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Irresistible Chemistry by Snapegirl
Chapter 76 : Sorrow and Truth
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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76

Sorrow and Truth

*This is a very emotional and sad chapter—you have been warned! Get a box of Kleenex!*

The Black brothers' grieving time was interrupted by a stern voice behind them shouting, "Freeze! Nobody move or else you go nighty-nighty."

Sirius turned around and saw one of his classmates from the Academy pointing a wand at him. "Stand down, Alvarez. It's just me and my kid brother. All the dark wizards have been subdued or killed. Get a medic team here, Auror Potter is down and . . . my father was . . . killed in the line of duty."

But his colleague didn't take his wand off him, just stared at him suspiciously. "Stand up and move away from the Death Eater, Black. He's got you under an Imperius Curse, I can tell," said the other, he was a tall good-looking man of Hispanic ancestry.

"What?" Sirius exploded. "He's my brother, you jackass! He's not a Death Eater, he's a spy working for the Order."

"Don't make me Stun you, Black. You'll say anything to defend him." Alvarez ordered. "Do as I say."

Sirius gritted his teeth and obeyed. "Alvarez, you tight ass, don't you think if I were under Imperio, I'd be dueling you instead of talking, while my 'master' got away? Merlin's arse, use your head! Where's your backup, anyway? Where's that medic team?"

"On its way. I already pressed my button," Alvarez said sharply. He indicated a stud on his right sleeve with the green wand and bone emblem of St. Mungos. When activated the button sent an emergency signal to the Auror Medical Corps, which they could then follow back to the scene of the accident. "My backup's none of your business." He spun and pointed his wand at Regulus, chanting a binding spell. Ropes shot out and bound Regulus like a trussed pig at a Sunday picnic roast. "I'm bringing you in, Death Eater!"

Sirius bristled, but before he could say anything, another Auror arrived. It was veteran Edgar Bones. "Everything under control here, Alvarez?"

"No, it's not!" Sirius snapped before Alvarez could open his mouth. "Ed, he's trying to arrest my brother! He thinks he's a Death Eater, but he's really a spy for the Order. This muttonhead thinks I'm under the Imperius, but I swear I'm not. My father . . . he died fighting the Death Eaters, but Reg tried his best to save him. I came too late and poor James is out cold from a stunner. Tell him to let Reg go, dammit!"

Edgar observed the situation, noting the sly smirk on Alvarez' face, he knew the other Auror had never liked Sirius, it would be a feather in his cap for him to bring in what appeared to be Sirius' dark brother. He looked at Regulus, lying on the ground, eyes red-rimmed from tears, but otherwise calm. Kid sure as hell didn't look like one of those bloody fanatics. Still, best not to take chances.

"Sorry, Sirius. I have to bring him in, he's a suspect. Ministry policy. I know he's your brother, but it looks pretty suspicious with him wearing that robe and all."

"But I can vouch for him, Ed!"

"Your word's not enough, mate," Edgar shook his head sadly. He looked at Regulus. "Do you have anyone else who can vouch for you?"

"Albus Dumbledore."

"Good, I'll owl him."

"Forget that, Ed. I'll go drag him down to headquarters myself by his bloody beard," Sirius growled. "Would you please . . . bring back my dad's body?" his voice broke on that last.

"Sure, pal. I'm sorry for your loss. He was a great Auror, one of our best. He'll be missed." Edgar said sincerely.

"Thanks," Sirius said, wiping his eyes. "Hang in there, Reg. I'll have you out before you can say Amortentia. Where are you putting him?"

"Ministry holding cells," replied Edgar. "Only convicted criminals go to Azkaban, remember?"

"Right. I'll see you around." Then Sirius DisApparated.

Edgar, who was stocky with dark hair and blue eyes, spoke to his partner. "Alvarez, go and see how Potter is, and put a sheet over Orion. I'll take care of young Mr. Black here."

