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The Edge of Light by timeturner
Chapter 1: Prologue
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The Edge of Light
At ten years old, Sirius Black was more mature than most boys twice his age. Part of it, of course, stemmed from his birthright. Born the eldest son of one of the oldest and most regal of all wizarding families, some would say his behavior had been so ingrained in his genetics that it was impossible for him to be anything but mature. For the Black family, appearing as anything other than royalty was a disgrace and for young Sirius, as with any child of his age, pleasing his parents was the one thing he was determined to do. So, over time, Sirius had learned to feign smiles at those he despised, laugh at dreadful jokes, and present himself as a prince overseeing his people.
Where genetics could not teach him, his parents gladly filled in the void. His mother skilled him in the finer things like manners, dancing, reverence for ladies and the ability to make anyone believe you cared deeply about their problems whether you actually gave a damn or not. His mother was so skilled in this area that Sirius himself rarely knew if she was listening to him out of love or merely tolerating his presence.
Whereas his mother taught him to be a gentleman, Sirius’ father educated him in the more roguish side of life. He showed Sirius the value of a good bottle of whiskey to ease his troubles; skilled him on the fine art of learning how to hide drunkenness from ne’er do wells; and, took him along for nights out with the men where loud music, gambling, and ladies who were willing to do anything for the right price jaded Sirius’ opinion of the outside world.
Even with all their careful planning and instruction, though, Sirius developed qualities that his parents abhorred. He sought friendships outside the old wizarding families, befriended those less fortunate than him and, perhaps most devastating of all, Sirius Black believed that every person, no matter how dark, had threads of goodness in them that were just waiting to be revealed. In the darkest hours before daylight, Sirius would lay alone in his bed holding desperately to this belief. The idea that one day goodness would reveal itself in his family helped him greet each day with renewed hope and, more importantly, let him believe that even in his darkened heart a light would someday allow him to find true happiness.
More than anyone, it was his uncle who had kept this feeling alive within Sirius. His uncle disagreed with many things Sirius’ parents had taught him or allowed him to witness and each time they were together, Sirius felt loved, wanted, and protected in a way he’d never experienced at home. Sirius felt free to laugh, question without fear of reprimand, enjoy the company of both muggles and mudbloods alike and, let his honest nature shine through. His uncle had instilled a sense of adventure in Sirius and their long nights of conspiring over future mischief always kept Sirius intrigued. So when on an early summer’s eve, long after his parents had retired to bed, a hollow rapping on his bedroom window came, Sirius knew his adventure was just about to begin.
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you'll find something solid to stand on
Or you'll be taught how to fly
– Richard Bach
Chapter 2: Carnivale
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His uncle had appeared in Sirius’ bedroom with the promise of adventure in a muggle village a few miles outside of town. He called it a carnivale, but it was nothing like Sirius had ever seen. Brightly colored electric lights were strung far above his head turning the moonless night into day. Strange exotic smells made his mouth water and his stomach growl and his uncle gladly let him try each new dish – cotton candy, a spun sugar the shade of pink bubblegum that melted in your mouth; normal apples that had been drenched in a blood red coating of something sweet; and a strange muggle drink called soda that tickled Sirius’ nose every time he took a drink.
Clowns, acrobats, dancers and odd looking women with beards filled the myriad of tents and Sirius happily followed his uncle into each one. As the hours wore on and the darkness got heavier, the crowd became more unruly and the festivities began to pour into the edges of the forest. Mugs of mulled wine and mead began to be passed around and, all too quickly, people were beginning to stagger around in a daze. Belligerent voices called through the darkness as scantily clad women appeared and beckoned men toward them. Sirius noticed the difference in his uncle as the night changed. He began staying closer to Sirius’ side, his arm resting protectively on his shoulder.
With the turn of the night, an array of brightly dressed men and women pushed past Sirius and onto a nearby stage. Their exotic costumes in jewel tones of scarlet, plum, and turquoise caught Sirius’ attention immediately. A few of the men took places at the back of the stage and began playing thunderous music that brought the growing crowd closer and closer. The women and young girls began swaying to the tune, their movements slow and provocative. They gestured to the crowd, who reacted instantly to their dark slithering like motions.
“Who are they?” Sirius asked, his eyes lingering on a young girl so near his own age that was dancing with the others.
“They are gypsies, Sirius.”
“Muggles?” Sirius asked and immediately knew he had said something wrong.
“Does it matter? You talk as if being a muggle is a bad thing.”
“No, I only meant do they do magic?” Sirius whispered. “I’m sorry, uncle.”
“No,” his uncle wrapped his arm around Sirius’ shoulders as they continued to push closer to the stage. “I’m sorry. You act so grown-up I sometimes forget you’re still a boy.”
“I’m not a boy.” Sirius began to argue but was quickly distracted as one of the gypsies’s waved their direction. “Do you know her?” he asked surveying her fanciful and revealing clothing. Like the young girl he had first noticed, her costumes were nearly see through and glittering sequins and baubles shook as she walked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he ruffled Sirius’ hair. “Come, we need to get you back before the night turns.”
“What does that mean?”
“Before bad things start to happen.”
As if to prove his point, a soft muffled scream echoed from the gypsy caravan. Sirius looked to his uncle who seemed to be torn between going to see what was happening and staying with him. “I’ll be fine. Just go check on them.” Sirius smiled to reassure his uncle.
The rowdiness of the crowd was unlike anything Sirius had ever experienced. Mocking and curse words began to echo through the night and people began pushing to get closer to the stage. The sudden clang of rocks hitting the metal stage brought Sirius to attention, his senses on full alert. From the corner of his eye, Sirius caught a glimpse of something he recognized and he whirled.
“James!” Sirius pulled James Potter from the midst of the people headed for the stage. “What are you doing here?”
“Did you see what happened?” James’ voice was full of anger and disgust. “They’re calling her a witch.” James’ drew his wand but Sirius jerked it out of his hand and shoved it back in his robe.
“Are you out of your mind?” he hissed. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t stone us as well.”
“Stoned?” James sounded as if he was going to vomit. “Is that what they’re doing?”
Sirius didn’t answer. How could James be so naïve? If the muggles couldn’t find a real witch or wizard to stone, they’d more be more than happy to take a substitute. “We need to find my uncle and get out of here. Come on.” Sirius grabbed James’ arm and pulled him through the edges of the crushing mob and to the back of the stage.
“Sirius –" James’ voice broke and Sirius turned to see what he was staring at.
Curled into a ball at the center of the stage, the long haired woman that had waved to his uncle was screaming for help. The crowd had turned on her, though, and continued to pelt her incessantly with rocks and pebbles they found lying on the ground. Shrieks of “witch” and “kill her” flooding into the night and Sirius closed his ears. Grabbing James by the shoulders, he turned him away from the scene.
“Sirius – "
“Shut up, James.” Sirius murmured, unable to tear his own eyes away from the blood now spilling from the woman’s body. Although the crowd hadn’t noticed, her screaming had ceased and Sirius dropped his head. James had noticed the difference, and he struggled to move but Sirius held tight to his shoulders, refusing to let him turn toward the scene.
“Sirius, what are you doing here?” His uncle’s face was filled with worry and it looked as if he was fighting off tears. “You’re that Potter boy, right?” His uncle turned toward James. “Where are you parents, you shouldn’t be here.”
“They are over at the – "
“Go. And go the long way, if I see you so much as pause or turn around – "
“Yes, sir.” Without so much as a backwards glance to Sirius he disappeared.
“Sirius, we have to get you home. We’ll talk about this later, but – " he trailed off, his eyes locked on something far behind Sirius. “Stay here.”
Sirius barely acknowledged his uncle’s orders. Flashes of the woman’s bloody and beaten body kept assaulting his mind no matter how hard he tried to keep them out. He didn’t think he had the strength or energy to move even if he wanted to.
“Sirius,” his uncle whispered heavily making Sirius turn.
His uncle’s weary face exuding something Sirius couldn’t quite comprehend and his uncle stepped aside to reveal the young girl Sirius had noticed earlier. She looked rather stunned, her eyes glazed over as if she was somewhere else. She had wrapped her arms tight around her chest her gaze fixed on something in the distance.
“I’ve made a portkey, Sirius.” His uncle took hold of Sirius’ arm to get his attention. “We’re going back to Grimmauld.”
Sirius nodded, still watching the girl. “Is she – "
“Hold tight to her hand, please, she’s coming with us.”
Sirius nodded and took her hand in his. She looked at him for a moment, as if trying to determine whether he was friend or foe. Whether she came to a decision or not, Sirius couldn’t tell, but the look of resignation on her face was evident.
With a slight jolt to his midsection, the three arrived in front of Grimmauld. The girl stumbled slightly and Sirius reached out to help her straighten herself. She jerked away from his touch, as if the change of location had finally brought her to her senses. She shivered slightly as she surveyed her new surroundings.
Sirius pulled off his cloak and helped the girl pull it on. He waited for her to close it up but she seemed too stunned or scared to do anything. Sirius began fixing the closures, his eyes watching her curiously. He had never known his uncle to take in a stray and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. It didn’t help that he knew she was a muggle.
“Thank you, Sirius, that was very kind.” His uncle appeared behind him and placed a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder then knelt beside her. “What’s your name?” His question met silence. “Do you have any other family we can take you to?” She shook her head and Sirius could see his uncle shiver. “Then, I suppose you’ll have to come with us for awhile. Do you understand?”
“Yes, master.” She bowed slightly and Sirius could see his uncle recoil.
His voice was unsteady when he spoke. “Sirius, take her to your room. Don’t let your parents see her until I’ve had a chance to talk to them, understand?”
“I have to go to the Ministry of Magic to sort this out but I’ll be back shortly.”
Sirius nodded. “I’ll take care of her.”
His uncle ruffled his hair. “I know you will.”
Taking her by the hand, Sirius pulled her into one of the darkened passageways of his house and into his bedroom. Closing the door tightly behind him, the girl began making tentative steps around his room. Her movements unnerved Sirius, who had never had anyone but family in his bedroom. He watched her from paces away, wondering when his uncle would come and rescue him from the whole situation. She seemed to be checking herself for injuries and Sirius became worried. “Are you hurt?”
Although she didn’t answer, Sirius could see blood on her hands and he moved to her. “Let me see.” Kneeling beside her, Sirius pulled down the cloak. “You have a cut on your shoulder. I can fix that if you’ll let me.”
She eyed him fearfully but Sirius’ touches were soft and gentle. “What’s your name?” he asked as he slowly removed the cloak so he could get to her wounds.
“No, it’s not.”
“It’s the one I’m telling you,” she returned and Sirius smiled.
“Well, Cat, would you like some tea?” Sirius tapped her lightly on the shoulder with his wand, her wounds immediately healed.
She tilted her head at him, her eyes filled with curiosity. “You’re a wizard then?”
Sirius didn’t answer and began pouring her a cup of tea.
“How old are you?”
“Ten, almost eleven.”
“You don’t act ten, almost eleven.”
He wasn’t sure if she was making fun of him, so Sirius merely shrugged as he handed her the teacup. “That’s what everyone says. You don’t seem old enough to be dancing like you were out there.”
“And you aren’t supposed to do magic underage.” Cat gave Sirius a hint of a grin but it immediately dissolved. “Are you always this direct?”
“Indeed he is.” Sirius’ uncle appeared in the doorway. “Sirius, a word please.” He motioned for Sirius to join him in the hall.
The serious look on his face told Sirius all he needed to know. “Her mum is dead?”
“I’m afraid so. Has she told you anything?”
“A made-up name.” Sirius shook his head. “She was injured but I already took care of that.”
“Good boy. I suppose that will require me to intercept an underage wizard letter from the ministry to your parents?” Sirius started to reply but he waved him off. “Not that the ministry would interfere in what goes on in this house anyway. I’ve brought her some clothes. It wouldn’t do to have your parents meet her when she’d dressed like that. See that she gets cleaned up and I’ll go find your father.”
“Is she staying with us?”
His uncle turned back to him, a dark look washing over him. “I’ll see if your parents will accept her to help around the house. Sirius,” he lowered his voice, “she has seen more than you could ever imagine. She hasn’t led the privileged life you have.”
“That’s a warning,” Sirius stated, knowing but still not quite understanding.
“Be careful how you treat her in front of your parents. She is a muggle, never forget that in their presence. They will not tolerate any friendship between you two,” his uncle said quietly. “Go. I’ll see what I can do.”
Sirius nodded and entered the room much more hesitantly. She was watching him expectantly and Sirius wasn’t sure what to say.
“My mother is dead?”
“My uncle –"
“I didn’t ask him, I asked you,” she said pointedly.
Under her penetrating gaze, Sirius’ cool faltered. “Yes, she is.”
Cat nodded then patted a spot beside her for Sirius to join her. “You had a fun day?”
Sirius sank down beside her, his confusion showing on his face but she only smiled.
“Don’t look so terrified. I’m not going to fall to pieces in front of you. I don’t suppose even you are old enough to face that.”
Sirius let out a breath of relief. “It was my first time. I’ve never seen such a colorful world. The lights, the music, the dancing…”
“Hm.” Cat glanced around. “Your world does seem a bit bleak. Your family, they are dark wizards?”
Sirius wouldn’t meet her gaze, but instead busied himself by waving his wand to start a fire in the fireplace across from them.
“Ah, I see. You and your uncle, then? You two disagree with their beliefs.”
“How did you know that?” Sirius tilted his head in amazement.
“Would you have saved me otherwise?” Cat asked softly.
“Why were they doing those things to your mum?” Sirius asked hesitantly as he watched her begin to untie the jewel colored ribbons that adorned her hair. “Calling her names and throwing things at her?”
This time, Cat hesitated. “You saw those things?”
When Sirius nodded, Cat placed a hand on his arm. “Then, it’s no wonder you act so old. You’ve seen too much to be so young,” she answered. “People hate what they don’t understand, Sirius, but I have the feeling you already know that.”
“Sirius! I asked you to make sure she changed.” His uncle’s voice made them both jump.
“I’m sorry, I – " Sirius began but was cut off.
“Nevermind.” His uncle turned to the girl. “Cat, is it?”
“Yes, master.” Cat jumped to her feet.
“First off, don’t ever call me that. Secondly, the Blacks have been kind enough to offer you residence here if you are willing to work for your keep. I can attest for your safety, you won’t find a safer place in the world save Hogwarts. But I can’t attest for your happiness.” He watched her closely for some reaction, but she merely nodded.
“I’d be honored, sir.”
“How old are you?”
Sirius watched as his uncle peered down at Cat. She moved a pace closer to him and, with only a brief sideways glance at Sirius, Cat touched his uncle’s arm lightly. “How old do you need me to be?”
“More experienced than I counted on at any rate,” his uncle answered, his eyes narrowing. Cat immediately withdrew her hand.
“Yes, sir.” Cat stood tall, waiting for what she expected to be the worst requirement of all.
Sirius could tell she was scared; her tiny body was trembling beneath his large cloak. Stepping forward, he touched her shoulder gently as his uncle knelt down to face her.
His voice was kind, accepting with no questions. It was the voice that comforted Sirius most. “Are you alright, Cat?” he asked softly. “Is there anything we can do?”
Sirius wasn’t prepared for the depths of her emotions. While his mother had always kept her sorrows hidden, at his uncle’s soft words, Cat melted. Her sobs and tears were uncontrollable and her body shook as the memories of the night overcame her. In a single move that Sirius neither welcomed nor expected, she had turned and buried herself in his arms.
Sirius’ arms wrapped around her automatically but his eyes, wide with fear, focused on his uncle.
Touching Sirius softly on the shoulder, he smiled reassuringly. “Everything will be fine. I’ll send one of the aids along to help get her situated.”
Sirius nodded, wishing frantically that his uncle wasn’t leaving him alone again with this sobbing mushy stranger. He certainly didn’t know what to do with her, so Sirius stood still, embracing her tightly until the maids came to his rescue. With more compassion than he knew they had, they eased her away from Sirius and disappeared down the hall.
Sirius stood stunned for a moment, knowing he should probably go check on her or talk to his parents or something. But more than anything, he just wanted to forget the entire night had ever happened. Too tired to remove his clothes, Sirius collapsed onto his bed in exhaustion. It seemed like only moments before he was being stirred awake.
Rubbing his eyes, Sirius pulled himself to sit up, the worried look on his uncle’s face scaring him.
“What’s happened?” Sirius’ voice broke with exhaustion and fear.
“No, everything’s okay.” His uncle placed a hand on his arm. “I wanted to check on you before I left….to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m okay.” Sirius smiled faintly.
“The truth, Sirius.” His voice was calm but forceful.
Sirius shook his head, so many questions filling his mind that he didn’t even know where to begin.
“Her mother, you understand she was killed because people thought she was different?” his uncle prodded gently and Sirius nodded. “She has no family. This is now her home, for better or worse. Do you understand that?”
He nodded again, certain that that was the one thing he actually did understand.
“Sirius,” his voice got quieter than even his normal whisper, “you understand she will be in danger here, don’t you? Her future is uncertain?”
“It’s unfair to her.”
“Sometimes keeping someone close to you is the only way to keep them safe. I saw you befriend the Potter boy, Sirius. I know you understand what I’m saying.”
Sirius refused to nod, refused to acknowledge what his uncle was saying but he did exchange a conspiratorial smile.
“Good.” He patted him affectionately. “Sirius, can I ask you something?” he moved to rest his back against the headboard beside Sirius.
“Her touch, it frightened you.”
“No, it didn’t.”
“Sirius,” his uncle chastised.
“Well, what was I supposed to do? She just fell apart!” Sirius argued.
“Had nothing to do with her being a muggle, then?”
His uncle didn’t comment but Sirius could see the relief wash over him. “You gave her what she needed and nothing less. That’s the secret to keeping a girl happy.”
“But why?” Sirius asked exasperated. “You were there. You would’ve known what to do.”
“Because, Sirius,” his uncle smiled as he wrapped an arm around his shoulders, “she chose you.”
Chapter 3: Lost Freedom
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“Wake up! Sirius, come on, wake up!”
The bouncing of his mattress springs pulled Sirius from sleep. He groaned miserably, realizing he probably hadn’t been asleep for more than two hours. “Go away, Regulus. It’s too damn early.”
“I’m telling mum you’re cursing!” Regulus shook him. “But I won’t if you just get up!”
“Tell her what you want and let me go back to sleep. You’ll end up telling her anyway.” Sirius spat but pulled himself up to sitting. “What’s so important?”
“We got new help and you aren’t gonna believe it….she’s a muggle!”
Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”
“She delivered my breakfast this morning and then I heard mum and Dad arguing over it in the kitchen.”
“Arguing?” Sirius didn’t like the sound of that and he struggled to keep his voice steady.
“Yeah, mum said no filthy muggle was going to serve her and she started throwing plates and everything.” Regulus grinned. “Dad told her it was about the only thing they were good for so she might as well take advantage of it.”
“What’d mum say?”
“Nothing,” Regulus grinned, “but Dad must’ve proved his point because she’s been bossing that girl around ever since.”
Sirius surveyed his younger brother, wondering what else he’d overheard his parents talk about. Sirius had never had the desire to listen to their fiery arguments, much less their normal conversations. Off handedly, he wondered what Regulus might have heard them saying about him but then decided he was probably better off not knowing. “Why do you think Dad let her stay?”
Regulus grinned mischievously. “’Cause she is one good looking girl.”
“That’s not even funny.” Sirius shoved Regulus off his bed and onto the floor as he got up.
“Nah, I think someone convinced Dad that it would help keep up appearances with the ministry after that run in he had in Knockturn Alley last week.”
“How’d they know about that?” Sirius asked lightly, certain that his uncle had managed to let that slip while visiting the ministry office hours earlier.
“No idea, but Dad was livid!” Regulus scrambled off the floor. “It’s all over the newspapers and everything.”
“Bet mum loved that.”
The two brothers turned to see their mother tapping her foot impatiently in the doorway. “More news about your father’s escapades you’ve been keeping from me, Sirius?”
“I’m not keeping anything from you.” Sirius sighed heavily as he avoided her gaze and sank into a chair.
“Get your lazy self up, it’s almost lunch time. We’ve got to head to Diagon Alley and get your school supplies.”
“School?” Sirius sat up.
“Hogwarts, your letter came yesterday.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sirius hurried to pull clothes out of his dresser.
“What, did that tiny brain of yours forget? It’s not as if you haven’t known you’d be going since the day you were born,” she snapped as frown marks creased her forehead showing her displeasure. “Get dressed and hurry up about it. I refuse to have my son wear robes off the rack and the seamstress will need all the time left before the start of term to hand make yours.”
Sirius shooed them out of his room to change. He’d been waiting on this for years….Hogwarts. Even the name brought a smile to his lips. No more Regulus; no more complaining parents; and, most importantly, no more Black family rules to accommodate.
“You seem much happier this morning.”
Sirius whirled. “How’d you get in here?” His cheeks burned with embarrassment and he turned away to finish buttoning his shirt.
“There are passageways hidden all through this house, did you know that?” Cat sank down onto his bed. “I stayed up all night trying to learn where they went but I only managed to get lost. I yelled myself hoarse. It turns out they are sound proof as well.”
“Yes, I know that.” Sirius eyed her quizzically. Her colorful clothes had been changed into a drab greenish grey color that resembled the rags their house elf Kreacher wore. The color made her olive skin take on a sickly looking glow. Her long chestnut hair, which had first caught Sirius’ attention at the carnivale, was tied into a tight braid on top of her head giving her angular face an almost harsh appearance.
“So, a muggle is definitely a bad thing in this household.” Cat nodded. “You could’ve told me that last night.”
“I –" Sirius began but she waved him off.
“No matter, I adjust quickly. Where are you off to?”
“Buying school supplies. I start Hogwarts in the fall.”
Sirius couldn’t help but notice the unease in her voice. “Yeah, but you’ll be fine here.”
“Fine is a relative term.”
“Nevermind.” Cat shook her head. “Your brother, Regulus, is it?”
“He’s a rather annoying ill-mannered git, did you know that?”
Sirius laughed so deep it made his sides ache. It took him a moment to regain his breath from laughing so hard. “Yes, I know that, too.”
“Well, I should go. I don’t want you to miss out on those custom made robes.” Cat winked and started for the door.
“Wantmetoshowyouthepassageways?” Sirius wasn’t sure why he’d asked it, but once it was out he knew he couldn’t take it back.
“Want me to show you the passageways?” Sirius repeated more slowly. “I can show you tonight once I get back.”
“I don’t know, Sirius.” Cat shook her head. “If we get caught, you are going to be in a world of trouble.”
Sirius shrugged. “I’m always in trouble. You’ll figure that out pretty quick, too.”
“Well, only if you want to go.”
Cat stopped in her tracks and turned to look at him. “What do you want?”
Sirius shrugged uncomfortably. That wasn’t a question he was used to hearing from anyone other than his uncle. “I think it’d be fun to show you how to sneak around the house. Besides, it might come in handy for you one day.”
“Ah. I should’ve known.” Cat grinned. “That horrid adult side of you steps in with an ulterior motive. But,” she laughed, “you’re probably right. I’ll come by your room after dinner.”
Sirius nodded and watched her go. He couldn’t believe his uncle had managed to get his parents to let her stay. Of course, it wasn’t without a price and Sirius winced at the image of the drab clothing that was so unlike her. It was his mother, no doubt, that chose to dress her like nothing better than a house elf. She probably did like Kreacher more than any muggle, come to think of it.
Sirius’ curiosity was piqued. Why had his uncle brought her here when he knew how hard it would be on her? Weren’t there muggle orphanages for people without families? What made her so different that his uncle felt compelled to bring her into the Blacks home? A vague idea tugged at Sirius, but he just couldn’t place it.
He could hear his mother yelling for him once again and, grabbing up his things, he ran to meet her before she decided to make him streak around the house naked as punishment for having to buy robes off the rack. The thought made Sirius shiver and he sped up, determined to meet her at the fireplace before she had a chance to call his name again.
“You got grounded?” Cat was curled up on Sirius’ bed going through the boxes and bags that he had brought home.
Sirius glanced at her, still uneasy at heaving her in his room. He kept trying to imagine she was Regulus but it just wasn’t working. He moved away and learned against the window, trying to look nonchalant as he attempted to coax his new owl into coming back into the house. “Yeah, but it’s nothing. I’m always grounded for something.”
