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Chapter 2 : Christmas Eve, 1990
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The Christmas spirit was in full swing everywhere you looked, but Sirius and Remus had been going overboard for weeks. It was their last Christmas before Harry went off to school—or, off to be forever corrupted by the likes of Severus Snape, as Sirius affectionately called it—and they were determined to make it special. Their small house in Newark that they originally bought as a second home was slowly becoming their only home as Sirius began to realize that it was their chance to build a life together as a family, the three of them, Sirius, Remus, and Harry, without the ghost of his past haunting him at Grimmauld Place. It was significantly smaller, but Sirius found it to be cozy. Besides, there was something about being away from the hectic city life that he found appealing in a way he never had until he experienced life in what he might have considered the middle of nowhere before moving there himself.
Besides, although their house was smaller, they did have a big yard where Harry could play. And play he did. The weather had been unseasonably warm so far that year, but Harry had it in a mindset that since it was Christmas, it was supposed to snow, so he had been outside for almost an hour making snow angels in the grass and pretending to get his tongue stuck on the fence post.
"I love just watching him play," Remus mused as he and Sirius watched Harry from the kitchen window. "To the world he may be The Boy Who Lived, but it's nice to be reminded that he's just a little kid."
A mischievous grin crept up Sirius's cheeks. "A little kid who's about to be in for the surprise of his life." He set down his cup of tea and grabbed his wand off the table, then walked outside. Quietly as he could, he magically conjured a snowball and threw it. It just missed Harry, who heard Sirius and turned to face him just as the snowball had been thrown, but it knocked his glasses slightly askew. Harry quickly repositioned them, then looked at Sirius with a broad grin on his face.
"Hey! No fair!" he called. "I can't use magic."
Sirius laughed. "So I suppose we're still pretending it's a great mystery how my wand went missing last night, and then your room was mysteriously clean just minutes later?"
Harry shrugged. "Stranger things have happened." Then his face lit up. "You should make it snow all over the yard! Let's build a snowman!" He jumped up in excitement, then began running around in circles. That kid never ran out of energy, ever. Sirius both loved and hated that about him.
Sirius was just about to oblige his godson's simple desire when Remus appeared at the door and said, "Sirius, can you bring Harry back inside?"
"What's wrong?" Sirius called back.
Then Remus did something Sirius had never seen him do before. He apparated twenty feet forward to where Sirius and Harry were standing. Normally Remus was never one to abuse his wizardry and only used magic to make his life more convenient if he had to. "Lucius Malfoy is here. He says he wants to talk to us."
Sirius's eyebrows raised. "I have nothing to say to him."
Remus smiled a little, then he covered Harry's eyes and kissed Sirius.
"You don't have to do that! I know you guys are kissing!" Harry insisted.
"No you don't," Sirius teased him.
"I think you having nothing to say to Lucius is a bit of a moot point," Remus said. "He came here to tell us something, not to hear what you have to say to him."
"Still," Sirius said stubbornly.
"Do you want me to tell him to leave? I will."
Sirius smirked. Remus wasn't capable of being that rude to anyone, even Lucius Malfoy. "No, it's fine." Sirius turned to Harry and said, "How about one lap around the yard with your old friend Padfoot before going in?"
"Yeah!" Harry yelled. Sirius hoisted Harry onto his back and transformed into a big, black dog all in one motion, and Harry held on tightly to Sirius's fur as they ran around. Harry was probably getting too big to be doing this, but Sirius couldn't help it. Part of him was eager to see Harry grow up, to see what kind of man he would become, and the other part just wanted Harry to stay an innocent child forever. Sirius ran around the yard, then straight into the house with a simultaneously laughing and screaming Harry still on his back. He came to a sudden stop when he saw Lucius standing in the middle of the living room, not trying too hard to conceal his condescension.
Sirius immediately transformed back into a human and wrapped his arms around Harry's chest protectively. "Lucius," he said, nodding in greeting, like that was the most normal way to enter a room there was. "What can we do for you?" He was a little out of breath.