"Be careful, the scum's dangerous, Ed." Alvarez warned as he went over to kneel beside James.

Edgar knelt beside Regulus with a pair of charmed handcuffs. He charmed off the ropes and slid the handcuffs on Regulus' wrists. "You going to behave?"

"Yes, sir."

"All right, get up. I'm inclined to believe your brother's story. But I still have to follow protocol. You understand, right?"

"Yes."

"Good, no hard feelings." He prodded Reg to his feet. "Besides, if you were really one of them, Orion would come back from the dead and kick your ass halfway to China."

"Too true, Mr. Bones." Regulus said, blinking back tears as he thought of Orion. He felt numb inside and he couldn't really believe Orion was gone. But his blood was all over Regulus' hands and robe. Shuddering, he tucked his hands in his pockets, he hoped they had a loo in the jail cell.

The medic team arrived and put James on a stretcher and took him to St. Mungos. Meanwhile, Edgar frisked Regulus and confiscated his wand. The last sight Regulus had of his father was of him covered in a black drape. Then he was Apparated to the Ministry and locked in a holding cell.

As soon as Edgar's footsteps had faded down the hall, Regulus glanced about the cell, which was starkly furnished. It had a sink, toilet, and a bunk with white regulation sheets, pillow, and blanket. Everything was bolted down. There was a curtain around the toilet and sink, with a small towel folded atop it and some soap. Regulus went and scrubbed his hands over and over until they were clean. He dried them carefully on the towel and went back and sat on the bunk. His mind was filled with images of Orion, they blurred and swam together. Orion helping him with homework, Orion showing him how to ride a broom, comforting him after falling down and scraping his knees, sitting on Orion's lap and listening to a story, Orion demonstrating a Defense spell to him and Severus, Orion scolding when he forgot to tell him where he was going, standing in the corner after touching his father's spellbook with chocolate-smeared hands (he was four then), being lifted on his father's shoulders at a Quidditch game, Orion hugging him after a nightmare, Orion telling him how proud he was when he received his Hogwarts letter. And the last . . . holding Orion's dying body in his arms and trying to save his life . . .Regulus squeezed his eyes shut. But the blood drenched memory returned and he curled up on his side and sobbed helplessly.

"Sorry, Dad . . . I'm sorry . . . I couldn't help you . . . I was too late . . . I wanted you to see your first grandchild and now . . ." he hoped Cindy was all right, and hoped they didn't throw him in Azkaban, after all he did bear the Mark. If Orion had been there, he wouldn't have worried. Orion would have made sure he was released. Now, who knew what would happen? Would Dumbledore vouch for his spy? Or would he pretend Regulus was nothing to him?

"I miss you, Dad," he whispered to the cold dark stones. Tears dribbled down his face and soon he fell into an exhausted sleep upon a damp pillow, waiting for a voice he would never hear again.

Page~*~*~*~Break

Hogwarts

Headmaster's office:

Dumbledore was just going over some correspondence from the Board of Governors, who issued him an invitation to attend their annual end of the year gala, when Sirius burst into his office like the Charge of the Light Brigade. "Why, Sirius, how nice to see you again, my boy! What brings you here?"

"Shelve the protocol, Dumbledore!" Sirius growled. "You have to go down to the Auror Department and get Regulus out of jail. They think he's a Death Eater, but you and I know he isn't. He's your bloody spy, now go get him released! Before I leak it to the press that you tricked fourteen year old kids into doing your dirty work, you ruddy bastard!"

Dumbledore looked shellshocked. "How do you know that?"

"Regulus confessed it to my father as he lay dying. He was killed trying to defend some Muggleborn nursery school kids, and Regulus was there, pretending to fight for the opposite side while trying to help James and my dad. I was there too, but not in time to save my father."

Dumbledore's face fell. "I'm truly sorry about Orion, Sirius. He was a fine man . . ."

