The Unexpected Visitor

Chapter 9

Silence. That's the first thing Sirius hears as soon as he steps inside what remained of Godric's Hollow; a loud and deafening silence. Cold is the feeling he experiences as his eyes wander over the destruction. Emptiness is something he thinks of as his feet drag themselves across the hallway to the staircase. Heartbreak is more than just a word when he sees…

"James!" Sirius cries out, falling to his knees; for a moment his heart stops, "No, no no no! James?" It feels like someone is tearing him apart from the inside out when he touches James's cheek and knows… he is too late. "No, please… no." This can't be happening, his heart is hammering loudly and the world is spinning… Sirius doesn't know what to do… what to think… he can't breathe, his throat is burning, his chest is hurting, his hands are shaking… James is gone.

He's kneeling on the steps of the place he has called 'home' for as long as he can remember, cradling his best friend and squeezing his eyes shut as the tears begin to form. He does not know how much time has passed, all he knows is that he cannot and will not leave James here like this. There is a noise, in the midst of the silence; Sirius suddenly hears something from a distance… the sound of a baby crying… and he remembers that he is not alone anymore.

"Harry." His godson is still here in the house, which means… "Lily!" Sirius cries out in the darkness. He needs to know where they are. He needs to see for himself.

Before he moves however, Sirius spares a moment to close those hazel brown eyes and briefly kisses James's forehead. Making haste now, he runs upstairs, as fast as his tremblings legs can take him and when he reaches the nursery, his heart sinks again.

"Oh, Lily…" He whispers softly when he sees her.

She hadn't run, she hadn't taken Harry to safety, she hadn't left James alone. Sirius knew she wouldn't have, and once more he falls to the floor, only for a minute to brush away a lock of red hair from her face and kiss her forehead, closing her eyes.

The cries are louder now, Harry is right there in his crib. As soon as Sirius stands up to see the little boy with tears in his eyes, he catches a glimpse of the scar; there is nothing else to think of but keeping him safe… but before he can lift the baby in his arms… Sirius suddenly feels everything going black all around him and someone is holding both of his hands, calling his name.

"Sirius? Sirius!" It was a girl's voice, someone he recognized and yet a name he can't quite place.

His eyes fluttered open and close almost immediately; it was far too bright for him… he wanted to… no... he needed to go back to the place where everything was dark, where there were no lights to pull him out of the shadows, away from James and Lily, he didn't want to leave them, he couldn't leave them behind. Still, this girl was persistent as she tugged his hands and Sirius was forced to face reality once again.

"Rose." He remembered now, remembered who she was and sighed deeply as he rubbed his forehead, trying to make the images go away.

"Sirius…" Rose said his name again, looking at him with big eyes, a little confused; she sensed something had changed, but she was not sure what it was just then.

"What is it?" His voice seemed different all of a sudden, and Rose didn't know how to place it, but if she knew about annoyance, that was probably what Sirius sounded like.

"Are you okay?" She asked him, standing there only a few feet away wondering what she can do to help.

"I'm fine. Do you need anything?" Sirius said, finally glancing up to see her staring at him in that way she always did whenever she was about to hug him or offer him chocolate to lift his spirits. It's the last thing he wanted in that moment; after another sleepless night and this… memory, he just needed to be alone.

"No, but…" Rose began to say something else, or perhaps ask him another pointless question, and so he interrupted her.

"But what Rose? I already told you I'm fine, and if you don't need me for anything then why don't you go and play with Buckbeak or something." He didn't need this right now; seeing Rose in front of him looking worried when she doesn't even know why he's the way he always is.

And when that thought enters his mind, Sirius had another second thought - how was it possible that even after this child had gone through loss herself and not just any loss, but the loss of her parents, there was still a smile on her face? There was also the fact that she had taken on the job, the responsibility, of doing everything in her power as a four year old to make him smile. Even when he didn't want to, when he didn't feel like it, when all he wants is to just be… alone.

"You are sad… was it a bad dream?" Despite herself, Rose can't help but try to help Sirius, not willing to just leave him the way he seemed now, looking tired and with dark circles under his eyes.

