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Curious Happenings at Number Twelve by Toujours Padfoot
Chapter 27: An Epilogue of Sorts
That August, at around midnight, Sirius and Nora Black were winding their way hand-in-hand down the sandy beach. Seawater gushed in around their ankles, foamy and swirling, reaching and retracting in the endless dance of the tide. Nora stared up at the starry black sky, content with everything save for the fact that it was a full moon. Full moons had lost most of their beauty with Nora, now that she’d seen firsthand what sort of horrors they bestowed on Remus Lupin. “Somewhere out there,” Nora said, “Remus is a wolf right now.”
“A harmless one,” Sirius pointed out. “He’s been stringent about taking his Wolfsbane.”
She shrugged. “Still.”
The ocean breeze was cool and salty on their skin, and Nora watched Sirius’s hair ruffling in the slight wind. She had to glance away before he noticed her admiring; Sirius always got that smug expression on his face whenever he caught her making doe eyes at him, and he always gave her grief for it. “I could live here,” Sirius told her after a long pause, his silhouette turning to gaze out over the shining black waves capped with moonlight. “After the Ministry is one-hundred-percent finished clearing my name, that is. I’m not living in that wretched house a minute longer than I have to.”
“And Kreacher?” Nora inquired.
Sirius made a nasty face. “Stupid, sodding little turnip-head can rot in hell, for all I care. The lying traitor could have gotten us all killed.”
Nora trickled a finger up his arm with her other hand, and she felt his rigid muscles relax. “You remember what Dumbledore said. You have to find something to do with him so that he doesn’t run off again and tell more secrets.”
“Fine, then,” he replied blankly. “I’ll send him to Hogwarts. Dumbledore can keep an eye on him much better there, anyway. I tend to get…distracted…” He cast a sideways glance over Nora, his lips curving into a meaningful smile. Nora tried to roll her eyes, but she couldn’t even manage to catch her breath with the way he was looking at her; she was provided with a sensation of her legs melting into jelly. She wondered if his effect on her would ever ebb.
Probably not. The stirring he evoked in the pit of her stomach just by looking at her was part of his magic. And, unfortunately, he knew it.
Nora crossed over to his other side to slosh around in the bubbling surf, and he mechanically seized her other hand, their fingers always searching each other out – interlocking – like two halves of a whole. They simply did not function as well when they were apart.
Nora was smiling at the gleaming water, and Sirius raised a quizzical eyebrow. She was always making him curious and he was forever asking what she was thinking about. So before he could even open his mouth, Nora said, “I was just thinking about my name. It’s a contradiction.”
He raised his other eyebrow.
“Lenora means ‘light’,” she explained. “So, in essence, my name means ‘Light Black’.”
“You are a contradiction, love,” he replied easily, swinging their hands. “Look at how beautiful you are! And you’re with me.”
She laughed. “Oh, shut up. We both know you think you’re beautiful, too.”
Sirius tossed his mane of black hair, beaming genially. “Well, I’m never one to toot my own horn…”
Nora shook her head. “Right now, Tonks just sat straight up in bed, wondering why she awoke with such a sudden urge to strangle you.”
“Tonks can’t deny my charm,” he answered loftily, and then grinned at her. She closed the gap between them, resting her head on his shoulder as they walked. Their footprints washed away behind them, filling up with water and pebbly flecks of broken abalone shells. Come morning, it will be as though they were never here. They would have apparated back to Grimmauld Place…Nora would probably be making breakfast while Sirius ranted irately about bits of the Daily Prophet he found disgusting. And Nora would nod and smile and ask him, once again, why he even bothered reading the paper. And Sirius would mutter under his breath, unable to come up with a good answer, and continue picking the articles to bits.
Or maybe, just maybe, tomorrow’s paper would read: “SIRIUS BLACK: INNOCENT”. It was something they’d been waiting for. Dumbledore assured him it would be a slow process, trying to gain back the public’s trust in him. Sirius was supposed to maintain a low profile until they were entirely positive he would not be received with cries of terror from both the wizarding and Muggle world. Nora knew he was feeling impatient, but his leash seemed to be unraveling with every growing day. Really, he wasn’t all that fussed; he had Nora, and he felt he could never complain about anything ever again, as long as she was his, and his alone. He always knew he would have, her, somehow, in the end. Sirius was king of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
“You know what today officially is?” Nora mused, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Your father’s birthday,” he said, averting his eyes.
“I don’t remember mentioning it to you.” He detected a twinge of suspicion in her voice. “Did you read my –”
“Well, it was right there on the table!” he argued. “How could I not? I didn’t know what it was. I thought it might have been a letter for me.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, but he was suddenly very consumed with star-gazing. “It was in my drawer,” she reminded him. “Underneath a stack of all my other post.”
