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Chapter 8: A Table for One
Lucy stared at the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich before her. Would any of it get eaten today?
It was eleven in the morning. The diner was even emptier than usual that day, most likely because the downpour outside had coerced people into staying in their homes and offices. She sat in a corner booth, picking at her crisps and thinking about the last twenty years of her life. Next to her glass of water sat her nametag. Rachael. One of many lies she’d told to the Muggles.
She couldn’t get his face out of her mind. The expression of betrayal cut her to the core, probably because she had seen it before. Severus had looked just as hopeless when he watched her take her few bags and walk out of his home fourteen years ago. The memory pained her insides.
She forced herself to think of something else. The first time she’d met Sirius came to mind.
It was the first day of class, back when they were eleven. Lucy had rushed up from her room in the dungeons, eager to compare schedules with the nice red-headed girl she’d shared a compartment with on the train. She didn’t have any other friends, and she most certainly didn’t want to lose touch with Lily, even if they had been sorted into different houses. Then, James Potter came onto the scene. Never one to miss an opportunity to insult a Slytherin, he arrogantly suggested that Lily look for her real friends in Gryffindor house. James’s dark-haired friend stood at his side, chuckling at yet another of James’s condescending jokes. Lucy looked down, her good mood shattered, and the boys moved away at last. She listened vaguely to Lily’s words of reassurance, feeling a little better when the girl claimed that she had another friend in Slytherin. When Lily suggested that they all spend some time together, Lucy smiled a little.
She couldn’t help but notice Sirius looking back at her from his place down the table. His expression was a bit sad, his playful smile tinged with curiosity and something like regret.
The time together never came. Gradually, as the years passed and James attempted to woo Lily, Sirius and Lucy tumbled messily from acquaintances to friends and finally into coupledom. They never formalized anything, really, but she began spending inordinate amounts of time with the Marauders, though she and James continued to share a mutual annoyance with one another. Sirius was her first Valentine, and then her first date. They traded their virginities at fifteen.
She had forgotten about Severus Snape entirely, and then came fifth year Potions.
As usual, it was Lily’s fault. Lucy was awful at Potions, always a little too grossed out to admire the concoction in the cauldron, and Lily casually suggested that she investigate the possibility of having Severus tutor her in the subject. It took a while to brew some of the fifth-year assignments, and silence soon gave way to conversation. She revealed her insecurities about her party animal boyfriend, and he poked bigger holes in them. Finally, she caught Sirius snogging a Ravenclaw in one of the greenhouses after class. She kissed her potions tutor, and it felt right.
She couldn’t help it. His work was inexplicably beautiful, and he made her feel like she was worth something for the first time in her life. He defended her against Sirius, who was none too happy to lose his girlfriend to Snivellus, and protected her from her dangerous older brother. When he popped the question in a surprise move, the only answer that made sense was yes.
They had been married for three years when Lily and James died. She put two and two together, knowing that Severus bore the mark of those who had been responsible for the murders. She never even asked him about it, just packed her few possessions and left her elaborate engagement ring and wedding band on the kitchen table. He had been a kind husband, and so she at least waited until he got home from his new job at Hogwarts so that she could tell him goodbye. She hadn’t seen him since. Sometimes, on days like this one, she wondered if he still missed her.
Had Sirius really been so bad, though? He was perfectly sweet to Rachael, his rescuer.
She picked up the nametag, turning her gaze upon it now.
Lucy wondered if Rachael really existed somewhere. She wondered if she was happy.
She had been gone when he woke up on the couch. It was almost eight now. She was late.
Sirius felt like he was imposing by eating her leftovers, but he hadn’t had his usual lunch today, and it wasn’t like she was going to eat them anyway. He twirled spaghetti absently on a fork, the odor of the reheated tomatoes filling his nostrils as he took a bite. It was just as good as it had been the first night he’d come here. He wondered how many times she had made it since, grasping at straws to find a sign that she missed him, that his absence had mattered to her.
There had been no note telling him to get out. In fact, there had been no sign of an argument at all. With a single exception, the lack of a lunch invitation, it was just like it had been before. He had been forced to treat the day like an ordinary one, taking a brief shower and putting on some of the clean clothes they’d purchased at the secondhand store. Fresh clothes felt odd on his body.
He was reminded of his prison uniform, still fresh when they put him on trial for murder.
She had been there, sitting in the back behind Remus. She had selected the side of the defense. In truth, there were no sides to choose. If Lily and James had been alive, they would have sat there as well. He didn’t even think that Peter really had it in him to hate his old friends, not really. He, like anyone else, was just doing what worked best for him. Still, his cowardice angered Sirius.
It was bizarre, sitting there so close to what remained of the people he loved. They shared a grotesque camaraderie in this moment, though Remus refused to look his old friend in the eye. He seemed comforted by Lucy’s presence. It didn’t make sense, her being there, seeing as she’d sold her soul to Snivellus and her last real connection to the group had been cut down by Voldemort. Still, Sirius held onto the moment while in prison. They were all he had left now, even if he didn’t really have them anymore. They would return when he proved his innocence.
He recalled the way her diamond had glittered, taunting him. He had never hated Snape so much.
He glanced over at the door, wondering when she would come home. He had fully expected her to run home right after her shift and tell him to take his little plight somewhere else. But the diner had closed hours ago, and a thunderstorm raged outside in the street. He felt a pang of concern.
Twenty minutes later, the knob finally turned, and she stepped in looking like a drowned rat. Her thin blonde hair hung raggedly about her face, and her blue t-shirt, apron and pants were soaked. She looked like she might have been crying. Part of him hoped it was just rainwater, playing tricks.
She did not say hello or comment on the fact that he was eating her food and continuing to reside in her flat. She made no reference to the previous night’s events, either. She looked at him briefly, years of exhaustion evident in her blank expression, and then started down the hall.
He didn’t realize how much he had missed her until his voice cracked to life. “I lied.”
She paused, approaching him tentatively. He waited for her to reach him before he explained.
“Lily missed you like hell, Luce.”
It was unclear which of them moved first. He grabbed her gently, feeling her bones creak slightly as his hands moved readily up under her shirt and grasped at her lower back. She let him lift her up closer to his face, some of her wet hair sticking to her cheeks as she greedily accepted his kisses. The memories came flooding back at an alarming rate, hurried along on their journey by the somewhat familiar scent of a wet dog that had inhabited his bruised skin for so long. She had always been able to escape with Sirius, letting him get her lost in a world of reckless abandon. Even now, she forgot that she was sick and lonely, forgot about the lie she had lived for years.
He let her tear her hands gently through his hair, distracted by the shocking feel of bone and deteriorating muscle beneath her smooth skin. He forced his eyes open, and in a single glance he stared past the suffering so prominently featured in her blue irises, seeing the laughter that he had loved so much as a fifteen-year-old boy. At this, he kissed her harder than ever, desperate for her. They were both skeletons, half dead inside and out, but he wanted every part of her anyway.
It was not so different this time when they tumbled into bed, yearning to live and be youthful together. The bodies were older but the motions were familiar. He tore her clothes off readily, popping a button on his new shirt as he removed it as well. Neither of them had much energy to spare, and they satisfied their urges with the occasional affectionate bite to punctuate their lovemaking. The silence returned when they finished, both bodies fully used up.
Both of them slept better that night than they had in years.