Sirius had hidden himself as much as he possibly knew how. Far removed from any public area of Grimmauld, the only person who likely knew of this room was Juliette and she knew better than to seek him at a time like this. He thought the room had been cordoned off years ago but apparently someone had seen fit to keep it open and in some semblance of order. The layer of dust, at least, seemed only thick enough to have been accumulated since Harry had inherited the castle. Before that, Kreacher must have been keeping it immaculate.
Waving his hand from one edge of the room to another, the dark wood tables and deep leather chairs began to glow again from his cleaning. He paced along the edges of the oriental carpet, unsure of whether he felt comfortable here or not. Less than conference room, more than a parlor it had served as an office of sorts for his father and, of course, his father before him. It was a private area – off limits to children and anyone else not worthy of his father's time. When he had been sorted into Gryffindor, this was where his father brought him to demean him for hours. When, as a teen, he'd made the decision to move out, this is where he had come to the finals blows with his father. And this room, with its horribly conflicting history, was the last place he had seen his brother alive.
Shrugging off his cloak, he tossed it onto the desk. He stepped behind it and, brushing aside a centuries old oil painting of Hogwarts, he waited expectantly as the wall came to life and revealed a hidden compartment. He chuckled to himself. After his break from the family, his father had put some kind of spell on the device to keep Sirius from accessing it. He wouldn't be able to open it “for the rest of his life” his father had threatened. Now, having died twice already, Sirius was apparently free of his father's constraints. Reaching inside, he pulled out a handful of documents, a ribboned adorned stack of letters and what he had hoped for – a nondescript opaque bottle no bigger than his hand.
Ordering some candles to flicker awake, he dropped the papers onto the desk and surveyed the bottle with interest. Even with the changing of the light, the green liquid inside remained vibrant – a shimmering hue that couldn't quite be described. Brighter than summer grass, more muted than emeralds, the infusion called to him like a long lost friend. Illegal? Definitely. Idiotic? Undoubtedly. The only thing he possibly knew that might dull the ache of his memories? Without question.
Tipping some of the bottles contents into a dusty glass, he balanced a silver spoon across its rim. Conjuring a bowl of sugar cubes, he grabbed one and balanced it on the spoon. Closing his eyes he let the memories invade and reached his hand out to the lowest desk drawer and pulled out a small amber bottle, its dropper yellowed with age. Sinking down into his father's chair, so intent on his ritual, he barely registered the change in the room. When he finally did, his back straightened but his eyes still didn't lift. The bay rum cologne Remus had been wearing since he was fourteen was a dead give away and Sirius gave a single accepting nod of his head. “Juliette?”
“Of course,” Remus responded but stayed where he was rather than moving out of the shadows.
Sirius nodded, hesitating another moment before waving his hand over the glass and setting the sugar cube on fire. He watched as the cube melted, trickling down into the green liquid as the flames continued to burn. It lasted only a few seconds, but the blue-green flames seemed to alight the entire room. Pouring a trickle of water over the glass, Sirius extinguished the flame. The green liquid immediately obscured, transforming into a pearly, opaque white that reminded Sirius of watered down milk. He hesitated with the glass in his hand, knowing Remus would disapprove and then, deciding he was past caring, downed it in one swallow. The drug took effect instantly, warming every muscle in his body and making it impossible for him to maintain his physicality. His head dropped unbidden to the back of the chair, bouncing slightly with the force, and then his eyes drifted closed. “Go away, Remus.”
Remus tipped the amber bottle up, noted the skull and cross bones and looked to Sirius for answer. Receiving none, he lifted the empty glass to his nose, the intoxicating smell of clove, amber, orange and licorice made him instantly dizzy...a smell from his childhood, a demon from his Marauder years. “Absinthe, Sirius?” Remus reprimanded. “This is a class one banned substance from the Ministry.”
“So arrest me already,” he returned without bothering to open his eyes. “Maybe we'll luck out and I'll be put in the same cell as Lucius.”
Remus was at his side in one swift step, yanking on Sirius shirt collar to observe him better. “How much have you had?”
