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how it begins

It starts with this: The four of them in an empty classroom; James shamelessly cross-legged atop the teachers’ table in front, fiddling with a deck of cards; Sirius on the windowsill, immersed in an e-book; Remus and Peter in the front row, huddled over a laptop. There’s shuffling, there’s key-tapping, there’s the distant medley of footsteps and gossip from the hallways outside. The room isn’t locked, but teachers and students alike have known better than enter Room 78-H without express invitation from its usual resident seniors.

Peter catches a glimpse of the time from the corner of Remus’s monitor and announces, “I don’t think she’s coming.”

Remus just continues typing. James starts humming a song—nothing exceptional, more or less in tune. It sounds awfully like the tacky Hogwarts school theme. Sirius scrolls twice on his phone, taps once, and asks without looking up, “Wanna bet?”

Or, alright, for your sake and mine, it’s probably more sensible to start with this: An old man crossing the street gets hit by a motorbike, and a familiar girl from school rushes to his aid. Sirius, loitering outside the nearby Chuckskate’s outlet, watches as Lily Evans hastily abandons her bike—one wheel still turning as the metal smacks against the pavement—to run to the old man’s side and help him up.

Sirius has had one too many broken bones to recognize a wrong angle when he sees it. He knows deep cuts from scrapes, however hidden they are by blood. He knows how bruises hurt and age and heal.

What he doesn’t know, is how a heartbeat’s worth of touch from that outspoken, green-eyed redhead from Lit can undo his proven knowledge.

Sirius sits next to her in the library the following day, pulling the chair a little too hard on purpose to startle her. She doesn’t even flinch.

“You’re one of us,” he tells her, but he can sense she’s already known for a while. He looks at her hands, curious. They look… normal. He even reckons his are prettier. He wonders if James looks at them in class so much because he knows, or just because it’s her.

Lily doesn’t say anything. She just tears her gaze from the essay she was preoccupied with and stares at him, unblinking. A defense. A challenge. Honestly, Sirius doesn’t know. Nor care. James has always been just the one who’s eager to figure her out.

“78-H. Four o'clock, tomorrow.” He gets up to leave. “You know about us, don’t you? You’ve always known?”

She goes back to her essay, the words coming easy and fast like he’s not even there. Like he wasn’t ever. She’s smirking when she says, “The only thing worse than those masks are your superhero names.”

He’s still chuckling to himself about it hours later.

At 4:17, in the Room 78-H version of how things began, Peter loses all of his Chuckskate’s discount coupons to James and Sirius.

At 4:29, Dumbledore arrives, Mcgonagall arrives, and the door is locked—a rare affair—just to make sure.

At 5:01, Lily is part of the Order. She’s officially one of those anonymous city heroes.




“Can you tell when he’s lying?” asks Lily, on James’s usual perch. In place of James’s cards, she has a pen and a notebook, the former tapping the school theme rhythm on an empty page of the latter.

With Sirius currently in Literature the window sill is free, and Remus finishes typing a statement in this nook, the key-tapping a discordant background to Lily’s pen-and-notebook beats. He has a brief staring match with the blinking cursor before realizing that Lily has spoken. He inclines his head, a little too late, his eyes remaining glued on the screen. “Sorry, what?”

“Peter,” says Lily, ever patient, the pen in her hand stilling. “He can tell you when something is true or not, when someone’s lying or not. But when he’s the one lying, can you tell?”

“Huh.” The cursor blurs as he loses focus. “Never really thought about it.”

Lily straightens. “What about you then?” she asks. “When do I get to know what you do? What’s your magic?”

“I do this,” says Remus, resuming the typing. It’s all jargon now, he’s still stuck, but Lily can’t see that from the teacher’s table. The busy facade usually warded off questions.

Usually. “So you’re just… super smart?” Lily prods on. “Exceptionally talented at the whole coding and hacking thing?”


Lily’s quiet for approximately three seconds. “Come on. Haven’t I proven myself trustworthy yet? I’m Order of the Phoenix and everything. I even agreed to the masks. And the nicknames.”

