Chapter 25 : The Long Con
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“I’m not innocent. I’m not what I let everyone see. I pretend, Lily. I pretend that I’m a terrible liar, that I don’t hear the double meanings of their words, that I’m honorable, harmless and clueless. And to some extent, they all know that it’s a charade--that’s who we are. What they don’t know is how far I let it go.”
-James Potter (chapter 24)
It was silly that I expected Rosaline to look different, older. She did not age that quickly. It would be a slow fade that stole her from me. She could look just like this, even when her mother’s sacrifice sapped the last of her immortality away. I could hear her heart beating its slow and steady cadence, a delayed beat that counted down the slow, broken march towards death.
Always, she was the same to me. Her black hair fell in messy curls from her head, highlighting her pale skin and ice blue eyes. She was breathtaking. But I could see how her ordeal had changed her. She was too thin and though it wasn’t true, she looked like a breath could knock her over.
For several moments there was dead silence as Kaelyn released Rosaline from her embrace and looked at her quizically, then stared back at me, looking a confused.
Kaelyn was worried by how hungry her sister looked. Hadn’t I said that this was a bad idea?
I was still unused to the way looking at Rosaline made me feel, even nearly half a century later. And to see the surprise, the lack of love in her eyes when she looked at me, was like a knife in my gut. She didn’t remember everything, but the alarm in her eyes told me that I was recognized.
“Roz…?” Kaelyn whispered to her sister, looking away from me again.
Rosaline’s new friends watched cautiously. They were not as afraid as they should have been. Maybe her constant presence had softened them to our kind. Of course, they had no idea.
Remus Lupin, the werewolf, stood in the hall, staring with a strained jaw. Sirius Black, my many times removed nephew, sat looking towards his me with speculative and worried eyes. Peter Pettigrew was standing behind James Potter with his wand in hand and Potter himself stood with his arms folded, watching the scene with cautious austerity. He looked like his great grandfather.
Despite my sidelong glances at everyone else in the room, my attention was locked on Rosaline, my chest rising and falling rapidly. Why did I still feel this way, after all these years, even when she didn’t feel what I did?
Finally, I spoke. “So, Rosaline. I see you’ve been keeping busy.”
Rosaline opened and closed her mouth several times as reality sank in. It hadn’t been true for her, not really, until now. We were here. The dreams she’d been having weren’t just fantasy. Was she different now? Frustration gripped me, though my face remained casual. I couldn’t act out. Not now. Rosaline did not respond to weakness.
“You’re…you’re alive. You…I thought….” She whispered, not registering the confused and shocked looks that her friends were giving her. Her voice was cold and confused. She thought that I had died as I should have all of those years ago.
I frowned, setting my voice to match hers. “No. Not alive. You still don’t remember?”
It was difficult to breathe. I wasn’t sure if I was exasperated or enamored by the way she made me feel so weak. Air was not so important that I should struggle for it.
I forced myself to remain calm. I belonged to Rosaline. But she had no use for weakness.
This was going to hurt.
“Roz…do you know who I am? Do you know who you are?” Kaelyn asked, putting her hand on my cheek. Why was Rigel here? How? Kaelyn looked the same as ever, though it was startling to see her in jeans.
Her skin was the same temperature as the room around us.
Sirius stood and turned me to face him, seemingly impervious to how surreal the scene around us was. I flinched when he touched me.
“Cassie…” His eyes searched mine and I saw a vulnerability there that I’d never seen before. Did he know who Rigel was just by looking? Was the similarity there simply in my head or were they really twins, stretched across time and space?
Sirius’s face went blank when he saw the panic in my eyes, “Cassie, take a breath, please. Then introduce these people.”
Feeling comforted by his calm, I nodded slowly, only to look up at Rigel and blanch at the look on his face. I didn’t want to introduce him. I didn’t want Sirius to know who the man staring at me was.
Because he was so much like Sirius, Rigel was not afraid to speak his mind, “Rosaline, why do I get the sense that I’ve been replaced? By one of my great-nephews, no less? And why do you look so malnourished? You promised me that you would take care of yourself.” His calm voice was at odds with his eyes. They were no longer fire, they were something hotter, something older and more intense.