“Exactly what did you do?”
“Hexed a kid who was trying to steal in the candy store.”
“And that’s wrong?”
“Apparently. He’s the son of a famous pureblood or something.” Sirius shrugged and watched as she fingered his wand gingerly. “It’s okay, you can pick it up. The magic’s not in the wand.”
Cat looked at him nervously but finally picked it up and began waving it around. “Must be odd to be able to have anything you want anytime you want it.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Sirius answered and shifted his weight uncomfortably. “Ready to go exploring? They should be in bed by now.”
“What’s with all this green stuff?” Cat asked, putting down the wand and fingering a satin scarf. “It’s more colorful than anything I’ve ever seen in your house.”
“You get sorted in houses at Hogwarts. The Blacks are always in Slytherin, whose house color is green.”
“They put a hat on you and it decides what house you will be in.”
“But you’ve already decided what house it’s going to pick for you?” Cat raised an eyebrow.
“I didn’t decide anything. The Blacks are always in Slytherin,” Sirius repeated. “Come on, let’s go.”
Cat stared at him a moment then jumped up to follow him. As they entered the corridor attached to Sirius’ room, he whispered “lumos” and small brass torches attached to the walls lit their way.
“You don’t like talking about your family much, do you?” Cat asked after they had been walking a few minutes.
“It’s not my family, it’s…” Sirius trailed off.
“You?” Cat asked knowingly. “You think you’re the odd one because you see things differently than all the rest of them.”
“Something like that. What about you?”
“My mother was the last of my family. She gave me the freedom to do anything I wanted and taught me how to know which the right path was and which was wrong. Not that I don’t still test her opinions, mind you.”
“Don’t let my mum hear you talking like that,” Sirius replied laughing.
“I’m not afraid of your mum.”
“No you’re not.” Cat shook her head. “Otherwise you wouldn’t do the things you do to defy her. You’d be like Regulus and follow every little decree to keep your mum happy.”
“Do you always talk so much?” Sirius asked irritably. “Is that a girl thing or a Cat thing?”
Cat ignored him. “So, do you use these to spy on your parents?”
“They don’t say anything I want to hear.” Sirius opened a door and let her step into the large connecting room. It was littered with magazines and books and had large squishy pillows scattered across the floor. “I don’t think mum and Dad know about this place. At least they’ve never found me when I disappear here.”
“Looks like you’ve been doing that for awhile.” Cat shuffled through the magazines then sank onto one of the pillows. “I didn’t get much sleep last night. I guess you didn’t either, hm?” she asked as Sirius’ sank onto one of the pillows and his eyes immediately closed.
Sirius fought to keep them open. “No, I’m good.”
Cat giggled. “Liar.”
“Maybe,” Sirius answered sheepishly. “Oh, I got something for you.”
“What?” Cat straightened up.
“While we were shopping. It’s nothing really,” Sirius said quietly and pulled out a handful of colored ribbons. “If I know mum, she made you throw all of yours in the trash when she saw them.”
“Yes, she did.” Cat took the ribbons and twirled them softly in her hand, letting the fabric slide between her fingers. “This was very kind of you, Sirius.”
Sirius shrugged uncomfortably. “It was nothing.”
Cat looked as if she was going to say something, but then she closed her mouth and began tying the ribbons into her hair. Sirius watched her for a few minutes, unsure of what exactly he was doing. What if his parents found out he was alone here with a muggle? Not any muggle but hired help at that. But she intrigued him, and Sirius couldn’t resist the adventure she presented. Memories of the last 24 hours flowed through him and, with thoughts of life at Hogwarts keeping him warm, he feel asleep.
When Sirius awoke hours later, it took him a few moments to remember where he was. Across the room, he could see Cat. Curled into a ball, her hushed sobs immediately jarred him from his groggy state.
“Cat?” Sirius crawled toward her in the darkness, unwilling to turn on a light and face what he knew would be a tear stained face.
“I didn’t mean to wake you. Go back to sleep, Sirius.”
Sirius hesitated but only for a moment. She had been so vibrant when he met her and it was if a few hours at Grimmauld had drained it all from her. His uncle’s words echoed in his mind, and leaning against the wall, he pulled her into his arms. “Want to tell me?”
“You’re a child Sirius; you don’t have to act so grown up around me.” Cat sniffled as she spoke.
“I’m old enough to know you’ve lost your mum and your freedom in one day and you’re afraid you’ll never have another friend again.” Sirius countered. “And you’re afraid to trust me because the Blacks are muggle haters and you think I’ll join them.”
Sirius could feel her watching him but she made no move to leave his arms. “You should be out doing whatever it is ten year olds, almost elevens, do rather than babysitting me.”
“And you should stop telling me what I need to be doing and accept what I am doing. You sound just like my mum.” Sirius moved away from her and back to his pillow across the room. “I’m going back to sleep, you can find your way out now, right?”
“Yes.” Sirius could hear her voice crack as she spoke.
Sirius knew he was being mean but couldn’t help it. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to comfort someone and with every attempt he made she was treating him like some idiot kid. Why put himself through that? If she didn’t want to be friends, so be it. He’d survived at Grimmauld without her for years and could continue to do the same.
Sirius jumped in the darkness as her soft hands reached to touch him. He hadn’t even heard her cross the room, but could now feel her lying down beside him as her weight pressed the pillows into the floor. Taking his arm, she wrapped it around her waist, pulling his chest tight against her back. Sirius could feel the tears dripping down her face and onto his arms, but somehow knew he shouldn’t say anything. He pulled her tighter, as he remembered his mother doing years ago when he was a child. He had very few kind memories of his mother, but her comforting embrace when things went wrong were ones he held to in desperation. Drawing from those memories, Sirius sought to hold her rather than smother her and wondered silently if this was what having a real sister would be like. Eventually her sobs receded and her breathing became more consistent and Sirius knew she was close to sleep.
“Thank you,” she whispered softly.
Not knowing quite what to say, Sirius remained quiet.
“Catarina,” she murmured sleepily. “My name is Catarina.”
Chapter 4: Cursed Gryffindors
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“Sirius, we have to talk,” his uncle’s stern voice was low, causing Sirius to jerk to attention.
Sirius looked to his parents, who were still in deep conversation at the dinner table. The long wooden table, inlaid with intricate carved scrollwork, glistened from its recent polishing. The crystal had never sparkled quite so bright and the mounds of food stretched from one end of the eight foot long table to the other, even though the five of them took up only one small end. Cat’s hard work put to waste, Sirius thought silently as he watched her lay another dish of food at his mother’s place. Like many of the other delicious dishes, his mother pushed away this one as well, her sharp tongue directed at Cat’s insolence. Sirius could tell her words were stinging, but he admired the way Cat’s face remained placid against each insult his mother tossed out. As usual, she nodded obediently and retreated to the kitchen. She shot Sirius a conspiratorial look behind his parents’ back before disappearing. “Is something wrong?”
“That’s what I want to find out but not here.” He exchanged a meaningful look with Sirius.
Sirius thought briefly of his planned adventure with Cat - they had intended to sneak out and kidnap some garden gnomes to leave in Regulus’ bed while he was sleeping - but the tone in his uncle’s voice told him this was definitely more important. “Of course.”
“Meet me in the back garden as soon as you can.”
Unlike normal, his uncle walked away without so much as a hug or well wish which told Sirius something big was going on. His parents didn’t even notice his uncle’s absence – he usually left unannounced when he’d had enough of their pureblood ramblings and they were used to it. Vaguely, he wondered if his uncle’s unease had anything to do with the new visitors that had been frequenting Grimmauld.
“Sirius, this dinner is for you. You’re leaving for Hogwarts tomorrow and you can’t sit still long enough to have dinner with your family? Disgraceful.” His mother’s voice was cutting. She turned her attention to Sirius, ignoring Cat who was waiting with another dish of food. She waved her off and Cat winked at Sirius as if to tell him it was now his turn to accept the abuse.
“I’m rather tired, Mum, with all the plans,” Sirius lied coolly, forcing his eyes not to follow Cat into the kitchen. “Would it be acceptable for me to go to bed?”
“Now?” her voice raised another notch and she dropped her utensils to give him her full attention. “We have people coming later.”
Sirius’ eyes flickered as he nodded. “I don’t want to be too tired tomorrow, it’s a big day.”
“Oh, let the boy go to bed,” his father waved Sirius away. “Probably has some last minute hexes he wants to learn before going to school and meeting up with all those damned do-gooder cursed Gryffindors.”
Sirius nodded without comment and slipped out of the room before his mother could respond then turned off to go out the back door to go meet his uncle.
The dark twilight made the grounds eerie and Sirius wished for Cat’s company. Since her appearance at his home over a month ago, they had become thick as thieves, as she called it. She knew the grounds almost as well as he, and the darkness of Grimmauld had always tied his stomach in knots. He quickened his pace to find his uncle. When he finally reached him, Sirius was surprised to see his uncle with a drink in hand. His uncle had never been one to drink in front of him, unless it was a holiday or special celebration. Even then, it was limited to mead or wine and never anything stronger. But here alone in the Blacks’ gardens, an empty discarded bottle and another half gone in his hand, told Sirius his uncle was far from alright. Moving aside the empty bottle, Sirius sank down beside him onto the garden bench. “What’s wrong?”
“Have a drink, Sirius.”
Sirius took the bottle from him obediently and took a small sip of the bitter liquid. He immediately made a sour face and handed it back. “Is this about the people visiting the house?”
“No, it’s about Cat. Wait,” his uncle turned a dark look his direction. “What people?”
“What about Cat?” he asked at the same time.
His uncle waved his hand in the air. “One thing at a time and I’m pretty sure mine will take longer so you first. What people?”
“Well, if you hadn’t been away for over a month we wouldn’t have to play catch up,” Sirius said bitterly. “And I don’t know who they are. Just a bunch of your average dark wizards. Only one I remember is one named Voldemort.”
“Voldemort? He was here at Grimmauld? You’ve met him?” His uncle shook violently next to him. Too young to understand his uncle’s terror, Sirius blamed it on the abundance of whiskey he’d consumed.
“Loads of times,” Sirius nodded.
“Maybe I was wrong. Yours might take longer than mine.” He took another drink and offered one to Sirius who took it begrudgingly. “Sirius, I’m sorry I haven’t been around lately. I know it’s hard on you. You know I’d take you away with me if I thought I could, don’t you?”
“Would you?” Sirius couldn’t hide the hurt in his voice and he cursed himself for it. Why was Cat able to conceal all emotion from anyone and Sirius couldn’t seem to hide a thing?
“You doubt me?” His uncle shook his head before Sirius could respond. “Of course you doubt me, I’ve deserted you most of the summer, why wouldn’t you?”
The devastation in his uncle’s voice caught Sirius off-guard and he immediately felt guilty. He knew his uncle cared for him, perhaps even loved him if there was such a thing. And here he was…acting ungrateful to the one person he considered his friend. He chastised himself and mentally promised to never do such a thing again if he ever managed to gain friends of his very own. “I’m just tired is all.” Sirius handed the bottle back to him. “I’m sorry.”
“Never be sorry for telling the truth, Sirius. And as for being tired, might that have something to do with those late nights you’ve been spending with Cat?” His voice held no notes of amusement as usual, but only a weary resigned observance.
Sirius hesitated, his mind filling with excuses and plausible reasons for their escapades. How had his uncle learned about them anyway? They had been careful not to let anyone, even Regulus, see them prowling about the grounds.
His uncle pat his leg. “There’s no need to lie about it. Your parents don’t know so just relax.”
Sirius nodded, but took another sip of his uncle’s drink to settle his nerves.
“You two have become quite the pair, it seems. Disappearing for hours on end, slipping into the passageways late at night not to return until daylight nears.” His uncle’s voice was soft rather than accusing. “I’m afraid you’re playing with fire, Sirius...tempting fates that don’t need to be tempted.”
“We aren’t doing anything wrong,” Sirius answered quickly.
“And exactly what would you classify as wrong?”
Sirius was quiet, unsure of what his uncle expected him to say. He reached for the drink, but his uncle stopped him.
“I think you’ve had enough. Besides, it won’t make it any easier.”
“Make what easier?”
“You and Cat,” his uncle swallowed. “You seem to have gotten over your fear of her embrace.”
“Oh.” Sirius’ face turned red and he smiled. “Father gave me that talk ages ago.”
“Yes, I can just imagine what your Father told you.”
“We’re just friends. Honestly,” Sirius explained firmly, choosing to ignore the harsh bitter tone that filled his uncle’s voice. “She’s a hell of a lot more fun than Regulus.”
His uncle didn’t respond but sank back against the bench, his eyes drifting lazily from one moonlit shadow to another. Sirius had the urge to flee…he’d seen his father drunk many times and there was always a brief moment of introspection in which you could escape without fear of facing a raging drunken tirade. But Sirius refused to believe that his uncle would turn on him and he tried to relax in the quiet. He sat silently, waiting for what seemed like an eternity for his uncle’s senses to come back to him.
“Is she better about her mother?” He coughed slightly as he struggled to sit up.
“Yes, she is,” Sirius answered then lowered his voice as he helped his uncle straighten himself. “Are you?”
He could feel his uncle’s eyes cut toward him. “Pardon?”
Sirius didn’t answer, but waited patiently for his uncle to respond. Over the past several weeks, Sirius’ nagging feeling about Cat’s mum and his uncle wouldn’t go away. He wasn’t sure exactly when he’d come to the realization that there had to be something between them, but Sirius didn’t doubt his conclusion. His uncle could deny it, but so strong were his feelings, Sirius knew he still wouldn’t believe him.
“This isn’t a conversation you and I should be having. Maybe in a few years…”
“And who should you be having it with?” Sirius argued. “Going to go run and tell my Dad you were involved with a muggle?”
“Watch your tone, Sirius.”
Sirius dropped against the bench in frustration. “You tell me everyone is equal. You’ve been blasting my ears with lectures about it since I was three. But when it comes down to it, you are just as ashamed of muggles as the rest of the Blacks.”
“No, no, no.” His uncle’s voice was furious and filled with disbelief but Sirius didn’t care.
“You went off and slept with some muggle and now are ashamed of it. You feel guilty because she’s dead and so you blackmailed my Dad into letting Cat stay here. Exactly what part of that is unlike a Black?”
“Enough!” His uncle jumped from the bench. “You want me to act like a Black? I’ll curse you to Azkaban for talking to me in that damned self righteous know-it-all tone!”
Sirius rose to stand in front of him, his voice defiant. “I suppose that answers my question as to whether or not you are better, now doesn’t it?” Sirius fought to hide the uncontrollable shaking he felt coming on, but failed. He’d never seen his uncle so angry, much less angry with him. His emotions tumbled, his stomach churned, the whiskey made his head feel fuzzy and he stumbled to the ground as he tried to run away from his uncle. The idea that he might have lost his only ally in the Black household made him long to be off exploring the safety of the passageways with Cat. Sirius tried to stand but the nauseous feeling washed over him before he could react. His dinner spewed onto the soft green grass, the rancid smell causing his stomach to wretch again. Sirius struggled to his feet, tears of anger, hurt and embarrassment spilling down his cheeks. Squaring his shoulders, he wiped his mouth and eyes with his sleeves, refusing to turn and face his uncle. “I’ll see you later.”
But Sirius only got a few wobbly paces away before his uncle pulled him back. “Sirius, I’m sorry. Please stay.”
The broken look on his uncle’s face made Sirius hesitate. The dizziness overwhelmed him again, but his uncle’s strong arms wrapped around his shoulders, helping him sink to the ground with some sense of dignity rather than allowing him to fall again. They sank onto the soft grass, neither speaking as they waited for their emotions to dissipate. His uncle handed him the bottle of whiskey and a handkerchief as a peace offering and Sirius took them without comment.
“We are all we have, Sirius,” he said finally. “We can’t afford to lose that, no matter how old you get. We are going to fight and argue especially as you age and begin to think you know everything. But we can never, ever, let what happened tonight happen again. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Sirius answered simply, his nervous heart rate returning to normal. “I know I made you uncomfortable. I know that. But if I didn’t call you on it, you wouldn’t ever tell me a thing.”
“Why do you feel it’s your right to know?” his uncle asked quietly, his voice urging Sirius to think.
“I have no right,” Sirius admitted. “I just want to know.”
His uncle sighed in exasperation and defeat. “What do you want to know?”
Sirius had a dozen questions about the relationship he wanted to ask. He wanted to know how they met; what they saw in each other; if it was love or just what his father used muggles for; and he wanted to know why her death had devastated his uncle to the point of him pulling a wand on Sirius. But mostly, there was one thing that tugged in his mind at least a dozen times each day. He didn’t know why, but it tied his stomach in knots and gave him nightmares whenever he tried to sleep.
“Is Cat your daughter?” he asked solemnly, twisting the handkerchief into a tight rope as he spoke.
His uncle raised his head, a look of utter confusion on his face. “Why on earth would you want to know that?”
Sirius shrugged. “It’s just the one question I think I need to have answered.”
“Hm.” Sirius' question had apparently been an unexpected one and his uncle pondered him for a moment. “And you two are just friends? No snogging in the dark corridors or anything like that?”
“No!” Sirius answered quickly. “I swear!”
His uncle grinned and winked, causing Sirius to relax considerably. “Well, I’m afraid that might change if I answer your question.”
“She’s not your daughter, then?”
“No.” His uncle shook his head. “She’s too old. She did take me by surprise, though. Rosemarie, that’s her Mum, never mentioned a thing about having a daughter.” A smile crept onto his uncle’s lips and Sirius knew he must be lost in memories.
“You knew her a long time?”
“Years,” he answered nodding. “She was the most amazing person I’d ever met. Her husband died not long after they were married. We started spending more and more time together as the years went on and well, one thing led to another. I wonder who took care of Cat during all those times,” his uncle mused thoughtfully.
“Her grandmother until she was about eight,” Sirius provided. “After that, she was pretty much left on her own whenever her mother disappeared.”
His uncle took hold of Sirius’ arm, gripping it tightly. “Sirius, you have to understand, I didn’t know she had a daughter. I never would’ve taken a mother away from her child. I would’ve welcomed Cat as my own if Rose had given me the chance.”
His uncle seemed almost maddened with grief and Sirius had no idea how to respond. “I know,” he whispered simply.
“I just don’t know why she never told me,” his uncle said softly, unable to hide the hurt in his eyes.
“Well, I imagine you had your secrets from her, didn’t you?”
“Touché,” he answered and then smiled half-heartedly. “You seem to have learned a lot about Cat since I’ve been gone.”
“We talk a lot. She’s pretty nosey if truth be told.”
“Growing a bit attached to her, are you?” he asked with forced laughter.
Sirius grimaced. “She says I have the emotional depth of a toadstool.”
“Then, either she doesn’t know you very well or you aren’t being very honest with her.”
Sirius dropped his head and glanced away rather than respond.
“Sirius?” his uncle touched his shoulder. “Sirius, what is it?” His voice was normal again… caring; loving; understanding of all Sirius’ questions and doubts.
“I can’t be honest with anybody,” Sirius murmured. “Outside, if I tell someone I’m a Black they either start backing away or start fussing over making me happy. Inside the house, I can’t tell anyone what I think of their so-called pureblood hysteria.”
“And what do you think about their pureblood mentality?”
“I think we’re no better than anybody else.” Sirius lowered his voice. “In fact, half the time I think we’re worse.”
His uncle draped an arm around Sirius’ shoulders. “It’s a terrible place you’ve been put in, Sirius. Maybe going off to Hogwarts will give you the chance to finally be a kid. You know, raise a little hell and stop being so damned responsible for once in your life.”
“Maybe.” Sirius pulled away. “I’ve got to go. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”
“I’m sorry for tonight, Sirius. You shouldn’t have had my problems on your shoulders. You carry a heavy enough weight as it is.”
Sirius nodded rather than answer and quietly returned back to his room. He wasn’t sure why the conversation with his uncle made him feel so uneasy…perhaps it was because it was the first time he’d ever had to say goodbye to anyone.
Sirius sank onto his bed, lost in thought. Somehow, he didn’t think leaving had much to do with it. The relationship with his uncle and a muggle hadn’t surprised him, but the depth of his uncle’s heartache was frightening. Sirius didn’t know it was possible to feel that strongly about someone. He tried to imagine what it would be like to lose his parents or brother, but he only had a vacant sense of relief and Sirius immediately chastised himself for thinking such a thing. Whatever had caused his uncle’s pain, Sirius knew it was something he never wanted. He never wanted to be broken like Rosemarie’s death had broken his uncle and he vowed to never let someone have such control over his life. Love might be alright, but what his uncle and Rosemarie had? No, that definitely wasn’t something Sirius would ever let happen to him.
His thoughts drifted to Hogwarts. He couldn’t believe it was finally time to go. He had dreamed about leaving Grimmauld for as long as he could remember. Getting to choose his own friends…maybe even James Potter would be sorted into Slytherin with him. After all, they were both purebloods. Sirius knew James had it in him to be a trouble maker and his mind whirled with the mischief possibilities that had to exist at Hogwarts. Sure, the teachers would be strict, but after ten years of avoiding his mum, Sirius didn’t think any professor had a chance at catching him. Besides, even if he had to behave, he was at least out from under his parent’s control. That alone was worth behaving for.
Sirius didn’t stir as he felt Cat sink onto the edge of his bed. At some point over the last month, he had gotten used to having her appear in his bedroom and, in fact, had learned to welcome the distraction of her presence.
“Everything okay with your uncle?”
“He’ll be fine,” Sirius nodded. “Just a little wisdom to impart before I left.”
Cat knew he was lying…she could always tell. But unlike everyone else he knew, Cat never pushed him for more than he wanted to say. She paused briefly, but only briefly, at his lie as if giving him a chance to say more. When he didn’t, she smiled. “Telling you to be good was a waste of breath.”
“Actually, he advised raising a little hell.”
She was pacing the room now, nervously picking up objects and then placing them down again. She hadn’t acted this way since her first night at Grimmauld and it made Sirius uneasy. “Sirius.”
Something in the tone of her voice made him sit up. He wasn’t sure how many more revelations he could stand in one night, but the way Cat said his name told him she was about to say something important.
“I’m not good at being alone.”
Images of Knockturn Alley and his father’s disastrous run-in with some half-blood women that wouldn’t obey him flickered in Sirius’ mind. “Cat, you have to be good. If you get caught sneaking around – "
“No, that’s not…nevermind. Just nevermind.” Cat shook her head. Sirius caught a look of determination in her dark blue eyes, but it was gone so quickly Sirius thought he’d only imagined it. “I’ll see you soon, Sirius.”
Although she started to walk away, she quickly stepped back and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. “Take care.”
Sirius watched her go, the puzzlement in his mind growing bigger with each step she took. When she was gone, Sirius sank back onto the bed, his mind in a daze. It was just a peck on the cheek after all. It really wasn’t anything.
Why, then, for the first time in his life, did Sirius find himself not wanting to leave Grimmauld?
Chapter 5: The Sorting
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A/N: I apologize in advance for this chapter. It will run the gamut of emotions…happy, sad, funny, angry…it’s really going to be a roller coaster chapter. But this is a really important day in Sirius’ life that helped changed him forever. I do sincerely apologize for the last scene…I’m terrible at those types but I tried my best. Special thanks to jynx67 for helping me torture dear little Sirius in this one.
“Are you going to Platform 9 ¾?”
Sirius turned at the shy, almost hesitant voice behind him. The girl looked tiny, not nearly old enough to be admitted to Hogwarts but she held a Hogwarts Express ticket stub tightly in her hand as if afraid to let it go. Her dark red hair gleamed in the sunlight and her green eyes flashed with impatience. Although she appeared calm, her flustered expression told Sirius she hadn’t a clue where she was going.
“There’s no such thing as Platform 9 ¾, are you daft?” Sirius leaned against his baggage cart as he watched her. Even though he and James were first years as well, both of them had made numerous trips to the station with their families. It had given them both a sense of superiority to the many other uneducated youth who were crowding the station on this early September morning. Having arrived to the station early, they had sat back and made jokes about them until they began to loose interest.