Remus sighs. “I don’t really do anything.”

“Me neither, don’t you think? If no one’s injured, I’m just on standby.”

“Lily,” he says, focus completely on her for it. “You do plenty.”

She knows he meant it, and smiles gratefully. “Telekinesis would have been cool too though. I just can’t believe it sometimes—how can you give two pig-headed boys telekinesis? It’s like begging for chaos. Aren’t there rules about it?”

“Did you say big-headed or pig-headed?”

“Either works just fine.”

Remus laughs. And then he catches on to something she said. “James isn’t telekinetic,” he corrects her.

“What, really? But his cards—”

“His cards can slice flesh and bone, Lily. They can cut through walls if he wanted them to.”

Lily frowns. “Well, isn’t that—?”

“Nah, I shift energy,” James himself announces upon entrance, his words almost drowning in the creaky swing of the thrown-open door. He drops his things (a maroon backpack, a binder, a thick Physics textbook) on a chair in the front row and then sinks down on the one next to it. “I enhance things; make them sharper, bigger, faster. I made a car explode once. Completely by accident. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.”

Lily raises her eyebrow at that last bit. “Not very you,” she remarks.

“Oh, I want to,” he says, all typical glinting eye and crooked grin. It makes Lily want to roll her eyes every time she looks at him. “I just don’t think I can yet. It drains me.”

“Doesn’t everything?” quips Lily.

“Yes, you most of all,” counters James.

“James’s magic allows him to shift energy—sometimes as it is, sometimes as a new form entirely—and store them all in one thing to augment it,” Remus says, the only one actually being useful to the current exchange. “But he hasn’t mastered the from of the craft yet, so most of the time he ends up taking from and depleting his own energy without meaning to. He shifts it to others, people and things alike, to use as weapons. That car he says he exploded? That landed him in the hospital wing for five days.”

James nods somberly in assent, staring at the floor.

“Sirius is telekinetic,” continues Remus. “He moves things, and that’s wonderful and all, but that’s it. If he used one of the cards against you now, the worst you’ll get is a nasty papercut. There’s a limit to the speed at which he can move stuff. If James did the same—” Remus doesn’t finish, opting to let James himself end the sentence.

Instead of saying anything, James picks a card from the ever present deck in his uniform breast pocket and unceremoniously throws it at the notice board pinned beside the door. Not much force from his hand, Lily notes, just a casual flick not unlike when it’s his turn in an idle card game. The card flies, too light to even produce a dramatic swoosh—and then buries itself almost entirely on the cork surface upon contact. The board can’t have been thicker than an inch, but just a small corner of the card is left peeking out. It’s sliced all the way through like, as promised, a blade. 

James winks at Lily.

She just cocks her head to the side and regards him like one would another for the first time. Or like one would a purple baboon doing the conga.

“They work together,” finishes Remus, already eaten up by the blinking cursor on his dark monitor again. “That way neither of them tire fast. James doesn’t have to aim one by one; Sirius doesn’t have to mentally up the acceleration of every single thing he moves.”

“That doesn’t explain your bull’s eye thing,” says Lily to James, referring to his commendable, unfailing aim. “How does energy-shifting make that possible?”

James exhales a quick, smug breath. “That’s not magic, Evans,” he says. “Believe it or not, that part’s completely human.”

Lily turns to Remus. Without looking away from his fingers hovering over the keys, he says, “It’s true.”

Lily purses her lips. Well, drat, that’s cool. She says, “I still want to know what Remus does.”

“Ah,” says James simply. He picks his Physics book up, opens it to a random page, and raises it up to hide his face. He does not say any more.

Remus resorts to typing jargon again.

Lily makes a disappointed tutting sound, but decides to let it go.

The wall clock ticks the ensuing silence away. James has skimmed through a whole chapter and Lily’s almost filled the notebook page when Remus asks, “What date is it?”

“The sixteenth,” answers Lily.