"A bad dream?" Sirius let out a hollow laugh when he heard her say those words. "It was my worst nightmare haunting me as it has for the last fifteen years of my life! The most painful moment I've ever experienced, the night when I lost the only family I ever had who loved me more than my own flesh and blood. The last time I was ever happy. So no, Rose… it was not a bad dream." He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath, the images flashing like a blur in that second.

"I can help." Rose spoke softly, tilting her head to one side, not sure she understood everything he had just said but realizing the meaning behind his words.

"I don't need your help." He snapped automatically without thinking; the words are out of his mouth before he even realizes it and as soon as Rose heard him say that, she took a step back, clearly shocked and hurt by the icy tone of his voice.

Stunned by Sirius's behavior, this side of him that she hadn't seen before until this very moment, Rose didn't know what else to say. And so she simply nodded, knowing his eyes were focused on her and turned around to walk, not run, out of the study, leaving him to stare in disbelief as he was suddenly struck with the error of what he'd just said. Of all the people that he might ever get angry with, he knew that Rose would be the last person he would want to hurt… but he had… again; this time it felt worse than before and as soon as he comprehended everything, Sirius did stand up, intending to run after her and apologize… and yet… there was a moment of hesitation. It lasted a mere second, but it was enough for him to let Rose be for now.

"I need another drink." Muttering to himself, Sirius headed for the table where he'd left a bottle of mead and poured another glass before gulping it down and feeling the alcohol start to numb him once more.

That was when he glanced at everything else scattered there, and saw something that he had forgotten about - a few photo albums spread out across, some of them were open with people moving in and out of sight. One of those many albums were filled with pictures from a time when he knew he had been happy. The day that James and Lily got married; of course he had this entire collection here with him, that isn't surprising to Sirius… what was surprising to him is the fact that he seemed to be okay as a hand reached out to turn the pages, looking back at his younger self, not yet twenty years old and still full of life, happiness, laughter. He paused at a memorable picture, one of him with the bride and groom and Remus, just the four of them together at the wedding reception, laughing about something or the other James had probably said jokingly.

"Ladies and Gentlemen! My fellow Witches and Wizards, it is my honor to welcome you all to the wedding reception of my two best mates, James and Lily, now known as Mr. and Mrs. Potter! I, Sirius Black, also known as the best man, will be your host for the night…"

The memory ended abruptly as a crashing noise broke Sirius's concentration, and at first he thought that someone had fallen over the umbrella stand outside, but on feeling a stabbing pain in his hand and hearing no sound of his mother's yells, he glanced down to see that his glass has fallen to the floor as a result of him unknowingly breaking it while gripping it tightly; there was a cut on his palm which had already started to bleed and as he noticed this, he forgot to pick up the pieces, sensing that his nightmare was about to return.

A knock on the study door interrupted his thoughts, but Sirius didn't turn around to face Rose… he may have been ready to apologize but he was still not ready to face her.

"I thought I told you Rose, I don't want to talk right now." Sirius said as he pressed his wrist, trying to stop staring at the blood.

"Did something happen with you and Rose?" The voice that spoke up wasn't Rose's, but rather Tonks' who was standing by the doorway with her arms crossed, staring at her cousin with a look on her face he hadn't seen before.

"Dora! What… what are you doing here?" Spinning around at the sound of her voice, Sirius was surprised to see her there; he hadn't expecting anyone to come to the house today.

"Why don't you tell me what's going on with you first?" Tonks said to him, crossing over to where he stood and grabbed his hand, "What happened Sirius? Why are you bleeding and where's Rose?" She obviously was worried about him.

Still smarting from the outburst of anger he'd displayed towards Rose when he had snapped at her, Sirius didn't want to take that risk with Tonks and lash out unintentionally. He needed to be left alone, for their sakes more than his; and yet, Tonks wasn't about to just let Sirius push her away. Without waiting, she began to wrap his hand up.

"It's nothing, no need for you to worry." He replied at last, watching Tonks make quick work of his injury in moments.

"Sirius…" That is all Tonks managed to say before he cut her off angrily, unable to stop himself.

"I don't need a babysitter Dora, I'm perfectly fine." Sirius's voice didn't sound loud but Tonks could hear the change in his tone.

"If you must know, I came here to babysit Rose." Tonks knew perfectly well why Sirius was acting like this which was why she let her last words remain unsaid, "And not you."