They had arrived at the station early with a singular mission in mind - catching a glimpse of some of the new wares being transported into Hogsmeade, the town nearest Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. James had disappeared just moments earlier on the tail of a surly looking dock worker that had been loading brown cardboard boxes marked “Fatal- Do Not Ingest” in block letters on the side. They had pooled their resources so James could try and bribe anything he could off the boorish worker.
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just your cloak and…” she trailed off. “Never mind, I’m sorry to have bothered you.” She began to scuttle away but suddenly she turned and faced him, her shoulders squared. “You’re tricking me, aren’t you?”
“Pardon?” Sirius could no longer hide his grin.
“You know exactly where it is and just won’t tell me. What a rotten thing to do.”
“Don’t get so huffy,” Sirius shook his head. “I was just having a little fun. I wouldn’t leave you stranded here.” He extended his hand. “Sirius Black, nice to meet you.”
“Lily,” she shook his hand firmly, her eyes still wary. “Lily Evans.”
“Need some help with your bags?” Sirius smiled genuinely this time, his attempt to apologize for giving her a hard time.
“I can manage, thank you,” she said quietly, her voice firm but pleasant.
“Suit yourself.” Sirius shrugged and waved as James held up the paper bag triumphantly. “Just walk into the barrier here...no, take your things with you.” Sirius took hold of her arm and helped her through the barricade then pushed her things along behind her.
“Who was that?” James tipped his head toward the barricade.
Sirius shrugged. If he told James how she’d asked about the Platform, he knew James would tease her about for years to come. “Just another first year.”
“Aren’t you just the helpful little tour guide?” James shoved the bag in his cart. “Come on, we don’t want to miss the train.”
Sirius followed James through the barricade and onto the train. It took them several minutes to push their way through the crowd and locate a compartment of their own near the back of the train. After stowing their personal things, James poured the contents of his paper bag onto the seat between them as the train gave a quick lurch and began pulling away from the station.
“What is this?” Sirius picked up a small gray orb covered with tiny spikes all around.
“Wouldn’t touch that,” James said knocking it out of his hand. “It’s filled with itching powder,” he explained mischievously. “And this,” he held up a bottle of dark green liquid, “is sleeping potion. It’ll put you out for hours.”
Sirius returned the grin, being more careful about the things that he picked up. In his quick shopping spree, James had managed to acquire at least two dozen different potions, objects, and items to wreck general nuisance among the halls of Hogwarts. Sirius couldn’t wait to try them out. Just as he was blowing a silver colored dust at James (since neither knew what it would do) a loud screeching near the doorway grabbed his attention. “Hang on, I’ll be back.”
“Sirius! I can’t see anything!” James was attempting to brush away the strands of bushy hair that had suddenly sprouted all over his face. The hair was long, almost to his knees, and made him resemble a lion more than a person. “Sirius, it’s not funny!”
Sirius was still laughing as he stepped away to see what the commotion was. “I’ll be back, don’t worry.” Stepping into the corridor, Sirius was surprised to see the girl from the Platform standing between a pale, freckled face boy and three other much larger boys, all with their wands drawn. They were yelling at each other and Sirius couldn’t help but admire the determined look on the girl’s face.
“Is there a problem?” Sirius asked quietly, leaning against the door frame of his compartment.
“These,” the girl’s eyes flashed as she spoke, “oafs were trying to make him to eat owl droppings.”
Sirius couldn’t help but laugh. Her eyes turned on him in an instant, though, and Sirius immediately hushed. “Lily, right?”
She nodded but still didn’t move. Her arm was protectively around the boy who, although bigger than her, seemed completely baffled by the entire situation.
“Who are you?” Sirius lifted his chin to the boy, ignoring Lily’s penetrating stare.
“My name’s Peter,” his voice shook slightly, whether from nervousness or fear, Sirius couldn’t tell.
“This isn’t your concern, first year.” The larger of the boys barely glanced his direction. “It’s tradition.”
“Your tradition stinks,” James voice broke through the banter and all eyes turned his direction. A brief moment of stunned silence followed then everyone except Lily burst into hysterical laughter.
“And what, the baby lion is going to stop us?” One of the boys jeered. “I haven’t seen a face like that since some Mudblood took me to a muggle zoo!”
Sirius could see Lily’s breath catch. It was almost imperceptible but over the years he had learned to pay close attention and it was something he couldn’t miss. It explained her unease at the Platform and her general lack of wizarding knowledge. She had been raised with muggles…Sirius was sure of it. James had squared his shoulders ready to lunge at whoever came within his earshot since he still couldn’t see beyond the mass of hair covering his face.
“Do you really want to do this?” Sirius asked quietly, his body moving to stand in between the boys and Lily. Like it or not, he knew that Lily was the most vulnerable of the group…if only for her bloodline alone. Whether she knew it or not, Sirius couldn’t tell.
“Do I know you?” The largest boy pushed toward Sirius. “You look familiar.”
“He’s a Black,” a hushed voice pointed his wand at the Black family crest embroidered on Sirius’ cloak.
“You must be Sirius. I’m Lucius Malfoy, you probably don’t remember me from the party this summer.”
The wands were immediately withdrawn and hands outstretched to welcome him. “I didn’t realize it was your year to enter Hogwarts.” “It’ll be good to have you on board.” “Do you fly much?”
Sirius shook each hand and answered the questions politely, urging Lily gently away as he spoke. Once he was certain she was away, he placed a hand on James’ shoulder. “If you’ll excuse me, we’ve got a little spell to sort out here.”
“We can take care of that for you…”
Three wands rose towards James at once but Sirius waved them off. “No, that’s okay. I think we can handle it.” He pulled James into the cabin and motioned for Peter to follow.
“What the hell was that?” James asked angrily as the door slid shut. “Sirius, can you get this off me or what?”
Sirius waved his wand absently at James as he watched Peter take a seat near the window. “Are you okay?”
James, now free of his mane, studied the new arrival. “Who the hell are you?”
“Stop being such a prat, James.” Sirius turned to Peter again. “Are you okay?” he asked again, more softly this time.
“Stop taking in strays.” James glared at Sirius. “He’s fine, aren’t you, Peter? It is Peter, right?”
“Yes.” Peter nodded, his eyes roaming the objects James had scattered across the compartment. “What is this?”
“No!” James and Sirius screamed but it was too late. Peter had picked up the orb filled with itching powder and it now covered his entire body. The reaction was immediate and Peter began failing wildly as agonizing itching covered his skin. The powder began to coat the room and Sirius and James lunged into outside hallway, crashing into the exterior train wall and sliding to the floor in an attempt to get away from the dust. Their laughter echoed through the corridor and inquisitive heads began to peek out from nearby rooms.
“That’s a banned substance, you know.” Lily’s voice made both boys look up.
“What are you going to do, report us?” James’ haughty voice made Sirius cringe but she ignored him and offered Sirius her hand.
“Aren’t you going to help me up?” James’ outstretched hand waited patiently but she made no move to assist him.
“I think not.” Lily turned on her heel, murmured under her breath and waved her wand carelessly at the room, causing the dusty scene to clean itself.
“Show off.” James’ irritated voice made Sirius laugh and he pulled him off the floor.
“Come on, let’s get cleaned up, we should be getting close.”
Neither James nor Sirius were exciting at the prospect of crossing the lake to get to Hogwarts and the idea of something lurking beneath the dark muddy water had almost sent Peter into hysterics. They grumbled, they groused, and they tried to pull “pureblood rank” to be able to travel in the coaches with the older students. For their constant complaining, James and Sirius were welcomed to Hogwarts with the first detention ever to be handed out prior to the start of term.
Sirius had tuned out the blubbering ramblings of the sorting hat, but watched as his fellow first years were divided amongst the four houses. Sirius couldn’t conceal his disappointment as James Potter was sent to Gryffindor. Sirius nodded his goodbye as James moved to sit at his designated table. So distracted was he, Sirius didn’t even hear his name called and another student had to prod him along. Fully expecting to be sorted before he even set down, Sirius was surprised when the sorting hat was silent.
“Hm,” it said after a long pause. “Slytherin you suspect.”
Sirius gritted his teeth. “Blacks are always in Slytherin. Can we hurry this up? I look like a damn fool sitting up here.”
“Tsk, tsk. What a temper!” The hat’s sing-song voice grated on Sirius. “A Black you say? Are you quite sure about that? I can see it all you know…here in your head.”
“Then put me in Hufflepuff. I don’t really care. Just make everyone stop staring at me!” Sirius tried to jerk off the hat but it wouldn’t budge.
“Going to fight the sorting hat, are you now, boy?” The hat laughed. “I can’t say I’ve ever had that happen before. Bit of courage and defiance there, I must say.” The continuing laughter enraged Sirius.
The hat’s announcement had come so abruptly, Sirius sat stunned. No longer was it making rambling useless accusations, but it had actually sorted him! Sirius glanced to where the Gryffindor table was clapping loudly and beckoning him forward. His eyes shifted to the Slytherin table and then the staff table looking for some explanation. The staff sat unmoving, though, most of them wearing expressions of mixed incredulity and surprise.
“Mr. Black.” A soft spoken female professor with a tall pointy hat pulled him off the chair. “You’ve been sorted, Mr. Black. Please take a seat with your house.”
Sirius’ stomach churned as the food came…he couldn’t eat a bite. The fresh pumpkin juice made him nauseous and Sirius finally dropped his head into his hands. What had he done?
“I can’t believe we got in the same house! What’s the matter with you?” James shoved him slightly.
“You don’t understand,” Sirius gazed around vacantly. “How could this happen? My parents are gonna kill me.”
“Relax. Just wait until we get to our rooms. I bet there’s all sorts of stuff we can get in to. Sirius, this is great!”
“Stuff it, James, alright?” Sirius’ head swam as he spoke. Swallowing the lump rising in his throat, he rose to follow the others as they began to move toward their dormitories. Although the other first years were jabbering with excitement, Sirius could only hear a faint buzzing in his ears.
Both Sirius and James turned to see the head boy coming their way.
“You’re wanted in Headmaster Dumbledore’s office immediately. I’ll escort you. Mr. Potter, I trust you can find your own way to the dormitories?”
Before setting foot in the office, Sirius already knew his parents were there. The wave of dread that had washed over him at the sorting had intensified to the point of physical illness and he couldn’t keep his body from trembling.
“Mr. Black, please sit down. You look a bit weary.” Dumbledore motioned to a chair and Sirius sank into it gratefully.
“As we were saying,” his mother said, casting an angry look Sirius’ direction, “we demand he be re-sorted. This is unacceptable!”
From the corner, the pointy-hatted professor stepped forward. “I’m sure the Headmaster would gladly allow such a thing but I daresay the hat has made up its mind.”
“Excellent point, Professor McGonagall. It is rather useless—"
“I demand it!” his mother screeched.
“Will it be necessary for us to talk to the board, Headmaster?” his father asked gravely.
“Of course not. Professor, the hat if you will.”
Sirius glanced from his parents to the hat in dismay, knowing what was going to happen. Sure enough, the hat didn’t even touch his head before calling “Gryffindor!” once again.
He closed his eyes as the fight ensued. He felt for the Headmaster…he was trying to reason with them. But Sirius had learned years ago they were incapable of reason.
Dropping his head, he chanced a look at his parents from underneath shaggy bangs. Both had apparently just come from yet another dinner party at the Black household. Their impeccable robes, trimmed in the darkest green velvet, look out of place next to all of the others in the room. They had obviously appeared in a rush, no doubt the result of his damn great-great grandfather, former Hogwarts Headmaster Phineas Nigellus rushing to Grimmauld with glee to share the news of Sirius’ latest mishap. Sirius cast an angry look at Nigellus’ portrait which hung behind the current Headmaster’s desk. He had a look of satisfaction on his face, as if to say “I told you so!”
Sirius took a small sense of pride in the fact that his parents were truly shocked at this turn of events. Since birth, he had been groomed for a place in Slytherin House. That he had some how managed to keep them from getting their way made him almost smile.
“Wait! Where are we going?” Sirius hadn’t been paying attention and his father’s vise-like grip on his shoulder tore into his skin.
“We’re leaving. There are other schools more suitable than this.”
“We can teach him better at home for all he’ll learn in that house,” his mother spat.
Sirius wasn’t sure when his mother left them. He wasn’t sure when he agreed to go to Hogsmeade with his father either but hours after the confrontation in the Headmaster’s office, the two were sitting in a darkened corner of the tavern. His father had sat down across from him, glaring over several now empty bottles of fire-whiskey. He wasn’t moving except to pour himself another glass, and he had only spoke to the waiter since their arrival. He had not so much looked at Sirius since they left the Headmaster’s office. Sirius knew enough to fear the silence.
“What are we doing here?” Sirius managed.
“I want you to meet a few people.” His father’s drunken voice filled with sarcasm. “Just what the hell were you thinking? Gryffindor? As if you haven’t broken your mother’s heart enough times since the day you were born. But this? This was going too far.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with it!” he protested. “That damn hat decided where to put me, what was I supposed to do?”
“Not degrade yourself to the level of a filthy mudblood! It’s that no good uncle of yours, isn’t it? He’s filling your head with lies about purebloods being nothing special.”
“No, Father.” Sirius fidgeted in his seat uneasily, unwilling to betray his uncle but knowing lies had never come easy to him. He said the first thing that came to his mind. “I met this girl…”
“A girl?” Hollow laughter filled his father’s chest. “You’re telling me you were thinking about a girl when you put that stupid hat on? How dim-witted can you be?”
“I didn’t realize – “
“Perhaps it’s time we make you realize then,” his voice had a low menacing tone that made Sirius’ heart leap to his throat.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve taken the liberty of bringing some Slytherins to visit with you tonight. I believe you know Lucius, of course. He still has another year at school with you. The others, well, I’m certain their names won’t matter much to you.”
Sirius’ eyes searched the trio before him, knowing they intended to do him harm but unable to equate that with their demeanor. They all looked rather pleasant, as if their presence was nothing extraordinary. The Slytherin crests on their robes reminded Sirius that these should be his friends…his brothers. If he had only done something different, thought something more Slytherin-ish, he could have avoided this entire little lesson. Why was it so hard for him to just behave?
“I should warn you he is quite accomplished at non-verbal magic.”
“At such a young age?” Lucius smiled skeptically at Sirius.
“The talents of a pureblood, Lucius.” His father chuckled then his voice turned to stone. “Get on with it before you’re found off grounds.”
Sirius had prepared himself to shield any curse they sent him but the first crunching into his jaw sent him to his knees.
“Shield charms aren’t going to do you much good now, are they?” Lucius stood a pace behind the other two as Sirius struggled to his feet.
“Leave it to you to choose to fight like a Muggle.” He resisted the urge to wipe the blood flowing from his lip. I will not give my father another reason to doubt me, he thought silently.
The punches came harder each time – his face, his chest, his abdomen. With each blow, Sirius refused to cower under their greater strength.
“You are a persistent one, aren’t you?” Lucius pushed the other two aside as Sirius tried to stand once again. “You would’ve been a credit to Slytherin.”
Sirius wanted to disagree, to argue, to say anything but the words just wouldn’t come. They were right, weren’t they? He had betrayed them before he even knew them. They, just like his family, had every right to hate him.
A jolt of pain coursed through Sirius’ body and he writhed in pain. His eyes sought help from other customers but sometime in the midst of the fight they had all disappeared. The excruciating pain continued, his breath becoming more shallow with each convulsion.
“Lucius!” His father’s voice cracked above Sirius’ own screaming. “A lesson only!”
“Certainly, Mr. Black.”
Sirius’ pain diminished but he still couldn’t move. Every muscle in his body twitched as if an electrical current had surged through him. Where had they learned such magic?
His eyes glazed over as his father’s face swam into view. He had hoped to see a look of regret or remorse, but the cold gray steel of his father’s eyes held no such sentiment.
“Get him up. I do believe he’s messed himself.”
Chapter 6: Still A Boy
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Still A Boy
Sirius had no idea how he made it back to Grimmauld. He didn’t remember much until he dropped to the floor at the front entrance to the house. Regulus had tried to help him up but a few well ordered commands from his father and Regulus had run off. Sirius tried to stand but he still had no strength. Reaching his hand to his face, Sirius wiped off the trickles of blood that were burning into his fresh cuts and scratches. Distant memories of laughing and joking with James on the Hogwarts Express glossed over his mind…it seemed like years ago rather than mere hours.
“Perhaps they persuaded you why Slytherin is the best house for someone like you?” his father growled menacingly as Sirius once again tried to get to his feet. “You would do good to learn why there’s no comparison to a pureblood.”
“There are purebloods in Gryffindor,” Sirius said quietly, grabbing the stair railing to keep his balance as he stood.
His father loomed over in him an instant. “How dare you! You dirty, filthy, little ingrate! Haven’t we taught you how important being a pureblood is?”
Sirius fell to the stairs, cursing himself for saying something so stupid. He knew better, didn’t he? Why did he always have to open his mouth? His blurry eyes drifted upwards, wondering how he was ever going to make it up the stairs and into the safety of his bedroom before his mother appeared and joined in the tirade. A slight movement caught his eyes and he strained to see who was there.
Cat. Peering around the corner, twisting her skirt in anxiety, tears streaming down her face, she looked desperate to run to him. Sirius’ eyes met hers for the briefest instant, and he knew how bad he must look. As if his eye contact strengthened her, Cat’s eyes blazed through her tears and she took a step out of the shadows.
“No!” Sirius yelled violently and Cat moved back to safety as his father yanked him up off his feet by his hair.
“You dare tell me no!” His voice shook with anger. “Get out of my sight!” In one swift movement, he had shoved him into the stairs, a cracking sound echoing in Sirius’ ears. “Get to your room and don’t let me see you again, do you understand me?”
Sirius didn’t answer but tried to stand. It was impossible, though, as not a single part of his body was without pain. His arms trembled with exhaustion and fear, his legs still shaky from the confrontation. His chest rattled as he tried to breath and with each ragged intake of breath he doubled over as searing pains shot through his mid-section. Slowly, desperately, he began crawling up the stairwell. He wasn’t sure how long it took him to get to his room, but he refused to stop there. Leaning against the walls for support, he dragged himself into the passageways and into his secreted room. He collapsed to the floor, taking deep breaths to try and calm himself. Lying down only made it harder to breathe, though, and he pulled himself up to sit against the wall. Pulling his knees into his chest, Sirius tried to bury the emotions that were beginning to drown him.
“Sirius?” Cat’s voice seemed miles away as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
“He didn’t see you, did he?” Sirius tried to wipe the sticky blood off his face.
“No.” Cat took his hands in hers and pulled off her apron to wipe off the remaining blood. “I’ve contacted your uncle, he should be here soon.”
“You shouldn’t have done that. It will only make things worse.”
“Let him worry about that,” her voice was sharp.
“Are you mad at me too?” he asked quietly, refusing to look at her.
“Oh, Sirius!” Cat pulled him into her arms, ignoring his winces and yelps of pain. “You protected me, how could I be mad at that?”
“No, I mean about Slytherin.”
Even through his blurred vision, he could see the same fire he had noticed earlier. It was like nothing he’d ever encountered before and as much as it intrigued him, it scared him more.
“Why on earth would I care about that?” Cat shook her head. “You are who you are, Sirius. Not whoever it is they want you to be.”
Even through his pain, Sirius could hear the bitterness in her words. “You are learning to hate them, aren’t you?”
“They are your family. They have provided me a home,” she answered carefully.
“It’s okay, Cat,” a somber voice said from behind them. “You can hate them.”
Cat slid out of the way as his uncle knelt beside him and began checking his wounds. His touches were hesitant, as if he was afraid to find out exactly what damages had been inflicted on his favorite nephew. “Rough night, Sirius?”
Sirius couldn’t stifle the laughter his uncle’s mundane question brought. Bolts of pain shot through him, though, and he doubled over.
His uncle nodded. “You’ve cracked your ribs.”
“He didn’t – " Cat’s words were cut off with a meaningful glare from his uncle.
“Will you tell us what happened?”
The odd tone in his uncle’s voice caught Sirius off guard. Just yesterday he had been ordering Sirius around, forcing him to discuss things he would have preferred to keep private. But now, for some reason Sirius couldn’t quite understand, he was asking for Sirius to share with him, confide in him, and recount the night’s events.
He wasn’t sure how long it took him to tell them the whole story…he kept fading in and out of consciousness and they would have to shake him back to the present. Cat’s furious remarks at his father would stop the conversation cold and his uncle would have to gently prod them back on topic. Since Sirius couldn’t remember much of anything from Hogsmeade or coming home, Cat filled in what she knew from over-hearing his parents talk and what she saw from the stairwell.
“I’m sorry you had to see these things, Cat,” his uncle said softly when the story had been re-told. He had moved a pace away from Sirius, his hand resting lightly on Sirius’ shoulder but his gaze was fixed on Cat.
“What?” Cat whirled on him. “What kind of response is that? He’s sitting her bleeding to death and – "
“He is not bleeding to death. You do tend to over react, don’t you?” His uncle smiled and patted Sirius lightly. “I think Sirius would probably agree with me to say he got off easy considering.”
Sirius nodded tiredly, not wanting to meet Cat’s protective gaze.
“First Black ever to not be in Slytherin,” he murmured shaking his head with a gentle loving laugh. “When you decide to make a mark, Sirius, you make a big one.”
“Will you stop making fun?” Cat said harshly. “What kind of horrid place is this?”
His uncle started to reply but Sirius cut him off. “It’s my home,” he murmured.
His uncle apparently approved of his answer because he stood up. “Cat, can you watch over him without getting caught? I have some damage control to do it seems. Sirius, I’ll be back in a few hours. Try and get some rest and we’ll get you to a healer as soon as you get back to Hogwarts.”
“Hogwarts?” Sirius shook his head. “They aren’t ever going to let me go back there.”
“Let me worry about that. You just rest for now.”
Sirius stretched out on the pillows as soon as his uncle had gone. His eyes closed but, for some reason, the quiet rest he had craved moments before now eluded him. He turned a tired gaze to Cat. “Are you really okay?”
Rather than answer, she stretched out beside him, her nose inches from his. “Now I understand,” she said softly. “I understand why you are the way you are. Why you act like an adult half the time. Why you are worried about me instead of curled into a ball sobbing your heart out.”
“My uncle was right…I got off easy,” he murmured. “It can only get worse from here.”
She didn’t answer and instead took his hand tightly in hers, pulling it up to lie between their faces. “Are you hurting, is there anything I can do?”
“No,” Sirius forced a smile. “I’ll be fine. You can bet no Slytherin will ever get the jump on me again.”
“Even a half dozen of them?”
Sirius’ eyes darkened. “Even a half dozen of ‘em.”
“Must you always be so tough?” Cat’s normal inquisitive voice had taken on a softer tone that pained Sirius more than his ribs. He knew he’d hurt her…he wasn’t sure how, but a quick look into her eyes and the clouded inkiness of blue told him it was true.
“What have I done?” he asked her confused. “Please don’t be mad at me.” His voice was weak, almost pleading but Sirius didn’t care. He just couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else being mad at him.
Cat didn’t move but she didn’t answer either. Sirius could almost see her thoughts tumbling out of control as she watched him. I’ve lost my only friend, Sirius’ mind became dark with the thought. The heavy silence tore at his soul and he fought the tears he could feel coming on. He wanted to hold her gaze until she answered him…more than anything he’d ever wanted in his entire life, he wanted to know what was going through her mind at this very moment… but his energy was flagging and the pain was once again becoming unbearable. He could feel himself fading away even as he sensed his uncle’s return.
“Be patient with him, Catarina. Underneath it all he’s still a boy.” His uncle’s voice seemed hollow and miles away. Sirius struggled to stay awake but no matter his resolve, his mind shut down.
When Sirius awoke she was gone. His uncle was watching him closely and seemed to breath a sigh of relief as Sirius’ eyes fluttered open.
“Sirius, can you hear me?” Sirius nodded, his eyes trying to scan the darkest corners of the room. “I sent her away, Sirius,” his uncle answered the unasked question. “Would you like me to call her back?”
