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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 45
Word Count: 386,117
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Angst, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, A. Longbottom, F. Longbottom, James, Lily, Sirius, Pettigrew, OC
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily, Snape/Lily, Remus/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 12/12/2008
Last Chapter: 10/02/2012
Last Updated: 10/02/2012

Summary:
Banner Les.Miserables @ TDA



I’m going to die.

And not even in the ‘can’t believe current situation with Sirius Black’ or ‘blackmail coming from all sides’ or ‘evil step mother’ this-is-so-bad-going-to-die sense.

I mean an actual physical, literal ending sort of death.

Dobby finalist 2009, nominee 2011 & 2012. TGS finalist


Chapter 45: Endings.
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A/N - Okay, woah woah woah. Over 100 reviews on the last chapter? 2000 reviews in total? Very final chapter? Talk about milestones.

This is the last time I’m going to be talking to all of you like this – I’m so sad, It’s genuinely the end of an era for me, and I have so much to say. Due to my internet not liking hpff on Sunday morning, I was sat there googling this story and trying to get there that way... and you guys!!! It came up with all my mentions on the forums, so I sat there for a couple of hours and just read them. Thank you to anyone who recommended this on the ‘recommended story’ section, and anyone who said this was one of their favourite stories on their MTA page (by the way, you can totally come talk to me on that. Hinty-hint-hint) and all those other random places where I cropped up which made me waaaayy happy. I appreciate it sooo much!  And, urgh, just all of you – your fantastic. Oh! And a special thanks to all those wonderful people who went back and reviewed every single chapter whilst waiting for this one – wow (you know who you are) and I promise I’ve read every one.

Posting this chapter is terrifying. This is it guys – THE END! Well, at the end of the chapter it is anyway... and it really is an end. I know there will be a sequel, but it’s a totally different story – and it’s the final end of Mary and just, wow. Is it weird that I’ve never cried whilst writing this? I think I might do when I change the status to ‘completed.’I also realised today that I have 444 unanswered reviews. My plan was to answer all reviews before posting the sequel, but I’m not sure if it’s humanly possible to answer that many. But, I do promise to answer every single review for this chapter – so if you want to ask me any questions or anything that would be fun? :)  Anyway, I’d genuinely love to talk to you guys forever, especially because this is the last time (Sob sob sob) but this is now a 350 word author’s note, and that might be excessive. Just know, that I adore you all, and I’m so happy that you’ve stuck with me for this long! Oops. 400 words. I’m done.

 

The sky is alive with crimson flames, orange fire and streaks of the yellow embers all burning together as the sun rises. The colours leek and blend into a glorious pattern of shapes and textures which is far too complicated and beautiful for you to understand. Overwhelming.

You want to pick up a paintbrush and paint the colours yourself. Swirling the rich reds, the dusky oranges and the syrupy yellows on the parchment until it is so breathtaking that you don’t have to think anymore.

You remember.

The breeze strokes your face like a lover’s caress as you sit. You sit and you watch.

The colours are fading back into the sky as the sun – a burning circle of white light – rises above the lake. It reflects into the ink-black water and you see a million sunsets disappearing, colour by colour: the cherry red – the colour of her lips; the orange – the colour she painted her walls; the yellow – the colour that she saw when she looked at the sun. Weaker.

It fades, swirls away, and dies in the morning air.

You wish you could appreciate it. You wish you could sit and be bowled over by this picture – this perfect image – you watch as the sun gets stronger and rises up into the blue of the sky – the colour of tears, mourning, coldness, the sea and the sky. Blue.

You name the colours you see. Black – the mountains. Grey – the stone. White – that single cloud. Red – hate. Yellow – happiness. Green – Jealousy. Sickness. The trees. Life.

You blink. You blink again. It stays the same.

You watch and you carry on watching as all traces of the sunrise are twisted away into nothingness and all you’re left with is blue – stretching up to the heavens. It’s everywhere. Sealing you in.

Spring is dawning and the world is still changing. Daffodils and Daisy’s – like she used to love – growing up within the sea of green grass. The whole world is changing again. The sun is warming; bathing your skin with heat and light. You don’t want to appreciate how good it feels to sit and watch. You want to hate the world with all its beauty but your breath has been taken away by it.

