Chapter 6 : The Photograph
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It was a gorgeous June morning, but Sirius had never felt so dismal.
He pushed the blanket back, putting his tired feet on the floor one at a time as he slowly rose into a seated position on the couch. The bright sunlight poured into the simple flat, illuminating the diminutive array of boxes that populated the corners of the living room. A few more of them inhabited the tiny bathroom, the only other room in the house. Sirius glanced over at Remus’s discarded sleeping bag, a loan from Dumbledore that he had forgotten to return once he had finally invested his meager earnings in a pull-out couch to sleep on, which he had in turn loaned to his old friend for the time being. He could hear the ex-professor now in the kitchen, rummaging through his mostly bare cupboards for something to serve as a makeshift breakfast. It brought a sad smile to Sirius’s face; he had never given Remus enough credit as a student, always preferring to spend his time with James. Only someone as damaged as Remus Lupin would willingly harbor a wanted fugitive, fresh off his latest escape, in his own home. In a week, however, the lease would run out, and both werewolf and criminal would have to go elsewhere.
His first attempt to get to Peter and clear his name had failed miserably. He had successfully threatened the Fat Lady with a knife he’d nicked from the waitress’s kitchen, but her cries of terror alerted the other portraits, and he had nearly run into Filch on his search of a corridor before he escaped for the night. He bided his time as long as he could in the Shrieking Shack, taking another chance at the common room in March when he could bear to wait no longer. This time, he had chosen the wrong bed, almost slashing what appeared to be a Weasley child in his pursuit of Pettigrew.
Then, one evening on the grounds, he saw the rat perched on the child’s shoulder. He took his chance, chasing Peter into the bowels of the Whomping Willow and through the short passage to the Shrieking Shack. There, all had been revealed – Remus’s condition, Peter’s allegiance, even his position as Harry’s godfather.
It had been so perfect for a moment. He and Harry discussed moving in together so that his godson could get away from Lily’s wretched sister and her overgrown husband and son. Then, the full moon emerged. Remus had forgotten his potion. Pettigrew took advantage of this slip.
Remus could barely meet Sirius’s eyes in the days after he’d left his job at Hogwarts. He seemed to feel guilty, ashamed that his one-time lack of a handle on his condition might have prevented his old friend from getting the freedom he so deserved. Sirius was grateful for the temporary housing, however, and it was good to see his old friend again. As always, he blamed no one but Peter, the despicable bastard. One day, surely, the traitor would get what was coming to him.
Sirius stood up at last, playing with a loose string on the end of one of his sleeves. He’d borrowed this shirt from Remus, wishing he had packed the clothes he bought with the waitress. Of course, he couldn’t have dreamed it would take eight months to get to this, though even he admitted that he had been foolish to think he could unveil Peter on the first try. He absently wondered if Rachael missed him or wondered where he had gone; it was doubtful, considering that he was a drifter whom she barely knew. He smiled to himself, hoping she was still enjoying the new décor in her flat.
“What’s for breakfast, Moony?” He called, smelling something cooking.
“Breakfast? It’s nearly eleven!” Lupin called back, but he smiled nonetheless.
“Well, then, what’s for lunch? I get excited about any and all mealtimes.” Sirius said, stepping into the kitchen. He could see beef patties cooking on the stove, one of them appearing slightly bloodier than the other.
“Sorry, I’ve got a bit of beef and not much else.” Remus explained. “I did manage to scrounge up some lettuce and tomato, however, and a jar of mayonnaise that smells like it’s still good. How does a burger sound?”
Sirius brightened a bit. Some protein would do him good. “Sounds lovely. Got any cheese?”
“No, sorry about that.” Remus slid the darker piece of meat onto a bun, gesturing to the other items on the counter as he handed the burger to his friend. “Go on, help yourself.”
A moment later, the two of them sat face to face at Remus’s small kitchen table, enjoying their burgers with tall glasses of cold tap water. “So, where are you going to go now?” Sirius asked, taking a large bite out of his lunch and wishing for all the world that he had a cold beer as well.