Sirius shook his head. He couldn’t stand to see her again. The look of hurt or disappointment or whatever Cat had felt was too much for him to bear. He’d let his family down from the moment he was born – he’d never expected to see anything but ridicule in their eyes. He’d grown immune to their punishing looks years ago but Cat? Sirius never knew a simple glance could hurt so much. The one friend he had in the whole world and he’d lost her and still didn’t know why.
“Sirius?” a worried voice cut into his self pitying thoughts. “Sirius, please say something.” His uncle’s words were urgent now and he shook him gently.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius managed before the tears he had so gallantly been fighting broke free. His body shook as years of hurt and resentment poured out in heartbreaking sobs, forcing him to strain for ragged breaths as his emotions swirled out of control. Rushing to his side, his uncle scooped Sirius’ wilted and broken frame into his strong arms. He pulled Sirius into his lap, rocking him soothingly as the hysterical tears continued to fall.
“I’ve failed you. I did this. I caused this. I thought I was doing right.” His uncle’s anguished words caused Sirius to cry even harder. “For God’s sake, Sirius, what have I done?”
Chapter 7: Hogwarts: Semester One
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A/N: First off, I apologize. I know the last few chapters have been filled with background information and, unfortunately, there’s a few more yet to come. I want to thank every one of you who is staying with me…this has been a learning experience for me and I love each and everyone of you for helping me along. This is the first chapter in which we have some time jumps (remember my “I’m terrible at writing Sirius at school” line?) But hopefully, I’ve pulled it off where it makes sense and I haven’t done anything that will lose you along the way.
Hogwarts: Semester One
Sirius spent the first few weeks of his academic career in the Hogwarts infirmary. His uncle paid him regular visits, but no matter how much Sirius begged, he still wouldn’t explain how he’d convinced his parents to allow him to return to Hogwarts. When Sirius learned of his room assignment, he couldn’t help but wonder if his uncle had pulled some strings in that regard as well.
Thankfully, James was rooming with him. It delighted Sirius to think of the trouble he and James would be able to get in and it eased the fact that Peter, the cowardly boy from the train, was also assigned to their room. Apparently Peter had grown on James the last few weeks, though, and James insisted he was going to be one of those kids you could convince to try anything at least once. Their other roommate, Remus Lupin, was more of a problem. Unable to describe him, James stopped by between classes and brought Remus by to meet him. While Peter wasn’t a choice roommate, he at least had a sense of humor. The Remus fellow seemed to be devoid of such and apparently believed the library was the most interesting place to visit on Hogwarts grounds. James had assured Sirius, though, that if you dared him Remus, too, was willing to try anything. He and James had wasted away countless hours imagining ways to corrupt poor Remus.
Lily came to visit often, too, and Sirius began to welcome the quiet conversations she provided. Where James only told glory stories, Lily would fill in amusing anecdotes about James’ mediocre skills during lessons. Occasionally she would be accompanied by a group of giggling girls, often ones older than her. He’d never quite understood their presence and he finally had to demand Lily either come alone or not come at all. He felt like he was missing out on an entire world while he was confined to the hospital wing, but Sirius knew complaining was useless. He took comfort in the fact that he was at least out of Grimmauld.
Any thoughts of Grimmauld automatically brought with them visions of Cat. He missed her terribly and only James seemed to understand him as well as she did. It didn’t help that he knew she was probably off getting into mischief without him and he couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous. Most of all, though, it was the look in Cat’s eyes as he’d left home that haunted him. He had finally resigned himself to the fact that he had somehow disappointed her. Disappointing people was, after all, the thing he was best at. Being so far away at school he was unable to fix it and each night as his eyes closed to sleep, visions of her disapproving glare would course through his memory.
Sirius straightened up as he heard James’ familiar voice. For some unknown reason, James had recently taken to sneaking into the hospital wing in the middle of the night. His first attempt had resulted in a detention and, since then, James had been overly careful about sneaking into the room. Although grateful for the company, Sirius couldn’t understand why James would risk detention just to sit with him for a few hours.
“Alone again?” James climbed up to sit on the edge of Sirius’ bed. “Brought some biscuits my mum made for you.”
Sirius took a few and popped them in his mouth. “You just missed Lily.”
“She’s a nutcase,” James said frowning. “Did she bring all those girls with her?”
Sirius had told him all about their visits and how much it bothered him. “No, thank goodness.”
“You’ve become quite the item it seems. What with your go ‘round with the sorting hat, the mysterious disappearance and then a midnight near death reappearance in the infirmary.”
“Jealous?” James huffed but Sirius could see him stiffen slightly and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“You’re not nearly as interesting as they think.”
“No, probably not,” Sirius conceded.
James shifted uneasily on the bed causing Sirius to look his way. James had become a talker while they were alone – he shared dreams, memories, fears, and anxieties. It had taken awhile for Sirius to be able to let his guard down with James and, even now, he sometimes was afraid to tell him the whole truth for fear of losing their new friendship. He wasn’t sure why, but something in James’ face told him he’d come here tonight for answers.
“Spit it out, James.”
“Everybody is talking about you, Sirius. Remus said the sorting hat is never wrong.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“But you thought it was wrong,” James countered, his inquisitive eyes turning to watch Sirius closely.
“No, James,” Sirius sighed. “I just hoped it was wrong.”
“You wanted to be in Slytherin?” James choked on his biscuit, causing it to spew all over the bed sheets.
“Not exactly.” Sirius had shared some of his family’s idiosyncrasies with James and, of course, James remembered the night of the Carnivale. Even in failing to witness the most gruesome act of that night, the other images were burned into James’ memory. He hadn’t told James about Cat…she was something he just wasn’t comfortable sharing but he had told of the tragic night following his sorting. With the telling of that single night, James had developed his own loathing for the Black family and their obsessive pureblood values.
“It was your family then, huh? To prove something to them?”
Sirius shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t know. I guess I knew being in Slytherin was the easiest and yeah, I wanted the easy way.”
“I guess I can’t blame you for that.” James took a handful of the biscuits he’d brought for Sirius. “Your family has a pretty colorful history.”
“That’s one way to put it,” Sirius said grimacing snatching the tin of food back. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to know about the Black family but Remus had been kind enough to inform him that an entire book on his family’s history was located in the restricted section of the library. Remus had obviously shared that information with James as well. Since first years weren’t allowed to visit the restricted section, Sirius could only assume that Remus had sought the Headmaster’s permission to be there. Either that or he and James had been going on adventures of their own, the thought of which made Sirius’ stomach churn with jealousy.
“That must be hard on you.” James’ voice was quiet and he busied himself wiping crumbs off the bed sheets.
“If you’re looking for some deep insight here, James, you’re talking to the wrong guy. That’s more Remus’ territory.”
“I only meant –"
“I know what you meant,” he snapped. “And I’m sick and tired of people treating me like some damn freakish token. Half the Gryffindors think I’m a low down sneak and the Slytherins think I’m a traitor. To hell with all of ‘em.”
James tilted his head slightly, a mocking grin on his face. “You’re one dark minded git, you know that? Most of us have better things on our mind than worrying about you.”
“Oh, yeah? Then what the hell are you doing here in the middle of the night asking me stupid questions?”
“’Cause I’m not just anybody, I’m your friend. And besides, all I was trying to do was provide a solution for you.”
Sirius’ breath caught at James’ pronouncement of being his friend but he quickly regained his composure. “I’ve heard from Remus all about your solutions, James. They usually end up putting someone in detention. And that’s if they’re lucky.”
“Afraid of a little detention, are you?” he challenged.
“Not hardly,” Sirius sighed. “What’s this plan of yours anyway?”
James’ voice quieted. “I just got to thinking about how hard all this must be on you…being pulled two different directions all the time. I figured maybe we could fix that. You only have to act like a Slytherin when you’re at home, right? They can’t control the way you act when you’re here at school. So why don’t we make a deal that during the term you are one of us and then when you go home you can be whatever it is they expect you to be.”
“That’s no better than being a traitor, James.” Sirius closed up the tin of biscuits and pushed them toward James. “What I need is everyone to just stop talking about my family so I can just be me. I don’t mean you or Remus or Peter but…” he trailed off. “I just need to be left alone by the masses. I just want to be a normal student.”
“Okay,” he answered simply.
“I’ll take care of that.” James hopped off the bed. “Get some sleep; the nurse says only two more days if you behave yourself.”
Sirius nodded as he watched James leave. True to his prediction, Sirius was released on an unsuspecting Hogwarts two days later. He wasn’t sure what James had done but the gossip did seem to have died down considerably. Most of the Gryffindors treated him as one of their own and the few that didn’t just stayed out of his way. The others houses, most notably the Slytherins, gave him a wide berth whenever he passed. One greasy little git from Slytherin had taken to issuing them sarcastic and sneering comments during lessons but since he seemed to take pride in annoying anyone, Sirius gave it little thought. The giggling girls were still around but they at least had the courtesy to speak in whispers.
It wasn’t until Christmas break began closing in that Sirius finally learned what James had done. Desperate to help Sirius be “normal”, he had apparently told everyone that Sirius had the ability to turn people to stone with a single look. It was an old wizarding ability, one not recognized today because of the dark magic it took to invoke such a thing. Remus, for all his bloody reading, had followed suit, assuring the students that they could read all about it in the restricted section once they were old enough. Eventually, of course, someone called James on it but, by that time, Sirius’ notoriety had died down enough that people left him alone anyway.
It took the entire group - Remus, Peter, James and Lily - to catch Sirius up in his studies. The practical magic lessons were simple…consisting of charms and spells he’d mastered as a toddler. The rudimentary classes made Sirius wonder if his parents might have been right about Hogwarts although James’ struggling efforts kept him silent. The more academic subjects, though, left Sirius studying long into the night after everyone else had gone to bed. Remus and Lily would stay up with him on occasion, determined he would learn the rhetoric. For some reason, they believed his skill with a wand and non-verbal magic were a sign of a top student and both found it rather comical that he couldn’t remember something as mundane as the twelve uses of dragon’s blood.
On the last night available for studying before the winter break, Lily had dozed off in the Gryffindor common room while Sirius and Remus waited patiently for James and Peter to come downstairs so they could begin their nightly adventure exploring the halls of Hogwarts. Lily had shifted uncomfortably on the sofa, causing both the boys to glance her direction.
“Do you ever wonder what they’re thinking?”
“Who?” Sirius dropped his book onto the table and stretched his legs out on the coffee table. “Girls or Lily?”
“Lily,” Remus answered softly.
“No. Lily’s an open book.”
“Oh, really?” Remus grinned mischievously as he nudged Lily. “Lily, did you hear that?”
“Of course, I’m resting not deaf.” Lily rolled over and pulled her legs up so she could eye the two better. “So, are all girls an open book or just me?”
Sirius’ mind flashed for a moment, a vision of Cat tugging at him. “Most girls but, you, you definitely are an easy read.”
“You are so arrogant. It’s a wonder no one’s kicked your ass yet,” Lily huffed.
“Give me time,” Remus grinned.
Sirius bristled with irritation as the two made fun of him. He leaned forwarding, glancing at Lily. “For instance, right now you wish Remus wasn’t here.”
“In your dreams, Black,” Lily began to pick up her books but Sirius stopped her.
“No, you have to let me finish,” he grabbed her arm. “You wish he wasn’t here because you’d like nothing better to turn around and slug me as hard as you could. But, you are afraid you’ll embarrass either me or yourself and wouldn’t dare risk it since Remus is one of the few people in this school that you seem to value his opinion. You wouldn’t dare do something to lose his respect.”
Sirius sank back as Lily’s eyes bore into him. She wouldn’t deny it…he knew she wouldn’t. He felt Remus shift beside him and he turned to watch him.
“I have to go,” he murmured his eyes never lifting off the ground.
“See? I knew he was going to say that too.” Sirius nodded and sent a cocky grin Lily’s direction as Remus scooted up the stairs as quickly as possible.
“Why did you do that?” Lily hissed. “Can’t you tell how uncomfortable you made him?”
“He makes himself feel uncomfortable, Lily. He doesn’t need me for that. He likes you.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Sirius leaned back in his chair, watching her carefully. “Why else would he ask what you were thinking?”
“Because he doesn’t understand girls and thinks for some stupid reason that you do. So he was asking your opinion.”
Sirius cringed. He’d never been given the impression that Remus valued anything he had to say…that he might have been trying to start a civilized conversation with him had never crossed Sirius’ mind. He immediately felt guilty and was determined to make tonight’s last adventure before the Christmas break go well for Remus.
“So how did you do that anyway?” Lily stopped putting her books away. “How did you know that’s what I was thinking?”
“You’re an emotional girl,” He held a hand up as he saw her ruffle. “I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s just who you are. It makes it easy to know what you’re thinking.”
“No legilimency then?” Sirius’ darkened gaze caused Lily to look away. “I only meant-"
“I know exactly what you meant,” he stood up and headed for the stairwell. “Have a good Christmas.”
But Sirius wasn’t listening. He couldn’t. It was if her words had caused a thick liquid to fill his throat. He knew it shouldn’t matter what any of them thought but somehow, Sirius couldn’t help but think that for the rest of his time at Hogwarts there would always be someone second guessing his motives or abilities. Determined to put it out of his mind, Sirius tromped to the boys’ wing, desperate to find the others to begin their last adventure before the train would take them back to the real world…back to home.
Chapter 8: Regulus' Heartbreak
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Sirius glanced around Platform 9 ¾ somehow not surprised that no one was there to pick him up. Scents of freshly baked cranberry bread, cinnamon, fresh oranges and cloves drifted from shops on the other side of the terminal and his stomach let out a low growl. He massaged it to try and keep it quiet as he looked around. Other families were wrapping students in warm embraces and he could see early Christmas gifts being exchanged between several of them. He shuffled away from the Hogwarts students quickly, unwilling to let them know his family had failed to appear. He paused at the edge of the platforms, unsure of exactly what he should do. The distance was much too far to walk and, unfortunately, he knew his parents would never forgive him if he appeared in some form of muggle transportation like a taxicab. He’d never apparated before and heard it could be quite dangerous on the first attempt. Just as he was considering testing it out, a firm grip on his arm made him turn.
“Sirius, do you need a lift?”
Expecting one of his roommates, Sirius recoiled at the sight of Lucius Malfoy standing beside him. His white blonde hair had been pulled back into a tight ponytail, causing him to look much less ominous than Sirius’ last encounter with him. His arm was draped casually around Narcissa, Sirius’ cousin, and his eyes seemed filled with legitimate concern.
“No, thank you,” he managed through gritted teeth.
“Come now, we’re headed the same direction. Your family is holding the first holiday party, after all. Narcissa and I have had our things sent straight to your place to get ready.”
“You will dance with me, won’t you, Sirius?” Narcissa took hold of his arm and smiled up at Lucius. “We look great on the dance floor, Lucius. We’ll make you green with envy.”
Sirius tried to withhold his urge to lunge at her. It was unnatural and unfair and he knew it. But her snobbish attitude made him want to tighten his bare hands around her slender throat. He took a deep steadying breath, trying to remind himself that it wasn’t her fault that he didn’t even know there was a party. Of course, the Blacks held constant parties all year and the holiday season was just another excuse to show off. But that everyone at Hogwarts knew it except him made his furor grow. No, he reminded himself, not everyone knew. More likely it had been a subject of regular nighttime conversation in the Slytherin common room - it was the rest of the school that hadn’t been invited. He glanced to Lucius whose eyes were traveling Narcissa’s body in a way that made Sirius’ skin crawl. When he caught Sirius looking at him he offered him a wink.
“I don’t plan on attending,” Sirius murmured, unwilling to let them know that he actually had no idea a party had even been planned at his home.
“Oh, of course you are!” Narcissa tightened her grip on his arm, her face purposefully flushed. “This is my night to shine and how can I possibly do that without my favorite dance partner?”
Sirius grimaced as the image of him twirling around a ballroom with Narcissa on his arm filled him with dread. He knew if there was a party his mother would already have his clothing laid out when he got home. As if he was still five years old, she’d believe he wasn’t smart enough to pick out “proper” attire for a holiday party. He could just see the halls of Grimmauld decked out for the affair, hundreds of strangers milling about keeping him from retreated into the quiet of his bedroom. He couldn’t help it when his bitterness boiled over. “Cissy, did it ever occur to you that this party isn’t being held for you?”
“What?” Her fingers released him as if she was touching fire.
“Some of us, unfortunately, have more important things on our mind than what color your dancing shoes are.”
Beside him, Lucius snickered and nodded in agreement which caused Sirius to immediately regret his words. Anything that Lucius agreed with could not be good.
Narcissa’s posture stiffened and she flounced the bottom of her skirt. “Well, its nice to know that smart ass attitude of yours hasn’t changed.” She whirled away from the two. “And they are blue, if you must know.”
“I look forward to seeing them, Cissy.” Sirius smiled and was happy to see her send him a guarded but happy smile in return as she walked off. Since childhood, Narcissa had always been his favorite target for insults. Unlike her sister Bellatrix, whom he despised, Narcissa at least had a shred of humanity in her. Her self-righteous attitude always made her take his insults in stride and, when it suited her, she could give them back as well as he gave them.
“She is a tad self absorbed, isn’t she?” Lucius asked quietly, watching her as she departed. “But, boy, does she have a set of knockers.”
Sirius swallowed the bile rising in his throat and squeaked, “I wouldn’t know.”
Lucius turned on him, a broad grin crossing his face. “That was inappropriate wasn’t it? She is your family, after all. Look,” he wrapped an arm around Sirius’ shoulders, “I did what I had to do. It happens. We all do things that are required of us, don’t we? There’s no point in holding that against me. Besides, you are just being difficult. How else are you planning to get home?”
Sirius was too stunned to move. How could anyone justify nearly beating him to death – by giving him nothing more than a pathetic “it happens”? His blood boiled, coursing painfully through his veins - his fingers twitching anxiously with an insatiable desire to throttle Lucius. Images of that night flooded through him causing his hands to reach instinctively to his chest where the worst of his scars lie hidden underneath his woolen cloak. Although the physical pain had long since gone, each time he dressed, the visible scars it left caused him to hurriedly cover himself in embarrassment. The healers never quite understood why they wouldn’t go away but he knew - he understood. They were never meant to go away. Like scars on his soul, they were markers of his failure...as a son, a Black and a Slytherin.
“Required to do?” he hissed, wrenching free as Lucius stared on in perplexity.
The sound of his uncle’s voice made him turn. “Where have you been, boy? I’ve been looking all over for you.” His eyes turned to Lucius as if he hadn’t noticed him. “Hello, Lucius. Having a good term?”
“Yes, sir,” he nodded. “I was offering Sirius here a lift home but, as you are here, I feel confident leaving him in your care.”
“I’ll see you tonight then, Sirius?” Lucius nodded to both of them and strode away.
“Impeccable timing,” Sirius growled and shoulder his bag while his uncle took the other.
“I figured getting in trouble for beating the snot out of Lucius wasn’t the best way to start your holiday,” he grinned mischievously. “Although it was quite fun watching Cissy squirm.”
“Just how long have you been here anyway?”
“Long enough to see you get off the train with your new friends,” he answered with a wink. “Let’s go grab something to eat before we head to Grimmauld. Nothing at that party will be fit for consumption except the liquor and the pumpkin pasties Cat makes.”
The mention of Cat’s name caused Sirius to stop in his tracks and his face blanched. He’d done everything he could to get her out of his mind but the idea that she wouldn’t even want to see him anymore had kept him up almost every night as the term drew to an end. What if he had to spend his entire holiday break with only Regulus for company? He gave a visible shudder causing his uncle to turn.
“Fine.” He answered quietly and followed his uncle into a nearby restaurant. Dropping his bags onto the floor with a thud, he sank into one of the soft plush chairs. “How’s she doing?”
“Getting in almost as much trouble as you,” he laughed and waved to a waiter for drinks. “She has a nasty habit of picking on Regulus. You wouldn’t know where that comes from, would you?”
“She hasn’t liked him from the day she came to Grimmauld,” Sirius shrugged, missing the note of concern in his uncle’s voice. “Besides, he’s an easy target.” He paused. “She hasn’t got caught, has she?”
“No, no.” His uncle shook his head as the waiter handed them steaming cups of cider and warm apple bread. “She’s too quick for that. She put itching powder in his laundry once and then filled his pillowcase with pine needles. Your mum’s been in a fit trying to find out who’s making her poor baby’s life so miserable.”
“She doesn’t even suspect Cat?” Sirius said, unable to hide the note of admiration in his voice. He took the heavy earthenware mug in his hands as he spoke, the fragrant steam from the cider causing him to warm all over.
“Of course not. Cat has to clean up the mess…nobody’s stupid enough to make more of a mess for themselves, are they?” He chuckled. “Seems being a muggle does have its advantages at Grimmauld. Your mum doesn’t think she has the brains to plan anything.”
Sirius nodded rather than respond and trained his eyes on the restaurant to avoid his uncle’s gaze. Decked out in muggle Christmas ornaments such as wreaths and little strings of colored lights, the festive atmosphere was doing nothing to lighten his foul mood. As if dealing with Lucius and Narcissa wasn’t enough, he had to go home to be even more miserable. He was just contemplating how to sneak back aboard the train and spend the holiday back at school with Remus when he felt his uncle’s slight touch on his arm.
“What’s the matter, Sirius? You haven’t eaten a thing.”
Unable to could stop himself, Sirius spilled out the entire story of his last night with Cat. The look in her eyes, her failure to talk to him…how she seemed determined not to tell him anything at all. He struggled to explain why losing her friendship meant so much to him but he couldn’t seem to vocalize it. Instead, his words came out in long winded rambles that his uncle listened to patiently, never stopping Sirius as he paused for a breath. When Sirius had finally run out of things to say, he sank back into the chair and sipped his mug of cider, his eyes downcast and unwilling to look at his uncle. He felt like a fool for being so emotional about the whole thing but couldn’t seem to stop the feelings from coming.
“She asks about you all the time, Sirius,” his uncle said quietly. “I don’t think she was ever angry or disappointed in you.”
“I don’t understand-"
“This is new for her, you have to remember. I think as she learns what life is like at Grimmauld she is learning exactly what you face each day. I think she was angry your childhood has been taken away.”
“She pities me?” His voice lilted with impending fury.
His uncle laughed. “No, nothing quite so dramatic. She just got a taste of what being Sirius Black is like and she didn’t like it too much.”
“Yeah, well, welcome to my world,” he returned bitterly.
Sirius sank onto the bed in his room in exhaustion. The party was already in full swing by the time he arrived and his mum had promptly sent him upstairs to change for fear of anyone seeing her son in muggle blue jeans and a t-shirt. He had just decided to roll over and go to sleep when he felt the presence in the room. He turned slightly and sure enough, Cat was watching him from the secreted doorway. She hadn’t grown much since he was gone and, in fact, she actually looked smaller. She seemed much thinner than he remembered and her olive skin had lost some of its glow. Her hair had been pulled back in a tight bun and the uniform for the party (although better than her normal attire) made her look like a crumbled paper doll. He was almost prepared to believe her a ghost but his eyes traveled to her eyes and the deep blue let him know she was real.
Even the oversized dress couldn’t hide her figure, though, and Sirius found his eyes wandering to places he hadn’t ever noticed before….the slight curve of her hips; the slight dip at her waist line; the curves of her chest that he certainly didn’t remember from last summer. He felt something rise deep within him and cursed himself. Living with three boys for the past few months had had its affect on him…when faced with someone of the opposite sex he couldn’t help but feel something. He chided himself for thinking such a thing, confused as to why he suddenly looked at girls when just months ago he wouldn’t have given them a second glance.
“Are you you?” she asked, her head tilted sideways as if surveying him for some disease.
“What the hell does that mean?” he asked tiredly.
In an instant, she was across the room and had enveloped him in a huge hug, her smile growing to her eyes. “Regulus said the school changes you into…”
“I don’t even want to know what he said,” Sirius shook his head and struggled out of her arms afraid of what reaction her warm touch might cause.
“Are you not coming to the party?” Cat straightened herself to sit on the edge of his bed, letting her hand rest casually on his stomach, as if by maintaining contact she was assured his presence was real.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because it’s a party?” her eyes narrowed. “It’s your first night back, how on earth can you be pissed off already?”