Blossom – creamy white. Like her skin – your skin –one and the same. The flowers are delicate and beautiful. Every single one of them perfect and designed that way.

You sit. You watch. You breathe. You wish.

You wish that things could have been different. You wish that you could have changed the ending. Time to move on.

The sun has risen fully and the day is beginning to awake.

Your lips are so soft and kissable and your skin feels the coolness of the breeze. You feel beautiful. You feel at one with the landscape and this beautiful heavenly place even if you feel so woefully disconnected from everyone else.

You sit. You watch. You breathe. You wish. You think. You wonder. You Stand. You walk.

You live.

*************

Sirius Black smiles as he wakes slowly. He feels Mary’s warm body next to his. She’s breathing in that deliciously enticing manor which she always does – in, out, in out, in-out-in-out, in out, in, out. He likes to just listen to her. More though, he likes to smell her. Mango’s and papaya or vanilla spice – whichever she picked in yesterdays long shower. He misses her when she’s in the shower: she leaves him alone in their big bed and spends long long minutes under the hot water. He knows it’s irrational to feel jealous, but he does. He misses her terribly – sometimes he joins her in the shower, it depended.

Sirius pulls Mary McDonald, no, Mary Black, closer and smells the back of her neck – her hair tickling his forehead. He had thought for a while years and years ago that he’d lose her, but that was far away now. Now was so blissfully content that it didn’t matter, nothing mattered except that she was here now.

Mary is waking up now, slowly but surely she moves slightly and her breathing changes. Sirius is relieved. He is going to open his eyes now and look at her. He doesn’t like to look at her when she’s asleep. Her being so still and silent makes him edgy for some reason that he’s forgotten ages ago. Something that happened years ago, back when they were still teenagers, all those tens of years ago... Still just looking at her when she is asleep makes him want to shake her until she wakes up just to make sure she’s alive.

That annoyed her to no end. Then she wouldn’t let him join him in the shower. She’d lock the door.

It makes him laugh to think that a long time ago, a very very long time ago; he had been the one that all the girls fawned over him... it seemed such a distant a memory now. Of course Mary’s body is still glorious. He doesn’t know how she does it, he’s already wondered so many mornings and he always ended up back to the same place when they were teenagers when she’d perhaps seemed even more amazing. But...

He’s forgotten something... and he thinks maybe she should wake her up and ask her... she’s not moving. She was there, right there – he just needs to wake her. Wake her up. And then, and then...

He grasps at where Mary had been, trying to find her in the covers... He can’t – she’s not there. She’s not. Where is she?

Oh god. He remembers. He remembers all of it. No. No. No!

It wouldn’t happen. Of course it wouldn’t. Magic could fix everything – everything. It was all okay. Maybe Mary had gotten in the shower. He could just open his eyes and find out? Yes he’d do that. He’s sure they’ll be in their old bedroom with all the kids pictures and the photos of the holiday. The clock with the birds on it on the bedside table, the duvet with the flowers on that Sirius had protested he would never sleep under until Mary had suggested they not both sleeping. Yes, it was all there. He could see it so clearly, nothing was a miss.

He must have drifted to sleep and Mary just got up and is in the shower. She’ll have left the door open.

So why is he scared of opening his eyes? He doesn’t know. He’s being daft.

Sirius Black is never scared.

But that’s a lie – he’s scared of loosing Mary so much he won’t open his eyes. She’s only in the shower. Just do it. Whatever happened in the past... well that’s it! It’s the past.

Sirius opens his eyes.

His breath catches in his throat painfully. 

He’s not at his house in the countryside surrounded by trees and empty land. There’s no photographs. There’s no clock. No Duvet. There’s just a dormitory. A dormitory with five boys in.

“Mary,” he calls out expected her to answer him. To come out of the shower. She’s always in the shower. She’ll be out any second. “No,” He whispers the truth hitting him again like a sharp knife in the gut. He clamps his mouth shut now, and buries his face into his pillow. It doesn’t even smell of her anymore.

The knife is pulled out of his gut and Sirius can breathe again for a second. He shakes his head. It’s not true. It can’t be.

The knife punctures his gut again.

He can’t breath. He can’t move. It hurts so much. He grabs hold of the flesh on his arms and digs in his nails, holding his skin so tightly that it hurts. Then it’s too much, and he releases his grip with the first sob. Then there’s another – he swallows it back. The third escapes through his lips.

