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Chapter 11 : At Grimmauld Place
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"Well, here we are, 12 Grimmauld Place. Home sweet home," Regulus announced as Severus and he popped into view along with Orion Black via Sidelong Apparition. "Unless you're Sirius, that is."
"Regulus!" Orion reproved quietly.
Reg blushed a little. "C'mon, Dad, you know that's true. Siri much prefers the Potter estate to here."
"That may be, son, but you promised me you would try and get along with your brother this summer," Orion reminded his youngest. The elder Black was quite tall and lanky, with short hair and bright hazel eyes. He was handsome like Sirius, but unlike his older son, did not have the arrogant manner, at least not that Severus could tell.
"I was trying, Dad!" Reg objected. "It's not my fault he got into another row with Mother and ran off to stay with James again. I didn't even know he had left until the next morning. It's not like he'd ever tell me where he was going."
"Sirius isn't here?" Severus queried with relief. He had been afraid he would have to dodge his nemesis all the rest of the summer.
"No, Sev. Don't you remember? That's why I wanted you to come stay here," Regulus reminded him, dashing his hair out of his eyes. "And I'm glad you can stay for longer than a week." He grinned happily at his friend.
Severus returned the smile. "Me too." Although I already miss Lily, and wish she were here too.
"Why don't you show Severus where he'll be staying, Reg?" Orion suggested. "You can unpack, wash up, and then join us for tea in the drawing room."
"Yes, sir," Severus said automatically.
Orion chuckled. "You can call me Orion, Severus. Or Mr. Black, if you must be formal, though normally I'm not one for formality here in my home. I haven't been called sir by anyone since I used to teach at the Auror Academy years ago, before Reg was born."
"Dad was a great Defense teacher there," Reg declared proudly. "He knows all the best wards and protection charms."
"You do?" Severus looked up at the other man. "Would . . .that is . . .I'd be pleased if you would teach me, Mr. Black. If it's not too much trouble, that is?"
Orion threw back his head and laughed. "Ah, Severus, you're something else. I thought Reg here was the only kid who begged to study more about magic over the summer holidays. Guess I was wrong. All right, let me look at my schedule and when I have an hour or two free, I'll tutor you and Reg some. Have you your wand?"
"Yes, sir. I mean, Mr. Black." Severus patted his pocket.
"Good. Just remember, you're not allowed to use it unless I or another adult wizard is with you." Orion ordered sternly.
"Black house rules," Regulus told his friend. "And if you break them, Dad will confiscate your wand and ground your arse."
"I understand," Severus nodded rapidly.
"I don't have many ironclad rules here, Mr. Snape, but that is one of them, and since you will be living here till the end of the summer, I will expect you to abide by it."
"I will," agreed Severus.
"Good, because if you break it, I shall punish you as I would my sons." Orion then waved him and Reg off towards the stairs. "But I trust I won't have to. My wife, Walburga, will go over the rest of the rules after tea, I'd expect. They're not many. We want you to have a pleasant summer here with Reg. Welcome to Grimmauld Place, Severus."
"Thank you, sir."
"Orion. Go on, let Regulus show you around." He left his son and the skinny dark-haired boy to stride down the lefthand side of the hall and into his study.
"C'mon, Sev. Mother's not back from her Witches Association Club yet, so I'll have time to show you around and stuff before we have to go and have tea with them." Regulus beckoned his friend up the stairs, which were carpeted in a deep blue and the stairs were lined with a few photos of the Black ancestors, all of which gazed curiously at Severus as he followed behind Regulus, who bounded up the stairs like an antelope, causing some of the portraits to cluck in disapproval.
At the top of the stairs was a large living room area with comfortable suede couches, a chaise lounge, and a large marble fireplace with a roaring fire dancing in the grate. On the mantle was a fine cherry mantle clock and several small crystal sculptures of a griffin, a serpent, a unicorn, and a snarling wolf. Above the fireplace was a large portrait of a stern looking man dressed in green Slytherin robes carrying an emerald topped scepter.
"That's my great-grandfather, Cygnus Black. He's the son of Phineas Nigellus Black who was Headmaster of Hogwarts," Regulus explained. "Hey Great-Grandsire, meet my friend, Severus Snape."
The portrait blinked and gave a nod to Severus, saying in a deep voice, "It is my pleasure to meet you, Severus. I trust you are a Slytherin as well, like my scamp of a great-grandson?"
"Marvelous!" declared the portrait, beaming. "Run along then, lads, and try not to get into mischief. It irks my granddaughter so." Then he winked at Regulus.