If there was one person Sirius could say was the last person he'd ever expect to see standing in his house, Lucius Malfoy would be near the top of that list. Sirius hadn't seen him since his marriage to Narcissa almost thirteen years ago, and even then Sirius spent most of the ceremony in the back with James.
"Lucius, would you like some tea?" Remus offered, clearly sensing that Sirius was not going to be the most hospitable of hosts. "We just made some."
Lucius waved his hand dismissively. "No. I can't stay long. Far be it for me to impose on this idyllic fairy tale you two are living in, but Narcissa wanted me to come invite you to the Christmas party we're having tonight. It's at seven o' clock, at our house."
"So why didn't dear old Cissy invite us herself if she wants us there so badly?" Sirius asked immediately. Truthfully, Sirius would have loved a chance to talk to his cousin again. She and her sisters used to babysit Sirius and Regulus all the time when they were kids, and Sirius always felt close to Narcissa in a way he hadn't with Andromeda or Bellatrix. He and Andromeda became closer as they got older, but it wasn't the same. Maybe because Narcissa was the youngest, so they were closer in age, and they were actually in school together for awhile. When Sirius's family disowned him, her rejection hurt a lot more than Bellatrix's, and Sirius would love the chance to ask her why she was so quick to turn on him.
"She's taking Draco to his friend's birthday party in Hogsmeade. And I really should be joining them soon. So what do you think? Can we expect to see you there?"
"Absolutely not," Sirius said at the same time that Remus said, "We'll be there."
Lucius smirked. "Your synchronization is impeccable. How about if I just assume you'll come, but if you don't then I won't take it personally. But I really should be going." Lucius nodded to Harry and said, "Harry Potter, pleasure to meet you. I hope to be seeing you tonight."
Lucius left as quickly as he appeared, and as soon as he did, Sirius turned to Remus and said, "There's no way we're going to that party."
"Why not?" Remus asked.
"Because it's going to be full of all the people who turned their back on me when I was a kid," Sirius said. How did Remus not get this?
Harry stood up and said, "When you two decide what I'm doing tonight, I'll be in my room."
Remus shook his head, then turned back to Sirius and said, "Maybe this feud with your family has gone on long enough, and it's time to reconcile with them."
Sirius's eyebrows shot up. "Reconcile? My only crime against the Black family name was being a decent human being, and there's a hole in my mother's tapestry next to my dead brother that's made it pretty clear that reconciliation is not an option."
"Obviously it is to someone if Narcissa wanted to invite you."
Sirius stood up and rolled his eyes. "Maybe it's a trap and they want to stage an intervention."
"They already tried that, remember? Over Easter break in our seventh year? And it ended with Peter sneaking you out the bathroom window?"
Sirius averted his gaze and sighed. The world was so much better of a place when Peter was his best friend and lived right down the street and could always be counted on to get him out of a weird situation with his family. Now their lives were all so screwed up, and even though he and Remus were together in a way he never would have dreamed possible when he was fifteen, and Harry was with them and he was safe, Sirius never seemed to be able to stop thinking of everything his life was missing. Dumbledore admitted to him a few years ago that if Sirius weren't so adamant about raising Harry himself, Dumbledore would have sent him to live with his muggle aunt, uncle, and cousin in Surrey because he was convinced that being near a blood relative of Lily's would keep strong whatever it was that saved Harry from Voldemort, but Sirius would never let that happen. Harry deserved to be around his real family, people who loved him and understood him and loved his parents. Lily had been abandoned by her sister in the same way that Sirius had been abandoned by his family, rejected because they were not understood, and the thought of someone like Bellatrix being chosen to raise a child of Sirius's simply because she was related to him by blood made him feel sick. Family was the people who loved you unconditionally, who never gave up on you, who you never had to try to impress. They were the first people you ran to with good news, the first people you cried to with bad news, the people who supported you no matter what. Blood had nothing to do with it.
"I just wish I knew the real reason why Lucius invited us," Sirius mused.
"Let's just go. What's the worst that could happen, really? If we're not having fun, we'll leave."
"But what about everything we were going to do tonight? What about singing Christmas carols badly at the top of our lungs, baking cookies, staying up until midnight to exchange presents…"
"We'll do all that when we get home."
