Chapter 18 : Epilouge (From Sirius's point of veiw)
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"Aria," I had whispered.
That name flowed from my lips like sweet drops of honey; it was a sweet, slow, familiar song that was sung by heart. My eyes feasted upon her as crystal tears ran down her face. I knew it must have been because of my drastic change of appearance. I knew I looked emaciated, gaunt, and much older than thirty-five. God knows I feel older than thirty-five. She still had the same intoxicating purplish-bluish eyes that had captivated me from the first moment my eyes had rested upon her. Her thick, silky black hair was no longer curly, though, but straight and pulled up in a loose, messy bun. I brushed away the stray strands away from her face and wiped away her tears before planting my lips firmly upon hers and kissing her as if my life depended on it, which it very much did. The thought of her had kept me alive and struggling for survival all of these years, for if she were not in my life, then I had no reason to live. The explosion of feelings, relief, love, and desire, that shot into both of us when we touched caused tears of joy to stream down both of her faces. I picked her up and carried her to the bed, where she broke away from the kiss to speak, as she caressed my hard, bony, aged face with such love and tenderness that only she was capable of showing.
"You're finally here," she whispered shakily. "After all of those years, you're finally here with me once more."
I smiled a smile at her that I had not worn since the days of my youth.
"You didn't honestly think that I'd leave you, darling, did you?" I asked, and kissed her once more.
We both fell deeper and deeper into the soft bed�and I'm sure you know what happened next. Let me just tell you, it was fabulous.
I kiss the top of her head gently, and the smile on her face broadens as she sleeps on. And I feel as if I could be in Heaven, if only my friends were here. James Potter, Lily Potter, and Ashling Lupin. Remus Lupin is actually in the room next door to us, and I fear that we may have kept him awake all night long with our�er, you know. As I gaze at the sleeping angel next to me, I recall the happiest-and most sorrowful-times of my life, all of which involved my six great friends, and one who turned out to be the bane of my life.
It all began the day that Lily left Hogwarts, at the end of our fifth year. I don't believe the five of us had ever cried so much before in our entire lives. Lily was different from anyone we had ever met. She was tough, witty, and sarcastic, due to the time she had lived on the streets in America. Yet, once you saw past all of that, or rather, once she let you see past all of that, you would see that Lily was one of the kindest, sweetest, funniest, and coolest people in the world. She came to us with a guarded heart, but we pounded away at those concrete walls until they crumbled away. As we stood on Platform Nine at King's Cross Station on that rainy, dreary day in June, we knew that life would never be the same without her.
James came up with the idea to give her a charm bracelet with a charm from each of us on it. He, of course, gave her a heart charm. That boy was completely in love with her and she him. I gave her a dog charm because that was my Animagus form. Remus gave her a wolf charm, Aria (who could not be there because she had to stay at Hogwarts for the summer to learn the ways of the Alcantvi) a charm in the shape of the flag of Italy, and Ashley a crystal ball charm. Lily had simply cried when we presented her with the present, and we gave her a group hug. She told us that we were the best friends she had ever had, and that she would never forget us. "Even if my memory's modified!" she had promised. Slowly, our parents found us and dragged us away from her, until it was only James, Lily, and I left. He was to stay with me over the summer, since he couldn't very well go home to a father who wanted him to either join the Dark Side or die. They held each other close and simply looked at each other for a while, with rain and tears streaming down their faces. I'll never forget what happened when the cab came to take her to the airport�to take her out of our lives�
"Your driver is here, Miss," a station attendant had said, pointing to an old, wrinkled man inside of a taxi cab.
Lily gripped James' soaking wet shirt tighter, and he held her as if he'd never let go, which, Sirius thought, was what he intended to do. Lily traced his face with one finger, memorizing each line, each bone, each dimple. James kissed her, savoring her taste for one last time.
"Don't make me go, James," she begged. "Don't let me get into the cab. I love you more than anything in this world. I can't be at home without you there. Don't let me leave!"
James wanted more than anything to listen to Lily, to do what she was telling him to do. However, he embraced her tighter as he realized with anguish that it was not possible. Lily had to leave. And she would take his heart along, with her.
"Hurry up, Miss, I haven't got all day, you know!" said the cab driver, annoyed. "There's a man waiting for you at the airport as well! If you miss your plane, he will too!"
