Chapter 4 : Chapter 4: October-November 1981: The Dark Half of the Year
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October 31, 1981
Keacher was quite irritated as he moved through Grimmauld Place. There were far too many children in the house for his taste. Truthfully, any children were too many for him, but the number amassed on this late fall afternoon were simply unbearable for the old house-elf, who enjoyed order and quiet. He'd never say it out loud, but it surprised him how much his mistress was enjoying having all the little ones running amok today. She'd never been this happy when her own boys were small. Then again, Master Orion made life unbearable for every creature living in the house. Kreacher relished the beating free years he’d had since the master’s death. He enjoyed serving his mistress. He tolerated Master Sirius and his wife was growing on the old elf, even if it was her idea to have all these children here today.
Kreacher went about trying to stay ahead of the messes, but it was proving difficult. The house needed to be clean for The Society meeting here late tonight. Wiping the stair railing down, he grumbled at the jelly he had just found smeared on the banister. While he knew the children and their parents would all be leaving soon, it wouldn't come soon enough to bring comfort to the elf.
For the adults, today was a difficult day. When they'd met the grown up Harry and assisted him in defeating Voldemort, the Potters, Blacks, Longbottoms and Remus had discovered what made this such a dark day in his original timeline. The tragedies which struck the versions in themselves in that life had occurred on Halloween night, or within the chaotic days which followed. In that time, James, Lily and Anwen had been murdered, Frank and Alice were tortured into insanity, Sirius was sent to Azkaban, and Remus was alone. For all of them, it was nearly impossible to consider this future and what it did to little Harry. Yet, it was all which was on any of their minds. The knowledge had provided the adults the motivation to celebrate the lives they had, and how blessed their lives were.
It was also the reason Sirius and Anwen had suggested this dinner party and then their taking the children out for their Hallowe’en trick-or-treating in their residential Muggle neighborhood. They'd be away from the nosy looks and whispers of the general wizarding society, and be allowed to mark the day in their own way. Unfortunately, they all were quite ‘famous’, which made blending in with their children difficult. None wanted to subject their children in the media fish bowl they regularly found themselves in. Muggle London was far easier to blend into. When it was decided the Weasley children and newborn Luna Lovegood should be included, the Blacks little London home was too small, and the party was moved to Grimmauld Place. It had made for a good distraction for the day, helping to keep each of their individual minds off the horrors of what could have been.
Anwen was alone in the basement kitchen, magically removing the pumpkin seeds from the sticky, stringy innards of the pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds, all toasty and salted, were one of her favorite treats from the holiday. Perfect thing to go with dark chocolate and a cup of warmed cider.
"Oh, Anwen, I thought everyone else was outside still," Iris Lovegood remarked as she entered the room. "I was going to start the preparations for the Samhain ceremony tonight. You'll all be there, won't you?"
"We will," Anwen confirmed. "My Ma and Mrs. Evans are staying with all the boys at our house. I've cleaned up most of this mess. Just let me finish it and then the kitchen is all yours. The carved turnips are by the sink. Alice, Lily and I made sure we carved them. I think the symbols turned out well." The five points of the pentagram were represented by their elemental symbol. Iris looked over to them and gave a nod. She then turned back to look at the young witch, the distracted nature of her gaze reminded her of similar looks she’d seen on the faces of all the young adults today.
"Are you sure you're alright, dear?" the elder witch asked. "You young girls all look rather preoccupied today." Iris didn't know about who Harrison Parker truly was. Even told Molly and Arthur hadn’t learned the true identities of the couple who'd come to help eradicate the Dark Lord. All anyone outside of their immediate circle knew was Harrison and Regina Parker were acquaintances of Dumbledore's. If they'd kept the secret this long, Anwen wasn't going to share it now.
"Isn't that what I should be asking you? Luna is only what, two weeks old?"
"Almost three, actually. Xeno is so much help, it wasn't hard to get back into the swing of things," Iris explained.
"Well, she's a beautiful girl, and a very interesting magical signature for her age. I'm anxious to watch her grow up." The last of the orange slop from removed from the table and the seeds were set atop the cabinet to dry before roasting. "I'll see you later tonight." Anwen quickly added before slipping from the room, relieved she didn't have to come up with a reason for the sense of melancholy which permeated the group.