James lowers the book down, his specs riding on top of the pages. He eyes Remus, the seemingly mundane question piquing his interest, or stirring an already-known related secret. There is a certain air of anticipation about him.

Remus pauses, counting down the days. He doesn’t take long. In truth, he does this particular calculation every waking second of every day. “You’ll find out in two weeks then,” he tells Lily.

And, although a considerable amount of time has already passed after her question (“What about you? What’s your magic?”), Lily nods in perfect understanding.

In two weeks, the morning after the full moon, Lily is peeking into the slice of a barely open doorway, a Starbucks tumbler in one hand. The room is chipped in every sense of the word—all the frames lining the walls are empty, the paint is peeling, the shack’s history is fuzzy in Lily’s recollections. Remus is pale and heavy-lidded, decent now after Sirius having gone in first. He sits against the wall facing the door, legs sprawled before him and head tilted up. When he sights Lily, he doesn’t smile. He just looks at her.

Lily swallows. He’s not shooing her away, so that’s as good as an invitation, isn’t it? The door creaks. Inside, it smells like mothballs and burnt leaves and rusty metal. It’s even shabbier up close, but not as dusty as the room initially impressed.

She slumps down beside Remus, their shoulders touching. They don’t talk for a while. The door doesn’t open after her, but occasionally she can hear James's, Sirius's, and Peter’s tired, hushed voices echoing from downstairs.

Remus nudges her side. When she looks up, he’s staring questioningly at the tumbler in her hand. 

“Oh, yeah, this is for you,” she says, handing it over.

“I’m not—”

“It’s that hot chocolate you like so much. From Chuckskate’s.”

Remus blinks at her. “How’d you know?”

“I know everything. I’m super smart.”

He raises an eyebrow.

“I’m friends with the owner’s daughter. Mary. Two years down, effervescent, president of the Theatre Guild?”

“Oh. Right.”

“Yeah. Apparently you get that an abnormal amount of times during finals week.”

The sun shifts angles, rays pressing through the cracked glass windows. They both catch it; Lily’s hair flaring up like flames, as vivid as Remus’s scars are trying to shy away from the light.

The silence is welcome.

Her head falls on Remus’s shoulder after some time. “Moony,” she says, not the beginning of anything, just dawning comprehension on the nickname.

“Yeah,” he replies. He drinks from the tumbler. When he puts it down, he’s smiling.



three times sirius saves lily’s life

The first time Sirius saves Lily’s life, it’s because James would skin him alive with his cards if he didn’t. There’s also being inherently good, and, well, they are superheroes. Cringe, but whatever. They’re not saints. So, yeah, all that.

Honestly though, it’s really mostly just because of James.

See, James is in love with her. That, or something close. ‘Course, the idiot probably hasn’t realized it himself yet, but Sirius knows it, Remus suspects it, Peter notices fleeting flashes of it.

Sirius reckons it’s only a matter of time before the realization jumps on him.

Sometime, in the middle of it all, James finds himself cornered in a narrow, dead-ended alley by Mulciber, unarmed and tired and with Peter absolutely losing his wits in his earpiece: “He’s telling the truth, Prongs! Padfoot is stuck with Bellatrix! Moony’s working on that one right now but fuck, Mulciber’s not bluffing! He’s not distracting you! He’s really just there to finish you off! Get the hell out of there…!”

If Peter were there James would’ve punched him just to shut him up.

But he’s not, and James is alone. Which sucks. He surveys the alley in search of an energy source—maybe if he tried it this time the trick would work, maybe it wouldn’t drain him, please don’t let it drain him, he can barely stand for god’s sake—

He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. 

The light. Pipes. The street lamp not far from the mouth of the alley. That muffled bass of a wireless somewhere.


Take Mulciber.

His fingertips tingle. His contact lenses are making his eyes itch. He can’t wear his glasses as Prongs, because it gives—Come on, he thinks desperately. Concentrate. He can hear Mulciber’s advancing footsteps, his amused, incredulous laughter. Come on, come on.