Before he could answer, she was off the bed and had moved to run her hand along the dress cloak hanging patiently by the door. The dark Black velvet material was tinged with threads of deep purple making it glitter under the soft flickering light of the fireplace. “You should see everyone, Sirius. They look like something from a fairytale. Everyone is dressed so beautifully, the girls have their hair done up in little curls and some have ironed it straight and they are smiling and dancing and…” she trailed off as her hand reached up and touched the tight braided bun of her own hair. She slid her hands into the pocket of her frumpy skirt and Sirius immediately understood.
“No, you already think I’m silly enough as it is.”
Standing up, he climbed off the bed and was at her side in one stride. “Go on,” he said, his voice soft and encouraging.
“They just look so perfect,” she whispered and he could see the tears began to glisten in her eyes. “I’ve never seen this house so alive with people and they all seem so happy.”
Sirius didn’t want to hurt her but he couldn’t continue to let her dream about being a part of something that wasn’t real. “It’s an illusion, Catarina.”
“I know that.” She offered him a faint smile. “It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it, does it?”
“No, of course not,” he said quietly, suddenly aware of how close he was to her. He took a step back. “But it doesn’t mean I have to either.”
“Will you at least let me see you in this outfit?” she asked, her hands sliding along the fabric again. “After everyone goes to bed, maybe?” She hesitated, her hand hanging in mid-air. “Regulus,” she hissed. “He’s in the hallway.” She scrambled through the passageway just as Sirius flung the door open in anger.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Who are you talking to?” Regulus stepped into the room and looked around. Finding no one, he dropped onto Sirius’ bed. “Having a private party of your own? Where did you hide her?”
Sirius eyes narrowed and he folded his arms across his chest as he slid the door shut. “You’re drunk.”
“Me?” Regulus laughed a drunken laugh that sounded exactly like their father. “Just a little Christmas cheer.”
Sirius moved to him, jerking him off the bed and patting him down roughly. It only took a moment before he found the bottle concealed in Regulus dress cloak. “Where did you get this?”
“Nicked it from dad’s stash. He’ll never notice anyway.”
The words cut into Sirius…he knew it was true. What else had his brother gotten in to while he was gone?
“How long have you been drinking?” he asked, leaning against the wall opposite Regulus.
“Tonight or in general?”
“Screw you, Regulus.” Sirius tossed the bottle at him and chuckled as Regulus fell backwards in an attempt to catch it. “Why aren’t you down enjoying the party anyway?”
“Oh, the news was just too much for me. I mean, come on, Lucius Malfoy? As powerful as his family is everyone still agrees his one dirty bastard.”
“What news?” he turned to face his brother. It was unlike Regulus to be emotional about anything…that he was suddenly talking bad about a Malfoy had to mean something big was going on.
“You didn’t hear?” Even slurred, Sirius could discern the anguish in his voice. “He’s marrying Cissy.”
All movement in the room stopped…Sirius could hear the beating of his brother’s heart in the stillness that enveloped the two. He sank onto the bed beside him, all his questions about Regulus’ drinking now making sense. Regulus had had a crush on Narcissa since they were little kids. Of course, she’d never given him the time of day but it didn’t stop him from dreaming about her late summer nights when he and Sirius would camp out in the gardens. Sirius reached his hand out to Regulus but he pulled away.
“When did this happen?” he asked quietly.
“Just before you showed up I guess,” he shrugged. “Malfoy, can you believe it? Why on earth would she choose him?”
Good question, Sirius thought silently. What on earth would provoke a girl no where near graduating school to agree to marry? Much less to marry Lucius? He’d never even seen the two within paces of each other until they arrived at Platform 9 ¾ earlier today. Even at Hogwarts he’d never seen the two together.
The bitterness in his brother’s voice had sounded like his own and it made Sirius’ heart ache. He slipped the bottle out of Regulus’ hand and took a swig himself. As an afterthought, he turned to Regulus. “You okay?”
Regulus shook his head and Sirius placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. This time, he didn’t shirk away. “Anything I can do?”
“Go downstairs and keep up appearances while I stay in my room and get drunk as a skunk?” Regulus chuckled. “Nah, don’t worry about, Siri. I know you don’t want to step foot in that madhouse.”
Guilt tugged at Sirius…even his brother didn’t expect him to help him out when he needed it most. He squeezed his brother shoulder. “Go lock yourself in your room. I’ll take care of mum and dad.”
“You sure?” the gratitude in his voice washed away all of Sirius’ misgivings.
“Positive. Besides,” Sirius said, grabbing his cloak off the wall, “seems its time for Cissy to do some explaining.”
A/N: Special thanks to JaxGranger and Drommen for taking the time to read through each and every one of these chapters just to help me move along with this story. You are the best! If I do not have you on my email update list and you want to receive update notices, please make sure to leave me your email address :)
Chapter 9: Nargles anyone?
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Sirius hesitated on the stairwell landing, glancing down at the rooms below him. Even he was forced to admit that his mother and the servants had done an amazing job on the house. It was overdone, certainly, but that, in itself, was classic Black style. The balusters were wrapped in fresh evergreens and holly, perfectly formed red velvet ribbons intertwined with it. Clusters of mistletoe hovered inches from the ceilings and shimmering fairy dust reflected off the soft candles that lined the walls. Descending the stairs, he drank in the smells of Christmas - pine needles, pie, toasted nuts, and sweets mingling with spilt champagne and perfume... and wished he was anywhere else.
The crowd seemed intoxicated by the fanfare gala. Their expensive gowns and tailored tuxedoes that had, undoubtedly, been created just for this one night would have been out of place in the normal macabre setting that was Grimmauld but, tonight at least, they seemed to belong. They were dancing and laughing, many already wobbling in their steps due to imbibing in too much Christmas cheer. As he wove his way in and out of shaking hands and making mind-numbing chit-chat, he reminded himself why he was here, trying to savor the sound of the ignored orchestra.
As a string of party favors showered the guests from somewhere high in the ceiling, Sirius finally caught sight of her. Standing off to the side of the dance floor, Narcissa was laughing and giggling like a little kid. He tilted his head as he watched her closely, wondering exactly how much she had had to drink already. It would never do for her to be drunk when he talked to her…she was a devil to be around on normal occasions but when she was drinking she could be positively ghastly. He saw her hand touch another man’s gently, letting it rest invitingly on his forearm. He recognized the look in her eyes immediately and, had he not know she was betrothed to someone else, he would’ve thought them in love.
He couldn’t help but think it looked like a photo.
"Sirius -" His mother's voice broke him from his reverie, cold as always. "You will behave like a proper Black this evening," she hissed, waving her wand at a lagging tray of hors d'oeuvres.
He grimaced…he had missed her coming his direction. Yes, it only looked like a photo. He nodded and waited for her to continue but, luckily, a guest appeared beside him and her condescension vanished in an instant as she welcomed them. He hurried away, making sure to watch where his mother went this time so that he could avoid her as he moved to intercept Narcissa.
Sirius slid his hand into the small of her back, determined to get her alone. The smell of thickly sweet floral perfume and the bitterness of red wine drifted to his senses as he bent close to her ear. “Cissy, may I have a moment?” he asked quietly.
“Oh, Sirius! You did decide to join us, I knew you wouldn’t let me down!” She enveloped him in a warm hug. “Will you dance with me?”
“The belle of the ball? How could I possibly refuse?” Sirius slid his hand into hers and pulled her to the dance floor. His arms wrapped around her lightly, theirs steps matching each others with practiced ease. He judged her sobriety as they danced…afraid he had waited too long and she’d imbibed in too much Christmas cheer already. But her steps were strong, her laughter barely tinged with alcohol. He’d forgotten how good a dancer Narcissa was.
Although Andromeda was his favorite cousin, Sirius had to admit Narcissa was undoubtedly the better dancer. As children, they had suffered through innumerable dance lessons at the hands of their parents. Because of his larger size, he had often been partnered with Narcissa and, even after all these years, their steps were still in perfect synch. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“You do remember those horrid lessons, then?” She laughed. “I wondered if you would. You always wanted to be out in the sunshine doing something else.”
“Can you blame me?”
“No, not really.” She giggled again and he couldn’t help but smile. “Those were good times weren’t they, Sirius?”
He nodded, unwilling to give in to the memories of his childhood for too long. He opened his mouth to speak but she tugged him into a fast swirl to distract him.
“You have that look. That dark dangerous one that turns all the girls heads at Hogwarts.” She explained. “I always hated when you gave me that look. It meant you were going from the fun loving Sirius to the lecturing one.”
“I don’t lecture.”
“No, you just think the world is out to get you,” she returned smiling then stopped dancing and let her hand go limp in his. The uncertainty in her eyes was obvious. “You know, don’t you?”
“I do.” He nodded, his gaze locked with hers but only momentarily. He knew she couldn’t afford to be too friendly toward him without suffering the wrath of their parents. Dancing was one thing…civilized conversation was entirely another.
She nodded and linked her arm with his. “I could use some air, how about you?”
Sirius didn’t respond but let her led him out to the gardens. The noise of holiday carols died away as they slipped further away from the house. Without the lights of Grimmauld, the paths had fallen into almost complete darkness and he grabbed her arm as she stumbled over the gravel path. She paused to remove her shoes, slinging them over her shoulder as they continued on. He slid his arm back around her waist, still uncertain about how much she had had to drink.
“You do know how to be a gentleman, Sirius.” She smiled. “And you’ve become quite the popular boy at school. Even the girls my age seem intrigued by you. Odd how that works to my advantage. When I told them I knew what you looked like without your skivvies on they crowded around me in droves. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them you were only two at the time.”
“Should I be flattered that you remember or flattered that you thought enough of me to mention it?”
“You truly are as egotistical as I am, aren’t you? Too bad you got put in Gryffindor. That house will wreck havoc with your social standing.” She laughed softly. “Although you do seem to be holding your own, Gryffindor or no.”
“To some the house doesn’t matter much.”
“And to some it means everything,” she countered. “Look, Sirius, I know this is hard on you. You’ve grown up so much in the past year….you’re taller than me, for goodness sakes’.”
“Yes, well you always were rather puny.” He laughed and sidestepped her as she attempted to slug him.
“I can learn to love him, Sirius. I know I can.” She said quietly.
“I understand why you are doing it. Don’t take this wrong but you’ve always enjoyed the finer things…the good looking boys; the fancy gifts; the best wardrobes and jewels.”
“And he can provide that,” she argued. “Besides, we’ll make gorgeous little babies, won’t we?”
“Or the self absorbed brat from hell,” he mumbled with a small grin. “Why do you have to decide now? You still have two more years of school left, Cissy.”
“I’m not getting married tomorrow, for goodness sakes. Things just work this way. With Lucius graduating this year he either had to get married or be planning to get married. Besides, as you said, I still have two years at school to do whatever I want.”
Sirius smiled inwardly. Although he disagreed with almost everything Narcissa said, it felt good to know he wasn’t the only one with a rebellious streak. Engaged or not, it seemed she was planning to make the most of the last years of freedom she had. Vaguely, he wondered if she had any idea about the night of his sorting and Lucius’ involvement. He gazed at her from downcast eyes, trying to judge her mindset but she merely primed her hair then began to situate her dress more to her liking. He assumed she didn’t know- Narcissa rarely wasted time on things that didn’t involve her directly.
“He’s an ass, you know that, right?”
She tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. “I know. And I appreciate you worrying but this isn’t the bad thing you seem to think it is. He’s rich, good looking, a pure-blood, and he’s a damn fine kisser.”
“At some point, there are things you shouldn’t share even with me.”
“Sit with me, will you?” She didn’t wait for an answer and pulled him to sit beside her on one of the stone benches that lined the garden path. She adjusted her dress carefully, making sure to keep the bottom from dragging into the fresh dirt. “I love it here, don’t you? You’re so lucky to have been brought up in such a beautiful home. And the gardens…” she stopped suddenly, her voice growing softer. “But you don’t see it that way, do you?”
“Stop acting as if I’m ungrateful, will you? You know as well as I do that sorting hat will put you wherever it wants.”
“I don’t care about the hat, Sirius. No one, except maybe your mother, cares about that. It’s you we’re worried about…what you are turning in to.”
Sirius chuckled and leaned back against the bench, letting his arm rest along the back edge. “Worried? The only person in this house worried about me is Regulus and that’s simply because he’s terrified the same thing might happen to him next year.”
“Why is it so hard for you to understand that being a pureblood means everything? It means the best things in the world are yours for the taking. Look at Lucius. The power he has, the abilities he has, you don’t see any half-breeds with talent like that. Even you-do you think you’d be able to do non-verbal magic or pass through Hogwarts with such ease if you weren’t a pureblood? Lesser people struggle through school and take years to master non-verbal magic. You are fooling yourself. You want the gifts of being a pureblood but not the responsibility.”
He wanted to be angry with her...he wanted to slap his cousin even if she was a girl. But, he knew better than to think this was Narcissa that was talking to him. “Are you finished?” he asked quietly.
She dropped her eyes and nodded.
“You have never cared about anyone other yourself, Cissy. It’s one of the traits I love most about you. Well, the only trait if truth be told.” He grinned and squeezed her shoulder. “For whoever put you up to such a stunt as this, I apologize. I’m sure it’s put quite the damper on your evening. I’ll make certain to let them know you did your duty. Okay?”
She glanced at him tentatively, as if unsure of his honesty. But he gave her a reassuring grin and she breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank goodness. I’ve even got grass stains on my dress because of this stupid conversation.”
“You really are a self absorbed brat, aren’t you?”
“As if you aren’t,” she answered indignantly. “Are you finished lecturing me about Lucius or can I go back to the party now?”
“Do whatever you wish, Narcissa.”
She had hopped up but the sound of her full first name caught her off guard and she hesitated. “Sirius, this changes things, doesn’t it? Between us, I mean.”
“I’d imagine so.” He nodded, his eyes watching her closely. She didn’t have to say it…he could tell she was scared and wasn’t sure what she was doing was right. She wanted him to affirm it for her, to tell her everything would be okay just as he had when they were little and they’d gotten caught skiving dance practices together to go swimming with Andromeda. But his feelings for Lucius cut too deep and he couldn’t bring himself to lie to her…even for old time’s sake.
She dropped to her knees at his feet, ignoring the cloud of dust that circled around them. “I’m not as strong as you, Sirius.”
“Yes, you are. You just pick your battles with more finesse than I do.” He grinned and winked to ease her mind. “Just don’t count on me being at the wedding.”
“As if I’d invite you,” she whispered, tears rimming her eyes as she stood up and brushed off her dress.
“Now, that’s the spirit!” Sirius laughed as he watched her hurry away. ** He continued to laugh as he shifted in his seat, turning slightly to face the trees behind him. “You can come out now, Cat.”
“How did you know?” she stepped out of the shadows and sank down beside him. “I was quiet and not a soul saw me leave the party.”
“Rosemary and mint…you always smell like rosemary and mint.” He explained easily and grinned. “Had too much fun at the party, did you?”
“So that’s the future Mrs. Malfoy?” she nodded toward where Narcissa had departed. “She seems nice.”
He threw his head back in laughter. “Surely, you’re a better judge of character than that, aren’t you?”
“You seemed to like her so I was trying to be nice.”
“It doesn’t suit you.” Sirius shook his head as he stood up and straightened his suit, brushing out the wrinkles his talk with Narcissa had caused. He glanced to Cat, whose cheeks had begun to redden against the wintry wind. How long she had been following him, he could only guess. He offered her his hand but she refused it.
She folded her arms across her chest. “What on earth has gotten in to you?”
“I’m just generally disagreeable tonight. Forgive me, Cat.” Sirius took her hand in his and kissed it lightly, pulling her to walk with him in the darkened shelter of the trees. “The mere mention of Lucius does that to me.”
“He’s horrid. He was cornering everyone under the mistletoe earlier. Foul mouthed pig.”
Sirius hesitated and his smile dissolved in an instant. “Everyone?”
“Yes, everyone.” Cat broke loose from his grasp. “Just because you may not think I’m worth kissing doesn’t mean he feels the same way.”
He stopped cold, his breath caught in his throat. “W-what?”
“Where’s that mature Sirius Black , now?” she asked hotly. “How dare you act like you own me and –"
“I have never-"
“Stupid idiotic prat…he thinks he has a right to anything he wants and with all his little friends just standing there laughing as he kissed everyone one right after the other.”
Sirius took hold of her arm before she could get away. “We’ll discuss this later, understood? Right now, I need your help with something.” His eyes glinted dangerously causing Cat to pause.
“What do you mean?”
“Ever heard of a nargle?” He grinned mischievously. “Come on, we don’t have much time.”
Sirius leaned casually against the wall, watching Lucius and his friends crowd under the mistletoe across the room. Cat was right…Lucius seemed determined to kiss every girl in the room before the night was over. Sirius slid one hand into his pocket as he tried to suppress a grin then reached for a pumpkin pasty off the buffet table next to him. Mere paces away, still within whispering distance, Cat was attempting to look busy rearranging the food as she stole glances at Lucius.
“How long will this take?” she asked under her breath as she moved a step closer to him.
“Not much longer…they don’t like to be woken up.”
“And what will they do again?”
Sirius grinned mischievously without glancing her direction. “You have to wait and see.”
“They won’t hurt him, will they?” she asked quietly, moving the pumpkin pasty tray out of his reach.
He grimaced and moved the tray back to the edge of the table by him. “Only his pride. Why do you care so much, anyway?”
“Sh...” Cat cut him off and nodded toward the corner where Lucius was standing. “The mistletoe’s moving.”
Sirius lifted his eyes to watch, unable to hide the grin on his face. A slight movement caught his eye, though, and he turned. “Oh, shit.”
He dropped the pastry to the floor and hurried to the other side of the room, attempting to intercept Narcissa. She had apparently finally caught Lucius and his friends kissing the girls and she was headed straight for them. Just as she reached the corner, Sirius slipped his arm around her waist.
“Not now!” she hissed and tried to brush him away.
“Lucius, you don’t mind if I dance with my cousin, do you?” Sirius pulled her away without waiting for a response. She tried to struggle free as he led her to the nearby dance floor. Holding her roughly in his arms, Sirius breathed a sigh of relief and buried his head in her shoulder to hide his laughter.
“What the hell is the matter with you—" she began but was immediately cut off as deafening noises filled the ballroom.
Loud screeches were immediately followed by screams from Lucius and his friends. Thousands of tiny nargles had been rudely awoken and were now looking for payback. Hopping off the ball of mistletoe, they had dropped down on the shoulders of those standing below. Their tiny singsong voices were repeating comments Lucius had made to the girls as he kissed them, causing the majority of the girls in the room to rush for cover in embarrassment. Lucius tried to shake off the small fluffy creatures but they retaliated by making sloppy kissing noises, critiquing his kissing ability for all the room to hear and then sending spurts of bright purple liquid all over the group. Lucius’ blonde hair was streaked with hues of violet, his fine clothes covered in a deluge of sticky mess.
“This was you!” Narcissa spat. “How could you?” She yanked her dress into her hand, determined to run to her future husband’s aid but Sirius pulled her back.
“You really don’t want to get near them right now, Cissy. You’ll ruin your dress.”
As he’d expected, she hesitated. “You’re such a prat.”
“He deserved it,” he grinned and stepped away from her, “and you know it.”
Keeping his face as calm as possible, he took in the chaotic scene. His parents had rushed to Lucius’ aid and Narcissa, her face red with anger, stood paces away out of reach of the nargles but close enough to still be lecturing Lucius for kissing the girls in the first place. Sirius eyes lit up as he caught Cat trying to stifle her laughter behind her apron.
He tilted his head toward the door and she nodded, her face pink from holding the laughter in. Her face darkened temporarily and Sirius turned to see what had caused the change. Standing in the doorway, his uncle was beckoning him over.
“Is this your doing?” he asked quietly when Sirius had moved beside him. He hesitated and his uncle shook his head. “The truth, Sirius.”
His uncle drapped an arm around him, his mouth close to Sirius’ ear. “Excellent job, Sirius. Excellent. Seems those Gryffindors are teaching you to lighten up just as I’d hoped.”
“You won’t tell-"
“Are you kidding?” he chuckled. “I’m going to grab a whiskey and get a front row seat for the show. Have you ever tried to get nargles off someone? It’s going to take them hours to sort this out.” He stepped away then hesitated. “Did you and Cat work things out?”
“No. We haven’t had a chance to talk since I got back.”
“Make sure you do that, all right?”
“Yes, sir.” He nodded, his eyes drifting to where Cat was waiting patiently for direction from him. He smiled as she stepped away and he knew she’d be waiting for him upstairs. “Dinner tomorrow?”
“That’s my line,” his uncle chuckled. “I’ll come get you for lunch. Have Cat ready, too. I think I can manage to sneak her out for a holiday too.”
“Just have her ready to go.” He smiled with a mischievous grin that matched Sirius’. “Between the two of us, I have no doubt we can smuggle her out of Grimmauld.”
Author's Note: I just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who came to my aid. I was so desperate with this story and all of you that stepped up and offered to help me out and come back and give me your thoughts on it are the reason I keep going. You guys are amazing and I really can't express enough how grateful I am to you for everything you've done.
Chapter 10: Alone with the Gryffindor
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Author’s Note: It took me a bit to update and I do apologize. This takes up exactly where the previous chapter left off so if it seems like mid-scene, you may want to read the last paragraph of Chapter 9. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for being so supportive and helpful and just all around wonderful. As always, special thanks to jynx67 and Bitterepiphany for their input and advice (special thanks to logicalraven on this chappie as well). By the way, if you missed the banner that was temporarily up…I’m in the process of putting together a new site wide challenge (with prizes!) if you want to join in keep checking the forums.
Alone with the Gryffindor
Cat tackled Sirius, knocking him into the floor as soon as he entered his room. “I can’t believe you did that!”
Their joint laughter echoed into the hallway and, with a wave of his hand, he shut the door to his room. Her arms were still wrapped tightly around his neck and, as he stretched his arms up to disengage her, he sensed it…the slight fragrance to her hair as it brushed against his face; the rough fabric of her dress as it scratched into his skin; the slight nervousness in his stomach; and the a silky feeling of confused wanting that rose from below his waist line. It took only a moment for the weight of her body on his to register deep within his mind and he realized he had to move before she felt the change in him. He shifted quickly, struggling out from underneath her and moving her aside. Sliding his back against the wall, he took a steadying breath hoping to calm the embarrassment he felt at his body’s natural reaction to her touch. He watched her closely for some sign that she had noticed but she seemed oblivious.
“Did you see his face when it happened? You should have seen his face! He deserved that and more! Stupid little git. Oh, how I wish Regulus had been underneath there…” she laughed as she pulled herself off the floor and began skipping around the room in glee. But it only took a moment for her to realize he wasn’t joining in.
When he didn’t answer, she quieted. He could feel her eyes on him but he ignored her, concentrating on pulling out a sickly green colored bottle from his cloak.
Her brow furrowed. “Since when do you drink?”
“We deserve a celebration,” he answered forcing a smile. He conjured two glasses for them, beckoning her to sit down beside him. He poured it slowly trying to keep the bubbly liquid from spilling over while trying to force his emotions into submission at the same time. She touched his hand lightly as he handed her the glass.
“You’re uncomfortable. Why?” She asked quietly. “Is this about Lucius and Narcissa?”
Ignoring her, Sirius downed his drink. Unlike what his uncle had offered him earlier that year, the liquid was sweet and settled nicely on his stomach. Taking the bottle in his hand, he struggled off the floor and headed to his closet.
The last thing he wanted to do was talk about Lucius and Narcissa. It was almost impossible for him to care less about their marriage announcement. Except for the effect it had on Regulus, he would’ve been happy to see Narcissa quit Hogwarts and dash off to elope with him. He hadn’t seen his brother this upset since his first owl had died and, like that time, Sirius knew there was nothing he could do to help ease Regulus’ suffering. It did bother him to come back to Grimmauld to find young Regulus drinking and he vowed to talk to him about it…but, in the morning.
“You feel like going out?” he asked abruptly, causing Cat to almost spill her half gone drink.
“What?” She sputtered.
“Out. You want to sneak out for awhile?”
Cat scrambled off the floor and followed him, watching intently as he alternated pulling out his clothes and taking sips of the champagne. “Sirius-"
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid,” he turned a dark look her direction.