From the hall outside the kitchen Anwen Disapparated to the backyard of the Black family home. It was surprisingly warm for a late fall day, the temperature having reached twenty-two degrees Celsius this afternoon. The mothers were all well aware of how chilly it would get once the sun went down, so the children’s hallowe’en costumes were created to accommodate bulky underclothing and jackets. They also wanted some healthy food in the children’s stomachs before it was filled with treats, so they’d been fed meat pasties and milk as an early supper. The adults would sit down to dinner before going to the late night Society meeting. The men had taken the boys outside to allow them to burn off some of their nervous excitement before they’d be wrangled into their costumes.
There were many throughout the UK who thought the activity of trick-or-treating was a crass commercialization imported from America, and were disgusted by the practice. Wizarding families, especially pure-blood ones, hated the bastardization of their celebration of the end of the magical year. However, for Anwen and Lily, having grown up as Muggles, it was simply a night of fun and frivolity they’d enjoyed as children. It was something they wanted to share with their own little ones.
Looking over the chaos of the backyard, Anwen smiled. Sirius was changed into his dog persona, something he did frequently with the children, while James and Remus were attempting to steer the toddlers and keep them safe from the roughhousing the twins, Charlie and the dog were engaged in. Frank, Alice and Arthur were working on putting together the two infant pram purchased for Luna and Ginny. Molly had Ginny on her lap, napping. Xeno was studying the plants and muttering to baby Luna in his arms. Anwen sat down next to Lily, letting a quiet sigh escape her as she did.
“It’s been quite a bit harder than I thought it would be,” Lily confessed. “To know sometime, in a different universe, I was killed tonight with my dear Jamie.” Anwen always liked when Lily called her husband by his nickname, since none of the rest of them could ever get away with it. “He seemed to turn out okay, though, didn’t he? Even without a mother’s love, he was still a good man?” Anwen reached over and took her hand.
“He was an amazing man, Lily,” her friend comforted. “He did great things in his world and ours. You should be proud.” Lily never looked at her girlfriend, instead her eyes were trained on her husband, holding their fifteen month old son in his arms.
“It’s still hard to reconcile my sweet little baby will one day be the brave, selfless man we all knew. Sometimes it feels like Harry and Ginny were a dream, not people we were friends with.”
“It does,” Anwen conferred. “I miss Ginny. She was ... well, we understood each other in a way I appreciated.”
“What do you mean?” Lily asked, sounding slightly hurt.
“Lily, in her adolescence, Ginny had been assaulted, by Tom Riddle no less,” Anwen explained. Lily was shocked.
“How did I not know this? How did Tom assault her, he would have been an adult and Voldemort by then? What did he do to her?”
“I’m surprised she never told you, or Harry hadn’t at some point. She had Tom Riddle’s school diary. It was a horcrux by then and he was able to possess her. Somehow, this bit of him was able to torture her, assault her ...” Anwen stopped, not wanting to think too hard about it, for it reminded her of the attack on her two years ago. “Needless to say, I was able to talk about the situation with Ginny in a way I never could with you, or Eva or even Alice. Harry apparently was the one who saved her. It cemented her feelings for Harry, the boy she knew rather than Harry, the boy who lived.”
“I understand now. Well, that’s one change for those two then, huh?” Anwen struggled with what to say next. The friends had discussed the differences between the lives of the children they were raising and the ones in the timeline Harry and Ginny had left. Lily was resistant to even the idea of the man her little son would become might be very different than the version who’d come back in time to end Voldemort.
“Yes, and a good one,” Anwen vaguely agreed.
“You still think there will be more, don’t you?” Lily quietly asked. It was the first time Lily had initiated a conversation on the topic, at least with her girlfriend.
“Lily, in some ways, I don’t see how your little baby and the man we were friends with couldn’t help but be different people. That man had a horrific childhood. I don’t like being the same building with your sister and her husband. Grown Harry had to live with them for ten years. They made him their servant. Your little boy, he’s bound to be different from that change alone.” Lily turned and glared at her friend.
“You think he’s going to end up spoiled?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” Anwen backpedaled. “I’m saying growing up with a loving family is likely to make your son more self assured and confident in himself. Ginny had told me how often Harry second guessed his actions and how he was always looking for assurances if he was doing well. Lil, your son lives with praise and admiration for everything. It’s bound to make him different, but not in a bad way.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Lily conceded. “I just want him to be a good man.”