“Not sure.” Remus replied. “Dumbledore has agreed to let me reside in the Shrieking Shack, but I can’t stay there forever. I mean, I could, I suppose, but I don’t really want to—”
“I’ll help you figure something out.” Sirius said. “After all, wanted criminal or not, I’m the last one left of my family. Grimmauld Place is still in decent shape, provided Kreacher’s still there.”
“Padfoot—” Remus looked at him painfully, feeling as though he didn’t deserve it.
“Just don’t get too settled out there in the Shack, all right?” Sirius cracked a smile.
“If you say so.” Remus nodded, returning the smile. “Speaking of my move, actually, there’s something I wanted to give you. I found it while I was packing up in here, and I figure you can use the memories more than I could.” He picked up a thick, black book that had been sitting on the counter, opening it on the table between them. Sirius was startled to see pictures of himself and his old friends as school children. “Where did you get this?” He asked.
“I made it, of course. I put it together while we were at school, so I wouldn’t be so lonely when I went home for the summer each year. Damn glad, too. I’ve never been so lonely as I was when Lily and James died, and then with Peter and you going to Azkaban—” He paused. “I’m sorry.”
Sirius shook his head. “Water under the bridge, Moony.” He flipped through the pages slowly, trying not to get grease from his burger on the images of James winning his first Quidditch match and their final day of first year. A snapshot of James and Lily’s wedding day, which had made its way inexplicably into the middle of their fourth year, brought tears to his eyes. He blinked them back, continuing to turn pages. Suddenly, a photo from fifth year caught his eye.
His fifteen-year-old self looked back at him, wearing a black suit that made him look much more somber than he could ever have imagined being at that point in his life. His later impoverishment would force him to fit into it again for James’s wedding to Lily, but by their funeral and his trial, he had hopelessly outgrown it. His eyes sparkled with the mischief that would come that night; he most likely dreamt of ways to ‘accidentally’ spill a drink on his cousin Narcissa’s ball gown.
Next to him, leaning affectionately on his shoulder, stood a tall, slender blonde with her hair twisted back into an elaborate half-updo. She wore a strapless dress in a dark teal hue that cut somewhat low in the back but also highlighted her normally lackluster bustline in front. On her feet were pumps, dyed to match before they had been specially shipped out from Paris, surely her mother’s doing. She held a black handbag, which contained her wand and two tablets of ecstasy.
Sirius gaped at the photo, watching as its inhabitants kissed and adopted various poses. He and his date were preparing to attend the debutante ball, an event held by prestigious pureblood families every year. It was considered a coming-out party for the girls, a presentation of potential brides, but Sirius was already expected to propose at that point. Not that he ever got around to it.
The waitress’s sad blue eyes and fair blonde locks passed through his mind once more.
“Lucy…” He breathed her name audibly, causing Remus to look up as he tossed back the final bite of his hamburger. “Lucy Malfoy.” He pursed his lips, feeling his throat tighten a bit.
“Oh, right.” Remus glanced up at the photo. “I remember that night. You two didn’t get back until breakfast was nearly over on Sunday. Peter was beginning to think you were both dead.”
“Just another of our drunken escapades.” Sirius said softly, staring at the picture.
Lupin looked at Sirius, who had taken the photo out of its plastic sleeve in the album and was studying it as if his life depended on him memorizing the details. “Padfoot, you all right?”
Sirius shook his head, clearing his mind. “You bet.” He forced a smile as he looked up, meeting Remus’s eyes. “You, erm, ever see her at Hogwarts? I mean, is she still with Snivellus?”
“It’s Professor Snape now, Sirius.” Remus smirked despite himself, amused by the fact that his friend couldn’t put away his favorite nickname for the man. “I never ran into her there, no.”
“Right.” Sirius tucked the photo back into place, closing the album. “Thanks, Moony.” He patted the book’s cover. “I think you’re right. I probably will get some use out of these old memories.”
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