Chapter 19b - And Yet More Memories (part 2)
We return to the Pensieve to start on the last two months of that school year, the last rush of revision work and James' numerous attempts to make me go out with him. They're coming up whenever we see a memory when Remus or Sirius have witnessed them. James was so plump about them, but of course he was fifteen, he was bound to be awkward and lack elegance. As for Sirius and Remus…
It's the last day before the first OWL exam. We sit at the Gryffindor table and I'm only a few seats away from the Marauders. It's as it usually is, James and Peter on one side of the table, Remus and Sirius on the other. They're talking about the free day that was granted to us today. The first subject tested on the next day would be Defence and the three other boys try to convince Remus that he's the best in the subject anyway and no way would they let him spend the last free day before the OWL ordeal studying.
"But I have to…" he protests.
"You have to get rest. You know that the moon is waxing and it's just two days until first quarter," Sirius tells him off in a low voice.
"Yes, and so?" Remus insists.
"And so? It will be full precisely on the evening of the last exam! You'll be exhausted and you won't be nice with yourself, love! Under no circumstances will I allow you to do anything today but take a walk around the lake and lounge on the grass or on your bed or in the common room. And that's final," Sirius says with determination.
He hasn't even noticed his slip-up, but Remus certainly has. He stares at Sirius open-mouthed and whispers:
"You've called me 'love'…"
Sirius blushes deep red. He looks at Remus shyly. Remus decides to allow Sirius the lead and concedes:
"Okay, I'll not work today. But if I get failing grades you'll be responsible, Padfoot!"
"You won't, Moony. You won't fail. You simply can't, you're too good…" Sirius babbles, then gets up and leaves the table quickly.
Remus stares after him. James looks across the table and says, amazingly softly:
"You might want to follow him, Moony…"
Remus swallows hard.
"Do you think I really should?"
"If you like him back you really should!" Peter adds.
The sun lights up in Remus' face. He quickly gets up and runs out, looking for Sirius. We follow him as he rushes through the Entrance Hall out the doors, scanning the area for either Padfoot or Sirius. He spots Padfoot, already trotting along the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Remus sets off after him. He reaches the forest shortly after that and calls out for the dog:
"Padfoot! Padfoot! Come on, Padfoot; don't run away! Please!"
Padfoot stops, peeps around and watches a very puffing Remus come closer. He plops down on the ground next to the dog and starts stroking the thick fur.
"Sirius," he whispers. "Sirius, come back out, please! I was just shocked and couldn't believe what I've heard. Please, Siri, come forth, I need to talk to you!"
He does come back and Remus tells him:
"I don't mind you calling me that, Sirius! You're my best friend and I love you, too. Don't ever be afraid to show us you're caring for us, that's just what people like your family do! People like the Slytherins. We're all warm hearted, we care for each other and it's perfectly alright to call people 'love'. My Mum does it all the time!"
Oh dear! That was the wrong thing to say, Remus! But it seems to sooth Sirius and they return to the castle to spend the day with the others.
The next morning comes without mercy and we're sitting in the Great Hall over the tests which occupy us the whole morning. As soon as it's over, we're allowed to go out in the sun to catch some breath before the practical test in the afternoon. I watch as Snape, nose deep in his test paper, walks out of the castle and in the same direction as the Marauders. The four of them sit under a huge beech tree, while my younger self and some of my friends are on the edge of the lake. Snape sits down not far from them. They seem to be bored and all of a sudden, I see Sirius and James closing in on Snape, who, for once, doesn't seem to have followed them on purpose. They start hexing him and I get closer to stop them from doing him more serious harm than hurting his pride. A bunch of people is grouped around them. Even two Slytherins are there, laughing along with the Gryffindors. I'm sickened with what I see, but once I've helped Snape and have released him he calls me a Mudblood and that he's in no need of my help.
"Oh well, I won't bother the next time then, Snivellus!" I sneer, even using the boys' ugly nickname.
When my group and I have marched away, James repeats his actions of before and Snape is hanging in the air again, his robes falling down over his head.
"Anyone want to see how I pull Snivvely's pants down? Or rather – up?" he grins.
"Eurgh! James, that's disgusting. Even with a wand you don't want to touch THAT!" one of the girls says.
But before anything further can happen, we're all called inside for lunch.
"The mess call saves you for now, Snivellus," Sirius tells Snape.
They drop the Slytherin unceremoniously and head off to the Great Hall. Remus catches up with them and tells them off mildly:
"That wasn't all too elegant, you know… he'll just find more reasons to make our lives hell. And who knows if he doesn't go and tell… you know what."
"Sorry, Remus. It's just that he keeps following us around everywhere and we're just trying to get him off our backs. He's a worse nuisance than Regulus is!" Sirius whines.
But during lunch, I walk over to the Slytherin table because I notice Snape and Regulus with their heads together. This Pensieve is simply wonderful! It's amazing how much details a brain registers unconsciously.
"Tell your mother something nice about your damned brother, Reg, and then watch how she's treating him. He's a poof and I know he's got something going with Lupin. If you tell her that you'll be in for a treat…" Snape whispers.
So that's how he pays Sirius back. He's telling Regulus things about him. We have had our suspicions before, but of course, we've never had any evidence.
More memories about the exams. The seventh years are working NEWTS, we fifth years are working through our OWLS and all of us moan under the pressure. Actually, the tests are long and we have to go through them fast, but the questions aren't overly difficult. It's just a really big, fat lot.
On the last day of the exams, the boys exit the Great Hall as fast as they can as soon as they're allowed to. They vanish through a door down the stairs to the Hufflepuff house and turn left into another corridor. Then they visit the kitchens and have the house-elves prepare them a few picnic baskets. Laden with food and drinks they sneak out of the castle and down to the Whomping Willow. They look around and once no one looks in their direction, James tells Wormtail:
"Okay, Wormtail, quick!"
Wormtail prods the knot and they quickly vanish under the tree and into the tunnel. They make themselves comfortable in one of the upstairs rooms, which seems to be like an old ladies' sitting room. Remus tells them that he keeps this door locked so he wouldn't destroy the furniture in there.
Together they discuss the exams and wait for the full moon. Remus leaves at about five to present himself at Poppy's.
"Ah, Remus! It's good that you remember. No later than eight tonight, okay?"
"Okay, Madam Pomfrey. I'll go down directly."
"Good. Watch out that your friends aren't seen," she warns him.
He looks up, somewhat shocked.
"I know they accompany you to the Willow, but it would not be good for you all if they were seen doing that. It's rather suspicious if the four of you walk there and only three return, isn't it?"
"Oh! Yes, of course. We'll watch out…"
"Very well. Have an easy one, Remus!"
Poppy hugs Remus, a hug he returns with a smile, and then she releases him and lets him go. It looks like a ritual the two of them share. I've seen Remus share it with his mother, in some other memories. He returns to the Shrieking Shack and awaits the moonrise with his friends.
It's the first time since they spend the full moon night together that they venture out of the Shack. Remus doesn't close the trap door. Once he's transformed, James and Peter go ahead, while Sirius holds Remus back until the two other animals are certainly close to the Willow. Then Padfoot darts ahead, never letting Moony pass him. Prongs, with Wormtail on his head between his impressive antlers, awaits them and he and Padfoot take Moony between them.
It's fascinating to watch Moony! This is the first time since he's been ten that he's outside on a full moon. He stands still, his nose up in the air and sniffs. Then he starts darting in the direction of Hogsmeade, but Padfoot is there and nudges him over to the forest. Securely inside of the Forbidden Forest, they find enough to do to keep Moony occupied. He's like the bear in a giant honey pot! He runs around, sits back on his haunches and howls. His howls come in short bits, but he does it repeatedly. He keeps digging around in the earth with his nose and then his paws, rolls around in the leaves on the ground, he doesn't even think of turning on himself. Sirius helps him along and sends another few howls to the sky. Abruptly Moony looks around and starts wrestling with Sirius. When Prongs tries to come close, he's being growled at with bared teeth by Moony. James withdraws immediately and keeps standing guard. Moony doesn't even look at Peter, but I suppose, the little rat up there is scared shitless.
The whole short summer night through they're racing through the forest, seeing quite a fair amount of magical inhabitants of this strange area. Sirius always keeps a lookout for the position of the moon in the sky and finally initiates their return to the Shack at about four in the morning. They're all quite tired by now and just about make it in time before Poppy is expected to show up. She doesn't come in before seven, so the three Animagi have time enough to sneak out of the tunnel.
The next memory shows us the four of us saying goodbye on Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross. I'm pulled away and Portkeyed home immediately. As soon as my mother, Regulus and I have reached Grimmauld Place, Regulus turns to Mother and says:
"Mum, there's something you ought to know about Sirius."
I stare daggers at Regulus. Mother turns to him and asks:
"What is it, dear?"
While Regulus starts to tell her, I move back to the door, my trunk still in my hand, unfortunately not fast enough.
"He's got a… boyfriend, Mum! He's a bloody poofter!"
"What? – Sirius!" she shrieks, turns to me and starts off:
"Is that true? Is it not enough that you surround yourself with lowlife scum and Muggle-loving riff-raff? Must you go and shame us with being queer?"
I let the handle of the door go. I stand up straight and tell her:
"I'm gay, mother, so? Yes, I do have a boyfriend. I love him more than my life. If you don't like it – I don't care, you know!"
I know it's not the full truth. Yes, I am gay, but I don't have that boyfriend yet. But I gladly tell everyone and their brother that I love Remus with every fibre of my being. Though I'm not ready to tell him to the face.
She looks like she doesn't know what to say, but then she hits me with a curse. It's her favourite boxing hex, the one that blows harder than her fist would ever be able to and my arms go around my stomach to protect my body as well as I possibly can while the blows are hailing down on me. I go down on my knees and curl into a ball. Not one sound comes out of my mouth. I have expected something like that of course and there's nothing I can do, as I'm not allowed to use my wand. Regulus stands there, with a smug grin on his face and calmly picks up his trunk to go up to his room. That's how it always was, whenever he has brought the trouble over me, he watches and loves what he sees, and then calmly leaves the site. I'd love to murder the little brat almost as much as I'd like to murder Snape! Only the thought that I would never do such a thing keeps me taking the blows until I finally can't take them anymore and pass out.