Lily's heart sunk as she realized that West was waiting for her at the airport. She kissed James again, and her body felt as if it were on fire from his touch. Fresh tears poured from her emerald green eyes, which seemed to have lost their light and now looked dull and normal.
"I love you, Lily," he whispered. "I love you and I promise that we're going to be together. I'm going to marry you one day."
There was a certainty about his voice that made Sirius wonder at how he could be so sure. And it was in Lily's eyes, too. They shone once again, and she stopped crying. She wiped away his tears and forced a smile upon her face for him.
"I love you, James Potter," she whispered.
They kissed once more, a kiss that made the other couples on the platform green with envy. These two fifteen year old kids were completely in love with each other, and it was obvious even to most thickheaded of people. They broke apart slowly when the cabby began to yell for Lily once more, and she slowly walked backwards to the cab. Their eyes never once left each other's.
"Don't look back," said James.
Lily nodded. She couldn't speak or else she knew she would cry once more, and she wanted to leave him with happiness, not sadness. When she reached the cab, she took one long, last look at the love of her life, her soul mate, and quickly entered the cab. The driver sped off, muttering about young people those days. Thunder shook the heavens and lightening severed clouds, as Lily's heart was wrenched apart with each mile she was carried away from her love�
I smile bitterly as I remember that summer. The first few weeks, any fool could tell he was in agony. I was pretty upset as well because I wouldn't be able to see Aria that summer, but I knew that compared to James, what I was feeling was nothing. As soon as we boarded the Hogwarts Express that fall, I would be able to see her, touch her, talk and laugh with her. James would not be able to do any of that. The only way he would ever be able to talk to Lily was through owl mail, and that was not enough for him. He needed to hear her voice, hear her laugh, see her and touch her. After that time, he began to pretend that everything was normal again, and he fooled everyone except for me. By day he was good old James, always ready for a laugh, but by night, he was a heartbroken teenager. Thus was how our summer went.
When we arrived back at Hogwarts, the six of us were thrilled to be with each other once more, but nothing was the same without Lily. We wanted her and her sarcasm, her oddness, her Lily-ness back where it belonged. The females of Hogwarts were delighted that she was gone, and stupidly figured that James Potter was on the market once more. A cocky Ravenclaw seventh year asked him out, and he told her sorry, but he had a girlfriend. And then it happened. Dumbledore entered the Great Hall along with a ragged, disheveled, joyless young girl with flaming red, curly hair. Our hearts skipped about three beats when we realized that it could only be Lily, but we were concerned and worried about why she looked so�lifeless. James shot up like a firecracker and almost ran to her, but we held him back.
The Great Hall became completely silent as Dumbledore and Lily took the stage. We couldn't believe our ears when we heard what he had to say. Dark Wizards had attacked Lily's old school in August, and it had been completely destroyed. There were only five survivors: Lily, a seventh year boy and girl, and two professors. Wizarding schools around the world were offering to take in the three surviving students, now with no school of their own, and Hogwarts had taken back Lily.
She was silent throughout dinner that night, and silent she remained until we headed back to the Common Room. There, without asking any questions, James simply took her in his arms and she cried uncontrollably. It turned out that she had been in the middle of everything, and that the Dark Wizards had been searching for her. Her friend Evan had died trying to lead her out of the school, and she had almost been captured by them while she was running away, but West found her and had attacked them, giving her time to run away. Lily was completely inconsolable, and nothing we, or James, could do or say could stop her from believing that she had been responsible for the staggering number of deaths that had occurred on that night. And, as soon as she had cried all that she could, she stood up quietly and told James that she could not be with him anymore because she did not want anything to happen to him.
That was only the start to the worst year I ever had at Hogwarts. Lily isolated herself from us, and we tried everything that we could think of to prove to her that she was not a death magnet. James almost went over the brink to insanity trying to win her back, but try as he might, she would not stop "protecting" us. By about March, James simply opted for sticking with her wherever she went, to prove to her that he was not going to suddenly fall over dead if she touched him. Lily slowly began to believe him, and finally snapped out of her spell. She begged him to forgive her, and James had simply smiled from ear to ear that he had his Lily back. And just after we had come out of our six months of anxiety over Lily, there came that fateful night in May. The night when the worst fight in the history of the Marauders began.