"Well… she's probably in the library or with Buckbeak. Try her room if you can't find her." Sighing for a moment, Sirius used his uninjured hand to pinch his nose, hoping to block out the memories which were threatening to resurface again.

Blood. That's the thing about magic and spells, they leave no physical signs of evidence behind; certainly not one of the Unforgivable Curses… except for Harry's scar… there was no blood anywhere in Godric's Hollow that night. It's a small mercy to know that James and Lily were not injured, even if doesn't help ease the pain.

"You don't know where she is do you?" Tonks' voice was soft now as her words pulled Sirius back to reality; she may have not known him for too long but if there was one thing Tonks understood about her cousin, it was his stubbornness, a trait that definitely ran in the family.

"I… I may have… snapped at her." Sirius finally admitted out loud, turning his gaze away from Tonks. He was not proud of what he'd done, "I didn't mean to… it just… I shouldn't have gotten mad."

"So apologize to her and explain everything, I know she'll understand." Touching his shoulder as a way of making him turn back to look at her, Tonks tried to reassure him, "This is a hard day for you and she deserves to know…"

"What? What does she deserve to know?" It was like a firework going off unexpectedly, as Sirius snapped again, "Tell me, do you think I should tell Rose about the time James and Lily were murdered by Voldemort? Or maybe I should tell her that I was framed for it and sent to Azkaban for twelve years? And what about the fact that I'm still a wanted fugitive who escaped and has been on the run for the last two years now? She's a child Dora, four years old… with no parents and no family of her own… she doesn't need more darkness in her life." Breathing heavily, he slowly sank into a chair and stared at his cousin who had listened to him without saying a word.

"You're right." Tonks said at last, something that Sirius hadn't expected to hear her say, "I know that Rose is still just a child, Sirius and she doesn't need to know about these things, not in detail, maybe not all of it… what I do know is that if you tell her something… you won't be spreading any darkness in her life, but maybe you might find some light in your life." She sat down next to him and met his gaze, "We both know how much Rose has changed you in these few months that she's been here she makes you smile, makes you laugh, you're even painting again. You need each other, and I think you know that."

Once all was said and done, Tonks knew it was time to leave Sirius to his thoughts; there was no need for her to say anything else. With a gentle reassuring squeeze on his knee, she gave him a small smile and went in search of Rose. It didn't take the young witch a long time to find the girl, as soon as she had headed towards the hallway, intending to check all the rooms if she had to, there was Rose, sitting on the steps. Tonks could see her looking a little sad, with both hands on her cheeks as she stared at the wall across.

"Hello Rose." Smiling brightly in the hopes that she would be surprised, Tonks promptly sat down beside the little girl and was instantly tackled by a hug.

"Dora!" Rose's features did brighten once she saw Tonks, it had been a while since their last meeting and Rose definitely was glad to have someone there with her now.

"Ooof! Someone's very happy to see me." Tonks said with a laugh as she hugged Rose back with equal fervor, "How are you Rose?"

"I'm okay." When she heard his question, Rose calmed down a little, the memory of what had happened with Sirius was still on her mind. "Sirius is sad." She added, knowing that telling Tonks was the right thing to do.

"I know, I just saw him." It was not Tonks' place to say anything to Rose about Sirius, but that didn't mean she couldn't cheer the girl up a little. "He's not having a good day, and I know that he got upset with you, but maybe if there was something that we could do for Sirius to make him feel better, that would be a good thing, wouldn't it?" She had absolutely no idea of how to go about doing so but Tonks figured it was worth a shot.

"Oh yes!" Rose exclaimed happily on hearing that suggestion, she may have been experiencing a weird feeling in her heart, but the thought of Tonks wanting to help Sirius as well was all she needed. "I know what to do."

There was a plan, a secret, something that Rose had been thinking about for quite some time now and she finally had a chance to share it with someone else. Someone like Tonks who would most likely be able to assist her in this… adventure of sorts. And so with her mind made up, Rose quickly explained her idea, whispering it in Tonks' ears even though there was no one around.

"Wow." Was the first reaction that Tonks had when she finished listening, "This is a beautiful idea Rose! I will definitely help you." She recalled telling Sirius only minutes ago that Rose was someone who could bring light back into his life and now, Tonks could see just how special she had proven to be.