With that, the memory fades. The next one is probably going to be even more horrific. I know what's coming now. It's my father blowing up on me about joining the Death Eaters. I was always convinced he was so keen of having either Regulus or I join them in order to avoid having to do so himself. He's not been the cleverest of sorts, but he was clever enough to know that bowing to some 'Mudblood' of the likes of Voldemort – for my father was well aware that Riddle's father had been a Muggle – would only mean becoming a slave. And he was a Black – no real Black would bow to a Mudblood. Having two sons meant one of them could be spared, join the Death Eaters and the other could take on the family tradition. Since they favoured Regulus, they wanted me to be their 'contribution' to the cause.
And there it comes. I see myself waking up on the floor of my room after one of the fairly frequent beatings I've received in those few days after my fifth year. My prospects of really good grades don't impress them at all. Regulus getting an average A on his exams seems much more important. Even worse, he's passed with a warning that if his grades slip even more he would have to repeat a year and, failing that, would have to leave Hogwarts. I'm sure Regulus managed to take that part from his report so our parents haven't even seen it.
The door opens and Father enters, throwing a cold look down on me and asking in an even frostier tone:
"So, did you have enough? Are you going to behave? You are to join the Dark Lord's ranks in a few hours, you'd better get up now and prepare!"
When I don't move, Father tries to use the Enervate spell, with little effect. Still, I pull myself up and say:
"I'm not joining those Death Eaters! You can't make me! Besides, it's a crime! I'm not a criminal now and I don't want to become a criminal either."
"I'll teach you to talk back, Sirius Black! Crucio!"
For two minutes, I'm put under the curse. I writhe and scream. Then Father leaves and locks the door from the outside. For a moment, I'm unable to move, still feeling the pain and the shock. But then my brain registers the fact that I'm locked in and that I'll be forced to become a Death Eater if I can't get out of here within a couple of hours. I don't care for the Underage Magic bla bla for the moment and dive into my trunk for my wand. My trunk has barely been touched since I've come 'home', so there's nothing that holds me back here. I look for Tom's cage, call my owl from his perch and tell him to fly to James'.
"I'll be there, Tom! Just go, please!"
I open the window and let the owl out. Then I look around the room and grab what I think I will need or want and stuff everything in the trunk. Thank heavens for those enlargement charms on these trunks, so that they become bottomless. I throw everything inside I can find in my wardrobe which still fits me, the pictures on my desk, the books, Tom's cage and my broom. Then I pick up my alarm clock and program the Portkey as I've learned just a few months ago. Remembering that we've joked about me having to flee from my ancestors' house once and learning this… I sit down on my trunk so it would come with me, grab the clock and tap my wand on it.
"Portus," I whisper and the next moment I vanish and land on the front steps of the Potters' house, which I have only seen on pictures, but for this very purpose. Then I'm out of it.
The next memory is when I come around and James who sits cross-legged on my big four-poster bed grins at me:
"Padfoot! Finally! Mum was so worried! I go and tell her you've come around!"
Never have I seen such a relieving sight as James' grinning mug right then. He races out of the room, only to return a few minutes later with a smiling Auntie Dorea.
"Hello, Sirius! I'm so relieved you're awake. You've been out of it for two days and we've had quite a bit of work to cure the after effects of the Cruciatus curse on you. How are you feeling?" she asks.
"Okay, I think. Just a bit sore. And a bit dizzy…"
"That's alright then, the potion has worked. It will be over in maybe another day. Charlus will have a couple of questions to you about that Cruciatus curse though. Are you ready to answer them?"
"I think so. – Was there an owl because of my underage magic?"
"Yes, there was, but don't worry, as soon as I'd looked at you a bit closer we've established that getting away from an Unforgivable curse was regarded as necessary self-defence, so there will not even be a hearing. You're off that hook."
I'm even more relieved and I must have shown it for she smiles and ruffles my hair.
"You're going to be alright, Sirius, for now you stay here…"
She hugs me and I thank her into the embrace:
"Thank you, Auntie Dorea. I don't ever want to go back there!"
The memory shifts and now it's Mr. Potter who sits on my bed. We're alone and he looks at me with a grave face.
"I need to hear your story, Sirius, even if it should be very painful. My wife has found that you showed all signs that victims of the Cruciatus curse show and she's convinced that someone has put you under that curse. What happened?"
"My father wanted me to join the Death Eaters. He's tried to beat me to agree. When I still wouldn't agree he did curse me with… Cruciatus."
Mr. Potter nods and says:
"That's what I expected. You know that we have to take this on, Sirius? We can get you off the hook from the underage magic by informing the board of governors that you have strictly used a spell for self-defence, to get out of a life-threatening situation. They only know you used a spell and we claimed it has been the spell to summon the Knight Bus which got you to us. We can't tell them that you've made a Portkey, Sirius, as that would bring you into big trouble… but the use of a Cruciatus is a capital offence and we have to prosecute whoever we catch."
"Please… can't you just say that he cursed me, but not with what? I'm scared of what would happen if we did take this on. I'm dead sure they'd get him off the hook! You know how much influence Father has on the Ministry…"
"Unfortunately I do. Are you sure?"
"As long as I don't have to go back there…"
"No, I think, we can prevent that. Maybe they're not all too keen after all, because no one has tried to get you back so far. I agree that they would probably hush it up and in little over a few months you're coming of age anyway… we'll gladly provide for you, Sirius. You deserve some relief from them. From what my son tells me it hasn't been easy for you at your home."
I see my younger self hanging my head and whisper:
"That would be the understatement of the century."
Mr. Potter lifts up my chin.
"Has this happened before, Sirius?"
"Not with Cruciatus, sir. But I've been unconscious quite a few times."
Mr. Potter sighs. Then he carefully hugs me and promises:
"You'll not have to suffer from them anymore, Sirius. We'll see how they react once they've found out you have left your home and will go from there. Dorea is ready to give them her opinion of them and she is the aunt of both of your parents, as you know. So far they haven't burned her from the tapestry so her word is bound to mean something at least."
The next memory is of a visit from Uncle Alphard two days later after he's received my owl. He's there immediately and talks to me and then to Auntie Dorea, who's joining us in my room.
"Dorea, you have no idea how relieved I am to see Sirius out of that house. He has been mistreated from the start and I have been kept away, so that I could not help him. I will provide for everything he needs to buy for school and please tell me if you want me to give you anything while he stays here. Clothes, books and the likes. That's two out of five children of my family safe!"
"Thank you, Alphard, but we gladly provide for him. Over the years, I've heard some horrific stories about Sirius' home life. You're quite right, he deserves a reprieve."
"Just tell me. I'll come up with his pocket money at least. I'm sure you prefer to stay here with your friend, Sirius, don't you?"
"If I may, Uncle Alphard. I just want to stay in contact with you, too!"
"Of course, dear! Now that you're out of that awful place, I'll be happy to come and see you regularly. I'll be on a business trip to Switzerland next week; I'd gladly invite you and James for that if you want to come…"
"Switzerland? – That's where Remus lives…" I breathe.
"Is it? Well, write an owl to him and see if you can visit your friend, the two of you, and then I'll take you! Do you know where exactly it is that Remus lives?"
"He says it's close to the capital…"
"Berne. I have business in Zurich, but that's not far away, so it won't be a problem to drop you off there if Remus' parents allow it."
Auntie Dorea looks pensive. She tries to remember if there's a full moon during the next two weeks. I watch myself telling her:
"Don't worry, Auntie Dorea, there's none for the next four weeks, it's just passed…"
She nods, understanding, then she smiles.
"Then I can't imagine Mr. and Mrs Lupin having anything against you two visiting, Sirius. Shall I write them the owl?"
"I will then. Will we remain in contact, Alphard?"
"But of course, Auntie. I have to leave on Monday and will return here about a week later if the negotiations go well."
"Lovely. I'm sending Fanny a letter then."
This was, of course, a great turn of events. I recover from the curse in another day or two, with the help of several potions from my great-aunt and then the owl from the Lupins comes back, telling the Potters, that James and I will be very welcome at their place.
I watch the happy dance the two of us perform through the spacious Potter atrium. Mr. Potter watches us, too, and grins.
Then Uncle Alphard comes to pick us up and we Portkey to Switzerland, where we arrive in the Lupins' living room. They welcome the three of us and thank Uncle Alphard for dropping us off safely. Remus is there with gleaming eyes and looks overly happy to see us during his otherwise lonely vacation. He pulls us up to his room, which has been fitted with another bed, so that the three of us have enough space to bunk.
"Because we have my aunt, uncle and cousin here we have to share my room, so one of you will have to share with me, but the bed should be big enough…" Remus remarks.
"Sirius can do that! I'm snoring…" James decides immediately.
Then we get images of that happy week together with Remus. We learn to know his cousins, Céline, Yves and Sabine, all three quite nice. The father of the other cousin who is there is a diplomat, so he and his family are living abroad, but they are in Switzerland at the time. Remus tells us that they always stay with either his aunt Carine or his mother. The cousin's name is Melina and her mother is another sister of Mrs Lupin's, but her father is a Muggle and she is a Squib. We never tease her about it and she is quite a nice girl. She's just a few months younger than Remus and I. Her parents and Melina hold the two guest rooms in the house, which is why James and I have to cram into Remus' room. Not that we mind though. Mrs Lupin gives James and I a potion, which helps us understand the others and enables us all to talk together.
The seven of us are off to the forests, playing broom tag, listen to Remus' Muggle records, visit the town, the animal park, go swimming and one day Mrs Lupin even takes us to the mountains by train and we get to cross the lake of Thun by ship.
I remember this as pure bliss! I had never even been around England, but now these wonderful days in Switzerland were a dream come true for me. James and I dread the day we have to go back to England, because it's so good to be together with these friendly people. A few owls are sent back and forth and Mr. Potter finally agrees to come and pick us up another week later.
More fun. We talk with the three magical cousins of Remus' about Beauxbatons, and compare it to Hogwarts. The education seems quite similar. Their school sounds awesome. We visit them in their home, meet their parents and get to see their school robes and things.
In the middle of the time spent in Switzerland, we find three school owls at the breakfast table one morning. They bring the OWL results and the school letters.
"What are you waiting for, boys, open them!" Mrs Lupin commands with a smile.
