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Chapter 9 : Chapter 9
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The train ride had been a dull affair, considering they’d all had hangovers, but they had made promises to see each other over the summer, just as they always did and Sirius’s 17th birthday was looking to be interesting…he was the first of them to come of age, meaning he would now legally be able to curse Snape out of the Hogwarts grounds…well, not so much legally, but he could do it and not be traced, anyway and he was looking forward to some rather interesting confrontations with his family; for the past year Regulus had been moping around, his formally aquiline nose bent from making contact with his brother’s fist, but he generally stayed out of his way.
Arriving home they were met by the familiar site of the Potters, smiling broadly, twitching with anticipation.
“James!” his mother squealed, and for a moment it would have been easy to forget that she was a 45 year old woman in a very high position at the MoM.
“Hey mum,” James said, wrapping her up in a hug. If there was one good thing about Voldemort, it was that he taught you the importance of time, taught you to use it. With a steady flux of deaths and disappearances, those near and dear became nearer and dearer.
Sitting down to a humble meal made by Calista (which, in Sirius’s eyes was far better to anything at Hogwarts), they talked about the term, about the grades given, about the year approaching and finally Calista raised the topic of Sirius’s birthday.
“What would you like to do for your birthday, dear?” she asked kindly.
Sirius blushed, still unaccustomed to the kindness of a parent, and he hadn’t celebrated a birthday since his first year at Hogwarts…his parents had been too busy wishing he was dead to remember that it was his birthday.
“Erm, nothing,” he mumbled,
“Don’t be stupid, Sirius, you only turn 17 once,” Ignatius chided.
“Well, ah, nothing big, just James and Remus and Peter, nothing big,” he repeated.
“I think we can manage that,” Calista said warmly, smiling at her husband, who clasped her hand affectionately.
“I’ve organised to take you down for your Apparating Test, it’ll be first thing in the morning so you can parade it in front of James for the whole day,” Ignatius told him.
Sirius beamed gratefully, unsure of what to say. This kind of familial interaction almost always caught him off guard.
“I’ll bet he splinches himself,” James remarked.
“How would you like me to Apparate in on you in the shower?” Sirius replied testily.
“I think you’d like it more than me,”
“Boys!” Calista scolded them, she was trying to look stern, but was failing miserably.
“I’m sorry, Cally,” Sirius simpered.
“Suck up,” James said out f the corner of his mouth.
“Just because you’re the ‘bad one’, James, doesn’t mean you can drag my good name down with yours,” Sirius huffed in mock outrage.
“I’m the bad one?”
“You led me astray,”
“I would have followed you anywhere,”
“You were always destined to be someone’s bitch,”
“James!” His mother admonished.
“Sorry mum,” James said, blushing a little, Sirius beamed triumphantly.
“Git,” James muttered good-naturedly, Sirius only gave him a look of supreme smugness.
They passed the first week of holidays relatively uneventfully, summer days spent lazily flying around on Silver Arrows, James planning game strategy and Sirius enjoying the undivided calm he felt when lobbing a hard object at another person’s head.
James noticed that in the days leading up to Sirius’s 17th, he was apprehensive, there was little of his cocky charm and confident stance to be seen when either Calista or Ignatius made mention of the fact that he would be of age, released from the bonds of childhood. James knew why: for the past 6 years they had found refuge within the walls of Hogwarts, everything good that had ever happened to Sirius had happened there, it was his home and turning 17 was another gap that would divide him from there, he would soon be of age, no longer a child, but an adult, fully responsible for his actions…a job, a career, a family maybe…those things drew closer with every single day, and none were so incredibly significant than his birthday.
On the day itself, James had quietly entered Sirius’s room, sneaking up to his bed, leaning over and shouting ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ in the loudest voice he could render, Sirius had, of course, woken with a start, tumbling out of bed, tangled within the blankets.
James had nearly laughed himself hoarse at his reaction, he was doubled over with huge racking laughter for nearly 5 minutes whilst Sirius struggled against his entrapment.
“You value your nose, Prongs?” he growled threateningly as James, still chuckling, helped him up from the floor.
“Come on, crack a smile, birthday boy,” James teased, pulling him in for a brief hug, “you’ve made it, congratulations on not blowing yourself up,”
“When did you become sentimental?”
