Thanks to theelderwand for his beta work on this chapter.
Sirius climbed the stairs to the top of the house, Hermione’s words ringing in his ears. “Was there someone you were going to marry, Sirius?” Hermione, he thought, you don’t know the half of it.
He hadn’t really thought about Laura in ages. Not properly, not like he should have, because he’d been trying to do what the Dementors had encouraged: forget her. And it wasn’t that he wanted to forget her – someone like her should be remembered forever and celebrated – but because, even now, it was still too painful. The first person he’d really loved, and the first one he’d failed so badly. The first one who had died because of him.
He reached his bedroom, the one he’d left behind as a teenager and was now forced to live in again, and shut the door behind him, reaching distractedly into a pocket as he did so. There it was: the photograph. Old, torn around the edges, even fraying in some places from being held too much, its very existence both thrilled and tormented him. Pulling it out and looking at it again, he tried to remember what it had been like to be so happy.
They had been happy, he knew that. He’d never been happier. And their smiles showed that, their arms around each other – if he remembered correctly, James had interrupted them mid-snog and they’d just turned around and posed for the camera. He stared at the picture for a little while, watching as the young couple in it turned to each other again and kissed, just quickly, before looking back at the camera and grinning again in a bit of a guilty way.
“I’m sorry, Laura,” he whispered to the girl whose smiling face tore at his heart. “I’m so sorry.”
What he wouldn’t give to hold her again, he thought, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. What he wouldn’t give for just one more day – an hour even, or a minute. Anything. Because he’d tried holding other girls and it just wasn’t the same, they didn’t reach into his heart like Laura had and, well, their hair had smelled different. Put another way, they hadn’t been her, and he’d never really been able to forgive them for that.
Damn it, I don’t even remember what she smelled like anymore.
He threw the photograph onto the floor and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him, furious with himself once more for letting her die. For not being there to save her.
“Is that you, Sirius?” came Molly Weasley’s voice up the stairs. “Can you come into the dining room for a minute please?”
“Hell no,” he muttered under his breath. “Not now.” Frankly, the last thing he wanted was human company, so he detoured on the landing of the floor below and opened the door to his mother’s room. “Be down in a minute,” he called over his shoulder. “Just need to check on Buckbeak.”
“Well, when you’re done,” Molly said.
“Right,” he replied, closing the door and turning to the big Hippogriff before bowing to it. This is much better. I don’t need to put on a face for you.
Buckbeak was a blessing, he realised, because looking after the beast was something that devoured enough time and attention to stop him from dwelling too much on the past. Not that the present or the future held much hope or joy at the moment, but they beat the past hands down. At least, in this reality, since he’d got out of Azkaban, he hadn’t screwed anything up too momentously – or at least, no one had died because of something he’d done or a decision he had made. Overall, things were actually going remarkably well, if he excluded the fact that he was stuck in this horrible house again. Once Voldemort was defeated he’d even be able to re-join society, maybe even learn how to live again.
“Damn you, Laura,” he muttered. “If you hadn’t existed, this would be so much easier …”
But he couldn’t even keep that façade up for long. Laura had been what had made it all worthwhile. No, if he was going to damn anyone, it would be Hermione. It was her fault. If she hadn’t dragged it all up again …
Sirius looked at the old wardrobe he’d hidden the bottles in, the Firewhisky that Molly and Arthur didn’t know about. Hell, even Moony didn’t know about these ones. Just a swig, he thought. Just to get her out of my head again. And, once Buckbeak was happily feeding himself the dead rats Sirius had found (nice irony there, he realised), he wandered over, opened the wardrobe door and had a very quick drink.
It was the same toast every time, and every time it hurt to say it.
Another swig, again a quick one. That’s enough. Just enough to put on a normal face to that lot downstairs. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and headed back out into the house.
“Now, Molly,” he heard himself saying as he made his way towards the dining room, and surprising himself by how natural he sounded, “what was it you wanted?”
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