He felt those otherworldly arms come around him and saw that it was true what was said about those last moments before your death, that your life flashed before your eyes in an array of color and emotions, both too fast and too slow. And in that panorama of memories that made up his life, there was one moment in time that stood out. It was both a memory of triumphant love and of piercing agony. It was something he hated but also cherished close to his heart. Although it was but a small thread in the fabric of his life, if it was removed, the whole of him would unravel.
He woke up in that hour when night’s blackness finally surrenders to day’s light. His eyes opened, watching the gray of the ceiling fade to white, the minutes moving by as he contemplated the importance of today, his wedding day.
Just thinking the words provoked reactions in him: his heart sped up, his palms began to sweat, his stomach clenched. Having always been the daring one, the Marauder most likely to get arrested (then get off scot-free), this feeling of nervousness was absolutely alien to him.
Although the hour was early yet, he knew he would not be going back to sleep. Getting out of bed, he pulled on a plain white shirt as he moved to the balcony overlooking the still and quiet beach. He ran a hand through his short black hair and looked out to the horizon and watched the sun win its daily battle, the sky turning pink at the rim of the world and then into the deep blue that reflected in the clear water Nice was known for.
This was a rare day, similar to that of James’ and Lily’s wedding day, where there was some peace to be found in the raging war. Though not everyone of the Order could be here, those closest to him had made it.
And of course, there was Win, his bride to be. He smiled to himself, still a bit amazed at having found a girl who loved him for who he was, not because of his prestigious family name, his popularity or his good looks, but him—his sometimes acerbic manner, his arrogance, his occasional explosions of temper. She was really the only one, aside from James, who saw through all of that to, what she liked to call, the cuddly puppy he was inside. He laughed out loud, the sudden bark startling a seagull who had been roaming the tide line. That was his Winifred, seeing the good in everything.
He heard a crash and a curse in the other room. It seemed Remus had stumbled himself awake. Still smiling, he turned to head back inside. It was time to get ready for the ceremony.
She was beautiful to him. It wasn’t just her blonde hair with its tendency to curl at the ends, her violet eyes or her figure. It was her, the woman inside, the girl who had met him head on in a raid of what was thought to be an enclave of Death Eaters, threatening to curse off vital, in his mind, parts of his body if he didn’t get off her property. It had turned out that the Death Eater enclave had been a rumor she herself had put out to protect the Muggles she was hiding, Muggles who were living in an area known for its loyalty to Voldemort.
Who’d have thought that they would go from that to this, he mused as he watched her walk towards him, her eyes meeting his, her sweet smile matching the grin he was unable to keep off his face. She was wearing a white dress that clung and flowed about her with the playful ocean breeze, a single plum rose pinned to her loose hair, matching the fragrant white and violet bouquet she held.
Their wedding was simple, none of the extra frills and pomp and circumstance that could go with the occasion; just two people and their family or, in his case, closest friends who were basically his family. The ceremony was taking place on a wide stone ledge of the beach, whether it was man-made or molded by nature, he wasn’t sure; he just knew it was perfect. He could feel the slight spray of the waves at his back as they hit the edge of the rock that had situated itself in the sea. His feet were bare, the hem of his pale khakis turned up, the warmth of the stone seeping into him. His best man, James, standing at his left shoulder, was also casually dressed.
He took in Lily, nearly eight months pregnant, standing before him along with Remus and Peter, Win’s mother and her brother; all there to be with them in their celebration. His gray eyes moved back to his bride, his attention now solely on her. She walked alone on the fine white sand to where he stood, flower petals marking the aisle, soft violin music playing in the background from instruments charmed to play by themselves.
When she reached him, he took the hand she held out and placed it on his arm as he turned to face Win’s father, whom she had asked to marry them, feeling a sense of completeness and wonder, hoping fervently that it would never go away. He felt her small hand squeeze his arm, letting him know that she knew what he was thinking and shared the same feeling.
The vows were taken and Gareth, Win’s father, spoke the words that would bond them as man and wife, raising his hand to cast the spell, silver stars falling in a swirl around them. He turned to his wife, looked deeply into her eyes and reverently bent to take her mouth with his. Dimly he registered the brilliant sparks of light that his friends and family sent out from their wands, representing their good wishes for the marriage, and he felt her warm skin against his, smelled the perfume of the rose in her hair and her own scent that was distinctly Win and memorized this piece of eternity.
It was a night unlike any other. Though he and Win had been together before, their wedding night was a different sort of splendid. Maybe it was because now she was his by name or maybe it was because it was simply a moment of happiness, savored all the more for the contrast of the uncertainty and violence that was their reality.
The morning after, he woke up, smiling and feeling uncommonly optimistic. His life had taken a large turn for the better, more than he ever thought it could have when he had decided to make his own way in the world. She was sleeping beside him, on her stomach, her soft hair spread over her back. He kissed her softly and she smiled a contented smile in her sleep.
Slipping out of bed as gently as he could, he made his way to the small kitchen. They were in a rented cottage of the beach, just for a day or two before they went back to fighting the good fight. Humming tunelessly to himself, he set about making coffee “the old-fashioned-way” as Lily had shown him, enjoying the fact that he was putting breakfast together for his wife. He enjoyed the cold tile beneath his feet, the feeling of being in their own little world.
A sudden sound of someone Apparating into the cottage broke the fragile peace, and he saw a flash of green from the open door of the bedroom. He didn’t feel the cups drop out of his hand, didn’t hear the ceramic crashing into tile or feel the hot liquid that hit his bare feet as he ran to her side, already too late to help her but trying to anyway.
All he saw as he stumbled into the room, his thoughts half on his wand on the bedstand and half on his wife, was the indistinct decompression of a figure in black as it Disapparated and Win, her lifeless body on the floor, the curse having thrown her off the bed with the force of its impact, her eyes unseeing as her neck bent at an unnatural angle.
He fell on his knees by her side, his arms shakily going around her body. The anguish that ripped through him was too much to bear. He had already failed in his first duty as her husband—to protect her. A sound came from the very depths of his soul, the keen of a man who had lost his life’s mate. It haunted that room forever more.
He’d taken the murder for what it was: a statement from those wizards who considered themselves Death Eaters—we are everywhere and we will win
—and made it his life’s mission to prove them wrong.
Those indistinct voices were suddenly comprehensible. With a startling clarity, he heard Win’s voice and looked back. There she was, ethereal but there, her pale gold hair flowing around her, her eyes luminescent and welcoming.
And he suddenly knew. She didn’t hold him accountable for her death, she had known what she was getting into when she married him, knowing who and what he was. He had asked for forgiveness countless times in the past sixteen years and only now did he realize why he had never received it—Win had never felt there was anything he had done that needed forgiving. Everything they had had was never something to regret. A warmth took hold in the middle of his chest, surrounding that iron core that had once been his heart and spread out to the tips of his fingers and he laughed, the unexpected freedom and relief granted to him was almost too much.
So it was to be the last lesson he taught Harry: in the final moment of your life, when you come face to face with Death, you don’t fight him, but welcome him. Sirius accepted his fate with the courage and nobility that had formed his life and felt Win’s loving arms embrace him as the Veil shifted and covered the world he knew.
Author’s Note: This is my first foray into something not having to do with the Trio. Update: added chapter image