“When I looked into your eyes…” he sang lavishly and terribly, making Sirius laugh.
“Changed my mind, you’re just mental,”
James almost skipped downstairs, Sirius followed him, thudding dully, his body still weary with sleep.
At the bottom of the stairs a beaming Calista and Ignatiusstood, fully dressed and he wondered what kind of people were up at this ungodly hour.
“Happy Birthday Sirius,” Calista greeted him, wrapping him up in the most affectionate embrace he’d ever experienced, she planted a kiss on his cheek which he rubbed, mystified, a stupid grin on his face.
“Happy birthday,” Ignatius said warmly, giving him a brief, ‘manly’ hug.
Sirius immediately flamed up with embarrassment, acutely aware that he must look a sight in his rumpled pyjamas, and the fact that he hadn’t bothered slipping on a t-shirt became obvious next to the stiffly formal attire that the Potter’s were wearing, but he was glad that James was also not dressed for the day.
The attention also made him feel a little odd, he had grown accustomed to being independent, spending his birthdays alone, locked in his room, most of the time James, Remus and Peter had organised a party when they returned to school, usually a small celebration in their dorm, complete with stolen food from the kitchens and Butterbeer from Hogsmeade, the parties had almost become tradition…midnight feasts where he could laugh and let go of all the misery the previous summer had incurred.
James nodded at the dining table before them, indicating the presents which where piled up on the surface.
Sirius looked up uncertainly at the beaming family before him, they were all waiting expectantly, “You didn’t have to do this,” he said nervously, raking a hand through his hair as he stared incredulously at the gifts.
“Traditionally, its what’s done on people’s birthdays,” Ignatiussaid jovially, quite amused at the dumbstruck expression on Sirius’s face, also a little sad for the boy, who quite clearly didn’t know how to react in such a normal situation.
“Open them Sirius,” Calista said, grabbing one from the table and handing it to him, “Go on, I made sure none of them bite,” she threw a sideways glance at James who stared at the ceiling.
He took the box in his hands tentatively, slowly unwrapping it, even though he was officially an adult today he had never felt more like a child.
He opened the medium sized box and found a book, he looked quizzically at James who gave nothing away with his ever present smile. Flicking open a page he realised that it was blank…as was the rest of the book.
“Say something to it,” Ignatius urged, “A subject, anything,”
“Er, ‘Quidditch’,” he said to the book, feeling rather silly. Immediately ink began to spider across the page, forming words and diagrams.
“Whatever you desire to see the book can call upon, all you have to do is speak quite plainly the name of the topic you wish to research or read about and it will be called, it’s not just for study, but we thought it might help you with your, er, extra-curricular activities…it’s quite comprehensive.”
“It’s got all the hexes and jinxes that Madam Pince won’t let near the library,” James added, his eyes flashing with excitement behind his glasses.
“I…thank you,” he mumbled, getting lost for words again, “you really didn’t…”
“Yes we did dear,” Calista said briskly, “Now, you might have to wait til you and Ignatius get back from your Apparition test to open the rest, you have…” she looked at her wristwatch, “35 minutes to be showered and dressed and ready to go,”
“Shit…sorry, I’ll go, yeah, um, get ready.” The book was still his slightly trembling hands, “Thanks, really, both of you, thank you so much,” he said earnestly.
“What about me?” James whined.
“And you too,” Sirius amended, rolling his eyes. He turned to leave but was stopped by a gentle hand.
“Hang on a second,” Calista said, taking another package from the table and handing it to him, “take these, new casual robes,” she explained and Sirius felt a surge of gratitude and affection.
“Thanks,” he muttered again, giving her a brief hug. James made a retching sound in the background.
“Oh shut up James,” Calista scolded him.
Sirius bounded upstairs, leaving the Potter family to grin happily among themselves.
“You’d better go get ready too, James, you’re going to be helping me,” his mother told him.
“You’re not going to make me cook,” he said flatly.
“I said help me, not kill me,” she ruffled his hair affectionately and pushed him towards the stairs, “Go on, I’ll expect to see you down here within the hour,”
He scurried up stairs, catching up to Sirius on the way, “Good luck mate,” he shouted, as Sirius ducked into his bedroom.