After every full moon, Ashley would sit up all night in the common room, worrying about Remus, and as soon as dawn broke she would run to the hospital wing to see him. And, she did not leave his side until he was released from the wing. She was the only person that he allowed to see him after his transformations. None of us were allowed to see. In fact, even she was not wanted at first, but when he realized that she was not going to leave him he let her stay. One day as she was leaving the library, Snape and his Slytherin friends ambushed Ashley. He had always been eager to know where Remus disappeared to once a month, but in sixth year, it became his obsession to find out. They demanded to know where he went every month, and when she laughed in their faces after they had asked, the evil scum petrified her, cursed her, and kicked her, trying to force the truth out of her. However, when they realized that Ashley would take the secret to the grave, the group left her, bruised, bloodied, and broken outside of the hospital wing. Remus found her, and to this day I've never forgotten the absolute rage in his eyes. Pure hatred for Snape for hurting the one person he loved more than anyone in the world was practically radiating from him. She tried in vain to sooth him, telling him that she really was all right and that she looked worse than she felt, but it was no use. All of us were boiling mad, but none as much as Remus.
I was so angry and upset that I cornered the slimy git outside of his common room. It took quite a lot of willpower to resist the urge to knock the living daylights out of him, but I resisted the urge. I calmly told him that if he was so interested in finding out where Remus disappeared to once a month, he should press a knot at the bottom of the Whomping Willow Tree on that night (the night of the full moon). I told him that he would definitely find out what my friend was up to, and he looked as if Christmas had come early.
That night in the Common Room before James, Wormtail, and I left to meet Remus in the Willow, I told James of my prank. His eyes became as large as Bludgers and he quickly asked at what time I had told Snape to go, and I told him that I had said right about the time it was now. Panic spread over his face and he yelled at me furiously. "How could you do this, Sirius? Don't you realize what could happen?" And he ran from the common room, leaving me with a wounded pride.
As I look back upon that night now, I can hardly believe what a stupid ass I was. All I had wanted was revenge on my enemy, and I ended up endangering his, James', and Remus' life, as well as his future Hogwarts education. If I were presented with the opportunity to relive one time in my life, I would most definitely relive the night I told Snape to enter the Willow and I would set things right. But so far, I have not had the opportunity, and everyday I ask myself, why did I do it? Why did I endanger the lives of two of the people who meant the most to me? James later told me that he ran all the way from Gryffindor Tower to the passage in the Whomping Willow, where he found Snape frozen solid and Remus positioned to spring. With a burst of speed, he slammed the door and locked it, and ran out of the Willow with Snape in tow.
What followed was a period of my life that I would rather not reminisce about. The next day, James, Snape, and I found ourselves in Dumbledore's office explaining our actions. The headmaster removed fifty points from Gryffindor and awarded James thirty for his bravery, and I am still surprised he did not take more. He also swore Snape to secrecy. I could not even look at any of the three people in the room, as guilt and shame were eating away at my soul. I knew that Dumbledore was gravely disappointed in me, and that in itself was a more terrible punishment than scrubbing the entire castle with a toothbrush. I kept hoping with all my heart that I was trapped in some kind of terrible nightmare and that at any moment I would wake up, but sadly I was very much awake and this was only the beginning.
After the episode in Dumbledore's office, I fled to the hospital wing to beg Remus to forgive me for my stupidity. However, when I reached the infirmary, I almost fell over in shock. He was lying on a bed with half of his face completely bruised and a black eye swelling on the other side. There was a ragged gash starting from the middle of his bottom lip and ending on the right side of the nape of his neck. I did not have to look to know that the rest of his body was mangled in a similar fashion. I knew that Remus had suffered that night because neither James, Sirius, or Wormtail had accompanied him through his transformation, because he had still been upset about Ashley's attack, and because he knew what I had done. He stared at the bed next to his, where Ashley was recovering.
�"Remus," Sirius whispered. "Remus, I-"
The mutilated boy gave him a look of pure venom. It rushed through his veins like real poison, killing him slowly.
"Do you realize what would have happened if James hadn't stopped him?" Remus asked icily. "Do you? I don't think you do. Because if you did, you would have known when you told Snape to go to the Willow that you were sending him to his death, and that by that time today, I would be charged as a murderer. I would have killed him, Sirius. And thank god that James was there to stop me. But now, now I'm in even worse trouble than I could have been. Because someone who hates me more than they hate anyone else knows my secret, and they can expose me at any time!"