Sirius stiffened, looking like his fear had been confirmed. In that moment, they had never seemed more similar.
“Black, calm down. That’s not what we’re here for. Have a seat.” Kaelyn ordered, not noticing that Sirius looked even more startled than before. Subtleties had always escaped my younger sister. She was straightforward and brave, just like James. She was one of the few that I thought Rigel would ever answer to. He had treated her just like I had, all of those years ago. Had anything changed?
Rigel glared at her, but took one of the old chairs at the back of the room and seated himself, his eyes fixing on me.
Kaelyn shook her head, “Men.”
I swallowed and steadied myself, “Why…why are you here? How did I get here?”
Kaelyn looked at me curiously, “It really worked, then.” She whispered, reaching into her robes and pulling out a vial. “We came to even the odds.”
There was a short silence. I could feel Rigel’s eyes like daggers, slicing into me, trying to see what lay underneath.
“Our…your father made me steal this.” She said, tossing it gently to me. I caught it with a sense of relief.
“Then he can’t get in?” I asked, feeling dizzy and trying not to show it.
“Correct.” She responded, sighing and shaking her head. “We can, though. James’s great grandparents let us in for a party once. He didn’t know what we were.”
Kaelyn took a glance around the room before continuing, her eyes fixing briefly on Remus, “You made a bet, Roz. You made a bet with father and…someone else. If you win, we’ll all be free from father’s influence. If you lose…If you lose, we join Voldemort.” She said, her green eyes meeting mine searchingly.
I stared at her, lost for words, “What?”
Kaelyn frowned, “You really don’t remember. Well, father cheated twice already. So I suppose that this is allowed. Before Voldemort became so infamous, around seven years ago, we were approached by him and his followers. They wanted us on their side. And in return, it would be open season on muggles again, no restrictions. Father said yes. You said no.”
Rigel sighed from his place in the corner and I wondered why he was sitting so quietly. It was out of character in a situation like this, where he could be the one telling the story and calling the shots. He was too forceful for such quiet task, even if he respected my sister.
She ignored him, “Father has to listen to you. You’re the only one of us that can do magic. You can go outside in the daylight with the sunproofing charms. And he has minimal control over you, unlike Rigel and myself. So you spoke up. Then you had a big philosophical debate about killing muggles and joining Voldemort--which bored me endlessly--and you came to a compromise. You were twenty when you were changed, though we were all posing as being slightly younger than we were so the muggles wouldn’t be spooked by the difference in wizard aging. So, you proposed to start over at age ten and prove that you could go without killing anyone until you reached twenty again.”
“He was sure that you of all people couldn’t do it. But you were so unhappy with the idea of being subjected to Voldemort’s rule that you said you could, even without knowing why you were doing it. Then…a third party orchestrated it. And gave you that potion as a loophole. I think you knew about the potion and you were playing father throughout the argument.”
I blinked, “Me ‘of all people’?”
My friends listened in shocked silence.
Rigel stood and stepped forward, cutting over Kaelyn with ease, “You aren’t like the rest of us, Rosaline. Because of what your mother did, you are stuck in between two worlds. There are advantages, like your magic, and the fact that you can put spells on yourself, like sunproofing charms. On the downside, you share our diet and before the discovery of that potion, you were unable to sustain yourself off of substitutes or animals as some do. You had to drink the blood of humans. Unlike the rest of us, you can drink the blood of wizards. It works both ways.”
I stared at him in horror, “Then…how did I expect to live if I really didn’t know about the potion?”
He shrugged, “I can only assume that you initially planned to keep a few pets and remain careful not to kill one.”
It was difficult to breathe again, “So….I’ve…I’ve killed a lot of people.”
Rigel shrugged, “A strong majority of people in this room have killed someone. There’s no need to feel self-conscious.
He did not intend to shock with his words, as he sometimes did. This time he was trying to make me feel normal. I was left reeling. My whole life…the life that was tangible, had been a lie, a game.
Sirius sighed, not showing his alarm, “So what you’re saying is that her father has you two under his thumb? Is he the one who changed you?”