Melina sits there and asks:
"What is that?"
"OWLS!" Remus moans.
"Come on, Remus, you're not afraid of your grades, are you?" Melina teases.
She may be a Squib, but she's obviously spent enough time in the Lupin household to know a bit about the wizarding world. Remus shoots her a glare and sighs, then he slits his envelope open to pull out the contents. Three pieces of parchment come out. James is a bit further gone, he's just unfolded his grade sheet, when he fists the air!
"Yes! I've got eight!" he exclaims.
"Is that good?" Melina asks.
"That's pretty good, Melina. I've got eight, too, James!" Remus says, much calmer now.
"What's your grades?" James wants to know.
"O in Defence, History and Charms, E in Transfigurations, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. A in Astronomy and Potions."
"Potions? You have an OWL in Potions? Wow, Remus, that's great!" I cry out, studying my own grades.
"And you, Padfoot?" James asks.
"Ten. O in Defence, Transfigurations, Charms, Potions and Arithmancy, E in Ancient Runes, Astronomy, History, Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology," I tell them.
They all stare at me. That's ten OWLS and I get five Os. I grin and they start to hoot.
"Wow, Sirius! I wouldn't be astonished if you've beaten Evans with that!" James cries.
"That is a really fine achievement, Sirius," Mrs Lupin compliments me.
"Absolutely. You're a top student if you get that many OWLS. Congratulations, Sirius!" Mr. Lupin follows suit.
"Thank you! I'm floored! I expected good grades, but I wasn't half sure about Herbology and Ancient Runes…"
"For what little you worked…" Remus grumbles.
"You've done very well yourself, Remus. Look at that score sheet! It tells me that you've only just failed the rest of your subjects by very close margins. Now you'll be able to concentrate on your NEWTS level subjects and you'll certainly do even better then!" Mrs Lupin consoles her son.
"Yeah, I know. But I failed them and that makes me angry!"
"Don't worry, you were doing sensationally well, and those tests were right before the full moon," I insist.
"That's one reason why I'm angry, Sirius," Remus sighs. "But don't let me put you down, you've done great! I'm glad one of us four is up there giving Evans a little push!"
"That should be my line, Moony!" James says.
I grin. But then I get a bit angry, when I remember:
"To think that Regulus' prospect of just about scrambling enough points to move to next class was worth more to my parents than my prospects of scoring among the best for OWLS! They must be completely unnatural parents."
"Just wait until you get the official ranking…" James warns me.
"I'm in the top quarter, that's for sure. What do most people get? Five, if it comes high, six OWLS…" I shoot back.
The next image is James and myself travelling back to the Potters' home and taking our stuff up to our rooms. The memory shifts and we're sitting in James' bedroom, idly talking. The next year should be easy again and we discuss the subjects we'll take. Then, quite surprisingly, James asks me:
"You like Remus, don't you?"
"'Course I like Remus, James! We all do, don't we?"
"Peter and I don't like him the way you do, Padfoot."
"What do you mean?" I play rather dumb.
It has been quite easy to shrug off Snape's threats to tell everyone about my sexual orientation. I could have held my head up high and just shrug. But James talks about liking Remus that way, so he's suspected that I might be in love with our friend. I can feel my face heating up.
"I've seen how the two of you look at each other. Wasn't hard to recognise that it's the same way I look at Lily."
"We look 'at each other'? Remus looks at me?"
"Sirius! Are you dumb or are you just acting dumb? You've just scored ten bloody OWLS and you don't even recognise your best friend looking at you 'that way'? Come on!"
"No, I didn't. But I'd be glad if he did," I admit.
"Do you want me to poke around a bit when we're back at school?"
"You mean ask him what he feels?"
"Yes. I'm quite sure about it already, but maybe he doesn't dare making a start. You know how he is. He's probably deathly scared to lose your friendship if he mentions anything."
"Merlin, James, what do you think is my problem? Exactly that! I don't want to blubber out something only to learn that it's disgusting him!"
The memory shifts after James' reassurance that he thinks nothing of that sort will happen. We're at the Lupins' kitchen table in Switzerland. Remus is alone at lunch with his Mum.
"Is there something between you and Sirius, love?" she asks him.
Must be just after we've left. Melina isn't around, which gives mother and son privacy enough to talk about these things.
"No!" Remus protests.
"But you'd like it to be, wouldn't you?" she pokes.
Remus hangs his head. Then he sighs and admits:
"Yes, but that doesn't mean he'll ever… I don't want to lose his friendship, Mum! If I say something… you know how the Blacks are, they've certainly hammered it into him that it's unnatural and abominable or something…"
Mrs Lupin grins slightly.
"The way I've learned to know Sirius a bit better in the past few days I'd reckon this would be the very thing it takes for Sirius to think it's the most perfect thing in the world, love."
Remus looks up. He smiles a bit, then he swallows and agrees.
"It would, wouldn't it? But Mum, what if…" he stops.
"If I would prefer boys, would you be angry?"
"No, Remus, I don't think I would be angry about something that would make you happy. You have a hard enough time to be happy and the circles you can move in with ease are small enough. That you'd love another boy would certainly not make me angry or unhappy. And I like Sirius…"
"He's nice, isn't he?" Remus says and gets a dreamy look.
Mrs Lupin grins again and pats him on the back.
"You'll work things out, love, you always do. I'm proud of you, you know!"
"Have you boys made up a date to go to get your school things already?"
"No. We'll wait after the next full moon…"
After that there are a couple of memories of Remus spending more time with his cousins and of James and my time together at the Potters'. Uncle Alphard visits us a couple of times, but even I can see that he's not looking well. Despite him being Father's younger brother he's looking like he's ill most of the time and he confirms it when he comes to supply me with money to buy my school things. I need new robes, and I have to fill up the Potions kit and of course there's the schoolbooks, parchment, a couple of quills and other little stuff. He gives me a purse with almost a hundred Galleons.
"This is for your school year and for your school things. I think, it should cover it, shouldn't it?"
"More than that, Uncle Alphard. I only need about ten Galleons."
"Well, the rest is yours, Sirius. – Now, do you already know when you will be going to Diagon Alley to shop?"
"Yes, next Tuesday in a week."
"Fine. Can you spare about two hours of that day for me? I'd like to take you and Andromeda to my barristers."
I stare at him wide eyed and he just smiles.
"It's just a precaution, to make sure that you and Andromeda will get what will belong to you both. I don't want anyone else of the Black clan stretch out their greedy hands after what I've gained over the years. – Sirius, this is an important meeting. I am not healthy. Over the years, I've contracted a number of nasty bugs on my many travels, and not all of them have been healed. They've done some damage to my internal organs that can't even be healed magically as it seems. For that reason, I don't know how long I'll be alive to help you along. I want to make dead sure that you are independent from your family. The Potters are looking after you well and they have promised to do so until you leave Hogwarts. Probably even beyond! Now, don't you be sad about that, I'm still here and I'll try to hold on as long as I can, okay?"
I look at the only adult in my immediate family I can respect and love with fear in my eyes. Now that I've just found him again, I don't want to lose him! But I nod and promise to meet him at two in the afternoon at Florean Fortescue's.
"Very well, Sirius. I'll tell Andromeda to meet you there, too."
The next memory is of our meeting Remus and his parents in the Leaky Cauldron to go shopping. Remus looks quite well again after the full moon. He smiles as he usually does and we wait for Peter to arrive and then set off to do our shopping.
"I only have until just after lunch. Can we have a late lunch at Fortescue's? My Uncle Alphard has asked me to meet him and his barristers just after two…" I ask.
"Yes, of course. My Mum already told me. We'll go home and your uncle will accompany you home," James assures me.
"What does he want with you?" Peter asks.
"I think, it's something with his last will. He wants some things cleared in Andy's and my presence. You know Andy, my cousin? She's Bella's oldest sister and the only one in that family who's normal," I explain.
"Let's go now!"
We move from the pub on to the shops, go through them and pick our stuff up. Finally, we all drop on a couple of seats around a big table in the cool ice cream parlour. That's where Andy finds us a short while later. She's with her husband and presents us her little daughter, Nymphadora, who's a cute button of seven years now. I haven't even seen her yet. Andy introduces us and takes a seat at the table.
"We've had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, but we'll share your dessert!" Andy says brightly.
Nymphadora's little nose scrunches up happily and we all blink, because in the next moment she doesn't have black, but electric blue hair.
"What's that?" I ask, pointing at my niece.
Andy spells the hair back to normal and chides her daughter:
"Dora, what have I told you about control? You can't do that in public; not even unintentional!"
Then Andy tells us that her daughter has been diagnosed to be a Metamorphmagus and explains that it means she can turn herself to look anything she likes.
"But it's quite hard for her to hold herself in and not change into anything else in public yet."
It's Sirius' memory. Sometimes it's hard to say, but since we follow Sirius and the Tonks family, I know it's his. I watch him go, longing in my eyes, but I act cheerful.
"Do you know the way, Andy?" Sirius asks.
"Yes, Sirius, that's why Uncle Alphard has gone there directly. Come, it's not far."
They walk along Diagon Alley, and about half the way through Andy turns right into another little street, then she knocks on the door of a house about four houses into the alley. The door is opened for them and Andy presents her little group:
"We're expected, my name is Andromeda Tonks-Black; this is my husband and my daughter and my cousin Sirius Black."
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, please enter right here. You are indeed expected. I think, the gentlemen have just finished their conference," a young wizard greets them. I recognise a former student of Hogwarts, who has left about two years earlier, a Ravenclaw.
The group is led into a conference room just a moment later. Next to Sirius' uncle, there are three men of different ages. Two are definitely quite old; the third is about Alphard's age, around sixty. They all stand up when the young people step into the room. Uncle Alphard goes to them and greets Andromeda first, after kissing her hand and her cheeks:
"It's a pleasure to see you, dear! How are you?"
"Hello, Uncle Alphard! I'm perfectly well, thank you. Rather unlike you, it seems…"
"Yes, it doesn't look good. Feel a bit sad about the prospects of leaving this world before my dear brothers do, but there you are. Nothing doing about it, I'm afraid. Well, let me do the introductions then. These are the three barristers currently involved figuring out what I own and dividing it among the two of you. This is Mr. Lynton, this is Mr. Quigley, and this is Mr. Blake. Dear friends, this is my niece, Mrs Andromeda Tonks-Black, her husband Theodore and their daughter Nymphadora. And this delightful lad is my nephew, Sirius Black. They will be the recipients of my fortune."