"D-Dumbledore-" Sirius croaked.
"Do you really think that someone like Snape wouldn't do something because Dumbledore told him so?" Remus exclaimed furiously.
"Get out of here!" Remus roared. "Get out of here before you make things even worse!"�
I remember running from the hospital wing to the lake, where I fell down to all fours and retched into the glassy grey surface until the bile stopped welling up in my mouth. Remus' words rang through my head, and the full impact of what I had done had now sunk in. On top of it all, my two best friends were disgusted with me. James forgave me a few days later, but in his heart he sided with Remus. And Remus�I knew he had every right to be furious with me, but I couldn't stand it. He was my voice of reason; he usually stopped me from making insane choices. Wise beyond his years, I firmly believed that he could solve any problem that was thrown at him, and the one time in which I needed his advice more than anything else, there was no chance of him giving it. Originally, I incessantly begged for forgiveness. All I wanted was for things to be the way they used to be. Remus, however, could not believe that I was still trustworthy after I had betrayed him in such an awful way, and refused. Being the young and stupid ass I was, I grew to resent him for this. I regained my pride and ultimately stopped trying to be forgiven.
During this time, James, Lily, Aria, Ashley, and Peter seemed confused as to who to support. James was trying as hard as he could to stay neutral, as was Lily, but that was not what we wanted. We wanted to know who was with us and who was against us, and their neutrality only caused everyone to be mad at them. Ashley stayed by Remus out of loyalty, but she wanted the same thing that I did: for everyone to be happy once more and to get on with our lives. She tried to gently talk to Remus about forgiving me, but he flat out told her that his trust in me had been broken, and that was not something he forgave easily. I was thankful for everything she was trying to do. Aria, of course, tried to stick by me as long as I pleaded with Remus. But, when I stopped, she implored me to keep trying, that eventually he would come around. We had many arguments over this, which led to a screaming match in the middle of Transfiguration�
"�This fighting is driving me insane! We all know that he was wrong, Remus, but if you're trying to teach him a lesson by not forgiving him you can stop already! He knows what he did, and can't you see that he's truly sorry? And you! Just because he hasn't forgiven you yet doesn't mean that you should just throw your hands up into the air and give up! You've-"
"Miss Gratzki! Sit down and lower your voice at once!" exclaimed an astonished Professor McGongall.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Sirius shouted, ignoring the teacher. "You make it seem as if I haven't tried to get him to forgive me at all! I've begged for forgiveness, and if he doesn't want to give it, then there's nothing I can do!"
"Mr. Black! I warn you, if you do not-"
"But you CAN do something, Sirius," she cried. "You-"
"Both of you! I will be giving you detentions and taking away fifty-"
"GOD DAMMIT, ARIA! Just stop it for Merlin's sake! The last thing I need is someone else who's pissed off at me! I don't want to be with you if all you're going to do is nag about what I'm doing wrong, I think I can figure that out for myself!" As soon as the words had left his mouth, Sirius was filled with remorse, and wished he could take them back. "Aria-"
"No. I'll stop nagging you, don't worry. The last thing you need is me constantly hissing in your ear," Aria said with a trembling voice.
She ran out of the classroom, and the entire classroom, even Professor McGonagall, fell into a deadly silence�
Once again, in a split second I had ruined everything. Everything right in my life was wrong. I tighten my grip on Aria as I recall that dark day, and I vow to never, ever lose her again.
We ended the year that way. James and Lily had each other and were somewhat on the sidelines, Aria and I were broken up and she was still very hurt from what I had said so rashly. Remus was still distrustful of me, and Ashley seemed to be the only one who was not completely disgusted with me. It was a rotten way to begin the summer, and the times became progressively worse.
Voldemort became increasingly active that summer. There was not a day that went by that James and I did not read about a Muggle torturing that had occurred the previous night, or even wizard torturing, and death. Oh, James and I had made up and were now on friendly terms. We couldn't very well live under the same roof and not be friends. If Remus had only been with us, everything would have been perfect. Lily was staying with Ashley, and Aria was at home in Venice, yet she had promised to spend August in England. I missed her more than words could describe. Living, and knowing that I had hurt her was almost too much for me to bear. I had written to her, but no replies were sent.
