tea his direction for the third time. “I refuse to sit around drinking hot tea feigning polite conversation while the world comes to an end!” “Stop bellowing!” “Stop scolding!” Sirius returned. “Enough.” James’ authoritative voice broke through their bickering. “Sirius take the blasted tea and pretend to be polite and Lily, stop aggravating him. We’ve more important things to worry about than which of you loves me most.” Sirius and Lily looked to James in confusion, but his dark eyes glittered with amusement. “See? I knew that would quiet you two down.” “James…” Lily had folded her arms in defiance but with one step James had pulled her into his arms. “This is going to be exhausting, Lily. You need to go up and rest. Arguing with Sirius is just postponing the inevitable.” “I know,” she murmured softly. “Things will never be the same.” Sirius grabbed the cup of tea as James began whispering soft comforting words into Lily’s ear. With the slightest noise, Sirius moved back outside to the porch so the two could have a few minutes alone. The darkness had lifted, if only a little, and Sirius sank down onto the steps to keep watch. The spicy scent of cardamom rose from his tea cup and Sirius took a long drink. Not as effective as whiskey to calm his nerves, but Sirius was grateful nonetheless. He checked his watch again. “Where’s Remus?” he muttered impatiently. As soon as the words were spoken, Sirius’ eyes darkened. Remus was the organized one. The one who always made sure they got where they needed to be. So why, on the most important night of James’ life was Remus late? Sirius tensed as he saw the shadow moving toward the house. He stood abruptly, but with no urgency. “You’re late.” His voice was low and accusatory. “I had to fight off…” A cold look from Sirius silenced him. “The area was cleared hours ago.” Even Remus could not miss the growl in Sirius’ voice or the dangerous glint in his eyes. “Once again, you’re being over dramatic, Sirius.” Remus tried to pass by but Sirius blocked his path. “Where exactly did you say you were on this night of all nights?” “I was just late.” “You are never late.” Sirius’ eyes roamed over Remus. “No injuries, I see.” “I was on an errand for the Order, Sirius.” “Where?” Sirius caught Remus’ arm as he tried to brush past. “Why are you so interested in every move the Order makes, Sirius?” Now Remus’ eyes were flashing. “Reporting back to the family, are you?” Sirius was stung and he dropped Remus’ arm as if it were on fire. “Hit a little to close to home, did it?” Remus asked angrily. “I may be a werewolf, Sirius,” his voice was low. “But my loyalty is unquestionable. How about yours?” “Unquestionable?” Sirius whirled on Remus. “This from the man who has deserted us to spend his free time with Snape?” Sirius spit as he said the name. “You thought we didn’t know? Silly naïve Remus. I expect that from Peter but not you. You’ve been meeting with Snape for weeks. I’ve seen you. Lily’s seen you.” He dropped his voice. “James has seen you.” “It’s Order business.” Remus’ voice was not nearly as strong as before. “The Order meeting with a Death Eater? I suppose next you’ll want us all to believe Snape is on our side?” “It’s true.” Remus was quiet. “We’ve been friends to long to do this, Sirius.” Sirius turned away and walked to the end of the porch. Sirius wanted to believe Remus. He wanted to believe that the meetings with Snape were done with good intentions. Yet, Sirius could not let go. He couldn’t forget the loathsome and evil person he Snape to be. The person both he and James knew Snape to be. To believe Snape was good meant Sirius was wrong about everything. His judgment was flaws. Sirius refused to believe that. His family. Sirius could feel the vomit rise in his throat at being compared to them. The Blacks, he thought silently. Sirius Black. Sirius’ body shuddered at the connection the world could make with his name. The Blacks were no better than Snape. Sirius stole a glance at Remus, his trusted friend. Yes. Remus would have to live with his betrayal as would Sirius have to live with his. But, unlike Remus, Sirius refused to hide. “I betrayed my family.” He finally whispered. “The Blacks are not your true family, Sirius.” Sensing Sirius’ rage was over; Remus placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “We are.” “And I will betray you, too.” Remus jerked involuntarily at Sirius’ admission. “What do you mean?” “He’s asked us to choose another secret keeper.” James answered. The two turned to see him leaning against the doorway, his arms folded against his chest. “But we have, of course, refused.” “I don’t understand…” “Remus, could you give us a moment? See to Lily if you would and find Peter. He’s so scattered he’s probably forgotten what tonight is.” “Of course, James.” With a second confused glance to Sirius, he went inside. “You asked him about Snape, then?” James was now pacing the porch beside Sirius. “He says Snape has joined the Order.” “Do you believe him?” Sirius gave a hollow laugh. “Remus is too trusting. He believes what Snape tells him.” James nodded. “I don’t trust Snape either.” Although he said it matter-of-factly, the impact was lost on neither. Not trusting Snape meant not trusting Remus. They’d been friends since childhood and the thought of not longer sharing everything was overwhelming. The two men sank against the porch railing, each in their own world of hurt and despair. They stared silently into the inky black darkness, searching for words that would define the moment. The end of an era had arrived, though, and no appropriate anecdote would come.

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