Chapter 61 : The Loss Of Padfoot's Pride
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Things got noisier, the higher up Sirius went, and the reason became apparent when he managed to distinguish his mother’ shrill voice; Harry’d obviously disrupted the portraits. Sure enough, they were lying in a pile on the floor of Kreacher’s cupboard, cursing ‘that Potter brat’. Kreacher himself was there too, and Padfoot retransformed into Sirius at the sight of him. The old elf was alternating between hitting his head against the wall, and staring worriedly at Harry’s closed door.
“Kreacher was told not to worry,” Kreacher croaked, rather pitifully. “But Kreacher worries, oh yes. The brat is not fine, oh no, even if he says he is, but Kreacher was told to stay out, oh yes, and Kreacher listens-”
“I’ll take care of it,” Sirius promised, and then was hit with the niggling doubt that he might not be able to, this time. This wasn’t a self-confidence issue of Harry’s, or something that needed explaining. This was Sirius’ fault. He should have waited until Harry wasn’t around before he started having a proper discussion with Dumbledore about their fallout after the trial, and he shouldn’t have let Snape provoke him as much as he had, and her certainly shouldn’t have retaliated. Lily would have hexed me for behaving the way I did today, he thought dejectedly. And Prongs too. Moony would have, I’m sure, but then he’d have looked just as bad as I did.
“Harry?” he called, rapping on the door. “Can I come in?” There was no response. “Harry? Kiddo?” Still nothing. “Harry,” Sirius said, “if you don’t want to talk, that’s fine, but could you just let me know that you’re all right?” Sirius fidgeted. “Harry? Kiddo, I’m coming in.”
When that didn’t win him even a protest in response, Sirius tried the doorknob, and was surprised to find the door was unlocked. It swung open. It was not as messy as he’d expected; there were clothes on the floor but they looked like they’d been dropped there, not thrown around by accidental magic. The desk was always untidy, and clearly not affected by magic either. Harry’s bed was unmade but he never did that anyway, and Harry himself was draped rather precariously on the end, unmoving.
“Harry,” Sirius said, stepping forward. Harry didn’t even twitch. Sirius swore under his breath and approached the bed. Harry was indeed unconscious. He was very pale, rather clammy and also bleeding from a serious, but not life-threatening cut on his lower neck.
Splinching, Sirius thought with a grimace. He scooped Harry up and rearranged him on the bed properly – he had to pluck his godson’s wand out of his tightly clenched fist after almost poking himself in the eye – and then fixed the cut and cleaned the blood away with a few waves of his wand.
A few diagnostics convinced him that there was nothing truly wrong with Harry – other than being exhausted – he set up a charm to tell him when Harry’s feet touched the floor – a charm he’d found in that parenting book Remus had given him for Christmas – and left the room. Kreacher was still waiting out on the landing.
“He’s asleep,” Sirius said, in a voice that sounded hollow even to his own ears.
“Wake the brat,” Kreacher suggested, with an uncommonly shrewd look. Sirius shifted and glanced at Harry’s door. Then he shook his head, without meeting Kreacher’s eyes. Kreacher harrumphed and pointed at the stairs. “Kreacher will make tea,” he decided. Sirius didn’t argue; he shuffled downstairs, and felt even guiltier than he had already when Kreacher refused to let him repair any of the damage Harry’d made.
Three hours, seven cups of tea and one conclusion - that Remus must have gone home or stayed at Hogwarts because he still hadn’t shown up – later, Sirius jumped as his wand vibrated; Harry was out of bed. Sirius drained the rest of his tea and got up – Kreacher glanced at him and then turned back to the chopping board – feeling nervous, and also incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of.
Because of Snape? Sirius asked himself, as he trudged upstairs. Or because of how I acted? He still hadn’t decided by the time he reached Harry’s door – which was still closed – and knocked.
“Harry?” There was no response, but this time, Sirius was sure it was because Harry was ignoring him. “Kiddo, can I come in?”
“If I say no will you do it anyway?” Harry asked. There was more bite than humour in his voice, and Sirius flinched.
“No,” he said, after a pause. There was silence – as Harry mulled that over – and then a huff.