"Let's go then." Jumping up to her feet, Rose pulled Tonks' hands and together, the two of them made their way upstairs in order to begin work on this new plan.

Meanwhile, back in the study, Sirius who had heard everything Tonks had said to him remained seated where he was, eyes focused on nothing in particular thinking about too many things at one time… he could still see the look on Rose's face after hearing his voice raised at her, he could not block out the nightmare completely either, but there was more… he also remembered the aftermath of what had happened when he had left Godric's Hollow and all of those memories were now playing on his mind… and he was not about to let that happen.

Quickly as he could, Sirius left the room in order to make his way towards the kitchen, hoping to find something stronger than plain old mead; the bright rays of sunlight streaming in through the windows seemed to be taunting him as he walked past the dining room, it seemed to be early afternoon, and for the first time, Sirius actually hoped that the day could have been dull and gloomy and possibly even rainy… but things never went how he wanted them to go… which meant he just had to brace himself and try to make it to the end of this day. However, just as he reached the main entrance, there was another surprise visitor standing in the corridor.

"Remus?" For a second, Sirius wondered if everyone was going to show up here all day long, but then he remembered something that Lupin had said to him the last time they'd spoken.

"Sirius." Lupin gave his a friend a nod as he took off his black jacket, seemingly a little somber, which was normal perhaps given the importance of the day.

"I thought that… weren't you supposed to…" Sirius started to say once Lupin had entered the house properly.

"Go to Godric's Hollow?" Finishing the other man's sentence, Lupin answered, "I've just come from there."

"Oh." Clearly he hadn't thought of that possibility, "I see." Sirius did feel glad to have Lupin around, he was the only other person who really knew what this day would be like.

"Did I miss something?" Lupin asked as he gestured to the bandaged hand which Sirius clearly had not even remembered.

"Not really, just a small cut. Broken glass. My fault, but Tonks took it upon herself to make sure I don't do anything stupid again." Shrugging as he answered, Sirius explained what had happened to him.

"Tonks is here? I thought she was going to be spending the day at home." Trying not to sound… shocked, Lupin hoped that his question sounded a little casual or curious.

"She wanted to spend time with Rose." Sirius said and began making his way towards the kitchen as was his plan.

"That's nice." Lupin did not need to know anything more to realize that something was troubling Sirius.

"Drink?" Taking out another glass from the cupboard, Sirius made the offer to his friend, knowing that Lupin had followed him without saying a word.

"Sure, I'll have one." The key, Lupin knew, to getting his friend to open up was time… and space; in his own time, Sirius would talk about it. Hopefully. Today of all the days was a difficult one, for both of them, but more so on Sirius and Lupin understood that.

With the drinks poured and a full bottle in hand ready for refilling at any time, both friends returned to the study; it was not too bright, given that the curtains had been drawn and Sirius sensed some sort of comfort there. Once they were seated in the armchairs by the unlit fireplace, a strange but peaceful silence fell between the two men… there was so much to say, so much they could say, so much they needed to say… but before that, this temporary respite was welcomed. It lasted for several long minutes during which Sirius and Lupin simply drank a glass of oak-matured mead respectively and when the time came for one of them to break the quiet around them, the result was surprisingly… amusing.

"What happened with Rose?"

"How was it going there?"

Both of them ended up speaking at the same time, asking their questions to the other and just for a second, Sirius felt the corners of his mouth tugging upwards… even if only a little… before waving his hand to Lupin.

"You first." He said to his friend, knowing that he would have to deal with this sooner rather than later, but Sirius was curious to ask how Lupin knew something had occurred between them. "What gave it away?"

"Apart from the fact that you mentioned Rose only once, indirectly in answer to my question about Tonks? I saw your face when you said her name; the last time you looked like that was the time Rose ran away from the house… and if she had done so again, you wouldn't be here right now… but something happened, am I right?" Lupin answered calmly, he had always been good at observing people, especially his own friends.

"Right." Sirius didn't know what else he could say after hearing such a detailed and accurate explanation, this was Remus Lupin after all; if he didn't know everything then no one did. "We might have… fought. Sort of. Not exactly… I may have yelled, or snapped at her. Said I didn't need her help." He said at last, running one hand through his hair as he spoke, that last bit was something he hadn't mentioned to Tonks.

