The sun, with its bright and invasive rays, may have woken him up, but it was the smell of freshly brewed coffee that pulled him from bed.
Yawning hugely, Sirius rolled out of his bed, rumpling his hair as he crossed the room to the en suite bathroom. He flipped on the light switch and grimaced as his pupils adjusted to the sudden influx of light. The mirror’s reflection showed him a weeks’ worth of scruff along his jaw and bleary eyes, which was quickly becoming the norm. He didn’t bother making himself look presentable, merely relieved himself of a night’s worth of vodka and tonics and then left the glorious darkness of his room.
As always, the halls were empty as he traversed them, scratching the back of his neck and whistling a nameless tune. The notes of his impromptu songs filled the halls, making it feel as though there was actually someone else there, but he knew better. There was never anyone else.
Upon entering the kitchen, Sirius took immediate note that Kreacher was nowhere to be found, which brightened his morning, despite the faint throbbing of his head. When he was younger (he refused to say ‘young’ as he was only thirty-five and that was by no means old), he never used to get hangovers after a night of drinking, regardless of how much alcohol he consumed. This was not the case nowadays. It seemed that every time he drank, he was bound to wake up with a murky head, though if he was being honest, it was nice to know he was still able to feel, even if the feeling was unpleasant.
There were, however, five people gathered round the table, all of whom looked up at him as soon as he entered. He stiffened, having expected an empty kitchen, but recovered quickly. “Good morning,” Sirius greeted in an overly cheery voice as he made a beeline towards the coffee pot.
“Wotcher!” chimed Tonks, whose welcoming smile was nearly as bright as her fluorescent pink hair. Remus lowered his paper long enough to give him a nod of greeting. Everyone else - that is to say, Mundungus Fletcher and that Dodge bloke - didn’t say anything, much less acknowledge him. Sirius shrugged to himself, wondering if it was the yellow and black sleep pants he was currently wearing that put them off or something else entirely.
“I think you mean ‘good afternoon’,” said Molly Weasley, the fifth and final occupant of the room. She set her cup of tea aside and sent him a stern look. “It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, Sirius.” Her tone was coloured with disapproval, though the look on her face was strangely nurturing.
Sirius turned away, feeling uncomfortable underneath her gaze. “Is it really that late already?” he asked no one in particular as he searched the cabinets for a clean mug.
“Yes, it is,” Molly said. “We’ve already had lunch.”
He paused in the middle of his search to look over his shoulder at Molly, a wry expression on his face. “Then it’s a good thing I’m not hungry, isn’t it?”
Mundungus laughed loudly, which he quickly disguised as a harsh cough under Molly’s intense glare.
Satisfied that Mundungus wouldn’t encourage Sirius’ behaviour, Molly returned her attention to man in question, looking less than amused. “You can’t keep doing this.”
He ignored her, just like he always did when she attempted to lecture him, and opened the last cabinet. It was filled with clean glasses, including an entire shelf of white porcelain mugs. Snatching one from the shelf, Sirius couldn’t fill up his mug with coffee fast enough.
“What?” he asked, taking an experimental sip of the black brew. It was hot and bitter, just the way he liked it.
“I would appreciate it if you look at me when I speak to you,” Molly said, sounding every bit the foreboding mother she was. It was no wonder why Charlie lived in Romania and worked with dragons; they must look positively tame when compared to his mother.
Sighing, Sirius turned around to face her and leaned against the worktop, his arms seeming to fold themselves over his chest. “What can I do for you?” He lifted his mug to his lips, smiling at her derisively over the rim.
“For starters, you can drop the sarcasm,” Molly replied dryly. “It might’ve been charming once upon a time, but now it makes you sound jaded.”
“Oh, is that all?” Sirius let out a short laugh. “Anything else?”
“Okay, just hold on a second.” He set down his mug on the worktop. “Is this going to take a while? As in, should I get some parchment and a quill to make a list?” he asked, knowing fully well he was being unnecessarily cheeky, but as always, he was unable to resist the opportunity to irritate Molly Weasley. “Because you look like you’re gearing up to make a long-winded speech.”
Her cheeks reddened as she tightened her jaw. “If it helps you remember,” she ground out, her hands subconsciously clenching into fists, “then yes.”
Sirius grinned at her. “Oh, great! Give me a minute, would you?”
“Sirius!” Molly exclaimed, stomping her foot on the ground in frustration. Honestly, the nerve of the man was astounding! “I know you think this is a laughing matter, just like you think everything is a laughing matter, but I’m trying to be -”
“Wait! Let me guess,” Sirius interrupted, holding a hand up for silence. Surprisingly, Molly shut her mouth, her dark brown eyes throwing piercing daggers at him. “You’re trying to be serious, aren’t you?”
Behind his newspaper, Remus gave a long, low groan. As Molly released a short scream of rage and launched herself into a tirade about his maturity level - or lack thereof - Remus shook his head in disappointment. It was quickly becoming a regular thing, their arguments, and more often than not, they were over the most trivial of things. Just last week, their yells shook the foundations of the old house and nearly brought it down, all because Molly suggested that Sirius get a haircut as he was, admittedly, looking worse for wear. Naturally, Sirius wouldn’t stand for it, going as far as accusing Molly of trying to control everything about his life, from the way he looked after Harry to the way he looked physically.
In a way, Remus felt sympathetic towards his best mate. It seemed as though he was the only one who knew the true extent of his friend’s troubles, the only one who knew of the nightmares that haunted him, both dreaming and awake. Though everyone was aware that Sirius wasn’t the same man he had been before his incarceration in Azkaban (no one emerged from Azkaban unscathed, if they emerged at all), Remus was the only one who saw Sirius for what he really was - a walking ghost, gliding through life simply because he was stuck here. He was too proud to take his own life, regardless of how concerned Molly was over the very event occurring.
“Oh, that’s it!” Molly shouted, throwing Remus out of his quiet thoughts. “I’m done!”
Sirius looked up at the ceiling in relief. “Thank Merlin! I thought you’d never finish.”
Slamming the pot Remus hadn‘t been aware she was holding on the worktop, she stormed towards the kitchen door. “You’re impossible,” she growled as she wrenched the door open.
His eyes twinkled as he regarded her smugly. “Thank you,” he said, lifting his mug to her in a salute.
Instead of howling with rage as Molly was often want to do following an argument with Sirius, she drew in a deep breath and became so calm, the entire room prickled with eeriness. “Go on being immature for as long as you like, Sirius,” Molly said evenly, wearing an oddly complacent expression. “You don’t care about anything, so why start now?”
“Sounds like you’re finally getting it,” Sirius responded irritably as he reached for his mug of coffee, which, unfortunately, had grown cold.
She raked her eyes over his haggard appearance then shook her head. “And to think you thought you could raise Harry on your own,” she remarked unkindly, slamming the door shut behind her before anyone could get a word in.
His eyes hardened as his amusement diminished. When Sirius slammed his mug down on the worktop so hard, the handle broke off with a sharp crack, Remus lowered his paper in alarm.
“Sirius?” he ventured cautiously, taking care to make sure he didn’t sound patronising. “You all right?”
The dark-haired man ignored him, abandoning his broken mug in favour for the bottle of firewhiskey hidden underneath the sink. Kicking the cabinet door shut, Sirius glared at the remaining occupants of the kitchen as if he was daring them to say anything about what had just happened.