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Valedictory by Hourglass nomineePaid AccountHourglass winnerScrivenshaft Winnerthirty2flavors

Rating: PG-13. Created: February 26th, 2007. Updated: February 26th, 2007. Read Reviews (62)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Lily can’t seem to shake the feeling that this will be the last time she ever sees Sirius Black.

She knows that isn’t how she ought to be thinking. She knows the feeling in her stomach doesn’t match the brave facade of optimism that she, James, Sirius and Peter have been working so hard at these last few days. It isn’t that she doubts James’ decision, or even that she doubts Peter. James has assured her time and time again that this is their best plan, their only plan, that they’ll be fine, and the part of her with the half-filled glass has always agreed. Of course they will be. They always have been.

Standing in her foyer with her baby on her hip, her husband at her side and Sirius in front of her, though, she feels different. Her stomach is in knots, her palms are sweaty and she is even closer to tears now than she was when she’d given Remus a farewell hug twenty minutes earlier.

She cannot shake the feeling that once Sirius turns and leaves their little house in Godric’s Hollow, they will never see him again.

It breaks her heart.

“I suppose I’ll be off, then.” Sirius is standing with his back to the door, his hands in his back pockets and a grin that Lily is finally able to identify as fake. He looks from one Potter to the next.

“Yeah, alright,” James says. He’s grinning, too, and Lily finds herself wondering if they have the same horrible feeling in their chest that she does. She hopes they don’t – she thinks it would be an awful feeling, even more awful than it is for her. She can’t imagine James Potter without Sirius Black, nor can she imagine Sirius Black without James Potter. She doubts they can, either.

Nodding, Sirius looks from James to Lily and smiles a little broader. “Lily,” he says simply, cordially, a one-word introduction to a goodbye.

She smiles back at him despite the lump in her throat as she hands Harry to James. The war has not yet taken from Sirius his infectious smile.

“Sirius,” she says, mimicking his tone but failing to hide the earthquake in her voice. Instinctively she steps forward, throwing her arms around him and hiding her face in the center of his shirt. He smells like cigarettes and Firewhisky and cologne, almost like James but not quite, more rugged, more untouchable. She wonders how he’ll make due without them, without his surrogate family, without her and James and Harry. Sirius moves his arms around her, awkward and unsure but strong and sturdy nonetheless, and she wonders how they’ll make due without him. What will they do without him, without James’ best man, Harry’s godfather, the man who was more a brother-in-law to her than Vernon Dursley?

“Thank you,” she starts to say, but she’s cut off mid-way by a sob that rises up like a wave and breaks over her words.

She tightens her grip on his shirt and she feels his arms slacken in confusion. He’s never known how to handle her crying. Not since she was eleven and someone put frogspawn in her hair.

“Lily? Are you—you aren’t crying, are you?” He takes her by the shoulders and pushes her back, and sure enough when he examines her face it is red and tear-streaked. “Oh, Merlin.” He laughs and flashes her a grin and gives one of her shoulders a squeeze. “There is absolutely no need for you to be crying, Lily. It’s going to be fine. Before you know it we’ll have beaten the bastard and you’ll be so sick of me, Moony and Wormtail coming here at all hours of the day and eating all your food and corrupting your son that you’ll be desperate to go into hiding again. We’ll be fine, all of us. You’ll see.”

She can see in his eyes that he doesn’t believe it any more than she does. He has the same expression of lying optimism that James has been wearing for months, and though part of her wants to demand that they stop protecting her, stop treating her like a little girl, she knows she is just as guilty. She plays the part the same as they do.

Maybe that’s what it means to be a Gryffindor, really. Not to believe you’re invincible, but to pretend you do.

So all she does is hiccough and nod and smile weakly at him, raising her hand to wipe off her cheeks.

“It’ll be okay, Lily,” he reiterates, squeezing her shoulder and dropping his hands.

“I know,” she says, but thinks no, I don’t, and neither do you.

Sirius takes a step back from her and looks at Harry and James. Lily does, too, and her heart constricts painfully. James has occupied himself with bouncing Harry up and down on his waist, and as Sirius steps over, Harry looks over at him eagerly, makes a garbled attempt at Sirius’ name and outstretches his arms.

“Hey, Harry,” Sirius says as he takes the boy from his father. He props Harry high up on his shoulder so that they are about eye-level and addresses him seriously as Harry instantly begins playing with his hair. “I feel quite guilty, you know, leaving you all alone in here with your parents. They mean well, really, they do, but don’t be startled if one day you want to play a rousing game of throw-things-on-the-ground-and-have-Mummy-and-Daddy-pick-them-up and Daddy is far too busy fiddling with his broom and Mummy is far too busy reading Chaucer or some other literary crap. I, of course, would always be happy to oblige.”

James moves closer to Lily, moves an arm around her waist, and she presses herself into him, nestling her head under the crook of his arm. They do not say it, but they are both wondering if they will be able to raise their son, or if the task will fall to Sirius.

“You’ll have to be good to them, though,” Sirius continues, frowning grimly. “Be patient, keep them out of trouble.” He slides Harry off of his shoulder and gives him a final grin. “It’s all for you, you know.”