“All right,” Harry said, and Sirius stepped into the room. Harry was curled up in his desk chair, staring out of the window with a distant expression on his young face and his wand held tightly in his fist. Sirius lifted his wand to conjure himself a chair and then thought better of it. He remained on his feet. “Thanks for fixing my neck,” Harry said, without looking at him. Sirius waved his hand dismissively.
“Do you feel okay?”
“Tired,” was all Harry offered.
“Can I talk to you?”
“You already are,” Harry replied, still not looking at him.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said.
“I don’t want an apology!” Harry told him, spinning his chair around.
“That’s too bad,” Sirius said. “You’re getting one anyway.”
“But you didn’t do anything to me,” Harry mumbled, looking at him properly for the first time.
Sirius rolled his eyes but he was sad to see just how guarded Harry’s face was. He was clearly trying to look composed but he was failing miserably; every few seconds he’d clench his jaw, as if to remind himself that he was angry, and he couldn’t hide the look of disappointment that kept flickering through his brilliant green eyes.
“I upset you,” he said. Harry shrugged, trying to look indifferent. “I’m sorry for being such a git to Snape-”
“I don’t care about that,” Harry said. Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Well a bit, but not much. He deserves it.”
“It’s still no excuse,” Sirius said, now a little thrown; what exactly had he done to upset his godson? He waited. Harry swallowed noisily, shifted his wand from his left hand to his right and squared his jaw. His eyes, which had more or less been avoiding Sirius’ until now, flicked up to watch his face.
“Did you really try to kill Snape?” he asked, getting straight to the point as Sirius had hoped he would.
Ah. Sirius took a deep breath. “I-” Harry watched him critically, and moved his wand almost imperceptibly so that it was pointed at Sirius. He’s afraid of me, he realised. With that thought came shame and it burned.
“Don’t lie,” Harry said. “Please.” Sirius nodded slowly, and sat down on the end of Harry’s bed.
“It was an accident.”
“So you did.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Sirius said, letting out a noisy breath. “It was a full moon. James and Peter were waiting for me in the dormitory, and then all three of us were going to go down to keep Remus company. Snape was... Snape.” Harry’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I’m not trying to defend myself, I promise. I’m just trying to put things into perspective. Snape’d been following us all around, trying to get us expelled - Merlin knows why - and usually it wasn’t a problem but since I had to get back to the others and we all had to get down to Moony, my patience was running fairly thin.
“Snape was making some uncannily accurate guesses about where Moony was and I got more and more frustrated before I finally told him how to get past the Whomping Willow. I honestly didn’t mean to. I was angry and it slipped out and I couldn’t take it back.” He smiled without humour.
“You sent Snape down to where a live werewolf was?” Harry asked.
“Look, I was young, I was stupid and I wanted Snape to bugger off and leave me the hell alone... I wasn’t thinking at all.” Harry didn’t contradict him. Sirius didn’t expect him to. “Of course, the first thing I did was try to Obliviate the git. The second thing I did was tell James.”
“Bet he thought it was funny,” Harry muttered.
“Funny? Not at all!” Harry looked bewildered and... hopeful? “He went down after Snape. He saved his life.” There was more to it of course, but the rest wasn’t exactly relevant.
“And you just sat by?” Harry asked, a little angrily.
“Of course not. That was Peter’s job; he sat on his bed and did his homework. No, I went and told McGongall what I’d done and then I went down to help James carry Snivellus out - he fainted when he heard me coming.”
“Oh,” Harry said.
“Oh?” Sirius repeated, amused despite himself. Harry flushed but he lowered his wand slightly.
“So it was an accident?”
“Didn’t I already say that?”
Harry bit his lip. “What was my dad really like?”
“What do you mean what was he really-”
“Was he obnoxious?” Harry blurted, looking pained. “Snape said he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen-”
“Never,” Sirius said firmly. “Obnoxious, perhaps - we all were, really. Capable of murder... absolutely not.”
“He didn’t want Snape dead?”
“Weren’t you listening before? James saved Snape. And I- I told him how to get down there, sure, but I didn’t actually want him to get hurt. I’m a git, kiddo, but I’m not a monster.” Harry’s face brightened a bit, and Sirius wondered what part if was that had reassured him. A moment later, though, Harry was looking frustrated.