But all he’s doing is directing his own goddamn energy—again—to his fist. He grits his teeth. Opens his eyes. Fine then. It’s not much, but it’s more concentrated energy than if he uses a last card, and maybe, hopefully, it’ll be enough to knock the fucker out.

Before Mulciber can come within boxing distance, however, someone jumps on him from the fire exit directly above. She clings on and promptly presses a knife against his pulse point.

“Where’s Mary?” Lily demands. Mulciber’s so much taller than her, but she’s wrapped her arms and legs around him in an iron grip. Her knifeless hand holds a gun.

“I don’t know,” says Mulciber, having the sense to keep still. Lily’s obviously not fucking around. He’s at least that much smart to see that.

“He’s lying,” Peter immediately tips off in James’s ear.

James repeats it to them.

Lily tightens her hold on Mulciber. A bead of blood pools around the sharp tip pressed against his neck. “I can kill you, you know,” she says, so quietly that James almost doesn’t catch it, so pensively that it snags at his thoughts even long after they’ve rescued Mary and gotten back safe.

That drop of blood swelling under her gaze—determined, terrified, merciless—keeps James up that night, and for a few more.

He plays and replays her jumping from the fire exit; tosses and turns, sits up, lies back down.

It’s not that he’s bothered about the whole killing thing. He’s not. At all. It’s something totally unrelated, which is what bothers him. Because how can he… How can he get this from that?

How can he lie in bed and fail every single attempt to remember a past without her in it? How can he not imagine a future without her? And all after I can kill you, you know? Is that even it? Or is it because she saved his life? Because she was willing to kill to save Mary’s?

What kind of twisted, ridiculous brain sits in his goddamn skull?

Also sometime in the middle: Tuesday, just some random Tuesday. Library. Lily pulls the chair a little too hard on purpose, and Sirius jumps. He hates that smirk on her face when she settles down, and he hates himself for getting startled.

“What do you want?” he asks. He buries his head in his arms, as he was before she disturbed him. 78-H’s sill is cozier, of course, but the streets four floors down and the hallways outside are always bustling this time of the day. Libraries are made for napping. The Hogwarts one, especially.

“Regulus Black is your brother.”

Sirius’s hand flinches. He hates a lot of things. He hates that more than most of them. “So?”

“So you’re from that family.”

She didn’t say that family of assassins who works for that deranged crime lord, but it’s clear as day that’s what she meant. He raises his head. “You only deduce that now? You’ve known my last name for years.”

“Well, I’ve never seen Regulus Black, so I couldn’t see your resemblance—I mean, if any—and there are so many Blacks around anyway.”

He scoffs. “Yeah? Name one.”

“Hmm, Andromeda?”



“Cousin. She’s Andromeda’s sister, you peanut.”

“What, for real?”

He rolls his eyes. “Every Black you know, I’m related for sure.”

“Okay.” She bites her lip. “Have you… Have you ever killed anyone?”

He’s been asked this before, of course. Many, many times. It’s the fucking family business.

There’s something about the way she asked though. It doesn’t incense him like every other one ever did. He can’t place why, but when he answers, it’s like a different question was asked. “No, I left before they could make me.”

“Oh,” she says, and he must be imagining it, because there’s no way in hell she’d be even remotely disappointed with that.

Here’s a secret though: She was. Lily was disappointed. Not majorly, she’s not that bad. She’s glad, more than anything, that her friend (because they are friends now, whether or not Sirius admits it) doesn’t go through what her memories put her through every night.

It’s just she thought, hey, finally, here’s someone who'd get it. Weird abilities? Check. Addiction to chocolate-covered dried mangoes and Chuckskate’s tropical milkshakes? Check. Estranged sibling? Check. An irritating, unshakeable compulsion to always be around some impulsive, stupid boy who runs his hand through his hair a million times an hour, who always forgets to wipe his glasses clean, who can never be found without either his deck of cards or his Physics book? Totally irrelevant to the present situation, but also check.

Might have ended the life of someone in the past?