Severus glanced around at the living area, noting the furniture was of heavy cherry, and illuminated by Lumos-lit lights. A large carpet of green and beige in an Indian inlaid pattern was upon the floor, Severus could tell by a single glance that it was of top quality, but before he could see more, Regulus was dragging him through an alcove to the right and down a hallway with brass wall sconces papered in silver and emerald stripes.
"Down here's our bedrooms and the bathroom, and the game room. Well, it's kind of like a combo library and game room. But the books are mostly mine, if you haven't guessed. My room is next to yours."
The guest bedroom that Reg showed Severus was twice the size of his piddling little room at Spinner's End. It was done in soft cream with a forest green carpet and a four poster bed with matching hangings that could have slept three comfortably. The mattress was about a foot high and the pillows were huge plump things. Also in the room was a chestnut highboy, a nightstand, desk, and a small cream and green striped lounge chair.
His eyes nearly popped out of his head. "This is the guest room?"
"Yeah, it's pretty nice." Regulus said. Then he called, "Kreacher! Bring Severus's trunk up here!"
A skinny house elf with a squint popped into the room. "As you will, Master Regulus!"
Then he vanished and the next minute Severus's trunk popped into the room. Kreacher blinked in a moment later. "Will Master Regulus require anything else?"
"No, Kreacher, that'll be all for now, thank you."
Kreacher bowed and blinked away.
Regulus turned to his friend. "You can unpack later. Come and see my room."
Regulus' room was just as opulent as the guest room, done in midnight blue and gold, though his walls were covered in posters of Quidditch players and a framed house crest and shots of unusual magical beasts, like quetzalcoatls, dragons, foo dogs, ashwinders, and rocs. A model of a firebird hung from the ceiling and shot illusionary flames every five minutes into the air.
Regulus waved a hand at his own chaise. "Have a seat, Sev. We can go flying after tea if you'd like. So . . .tell me how are things with Lily? Have you gone out more than once?"
Severus sighed with relief. He had been afraid Regulus was going to ask about why his mother was allowing him to stay for the rest of the summer. But he was always willing to talk about Lily. "Yes, I took her for ice cream and to the movies," Severus said. At Reg's puzzled look, he tried to explain the cinema, but wasn't sure his friend actually understood it, but it didn't matter. He spent a blissful hour talking about how wonderful it was for Lily to go out with him and how she had actually seemed to enjoy herself.
"Well, of course she did, Sev. You know how to show a girl a good time and all, why wouldn't she like being with you? You . . .love her right?"
Severus gave a quick nod, then blushed ferociously.
Regulus grinned. "Good. I'd say that she loves you too. You make a good pair-brains, charms, potions and guts. Much better than that snotrag Potter would have."
"That I will agree on." Severus said softly. "How about you, Reg? Seen any more of Cindy since the Malfoys' ball?"
"No," Regulus sighed. "She hasn't written to me either. Maybe she's changed her mind."
"Have you written to her?"
Reg bit his lip, looking suddenly uncertain. "No."
"Maybe you should."
"Maybe." Reg conceded. Before he could say anything else Kreacher appeared in the room and said it was time for tea.
Regulus rolled his eyes. "Very well, we're coming." He lowered his voice and whispered softly, "Don't let my mother intimidate you, Sev. She's not a strict as she likes to think she is. If she was, Sirius would have been dead five years ago. Oh, and she doesn't know you're not a pureblood, I didn't . . .ah. . .want to get into that with her." Regulus said awkwardly.
"Would she throw me out if she knew?" Severus said uneasily.
"Huh? Oh, no, of course not! She's not that bad, but she's just . . .got a thing against those of mixed blood. I know it's stupid, but she's old-fashioned and well. . .I thought it was best if we just let her assume you were a pureblood."
Severus nodded. He would pretend to be Merlin himself so long as it got him away from Tobias. Mrs. Black's attitude didn't surprise him, many purebloods felt that way, the prejudice had been around for centuries. Severus hated it, but was willing to tolerate it for the sake of survival.
Regulus led him downstairs and to the right, into a pretty violet papered drawing room with antique furniture and a large potted fern. Both of Regulus's parents were seated upon the Victorian plush sofa, where an expensive silver tea service was set as well as an assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries, and soup was set out, along with tall glasses of water.
Walburga Black was seated to the right of her husband, looking cool and elegant in a crimson and black high collared dress. Her dark hair was upswept into a severe style and decorated with a single diamond stag hairpin. The same motif was represented on the collar of her dress in a cameo brooch. She eyed Severus from stern dark eyes, eyes that were the same dark brown as that of her eldest son.