“I think that’s what we all want for a our children,” Anwen replied. “It’s up to us and how we raise them, and then when they’re ready, we’re going to let them go into the world and make their own decisions.”
“When did you get so philosophical on child-rearing?”
“When it hit me a few weeks ago how I haven’t been a child in a very long time, regardless of what my age is. It was also the same day I realized I needed to stop looking for my da’s approval. I don’t need it anymore,” she quietly explained.
“How your parents could be anything other than proud of you, I’ll never understand,” Lily remarked. Anwen shrugged, and then looked at her watch.
“I think it’s time to get these children dressed, what do you think?”
Putting the costumes onto the squirming infants and toddlers proved to be an interesting chore, even with the adults on an almost one-on-one level with the children. Sirius had begun to snigger at the costume Neville was wearing, but hastily stopped when his wife connected her heel with his foot rather forcefully. Anwen was still wearing the metal “U” shaped brace while working to build up the strength in her right leg. The metal was heavy enough to damage through his heavy riding boots.
“Ouch, that hurt,” he complained.
“Don’t you dare say whatever it was which was passing through your mind there. Augusta purchased the damned thing in Paris, and was insistent Neville wear it. Alice hates it, but well, you know her mother-in-law,” Anwen explained with an eye roll. “I think it’s ugly too. Thank goodness he’s not old enough to know he looks like a --”
“Wuss would be the right word here,” Sirius interrupted. Earning him another kick. Neville was dressed as Montague Knightly, the famous wizards chess player, only discernible as to his identity by the large chess knight embroidered onto the front of his velvet coverlet. The Elizabethan styled outfit came complete with tights and pantaloons. Thankfully little Neville would have no memory of being dressed this way.
The remainder of the costumes were far more average. Lily had created a little lion costume for Harry, who was toddling around the room roaring and the children and adults alike. Bastien was a knight in shining armor while Draco was insistent he be a large black dog. Anwen had attempted to dissuade him, but he wanted to look like his Dad tonight. Sirius was even planning to change himself over, and walking beside his junior doppelgänger. Ron had insisted he be a chocolate frog. Thankfully Molly already had a frog costume from a previous year, and simply transfigured it brown.
Charlie was dressed as a unicorn tamer, while little Ginny was his unicorn. Fred and George were hilarious as a fried egg and bacon and little Luna was dressed as a daisy in her sleeper-sack. The oddest costume, however, belonged to Percy. He was wearing ancient Egyptian styled robes and holding a small telescope. When Sirius couldn’t come up with an answer as to whom he was, he decided to ask the five year old.
“I’m Ptolemy, Mr. Black,” the child responded. “You know, the famous astronomer.” Sirius nodded his head, indeed knowing who Ptolemy was. The Black’s were famous, or infamous, for their understanding and skill in Astronomy. That a five year old would dress as a dead Egyptian astronomer had never crossed his mind.
“I do indeed. Very original costume, young man. I doubt you’ll see another like it out there this evening,” Sirius remarked, trying to swallow down his laugh.
Once all were dressed, pictures were taken by Louise and Augusta, the group left en-mass to enjoy their evening.
Anwen slipped out of the hospital room which held her mother-in-law and raked her hands through her hair, wishing beyond anything she could just rest. It had been a long week, and she’d barely had time to leave the hospital to change her clothing and wash. Sleeping was something she did in the chair while watching to see if Walburga Black would either wake up or pass away. The Healers had given her a fifty-fifty chance of either happening. Anwen wasn’t sure which one she was hoping for.
Less than forty-eight hours after her husband and their friends left on their second trip to attempt to track down Eva, Mrs. Black had suffered a stroke. James had followed up some of the leads they’d generated while in America, and had found a fresh trail of information; leading them to Bolivia. The distance was too far to contact them either through Patronus or via the enchanted mirrors, and while both of the family owls had been dispatched with messages, it was quite a distance to cover. Anwen was thus far, unable to tell Sirius of what had happened. She was anxiously awaiting any of the men to contact home, so he could be made aware of the situation. They’d been gone for almost a week now, she was sure someone would check up on their wife or child soon.