Sirius’s head popped out of the doorway, a nervous grin on his face, “I don’t need luck.”
He passed his Apparating Test with flying colours, relaxed on the knowledge that he actually did know it all. His instructor, an elderly wizard by the name of Aldous Tote, had described him as the most talented young wizard he’d seen in all his time as an Apparition instructor.
Ignatius had beamed proudly as he too congratulated Sirius and he was allowed for the first time to Apparate home.
James had spent the morning with Calista, helping her grudgingly. There wasn’t much he could do with out magic, but he still organised things the way he was asked, wanting to give Sirius a proper birthday party like the one’s he had been privy to his entire life.
James couldn’t help but watch the clock tick away the hours that passed since his father and Sirius had left. He knew that he could take a couple of hours (which is why they’d gone early), but he felt somewhat anxious as the clock struck 11.
As if to synchronise with the chiming of the old grandfather clock in the living room, there was a resounding CRACK and Sirius appeared, grinning wildly and supremely as he saw James.
“Passed then, did you?” James remarked casually.
Sirius gave him a patronizing roll of his eyes and smirked, “Yeah, I just might go pop by Evan’s place, see how she’s getting on…”
James narrowed his eyes at the taunt and his mother, who had entered the room when she heard Sirius Apparate, smiled benignly, “Would that be Lily Evans, dear?”
James glared at Sirius who continued to grin, “Yes, one and the same,”
Calista smiled knowingly, “I think she’s a bit out of your league,” she teased.
James scowled, but remained quiet, blushing profusely from the neck up. The doorbell rang out loudly, thankfully rescuing him from further embarrassment, he frantically rushed to answer it, finding Remus standing on the doorstep, pleasant grin and slightly stooping as he was wont to do these days with his newly acquired height.
“Hey Moony, our boy’s just Apparated in, he’s in the living room,” James instructed, taking the gift from his hands and taking it into the dining room.
“Happy Birthday Padfoot,” Remus said, greeting Sirius with a customary hug, “Congratulations on passing, too,”
Sirius beamed, “Thanks,”
Peter showed up a half hour later and the lunch that Calista had prepared seem almost inadequate for a bunch of ravenous teenage boys.
Sirius opened the rests of the gifts, fully appreciating the clothes, (muggle clothes, because he liked to irritate his family) books, various mischief making objects (itching powder, dungbombs, shrinking sherbert etc) and it looked as though the whole of Honeydukes had been bought out, but perhaps the most treasured gift was the large, untidily wrapped gift that remained on the table, Sirius unwrapped it anxiously and gaped in awe as it was revealed to be a Nimbus 1007; he swallowed visibly and looked up at the beaming faces of the Potters.
“This is too much,” he stuttered.
“Stop being so bloody humble,” James chided glibly.
“I…” he started, but somehow the rest of the sentence disappeared. When James had told his parents that he wanted Sirius to really be indulged for his 17th, they had really taken off with the idea, wanting to spoil Sirius as if he was their own son.
“Thanks,” he finally mumbled.
“You going to try it out or just stare at it?” Ignatius asked.
Sirius was still gazing absently down at the broomstick in his hands, unable to believe that it was really there, “Erm, yeah,”
He stopped himself short of running over to Ignatius and Calista and groveling at their feet, instead turning to James who dragged him out of the house, Remus and Peter in tow.
The rest of Sirius’s birthday was spent lazily wheeling about in the sky (or in the case of James and Sirius: playing chicken at 100 feet in the air), all in all, it was by far the best birthday he could remember.
But the unfamiliar calm was to be interrupted less than a week later as James and Sirius were outside relaxing under a particularly old oak tree; an owl came swooping in, landing on a root near Sirius, he held out his leg and he took the letter, James paid the owl and it took off. He turned to Sirius who was reading the letter with a curious expression on his face.
“What is it?” James asked tentatively.
“Ah…my Uncle Alphard died,” he told him.
James racked his brain to think of who Uncle Alphard was, “Hang on, was he that old codger who was always telling you not to listen to your parents and inviting you to muggle fairs and stuff?"