We sent Lily and Ashley an invitation to come spend a few days with us in the middle of July. When they arrived though, Remus came with them. It turned out that James, Lily, and Ashley had conspired with each other to form a plan to make Remus and I face each other. He stepped out of the fireplace, and the room fell silent. He looked at me for a long time, as if trying to see into my soul to determine if I was worthy of forgiveness yet. His face was full of such sadness that I almost told him not to forgive me, that I did not deserve his trust once more. I remember that day so well�
"Remus," Sirius said hoarsely. "Please-I didn't think at all. I can accept the fact that you don't trust me, but I can't accept the fact that we won't be friends any longer. These past few months have been awful!"
He was begging one last time. If this didn't work, then Sirius didn't know what would.
"I forgive you, Sirius, and I want you to forgive me as well. I let my anger get the better of me, and I tortured you needlessly."
Sirius held up a hand.
"No. I deserved it. I was a complete moron, I deserved your anger."
The two boys began to shake hands, but then opted for a brotherly embrace that was past due�
I could not believe my good fortune. I was almost whole again. Remus had forgiven me, and he trusted me once more. That was more than I had even dreamed of. Everything was almost right again. All I had to do was apologize to Aria and pray that she would find it in her heart to take back someone like me.
That night, I shut myself into my room to write another apologetic letter to my love, and five minutes into the process I dragged Remus upstairs for his advice. Lily and James were outside walking on the grounds of my house. When Remus and I had finally finished my letter, Ashley burst into the room, her breath ragged and eyes wide with shock. Remus had immediately helped her onto the bed, concerned, and asked her what had happened. It turned out that she had had another vision, and it had been about our two lovestruck friends. In her vision, she had Seen Lucan Potter Apparate onto the grounds and grab Lily and hold her at knife point. Without another word, we dashed out of the house in search of the two, hoping it was not too late.
By the time we had found them, Lily was shaking uncontrollably and cradling James' head in her lap. His face shone with sweat, and he was writhing as he gasped for air. Scared to death, we asked Lily what had happened. She said that Lucan had grabbed her and held her at knife point and told James that he would kill her if he did not join him. James had taken out his wand quickly and used a Banishing Charm on the knife. Lily had wrenched herself out of Lucan's grasp, and the raging man had cast a spell of some sort of Dark Magic on James. Lily was crying now, and everyone looked very pale. Dark Magic could only be cured by someone who was entirely good, entirely full of Light Magic. And then it hit me: Aria. She was a protector of Good, in other words, a protector of Light Magic. I took James' wand and Summoned my father's broomstick that he used to travel long distances and the Invisibility Cloak, and within moments I had mounted the broom and secured James to it. Hastily, I explained my plan to my bewildered friends, mounted my broom, and began my flight to Italy.
That was one of the most terrifying nights of my life. As I silently urged the broom to fly faster, I talked to James, urging him to hang onto life and not move towards any lights at the ends of any tunnels he might happen to see. James grew paler and paler as the night wore on, and I tried a simple healing charm I had learned from times after Remus' transformations. It had little effect, but it helped me to think clearer because I knew I had done something to help. As the sun's first golden rays began to creep over the horizon, I reached my destination. Aria had once told me that her house was in the Campo Delle Luci. I dismounted and quickly stopped a passing old to ask where this was, and he told me timidly. I must have looked like a wreck; shadows under my eyes and with an insane look in my eyes. I ran as fast as I could, and when I arrived, I magically unlocked the door. I didn't care how many regulated rules of the Ministry I was breaking. If James died, I'd never forgive myself.
I was greeted by Aria's father, and I rushed passed him and into Aria's bedroom, where she lay sleeping. I roughly shook her awake, with her father yelling angrily in Italian behind me. She awoke with a start, and looked so surprised that it would have been funny under different circumstances. I quickly explained what had happened to James and begged her to heal him. She closed her eyes and placed her hand upon his heart. A faint, warm, glowing light was created underneath her hand, and she began to mutter strange words as she grew paler and paler. She repeated the words again and again, and the light became brighter and stronger. I was transfixed at this sight. James began to stop writhing, and the scared, pained look upon his face slowly disappeared. When Aria was done, she pressed down lightly on his chest, and the light shot into both of them. James blinked a few times, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was alive. James was alive. She had saved him. Aria looked extremely drained from this whole experience, and fell into my arms. She struggled to sit up once more, but I wrapped my arms around her. I whispered how sorry I was and how every word I had spoken that day had been false. I told her I loved her, and that I always would. She simply smiled up at me, that lovely smile that lights up my world, and told me that she knew. I hugged her and kissed her. Now, I was truly whole once more.