Sirius tried to come up with a good excuse, but found himself falling prey to Nora’s accusing smile. “Alright, then. I’m nosy.”
Her smile widened, as though she had expected this. “Sirius, I know that if I want to hide something from you, a drawer is not the suitable place. I’m much craftier with hiding places than I used to be.”
“Oh?” He was instantly intrigued.
“Oh.” She grinned to herself. That will drive him up the wall for weeks.
Nora loved the night; it was when she and Sirius were allowed to come out and explore. They’d spent the previous night in the Amazon Rainforest, bewitching parrots to sing vulgar renditions of popular songs. Thanks to Sirius, a flock of colorful macaws were now flying around singing, “I’m in Your Bed with a Hairy Whore” as a tribute to Celestina Warbeck’s “I’m in Your Head like a Fairy Lore”.
Each day had brought passels of new opportunities – new ideas for visiting places neither of them had ever seen. They watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, trekked through the Himalayan Mountains in the pouring rain (Sirius was so luscious in the rain, with the ends of his hair dripping and his shirt soaked through…), and in Bangladesh they went skinny-dipping in a hot spring that was renowned for its sacred purity. They tried to avoid Grimmauld Place as much as they were able, because Sirius claimed the smog of London was messing with his appetite. In truth – and they both knew it – Nora was seeking distraction and Sirius just hated living amongst the ghosts of his unpleasant childhood. Both of them, as always, were keen to indulge each other.
Nora was still grieving the death of her hopes for resurrecting her family. The sadness of what she had lost – what she never really had to begin with – was gnawing at her.
In July, Nora had taken Petula Prewett to Adlebourne Park Cemetery. A large black dog strolled dutifully by Nora’s side as she pulled her mother along the neatly-trimmed path. Petula was skittish and nervous, like a small child being escorted to her first day of school. She kept her arms wrapped tightly over her chest, back hunched and her eyes large and wandering.
Nora laid a small bouquet of wildflowers on the simple, square grave. She had passed by this grave countless times over the years, walking over it to visit her father and uncle. How many times had she locked eyes on the name of her brother, completely unaware about who this tombstone belonged to? The soil underneath was empty – they had cremated him – but Nora knew that if coming there didn’t make Petula understand, nothing would. Petula deserved answers, she craved them. Somewhere, deep down inside of her, she had been waiting on tenterhooks to know what had become of her infant son, taken from her so many years ago.
David Michael Neilham.
Petula stared at the grave, uncomprehending, and Nora fished the yellowing newspaper clipping from her pocket. She passed it under her mother’s face. “Archer,” she said.
Nora waved her wand at the tiny tombstone, and the name vanished to form Archer Prewett. It would still show the engraving of ‘David’ for Muggles to see, but anyone from the magical world would look at it and see his real name. Nora thought about that for a moment, and altered it to Archer Severus Prewett. She had no idea what her baby brother’s middle name was supposed to be, and it seemed fitting to credit Severus. After all, without him she would not know what had become of Archer. The dog’s nose lifted disapprovingly into the air, but he kept his protests to himself.
Nora waited for her mother to say something, and when she looked at her, saw that Petula’s eyes were closed, and two translucent tears trickled down her cheeks. She did not open her eyes, or move, for a very long time.
Sirius and Nora stared at Petula for what felt like an eternity. The summer breeze was warm, scattering blossoms from the peach trees and the scent of it filled the air. Nora liked the fact that her brother was resting with the peach trees – or at least his tombstone was – because she imagined it would be comforting. Soothing, like the way Nora’s mother used to make her feel as though she were wrapped in a cocoon of never-ending security. Soothing, like her father’s deep, booming laugh and Fabian’s pocketful of brass Gobstones; Alice Longbottom’s wooden flute expelling high, melodious notes on whispering spring evenings and Frank’s bottomless supply of Every Flavor Beans. Baby Archer slept peacefully with all of them now, rocking on a porch swing amidst Alice’s flute-playing and dreaming of his parents’ loving smiles; in the world of the dead and those who are truly dead even if their shells are still bound to Earth.
They listened as the wind rustled through the trees, the occasional lift of Petula’s lank hair as the sun and warmth and tragedy caressed her face.
“Otcher,” Petula said in a hushed, hollow voice.
Nora nodded, wrapping an arm softly around her mother’s still figure. “Otcher.”
Petula Prewett died the following morning.
She was buried twenty feet away from the grave of her son, lying next to her husband with Fabian on Gideon’s other side. All around them were generations of Nora’s grandparents, favorite aunts and the uncles who told crude jokes during dinner; the strange cousin who wore four sets of shoelaces and the old lady with cataracts but who still somehow knew when children were stealing her Cauldron Cakes behind her back – a family reunited in a place Nora was not privy to see.
