“I suppose this would be good advice,” Althea commented as she continued to read her Muggle magazine.
Lily leapt onto Althea’s bed. “What’s good advice?” she asked as she continued to brush her hair.
“Not sharing your birth control pills with your friends.”
Lily grabbed the magazine from Althea’s hands. “Is that actually in here?” she asked, eagerly flipping through the magazine pages. “Oh my, it is,” she said and started to read. “Maybe we should send this to Petunia,” she added mischievously, handing back the magazine.
Althea laughed. “I think Vernon Dursley is her birth control,” she said and winked.
“Oh, don’t fancy the dull boy?” she teased, smiling.
Lily groaned and rolled her eyes. “He has the charm of a potato.”
Althea frowned playfully, shaking her head. “Now, now, some might find him charming,” she said and started to snicker. “There are those that do like potatoes.”
“Why would she want to marry someone so…so boring?” Lily said and sighed, flinging herself back onto Althea’s bed.
“Maybe he has other qualities,” she replied, flinging herself next to Lily. “You know the magic myth: ‘Muggles do it better.’” Althea turned her face toward Lily and the two began to laugh.
Lily sighed and smiled. “You didn’t have to spend the whole Easter Holiday sitting across from him at dinner,” she said, rubbing her forehead. “It was ghastly. Bloody pipes or whatever his bloody boring job is.” Lily sighed—her green eyes focused on something distant. “I want her to marry someone…someone entertaining.” Lily frowned. “She used to be so alive…. Remember her acting and painting? She had the chance to star as Miranda, but gave it all up for Dursley,” she said bitterly. “Doesn’t sing anymore either.”
Althea frowned. “She still misses Julian.”
Julian was a Muggle-born wizard Petunia had met three years ago in Diagon Alley as Lily searched for her school things. Julian and Petunia were madly in love, and were engaged to be married. Althea enjoyed spending summer holiday weekends with Lily as Julian entertained the entire family with stories of his travels managing dragons and other ferocious magical beasts. She fondly remembered his rich singing voice as Petunia accompanied him, while he twirled her across the sitting room, on Sunday afternoons. It had almost been a year since Petunia refused to attend his funeral by locking herself in her room.
“I want her to marry someone dashing, and handsome, and funny, and alive,” she said, staring sadly at the burgundy canopy. “I don’t want her to settle.”
“Don’t you ever settle,” Althea demanded.
“I won’t,” Lily answered, turning her face toward Althea. “I want to marry for love, and not because of convenience or comfort.”
“Good,” she sighed and stared up into her canopy. “I’d never allow you to anyway…. What are you laughing at?”
Althea turned her head to see Lily giggling as she read the magazine. “Have you read the entire magazine?” she asked and giggled deeply as she read.
“This,” she answered, her giggling subsiding, “‘John Harrington has been linked to various It girls, including the stunning Celia Thompson, the vivacious Asia Tittsworth-Cole (oh, that is an awful surname, Althea), the wealthy Lady Cordelia Griffin-Reid, and the elusive Lady Althea Morrigan—’”
“Let me see it!” she exclaimed and quickly grabbed the magazine from Lily.
Lily continued to giggle as Althea’s eyes scanned the article about Britain’s most eligible bachelors. John Harrington was number five. The top five bachelors received a full page, and much of the banal article dealt with past girlfriends and speculation on future ones.
“Bloody hell,” Althea breathed, wincing at the article. “‘On his relationship with Lady Morrigan, Harrington was elusive as well. A simple summer romance…or something more? Only Lady Morrigan and Harrington know (bollocks). According to close friends, the two spent a great deal of the past summer together,’” she read and groaned. “Only because Gran forced me to!”
“Did you see the photograph?” Lily asked, her finger pointing to the small inset photograph next to John Harrington’s smiling face.
Althea looked from the tip of Lily’s finger to the photograph. “Bloody hell,” she groaned, staring at the photograph, “it looks as though I’m about to kiss him!”