“No, it’s just-"
“Don’t want to be alone with the Gryffindor? Is Lucius more to your liking?”
The slight tilt of her head told him he had confused her and her quizzical voice confirmed it. “What?”
“Nevermind.” Sirius brushed passed her, headed for the bathroom with his clothes in hand. Where had that come from? He cursed himself for sounding like a jealous little kid. Why was it he could hide his emotions from everyone except her?
Halfway there his uncle’s words came back to haunt him and he stopped. He whirled around to find her inches from his face. He hesitated…he didn’t realize in his few months at Hogwarts that he’d somehow grown taller than her. He closed his eyes as the scent of mint became overwhelming.
“Sirius, are you all right?” she touched him lightly, causing him to jerk away.
He tried to move away from her but, like usual, Cat wasn’t so easily deterred. She reached her hand out again, more hesitantly this time, as if caressing a frightened puppy. Her fingers barely grazed his chest and Sirius drew in a breath. It was inaudible, he knew it was, but Cat had felt it. His eyes met hers for a brief second and he could see understanding flow over her.
“Oh,” she murmured, drawing her hand away. “I didn’t realize. Why didn’t I realize?” She chastised herself out loud.
She smiled a gentle, patient smile that Sirius had learned to despise. It meant someone was underestimating him…like they were giving a sympathetic look to a child who didn’t understand something. But, for some reason, he chose not to draw away when she reached for him again.
“You’ve grown up more than I thought,” she whispered, taking a step into him, “haven’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said lightly. “If you want to go, go get changed and meet me in the back garden. If not, then, well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Well, I know what I’m talking about and it doesn’t change anything, Sirius,” she promised with a reassuring smile, “of course I still want to go.”
“Why did you get so mad at me?” he rushed, before he lost his nerve and she had the chance to walk away. “The night of the sorting.”
“I wasn’t mad at you.”
Sirius could see her struggling to remember but he wouldn’t let her move away. To him, it was as if no time had passed…he remembered the look in her eyes as if it was yesterday. To her, though, it seemed as if she could barely remember the night of the sorting at all. His eyes narrowed.
“Cat, what have you been doing while I’ve been gone?”
“Nothing so interesting it deserves a stern look like that,” she countered, taking the bottle out of his hand and taking a drink herself. “Come on, you can tell me all about Hogwarts and I can tell you all about the itching powder I put in Regulus’ underwear.”
Sirius wasn’t sure where he was going to lead her…he just knew he had to get out of Grimmauld. They walked aimlessly for awhile as she told of her exploits at the manor and he described the world of Hogwarts. He rattled on about James and his other roommates but only when he mentioned Lily did he seem to finally catch Cat’s interest. She asked innumerable questions about her and Sirius quickly grew tired of trying to sidestep the more pointed ones. Thankfully, she realized that and steered the conversation onto more approachable topics. He hadn’t noticed how late and how far they had walked until he caught her stifling a yawn as they settled onto a park bench, miles away from Grimmauld. She sank into his lap without pretense, and only the dark thoughts in his mind managed to keep his annoyance in check…were girls always so clingy?, he wondered silently.
“Are you going to keep pretending to talk about things while your brain spins out of control?” she asked quietly. “I hear that’s the first sign of insanity, you know.”
“Talking about things?” Sirius raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“No, avoiding talking about the things you want to say,” Cat murmured. “Tell me, Sirius.”
Sirius bit his lower lip…he wasn’t good at confronting people. He never had been. He could mock them mercilessly but confronting people was more Regulus’ territory. “It’s actually…” he trailed off, the quiver in his voice making him angry at himself. “I mean, I just…”
Cat tightened her grip on his arm, her voice strong. “Stop acting like a kid and speak up.”
Sirius didn’t bristle, didn’t even suck in a breath. Normally he would’ve lashed out at her but the things weighing so heavily on his mind didn’t allow him room to feel vindictive.
“Did you like kissing him? Lucius?” he asked softly, uncertain if he wanted to hear the answer.
Cat shuffled out of his arms, her hand reaching to caress his cheek. The softness in her touch and the shadow over her eyes gave Sirius his answer but he knew she wouldn’t let the question go unanswered…Cat would tell him the truth no matter how much it stung.
He had no right to be angry or jealous. He knew that but he still couldn’t equate how anyone could be so emotional detached to enjoy kissing a Malfoy.
“He’s an ass, Sirius, I know that. He’s filthy and foul-mouthed and thinks he’s the best gift a girl could ever have. I know all those things,” she hesitated.
“But I have a nasty habit of choosing the wrong kind of men to begin with. It’s like I’m too stupid to know better and not smart enough to realize that things can only end badly.”
“You disappeared during the party,” he tried to keep his voice steady. “You’ve kissed him more than once.”
“Yes.” Cat nodded and took hold of his arm. “It has nothing to do with you. Please don’t think it does.”
“It has everything to do with me!” he couldn’t contain his temper any longer. “It was him, Cat. He is the one my father called on the night of the sorting.”
Cat recoiled instantly and her face paled. “H-he did that to you?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can kiss whoever you want.” He mumbled, standing up and moving back the direction they had come.
“Well, yes I can but that’s beside the point.” She hopped up to follow after him. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Would it have mattered?” Sirius stopped and watched her closely, not liking the answer he saw in her eyes. He turned on his heel and continued walking. “Don’t answer that.”
“What if I want to answer it?” She asked hotly grabbing his arm and pulling him to face her.
Sirius tried to make his anger match hers but failed miserably. Instead, he replaced the hurt on his face with a placid look of indifference. “It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.”
“Sirius, please,” Cat whispered, slipping her hand into his before he could walk away. “We need to talk about this…about you.”
He hesitated. Since when did anyone want to talk about him? He was confused, hurt, angry, and feeling a tumble of emotions he couldn’t even define. All he wanted to do was crawl into bed and pretend whatever was happening to him wasn’t really happening.
“I won’t force you,” she said quietly, tugging on his arm, “but I really wish you’d stay. I know you are confused and probably feeling things you don’t really even understand right now. I’ve been there, Sirius. I just forget…I forget you aren’t as old as you act and that some things I take at face value you still look for the silver lining.”
“You’re calling me a fool.” He broke free but her words had hit home. He sank back down onto the ground beside her…afraid to hear her condescension but more afraid of continuing to be confused.
“No, not at all.” She sank down opposite him, curling her legs underneath her. “Did you wonder why I followed you tonight? Why I was there watching you and Narcissa?”
Sirius couldn’t resist and gave her a small grin, “because you’re nosey.”
“Well, yes,” she laughed. “But I knew you were curious. You couldn’t understand why Narcissa would be marrying Lucius. I didn’t know why you felt so strongly about him, although I do now, but it’s your nature. You are strong-willed and obstinate and weren’t going to take anyone else’s explanation for it except Narcissa’s. You hold people accountable like no one I’ve ever seen before.” She smiled. “It’s actually quite frightening when you happen to be on the receiving end of a Sirius Black interrogation.”
He nodded distractedly. “But-“
Cat sighed and covered his hand lightly with her own. “It doesn’t explain why I was kissing Lucius,” she said nodding. “I know. You have a lot higher opinion of me than you should, Sirius.”
“Of course I do. Cat, until James came along, you were the only friend I had.”
“Being your friend doesn’t make me a good person. It just means you either don’t know my faults or are willing to look passed them. Either way, you are much too trusting.”
He could see a vague shadow pass over her...similar to the one she’d had on the night of the sorting but this time he understood it. She wasn’t angry with him or even mad at something he’d done. Instead, she was angry because he’d been hurt.
“I never intended to hurt you by kissing him. He was fun to be around. Self centered, egotistical but he just had this presence that pulled everyone to him. Yes, even me.” She added when he grimaced. “And besides, kissing him didn’t hurt you, did it? It’s only because you found out about it.”
“What a twisted way to look at it.”
“It’s the only way to look at it.” She cut him off coldly. “People rarely think about the future Sirius. Who they will hurt, what effect their actions will have on other people. Just because someone gets hurt in the end doesn’t mean it was intentional. People, including myself, are just so damn self absorbed that it’s easier to do what you want than worry about the outcome.”
“You are telling me you’re a bad person.”
“I’m telling you I am trying hard to be the person you and your uncle think I am.” She whispered. “But it’s really really hard and I’m not going to be perfect at it. When I screw up you have to be willing to forgive me for it.” Cat reached forward, touching his cheek softly. “I’m not sorry for kissing someone but I am sorry that it was Lucius. It won’t happen again.”
He searched her dark eyes and, even behind the ever present shadows, he knew she was telling the truth. He hadn’t wanted her to feel bad but he didn’t want her kissing Lucius either. The confusion tumbled in his head and he struggled to try and make any sense of his thoughts. He wouldn’t believe she was a bad person…he was a Black, after all. He couldn’t imagine anything worse than a heritage like that. The idea that she was so unhappy with herself and her actions tore into his soul and his guilt was overpowering. His eyes caught the glint of the moonlight against the ribbons in her hair and he stretched forward to tighten them. He hesitated a pace away from her, his eyes searching for some indication of what made her believe she was unworthy. Her defenses had already gone up, though, and he couldn’t discern a thing.
“Do you want to kiss me, Sirius?” she asked softly and he could feel her breath warm on his face.
He sat back, her directness taken him off guard. “No.”
“No?” She smiled and tilted her head. “Are you certain?”
“No, I mean yes, I’m certain,” he answered stiffly.
Cat smiled. “That’s good enough for me.”
Chapter 11: Origins of Padfoot
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Author’s Note: Most of you who have been with me for awhile know that my author’s notes almost always say something actually important (go figure!). In this case, I’m offering a warning for a subject not really covered under the ToS except as “sensitive topic/issue/theme”…This chapter includes a scene (via memories only) of animal cruelty. It’s handled maturely, it’s not graphic, serves an important purpose in the plot line and the repercussions of the event are also described as characters face the outcome of their actions. I do not, of course, condone any such behavior but children can be cruel and thoughtless and it sometimes takes years for them to realize the error of their ways. In that vein, let me introduce you to the origins of Padfoot…
Origins of Padfoot
Sirius tightened his winter cloak around his throat, the draft of the front door causing him to shiver just a little. His uncle stepped inside briskly, shaking off a layer of glistening snow with a grin.
“Ready to go?”
“I need to check on Regulus first, if you can wait.” Sirius murmured distractedly and then lowered his voice. “She’s in the stables.”
“Perfect. I’ll give my regards to your parents and then we’ll set off.” He winked conspiratorially and brushed passed Sirius toward the dining room as Sirius set off upstairs.
“Regulus?” Sirius tapped lightly on the door as he opened it. He’d expected him to still be sleeping off his Christmas cheer and was surprised to find him doubled over the edge of the bed retching into the waste bin. He couldn’t withhold the chuckle that escaped his lips.
“Shove it, Sirius,” he managed through broken gasps.
Sirius frowned and conjured a damp towel. Kneeling down next to his brother, he pulled the hair away from Regulus’ face and wiped down the sickly sweat that was beading on his forehead. “Lay back down,” he ordered, pushing Regulus back onto the bed and covering him with a blanket. He sank down on the edge of the bed as he continued to wipe his face. “Better?”
Regulus nodded his thanks. “And don’t lecture me. I learned my lesson.”
“No more drinking?”
“Not any time soon,” Regulus chuckled. “What about you? How did the party go?”
Sirius shuffled off the bed, dropping the towel onto his brother’s chest. “Fine. Get some rest, Regulus. I’ll make excuses to mum for you.”
“Sirius,” Regulus’ whispered voice made him turn. “It’s true, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he answered nodding, withholding the urge to pull Regulus into a hug. “She’s marrying him and from the sounds of her, she deserves him.”
“No one can do better than Narcissa if that’s where you are going with this.”
Sirius laughed and returned to the bed. “Everyone can do better than Narcissa.” He knelt down on his knees and grasped Regulus’ arm. “You are a Black, Regulus. You can do so much better than her and you know it. Don’t let anyone make you settle, understand?”
Regulus nodded. “Thanks, Sirius.”
Sirius nodded, swallowing the bile rising in his throat as he slipped into the hallway. Just as he turned from shutting the door, a piercing voice cut through the hallway.
“Such a commendable speech from a boy absolutely devoid of any noble traits of a Black.”
“Morning mother,” he murmured.
“What would possess you to think you have the right to tell him anything about being a Black? You’ve done nothing but act like a blood traitor to us since the day you were born.”
Sirius curbed the biting remark he wanted to issue. “I had hoped to give you at least one son to be proud of, mother. Surely, you can’t find anything wrong with that.”
“Indeed,” his uncle’s voice cut in between them. “For once, it appears Sirius is doing your bidding, doesn’t it?” He offered her a wide smile. “You don’t mind if I take him off your hands, do you?”
“Keep him for all I care,” she huffed. “He’d only help Regulus if he saw something in it for himself.” She narrowed her eyes as if to study him but Sirius quickly moved away.
“I’ll have him back tonight sometime.” His uncle tugged on Sirius’ arm. “Come, Sirius.” He led him down the hall a few paces before speaking again. “Are you all right?”
“Fine.” He could feel his uncle’s eyes searching him but refused to give in. He wasn’t going to let his mum ruin this day or any other day again. She would have Regulus but she wouldn’t have him. “I’m sure Cat’s freezing, we should get a move on.”
His uncle nodded, his brief look of malcontent not going unnoticed by Sirius. “By all means then, let’s not keep her waiting any longer,” he managed with a forced smile. “Think we can get her into trouble today?”
“If we get caught, we’ll all be in trouble,” Sirius countered grinning.
“Wouldn’t much be worth it if we didn’t, now would it?”
Cat stepped out tentatively from behind Sirius and his uncle as Diagon Alley opened up to her. The skyline was interrupted by awkwardly jutting buildings that looked as though they'd been designed by children with no sense of gravity. The bustling crowd murmured and hummed along, occasionally odd words like 'hex' or 'wand' jumping out at her, filling her with a sense of delight and rekindling some of the childhood fantasies she'd concocted...where wizards and witches and magic were real. The people were dressed in ornately flowing robes of the finest silks and velvets, causing them to appear as brightly colored wrapping paper jostling about in the wintry wind. A sudden bang caused her to jump back behind them. The air was temporarily alight with a shower of sparkles as two young boys ran off laughing and Cat couldn’t miss the look of mischief Sirius had on his face as they dodged the street patrol.
Something caught her eye in one of the shop fronts and she dashed towards it, tugging Sirius along behind her. A Christmas display unlike anything she'd ever seen and far more magical than anything in the shop front of Harrods Department store…it was Santa's workshop, a common favorite of any window dresser, but this one had very real, very ugly elves, who looked very disgruntled at the prospect of wrapping presents. Periodically a Christmas tree near the center of the street would spout a stream of stars and streamers from its top, covering the festive shoppers and caroling elves (Sirius explained that they were actually gnomes, most likely under magical contract to perform but she’d chosen to ignore him.)
As they continued down the street, the window displays seemed to become more fantastical: Christmas trees with snow that fell from nowhere and was never cold; baubles that floated down the street wishing everyone a happy Christmas and all matter of magical creatures dressed in holiday attire. She ignored the repeated requests by Sirius and his uncle to stop for food until they finally forced her into a nearby pub with threats of taking her home if she didn’t allow them sustenance.
Cat trailed behind, her focus flitting from one thing to another, each as extraordinary as the last. Her eyes were still wide with excitement as they finally managed to drag her into The Leaky Cauldron for a sit down meal.
Tom, the barkeep, hobbled towards them with something that looked like an orgy of colored wool perched precariously on his balding head.
"What can I do you for, Messrs Black?" "
“Just a couple of menus, Tom, and a jug of pumpkin juice for starters."
Tom bowed and after conjuring three menus, he ambled off, complaining about his joints. Cat fidgeted in her chair like a two year old hyped up on sugar, beaming at them.
Leaning down to whisper across the table, she murmured, "We're sitting in a magic pub!" As though they had somehow missed that when they came in. She read her menu and was caught between feeling ill and delighted at the choices: 'Slug Stew', 'Cobra Schnitzel', 'Lamb roasted with dragon bile'.
"I, um, I think I'll have the pea soup,” she feigned a smile as she choose the only thing that seemed edible.
Sirius smiled at his uncle. "I think you'd be better off going with steak and kidney pie."
She looked slightly green, "It's not...human kidney, is it?"
"Not here, it isn't,” his uncle said grinning over his mug and exchanging a smile with Sirius.
Cat shut her menu. “Perhaps you two can order for me and just not tell me what it is until after I eat?”
“Wise choice,” his uncle nodded approvingly. “Don’t mean to put a damper on the day,” he began as Tom took their orders and then conjured the meals for them.
“Then, please don’t,” Cat responded without looking at him, her eyes intent on the pinkish red liquid in the bowl in front of her. She glanced questioningly to Sirius, wondering what he had ordered her, but he would only smile.
“Sirius, I need to talk to you about Regulus.”
The silence that fell over the table put everyone on edge. Cat shifted uncomfortably, Sirius dropped his utensils and his uncle seemed unnerved by their reaction.
“Apparently this needs to be a longer conversation than I intended,” he murmured, eyeing the two with curiosity. “I only meant his drinking.”
Sirius sighed and Cat returned to eating, her eyes still avoiding the others.
“You took good care of him this morning, Sirius. Is this a regular event?”
“No,” he shook his head as he ate. “At least this is the first time I ever seen him drink and he certainly didn’t act too found of the outcome.”
“Good.” His uncle nodded and then smiled. “And you, Sirius? Have you taken a liking to drinking?”
Sirius avoided the impish grin Cat sent him. “Not particularly. Why, is it a problem if I do?”
His uncle laughed. “No, I was merely going to order a brandy with dessert to celebrate our day and thought I’d get one for you if you like.”
“I think coffee all around is more appropriate,” Cat scowled. “Last thing I need is to be trying to find my own way home with the likes of you two drunk as skunks.”
The laughter echoed across the room and his uncle nodded.
“The lady wins. Coffees to go, Tom,” he said, waving to him. “And one more stop before we leave town.”
“Only one?” Cat frowned. “Is it that late?”
“We’ll come back again one day. I promise,” he took her arm as he spoke, threading her back outside and into the crowd. “You’ll love this store best of all.”
Cat nodded and turned to link her arm into Sirius’ as the trio walked. “What did I eat anyway?”
Sirius opened his mouth to answer but, luckily the store appeared around the corner and Cat’s mouth dropped open. Situated a few feet above the ground, the glistening store with frosted windows seemed to rest on a cloud of snow. Light flakes sprinkled over them and just as Cat was wondering how they were supposed to get into the store, she felt herself rising slowly above the ground until she was standing in the doorway.
Sparkling glass cabinets filled with jewels, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds lined every corner of the room. Near the back, crystal trays showcased brilliant silver pieces like lockets, bracelets and even tiny little spoons for newborn babies. Family crests bedecked in various jewels hung along the walls and Cat attempted to pick out the Black crest but Sirius refused to give her any hints. She reached to touch a silver trinket box, lifting its lid and causing a lilting voice to carry throughout the store. The shoppers seem to fall under a trance and only the three of them seemed immune. She played with it, opening it and shutting it, watching in amusement as people would awaken from their daze and then go blank again. Apparently one of the shopkeepers finally caught on and the next time she closed it he wrenched it out of her hands causing the trio to hurry off to another part of the store.
They were just considering purchasing some tiny silver barrettes as a memento for Cat when they noticed the shadow in the mirrors lining the glass cases along the wall.
His uncle saw them a split second before Sirius did. Cat, a few paces away, was ogling a locket that seemed to talk back to you, had missed their presence altogether.
“Cat,” Sirius hissed quietly. She jerked to attention immediately but remained with her back turned to him.
“Well, Malfoy, what a pleasant surprise,” his uncle greeted smiling. “Out for a bit of Christmas shopping for the wife?”
“Silly holiday,” he murmured. “I supposed you’re looking for jewelry for your mother, Sirius?”
Sirius nodded. “Have any suggestions for me, sir? I’d be greatly obliged. I understand she thinks your taste is fine.” As he had hoped, the elder Malfoy beamed brightly.
“I do tend to make the ladies happy with my choices. Come with me, boy, and we’ll see what we can find for her.” He took Sirius’ arm, who cast a single glance back at his uncle who nodded approvingly.
“Oh, nice to see you again,” he turned unexpectedly and Sirius could se his uncle blanch. With one swift move, he pushed Cat backwards and through the open cupboard door. He leaned against it heavily.
“Delighted, as always,” he murmured. “Hurry up, Sirius. Choose your gift so we can get on home.”
“Yes, sir.” Sirius pulled Malfoy toward the cases, distracting him as best he could. It seemed like hours before he finally found something he felt suitable for Mrs. Black and Sirius couldn’t believe he was going to have to pay so much money for a gift he never intended on giving. But, if it kept Cat safe, he was happy to do it.
By the time he hurried outside to meet up with them, they were yelling loud enough to be heard back in London. He tried to hush them and, although his uncle immediately quieted, Cat couldn’t be calmed. She was lashing out at him, calling him horrid things and blaming him for putting her in the position of being caught.
She spun herself tighter as she screamed at him, her verbal attacks causing her uncle to pale as they grew more pointed and accusatory. But when she hissed that he had no right to act like he owned her and that she was neither his slave nor house elf, Sirius had to grip his uncle’s arm to keep him from collapsing.
Sirius stood between the two, uncertain of just how to calm the situation. His uncle hadn’t meant to hurt Cat’s feelings and he certainly wasn’t trying to act like he owned her. He had been trying to protect both of them…the Blacks would never stand for the two of them to be friends much less being seen out in public together. Cat’s scathing accusations were causing his uncle to recoil and he seemed simply unable to defend his own actions.
Although Cat’s voice was still filled with anger, Sirius saw her break. It was merely a shift in the shade of her blue eyes but, he recognized it immediately from the first night he’d met her. His uncle had made her feel cheap and used, as if he was ashamed by her presence. As angry and vulgar as her words were, Sirius could tell she was near tears.
Wordlessly, he slipped his hand around her waist and she silenced immediately. With hardly a glance at his uncle, Cat slid into Sirius’ arms and buried her head in his chest. He could feel the rake of her teeth on his shirt as she bit down in an attempt to keep from falling apart in front of everyone. Her fists were clenched into tight knots and, although she wrapped her arms around his waist, the tension in her body wouldn’t release.
“I think I’ll take her home now,” Sirius murmured quietly, as his uncle reached out to caress the top of Cat’s head. “You’ll be okay?”
Although he asked the question, he didn’t wait for his uncle’s answer. Instead, he offered him a half smile of encouragement and disappeared out the back door with Cat. She didn’t let go of his arm the entire trip home and followed him straight to his bedroom. Prying her loose from him, he offered her a blanket and then watched her quietly curl into a ball at the foot of his fireplace. The crackling firelight cast eerie shadows over her tired form and Sirius dug his hands deeper in his pockets as he watched her. He wanted to explain to her that his uncle hadn’t meant anything by his actions but somehow, he knew she already knew that. Why she had suddenly reacted so violently he had no idea but she didn’t seem to want to talk about either.
“Can we have some cocoa, Sirius? With peppermint sticks and marshmallows?” She asked finally, sitting up in the darkness. “Will you get in trouble?”
“No,” Sirius shook his head and conjured two mugs of steaming hot chocolate. “And stop asking me that, alright?”
Cat nodded and cupped the warm mug in her hands. Something tickled in the palm of her hand and she almost dropped the mug as she jerked away. Tiny little reindeer figures were marching around the mug in unison, sending off sparks of colorful red and green stars that were shooting off the edges of the mug. She smiled in gratitude as Sirius attempt to cheer her but it wasn’t the reaction Sirius had expected. Tilting his head toward the mug, the reindeer began singing a badly off key Christmas carol, determined to get her to laugh.
God rest ye merry hippogriffs, let nothing go your way;
Two devilish boys they did bite
This lonesome Christmas day
“What’s a hippogriff?” she asked quietly, as the words of the song began to sink in.
“A creature that will bite you and kill you if you disrespect it,” he answered sinking down beside her as she allowed herself a small laugh.