Sirius Black pulls his knees in and sits upright. He’d never cried before two months ago. He’d never cried. Now he’s cries silently as more knives are plunged into his gut.

Please stop, please stop. The other wounds haven’t healed yet.

***********************

In another part of the country Andrew McDonald sits and stares at his cup of coffee. He’s been staring at his cup of coffee for two hours. He doesn’t understand how those two hours have slipped by so quickly – surely it’s only been a moment? Just a moment. That’s all. The clock tells a different story.

Andrew McDonald detests clocks. He detests clocks because they keep on going, they keep on going when really they should judder to a stop and let him think. He has to go to work. He has to make sure Karen is okay. He has to stop Ria crying. He has to act like the supporting husband he is and talk about the baby plans as if everything is okay.

He needs to drink his cup of coffee.

He takes in a deep calming breath and moves his hand forward. It’s so hard. It’s so damn hard. Just do it. He pushed it forward and picks up the cup and brings it to his lips.

It cold. The coffee’s cold. Of course it’s cold, it’s been sitting there for two hours. Two and a half hours. Damn clock. It’s lying.

The coffee’s cold. He’s failed. He’s failed again at this stupid little task like he failed to look after his family. He failed to look after his wife. He failed to keep Becky happy. He failed to keep his daughter alive. Now he’s failing what’s left of his family because he can’t get his head straight.

He didn’t know what to do with himself when he heard. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to feel – shock maybe. He couldn’t be sad for those first few moments because he didn’t believe it. He’d sat shell shocked in the hospital wing of Mary’s school feeling stupidly out of place. None of them knew him. They all thought he’d failed her. He was sure of it.

So he sat and looked at her. She could have been sleeping. Then he’d counted all the breaths he’d taken. He counted the breaths that he was going to take, that she wasn’t.

He sat for hours and counted, forty three, Sirius Black had started to cry, sixty eight, he hadn’t known how much they’d loved each other, a hundred and two, he’d never asked, two hundred, he’d been too busy.

Then he stopped breathing all together for a moment as the pain he’d been waiting to hit him pierced through his soul.

His own flesh and blood – gone. That piece of the wife he had loved so wholly – gone.

Andrew McDonald stares at his cup of coffee and begins counting the breaths again, just so he had something to do, anything, what else could he do? She was gone.

Six hundred and eighty-three. Six hundred and eighty-four...

Please God, please, make her start breathing again.

*************

Karen sits upstairs clutching her very pregnant stomach. The baby should be coming any day now. The baby should be coming any day now and her whole world is falling apart around her.

It’s Mary’s Funeral today.

She wishes they asked her about the funeral date, she wishes they thought that maybe she wouldn’t want to be so very very pregnant when they burry her husband’s child. Andrew sits downstairs. She wants him to come to bed so very badly just so she isn’t sitting alone.

Karen wants to feel sad for Mary. She does. She feels sad that her life was snatched away so but she feels even sadder for herself. It’s a selfish secret her heart can’t get rid of. She feels bad for herself because she’s lost a part of her husband. The husband who she loves so much.

She looks over at the picture of his late wife stuck on the wall. She’d never ask him to take it down, she hasn’t the heart because she’s too scared he will refuse.

She used to take comfort in that picture because it was clear that she was prettier then Sandra McDonald – Sandra Mullet – she wasn’t much of a looker and it made Karen feel just a little more significant for a while. It didn’t last. She realised too painfully that Andrew, her Andrew, loves Sandra much more than he will ever love her.

She wishes she fell in love with someone else.

She sits in the empty double bed against the headboard looking at her very pregnant stomach.

She’d never imagined her life to be like this.

She imagines Sandra Mullet trying to get pregnant desperately. She can see the negative pregnancy tests. She can see the periods that keep coming. She can see her crying in Andrew’s arms. She can see Sandra Mullets dying in hospital on Christmas Eve. She see’s Mary breaking into pieces, Becky breaking completely – shattered, and Andrew just trying to keep them all together.

She’s terrified that he won’t love this child. She’s terrified that he’ll hate it because it lives while Mary dies. She’s terrified that he won’t love Ria anymore. That he won’t love her.