“I really want to hex them,” Lily remarked ominously. “Who are those friends?”
“I don’t have any Muggle friends, you know that—except for Sophie and she loathes him,” she replied and secretly smiled at the black dog bearing its teeth at John in the photograph. “No friend would give such lies to the magazines…. It’s all about position and that they really enjoy hearing themselves speak.”
Lily laughed evilly and Althea raised an eyebrow. “I’ll photograph you snogging with Black and send it in,” she offered, her eyes narrowed and thinking.
Althea smiled at her friend’s gesture. “Thank you, but I doubt Sirius would let you escape with that photograph…. Anyway, the magazine would concoct some story that I’m marrying him, or something.”
“I’m marrying Tristan, and that is all that matters,” Jane replied happily, as she lay next to Lily.
Althea raised herself onto her elbows. “When did you get here?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Just now,” she answered, smiling. “I had my talk with McGonagall and Dumbledore about not returning next year. Everything’s arranged and this summer I will become Mrs. Tristan Mallory,” she continued proudly.
What a waste, she thought, lying back on her bed. Attend school, get married, and do nothing else useful in your life. Jane had spent the entire Easter Holiday in France with Tristan. When she arrived at Hogwarts after holiday, she announced she would not return for her seventh-year. She would, instead, marry Tristan and move to France.
“Oh, don’t frown, Althea,” Jane replied happily. “Sirius will ask you one day.”
“I don’t want him to ask me,” she answered and sighed. “We’d tire of each other after a couple of years and get divorced.”
“Divorce? There’s no such thing in wizard marriages,” Jane replied dismissively. “It’s until death,” she added dreamily.
Althea made a face. “What if you don’t love the person anymore?”
“That’s what love potions are for,” Jane replied as if everyone knew. “My mum and dad have been using them for ages.”
“I don’t want my feelings to come from a vial,” Althea murmured, looking up at her canopy.
“We’ve been using them for centuries,” Jane explained. “That’s how wizard marriages last.”
Althea made a face. “I could never imagine my feelings for Sirius coming from a vial,” she said and sighed. “No, thank you.”
“Does Sirius know you feel this way?” Lily asked.
“We’ve talked about this sort of thing in passing, but he has a habit of changing the subject,” she answered, frowning. “He despises it as much as I do.”
“Althea,” Lily began, turning on her side, “you have to tell him that you feel this way.”
Althea laughed loudly. “You think he’s going to ask me to marry him? You’ve gone mad,” she replied, continuing to laugh. “He changes the subject because I’ve brought it up!”
“You have?” Lily asked, interested.
“Yes,” she said, “after Jane’s engagement. We agreed—sorry, Jane—that it was a silly thing to do…to marry so young. He doesn’t want to settle down until he’s at least thirty and I couldn’t agree with him more.”
“You’re dating him for the snogging, aren’t you?” Lily teased.
Althea’s lips quivered into a smile. “Listen,” Althea said, sitting up, “I love Sirius, but I’m too young. We’re too young.”
“You’re thinking like a Muggle,” Jane replied, sitting up.
“So?” she snorted. “We have two very different plans for our futures, and they don’t mesh. I don’t expect him to travel with me to some village in Benin, and he doesn’t expect me to live in London.” Althea stood and walked over to the fireplace, resting her forearm on the mantel. “I hate London…he knows that.”
Lily sat up and frowned. “You don’t hide your fear of commitment very well,” she said, stretching her arms forward and letting them drop heavily into her lap.
Althea tapped her fingernails against the mantel. “It is scary,” she said, with her fingernails tapping out a tune on the mantel. “I mean think about it,” she added, turning toward the two, “how old is Dumbledore?”
“Old,” the two replied in unison.
“Exactly,” she said, running her fingers through her hair. “That is a long time. Muggle marriages barely make it to fifty because one or both dies. Using a love potion to hide resentment? I’d rather die than use a damn potion because I started to resent him.”