“Like your mum,” she giggled as she sipped the hot chocolate. “Please tell me this isn’t how you sound when you sing.”
“Black,” she returned quickly but rather than grow angry as usual, Sirius laughed.
“That’s the best you can come up with?”
Cat pondered for a moment then nodded. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“How utterly mundane.” Sirius touched her leg lightly as he laughed – a natural reflex to the pure joy her company brought him. It was only a moment later that he realized his mistake.
She jerked away from his touch with such force she toppled backwards and Sirius barely managed to catch her mug before the hot liquid spilled all over her. She was breathless, he was unnerved, and he clasped his hands tightly in his lap to keep himself from automatically reaching out to her in concern. He eyed her worriedly as her breathing slowly returned to normal.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” Sirius spoke as if he’d been reprimanded.
“No, no, I-" Cat’s rushed voice trailed off rather than deny it. “It’s just-" she broke off again, glancing away from him. She fidgeted in her place and Sirius reached toward her again, slowly this time, to give her the chance to brush him away. When she didn’t, he rubbed her head lightly as his uncle had often done to him. His voice was quiet and soothing, an attempt to mimic his uncle’s. “You can tell me, Cat.”
She searched his eyes for so long before responding that Sirius had taken his hand away in defeat.
“It’s just been so long since someone touched me without wanting something in return.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing, just things, you know?” she asked lightly, her eyes unwilling to meet his. “You never get something for nothing. That’s all I meant.”
“You underestimate me, Cat.” Sirius’ low voice caught her attention immediately. “Perhaps I should have said who do you mean?”
“Why do you do that?” she snapped. “Read more into things than are there?”
“Why do you insist on hiding behind some damn smokescreen rather than just tell me the truth?” he countered, his temper beginning to flare.
“You are as arrogant as your brother, do you know that? Just because you want to know something doesn’t mean you have the right to know it!”
“And you can’t protect me from something by hiding the truth just because it’s more convenient for you!”
“Well, just because your family thinks you’re old enough to know everything doesn’t mean I agree or have to contribute to it!” Cat threw off the blanket and began to stomp away when Sirius finally replied.
Even though he was trembling in fury, his voice was steady. “Run if you want, Cat, it won’t change the truth.”
“What?” she whirled on him, her eyes blazing; her fingers curled into a tight fist.
“I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient for you that I know things and have experienced things other people my age haven’t. If anything, the Blacks are known for discretion but it’s still your choice to tell me whatever you’re comfortable with. Like it or not, I’m a Black – obfuscating the truth in one of our talents so trust me when I say I know how to recognize a lie when I see it. Hell, Cat,” Sirius’ voice dropped and he turned a heart-wrenching gaze her direction. “If you don’t want to talk about something just say so. Don’t lie to me about it for goodness sakes.” Pulling his knees to his chest, he dropped his head in his hands, running his fingers through his hair in frustration and hurt.
“I didn’t know,” she whispered.
Cat sank back down in front of the fire, sliding to sit in near him. She rested her hand on his thigh, making him turn his tear rimmed eyes her direction. “I didn’t know I had a choice,” she repeated. “My whole life I’ve been forced to tell everyone everything. You were cornering me.”
“Yes, but I didn’t know that, now did I?” she offered him a small smile. “It’s like you being unwilling to believe in James’ friendship.”
“I am his friend.”
Cat nodded sympathetically. “Yes but you are terrified he’ll decide he’s too good for you and will walk away. We only know what we’re accustomed to, Sirius. For you that’s loneliness. For me, well, it’s something entirely different.”
Cat reached forward slowly and intertwined her fingers with his. She glanced at him as if asking permission and when he didn’t protest, she turned around and laid her back against his chest. She pulled his loose grip tight around her body until she felt him tighten the embrace himself. He held her tightly, her head resting on his chest.
“I’m sorry, Cat.”
“Don’t know, it just seemed like the thing to say.”
Cat giggled and a warm silence fell over them both. She snuggled deeper into his arms as they watched the fire start to dwindle to low glowing embers, both still lost in their own fears and memories. Sirius’ grip never lessened and Cat couldn’t help but wonder if his resolve was limitless. She had tried to move away several times to allow him a chance to stretch but he’d always tugged her back in to place with a mocking grin that challenged her to try and protest.
“Sirius, can I ask you something?” she asked finally when he’d once again pulled her back into a crushing hug.
He cocked his head sideways, a devilish grin spread across his face. “Anything.”
“When’s the last time anyone hugged you?”
She could feel his grip loosen and his arms start to drop away. She wrenched hold of them and held his limp arms around her. He struggled to get away but Cat was stubborn and refused to let him go.
“You can say you don’t want to talk about it,” she offered.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Sirius tightened his grip two fold, causing her to gasp for breath. It was his attempt to punish her for daring ask such a thing, but Cat wasn’t so easily deterred.
“Yes, you do,” she whispered. “I know you do.”
“After the sorting, my uncle-"
“You were on your death bed…that doesn’t count,” she interrupted.
“I don’t remember then,” he growled.
Cat turned her head to look at him. “Really?”
He tapped her with his shoulder, causing her head to fall back into place on his chest. “No.”
He hated feeling cornered…but he hated seeing Cat upset even more. He knew the day hadn’t ended the way she had wanted and he felt guilty for having any part in something that had apparently made her so ill at ease. He struggled with the memories that were flooding through him but knew helping Cat understand him might make her understand why his uncle had done what he did.
“My fifth birthday,” Sirius murmured. “My mother planned a huge party to celebrate. It was the night I met James Potter, in fact. It was held at someone’s house. I don’t even remember whose,” Sirius’ voice held a note of incredulity that he’d forgotten something like that.
“We were just kids. There was a dog...they had a pet dog. It was one of those spoiled rotten mongrels, you know? It had this glossy black fur that shined so brilliantly the lanterns reflected off it. His fur was cut just perfect, not a shaggy or misplaced hair on the entire animal. It looked better kempt than most of us kids. We were merciless to him…teased him just because we could. And that dog, you should have seen it, Cat. It never made a sound. No matter what we did it would just stand there stupid as can be wagging its tail at us. He had on this little silver collar shaped like a crescent moon. It made the most annoying jingle whenever he moved. It had,” Sirius caught himself in his ramblings. “That tag had I don’t know, something like Bristol or some such on it.” Sirius tried to make his voice light, as if he couldn’t remember but he knew he couldn’t fool Cat.
He remembered everything about that damn dog. The way it would lift one paw when it got near dirt…as if it was too good to muddy its paws; the script on its name tag that had a flourish underneath his name…just where the curve of the moon hit his small chest; the mocking way it cocked its head whenever Sirius laughed…as if it knew something he didn’t. “We were doing spells on it, just for fun, you know?”
Cat shifted in his arms to meet his gaze and she nodded but Sirius didn’t even notice. “I did one…a terrible one. The dog lifted into the air, it shuddered and made the most horrible noise. I’ve never heard anything like it in my life.” Sirius’ body shook from the memories. “I killed it but not before,” Sirius hesitated as he searched for the right word, “it had an excruciating death.”
Sirius fell quiet as he fought to rid himself of the sounds and visions of the dog’s horrendous death.
“Sirius?” Cat shook him worriedly but he pulled her back into his arms.
“It was an unforgivable curse, ones outlawed in the wizarding world,” he explained. “My parents were so proud they both rushed forward and hugged me. They touted me around as if I was a hero. It wasn’t that they were proud of what I’d done it was just because I had the ability to do it.” Sirius’ voice filled with disgust. “James got sick during the middle of the whole ordeal. He’d been egging us on the whole time until that moment when we heard the dog’s bones shatter. He was still alive and you could hear the bones inside his body just splinter into pieces and start ripping into his flesh…” Sirius suddenly realized he was talking aloud and he quieted. “James ran off somewhere and when I got away from my parents I went searching for him. I found him puking his guts up in the back garden. We went and got the dog and buried it,” Sirius’ voice held a note of finality to it that Cat wasn’t ready to believe.
“Your parents caught you, though, didn’t they?” she asked gently.
Sirius nodded. “They saw me as weak after that… an emotional fool. And you, of course, are here to witness the rest.”
“You mean it’s been like this since you were five?” Cat’s eyes filled with tears but Sirius quickly brushed them away.
He pushed her head back into his chest, his voice soft but firm. “I’d rather not talk about that.”
Author’s Note: Many many thanks to noblevyne for the assistance on this chapter…without her, the day in Diagon Alley never would have happened. Two months in the making….I hope this chapter was worth it.
Chapter 12: Hogwarts: Semester 2
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Author’s Note: Wow, five months…longest I’ve ever gone without updating something. Thanks to those of you who prodded me on in the “Meet the Author” thread. If it wasn’t for you and the emails, I wouldn’t have posted this chapter. Thanks for the encouragement.
Edge of Light
Chapter 12: Hogwarts: Semester 2
Lily was quiet and reserved, studious Remus called her. James constantly made fun of the way she always traveled with the giggling girls. But, when Sirius looked at her, he saw something else. It was as if she had a bit of James in her – a touch of rebellion, a hint of abandon. And when she showed up in the common room late one night while the others were at the Quidditch field, he couldn’t help but be reminded of Cat.
“Lily?” Sirius glanced up from the magazine that was hidden within the pages of his Magical Theory textbook.
Although she smiled in greeting, he could tell it was forced. “Are you studying? I can come back.”
“Not really,” Sirius answered sheepishly and tossed her the magazine. “Everything all right?”
“Is it true you know how to get out of the castle?” She lowered her eyes as she spoke. “I mean secretly that is.”
Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “Why do you need to sneak out of the castle?”
She was going to lie to him, he could tell by the look in her eyes. Sirius immediately felt guilty for pressuring her and he hopped off the bed. “It’s none of my business. I’ll show you a passageway where you won’t get caught.” He searched her eyes for a moment. “You do realize you could get expelled for sneaking out?”
Lily nodded. “I just have to get away for awhile.”
“Okay, just as long as you know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t know anything anymore,” she whispered causing Sirius to draw closer. Although the soft glow of the candlelight had hidden it, he could now see her eyes were red and swollen, her normal fastidious hair ruffled and disarrayed. He wanted to reach to her, to offer her some sense of comfort, but something told him she was beyond compassion.
“Come,” Sirius took her hand gently, as if he was leading a child away. They traveled silently, Sirius watching closely for any teachers as he walked her through the maze of passageways below the main floors of Hogwarts. When they reached the outer door, he hesitated a moment before letting her go. Either that or she held on a bit too long, Sirius couldn’t really tell. “Lily?”
“Would you mind coming too? I mean, so I don’t get lost or anything,” she added quickly. “If you’re busy –”
Sirius smiled and stepped out ahead of her. “Nothing but time, Lil. Come on, I’ll show you the back way to the lake. James, Remus, Peter and I found it just a few nights ago. If we’re lucky, the merpeople will be putting on a show tonight.”
Lily nodded, following close behind Sirius as if afraid to lose her way. Sirius lay down on the bank, just behind the tree line to keep them from view. Lily sank down close to him, the soft touch of her arm against his causing Sirius to move a few inches away.
Sirius wasn’t sure how long they sat in the quiet and, unlike usual, he found the quiet to be relaxing. As if, for once, he didn’t need to be filing the void with jokes and quick witted remarks like when he was with the boys.
“You know people gossip about you?” Lily asked quietly, stirring Sirius from his unintended slumber.
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“They are either telling the truth or telling lies. I can’t change their mind either way.” Sirius shrugged. “People will believe what they want to believe. I learned that a long time ago.”
“They say you are supposed to be in Slytherin. Is that true?”
He eyed her curiously. “I only know where the sorting hat put me. Why?”
“Is it true your family is all Slytherin?”
“Yes.” His voice came out more curt than intended.
“I hear things, you know. About the Slytherins. A lot of them aren’t good people.”
“The majority if I had to hazard a guess,” he said bitterly.
“And you were one of them?”
“No.” Sirius struggled a moment, remembering the pile of Slytherin robes that lay unused back at Grimmauld. “My family though I would be a Slytherin, that’s all.”
“Oh.” Lily twisted her skirt uneasily, as if unsure how to respond.
“I can’t help what my family thinks, Lily. If that’s a problem then –”
“No, no.” She grabbed his hand tightly. “There’s just so much horrid gossip in this place. I wanted to hear it from you.” Lily pulled away from him quickly, her eyes drifting out across the lake. “They call me horrible things,” her voice was a whisper. “Dumbledore caught them once and stopped them but now they just do it when the professors aren’t around.”
“They learned you were raised by muggles then?” Sirius leaned back on his elbows, things finally starting to make sense to him. Since their return from Christmas break, Lily hadn’t been acting like her self. She had withdrawn from most of the girls she had hung around with first term and seemed to prefer spending most of her time alone. Whenever he went to look for her she could usually be found in the Potions classroom or library…never in the school common areas where the students normally gathered. He had often wondered what had caused her to withdraw but since she still continued the late night sessions with him and Remus he hadn’t concerned himself too much. That he had failed to notice she was being mistreated caused an uneasy feeling to wash over Sirius… as if he had been too blasé and had come to take the protection of Hogwarts for granted. Silently, he reminded himself never to do that again.
“The moment I met you, but I didn’t tell a soul. You believe that don’t you?”
“I know who told them.” Lily nodded. “Severus heard me talking to Dumbledore.”
“Severus?” Sirius tried to put a face with a name but couldn’t. “Is he our year?”
“Yes and Slytherin at that.”
“You can’t let them get to you. It’s pointless.”
“You don’t understand! They call me filthy things! They say I don’t deserve to be at Hogwarts!” Lily’s voice carried into the darkness until she realized she was screaming. When she quieted, her tears began to fall. “I’ve always been different, Sirius. I though coming here would be where I could fit in; a place where I wouldn’t feel like the outsider anymore. I thought you would understand.”
“I do understand.” Sirius’ said angrily. “But I don’t sympathize. They are fools and you’re a fool for letting them get to you.”
“And just what am I supposed to do?” Lily countered. “I can’t very well beat the snot out of them!”
Sirius struggled to his feet, his anger growing with each tear he watched Lily shed. “No, but I can.”
Lily hurried to her feet and chased after him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to teach people some manners.”
“Sirius, no!” She grabbed his arm and jerked him back toward her. “I came to talk to you not have you rush off and get yourself expelled.”
“No,” Sirius glared at her, “You came to see if I was as bad as they are.”
“But I don’t need you to prove it by doing something stupid like this!” Her voice was desperate. “I saw you, remember? The way you stood up for Peter on the train? You’ve got nothing to prove.”
Sirius didn’t respond, he had already tuned her out. His mind whirled with where the Slytherins might be and then it dawned on him. They would be at the Quidditch field, jeering the Gryffindor team.
His mind focused, his eyes narrowed, Sirius didn’t even notice James and Remus calling to him as he stomped through the stands. He slugged the first Slytherin he came to, with no thought as to what year he might be or how strong he was. They were all the same to him…lowlife scrum intent on harassing those they deemed less able. It infuriated him even more when the boy didn’t fight back and Sirius began pummeling him. It only took moments before other Slytherins joined in the fray. He didn’t notice James, Remus or Peter joining in the fight or other Gryffindors stopping the game to come to his aid. Only when James and Remus grabbed his arm and began pulling him down the stands did he realize what he’d started.
“The professors are on the way, Sirius, we have to go!” Peter jerked Sirius back as he tried to rejoin the fight.
“You can’t afford to get expelled, Sirius,” James hissed in his ear. “Being sent home, that’s not what you want is it?”
Sirius cursed out loud as he hurried behind the trio. James was right and he knew it. The last thing he wanted was to be sent home, much less sent home for fighting with Slytherins.
“What were you thinking? Less than a week before school lets out?” Remus asked as Sirius sank onto his bed once they were safely back in the dormitory. “Even if no one gets expelled, Gryffindor will loose all their points because of that stunt you pulled!”
“It’s a bunch of damn rubies, Remus,” Sirius said flatly, but he knew Remus was right. He had probably done enough damage that Gryffindor could never recover. “I’m sorry. I just wasn’t thinking.”
“You never do.” Remus stomped out of the room angrily, grabbing a fuming Peter by the arm and dragging him along behind.
“What was that about?” James sank down on the edge of Sirius’ bed.
“I hate them. Every last one of them”
“Enough to be sent home?” James raised his eyebrows. “I’m all for beating up Slytherins, don’t get me wrong. But a little finesse is in order.”
“Stuff it, James.”
Sirius heard the door click as James decided it better to leave him be. The fragments in his mind swirled until he felt dizzy and he closed his eyes. In only moments, he was asleep.
“Sirius?” Remus tugged lightly on his sleeve. “Can we go for a walk?”
Sirius sat up and glanced around the room hazily. James and Peter were snoring loudly in their beds which told him it had to be well after midnight. “It’s late Remus. You’ll get caught breaking curfew.”
“I’ve a few things to say to you, Sirius, otherwise I wouldn’t even suggest it,” he answered flatly.
“I can kick your ass, Remus, let’s not waste the energy because of something I can’t take back now.” His voice was toneless, exhausted more than condescending.
“I want to apologize you stupid git. Get up.”
Remus’ demanding tone caught him off guard and Sirius obeyed. When they reached the empty common room, Remus sank onto the sofa.
“Figure risking curfew isn’t worth it after all?” Sirius chuckled as he dropped down beside him.
“Sometimes you make it impossible for people to be nice to you. Do you know that?” he grumbled. “Look, I was wrong. I thought that brilliant temper of yours had just gotten the better of you.”
“No,” Remus shook his head. “I talked to Lily, Sirius. She was worried about you and told me everything.” Sirius shifted uncomfortably. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Lily? This was about Lily?” James’ sleepy voice cut into the conversation as he and Peter appeared on the stairwell. “You’re risking expulsion for her?”
Sirius raised his eyebrows to Remus who smiled understandingly.
“Ah, now I see.”
“What’s going on?” Peter sank down across from them. “Are we planning another adventure? Splendid.”
“Still picking up pieces from the last one, it sounds like.” James huffed and sank down on the edge of the sofa. “What’s the red-haired brat got to do with anything?”
“The Slytherins have been after her for being muggle born.”
“What?” Peter’s eyes widened. “She’s a mudblood?”
“Where’ve you been?” James snapped.
“It’s been happening all year but she never said a word,” Sirius explained quietly, “until tonight.”
“How’d they find out anyway?” Peter interjected.
“Severus Snape.” Sirius shrugged. “Whoever that is.”
“Snivellus?” James hissed. “You’ve got to be kidding. That greasy git?”
“That’s him?” Sirius’ blood began to boil again. The boy had become the object of many of the group’s jokes. He was self-righteous and always took the opportunity to rub their failed scholastic attempts in their face. Sirius had never even bothered to learn his name.
“Everybody calm down,” Remus said quietly as the tension began to seep through them all. “The point isn’t who told, it’s that it was happening anyway. And, of course, that the boy hero here stepped in to save the day.”
“Screw you, Remus.”
“I meant it with the utmost respect, my friend,” Remus chuckled. “The question is, what do we do about it?”
“This isn’t your fight.”
“It’s not yours either!” James countered angrily. “You can’t get sent home, Sirius, especially not over some silly girl.”
James’ words silenced the group and Remus’ intelligent eyes turned on Sirius. “Why can’t you get sent home?” he asked quietly.
“Nevermind that,” James said quickly. “It doesn’t matter. He just can’t.”
“We’ve got seven years ahead of us here, James. Might as well tell the truth now don’t you think?” Remus argued.
“The way you talk about the sick mum you go to visit each month?” Sirius asked, his voice low and accusatory. “We all have our secrets, Remus.”
Remus recoiled and a silent stalemate fell over the group. The tension grew heavier and even Peter, who was normally oblivious to all emotional outbursts, seemed uncomfortable as the embers of the fire began to dim.
Moving up from his perch on the arm, James climbed over the back of the sofa, draping his arms around Remus and Sirius as he sank onto the cushions. “I don’t know about you two but I could use a drink,” he said jovially. “What’s say we raid the kitchen and see what they’ve got to nick?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Sirius jumped out of his seat, glad for the movement. “Care to join us, Remus?”
“Yes, I could use a drink myself.” Remus nodded, meeting Sirius’ challenging gaze.
“I thought you might,” Sirius laughed and wrapped an arm around Peter as he pulled him out of the chair. “What’s the matter, Peter, you tired? You look a bit confused.”
Peter nodded as he followed the group out the door and into the darkened hallways. “I was just thinking I’m not going to get much sleep the next seven years if you three don’t learn to get along pretty soon.”
“Now, honestly, Peter,” James stretched his arm across Remus’ shoulders, “where’s the fun in that?”
“Dumbledore,” Remus hissed, shrugging away from James. They stopped in their tracks, allowing the Headmaster to come to them.
“Lovely night, isn’t it, gentlemen?” He peered at them over his glasses, tightening his robe as he walked.
“Yes, sir, it is.” Sirius nodded. He knew he was already in trouble…there was no point in putting off the inevitable. “What brings you out at this hour?”
“I might ask you the same thing, Mr. Black, although I sincerely doubt I’d want to hear the answer.” He glanced over the group. “As it seems, you have saved me several steps toward my goal. I was on my way to see you.”
“I had a nasty feeling you were going to say that, sir.” Sirius moved away from the others.
“No, I do mean all of you.”
“Sir, if this is about today, please, they had nothing to do with it.” Sirius could feel Remus’ penetrating glare but ignored it. “It was entirely my fault.”
“I suppose you are referring to the incident at Quidditch practice. Yes, I did hear about that. Punishments have already been handed out, Mr. Pettigrew, you need not look so frightened. I am rather curious as to what started the fight, though. I had hoped you four might be able to enlighten me.”
Their eyes flickered toward Sirius but quickly glanced away. It wasn’t quick enough, however, and Dumbledore took a step towards him. “It seems you have been elected to share the story with me, Mr. Black. Shall we go to my office, then?”
Sirius nodded and took a step forward but Remus grabbed his arm. “It really was nothing, sir. We just got a little carried away with the competition. Slytherins and Gryffindors, you know, we can’t seem to get along for anything.”
“Overheated competition?” Dumbledore’s eyes bore into Remus. “Even I find that a bit difficult to believe. Surely you can come up with something more plausible than that.”
“I assure you, sir, had you given us more time we would’ve had something much more creative prepared.”
“Then I trust it will be no problem to have four feet of creativity done no later than breakfast? Unless, of course, one of you –"
“No,” Remus answered, gripping Sirius’ arm to keep him quiet, “a foot a piece is more than generous, sir.”
“Indeed.” Dumbledore’s eyes traveled over the group before finally settling on Sirius. “Mr. Black, might I have a moment of your time?” He laughed heartily as he saw the others stiffen. “I assure you it is a personal matter and has nothing to do with the events of today.”
“Certainly, sir.” Sirius stepped to the side, exchanging a nervous glance with James.
“Mr. Black, have you heard from your uncle recently?” Dumbledore’s voice was so low Sirius had to draw closer in order to hear.
“Not since last month.” A nervous twitter grew in the pit of his stomach. “Is something wrong?”
“I expected to hear from him by now,” he answered distractedly. He must have noticed the confused look on Sirius’ face for he quickly added, “he checks in on your regularly. I also have not heard from him in some time. I would contact your parents, but –"
Sirius nodded. “I understand, sir. I’ll let you know should I hear anything.”
“Thank you, Sirius.” Dumbledore stepped away. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”
They all stood silently for a moment before heading back into the common room. All but Sirius sank onto the sofa. He paced near the fireplace uneasily.
“Remus, that wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t have let you take the blame for that. I take responsibility for my actions.”
“I know,” Remus answered easily. “That’s why I wasn’t going to let you. Sirius,” he moved to stand beside him, his voice quiet over Sirius’ shoulder. “We do all have our secrets and whatever yours are, I’m willing to guard them. Stop acting like we’re the enemy, alright?”
Sirius nodded without comment and Remus touched his shoulder reassuringly. “Trust me, one day I may require the same from you. In the meantime,” Remus’ raised his voice, “Peter, James, get off to the kitchen without being caught this time. We’re going to need some food to write this essay for Dumbledore.”
They nodded but hesitated as Sirius pulled out his wand and began shooting sparks up the girls’ stairwell. Although they ricocheted off several doors, they made no noise until they hit their target. A small popping ding went off with each spark, almost like the tinkle of a muggle alarm clock.
