Hugging the back wall of the mansion, Sirius let his gaze travel over the dwindling crowd. Although there were still at least sixty people in the garden, a quieter, more somber tone had blanketed the group. The lively dancing had been replaced by smaller conversations at the tables, and Sirius made note of the curious alliances he was seeing drawn across his lawn. Official ties by damned – everyone seemed to find Grimmauld a place to conduct their own private business with few prying eyes. His eyes drifted to Tonks, who had been avoided him all evening. She'd offered him a few quick waves but managed to side step him at every turn. She'd settled into a table with Remus a few minutes earlier and, knowing she wasn't likely to get up soon, Sirius offered a quick goodbye to Bill before striding toward her.
“Saw you talking to Bill. Anything I should know about?” Remus asked, kicking out a chair for Sirius to join them.
“I've forgotten, were you always this nosy when we were kids?” he countered.
Tonks was on her feet instantly, the smile she offered him as fake as her lilac hair color. “I'll let you two-”
Grabbing her arm before she could get away, he shook his head. “Not this time, cousin.”
He watched amused as she turned to Remus for an escape plan but Remus only offered a helpless shrug. This, Sirius knew, was one family argument that even Remus wasn't idiotic enough to get in the middle of.
“Come,” he murmured, tucking her arm into his. “I promise not to raise my voice loud enough others can hear. How's that?”
“Not comforting,” she sighed and, casting a baleful look at Remus, let him lead her away.
Sinking down on a bench at the fringes of the garden, Sirius tried to douse the rage within him. He should've taken a few minutes to get himself under control after his conversation with Bill before approaching Tonks but she hadn't given him a lot of opportunity. Instead, he'd rushed to her with the adrenaline of an imagined face-off with Lucius still running through his system. It didn't help, of course, that he knew Lucius was going to be the main topic of this conversation.
“You throw a good party,” she offered.
It took all his willpower not to roll his eyes at her. “Indeed?”
She heaved a deep sigh and straightened her shoulders. “I know you are upset but, honestly, Remus has blown this completely out of proportion. You know how he gets-”
“Yes, I do,” he drawled. “And I've never known him to overreact. Come on, Tonks, Malfoy? Are you kidding me?” Sirius could feel his temper begin to flare and he fought to lower his voice. “You're living in my fucking house for safety. For chrissakes, you gotta give me something here.”
“Now, you're overreacting,” she huffed. “Like I told Remus, he grabbed me at the wedding. Did a lot of bullying, and threatening of everyone we know and then the cavalry arrived. Really, Sirius-”
“And I'm sure it was that simple,” he growled, cutting her evasive tirade off at the knees. “He bullied you around a bit and then we swept in and saved the day? He certainly didn't threaten to hurt you, didn't actually hurt you? Did threaten to torture Remus or Bill-”
Sirius watched as she flinched and gave a visible shudder. She closed her eyes, twisting the hem of her skirt in her hands. “Sirius don't," she begged, her voice a broken whisper.
“What, am I getting warmer? What happened, Tonks? What aren't you willing share with Remus? Did he tie you up in some Malfoy dungeon? Or merely let the others take a turn beating the snot out of you? Or maybe Lucius decided to keep you entirely for himself. Two days is a long time to be held captive, Tonks. Tell me, did he get you dressed again before the Ministry arrived or were you conscious enough to do that yourself?”
“Sirius, just stop it!” She shoved at him angrily but her tears were unmistakable.
“Sounds like I hit a nerve,” he whispered, perching his elbows on his knees and dropping his head into his hands. He hated yelling at her, hated forcing her to relive whatever nightmare Lucius had made her live through. But he had to know. And, she had to stop hiding from something that wasn't her fault.
“Lucius was always a heartless bastard. He would curse anyone that even looked at a fellow Slytherin the wrong way. But it wasn't until I was a year out of Hogwarts that I learned the true cruelty he could inflict on people,” Sirius murmured, never raising his head. “We got into a fight with some Slytherins during the summer and one of the girls was taken by some death eaters. It took months to find her. The stories she came back with – the torture, the practicing of curses on her, the repeated rape and abuse at the hands of all of them but particularly Lucius – destroyed her. To hear it, from her mouth in her own words, was devastating. But to not hear it and know she might live with that in silence for the rest of her life....well, that's something I couldn't bear the thought of.”
He glanced her direction, slipping his fingers to intertwine with hers. When she finally turned her tear filled eyes to met his, he squeezed her hand gently. “No one, absolutely no one, should have to face the world alone.”
He could feel her grip tighten on his hand, not caring how long they had been away from the party or who might be looking for them. Instead, he waited patiently, hoping to give her some measure of support. He'd already failed her by not being there, by not even knowing what she was going through in order to help save her. Maybe, at least now, he could offer her some solace.
“He didn't rape me, Sirius,” she whispered, after several minutes of complete silence. “I can't say it didn't cross his mind but it didn't happen. But,” she hesitated and Sirius raised his eyes, wondering what could possibly be worse. “The curses he knows, I just....I have no idea where he learned such things. And, god,” she tried to let out a light chuckle but it ended up coming out as a strangled cough. “He has a right hook on him that would down just about any man.”