"Yeah, yeah, tell it to my mother at the funeral. Right now you need to get your arse in gear old man, and get my brother out of the clink. They wouldn't believe me when I told them he was innocent. Go and do it. Now!"

"No need to be hasty, Sirius." Dumbledore soothed, rising.

"Yes there is! Reg doesn't belong there, and you owe it to him, for making him into your puppet in the first place. How could you do such a thing? He was a kid, damn you!"

"Sirius, this war takes its toll on everyone. Believe me when I say I had no choice."

"That's a bunch of bullshit, and you know it! They didn't use kids as spies during Grindelwald's takeover. I can't . . . never mind! Just go and get him out, okay? I'll be waiting in the detention center. Oh, and if you don't want anybody finding out about your precious spy, you might want to Obliviate Aurors Alvarez and Bones."

"Edgar is a member of the Order, he will keep his silence. I'll take care of the other one." Albus said. "Let us Floo to the Ministry."

Sirius paced agitatedly for five minutes before forcing himself to sit down. When Regulus came out from the corridor leading to the cells, looking drawn and exhausted, Sirius put an arm about him and murmured, "It's going to be all right, kid. I won't let anyone lock you up again."

Regulus hugged him. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Sirius."

Dumbledore had followed them, and said, "Why don't you take Regulus home, Sirius? I just need to fill out a form here."

"Will do, sir," Sirius answered, but he wouldn't be taking the Headmaster's advice. He quietly led Regulus up to the lift to the main floor of the Ministry. "Reg, you probably should be home, the daft bugger was right, but I need to check up on James. Petunia's probably frantic and Annie is hopefully helping her."

"What about Mum? Has anyone told her yet?"

"Maybe. Scrimgeour and King usually get that duty. If they have . . . she'll be at the hospital morgue. We can see her after I make sure James is all right and Tuney's not going into early labor."

"Yeah. And I have to tell Sev. I wasn't the only one, Sirius," Regulus whispered in his brother's ear. He knew he was breaking his oath by telling Sirius all of it, but he didn't give a damn. He was tired of keeping secrets from his family. It was time to tell the truth. "Sev was another. He became one to protect me."

Sirius halted on their way to the fireplace leading to the hospital. "Snape? But he . . . I always thought . . ."

"He'd go dark? Surprise, big brother. Things aren't always the way they seem. And there's one more in our little group, but I'll tell you the rest later."

They stepped into the green flames, Sirius still shocked by what had just been revealed.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

When the Blacks located James' room, they found both Petunia and Annie already there, sitting at the bedside of a sleeping Auror Potter. Petunia was holding her husband's hand and dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief.

Annie was sitting beside Petunia, patting her shoulder and saying quietly, "Tuney, he's going to be fine, you heard the Healer. He just needs to wake up gradually from the Stunning spell. It's always best to let them do that, this way it's not such a shock to their systems."

"I know, Annie, it's just when I saw them bring him in, I thought he might be . . . dead like poor Orion," Petunia sniffled, wiping away more tears from her eyes.

"News travels fast, doesn't it?" Sirius spoke up as they entered the room. "How is he, Tuney?"

"Sirius!" Petunia tried to get up, but her body didn't do quickly any longer. "He's going to be fine. And I should be asking you that. I'm so sorry about your dad." She moved to embrace him. "James will be so upset when he hears . . ."

"I know. But thank Merlin he's going to be okay," Sirius hugged her back, tearing up a little.

Annie had risen and was hugging Regulus and whispering her own condolences. "You mustn't blame yourself, Reg. He wouldn't want that. It was time and chance, hun."

"It was a set up, Annie," Regulus said hoarsely. "And I didn't warn him in time."

"You did all you could."

Regulus allowed her to hold him, still feeling the bitter sting of guilt. Yes, I did all I could, but it wasn't enough.

"When did they say he would wake up?" Sirius asked Petunia.