"That'll please the rest of the clan…" Sirius mutters, but offers his hand with a polite greeting to the three barristers.
Alphard and Andromeda laugh out. Then Alphard says brightly:
"And we're here to prepare that joy for them all and to prevent any surprises for you when the will is read. I don't know how familiar you are with inheritance laws, Sirius, but let me tell you that I actually have to leave all closest relatives something or my will could be contested. The minimum that needs to be left to a family member is one Knut and the farthest relative it has to be left would be the immediate family, any siblings of the deceased and their offspring. And it does not include married partners. In other words, I have to leave a Knut to my brothers, my nephews and my nieces, since I don't have any children of my own. It will be a sad day when I can't see their faces as they get their Knut! Though I'll hopefully already wake up in my frames and watch from there."
Mr. Lynton seems to be the chief barrister and he takes over the lead, still chuckling. He guides the party members to their seats and remains standing at his own place.
"Now then, let's start this meeting. We have young Mr. Quigley over there to record the procedures. This is a meeting to familiarise the future heirs of Mr. Alphard Black, Esquire, with their future inheritance. Mr. Black's intention is to make sure that both heirs are in the know about the contents of his last will, written, signed and certified in the rooms of this law office today, Friday, fifteenth day of the month of August in the year 1976. I will proceed to read the will to the concerned parties, namely Mrs Andromeda Tonks-Black and Mr. Sirius Black. Should you have any question, please interrupt me at any time, ladies and gentlemen."
The reading of the will takes some time, for there is a long list of personal legates and then the parts pertaining to Andy and Sirius. From the list of legates and the two main parts of the will I can see just how wealthy Alphard Black is. Once the personal legates, which are not usually money, but more personal possessions and artefacts from Alphard's estate are deducted, Alphard leaves Andy and Sirius half a share of the estate each. Because of his numerous business relations there are a good number of points to be covered in regards to the execution of the will.
After half an hour of reading, the end is reached and the barrister inquires if there are any questions. Andy and Ted have some and they get their replies. Sirius has one, too:
"If Uncle Alphard should die before I'm of age – who'll be in charge for my part? My parents?"
"Merlin forbids, no! We're not doing all of this to leave them even as much as a sniff of the estate. The trustees for your share will be the Potters, who will be allowed to set the access you gain to your inheritance, if the case comes up before you reach maturity. They will discuss this with us of course."
"Ah. Good. Just as long as my parents have no way to stretch out their grubby little hands to this. I think, they've more than enough already. More than they deserve anyway."
"We expect the will to be contested by both sets of your parents, but we've been very careful not to leave them anything that would allow them to get through with such a claim in court. It will probably be settled out of court even. No sane barrister would accept to take this will to court. It would ruin his or her career for sure," Mr. Lynton says with a twinkle in his eye, not unlike Dumbledore's, but probably without the underlying Legilimency.
"Then I'm happy and hope that we don't have to come back here for many years. I'd rather have my uncle than his money."
Uncle Alphard throws a very loving glance at his nephew. What a nice thing to say! He certainly reaches the hearts of the three barristers for they all smile brightly at him.
"That's much better anyway, isn't it? Thank you for coming, I think we have now done what we could to prevent anyone from trying to steal from you in the future."
Everyone gets up and the barristers guide their clients to the door, where they shake hands with all of them.
"Mr. Black, it's been a pleasure to get your business as usual. I hope, like the young master Black, that we will not have to read it again for a long time."
"Thank you, Mr. Lynton, so do I."
Alphard waits until the others have said their goodbye as well, and then he leads them through Diagon Alley to the Leaky Cauldron. They don't hurry, but enjoy their time together.
In the next few of Sirius' memories, we can see quite a lot of Alphard Black. Sirius is delighted to see him often and tells him of all the Muggle books he's read since then and how he's come by them. My name gets mentioned quite a few times and I'm quite sure that the elderly man has picked up a few hints as well.
"Sirius, how have your parents reacted to your flight?"
"Strangely not at all. It's as if nothing happened, no letter, no Howler, no nothing. Maybe Father has understood that the Cruciatus he used could be his downfall if I decide to talk."
"I have another theory then. They have probably found out by now that they can't disinherit you. Must have been a hard bit to swallow. The Black family is generally ruled by very strict family statutes. Every law in there can only be changed if the ruling head's generation of siblings is complete and can vote on it and the vote has to be unanimous. In our case that would be your father, uncle Cygnus and myself. And our oldest sister Vega, if she were still alive."
I can see the grin spreading on Sirius' face.
"That must have been very hard for Regulus to take! He's so keen on getting the family inheritance!"
"Well, you'll be able to snatch up most of it. The Blacks have always been wealthy, Sirius, but at a time they've been so at each others' throats that they started to disinherit once too often and when there was only one male heir left to procreate he was reasonable enough to have these few laws added to the family statutes. It prevents disinheritance of an heir and no change of some of the points in the statute without the consent of the full number of siblings in the head of house's generation is permitted. The only exception from that law is if a sibling died before reaching maturity. Which is not the case as Vega died in childbirth, and she was well over twenty then."
"That means that I couldn't change anything in the family statutes without Regulus' consent?"
"Exactly. In your case, it would be completely against your personal interests to have any change anyway, and you're safe from him trying to change something, too. It also means that upon the death of your father you will be the head of the house of Black."
"Brilliant. Thanks for your explanations, Uncle Alphard."
"You're very welcome, Sirius. I'm glad you've grown into the young man I'd hoped you would! I noticed from the start that you're someone different from my brother and his terrible wife. Sorry to speak about your mother like that, lad, but she's far worse than your father, even if he did use the Cruciatus curse on you."
"Don't I know?" Sirius mutters.
"Just believe me that the Blacks weren't always like this, Sirius! They were always proud of their pure blood, but that alone is nothing bad. It only becomes bad if family members put themselves on higher levels than others purely because they think their blood is better than that of others and that beyond this fact they don't have to prove themselves at all. I notice that your excellent school scores set you apart from them as well and that you've got a fine group of friends, stick to them, they'll replace your family very well."
"I will, Uncle Alphard. Thanks for all your help and support!"
"Again, you're welcome. I'll see you when you come back for the Christmas break, Sirius!"
The next memory is of our meeting at King's Cross, where we get to see a glimpse of the Blacks, but apart from a glower, Sirius notices nothing from them. When we board the train, he explains the reason:
"They're mad; because they have found out they can't disinherit me, because I'm the heir. They'd have to kill me, if they want Regulus to become the heir. That's what my uncle said, anyway."
"That only means you're now in danger of being murdered by your own family," Peter remarks.
"I don't think so. First of all, Father's a bloody coward and furthermore it would be a bit too obvious since my fall-out with the family has become known. It wouldn't exactly help if Regulus would be locked up in Azkaben, would it? I suppose, he thinks he can leave it to Regulus to get rid of me himself much later. He wanted me to become a Death Eater mostly so that he didn't have to, you know and might have hoped the Death Eaters would soon get rid of me. I've seen right through him. Bloody Voldemort. As if I wanted to crawl in the dirt at his seam! Blacks command, they don't take commands! And Reg's the same coward as Father."
"So, you want to rule the world in your own right or what?"
"Are you crazy? I just want to live! Ruling the world would be much too exhausting. And boring, too."
A shift of the memories brings us to the dorm, where we discuss the schedule, which looks a bit different for most of us. Peter only has five subjects, we'll see him in Charms, Transfigurations and Defence. Sirius has dropped History and Herbology. That means he has the same schedule as I have, he only has Care of Magical Creatures where I have History. James still has Divination instead of Ancient Runes. Apart from that, he has the same schedule as Sirius. It also means we've still got quite a load. The three of us still have seven subjects.
Lily is in almost all of our classes. She has made ten OWLS, like Sirius, but he's managed an Outstanding more. She fumes that one of us ranks before her, but Sirius is third overall in the year and he's left Snape seven places behind, which puts him in an excellent mood. Not surprisingly two Ravenclaws are better than Sirius, by one OWL and both have six Outstanding OWLS. I'm just at the end of the top ten, but still one place better than Snape. James is one place ahead of me because of his higher amount of Es. I'm happy with the result. I have topped Defence. Sirius tops Transfigurations and shares the top spot in Potions with Snape and Lily. They have the same number of points in this subject.
The school year starts. I particularly enjoy Arithmancy and Ancient Runes now, as these two subjects aren't very popular and many students have dropped them, but that gives the remaining ones the opportunity of a more intensive learning experience. I see several memories, from either mine or Sirius' point of view, because we both loved those classes.
Then there's one of my memories when James catches me in the dorm and stops me from going out.
"Remus? May I ask you something?"
"Sure. What is it?" I ask, turning back to him.
"Do you still like Sirius? I mean, 'that' way, you know?"
I can see my younger self blush and stutter.
"What… what do you mean 'still'?"
James grins and reminds me:
"Well, you remember the day when Sirius called you 'love' and we told you to follow him if you liked him?"
"Oh. That. So that's what you meant then…"
"Of course. We hoped that the two of you would get together, but seemingly, nothing happened. I just thought I'd ask…"
"Will you tell Sirius?" I hear myself ask.
"What if I do?"
"I don't know. Yes, I like him. Would you mind that very much?"
"No, not at all. I mean, it's obviously not my thing, but it doesn't gross me out."
"But if you tell Padfoot he might not want to be my friend anymore…" I object.
"Remus, we've become Animagi for you. Even if Sirius doesn't swing that way, he won't stop being your friend. He might just be a bit awkward at first. But I know he really likes you, so I wouldn't worry about it."
I watch myself sigh. Then James lets me go. The memory changes. James finds Sirius in the library where Sirius checks some books for a prank we want to pull. We need a potion and a couple of spells for it, so Sirius does the research and tells James of the potions ingredients he needs. James is usually the one to go and nick them from the students stores and sometimes even from Slughorn's private stores.
"Sirius, you needn't be afraid of losing your friend. Talk to him. Soon!"
Sirius looks up and smiles.
