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Chapter 18 : Traitorous Sons
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Chapter Eighteen: Traitorous Sons
The fat little man piqued Sirius’ interest immediately. Although the velvety red suit and enormously oversized waistline would catch anyone’s eye, it was the black sack beside his chair that seemed to be causing a curious itch to rise within Sirius. “So, this Santa fellow delivers toys and gifts to kids, hm?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Hermione tightened her grip on his arm. “Toys or no, you are not riffling through that bag.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he winked conspiratorially with Juliette as the Santa stood up and one of the elves placed a poster in the armchair he had vacated. “Looks like he’s off to take a pi-”
“Feed his reindeer,” Hermione cut him off with a glare. “Why don’t we just stroll around a bit until he comes back?”
She tugged lightly on his arm as she pulled him and Juliette away from the mesmerizing sight. They strolled along the sidewalk of the outdoor stores, each one decorated in typical Muggle fashion for the holidays. Cranky parents were escorting their children from one place to the next, their arms overflowing with packages and gifts. The kids seemed to be unable to contain their curiosity and Hermione couldn’t help be beam with pride as Juliette managed to keep her hands deep in the pockets of her red cloak. Sirius, on the other hand, seemed to thrive with the masses, the infectious laughter of the children causing him to fondle each object he came across in a store.
They were just making their way back to the quickly forming line to visit Santa when he spotted a tiny street vendor carrying something Hermione could only imagine was an old fashioned set of train whistles. Sirius was picking up each one in turn, oblivious to the grumpy saleswoman’s demeanor and the more Hermione tried to tug him away, the more enraptured he seemed to become.
“Shouldn’t you be off to see Santa?” the lady grumbled, nodding toward the line that was growing longer by the minute.
“It’s okay, he’s never met Santa,” Juliette explained. “The toys are all new to him.”
The woman’s eyes studied Sirius carefully over her horned rimmed glasses, the idea that a grown man had never visited Santa Claus seemingly lost on her. “You know he has rules don’t you?”
Sirius turned to her, his glittering eyes focused on her. “Rules?” he asked, as if he had no understanding of the term.
“He checks, you know, to see if you’ve been naughty or nice. All year,” she added, jerking the train whistle out of his hand with a meaningful glare. “So I would advise you behave.”
Hermione could feel him ruffle beside her and she placed a hand on his arm. But, he smiled jovially at the woman and tossed her a few coins in exchange for the whistle. Tucking it into his pockets he grinned.
“I’ll try and remember that next year,” he winked at her then took Juliette’s hand to return to their place in the line. He had just spied a rack of elf hats when he felt a soft tug on his cloak.
“Sirius, can I talk to you a minute?” Juliette whispered, tugging more fiercely on the fabric.
“Don’t want to lose your place in line, do you?” he asked distractedly as he threaded through the stack of red and green elf hats searching for one that might fit him.
“Mum will save it, won’t you?” she asked, bouncing a bit. “Please?”
Hermione chuckled. “Yes, yes. I’ll stay right here and find an elf hat to fit Sirius.”
Before Sirius could retort, Juliette tugged him to a nearby bench. They sank down on the cold wood and he eyed her expectantly. “Everything all right?”
She swallowed hard. “In January, I poured out Uncle Remus’ potion and filled it with rotten milk. I fixed it when I realized it was his wolfie potion. Then, in February, Draco was trying to be all romantic with mommy and I pretended to be sick so he’d stay with me instead. I even did a spell to make my face green.”
“What?” Sirius tried to follow her but she was going through her escapades so quickly he was having a tough time keeping up.
“And then, in March, I got really mad at Bill because he wouldn’t let me spend the weekend at his house so I decided to glue his wand to his hand. I covered the whole thing in this super fast acting stuff and his wand has never worked right since Remus had to do the spell to get it undone. And then--”
“No, no,” Sirius grabbed his knees as he bent over in laughter, “no more.” He took a few shallow breaths to try and contain his laughter then glanced her way. The serious look on her face caused him to sober.
“Is this confession?”
“Never mind,” he laughed. “What’s brought on this string of honesty?”
