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Chapter 31 : Fall of a King
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Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
Fall of a King
The flat was dark when she stepped into it from the fireplace.
Clearly, both Sirius and Remus had already retired to bed. Lily felt awkward as she travelled through the sitting room and hesitated outside of Sirius’s closed door. She bit her lip - what could she even say? Sirius considered Mr Potter as much of a father as James did. How could she break the news to him?
But James was waiting at the hospital, she knew; there was no time for her self doubts or heartache. She inhaled deeply and slowly opened the door. The mound of blankets in the centre of the bed in the room rose and fell slightly with his even breath. Lily stared at it for a moment before stepping forward.
“Sirius,” she whispered. There was no reaction. She repeated herself, louder, but there was still nothing. “Padfoot?”
Finally, with a roll of her eyes, she pulled the blankets away to see his face.
“Black!” she said loudly, shoving his warm, bare shoulder.
Sirius’s eyes opened at that. He blinked at the ceiling for a moment before he caught her red hair in his peripheral vision. There was a pause as his eyed flicked to her in curiosity, his expression blank. Then he suddenly scowled.
“Well, shit, Evans,” he grumbled. “Just because the Floo Network lets you get here easily doesn’t mean that you can come molest me in the middle of the night,” he said, rolling onto his side, turning his back to her and wrapping his arms around his pillow.
“Shut up, you lout, and be serious,” she snapped in return, aiming her wand at the light overhead. A glowing orb shot from the wand’s tip and settled in the fixture, so that it was suddenly bright.
Sirius detected the hint of panic in her tone. He pushed himself up on one arm and swiftly turned to look at her, suddenly more alert than he had, possibly, ever been in his life. “Is James all right?” he breathed, and as he asked, his grey eyes scanned the empty space behind her for his friend. But James wasn’t here. Lily would never be here without him, not unless something was wrong. Last time she was here without him, something was wrong…
“He’s at St. Mungo’s,” Lily started to explain, turning to Sirius’s wardrobe. In a businesslike manner, she began to pull out clothing for him to change into.
“What?” demanded Sirius, his heart ready to explode out of his chest.
Lily suddenly realised what she said, and how he would take it. She turned quickly to face him. “Oh, no, Sirius! James is fine! It’s his dad.”
Relieved, Sirius took a deep breath. He ran his hand through his hair, however; he wasn’t exactly pleased to hear that something was wrong with James’s father, either.
“He wanted me to get you,” she said, flinging a shirt at him. But Sirius still stared at the blankets in front of him, his hand seemingly frozen to his head as he considered the bad news; his expression was worried, and she hoped that hers didn’t look the same. She frowned at him, instead, just to be sure he couldn’t see the fear in her own eyes. Perhaps it was a way of protecting him. Her attitude took on a bit more resolve and a bit less hopelessness.
“Sirius!” she barked, interrupting the sudden silence and making him jump in surprise. “Quickly!”
“Turn around,” he demanded, not about to get out of bed in front of her. She was James’s fiancée, after all.
“For crying out loud,” she muttered, stalking out of the room and completely misunderstanding his reasoning for the request.
(As if she hadn’t already seen him half naked during his own stay at St. Mungo’s back in January. There was nothing she particularly wanted to see, anyway, but she held her tongue from telling him so.)
But Sirius only took an instant; he seemed to appear behind her before she’d even gotten through the doorway; he was fully clothed and ready to go.
Sirius’s face was stony as he softly shut the bedroom door behind him. “What’s wrong with him?” he asked.
“He had a stroke,” said Lily. She bit her lip, surprised at how small her voice sounded when she told him. So much for not letting him see her own fear… But then, he’d always been the one person who could read her like a book. He rarely said anything about what he saw, though, and she hoped he wouldn’t mention what he undoubtedly knew even now. How close this threw her to falling apart after the recent loss of her own parents…
Sirius looked at her carefully as he opened the front door for her and they stepped into the stairwell. “What’s a stroke?” he said, leading the way down the stairs.