Seventh year was definitely the happiest year of Hogwarts any of us had ever had. It was filled with a seemingly endless workload, countless nights in which we snuck off to Hogsmeade to hang out at the Three Broomsticks, romantic evenings, pranks galore, and some of the best times I've ever experienced. It was also the year in which we created the Marauder's Map, which was originally Lily's idea.
We had burst into the common room completely breathless on the night that we filled the potions classroom to the brim with dungbombs and Fillibuster Fireworks, which were set to go off as soon as Professor Glenn entered the room, due to the fact that we were almost caught by Filch and his horrid cat. Lily had collapsed onto the couch-and James, and caught her breath�
"That was way, way WAY too close," said Lily as she adjusted herself so that she could sit comfortably in James' lap.
The unruly haired boy did not seem to mind at all.
"Yea, but what can we do? We can't tell when he's coming. And those secret passages are so confusing sometimes," said Aria.
Lily's eyes slowly lit up with excitement. She jumped off of her boyfriend's lap, who looked quite put out that she was gone.
"That's it!" she exclaimed.
"What?" asked Sirius.
"We should make a map of the castle! God knows that we know it better than anyone else! And we could charm it to show us where the professors and Filch are at all times! It'd be impossible for us to get caught!"
"Yes!" Aria exclaimed.
"That's a great idea, Tigger, except how would we make it? You know I love you, but you can't draw. And neither can I, nor Sirius or Aria," said James.
"Remus and Ashley can though!" she exclaimed. "How about it you guys?"
She turned to her two friends, who had not been listening to a word she said due to the fact that they were�busy at the moment.
"Quit the snogfest! We're having an important meeting! Moony, get off of her! And Ashley, stop encouraging him!" exclaimed Sirius, pulling apart the couple. "Now what do you say to drawing a map of Hogwarts, secret passages included, and charming it so that we can see where the professors and Filch are at all times?"
"Th-that's great," said Ashley, catching her breath. "I'll get started right now."
She left for the girls' dormitory. Remus watched her go.
"I'll help," he said.
"Huh, no," said Lily, smiling.
"I think you've had enough time with her for one evening," said James, smirking.
Ashley came back down from the dormitory, and sat down on the couch to draw.
"Er, weren't you going to do that upstairs?" asked Aria, raising an eyebrow at her friend.
"Yes�but I need help, and Remus can't come in the girls' room," said Ashley innocently.
The four teenagers exchanged looks and went off to bed. The next morning, they found Remus and Ashley asleep in each other's arms on the couch�
And so we preceded to graduate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with James holding the top grades of the boys, me next, and then Remus. Lily was tops in the girls with Ashley next and then Aria. We were finally out on our own, qualified witches and wizards. The first thing we did was find jobs. To our delight, due to our excellent N.E.W.Ts and O.W.Ls scores, all six of us were drafted for the Auror Training Program, where we were rigorously drilled by Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody. When we had completed the program, we signed up for field duty. This was the dangerous stuff, where we were sent on missions to defeat Death Eaters, and ultimately, Voldemort. We were successful, too, and Dumbledore called upon us to joing the Order of the Phoenix. Never before had twenty Death Eaters been caught in one year.
By the end of our first year of being Aurors, James had married Lily, and I had married Aria. James had also inherited a small fortune from his mother who had passed away, and he and Lily moved into a nice large but cozy house in a neighborhood called Godric's Hollow. When Lily found out she was pregnant, the Potters had thrown a party at their house, in which we six had laughed and talked until the wee hours of the morning. Not long after, Remus and Ashley became engaged, and to my delight, Aria told me that I was going to be a father.
