- Discussion - Child Abuse
Sirius can’t pinpoint the moment he fell in love with James Potter.
It wasn’t love at first sight on the train to Hogwarts. Potter had barrelled into the compartment where Sirius had been hiding and sat down just as the train lurched forward. Sirius had been too caught up in eleven year old bravado and maintaining his cool in front of the Potter heir to notice the boy as anything other than the symbolic opposite of everything his own family represented. Their families were rivals; one entrenched in Dark, the other steadfast in the Light. Despite his own childish rebellion about his family’s position, Sirius was a Black and wasn’t going to give a Potter an inch. After terse greetings of ‘Black’ and ‘Potter,’ they’d subsided into an awkward silence until Potter had chuckled.
“What?” Sirius had demanded half-angrily, assuming he was the object of amusement.
Potter had grinned at him, boyish and open. “I was just thinking…wouldn’t it be the greatest prank ever if we became best friends?”
Sirius had thought about it for all of a minute, and saw with the Slytherin calculation drilled into him from birth, the escape route from his family and reputation such a relationship offered him in the long term. He smiled back with sincerity if not humour. “Count me in.”
And so Sirius had ended up in Gryffindor because he’d begged the hat, knowing that’s where James would go because Potters were always in Gryffindor just as Blacks were always in Slytherin.
He hadn’t fallen in love with James through their first five years at Hogwarts, through pranks and Quidditch practices; potions and charms; revelations about Moony being a werewolf and learning to be animagi, to be Padfoot and Prongs. By the end of the fifth year, there was no doubt that Sirius loved James (not that he, just like any other teenage boy, would ever admit to loving a friend) but he hadn’t thought about James in any kind of romantic sense.
He hadn’t thought about anyone in any kind of romantic sense. Sex, yes; romance, no.
James had been stuck on Lily ever since he’d spotted her on that first Hogwarts train journey. Since Lily spurned all of James’ efforts, Sirius never took it seriously. His own view of girls had shifted from not interested to interesting to definitely interested, especially after Betty Greengrass had given him personal lessons in sex education in a series of broom closets. He figured Betty’s friend, Emelie Gilligan, was giving James the same education because he’d caught them kissing once.
Maybe Sirius had fallen in love with James the Summer after Fifth year, the Summer he had run to the Potters, bloodied by his mother’s rage, and found sanctuary. James’ father had sent them to France to the Potters’ chateau. It was glorious: sunny days, warm seas, sandy beaches, no adult supervision and therefore enough wine to blunt their inhibitions. Sirius could never remember who had kissed who first; who had touched who first. Just that after that first night, neither of them questioned it because James had declared it was perfect; it was sex with someone they liked and they didn’t have to worry about getting a girl pregnant. It was an arrangement that would continue when they returned to school for their Sixth year even after Sirius played an ill-advised prank on Snivellus.
Well, not so much a prank as a dare unthinkingly made in the heat of anger and one that James had instantly stepped in and stopped when Sirius had been frozen, too stricken beyond measure that he’d endangered Moony. Of course, Sirius had been punished no matter what Snape would say later. Dumbledore had accepted that it had been a momentary unthinking lapse of judgement and not the calculated murder attempt Snape had claimed, but he had still assigned Sirius detentions for the rest of the term, banned him from Quidditch and taken away his Hogsmeade privileges for the year.
None of that mattered to Sirius because worse by far was Moony’s anger. It had taken months to mend their fractured friendship, (and in hindsight, Sirius can see that maybe the distrust between himself and Remus that had led each of them to believe the other was a spy during the war, had begun then). James had also been disappointed in Sirius, cold and distant in the aftermath, but Sirius had broken down and begged James to forgive him and they’d ended up having make-up sex in a deserted classroom. Sirius had turned more and more to James for comfort during the weeks where his friendship with Moony remained broken and torn.
Maybe it had been then that Sirius had fallen, love sliding into the casual sex somewhere, some time, without Sirius noticing; turning kisses and touches from intent to tender. Maybe he’d simply grown up in the wake of his mistake and needed the emotional intimacy of the dark, more than the physical pleasure of skin on skin. He knows he’d fallen in love by the Friday before the last Hogsmeade weekend of their Sixth year because that had been when James had ended it.
They’d taken advantage of Peter romancing his own girl and Remus out on prefect patrol for a couple of hours, to have sex in an actual bed.
James had turned to him afterwards with pleading eyes and Sirius had known before James had said a word. “She finally said yes to a date, Sirius.”
She being Lily, the woman who’d held James’ heart for years. Sirius knew he couldn’t compete.
He had smiled because what else could he do? He had leaned over and brushed his lips across James’ one last time. “About time. She’s going to fall madly in love you, Prongs.” He’d left before James could reply, skipping into the bathroom to shower and to hide.
He knows he’d fallen by then because it had hurt so much to let James go. He’d denied it, of course, at the time. Scoffed at the idea of being in love with his best friend, and turned his attention to the willing girls that he’d ignored for the previous months when he had been so solely fixed on James. But as the Sixth year ended with James and Lily an item, and Sirius spent another Summer with James, only this time watching as the boy he loved exchanged letters and tokens of affection with someone else, it became harder to ignore the pain that arrowed through him.