Sirius still wasn't convinced.
Remus, calmly as anything, said, "Harry, would you like to weigh in on this issue?" as if Harry were right next to them instead of down the hall in his bedroom.
And indeed, Harry appeared in a few seconds, a sheepish smile on his face. "I want to go," he said.
Sirius sighed, but he couldn't help but smile. "Harry, please give Moony his wand back." It was hard to reprimand Harry for pranks that made Sirius so proud of his godson.
Harry's face blushed bright scarlet. "I don't know what you're talking about." But sure enough, Sirius could see that behind Harry's back, Remus's wand suddenly appeared on the end table next to the sofa. "I think it would be fun to go to a Christmas party."
"You know, Sirius, Draco will undoubtedly be there, which means that there will be other kids his age there, too. And these are the kids that he's going to be going to school with next year…"
"I'm not sure I want Harry to be friends with those kinds of kids," Sirius said without thinking. As soon as Remus smirked, he regretted saying it.
"Wow. A bit harsh, isn't it? To immediately judge someone based on who their parents are?"
Sirius held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, fine. Clearly I'm outnumbered here, and this family has always been a democracy, so we'll go. But we will be fashionably late. And if any of us are not having fun, the other two have to be willing to leave unfashionably early. And Remus, don't you dare leave my side all night."
"Deal," Harry and Remus said simultaneously.
Sirius, Remus, and Harry arrived at the Malfoy Manor at 7:21 on the dot, even though Remus had been pacing around the house for half an hour, trying to convince Sirius that there was no reason to wait if they were all ready to go. Sirius just sat on the sofa in his dress robes, picking at the dead skin on his finger and said, "Then go. I hope you have fun."
As soon as they walked in, Sirius had a bad feeling. The foyer was bigger than his bedroom, and it was unnerving. The house Sirius grew up in on Grimmauld Place was big, yes, but it also was so old that it felt like the smart girl with a nasty scar across her face. Like nothing could be too perfect. The Malfoys' house was huge, and somehow was able to look old while still simultaneously seeming modern. But the shock of the appearance of the Malfoy Manor did nothing to prepare Sirius for the greeting they would receive once they stepped in. Narcissa Malfoy came to the door all smiles and hugs and said, "Hello, Sirius, it's so good to see you. Remus, welcome. You're looking well. And this must be Harry." She winked at Harry and said, "Hi there. I'm Narcissa, but you can call me Cissy. If you want, all the kids are playing upstairs if you don't want to spend all night with the boring adults."
Harry looked back at Sirius and Remus and said, "Can I go?"
"Of course you can," Remus said.
Sirius reached out and held Remus's hand.
"Here, let me take your cloaks," Narcissa insisted. But as soon as they were handed to her, she passed them off to the house elf, Dobby, who immediately took them to another room, and there it was. Sirius Black was at a Christmas party with his family.
Harry ventured upstairs not really sure what to expect. He peeked into a couple of empty bedrooms until he heard a loud crash and then the sound of laughter. He followed the noise down the hall and found a room with three boys and a girl inside kneeling in a circle playing with something in the center.
"Hello," Harry said loudly enough to make sure they could hear him from the doorway.
They all looked over at him, and one of the boys, the tall one with white-blond hair, stood up and smiled. "Are you Harry?" he asked.
Harry nodded. That was pretty impressive. "Are you a wizard?" he asked with reverence.
The boy looked confused for a moment. "What? Oh." He laughed. "A joke. Good one. I like you. My father told me that you might be coming. Well, come on in and join the real party." He waved Harry over, and Harry smiled and joined them where they made a spot for him in the circle between the blond boy and his short, chubby friend. "I'm Draco," the blond boy said. "And that's Vincent, Gregory, and Pansy," he said, pointing to each of them as he introduced them. "Every year my parents throw this Christmas party, and each year is more boring than the last, so we make our own fun. Our other friend, Theodore, decided he's too good for us this year, though, and he's going to stay downstairs with the adults."
Harry smiled. "So, what are we playing?" he asked.
