He wasn’t sure when he’d fallen asleep, but judging by the trail of spittle and the slightly damp patch on his pillow it had been a fairly deep sleep.
He rubbed his face, tiredly and looked around for his glasses. He guessed it was night and supposed someone had taken Harry from him when he’d nodded off.
The room was serene; the fluttering curtains of an open window were the only movement he could make out and the sound of someone snoring to the left. Remus, he assumed.
He needed his glasses, never could see a thing without them. He fumbled around on the nightstand where they usually placed his belongings and his fingers found their familiar curves.
Remus was sleeping in a chair beside his bed, tatty robes wrapped around his bones.
He remembered all the other times he’d been here: burned, broken arms and legs, hexes and curses and every time he’d woken up, the first thing he’d done was search for Lily, it didn’t matter that his leg was bent the wrong way or that his robes had been scorched through – the adrenaline of post-Battle usually numbed the pain anyway and he’d only allow himself to be wrestled back into bed once he’d seen her.
No call for that now. He lay there, feeling sluggish, useless and alone and he couldn’t shake her from his mind. Those thousand little things she’d said and done dancing before his eyes and when he closed them, the stillness of her body and the ghost of warmth beneath his fingers. He’d slept by her side for the better part of three years, never really losing that giddy rush of being a husband, it felt strange to possess the absolute knowledge he’d never feel that again.
The weight of her had settled on his chest and he felt a strange sense of absence, a black hole in the space next to him but he had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to be reacting to this. Tears? They wouldn’t come and felt disgusted with himself because of that. He might have punched something if his arms weren’t so heavy, but he just lay there like a petulant child, staring at the ceiling with painfully dry eyes.
He’d known this could happen, but he’d always thought it would be him that would have left her; it had been his stubborn streak that had convinced him he could protect her and though he never said anything, he’d been glad when her pregnancy had meant she had to bow out of the war. It was selfish of him, he knew, but he never wanted to be the one left behind.
”If anything should happen to me…” she’d once started and James had cut her off with a laugh and smile and an unspoken promise: “I won’t let it.”
He choked out a bitter laugh and ran his fingers through his hair. He didn’t want to think like this anymore, didn’t want to feel so…so goddamned empty! He couldn’t even cry for his dead wife!
He smacked his hand down on the mattress hard and Remus woke with a splutter, squinting in the darkness and the shadows sinking into the hollows of his features – he looked like a reanimated corpse and James wondered if this was the first time he’d slept since Halloween.
“Sorry,” he said quietly and he wasn’t quite sure if all his thoughts of apologising were catching up just now.
Remus just smiled shakily and twisted his hands in his robes. “I’m all right. Used to…used to long nights by now.”
James had never seen Remus so unsure of his words, but he supposed that they’d all become unhinged in recent days.
“What happened to Peter? Is he dead?”
“How could you know that?” Remus replied sharply.
“I assumed Sirius would have taken care of it, or you…perhaps Moody.”
Remus’ eyes were wide with confusion and anger. “I don’t understand…you expected us to kill Peter?” he asked shrilly, his thin hands white at the knuckles and they clasped the arms of his chair.
James tried to make sense of his reaction. “It wasn’t an expectation, idle wish I guess – after what he did, I’ll be glad to do it myself.”
Wanted to tear Peter to shreds, wanted to curse himself for ever befriending him – the snivelling coward. His betrayal had lead to Lily’s death and there would be no forgiving that. He wanted to know how long it had been since Peter had looked him in the eye without hiding his intentions, but in some ways he didn’t care – didn’t care to know the why or how, he just wished to see him scream and that absolute feeling of rage didn’t even frighten him, it felt like justice – he’d never been comfortable with the idea of murder but now that it was his friend who had been the cause of all this, it seemed the only fitting end to his life by any means necessary.
He’d think about if there had been any indications of his loyalties being elsewhere later, for now the thrum of seething hatred would sustain him.
Remus’ eyes were wide as saucers and if possible, he’d gone even whiter. “It was Peter?!” he whispered, his voice wavering between question and statement.
James narrowed his eyes. “What happened?” he hissed.
“I…we thought that it was Sirius! He was supposed to be your Secret Keeper…that’s what you told me, but why…” he trailed off, realising the answer. His voice became more serious and solemn. “Sirius went after Peter, killed him. But we thought it was him who had betrayed you and when they captured him…he was mad. Laughing like he’d never stop. I thought…we thought…” .He sounded deeply shaken; his hands were twisting together in the thin material of his robes again.
