Chapter 4 : First Year: Christmas
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Silence. The house was completely silent. It seemed like months since I had gotten off the Hogwarts Express, but in reality it had only been a couple of days. I knew this Christmas was going to be different as soon as I stepped onto the platform.
My parents were both waiting, along with Regulus. None were smiling. Regulus glared at the floor, refusing to meet anyone's gaze and his left hand was curled into a fist. Behind them stood my aunt and Uncle whilst Bellatrix leant against a brick wall sneering at those who passed her. Narcissa joined them and Andromeda looked at them hesitantly before turning to face me.
"Come on, Sirius. I think weíre with you this Christmas." To anyone else this would mean nothing, to me it meant I had an ally. James and Remus swapped uncertain looks as I nodded goodbye to them before Andy led me towards the family in black.
Silence. I could faintly hear the dripping tap from the bathroom below. It was dark. The darkness of mid-winter took away most of the light. I sat curled on my bed, wrapped in blankets; trying to stay warm against the December chill. The door to my room was locked, as it had been for the last three days. Only opening twice a day for toilet breaks and once around lunchtime for some food.
I had used my time in imprisonment to my advantage. I was different to them, why hadnít I noticed it before? A photo of the new Gryffindor first-years was plastered on the wall and I had drawn lions and banners on scrap pieces of parchment that had been laid waste on the floor. I was a Gryffindor and I wouldnít let them forget it.
I moved slightly towards the window, trying to guess the time. Wincing slightly as my bare feet padded across the cold wooden floor and shivering as a gust of wind whistled through the crack in the window pane. There was a creak; I turned to face the door. There was a small whisper, I bit my lip. With a loud scraping, a key was pushed into the lock and the door was pushed open. They were back.
With a sigh of relief, the shadows at the door were too small to be adults and instead were the smaller frames of my brother, Regulus and my cousin, Andy.
Andy stepped into the room cautiously. "Sirius?" her wandering eyes sought out mine. With a burst of energy that seemed to startle Regulus; she rushed towards me. "Sirius! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Iím fine." I whispered as she went to hug me, burying my smile in her shoulder at the sisterly embrace.
"I've tried speaking to them-" she whispered immediately, looking guilty. Andy didn't carry on and instead turned to face the door where Regulus was stood. "Reg! Come here, have you got it?"
My brother nodded and turned back to the door as if looking for an escape before quickly running over to us; a small brown package gripped in his hands.
"Happy Christmas," he muttered quietly, pushing the package into my hands.
"Itís from both of us, itís not much, but they were checking and so-" her voice faded out uncertainly. I looked up at both of them, touched.
"Thank you Ė I Ė y-you didnít have to," I stuttered in surprise.
Andy beamed in response and even Reg allowed himself a small smile. I eagerly ripped open the brown package to find a bundle of soft red and yellow material in my hands.
"Itís a Gryffindor scarf," Andy said shyly. "I know Uncle Orion and Auntie Walburga wouldnít of- and itís cold... so we thought that-" her voice faded away in embarrassment.
"Itís perfect." I grinned and Andy blushed in pleasure. Regulus coughed and stepped closer, pulling out a small book from his back pocket.
"I-I thought you might like this," he muttered quietly.
I turned the book over in my hands, ĎBroomsticks of the Century'. I grinned once more. "Reg?" he looked up, "thanks mate. Itís brilliant."
Reg grinned back and I pulled him into a hug. We separated before with a deep swallow I asked him the question that had been on my mind for months.
"Reg? W-why didn't you write to me? I haven't had any post since the letter after my sorting. I knew they wouldn't write, but I-I thought you would have."
Andy moved towards the window to give us some privacy and pretended to become entranced with two pigeons outside. Reg's face burned red.
"I-I-they found me writing... with my left hand." He swallowed noisily. "Blacks arenít left-handed. Blacks are pure. Blacks write with their right hand," he imitated perfectly. "I needed to be corrected," he shrugged in acceptance.
"Reg!" I said aghast, this was what I always used to protect him against. "Thatís not true! Donít you dare-" I stopped myself when I saw his eyes darting to the door once more. "But why would that stop you writing?" He didn't answer. "Reg?"