“It’s a Muggle thing, mostly…” she told him. “I suppose it can happen to magical people too… Or maybe it’s just because of his age…” Her breathing suddenly became rougher, as if she were trying not to cry. “You know what a heart attack is?” she asked, trying to put it in terms he could understand.
“I suppose it’s rather like a heart attack… except in your head. Your brain…”
“Oh,” he said quietly, almost a whisper. His voice sounded resigned, and he seemed prepared to accept the worst, now. Sirius didn’t look at her, and she was glad. She followed him around the side of the building, to the alley, and they both Disapparated to the hospital without another word to each other.
The hospital reception area was empty. For a moment it took Sirius by surprise; he had been expecting it to be quite crowded, it being a war and all. He would not have been surprised to find many, many injured people waiting for treatment as the result of Death Eater attacks.
Then again, when Death Eaters attacked, the victims rarely survived.
But on a brighter side, perhaps they could take the emptiness of the room as a sign that the attacks really had tapered off to nothing. He scanned the open area hopefully before turning to face the woman in uniform behind the counter. His optimism suddenly faltered as the seriousness of the Potter situation came crashing down around him.
Luckily, it was Lily who spoke. She managed to keep her voice firm. “We’re here to see Jonathan Potter,” she said, lifting her chin slightly as she addressed the woman.
“Oh. The stoke victim.”
“Yes,” said Sirius icily. Victim. How he hated that word as of late. Every victim had a name.
“Are you family?”
Lily nodded vigorously.
“Do you have identification?” asked the woman. Both of them hesitated; their identification would not show them as Potters. The lady rolled her eyes, clearly considering them liars now at their silence. “I’m sorry, but we’re only allowing family in at this hour,” she said coldly.
Lily blushed and glanced at Sirius. Sirius could only glare at the woman; it was as if she had just slapped him in the face with the reminder that, no matter how much he wanted to be a Potter, he would never be. He couldn’t even think of a response, and the woman seemed to take his glare as argument enough.
“Well, Sir,” she said defensively. “It is one-thirty in the morning, after all!”
“But she’s about to be his daughter in law!” said Sirius finally, jerking his thumb at Lily.
The woman turned to scan Lily’s small figure. “I see no ring,” she said sarcastically. She had heard that particular excuse before. Lily looked down at her bare fingers in embarrassment. She didn’t have an engagement ring yet due to James’s impromptu proposal.
She blushed once more and Sirius scowled. For a moment, he considered ignoring the woman and simply barging through the doors on his own. But then common sense took over. Surely there would be security guards ready to pop out of nowhere. That wouldn't help anything, and might even make it worse for the Potters if he and Lily had to be bailed out of a holding cell in the Ministry.
Growling to himself resentfully, he finally grabbed Lily’s hand and hauled her towards the chairs without another word to the woman. As soon as they were both sitting, he manoeuvred his mirror out of his pocket.
“Unbelievable,” said Lily under her breath, eying the piece of glass. How absolutely fortunate that old habits never died, that Sirius and James both likely still carried those mirrors around everywhere, just as they always used to. Something that she would never even have thought of; she was in awe of their tiny ways of getting around authority - these mirrors had helped them do that in various situations many times over the years.
Sirius gave her a small smile as he addressed the mirror. “Prongs,” he hissed.
It took a moment for James’s face to appear. He was pale and looked tired and on edge. Worry immediately sprang to the front of Sirius’s mind once more.
“How’s your dad?” he asked quickly.
James didn’t respond. “Where are you,” he demanded.
“That reception hussy won’t let us in,” said Sirius, his voice suddenly loud. Lily blushed as the woman glared at them. “Family only, she says,” he added sarcastically, his tone dropping back to a low murmur.
“You are family,” said James, as if he’d said it a million times before.
Sirius shrugged at the mirror. “Tell her that.”
James growled. “Oh, fuck,” he snapped irritably. “I don’t have time for this. Ugh. I’ll be right there.”
