Chapter 14 : Of Past and Present
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Disclaimer: I do not own any of these wonderful characters; they all belong to the magnificent J.K. Rowling. (Except for the original few that you'll be able to recognize yourselves!)
Chapter 14: Of Past and Present
The bright October sunlight filtered through the stained glass window, creating myriads of dancing light all over Alixandra's room. She looked at the clock on her bedside table and saw that it was nearly 9am. Stretching, she finally decided that it was time to rise, since breakfast usually arrived at 9:30. It was Saturday, and since Aurora had been unaccustomed to such a large array of people, Alixandra was trying to make life as normal as possible for her on weekends. They spent all of Saturday and Sunday together, even eating breakfast in their room (the house elves had kindly agreed to send breakfast up to them).
Her private quarters were comprised of her own bedroom, a smaller one adjacent to it that belonged to Aurora and just down a small winding staircase was a common room, complete with a large fireplace, as well as a comfortable sofa and squashy armchair, both deep red in color. She peaked into Aurora's room to see that she was still fast asleep, and then descended down the staircase.
When she walked into the room, the morning Prophet was already sitting on the table, as expected. Lighting a fire first, she settled into the armchair and began to skim it idly when a photo of a familiar handsome face caught her eye. Her heart skipped a beat as she studied his features; she hesitantly ran her fingers over the black and white image. Her eyes moved over to the accompanying article, and as she began to read it, the words instantly blurred due to tears that quickly clouded her vision.
"No…this can't be…" Her nearly inaudible whispers were lost in the uncontrollable sobs that quickly overcame her. She curled her body into a ball and sunk deeper into the chair; still sobbing, refusing to allow reality to sink in. She continued sobbing, not allowing herself to settle on any particular thoughts. Quite some time had passed before she was brought back to the present with the sound of a voice somewhere in the room around her.
"Alix? Alixandra!" The voice sounded familiar, but she didn't want to see anyone, to face what she had just read. Begrudgingly she finally lifted her head and to her great surprise there was no one in the room.
"Over here!" Came the impatient voice of her sister, Victoria; her face was floating in the fireplace. She looked concerned, but she was definitely one of the last people Alix wanted to see at the present moment.
"You read it then?" She said apprehensively. Alixandra merely nodded.
"Where is Aurora?" Victoria questioned, steering the conversation away from the article.
"Asleep," she responded, barely finding her voice.
"I'm going to take her for a few days. For however long you need."
"I don't want you to do that…" Alix said halfheartedly, wiping her eyes.
"Yes you do, Alix," her sister said matter-of-factly.
"I don't want to be alone," she whispered.
"Do you want me to stay with you then?" Victoria offered.
Alixandra nodded mutely.
Victoria sighed, "You and I both know that isn't what you want. You'd rather be alone. If I stay with you, you're going to send me away within the next twenty-four hours. Let's just skip all of this in-between rubbish, shall we?"
Alix contemplated this for a bit; she knew that Victoria was right—but at the same time, could she handle being alone right now?
Victoria spoke again, "I'm just trying to help you the best way I can. Last time you lost Sirius, you left without warning—for years. I know you'd rather mourn him alone. But I'd prefer that you didn't run away this time."
Before she had a chance to respond coherently, she broke into a fresh wave of sobs. Alixandra hated crying, and rarely allowed herself the time to do it, but on the rare occasion that she did, it generally turned out like this. Hearing his name, as well as the sentiment in her sister's offer was just too much at once.
"I'll be there in five minutes," came Victoria's voice from the fireplace, and within seconds her face disappeared from view.
Later that afternoon, Harry and Ron were playing a game of chess (Ron was winning by a long-shot) in the Common Room, while Ginny and Hermione were off being secretive in the library. Harry had been waiting anxiously to talk to Cassidy, but she was nowhere to be found. When Ron had beaten Harry for the third time in a row, they decided to call it quits.
They stood up and stretched their arms and legs after sitting in one place for so long. Ron glanced out the window, "Do you fancy a fly around the pitch? The weather seems perfect."
"All right." Harry agreed. The two quickly ran up the dormitory to retrieve their brooms and set out the portrait hole, making their way to the entrance hall. When they began to make their trek to the Quidditch pitch they were stopped in their tracks by the site of Cassidy sitting under a tree in the opposite direction.
"Do you think Dumbledore talked to her?" Ron inquired.