"I was writing to you," he whispered. "They said that I was tainting myself by speaking to you, that you were leading me astray." Reg bit his lip and lifted his eyes to meet mine.
"Oh," I swallowed. It almost sounds like he believes what they're saying. But Reg wouldn't believe them. Would he?
There was a loud knock against the open door, so any response was lost. We all started and jolted to face the entrance; my uncle Alphard stood in the doorway.
"Alright, alright, donít stun the messenger," he joked. "Our happy relatives want to see you, all of you, downstairs." We nodded; Andy and I swapping looks. They havenít wanted to see me since I arrived.
I hid my Christmas gifts under the blanket on my bed and followed the others out the door. Uncle Alphard grabbed my arm as I passed through the door.
"Gryffindor eh?" He smiled, I nodded. "Well if you had to break away, you did it in style," he laughed. "Here. Merry Christmas kiddo." Then he turned and walked down the stairs, leaving me with ten galleons tucked in my left fist.
By the time I had reached the bottom floor, there were quiet murmurings from inside the ajar door. I distinctly heard my mother speaking.
"...the Christmas ball. We canít take him now. Not until he learns some manners and the correct way to act Ė Merlin knows what behaviours heís picked up from the Gryffindors. Who did you say he had become friendly with, Cissy?"
"The Potter boy, Auntie Walburga. Pure-blood-"
"Well at least he has some sense to stay away from any mudbloods," uncle Cygnus butted in.
"Really Cygnus, think! The Potter boy! The Potters have gone stray in recent years, Charlus and Dorea were always odd balls and Iíve heard that theyíve taught him to mix with mudbloods. No, it simply wonít do to have Sirius mix with the likes of him."
"Yes youíre quite right Druella, it wonít do. Iíll tell Orion to have another word with him." My mother said curtly, I flinched.
"Wally Ė you canít punish him forever! The kid got sorted through no fault of his own! Canít you just leave him be?" Uncle Alphard argued. I felt a rush of affection towards my favourite uncle.
There was a short pause before my mother replied, her voice shaking with rage. "I would appreciate it if you would mind your own business Alphard, he is my son and I will treat him as I see fit!"
I leant towards the door, hoping to hear more of their whispered argument when Bellatrix who had been following their argument with amusement, saw my face pressed against the crack. With a cackle she said, "the brat is standing outside the door Auntie Walburga."
I swallowed and pushed open the thick door. My family stood in silence, glaring at me Ė so different to how they used to act, when I was the precious Black heir Ė my mother broke the silence.
"Sirius. Your father has accompanied your grandparents to the Christmas Ball. We shall all be leaving shortly, you should know that we were planning to make your announcement this year - as a Black it is part of your duty Ė however, after your- your- affliction, we have decided that you will wait a year longer until- until you can be properly prepared." I wondered what went into this preparation and hoped that it didnít involve my father.
My mother clicked her fingers and Kreacher, the house-elf appeared. "Kreacher will be our eyes and ears to make sure you fulfil your Christmas tradition this evening." She handed the elf a sharp stick to which the elf responded by grinning with pleasure. "If we feel that the message has sunk in after this Christmas, then you may accompany us next year instead." She paused to look at me, "there is still hope." With a loud thud, a thick book was then dropped on the table in front of me.
ĎPure-blood Aristocracyí the book read Ė the cover was the Black family emblem.
My mother yawned, "now, recite."
My uncle Alphard glared at her, but he knew his place and nothing would come of it.
After a while the house was silent once more. The adults had apparated to the ball, leaving Reg, Andy and I behind. The kitchen grew cold and the candles blew out. Yet I remained standing in the middle of the dining room, reciting every page from the book.
It was the Black way to spend Christmas; children should learn that blood purity matters every day, especially on special days Ė for that is when mistakes are made.
Yet although I was long-used to spending Christmas in this way, for the first time I couldnít stop myself thinking sarcastically, Merry Christmas to you too.
My mum was smiling. Every time she glanced over to look at me, her smile widened and her eyes creased. My dad kept chuckling to himself. He would be writing on a document or reading the newspaper, when he would suddenly pause, shake his head, and chuckle again.
Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, I had walked into the warm kitchen to find my mum humming to herself. My father had laughed with delight when he recognised the tune and pulled her away from chopping the vegetables and into a close embrace, where they then proceeded to dance around the kitchen. Both laughing loudly, so their glee echoed around the house and for a moment it felt like I was a child again. They had been the same since I had stepped off the Hogwarts Express.
I stepped off the Hogwarts Express. Peter thought he had dropped his sandwich in the aisle and was determined to find it. I saw my parents immediately. They were slightly separate to the crowd of anxious parents and their eyes were scanning the rush of children who were climbing off the train. My mum was biting her lip and my dad was twisting his hat in his hand in agitation.
Mum saw me first and she nudged dad in my direction, they both seemed to visibly relax when they saw me. I smiled, they smiled in return. Then my father frowned suddenly, and something hit me across the back of my head.
It was James, and it was Peterís sandwich that hit me.
"Peterís been looking for that!" I exclaimed.
"I know," James shrugged. "Thatís whatís funny."
I snorted and playfully shoved James; he grinned and with a loud war cry, dived at me Ė pulling Sirius, who had been glaring at the crowd, along with him. We were in a pile on the floor and I couldnít seem to stop laughing as James pulled a bottle of treacle from his bag and aimed it at us both.
Sirius was laughing as well, before he saw his family in the crowd. "I-Iíve got to go," he said soberly. His cousin joined him and pulled his arm towards the group. James and I swapped confused looks but James just shrugged again. He pulled me up and I shoved him once more, chuckling.
"Have a good Christmas mate," he said cheerfully before running into the crowd. I looked up to see my parents watching me with disbelief. I was about to apologise when they both broke out into massive grins and my mum pulled me into a hug. I looked at her and realised what they were thinking. I blended in with everyone else, I had made friends, I was normal. And I could see in her eyes that for the first time she was thinking, Ďheís going to be okay.í
"Remus," my mum called from downstairs. "Remus, are you nearly ready?"
"Yeah." I shouted back as I wrapped my new scarf round my neck and turned to face the mirror. I was dressed in Muggle clothes due to living in the Muggle village that my mother had grown up in. When my father had told her he was a wizard, she had accepted magic fairly quickly but had asked my dad to live with her in the Muggle village, to keep a Ďsense of sanityí.
The mirrorís reflection showed a tall boy with ruffled brown hair. The bags under my eyes were faded and I couldnít seem to contain my grin. Full moon wasnít for another 2 weeks, everything was okay.
I pounded down the stairs in my new trainers and jumped the bottom stair. My dad chuckled and pulled me into a hug when I passed him. His eyes were brown, like mine, but flecked with green.
"You alright chap? Saw an owl fly towards your room this morning."
I nodded, "Yep, that was James, the one from school, you know the one with really messy hair? He, uh, he sent me some treacle." I snorted.
Dad frowned momentarily then laughed loudly. "Youíve made some odd friends chap," he paused and looked at me, "Iím proud of you chap, you know that right? Iím really proud of you." I blushed and hugged him once more before pulling away as my mother entered the hallway.
"Right I think weíve got everything, we donít want to keep Mr Jacobson waiting on Christmas, weíll never hear the end of it! Remus Ė go put your coat on. John Ė go put on some gloves. Youíll freeze out there!" She scolded. We both nodded meekly and shared a grin before rushing off to find our extra clothing.
Before long we were rushing towards the circle of people from the village who were standing outside the church. They were obviously waiting for us, but no one complained. The village was like an extended family, we had all been born there Ė dad was one of the few exceptions, but after helping Mrs Lane with her cat after he had moved here, he had been added to the family.
I noticed many of them give me appraising looks and most of them beamed when they saw how well I was looking. To explain my continuous disappearances and then the cuts and bruises after a transformation, my parents had told everyone that I was ill. An illness that I had caught when I was 5 and was unlikely to ever go away. Which meant frequent trips to the hospital out of town, curiously always around Full Moon.
Although I didnít want to admit it, the town adored me. They brought extra food when mum looked tired, lent Dad some money when he lost his job a couple years ago and every single person always remembered my birthday. To explain about Hogwarts, my parents had sadly told everyone that my illness had progressed and I was moving into a hospice for kids my age.