“Yeah, that’s him, bit of a white sheep in the Black family, really, good guy, he and Andromeda were the only family I ever really liked…I haven’t seen him in ages though,” he said in a voice that betrayed no remorse, just general sadness, he had liked Uncle Alphard, there had been times when he had been rescued from the dungeons of his home but his slightly quirky uncle, it was him in the first place who had taught him that being a Black had nothing to do with blood and everything to do lies.
“How are you feeling?” James asked nervously.
“Bloody shocked, he was only 112 after all.” James let out a nervous laugh and Sirius sighed, “Well, I guess I’m not as upset as I should be, I mean, it’s not as if we were that close, but still, he was one of the only sane Blacks left, just me and Andromeda now,” he finished wistfully, “Funeral’s tomorrow, I’d better go.” He cringed at the thought of a another confrontation with his parents.
“I’ll come with you,” James said briskly, “Maybe we should invite Andromeda, Ted and Nymphie ‘round for afterwards, you can mourn the loss of a rare species,” he was trying to lighten the mood, seeing the pensive look now knitted on Sirius’s face.
“Yeah,” Sirius got up, brushing away the grass that had collected on his clothes and he stalked away silently, leaving James absolutely mystified.
Sirius went up to his room, well, not his room, the Potter’s guestroom, aesthetic and plain, rigidly traditional…nothing like his room at Grimmauld Place had been, he sat, staring blankly at the wall, not moving for over an hour, trying to figure out what he was feeling but his thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on his door.
“Padfoot?” called James softly, his hand resting on the doorknob.
“Come in,” he said resignedly.
James shuffled in, closing the door behind him, “Just came to see if you were still alive.”
Sirius withdrew from his wall gazing and looked at James: it was clear that that was not the reason he had come up here. He came down to sit on the bed next to Sirius.
Sirius regarded him with a slight smile, “Still kicking,” he said softly.
James gave him a kind of grimace that might have been a smile if he remembered what they looked like, “You going to tell me?” he asked brazenly.
He sighed, back to staring at that fascinating spot on the wall, “Been thinking…” he started, cutting off while he tried to organise those thoughts, “been thinking about Uncle Alphard, I guess, been thinking that if it wasn’t for him, I might’ve ended up like Regulus. I was just a kid, you know, the only people I’d ever socialized with up until Hogwarts were family and family friends…all of them thinking the same thing, and I started to think like that too,” he laughed darkly, “If it wasn’t for him I might have already joined Voldemort’s little group, you and me…” he trailed off, “I didn’t love him, or anything like that, I barely knew him, but he was the most important person in my life and I never really knew it.” he finished with a sigh, “Guess he just made me think.”
James nodded, understanding now, “You can pay him a final respect tomorrow, I think it would have been enough to know that he got to you, Sirius, that he saved you from…them,”
“Yeah,” he answered monotonously.
“You are not your family, you were always different Sirius, always smarter than that, look at Reg…”
“Yeah,” he drawled, James looked unconvinced, “You’re right James, I guess I’m just in an introspective mood…death makes me think.”
“It makes us all think,” James said softly.
“Yeah,” Sirius whispered, they sat there silently for awhile, bending thoughts around their tired minds, “You don’t have to stay here, you know, I’m not going to go all suicidal or anything…just on the rare occasion when I do actually think, I need as little distraction as possible,”
“I’m worried you might go catatonic,”
“My mind’s already in a permanent vegetative state, Prongs, I can’t do it much more damage,” Sirius reminded him.
“Got me there.” James sighed then stood up briskly, adjusting his glasses, “Dinner’s in half an hour, I’ll tell mum and dad about the funeral, okay?”
James hesitated at the door, hand gripping the handle, he looked as if he might say something more, but thought better of it and he left.
Sirius threw himself onto his back, closing his eyes. Images whisked past in his mind: memories of his childhood, nothing particular, just flashes of times when he had felt alone or scared or angry…which was most of his childhood. He remembered holding his brother’s because Regulus was too afraid to walk past the mounted heads of their former house elves, remembering how their father had seen that kind of affection as a weakness and beat Regulus in front of him: a punishment for them all. He cringed as the memory of his hands pummeling his brother’s face resurfaced. His brother hadn’t been so different from him, only 3 years younger, not a bad kid, the difference was that Regulus had believed all the crap that their parents had spouted…but then again, so had he…and in the end, it wasn’t that Sirius was better or more powerful or smarter than his family, he had been lucky, that was all. Lucky to have met Uncle Alphard, to have listened to him.