“Why does he hate him so much?” Harry asked, frustrated.
“Snape, and Dad.”
“It’s just one of those things, kiddo. Jealousy was a big part of it; James was a Quidditch player - either Chaser or Seeker and brilliant at both - he was smart, popular, everyone liked him. Snape was an oddball. Lily was his only friend and even she stopped trying after fifth year – he said some things, and he was too interested in the Dark Arts for her to be able to forgive him... I won’t lie and say James and I didn’t give the git a hard time, but he wasn’t the type to sit there and take it - we got as good as we gave, I assure you.” Harry didn’t seem to know whether to be comforted by that or not.
After a short while, his eyes grew distant again and he lost himself in his own thoughts. Sirius waited patiently, ready to answer any other questions he might have but none came. It’s hard to remember that he’s not even ten yet, he thought, sighing quietly. Harry was almost independent, and very mature in the way he spoke and carried himself.
“Padfoot?” Still using nicknames, he thought, relieved. That’s a good sign.
“You still have boils on your face.”
“I know.” They were awfully itchy too, but they could wait.
“Padfoot,” Harry said again.
“Sorry for leaving so suddenly, before.”
“At Hogwarts?” Harry nodded. He rolled his eyes. “Kiddo, that’s not something to apologise for. We’ve already established I was being a prat. It’s my fault for making you leave... although...”
“Next time you see him, you should probably apologise to Dumbledore for ruining his wards.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Harry mumbled.
“No one blames you,” Sirius assured him. “It’s just the polite thing to do.” Harry nodded. “So,” Sirius said tentatively, “are we all right?”
Harry looked him over appraisingly and nodded.
* * *
“This is Mum,” the girl said, leading them into the kitchen. A woman - presumably Aislinne – glanced over her shoulder as they walked in. She was standing with one foot on the kitchen bench, and the other on the back of a spindly chair. Tonks expected her to fall at any moment, but she looked perfectly comfortable.
“Hello,” she said in a voice just as airy as her daughter’s. She added a few more yellow splotches to the dragon she was painting on the kitchen cabinets and then tucked her paintbrush behind her ear – and Tonks now knew where the daughter had learned that particular behaviour.
“I’m Auror Moody,” Mad-Eye said gruffly, flashing his badge at her. Tonks mimicked him. “This is Trainee Tonks. We have a few questions for you.”
Aislinne climbed down – Tonks knew if she’d been the one climbing, she’d have fallen and broken something, but Aislinne managed with all of the ease of practice – wiped her hands on her flowery jeans and glanced curiously at Mad-Eye’s Sidekick.
“Interesting,” she said, peering at it. Mad-Eye’s mouth set, and Tonks just knew he was getting annoyed. “That’s not made out of leprechaun gold, is it?”
“No, Mummy,” the girl said, “I checked.” She and her mother shared a smile that made Tonks think they were in on a rather enormous secret; a secret she and Mad Eye were excluded from. She glanced at Mad-Eye, who was looking just as confused by the days’ events as Tonks.
“Wrackspurts bothering you?” Aislinne asked seriously. Tonks and Mad-Eye shared another confused look, and Aislinne swiped the air around them. “The kitchen’s full of them, I’m afraid; they like the smell of paint. Here, we’ll talk in my study. Would you mind putting the kettle on, Luna, my love?”
Luna nodded and went straight to a cupboard and pulled out the strangest kettle Tonks had ever seen; it looked a bit like a jellyfish. She and Mad-Eye had time for one confused look before they were led into another room, lined with bookshelves. A large, intricately carved desk took up the majority of the space – Tonks noticed several large scorch marks on the wood’s surface – and most of the floor space was taken up by bizarre looking instruments that reminded Tonks of Dumbledore’s office. These were wooden, however, not silver.
“Have a seat, please,” Aislinne said, gestureing to a pair of mismatched chairs. One was a large, squishy armchair, and the other was some sort of bar stool. Aislinne noticed her looking at them and added, “I find a different seat can be more conductive to my research,” she explained, sitting down in a normal desk chair on the far side of the desk. Tonks was beginning to feel confused enough about all of this that she actually waited for Mad-Eye to cast his charms before she sat.