The village had been distraught, according to my parents. That was why they had thrown me such a massive party the day before I left; the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to all my childhood friends. It was then that had Kaitlyn had kissed me.
The music started and the village pulled out their books of Christmas carols. Kaitlyn appeared from the crowd, wearing a wooly hat and her eyes lit with excitement.
"Remus!" "She squealed as she pulled me into a hug. "Come on! Mr Jacobson is giving sweets to the best singers!"
Her hand reached into mine and dragged me through the crowd. Smiling parents ruffled my hair as I passed, the older kids shouted a welcome whilst the younger kids squealed, "Remus is home!"
After a couple carols such as ĎO ye Faithfulí and ĎSilent Nightí, the music turned more upbeat into ĎRudolph the red-nosed reindeerí. By the end, my face was flushed and we were all giggling amongst ourselves.
Mr Jacobson opened his tin of chocolates and gave me first pick, "Merry Christmas Remus," he smiled.
I looked back up to him and thought of my village family, "Merry Christmas to you too."
I sighed and picked up the jar of baby food. She was being difficult today and refusing to eat solids. Though thinking about it, it was probably for the better. I looked over at the empty takeaway boxes and crushed cans of fizzy drinks. We were completely out of food, except for the weird mushroom thing that Iíd got at the Chinese takeaway a couple days ago. But it looked so gross that Iíd put off eating it. Itíll be my dinner tonight. I decided, because the takeaways are still shut for Christmas.
"Peee-terrr. Peee-terrr." She wailed, her voice echoing through the closed door. I sighed once more and went to find a spoon. "Peee-terr," she wailed again.
"Iím coming, Peterís coming." Whilst holding a tin of baby food in one hand, I waddled through the door. Taking care to step over the pot of mushy peas that she had thrown in a tantrum the night before.
I pulled over a stool from the wall and winced as it creaked under my weight. "Here we go. Peterís here. Open your mouth for the spoon then."
She clamped her mouth together and shook her head so her hair spun round her head. I sighed.
"Please mum, just eat a little bit," I persuaded.
Her watery eyes relaxed from their narrowed position and her lips split into a small smile. Her grey-streaked hair still hung around her face and I reached out to push it behind her ear. Mum tilted her head as if considering something very important.
"Carrot?" She questioned.
"Yes, carrot. You like carrot. Donít you, Mum?"
She nodded happily and opened her mouth so I could spoon the baby food into her mouth. She sucked the spoon happily before opening her mouth to show me it had all gone.
I nodded and momentarily felt a wave of sadness hit me. Sheís still in there somewhere. She has to be. Maybe if I keep speaking to her, then one day sheíll recognise me and dad and Sar- I shook my head in agitation and pushed the thought away.
"Do you know what day it is today mum? Do you?" She looked at me blankly. "Itís Christmas mum. So you remember what that is? Do you? Do you remember when we used to go down to the river with-with... and you used to make us those big Christmas dinners. Do you remember?"
She still looked at me like I was speaking another language but I carried on. "Iím not too good at cooking mum. You were always the best at cooking. Iíve tried, honest Iíve tried. But-but it keeps going wrong and I donít want to waste any more food." I paused for a moment.
"Hogwarts is everything you told me it would be. I love it mum. I really do. Iíve made some friends and they like me mum, they do! Some of the Slytherins keep saying stuff about how much I weigh though," mum frowned.
"But they donít understand do they? I donít have home-cooked meals three times a day, not anymore. Itís just me. And the takeaways give me special deals now, which is easier for Dad. B-but I wish I could cook mum. Because maybe then youíd get better."
I heard a loud sigh behind me and spun round to face the door. I hadnít even heard him come in. He stood slumped against the doorframe, he was naturally tall but over the years his appearance made him seem more shrunken then before. He had dark bags under his eyes and his shoulders slumped forward.
His eyes were currently focussed on a portrait behind me of a young blonde haired girl with big brown eyes. She was holding a chocolate ice-cream and occasionally waved out of the frame. A necklace hanging around her throat spelled out the word ĎSarahí.
