Chapter 2 : Regrets
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Birds. Chirping, cheering, tweeting birds. That’s what flooded his hearing after what felt to be an eternity of silence. Opening his eyes, Sirius could only look around him in bewilderment. He was under a tree, the sun shining down upon him through the leaves creating a strange lace-like pattern of green. A gentle lapping of water upon the shore could be heard, a graceful harmony to accompany the twittering of song birds. The scent of growing spring grass made him breathe deep and sigh. He was at Hogwarts. Sirius Black was home again.
Rising into a sitting position, he rested his arm upon a raised knee looking about him from the tree’s shadow. It was exactly as he remembered from his own days as a Gryffindor student, but he was not as he was then. He was as he was not long ago, when he fell through the veil. Dust from shattered stones still covered his waistcoat, his heart still aching from the sight of Harry’s tears. So much he had lost in his short fifteen years. A father, a mother, the embraces of love and home…and now he too was lost, a godfather taken away from him once more. It caused his heart to ache with promises now broken.
“Padfoot! Oy, Padfoot!”
Sirius looked up sharply, tears unshed in his weary eyes, knowing that voice all too well. Below the small hill, James Potter walked towards the Black Lake. His hair disheveled, tie undone and shirt untucked, he was the same Prongs he remembered from happier days. Days before he was James Potter, husband and father. And there before him was himself, younger and healthier than the man he had become. Years of Azkaban had not yet left scars upon his body, the pain of loss had not shattered his heart. And he was happy to notice, with a stroke to his long forgotten vanity, his hair was still thick with no streaks of grey.
He rose, his body free from aches for the first time in fourteen years, and jogged down the hill towards his younger self and James, noticing that Remus was not far behind James with yet another book in his hand and his Prefect badge glinting in the spring sun. With only the slightest glance and a snarl, Sirius turned his eyes away from the fourth boy that followed behind Remus. Even in death, he had no wish to lay eyes upon the rat known as Peter Pettigrew.
“What are you doing out here?” James asked, yanking the knot of his tie looser as he stood above the younger Sirius.
With a slight chuckle, his mouth quirked in a grin, Sirius nodded towards a small group of girls, relaxing upon rocks warmed by the sun. “Does it need explaining?”
Sirius laughed along with James and himself, remembering those carefree days. Even Remus shook his head with a smile upon his pale face. “You’ll never change, will you Sirius?” Remus asked.
“Yeah! You should settle down and get yourself a girl, mate. Like my Lily,” James grinned pulling his Snitch from the folds of his robe.
Sirius stood and dusted the back of his trousers off, clapping a hand on James shoulder. “She’s not yours yet, Prongs.”
Sirius looked at the hand upon James’ shoulder, and then looked down at the older version at his side. His fingers twitched and he knew he had to try, to feel it just once…
His hand slipped through James’ shoulder as though he were a ghost.
“They can’t see you, Sirius.”
Sirius spun on his heel, his breath catching in his throat as he choked back a sob. His pride would not allow him to cry before someone, even if it happened to be James Potter.
“You’ve gotten older, Padfoot,” James said lightly, smiling at him.
Sirius couldn’t help but snort, looking his friend over for the first time in years. Hair a little untidy and black as soot, glasses perched upon his crooked nose because he was as blind as a bat, laugh lines around his brown eyes….he could even smell the sharp spice of his cologne. “You haven’t changed at all,” Sirius said after a moment, seeing that James looked just as he did that night fourteen years ago.
“I have in some ways, just as you have,” James said quietly shortening the distance between them, watching their younger selves head back towards the castle. “I’ve watched you all these years.”
He knew all too well what he would have seen the most. “I’m sorry James,” he managed to say, fighting the break in his voice. “They…they wouldn’t-”
“Its alright, Padfoot my friend,” James told him. “We understand, you did what you could. None of it was your fault.” James clapped his hand upon Sirius’ bony shoulder. His hand was warm against his skin, a sentimental smile reaching his eyes.
“What is this?” Sirius asked finally as he and James began to follow their younger counterparts across the grounds. “Heaven?” At the thought that McGonagall might still be able to issue detentions and essays in the great beyond he continued. “Or am I in my own personal hell?”
James chucked and shook his head, black hair falling into his eyes. “No, this isn’t heaven or hell. This is a memory you picked.”
“A memory?” Sirius asked looking at his friend strangely. “Why a memory? Why this memory?”
“You picked it mate, it’s your head so don’t ask why this one,” James explained, kicking a stick out of his path. “But you died with so many emotions within you,” he continued. “Your own demons that you need to face before you can move on. We all go through this path.”
Sirius sighed and shook his head, the sun bright in his eyes. “I’ve done this for years; day after day within those prison walls I faced my demons James. I’ve face these demons.”
James stopped shortly ahead of him, staring at the start of a brawl between Gryffindors and Slytherins before turning to face him again. He stepped back at the seriousness in those brown eyes, the glimmer of secrets deep within. “All of them, Padfoot? All the demons of what might have been?”
Without waiting for an answer, James turned and began to walk towards the fighting boys, two Gryffindors and two Slytherins. Silver and gold. Black and white. They watched side by side as they fought with Severus Snape and his own younger brother, Regulus Black. Remus looked on from a safe yet close distance with a look of unease and disappointment on his lightly scarred face. Wands lay discarded and forgotten upon the ground, while fists flew as they rolled in the grass and dirt.
He remembered this fight that they stood and witnessed once more, the welts upon his arms and bruises upon his knuckles; the dark looks passed in torch-lit corridors for months after this day. Slurs had been thrown on this sun filled day and their Gryffindor pride and youthful tempers flared, resulting in the pile of robes before them.
Sirius looked up the scene with regret heavy in his heart. He didn’t know then that this would be one of the final times he would ever hear his brother’s voice, even if it was filled with hatred, or feel the touch of his brother’s hand once more. If he had known then what would come in just a few short years, he would have embraced his brother instead of quarreling with him, and attempt to make amends with him rather than splitting his lip open. Before, he had never noticed Remus’ looks of annoyance and pity as he watched his friends fight….looks that he recalled seeing not long ago in the Department of Mysteries. He regretted the position he seemed to have always placed his friend within, even at the very end. And he….
Sirius closed his eyes, trying to block the memory from his mind, trying to once more forget the emotions and feelings of that day…of many other days and nights.
“All of them, Padfoot? All the demons of what might have been?”
Sirius fell onto his knees as James’ words echoed in his head, his slender hands pressed against his eyes in attempt to stop the memories. His chest heaved with dry sobs and panting breaths as he remembered days long gone and the regret he felt from what could have been if he had truly been one of Gryffindor’s brave.