Fifteen years. It had been fifteen years since Sirius had set foot inside the village of Godric’s Hollow; even now as he stood there in the lane, holding onto Rose’s hand, Sirius felt his footsteps getting heavier, he wasn’t sure if he could do this. There was too much pain, after all these years, he could still feel the rawness within as nostalgia came crashing down in hundreds if not thousands of memories - he had spent the last two years of Hogwarts while staying here with James and his parents; this was the one place where Sirius had felt at home when he wasn’t at school. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and tried to calm himself… compose his thoughts… keep it together.
“Dad? Are you alright?” Rose suddenly asked. She had not let go of his hand since they’d apparated here together; she remembered how Sirius had been a year ago on this very day and wondered what would happen today.
“I will be love.” Sirius turned to look at his daughter, and smiled for the first time since that morning. He was glad that he wasn’t about to do this alone and having Rose by his side gave him the courage to walk on ahead.
The two of them passed several cottages, it was mid-afternoon and yet the village seemed quiet all around. There were very few people out on the streets, those who saw Sirius and Rose paid no heed, going about their own way. There were decorations everywhere they turned - jack o’lanterns nestled on front porches, paper bats strung over fences, cauldron’s filled with green liquid for apple bobbing - Halloween looked just as typical as it did back at Grimmauld Place. Sirius wasn’t interested in all that, his focus was solely centered on the town square, which is when he finally stopped walking.
Rose, who had been turning her head in all directions as she took in the sights, almost bumped into him; not knowing why he had suddenly paused once again, this did not seem like the place they were headed to. Peeking around his waist, she glanced up and saw that there was… a statue… of three people. And Sirius was staring at it in wonder. It was clear to her what this meant to him. When she looked at the statue closer, Rose could see that there was a man who had messy hair and wore glasses, next to him was a lady with long hair and a kind face, and sitting on her lap was a tiny baby boy. Harry and his parents.
For his part, Sirius had somehow managed to crack a sad smile when he noticed the statue, it was a very good likeness of his friends and godson. He thought that this was a fitting tribute to the Potter family but chose not to say anything, there were still people lingering about… by the post office, outside the pub. He didn’t want to draw more attention to himself and Rose. Today wasn’t about him.
“C’mon love. Let’s go.” He finally said, tugging on Rose’s hand as he turned away from the memorial; his heart was racing now, more from fear than excitement when he saw the church and beyond it, the cemetery.
“Okay…” Her voice was a soft whisper, she knew that Sirius was trying not to think too much about the past, but also didn’t know why he had brought her along and not Remus; this was something she thought he would have done alone.
They walked towards the church in silence. Rose was busy observing Sirius quietly, as he tried very hard not to recall his time spent here but the memories of his time even after leaving Hogwarts kept pushing their way to the surface - when he would visit James and Lily at the house and stay for days without complaint, playing with Harry, laughing at James’s jokes and always complimenting Lily’s cooking skills, the long naps he would take on their couch with Harry who was no more than a few months old, the family dinners with Remus joining them, spending the weekends outdoors teaching Harry how to fly, seeing James and Lily so in love, their little family that had welcomed him with open arms. And how all of the dreams they each held onto were suddenly shattered that Halloween night - Sirius could still remember it as clearly as if he was still there… the nightmare which haunted him all along… racing to the house as soon as he could, the dread filling his heart and chilling his bones when he had arrived there… to find Hagrid with Harry, crying and scared and in pain over that scar… and… how he… had seen… and knew… that it was too late.
“Dad?” Rose reached out to touch his arm just then. She had seen him gripping the wall that ran alongside the entire length of the church and knew he was hurting.
Sirius let go of the wooden rails and staggered away, taking deep breaths. He wasn’t even near the cemetery yet, but there was no going back now. Not when he finally had a chance to… be here… and see it with his own eyes.
“I’m okay Rose… I will be…” Sirius heard his own voice and knew that it was a lie; he had been living with the guilt of his best friend’s death for so long now, even though he was innocent of all those horrible crimes he had been accused of, he never stopped wondering how things might have turned out if he had just…
“Do you want to…” Unsure of what she really wanted to ask him, whether it was to keep going forward or turn around and go home, Rose faltered for a second; in her few short years, she had already been exposed to more sadness than was normal, especially since she was only 5 and a half now, but she was strong. She had to be, for herself and her father. Today of all days.