"Please, have a seat, Severus, is it?" she beckoned him to one of the hardbacked Victorian brocade chairs placed at either end of the table. "Welcome to my home."
"Thank you, my lady," Severus said respectfully, and promptly sat down where she indicated. He took the linen napkin laid at his place and opened it and placed it in his lap. He was extremely nervous at meeting the dragoness of Grimmauld Place, but determined not to show it one iota.
"I hope you have found your room satisfactory?" Walburga inquired, her tone indicating that there was no reason why he should not.
"Yes, I've never seen any room as fine, my lady." Severus replied.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Reg snickering into his napkin at the overly formal way Severus was addressing his mother. But Severus sensed that if he were to start off on the right foot with Mrs. Black, he had better show her the utmost respect, and so he addressed her accordingly.
"I would hope not. My great-grandmother brought that furniture over from France, she went to school at Beauxbatons, and found an old wizard who was having an estate sale-those pieces are over three centuries old."
Severus managed to look suitably impressed, and Walburga continued, "Your mother wrote to me and has asked me to allow you to stay and keep Regulus company till the end of the summer and I have agreed, seeing as she was once a fellow Housemate of mine, though a few years my junior. Nevertheless, a favor to a Slytherin is no favor at all, as they say. You are the first boy to stay this long at Grimmauld Place since that troublemaking James Potter did four years ago." Her mouth tightened in disgust. "That was one mistake I shall never repeat. That boy was worse than a four-year-old, as mischievous as a pack of pixies, and rude and disrespectful, encouraging my sons to all sorts of crude behavior." She leveled a stern glare at Severus. "I trust, Mr. Snape, that you shall behave with proper decorum and respect while you are here? Otherwise I can and will send you right back from whence you came."
"I understand, my lady. I won't be any trouble," Severus promised, thinking how typical it was for Potter to misbehave even outside of school.
"Severus is a prefect at school, Mum," Regulus broke in. "He makes the rest of us toe the line, he won't be breaking rules, right, Sev?"
Severus nodded, and Walburga looked relieved and slightly pleased. "A prefect, you say? Well, that's quite an achievement. Your mother and father must be proud of you. I hope that Regulus will achieve prefect status when he is a fifth year." She shot a pointed look at her son. "Sirius, I fear, is a lost cause. He cares more for causing trouble and following that detestable Potter boy than he does for academics, more's the pity."
"Sirius has other talents, Walburga," Orion said quietly.
"I wish I knew what they were," sniffed his wife. "How did you score on your OWLS, boy?"
"I received all Outstandings, my lady."
Walburga's eyebrows shot up. "Clearly you are a scholar, Mr. Snape. Very impressive." She shook her head and muttered something to her husband that sounded like, "Now why couldn't Sirius be like that?"
Severus fought to keep from smiling. For once it was nice to get praise from an adult besides Eileen, and the fact that the adult was Sirius's own mother was deliciously ironic.
"What do you consider your best subject?" Walburga continued.
"Potions, but I'm also good at Defense, my lady."
"Very good. I myself was good at Charms and Transfiguration." Walburga said proudly.
"And I was good at Defense," Orion said. "Let the boys eat before you question Severus further, dear. I'm sure he's starving."
"All right, Orion. Do have some tea," Walburga ordered, and began pouring herself another cup of Earl Grey.
Severus was hungry, but he could barely bring himself to swallow a bite with Walburga keeping an eagle eye on him. He felt like a monkey in a cage, and prayed he recalled the manners Eileen had taught him while dining out, it had been so long since he had been in polite society. He nibbled a scone and sipped some Chai tea, wishing he had a Calming Draught.
Trying to put the boy at ease, Orion asked, "Do you follow Quidditch, Severus?"
"I . . .well, not recently, sir. Too busy studying," he said quickly.
"Ah, well, I love flying, I was a fair Chaser in my youth," Orion said, and began reminiscing about his days as a Slytherin Chaser.
Severus was no great fan of the sport, but he knew enough from hanging about Regulus to keep up a conversation, and Orion's easygoing personality soon had him relaxed enough to eat some sandwiches and drink more than a single cup of tea.
Regulus joined in, telling his father about his own mishaps as a Seeker, poking fun at himself, and eating and drinking like a famished shipwreck survivor.