She gave up everything to try and keep this family because she loves him so entirely with every part of her being. She loves him so much, and she’s just lost another part of him. She doesn’t know what she’ll do – what he’ll do – what if Becky gets worse? What if there’s something wrong with the baby? What if Johnny can’t take it? What is she supposed to do?

Please Andrew, please let Johnny, Becky, Ria, me and the baby be enough for you. Let us be enough.

*****************

Peter Pettigrew gets up and looks in the mirror. All he sees is a fat boy with weak eyes and mouse brown hair. He’s used to being disgusted by his reflection but now it’s grown so much that he can barely recognise the features he liked about himself. He thought that he was clever and crafty even if he was no good when it came to books, but really he’s got nothing.

They’ve moved on from pranks, they don’t need him anymore; he’s just a dead weight, dragging behind.

It hadn’t been like that in the beginning – he remembers – they’d been equal or close enough. Of course Sirius and James had always been full of themselves, but back then Remus and him balanced it out. They weren’t particularly attractive boys at eleven years old – they’d just been kids with attitude. Peter had won their respect by exploding Snape’s cauldron; they had thought it was brilliant.

Peter never told them that it was an accident.

It was forth year when everything changed. There was that girl who screwed Sirius over and earned him a reputation and resulted in the return of his stupid attitude. They both liked the attention, Peter had done too, but he’d never thrived in it in quite the same way. He was never wanted or respected like the others. That’s when he realised he was an ugly tag along.

Then there was Mary: coming, going and dying. Now there was an even bigger gap than before. The others all seemed to share this great big load of grief that he couldn’t possibly understand. She was just a girl surely, yeah it was sad that she’d died and he was sad – honest he was – but crying? Peter hadn’t cried for years.

Peter is ashamed that he can’t join their grief but his heart just isn’t it. The whole of Gryffindor is in mourning. He never even liked Mary; he barely spoke to her and when he did she didn’t seem all that special.

Why was it that all anyone wanted to do now is sit and stare at walls?

Peter thinks that they’re overplaying the grief but he can hear the shower turn on and he knows that Sirius would never fake tears.

 Peter is confused and lonely. Peter is left out. He doesn’t understand.

Please, please, don’t let me be pushed aside.

***********

Sirius Black sits in the shower with the hot water running over his skin. He turns it up so it’s burning – just how Mary has it. He imagines that the water is blood, shining red and dripping down his face. Some trickles into his mouth. It tastes like iron.

He wonders how much it would hurt to bite into iron. Would the pain make him feel better? Would it make him feel more alive? He doesn’t know, Merlin, he doesn’t know. Does it matter? Does any of it matter?

If this was a movie or a book it would end now, Sirius thinks with his eyes tight shut, it would all end. The audience would wipe their eyes and go on living, feeling content that life was so much better for them. Life isn’t like that. He wished it was like that. He wishes that everything would come to a blissful magnificent stop. It doesn’t.

The loose ends haven’t been tied up. There’s a million strings hanging from him, just hanging and waiting for something, anything. There’s nothing though. Nothing to keep him attached to those strings. They were cut too cleanly, too soon, too painfully. What can he do? What is he supposed to do? He’s slipping.

He opens his eyes and sees that it’s not blood dripping down, its water. That’s all. Water. He reaches for a bottle and squirts out the Mango and Papaya shower gel. He rubs it over his skin and inhales the scent.

He tries to picture her face but it’s getting harder. He sits in the shower and tries to imagine her. He needs to hold on a bit longer. He needs something.

Please someone; give me something to hold on to.

*********************

Lily Evans sits in her bed with her book clutched in her hand.

 She’d been trying to take her mind of things, but it isn’t working this time.

 She’s been flipping through the pages of a text book and forcing herself to memorise the words within it since dinner time yesterday. She covered Potions, transfiguration and charms last night. Turning page after page and chanting the words. She’s exhausted. There are blue bags under her eyes and her whole body aches. There’s empty viles of dreamless sleep potion on her counter, the liquid poured down the sink. She’s gripping the potions book tightly in her left hand. Her knuckles have turned white.

She can’t sleep. She can’t waste the time she has and Mary hasn’t. She’s never going to waste a second of her time again. She’s throwing herself into her studies determined that she’ll be the best she could ever be. She’s going to know everything she could ever know.