“We keep going.” Pushing away all his memories as far back as he could, Sirius clenched his fists together and continued to make his way towards the church.
Rose merely nodded and followed him; though it was the last day of October, the weather here seemed pleasant enough... not too cold and snowy yet nor warm and bright.... there was an odd gloom, but the sun was still out. She wasn't worried about a chance of rain, no... Rose's only concern was Sirius. A part of her did feel slightly nervous to be entering a cemetery; she had visited her own parent’s graves on the first anniversary of the accident two months ago, but Ottery St. Catchpole was a more… cheerful place… than this part of Godric’s Hollow appeared to be.
When they finally passed through the church, neither one of them noticing any surroundings, Sirius and Rose walked on until they came to a kissing gate. Beyond that lay the graveyard... and this time, without any hesitation, Sirius pushed it open as he finally set foot inside. The sun had not yet set, it’s soft rays casting light upon several gravestones… neither one knew where they were meant to be and once Rose saw her father carefully looking around, checking names, she figured there was no harm in trying to help out.
“Abbott… Peverell… Dumbledore?” Sirius read the names of a few familiar Wizarding families that he passed, before stopping in front of a dark stone one and saw ‘Kendra Dumbledore… and Her Daughter Ariana’ written below the dates with an inscription etched underneath.
“Dad? I… I think I found them…” Rose suddenly called out, not giving a chance for Sirius to fully process the fact that Dumbledore’s family was buried here, at Godric’s Hollow as well.
And all of a sudden, Sirius froze up; there was something in Rose’s voice which made him believe that she had already found them. Turning around, he saw that she was standing two rows behind Kendra and Ariana’s graves, a white marble headstone that glistened in the sunlight. For a very long second, everything around him seemed to slow down. The next thing that Sirius knew, he felt his feet moving in that direction but in his mind, there were dozens of thoughts spinning around… that fear which he hadn’t felt in a long time was resurfacing again, a heavy weight which constricted his heart and lungs, making it harder to breathe. The closer he got, Rose could see the look on his face and took a step back, giving him some space. When he finally reached where she stood, Sirius closed his eyes for a brief second before facing the place he had been searching for. There was enough light for him to see the words engraved upon the marble -
JAMES POTTER LILY POTTER
BORN 27 MARCH 1960 BORN 30 JANUARY 1960
DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981 DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
He mouthed the words written and that was when he realized, the shock of it all was beginning to hit him now. After all these years. Sirius wasn’t aware of his lip quivering or his knees starting to tremble; almost as if he was in a trance, he slowly sank down to the ground on his knees and hung his head, letting out a shuddering sigh.
“James. Lily.” Rose, who had been staring at her father in shock, having never seen him like this before, heard the sadness and pain in his voice when he finally spoke. “I… I’m so sorry.” He whispered softly, one hand half-raised as if to trace the names of his friends, but stopped mere inches away.
There was a time when Sirius never believed that he would get this chance… to be able to actually come back to Godric’s Hollow… to James and Lily, but he owed them that much. They were always going to be the closest family he ever had in his life. And kneeling before their graves now, Sirius finally let go of all the feelings and thoughts and fears and pain and sadness as he broke down crying; for the first time in fifteen years since that Halloween night in 1981, Sirius Black cried and cried, letting the sobs wrack his body as the grief was released at last. There was so much that he wanted to say, so much that he had to apologize for, so much guilt that he had carried since then, but in that moment, nothing else mattered. He let the tears fall down his cheeks, knowing his throat was tightening and the knuckles of his hands turning white, clenched into fists on the dirt.