Grumbling, Sirius forced himself to sit up and face his friend. Although he tried to be serious, the intense worry on Remus' face was more than he could stand and he chuckled out loud. “I'm not killing myself, Remus. And drop the holier-than-thou attitude. I know of your childhood escapades.”
Still perturbed but feeling more assured that Sirius was in no immediate health danger, he dropped into a chair across from him. “That's because you led me in to half of them.”
“Indeed, I'm usually the bad influence.”
“How did you get your hands on that anyway?”
Sirius gave out a loud sigh then pushed himself to standing. Waiting several seconds to try and get his muscles to cooperate with his brain, he narrowed his eyes as Remus. Drifting away, he moved to the desk to finger the documents still laying undisturbed. His hand fluttered across a yellowed envelope, the impression of the Black family crest still vivid in its dark green puddle of melted wax. He'd forgotten his mother used to seal every piece of correspondence that way. Traditional, she told him. Anachronistic, he had argued back.
“I am a Black,” he exhaled, answering Remus' question.
“Sirius, let me help you-”
“Help me what?” he growled. “Give innocence back to a child that's already lost it?”
“She didn't know-”
“She has you all fooled,” he chuckled darkly. “Looking at her is like looking in a mirror. Have no doubt, she knew what that curse did. She just didn't give a damn.”
Sirius maneuvered himself for another glass, ignoring the glares Remus was sending. With one more glass, he knew he wouldn't care anyway and that's what he needed if he was going to try and make it through this conversation.
“Damn you, Hermione,” he murmured. Her and her stupid advice.
“I know you are upset about Juliette but, Sirius, I don't understand. You in this place,” Remus gestured around him with obvious disapproval. “Help me understand. Please.”
Sirius downed the drink and moved across the room as he felt it take affect. Instant dizziness overcame him, an ethereal fog closing in on his senses. Had his life ever been this screwed up? Perhaps. He just couldn't remember. That wasn't true. He could remember. No matter how many times he tried to forget, James and Lily would always come back to haunt him. And for his deeds, it was the least he deserved. A permanent reminder of what a foul creature he was.
“I had a child with Lily.”
He could feel Remus tense even across the room. He could feel his searching look on his back, knew he was trying to determine if this was drug induced wistfulness or fact. A sudden electricity filled the room, almost as if lightning would strike at any moment. In his haze, it took a moment for Sirius to understand the reaction. When he did understand, he felt even worse because it told him exactly what Remus thought of him.
“Long before James,” he added quietly. “No matter what you think of me, I would never do that to James.”
“I didn't mean-”
“Yes,” Sirius nodded, “you did.”
“Okay, I did. But how did you expect me to act? I don't know whether you are even telling me the truth, Sirius. You've either lied to me for years about something or are lying now. Neither is a prospect I want to consider.”
Sirius moved to sit on the edge of the desk, waiting for Remus to appear in front of him and slug him senseless. He ran his hand through his hair, taking in a breath that caused his entire body to shudder. When he looked up, Remus was in front of him gazing intensely.
“Sirius,” Remus' voice was near begging, “please, tell me the truth.”
Was it too late to take it all back? No. He could say he was just drunk and was lying. He knew he could make Remus believe it. Remus was willing to be believe the lie as easily as he would the truth. But the glint of his wedding band under the candlelight reminded him he couldn't afford to take it back. Hermione was right – if this child was Draco's they were going to need Remus' steadfast support more than anything. He waved to the sofa, allowing Remus to take the lead and then sank down across from him.
Sirius opened his mouth to begin and then closed it again. Glancing at his hands, his saw the shake in them and cursed himself. This shouldn't be that hard. He tried again and still couldn't manage it. He sent an apologetic stare Remus' direction before dropping his head in his hands.
“You're telling the truth,” Remus whispered.
He didn't bother to nod, just rushed ahead before he could regain his common sense. “Years went by before we were able to talk objectively to each other about it. Much less even consider talking to someone else. And, of course, by that time James had entered the picture,” Sirius said with solemn finality. “Both her and James had their future ahead of them. To tell anyone at that point would have destroyed that.”