Kaelyn sighed, “You should not ask questions that you do not want the answer to.”
“I don’t.” Sirius replied in a hard voice. Kaelyn glanced between Sirius and Rigel thoughtfully before answering, “Rosaline killed me. Demitri had already taken care of the previous steps. So yes. I am ‘under his thumb’.”
She looked at me, then. “Don’t be anxious. I’ve never been angry at you for what you did. You wanted me to be dead and at peace. You didn’t know.”
“I remember.” I whispered, fighting to stay in the present.
“You’re different.” She said quietly. “You’re different, but still exactly the same. You’re like you were before all of this.”
Rigel stepped back into the conversation, looking at me with inquisitive eyes, “It took me a year to find you. I left everything behind and hunted you down. Then I begged your father to let me join you. He obliged. So I am also under his indirect control. We have free will, but if he is physically present, we must obey him. We’ve been in hiding since you left, but he found us.”
Sirius’s hand on my arm tightened.
“And are you following orders right now?” I asked, feeling something deep within me take over, something that didn’t have time for my worry or my fear of consequences.
He shook his head. “But then, you never really know. He could have just told me not to tell. Tough, isn’t it? You were always upset about that problem.”
I nodded and looked at my sister, really looked at her. She was more beautiful than she had been before. Despite the gravity of what she’d been through, she still looked young and carefree.
“And how do you feel about my conviction to stay away from Voldemort? And my decision to stop killing for food?” I asked her, unable to converse with Rigel any longer. Were we engaged? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want to remember.
Out of the corner of my eye, the Blacks were staring at one another with cold, measuring eyes.
Kaelyn shrugged, “I don’t have strong feelings. I can buy blood. You’re the one who has to drink it fresh. Or use…that potion. I don’t want to be subjected to Voldemort’s will, though.” There was something about her tone that I did not like, but I looked past it.
“Now that we’re all caught up, Roz, I think that I need to speak to you alone.” Rigel said pleasantly, even though his eyes were storming.
James spoke for the first time, not hesitating, making me jump, “Alright. Princess, do you trust these two?
I nodded tersely, “As much as I can, under the circumstances.”
He nodded, “Okay. Kaelyn, if you’d be so kind, we are going to retire to the library. Remus. Peter.”
The four stood and James turned to look back at us, “I expect everyone to be on their best behavior.”
There was a silence as the room emptied.
Finally, Rigel spoke, “You have some masterful friends, Rosaline. You do tend to gravitate towards that type.”
I stepped away from Sirius, away from Rigel, and retreated to an armchair across the room. Sirius looked concerned, but sank onto the couch. With an eerily similar expression, Rigel joined his relative on the soft furniture, not looking at him, but at me.
There was a brief silence before Sirius turned to face Rigel, “You had something to say?”
Rigel looked at Sirius, “To Rosaline, yes. In private.”
Sirius maintained eye contact and did not flinch away. Rigel frowned.
“How old are you?” Rigel asked suddenly, looking slightly less aggravated.
Sirius raised an eyebrow, “Seventeen.”
Rigel nodded to himself, “Have you thought this out, Sirius? Her body will stop aging again at twenty. She’ll always be twenty. You have what? Twenty, thirty years before you start to look more like a parent than a partner? If you age well? I’m not going to get in the way. I don’t need to. Time is on my side. And I don’t want Rosaline to get hurt because of this ill planned venture.”
Sirius matched Rigel’s expression perfectly, “She’s aging. The potion makes her age. She’s made her choice.”
Rigel froze. And then it was like Sirius ceased to exist. All of his walls, all of the confidence and even the anger was gone. He turned to stare at me and he looked terrified.
“Roz…” He clenched his jaw, then shot upward, crossing the room faster than I could see, sinking to his knees in front of me. Over his head, Sirius met my eyes, but I could not understand the look on his face.
“Rosaline. I am trying to understand. But now I need you to understand. I left my family, my sisters, my life, to find you. And when I did, I gave up my life and my magic so that I could stay with you. I never even hesitated. You said that you needed to wrap your mind around forever. I waited with you for over four hundred years. Then you decided to do this to save us and I love you for it. But now you’re going to age? You must realize that the rest of us can’t do that. I’ll be stuck here without you. I can’t die without your fathers permission. He won’t grant it.”