Sirius groaned audibly, turning on his side. There was a time when he remembered loving his family, or at least feeling for them, curled up on his mother’s lap as a child, she would whisper things to him about pollution and filth and he didn’t care what she was saying because she was his mother and he was just a kid.
The sound of Calista’s voice calling for dinner takes him from his thoughts, thankfully and he can perhaps stave off remorse until tomorrow, when he is faced with them, faced with a family who bore him but rejected him. He didn’t doubt that they would come, somewhere in their twisted version of honour they would see fit to come to Uncle Alphard’s funeral…even if just to scorn him.
Clad in black, as apt and ironic as it was, Sirius and James walked solemnly towards the cemetery. Sirius had opted to wear muggle clothes, knowing that it would earn him many a disdainful stare from his family, James had complied with Sirius, knowing that it would really get them going.
The ceremony was benign enough, stark, cold words spoken by stark, cold people about a man who had more life in him dead than most of the people standing here today. His mother, father and brother caught sight of him and immediately exhibited their distaste, scowling at him then affecting a manner as if to pretend that he wasn’t there, he was used to this tactic.
Afterwards the two of them were walking out of the cemetery but were stopped by someone calling out Sirius’s name; “Hello Sirius,” Andromeda smiled, wrapping him up in a hug, “You too James,” she gave him a brief hug as well.
“We didn’t see you during the ceremony,” a mild looking man holding a small girl’s hand said.
“Hello Ted,” said Sirius, shaking his hand, “We kept up the back, didn’t want to cause to much of a scene,” he nodded, indicating his family who were standing about talking with the Malfoys, occasionally raring their heads to glare at them. “Hello Nymphadora,” he said to the small girl clinging to her father, she poked her tongue out at him and he beamed down at her.
“Oh yes, have you heard? My dear sister Narcissa is going to be married to Lucius Malfoy,”
James and Sirius raised their eyebrows, “Bit old for her isn’t he?” Sirius observed.
“I hardly think that that’s what drove the marriage,” she grumbled.
“Yes, keep it young and in the family or so the saying goes, the more toes on each foot the better,” Sirius said sarcastically.
“We would have seen you married this year if you hadn’t made the most intelligent decision of your life,” she said, grinning at him, “Couldn’t have imagined you and that Parkinson girl,”
“Think of the children!” Ted joked lightly, Sirius and James screwed up their faces.
“Well, you and me both, cousin, I took your lead and decided I’d had enough,”
“I didn’t decide anything, I just fell in love,” she said airily, grasping Ted’s hand.
Sirius rolled his eyes. He knelt down on the ground, “So, Nymphadora,” he paused and she growled at him, “What have you been up to?”
“Nothing,” she replied stubbornly, still glaring at him for using her given name.
“Nothing? That must be dull,” he teased, “Nothing at all? You hear that Prongs? Her life must be very boring,”
“I reckon we might have to remedy that Padfoot,” James said with a cocky wink.
Sirius grabbed her by the hands and swung her around, muttering a levitation charm, Nymphadora giggled as she was spun around in the air, after he had finished he swung her up on his shoulders, James laughed at the affectionate display and from his pocket produced a bar of Honeydukes chocolate.
Nymphadora beamed at him, and indicated that she wanted to get down by pulling Sirius’s hair.
“James, would you mind taking Nymphadora for a little walk, we need to discuss something with Sirius,” Andromeda asked him, with a very meaningful glance.
“Sure,” he beamed, taking Nymphadora’s hand and walking over to a bench. Sirius could hear her chattering about James’s hair and asking if she could borrow his glasses. He looked back to Ted and Andromeda who were looking at him very seriously.
“What?” he asked cautiously.
“Well, first of all, we just wanted to see how you were going…”
“I’m good,” Sirius said quickly, “No really, I’m good, better than I have been in my entire life.”