Sirius shot the woman a triumphant gaze and slipped the mirror back into his pocket. She was watching them, but appeared confused as to who he was talking to, and how. She was utterly unaware of what was coming for her; Sirius’s gaze seemed to intimidate her, however, and she quickly turned her back to do paperwork instead.
It only took James a moment to arrive in the reception area. He completely ignored the woman behind the counter as he strode towards Sirius and Lily quickly. He’d grabbed both of them by the arms almost before they’d even noticed his appearance, and had yanked them out of their chairs and began leading them back through the door he’d come in.
Instantly, the woman was on her feet to stop them.
James wheeled on her furiously. “They are family,” he said harshly. He slapped Sirius on the back, and his voice took on a gentler tone as he introduced them. “This is my brother,” he said easily. “My father’s son. His name is Sirius,” he added, and then he allowed his arm to fall around Lily’s waist. “And this is the love of my life, and soon to be wife. This is Lily, and she’s about to become my father’s daughter-in-law. I asked them to come. My dad would want to see them.”
Still, the woman looked ready to object to their lack of proof, but at the furious look in James’s eye, she seemed suddenly meek. She turned and tottered back behind the counter again, appearing to be utterly ignorant of their presence.
James continued to grumble loudly. “And I shouldn't have to leave my father's deathbed to deal with this shit. Let’s go,” he added, shouldering through the door and leading the way, dragging them along with him.
Sirius and Lily exchanged sickened glances behind his back at his words, and as they walked down the long, clean halls, the seriousness of the situation, the whole world, everything came crashing down all around them. Sirius felt his throat go dry, and Lily’s eyes slowly began to water with every room - every injured person hovering on the brink of death, every reminder - that they passed.
“James,” said Sirius after a moment. James responded with a glance over his shoulder, and Sirius hesitated, his voice becoming gruff. “You-... You said deathbed. He’s…”
“Alive,” finished James suddenly. He winced and had to look away from Sirius. “Sort of.”
Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. At least he was still alive.
James suddenly grabbed Lily’s hand as they continued walking, and nobody said another word until Sirius noticed the signs that told him where they were going.
“They have him in the closed ward?” he demanded, suddenly stopping short.
James bit his lip. “They didn’t know where else to put him,” he admitted. “Sirius… St. Mungo’s is a hospital for magical ailments and injuries. And this… a stroke. That’s not magical, Sirius. They don’t really know what to do with him. The stroke - it makes him kind of touched in the head. He can hardly talk…”
“They can help him, though, can’t they?”
“They are trying,” said James. “They’re looking for a Muggle healer that knows of the Magical world. They can’t just send him off to a hospital - he’s too old. Nobody lives to be as old as he is unless they have magic. It would raise too many questions.”
Sirius scowled. “That’s stupid,” he growled. “Who cares? That’s what the Obliviators are for. So he’s just lying there waiting for help, then, and all they’re really doing is stopping him from dying for now, in this moment.”
James’s eyes were suddenly dull. He went stiff as a statue at Sirius’s words. He was already aware of what they were doing; it was why he was so irritable. But it felt different to actually hear it voiced by somebody else. More realistic, somehow.
Sirius watched him carefully and then glanced worriedly at Lily. “Prongs,” he said after a pause. “I didn’t mean…”
James shook his head. “Pads…” He stopped, and Sirius could swear his best friend’s eyes looked slightly misty. James stared hard and furiously at a scuff mark on the shiny floors and took a shuddering breath as he finally let them in on the direness of the situation.
“They can’t send him on to a Muggle hospital and Obliviate. If they take him out of here, he won’t make it. If they can’t find a Muggle doctor to come quickly enough, he won’t make it. Even if they can find somebody who knows more about treating this without magic - because magic doesn’t seem to be helping - he still might not - probably won’t - make it. There is no guarantee in the Muggle world, or in the magical world.”
Sirius looked grumpy. Like a child not getting his way, he lowered his eyebrows and almost appeared to pout as he stared at James. “Why can’t magic take care of this?” he finally asked. “Magic can take care of other things Muggles suffer from - broken bones, headaches…”
James gave his head a single shake. “He’s too old. If he was younger… He’s one hundred and twelve years old…” He trailed away and glanced at the door. “You should go see him,” he finally sighed, nodding towards it.