Lily smiled and covered her mouth to stifle her laughter.
“What?” Althea asked, irritated.
“You,” she said between giggles. “Stop being so overly dramatic, Althea.”
Sighing, Althea shook her head. “You’re right.”
“No, this sort of thing is important,” Jane replied thoughtfully. “They already have a special bond.”
“What bond?” Althea asked, raising an eyebrow.
Jane rolled her eyes. “You’ve—you’ve you know,” she insinuated.
Jane quietly growled as Lily bit her lip to hide her amusement. “You’ve,” she began and leaned forward and continued in a whisper, “shagged him.”
Althea felt the apples of her cheeks pink. “No,” she answered, annoyed, folding her arms.
“Really?” Jane asked breathlessly, wide-eyed. “But it’s—”
“Yes, really,” she replied, frowning, kicking her heel against the floor.
“Never mind, then,” Jane said with a knowing smirk, standing. “You’ll know eventually.”
Althea rolled her eyes and Lily gave her a warning look.
“I must owl Tristan, and tell him the good news,” she said excitedly, clapping her hands together.
Althea shook her head as she watched Jane skip from the dormitory. She mimicked kicking Jane in the backside as she exited through the door.
“We’re in her wedding,” Lily said, looking from the doorway to Althea. “She’s chosen teal with gold trim for our gowns.”
“Ghastly.” Althea sighed and sat on her bed. “What was she talking about?” she asked, pulling her knees to her chest.
Lily rolled her eyes. “It’s a myth, but of course she’d believe it,” she replied, turning toward Althea. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh no,” Althea began, a smirk developing across her lips. “Tell me she doesn’t believe that.”
“Probably why the wedding’s so soon then,” Althea quipped, throwing herself back onto her bed. “How could any reasonable person believe such rubbish?”
“Jane has never been reasonable,” Lily said, “as you like to remind.”
“And she would say, ‘Reason is absent from magic, Althea…it’s magic!’” she said in her best impersonation of Jane. “Where did she learn such awful rubbish?”
Lily shrugged. “Her mother?”
Althea nodded. “The same woman convinced in the rise of werecubs,” she said and chewed the inside of her bottom lip.
“Not everyone is like us.”
“As I’m very much reminded.”
“Althea,” Lily began, crawling closer, “does Black know about Lupin?”
The question caused a jolt behind her navel. It was a thought she struggled with: should she tell Sirius about Remus? She was frightened—how could she ever tell him she slept with his best friend? Although it happened before she ever thought of dating Sirius, she still felt like she betrayed him somehow. They had been so honest in their relationship, and this information, so central to her felt like it kept her truly from him. It was the seventies, after all. Contraceptive Charms weren’t just in New Witch, but in Witch Weekly. God, I don’t want to know what he’d think of me, she thought as she rubbed her temples with her fingertips.
“No, he doesn’t,” she answered softly. “He just assumes that I’ve never done it.”
Althea nodded. “Rosmerta.”
“Rosmerta?” Lily gasped. “And that’s the only one?”
Althea nodded. “I’m terrified, though,” she said, sitting up. “He won’t take it well.”
“He’ll get over it,” she replied, resting her hand on her shoulder. “He will…I’m sure of it.”
Althea shook her head. “You can’t really tell with Sirius, “she started to explain, “the most mundane word or phrase could anger him.”
“I’ve known that—”
“No,” she said and brought her knees to her chest, “you don’t really know.”
A small crease appeared between Lily’s eyebrows. “Has he done something to you?” she asked, leaning closer. “I’ll—”
Althea vigorously shook her head. “No, no, he hasn’t done anything,” she replied and looked to her painted toenails—she loved that color pink. “I’m his Althea—not his girlfriend—his Althea.”
“But you are—”
“I’m not,” she said, looking into Lily eyes. “He says, ‘we’re above labels,’ whatever the bloody hell that means.”
