“You can do better than that!” Sirius laughed, pointing his wand at Remus.
Remus sent a jet of yellow light toward Sirius, and Sirius, with a simple movement of his wrist, deftly blocked the curse. He looked at Remus with mild amusement as he twirled his wand between his fingers. Some things will never change, she thought, smirking as she shaded Sirius’s hair. Althea sat in her solarium, and ever so often, she would lift her eyes to look out the large, opened windows at Sirius and Remus practicing the latest defensive moves. She had to admit, although it was not her best, it was one of her most interesting sketches. She felt, in this sketch, that she captured Sirius’s arrogance and Remus’s mild frustration, bordering on annoyance. She stretched out her legs before her on one of the pale yellow sofas in a very yellow room. None of the Morrigans have ever owned up to painting this room yellow—two yellow rooms in one house, she thought, admitting that the yellow paint on the few walls in the solarium contrasted nicely with the abundance of dark green, leafy plants. I believe it was Great Aunt Lyda though—her room was the Yellow Room. I heard she enjoyed her yellow handbag…. Come to think of it, she’s always wearing yellow in photographs and portraits. Amazing, what I realize after all these years.
“Look at her, Moony,” Sirius remarked, folding his arms, “she looks completely bored by us.”
“I’m not completely bored,” she replied, resting her pencil atop her sketchbook. “I find you both very amusing…. Anyway,” she continued, taking the pencil in her hand, “you’re the one that wanted Remus to demonstrate to you the new curses and counter-curses.”
“Right,” Remus agreed, stretching his shoulders back. “I’ll say, ‘Percutio,’ and you immediately say—you immediately say—Sirius—”
Althea giggled as Sirius winked and posed for her.
“Yes?” Sirius replied with feigned innocence as he spun to look at Remus.
Remus rolled his eyes. “Pay attention.”
“Oh, come on,” he pleaded, throwing his head up in exhaustion. “I know this already. Let’s do something else.”
Remus laughed. “We haven’t tried it yet—”
“I know it,” Sirius snorted and turned to wink at Althea.
Althea winked back. Sirius kissed the air and she shook her head, feeling her cheeks flush. Sirius grinned at her response.
“What’s the counter-curse, then?” Remus asked, incredulous, a smirk on his lips. “See, you don’t—”
“‘Integere,’” he replied smugly, accentuating every syllable.
Sirius turned to Althea and winked—Althea bit the end of her pencil to stifle her laughter. She knew what would come next. Suddenly, a jet of purple light streaked by Sirius within inches of his face, causing him to jump back.
Sirius immediately rounded on Remus. “Oi! What the bloody hell was that for?” he asked, his pride bruised.
“Do you think the Ministry would wait until you’re ready?” Remus laughed; his wand at the ready. “The majority of the Aurors now were trained by Moody if that’s any indication.”
Sirius shrugged. “I’m bored with this,” he replied, slipping his wand into his side pocket. “I reckon I’ll write Harry.”
“Right,” Remus sighed and rolled his eyes at Althea.
Althea giggled deeply in response. They’ll be in here shortly, she thought, watching the two men walk toward the veranda. Sirius clapped Remus on the shoulder and whispered something in his ear. Remus shook his head.
Althea held out her sketchbook before her and inspected her sketch. She had taken great liberty with Sirius’s appearance. His face was fuller, more handsome, and his clothes fit—his shirt did not hang off his thin shoulders. Althea decided she would write to Afina, sending her Sirius’s measurements, so she could design a few pieces for him. Of course, she would say the clothes were for Remus—she cringed at Afina discovering that the clothes were actually for Sirius. She’d never understand, she thought, hearing Sirius’s deliberate footsteps enter the solarium. He was the man that ruined my life, but I ruined my life—not him.
Sirius sighed loudly as he threw himself on the small sofa underneath the window and perpendicular to where she sat. He was very tall, his legs—outstretched—hung over the edge of the sofa, and his hands touched the floor. He sat up, placed the inkbottle on the floor, and unrolled a piece of parchment as he brought his knees to his chest.
“What a tiring day,” he remarked, dipping his quill in the black ink.
Althea laughed quietly. “Tiring? You’ve only practiced for one hour,” she replied, turning her sketchbook to a new page, “if that.” Althea started to sketch the outline of the sofa. “Where’s Remus?” she asked as she sketched one of the sofa legs.
“He wanted to wash up,” he replied and smirked. “He’s all sweaty.”
“It’s a myth, you know,” she sighed, sketching the last sofa leg.