"A few hours," she said. "I haven't even told Charles or Liana yet. James wouldn't want me to upset them, since he's going to be fine."

"And you, Big Mama? How are you holding up?"

"About as well as can be expected. The baby's sleeping right now, because otherwise he'd be kicking me to pieces." She patted her taut belly.

"He? It's a boy then?"

"I don't know for sure. But I hope so. James needs a son."

"Yeah, a son would be good for him. He could teach the kid all his pranks and then some," Sirius chuckled.

"Over my dead body!" Petunia snorted. "No son of mine is going to be a troublemaker at school, Sirius Black. Or else he'll be going to class with a sore behind. And so will the two of you."

Sirius smirked. "Ah, Tuney, James and I are a little old to have our bums tanned."

"How about kicked? Lily knows a wonderful spell called Ass Kicker, it conjures a size 13 army boot to kick a man right where his brains are. I'm sure she would love to cast it once she finds out you're teaching her nephew to become a . . . Marauder."

Sirius looked horrified. "You wouldn't! That's cruel and unusual punishment."

"So is teaching my son to become a juvenile delinquent."

"But . . . it's tradition for the son of a Marauder . . ."

"Traditions change."

"What does James say about it?"

"My husband is a very smart man," Petunia answered. "All he said was 'yes, dear'."

Sirius chuckled, despite the sadness within him. "Petunia, you're a spitfire all right. And James is lucky to have you. Just like I'm lucky to have Annie. You'll keep us on the straight and narrow."

"Well, someone has to, love," Annie said, coming and putting her arms about her tall husband. "Oh, Siri! I was so scared . . . I was waiting to hear if you had been there too . . . if you were hurt . . . and then they said Orion had fallen in the line of duty . . .and I felt as if the bottom had fallen out of the world. He was like my father, he never judged me, just accepted me, and my own never did . . .I loved him, Sirius . . ." She buried her face in his shirt, crying softly.

Sirius held and rocked her gently. "I know, sweetheart. He loved you like a daughter. You and Cindy both. He loved me . . . even when I didn't deserve it." Silent tears tracked down his face.

"Of course he did, you were his son," Annie sniffled.

"Not a very good one, most of the time," Sirius declared honestly.

Regulus watched the couple, his heart aching, and wished for Cindy to be there, but she was still at work. He also wished Severus and Lily were there, he needed them desperately. He looked up at Petunia. "Is there an owl post somewhere in here? I need to tell Severus about my dad . . ."

"I've already sent an owl to Lily and I'm sure she's told Severus by now," Petunia said softly.

"And Cindy?"

"Yes."

"Thank you." He sighed. "Siri, we need to find Mum. If the Aurors already told her . . . she'll need us."

Sirius nodded. "Right. Let's go down to the morgue. That's where she'd be, right? Identifying the body?"

"And signing the death certificate," Annie added. "I know where it is."

She led the brothers towards the exit, calling over her shoulder, "Tuney, I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Take your time. I'll be here," Petunia replied. She felt so bad for the Blacks. They would need every scrap of courage they possessed to get through this. Inwardly she cursed the Death Eaters to blackest pits of hell.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Walburga Cassiopeia Black stood ramrod straight next to the gurney that held her husband. There was a sheet over Orion's face, but every so often she would take it off to peer at her husband's face. Orion looked peaceful, as if he had passed away in his sleep rather than battle. She knew both her sons had been with him while he passed, but then she had heard awful rumors that Regulus had been arrested for being a Death Eater sympathizer. It was so ridiculous that she would have laughed if it hadn't been for the fact that all the laughter inside of her was dead, eclipsed by a great pulsing wave of sorrow.

She kept staring at the body, trying to convince herself this was real, that Orion was really gone. It hardly seemed possible. He had bid her goodbye in the morning as always, and promised to be back for supper. For over twenty years he had said that, and she had expected him to say it for twenty more at least. Only now he never would. Now, after twenty-five years of marriage, she would sleep alone, and wait no more to hear the Floo and his familiar footsteps upon the hearth. She pressed a hand to her heart and whispered, "Orion, why? Why did you leave me?"