Anwen put the palms of her hands to her eyes and rubbed vigorously, hoping it would awaken her. Louise Malfoy was sitting with Walburga now, and had all but kicked Anwen from the room. The young witch was now debating whether she should head to the tea room for a strong cup of coffee or perhaps go home for a few minutes of shut eye and a clean set of clothes. The patter of small footsteps running toward her, and the persistent cries of “Mummy” and “Mama” distracted her from her internal debate; her scowl replaced with a wide smile.
Draco ran to his mother, throwing his arms around her neck when she crouched down to kiss him and hug him tightly. She’d seen little of her boys in the last few days, and seeing them now reinforced just how much she’d missed them. Her children were the center of her universe, and without them there to keep her in orbit, she felt lost. Draco’s chubby little hands on her shoulders and his very wet kiss on her cheek immediately grounded her heart and soul.
The women had made the same arrangements as in August; all living at Potter Manor while the men were away. Anwen was thankful neither Lily nor Alice thought taking care of her boys as a chore, since they’d seen more of the ‘aunties’ lately than their Mum.
“Well this is the best surprise I could have ever had,” she beamed. “Do you know how much I’ve missed you, my little angel?” Draco’s face turned very serious and he pulled away from his mother’s embrace to look at her.
“No Mummy, how much?”
“More than all the gingersnaps your Grammy Rose could ever make for you,” she told him and he smiled.
“I wike Gammy Rose bicits,” he told her. Anwen knew it was true, so did her ma. She never arrived without a tin of biscuits just for him. Daddy was a fan too, and if Draco didn’t have his own tin, there wouldn’t be enough to last more than a day or two. Anwen had taken to enchanting her sons container closed and keep Daddy from snacking.
“I know you do,” Anwen said before she kissed him on the cheek. “Can I put you down to say hi to your brother?” Draco nodded excitedly. Anwen set him on his feet and reached for his little brother.
“Mamamama,” he repeated over and over as Anwen reached for ten month old Bastien from Lily’s arms and kissed his little face. The older he became, the more he looked like his daddy. His eyes were nearly the same remarkable color of grey and his hair was coming in thick and dark.
“Hello my sweet one,” Anwen cooed. “Are you good today?” Bastien gurgled and cooed, putting his little hands on her shoulders and laying his head down on his mummy’s chest. “Hi, Lily. Thanks so much for bringing them. This is just what I needed.”
“I couldn’t imagine being away from Harry as long as you’ve been away from these two,” she answered. “Plus, James called me on the telephone we had installed last year. He and Sirius will be home late tonight. They were able to get an emergency Portkey out of the Brazilian Ministry offices at eleven, their time. Frank’s going to remain with Remus while they follow another lead.”
“Brazil, I thought they went to Bolivia?”
“They didn’t explain it all, but it’s apparently a very long story,” Lily answered and Anwen shook her head and rolled her eyes. It was always a long story with her husband.
“Thank God,” Anwen remarked, immensely relieved. “I was worried he wouldn’t make it home before she passed. Now, I just have to worry about it happening on his birthday.” Lily’s smile deflated at Anwen’s reminder of Sirius’s upcoming celebration. Speaking the words made Anwen’s eyes begin to fill with tears, her heart was near its breaking point.
“Anwen, come home for a while,” Lily begged her. “They’ll call if anything happens.”
“I don’t want her to pass alone,” the younger witch whispered through her shuddering breaths.
“Is Louise here?”
“That’s why I’m in the hallway,” Anwen explained. “She wanted me to get a few moments alone. Maybe even nap in a bed.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Lily affirmed. “We’ll take the boys in for a few minutes, let them see Grammy Louise, and then we can head home and you can get some rest and a good meal.” Anwen wanted to protest, not sure she wanted the boys in the room with her comatose mother-in-law, but just didn’t have the strength. Anwen passed Bas back to his Aunt Lily and then reached down to pick up Draco.
“Draco, honey, we’re going inside this room here so you can see Grammy Wally and Grammy Louise. You’re going to need to be quiet though, because Grammy Wally is sleeping, okay?” At the mentioning of the grammys, Draco’s eyes opened wide and he revealed a wonderful few toothy smile.
“I wike grammys,” he said so earnestly. “I be good.”
