Title: Suffer the Martyrs
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: None of the characters and/or properties of Harry Potter belong to me.
A.N.: Because my floppy drive has STILL not arrived, and so I can't work on my WIPs, since all those files are in my old, crappy computer. And because I can't help love the minor characters; even with a few words, J. K. R. creates wonders.
A.N. 2: This fic will focus on three different pairings: Sirius Black/Marlene McKinnon, Emmeline Vance/Gideon Prewett, and eventually Sirius/Emmeline, with mentions of Lily/James and Alice/Frank.
Chapter 1: June 27, 1995; Summer after the TriWizard Tournament
The chill of the early morning had somehow seeped into the house, and her feet winced as they met the icy cold of the kitchen tiles. Wrapping her silk robe about her more tightly in a futile gesture, she placed a kettle on the stove to heat it up for tea. Shifting from one foot to the other, waiting for the water to heat, she was not quite surprised when - perhaps an eternity later - there was a rap-tap-tap on the backdoor. Toes curling uncomfortably, she winced her way across the tiles and opened the door, turning around and rushing to the whistling kettle without bothering to see who the visitor was.
"Close the door behind you," she cautioned absently, adroitly plucking the kettle off the flames and shutting off the stove. "Camomile or Green? I ran out of Oolong a few days ago, been meaning to buy some more, but..."
There was a hesitant silence - and then, "Camomile." A pause. "Thanks."
"It's only polite," she replied. They had never been friends, in the entire definition of the word, but they had been more than just acquaintances.
He cleared his throat, "I'm a little surprised, to be honest. You didn't scream, or anything."
"I was expecting you," she told him, placing the tea cups on a tray, taking it over and sitting down across from him. "The Headmaster owled me yesterday, using the old code."
"Oh." He sipped his tea, sighed, and ran a hand though his scraggly hair. "I must look a mess," he attempted a grin.
"Yes," she agreed honestly, and the grin faltered. "But it's the least of your worries now."
The wavering grin morphed into a wry, acknowledging smile, and he replied, "True."
He had things to tell her, she knew, things too sensitive for owl messages or Floo, even using the old code, and that made her a little nervous. It had been ages since any kind of news was too important to be sent by mail, and she hadn't particularly loved how that saga had gone.
"Sorry I took so long," he began.
She shook her head. "It's all right. It gave me time to..."
There was no need for her to continue; he nodded. Even if they hadn't been the closest of friends, towards the end, they had understood each other better than anyone else could have.
"I heard from Arthur that you're an Inquisitor now," he ventured. "The Head Inquisitor for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. That's something."
She quirked a not-quite smile. "Yeah, it's something all right."
He quirked a brow, "Yeah?"
"My skills are now used to evaluate employees," she told him flatly. "It is my job to assess their competency for their positions in the Ministry, both in mind and in skill."
"Must be boring as hell," he said bluntly.
She scoffed - understatement. During the War, Inquisitors had actually done things. They had been responsible for gaining information from the captured enemy, fully armed with Occlumency and Legilimency training, as well as the knowledge of reading body language. Now...being an Inquisitor was no more important than being the bloody mail clerk.
"Still, you must get paid a lot," he tried to joke. "Even if it doesn't seem like you spend it on anything. Honestly, a house in the muggle suburbs?"
Her mouth twisted in annoyance. Who was he to judge how she spent her money, or where she lived? "I like the peace."
"I can get that," he said honestly.
She sighed. Enough of this dancing around. "Why are you here, Sirius?"
Dark eyes bore into her with a graveness that could not be faked. "Dumbledore is recalling the Order."
Her breath hitched in her throat. Surely what she'd heard could not be what he'd said. Surely not, when...when...
"Emmeline," Sirius said, and she knew that he was not lying.
She closed her eyes briefly, tried not to think of all the reasons why this should not be happening, not when so many people had suffered the first time. Hadn't it been enough? What kind of world were they living in, that it was not satisfied with all the blood and tears that had been shed, and had to recreate the nightmare?
For there was no doubt in her mind that Voldemort was back. There was no other possible reason Albus Dumbledore would ask this of them again.
"And what do you think about this?" Emmeline asked, her voice a grating whisper.
Mouth twisting in a empathetic line, Sirius said quietly, "Of all people, I understand. You know that."
"It's necessary, Emmeline," he said. "I think so, too."
Sirius Black looked her in the eye and said the words with all solemnity. He looked Emmeline Vance straight on and actually said the words, and meant them.
Defeated, she lowered her head and breathed in the steam of her tea. "All right."
He mustered up a semblance of a smile, "Well, that makes everyone."
'Everyone still alive,' were the words that were not spoken. But they both knew that the words were there, felt the pain that came with the memories.
"Did you really think anyone would say 'no'?" she queried.
Brutally honest, he answered, "You."
She did not take offense, nor did she question why. She knew why. He knew why. But that reason was also why she had to say yes. And he knew that, as well.
For a long moment, the only sound was the ticking of her kitchen clock.
The warmth of the tea cup, seeping through her palms, was a direct contrast to the chilling bite of the tile floor; idly, she crossed her ankles.
Sirius began absently, "Do you still have the...?"
"Do you even have to ask?" she countered, and he conceded the point. "I still have it. I suppose Albus will notify us of the meeting time, then?"
Sirius shrugged, then nodded. He licked his lips almost nervously, and ventured, "Do you remember the first meeting?"
"Yes," Emmeline smiled a little. "I was scared to death."
He looked surprised. "Really? Couldn't tell."
"Well, someone had to be strong for Rommie," Emmeline said lightly, and they both smiled, because Andromeda needed no one to be strong for her. She was a force of and by herself, a wonder and a delight, and also a little intimidating.
The expression on his face changed, minutely. "That was the first time I noticed her. I mean, I'd gone to school with her for seven years, and it had only been two months since graduation, but..."
"But she was there, and you'd never expected it from her," Emmeline finished, and he nodded wordlessly. "And you noticed her. We all noticed each other. For the first time. It was..."
"Magical," Sirius supplied, smiling at the joke. After a moment, his expression turned serious, slightly nostalgic, and more than a bit pained. "Because we knew, from that moment, that we all had one thing in common, and it was this wonderful, horrible thing."
"Mmm," Emmeline agreed.
Aptly put, surprisingly enough. They had been bound, the twenty-five of them, by a secret, a cause greater than the individual, and the knowledge that the faces in their private circle had all chosen to take a stand.
It had been their greatest moment of glory, each and every one of them both terrible and magnificent all at once.