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The Broken Road It seems I’ve found the road to nowhere And I’m trying to escape I am back when I heard thunder But I’m down to one last breath And with it let me say Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge… Sirius’ cloak billowed behind him as he rushed to the lavatory of his small flat. Without thinking, he thrust his hands into the wash basin, soaking his woollen cloak up to the elbows. The shock of the icy water made his body recoil. Grabbing the stiff brush normally used by the housekeeper to scrub the tub, Sirius began scouring his hands. Desperate to remove the crimson blood stains, Sirius rubbed so feverishly he didn’t realize when blood from his own hands began to mingle with the other. A gasp of pain made the brush slip to the floor, and Sirius gripped the sink tightly to keep from falling over. His eyes, bleary from exhaustion and grief, focused on the red tinged water in the basin. His violent scrubbing had caused the water to splash everywhere, and as the water in the basin tried to settle, small gentle ripples broke the surface. The movements caused Sirius’ stomach to lurch and he dropped to his knees and vomited. “Sirius, my friend.” “Go away, James.” Sirius coughed weakly as he spoke, trying to keep from vomiting again. He sat very still for a moment then, as the nausea subsided, he leaned his back against the wall. “Here.” James offered Sirius a towel, the smell of vomit and fresh blood making the room intolerable. James lifted his wand to clean the scene, but Sirius shook his head. “No. Not that way.” Sirius struggled to stand, allowing James to help him into the other room. “What are you doing here?” “Dumbledore told me the news.” James explained quietly. “I assume Regulus is dead, then?” Sirius nodded, unwilling to say the words just yet. It seemed impossible. Mere hours ago they were together, side by side, detailing a plan to get him out of Voldemort’s circle. The plan had been foolproof, or so they thought. “What happened?” “Remus was right. I’m a self-centered egotist that believes he knows more than anybody.” “You forgot the saving the world, determined to be a hero trait as well.” James said it lightly, but then quickly realized how it stung Sirius. “I’m sorry. You know I open my mouth without thinking.” “He didn’t deserve this.” “He was a supporter of Voldemort!” James tried to keep his voice calm, but couldn’t manage. “I know you have no sympathy for him.” Sirius mumbled. “But he was my brother.” “He turned on you, Sirius.” “Not in the end.” Sirius’ voice softened as pictures of his brother danced across his mind: dark hair, just like his own; eyes, in just a tad different shade of grey; the identical smiles that, as children, could only mean mischief was about to ensue. The mirror images had changed as they got older, as life hardened each of them in their own unique ways. Even as adults, though, Sirius could still see himself in his brother. A rebel Regulus was not. But Regulus’ loyalty to the Black family name had caused him as much grief as Sirius received for denouncing it. Sirius couldn’t help but think that he would end up with the same fate as his brother. “Imagine it was me, James.” Sirius didn’t look up, didn’t seek to make any connection with James at all. One day James would understand. One day James would face the unthinkable and realize that one’s biggest regret was wasted time. Sirius briefly wondered what James might regret as time wasted, but the gold glint of James’ wedding ring quickly reminded him. Years of fighting and arguing with Lily, Sirius imagined. Time they could have spent holding each other close and relishing each moment. “He was telling the truth, then?” James asked softly, moving to sit across from Sirius. “Regulus really did want to leave Voldemort?” “It wasn’t a trap, if that’s what you mean.” “I’m not trying to pick a fight, Sirius. I’m trying to help.” James took hold of Sirius’ arm and squeezed it tightly. “I’m trying to be a friend, if you’d just let me.” “I know.” Sirius nodded, but still didn’t feel ready to talk about Regulus with James. He knew James wouldn’t require him to defend Regulus’ past actions, but Sirius seemed to always feel compelled to do so when they discussed him. It seemed a rather pointless argument now that Regulus was dead and Sirius, still numb from his death, didn’t have the strength to enter such a senseless discussion. Sirius could feel James watching him, ready to support him however needed, but Sirius still couldn’t meet his gaze. “Where are Remus and Peter?” “With Lily.” James sat back into the chair letting Sirius have