Beyond her, she could hear the murmurs of Eileen, Severus, and Lily, who had come to offer condolences in her hour of need. She had allowed Eileen to hold her while she wept a little, but then had drawn away. Her sorrow was too deep for mere tears to assuage. Orion and she had been together since childhood, and he had shared everything with her, and vice versa. And now it was ended. But still, a part of her could not accept, and she kept peering down at him, willing him to jump off the gurney and hug her. What would she do, now that he was no longer there? How would she live, without her better half? More importantly, why would she live, in a world without Orion?

"Mum?" Sirius called hesitantly from behind her.

She turned and saw her eldest, who resembled his father when he was younger, standing there, his shoulders slumped, his face all stiff, an expression he wore when he was trying not to cry. She was very familiar with that expression, he had worn it many times after a switching. But she knew one thing that always broke that reserve. She walked forward and drew him into her arms.

She felt him struggle to regain his composure, until she whispered, "My stubborn proud son. Go ahead and grieve for your father. We all do."

Sirius put his head on her shoulder then and wept, the same as he had done as a little boy. Then as now, she held him close, and whispered soothing words in his ear.

Regulus hesitated a brief moment when he saw his mother with Sirius. He wasn't sure if he should interrupt them. He felt lonely and left out, as he had when he was a boy and Sirius got all the attention. Until Eileen touched his shoulder and said, "Go on, Reg. She can hold both of you, she's a mother." And she gave him a slight push. Then she turned to put her arm around Severus, who was also weeping, for Orion had been more of a father to him than Tobias ever had.

Suddenly Regulus found himself walking across the room and throwing his arms about his mother and brother. "Mum, I'm so sorry . . ."

Walburga disentangled her right arm and put it around Regulus. "Shh, child, you have nothing to be sorry for." It had been a long time since she had held both her sons on her lap, and while they were too big to fit there, she found she still was able to hold them against her and comfort them. Her poor boys! She stroked their hair and rocked them, letting them cry until they were spent. She knew then why she lived-her children needed her. And that was enough.

Page~*~*~*~Break

After their initial grief was spent, the family and friends retired to the room next door, which was cheerfully appointed with brocade couches, pillows, and a table set with a tea service and a small luncheon for anyone who felt like eating. They were joined by Cindy, Remus, James, and Petunia. Walburga sat at the head of the table, sipping some tea with a shot of firewhiskey in it.

James, while pale, was recovered from the Stunning Hex, and he came straight over to Walburga and took her hand, saying with a catch in his throat, "Lady Black, may I offer my sincere condolences on your loss? I . . . I wish I had been able to save him . . . but there were so many and I didn't see until it was too late . . ." He sniffed sharply, tears shimmering in his eyes. He felt so damn guilty.

Walburga stood up and hugged him. "James Potter, you foolish boy! You have nothing to feel guilty over, Orion would be the first to tell you that. It's war, and soldiers die in battle. Even the best ones. Orion considered it his duty to keep innocents and youngsters safe. Especially young Aurors like you. He once said to me you had the makings of a fine Auror . . . once you learned to think." She sat down again.

"He did? I . . . never knew that. He was always on me to use my head. Potter, he used to say, when you can use your brain for something besides target practice, I'll let you patrol on your own. Until then, you stay right here and try and learn something from this old campaigner."

"And did you?"

"I tried really hard, ma'am. He was the best instructor on the force. Even if he did have to rap some sense into my head," James admitted, wiping a hand across his face.

Walburga frowned. "Use a handkerchief, James." She handed him one, shaking her head slightly. Boys! They were all the same. She waved him off to sit down and looked down the table.