Pansy picked up the object in the center of the circle, something that looked like it used to be the tail of a stuffed ferret before some cat got ahold of it, and said, "We're taking turns throwing this back and forth, but the trick is, you have to keep your hands still and use magic to propel it into the hands of someone else in the circle. If you drop it, you have to start the next one. And if you're Draco and can't control it at all and it goes flying into your mother's silver cauldron, then you get to clean it up."
Harry followed her gaze to the corner of the room, where sure enough, the top half of a cauldron was lying in pieces. That must have been where the crash came from.
Draco laughed. "Well, excuse me. You didn't have to duck." He looked at Harry and said, "That thing is a lot stronger than it looks. Trust me."
"Okay, Draco, go ahead and take your turn again," Pansy said, handing him the ferret tail. "You're still the best at magic out of any of us."
Draco put it in his hands and said, "To the new guy!" as he sent it into Harry's hands. Harry was all ready to catch it, but as soon as it made contact with his skin, it burned painfully, and he clutched his hands to his chest, dropping the tail.
"Ow! What was that?" Harry demanded.
Draco fell back on the floor laughing, while everyone else sat there trying to figure out what was going on. After a second, he sat up and said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself." He picked up the tail and handed it to Harry, and it was perfectly room temperature again. "Here, you go next."
Pansy squirmed eagerly and said, "Yeah. Let's see how good the infamous Harry Potter is at magic."
"Not that good," Harry admitted as he held his palms flat, just as he'd seen Draco do. "I'm not going to Hogwarts until next year."
"All of us are," Draco said dismissively. "But my father says that us learning some simple magic before then is good for us because it puts us ahead of the muggle-borns who never even hear of magic until they get their Hogwarts letter." He chuckled to himself. "Can you imagine?" Then he nodded at Harry and said, "Come on, then. Let's see what you've got."
With a lot of concentration, Harry was able to levitate the ferret tail up and he tried to put it in Draco's hands because they were the closest, but just before it landed, he lost control of it, and it suddenly began spinning all over the room in every direction. All of them started laughing all over again when it landed on one of the blades of the ceiling fan, the edge of it hanging off, like it was peeking down on them.
"That's the best one I've seen so far," Draco said approvingly.
"It's almost sad to think that next year we'll be better at magic. Screwing up is the best part of these games," Pansy commented.
"Well, you'll still be able to play," Draco teased her. "Meanwhile, Harry and I," Draco threw his arm around Harry's shoulders, "can be bewitching and charming everything in sight."
Harry smiled. He knew that Sirius really didn't want to come to this party, but Harry was really glad they did. He didn't exactly have a lot of friends, both because of how far from civilization he lived and because he was cursed with having been made famous for something he couldn't remember. He was sort-of friends with some of the children of friends of Sirius and Remus's, the Weasleys were nice, and Neville was a bit clueless sometimes but every time he and Harry saw each other they got along. But Harry really didn't want to go off to Hogwarts next year without knowing anyone, and it made him feel better that he might have found a friend in Draco. It was, like Draco said, an advantage they had over the muggle-born students. And even though Harry wasn't one of those people who necessarily thought he was inherently a better wizard because his parents were wizards and he was raised by wizards, but there was something to be said for having a bit of a head start, he supposed.
Clearly, no one but Lucius and Narcissa knew that Sirius and Remus were even invited to the party. So many people Sirius hadn't seen in not quite long enough looked surprised that he was still occupying planet Earth, much less the Malfoy house, and some of them were better at pretending to hide their contempt than others. After they had been there for about an hour, Sirius, who had been leaning against a wall talking to Remus for the last twenty minutes hoping that it would discourage anyone else from talking to him, decided to go over and get a drink, just to break up the evening a little bit.
"Maybe we should go soon," Sirius told Remus as they walked, holding hands tightly. Sirius had barely let go of Remus's hand all night, even when they were standing by the wall talking to each other. It made him feel better, and Remus didn't seem to mind.
"Relax, Sirius," Remus said. "Look, we haven't heard a peep out of Harry since we got here. He's probably upstairs having fun, and part of being a parent sometimes means putting your kid's needs before your own. We'll just stay a little longer, okay?"