"Really? What did he say?"
"That he likes you. And he thinks about you what you think about him. Better seek an opportunity to talk to him soon."
"Thanks mate! You're the best brother ever, James!"
"Glad to be of help. Wish that someone could help me! Lily is just as disinterested as ever."
"Give her time, James. We're strictly not allowed to hex Snape anymore, so we can act like we're behaving…"
"You're right about that. Have you found it?"
"Yeah! There's a potion that can make your skin crawl but won't leave any permanent damage. It's just a question of feeding it to the Slytherins so they'll feel the effect during the day or during the night. If we add a colour spell, then I'd suggest during the day. Young Bill Weasley has offered to slip them the drinks in the kitchen. He'll just pour the potion into the juice jugs."
"Now there's a promising lad! He's a second year, isn't he?"
"Fine lad if ever I met one! Second year, yes. I promised him a bag full of sweets from Honeyduke's the next time we get to go to Hogsmeade," Sirius explains and grins.
"Great. I'd say during the day then, so Bill can slip down to the kitchens before everyone else is up. How does it feel on the skin?"
"Oh, harmless. Just like some soft waves lapping at the shore, but over a period of up to twelve hours, depending on the concentration of the potion. It's probably more in the head than a real feeling. A cup full of undiluted potion would be enough for a full day a few drops make you feel it for a few minutes. We can test it easily."
"Good. Then we put the spell that Remus found on the food. Do you think Bill can do that?"
"Yep. He's almost a prodigy with Charms. Tells me he's been the best in his year in Charms and Defence. He sounds like a brilliant kid."
"Great. I'll teach him the spell then. Let's go back to the dorm."
The next memory shows Sirius brewing the potion. A very young Bill Weasley with short red hair, freckled face and clear blue eyes sits on one of the armchairs in the dorm, watching Sirius. James is there, Peter is there and I sit on the window seat, studying.
"Just one more ingredient, like so-ho. Done! Now we've got to let it cool down a bit. I take a bit out to cool it quick. Who wants to try it? Just a drop or two, so it won't be longer than a minute!" Sirius calls cheerfully.
No one seems to be particularly interested. Sirius grins, puts a few drops on his tongue and swallows the potion. After it takes effect, he grins.
"That's great! Nothing hurts, nothing itches, you just get a feeling like you're under the shower and water is running all over you! Have that for a day and it must be getting pretty annoying, I'll bet. Come on, guys, do me the favour and try it yourselves! It's fun!"
Bill finally steps forward and Sirius gives him two drops. Bill starts to giggle and squirm.
"He's right! It's really nothing bad. Why's this thing been invented, Sirius?"
"No idea. But the silly kinds of potions out there you wouldn't believe! We've even come across a potion that makes the hair in your nose grow long, can you believe it?"
James, Peter and myself do Sirius the favour and experience, what we have in mind for the Slytherins. I grin and admit:
"Yes, no one will charge us with cruelty for that. But what's the spell?"
"Oh, nothing worse. Only that they will be 'showered' in the colours of the rainbow in the same rhythm they will feel the water on their skin. Only on their skin, too, but it will give them funny heads and hands…"
"Okay. When do we do it?"
"Tomorrow morning alright, Bill?"
"Yes, sure. Can you come wake me? Only if I set my alarm, the others in the dorm will wake up, too…"
"'Course! I'll do it," James promises.
Then he starts teaching Bill the spell.
James laughs and remarks:
"If you put that in your book and Molly reads it she'll be mad at Bill even after all these years! I bet that Bill has forgotten about this a long time ago."
I'm not so sure. Young Bill Weasley was quite impressed by the Marauders and in our sixth and seventh year, he hung around with us quite a lot. I don't think he's forgotten about that.
"I'll make sure to warn him about it then. He'll probably laugh his head off," I promise.
The memory shifts to the next morning, when everyone arrives at the breakfast table. Bill grins just slightly, like he'd be very happy to see us. We're not showing any visible emotions other than our usual chatty selves. We take a seat close to the second years around Bill and wait for the show. Which starts as soon as the first people at the Slytherin table take their first few sips from their goblets containing juice. Bill has worked perfectly. The spell on the food only works after a time delay and together with the potion to prevent the Slytherins from noticing something foul too early. But once the spell starts to work half of Slytherin house starts looking at each other and several shrieks are audible. I watch myself slapping my hand together with Bill – under the table.
Everyone apart from the Slytherins grins. The teachers of course try to find out what has happened to the students and don't need help to understand that they're victims to a prank. But since no one apparently seems badly harmed or even injured McGonagall tells the Slytherins to just grit their teeth and wait until it wears off. She's seen enough of this kind of pranks to know that it does wear off. I grin, because this time we'll get away with it.
We're going to our lessons with happy faces and even Lily seems to enjoy the colourful display of Slytherins. Snape passes her and throws her a:
"Get out of the way, Mudblood!"
"Seen one too many rainbows, Snivellus?" Lily asks.
And everyone who hears it laughs straight out. And I like her even more. So much for Saint Evans. We file into the Potions classroom, passing Slughorn and take our usual places. There are six Gryffindors left in this class. Lily usually partners with Dari, Sirius partners Remus and I get together with another Gryffindor girl, Melanie, one who's a bit less outspoken than Lily or Dari, but we get along well and she's pretty good in Potions.
"The instruction for today's blood replenishing potion is on the board, you can get right down to working," Slughorn says happily and everyone scrambles around to get the ingredients.
We all work on the potions quietly. I can see Sirius carefully helping Remus, who's great in theory, but has a lot of problems in the practical because of his hyper sensitive nose. A good thing in partnering is that a stronger student can really help a weaker to keep up their grades. It's never even been a question that among us Gryffindors the stronger Potions students support the weaker ones and Slughorn supports this attitude. But he never forces students to work together and thus students choose their own partners. I surreptitiously check who's with whom in Slytherin and see that Snape partners Bellatrix Black. They're the two strongest Potions students in Slytherin. Then there are Wilkes and Avery, who stick together and they would never separate. Typical. Both of them could help the weaker classmates, because some of them are abysmal. We have long since stopped exploding their cauldrons, because the Slytherins who are a bit weaker in this class will indubitably do it themselves. Amazingly Lestrange is one of them, I really have no idea how he has found into this class.
I watch my younger self concentrate on our potion. It comes along just fine, clears in three phases as it has to and finally takes on a red colour when we add the main ingredient, which is the powdered Mandrake root. All we have to do is wait for a few minutes and extinguish the fire. After that we're just sitting behind our potion waiting for the period to end. Remus, Sirius, Lily and Dari reach that point, Snape and Bellatrix do, Wilkes and Avery, too, but the rest of the Slytherins seem to be in trouble. Slughorn passes and fills samples into glass bottles, labels them and sends us along to clean up.
"Well done, most of you. Miss Evans and Miss Sanchez, Mr. Black and Mr. Lupin, Mr. Potter and Miss Chaucer, Mr. Snape and Miss Black, Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Avery - you have done so well that all of your potions can be handed to Madam Pomphrey to be used in the hospital wing. Please bottle them in these large glass containers here. The rest of you - please clean your cauldrons."
Several large vials float to the back of the classroom and the students called fill them and label them before depositing them on Slughorn's desk.
He may have had some annoying traits, but old Sluggy was always a fair teacher who taught everyone, not only his Slytherins.
We're getting to the next memory. It's obviously a Saturday in October as we're outside in the morning. Actually I can just see myself head off to the Quidditch pitch and Peter is nowhere to be seen, so Sirius and Remus are by themselves. They go for a walk along the forest, and as soon as they're away from everyone's sight, Sirius transforms and starts digging in the freshly fallen leaves, puts his nose on the ground and sniffs his way along. Remus watches him and laughs.
"You really are a dog, Padfoot. Incredible. How about playing fetch?" Remus suggests jokingly.
Padfoot storms off and comes back a little later with a smallish stick in his mouth and an expectantly wagging tail. He sits down and drops the stick. Remus holds his belly he's laughing so hard.
"You can't be serious, Paddy! I've said that as a joke!"
Padfoot tilts his head and nuzzles Remus' thigh, licks his hand and looks up again.
"Oh, you big puppy, you!" Remus cries, grabs the stick and throws it.
Padfoot races after it. It's gone quite a bit and Remus enjoys watching the huge dog run gracefully, retrieving the stick for another chase. This time he's off with the stick and almost catches it before it falls. It's fun to watch. Remus walks slowly until he reaches the gates, where he turns and returns to the castle. But he still follows the edge of the forest. Sirius finally changes back and pants.
"Brrr, I need a shower…" he says.
"I'd say so, too. Come on, we'll take advantage of the prefects' bathroom!"
Remus hurries back and they find the bathroom empty. They frolic in the huge bathtub first, still in their underwear, but then Remus suggests washing all the dirt and the soap away with a shower. They do that. But as they're pulling on the soft terry bathrobes, Sirius holds Remus back before he can open the door.
"Remus – there's something I need to tell you… can we sit on the benches over there for a moment?"
They sit down and then Sirius looks down on his fiddling hands and says:
"I know that this will sound weird, but please give it some consideration… maybe you've noticed that I've not given any attention to all those girls who are interested in me."
"It's… I… well, it's that I… don't fancy them. Girls, I mean."
"So you're gay? Prefer boys?"
"Not even that. Just one boy… you, Remus."
Remus looks up immediately. The smile in his face widens and he tilts his head just a little. Then he admits:
"Well, that is good, because… well, I thought you did, but I wasn't sure. I – Moony has known for a while longer, but I have known for a year that I love you. That's why it hurt so much when you told Snape… it hurt twice, because I had to live with Moony raging inside that the mate he chose didn't want to become our mate."
"I loved you then already… I thought I'd never even be your friend again, Remus, I thought I'd break apart after that. But I couldn't stop thinking of you, and I know very little as much as I know now that I'll always love you."
"Oh, Sirius! I love you, too! I've hoped that you would come out, but I've always thought you never would… and I'm a coward, I didn't dare to. Friendship's too valuable to risk..."
He can't say anything else, because Sirius has turned fully to him, pulls him into his arms and kisses him. Just a chaste kiss, but as soon as they feel their lips they deepen the kiss. Five minutes later Remus straddles Sirius' lap and they're in a nice and hot snogging session. They do have to come up for air at some points and during one of those mini breaks Remus pants:
"Up to the dorm?"