“You’re proof of that,” he remarked, scratching his chin with the quill. He seemed to mutter something Althea could not hear. “Isn’t Remus good, though?”
Althea—her body tensing somewhat—remained silent and gently bit her bottom lip.
He tilted his head as he looked at her. “Good at Defense Against the Dark Arts, I mean.”
“Oh, right,” she breathed, feeling her face flush faintly. “It’s why Dumbledore hired him. He’s a brilliant teacher—great with the children.”
“Unfortunately, that’s all changed now,” he remarked as he continued to write. “What does that woman have against werewolves?” he asked aloud, frowning as he paused from writing. “Fear, maybe.”
Althea rested her pencil on her sketchbook. “Or the common prejudices most hold—”
Sirius shook his head. “She really hates them…like she knew one personally.”
“She could’ve been jilted by a werewolf a long time ago,” she suggested and Sirius laughed loudly.
“She’s never had the opportunity to be jilted, love,” he replied patronizingly and smiled wickedly. “Not even I,” he continued, placing his hand against his thin chest, “who spent twelve years in Azkaban, even in my most desperate, lonely hour, would—ugh, I can’t even say it!” Sirius shuddered and pulled a face, which caused Althea to giggle. “Horrible, indeed.”
Althea tapped her pencil against her sketchbook. “She might have been very lovely at one time,” she explained with mock thoughtfulness. “She might have had many gentleman suitors in her youth—”
“That she kept magically bound in her sitting room,” he finished derisively as he stopped writing.
Sirius took his wand from his pocket and pointed it over Althea’s shoulder. Althea heard the distinct click of the Wizard Wireless and the sound of droning bagpipes filled her solarium.
“What is that?” he asked, making a face.
“Weird Sisters,” she answered as she started to sketch Sirius. “Very popular.”
“I’d rather listen to Orpheus,” he sneered, pointing his wand at the Wizard Wireless.
“You can,” she replied with a small smile, “I have their latest album over there.” Althea used her thumb to point over her shoulder at the phonograph next to the Wizard Wireless.
Sirius frowned with disgust. “How old are they?” he asked, directing his wand at the phonograph.
“Alexander’s thirty-seven, three years older than you. Stop it—their latest album received critical acclaim,” she explained, somewhat defensively, and fought a smile as she heard the phonograph start to play. “Very clever,” she remarked as Sirius grinned, “or very lazy.”
“Oh, memories,” he sighed happily, resting the back of his head on the arm of the sofa. Althea giggled and then outright laughed as Sirius sang along to the record. “What?” he asked with feigned innocence, turning his head toward her.
“Some boys would play romantic music when they wanted a shag,” she replied with a wry smile, “not Led Zeppelin.
Sirius sat up. “Led Zeppelin’s not romantic?” he asked with mock concern. “Anyway, I had to…Robert Plant is the only one that could mask your screaming.”
Althea took a piece of paper from her sketchbook, crumpled it into a tight ball, and threw it at him. Sirius held up his hands to block it as he laughed.
“Berk!” she laughed. “Everyone knew—”
“Not everyone,” he corrected, “just the important ones.”
Sirius nodded. “The important ones,” he repeated and his lips quivered into a smile. “Admit it, seventh year Hogsmeade visits were brilliant.”
“We never went to Hogsmeade our seventh year—school-sanctioned anyway.”
“I meant,” he began, sitting forward, “we had the seventh year dormitory to ourselves then…. Well, except for the one time James—” Sirius laughed to himself as he ran his slender fingers through his hair. “D’you remember him at the door? ‘Oh, Padfoot, not Led Zeppelin!’”
Althea smiled—she did remember. It was the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. Lily spent the morning in a frantic state—her clothes strewn about the girls’ beds and Althea’s exhaustion growing with each dress change. James was nervous as well. With Sirius’s guidance, James had bought Lily a necklace (Althea would have thought a box of chocolates or flowers would have sufficed), and decided to give it to her during the Hogsmeade visit. However, in his anxiousness, James had left the gift upon his nightstand and sought to retrieve it.
And what did you say?” she asked teasingly, stretching her legs out before her. “‘Come in, mate, all done,’” she continued, impersonating Sirius.
Sirius laughed, massaging the back of his head—his look, sheepish.
“Of course, you forgot you locked the door, and you—in all your naked glory—had to open the door for him as I hid underneath the blankets. I uncovered my eye—oh, was he pink!”
“Always sought to remind me,” he replied and screwed up his eyes in thought. He laughed quietly. “Do you remember the time we snuck the Invisibility Cloak?”