“He’s being an idiot,” she said plainly, smoothing the hair from Althea’s face.
“He’s serious, though,” she replied, resting her chin on her knees. “Pettigrew called me Sirius’s girlfriend, and Sirius replied, ‘She’s not my girlfriend, Peter, she’s my Althea.’”
“Weird,” she breathed, slightly shaking her head in disbelief.
“Right?” she agreed and laughed hollowly. “There are times, I wonder if this isn’t an elaborate scheme to have you date Potter.”
“That isn’t true,” she said, placing her hand on Althea’s forearm. “He loves you very much, Althea.”
Althea sighed. “I’d only dated Remus for a few months…how does that look?”
Lily shrugged. “Why be ashamed?”
“You’re acting like it,” she said. “He obviously doesn’t believe that rubbish our dear former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor taught us. You snogged Remus, right?”
“And Sirius has snogged you,” she said, leaning closer.
“I’ll hurt him if I tell.”
“Right,” Lily said, firmly placing her hands on Althea’s shoulders, “you’ll hurt him even more if you don’t tell. He’ll discover it eventually, and then, he might not be so apt to accept it…. I do know that he despises deception.”
Althea nodded soberly. “He does hate lies.”
Althea sighed as she began her letter to Sirius. She decided she could not tell him in person, for fear of crying or worse. It was best if she wrote him—he could not shout at a letter and she would not see the initial repulsion and disappointment on his face. He’s going to hate me, she thought as she dipped the quill into the inkbottle, and he’s going to hate Remus. As the quill touched the clean parchment, she realized she did not know how to begin her letter. What should she say? How much should she explain? She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled, closing her eyes briefly. She would try her best to explain. How can I explain, she thought as the ink dripped onto the parchment. He has to know that under other circumstances, I would have told him, but I had promised—we had promised…. Oh God, what this will do to their friendship, she thought, placing her quill to the side of the parchment.
“I can’t…I just can’t tell him” she whispered, looking at the large inkblot on the parchment. “I can’t hurt him…. Anyway, exams are coming so I shouldn’t write him. It would upset his revision.”
What the bloody hell am I thinking? He doesn’t revise, she thought, running her fingers through her hair. I’m just stalling…. I’ll have to tell him eventually…. Maybe it is better now that he learns…learns before anything goes further….
Althea picked up her quill and frowned as the ink had dried at the tip. Dipping the quill in the ink, she stared blankly at her parchment. How can Lily believe he could overcome something such as this? He can become so unbelievably angry when provoked. He’ll never forget this, she thought, taking a deep, shaky breath. But James would be there; James would stop him. He could keep Sirius from doing something rash. He listens to James and no one else…. Maybe if I told James and told him the circumstances he could be there when I tell Sirius, she thought, but quickly frowned. Oh, that isn’t good at all. Sirius would resent that James knew before he did, and this is so private….
“No, it is best if I write him,” she murmured, stretching her legs underneath the writing desk.
He might’ve figured it out, too. Althea’s stomach jolted forward and she swallowed at the queasiness in her stomach. I’ve let him touch my underpants…he might’ve thought I let Remus do the same.
“Sirius must understand that I haven’t kept it from him for some malevolent purpose,” she whispered as she started her letter.
Althea spent the early afternoon composing her letter to Sirius. She wrote many different letters—each awkward and each painful. Dissatisfied, she incinerated them all, but one, the third of the six she wrote. It was shorter than the rest at two pages, but it conveyed the truth of her relationship with Remus and her regret at keeping such truth from Sirius. Nervously, she folded the letter and walked toward the Owlery. She knew the letter sounded awkward, but at this point, there were more things to regret than the awkwardness of sentence structure. She had finally expressed something that was eating away at her for the past year. Tying the letter to Gabriel’s leg, Althea watched as her owl flew from the Owlery. She could not have handed him the note in person. The thought of witnessing his initial reaction to her letter terrified her. I think I might have lost him, she thought as she left the Owlery.