Tonight she sneaks into Hogwarts with three bottles of Smirnoff, a pack of salted pistachio nuts, and every intent to wallow in her unreasonable, unsolicited disappointment. She left the wireless she and the boys usually wait for city alerts from; a couple of someone elses from the Order are deployed out there right now, with their own masks and wigs and spandex suits and synchronized watches.

She considers the courtyard when she passes by it, but ultimately crosses to the staircase on the other side and makes her way up to Room 78-H. The statue of Rowena Ravenclaw on the third floor creeps her out, and she runs the rest of the stairs two steps at a time like a proper lunatic.

When she gets to 78-H, she’s breathless, the bottles’ condensation is close to tearing the bottom of her paper bag open, and her intent to wallow is now severely dented by her ridiculousness. She doesn't know, okay? Now she feels like laughing. What is the matter with her? Honestly.

The door isn’t locked.

Inside, the lights are off. The starry sky and the street lamps from outside manage to wash just enough of the night out—the disarranged seats are pitch black against the midnight blue; a quadrilateral patch of muted, orange light stretches from the window, and—

Someone is slumped on the teachers’ table, cheek squished against the wood, glasses lopsided, mouth slightly open. Positively zonked out.

Lily stuffs her giggles in her knuckles.

Careful not to make much noise, she closes the door, puts her backpack down on the nearest chair. When she reaches him, she has to crouch down to level their faces. She peers at him. He looks so stupid. She wonders if he’d wake up if she removed his glasses, and then figures that that’s better than have it digging against his face so uncomfortably like this.

He groggily lifts his head for her when she tugs at his specs. He also mutters something about a snitch, but doesn’t wake up. She lays the glasses down on the table, and only then does she notice the unlit candle and the two of diamonds card almost falling off the edge.

He’s been practicing. Again. And judging by this utter exhaustion, he’s ended up draining himself. Again.

Lily sits on the chair directly in front of him.

She drinks, watches James sleep, wallows as planned, watches James sleep, thinks about Petunia, watches James sleep.

Lily has a lot of secrets.

(I can do more than just heal.)

(My sister hates me.)

(She thinks I killed Mum.)

(She may be right.)

(I can kill. I can kill. I can either heal or kill when I touch a wound, and if I’m not careful, if I let so much as the smallest seed of doubt in my intent I can so, so easily end a life…)

(What if my want to end Mum’s pain did it, James? What if Petunia’s right?)

(I’m scared. Like. Always.)

For once, she’s found one that doesn’t twist her gut.

James mutters in his sleep again, and the smile that pulls at her lips comes so fast, so easy. Warm.

She takes a long swig of her drink.

“I like you,” she whispers in the dark, reaching over to hover her fingers over his closed eyes, graze his unruly hair.

For once, here’s a secret that doesn’t hurt to say out loud.

The second time Sirius saves Lily’s life, it’s because he owes her one.

She didn’t heal his injuries or anything like that—he still refuses her power, and insists every time on letting his skin sting and his limbs ache as much and as long as they should. It was just… him being stupid, basically. Boring details aside, it was a simple matter of shoving him out of the way of that burly psycho with the motorbike—the same asshole in front of Chuckskate’s who brought her to them, as it happens—and this one is only different in that Sirius is shoving the last-resort dagger this bank robber has just hurled Lily’s way, instead of the other way around, and in that he’s using his mind to do it, because he’s damn too far to run and slam against her like she did to him.

The dagger drops on the tiled floor, the clatter eclipsing Lily’s sigh of relief. She nods at Sirius in gratitude, picking the dagger up with steady hands, steady breaths; pacing the length of the shard-littered lobby with steady steps.

She just nearly died, and she’s composed. Mechanical. ‘Course, it’s happened before, these brushes with death, so this observation is nothing new.


The thing about masks, Sirius thinks as he watches her deal with the now weaponless thief, is that it makes one center on the only thing visible about the person wearing them.

He’s always known Evans’s eyes are green. Hell, everyone’s always known that.