the space he seemed to need. “Is she still ill?” “It gets better as the day goes on.” James said quietly. “She’s with child, then?” Sirius said the words slowly, as if hoping they weren’t true. How could such a wonderful thing happen to James and Lily during a time like this? Sirius tried to imagine the thoughts and fears that must be plaguing James, but couldn’t. He envisioned James walking with a child, a boy perhaps, introducing him to people as they walked through the streets of Hogsmeade. The serene picture made Sirius smile, but his happiness soon dissolved as images of Voldemort slithered into his mind and shattered the peaceful scene. An icy chill consumed him and Sirius tightened his grip on the chair in hopes that James wouldn’t notice his unease. “We suspect so.” James nodded. “She keeps saying it’s never the wrong time to have a child.” “You disagree?” “I think perhaps waiting might have been a wiser choice.” “Waiting for what?” Sirius gave a sarcastic laugh. “Voldemort to be destroyed? You are a dreamer, James. You always have been.” “You don’t think he can be destroyed?” “You didn’t see him tonight. The power that he possesses….it’s not like any evil I’ve ever seen.” Sirius’ voice was a whisper, but before James could question him further, Sirius stood up. “Would you mind fixing some tea? I need to get a shower before patrols.” “Patrols? Sirius…” James started to object, to tell him that going out so soon after his brother was slain was crazy, but for once remembered to think before opening his mouth. Sirius, after all, was never one to sit idly by when someone was in trouble. Regulus’ death would only have increased his commitment to save the world. “Of course.” “Congratulations, James.” Sirius clapped his hand on James’ shoulder as he passed by. His own distraught emotions prevented him from digging any deeper into James’ current situation, but he managed to add a quick, “I know you’ll make a fine father.” “Yeah?” In spite of the circumstances, James couldn’t help but give him a sheepish grin. “Let’s just hope Lily’s up to the task of raising you and another kid at the same time.” Sirius gave him the most reassuring wink he could manage then he moved to the lavatory to get cleaned up. The sight of the room caught him off guard… the talk of James and Lily’s child having temporarily removed him from the previous events of the evening. His eyes roamed the tiny room, trying to recall why he’d refused to let James clean the room with magic. “Scourgify,” he whispered and the room returned to its normal tidiness. Vaguely, Sirius wondered if there was a spell that could do the same cleaning to a man’s soul. Whether it was his or Voldemort’s that need it most right now, Sirius couldn’t tell. Sliding out of his tattered and blood stained cloak, Sirius turned on the steaming water. As warmth from the shower filled the tiny room, Sirius stripped off his clothes and slipped under the spray. The streams of water slid down his body, making his rigid, tension filled muscles relax. The rhythmic sound of the droplets hitting the smooth stone floor lulled him into semi-consciousness and Sirius leaned into the wall for support as the images of the night came flooding back. They ran across his mind quickly like something from a Muggle moving picture show. Sirius forced himself to slow the images, lingering on each one in turn. They were the last moments of time he was able to share with his brother. Moments, no matter how tragic, that Sirius was determined to savor and treasure for the rest of his life. The two of them walking side by side, knowing Voldemort was watching somewhere nearby. Their path had been carefully planned, the broken road with its crushed pebbles providing them advance warning of any unwanted companions. Each crunch of their footsteps unnerved Sirius more as they awaited the inevitable. They knew that by walking with Sirius, Regulus’ loyalty would be obvious and Voldemort would have to react. They were laughing, carrying on as if it were any other day… two brothers merely out for a stroll in the evening air. It had been years since Sirius had felt so connected to his brother and they had memories to catch up and tales of adventures to share. Lucius Malfoy had appeared first. Just behind them. They both could feel his singular presence, but by the time they turned around a dozen Death Eaters had joined him. None had their wands drawn, so confident were they in their ability to take the two Black brothers. As the crowd parted, Voldemort stepped through and, with sudden apprehension that his confidence hadn’t allowed him to expect, Sirius felt compelled to step between