“What do you know about Fenrir Greyback?” Mad-Eye asked.
“Ooh, lots,” Aislinne said, looking impressed with the turn the conversation had taken. “He’s – or he was – Europe’s most notorious werewolf- Did you know that a werewolf can smell if you’re happy or sad, the way a cat or dog can, even when they’re human?”
“We did, yes,” Mad-Eye told her.
“It would be incredibly useful, don’t you think?” she continued, looking thoughtful. “My husband published an article in his magazine about it, but we reached the conclusion that the advantages of the heightened senses might not be worth the pain of transformation. Still, you’ve got to wonder, don’t you?”
“I suppose,” Tonks said, when Mad-Eye didn’t say anything.
“Sorry,” Aislinne said, scratching a spot of paint off her wrist. She swatted at the air, like she had in the kitchen. “Stray wrackspurt. This room’s mostly warded against them, but occasionally one will sneak through on a host.” She looked at Mad-Eye. “I think this one was yours. Do you feel any different than you did a few moments ago?”
“Stay on topic, please, Lovegood,” Mad-Eye said, and Tonks suspected if he’d answered her earlier question that the answer might not have been appropriate for polite conversation.
“Oh, Greyback,” Aislinne said. “Of course, sorry. Well, I think he’s a rather nasty piece of work, and I must say it’s probably a good thing he’s gone-”
“You’re happy he’s dead?”
“Happy’s a strong word,” she said, shaking her blond head. “I think excited is a better word. He’d made such an enormous mess of everything here... the poor man started off promoting equality, which is, in my opinion, a rather admirable cause, but he got lost somewhere along the way. Very easy to do, unfortunately, and he hurt a lot of people. He can have a fresh start in death, and so can the people he’s hurt. In life, in their case,” she added.
“And you make spells for a living?” Mad-Eye asked.
“I do,” Aislinne said, looking curious.
“Dangerous work, that,” Mad-Eye said.
“Oh, it can be, I suppose,” she said, “but someone’s got to do it, and I enjoy it charms-”
“Charms?” Mad-Eye asked.
“I’ve always been rather useless at transfiguration,” she confided, looking a little put-out. “It’s a shame, really, because it means I have to find all sorts of other, far more complicated ways around things that should be simple, but I’ve just never been good with change.” Tonks and Mad-Eye shared a long look.
“Mrs Lovegood, your husband’s articles are very detailed,” Tonks said, glancing at Mad-Eye, who gestured for her to ask away. “We were wondering where you got your information from-”
“It’s well researched, I’ll have you know,” she said, a little coolly. “All of Xenophillius’ work is.”
“That’s what we mean,” Tonks said hastily. “It’s obvious you’ve got an inside source – maybe one of Greyback’s victims?”
“Perhaps,” Aislinne said, smiling suddenly, but she looked disappointed a moment later. “I can’t give you a name, I’m afraid. Our source is absolutely fascinating from a research perspective, and lovely from a conversational one-”
“We have some questions for her,” Mad-Eye said. Aislinne looked troubled and then shook her head.
“I can’t help you, I’m afraid.”
“This is an official investigation-”
“And I’m required to answer your questions truthfully, which I’ve done,” she said serenely. “I can’t and won’t give up my source.” She clasped her hands, looking decisive, but genuinely sorry. “I’m sorry to be obstructive. If you have any other questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, but otherwise, I have a kitchen to get back to.” There was a soft knock on the door and Tonks turned and spied Luna, who was carrying a tray laden with steaming mugs. “Would you like your tea before you go?” she asked.
Tonks sniffed – the tea was a bright blue, which was concerning – and wrinkled her nose. Her sense of smell wasn’t as good as Remus’, but it was good enough to know when something smelled like it definitely shouldn’t be ingested.
“Erm,” she said, glancing at Mad-Eye, who seemed to have reached the same conclusion.
“No, we’ve got other places to be,” he said. “Thank you for the talk.”
“Not a problem,” Aislinne said, taking a sip from her cup. “Good luck with your investigation.” Luna showed them out and gave them a cheery wave before disappearing back inside. Tonks turned to Mad-Eye.