Althea nodded, shifting upon the sofa.
He sighed happily as he looked her over. “God, you were fun.”
Althea drew her knees to her chest and resumed sketching Sirius. Her lips trembled into a smile. “As were you,” she replied quietly.
Sirius didn’t seem to have heard her. “The memories are slowly returning,” he replied, tapping the quill against his temple. “The piece of chocolate cake a day is an excellent idea. Who thought of it?”
Althea’s smile faltered. “A convent in Alexandria,” she answered, her eyes traveling to the parchment in his lap. She smiled mischievously—eager to change the subject. “You never wrote that much to me.”
“Yes, I did!” he replied laughingly. “I wrote pages and pages to you.”
“I know,” she blurted out and felt her cheeks warm.
She growled quietly. I’m not a sentimental fool, she thought as her words registered with Sirius.
“You still have them, don’t you?” he asked with a very amused, touched smile.
“I don’t have them with me,” she answered, her cheeks burning as she diverted her eyes to her sketch. “They’re in England…I think”
In a large chest, she thought, smoothing a curl behind her ear as she looked up from her sketch. I almost incinerated them last Christmas.
“Well, I have all of yours here,” he said, gesturing with the quill at the ceiling. “Pages and pages of them. Do you remember what you wrote in them?”
Althea smiled bashfully. “No, not really.”
“I do—well, I didn’t until recently,” he explained and smiled sweetly as he remembered. “You’d write about how much you loved me and that you couldn’t bear another day without me.”
“Did I?” she mused, fighting an awkward smile. “I was obviously very silly.”
“No,” he murmured, and sighed, pensively looking ahead of him. “I wish I could remember what I wrote.”
“You’d write how you wanted me to run away with you,” she replied, not looking up from her sketch as she struggled sketching Sirius’s fingers, “and how you wanted to rescue me from my horrible life with Gran.”
“You do remember.”
She looked up from her sketch to see Sirius smiling with surprise, touched that she would remember. Of course, I remember, she thought, smiling as well. It was us against the Wizarding world.
“Well, the idea that Gran didn’t want me to date you was very appealing,” she explained and sighed, “very appealing, indeed.”
“Is it still appealing?” he asked with eyebrow raised.
Althea laughed off his question. “You’re writing Harry, then?”
Sirius nodded and smiled at his parchment. “Brilliant lad, isn’t he?” he beamed and dipped his quill in the inkbottle. “Flies like James.”
“Harry’s more cautious on his broom—”
“I think I’m more of an expert on James’ flying,” he interrupted, giving her a look of mild condescension.
“Right, of course,” she replied hollowly.
Remember what Remus said last night after Sirius went to sleep: ‘Don’t contradict anything Sirius says about Harry,’ she thought as Sirius gave a self-satisfied smile. The two had a long discussion after Sirius retired—in a happy, celebratory, drunken stupor—to her childhood bedroom. Remus reminded her of Sirius’s fragility and that the most innocuous phrase or innuendo could provoke him into a rage or depression. It was best for Althea to keep the conversations light and jovial.
Althea sat forward, placing her sketchbook at her side. “You saw Harry fly? When?”
“The beginning of November, I think,” he replied and smiled with great fondness. “Still managed to win the Quidditch Cup—Remus told me.”
“Finally,” she remarked, “I relished every moment—especially when Snape had to hand over the fifty Galleons to me. I believe the image of his sour face will stay with me forever.”
Sirius laughed. “Betting on Quidditch matches…nothing has changed,” he remarked. “Was he good for it?”
“The fifty Galleons?” she asked and quietly snorted with laughter. “Oh, yeah. I made sure he knew I spent it too—sweets from Honeydukes for the entire staff,” she continued and pointed over her shoulder, “and Orpheus’ new album, actually. I played it during our End of Term staff party.”
Sirius stopped writing. “How could anyone think Gryffindor could not win?”
“They hadn’t won since Charlie Weasley and that was ages ago.”
Sirius shook his head with part disappointment and part disbelief. “What happened to the team?”
“James left Hogwarts,” she answered and winked. “He was the best Captain—”
“And player,” Sirius added with a nod.
“He was the only person you’d listen to—”
“That’s not true,” he interrupted, looking dismissively at her.
“Yes, it is!” she laughed as Sirius fought a frown. “Oh, come on! How many times did I tell you that you were in the wrong formation?”
“You were Morrigan,” he snorted, his lips upturning into a smile, “I wasn’t about to listen to you.”
“Even when I was Althea, you didn’t listen to me,” she muttered, picking up her sketchbook.