Sirius suddenly paled at that suggestion, and felt terribly awkward. He wasn’t one to show compassion to others, no matter how important James’s father might have been to him. And he was terrified to see the man he’d considered to be so strong and wise suddenly lying helpless - and who knows what else, if he was in the closed ward of all places - on a bed, in a hospital gown.
He eyed James and remained silent, stalling the moment when he had to walk through the doors.
“Mum’s in there with him, too,” encouraged James. “It’d mean a lot to them both to know you came,” he added.
There was no saying no to something like that. Sirius gave one last glance at James and Lily and then pushed through the double doors.
When he was gone, James turned to look at Lily. All she could do was stare at him apologetically, with her hands cupped over her nose and mouth in disbelief. She didn’t know what to say, or how to act. She couldn’t imagine sitting around, knowing that somebody probably wouldn’t make it. She didn’t know if it would be easier this way, or to lose somebody quickly and without warning as she did.
And they remained that way for several long moments, neither speaking, neither tearing their gaze away from each other. James’s mouth slowly thinned to a flat line, and finally he grabbed her elbow and turned them both away from the double doors.
“We should go find somewhere to sit,” he finally said.
“You look about ready to collapse,” she agreed anxiously.
When they found a small sitting room around a corner, James immediately dropped into a chair and put his head in his hands. They were losing his father - his heart was breaking. Lily didn’t know what else to do but rub his back sympathetically.
“It doesn’t look good, Lily,” he finally said. Then he suddenly leaned back against the chair and stared at the ceiling, blinking against the harsh fluorescent lighting. Lily wasn’t surprised to see that his eyes appeared red, although it did make her uncomfortable. “Merlin,” he sighed. “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. Ever since I first noticed that most kids didn’t have parents as old as mine…”
“Doesn’t make it any easier,” said Lily bitterly.
“No,” he agreed.
She gently reached over and touched the dark streaks underneath his hazel eyes, tracing them with her index finger. “You look so tired,” she mused aloud.
To that he shrugged; he had bigger issues now. But he glanced at her, anyway, because he knew she was just trying to distract him. “So do you,” he said to appease her. She didn’t appear any less worried, and James knew she worried more for him than for his father. He had to look away from her intense gaze.
He wasn’t sure how long they sat and waited. Eventually, Sirius rounded the corner, clearly looking for them.
James stood when he caught sight of his friend. Sirius’s face was pale and his eyes looked dull and dead. His mouth was slack, and he, too, looked utterly exhausted after being in the room.
“Your mum wants you,” he said softly after catching James's questioning gaze.
James only nodded. It was obvious, now, that Sirius understood. This was the end. There would be no recovery. They could continue to search for a Muggle doctor who might understand more about the condition, and who could keep the secret - but in the end, it was obvious that a one hundred twelve year old body wasn’t strong enough to stand up to it.
Sirius stared at the floor for a moment, and then he spared a quick glance at James. There was a crazed look in James's eye - he was losing it. Sirius could see it, subtle as it was. He could still remember James boasting about his dad when they were only first years. Everything James did was the result of him wanting to be just like his hero, his father.
“I’m sorry about your dad, mate,” he finally said in resignation.
James frowned. “Sirius,” he growled in a low voice, his tone laced with disbelief, disappointment that he would even have to tell Sirius this. “He was as much your father as he was mine,” he scolded softly.
Sirius only pursed his lips and stared at the ground a bit more, rocking on the balls of his feet. He shoved his hands in his pockets and his expression was regretful. He didn’t meet James’s eye again as he tried to mentally distance himself from everything.
“Did you get done what you needed to?” asked James then. He wasn’t sure what sort of goodbye Sirius could give; it was too personal to probe further. He watched as Sirius quickly put up walls around himself - he could see that look in Sirius's eye. The one that had been there when his family sent him awful notes at school, or the one that had been there when he'd shown up on James's doorstep with his trunk - the one that he wore when his uncle Alphard died.
