Amanda, we didn't forget to write the epilogue, we just forgot to paste it. Take that as a lesson not to post at 2am. And Lone Astronomer, this is pure fluff, save a few sniffles at the start (but not from Remus or Sirius!) Cheers!
Malcolm walked carefully up the staircase towards the first years' room. True, Gary Weasely had seemed in earnest when he came to find Malcolm saying that something was wrong with Griffin and he'd better talk to him, but he wasn't going to take any chances. Griffin's hair had still been slightly flecked with green at the ends when they got back to school, and he had endured several days of comments about his 'daring' appearance. And Griffin hadn't said two words to him since they had arrived; actually, he'd not spoken to Griffin since after Christmas Day, but since Sirius and Liz always celebrated the New Year with Harry, that wasn't really surprising. In fact, this year they'd all gone to the Weasleys, he was pretty sure, since he could recall Griffin making noise about being surrounded by 'all those damn girls'. Malcolm smiled as he stopped at the door. The only girl Griffin didn't complain bitterly about was Annie, and if he thought they hadn't all noticed he was being silly. Still, the fact was young Mr. Black was unusually subdued, and that did worry him a bit. Dad would have said if something was wrong with Sirius or Liz….
Malcolm knocked on the door and waited. After he got no response, he knocked again, and then carefully opened the door to look in. The room looked as if a bomb had gone off, but there was nothing surprising in that. Malcolm carefully stepped over what looked to be Jason Marfellal's book bag and kicked somebody's discarded robe out of the way as he walked over to the bed at the window. Rhys practically gave him a heart attack when the cat stuck his head out of the hangings and gave him a good look up and down, then vanished just as quickly back inside the curtains. Either I'm being set up and something is about to explode, or Griffin really is in a funk. Neither possibility seems appealing.
Griffin was curled up in the middle of his bed with what appeared to have once been a letter, although it was smudged beyond legibility now. He was crying quietly and actually jumped when Malcolm sat down next to him on the bed, having not noticed his arrival. Quickly he curled up in a tighter ball and wiped his face.
"Go away, Malcolm! I told Gary to just…."
"Griff, don't be a prat. What is it?"
Malcolm gave the back of his hair a small tug and laughed. "Mum used to practically scream at me when I used that response. It's forbidden, and I think I can see why. Now, what's wrong, you goof?"
"Malcolm…." Griffin hesitated here and took a somewhat shaky breath. Then he held up his hand and pushed the parchment he held over his shoulder at Malcolm without looking up. Malcolm could tell that the letter had been from Sirius because it was written in the green ink he, and now Griffin, used exclusively. But it was difficult to read much of anything and Malcolm didn't really feel like prying. If this had upset Griffin so much….he couldn't possibly be having a fight with Sirius?
"This is from your dad."
"You want to tell me what he said?"
There was a long pause, but Malcolm decided to wait it out. Griffin couldn't keep quiet for very long, especially when something was bothering him. Eventually, Griffin did speak up.
"They told me what happened. To dad, to Remus…to Harry. Everything. Said I was old enough to understand…." Griffin trailed off and started sniffling a bit again, but Malcolm still didn't say anything. After another deep breath, Griffin exhaled with an angry sob and kicked at the blankets bunched up near his feet.
"It's not fair! That why…that's why dad gets so sad sometimes. He can't forget what they did to him! And it wasn't his fault! And even…even when he got out, they still; he and mum didn't get married for all that time, because any day they might have…."
Malcolm reached over to take Griffin's shoulder, meaning to turn him to face him, but Griffin pulled out of his grip and swatted at his hand.
"You knew! You knew all about this!"
"Yes, I did."
"You should have told me!"
Malcolm sighed. He'd always guessed that one day, when Griffin did learn about the past, he would react like this. Griffin was extremely passionate and protective as a rule when it came to the things he loved, but he also despised secrets being kept from him. It was no wonder he was so upset; he probably wasn't sure if he were furious that this had never been explained to him before, which would be secret keeping in his eyes, or if he was simply anguished over the suffering Sirius had endured. Griffin had a very strong sense of justice, and the injustice of Sirius' imprisonment would be bitter for him. And of course now Malcolm was in trouble because he was involved in the 'cover-up'.
"Griff, please listen to me. I didn't really understand all of it myself until I was your age. They might not have told me a word of it either, and remember I was living in the same house with Sirius all this time. I had no concept of why he lived with us, he was simply part of the family. And it crushed me when he left, because even through I knew in my heart it made him happy, all I could think was that he was leaving me. But I understood it was a good thing, because of what had happened…because of everything they went through to get him free. Did they tell you about that?"