But confessing he loved James as more than a friend was something Sirius had never thought about doing. Sirius would never risk losing James. James loved Lily and he would never love Sirius the way Sirius loved James. It was the way it was. Wishing it was different wouldn’t change it.
And Sirius, once the initial sharp hurt dulled into a deeper ache of loss, was content for the most part; happy to see James happy; ecstatic to see James ecstatic when Lily accepted an engagement ring. He was honoured when James asked him to be best man at the wedding, and later, overjoyed to be godfather to Harry. And, underneath it all, he’d continued loving James regardless of the passage of time and the reality of his own loneliness despite the women that walked in and out of his life.
Sometimes, Sirius looks back and thinks Lily knew how he felt. The looks she had sent his way occasionally were all too knowing. He remembers the last time he’d seen the Potters as a family; a day spent with Sirius focused mainly on baby Harry, playing with him as Padfoot. Eventually though it had been bedtime and James had placed Harry into the crib covering him with a blanket decorated in golden snitches.
Sirius had grinned at him. “You’re completely domesticated, Prongs.”
James had just smoothed the hair back from Harry’s face and smiled at Sirius over his shoulder though his eyes had been serious. “You should try it, Padfoot. You deserve to find someone who loves you.”
He’d fought to keep the grin in place because it still hurt more than it should have that it couldn’t be James who loved him. “Not all of us are lucky enough to meet the love of our life on the train to Hogwarts, Prongs.” He’d joked, only to turn around and see Lily watching them from the doorway, that knowing look upon her face.
And then James had died.
And Sirius grief-stricken and heart-broken, not thinking in his anguish, had failed James when he’d failed to protect Harry and gone after Peter. Some would say he’d paid for that failure with his time in Azkaban; Sirius doesn’t think so. But it’s in the past and Sirius is trying to build a present and a future with his godson, despite being on the run two years and counting; despite being unable to raise Harry the way he’d promised James.
He watches Harry sleeping on the sofa in the parlour of Grimmauld Place, the lamp-light casting an amber glow across Harry’s too pale face and feels an all too familiar pain.
“He looks even more like James when he’s asleep, doesn’t he?”
Sirius almost starts at Moony’s voice, low and soft in the shadows of the doorway. Moony closes the door quietly, shutting away the rest of the house and the guests that aren’t so much unwanted by Sirius as frustratingly infringing on the precious time he has with Harry.
Harry does remind Sirius of James sometimes; a turn of his head, a smile, a gesture, the way he says something. Sometimes it hurts to look at him, to listen to him, because for a moment it’s as though he is James but he isn’t. Because although there is a lurking confusion in Sirius’ mind, a legacy from Azkaban, Sirius knows he’ll never forget Harry isn’t James, because Harry isn’t James; because Harry is Harry, a child Sirius loves likes a son, despite being in love with Harry’s father, because he was in love with Harry’s father.
In the half-light, Sirius can see the gleam of protectiveness in Moony’s eyes and wonders if it’s for Harry or for him. He steals another glance at Harry, eyes gliding over messy hair and the Potter features stamped so indelibly on his godson. “I know he’s not James, Moony.”
“I know you do, Padfoot.”
There’s a hint of amusement in Moony’s words and Sirius turns to look at Moony, questioningly.
Moony shrugs. “James was in love with you too, Sirius.”
And there it is: the knowledge of what was between him and James spoken out loud for the first time. Sirius is frozen, partly at the revelation that Moony knew and knows, partly at the suggestion James loved him.
Moony gives an apologetic half-smile, half-grimace. “I told him to tell you when he confessed it all to me during his plea that I forgive you for…” he waves a hand, “you know.”
Sirius nods, darting a look at Harry to make sure he’s still asleep and won’t hear their conversation; shocked that James might have confided anything never mind everything to Moony; that James was in love with him full stop.
“I think,” Moony continues, “if he could have had both you and Lily, he would have.”
Sirius finds it hard to swallow around the sudden lump in his throat; the sting of tears has him blinking. He can’t find a ready quip to laugh away Moony’s words.
“He did have both of us.” He says eventually. Not in the way Sirius had wanted, and maybe since James had said something to Moony, maybe not in the way James had wanted…
Moony flushes. “Well, I just…I know he never told you and…I thought it might help you move on. You deserve some happiness, Padfoot.”
Sirius watches as his old friend gives another smile, all sadly compassionate or compassionately sad, and leaves, the door closing gently behind him.
The clock chimes loudly in the silence, signalling the hour; mid-afternoon. Sirius glances again at Harry before he stands up and pulls a woollen throw over him. The Black tartan weave isn’t the childish pattern of a baby blanket and Sirius regrets that its sombre hues are probably more appropriate for his godson now, given all Harry has endured.
Is Moony right…does knowing that James was in love with him really make a difference, Sirius wonders. He has always known James loved him even when he’d thought James wasn’t in love him.
No, Sirius decides as he tucks the throw around Harry. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Maybe, just maybe, Sirius has carried a broken heart with him for so long, he no longer knows how to mend it but James had made his choice, after all, and Sirius can’t regret that because there’s Harry.
So it doesn’t matter when he’d fallen in love with James, or that he had actually met the love of his life on that first train to Hogwarts, only that their friendship really had been the greatest prank ever and Sirius will always treasure that.
Sirius simply wishes that James was beside him again, watching Harry sleep.