After they had eaten and drunk their fill, Walburga spelled out the rules of the Black household to Severus. "Orion has informed that he has already told you about using wands over the summer. The same goes for brewing potions. We have a small potions lab in the basement, you may use it as necessary, though you must let one of us know beforehand. I do not allow my sons to fly at night, or leave without telling me or Orion or Kreacher where they are going. Flying here must be done carefully, since we are among Muggles and must take care not to be seen. Regulus will show you the places you can fly. You will have no set bedtime, as you are old enough to decide when you need to sleep. However, any rowdiness in the wee hours of the morning will not be tolerated and if you wake us up with your antics, rest assured I shall assign you a bedtime like I would a toddler, am I clear?"
Severus assured her he would behave again and Walburga seemed satisfied. "I trust you both are old enough to occupy yourselves without my assistance, this is your first visit to London, correct?"
"Yes, my lady."
"Well, perhaps Regulus can show you about a bit. Visit Buckingham Palace and whatnot." She rang a small bell on the table and Kreacher appeared. "Clear this away and bring me a glass of sherry and Orion port, Kreacher."
"Yes, Mistress. Kreacher hears and obeys." He clapped his hands and the tea things were banished and a small glass of sherry and port appeared in their place. Then Kreacher bowed and vanished.
Walburga reached for her glass and said languidly, "All right, boys, run along and amuse yourselves. Supper is at seven, so be prompt."
Regulus and Severus departed quickly, and as soon as they were beyond the drawing room door, Regulus turned and clapped Sev on the shoulder. "Good work, Sev! You survived Mum's inspection. Now that's over with, let's get our brooms and go flying."
"All right," Severus agreed, heaving a sigh of relief. Walburga was nearly as bad as Tobias with her dissecting glares. With luck, he would manage to avoid the stern matron as much as possible, lest she attempt to pry into his background any further.
* * * * * *
The next few days proved to be quite fun for Severus and Regulus. They spent some of the morning after breakfast flying in Hyde Park under Notice Me Not Charms, flying was safe in the early morning, evening, and at dusk. Severus was a decent flyer, though not as good as Reg, who was excellent due to his Quidditch practices and his natural reflexes.
They played tag through the treetops and chased a Snitch and Regulus taught Severus a few maneuvers on a broom that he never knew.
Some days they spent practicing potions that might have been on the syllabus for next year, Regulus was also very good at them and far more advanced than the typical fourth-going-into-fifth-year student. Occasionally, Walburga would come and observe them or Orion, though most times the adults tended to leave them be once they saw that both boys were not going to get up to any tomfoolery, and all they had to do was tell Kreacher they were brewing and to inform either of the elder wizards.
Other times, Reg took Severus out and they explored Muggle London, going on small day trips to see the various sights and museums. Severus drank it all in and wrote to Lily about his days and nights at Grimmauld Place. He managed to write a letter to her at least once a week and Reg teased him about absence making the heart grow finder.
Severus promptly threw one of his pillows at the smirking younger wizard, and a knockdown dragout pillow fight ensued, leaving both of them breathless, laughing, and covered in griffin feathers.
Severus quickly Banished them and mended the pillow before Kreacher discovered it and told Reg to write to Cindy.
"You really think I should?"
"If you want to go out with her, yes."
"All right." He snitched a piece of parchment and a quill from Severus's desk and leaned on the opposite side and began to write rapidly.
Lily's letters were the high point of Severus's week, usually. She always wrote back to him, though she claimed her summer was boring and ordinary compared to his.
Sounds like you're having a great time with Reg over there. I'm glad, you both deserve it. Over here, it's the same old thing, work at the cinema, sometimes going out shopping with Mum and Tuney. Don't know if you heard from your mum yet, but Dad agreed to press charges against your dad for suspected child abuse and that means his jail time will be extended, maybe even to the end of the summer, so you won't have to worry about your mum being alone with him. That's a good thing, right?
I've been trying to brew Felix Felicis but haven't had much luck so far. I sure wish you were here to help me, Sev. I miss you. I know I'll be seeing you soon when we go to Diagon Alley for school supplies, but it feels like forever, know what I mean?
I remain, forever and always,
Your beloved oracle,
PS: Miss you! XOXOXO
Severus was astonished and delighted after he read that letter, so much so that he actually blurted out, "Yes! The bastard can rot in jail for all I care!" while Regulus was sprawled on the sofa in the game room, reading through a Quidditch journal.
"Who can rot in jail?" Reg asked curiously, laying the magazine down.
"My father," Severus answered, then froze.
"What? Hold it. Your dad's in jail and you're happy about it? Why?"
"Because he's a nasty rotten bugger and I hate him," Severus admitted shortly.