"Ah, well that certainly explains it then." Leaning back in his armchair, Lupin could see how something like this might bother Sirius.

"Yeah. Tonks is with her now so…" That was a sign from Sirius indicating he didn't want to talk about this anymore and sure enough, he did change topics immediately, "How was it at… Godric's Hollow?"

"Good." Lupin knew better than to pursue the topic about Rose, not at the present moment at least and so he answered Sirius's question, "It was busy in the town square… everyone getting ready for Halloween. The memorial is still there, people leave flowers sometimes."

"Must be nice." Sirius said in reply to Lupin's comments, "Being able to go there whenever you wish."

"You haven't gone back?" Looking on this question later was when Lupin would realize things had escalated.

Sirius did not answer him immediately, the thought of going to Godric's Hollow after all these years seemed to be nothing more than a dream; truthfully however, Sirius knew why he had never returned and why he never could.

"No I haven't gone back there." He finally said, choosing not to dwell on these thoughts for too long. "I can't." This was spoken in a soft whisper, but Lupin still heard him.

"You can't go back to Godric's Hollow?" Lupin asked, "Or you won't? Which one is it Sirius?" There was something about the way Sirius said those words which made Lupin feel like he was keeping something from him.

"I can't." Sirius repeated, without breaking eye contact as he spoke. "I'm locked up in my own house, how could I possibly go anywhere?" He stated the obvious.

"What about before this? After you… escaped… there was a chance wasn't there? Or last year?" Lupin wanted to know why he was the only one who had always gone to Godric's Hollow every single year for the last fourteen years.

"I couldn't." There was no way he could be talking about this right now, Sirius could already feel the thoughts starting to overwhelm him.

"Why not?" If anything, Lupin was persistent; he needed to know what Sirius was holding back.

"Because I was there!" Sirius was on his feet before he knew what was happening, his voice raised louder than it had ever been, "I was there that night! I was the one who found James and Lily… after… I saw everything… I was there." Of all the things he could have said, Sirius didn't even realize when this is what he had gone with, "Where were you Remus? Where were you on the night that your best friends were murdered?" All of the anger and pain and sadness and guilt were mixed together as they had been building up inside him for all this time.

"You know damn well where I was Sirius." Lupin was stunned when he heard those words, but he didn't back down, "Dumbledore had sent me away on a mission for the Order. I came as soon as I heard… I didn't know… I didn't know where you were… and by the time I reached back, they had already arrested you." And that was that; with everything out in the open at last, they both sat down.

The silence was different than it had been initially, how quickly things changed so drastically when emotions came into play; there was tension, palpable tension in the air between the two friends and yet there was also a sense of… them having gotten past a big obstacle. And unlike last time, Sirius was the only one who spoke first.

"We were going to leave." His voice was soft now, a little calmer but there was a faraway look in his eyes that could be seen.

"What?" Lupin didn't know what he expected to hear from Sirius, but certainly not that.

"The four of us… we were going to leave… go somewhere else, away from Godric's Hollow, away from everything." As he spoke up, elaborating on what he meant, Sirius finally met Lupin's gaze with a sad smile on his face.

"Where would you have gone?" Hearing Sirius confirm his thoughts, Lupin wondered how much else there was from that night he didn't know about.

"I didn't know, I don't think any of us knew. Lily agreed to it almost immediately, because if it meant keeping Harry safe… James, he… he was the stubborn one. He didn't want to run; said he would make a stand if it came down to that." Sirius sighed for a moment before continuing, "We had a fight the evening before, James and I, we agreed to disagree on what was best for the family… and I left, telling Lily that I'd come back the next night to talk some sense into James."

Sirius paused as he took a deep, shuddering breath; the memory of that argument coming back to him. As always, Lily had intervened to play mediator and helped them settle the discussion peacefully; if she hadn't… he would have left them on a sour note… but thanks to her, Sirius's last words to James were something he never regretted.

"I love you, brother." Sirius says to James, standing at the doorway as he hugs his best friend and bids him goodnight.

"I would have gone to the end of the world to keep them all safe." He whispered more to himself than Lupin; forgetting for a second that his friend was sitting there. "I was supposed to be their Secret Keeper!" There it was, Sirius's reason behind everything he was feeling. A tiny, split second of an outburst on his part.