"I don't know, but do you think we should talk to her?" Harry asked. Ron looked skeptical but he nodded anyway. They closed the distance between themselves and Cassidy in quick strides.
"Hello…" she muttered, keeping her eyes focused on her hands.
"Can we join you?" Harry gestured to the space around her.
She shrugged and replied lifelessly, "Sure…why not."
"Er…I suppose I owe you an apology," Harry began, unsure if this was the right way to approach the situation, or if he should approach it at all.
She looked up abruptly, her red rimmed grey eyes widened in disbelief, "You owe me an apology? You didn't do anything wrong, Harry. It's my mother who is a…murderer." She whispered the last word, almost afraid to voice it.
"Well I just mean because I should have told you about all of that. You shouldn't have found out like this…"
"No…Dumbledore should have told me. The only information he gave me prior to my arrival at Hogwarts was that my birth mother was dangerous, and I was not advised to seek her out." Her quiet voice could not hide the contempt she obviously felt for Dumbledore's knack for hiding the most important pieces of the truth.
"I'm not going to defend Dumbledore, because he's told me a fair share of distorted truths as well. But I will say that he usually has his reasons. I'm sure he thought he was protecting you," Harry reassured her.
"I understand that, but didn't he realize that so many people would shun me because of it? I mean, what if I was placed in…Slytherin. Draco Malfoy is my cousin…what if he tried to recruit me to the dark side?" Her grey eyes widened with concern, as she searched both Harry and Ron's faces for answers.
Harry was impressed with how quickly she had come to realize that if the Sorting Hat had decided to place her elsewhere, she might be in a great deal more of danger at this very moment. He briefly allowed himself to wonder if Dumbledore had thought about this prior to introducing Cassidy to their world.
"Well Dumbledore seemed to have more faith in you than that, Cassidy! He could probably see from the first meeting that you were much better than any Slytherin," Ron said, trying to cheer her up. She allowed a small smile in return.
"What about your parents—the muggle ones?" Harry asked.
"The day I left for school, Dumbledore sent them into hiding. He told me he was going to change their names, modify their memories—all so that they wouldn't remember me; so that they would be safe." Her voice quavered as she explained this.
"Good." Harry and Ron said simultaneously.
Seeing the distress upon their friends face, Ron quickly continued, "So I suppose you'll be in need of a place to stay over the holidays?"
"He said he's already arranged something for the summer and that I'm welcome to go there for the Christmas holiday as well."
"I bet its Headquarters. You'll get to spend it with us! What do you think, Harry?" Ron turned to him.
Harry responded flatly, "I'm not going there for Christmas." It was one thing accepting that Sirius was dead, but another thing entirely to go the place Sirius dreaded most, second to Azkaban.
Ron's enthusiasm fell away, and the three of them sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts.
The silence was broken by Ron; "You know what I don't understand? Why did Dumbledore make you use the name 'Lestrange'?"
Harry contemplated this, "Yeah, did he tell you his reason, Cassidy?"
"Yes…I completely forgot until now, actually. This would definitely interest you. He said he'd intended to create discord in Voldemort's inner circle."
"But how?" Harry asked, intrigued while Ron flinched at Cassidy's casual use of the name.
"Apparently, no one knew of my birth mother's pregnancy. Not even my supposed father."
"Supposed?" Ron's brow furrowed.
Cassidy nodded, "Dumbledore doesn't think that Rodolphus Lestrange is my real father."
"Who does he think it is then?" Harry said, worriedly. The only other person that came to mind was Voldemort, because of Bellatrix's obvious infatuation with her master. This made Harry shudder, but he made sure to keep this bit of speculation to himself, as to not worry Cassidy more than she needed to be. But he sincerely hoped that he was completely wrong.
"He didn't say. I don't think he's too sure himself."
"Wait a second," Ron interrupted, "How did he know of your existence then…if no one else knew that Bellatrix was pregnant?"
"He saw it in a pensieve that he found. I'm not too sure what that is though. He tried explaining it, but I can't imagine being able to remove a memory to store it elsewhere…"
"Whose pensieve was it?" Harry pressed.
She bit her lip, as if trying to remember. "He said a name, oh!The last name was 'Black,' like your godfather Harry, but his name wasn't Sirius."
"Regulus?" Harry voiced.
"Yes! Do you know him too?" Cassidy said a hint of excitement in her voice.