With a bit of trouble they both get up and gather their things, then they run up the stairs through the common room and up to our dorm. Wormtail is there, but when he sees them coming in hand in hand he takes flight.
"I'd better leave you alone, eh? Do you know where James is?"
"Quidditch pitch! It's training time!" Sirius calls and just waits until Peter has closed the door behind them. It takes a while until they've both calmed a bit down from their run up the stairs.
"Your bed or mine?" Sirius asks.
"Mine. That's farthest away from James and Peter," Remus suggests.
They drop their dirty clothes into the hamper and slowly go back to Remus' bed, where they open the sashes of their bathrobes and let them fall off their shoulders. There are smiles plastered firmly on both their faces and I think they are making for a nice couple. Sirius pulls Remus closer and holds him, then he plants a tender kiss on his forehead.
"I love you, Remus."
"I love you, too, Sirius."
They climb on the bed and are soon immersed in another snogging session, but this time they send their hands wandering over the other's body. Remus still thinks of closing the curtains, then they lie together in a reddish half-darkness and keep snogging and caressing. Sirius rolls himself on top of Remus and starts rocking his hip, rubbing his own against Remus' erection. Being young boys it doesn't take them long to come and then Sirius drops his head down on the pillow next to Remus' and both fall asleep.
The next memory shows them in the evening, just before going to bed. Sirius puts on a pair of pyjama bottoms, Remus does the same, but Sirius tells Peter and James:
"My bed can be used as storage room from now on…"
Then he climbs into Remus' bed and pulls his new boyfriend close. Remus looks up once more, wishes everyone a good night and pulls the curtains.
"Hey, use a fucking silencing charm in there, do you hear me?" Peter calls.
"We will – when we need to!" Remus assures him.
Shortly after that the light is out and they go to sleep.
Tuesday, 4.1.2000 / Sirius
We're lucky that school only starts again next Monday. That gives us almost a full week more of vacation. We're checking the Quidditch schedules and find that the Harpies play against Puddlemere on Saturday, so we quickly reserve a couple of tickets. We'll return to the Merry Den on Thursday, then use the Floo to the Harpies stadium in Wales.
We're using today for some more work on the memories. Addie is around and wants to see some of them, too, and then Harry turns up and so we are a bit crowded, but more people to see means more to remember when we note things down. It's an interesting experience, because everyone remembers things differently and so it happens that we disagree about the way we take the notes. That clearly proves the theorists right who claim that the memories of eyewitnesses are always questionable, because our brains constantly trick us all.
Remus and I pluck a few months' worth of memories and place them in the Pensieve. We all take the hands of someone else and hop in.
Sixth year. Right after Remus and I have come together. I can see us leaving Gryffindor tower the Monday morning after it happened. We haven't told anyone yet outside of our dorm, but we come down the stairs hand in hand and of course, we're noticed almost immediately. A few of our housemates gape, then grin, and then one of them starts to hoot.
"Hey, look at the newest couple around the house! Aren't they just cuuute!"
I notice the collective groans of some fourth and fifth year girls when they see the two of us. James, who's walking right behind us, grins.
"Sirius! You are gay?" Katherine Boyle cries out.
She's been one of the girls who tried to wake my interest most in the past few months. I remember I was pretty glad to have her off my back. Remus glares at her and puts his arm around my waist, probably to give her a clear sign, that I'm his possession now. I respond by putting my arm on his shoulders and pressing a quick kiss on his forehead.
"Afraid so, Kath. And I've just landed for the rest of my life, thank you!"
"How dare you steal Remus? He's ours!" a few of the girls protest.
"Sorry, he's mine now. And I'm probably even more his, because he's such a possessive little blighter."
"Shame on you both! Who are we supposed to like now?" another girl says, but the laughter in her eyes clearly tells us that she doesn't care at all, just wants to take part in the teasing.
I think that's one of the qualities that made me feel so much at home in Gryffindor tower. The bantering, the warmth, the openness and the readiness to accept others the way they are, the laughter and joking, all these things embraced me and pulled me in. In Gryffindor I wasn't an outsider like I'd been in my family, I was right in the middle of them, one of them.
I watch as we move on to the portrait hole and then through the corridors down to the Great Hall for the breakfast. News travels fast and by the time Remus and I sit down on the spot we usually occupy people already seem to know that we're together. There are curious glances from the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. The Slytherins stare, then Regulus starts to shout his 'boos' and some other Slytherins immediately assist him. Our younger selves try not to care for them and put food on our plates. But I can see Dumbledore now, who throws a look at Slughorn and the professor gets up and goes over to the Slytherin table.
That shuts them up quickly. He may be kind, but he's still the head of Slytherin house and he keeps up the standards that his house always commanded. And he has more authority within his house than people who judge him by his usually easy-going behaviour would give him credit.
"Black, would you kindly inform us why you initiate such abominable behaviour?" Slughorn asks.
"Because my brother isn't only a blood traitor. He thinks, he can defecate the name of the Blacks even more by showing around his boyfriend…" Regulus replies calmly.
"Has he not left your family?" Slughorn asks silkily.
"Yes, he's left the family," Reg admits, holding back his contempt. He can't very well let Slughorn know that I'm still the heir.
"Then why would you bother at all? That will be fifty points from Slytherin for an idiotic display of unnecessary family pride, Mr. Black. And you will report to me tonight for a detention."
Slughorn turns around and sits down at the teacher's table, leaving the students of his house behind in a baffled stupor. I remember that he didn't openly favour them, but usually he didn't openly punish them either. So this brought a few minutes of complete silence to the Great Hall. Then I see Lily calmly pick up her knife and fork and eat her poached egg and toast. But I do think I detected a bit of a grin on her face.
The Marauders look at each other and then start to grin, too. And after five minutes, the old Great Hall sounds as it did every morning when students were filling it.
Snape would probably have found a reason to give the Slytherins points for that… I notice that the memories we're watching now fall in a period of complete calm and think that Remus and Sirius certainly deserved that bit of heaven before the hell on earth broke loose for them.
They're sitting together on one of the squashy sofas in front of the fireplace. Remus leans on Sirius and holds up the book they're both reading. Since he's the smaller of the two boys he usually sits on Sirius' lap and doesn't seem to mind at all that in doing so he resembles the numerous girlfriends on their boyfriends' laps in the common room. I notice that a record player on one of the sideboards smashes lots of Muggle rock music into the common room. I even recognise some of the stuff now, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Allman Brothers and loads of others, mostly rock, very little pop. At first I'm quite sure that Mum would veto the stuff, because she might feel disturbed in her studying, but I soon notice she's one of the owners of the records and is probably responsible for the charms on the record player to even work. And then I remember that Sirius even mentioned something like that once. I look over to him and see him smiling.
"Oh that was such a good time, Lily! It was amazing how you had loosened up over this summer break! We really started to like you then…"
Mum looks a bit embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, that I was such a nerd before… I really was a self-righteous bitch sometimes, wasn't I?"
"Just a bit…" Dad teases her and pulls her into a hug.
"Terribly. But when you started dancing on the coffee table in the common room we forgave you instantly!" Sirius teases.
She's blushing now! Dancing on the coffee table? Mum? I have a hard time believing that, but Sirius just nudges me and promises:
"Just you wait…"
One of the next memories shows us the Marauders moving to the fourth floor, looking around and vanishing behind a mirror as soon as the coast looks clear. They seem to have dropped their stuff after classes and now they're using one of the passages down to Hogsmeade.
Dad and Peter are ahead, Sirius and Remus follow, holding hands. The corridor looks rather derelict and is extremely dusty, but the footprints in the dust tell me that several people have used the passage. They rush down a long spiral staircase until they must be under the main floor of the castle. Then they follow another corridor, which has several corridors leading off from it and reach a door at the end. Dad gives it a password and opens the door. They are now in an underground tunnel not unlike the one beneath the third floor. Minus the slide of course. We walk with them and reach the end of the tunnel, which emerges in the cellar of the Three Broomsticks. How practical! The four boys move up the stairs and when they reach the bar, Dad pokes his head around the curtain, which separates the staircase from the main bar:
"Psst! Madam Rosmerta!"
Madam Rosmerta turns around and grins. She winks with her eyes, looks around and nods to the back of the pub. Dad nods back and moves on to a room behind the main pub. A moment later Rosmerta comes in and asks:
"What would you like?"
"Butterbeer, three cases. And how about some whisky?"
"You didn't get it from me!" she declares and leaves to get the drinks. "Here – two bottles are more than enough for you young folk! And you'd better only drink the butterbeer! Twelve Sickles, please."
Dad gives her the money and the boys return to the castle. An hour later, the two bottles are hidden in their dorm and they're on their way down to the Halloween feast. Once they're dismissed from the tables they tell a few choice people about the whisky in their possession and assemble in the sixth years' dormitory to devour the forbidden stuff. To my astonishment, I see Mum among the small crowd, which consists of the Marauders, Mum and a friend of hers, and what seem to be three seventh years. The bottles are shared and handed around in the circle and for their age, they get more than enough alcohol to be quite nicely plastered. Remus almost eats Sirius up in his drunken state. Sirius is sitting cross-legged on Remus' bed, Remus on his lap and they enjoy such an intensive snog-fest, that I can see Sirius covering Addie's eyes.
The rest of us have to grin. Addie squeals and claims that she gets to see enough of Remus and Sirius live every day - and others, mind you - not to be impressed by them back then! Sirius looks amused, but says:
"That's a bit much for you little one, believe me! You don't want to see those things just yet, you'll have to wait for a couple of years!"
"But that takes so long!"
But such incidents start to come up more often in the memories now. On Christmas Eve happens what Sirius has already mentioned. There are only seven students left in Gryffindor after the Christmas break has started, Remus, Sirius, Dad, Mum, two fifth years and a seventh year. They play some teenager games while sharing another two bottles of firewhisky. Mum has put up some music.
Remus nudges me and says with a big grin:
"As soon as 'Child in Time' starts watch out for your mother!"
I recognise the music now. It's Deep Purple!