Sirius smiled. He couldn't help it. In that moment, in the middle of everything else going on, he was still drawn to that kind, calm look in Remus's eyes. His heart beat a little faster when Remus smiled back, and he felt so happy, so complete, just because how bad could enduring a party with his family be if he could have Remus by his side the whole time?
The answer came when Sirius just reached the tub where the Butterbeer was and he heard a voice behind him say, "Sirius, Narcissa told me you were here."
Sirius turned and saw his Aunt Druella—Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa's mother—looking at him critically with her pinched but no-nonsense face. "Hello, Aunt Druella," Sirius said evenly. "How are you?"
"Lonely," she said bluntly. "All of my daughters grew up and got married and left me, and my husband died. And you know what? Narcissa was the only one of my daughters to give me a grandchild, and even Draco doesn't come around much."
Sirius just nodded, not even bothering to mention that Andromeda had a beautiful daughter. "Yes, I imagine that would get lonely." He really didn't blame the kid. The only thing worse than being Druella's nephew would be being her grandson.
"And who's this?" she asked, looking at Remus.
"Oh, this is Remus Lupin," Sirius said, looking back at Remus and smiling. "Remus, this is my Aunt Druella."
Remus smiled at her and nodded in greeting. "Pleasure to meet you."
Sirius came so close to rolling his eyes. It wasn't fair that this stuff came so naturally to Remus.
Druella nodded. "I like you," she decided. "So, Remus? Is your mother lonely?"
She never got the answer because Narcissa immediately appeared and said, "Mother, there you are. I've been looking everywhere for you."
Druella looked at her and smiled. "My angel. I was just over here talking to Sirius, and I was meeting his friend, Remus. I bet he doesn't leave his mother all alone."
Narcissa looked at Sirius and Remus and winked, then smiled and said, "Mother, Sirius and Remus have been dating since they were at Hogwarts. And I'm sure Remus's mother is lovely, but Lucy said she had something important to talk to you about."
"Oh. Oh, okay," Druella said. "I'll go talk to her, then."
When she was out of earshot, Narcissa smirked and said, "Lucy left half an hour ago, so that should keep her occupied for awhile. But I'm really glad you decided to come, so I figured the last thing you needed was to be subject to my mother. Lucius said he wasn't sure if you would, but…I'm really glad you did."
Sirius looked at Remus for confirmation, then turned back to Narcissa and said, "Why did you invite us? We haven't talked in fifteen years."
"I know." Narcissa averted her gaze, and she picked up a Butterbeer. "I really am sorry about all of that. I want you to know that I never thought your parents should have done that to you. When Uncle Alphard wanted to give you some money, and they all turned on him just as quickly…I'm sorry, Sirius. I'm not as strong as you are. I didn't think I could handle not having the support of my family."
"What about Andromeda? She's your sister, the three of you were best friends when we were kids. When was the last time you talked to her?"
"When she told me she was marrying that idiot Ted Tonks," Narcissa said bluntly. Sirius looked at Remus again, just to confirm that Narcissa actually did say that. So clearly she still had a little ways to go. "I did actually send her an owl when Bella was taken to Azkaban, but I never heard from her, so I guess she doesn't even care."
Sirius made a mental note to ask Andromeda about that, the next time they talked.
"That's not the same thing, though. I mean, Andromeda got married to someone who might jeopardize the future of the Black name. If a witch and a Muggle have a child together, that child would still be a Black, but it could be a wizard as easily as it could be a half-Squib. There's no way of knowing which genes will get passed on."
"Andromeda and Ted do have a daughter, Nymphadora, and she is definitely a witch," Sirius informed her.
Narcissa shrugged dismissively. "Hm. Good for her. Mother will be happy to hear that. But Sirius, Remus, I want you to know that no matter what anyone else here thinks of the two of you, Lucius and I want you to be a part of our lives, and we want Harry to be a part of Draco's life. They're going to be starting school next year, and I think it's important for them to get to know each other."