Cindy was being hugged and comforted by Regulus, her face was all blotchy from crying. Yet another she would have to comfort later on, the Black matriarch thought wearily. Orion, I loved you dearly, but see what you've caused by leaving so soon? She thought exasperatedly. She clapped her hands and a hospital elf appeared. "Please bring in a large pot of Soothing Lemon and Honey tea," she ordered. That would help a bit.

The elf bowed and disappeared with a pop. Seconds later, the requested pot of tea was on the table. Walburga poured a cup and handed it to Sirius. "Give this to Cynthia. She needs to calm down."

Sirius passed the cup to Regulus, who coaxed his wife to drink some.

When Regulus looked up, he found his mother's sharp gaze on him. He flinched a bit, her gaze still had the power to dissect him and read his mind, just as she had when he was a boy trying to hide some mischief. "Something the matter, Mum? I mean, besides . . ."

Walburga snorted. "Would you care to explain the rumor I've been hearing about you being arrested, Regulus?"

Regulus swallowed softly and glanced at Sirius before replying, "It wasn't a rumor. I was arrested. The Aurors thought I was a Death Eater."

"And why, pray tell, would they think that?"

"Because I looked the part," Regulus answered. He felt Cindy squeeze his hand in encouragement, she knew how tough this was for him. He then looked over at Severus, who met his eyes and nodded once.

"What do you mean, Regulus?"

"I was wearing a charcoal gray robe, like them. But what the Aurors didn't know was that I wasn't a Death Eater, even though I attended the meetings. I was a spy."

"A spy? For whom?"

"The Order of the Phoenix."

Walburga's eyes narrowed. "Why did you never tell us? Did you think we wouldn't understand?"

"Yes, because . . . you see . . . I've been a spy for years, Mum. Ever since—"

"—you finished school?" she guessed.

"Mum, he's been Dumbledore's spy since he was fourteen!" Sirius burst out, unable to contain himself any longer. "The bloody bastard recruited him when he was kid!"

Walburga paled. "Is this true, Reg?"

"Yes. And it's why I never told you or Dad before. Dumbledore swore us all to silence when he recruited us to be his spies. I was afraid you'd disown me if you knew what I was."

"Me, disown my son? Not in this world or the next." Walburga shook her head vehemently. "You said . . . us. There were others he recruited?"

"Yes," Severus replied. "In the beginning, it was Regulus and me, because I insisted on joining to watch his back. Later, Lily joined us as well."

There were shocked gasps from almost everyone. Sirius cried, "Lily? Lily Evans?"

"The same. Only I'm not Evans anymore, Sirius." Zoey answered. She lowered her Glamours. "I'm Lily Snape."

Sirius nearly fell over. "Bloody hell? But you're Zoey! Or is that your real name and you're pretending to be Lily?"

"No, I'm Lily, using Zoey as an alias. It's been that way since I was fifteen and had a vision of the Dark Lord's downfall. It was a true vision, but even before I knew that, Dumbledore had contracted Sev and Reg."

Regulus told them about the first meeting of the Iron Masks at Malfoy Manor and the drink he had been forced to consume. He told about Dumbledore convincing them to become spies and making them promise not to tell anyone, even their families. The only exceptions were Petunia and Cindy.

"The Malfoys allowed this . . . this initiation ceremony?" Walburga sputtered. "And here I thought they were friends, that my son would be safe there, and instead they are traitors! What else?"

"We . . . had to take the Mark, Sev and I, so they would think we belonged," Regulus told her solemnly.

Walburga and Eileen both gasped angrily. Walburga abruptly stood, mayhem blazing in her eyes. "That does it. I'm killing that scheming old bastard."

"And I'm going to help you," Eileen hissed, also rising. Her wand was in her hand, and wisps of power were slowly curling like smoke through the air. "How dare that twinkling old fart throw Severus and Lily in harm's way?"

Severus grabbed her arm. "Mum, we agreed to work with him."

