Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

The Cost of Peace

By: ChoCedric

It was a beautiful, clear night. The sky was picturesque; the moon was shining brightly in the star-speckled sky, and not a cloud was in sight. The wind blew gently through the trees, and there was a serene calmness in the air. Everything was silent and tranquil, and it seemed as if nothing would disturb the peace in the quaint little village of Godric's Hollow.

But that assumption was proven wrong as a crack suddenly split the air. Two men appeared out of nowhere right outside the gates of a tiny cemetery.

If anyone else had happened to look at the two of them, they would have seen right away that they looked much, much older than they really were. As they opened the gate to the cemetery, they were both weighed down with a suffocating, paralyzing grief. Their heads were down, but if someone were to see their eyes, they would have noticed that a million ghosts were reflected in them. They had seen more horror and more devastation than many had seen in an entire lifetime.

Sirius Black and Remus Lupin walked silently through the graveyard, until they reached a group of three headstones side by side. Two of them had been there for almost seventeen years now, but the third had just appeared that afternoon after the young, beautiful body of its occupant had been lowered into the ground.

After so much bloodshed, after so much loss and despair, it was finally over. Voldemort was defeated. The wizarding world was free of the reign of terror that had plagued it. Peace had finally been restored. But as the two men collapsed to their knees beside the three graves, they knew with a bone-deep certainty that the price had been too high.

Sirius looked down, his haunted, deadened eyes reading the name that was carved on the newest grave.

Harry James Potter

Born July 31, 1980

Died March 2, 1998

Forever loved, forever missed

"It wasn't worth it," Sirius muttered, his voice coming out low and scratchy. "It wasn't worth his life."

"I know, Padfoot," Remus whispered, laying a gentle hand on Sirius's shoulder. "I know."

"He was just a child," Sirius said, his voice a little louder now. "It's not fair. He was just a child."

Remus didn't reply to this. Telling Sirius that life wasn't fair would not be the right thing to say, because he knew it was something the other man already knew.

"This is so wrong," Sirius went on, his eyes continuing to run over the name. "I just got him back. Why did he have to go?"

The lump in Remus's throat, which had been there since his own eyes had landed on the headstones, threatened to choke him. Sirius was right - this was so incredibly wrong. Sirius had only just gotten Harry back - they'd only been together as a family for almost two years, two precious years.

The night of the battle of the Department of Mysteries, Peter Pettigrew had been sighted. He was one of the Death Eaters that had been caught, and subsequently, Sirius was exonerated for all of his crimes. Shortly after that, he had gained custody of Harry, and the boy had moved in with him. Remus knew how close the two had become; he had spent a lot of time with them over these past two years.

The two men continued to stare at the grave, all that was left of Harry, for several more long minutes. Both were lost in thoughts and memories, wishing with everything they had that they could bring those times back.

Finally, Sirius broke the silence as he looked at Remus, his deep, soulful gray eyes full of anguish. "Do you think he knew, Moony?" he asked softly, his voice shaking. "Do you think he knew that I loved him as much as I did? Do you think, as I held him in my arms throughout his last moments, that he could hear me whispering it to him?"

Remus made direct eye contact as he whispered sadly, "I have no doubt that he did, Padfoot. He knew you loved him. And he loved you too, I am sure of it."

Sirius's shoulders started to shake then, and tears began to spill down his cheeks, unrelenting and powerful. "Why?" he said over and over again, and each time the word was repeated, his voice grew progressively louder until it was a guttural, agonized shriek. "Why? Why? Why? Why did he have to go? Why did he have to leave me alone?"

"I know, Sirius, shhhhh, I know," Remus soothed as his own tears began to fall, the words on the gravestone becoming blurry. "I know."

Remus could remember Harry's death with crystal clear clarity. As long as he lived, he would never be able to get it out of his mind.

The battle at Hogwarts had been brutal, with many casualties on both sides. Eventually, after many ceaseless minutes of fighting, Harry and Voldemort were facing each other. Remus and Sirius had been paralyzed with horror as they watched the child walk up to the other wizard with no fear in his eyes, only firm resolve.

The two had fiercely duelled for what seemed like an endless amount of time. Finally, when Harry was so exhausted he could hardly fight anymore, Voldemort possessed him. All Harry's defenders and supporters had screamed for him to fight it, that they all loved him, that Harry was the stronger wizard.

And then, in the blink of an eye, Harry had been released from the possession, and had raised his wand straight at Voldemort, incanting a long, complicated spell in Latin. Voldemort had screamed in pain as it took effect, and had eventually collapsed to the ground, moving no more. Death Eaters had begun to try and escape, but many Aurors were able to subdue them. One of them had gone over to check Voldemort, and it was found that the dark wizard was indeed dead.