the two. “Protecting your traitorous brother, I see.” Voldemort hissed. “At least someone finds him worthy.” “I’ve made my decision.” Regulus’ voice was stronger that Sirius ever imagined possible. “So I see.” Sirius could feel himself crash to the ground but was unable to stop it from happening. He struggled to stand, to draw his wand, to do anything that might break the hold Voldemort had on him, but Voldemort’s strength was beyond anything Sirius had prepared himself for. “Is Sirius as loyal to you as I was?” Voldemort’s eyes bore into Sirius. “Shall we find out?” A surge of pain wracked Sirius’ body and he fought to withhold the screams that were welling inside him. Sirius’ mind whirled under the curse, shards of a broken and half-lived life flickering before his eyes. “No. I suppose your mother and father might not be too happy if I killed their precious Sirius. Muggle lover or not.” “We have brought others, my Lord.” A small voice from the back that Sirius’ vaguely recognized but couldn’t place spoke up. “Several, in fact.” “Bring them to me.” Sirius struggled to see the people that paraded before him, bound by sometime type of curse. They walked as if in a daze, their bodies moving in unison toward Regulus. Sirius didn’t recognize any of them - women, men, a single child – seven in total and, from the terror stricken look on Regulus’ face, all were apparently his friends. “No.” Regulus whispered softly as they reached him. “You will learn what it is like to have your heart torn out by those you thought were loyal. They will beg for my mercy, Regulus. They will beg for me to take you instead.” Sirius braced himself for the horrific sounds he had come to expect from Voldemort’s victims. The sounds that would summon Dumbledore and other members of the Order, and bring the safety Sirius and his brother were depending on. But whatever curse Voldemort had used to bind them had kept them silent as well. The stillness hid the terrifying events that were taking place before Sirius’ eyes and even a person, a few paces away, would never have know such horrible events were taking place within their reach. Only their distorted faces and writhing bodies gave indications to the excruciating pain they were experiencing. Voldemort was playing with them… allowing the Death Eaters to inflict whatever pain they chose on each person. Sirius watched for mere moments before the agony of bearing witness to the demented torture was too much. Only the boy had escaped Voldemort’s wrath at this point and he stood nearby, his eyes frozen with fear for his impending fate. Tears rolled silently down the boy’s cheeks, but still no sounds echoed through the night. Sirius’ eyes settled on the child. Was this his brother’s son, his nephew? Sirius studied the boy, trying to discern something familiar in his features. But the shadows were unwilling to cooperate and Sirius could determine nothing. Sirius could feel Voldemort watching him and he quickly diverted his gaze from the child, but it was too late. Voldemort pulled Sirius to his feet and as if beckoned, the child glided ever closer to Sirius. “You wonder about this boy, hm?” Voldemort’s hushed voice was mocking. “Is he your relative? Has your estranged brother had a child that you never knew?” Uncontrolled laughter pierced Sirius’ skull. “Shall I let you ask him yourself?” As soon as Voldemort lifted the spell, the boy’s terrified screams filled the darkness. The boy dropped to his knees, grabbing the ends of Voldemort’s cloak in a desperate plea for mercy. Sirius refused to look at the boy and instead focused an unwavering gaze on Voldemort. His defiance infuriated Voldemort, but the glint in Voldemort’s eyes had already told Sirius there would be no compassion tonight. Allowing Voldemort to see his weakness would serve no further purpose. “Perhaps not? I suppose you will always be left to wonder then.” The boy’s screams could be heard for miles now and Sirius turned from it to support Regulus who had fallen to his knees as the Death Eaters sent him one magical blow after another. A soft popping alerted Sirius to Dumbledore’s arrival, but he knew it was too late. Voldemort, unnerved by Dumbledore’s appearance, took a precious second to strike the final blow to Regulus before apparating. Sirius’ eyes met his for the briefest moment and a bitter overpowering hatred consumed him. What made this person believe he was above all others? What gave him the right to take away the only brother he had and divide the entire house of Black? Thoughts of revenge were forgotten, though, as Sirius felt Regulus grow heavy in his arms and they toppled to the ground. Blood