“Interesting, wasn’t it?” she asked mildly. Mad-Eye snorted and waved his wand. “What-”
“It’ll let me know if she sends any letters, and who they’re to,” Mad-Eye said.
“So you don’t think it was her?” Tonks asked.
“Do you?” Mad-Eye asked, and she shook her head. “Good. You’ve got the instincts.” Tonks beamed, but she was starting to feel ill again; if it wasn’t Aislinne, she had some idea who their murderer might be, and she didn’t like the idea any more than she had that morning.
* * *
“Padfoot.” Sirius jerked awake when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“For Merlin’s sake, Kreacher!” he groaned. “We’ve talk-”
“It’s Harry,” Harry said. The small, dark shape standing beside his bed shifted.
“Harry, it’s the middle of the night.”
“I know. I just... Sorry.” Sirius sat up with a sigh and rubbed his eyes.
“What’s bothering you?” Harry was quiet for a long time. Sirius yawned and patted the bed beside him, and Harry accepted the invitation and sat. “Are you feeling all right? Does your neck-”
“Erm... bad dream?” Sirius asked, smothering another yawn.
“Do you think of me as my mum or dad?” he blurted. Sirius squinted at him, but it was too dark to make out Harry’s expression. He considered lighting his wand, but he suspected he’d just end up blinding them both. Instead, he sniffed, and was disconcerted to find that Harry smelled worried, and also a little guilty.
“What makes you think that?” he asked finally.
“Something Snape-” Sirius groaned before he could even finish, and Harry bristled.
“Kiddo, no,” he said. “I won’t lie and say that you don’t remind me of them from time to time... but no. More often than not, I look at you and I see the differences... you only have to look at your form to know you’re not a copy of James, and Lily’s wand doesn’t work for you anywhere near as well as Prongs’ did.”
“You’re always saying that I’m like them, though.”
Sirius smiled at touch sadly. It was only to himself, and maybe to James and Lily if they were somehow watching, because there was no way Harry would be able to see it.
“You are, and that’s probably the highest praise I can give you.”
“So I’m like them, but not?” Harry asked, shifting beside him.
“Pretty much,” Sirius said. “You were young enough when I took you from the Dursleys that I had to be the responsible one.” He smiled wryly, and when he realised Harry couldn’t see that, he snorted. Harry smelled amused. “That in itself is a huge difference, because I was always the one that needed them to look after me.” Harry was silent. “At the risk of sounding like a complete sap,” Sirius added, glad that it was Harry and not James he was having this conversation with, “you have your similarities, like I said – particularly in the way you look, but if you were enough like them that I could mistake you for them – either of them, in some shape or way - then I wouldn’t miss them as much as I do.”
Harry lapsed into a thoughtful sort of silence after that, but fell asleep before he could actually voice whatever conclusion he’d reached. Sirius chuckled, tucked some of the extra covers around him, and rolled onto his side, hoping to go back to sleep, but no such luck; the thoughts bouncing around in his head were too noisy to ignore.
* * *
Sirius took a deep breath and knocked once, gently, on the dark wood of Snape's office door. He rocked back onto his heels, waiting, and when no one answered it for almost a minute, he knocked again.
“Yes?” he heard, as the door was yanked open. Snape's dark eyes flicked up to his face, and Sirius only had time to open his mouth before the door slammed shut, narrowly missing his nose.
“Snape!” he called. He heard footsteps stomping away from the door, and growled under his breath. “Snape!” He knocked again, and then paused in to listen; the office had fallen silent. Sirius sighed and crossed to the other side of the corridor, where he folded his arms and leaned against the cold, damp dungeon wall. “I'd like to talk if you've got a moment,” Sirius said loudly, but was met with no reply. “I'd like to apologise.”
The door opened and Snape's glowering face appeared in the gap. Sirius immediately held up his hands to show he wasn't holding a wand.
“Do get on with it, then,” he sneered. It was a tone that usually got a rise out of Sirius, but not today. He took a deep breath and gave the other man an unimpressed look. For a moment, Snape seemed to be at a loss. “Some of us have important things to do today.”