Reg's eyes narrowed. He knew that Severus didn't get along with his father, because Tobias disliked magic, but he had never known the enmity ran so deep between them. "Okay. Care to tell me what the hell happened before you came here, Sev? Does it have to do with him?"
"Yes." Severus remained silent for a long moment, trying to decide what he should tell Regulus. He had never really discussed his childhood with his friend, he had always been embarrassed and ashamed at how he lived and how he allowed Tobias to bully and hurt him.
"Okay. You don't have to say anything else, Sev," Regulus said kindly, not wanting to pry, though he was clever enough to form his own conclusions.
"I know, but . . .maybe it's time you knew a few things," Severus said, very quietly. Then, not looking directly at Regulus, he told his friend what had happened at the beginning of the summer and that it was something that happened more than once.
Regulus was angry and a little shocked, and said heatedly, "Well, I'm glad he's in jail too, otherwise I'd have to break every rule my mother ever set for me and go and hex the bastard till he begged for mercy."
Severus managed a small smile. "Thanks, Reg."
"Don't mention it. What are friends for?"
And Sev smiled quietly and counted himself lucky to have a friend like Regulus.
* * * * * *
Orion kept his promise to tutor both Severus and Regulus in Defense wards and shielding, showing them the correct way to ward a room from another wizard trying to get in using high level unlocking spells. He also showed them how to set multiple layers of wards, some to warn that an unauthorized person was trying to gain entry to your room or lab or whatever and also illusion charms that would hid the entrance from prying eyes unless you had a password. He taught them wards to detect those who meant harm to you and those to detect dark magic.
"You can cast these same wards on other things too, like trunks and desks and things," Orion told them. "You can set a ward at different power levels, to shock or sting or even to knock someone out. It depends on what you want guarded or how much something means to you. I use some of these same wards upon my house."
"Yeah, thanks to Dad, our house is warded almost as good as Gringotts," declared Regulus with a proud tilt to his head.
Orion chuckled and ruffled Reg's hair. "I wouldn't go that far, Reg. But I come close. Very close. Now then, shall we resume where we left off? Wands at the ready, gentlemen. And . . .on three . . ."
He also taught them personal Shielding Charms and how to layer them against a magical assault. Little did any of them know how useful that would be later on. But looking back years later, Severus had reason to be very grateful to Orion Black for teaching him everything he knew about wards and shield charms.
It was after one such lesson that Regulus received an owl from Lucius.
I have a meeting of the club we discussed last time at the party scheduled for tonight. Meet me at my house at eight o'clock sharp. We'll fly to the rendezvous point. Wear a black cloak.
"Are you going to go?" Severus asked. For some reason, Lucius's request, more like an order, really, disturbed him. He couldn't put his finger on why, but there was something not quite right about Lucius's little club as he called it.
"Yes. I'll go to one meeting, just to get him off my back. How bad could it be? If I don't like it, I'll tell him I'm out and that'll be that." Regulus shrugged. "It's probably just some group of stupid purebloods hanging around and drinking and making stupid jokes about Muggleborns and stuff like that."
Severus frowned. "Maybe. Just be careful, Reg. Don't believe everything Lucius says, he lies through his teeth, and does it with a smile. And don't make promises you can't keep."
"Okay, okay. Calm down, worrywart. It's not like I'm pledging my life to the devil or something. This is just some stupid rich boys club and I only agreed to go to a meeting so Lucius would quit nagging me. I'll be fine, Sev."
Severus gave his friend a dark look, but said nothing further. Regulus was determined to attend and Severus knew once a Black had made up his mind, it was like trying to move a mountain with your bare hands to get him to change it.
"When do you think you'll be back?"
"Don't know. Hopefully not too late. I don't want to spend the night at Malfoy Manor. I much prefer to sleep in my own bed." Regulus said. "I'll tell Mother I'm going to visit with Lucius for a bit. Don't stay up waiting for me, Sev."
Severus rolled his eyes. "I'm not your father, Black."
"Thank Merlin for that!" Reg laughed. He hoped this meeting of Lucius's wasn't a waste of his time, he would far rather be reading or playing chess with Severus. Then he rose from his bed and went to wash up for supper and inform his parents of his plans for the evening.
A/N: Sorry I haven't posted on this for so long, but I was working on a new fic Broken Wings. But now that's completed, I can return to this one and hope to post a chapter every few days.
What did you think of Reg's parents? And Grimmauld Place?
Next: Regulus discovers that Lucius' little club is more than he bargained for. Can Severus help him get out of it before it's too late?
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