She was standing at the kitchen island, writing out her bills, when the door opened.
At first, she panicked, wishing she had followed through on her idea to buy a gun to keep in the closet for times like these. She thought of her wand, still hidden away in the bathroom cabinet. She would surely be tracked down by the Ministry for performing magic in front of Muggles, but that didn’t matter so much if she needed to defend herself against an attacker, did it?
She reached for a kitchen knife, noticing for the first time that one of them was missing, and turned to face the intruder. Sirius stood in the doorway, his expression unclear to her.
“You nearly gave me a heart attack!” She cried, putting the knife down. “Where have you been, anyway? I haven’t seen you for months. I thought you’d died out there.”
“How long did you think you could fool me, Lucy?” Sirius said, trying to keep his breath even.
She froze. No one had called her that in years, even though it was her real name. She had gotten so used to being Rachael, the unassuming Muggle waitress with an eating disorder, that she had almost blocked her former personality out of her mind completely. “W-what?” She sputtered.
“I know I’ve been locked up a long time, and Azkaban does things to your mind, but I’m not an idiot.” Sirius held up the photo album. “I thought you looked familiar to me, and when I saw these pictures from our glory days, it all came crashing back. The partying, the casual sex—”
“Sirius…” Lucy began, realizing that she had already forgotten his false moniker.
“—and Snivellus.” Sirius hissed, staring daggers at her.
Lucy frowned. “Don’t bring him into it. I can’t believe you still call him that.”
“You were the one who brought him into it. You’re the reason we didn’t make it.” He countered.
“Sirius, I don’t want to talk about Severus.” She said firmly.
“Is he the one you’re running from? He must be, unless you’ve had another husband.”
“I suppose you could say that.” She looked down at the electric bill on the island, her half-finished check sitting on top of it. It was over now, her sham attempt at a normal life. Never again could she paint her house with Sirius or go shopping for him. She could walk into the diner in the morning, switch on the toaster and slice up sausage for the cook, but the fresh reminder of her exposure would slow her down, distract her from her work. He should never have walked in.
Sirius watched her, his face softening slightly. “Were you lying? Did he hurt you?”
“No.” She would not meet his eyes. “He wasn’t a bad husband.”
Sirius couldn’t imagine Snape as anyone’s husband, let alone a good one. He peeled off his coat, draping it over the back of the couch. He didn’t know if she would let him stay, and he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to, knowing the truth about her. But he didn’t have much of a choice.
Lucy sighed, looking up at him at last. “How long have you known?”
“I only found out yesterday, when Remus gave me this.” He replied, gesturing to the book again.
“Remus?” Lucy brightened a little. “How is he?”
“What the fuck do you care?” Sirius shot back, his tone darkening rapidly. “You turned your back on us, Luce. You left us behind when you took up with him. And I assure you, none of us gave a damn about you after that. So maybe you should have worked harder with him.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Lucy asked angrily.
“Look at you. You’re all alone, living in a poor Muggle neighborhood. Your life’s going nowhere.” He said coldly. “It’s pathetic.”
Lucy pulled her hair back, busying herself with the dishes. He could berate her all he wanted, but she wasn’t going to give him the dignity of a response. She focused on the tiny particles of food that were scattered across her backlog of plates and glasses, scrubbing at her silverware until every bit of the metal shone like new. Still, though, his insults landed where he threw them.
“I suppose it’s better, though, living this anonymous life, isn’t it?” Sirius continued. “Better than shacking up with a Death Eater, anyway! I’ll bet you helped him torture Muggles, didn’t you? Maybe even the relatives or friends of your neighbors here, your co-workers at that diner… and now look at you, pretending to live out here on your own, trying to fool yourself into thinking that you’re someone else, someone decent…”
“You know, you’re pretty pathetic yourself, Sirius.” She spat, finally turning to face him. “Personally, I’d rather be living with a Death Eater. I’d even prefer staying here by myself, living a false life as a Muggle and dreaming about what might have been.” She stood her ground, looking him right in the eye. “Anything would be better than wasting away in a cell in Azkaban.”
The two stood there in silence for a moment, staring at each other. Lucy watched as Sirius crossed his arms. He looked as if he were bracing himself for another insult, even though she had already pulled out the deadliest one she had in her arsenal. She was the one being attacked here, anyway. Surely he couldn’t feel as vulnerable as she did. She hardened her expression, afraid that if she betrayed these feelings, he would swoop in for the kill. Or worse, he’d feel sorry for her.
Finally, Lucy faltered, turning and leaving him standing alone in the kitchen as she headed down the hall to her bedroom. Sirius glared after her, and suddenly, another thought occurred to him.
“If you knew who I was, why didn’t you turn me in?” He called.
Lucy stopped, looking at him wearily. “You and James were the best of friends, Sirius. You would have done anything for your friends, but especially for James. You were like brothers.” She sighed. “I don’t know who is responsible for Lily and James dying, but you would never do anything to hurt James, and Lily by extension. I’ve never doubted it.” With that, she headed into the bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her.
Sirius watched the spot where she had been standing moments before, blinking in disbelief. His entire view of right and wrong had been shifted, shaking the very core of his world. Wormtail, one of his closest friends and a part of nearly every memory he had with James and Remus, had turned traitor, selling out those closest to him in his pursuit of power and respect. Lucy, the girl who had left him for his worst enemy, still somehow believed in his innocence when all of the evidence had been carefully set up to point straight to the contrary. Little made sense anymore.
He sat down on the couch, gazing up at the still-fresh paint that coated the walls. The clothes Rachael—no, Lucy—had purchased for him at the secondhand store were sitting in a brown grocery bag on the other end of the sofa, still folded neatly as they had been when they were placed in the bag at the store. He wondered absently how long she’d waited before she’d decided he wasn’t coming back. Had she ever truly drawn a conclusion? Would she have waited forever?
In the bedroom, Lucy stared into the full-length mirror on the back of the door. She peeled her clothes off one by one, trying to remember what she’d looked like as a sixteen-year-old witch. Her hair had faded into a lighter blonde over the years; she wasn’t sure if that was a result of age, malnutrition, or some combination of the two. Her blue eyes had undergone the most change. At Sirius’s side, they had been playful, tempting. As Severus’s bride, they had calmed a bit, trading their scandalous ways for a more pacific kindness. Now, they looked like the eyes of a corpse.
She looked at her body, gingerly touching the places where her bones stuck out from under the thin, pale layer of skin. It was hard to imagine this body running all over town with Sirius or making love to Severus night after night. She doubted her beauty, but at least she owned herself.
In the false world she had created, control was the highest prize she could attain.