"Well, not exactly, he died about fifteen years ago. He was Sirius' brother, and your—Bellatrix's cousin. But I can bet anything that the pensieve Dumbledore found was somewhere in headquarters." He said this last bit more to Ron.
"So someone did know that Bellatrix was pregnant!" Ron said. "Do you think that's why Regulus was killed?"
"It's a possibility…" Harry's mind was racing with all of this new knowledge, but he didn't want Cassidy to dwell on any of it too much. She was too new to this world to have to bear these burdens; she deserved to enjoy her time at Hogwarts, just as much as the rest of her classmates. "Come on, let's go get some lunch."
The three of them made their way back to the castle, and when they were almost to the great oak front doors, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic stormed out looking flustered. He glanced at the three of them, but did not greet them; he continued speeding towards the gates that lead to Hogsmeade.
"What do you reckon that was about?" Ron glanced back at the Minister bewilderedly.
"I don't know, but judging by recent events, it can't be good." Harry muttered in reply as he stopped to watch Fudge practically fly from the grounds.
"Have you found anything useful yet?" Ginny said exasperatedly.
"No…some of these books merely mention the veil, but it's so obscure! All of these books say the same thing, 'The mysterious veil that seemingly leads to nowhere,' or something similar to that. It's stated in so many books, but no one ever elaborates on it. Aren't any of these people interested in it why it's so mysterious?" Came Hermione's frustrated reply.
Ginny looked up from the book she was searching, "Well…you weren't." She clearly remembered Hermione not being remotely intrigued by the veil.
"That's not true," Hermione argued, "I just didn't hear voices like the rest of you seemed to."
"Well maybe that's it then; the people writing these books never heard voices, so they didn't think much of it. And the ones that did hear the voices…well, I'd rather not admit this, but I guarantee you they ended up right where Sirius is."
"You're probably right. Have you had any luck?" Hermione nodded towards the ancient tome in front of Ginny.
She sighed, "Not exactly…but for some reason I can't stop searching this book." Ginny had been translating each chapter or section title of the runic text that she was currently examining. If any of the titles sounded promising, she would continue to translate the chapter, hoping to find something of use. So far she had been unsuccessful.
"Well what if there's nothing in there…that's so much wasted time." Hermione voiced the very same thing Ginny had been worrying about.
"I know, but there's just something about this book." She exclaimed pointing to it with conviction.
"I know but…Ginny, what if there's some sort of time limit that we don't know about? What if we do find the solution, but it's too late?"
Ginny bit her lip. This was yet another item on her long list of things to worry about. "Believe me, Hermione, I think about that every day. Why do you think I'm in here so often?"
Hermione nodded, and Ginny continued, "I think my strong feeling about this book has something to do with my empathy. It's sort of like how I knew about Sirius. I just know there's something important in here, and I need to find it."
"Who's the author of that book anyway?" Hermione asked a few minutes later.
Ginny flipped to the weathered front cover of the book, "Celestia Henrey." She looked up at her friend, "Why?"
"Well, maybe I should begin looking her up…to see if she's written anything else, or to see if she's done anything noteworthy."
Ginny nodded in agreement as Hermione rose from the table to ask Madame Pince to point her in the right direction. Hermione was gone for several minutes, and Ginny glanced up to see if she'd had any luck. Hermione was still standing near Madame Pince's desk with a look of disappointment on her face. Madame Pince looked up at Hermione, and shook her head. They conversed for a few minutes before Hermione nodded and headed back over to Ginny.
"Well, Madame Pince says she's got nothing else written by her in the library, but that she would send out a few owls to see if she can find anything elsewhere. I'm going to check the Registry of Witches and Wizards to see when she was born, at the very least." Hermione looked defeated, but continued, "I think we should get some lunch before we research anymore. You need to eat."
Ginny narrowed her eyes, "Did Harry tell you that?"
Hermione smiled wryly in reply, "Maybe. But you should eat, Ginny. As important as this is, you cannot dedicate every waking moment to it. Come on, you can take the book with you."
Ginny rolled her eyes, but agreed to take a break. The two of them gathered their scattered pieces of parchment and a few books along with the one by Celestia Henrey and made their way to the Great Hall.