Sirius nodded and sat down in a chair across from Lily’s. He still didn’t look at either of them.
James gave a single nod in return and sighed. He hovered for a moment, putting off going back. He knew that the next time he was in this sitting area, his father would be gone. Part of him hoped it wouldn’t take too terribly long, and part of him hoped he could stop time right here, forever.
At last he ran his hand through his hair and gave Lily (who was watching him very carefully) a small, rather forced smile. “When I come back, I might not be the same person.”
“It’s okay,” said Lily quickly.
James closed his eyes for a moment, and then turned to return to the closed ward.
Sitting in the Potter household the next morning felt terrible. It was a place that was so familiar, and to Sirius, it had always been an escape, a sanctuary from where he came from. And now it was still familiar, and it was still home… but it was also empty and sad and miserable. It was as if the house itself knew that somebody was missing.
Already, people had come to visit. Dumbledore had spent a long while with James's mother. Remus and Peter had both come knocking as well, although after a few hours of miserable silence, both had made their escapes.
Now Eve Potter was sitting at the dining room table with what was left of her family. In one hand, she held a balled tissue up to her face, propping her head with it as she absently stared out the window. Her other hand reached across the table to hold her son’s.
James looked utterly miserable. He was still in shock, Sirius thought. He sat at the head of the table now, and he didn't even grip his mother's hand back. He simply allowed her to hold his as he stared unseeingly at the chandelier.
Lily walked into the room them, holding a piece of paper in her hand. “The funeral home has an opening for Sunday at ten,” she said softly, reading off what she’d written. Being the least involved, the planning of the funeral and handling of similar affairs had fallen to her. She didn’t mind in the least; it gave her something to do without feeling like she was intruding on something.
“Thank you, dear,” said Eve tiredly. “Can you call back and have them schedule us in?”
“Of course,” said Lily, and she left the room once more. She had to go to the restaurant down the road to use the phone; there certainly wasn’t such a Muggle device in the Potter home.
Mipsy, the house elf, appeared then, carrying a large plant into the room. She could hardly see where she was walking, but she lifted it onto the opposite end of the table effortlessly, where it sat with the other plants. “Another gift, Mistress,” she squeaked with a bow. “From the Prewetts.”
“Thank you, Mipsy, that’ll do,” said Eve. Mipsy turned to leave, but Eve suddenly stopped her. “Mipsy, can I have a spot more tea, please?”
The house elf bowed low again and disappeared to the kitchen.
James rolled his eyes at all the flowers and plants that were sent in sympathy. “Don’t people realise it’s just more of a burden when you have to sit and send out a thank you to all of them?” he wondered irritably.
“James,” Eve said disapprovingly. James’s nostrils flared in annoyance. He glanced at Sirius, if only because he was there, and then glared down at the table again.
“I’ll write them back,” said Sirius quickly.
Eve nodded and smiled tearfully at her adopted son. “You’re a love, Sirius,” she said, not bothering to mask the relief in her voice. Sirius grimaced back.
It was a long while before Lily returned. “The funeral director would like to come over tomorrow to discuss things,” she informed them. “I told him that would be fine - I hope it’s all right. If it’s a bad time…”
“No,” interrupted James’s mother with a sigh. “That will be fine.”
“Okay,” said Lily, offering a smile. She stood behind James and played with his messy hair a moment.
James finally sighed and released his mother’s hand. “Do you want us to stay, Mum?”
“You don’t have to stay,” said Eve weakly. “I can get along. I have Mipsy…”
“That’s not what I asked,” responded James through clenched teeth.
(Sirius wondered why his friend seemed so irritated - perhaps James didn't handle such personal loss well. He didn't think that James had ever suffered a loss before. All of his relatives had likely passed on even before he was born.)
“I know you have Mipsy. I don’t know if you want to be alone or not.” James caught Lily’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “I think I might want to be, is all…” he added as further explanation.
