"He's not James, Sirius!
The shrill words, shrieked by Molly Weasley, echoed through his mind as he lay awake in his bed at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, the godforsaken house he had wanted to escape so desperately as a child, the house he had sworn on that stormy summer night so long ago that he would never go back to. He remembered his mother, shrieking at him that it would have been better is he had died in her womb, his father saying how disappointed he was in him, and his brother's smirk as he had wheeled his trunk to the door, prepared to never, ever come back.
But now, he was back, and he had to deal with the consequences of all his actions. The harsh words that kept repeating over and over again in his mind ... damn it, he knew Harry was not his father! Why did Molly have to remind him of that? Why did she have to remind him that he had seen James lifeless on the floor, his face heartbroken but determined, his hazel eyes which used to shine with so much mischief now dull and empty? Sirius had screamed, begged, sobbed, wailed, pleaded for his dead best friend to wake up, but James just continued to lie there, stiff as anything, unmoving, not breathing. And it had all been Sirius's fault. The words Molly had shouted had reminded him that James was most definitely dead and not coming back.
And when she had said, with a curled lip, that Sirius had done such a wonderful job taking care of his godson while he had been locked up in Azkaban, he had wanted to scream his lungs out, and hit the woman for her callous words. What if she had seen one of her children dead? What if she had failed as spectacularly as Sirius had? he thought bitterly. She hadn't hidden in a cave the year before and eaten rats for Harry, oh no! She had no right to say such things to him! She only made him feel ten times worse.
The anger at Albus Dumbledore simmered just below the surface of his heart. To sit there and look at Harry, so distraught and so lost after the Diggory boy's death, and not be able to tell him everything, just about killed him. Out of everyone in the world, it was Harry who needed to know the prophecy, what he was up against. And once again, Sirius was failing to protect someone his heart cried out for. Harry, his Harry, could die, and there was absolutely nothing Sirius could do about it. Voldemort would not stop until one of them was dead. And his precious godson was only fifteen years old! How could he be expected to win against a wizard who had fifty years more experience than him?
He remembered a few months ago, when Harry had told him of James and Lily coming out of Voldemort's wand during Priori Incantatem. Jealousy reared its ugly head inside Sirius again ... if only he had been there! He would give anything to communicate with the two of them again, even if it was only for a few seconds. He would look at them, drink them in, tell them how sorry he was ... oh Merlin, he could still remember the tear tracks stained on Lily's cheeks when he had found her there, by Harry's crib, her enchanting, beautiful emerald eyes wide open, a look of pleading on her silent face. The look of such wild desperation, that she'd do anything for the life of her baby, shattered him into pieces. Lily, oh, Lily ... he had failed her and her husband so, so much!
And being here in this house, this house that contained so many of the ghosts of his past, made things ten times worse. Even though Harry was here now, and Moony too, Sirius couldn't look at the two of them without feeling an immense bucket of guilt. He felt he even deserved the words his mother's portrait yelled at him: "Abomination! Waste of space!" Because that was exactly what Sirius was. He could do nothing to help the Order, nothing to make sure Harry's life was just that tiny little bit easier.
"He's not James, Sirius!"
The words pierced through the man's heart once again. I know, Molly! his mind roared back. I know exactly who the hell he is, and I failed him! Don't you understand that I want the old days back, I'd give anything to change the past? I'd give anything to see life in James's forever-dull hazel eyes once more! I'd give anything not to see that Lily shed tears just before her life was cruelly snuffed out by a madman, thank you very much! And Harry, who spent these last fourteen years being told he was nothing but a burden by those brute Dursleys, and then coming to the wizarding world and having to face their scrutiny, their scorn when he didn't measure up to their expectations ... the boy deserved a childhood!
He remembered back to the days when he used to hold Harry in his arms, and the times when he turned into a dog and would make soft woofing noises in the boy's ear. Harry would giggle, absolutely loving it when Sirius barked. Oh, God, let me have another chance to put things right! Sirius thought, clenching his hands into fists.
And it was with these bitter thoughts in mind that Sirius Black finally fell asleep, only to be assaulted by the same nightmares he'd had for the past almost fourteen years: James and Lily's still, lifeless bodies, Harry crying in his crib, Peter outsmarting him, the screams of the Azkaban prisoners, and Molly Weasley's words. And during the nightmares, the only thing that repeated relentlessly in Sirius's mind was the thought of his enormous failure, the failure in keeping those closest to his heart safe from harm.
He had failed.