It started on the second night.

She couldn’t sleep – Her bed was gone. She’d pulled back the curtains and just looked at the place that used to be Mary’s with tears sliding down her face, feeling more lost and confused than she’d ever done before. The others had found her the next morning. They’d been so worried.

Then something had clicked within her – she didn’t want to be wasting all of this time of her life asleep when Mary couldn’t use any of her life anymore. She needed to do something. She was going to change the world because Mary couldn’t. So she’d pulled out the text books and made herself work.

She hadn’t stopped since then.

It’s Mary’s funeral today. She feels like she should be beginning to get over it by now. She thought she had, she thought she was doing something positive out of her grief.

Now she staring at that space again and thinking about her friends.

She feels even guiltier now. She’s been neglecting them when they needed her – they needed her to be there to admit to feeling something, to talk about it. Instead she’s been studying. She’s been reading every book the library has. She’s told them she’s fine. Avoided their worried gazes and studied.

She’s so tired but she can’t sleep.

She pictures James’s worried face at the forefront of her mind.

She puts her head in her hands for a moment, and then picks up the book again.

Then stir in the essence of...” She begins to read. Her voice shaking.

There’s a small part of her that believes if she reads enough books, one of the pages will tell her what to do next. To bring Mary back. To end the grief. To stop the pain.

Please, please, let it be on the next page.

**********

Johnny McDonald looks at himself in the mirror. Becky told him to get up thirty minutes ago, so he did. Becky made him breakfast. Ironed his suit. Woke him up.

He’s not used to her being like this - he’s never depended on her before - she’s always been the one who needed support.

He sits and eats his toast, looking up at his Dad in shock. He’s barely seen him. Just sits and looks at his cup of coffee with his fists clenched at his sides.  Only glancing up at Becky when she took his coffee away and replaced it with another – his eyes following her movement before sticking. He didn’t know what he was looking at then. 

He understands more now as he stood looking at the empty space over his left shoulder. He wonders what Mary would make of it all, but he couldn’t get it straight in his head, he still expects her to walk through his door any second now and tackle him to the floor. 

His suit looks stupid.

He’s looking into his face and trying to match the lines and features back to Mary. He has her eyes, but that’s all he can really see, her eyes looking back into his own. He wonders how long it will be before his eyes don’t remind him of Mary anymore. They don’t remind him of his Mum like they used to. He hopes the resemblance never fades, he doesn’t want to forget.

If he forgets she might truly seize to exist, and he doesn’t want that. He hopes Mary’s proud of him now, he’s trying so hard, and he’s getting better every day.

Please Mary, please, help me to remember you.

******************

Remus Lupin pulls on a black shirt and stays in his corner of the dormitory. All five of them were going through the same motions and pulling on the same black shirts. James had got permission from Dumbledore, and the two of them had made a trip to London to buy them.

None of them had owned anything muggle-funeral appropriate.

The girl on the cashier had smiled at the two of them and battered her eyelashes as she scanned through the five identical black shirts, “Some kind of event?” She’d asked.

“Yeah,” Remus had replied. “A funeral.”

And now he is pulling back on that same shirt with a grim expression. He hasn’t slept well for thinking too hard, and now he lets his expression stay blank. Yet inside he doesn’t feel quite as blank as his expression portrays.

Remus Lupin is sad, but he is unable to let himself fall into that gloomy state of grief and depression that the others seemed to have slipped into so easily. The fire in his stomach, which had been simmering benignly, seemed to have sparked up into a flame.

Remus Lupin has a renewed flare for life, and although he is deeply sad, Remus is also deeply glad and he cannot quench that. He feels no shame in the way he feels, in fact he can visualise Mary smiling at him, nodding, and saying ‘that’s right, wolf boy – get on with it,” and that’s what he is going to do.

He is going to get on with it.

******************

Alice clutches hold of Frank’s hand as they stand in Dumbledore’s office, milling around in their black clothes and waiting for the all clear. The boy’s matching outfits are unintentionally comical – as if they are part of a strange classical music group – and Alice finds it difficult to look at them.

She clings on to Frank for support, and he provides in an unwavering grasp which tightens as a tear plops down her cheek.