“She said he checks! Didn’t you hear? If I’ve been naughty or nice!” Tears were starting to form at the edges of her eyes. “I’ve been naughty all year!”
“Oh, Juliette,” he smiled affectionately as he ruffled her hair. “You are the nicest girl I know.”
She sprang on him, engulfing him in a monstrous hug.
“Come; let’s get back to your mum.” He slipped his hand around hers, tugging her along but she hesitated. Her hands flew to her hips, her eyes searching his.
“I’m the only girl you know,” she countered.
Sirius sank to kneel beside her, offering her the most dazzling smile he could manage behind his laughter. “Naughty is a very very relative term,” he whispered with a wink. “If he happens to ask, what say we call you mischievous?”
Juliette considered him for a moment then let her hands fall to her side. She smiled and slipped her hand back into his. “Mischievous…I like that.”
“Loopholes are my specialty,” he chuckled.
They wandered back to where Hermione was waiting for them, a curious expression on her face. "What was all that about?" she asked as they squeezed back into line.
"Excuse me, no pushing in,” huffed, a lump of a woman behind them.
Hermione turned around and glared at her "I wasn't waiting in a line with smelly brats just so I could sit on Santa's knee," she snapped then caught the mischievous glint in Sirius’ eyes. “You keep your mouth shut.”
“I’ll do just that,” he offered her a nod. “You don’t be so nosey; Juliette and I are allowed conversations of our own, aren’t we?”
“Depends on what you were planning,” she murmured her eyes narrowing with playful ridicule. She lifted to her toes and placed a green and red felt hat on Sirius’ head, the slight jingle of silver bells on the edges causing curious passersby to look their way. “See? Perfect fit.”
Sirius offered her a kiss on the cheek in thanks as the line started to recede, the Santa quickly moving through the line of children and their pushy mothers. He’d listen with half interest to their Christmas wishes, hand them a lollipop and move on to the next child. When it came to their turn, Hermione could almost sense the mischief emanating from Sirius. He held out a hand to block Juliette, offering her a winning smile.
“Me first?” he asked and when she nodded, he made a quick beeline for the plush red chair. Leaning down he whispered something in Santa’s ear. A look of shock and surprise registered briefly on his face but he nodded. Sirius waved to Juliette before taking a place beside Hermione. “He says you should go first.”
Juliette nodded nervously, traipsing up to the chair with tentative steps. He smiled happily, though, his arms outstretched for her to climb into his lap.
“What did you say to him?” Hermione whispered, the attention he was lavishing on Juliette being noticed by all the cranky parents waiting nearby for their photos to be developed.
“Something akin to if he ever wanted to ‘feed his reindeer’ again he would be wise to give her a bit more attention.”
Hermione fell into a fit of giggles, causing Sirius to wrap an arm around her waist. The sheer sound of her laughter seemed to reach Juliette and she became more animated, her nervousness gone. She mumbled for what seemed like ages until Sirius finally tugged Hermione toward the chair. “Come on, our turn.”
“No way,” she tried to pull away from him but Sirius held tight. They were still wrestling when he plunked her down on his lap and then sat down on Santa’s legs himself. The picture clicked before he would release her though, the Santa tossing curse words at both of them under his breath. Hermione broke free, hands on her hips as she tried to regain her composure. Sirius’ laugh was infectious, though, and she couldn’t keep her face straight.
A slight nudge beside her moved her out of the way though, a hand reaching out from somewhere behind her.
Sirius accepted Remus’ hand as he pulled him out of Santa’s lap. “Strange how finding you in this particular position doesn’t seem abnormal.”
“Ha-ha, want to take a picture with us?” Sirius asked grinning. “You can tell him what you want for Christmas…”
“Pass,” Remus said, shaking his head. He ushered him away from Hermione and Juliette as they picked up the pictures and lowered his voice. “Sirius -”
“Yeah, Dobby, I know,” he nodded understandingly. “Give me just a minute and I’ll meet you over by the fountain in the park, all right?”
Remus nodded, waving to them before disappearing out the side door.