The piece Remus has mentioned starts with a few simple chords on the organ, but only a few notes into the tune Mum gets up and starts to dance. She must have had quite a bit of the whisky by that time, because it's very late and they have been sitting around for most of the evening. She mounts the table and starts to move, shoving whatever gets in her way off with her feet. Dad just manages to catch one of the bottles and some of the others grab goblets and glasses, but a few of them drop off. A Daily Prophet and a couple of books follow, then Mum has the table at her disposal and hops around with closed eyes. The others watch her. Sirius and Remus start to dance, too, and then everyone is on their legs, Mum still miraculously on the table, until she makes a wrong step and lands right in Dad's arms.
The memory fades out when they start to lose consciousness.
And returns on Christmas morning, when they find themselves on the sofas and carpets of the common room. All around them the house-elves have already cleaned the mess. Remus is the first to wake up and he looks at Mum who lifts her head from a sofa cushion and starts to moan. It seems they've had a bit more than other times. Mum grabs her head, then she looks queasy and then she is up in a moment, runs up the stairs to the girls dormitory and I suppose she must have been pretty sick.
She has woken the other six occupants of the common room. And all of them decide that they would go and get some more sleep before tackling their Christmas presents.
Oh, those first few hangovers! Every time we swore we'd never drink that stuff anymore, but we repeated those parties again and again. It was the one Christmas break I spent at the school and it was a memorable one. I was one of only two girls who had stayed at Hogwarts, the other being a seventh year, who luckily wasn't as stuck up as I had been. We've had a lot of fun during that break. Until three days after Christmas, when a few letters reached Sirius.
We are sitting together at breakfast when the usual post owls arrive. An important looking barn owl brings a letter for Sirius. He looks at it and pales.
"Siri? What is it?" Remus asks.
"That's from uncle Alphard's barristers, Remus! And that one is from Andy."
"Do you want me to open them for you, love?" Remus asks softly.
Sirius hands them over wordlessly and nods. I can see that there are already tears in his eyes. Obviously, he expects what news he will hear. Remus opens the first letter. I have heard Sirius talking about Andy and know that it's a she and she's his cousin. Remus starts to read:
I'm sorry to have to write the following words. I know you and I would have wished him a much longer life, but last night uncle Alphard has passed on. I have been with him to the end and even though I knew it would happen, I never expected it this soon. I cried and cried, Siri and I'm still crying writing this! He's been such a good man and I know you and I will miss him like hell! I don't expect to cry like this when the day comes and I lose my father, isn't this just the worst thing to say?
Anyway, I've been at his bed and I've held his hand, because I felt I had to do it, I couldn't just leave him alone as he told me to do a few days ago. We knew you and James were staying at Hogwarts and he told me not to call you away from all the fun you surely have. I wanted to spare you to see him die, Siri.
But now you should probably come to London immediately. I'll await you at the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow at two in the afternoon. I'm sure if you show the letter you will receive from uncle Alphard's barristers to Professor Dumbledore he'll let you come for the funeral and the reading of the will. The funeral will be the day after tomorrow and the reading will take place just a day later. Then you can return to Hogwarts.
Your cousin Andromeda."
Remus smiles and adds:
"P.S. Dora sends her love, too! – And it's signed by Dora herself, Siri."
Sirius cries silently. Tears are streaming down his face. Remus looks up and sees Professor McGonagall coming to the table, looking worried.
"Black, what happened?" she asks with the softest voice she can use.
"His uncle died last night, Professor. The only adult in his family who liked him and who provided for him," Remus explains, opening the second letter.
He quickly reads over it and turns to Sirius:
"It contains the news, the date and time of the funeral and asks for your presence the day after the funeral for the reading of the will, Sirius."
McGonagall sits next to Sirius and says:
"Do you wish to go to the funeral, Mr. Black? I'm afraid you will have to face your family…"
"C.. could Remus come with me, Professor? I'll have Andy and Ted Tonks, so I won't be alone against them, but I'd like to have Remus with me…"
"Could I go, too, Professor? I'm sure my parents would allow it, in fact I expect them to go to the funeral in any case," James pleads.
McGonagall smiles. She knows how close the boys are and promises:
"Sirius, you can go. I'll fire-call the Lupins and the Potters tonight and see what your parents have to say, but if they allow it, you two can go, too. It's a nice gesture, Potter!"
"I know you probably can't reach my parents, but I'd like to go, too, if I may, Professor… like them I'm of age and I know for certain that my parents would give their consent," I hear my younger self say.
The professor looks baffled. So far, I have been about close to the Marauders as the moon is to the earth, but I think being with someone at a funeral, when a beloved person has had to leave them is important for them. Sirius looks at me quite astonished, too, but he smiles through his tears.
"Thanks, Lily," he mumbles.
"You might better warn Mrs Tonks about an invasion, Black."
"We'll probably stay at my uncle's house. That's where the reading will take place… and it's huge. More than enough space. None of my other family will stay there, believe me, except for maybe auntie Dorea and uncle Charlus."
"Fine. I shall tell you tomorrow morning."
McGonagall leaves and the Marauders get up from the table to accompany Sirius back to the common room. He returns to the dormitory and only Remus follows him. Sirius cries for most of the morning, until he falls asleep. Remus sits next to him, holding him and rocking him softly until he feels Sirius is asleep. In the evening, all of them pack a small bag with clothes and robes for the funeral. James is sure his parents will allow him to go and Remus is just as convinced.
The next memory shows all of us the next day. Professor McGonagall is back and informs the three of us that we have our parents' permission to accompany Sirius to the funeral.
"You are to be back by New Years Eve, which is in four days. Mrs Tonks expects all of you at the Leaky Cauldron at two o'clock. You can walk down to the Three Broomsticks to use the public Floo there."
We're all off before lunch and leave for the Leaky Cauldron. Of course, we're too early, so we eat lunch there and wait for Andromeda to turn up. She arrives on time and hugs Sirius first, before she even greets us. He's got quite puffy eyes and sniffles, the tears flowing again.
"Oh Andy! I so wanted to see him again next summer!" Sirius sobs.
She quietly rubs his back and holds him. James goes over to Tom to pay for our lunch, then Andy tells us where we have to Floo. We're off one after the other and find ourselves in the entrance hall of what seems like quite a big townhouse. Andy apparates in and tells us:
"Ted, Dora and I moved in here two months ago – because we will inherit the house and because we didn't want to leave our uncle alone in here, deathly ill and only surrounded by house-elves, however sweet they were looking after him. He didn't mind the family and I know that Dora particularly delighted him when she showed up in his room. She is missing him already. Anyway, I've got rooms prepared for you, and I'll just show them to you now, okay?"
She moves ahead over a staircase up to the first floor, then another floor and through a corridor.
"Here's one, here's yours, Sirius, here's one and here's one. Pick your rooms!"
"I don't need an extra room, Andy, I'm staying with Sirius…" Remus declares.
"What! Has he finally made a move? Or have you been the one to take the first step? That's quite wonderful, you know! Can't wait to see Aunt Leda's face. And my mother's! Don't expect them to be nice though!"
"I don't. I know what Sirius suffered when he went home last summer and Regulus couldn't wait to tell his mother about Sirius being gay…" Remus whispers.
"Aww! How could we two become the nice people we are with such hags as mothers, Siri? We must be miracles!" Andromeda jokes.
Sirius grins a bit.
"Yeah, I agree. Must be! Just look at Reg…"
"And Bella! She's the greatest of pests!"
The memory fades. The next one must be Sirius' as he's being led into the room where Alphard Black is laid out. He's looking well, just like he'd sleep. Sirius holds his breath though, I think, he's never seen a corpse before. Andromeda leaves him alone to have time for his last goodbye.
The memory shifts again. Now it's the day of the funeral and we're with the party to accompany the deceased to the ritual burning. The ashes are filled into an urn, which will then be deposited in the family vault of the Black family in the Diagon Alley cemetery. There are coffins lined up in the vault as well as niches to place urns. It looks like it's the same thing in the wizarding world as it is in the Muggle world, a part of the dead are buried in coffins and a part of them prefer to be burned. It's an amazingly short procedure and I notice that Sirius is glad for it, as most of the Blacks have turned up, probably in the hope of getting a good bit of what Alphard Black would leave. They remind me of a group of crows. Sirius looks a lot like his father, but there's a big difference, too. It's mainly the light that's in Sirius, his openness, where the rest of the family looks sombre and dull. Even Regulus is there, sneering at Sirius and even more so at us. Mrs Black makes a horrible scene because I'm there and she already seems to know I'm Muggle-born. But Andromeda has taken the lead in the procedure and she shuts her aunt up amazingly successfully.
Amongst the many guests at the funeral are the Lupins and the Potters. It's a pleasure to meet them. There is a wake after the funeral, which takes place at one of the restaurants in Diagon Alley, but none of the Black family is invited apart from Sirius and Andromeda herself. I get to speak to James and Remus' parents, who are all delightful people and who are examples that there are very nice pureblooded wizards and witches out there. As it is with all funerals and wakes, the mood lightens up as time moves on and I hear stories about Alphard that introduce me to the person, even if I never knew him personally before.
Mother screams at Lily and I look at her apologetically, but Lily quite calmly turns her back and disregards the old hag. Then Andy comes over and tells Mother to shut up and not disrupt the ceremony.
"You didn't have to come, aunt! You didn't even allow him to enter Grimmauld Place anymore, you've burnt all of his portraits in the house, now you trample in here and expect a friendly welcome? Stay away if you can't accept uncle Alphard's friends. Or shut the hell up!"
Andy's bluntness shuts my mother up for a moment. The funeral takes place and is very short, for which I'm glad. We move on to a restaurant, where we hold a small wake among us, and some of uncle Alphard's friends, who have joined us here. He's had quite a lot of friends, most of them as eccentric as himself, so after a while, it gets quite nice and we hear a lot of stories about him.
Then the next day after lunch the house starts to fill, this time with family and only about three of uncle Alphard's friends. The barristers have come in before lunch and have shared the meal with us. The living room has been made ready to seat all the people who are invited to hear the reading of the will. My friends stay in the smaller salon for the duration of that. Andy receives the other family members and sends them to the living room. I have already taken my place there and watch them coming in, see how greedy they look at everything in the room. I don't even look at them. Contrary to them all, I know what we will hear in that testament. Finally, the barristers seem to be convinced that everyone is there. One of them has a purse where I expect him to keep the Knuts which will be handed to the relatives who will receive nothing else. Mr. Lynton gets up and says:
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have gathered here for the sad reason of Mr. Alphard Black's demise and the reading of his last will. My partner, Mr. Quigley will now start the reading."