He just doesn’t know when they started to become readable to him.

She was scared.

He remembers the way she ran to him last time, without hesitation. He remembers the first night she stayed with them in the Shrieking Shack, her face impassive—her hands steady over that stupid tumbler—as the terrifying sounds of the moon taking over Remus’s veins rained down on them from upstairs. He remembers her sassy retorts to the notorious crime lord Voldemort when she first encountered him, when they all thought they were permanently going to hit the sack.

He remembers all of this and realizes, amazed, that in all of that she’d been scared.

He remembers and never ever forgets: Lily Evans is so much more than she lets on.

The third time Sirius saves Lily’s life, it’s because he’d skin himself alive with James’s cards if he didn’t.

He stops counting after that.



the last thing they’ll tell you

This is how Remus will tell you it ends: One moment he’s witnessing his best friends die. Unmasked, raw, and as themselves.

It’s the worst.

When Peter turned out to be the rat that he is, using himself as ploy to deliver James, Sirius, and Lily to Voldemort and his band of Death Eaters for their study of power extraction, in exchange for—for what, money? A place in their ranks? Who the fuck even knows? But when his betrayal clicked in Remus’s brain it was already too late, and Remus thought things couldn’t get any worse.

When he’s the one lying, can you tell?

No, Remus thinks gravely. No, we can’t.

Now here he is, made to sit on precisely worse than worse, absolutely useless all the way from Room 78-H, watching hacked real-time surveillance feeds scattered around Sirius’s ancestral home, where the Death Eaters supposedly took Peter to, where he, Sirius, James, and Lily are supposedly rescuing him from.

Remus has done what he could after his direct communication with the other three was cut off—alerted Dumbledore, sent the live surveillance links to Moody and Fenwick, forwarded the house’s blueprint and every other intel he’s got to Dorcas, Marlene, and Emmeline. He doesn’t dare keep his eyes off the screen for a millisecond, even though it almost physically hurts him to watch. Fat lot of good that does. 

For one moment his world is crumbling—James slams against the wall and slides down, his broken glasses catching light, his broken bones apparent on every angle. Sirius is trapped on the other side, backed against an ornate built-in grate, heaving, exhausted; Rodolphus closing in on him, Bellatrix following suit now that she’s done with James. Sirius looks around the room, but without James to back him up every potential weapon he can find would move too slow from their places to be of any use to him. He eyes something Remus can’t see above—the chandelier, Remus guesses—but Lily is directly below that in a tangle of her own with Voldemort himself, over a gun or a knife or a bomb, Remus doesn’t even know anymore.

One moment he’s so sure his best mates in the world are not going to come out of it alive, and he’s not sure if he’ll come out of this room alive after that. 

Lily yells something. At James, at Sirius, Remus doesn’t know. Just one card, or one last card? He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know. His heart is everywhere, pounding, ending, as he watches them grapple at some semblance of a way out. James complies and pours his last ounce of energy into his precious two of diamonds. The card, comically pathetic in its backdrop of chaos, flies from James’s hand—moved by Sirius, Remus is sure, because James passes out before it can even leave its fingers, all emptied.

Rodolphus lands a blow on Sirius’s jaw. The card swerves midflight, but Sirius gets up quick, sets it back on track. Bellatrix kicks Sirius’s shins, her hysterical laughter making the hair on Remus’s neck stand on end.

Their final wretched weapon ultimately misses its mark, only grazes Voldemort’s cheek. The cut is so small and insignificant the cameras can hardly even capture it.

One moment Voldemort is laughing in Lily’s face, in all of their faces, and Remus loses all hope.

The next—like someone somehow miraculously flipped the channel—the crime lord is screaming. Lily’s hand is pressed determinedly on his face, and she follows, stumbling, when Voldemort starts backing away from her. The Lestranges look up, horrified and confused, from a barely conscious Sirius. By the time they reach Voldemort, Lily has left him thrashing on the floor, clawing at his face. She’s scrambled over to James’s side. She shakes him by the arm. Cups his face. Takes his hand. She gets no response.