“Oh,” said Eve. “Well… yes, go on. I really am very tired. These potions they gave me… Though I don’t know how I’ll get to sleep without him there…” Her face took on a horrified expression and seemed to freeze there as she realised her husband of the last eighty plus years would never be back, would never wrap his arms around her again. The bedroom would be silent at night; the comforting sound of his even breathing was forever gone.
James watched her, and finally blinked and looked away. Eventually, he stood from the table. “Mum, let us know if you want us to come back. Otherwise I’ll be over tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she whispered, pressing the tissue to her eyes.
James motioned to Sirius. “I’ll help you with that,” he said, nodding to the gifts. He knew why Sirius sometimes smoked gillyweed now. Sometimes it was hard to deal with life. Or death. He wasn't sure anymore; he wanted only a night of forgetfulness and stupidity, to be numb to everything.
Perhaps Sirius still kept some hidden in his room.
“Go on home without me, Lily,” he said absently, staring at his best friend. Sirius seemed to understand; a haughty look suddenly crossed his features, as if to say I told you so.
It was different from Edgar’s funeral a month before. This funeral was much smaller, much more personal. There weren’t guards standing around, and that seemed to make it more intimate and less dangerous and open and exposed. Only the closest of friends were invited - though even then, there were a few hundred people there. John Potter had touched many, much to Sirius's surprise. He had, apparently, come into the man's life too late to fully grasp who the retired Auror used to be.
They didn’t have the funeral in the Ministry like Edgar's; there was hardly a threat - John hadn't been targeted, after all. Instead it was held at a cemetery, just as Remus’s dad’s had been. This cemetery - Godric’s Hollow’s very own - had a chapel right next door which they had planned to use, but the turnout was far larger than anticipated. They ended up having to move the service out onto the lawn.
Folding chairs had been set up in rows for the family and only the most fortunate of people - most in attendance had to stand. Sirius sat in a rickety chair in the front row where the family of the deceased were sat. James had invited Remus and Peter to sit up front with them as well - all four of the young men were pall bearers. Now they silently listened as a preacher stood up front and gave John an honourable farewell.
(He really was an excellent preacher, Sirius came to realise in the days after. He had come over for a visit with the family shortly after being hired to do the job. He’d brought with him a notebook, and he had asked many questions. He wanted to know who John Potter was; he wanted to do him well. He’d learned as much as he could about John’s life, and he stood in front of the crowd now with much respect for the elderly man in the casket.)
Most people ignored Sirius, or didn’t find anything odd about him being there. At least not the Muggles from the neighbourhood who had known the family. They simply knew he was a runaway who’d been taken in.
The magical people in attendance, however, cast furtive looks his way. He could feel their eyes on his back, and he tried to ignore them. Perhaps they thought it odd that a Black would be sitting in the front row at a Potter funeral. Most people had never seen him with the family - they'd only heard the rumours that the family had taken in the Black heir.
He ignored them. It wasn’t a day to dwell on what others thought. Instead he stared at the casket; he could hear James’s mother sobbing, and many others in the crowd. He could hear Lily sniffle - she did not, perhaps, know James’s father extremely well yet, but it was hard not to react to the preacher’s kind words about what the world had lost. Even he himself struggled to swallow a lump in his throat.
James, who’s eyes were red and watery but his face calm, patted Sirius’s knee distractedly for several long minutes, seemingly not even realising what he was doing.
Because John hadn’t died to any sort of trauma, they allowed a viewing after the service was done. All of the guests filed past first - the family would go last so as to spend as long as they wished. Afterwards people walked to the waiting burial site and mingled quietly.
When Sirius finally got up to the casket, he was almost terrified to look inside. He wasn’t sure he wanted to remember the man who’d taken him in in this way. But at the same time, he felt almost like he was insulting Mr Potter not to look. He shouldn’t be afraid - there was nothing wrong. So he held his breath as he gazed upon the lifeless face.
It was breathtaking to see all of the small items that were suddenly in the casket. Many people had slipped something in - some symbol of a memory they had once shared with John Potter. For a moment, he tried to look at it all.