“Everything okay?” Hermione asked, showing off the picture of the two of them half sitting and half sliding out of Santa’s lap.
“Remus just being Remus,” he replied with a wink. “Why don’t you ladies go warm up with some hot tea and then we’ll do a bit of shopping before heading back?” He kissed them each lightly, lingering a bit longer on Hermione than he intended. He offered her a grin then slinked away to find Remus.
“Coldest day on record,” Remus offered as Sirius sank down beside him with a visible shudder.
Sirius nodded, tightening his cloak to try and block out some of the bitter wind. Swirls of snowflakes circled around them and, after a quick glance about, he summoned two steaming cups of coffee for them both. He handed one to Remus who tipped the Styrofoam cup to him in cheers before taking a drink.
“I wasn’t trying to keep things from you, Sirius,” he offered quietly.
“Sure you were,” Sirius returned chuckling, “but I expect it so no harm done.” He drank his coffee for a few minutes, willing the hot liquid to seep into his skin to keep out the frigid air. He gave a brief, accepting nod as if he knew the happiness and peaceful world he had returned to was just an illusion.
“Don’t do that,” Remus mumbled. “Don’t take responsibility for this. You have nothing to do with it. The Ministry will handle it.”
“As it has been for the last decade?” He countered. “Ten years after the war is over and you still have a Malfoy running around loose? Yes, the Ministry has everything under control, as usual,” he spat bitterly.
Remus was quiet, knowing better than to argue with him. He was, after all, correct this time. They’d been trying to round up the last of Voldemort’s followers for much too long now. It was one of the reasons Remus felt so much bitterness toward Draco…he didn’t seem to be making any concentrated effort to assist the project. He knew Draco wasn’t thwarting their efforts but he wasn’t willing to aid them in advancing their goals either. “Draco hasn’t been very cooperative,” he offered.
“Blaming it on the boy, are you? Nice touch.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Remus stammered.
“Yes, you did.”
“If anyone should know the whereabouts of Lucius Malfoy and the rest of the remaining Death Eaters it would be him. But he is so damn stubborn and hell bent on staying with Hermione that he bides his time doing menial tasks to keep his hands clean of the entire affair. As if he doesn’t care that this is more important than--”
“Enough, Remus,” Sirius cut him off. “As usual, you have gotten so determinedly intellectual that you refuse to see anything in front of you.”
The jab, as honest as it was, cut into Remus. He knew ten years time was more than enough to get rid of the straggling followers that were still holding so tightly to their beliefs of pureblood supremacy. He understood Draco was still fighting with the demons of his past and wanted to distance himself from anything remotely related to Voldemort. He understood it but couldn’t equate it with his own need to have everything tied up and put away in a nice neat package. After Voldemort’s first demise, he had hidden himself away, avoiding facing things much like Draco was doing now. But now, with years of age and reason behind him, he knew delaying the inevitable was no way to live your life.
“You think I’m being too hard on him,” he said quietly and felt Sirius shift beside him.
“Oh, hell no,” he shook his head with a tight laugh. “If anything, everyone’s treating him like a damned golden boy that can do no wrong.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Remus asked, unable to contain the smart tone to his voice.
“Find Lucius,” Sirius said flatly, “before he finds his traitorous son. Because that, my friend,” he clapped Remus on his shoulder as he stood up, “is something you’ll never forgive yourself for.”
Sirius stuffed his hands in his pockets, his eyes as unreadable as ever. “I’ll talk to him.” He could see Remus’ protest coming, could see the protective look as he moved to stand beside him. Remus’ hand was soft on his arm, a withered look causing deep lines to form at the corners of his eyes.
“You didn’t ask, Remus. I offered,” he consoled him with a brief smile. “No one, absolutely no one, knows the role of a traitorous son more than I.”
Author’s Note: Wanted to offer an apology for not sending out email updates as of late. I got a new computer and haven’t been able to transfer over my email lists. If you want to be added to my newly created list, please drop me an email or pm and I’ll make sure to let you know when the next chapter is up. Thanks so much for all the support and the wonderful and helpful reviews and just the general encouragement you’ve given me throughout this whole story!
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