“I know you will, sweetie,” Anwen replied with a kiss to his forehead. “You too, little man,” she directed to her other son. “You need to be quiet.” Anwen put her forefinger to her lips in the universal sign for quiet and Bas mimicked the motion. She pushed the door open and Louise Malfoy looked up and smiled at the boys. Draco’s mum set him down and he ran to the older woman. She slid over to the side of the recliner she was sitting in, making room for the toddler to join her. Draco pulled himself up into the seat on his own, very proud of his accomplishment.
“What a surprise,” Louise cooed at the child as she hugged him. “My two favorite men!” Draco pulled back, his little mouth turned into a scowl.
“What ‘bout Daddy? You wike him?” All three women started to snigger at the comment.
“Of course I LIKE your Daddy, but you and Bas give much better kisses,” Louise stated, leaning down so the little blonde boy could place one on her cheek.
“Mummy wikes Daddy’s better. She kiss him ALL da time,” the oldest Black child exclaimed, moving his little hands up and down on his emphasized word in an action mimicking his Mum.
“Draco, honey, it’s good Mummy and Daddy like to kiss,” Louise explained. “That means they love each other very much.”
“Dhen they weally wove,” he stated very emphatically, making the others laugh. Bas looked at Aunt Lily and put his finger to his lips and made the ‘shhh’ sound. The woman laughed more.
“We need be qwiet,” Draco explained. “Mummy said Grammy Wawwy sweeping.”
“Yes, she is, little love,” Louise agreed, understanding why their mother didn’t explain the situation to the two little ones.
Anwen and Lily only remained for a few minutes, telling Louise how Anwen was returning to the Manor. Louise agreed it was a good idea, and promised she’d stay with Walburga until someone returned to relieve her. Anwen took the emergency communication stone the medi-witches had provided, knowing it would go off if there were any change. Louise hugged and kissed both boys goodbye, and Anwen had her sons kiss their Grammy Wally’s hand before leaving, worried it could be the last time they would see their grandmother. Lily and Anwen each carried a child to the Floo fireplaces on the ground floor and were quickly back at the Manor.
At Lily’s urging, Anwen went a drew herself a bath in the en-suite loo of the room she and Sirius always used. Lily had left her a wonderful bath oil with hints of lavender and hibiscus in it, which calmed her greatly. After slipping on her silk pajamas on, she went and laid down in the bed. Her intent was to sleep for an hour, two at the most. She was surprised when she awoke to find it dark outside. She’d been asleep for far longer than she’d planned.
Anwen dressed and headed downstairs, finding the others just about to sit down for supper. Kreacher had become distraught at his mistresses condition, and Lily had excused him from making dinner. Instead, she cooked, making a hearty lamb stew and fresh bread. She ate quickly and returned to the hospital, feeling badly she’d left Louise there all afternoon, alone.
The evening dragged on in the quiet hospital room. The Healer came in and checked Walburga over, and didn’t have good news for Anwen.
“Her body is growing weaker,” he explained. “She’s struggling to clean her blood. There’s also fluid beginning to form on her lungs. We can do charms to alleviate this problems, but it’s unlikely we’d ever be able to stop them.” Anwen closed her eyes, and ordered her thoughts. She wasn’t surprised by the prognosis, but it didn’t mean it hurt any less.
“My husband will be here late tonight,” she explained. “I really do believe it should be his decision to make any long-term care choices. Do you think she’ll pass before he gets here?” The Healer shook his head.
“I can treat her now, continue to make her comfortable and then leave the palliative care issues for him to deal with tomorrow or the day after,” he explained and Anwen nodded.
“That would be best,” she quietly responded. “I think I know what he’d do, but we hadn’t ever really discussed it. Unless there is an emergency, let’s just keep her comfortable.”
“That’s fine, Mrs. Black.” With the exchange over, the Healer went back to Walburga’s bedside and moved his wand over her. Anwen watched the small flashing orbs over the bed react and adjust, returning to their synchronized flashing and beeping. She hadn’t realized they weren’t in unison anymore, her mind was too filled with other worries.
Time wore on slowly in the dark hospital room, the oppressive inkiness only interrupted by the flashing of the alarms over Walburga Black’s bed. The door opening was like a golden sword, slicing through the encompassing velvet of the charcoal night. The room went from being all in hues of graphite, smoke, steel and platinum to subtle plums and violets. The things directly in the path of the light were restored to their brilliant Technicolor hues. Anwen was restored from the monotony of twilight to the vibrancy of sunlight. Framed in the brightness of the lights from the hall stood the figure of a man, his head moving as he surveyed the room. Even without the features of his face, Anwen could feel it was her husband. He brought with him more than just physical brightness, he filled her heart, her soul, even whole being with luminosity. He immediately lifted the yoke of worrying from his wife’s slender shoulders and took it upon himself.