The expectant faces soon turn to red bulbs as the assembled Black family gets to hear what uncle Alphard thinks of them and at the end Mr. Lynton picks up the purse and a list and calls every person on that list by name to receive their Knut and sign the parchment receipt. Andy has told me that this is quite a frequent treatment of unloved relatives, so my 'family' probably knows there's nothing doing. It doesn't stop Father, Mother, uncle Cygnus and aunt Augusta from refusing to take the Knut and sign, so I think, they will actually contest the will. But Lynton just hands them their copy of the will and winks at Andy and me. If they show this to any barrister, no one will take it to court. The list of persons who receive a Knut is attached to the will. Even the signatures of those who accepted the Knuts have been copied already.
Once the family is out of the house, we can breathe again. Mr. Lynton hands me a Gringotts key.
"Mr. Black, I'm pleased to hand you a key to your brand new Gringotts vault. The cash in your uncle's vault has already been shared between you and Mrs Tonks. I will hold back the Knuts for all those who refused to take it, but I don't think you will miss those," Mr. Lynton says with a bit of a roguish smile, before turning to Andromeda and giving her a key, too.
"I shall keep the both of you updated about the process of your relatives in contesting the will. Most probably it won't go beyond asking for the advice of some barristers. No one in their right minds will touch the case, not even Knockturn Alley rogues. And after a year and a day the chance of contesting a will expires if no claim has been placed with a court."
After that, we're left alone and return to my friends. I'm not any happier at having lost my uncle, but at least I will be independent, I'm of age now, so I'll be able to look for a place to live as soon as I leave school. And I will have time to decide what I want to do with my life, apart from spending it with Remus of course.
The memory moves on to the late evening, when we are discussing these things before going to bed. Remus of course already worries about the NEWTS and what professional prospects he will have at all. He expects to have just as much difficulty as other werewolves have to get and keep a job.
"In the end you might be happiest with a Muggle job, love. I understand that you want to do something and not become a social case. I wouldn't like to see you in such a situation, love. You should be able to do anything, you're so good at everything you do. But for all the times you might be out of work, you're mine to take care of. I will do it whenever it's unavoidable. I know it will be hard for you. But I want to be there to nurture you back to life when they treat you badly. I want to be there for you," my younger self promises Remus.
I was sincere then. I meant every word and Remus knew very well that I meant every word. Now we know what happened that made it impossible for me to be there for him like I promised. I dread to see his memories of the years spent mostly alone. I reserve myself to see the memories, before I wonder whether the friends in the Order have let him down or whether he left them. Unfortunately, I think he rather left them, because he trusted them, but couldn't accept charity from them the way he could take it from me.
We leave it at that for the day. We've got a lot to note down again and do it thoroughly. We've developed a certain routine by now, everyone adds what they remember beyond the notes added by Remus and I.
But we also need some of the day to spend with our little ones and decide to go on as soon as the children are off to bed. We meet the gang for the aperitif and find some of them have friends with them who all find space at the long table. We're introduced to the people we don't already know.
Sharing meals with so many people guarantees lots of discussion topics. One of them is usually politics, which is a bit less exciting now that things have returned to a normal ebb and flow. The Ministry is still being rebuilt, but I hear that there are a lot of efforts of bringing things back to a better way than under Fudge. Madam Bones is very busy achieving improvements in most of her departments.
We sit down to eat. I have Denny next to me who starts to eat with his little fork and spoon by himself, but he's still rather messy. Seems normal to me, they are still learning after all. To make sure he actually gets something in his mouth I feed him a spoonful now and then but let him work it out for himself between the bites.
"Daddy, look!" he calls me and shows a spoonful he's cooped up.
"Well done, love, now you have to put that in your mouth!"
He tries and before he can drop everything, I help him a little. He chews and beams. Every time he manages to do something himself, he's showing this special grin. I love to see it. At the same time, it makes me sad, because I should have been like that, too, and the painful memory of the degree of neglect I had to suffer as a small child just won't leave me alone. But I shove those thoughts to the farthest recesses of my mind. I can't change the past. I can only do my best to make it better for my children and the memories from my own childhood are standing so clearly in front of me to help me.
That includes Addie. She's quickly becoming a sparkling character, the little lady. So and so many generations of nobility of course do leave their marks in the genes and now that she's encouraged she shows her qualities. What I like most in her is that she does it without becoming arrogant and conceited at the same time. Right now she's placed between Ginny and Draco and tells them about some of the memories in the Pensieve. She has lost most of her timidity to speak to others. It was a natural timidity, given that she only knew Father and Kreacher in her time at Grimmauld Place. It's already gone now. But of course, we won't know for a while what damage really has been done. Children have an immense capacity of healing themselves. She might have built up something inside of her as her mental protection. I'd like her to have a chance to meet other children of her own age rather sooner than later. At the moment, she's spending most of her time with adults and that makes her precocious. She should have some kind of a childhood with mindless playing times and chatter with other girls of her own age. She'll otherwise have a problem to find friends.
Oops! While I've been woolgathering, Denny has promptly dropped a few spoonfuls of food on his bib. I pull my wand to clean up, then give him the spoon back and he tries again. Every day there's a little progress. When we've started out two months ago to let them eat with their cutlery there were three spoonfuls of food coming from us for every spoonful they've managed to put into their mouths themselves. Now we're reaching about two spoonfuls from us to one they can manage themselves. Soon I hope they will be eating by themselves, even if it will still be messy. They're still used to picking up things with their hands.
"Try again, little one!" I suggest.
He does and gets better, maybe because I'm watching. But he grins and it's that grin that melts my heart down every time. I'll have to arm myself to meeting this when he uses that grin after having caused mischief of any sort! I'll probably have to admonish him, leave the room and laugh somewhere else, so that he doesn't hear how he's amused me with his antics. It won't do for us to encourage him, because if he's anything like me he won't need encouragement to cause mischief.
After dinner, we enjoy a good cup of coffee, tea for some of the people in the room, and slowly relocate away from the table. There's lots of billiards being played. One of the guests has experience in playing three-ball billiards and explains the game to the others who give it a try. Remus and I watch how the lids of our children get heavy and decide it's time for them to go to bed. Seraina comes to me and cuddles. That's always a sure sign that she's ready to go to sleep. I take her on my lap and she presses herself to me, mumbling:
"Daddy, Saina tiwed."
I love the way she calls herself Saina. Denny uses it, too, and I wouldn't be astonished if it would stick between them.
"So I'm taking you to say goodnight and then to bed, sweetie?"
"Okay, go give them kisses!"
Seraina leaves my lap and slinks around getting her goodnight hugs from Papa, Mum and Uncle James, all of the gang, Addie and her siblings, then I lift her up and take her to bed. Denny holds out a good bit longer, but he'll sleep longer in the morning, too. They're of rather different temperament in their sleeping patterns, our little ones.
As soon as I have read her story she mumbles:
"Chawwa lingua, Daddy!"
We've learned a song in the language from which her name derives and she absolutely loves it. It's in Romanic, the first line is "Chara lingua della mamma, tü sonor rumantsch ladin…" (Dear language of my mother, melodious Romanic from Ladin) and we have to sing it for her almost every night now. It has only three short verses and is nice and slow, so we're usually through it quite quickly. She seems to like the sound of the language a lot, even if she doesn't understand the words. And by the end of it, our little one is usually fast asleep. There are no words to express the amount of love I have for these children. It flows easiest when I see them asleep. It's the most peaceful view I know, and whatever the day with them has brought, watching them asleep will wipe everything away. I just wonder if my parents were aware of what they missed, but I know they weren't or they wouldn't have brought Regulus and me up the way they did! Thankfully, Addie has been spared most of what I went through. Sometimes neglect can have a good side.
I'm also learning an actual lullaby in Romanic, a song called 'Dorma bain' ('Sleep well'). Since we've spent some time in the Graubünden and have given Seraina her name originating from up there I've started to look a bit into the culture and that special language of this area. The history goes even farther back than the Romans, but they have given the area the culture it has to these days. In the places where the people speak Romanic they are also mostly catholic and almost all of the old churches in the many small villages there are from the Romanic period between 700 and 1000. Life in the mountains has formed the lifestyles, and the farmers are mostly cattle breeders. They use the Alps to feed the cattle over summer, while they make hay from the pastures in the lower areas. Like Seraina, I find the sound of the Romantsch very pleasing. There is a very old tradition of choir singing in the area and for that reason there is an abundance of songs in this language. Some of them have become very popular outside of the area as well. The whole of Switzerland has a rich tradition of folksongs in the four languages and many Swiss German dialects as well.
Lily brought music into my life and I loved it from the start. Music was something completely unknown and probably looked down on in my parents' views. It's logical, after all, in Germany there was the saying that you can join all people who make music, because bad people do not know any songs. And my parents were bad to the core. But I learned to sing in primary school. Our teacher used to do a lot of that with us and I know that I loved it. It's only coming back to me again slowly. Lily's keyboard, which is more an electric piano, which she brought to Hogwarts to teach music to Addie has done us all a lot of good and motivated me to re-learn some of the songs I knew when I was a child and to add many new ones.
It's a lot of fun!
Remus has loved music from earliest childhood through his mother. She always played lots of music from vinyl records, anything from French singer/songwriters to modern pop and rock music from the 60s and 70s. She also played a lot of classical music, sang and played the accordion.
When I get back down to the living room, Remus is just getting ready to take Dennis to bed. I kiss a sleepy little boy goodnight and watch Remus leave with him. Half an hour later, my mate is back and we can return to another hour or two of memories.
Sixth year was probably the most light-hearted time I spent in my life apart from the past years in spite of the loss of my beloved uncle. Remus and I discovered our love and our bodies, Lily became a friend, if not yet James' girlfriend, school went great and there were no greater worries than Quidditch matches, tests and the end of year exams. Going through the memories of this school year is a good basis to bear the memories of the gruesome war years we were to experience as soon as we left Hogwarts.