"I know." Lupin said, but he could tell that Sirius hadn't heard him, lost in his train of thoughts as he continued to speak.

"I knew there was something wrong that night, I had a bad feeling about… about him… and I went to his hiding place and he was gone." Sirius was caught in the memory of that night, not knowing he was talking aloud. "Whatever the plan was, I thought I could make it on time… get them out of the house before… but I was too late. I was too late. They were gone… James and Lily. I was meant to keep them safe."

Lupin, who had been listening to his friend all this time, without knowing what was there for him to say could feel the tears on his cheeks. And to his surprise, he noticed something in that moment he hadn't before… it wasn't the guilt Sirius had just confessed to; it was something much more shocking than that.

"I have to go talk to Rose." All of a sudden, as if just remembering what had happened with Rose, Sirius stood up from his chair, determined to face this now.

"Are you sure?" Lupin asked as he too stood, watching Sirius carefully and wondering if he had been mistaken.

"Yeah… I need to apologize, before it's too late." Sirius knew that this was what he had to do, making things right with Rose was only one step in the right direction.

He didn't know everything about where this was going to take him, but the more he thought about it, the more he knew James and Lily would have expected this much from him and he did owe Rose an explanation after his apology.

"Okay then." He wouldn't need to be there when they spoke to each other, but Lupin figured it wouldn't be a problem for him to go with Sirius to find out exactly where Rose was.

Fortunately for the two men, by the time they headed outside, Tonks accidentally bumped into Lupin for she hadn't known he or Sirius were leaving the study at the very same moment she had come there to find them. And luckily, Lupin had good reflexes to catch Tonks by the waist before she fell as he instinctively reached out to her. Neither one of them noticed Rose wasn't there by her side and they temporarily forgot Sirius stood not five feet away from the pair… until he cleared his throat.

"Dora, are you alright?" Sirius figured that Lupin probably didn't remember his own name in that moment.

"Huh? Oh… yes, yes I'm fine." Tonks was the first one to realize that she was still holding Lupin's shoulders and immediately stepped away, standing up properly now and turning a bright shade of red.

"Good. Have you seen Rose? She didn't come down with you?" He cut straight to the point, knowing that despite everything he had gone through this afternoon, there was a chance he could start making veiled references to what only he seemed to be noticing?

"She's upstairs, in the guest room where Hermione and Ginny were staying… we spent some time in the library together and then I came looking for you." Turning to face Sirius completely, Tonks was still acutely aware of the fact that Lupin stood just beside her.

"Is she… is she okay now?" Sirius had to ask Tonks, if he could gauge how her mood was before going up to see her, maybe that would help… or maybe it wouldn't… maybe he just wanted to know if she was okay.

"I know that she will be when you talk to her." Tonks said to him mysteriously, revealing no signs of what she meant by that.

"You're not going to give me anything else are you?" If he had to guess, Sirius would have realized that this was his cousin's subtle way of how she was reacting to what had happened between him and Rose; he also knew that he probably deserved this.

"No. I'm not." Now there was a hint of a smile from her, the mood was lighter and Tonks hoped it would stay this way.

"Alright, well… umm… the two of you are welcome to stay for dinner. If you want." Sirius made the offer to both Tonks and Lupin as he started to make his way upstairs, it was polite manners on the outside, but he also knew it would mean a lot to Rose if they had some company that night.

"Talk to Rose, we'll take care of dinner." Lupin finally spoke up, accepting Sirius's offer a little too quickly, before Tonks even had a chance to say something. It was only after he glanced back at her did he notice she had pursed her mouth shut and may have been biting her lower lip.

Sirius chose not to say anything to that but simply left Tonks and Lupin to it and headed for the guest room which had been Rose's room on the first night she had stayed in the house. He stopped outside the bedroom for a second, but instead of pausing to think, Sirius simply took a deep breath and knocked gently on the door before opening it slowly. Stepping inside, he didn't even need to glance around to find her… as soon as he had entered, he saw Rose sitting on the windowsill with her legs pulled up to her chest and her head resting to one side, away from him. She had not heard him knock nor had she sensed his presence; it gave Sirius a moment to gather his thoughts as he tried to choose his words carefully.