In Petula’s casket, Nora had tucked the newspaper clipping of Archer. This way, in a sense, he would be buried with his family.
Nora had expected to feel happier that her mother had finally joined her husband and son – but surprisingly felt nothing aside from a stabbing emptiness. Sirius had taken her in his arms and held her while she sobbed, murmuring that he loved her and that he was sorry. Nora remembered with a surge of shame that Sirius had no family left, either. They were each other’s family now, and there was nowhere to move except forward.
She had not managed to avenge anyone’s deaths. Nora had not killed any of the five Death Eaters on her list, but she found she could be apart from it, and let go of it. She was no longer submerged in her own personal realm of morbid revenge and hatred. Sirius had given her something better to hold onto, more lasting, and that was peace. It was love. It was knowing that no matter what happened, if she died or Sirius died, the other was only separated by a thin veil…just out of reach…and they would join together again someday. She had him for eternity. He wasn’t anywhere near flawless, of course – she knew that his judgment had been slightly impaired during his stay in Azkaban, and old prejudices had since been irreversibly and rather ignorantly cemented. But Nora herself was not perfect, either, having wasted five years of her life being openly fixated on anything to do with Death Eaters and nearly losing her own sense of identity in the process.
This wasn’t to say that if Nora ever went on the warpath and discovered Dolohov or Bellatrix, she wouldn’t strike a knife through their hearts without skipping a beat – because she most likely would. But she did not dwell on the fantasy of that hypothetical situation. Their deaths would be spontaneous if she ever had a hand in them – achieved through the luck of the moment – and they would be less significant to her than before. Their deaths would not define her or give her purpose. Nora, praise the pixies (as Sirius would say), was no longer obsessed.
She had met them, all five of the murderers who had shattered her house and stability on Broadford Street. Nora had stared Dolohov right in the eyes, and had come away from Malfoy Manor without causing them the least bit of harm. But the point, she now realized, was that she came away from it at all. She lived. In the end, fate is a roll of the dice. If it comes up your number, then it comes up your number.
Presently Nora glanced at Sirius, who was trying to skip a smooth rock out over the ocean – it didn’t even bounce once before sinking – and he turned to see if she’d noticed his failure. Nora grinned, shaking her head.
If it’s your number, then it’s your number. But if it comes up the number of the one you love, then you change the dice.
RIDICULOUSLY LONG AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thank you to everyone who’s read this story, and I especially thank you for the reviews and those who have added this story to their favorites.
I was going to tack on an alternative ending after the epilogue, in which Sirius dies at the Ministry as he did in the books. And then I realized that I don’t want any bits about Sirius dying at all, even if it’s just in an alternative ending. There’s been enough written about Sirius’s death. Personally, I think that after all the character of Sirius Black has been through, and how much he’s suffered, the poor man deserves to grow old with someone he loves. So die-hard canon fans may not like this ending, but I’m not catering to them. I’m catering to my own selfish wish that Sirius would have lived and died a very old and very happy person. Isn’t that one of the purposes of fanfiction, after all?
To dispel any confusion, this story was not a love triangle. The only character Nora fell in love with was Sirius, and the only character who fell in love with Nora was Sirius. Severus Snape's heart always belonged to Lily, and while he wanted to have stronger feelings for Nora, for the sake of filling the painful void left behind by Lily, the emotion simply wasn't there. Severus Snape had to die in Deathly Hallows while still longing for Lily, and loving her, or else he wouldn't have fought and protected and died for her son, Harry. When it comes to Severus Snape, it was only ever Lily. It's a tragedy, but I respect it and I would never have changed that in this fic.
Cargan Dearborn was delusional, and also did not have any real attachment to Nora. He was simply bored after looking at the same women since Hogwarts, and fixed upon her as something to alleviate his distraction. That and the fact that he was a complete idiot.
Therefore, this was not a story where every man fell in love with the main female character. This is a story where one man, emotionally destroyed as he was, managed a (sort of) happily-ever-after. Sirius suffered so much trauma, went through so much grief what with the deaths of his closest friends and spending years in Azkaban, that it was easy for him to love Nora. She was right there, available, and willing to be the recipient of all the devotion and loyalty that James and Lily left behind. Sirius is the kind of person who needs someone - it could have been anyone at all who came to live there, any random single female - and I am convinced he would have fallen in love with her. It's a testament to how emotionally damaged he is, and how desperate he was for closeness and acceptance. Severus required no such affection from others. As I said before, his heart died with Lily. This was a story about why people do what they do, deluded or genuine or just a little lost, and how people use others for their own imaginary purposes. We're all just trying to find some sort of happiness, pretend or not, and motivations as to why vary all across the board.