Now she is barely aware that the others are there, and is merely aware that they are in Dumbledore’s office, waiting for a portkey that will take them to a funeral and that Frank Longbottom is not going to let go.

She’s never been so sure of anything in her whole life, and yet it is perfectly clear that no matter what she did, no matter what anyone else did, and no matter what the world threw at them, Frank Longbottom was not going to let go of her hand for the world.

 “It’s time,” Dumbledore says, and Alice steps forwards and places her finger upon the old leather boot, her other hand still tightly clasped in Frank’s grip. “Five,” Dumbledore says, and Alice notices Lily’s hair has been swept back into a modest bun, “Four,” she notices that Sirius has that steely expression on his face again, “Three,” Peter looks lost. “Two,” James looks exhausted. “One,” Remus seems to have aged again, and it’s not even full moon.

Then there’s a jerk, and her eyes find the back of Frank’s head, and she focuses on that as they spin and twist around in the air, and for the first time, Alice Pewett lands on her feet. 

And Frank takes her hand again, and they walk into the church – together.

*******

Becky sits in between Johnny and her dad, with that same blank funeral expression which is reflected throughout the whole church.

Mary is dead in the coffin, and soon she will be lowered into a hole in the ground and covered up. And there she will rot and decay, just a corpse – nothing left of her sister.

And Becky doesn’t know what to make of that, so she makes nothing of it at all, and simply stands up and sings the unfamiliar hymn with the rest of the church.

********

Sirius Black thinks the vicar is a tosser. He briefly wonders if this opinion will decrease his chances of getting into heaven, and then he realises that he thinks the whole thing is a pile of shit anyway, and by that point the vicar had opened his mouth again and was continuing to speak.

“It is always tragic when a young life is lost,” The vicar says, and Sirius Black clenches his fists and swears at him in his head. He is only vaguely aware that this is Mary’s funeral, and the each time he thinks about it he has to fight the burning desire to laugh. Instead Sirius keeps his brain vacant, and thinks about the wooden pews and the flower arrangements. “We must trust that the Lord has a plan,” A plan? Sirius questions, feeling his anger bubbling in his stomach. “That sometimes tragedies are for the best,”

That’s it. He can’t stand it. He needs to get out of the suffocating small church and into the open.

He hardly intends to stand up, but then he’s on his feet and eyes are magnetically drawing themselves towards him. He grits his teeth and doesn’t look at anyone; instead he steps out of the pew and marches the wrong way down the aisle to the exit, with the vicar’s voice continuing to drone behind him.

He supposes that people will think him uncaring for walking out mid-funeral, but he feels so reckless and empty that he doesn’t care. He was through with it.

All of it.

“Walk with me,” A voice says, and Sirius turns around in the full awareness of the owner of that voice. His eyes are blue, a startling blue – bluer than Mary’s had ever been.

“No thank you.” Sirius returns, shoving his hands into his pockets and decidedly looking at the floor.

“I think it would be best if we walked for awhile,” Albus Dumbledore suggests, and the headmaster is old – with wrinkles lining his eyes and his silver hair flowing down. And Mary will never be old.

Sirius nods gruffly and falls into step with the headmaster. He does not want to talk to him, to be in his presence, to be faced with the prospect of old age.

“I am very sorry.” The headmaster states. There are creases in his forehead. Mary will never get wrinkles, never go grey – and Sirius ages her in his mind, imagining her as an old woman, with lines around her lips from where she has sent him that scathing expression, and smiled. Smile lines.

“Yeah,” Sirius mutters, “Right.”

“I would very much like for you to listen to a proposition.”

“I don’t think now is a very good time, actually.” Sirius snaps back, suddenly wanting to throw a tantrum and generally act childish. He does not want to be mature. He wants to be young, young and carefree and innocent. He does not want these emotions.

“Sirius, I understand that you are angry -”

“With all due respect professor, you know fuck all.”

He would very much like to never feel again.

“What are you passionate about, Sirius?” Dumbledore asks, politely ignoring Sirius’s mild outburst. Sirius wishes that he didn’t pretend that it hadn’t happened. Sirius wants people to focus in on this emotion, or not to feel the emotion at all – for it to evaporate away and leave him. He does not want their apologetic looks, and their distractions.

“Nothing,” Sirius answers. “At least, not anymore.”