Just as he was about to take a step forward and call out to her, Sirius felt that hesitation again. Seeing Rose there, looking so small and yet so strong in her own way made his heart feel something he hadn't felt in a long time… and he was scared… not of these feelings… but of not being able to keep his promise from never hurting her. He knew that he didn't deserve Rose, someone with so much kindness and happiness and… she didn't deserve someone like him either, someone who only could remember what all these emotions were because of past memories, memories that were forever tinged with sadness, cold and dark, empty and dreadful, pain and anger, someone who was still haunted by nightmares and plagued with sleepless nights, Rose needed someone… who was not broken. And yet, as he stood there, watching her, the memory came back to him, the one which had made him jump out of his chair in the study.

"We don't have to be related by blood to be family Sirius, you're one of us now and nothing will ever change that. We love you, just the way you are, so don't ever change." Lily says handing three month old Harry to him with a smile on her face as she goes into the kitchen and he knows she isn't just telling him this, she really means what she said. It is only when Harry starts to wail and howl loudly does Sirius realize that Lily's tricked him into changing the baby's diapers again.

Remembering those happy days brought a smile to his face and Sirius knew what he had to do; perhaps Rose had fallen asleep, and if she was, then he would take her back to their room and find another opportunity later, after dinner, to talk to her. Walking across to where she sat, he learned that she was wide awake, for as soon as he reached the windowsill and touched her head, Rose turned around immediately.

"Sirius?" Her voice was shaky and Sirius saw why the moment he knelt down in front of her; there were tears in her eyes.

"Rose? What is it love?" Sirius had not thought that he would find her crying and couldn't imagine why Tonks wouldn't have told him about this. "Are you alright?" He asked again, taking both of her hands in his and made her turn around to face him.

"I… I was thinking about my… my momma and daddy." Rose said in between sniffles, "I didn't mean to cry… Dora… Dora told me… you are sad because of Harry's momma and daddy… today… we were in the library… and I started to miss them." She explained herself slowly.

"Oh Rose." Seeing her like this tugged at Sirius's heart, he really shouldn't have yelled at her earlier, "It's okay to cry, you can always cry if you're missing your parents." He reached out a hand to her cheeks as he wiped away her tears before pulling her into his arms for a hug. "I'm sorry love, I am so sorry. I never meant to get mad at you earlier, and everything I said, I didn't mean it at all."

"I know." Head buried in the crook of his neck, Rose sounded a little soft-spoken but Sirius heard her clearly and moved back only enough for him to look into her eyes.

"Will you forgive me?" He asked her.

"Yes I do." Rose didn't need to say the words, she wanted to say that she was never angry at him but there was a part of her which knew that Sirius wanted to hear the words. And maybe Tonks had mentioned something along those lines to her before.

"What is it Rose?" Sirius could sense that there was something more she wanted to say to him, and so he reached out to take her hand again and squeezed it gently.

"I wanted to say…" She paused, looking at him with her big brown eyes, unsure of how to go on, "I… I love you, Sirius." The words stumbled out of their own accord, suddenly, unexpectedly, randomly, for no apparent reason now, but that's how it happened.

Sirius heard the words loud and clear, knowing somewhere in the back of his mind that the usual response to something like this was to repeat the words… but if he had been able to stun Rose into silence earlier, she certainly was capable of doing the same to him. He could feel his lips parting open as if to say something, to acknowledge that he had heard her, and yet what he did manage to say was probably not what Rose wanted to hear from him.

"I was wrong." Sirius started off abruptly, knowing Rose was watching him, "I said that I didn't need your help, but I was wrong…" He was picking at the threads until he stopped and looked at her when he continued, this was something he had to say face to face, "I do need your help Rose; I need to see your smile every day, I need to hear your laughter, I need your hugs, I need your chocolates, I need your support when I'm having a bad day… but more than any of that… I need you."

Everything stilled for a moment once more after he stopped talking, falling silent as he stared into her eyes; he had bared his heart to her, it wasn't the words he had hoped to use… it was funny, him being able to call Rose by the name of 'love' but he couldn't tell her… he did know how to feel that emotion as well. And when she simply sat down herself to hug him without saying anything, Sirius couldn't help but smile… for the first time properly since that day had started; and thought to himself, maybe one day, someday he would find the courage to say the words back… that he did love her too.

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