Her mind and body consumed with uneasiness, she walked toward the beech tree and sat underneath its green, leafy branches. For early June, it was remarkably warm, with an equally remarkable blue sky. Althea rested her head against the trunk and waited for Sirius. Closing her eyes, she thought of Sirius’s initial reaction—she could visualize it. First, he would scan the letter, his face hardening as he continued, and his jaw tightening as his face paled. Then, he would inhale a ragged breath and bite the inside of his cheek. Next, he would look from the letter to her and….
“Hello, lovely,” he said cheerfully, placing a kiss on her lips.
Shaken, Althea opened her eyes and pushed him away from her. This was not the response she had expected. Did he receive her letter? Had Gabriel found him or had he found Althea first before Gabriel could deliver the letter?
“You—you read my letter?” she asked apprehensively, biting her bottom lip.
Sirius nodded and kissed her lips again, and Althea pushed him away from her a second time.
“And you—you’re—you’re okay with it?”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Of course, I am,” he replied, pulling her close to him.
“I don’t care,” he murmured, placing his lips to hers.
Tears formed in Althea’s eyes and she did her best to fight them off—she was joyously relieved. He did not hate her, nor was he angry with her. The nervousness subsided, and any fears she had about the relationship, vanished. Lily was right, she thought, sliding her arms around his neck. You do love me very much.
Slowly, Althea started to pull away from him. “You are okay with what I wrote?” she asked quietly, attempting to catch her breath.
“Of course,” he replied, frowning slightly, “why do you keep asking?”
“I thought you’d hate me, that’s all,” she answered, folding and unfolding the corner of his shirt collar.
Sirius laughed loudly. “I wouldn’t hate you for that,” he replied, smiling. “I would rather have you tell me the truth than lie to me.”
Smiling as well, Althea threw herself back onto the warm, soft grass, and Sirius, still laughing, crawled next to her. He was okay with it and Althea never felt more relieved and elated.
“I have some wonderful news,” he said, lying next to her. Sirius plucked a small yellow flower from between them and twirled it between his fingertips.
“What?” she asked, giggling as Sirius placed the flower in her hair.
Sirius plucked another flower, and placed it in her hair. “My Uncle Alphard died.”
Althea plucked a purple flower adjacent to her side. “That’s not good news,” she replied, placing it behind Sirius’s ear.
Sirius wrapped his arm around Althea’s waist, propping his head up with his other hand. “He never married and never had any children,” he began, stroking her side. “He left me a fair bit of gold.”
“I don’t believe it,” she answered quietly, staring into Sirius’s happy eyes.
“Neither do I, but I received a letter from his solicitor. My dear mother had told the family what I had done, and that I’m running around with a non-pureblood,” he began—a smile emerging across his face. “He heard my terrible plight and decided to leave me a bit of his fortune,” he finished and kissed her cheek.
“That is fantastic,” Althea said, placing her arm over Sirius’s arm.
“So,” he began and cleared his throat. “I’m taking you away from your Gran’s,” he continued, grinning. “You shouldn’t live there anymore. I’m buying a flat in London.”
Althea laughed. “I can’t live with you.”
Sirius frowned. “Why not? It’s a perfect idea,” he replied and pinched her nose.
“I just can’t,” Althea pleaded laughingly, as Sirius tickled her side.
“Oh come on! It’ll be fantastic. No one telling us what to do,” he explained eagerly and quickly kissed her lips. “It’ll be loads of fun.”
Althea sighed happily. “Sirius, stop acting so silly and foolish.”
“No,” he replied and pinched her nose. “If you say no, I’ll kidnap you and take you away.”
Althea laughed. “You’ll be put away,” she said and kissed the tip of his nose.
Sirius laughed. “They’ll never catch me,” he replied, grinning.
Thank you so much for reading. What is in store for Althea? Firewhiskey and Rosmerta.