His eyes caught on a faded old photograph somebody had left. In it were two boys - one of them looked exactly like James, except with neater hair and no glasses. Sirius peered at the photo, and wondered what John Potter had been like as a child. And who was that other boy? Did John have a best friend as close as James did?
And there were other things. A splintered wand. What could that mean? Perhaps a keepsake from a battle that John had been a part of… There were several cigars. Maybe James’s father had old friends he’d use to sit and smoke with during breaks at work.
There were medals and awards and badges meant to be sewn onto a uniform. Somebody left a Snitch, carefully bound with Spell-O-Tape so as not to escape the casket. Sirius wondered if John had played Quidditch as a boy; maybe he was a Seeker.
He found himself turning to stare at the crowd, trying to pick out who had left the items. His eyes hovered on the oldest of visitors - none of the younger could possibly have shared some of the more personal memories. But still, he was certain that John was older by far than anyone present.
Sirius turned back to the casket and at last looked at the old man’s peaceful face. John looked simply like he was sleeping. His eyes lingered a moment; it was odd how he had seen dead bodies fairly often before now, but he’d never taken the time to really look.
There was something so definite and so obvious about the fact that there was no longer a soul in this person. He could remember playing with Regulus as a child - Regulus holding his breath so that Sirius couldn’t see him breathing, trying to fool him and scare him by playing dead.
Sirius smirked. He would never be fooled by such a thing again, that was for certain.
Rather wistfully, he found his eyes drawn to John’s peacefully folded hands. How many times had he shook those hands in the past? How may times had he and his adoptive father stared solemnly into each other’s eyes and had that silent battle of who was the strongest? How many other hands in a lifetime had John Potter gripped with such strength?
John had taught him how to shake hands and leave an impression.
In the last couple of years, Sirius hadn’t gripped the old man’s hands quite so hard, afraid of hurting him. He had been more frail as of late. But he never said anything and he tried not to let John figure out that he wasn’t using his full strength anymore.
Sirius frowned. How fragile those lifeless hands looked, now. John used to have huge hands, bigger than Sirius’s. Now they looked rather small and flat.
Never again would he shake the hand of a man like that.
“Padfoot,” said James then, ripping him from his thoughts.
Sirius turned quickly, taken by surprise. He vaguely wondered how long James had been beside him.
“You all right?”
“Yes,” Sirius responded. “Are you?”
James glanced at his father and took a deep breath, and then gave a hesitant nod. “This is a start,” he said under his breath. He ran his hand along the glossy, smooth wood of the casket’s edge, and then he gave it a pat, a final farewell.
“I think everyone is waiting,” he said, turning back to Sirius. “If you‘re finished, I mean. I know he meant something different to you…”
Sirius glanced at the crowd. Off to the side, Remus and Peter stood ready, watching. He wasn’t finished, really. He wasn’t sure if he would ever be finished, or ready to never see John’s face again. Wasn't this all just a terrible dream? It still seemed so surreal and unbelievable... he could almost imagine Mr Potter now as the young boy in the picture...
But he dragged his eyes away from the mingling people, pursed his lips and turned back to the body. He leaned in a little towards the casket, as if to share a secret with Jonathon Potter only.
“Thank you,” he said firmly, pointedly, managing to keep his cool. “I hope you liked me,” he added in a low voice, and James pretended not to hear or notice. Then he nodded quickly at James to signal he was ready now, and they both gently closed the lid.
Moments later, Remus and Peter were helping them to carry the heavy box to the hole waiting in the ground. One last prayer was said, the last of the roses were tossed in on top, and then they began to fill the hole with dirt.
you could see it written in his eyes
as the train rolled out of sight -
-The Dream Academy, "Life in a Northern Town" (1985)
This chapter was SO HARD to write. Sorry it took so long; I was putting it off for quite a while. I hope it turned out okay! I tried to make it touching but not super emo or anything. So nobody really broke down or burst into tears - hope that is okay.
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by Lexi Black