"You mean when they finally found Pettigrew? No. That's…that's what that letter was about. They told me just a few days before we came back to school, but they didn't really go into details. I started to ask questions, once I …got used to the idea. I just wanted to understand! I even asked your dad, and he refused! He said it was my and Sirius and Liz's business! I got really mad at him, Malcolm. I mean, give me a break; what don't we all talk about? Anyway…I had a big fight with mum and dad just before they took me to the train. How stupid was that? And so selfish…" Griffin gave another small sob. "Do you think I gave dad nightmares 'cause I upset him?"
"You don't understand, Malcolm. He still wakes up screaming sometimes. They think I can't hear that, but I do. Now I know….I know he gets sad when he's really tired or really upset, and then, when I know why, I go and pick a fight!"
So it was guilt more than anything that was bothering Griffin. Malcolm thought carefully about what to say, looking at the crumpled letter from Sirius he still held.
"Griffin? You know, all in all, I think Sirius understands why you're upset; and it probably hurts him more that you're upset than that you picked some fight with him, or your mum or even my dad. Is that what the letter said?"
"Yeah, I would think that. Tell you what, how about I tell you the story of what happened in Egypt when they finally caught that little rat, once you've written Sirius a long letter telling him only how much you love him. No apologies, no explanations; it's all over anyway. I guess ultimately you knowing was the very last brick they had to lay down to cover all of that. Now you know; and you will be the one to finally turn their backs on it forever. Think about that."
Griffin had stopped crying, and now just sighed into the pillow and reached out a hand to stroke his cat. "You are too damn smart for your own good, you big sap."
"Oh, come on, mush. It's okay to tell your dad you love him. I won't tell anyone you're up here being all gushy. And what an incentive!"
Griffin just stroked Rhys for a few more minutes, and Malcolm let him lie there, thinking about it. Finally Griffin spoke back up.
"Won't you get in trouble for telling me this story? I mean, your dad made it pretty clear that he wasn't involved, and that usually is a trickle down order in your house."
"Well, first off, how on earth would he know I told you unless you fink me out? I find out they know, I know exactly where to come. And it won't be pretty." Malcolm was rewarded with a slight chuckle at that, so he pressed on. "And may I remind you that being in trouble in the Lupin household can be a rather trying experience? Can't just send you to your room can they? No, instead, they are simply 'disappointed', and you feel like crawling under a rock. Annoying and deeply effective. I'll be particularly displeased when I seek you out."
"Your mum and dad worship the ground you walk on. It's sickening; my entire life has been a barrage of "Malcolm wouldn't do that!" or "Malcolm is such a sweet boy!" What have you ever gotten in trouble for?"
Malcolm had to laugh here. "Griffin, you're just to young to remember, but I can promise you in my youth I was more or less constantly being censured for something or another, ranging from my appalling language, which was Sirius' fault of course, to my rather, um, headstrong determination in testing exactly how serious my parents where when they said 'no'. And of course you didn't miss my burning down the shed a few summers ago."
"Yeah, I do remember that. I wasn't aware of the fact that Remus even could raise his voice before that day."
"Trust me, he can and he does. And I'm hardly sitting around here counting daisies, am I?"
"Sure, when you're not busy sneaking out to Hogsmeade or arranging puffleskin races in the dungeons."
"Ah, you know about that do you? Keep it under your hat; that as of yet has not been detected and it is proving rather amusing to say the least. Not the world's best runners."
Griffin just rolled over on his back finally and smiled wetly up at Malcolm with a rather exasperated look.
"Like you won't end up telling your dad anyway. You never lie to him."
"I don't lie to him no, but I don't exactly offer up incriminating evidence. If confronted, I'm done for of course. By the way, you have not spent your life listening to what a little sweetie I am."
Griffin sat up on his knees now and tried gave Malcolm a playful cuff on the ear, but Malcolm blocked him and they started wrestling as Griffin struggled to get off the bed, now laughing and saying, "Oh, yes I have. Wonderful Malcolm! Such a little sweetie! So well behaved! My goodness, no child on this earth cuts his veggies as well as Maaaaal-colm!"
"Cuts his veggies?!? You're a brat, Black; a total brat."
"Better a brat than a sweetie."
"Well, you're safe then; you will never be mistaken for an angelic, sweet, genius of a vegetable carver under any circumstances. Now write the letter, and we'll go someplace to talk."