"You were a fifteen year old boy, desperate to help your best friend, Severus! He coerced you!" she snapped. "You could have hardly known what you were getting into."

"But the prophecy, Eileen . . . it referred to us," Lily began.

"True or not, he could have waited for you to finish school before placing such a terrible burden upon you," Walburga cried, seething. "You were children, not soldiers!" The cups and saucers on the table began to tremble. "I'm going to roast his balls over a slow fire."

"Mum!" both her sons cried, staring at her.

"What? Don't you think I can? Dumbledore's not as all powerful as you think. Just watch me," she hissed. She turned and looked as if she were about to storm out of the room.

"How long do you want to wait before we kill him, Walla?" Eileen asked in a deadly soft tone. "He should be made to suffer for what he's done."

"Yes," Walburga declared chillingly. "Shall we go?"

"NO!" cried all of their sons and Lily, moving to block the exit.

"Children, don't make me hex you," Eileen glowered at them with the full displeasure of a War Mage.

They all flinched, but held their ground.

"Mum, you can't kill the Headmaster, you'll end up in Azkaban," Regulus pointed out.

"At least he'll be in hell first." Walburga shot back.

"But Mum, then you'll miss Dad's funeral," Sirius reminded her. "You don't want that."

Walburga hesitated.

Severus spoke up then. "Not only that, Mum, but didn't you always tell me revenge is a dish best served cold? That the best revenge is living well?"

"And if you kill Dumbledore, you'll be a murderer," Lily added. "How will we explain to Jess why her mummy's gone?"

Eileen scowled. "I still want to kill him."

Walburga huffed. "So do I. But maybe they're right. We'll wait till after the funeral. Then we can get creative."

Their children were gazing at them in astonishment.

"Holy shit!" James whispered to Remus. "They're not kidding, Moony!"

Remus snorted. "You bet your ass they're not, Prongs. Hell hath no fury like a mother's wrath."

"If I were Dumbledore, I'd take a long trip out of the country. Or dig a hole to China."

"Wouldn't work. They'd hunt him down. And serves him right."

"Then he's doomed."

"Looks that way."

Severus and Lily took Eileen by the arms and gently escorted her back to her seat. Sirius and Regulus did the same with their mother.

Once the witches were settled, James stood up and said solemnly, "I owe you, Severus, and you, Regulus, an apology for believing you were dark wizards. For the longest time I misjudged you both. I thought I was brave, becoming an Auror, but you've taken courage to a whole new level, above and beyond anything any Gryffindor has ever accomplished. It's an honor to fight alongside you." He turned to Lily. "As for you, Lily, I never would have guessed you to be able to go undercover like you have. You are amazing, sister-in-law. But I'm glad I'm married to Petunia. I'd have had heart failure long ago if I had to wait up for you to come home after a meeting. How do you stand it, Severus?"

"I'm right there with her, Potter. How else would I manage it?"

"Better than I ever could, that's for sure," James said sincerely.

"That goes for me too." Sirius added. "I could never pull off what you three have. I don't have the subtlety. I wouldn't have lasted a day. If my dad were here now, he would say you deserve the Order of Merlin First Class for going above and beyond the call of duty."

"Here! Here!" Remus said, and applauded, followed by everyone else.

"Who else knows about you?" asked James curiously.

"No one except you in this room and Dumbledore," Lily answered. "And it has to remain a secret for now. So you should all swear on your wands to keep your silence until the war is over. Because if any of You-Know-Who's supporters should learn about us, we'll be dead."

"We told you because we trust you and you're our family," Regulus continued. "And in case something happens, you ought to know the truth."

"It never felt right, lying to you like that," Severus added. "We're sick of it."

"We'll keep your secret, Sev," Petunia told him.

They all swore on their wands.

Then they settled down to make arrangements for the funeral.

A/N: In case you're wondering, this chapter brought back memories of my mother's viewing, and I was crying all over my keyboard writing this.
 


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