They all tilted their heads in confusion but Peter was the first to speak. “What the heck are you doing?”
“I don’t care if you like her or not, James. Lily’s the smartest witch in class and this is all her fault. I’ll be damned if we’re going to write this thing alone.”
Chapter 13: Shades Darker than Midnight
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I need to apologize a bit here. This chapter takes place several months after the last one. I’ve struggled and done my best to write an in-school chapter but just couldn’t manage to do it with any believability. Although, I did, oddly enough come up with a rather slashy scene between Remus and Sirius that was pointless to the story but a blast to write. So, anyway, rather than keep this story hanging with no update for another six months, I’ve jumped ahead to the summer after their first year at Hogwarts. Sirius has returned home from school only to find Regulus preparing to begin his first year at school
The Edge of Light
Chapter 13: Shades Darker than Midnight
Sirius dug his hands deeper in his pockets as he strolled through the Grimmauld gardens, the feeling of loss and betrayal overwhelming him. This was him a year ago, wasn’t it? Blacks from all around the world, coming to celebrate the beginning of his school career. The best handmade Slytherin robes being draped over his shoulders to show off for everyone where he belonged? Regulus, his own brother, the man of honor basking in the glory of being the one son that would never betray the house of Salazar Slytherin.
“Stealthy as a cat,” he murmured as Cat’s arm slipped in his. He was thankful for her presence and he slowed his pace easily, shortening his steps to match hers.
“Maybe – " Cat began but Sirius gave a resigned smile.
“I lost Regulus to them ages ago, Cat. The sorting hat will place him in Slytherin.” He glanced away, a slight movement from the wind through the trees catching his eye. “I’ve known it forever but seeing him in those robes…” Sirius trailed off, his voice cracking ever so slightly.
Cat was quiet, a rare feat for her, as she walked beside him. It allowed his mind to travel through childhood memories and times of “what-if” when he might have had the opportunity to instill some sense of righteousness in his younger brother. He came up empty though, and the guilt was overpowering. The crunch of their footsteps on the pebbled path began to unsettle his nerves even more and he tugged her slightly as he stepped off the path and into the woods. Their steps were soft and rhythmic now, the cushy green moss silencing their tread.
“My father died before I knew him. We were so poor growing up. We were forced to beg for food or money. But, no one wanted anything to do with the dirty gypsies.” Cat said quietly, avoiding Sirius’ gaze as they walked. “One day these men showed up in the forest with more money than we’d ever seen. It wasn’t London money. My grandmother called it the devil’s money because of the strange markings on it.”
“Wizards?” Sirius asked, tightening his grip on Cat’s arm as her shivers turned to trembles. Although she had talked often about her mother, Cat had never been willing to share anything else about her life before Grimmauld and her short, curt sentences told him she was struggling even now.
“We thought they were our saviors. They gave us food, money, and shelter. We went off one day and came back to have entire cottages built and waiting for us.” Cat hesitated as she remembered and Sirius stopped walking. He tugged her gently down to the ground beside him, the glazed look of memories that haunted her face frightening him.
“Sirius, I was so young. I didn’t understand but people kept disappearing or just not acting like themselves. It was as if someone else was controlling them. We blamed it on the forest pixies who steal breath from babies. My grandmother lectured everyone about sleeping with the devil and getting what you paid for. She just disappeared one day and I’ve never seen her since.” Cat’s voice caught. “I believed her after that. Whoever the men were they weren’t saviors but hell on earth. It just got worse as they got more powerful. One night, I came home and -” Cat stopped mid-sentence, her eyes searching Sirius.
“What?” he prodded gently but Cat had hugged her arms tightly around herself as if afraid telling him would make her relive the whole ordeal. Sirius took her hands in his, pulling open her self-embrace and holding her himself. She snuggled deeper into his protective hug, her silent tears falling onto his broad chest.
“I shouldn’t have been there. I was supposed to be at a friend’s for some stupid sleepover.” Cat shook her head. “But something told me to go home and I ran into her room.”
“Your mother’s?” Sirius’ quiet words caught her off guard and for a moment he thought she was going to refuse to continue. But she nodded, her grip on Sirius’ arm becoming painful as she tried to carry on.
“He had her pinned to the bed, her clothes off. He was raping her, of course, but I had no idea at the time. I didn’t understand until your uncle explained it to me days later.”
Sirius started. “My uncle?”
Cat nodded. “I ran, Sirius. I left my mother in that man’s clutches and ran. Your uncle was there that night, in the village. He stopped me and somehow got the story out of me. He gathered men and went to the house and saved my mother.”
“But he said he didn’t know you…” Sirius couldn’t help but interject.
“We lied to him,” she answered simply. “My mother was so ashamed of what had happened and she didn’t trust anyone. She feared what would happen to both of us for telling. She told him I was just a village girl and even though I knew he came to visit as the years wore on, I never saw him again until the night she died. She always sent me away long before he arrived and I knew enough not to come back early ever again.” Cat shivered as her emotions began to dissipate and Sirius conjured a woolen blanket and pulled it over her shoulders. “My mother loved him, you know. It took her years to trust anyone again much less a wizard. But she did love him. He was like no other. He brought in people to get rid of the dark wizards and for years we were safe.”
“He’s a good man,” Sirius murmured non-committedly. Something nagged deep within him – telling him there was a side to the story Cat couldn’t possibly know.
“You are a lot like him, you know. You defy all odds, Sirius. By all accounts you should be as wicked and foul as the rest of your family.”
“Regulus, too.” Cat’s voice hardened. “He doesn’t deserve your sympathy.”
“He’s my brother, Cat. I’ll never believe he’s completely like them. There has to be something deep within him that tells him it’s wrong.”
“What good does that do if he’s too much of a coward to fight for it?”
“I can only hope one day he finds the bravery he needs. Cat,” Sirius’ voice softened. “I won’t ever give up on him. I can’t. Please just understand and give me that.”
She nodded. “I won’t bring it up again.”
Sirius shifted so that he could lean against a nearby tree then pulled Cat back into his arms. There was something about her revelation tonight – something about the memories she’d shared with him – that made him want her close. He wasn’t sure why and chose not to give it much thought for fear of what the answer might be, but he wanted the warmth of her presence beside him. The light smell of rosemary and mint that always accompanied her traveled over the wind, calming and comforting him like nothing else ever had. “Your mother, did she look like you?”
Cat smiled. “Haven’t I showed you a picture? Your uncle brought it for me. She looks so stern in it.” She dug into her pocket and pulled out a tattered and dog eared photograph of his uncle and her mother. “See? We look nothing alike really. Her hair was straight as a board and she was so skinny. I like to eat.”
Sirius chuckled. He had seen Cat put away more food than James, which was a feat in itself. He studied the photograph. His uncle looked young and carefree but Rosemarie did look a bit grim. “Was she not happy?”
“He was tickling her and she wanted the picture to be perfect. She was so angry at him for acting so juvenile.” Cat grinned. “Must be where you get it from. She was lively. She loved to laugh and joke and oh, when she danced.” Her voice softened. “It was as if the world stopped turning. I would’ve given anything to be able to dance like her.”
“Her eyes, were they blue like yours?”
“Who says my eyes are blue?” she asked mischievously.
“They’re darker than midnight, Cat, but they’re blue,” he answered without even glancing at her.
Her face was glowing, her eyes intent on him. She shifted in his arms, causing Sirius to hand the photograph back. “What?”
“How do you know that?”
He looked at her in perplexity. “Know what?” Realization dawned on him a moment later. “Oh, your eyes,” he shrugged. “I noticed them the first night I met you. Well, before I met you actually. You walked passed me at the carnivale.”
“Sirius.” Cat’s voice demanded the truth.
Sirius had never understood how she could make him feel guilty by just saying his name, but it was definitely one of her talents. “I thought you hated me. When I returned to Hogwarts I left with the belief you hated me and I had lost my only friend,” he said quietly. “I went to bed each night seeing the disappointment in your eyes. It’s something I never want to see again in my life.”
“You could never disappoint me, don’t you know that?”
“I do everyone else,” he shrugged. “It’s a given.”
“That’s only because they all expect something from you. Me? I expect nothing. I expect you to be you. Which means, you’ll be serious one minute but a joking fiend the next; a noble wizard to some and a callous marauder to others. You’ll be the boy who willingly suffered watching the death of my mother just so another boy didn’t have to see it. You’ll be the one who baits the Slytherins just because he can. And,” she touched his cheek softly, “you’ll be the man who believes his best is never good enough.”
She was right…and he hated her for it. He wasn’t stable like Remus or slow but loyal like Peter. He was willing to take risks, but not completely fruitless ones unless prodded along by James and he wasn’t studious like Lily. The only thing he was known for was being consistently inconsistent. He’d protect James with his last dying breath but let another wizard like Severus Snape suffer unmentionable tortures just because he could. His own double standard made him ill but he stubbornly refused to change.
He didn’t believe he deserved James’ friendship…or Cat’s for that matter. It was his kind that destroyed her life and threatened James’ more with each passing year. Deep down, he believed one day they would realize the same thing and he’d once again be all alone. The thought terrified him more than anything he’d ever seen or heard and somehow, he had the feeling Cat knew that and that was why she stayed. And that she had chosen tonight, when his brother’s life had been so vividly lost, to share with him tragedies of her own meant more than he could ever explain to her.
“For tonight,” Sirius whispered, his fingers tipping her chin to face him, “thank you.” He leaned down hesitantly, his lips barely brushing hers. He pulled an inch away, tilting his head to survey her eyes. “One shade darker than midnight,” he said affirmatively with a crooked smile.
“And yours are as gray as your soul.”
“What a comforting thought,” he chuckled. “It’s getting late and you must be freezing. We should go.”
“Ah, I’m with the noble Mr. Black this evening,” Cat said standing up and brushing off her clothes. “Where is that marauder when you need him?”
Although her tone was light, Sirius could hear the disappointment in her voice. Rather than stand up and follow her, he reached up and grabbed hold of her hand. “What exactly did you have in mind?”
“Well, I had a wonderful plan that involved biscuits, a colony of ants, and Regulus’ new school robes but I don’t imagine you’re much in the mood for that now.”
“Not particularly but I do intend on remembering that.” He laughed. “What else you got?”
“Something that might do us both some good, but –" Cat’s eyes clouded, “nevermind.”
“You know I hate it when you do that,” he said, tugging one of her curls playfully. “To hell with the rest of the world, we deserve a little fun. Tell me.”
“It looks like the marauder has finally appeared.” Cat stepped closer to him, her fingers running lightly through the hair on top of his head. She smiled innocently. “Have you ever kissed a girl, Sirius?”
“I just kissed you, didn’t I?” he grumbled.
“No, I mean really…where it leaves you breathless.”
His eyes darkened. “Cat-"
“Damn, Sirius!” She plopped down beside him with a loud thud. “Does everything have to be so serious with you?”
“You don’t think kissing is serious?”
“Sometimes of course it is,” she shrugged, “but it can be just for fun.”
“Just for fun?”” he asked skeptically. “Cat, have you been drinking?”
“Just a bit but that was hours ago.” Cat moved closer to him. “I told you I wasn’t good at being alone.”
“Never would’ve guessed that meant you were off kissing somebody.” Sirius couldn’t hide the twinge of jealousy that rose within him. Who exactly had she found to kiss around Grimmauld anyway? Regulus jumped to his mind and his eyes narrowed. He grabbed her arm and jerked her back toward him.
“What’s the matter with you?” Cat’s eyes widened as she tried to break his grasp.
“Regulus?” he spat.
“Oh, geez, you’ve got to be kidding me,” she hissed and finally managed to break free. “What do you take me for anyway?”
Sirius immediately felt guilty. It was true…she’d never demonstrated anything but pure revulsion for Regulus since her first day at Grimmauld. In fact, the only person she’d shown any compassion towards other than Sirius, of course, was his uncle. He knew his uncle was above kissing her and hoped his father was, but that only left the irregular visitors to Grimmauld. Or, and the thought concerned him more than he cared to admit, she had found a way to leave Grimmauld unnoticed. “Cat, have you been leaving Grimmauld?”
She sighed heavily. “No, Sirius. I told you I would behave and I have. I’ve given them no reason to have me thrown out or murdered in my sleep.”
The lightness with which she spoke about his family caused Sirius to turn away. He wanted to have a family to be proud of and, even knowing that wasn’t in his future, he couldn’t help but ache when the realities of his family’s evil doings were thrust upon him. He found it much easier to ignore their behavior than dwell on it.
“Sirius,” Cat took hold of his hand. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“Which makes it all the more pointless to mention.”
“Don’t you ever stop talking?”
Cupping her head in his hand, he pulled her closer, hesitating only a moment before pressing his lips to hers. His kiss was soft and lingering, allowing the visions of his family time to fade away. His teeth pulled gently at her bottom lip and a feeling he’d never experienced washed over him. His lips sought hers again, seeking the euphoric sensation her kisses brought. All thoughts deserted him, his body contented with the silky feel of her tongue sliding into his mouth. He felt something rise from deep within him – a sense of pure joy unlike anything he’d ever known.
She had been right…kissing wasn’t only fun it was addicting. They kissed for hours – exploring kisses; quick friendly kisses; kisses that held laughter and ones that held something more seductive that he didn’t yet understand. Occasionally she would kiss him with such passion it touched the edges of his soul and Sirius would immediately back away. She never failed to notice his unease and, as if repelled by some invisible wall around his heart, she would retreat back into the world of friendly undemanding touches.
It was only when the hazy glow of sunlight began to lighten the horizon that Sirius came to his senses and realized his respite had only been temporary. “Cat, we need to get back. The sun will be up soon.”
“Hm” Cat responded sleepily. “Couldn’t convince you to conjure breakfast so I can take a nap, could I?”
“I think that could be arranged,” Sirius pulled her to her feet, kissing her lightly on the forehead. Taking her hand in his, he led her toward Grimmauld, making sure to take the least known passages so they wouldn’t chance being caught. When they reached his room, he paused uncertainly. “Cat, about tonight –"
His seriousness was washed away as she stretched up on tiptoes to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. She gave him a mischievous smile. “Some things are worth getting caught over.”
“Touché” he laughed loudly as he opened the door to his room. Cat took a step ahead but stopped immediately, causing Sirius to run into her. “Get lost, did you?”
“Sirius.” The fear in her voice caught him off guard and Sirius jerked her behind him, afraid someone had been waiting in his room for their return. Why had he let her enter first? Why hadn’t he checked the room? Cursing himself for his recklessness, he stepped out of the shadows with more courage than he felt.
“Sirius.” It came from a different direction and this time the call of his name was much weaker, more broken and overflowing with pain. “Help me.”
Chapter 14: Orphans
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The Edge of Light
Chapter 14: Orphans
Sirius half ran and half slid to his uncle’s side. Blood had already pooled around his withered frame causing Sirius to wonder just how long he’d been there waiting. He ripped off the cloak, the blood stained shirt causing Cat to gasp from somewhere nearby. Sirius’ eyes roamed over his body but the numerous cuts and punctures were almost impossible to distinguish. Taking his hands, his uncle guided him to the deep, potentially fatal, wound in his chest. Without hesitating, Sirius ripped open the shirt, grabbed the clean towels Cat had retrieved and pressed them into his uncle’s skin.
“What can I do?” Cat asked, her voice stronger than either had expected.
“Tend to breakfast,” Sirius answered distractedly as he threw open the latch on his school trunk with a nonverbal spell and then began riffling through the contents.
“No, I mean –"
“Cat,” his uncle’s pain-filled voice was as gentle as he could manage. “He can’t worry about both of us at the same time. Tend to breakfast and keep yourself out of sight. He’ll come for you when he’s able.”
With only a momentary glance backwards, Cat hurried out of the room.
“Sirius, I need you to find Dumbledore.”
“No.” Sirius pulled out the tin container of Remus’ balm he’d been looking for and began applying it to the less deadly wounds. He couldn’t explain the feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him Dumbledore was somehow responsible for this. Had he not asked about him, Sirius would never have known they knew each other. But something told him Dumbledore was not to be trusted, that he had his own agenda, and he was the last person Sirius was going to resort to for help.
“Thank you,” his uncle said quietly as the balm healed the abrasions and lessened some of his excruciating pain. “But it’s not enough, Sirius. You have to fetch him.”
“Do you trust me?” Sirius backed away from him quickly, grabbing his cloak off the rack.
“Of course, but Sirius –"
“I’ll be back,” as an afterthought he grabbed the pitcher of water and sat it beside his uncle. “It won’t take long.” He hesitated, wanting to cling to his uncle…wanting to sit with him while someone bigger, older, and more responsible went for help. But he knew better than to expect that and with one last glance, he hurried out of the room and into the dark summer night.
It took him mere moments to reach his destination…it wasn’t far and he had memorized all the shortcuts there even if he’d never actually visited the place. He paused, though, his hand in mid-air as he prepared to knock. He didn’t want to do this…he didn’t want to invade their quaint, blissful little world with his own agonizing tragic one. But he had no choice and he rapped loudly on the door with no thought to the lateness of the hour or the fear his appearance might instill on the unsuspecting inhabitants.
The door was opened slowly by a man near his father’s age wrapped in a plaid dressing gown. He had his wand drawn and a deep furrow over his brow. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Mr. Potter, I need your help, sir,”
“Sirius Black?” A soft glow lit from the end of his wand as he strained to see through the darkness. “I haven’t seen you since –"
“I know. Sir, please,” Sirius’ voice broke. “I need you help. Can you come with me?”
He was unnerved by Sirius’ presence, Sirius could tell. Of course, Sirius thought silently, who wouldn’t be afraid of a late night visit from a Black? He cursed himself for thinking anyone would be willing to help him and he turned to leave.
“Sirius, wait-" he reached out and pulled Sirius back. “What’s happened, Sirius? Where are your parents?”
“They are gone for the weekend, sir. It’s not them. Please, I apologize but I have to hurry. I’m sorry I bothered you at all.”
“Dad, its okay,” James familiar sleepy voice, the one Sirius had awoken to almost daily for over a year, echoed from somewhere just behind his father. “Go with him.”
Mr. Potter glanced from one boy to the other and Sirius could hear the click of lost time reverberating in his brain. “I have to go,” he finally managed.
“Just a moment, Sirius, I’ll grab my cloak.”
Sirius led him to Grimmauld in silence, refusing to even tempt his good fortune and having James Potter as a roommate. When they reached the house, Sirius turned away from the main entrance and towards one of the secreted passageways. Mr. Potter’s unease was evident as Sirius opened the door.
“It’s best for you not to enter the main house,” Sirius explained apologetically. “My brother is home and has several friends over.”
“Certainly.” Although his voice was strong, Sirius was sure he heard him breathe a sigh of relief.
“Just this way,” Sirius said quietly, leading him through the corridors towards his room. Sirius hesitated at the door, afraid of what might be awaiting him, but as soon as it swung open James’ father sprung into action.
They acted as if they knew each other but neither seemed comfortable in saying so in front of Sirius. His uncle seemed relieved at his prescence, though, which assured Sirius that he’d done the right thing.
“Sirius, this is going to be a rather difficult wound to heal,” he turned away from Sirius’ uncle to face him. “I can do it,” he added hastily, seeing the fearfilled look in Sirius’ eyes, “but it’s probably best that you leave.”
“No,” his uncle’s voice, already stronger than when they arrived interrupted them.
“He’s just a boy!” he protested.
Sirius’ uncle shifted uncomfortably, his voice quiet. “No, he’s not…not in this household.”
Further protest was quelled and Sirius sat quietly as he watched James’ father work. He heard tormented screams of agony as the healing process began and Sirius forced himself to look away when tears began to stream down his uncle’s face. Rays of the sun were pouring into the room before James’ father finally turned to Sirius with a satisfied look.
“He needs rest, Sirius. He doesn’t need to be moved. When are your parents expected to return?”
“Not until late tomorrow.”
“That will be plenty of time. He’ll be his regular charming self within hours but you must keep him from moving, do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Sirius nodded, his eyes drifting to his uncle and his deep, peaceful slumber. “Thank you, sir.” Sirius extended his hand in thanks but a heavy weight rested down on his shoulder instead.
“Sirius, you did a very brave thing by coming to me tonight.”
“It was all I knew to do.” Sirius tried to make light of his comment but the penetrating gaze made him glance away.
“Are you all right, son?”
Sirius hesitated, caught off guard for one of the few times ever in his lifetime. The tenderness and caring from such a stranger made his heart wrench with longing. “Yes, sir,” he answered simply, afraid his voice would give away the emotions welling inside him.
“Take care of yourself, Sirius and if you ever need anything, I believe you know where to find me.”
“I’ll see you out.”
“That’s not necessary. Get some rest, Sirius, you look near a coma yourself.”
Sirius nodded and as he departed, Sirius went to find Cat. He had never been to her room and, in his exhausted state, it took him a few moments to figure out where his mother might have placed a muggle’s bedroom. He traveled quietly, for fear of garnering Regulus’ attention, but finally found her in one of the far wings that hadn’t been used in generations. Pushing past the cobwebs, he tapped lightly on the only door that seemed dust free.
“Cat, it’s me.”
She opened the door in a rush and pulled him inside, closing the door behind her. His eyes surveyed the sparsely furnished room without really taking in his surroundings. As if in a daze, he dropped heavily onto the metal cot. The thin cotton mattress and dingy sheets sunk with his heavy weight but he barely noticed the change. He stretched out and rubbed his face with his hands to try and wake up. “He’s alive.”
“Thank goodness,” Cat heaved a sigh of relief that seemed endless.
Having no strength to move, Sirius shifted his head to see her better. She wasn’t facing him and he could swear she was whispering a prayer from the tiny drop in her head. Her dingy floor length skirt hung loosely on her frame, wrinkles crisscrossing the fabric, its frayed edges brushing across the tops of her bare feet as she moved. Her white blouse, normally kept in pristine condition, was splotched with stains of grease and bits of unidentifiable crumbs. He knew it was from fixing breakfast…she had to have been so consumed with worry over his uncle’s condition that she became distracted from fulfilling her duties. He was thankful his parents weren’t around to witness whatever food she had managed to throw together and took comfort in the fact that Regulus had probably been too drunk to notice what it was anyway. He attempted to lift his arm but his muscles wouldn’t cooperate and it merely dropped just off the edge of the bed. “Come here,” he wiggled his fingers to try and get her attention.
“Oh, Sirius,” she sank down next to him, using a nearby blanket to wipe away some of the dried blood and sweat that were still clinging to his face and neck. “You look exhausted.”
“I’m a bit tired,” he nodded and gave her a lop-sided grin. “Look, I know you have questions, Cat…”
“You’re okay, you’re uncle’s okay,” she shook her head as she spoke. “Really, Sirius, it’s probably best that’s all I know.”
Sirius smiled and gave a tired laugh. “I was just going to say it’s probably safer for you not to know.” He stretched his hand underneath the pillows and gave a loud yawn. “Did Regulus ever get up?”
“Yes,” Cat’s voice was disgusted. “All of them. They ate everything in sight then passed back out in the drawing room.”
“Probably better that way,” he murmured as his hands latched onto something underneath her pillow. Sliding them out he fingered the colorful ribbons he had given her the summer before. They were tattered and a bit faded, but they still added color that was absent throughout Grimmauld. “You’ve got a pretty crappy room here, Cat,” he said as he tied the ribbons onto her wrist…the only part of her body he could reach without moving.
Cat glanced around as she helped him tighten the ribbons. “It is rather dismal but I don’t spend much time in here anyway.”
“Do you have any other clothes?” he asked, his words beginning to slur as his eyelids fluttered closed and then opened again as he fought sleep.
“Sirius,” Cat tugged his head back in place on the pillow. “We can talk later, get some rest.”
“No, they are all just like this.”
“We’ll go shopping then” Sirius murmured. “I hate that outfit. It makes you look like a damn orphan.”
He heard the catch in her breath but neither recognized or understood it. He did feel the gentle caress of her lips on his forehead though as he began to drift off.
“Wake me in an hour.”
“No, you need sleep.”
“I need to be with my uncle,” he countered tiredly. “Wake me in an hour.”