Anwen had curled into a ball while she was waiting, making herself as physically small as she felt emotionally. She unraveled herself from the overstuffed chair she’d transfigured from the hard, stiff one the hospital had provided and propelled herself into her husband’s arms. Since the day they’d met, Sirius had been Anwen’s safe place, her shelter; he was her protector. The second she was wrapped in his arms, she felt the anxious tension which had invaded her muscles seep away.
“Thank God you’re home,” she whispered into his chest as her arms snaked around his torso, her hands pressing him into her, wishing to meld them together.
“I’m home, my love. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this on your own,” Sirius apologized. Anwen moved her right hand from his back to caress his cheek.
“My only worry was you wouldn’t arrive in time,” she explained. “She loves you. I wanted you to have time to say goodbye.” Sirius chose not to reply with words, instead cradling his wife’s face with his hands and pressing his lips to hers. The kiss was languid, passionate, the kiss given with the familiarity of lovers wanting to bring comfort to the other. When his lips separated from hers, Sirius leaned his forehead onto hers, wishing he could draw the information from her mind directly to his. He hated to make her repeat the difficulties which occurred while he was gone.
“Tell me what’s happening,” he asked. Anwen took his hand and lead him toward the bedside, summoning the chair so he could sit next to his mother. Anwen climbed on the hospital bed, past the dying woman’s feet. A second set of footsteps alerted her they weren’t alone. She turned to see who they belonged to.
“James, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize you were here,” the young witch quickly revealed. Her cousin shook his head at her while transfiguring himself a seat.
“Anwen, it’s alright. Please, tell us how she’s doing.” She went about explaining the situation, starting with Louise’s frantic fire-call the night after the men had left and ending with the healer’s prognosis from rounds just before he went off duty this evening.
Sirius had wound his fingers with his mother’s with one hand, and with the other he was gently caressing her forehead. The minute he looked at her, he’d known his mother was not long for this world. He felt angry. He’d only just gotten his mother back. No, that wasn’t right, he’d only just gotten a mother. Period. The abuse his father heaped upon everyone in the Black house had kept his mother from loving her boys in any outward way while they were small. He’d only reconciled with his mother and brother at the behest and intervention of Harry; grown up Harry. They’d reconciled and bonded over their mutual hatred of the Dark Lord and his followers. Sirius didn’t want his emotions to tarnish Anwen’s goodness, so he hid his anger.
Two years, it was all he was given with his mother, two years. He knew his wife believed in a benevolent and loving God. He would never tell her, but he was quite suspect such a being existed. If there was a God, then this had been a cruel gift. He’d had his Mum long enough to love her, but just when he was secure in the emotion, she was being taken back.
“Prongs, would you take her home? I’ll stay with Mum tonight,” Sirius asked his friend.
“Sweetheart, please let me stay,” Anwen begged as she ran her hand down his back.
“Love, Lily told us you’ve been here for days, nearly non-stop. Go home, sleep in a bed, spend some time with the boys and then come back in the morning,” he urged her.
“I went to the Manor and took a nap this afternoon, as well as ate supper with everyone. I’m fine to stay tonight --”
“Anwen, I’m going to need you to take care of things when she does pass,” Sirius said in near monotone. “For me, go home and sleep.” Anwen didn’t want to leave him alone, but she also wanted to abide by his wishes. Even with the few hours of rest she had this afternoon, she was profoundly overtired. “Please, love,” Sirius nearly begged as he pulled his hands away from his mum to thread them in Anwen’s delicate hands. “If you were to get sick or have an accident from being overtired, I just --” Anwen’s heart broke at the look of love in his eyes.
“I’ll go, but I will be back first thing in the morning,” she promised.
“Good,” Sirius said, getting up to help his wife off the end of the bed. She faltered slightly as her feet touched the floor and she needed to get her balance. They hugged and shared in one brief kiss before James lead Anwen out.
“I’ll come back and stay with him once I get you home safely,” he told her as they made their way to the bank of Floo fireplaces on the main floor.
“You do know I can Floo by myself, right?”