"Dad?" I pulled him out of his memories, it doesnít do to dwell on the past, thatís what he always says. He blinked and looked at me.
"Peter," he whispered hoarsely. "Happy Christmas Peter."
"You too," I smiled.
He dragged himself over to where we were sat and pulled a squashed bag out of one of his pockets. "Here, I picked it up on the way home."
I eagerly opened the bag to find a pair of black shoes inside. They were slightly shabby and the tops were scuffed. I looked at them in silence before looking at my dad. He looked anxious, I smiled. "They're brilliant."
I pulled them on and found they fit. They both had laces, though one was slightly chewed. I looked up at dad, "thank you."
My dad grinned and some of the lines seemed to disappear, making him seem years younger. "Iím glad." He paused, "look, Iím sorry Peter but Iíve got to go." My face fell slightly and he seemed to notice.
"I would love to stay Peter. You know that. But Paul reckons there might be some work going at the Wizarding scrap yard."
"But you already have two jobs." I pointed out stubbornly.
He sighed, "and itís still not enough Peter. Weíve been through this. I need to pay for someone to look after your mum since youíve moved away. Then thereís also all your books and uniform for school. I can't afford it."
My stomach immediately tensed with guilt. I had shown no magical ability and we had all assumed I was a squib. After Sarah... after mum... after the accident, it seemed that dad was relieved. Until the letter came. And then the bills. It would have been better if I was a squib.
Dad stood and patted my shoulder as he passed, pausing to momentarily kiss my mumís forehead. He watched her for a moment then turned and walked out of the room. For a second, I thought I saw his eyes wet with tears, but he was gone with the slam of the front door before I could check again.
I pulled off my new shoes and put them on the table so they wouldnít get dirty before I could return to Hogwarts. My mum looked puzzled as she reached down to a raggy blanket beside her feet.
"Mum? What are you doing? I can get it."
She swatted my hand away and grunted as she pulled something out from under the blanket. With a big grin she pushed a bundle of yellow material into my hands. I pulled it apart. Socks. With a few knitting holes. Yellow. "Christmas Peee-terr," she murmured.
I grinned. I knew she was still there, my mum. "Merry Christmas to you too."
"Muuuuummm," I whined loudly.
"Yes Jamsie? What do you need lovely?" Mum replied, pausing in powdering her face.
She picked up some lipstick. "Why donít you play with some of your new toys?"
"Already have," I moaned.
"Why donít you go for a fly on your new broomstick?" Mum sighed, looking down at where I was laid on the floor.
"Got no one to race against."
"Why donít you write to your friends?"
She sighed. "Why donít you ask Dondie if she can think of something for you to do?"
I looked up at where she sat at her dressing table. Really? Dondie? "Mum, sheís a house-elf! Sheís cleaning!"
Mum rolled her eyes and ruffled my hair. "Well Iíve got to get ready for the ball honey. So unless youíd like to give me your opinions on which dress looks best or help me decide on what jewellery to wear, Iíd advise you to go occupy yourself."
I groaned. "Iím going, Iím going."
I walked out of the cream bedroom and called over my shoulder, "I like the green one by the way." I heard her laugh through the walls.
With an exaggerated sigh, I sat down on one of the stairs on the left staircase whilst facing the opposite one. I wonder if I could jump all the way to the other staircase? Maybe if I fell then mum and dad won't go to the stupid ball?
The staircases made the house look grand, it split into two and landed on different levels Ė great for hide Ďní seek, if you had anyone to play with.
It was times like this that I really hated being an only child. My parents were always going out for dinner parties or balls, leaving me with Dondie. The most miserable house-elf Iíve ever met.
Dad came jogging up the stairs, fiddling with his cufflinks before frowning when he saw me sitting on the top stair. "ĎDorea! Weíve got to be going soon!" he called.
"Coming, give me five minutes!" Mum called from a floor up.
"You alright mate?" My dad bent down to sit beside me.
"Yeah." I sighed loudly, "canít I come with you? Itís so boring by myself."