From the grate Sirius struggles to sit up. His hair is matted with blood.

Remus’s hands are clenched into tight fists. The chandelier, he thinks so fiercely. He wants to scream. Get them.

Sirius smirks, like he’s heard. Breaths heavy, body sagging, he raises his gaze best he can from beneath his drooping lids.

Something creaks, Voldemort lets out one final guttural scream of agony—and then the chandelier crashes down.

This is how James will tell you it ends: Him leaning against the cold bricked wall of the apartment building opposite Chuckskate’s, hidden in the shadows, resisting the urge to scratch his itchy, glassless eyes. Stupid contact lenses.

A tall bloke with a stuffed duffel bag walks past him—he’s not even running, what an insult—and James pushes himself off, blocking his path. “Not so fast, champ.”

The other, after getting over his initial surprise, snickers. He points at James, his bony finger digging hard on James’s chest, trying to push him back. “You one of those city nutcases who wear masks and jump around buildings?”

“I’m the leader,” says James.

The man swings his heavy duffel bag at him.

James steps back just in time. Before he can retaliate, there’s the quick torrent of steps from the right, a flash of jet-black against the neon-lit alley—

The most amazing roundhouse kick James has ever seen—

And the man is down on the rough pavement, groaning.

“Whoa, calm down, Red,” says James. He cuffs their first (hopefully last) criminal of the night, picks the duffel bag off the ground. Lily tosses him their on-duty mobile phone. While they wait for Moody to pick up from the precinct, James says, “That was bloody fucking fantastic—you sure you’re not hiding any more powers?”

“That wasn’t magic,” says Lily. “Believe it or not, that was all completely human.”

James laughs.

He hasn’t found out a way to fully control his powers yet, but it’s alright. All in due time.

Besides, last night he found out what Lily Evans’s lips taste like. What else, pray, can possibly beat that?

This is how Sirius will tell you it ends: Him knocking on a door similar to the four other doors on the same floor, the bright, white paint glaring back at him.

He knocks before he can change his mind—because he doesn’t know if this is right, if there even is something here to salvage. But the others think it is and insist that there is and James is waiting for him downstairs with his—Sirius’s—motorbike (the very same from that day in front of Chuckskate’s, funnily enough).

Sirius can’t go back to him without having tried.

And James would know if he didn’t. All seven hells with Peter. They don’t need him to catch each other’s lies.

To Sirius, it ends with Voldemort dead, his circles steadily rounded up, the House of Black in shambles, and this white door before him finally opening.

He opens his mouth for the many scathing remarks he rehearsed in the elevator—but his little brother hugs him before anything can make its way on his tongue.

This is how Lily will tell you it ends: The four of them in an empty classroom; Sirius on the windowsill, watching something on his phone; Remus in the front row, frowning at his blinking cursor; James cross-legged on the teachers’ table in front, deeply focused on a lit candle and his deck of cards; and Lily on the chair directly in front of her boyfriend, writing a letter. There’s scribbling, there’s key-tapping, there’s the distant medley of footsteps and gossip from the hallways outside. The room isn’t locked, but teachers and students alike have known better than enter Room 78-H without express invitation from its usual resident weirdos.

I didn’t kill Mum, Lily’s letter reads, after a short introduction that’s just really awkward apologies and excuses for not knowing how to properly introduce what she wants to say. I’ve seen what it’s like to do the opposite, Tuney, and Mum’s passing was nothing like it. I know you probably don’t believe me, and that if you do it’ll take more than just this to undo the hate we’ve both wedged between us over the years. But I didn’t kill Mum. It wasn’t me. I can tell you that for sure now.

Remus catches a glimpse of the time from the corner of his monitor and asks, “You sure he’ll come?”

James checks his watch. Lily folds the letter and looks up at the wall clock above the blackboard. Sirius’s phone dings at an incoming message.

He reads it, looks up, and grins around at them. “Wanna bet?”