Rigel took an unsteady breath. “Rosaline…Don’t do this. I know that you aren’t fully one of us and that you’ll die eventually. Your father warned me of that. But I always thought I’d have more time than this. I thought I could convince you to make the change permanent. And now, after all of this waiting….” He stared at his hands.
“Rosaline, you don’t remember. But after centuries of watching humans live and die, we’ve recognized a pattern. People just repeat across generations. I’ve seen the same faces for centuries. And Sirius Black is me. You must see that. We have the same face. If not for my nature, you wouldn’t be able to tell us apart. And this is what you go to after you leave me?” He groaned in frustration.
Sirius just watched, blank faced.
I shook my head, “Rigel…I…I only have a handful of memories. I don’t…I don’t know you. Not like that. And I agree….you and Sirius are…similar. But it’s not a choice.” I wasn’t sure what I meant by my last comment, but it made them both wince.
They were identical.
“But I can’t…I don’t….” I closed my eyes, confused.
Rigel shook his head, “You were put on this earth to torment me, Rosaline Cresent. Cassie. Whatever you answer to, my feelings won’t change.”
“Hey, I’m sitting right here.” Sirius said hotly, glaring at Rigel’s back, his tolerance waning.
Rigel ignored him utterly, “Rosaline. Don’t do this. Don’t go with him. Don’t say yes to him, don’t be with him. He’ll kill you. I don’t even have to make that choice. And I’ve already proven that I’d die for this.”
He wasn’t begging, but he wasn’t ordering me either.
“Rigel, this isn’t just about Sirius. I decided to age a while ago. Maybe I could feel it, how horrible it is to just…endure.”
Rigel seemed to be biting his tongue. But then he caved. “Rosaline…how can you make this decision without all of your memories? We had a good life. You were happy with me. At least wait to decide until you know for sure what you’ll want.”
“I know what I want.” I said flatly.
He winced again, “And it isn’t me. Always so stubborn. I won’t give up. I can’t. I’m only here for you.”
Sirius stood, “All right. You had your chance. Now get away from my girlfriend.”
Rigel’s jaw flexed, “I promise that I won’t give up. And that I won’t fight with him.”
“Why promise that?” Sirius asked.
“For the same reason you will once I’m gone. You can see it, Sirius. My presence is unnatural, there should only be one of us. But we can’t change it.” Rigel said flatly, not taking his cold grey eyes off of me.
“We’ll leave now. I’ll be back.” Rigel added to me softly, his eyes hard and tormented.
I groaned and buried my head in my hands. When I opened my eyes, I thought that Rigel hadn’t moved, but then he tucked my hair behind my ear and leaned his warmer forehead against mine and it was Sirius.
“Confused?” He asked, reaching up and stroking my cheek.
I nodded, “I…I was sure that he was dead. I have no recollection of…that part of my life.”
Sirius swallowed, looking deep into my eyes, “Did you love him?”
I couldn’t lie. “Yes.”
He winced slightly, looking just like Rigel had earlier. How could someone so hard and dangerous be so easy to harm?
“Do you love him?” His voice was cool and uncaring, but I knew better.
I shrugged, “I….I don’t remember.”
My answer did not make him happy.
“And are we really that similar?” He asked, already knowing the answer.
I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. “You….you were identical. But that was centuries ago…being a vampire changed him.”
Sirius did not look comforted, “It changed him. Just like we both know it changed you. Just like how what I have to be now is changing me.” Then, after a long moment, he stared deep into my eyes, “Do you love me?”
My voice was stuck in my throat. He leaned forward, kissing me gently, “It’s safe to answer, Cassie. Because we both know that I’m hopelessly in love with you.”
“Yes.” I whispered against his lips.
He nodded, “Now I want you to listen to me. There is nothing I won’t do to be the one you want. If you want to age, then age. If you don’t, then don’t. If you want me to do what he did, I’ll do it. Just stay with me. And I won’t…I won’t fight with him.” He spoke in the same tone that Rigel had.