All the while, Rose held a hand over her mouth, tears in her eyes as she watched her dad silently, wishing that there was something she could do for him, she had never truly known just how much pain he had been until now. Before she thought about what she was going to do, Rose ran over to Sirius and as soon as she touched his shoulder, he briefly seemed to realize that he wasn’t alone when she stood in front of him; the next thing she knew, Sirius had his arms around her waist, his head against her stomach as he shuddered through the last of his tears. Rose simply hugged him close as she caressed his hair and sighed to herself. This was enough. For a few more minutes, both father and daughter stayed the way they were… until… Sirius felt something soft touching his face. At first he thought that it had started to rain, but there was no water droplets, there was only a… flower petal?
“Rose?” Sirius’s voice was a bit hoarse as he blinked the last of his tears away, now more aware of her presence.
He didn’t get a chance to say anything else, for when his eyes fell on the graves once more, Sirius saw dozens of tiny pink petals laying there. It was raining flowers… just barely… and when he pulled back just enough to look at his daughter, he saw that she looked surprised at what her magic had caused this time around.
“I… I don’t know how…” She started to say, as usual her magic seemed to have a mind of its own but even though she was feeling her father’s sadness, the rose petals were a happy thing.
“It’s okay… come here love.” Smiling through his tears, Sirius gently pulled her down to sit on his lap then, “Thank you.” He said, kissing the top of her head… the pain was starting to recede now.
The gesture had been accidental but beautiful and touching. Sirius had forgotten to bring flowers, but he did have his wand, and with a wordless flick, he conjured up a wreath of white lilies to rest atop the roses. The two of them sat there quietly, with Rose leaning against his chest as he tried to sort through his thoughts.
“Prongs. Lils… I’d like to you meet my daughter, Marlene Rose Black.” When Sirius spoke once more, he knew that despite all the other things he had to say to them, about how he had let them down by removing himself as their Secret Keeper that night, about how he wished he could have taken it all back in an instant if there was a chance to change events… he chose to focus on the fact that both his friends would have wanted him to be happy, more than anything. And he was, ever since Rose had come into his life.
“She saved me, when I was down and at my lowest point. She gave me a reason to live again, to smile, to laugh…” Sirius knew that Rose was listening to his words, as he continued talking, “I never thought I would ever be a father, you knew that didn’t you Lils?” He could remember those memories as clearly as it were only yesterday when he was named Harry’s Godfather and spent the first year of that baby’s life taking care of him as much as his parents did, but always joking that settling down with a family of his own was a fairytale, a fantasy, a dream, nothing more. “And yet you always told me that someday, maybe I would… you said that I would be a great dad when I have a kid of my own, and I promise you… and James, to protect Harry no matter what, and also that I will always love my daughter and be there by her side forever.” He glanced down and saw Rose turn around as she met his gaze and hugged him.
This time, when she looked into his eyes, the sadness that had always been prevalent seemed to be fading away as something else replaced it… something Rose would have guessed as… happiness. There was no need to ask him anything, she knew how he felt and also believed with all her heart that he really would be okay soon.
“I love you Dad.” Was all that was needed to be said as she rested her head against his chest.
“I love you Rose.” Sirius said to her with a smile, and sighed deeply... there was a lightness within him now, as if that weight had been lifted and dissipated. He knew that the sadness wouldn’t completely go away, but with time, his scars would heal and his memories would make him laugh and his stories would be filled with joyful nostalgia.The sun was starting to set when Sirius realized that he and Rose were going to be late for their own Halloween party. After everything that happened over the summer, though the dangers were still prominent and strong as ever, with his newfound freedom, Sirius had decided to take the opportunity, this second chance and grab it in order to live life to the fullest extent; starting with a simple celebration of the holiday season at home with Rose. She was almost dozing off to sleep on his shoulder, and so when he stood up, Sirius carefully made sure that he didn’t disturb her while he headed back. Just as he laid a hand on the marble headstone, saying a silent goodbye to his friends, there was a… a moment when he glanced up… and for a split second, Sirius swore that he could see… standing by the roadside, where the kissing gate was, a young couple holding hands… the man who had messy black hair, round glasses and a big smile on his face, and the woman, with flaming red hair, bright green eyes who met his gaze. In a blink of an eye, they had vanished… but those gentle, kind smiles which were for him… which spoke a thousand words… he knew now that all was forgiven.