Soon, Lily gave birth to Harry, and James became a proud father. They also named Aria and I his godparents, which made us happier than we could ever explain to them. He and Lily were completely crazy about their son, taking him out to see ducks in a nearby pond, playing peek-a-boo with him, reading to him, and showering him with all the love a child could ever dream for. Lily, after giving birth, had taken Harry in her arms and had vowed: "I am going to give you everything I never had. You'll never, ever be without my love, even long after I'm gone. You're never going to live through the life I had." And as far as we could tell, she and James fulfilled that promise every day.
Ironically, a month later Aria gave birth to our daughter, Cassiopeia Neroli Black. I was so scared when the doctor first put my daughter into my arms. She was so tiny and delicate. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that she was completely dependent upon her mother and I. In other words, I was responsible for someone's life, someone who could not take care of themselves and needed me. I made a vow to always take care of my beautiful little girl, to give her anything she ever desired, to keep her happy. After discussing it with Aria, we decided to name Remus and Ashley as Cassie's godparents. Remus had looked at me, surprised. He asked why on earth I would pick him to be my daughter's godfather when he turned into a ravenous beast once a month. I told him that there was no one in the world that I would rather have as Cassie's godfather beacause no one was wiser, kinder, funnier, smarter, or braver than he. That left him at a loss for words.
The six of us had never been happier in our entire lives. As Cassie grew to be a few weeks old, Remus' and Ashley's wedding drew nearer. The two of them must have been the most perfect couple in the entire world. They were totally, completely, madly in love with each other, and although I was with Aria and James was with Lily, there's was a different sort of love, a kind that was so deep that it could not be explained in words. It simply was. However, the greatest joy of Remus' life was about to be snatched away from him.
The night before the wedding, Remus, James, Lily, Harry, Aria, Cassie, and I went to Ashley's parent's house for dinner. She was going to meet us there, and we were all in a happy mood, laughing and talking, but all of that was soon to change�
It was a beautiful September night. The moon was waning high in the starry sky, and everything looked picturesque. However, the beauty disappeared as the group neared the McKinnon's house. The six stopped dead in their tracks, the color draining from their faces as they looked up to see the enormous, hideous Dark Mark floating above the simple house.
"NO!" Remus yelled, and he ran as fast as he could towards the symbol of evil.
"Lily! Take Harry and go home!" James whispered, and with a look of pure terror on her face, Lily Apparated herself and her son to safety.
"Aria! You've got to leave!" Sirius said hoarsely.
Aria stood rooted to the spot, paralyzed with fear and shock.
"ARIA! You've got to leave! Go home with Cassie!" Sirius said, risking a louder voice.
Aria snapped out of her trance and brushed away a tear. She nodded, and Shimmered home, her daughter held tight. Sirius and James ran to the house, where they found Mr. and Mrs. McKinnon's bodies strewn grotesquely over the porch, and Remus cradling something in arms on the front steps. They rushed over and saw Ashley with a deep, ragged gash across her chest. Blood was oozing out of the wound quickly, and was soaked up by Remus' shirt. Tears were streaming down his face.
"Ashley! Ashley, can you hear me?" Her breathing was shallow and irregular. "Ashley! Say something! Please, please say something! Anything! Don't leave me, Ash, please! Hang on, fight it!"
Remus begged his love to hang on, but it was already too late. She was fading fast.
"Re-Re-Re-Remus," she said, barely louder than a whisper.
She winced with pain and the excruciating effort it took to speak.
"I-I-I love you. I love you more than you'll ever know, more than anyone could ever know. I love you."
Remus showered many kisses upon her face, and she smiled faintly.
"Don't leave me, Ash," he whispered. "I can't go on without you. I need you. Without you I'm nothing. Don't leave me!"
"I-I-I-I'm not leaving you, darling, I'll be right here-" she struggled to lift her hand to point to his heart. "-and you ARE something. You're my everything, and that makes you a lot of something. I'll always be with you."
Her breathing became more and more shallow, and he begged her to hold on, but she was already gone�
I close my eyes and struggle to forget the pain and anguish Remus went through. Lily and James were killed soon after that, and I was locked away in Azkaban for twelve years. But now I'm free, I'm here with my true love. Remus is slowly getting over the pain of losing Ashley. I look at the alarm clock and see that its time to get up and go meet Dumbledore to hear him out on the Order of the Phoenix's new mission.
The large job set before you will start near the trees.
The puzzle is mounting as it alway has done,
the quill scribbles onward by the past we have spun.