“Of course you can. I’d just really like to see my Lils before I come back.” Anwen smiled and blushed. Of course, why didn’t she think of that.
Everything was dark at the Manor when they’d arrived, save one light on in the library. The pair walked across the marble hallway and into the stately room. Sitting at the large table in the center of the room was Lily, pouring over an old and weathered book. When she heard their footsteps, she looked up, her face exploding with love when she saw her husband behind her friend.
Their reunion was sweet and passionate, and Anwen looked away from the pair, instead surveying the tome her friend had been so intently studying. She was surprised to find the book of rituals for the Society open to the rite of passage at death. Lily and Alice must have been reading up so they could help Anwen and Sirius prepare for the ceremony.
Anwen reviewed the ancient words, appreciating how different death was viewed among the magical. She’d only experienced death as a Methodist Muggle. While her family believed in an afterlife, the service of remembrance was about comfort in loss. The words she read here were about the completion of a circle, rejoicing in the life the person had lead and how death and life were merely separate marks along the the timeline of life.
“I’m going to go back,” James explained. “I don’t want him being alone. He stayed with me for days when my parents were ill and passed, I need to be there for him now.”
“I would expect nothing less,” Lily said. “Come home tomorrow to see Harry, please. I know he’s missing you.” James kissed her forehead.
“I promise. Now go on, get some sleep, he’ll be up before sunrise.” Lily nodded and turned to Anwen.
“You coming up now?”
“Give me a few,” she requested. “I’m going to make a cup of chamomile tea to help settle me, then I’ll be up.” Lily gave James a quick peck and then turned and went to the hallway. Her quiet footfalls were heard fading into the night as she climbed the stairs.
“You’re not really going soon, are you?” James asked. Anwen shook her head.
“Too much going through my mind right now,” she explained. “I think I’ll stay here, read through this. His mind isn’t going to be on rituals and ceremonies. He’s not truly interested in them, even in the best of situations.” James chuckled at her insinuation.
“You know him too well,” he quipped. Anwen shrugged.
“I know his heart is going to be broken because of this,” she said quietly. “He had a loving family for such a short time.” Tears she’d struggled to hold back now rolled down her cheeks, no fear of recrimination within her.
“Winnie, he’s still has his family. You and the boys, you’ll be with him. I know you, you’ll carry him through this.”
“James, you give me too much credit,” she quietly disagreed. “He’s so strong.”
“Anwen, he’s nothing without you. He never would have opened himself up to her if it wasn’t for you.” She shook her head in protest. James directed her to the pair of leather wing-back chairs near the window where they each took a seat.
“You’re not giving him enough credit --”
“Anwen, I’ve known him much longer than you have, and I can tell you, he is a different man than he would have been if you weren’t in his life. The man he would have become,” James stopped to consider his words. “That man would have been bitter, unfeeling and destructive. I doubt I would have remained friends with him.” Anwen was shocked at his words.
“You can’t know that.”
“I can,” he insisted. “Winnie, we met when we were seven. Sirius was already jaded, angry and closed off. He was seven. My mother showered him with love and affection, sometimes more than she showed me. I didn’t care, I knew I was loved, he had no such assurances in life. Even with all my mum did for him, part of him knew it was because we were friends and was thereby doing it for me. It’s not like mum and dad would have gone looking for Sirius if we weren’t friends.”
“You paint such a desolate picture of him.”
“He was desolate and emotionally stunted and very much alone. He only trusted people to a point. He believed everyone had an agenda and nothing was ever done just because it was right. He figured everyone was out to use everybody else. Do you know what changed that?” Anwen shook her head.
“You. You are the first person who ever cared about him for him. You didn’t need his money or his reputation. You didn’t ask for anything from him except to grant you the respect you gave him. Sirius was perplexed by you at first. He couldn’t figure out your angle, and didn’t want to believe any of us that you didn’t have one. He was in fifth year when he finally figured out you simply loved him.”
“How could I not?” she asked, the light in her eyes that was present whenever she spoke of her beloved husband. “He’s ...”
“I know. I love him like a brother, but believe me when I tell you how different he would have been without you. He’s going to hurt, deeply, when his mother dies, and you’re going to hold him together like you always do. I’m just saying it’s a miracle he’ll mourn her, after everything which transpired between them, and it’s entirely because you taught him to love.” James stood, and kissed his cousin on the forehead. “Thank you,” he whispered to her before leaving. Anwen leaned her head against the headrest and wept.