Sirius sent her a dubious gaze. “Tonks, a right hook wouldn't send you into my arms for safety.”
“Tonks, please,” Sirius' voice broke, unable to take anymore. “I failed you already. Don't make it happen again just because you are too stubborn to tell me what I need to be protecting you from.”
But she remained silent. It was only the slight drift of her eyes into the party crowd that gave him any indication of her worries. Had he blinked he would have missed it but his eyes followed quickly to the cursory glance she gave Juliette before looking away. In one swift move, he was on his knees in front of her, his hands gripping her arms.
“Juliette?” he hissed. “My Juliette?”
She seemed unable to respond and Sirius fought the urge to shake her silly. “Tell me!” he demanded.
“He...” she began but then fell quiet as she gathered her thoughts. She sat a little straighter, even though the tears were falling once again. “He knows she's Harry's daughter. He said he'd personally make sure that she never saw another birthday. Sirius, I'm sorry, I-”
Blinding hatred. Visions of his year with Juliette flew through his mind – secrets they'd shared, adventures in Grimmauld that only they knew about, shared bedtime stories that Hermione would never approve of – and he could do nothing to keep the hate at bay. His body shook as he moved to standing. “I'll get Remus for you.”
“Sirius, wait-” Tonks was tugging on his cloak, trying to hold him back but he shook her loose.
He would kill him. Stride into the Ministry, past all the guards and strangle him before he had a chance to utter a syllable of protest. Screw Azkaban, screw Remus. Lucius deserved death and nothing less.
“Juliette is looking a bit frustrated there, isn't she?” Remus asked, nodding toward where Juliette and Bill's kids were standing in a circle away from the main crowd. “Boys still not letting her play?”
Sirius glanced toward Juliette, only vaguely aware of the conversation he had interrupted. She had one hand on her hip and, in the other, her wand dangled loosely at her side. But the tense hold of her shoulders and her reddened face gave her growing anger away.
“Probably better that way. There's no telling what kind of things Bill's kids could teach her,” Hermione laughed. “She does have a temper on her, though. She can flare up just like Harry and Sirius. Must be something in the Grimmauld water.”
His fists tightened into his cloak, feeling Tonks rushing in on him from behind. Ignoring her pleas, he turned what little attention he could back to Remus. “Remus, Tonks needs you. She's-” he trailed off.
“She's too much like you for her own good. You know that, don't you?”
Hermione's words speed through his mind with lightning quickness and the world around him came to a stand still.
Murmuring voices drowned out beside him as he focused entirely on Juliette, her furious scarlet red face causing his own to blanch. He knew this moment...he'd lived this moment himself. Pure childish anger with no thought to repercussions. Not much different than the look he'd probably just had when he'd learned Lucius had threatened her life. And what had he been headed to do, Ministry be damned? His eyes narrowed at her with sudden understanding and, just as she opened her mouth to speak, his hand lifted in the air.
“Avada Ked--” Juliette's screamed words caused silence to fall across the gardens but Sirius was too fast for her.
His arm still stretched out between Hermione and Remus, he'd managed to cut off her voice before she could even finish the phrase. A brief moment of stunned silence and then everyone began moving at once. Hermione running to grab Juliette by the shoulders, Remus' eying Sirius with confusion, Bill rushing to wrap his arms around his children and Juliette's intended targets and the party-goers shuffling away from the entire scene.
“How did you-” Remus began but Tonks grabbed his arm to silence him.
Hermione was sobbing as she shook her daughter but Juliette seemed oblivious. Her eyes were only on Sirius, struggling away from her mother and through the crowd to get at his side. By the time she made it to him, her tears were falling freely, cascading down her cheeks and tumbling down the front of her dress.
“Sirius?” she whispered.
He couldn't bring himself to look at her. He had done this- turned a once, loving child into a near murderer. No, that wasn't true. She had been playing with dark magic from the day she brought him back from the veil perhaps even before. It had been his job, his duty, to change that and if tonight's episode was any indication, he had failed miserably. He could feel her touch on his cloak, knew she was wanting him to say something that would let her know she was forgiven. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't touch her, couldn't look at what he knew would be a tear stained face, afraid any further closeness to her would bring out even more Black family traits in her.
“Please,” she begged, tugging even harder on his cloak to get his attention. When he still didn't respond, she dropped to her knees, holding onto his pants leg for all she was worth. “Daddy, please.”
Daddy. She was at his feet, wanting only his forgiveness and acceptance. He had never hated himself more than in this one singular moment and he couldn't disguise the fury filled growl in his own voice when he spoke. “Bed, now.”
He could feel Remus and Hermione both circle him at once. “My apologies, Hermione,” he gave her a shallow nod without looking at her. He couldn't look at her. He wasn't sure he could ever look at her again. “It seems my Black family values have somehow influenced your daughter. I assure you, I did not intend-”
“Sirius-” her voice was soft, forgiving and he wasn't going to allow it.
He jerked away from her touch, offering them both a tiny nod. “Please excuse me.”