“What do you hate?” Dumbledore asks, and Sirius wants to come back with a clever answer like ‘you’ or ‘this conversation’ but he doesn’t have the energy, and he’s not all together sure if he’s capable of making jokes like that anymore.

“I don’t know – terminal illnesses, my family, death, Voldermort, whay exactly are you looking for Professor, because I’m not exactly short on hate right now.” His voice sounds hot and angry, which is a strange contrast to the deadness he feels. Ironic, he supposes, that he is the one who feels like he’s died... taunted by emotions and feeling whilst Mary lies, her skin smooth with no wrinkles, and her blue eyes covered by pale lids, and she is in a coffin, the coffin that they will lower into the earth... and he feels dead.

“Voldermort.”  Dumbledore says. Sirius stops in his tracks and glances upwards – at Dumbledore. “I need your help.”

Sirius thinks about it. He cannot help but consider the possibility that Dumbledore understands this empty rawness, and his need for something else to cling to and dedicate his time to, more than Sirius understands it himself and that, perhaps, what he needs right now is to do something which might make a difference.

Sirius closes his eyes, and considers this.

It is Mary’s funeral today, and he doesn’t know how he is supposed to live without her, and what he is supposed to live for, and Albus Dumbledore has just offered him a reason.

“I’m listening.”

*******

James stares at the back of Lily Evan’s head and thinks about the promise he made to Mary whilst she was lying on her death bed. He’d promised he’d look after them, and he was determined that he would.

And he lays flowers, Lilies, at the front of the church and sees a startling array of bouquets and tiny flowers, morbidly injecting colour into the old church. There were daises, roses, tulips and Lilies. All so vibrant and full of life. Ironic, when you think about it.

His mind wanders and he thinks about. He thinks about those roses, and he thinks – they’ll be dead in a week. And those colours, reds and orange, and green and blue – all bursting out in life and vibrancy – will fade to grey. Pointless.

They lie there, at the front of the church, in a thousand different colours and James thinks that Mary deserves them all – every last leaf.

Thank you Mary, thank you so much – for looking after them for so long.


*****

Lily sits with her back hunched over her, and her legs pulled in tight around her. She makes herself small, grips hold of her skin, and stares at the coffin. It seems so final now, so shocking – such a definite ending...

And yet, at the same time, it cannot be an ending because life still carries on, and Lily carries on even though Mary does not.  Lily can’t comprehend it, that something can be so final for someone, and part of an endless stream of moments for someone else.  Why does she live, when Mary does not? Why does Mary die, when she does not?

A tear falls down her cheek, and her brain swims with fact and figures, thoughts and feelings, she wants it to stop and she wants to understand, but life does not stop. Life continues onwards, and stops for no one.

She looks down at the floor as someone slips into a seat beside her – James.

She feels so vulnerable and open to attack. She doesn’t know which direction is forward, and which is back and Lily Evans does not know how grief works.  Instead she knows that, at this moment, James Potter is sitting next to her.

She closes her eyes and rests her head on his shoulder, the clouds swimming through her mind ebb away slightly, and there are a few seconds of clarity. Lily turns off her brain and allows herself to sleep.

She’ll let him comfort her.

Just this once.

******

Sirius Black stands on the edge of a cliff. He wonders if he should jump off with no real conviction. Dying would be an insult to Mary. Dying of his own choice would be a bigger insult. She didn’t have a choice, he does.  Those strings, those dangling strings, are at least tied onto something now. He has something. He is glad of that.

He looks out over the sea and wonders if Mary ever came here. He thinks she did. He’s almost sure of it. He’s positive he can feel her distant presence.  Part of him thinks that it’s in his head.

“Goodbye Mary.” He says softly and the noise is whipped away by the wind.

He sits down at the edge of the cliff and breathes in the salty air of Mary’s home. He decides he has to accept it. Accept that Mary is gone, that she is not coming back. He needs to stop picturing her. He needs to stop dreaming of her. He needs to stop talking to her in his head. He has too. It hurts too much to cling on.

He knows he’s not going to forget.

Because death does strange things to people, because death is something we are so ill equipped to deal with, because we think of it as an end. Endings are very often not what they appear to be. Time has never ended, at least not yet, and there can never be an ending.