Griffin said hardly a word as Malcolm told him in detail about the journey through Greece and Egypt to confront Pettigrew in the temple of Set. Over the years, once he'd reached Griffin's age at least, Malcolm had been filled in by various people as to the details of the event. What he recalled was of course limited only to what had happened to him personally, and the fact that the adults had done everything they could to shield him from what was actually happening. Malcolm clearly remembered when he saw Remus and Katie suddenly appear out of thin air; he could remember exactly how his heart had simply soared at the sight of them, how wonderful it had been when Remus had embraced him and held him so tightly. It was, he mused as he got older, probably the first time he truly understood how deeply he loved his mum and dad, and what that really meant. And he never forgot the face of Demoncles.
It was dusk when Malcolm finished, and starting to get very cold. They had gone out to the snowy but deserted courtyard on the east side of the castle and sat on the wall while Malcolm told the tale. He finished then looked at Griffin, who was scowling and staring out at the lake.
"I'm named after Professor Malfoy's pets?"
Malcolm started to laugh. "That's your only question?"
"It's pretty relevant to me!"
"No, you are not. Grateful Sirius was that they managed to find their way back to Draco when they did, there was no love lost between them. Charles and Elvira, truth be told, hated Sirius, ever since he tried to …well…"
"Beat the daylights out of Professor Malfoy? You may have skimmed that, but I can just imagine."
"He was overwrought at the time, you understand."
"Yeah. Slightly." Here Griffin looked over at Malcolm and gave a lopsided smile.
"Truth is, your mum loves that name and your dad didn't feel like arguing with her."
"Thank gods; can you imagine if it ever got out otherwise?"
Malcolm now gave a dangerous smile. "Why yes, that could be embarrassing…. Better be careful, Griff!"
"Oh shut up. Wait, one more thing. My parents were married in March, not November. Why didn't that go through?"
Malcolm laughed at this, and then stood up. "After your dad was acquitted and came back to the house, my mum mentioned that the 12th of November probably didn't look all that far away now. Your mum just laughed, but your dad went manic. Then he announced that he wanted Liz to have the best and the biggest wedding on the island. Nobody took him seriously, until about a week later when he arrived late for dinner, explaining that he'd been busy with the 'wedding coordinator'. Turns out he was dead serious about it, and had to push the wedding back to March to give them time to get it ready and accommodate the new moon being round again. I realize that the women usually do the planning, but Sirius put the entire thing together himself. Didn't even tell my dad what was up."
"And it was a big wedding?"
"It was just amazing, and that's from a four year old's perspective. And your mum cried through the whole thing, she was just so touched."
"I always wondered why she keeps blowing her nose in their wedding photo."
"That really bothered her; she was totally cross with the photographer until she realized that as far as your dad was concerned that was just about the best reminder he had of the day. So she never got it fixed."
They were crossing the courtyard towards the door when they caught a glimpse of a teachers robe billowing down the front steps. Just to satisfy their curiosity, they turned to take the front entrance instead. Professor Malfoy was walking down the front path, no doubt opting to take a night off from dinner in the Great Hall so he could spend it quietly in town. Griffin watched him for a moment, and then turned back to Malcolm.
"What happened to the griffins in the end? When did they leave?"
"Yeah, to build their own nest."
Malcolm led them down the front path, then out behind the Quidditch pitch, getting conspicuously close to the Forrest.
"Wait right there."
They stood in the snow and the growing darkness for a few minutes, until Griffin started to loose his patience. But just as he was about to say something pithy, there was a rustle in the forest, followed by two large red griffins slinking out from the trees. They walked up to Malcolm and growled low in their throats. Then one of them turned and stared at Griffin with one vibrant yellow eye.
"Say, 'Hello, Charles,' won't you?"
"Um, hello, Charles. Wow! They stayed?"
Malcolm nodded, stroking Elvira's thick neck, smiling at her.
"They stayed with Draco. They settled at the Manor, but followed him up here when he became a professor. They were my favourites growing up; especially when they got big enough for me to ride them."
"You've ridden them?"
"Shhh…," whispered Malcolm, still stroking the scarlet feathers, "our secret, isn't it? We'd've been done for for sure, wouldn't we?"
"I take back my veggie-carver comment. That is just so cool. And you mum would explode. Still!"
"Yes, indeed she would. Everything okay now?"
"Well, everything's…in perspective. I guess."
Malcolm nodded, then waved and with a quick crunch of snow the griffins vanished back into the forest. He and Griffin hurried back to the castle, anxious to get inside and warm up, and then go to dinner. They ran into Annie in the front hall.
"There you are! I've been looking….Gary said you weren't feeling well, Black. Better now?"
"Much, thanks, Lupin" he said, smiling broadly at her, but giving no further comment. Annie seemed to accept the blunt response, and started off on some other subject, leading Griffin off in the direction of the Great Hall. Malcolm laughed to himself as it seemed Griffin had completely forgotten he was soaked and cold. Back to normal.