“Where is he?” James asked, sitting up very suddenly.
“In Azkaban,” Remus said weakly.
That was it. James pulled back the covers and threw his legs over the edge.
“James! Don’t!” Remus shouted and James didn’t understand why he was protesting until his leg buckled and he fell to the floor, cursing and in incredible pain.
“What…” he started to ask what had happened and then remembered his house had fallen in on him.
“Your leg, James,” Remus said gently, helping him off the floor. “It was a little…broken when your place fell down.”
Broken? It looked utterly mangled. A network of scars and jutting bone, but that wasn’t to be worried about now. Sirius was in Azkaban and he’d be damned if he let him stay there another minute, blamed for Lily’s death and the betrayal of their secret. He wouldn’t lose any more of his family through his own stupidity and ego.
“We have to…we have to go. Have to get him out of there,” James said through clenched teeth.
“I know, okay. Okay, we will. Just…please Floo them instead, you can’t walk James. You can’t fly, how are you going to get there?” Remus. Always so worried over the trivialities of life, he should have known better than anyone about overcoming the ailments of the physical body.
“Weak minded politicians – it’ll take them hours to do anything, I need to see him, Moony, I…” his hands fidgeted restlessly in his lap. “He can’t stay there.”
“I know he can’t, and he won’t. But please, Floo somebody first,” Remus pleaded with him.
James shook his head and made to stand again. “I’m going, Moony.”
“No!” Remus shouted, quite unexpectedly. His eyes were wide with fear, but he continued on determinedly. “I’m not letting you leave here, James.”
“Remus…” James started. It was ridiculous that he was being held back from rescuing Sirius from Azkaban – the only one to have come through for him, to avenge Lily’s death and do right by him, but Remus wasn’t going to be put off by anything, he gripped James’ arm, brittle fingers in a vice like grip.
“You almost died, James. You almost died and I thought Peter had been murdered wrongfully and Sirius had turned and” he swallowed and turned his face away “…and Lily’s dead. I thought I’d lost you all.”
James nodded, he understood that Remus was scared and grieving, god did he understand that but this wasn’t the time for heart felt apologies and expressions of grief, he didn’t feel like pouring his heart out right at this particular moment, his grief was his own. Private and inexplicable to anyone except himself and he didn’t feel like explaining exactly why it was so urgent to see Sirius – everything felt linked at that moment, like a tangled ball of yarn, knotted and frayed but he was sure that there was more to seeing Sirius than he could understand right then, a faint, foggy knowledge that seeing Sirius was a concept greater than just restoring his freedom.
“Azkaban is filled with Death Eaters, murderers and traitors who would see you dead. I won’t let you walk in there,” Remus finished quietly. “Sirius wouldn’t want it either…or Lily.”
James’ face flushed. He kept using her name against him, a way to guilt him into doing what he wanted but James wouldn’t have any of it, he wouldn’t have her name be used like a curse to control him. “Stop saying her name,” he said through gritted teeth, his voice low and dangerous. Remus recoiled back from him, spluttering his apologies.
“They’ll listen to you James, you don’t know…you don’t know how famous you and Harry are, all you’d have to do is threaten to tell the public about his unjust imprisonment and they’ll do anything,” Remus told him, desperation in his voice. “Please James.”
He felt light-headed and his insides felt slick, but he agreed to do things Remus’ way for now, he owed him that at least and though he felt a coward to admit it, he was right – he couldn’t go off maraudering when he had Harry to consider.
“Okay,” he murmured and Remus breathed a sigh of relief.
“There’s a Floo connection in Healer Tonks’ office. We can trust him.”
James just nodded and shifted his weight again, indicating that sooner would be better than later.
He needed to see Sirius.
A/N: Sorry for the long wait! I have every intention of finishing this but computer troubles, exams, work and family issues seemed to pile up recently and something had to give. This chapter has been ready awhile and the next is too. I currently have no clue how long this will be as it doesn't seem to fit into any sort of structure I can think of for what I have planned and I don't want to commit myself to something epic again. Short and sweet with sequels because I like collecting pretty banners and naming things. Picking up a title theme by the way :D
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