“I'm sorry,” Sirius said, sincerely, and wondered what James would think of him if he could see this. The fact that he didn't know what James' response would be, was more daunting than the task itself. He swallowed, and wiped his hands on his robes. “I- we were kids, when this started.” He gestured between them. “And kids can be stupid. Teenagers too, but they should know better. Adults definitely should-”
“The point, Black.”
“The point, Snape,” Sirius sighed, “is that this stupid grudge has been going on since we were eleven! House prejudices turned into hexing and insults and me almost getting you killed because I wasn’t thinking, and you not helping me when you knew where Peter was-”
“I knew nothing of the kin-”
“Harry overheard you talking to my cousin. You knew,” Sirius said. Snape’s face was unreadable. “I’m saying I’m done,” Sirius said. “I’m sorry, and-”
“Done? Sorry?” Snape drawled. “You think that you can just apologise and all will be forgiven? I suffered years of torment at the hands of your little friends, and you almost had me killed-”
“A favour you did your best to return during the war,” Sirius said coolly, and sighed. “No, I don’t think an apology is enough to fix everything. I don’t think anything is; James saved your life, and you still loathed him.” Snape scowled. “And I don’t think we’ll ever be friends, or ever like each other, but I’m sick of making an arse out of myself. Lily hated James for years because he made an arse of himself whenever you were around, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Harry hate me because of the same thing-”
“Ah, so Potter’s miniature told you to apologi-”
“He doesn’t even know I’m here,” Sirius snapped. He took a deep breath. “And I intend to keep it that way. I don’t want praise for this. This is an apology that shouldn’t have had to happen in the first place, because things shouldn’t have been allowed to get so far out of hand.” Snape considered him for a long moment. “I’m not kidding,” Sirius said.
“Apparently not.” Snape’s lip curled. “Dare I ask why this pathetic attempt at reconciliation matters to you? I’m a Death Eater, remember? You don’t trust me, and you don’t value our non-existent friendship-”
“You got a trial,” Sirius said quietly.
“Oh, yes,” Snape said nastily. “So suddenly you care what the Ministry-”
“I don’t care what the Ministry thinks,” Sirius said. “But Dumbledore trusts you. And I hate that,” he admitted, with a wry grin. “I hate that he vouched for you, and I hate that you got to walk free after everything you did. But you know what I’ve realised? Everyone thought I’d done something terrible, and that was all it took for Dumbledore to stop trusting me.” His voice was a little bitter, but he couldn’t help it.
“You, on the other hand,” Sirius continued, “never had his trust. And he vouched for you. He didn’t speak up for me – a man he knew and had trusted - but he did for you. And you can call Dumbledore old, or senile, or whatever the hell you want to call him, but he’s not stupid. And if he was willing to trust you enough to put his neck on the line by championing you, then whatever you did, or whatever you told him must have been good-”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about-”
“Oh, you do,” Sirius said. Snape shifted, looking uncomfortable for the first time.
“I’m not telling you,” he said.
“I never asked you to.” Snape blinked.
“No,” he said slowly. They stared at each other for a long time. They were still rivals – the amount of resentment coming off of Snape was threatening to make Sirius sneeze – but the hatred was gone, or at least absent from this conversation. Snape’s scent shifted abruptly, to curious confusion. “So what do you want from this, Black, if not my forgiveness?” The mocking tone was back, but Sirius didn’t care.
“I want you to know I’m done with this stupid feud, and that I’m sorry.”
“That’s it,” Sirius agreed.
“No favours? No expectations?”
“None, whatsoever,” Sirius said, putting his hands up. He waited, half-hoping that Snape would attempt to apologise, but he didn’t. He still seemed to be trying to adjust to the idea that Sirius didn’t have an ulterior motive. Sirius ran a hand through his hair, wondering, yet again, what James would think. Well aware that it would likely be ignored, Sirius offered his hand. “Not enemies?” he said.
Snape stared at his hand, as if he’d never heard of a handshake before. Sirius shifted, and after almost a minute, cleared his throat and started to lower it... and then Snape shook; very briefly, and with a revolted look on his face, but he shook, and he didn’t try to break Sirius’ fingers in the process.
“Not friends either,” Snape drawled. He released Sirius’ hand, wiped his own on his robes and stalked back into his office. The door slammed shut behind him.
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