“And that is something you could never have done,” Remus finished what Sirius was unable to say aloud. “The baby, did she-”
“No,” Sirius mumbled. “Despite everything, despite me and who I was – who I am- she believed it was right. We were happy. For probably the only fucking time in my life I was happy. We knew how hard it would be but were ready to face it. Wanted to face it even. But then it was gone.”
But Sirius couldn't answer, just sat in silence, refusing to look at Remus.
It was the Sirius twirling his wedding ring that made Remus' stomach clench. “Has something happened to the baby? Is this why you're-”
“No,” he shook his head. “The baby's fine. It's just, the closer it gets the more, well,” he quieted, “the sooner we learn...” he tailed off, unable to continue.
“Who the father is.” Remus couldn't help the heartbreak in his voice. He had known, long before Sirius did, that he would want this child to be his. Facing the idea now that it might not be, especially in light of his previously lost child, must be killing the two of them. But what could he possibly say to ease the torment? “Sirius, it's not as if this is your only chance. You and Hermione have a long future ahead of you. You may not see it but I do.”
“In all my years, I've never considered it. Do you know that?” Sirius asked, his words coming in a desperate rush. “The idea of a child to bear my name? A child to carry on the family name. It should be ingrained in me as a Black – preservation of the family line and all that. But after Lils, the concept of a child never entered my mind. And then, coming back here. To you, Hermione, seeing Juliette – seeing Harry living and breathing within her, I could almost envision it. A child, born of the Black line, who could help me make amends for the generations of wrongs we've committed.”
Sirius' voice fell short, his mind teeming with thoughts he couldn't bear to say out loud. He could have any old child. He could be like King Henry in the Boleyn years where he'd bed any female in the country in hopes of having a male heir to carry on his name. But, though he hated to admit it, as much as he did want a son he didn't want one that way. No matter how many times he told himself otherwise and cursed himself for even having the thoughts, he wanted Hermione to give him that. He wanted her to be the mother of his child, he wanted her to be carrying and protecting his son and no one else. Did he deserve such a happiness? No. Not after the life he'd led. Did he still maintain a glimmer of hope anyway? Yes. Because he was a damn blessed fool.
He sent his glass sailing across the room and into the wall, a thousand pieces scattering down to the hardwood as it broke. It was only when he felt Remus take a step back that he remembered he wasn't alone. Dropping heavily into the nearest chair, he put his head in his hands, barely able to vocalize anything.
“Sorry,” he choked.
Rather than his normal consoling remarks and quick apology acceptance, Remus dropped to sit on the arm of Sirius' chair. Folding his hands into his lap, he lowered his head and sat in silence. He knew there was nothing he could say that would ease Sirius' latest torment and standing beside him was perhaps the only thing he could successfully offer. Although he had no idea what Sirius was thinking, he could guess enough to imagine how conflicted he must be. Remus knew his friend would love Draco's child as if it were his own but he also knew how alone Sirius had felt for decades. A life with the Blacks, a life with Lily, a life with Harry - every dream of family that Sirius had had been decimated. The hope of having a real family, one of his very own, could only be tearing into his soul. It was no wonder he was so certain this child would be Draco's...he likely couldn't survive the news if he allowed himself to believe anything else and then all his hopes were shattered again.
“Remus?” Sirius' muffled, broken voice was hard to hear.
Sirius didn't look up, couldn't bear to face his dearest friend. “Would you want a Black for a son?”
Remus knew he didn't expect an answer. He didn't want an answer even. He wanted to allow Remus some insight into the horrible emotions that were coursing through him. It was inevitable really – Sirius would believe that no one could ever want a Black for a son. Especially after tonight's ordeal with Juliette where Sirius believed his influence had caused her to act out. No one had ever wanted him and, to Sirius, that was evidence enough that an heir to the Black family was a near hellish thing to consider. But Remus was unwilling to let Sirius continue to compare himself to his ancestors.
“A son to Sirius Black,” he said mildly, “would be a gift on which legends are made.”