"James, weíve been through this. The Christmas Ball is the dullest event we have to attend. Itís full of witches and wizards talking about blood superiority. Women comparing how much they had spent on their dress robes and their childís latest achievement whilst looking down on those who canít compare. The men stand in the corners making deals or offers on their childrenís future marriage prospects. Then of course thereís the royal parade. The Blacks. The purest of blood." Dad snorted, "we actually have to applaude their entrance James! So the answer's no. Your mother and I donít want you mixing with those types of people."
There was silence after his rant, my head rested on my hands. "The Blacks? So Sirius will be there? Please let me go Dad! Please! I want to see Sirius!"
Dad rolled his eyes. "James, I very much doubt Sirius will be going this year." He paused at my confused expression. "Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor Ė no Black is a Gryffindor, Iím sure Orion and Walburga would see it as a punishment to not let him go."
I snorted. Why would it be a punishment? Sirius has all his cousins to play with - and a little brother! I bet they're all having races and Christmas games... and staying up til midnight... whilst eating ice-cream!
"Right boys, Iím ready. Letís go meet that awful family of mine, shall we?" Mum descended the stairs in her green gown made of thick velvet with jewels round the cuffs and chest. Her dark hair was pinned back into a bun, the streaks of grey covered with an emerald clasp.
"Why do you have to go?" I whined. Mum and Dad shared a look as he kissed her on the cheek.
My dad sighed and bent down to my level on the stairs. "It's our duty James. As pure-bloods and it gives us some... protection."
"Protection?" I frowned.
Mum shook her head at dad and snarled, "Charlus!" as he went to open his mouth. Dad frowned, but nodded in agreement after a moment's pause.
"James," mum had turned to face me. "Dondie has set up some Muggle board games in the back room, and I know itís Christmas but I want you in bed by 10 at the latest. Understand?"
What? Ten? But that's not fair! I bet Sirius get's to stay up all night! She giggled at the look of horror that spread across my face, distracting me from the previous conversation.
"Because tomorrow, your dad has promised to take you out flying. Deal?" She said, her red lips fighting a smile.
I thought it over for a moment, before sighing in defeat. "Deal."
She smiled and kissed me on the head as she continued down the stairs. Dad patted my shoulder, "Merry Christmas mate."
I nodded and sighed as the front door slammed shut. My bedroom door was open and I could see the bursting stocking at the bottom of my bed. The floor was covered in wrapping paper and gifts. Three sacks were under my window; all full of presents that Iíd opened this morning. Yet I was still bored. It sucks having no one to play with.
I could hear Dondie in the kitchen downstairs and decided to go find something to do. I walked up three flights of stairs, along the corridor and stopped in front of the room where we kept the broomsticks. I turned the handle; locked. Brilliant.
Theyíd obviously locked it before they left. So I wouldnít go flying without dad and his- his-. A smile spread across my face and I ran down the corridor, pulling open a door and climbing the stairs behind it. Please donít be locked. Please. Please. Please. Luck was on my side and the doorknob turned easily.
Iíd been in dadís office before, but only with his permission as he liked to keep things from his auror days stored in here. Mum said it was much too dangerous for a boy who liked to find trouble. But Iím not a little boy anymore! Iím at Hogwarts now. They wonít mind...much.
But I wasnít planning on snooping anyway, theyíd be plenty of time for that. I was looking for something in particular. Something which would let me have fun without getting into trouble all the time. The drawer was slightly ajar; dad hadnít locked it. He had no need usually. It was his fault really, not mine.
I reached into the drawer and felt the thick, soft material press against my fingertips. I grabbed the material and pulled it out into the room. It was big; a pale blue with red patterns around the edges. It was beautiful. I grinned and turned to face the mirror. With a swooping motion, I pulled the cloak over my shoulders and watched with awe as the boy in the mirror disappeared. The invisibility cloak.
With a grin on my face, I thought of my fatherís parting words. ĎMerry Christmas to you too,í I whispered.
A/N: Hello :)
I know, two chapters in two weeks - wow! So.. we get a glimpse at the Marauders first Christmas with their families after going to Hogwarts. Thoughts?
I'm not too sure on James' POV at the moment, so might re-do it after the queue reopens :) I'd just like to thank everyone for reading/reviewing/favouriting this story and want to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Hope you all have a great day! And if you'd like to leave me a Christmas review int he box down there, I'd be very grateful!
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