“I listened when it mattered, love,” he teased and winked.
Althea rolled her eyes as she started to shade Sirius’ shirtsleeve. When it mattered, she thought, smudging shaded area of Sirius’ shirtsleeve with her index finger. The more I speak with him, the more I realize he hasn’t changed. He was a thirty-something with a mind of a twenty-something—and Althea knew—at twenty-something, Sirius had the mind of a teenager. It will come—the frustration, she thought, shading the creases of his shirt. When he realizes things have changed and he has remained the same.
“Have you taught Harry?”
Althea looked up from her shading. “Oh, no, no. He doesn’t take Muggle Studies.”
“I mean,” he said, pausing from writing, “have you shown Harry any of the Seeker maneuvers James invented?”
“You mean the one where if the male Seeker and I are after the Snitch, I charm my shirt to lift and expose my breasts?” she asked with mock seriousness. “James said, ‘Althea, if it comes down to it, I’ll distract Sirius and you do what you need to do to get the Snitch…. Sirius will understand. It’s Quidditch,’” she continued and smiled impishly. “Would you’ve understood?”
“Of course, not…. So, have you?”
“Exposed my breasts to a male Seeker? Never,” she replied and giggled as Sirius frowned. “I haven’t shown him any of the maneuvers.”
Althea furrowed her eyebrows as she glanced at her sketch. “I haven’t spoken with him, Sirius.”
Althea looked into his eyes and braced for his reaction. “No, at all.”
Sirius’s eyes immediately widened and his nostrils flared. Althea cringed.
“What? He’s Lily’s son!” he said—the quill and parchment dropping to the floor as he leaned forward.
“I know, I know,” she murmured and winced at what was to come. “I was afraid of the questions he would ask…. You’re his godfather,” she explained, her eyes pleading with him to understand, “and at the time, I couldn’t tell him what happened.”
Sirius remained quiet.
“I’m so sorry.”
Sirius grunted as he shrugged his shoulders.
You’ve just reminded him that you thought him guilty, she thought and anxiously bit her bottom lip. Good one, Althea.
“You haven’t written about me, have you?” she asked as Sirius retrieved the fallen quill and parchment.
“Why not?” he remarked, smoothing out the parchment. “It’s all changed now.”
“I’ve never talked with him, that’s why.”
“You should start,” he said, dipping the quill in ink.
“I can’t,” she replied, her thumb quickly flipping through the edge of her sketchbook papers.
“He’s Lily’s son!” Sirius laughed with disbelief. “Were you are were not there when he was born?”
“I know, but—”
“Then speak with him,” Sirius said, holding up his arms. “Invite him to your office for Chocolate Frogs. I’ll pop my head in the fireplace—”
“Snape would suspect.”
Althea’s thumb stopped flipping. “Look,” she began, her voice defensive, “I haven’t talked with Harry for the three years he’s been at Hogwarts. If I start, Snape will notice. He’ll trace it back to you—”
“He still believes I had something to do with you escaping Hogwarts that night!” she said, sitting forward. “I wanted to kill you, not help you escape!” Althea rubbed her forehead as Sirius gulped. “I’m sorry—I’ve upset you.”
“No, you haven’t,” he muttered—somewhat stunned—as he sat back. “I’d rather die than have my soul sucked from me. I reckon I should thank you.”
He is upset, she thought as Sirius went quiet. Mind yourself, Althea. Keep the conversation light.
“Right, what are you drawing?” he asked and sniffed loudly. Sirius had the same idea.
“You,” she answered with a slight smile as her index finger traced Sirius’s drawn arm.
“I’m not very handsome,” he replied with a small sneer. “The first time I looked at myself in the mirror, I shuddered and screamed.” He wrinkled his nose. “Staring at death.”
“You don’t look like that prison photograph,” she reassured, looking to her sketch—to Sirius’s fuller face and happy eyes. “Nothing like it at all.”
“May I look at it?”
Althea blushed as she pulled the sketchbook to her chest. “Oh, no, no,” she said, vigorously shaking her head. “It isn’t finished.”
“I’d love to look at it when you are finished,” he said, and something registered with him, causing him to smile. “I remember,” he murmured with surprise and laughed, “I remember you sketching me naked.”
“Of course,” she laughed, loosening her grip on the sketchbook, “I sketched you naked many times.”
“Do you still have them?” he asked, his eyebrows lifted in eagerness.
Althea felt the apples of her cheeks warm. “Yes, I believe I do.”
The warmth radiated from the apples of her cheeks to her collarbone as she nodded. “Would you like to see them?”