He noticed, “Maybe there isn’t much choice. Maybe it doesn’t matter which of us you pick because there won’t be a difference.” He whispered, running his fingers through my hair.
“I could never let you become a monster just for me.” I whispered.
His smile was hard. “I’m already a monster, Cassie. A monster worse than you or Remus could ever be.”
“That’s not true.” I promised.
“Can you tell the difference between us?” He asked, looking concerned, ignoring my protest.
“You have a pulse.” I whispered, staring into his eyes again.
He nodded, kissing my cheek. “Cassie, I don’t want to be the fool. If…if you want to choose him…” He took an unsteady breath, “If you want him…just tell me the truth.”
I nodded, “I want you.”
He smiled, but there was something frightening in his eyes. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
** ** **
I followed James into the library, watching Kaelyn closely in case she turned on us. This was no the time to be trusting.
The library was a large old room with high ceilings and grand, red carpeted floors. It was one of the few rooms with a style that the Potters had left untouched over the many years since the house had been built. It seemed an odd choice of room, since the dining room was more casual and less expensive in case a fight broke out. To top it off, James seldom used this room, saying that it was too pretentious an area and that he might end up like Sirius if he spent too much time in it.
James seemed perfectly at ease, his walk casual, and his wand out of sight. He even turned his back to Rosaline as he watched the house elves start a fire and offer everyone coffee and tea. Was he really so trusting?
“So,” James said absently, as if wondering which question to ask first, “Who is your father, then?”
Kaelyn turned to look at him with wide eyes, “You are a bold one. You remind me of someone we used to know.”
She sighed after a long moment, “My father was never able to figure it out. My mother and Rigel’s father were in love. They were both forced to marry other people. They had Rosaline and Rigel with their respective spouses. But then they had an affair. Rigel always knew who I was. That’s why he listens to me. I’m the only family he has left. Rosaline knew, but she pretended not to for fathers sake.”
James blinked, his eyes wide and innocent looking, “I pictured you more like your sister.”
Kaelyn smiled, “Thankfully, I am much different. There would not be enough room in any house for two people like her.” Then she frowned, as if reminded of something unpleasant.
“Which brings me to my question, who cloned Sirius and turned him into a vampire?” I interrupted pleasantly, sitting in Mr. Potter’s favorite rocking chair and watching James as he lounged in an armchair. Kaelyn sat in another chair across from us, while Peter edged toward the last easy chair, his eyes glued on the vampire.
Kaelyn sighed, responding to my question at length, “Rigel and Sirius are…very similar. I hadn’t ever seen him up close. I suspected, but I never would have guessed…so similar…”
I raised an eyebrow.
She shrugged, “We’ve seen a lot of the same faces over the centuries. People repeat every few generations. I’ve never known anyone well enough to judge it past looks. But based on what I saw in your living room, we may have a problem.”
Her eyes reflected in the firelight. They were green, but not like Lily’s. Lily had eyes that made a person think of a deep forest full of life and mystery. Kaelyn’s green was that of a spring overthrown by a persisting winter. Her eyes were dead.
“You think they’re that similar?” I asked slowly, pulling my eyes away with effort.
Kaelyn shrugged, “Maybe in temperament. But you have to remember, Rigel is much older. And vampires were humans once. But they cease to be human, to have a conscience, the moment they change. We can care. We can even love. But that little voice, the one that keeps you up at night, pestering you for your wrongs? We don’t have that. Rosaline….Cassie may try to fool you. But she is not a vampire.”
James snorted, smiling easily, “She’s not? You could have fooled me. It’s not exactly been a picnic without her potion.”
Kaelyn shrugged, “Cassie is truly stuck in between two worlds. She has sharper senses, but they are dull compared to ours. She has magic, but it is weak and all but useless compared to yours. She will never overpower even weakest of your kind with magic. She still feels an inherent human need to protect small children, but she cannot have any of her own. Advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes the best of both worlds, sometimes the worst.”
James nodded, then asked seriously, “Aside from that, what was there between Cassie and Rigel?” This was no longer the voice of curiousity. I could hear James speaking as a concerned friend.