There is still so much time, spilling out from the clocks, and from those who live on, and from the richness of dreams and wishes. There is so much life that he is blinded too. He thinks it is the end. He is blissfully unaware of all the time that will come. A gift, maybe, or a challenge.

Sirius thinks about the future which he doesn’t know yet, and he believes this is the biggest challenge – the end of his life as he knows it – and I suppose it is frustratingly ironic for those with understanding.

In two months John Evans will die. In eighteen months, Lily Evans and James Potter will be orphans. Voldermort will come out into the open, this summer. And Peter Pettigrew, in two years, will make that decision. And Lily and James will be dead. And Sirius will be in prison. And Alice and Frank will have lost their minds. And Remus will be alone. And Peter will be a traitor – wishing he had never been born and simultaneously being paralysed by the fear of death.

And Mary, with all her wishes and all her hopes for them – for those she had loved – will still be dead. And maybe she knew that what she hoped for, what she had dreamed off, was too much to ask for. Because the world doesn’t work like that.

Sirius sits in the present – looking out at the sea – and believes that life cannot get much worse. He does not yet know what it will feel like, behind the bars in Azkaban, with his best friends’ murders on his back. Surrounded by dementors he will think of many things: he will think of the house in Godrics Hollow, in ruins; he will remember the guilt he felt at the news, Regulus...; he will think of the deadness he experience when he first took a life and when he first watched a friend murdered.

And he will think of today.

And he will remember the words of the vicar and understand them for the first time in his life, The lord has a plan, and Sirius will think – Imagine if she was alive now, imagine what she would think...And for a second Sirius will believe in something bigger than himself, and then the Dementors will suck away the rest of his hope and leave him in the darkness.

Let’s leave it here then. Not an ending. Just a stopping point, a pause, a moment of thought, before life moves on and lives unravel.

*************

You sit. You watch. You stand. You walk.

The colours dribble into each other. The purples, blues and the reds. They sink. They slip downwards beyond the horizon – behind the mountains – and deep into the depths of the earth.

You sit and watch as the sun disappears again behind the dark silhouettes of the mountains.

You feel. You think. You breathe. You watch.

You have questions which require no answers and answers to questions that do not require to be asked. Swimming around in confusion whilst making perfect sense. Your head is a mess and you cannot take it all in, yet you are calm.

You want to be disconnected from her. You want to pull yourself away and become something new, but she is far to integrated into your heart, your soul.

You run your fingers through the moist grass and feel each individual blade between your finger tips. You see the vivid green which blankets the ground in all directions and you can smell the richness of its scent. You take it in. Absorb. Think.

The world is reawakening in spring – slowly – and the day is beginning to die. Contrasts. You lie back. Look up at the stars which remain unchanged – white dots that are sprinkled in the darkening sky. You feel more connected to them than you do to everything and anything else.

Your heart breaks as the sun disappears behind the mountains and plunges the world into darkness. You don’t watch as the colours drain away and leave nothing but the black in their wake. You watch the stars – silent and unmoving – as you lie. They don’t change, nothing changes, and you are filled with an overwhelming sense of a conclusion.

You wait. You think. You wish. You breathe. You sit. You watch.

You feel. You break. You fail. You hurt. You hate. You die.

You wait. You wish. You want.

You feel. You fix. You try. You succeed. You laugh. You sing. You smile. You kiss. You love.

You stand. You walk. You breathe.

You live.

Thank you, thank you for everything, Mary McDonald.

 A/N - I couldn't resist this last chance to talk to you again, I'm sorry. I'm not going to ask for reviews this time, because you guys always do! And I'm so greedy with them these days. Oooh, well, but... please check out my mta page and keep an eye out for the sequel - ahhhha!

And this, this right here is it - The end. 

 01/03/11 - Sequel up!

09/09/11 - I just wanted to thank you all so much for being so supportive and wonderful. In general, but mostly because of the DOBBYS. You guys have been incredible. Twenty three nominations, five different stories, seven different categories – wow. So I really wanted to thank you all and especially sugarsplash, xxxJazmineXX, HopelessRomanticx, starkidlove, Magic_Phoenix, mangagirl, Buckbeak4Life, Jess the Enthusiast, Elliwyn, fsaville, SamMalfoy93 and NaidatheRavenclaw who all nominated me (sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone or left anyone out!)

Thank you so much.
 


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