Sirius grinned as she felt her blush encompass her chest. “After lunch,” he replied and folded his letter to Harry, not removing his gaze from her. “What time is it?”
Althea quickly diverted her eyes to her watch. “Twelve-thirty,” she answered, pointing to the mother of pearl dial. “I’ll make some sandwiches, then?”
Sirius shook his head as his feet touched the floor. “No, I’ll make them,” he offered as he picked up the inkbottle. “I’ll wash up first, though.”
He hesitated at Althea’s side. She forced herself to smile up at him. He sighed as his eyes widened in an attempt to peer at her sketchbook. She held it closer to her chest.
“Right,” he breathed and backed away from her.
Her gaze followed Sirius out of the solarium, and once gone, she eased her grip upon her sketchbook. Oh, God, he must think that I frequently look at those sketches, she thought, covering her face with her hands. She laughed from embarrassment as her skin began to cool. He’s probably laughing right now and waiting to tell Remus.
“If it makes him happy,” she said, lowering her hands. “That’s all that matters.”
Even if it’s at my expense, she thought, her fingers caressing her unfinished sketch of Sirius. He was very beautiful though…and always willing. Althea could not remember why she started to sketch Sirius nude—the thought of who proposed it did not matter much—but she did remember when it occurred. Their Lost Weekend, as Althea fondly referred to it—at seventeen, the week she spent with Sirius after running away from Gran’s home. I didn’t run away, really, she thought, resting the side of her face against the sofa. I flew away, on the back of Sirius’s motorbike with nothing but my nightgown. Gran still won’t let me forget, but I don’t care—I love that memory…. We were together, we were happy, and nothing else mattered…. God, I wish I could go back to that—to be that free.
The memory of her favorite sketch flickered before her eyes. Her lips upturned into a secretive smile, as she had not thought of that sketch in many years. Sirius was seventeen—just three days before his eighteenth birthday—and she asked him that morning, if she could sketch him. He agreed—he enjoyed the attention and relished that the only person that mattered during the session was Sirius as she sketched him. However, she wanted to sketch him; not attention-seeking, not posing for her, but as he truly was in their most intimate of moments. She told him to act as if she was not there, and soon, Sirius took his wand from the nightstand, turned on the television, and started to watch. The layers Sirius hid behind slowly dissolved, leaving her with what she wanted. As he reclined on the bed, his hand resting behind his head, the other resting on his stomach, he seemed bored by the television program, but Althea knew he was not watching the program. He used the program as a vehicle to hide his actual activity—thinking. On rare moments, Althea caught a glimpse as he did this—usually reading a textbook, his eyes seeming to stare through the page. She was never able to capture that look again.
Althea sighed deeply as she lifted her head from the sofa. Her favorite drawing was also her last before their breakup. She did not draw Sirius again until after the birth of Harry. His body had changed then—his smooth skin was now flecked with small, slowly fading scars obtained from duels and battles with Death Eaters. Again, she attempted to remove the layers he hid behind, but the layers were thicker and numerous, and once somewhat easy to accomplish through distraction, now was impossible.
She would not dare to ask him now to allow her to draw him nude, although, she did wonder what it would reveal. What new scars, what new layers would she have to pull back?
“Where are those drawings though?” she asked, frowning slightly as she thought of where she kept them.
She first thought of the obvious place, the attic, but she never kept any writing or drawings there. Next, she thought of her father’s study. No, she had discovered the sketchbooks two summers ago in the bottom drawer of his writing desk and had moved them…to her bedroom. Althea smiled triumphantly—she knew exactly where she placed them. She had placed the sketchbooks underneath old photographs in the middle drawer in the large chest of drawers between the two large windows.
Althea left the solarium and ascended the stairs, expecting to hear Sirius whistling from her childhood bedroom as she reached the landing. Washing up, she thought and giggled deeply as she glanced in the direction of his closed bedroom door, I never knew one needed a Silencing Charm to wash up. She smiled knowingly as she opened her bedroom door, but her smile quickly faded as she entered—her eyes drawn to her bed.
“Sirius, what are you doing in here?” she asked lightly as she closed the door.
Sirius remained silent, his back turned to her as he sat on the far edge of her bed. She walked forward; the midday sun illuminated her path and where Sirius sat, holding in his hands something gleaming, silver. Althea closed her eyes and quickly grabbed the bedpost as not to fall for she felt her body collapsing upon herself.
He knows, she thought as she slowly opened her eyes, awaiting his rage. He knows what I’ve done.