Frowning, Kaelyn turned to face the flames, “If Rigel finds out that I told you-“
“You’re an open person, Kaelyn. I can see it. I’m sure that being around Rigel and Cassie is hard, but they haven’t changed you. They can’t. So don’t pretend that they can.” James said gently, looking at her as if from far away.
She smirked, looking more like her sister than ever. “I’d say the same about you, James Potter. But I can see that the Blacks are not the only con men in this house. You asked me about my parentage to put me off balance. You’re hiding a silver crucifix in your left hand, and your wand has been hidden in your sleeve, pointing at myself or Rigel since we arrived. You play the oblivious, kindhearted host. But I know better.”
I blinked at the accusation, watching James closely. I knew that James pretended to be slower than he was sometimes, hiding his impressive grades, letting people think he was just a popular quidditch player. But he wasn’t so much like Sirius that he had a contingency plan for vampires, was he?
James raised an eyebrow and watched her for a long moment, then shrugged with a false, good natured smile on his face, “Usually, people don’t catch on. I’m impressed, you see, this is the long con. Sirius puts on a show and no one sees me sneaking up from behind. I suppose there’s no more reason to pretend, then. You’re an excellent judge of character, Kaelyn, but you’ve missed an important factor. I am a courteous host to everyone that I invite into my home. But you walked in thinking that you could threaten me in my own house. And that would have been your last mistake, if you weren’t my best friend’s sister.”
I blinked at the empty threat, glancing at Peter, who was staring at James like he’d grown a third eye.
James smiled fondly at Cassie’s sister, like she was a small child showing him a drawing she’d done, “Did you really think that you could walk into my house twice without me knowing it? The first time, I thought that it was one of my friends taking a late night walk. After that, I changed our wards. You only came within fifty yards of this property because I allowed it.”
Kaelyn sat very still as James leaned forward and carried on in a pleasant tone, “And yes, you are quite correct about my security measures, but you missed something else. There are no less than twenty house elves currently watching yourself and Rigel. They’ve been ready since you arrived near my home forty minutes ago. And if you so much as look at me or one of my guests in the wrong way, they will kill you at my command with smiles on their faces.”
James smiled at her congenially, and let the silence spiral.
Kaelyn blinked and looked at James with new respect. I smiled ruefully. James and Sirius were best friends for a reason. Even I’d been fooled by his behavior. This man who could deliver a death threat to an enemy with a smile on his face was the real James Potter. The wide-eyed jock was an act. In some capacity, I’d known that all along, but James pulled himself out from behind the wall so infrequently that it was hard to remember who my best friend really was.
Peter stared at James like he’d never seen him before, with a look in his eyes like he’d been betrayed in some way. James pretended to ignore us both, but I could see that our reactions, especially Peter’s had cut him somewhere deep. It was because we were not in disbelief at his true self. We were in a state of wary acceptance to who he really was, who he didn’t want to be.
James refocused his attention on Kaelyn, speaking to her like an old friend, with a confident smile.
“The only reason that you are not currently serving as fuel for my fire is that you are Cassie’s sister. But you have used that line of credit up already. So the next time you decide to pay a visit, you will come to my front door, you will knock, and you will ask me if you can come in. And you will pray to whatever heathen god will listen that I’m in an obliging mood when I answer my door. Because the moment you step foot within a kilometer of Potter property, whether or not you continue to exist is entirely up to me.” By the end of his speech, James’s kind voice was gone and his voice was cold and hard. For long moment, I wondered if Sirius really was the most dangerous of us.
Peter scooted his chair away from James’s subtly and I watched as James pretended not to notice. He could pretend like it didn’t bother him. But I knew that somewhere deep down, he was probably wishing for a way to scoot away from himself too.
Kaelyn watched James for a while with a blank face before nodding, “I made a mistake, James Potter. You play the fool well, but I think you play yourself better. And I find that I like you this way. You would make an excellent chess partner.”
James’s fingers twitched, but he did not wince like I expected.
She smiled, clearly understanding James’s discomfort, “The Potters remain a proud family, despite their tendencies. I apologize for coming into your house without permission. And I thank you for allowing my…existence. But I want you to understand, we are your allies, James Potter. We were to be your puppet masters, but I can see now that only fate herself can hold your strings.”