They smiled at him furtively, “That’s good then, the other matter we wanted to discuss was Uncle Alphard’s will…you and I have inherited his entire estate, and it’s not a small sum either Sirius, he’s left you enough to buy your own bloody island if you wanted,”
Sirius gaped at this revelation, “Er…okay,” he managed.
“All you have to do is take yourself down to Gringott’s with this slip of parchment, and it’s all yours,”
“Uh…thanks,” Sirius said blankly, taking the paper.
Andromeda and Ted shared a look, “Use it wisely, Sirius, I wouldn’t be expecting any support in the future from your parents,”
Sirius’s face was slack and expressionless, his mouth gaping open, his usually talented smart mouth seemingly gone on holiday and he couldn’t make out coherent words.
Andromeda petted him on the shoulder and grinned, “You’re a big boy now, Sirius, be careful with it, but go out and blow some galleons on useless things, you’ve earned it,”
She brought him in for a hug, and he murmured “Thanks,” in her ear before the three of them went to find James and Nymphadora. The three of them couldn’t hold back a laugh when they saw James staring horrified as the young girl’s hair changed shape, colour and texture, finally affecting the appearance of James’s own tousled black mop.
“Nymphadora, honey! No, not in public, remember? We do not transform in public!” Andromeda admonished, though she was still chuckling at the look on James’s face.
“Say goodbye to James and Sirius, Nymphie,” Ted was saying as the little girl’s hair fell back into its dark brown state and she beamed up at James.
“Bye James,” she said, clutching him around the waist, he bent over slightly to hug her back, she ran to Sirius now, he swept her up from the ground, cradling her in his arms and spinning her around, “Bye Princess,” he said affectionately and she giggled madly, throwing her little hands around his neck and giving him a kiss on the cheek, “See you soon, okay?”
He released her from his grip and set her down on the ground where she rushed into her father’s waiting arms, “See you, Sirius, James,” Ted said, managing to free his arm to shake their hands.
Andromeda gave them both a final hug before turning to take her husbands free hand and walking off with her family. Sirius smiled furtively after them.
“Ready to go?” James asked after a moment of silence.
“Yeah.” Sirius felt happy, an odd thing to feel after a funeral, but all the same, he appreciated it.
The two of them started towards the Fireplace that would take them home.
“What did they want to talk to you about?” James asked conversationally.
“Oh,” Sirius said, remembering the inheritance, “Uncle Alphard left me a small fortune in his will,” he said vaguely.
James raised an eyebrow, “How much of a small fortune?”
“Zonko’s is going to have to restock,”
Sirius gave him a broad smile and then stepped into the fireplace, disappearing in a flash of green flame. James stood stationary for a moment, mulling over what had been said and what that would mean and then he too stepped into the fireplace.
“What are you going to do?” James said immediately as he stepped out of the dying flame.
“Don’t know,” Sirius answered honestly.
“James, Sirius? Is that you?” Calista called out from her place in the dining room.
“Yeah,” James answered loudly and Calista came in, her hands nervously twitching, itching to suffocate Sirius with yet another maternal hug.
Instead she simply asked, “How was it?”
“It was a funeral, Cally, nothing much to say about it,” Sirius said shortly.
“But Padfoot has some rather interesting news to share with you,” James added helpfully.
Calista looked benignly curious, “What is it Sirius?”
He raked a hand through his hair, “It’s nothing, nothing, just, ah…Uncle Alphard left me a fair amount of Galleons in his will,” he said quickly.
“That’s wonderful!” Calista exclaimed, “He was a good man,”
“Yeah,” he admitted, “I’ve got to take this slip of parchment down to Gringotts tomorrow, and Bob’s your uncle…well, Alphard is. Was.” He shrugged. “What’s for eating?” he said, grinning devilishly at the look of incredulity on Calista’s and James’s faces.
A/N:- Howdy folks, thanks to all that have reviewed and read it, I haven't had a bad review yet and that just makes a girl feel special :) I want to prmose that the next 4 or so chapters will really start to work the James and Lily relationship and I'll start to flesh her character out a bit more...she's been a bit of a wallflower (no pun intended) so far, so I'll fix that soon. Erm, random notes for this chapter: Tonks is about 3 or 4 and Andromeda is roughly 25...more of them later hopefully. Oh and I didn't want to have a big Black family stand off...maybe later ;)
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