Then, as Sirius, Remus, and many others ran to Harry, he had collapsed too. Terrified, Sirius had picked Harry up in his arms and sprinted with him to the hospital wing. The boy was unconscious, and barely alive. Madame Pomfrey had ran diagnostic spells on him, and in a stricken voice, had informed Harry's loved ones that he had used up all of his magical resources to perform that spell, whatever it had been.

"Oh God," Sirius had gasped, his face white with horror, his entire body shaking. "Poppy, what does this mean? Will Harry be okay?"

And Madame Pomfrey had then informed everyone of the worst news of all, that Harry had hardly any chance of survival. She would do all she could to try to heal him, but she didn't think he'd make it through the night.

And then, all anyone could do was wait. Several minutes later, the boy had developed a raging fever, trying to fight the magical exhaustion. Sirius had held him close, sobbing into his messy hair, begging him to be all right.

Dumbledore had come upon the scene several hours later, telling of the spell Harry had used. It was a very old spell that could only be powered with love. Apparently, Harry had used the love he felt for his supporters to defeat Voldemort.

But it killed him, Remus thought bitterly. Sirius's sobs and wails of how none of it had been worth it rang painfully true. After Dumbledore had left, Harry had only lasted a few hours longer. Despite Poppy's efforts, Harry's body wasn't able to fight the fever and the exhaustion. Remus could remember Sirius crying brokenly as Harry had taken his last breath and slipped away, held protectively in his godfather's arms. Peace had come, Voldemort was indeed gone, but the price had been much, much too high.

"I want to die, too," Sirius choked out through his tears, burying his face in Remus's robes. "I can't go on without him Moony. He was ... he was everything. If this is what it had to cost for Voldemort to be gone ... oh God ... I just want Harry back, Moony. I just want him back. It's not fair, he deserved a life without Voldemort! No one deserved to live more than him!"

Remus gently began rocking Sirius back and forth, his own tears still flowing as he said gently, "Sirius, you gave him all you could. He knew you loved him, and he loved you just as much. He's happy, Sirius, he's with James and Lily now. I know they're taking care of him."

"I know, but why do James and Lily get to have him so soon?" Sirius cried desperately. "There was still so much I wanted to do with him, still so much love I wanted to show him!"

"I know, but Padfoot, Harry wouldn't want to see you like this," Remus told his broken friend. "He gave us the best gift in the world ... he gave us peace. He'd want us to live for him, Sirius." As these words were spoken, he knew he was saying them as much to himself as he was saying them to Sirius.

"I don't know how," moaned Sirius, still weeping. "I just don't ... I just don't know how."

"You've still got me," Remus promised, still rocking them both back and forth. "You've still got me. And Harry will look out for us ... he won't want us to give up. Come on, Sirius, we need to do it for Harry."

And there the two men sat, holding one another as the wind continued to blow gently around them, the words on the graves of the Potter family shining in the moonlight as the night wore on.

Finally, Sirius's tears were spent, and he closed his eyes, too exhausted to move. As he sank into sleep, he murmured, "Good night, Harry. I love you, kiddo. Always."

And Remus, feeling just as tired, fell asleep several minutes later, still embracing his best friend. "We'll be okay, Harry," he whispered as the last of his alertness left him. "Not today, not tomorrow, but someday I promise we'll be okay."

xxx

As the two men slept, little were they to know that three translucent figures stood by them, watching their slumber. The youngest had tears running down his face as he laid a gentle, ghostly hand on his godfather's shoulder. It hurt, God, it hurt so much to watch him mourn and not be able to comfort him. "Oh, Sirius," he murmured softly.

"It'll be okay, Pads," an older man murmured. He was the spitting image of his son, all except for the eyes. "It'll all be okay."

The last figure, a beautiful woman with red hair and the striking emerald eyes of her son, laid her hand on the shoulder of Remus. "I know you two can help each other," she said, her voice a gentle whisper on the breeze.

"I'll always be watching you," Harry said quietly, still gazing lovingly at Sirius. "And don't even think on it, Sirius ... of course I knew you loved me. Thank you for everything you've done for me. The last two years could not have been better."

In his sleep, Sirius's face twitched; the corners of his mouth seemed to quirk upwards. Harry hoped that this meant that some way, somehow, his godfather had heard him.

"Come on, sweetheart," Lily said as she gazed at her son lovingly. "We mustn't linger here long."

"I know, Mum," Harry said, finally tearing his eyes away and removing his hand from Sirius's shoulder. "I know we're not allowed to stay. I just hope ... I just hope they'll both be okay."

James took one last look at his friends, and then turned to smile at his son. "They will be," he promised. "They've still got each other."

And with that, the Potter family took each other's hands, closed their eyes, and vanished from Harry's grave, disappearing into eternity, where only peace awaited them.