James nodded, not looking at all comforted.
She startled me by speaking again, maybe trying to prove her goodwill, “Rosaline and Rigel were promised to each other when they were born. When they were young they rarely saw each other, but whenever they were together they either got into trouble, or things around the house they were in somehow went sideways. Rigel cared about her more, but he tried not to show it because he knew it would scare her off. She pretended to hate him because she didn’t have a choice.
“I don’t know what changed. But she came around. They were the perfect pair, really, Rosaline and Rigel. And then….father killed us. A year later, Rigel found us. He was half mad. Father was reluctant, but he changed him. Rosaline was furious. She called it murder. They spent the first five years arguing. Eventually, they went back to normal, but darker. Rosaline wouldn’t marry him, but she loved him. And then she went to you.”
I groaned, “Sirius is going to be murderous.”
Kaelyn raised an eyebrow, “And that answers my question. They’re together?”
I nodded, rubbing my eyes, “Yes. And frankly, it was a long road getting there. I was just getting used to the relative peace.”
I glanced sidelong at James, but he looked as if he were in pain, so I continued to lead the conversation. He knew who he was. But I guess he’d been dodging his inner demons for so long that even he’d forgotten what he was capable of.
Kaelyn frowned again, “The best thing we can do is stay out of it. This situation was dangerous enough with one Black. With two…”
I grimaced, “This just doesn’t make sense. Is nature that lazy?”
Kaelyn shook her head and stood, “We are not nature. We are an abomination, a parasite that infects the true order of the world. Because of this, we have limits. Rosaline is not constrained in the same ways as we are, but Rigel cannot replace his doppelganger. It would be as impossible for him to interfere with Sirius and what he calls his as it is for you to walk on water. Sirius is alive. He has a destiny and a fate. Rigel has no claim on any of that. ”
She paused, looking at the floor, “But hear this; if Sirius steps down…if he relinquishes any part of himself, he can lose it to Rigel. Rosaline, his family, his friends, his mind, even his living body. And if he lets go of anything of value, it becomes easier for Rigel to take more. This will be Rigel’s only option. He will have to steal parts of Sirius away until he can get his hands on her.”
“How does that work?” James asked, his lip curling, clearly unable to remain silent any longer.
“It works because it is not right for them both to be here. They can ignore one another and that would be the end of it. Or one of them will have to absorb the other, discarding anything they don’t want. It will be a contest of wills. It began the moment Sirius realized he wanted Cassie, even though he’d never even seen Rigel yet.”
I sputtered, “What do we do?”
Kaelyn shrugged, “Does it matter? Sirius Black, or Rigel Black? If they became one, would you notice the difference? Can you honestly tell me that your version of him has not been growing darker, even as ours has begun to act as he did hundreds of years ago? They are already merging. I am afraid that there is nothing we can do but watch and hope that the better Black wins.”
She nodded at James as if asking permission and he nodded once in return.
I blinked, and she was gone.
James was holding a hand up, palm out, and I realized that it must have been to keep the house elves from dousing her in silver.
“I quit.” Peter said sullenly, putting his head down into his lap.
“Well, I think I actually prefer Cassie’s blunt manipulation to that doomsday proclaimer she calls a sister.” I grumbled, at a loss. Was my best friend reaching the end of his rope? Would I notice if he became someone else?
James sighed and seemed to slip back into his normal self, but something was missing now. There was no one to fool.
The door to the library swung open and Sirius walked in slowly, his eyes like grey steel.
“She told you?” He asked coolly, looking to Peter for confirmation.
James shot up and shook his head, holding a hand out to Peter, but Peter had already nodded a tired ‘yes’.
James’s eyes narrowed, and he spoke in a voice that held enough malice to make me feel cold, “I’m sure you heard what I told your sister, Rigel. The same applies to you. And if you ever let any of us think that you’re Sirius again, the house elves might hold you down for me, but I will kill you myself. And I won’’t do it quickly. You may see yourself out.”
Rigel smiled, tipped an imaginary hat to Peter, and disappeared.
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