The evening following Sirius's returning home, Walburga Black passed quietly in her sleep. She'd never awoken after her stroke, although Sirius had spoken with her, somehow sure she heard him. Anwen was with her husband, as was his oldest and closet friend. James had known his Aunt Wally since he was a very small boy. He knew she was his mothers best friend, and if it wasn't for their friendship, he and Sirius might not have become as close as they are today.
The three stayed at the hospital late into the evening, making arrangements for the cremation, squaring away the death certificate and the necessary announcements. James sent owls to Minerva, Iris, Louise, Alice and Molly, as they would be responsible for the Society service. He also made sure Andromeda and Ted were notified in Spain, hopeful they would return to pay their respects. Anwen asked Lily to call her mother in Wales and Floo call her grandmother in France. She would need their help in the days to come.
The trio readied to leave St. Mungo's, when Sirius asked if Draco and Bas could spend the night with the Potters.
"Sure, Sirius," James answered the request. "They're probably already asleep in your old room anyway."
Anwen looked up at her husband, unsure why he wanted to be alone with her, but willing to grant him any small favor he would ask of her. He had lost his brother and now his Mum. He truly was without kin.
"We'll be by in the morning. I'm sure there's things we need to do for the ceremony. Someone is going to need to take Mother's station --"
"Sirius, I've already been studying. There will still be a Black wearing the white robes," Anwen quietly explained. Sirius lifted her up so her face was even with his and stared into her mossy orbs.
"I don't deserve..." her finger to his lips halted him, which he then took the opportunity to kiss her. While James Flooed home to Scotland, Sirius walked aside his wife, their fingers entwined, to the Disapparation platforms. A moment later they were in the back yard of the London detached two-story they'd shared since Anwen was fifteen.
The yard of the little house was cluttered with the play toys of the boys. A tricycle, a wagon, sandbox and swings pocked the green grass of the garden. Even the old peach tree hadn’t escaped the impact of children residing there, as the trunk was decorated in chalk drawings. The small porch had muddy trainers lined up against the wall, and even a small pair of very dirty trousers was thrown over the railing.
Anwen took Sirius’s hand and lead him into the house, waving her hand to clear a path through the building blocks and stuffed animals which hadn’t been put back into their proper places before Anwen had taken the children to have Lily watch them this morning.
“Anwen, I need you, please,” Sirius mumbled in desperation, his voice weak and thin.
“Love, you never need to beg,” she replied ever so gently. Taking hold of his hands, she Disapparated them into their bedroom. She sweetly lead him to the edge of their bed, and pushed his shoulders down so he was sitting. Anwen lifted one foot, slid the zipper of his riding boot down and then eased it from his foot. Her eyes never leaving his as she repeated the process with the other. As her fingers worked on the buttons of his oxford shirt, her lips followed, kissing the newly exposed flesh of his chest.
Slowly and systematically, she disrobed her husband, her hands and mouth soothing his pain, hoping to take it upon herself. When they were both disrobed, the curled together in the pocket of sheets and blankets upon their bed. Sirius had found being intimate with Anwen had always been different from being with any of the others from his past. While the physical act was satisfying, he made love to his dear little one, rather than screwing. He never let their time together end without making sure Anwen was as satisfied as he.
Tonight was different, he needed to take from her. He needed assurances that life was good, that there was joy and passion to living and being. He wanted to devour her, consume what made her alive and hope it would rekindle the spark of life within him. While not rough enough to hurt her, he was far more insistent than usual. He wanted to bury himself in her, and feel nothing but her around him. Anwen, sensing what her husband needed, gave and gave, not seeking anything in return. When he was finally spent, Sirius laid his head upon his wife’s chest and wept. He fell asleep this way.
Anwen was awake long after he had succumbed to exhaustion. Sirius usually slept on his back, Anwen curled into his side, his arm around her, his hand resting on her hip, hers over his heart. Tonight it was she on her back, his head nestled between her breasts, his body diagonally across the large mattress. The calf of his leg was nestled between her legs and both of his hands rested upon her flesh. She ran her hands through his hair and down his back, quietly singing to him as he rested. Eventually she too slipped into the numbness of slumber, her heart and mind heavy with loss.
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