Sirius didn't have to call Narcissa out on it and make her admit it to know that was the real reason they had been invited to this party. Harry Potter was famous, and famous for defeating Voldemort, nonetheless. After Voldemort disappeared, Lucius and Narcissa were among the first to claim that they only became Death Eaters because they were forced into it, and Sirius wouldn't be surprised if their doing that was what it took to push Bellatrix over the edge and make her snap enough to think that Frank and Alice Longbottom were the key to getting the Dark Lord back, if only she could make them tell her their secrets. Like any good mother, Narcissa claimed that everything she did was in the best interest of her son, and to her, making sure that if Draco was going to school with the famous Harry Potter, of course the two of them should be friends because her son deserved nothing less than to be friends with the most famous wizard of their generation, was in his best interest. It made so much sense, and yet, Sirius recalled what Remus said earlier, that he shouldn't automatically judge Draco on the slimy actions of his parents without getting to know the boy, and if Harry and Draco met and got along, of course there was no reason why the two of them shouldn't be friends. They were just two kids who had no idea what their friendship or lack thereof would mean to the adults in their lives.
So Sirius just smiled and said, "Well, they do seem to be having fun up there. We've been here for about an hour and have only heard one thing crash, so that has to be a good sign."
Narcissa's relief was painted all over her face. She returned the smile and said, "As long as one of them hasn't stolen a wand and figured out how to cast a Silencing Charm, then yes, I suppose it is a good sign." She took a long drink of the Butterbeer in her hand, then said, "I hope you enjoy the party. If I don't see you, say goodbye before you leave, okay?"
Sirius nodded. "It was good seeing you, Cissy."
After that Sirius did have more fun and started talking to other people, although Remus still stayed right beside him until they finally left about an hour later. As they listened to Harry keep talking about how much fun he had playing with his new friends, Sirius thought a lot about how this place where his life was, he never would have expected. Nine years ago, he lost three of his best friends in one night, and after that he was never able to enjoy Halloween, even though it used to be one of his favorite holidays. And it was terrible, but when they got home and, sure enough, got right to work baking cookies and singing Christmas carols while they waited for midnight to come so they could exchange gifts, it struck him in a way it never had before how much he had to be thankful for in his life. He was in love with a wonderful man who put up with his insane family because he knew how badly Sirius needed that closure with Narcissa, and he had Harry, who insured that even though James and Lily were dead, a part of them would always live on.
When they finally went to bed that night, Sirius was exhausted, but Remus crawled in next to him with an alert smile and said, "So, today was some day, huh?"
"Yeah. Very…unexpected," Sirius replied vaguely. He yawned, but Remus didn't get the hint.
"It was, but I'm glad we did it." Remus put his hand on Sirius's cheek and kissed him. It felt so right, so natural, the way their lips just fit together. "And I'm glad that now it's just back to being the three of us, that we still got to have all the memories of our last Christmas Eve with Harry before he goes to school next year." He smiled. "And also that now that we're back in with the Malfoys, maybe we can start getting invited to a lot more of their parties. I had quite a bit of fun, actually."
Sirius suddenly rolled over and pounced on Remus, sitting on his stomach and pinning his wrists to the bed. "Take it back," he demanded.
Remus burst out laughing. "No," he said stubbornly, though he could barely get the word out because he was laughing so hard. "I've been trying to find the right time to tell you this, but I need a more glamorous lifestyle, and part of that is going to fancy parties. Oh! And maybe even hosting a few here ourselves once in awhile! Although, this place is a bit small…"
"I'll give you glamorous," Sirius said, though he was now laughing just as hard. He leaned down and kissed Remus again, then just took a second to look deep into the eyes of the man he loved, the man who knew him inside and out and loved him anyway, the man who was currently looking at him like he was the most beautiful creature he'd ever laid eyes on. And Sirius knew suddenly that not only had life without James, Lily, and Peter become bearable, but he was lucky. He would never stop missing his friends and the life they used to have, but as the new year was coming fast, as was the next phase of Harry's life, he knew that he couldn't keep living his life around the fact that when he was twenty-one years old, he lost three of his best friends in one night. It happened, and now he had to move past it, to appreciate his life for what it was instead of what pieces he had to put together to build it. He kissed Remus again and said, "I love you, Moony."
"I love you, too, Padfoot," Remus whispered in reply.
And that was enough. It was plenty, even. It was everything.
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