Remus had found himself at Hogwarts once more. It seemed to be a pattern these days; he wasn't sure exactly what to make of it. Usually, he loved being at Hogwarts, but lately every time he set foot on the grounds he was constantly reminded of the pain of losing Sirius. He sighed as he made his way up many flights of stairs to the Astronomy Tower. When he arrived at the door, he took a deep breath before opening it. Just as he expected, Alix was laying on a thin blanket gazing at the stars. He stared at her lonely figure, briefly allowing himself to remember a much happier time, when he could expect to find Alix and Sirius here together. The memory faded when Alix was visibly startled at his sudden presence.
"Remus, what are you doing here?"
"Looking for you."
"How did you know that I'd be here?"
Remus couldn't help but laugh, "Alix, I've known you for years. You always used to come here. Especially when Sirius upset you...so why would now be any different?"
Her gaze shifted to her hands, her face now unreadable.
"May I join you?" Remus asked, stepping closer to her spot on the ground.
She nodded silently still looking down at her hands. She furiously wiped at her eyes, but Remus, taking a seat at her side, pulled her hands away. "You're allowed to cry, you know."
"But you're not! If anyone should be crying it should be you! You stuck by him, and I ran away, like a fool."
Remus shook his head. "First of all, I did not stick by him the entire time. The twelve years that he spent in Azkaban, I believed he was guilty, just as much as you did. Secondly, I have cried, many times. And now it's your turn."
"You believed him more than I did though. When he wrote those letters, begging for us to trust that he was innocent. You tried to find a way, but I…I left without looking back." She sniffed, tears trickling down her face.
"I gave up eventually too, Alix, because without Peter, there was no way to prove anything. When you left, I was forced to search on my own; I began to second guess everything that I had tried to convince you of. I stopped looking for Peter, and I ignored the rest of Sirius' letters, until he stopped writing. I failed Sirius. Of course, he forgave me for it when he returned, but to this day I can't help but think about how easily I gave up. He never would have given up if the situation were reversed…" Remus swallowed the lump that was beginning to form in his throat.
"I'm so sorry I left…I can't imagine how you must have felt. You were all alone…"
Against his will, his mind reflected back to the moment he realized he was completely and utterly alone. He had sat in his flat, staring at the fire lifelessly, the latest letter from Sirius clenched in his left hand, and a half empty bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey in his right. He remembered glancing at the table beside the chair he was occupying. Upon it was a framed picture of himself, Sirius, James, and Peter; dropping the half crumpled letter, he slammed the photograph face down on the table, forcefully. The glass had broken, but Remus wasn't concerned. He took a long swig from the bottle in his right hand, nearly draining it. He lowered it from his lips and threw it across the room into the flames before him. The bottle shattered, causing the fire to flare up even more as the remainder of the firewhiskey hit the hot flames. He recalled sobbing for the rest of the night, until he had fallen into a deep sleep, full of dreams of his once happy life.
He shook himself from his reverie; unable to fight the tears that had inevitably formed, Remus put his head in his hands. He felt Alix wrap her arms around him, and listened to her sob into his shoulder for a long time before either of them spoke again.
"Why didn't he try to find me when he came back?" Alix broke the silence after a while.
Remus pulled away from their embrace to look at her. "We looked for you, but you had covered your tracks well. Dumbledore was helping us…I just didn't realize that he'd keep trying to find you once Sirius was gone."
"I thought about coming back, once Aurora was born. But I kept telling myself that I was comfortable. Deep down, I knew the real reason that I continued to stay away was because I was afraid of opening up old wounds."
Remus nodded, he could definitely relate with that; he was instantly reminded of Ginny's strong belief that Sirius was still alive. However, he knew it was best to keep this bit of knowledge from Alix. She, like Harry was very fragile when it came to the loss of Sirius.
"I just wish I could tell him how sorry I am for not believing him."
"He forgave me; he would have forgiven you too." He knew this, not because he and Sirius had discussed it directly, but because of the way Sirius had always acted with Alix.
Remus and Alix remained in silence, as they lay beside each other on the blanket, gazing at the clear, starry sky, both immersed in their own memories, of the friends that they had both cherished and lost.
A/N: This chapter was slightly shorter, but I think the content makes up for it. Thanks to all of you who have been reviewing, especially seekers destiny for catching all of my little errors! :)
Please don't forget to review, it really means a lot! Also, if you have any questions, you can check out my Meet the Author page on the forums. I enjoy answering them, so definitely feel free to ask as many as you want! :)
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