Harry giggles again and thuds his head against Sirius’ stomach, the ultimate sign of affection. He says something entirely incomprehensible, and for a moment, Lily sees Sirius’ veneer of calm crack. She thinks of how likely it is that she will cry tonight, absolutely dissolve into tears once Sirius has gone and Harry is asleep, and for the first time she feels utterly guilty leaving Sirius by himself.

She, at least, will have James’ arms to fall into, and James will have hers, should he need them. Sirius will have nothing more than a pack of cigarettes and some Firewhisky.

Sirius regains his composed expression in a second and holds Harry out to return him to his parents. Instinctively, Lily knows this is her cue; Sirius has said his goodbyes to her and to Harry and now it is James’ turn. She takes her son from his godfather and steps back to give them room.

Sirius slides his hands back into his pockets and grins his laughing grin. James folds his arms across his chest and takes on a matching expression. Lily cannot begin to count how many times she’s seen this very image over the past ten years, the two of them beaming at each other in conspiratory knowledge.

There is something different this time, though. There is a note of fear, a note of sadness, a note of finality that has never found its way between the two of them before.

She swallows hard and holds Harry closer. Her eyes never stopped watering, but now she is mourning for them and them alone.

“You realize,” says Sirius, “this’ll probably be the longest you’ll have been rid of me in the ten years we’ve known each other.”

“I know,” says James, nodding. “I am ecstatic.”

“Arse,” says Sirius, still grinning.

James’ grin broadens. “Well, I try.”

An awkward silence settles between the pair and for the first time their grins fade. Lily suddenly has the acute feeling that she is witnessing something she shouldn’t be, something private. Unable to bring herself to leave the room, she instead walks to the stairs and takes a seat. She sits Harry on her lap, facing her, and bounces him on her knees.

Sirius runs his hand through his hair – a nervous twitch – and James shifts his weight. Neither wants to be the one to broach the subject, neither wants to be the first to admit their anxiety, but neither can keep up the charade, either.

Neither is quite sure how to say goodbye to their best friend, and Lily does not envy their position.

Finally, it is James who breaks the silence. He sighs – a heavy, shuddering sigh – and Lily is certain that his shoulders are suddenly hunched, bent under the weight of a thousand invisible burdens.

“Padfoot--” he starts.

“Prongs,” Sirius counters.

 James grins again, and this time the hint of sadness is even more pronounced. “Thank you for—” He is about to say something about Sirius’ advice, about the Fidelus Charm, about being a decoy, but he hesitates, closes his mouth and then finally finishes with “for everything”.

It is an “everything” that spans a decade.

Sirius smiles sadly too and shakes his head, looking briefly at the ground. “No, James, thank you. For everything.”

“I—I appreciate it,” James says. His voice is tighter than usual. There is a lump in his throat the size of a clementine that won’t seem to go down no matter how frequently he swallows.

Sirius nods sincerely. A lump has found its way to his throat, too. “I know, mate. So do I.”

“I’ll be seeing you, then.”

“Yeah.” Sirius pauses to try swallowing the lump again. “I guess so.”

James takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders, his gaze now firmly set. Lily knows his expression, his stature. He is drawing on every last reserve of strength he has to retain complete composure. It is what he does, what he always does in situations like this – he drains himself of every ounce before he allows himself to break down.

“Take care of yourself, Sirius,” he says firmly.

“Naturally,” Sirius says, grinning weakly. “Try to keep out of trouble, eh?”

He sticks out his hand, and James nods as he shakes it. Their hands rise and fall twice, three times, before Sirius says “oh, fuck it” and staggers forward, using his free arm to pull James into an embrace. With a laugh unnervingly close to tears, James follows suit and returns the hug.

Lily stifles a sob.

They break apart, they drop each other’s hands, and when they step back, their confident smiles are shaken. Sirius straightens, he runs a hand through his hair, and he swallows, hard.

“Bye, Prongs,” he says finally.

James nods, as though asked to agree with something, and Lily thinks it is only in order to delay speaking. When he does, his smile has faded.

“Yeah. Bye, Padfoot.”

Sirius turns his gaze to Lily and he nods. “I’ll be seeing you, Lily, Harry.”

Throat too tight to speak, Lily merely nods her head as she stands. Looking from her to James, Sirius inclines his head in something like a bow, opens the door, steps onto their porch and shuts the door behind him.

Shutting her eyes against tears and shaking her head, Lily forces herself not to think about the future. She forces herself not think about how Sirius feels or what he will do when he gets home, she forces herself not to wonder how long they will have to be in hiding, she forces herself not to wonder who will be there to greet them if they make it through the war.

Instead, she focuses on the instant, and the fact that her husband’s admirable reservoir of resilience has finally dried up. Wordlessly, she moves in front of him and puts an arm around him and he goes limp, wrapping his arms low around her and burying his face in her hair. His shoulders quake under her hand and though he is silent, she knows he is crying.

It’ll be okay, James, we’ll see him again soon lingers on the tip of her tongue, but she cannot bring herself to lie again tonight.

Tonight, she thinks, after all this time, they have both run out of optimism.

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