was flowing everywhere but Sirius couldn’t discern the source to even attempt to stop it. Dumbledore tried to pull him away but Sirius refused. While even one breath remained in his brother, Sirius would not leave. Sirius held tight to his brother, whispering words only two brothers were meant to hear. These last words were the ones Sirius would hold in his heart for all time…. the only words that were for him and him alone. “Sirius?” Sirius jumped as the soft voice drifted through the shower. Sirius turned off the now cold water and wrapped a towel around his waist. “Lily?” he asked, stepping out of the shower with water still dripping from his hair. “James and the others got called to an Order meeting. He didn’t want you to be alone. Tea?” Lily explained in a rush. Sirius eyed her suspiciously as he accepted the cup of hot tea. “Why didn’t I hear about this meeting?” “Most likely because it’s about you.” Lily sighed heavily. “Just tell them you dragged it out of me, okay?” “Deal.” Sirius kissed her forehead as he passed her to get dressed. “And congratulations.” “James never could keep a secret.” “Neither could you.” Sirius called as he finished getting dressed and joined her back in the living room. “So, you were sent here to hold my hand through my time of need?” “You are uncivilized, do you know that?” Lily sank down onto the couch beside him. “You’re not supposed to point out things they were intended to be covert.” “Covert?” Sirius laughed genuinely. “So this is a covert mission you’re on?” Lily plopped down on the couch beside him. “Well, that sounds better than some housewife being sent on an errand by her old man.” “Ah.” Sirius nodded as he sipped the tea, infused with just a hint of cardamom as only Lily could do. “Knowing your carrying his child has made James get a little over protective, I take it?” “Sirius, he won’t let me out of the house!” she said exasperated. “He doesn’t even want me to walk around the neighborhood!” “He’s trying to keep you safe.” “Sirius…” “But,” Sirius cut her off, “soon enough, the reality of the situation will dawn on James and he’ll understand every capable witch and wizard will be needed to defeat Voldemort.” Sirius’ ominous words hung like a cloud over the two and, for a long time, neither spoke. Sirius waited patiently for Lily to launch into the millions of questions he knew were filling her clever mind. He was surprised, then, when she finally did speak. “You’re not the same person you were at Hogwarts, Sirius.” “None of us are, Lily,” Sirius groaned. “Look at James. He’s grown up and is about to be a father.” “No. I know we’ve all grown up. I’m talking about you. You’re not the same reckless, act without thinking, person you used to be.” “I can’t afford to be,” Sirius said darkly, suddenly understanding the disconnect in Lily’s oh so practical mind. In her eyes, Sirius had gone from the fun loving school boy to a serious almost Remus-like persona over night. “The stakes are too high. You, James, Remus and Peter are the only family I have now. I can’t risk anything happening to any of you.” “You mean won’t.” Sirius took her hand in his, desperate for her to understand. “I’m not good at being alone, Lily. For my own sanity, I can’t allow anything to happen.” “That’s a heavy burden you’ve put on yourself.” “Loyalty isn’t a burden.” Lily tightened her grasp on Sirius’ hand and he could feel his heart wrench. This is where he should be. Amongst his friends, moving on with his life rather than mourning years of lost time with Regulus. “You know,” she whispered softly, “we can talk about what happened to you tonight or I can just be here. No matter what detailed accounts Dumbledore, James and the others expect, I just expect you to be you.” “That’s about all I’ve the energy for tonight, so you’re in luck. All of you.” “All?” Sirius nodded to the kitchen where the Marauders came forward one by one. “If there’s one sound I do know, it’s the appearance of those three.” “Have you been eavesdropping?” Lily was standing now, her arms folded across her chest. “Not at all,” James kissed her lightly. “We’re just getting a bit of your wonderful tea to sustain us.” “In that case, I suppose I should start more. Excuse me.” Lily nodded to Sirius and he knew she was purposefully leaving the Marauders alone. While Lily had been easy to face, the thought that his friends intended to force him to re-live his entire experience made Sirius ill at ease and he watched them anxiously. The Marauders circled around Sirius, each taking a seat in turn, leaving the one closest to him open for James. Sirius nodded his thanks for their presence, but was afraid to speak for fear of his emotions overwhelming him. He swallowed the growing knot in his throat and tried to maintain some sense of lightness to his voice. “Grew tired of the meeting already?” “We figured there were more important places for us to be.” Remus replied quietly. “Here?” Sirius’ voice cracked at the feeling of belonging Remus had just bestowed on him with his simple words. “Here.” James sipped his tea and leaned back against the couch. “Besides, Dumbledore does tend to ramble on a bit.” “I appreciate this, but talking isn’t…” “Talking is highly over-rated, Sirius. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that?” Peter asked grinning. Sirius nodded and could feel his entire body relax. The fists he had unknowingly clenched released and his heart calmed to a regular beat. They sat in silence, each in their own contemplation of the night’s events. Surprisingly, Sirius found their mere company was the only thing he seemed to need to ease his troubled soul. Sirius’ mind drifted from the terrible events and the loss of his brother to the men that sat before him. Visions of their times together, times of both heart break and laughter spun across his mind. Their loyalty unquestioned, their brotherly love unmistakable, it was with the Marauders that Sirius truly felt he finally belonged. His eyes drifted to each one in turn, remembering flashes of experiences and definitive moments that turned each of them into the men he saw before him. Voldemort’s image passed over him, and Sirius could only wonder how much time the Marauders had left to be together. His quiet reflective mood seemed to wash over them all, and Sirius pondered whether they had any idea what lay ahead. “It’s almost dawn, shall we take a walk?” Sirius broke into the revelries of the group. He stood up and the others followed. If his request seemed odd, none mentioned it, and for that Sirius was grateful. They followed him solemnly, none bothering to explain their disappearance to Lily. If anyone outside the Marauders would understand their need for unity, it would be Lily. The broken road Sirius took them down led out of town, away from the crowds being slowly drawn awake by the glints of sunlight that were beginning to pierce through the darkness. Sirius knew where he was headed and assumed James knew as well. It was a place from their childhood, a place the two of them had found when their arrogant dreams consisted only of conquering the world. The crunch of their footsteps on the crumbled pebbles reassured Sirius they were together and all were safe. The rocky cliff where the road ended towered far above their usual haunts and Peter took a step back from the jagged edge as they reached it. Sirius could feel James bristle impatiently beside him, a reaction to Peter’s show of fear that had become automatic over the years. Remus moved forward to stand a pace away from James and Sirius, closer than Peter but still far enough from the edge to signify his unease at the questionable safety of Sirius’ chosen location. Sirius smiled at how well he knew them… how well he could predict each of their moves and reactions to the promising new sunrise that was now streaking the sky with soft shades of crimson and lemon. Their silence, unlike before, was now one of contentment and resignation. Sirius could feel his overcoat sway as the wind picked up around them and he shared a knowing smile with James. As children, they had both sworn the wind on this cliff could carry them away like feathers. Now, of course, they both knew better, but the memory of believing was enough to bring happiness into Sirius’ heart. “Wind’s picking up,” Peter interjected, breaking the melancholy spell that had come over them all. “Must you always state the obvious?” James sighed heavily at the interruption but Sirius could only respond by laughing. “Of course, he’s Peter.” Remus answered flatly as if James had asked a legitimate question. “Some things never change.” James sighed heavily and tried to turn his attention back to the sunrise but the moment had already been stolen away. “No, they never do.” Sirius was still laughing as he spoke. He slung his arm around James and turned to take one last look at the promising scene before him. “Welcome to a new day, gentlemen.” I’m looking down Now that it’s over Reflecting on all of my mistakes I thought I’d found the road to somewhere Somewhere in his grace I cried out “Heaven save me!” But I’m down to one last breath And with it let me say, Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking Maybe six feet ain’t so far down -One Last Breath by Creed

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