Not So Different
Disclaimer: Characters and setting are the property of J.K. Rowling, I'm just borrowing them for a little non-profit fun.
Harry glanced up as Remus Lupin knocked on his open door then walked in with a dilapidated shoebox. "What's in there?" He asked.
Remus smiled, for a brief moment the exhaustion and sadness left his eyes. "I found it in the attic, Mrs. Black must have missed it when she threw out all of Sirius' stuff after he moved in with your dad's family."
"So what is it?" Harry repeated. He found it a little easier to sound enthusiastic and curious than he'd thought it would be. Both he and Remus tried to smile for the other and tried to elicit a real smile in return. Slowly it was getting easier, for both of them.
"Just some pictures." Remus replied with a studied casualness. "The ones on top were from our third year at Hogwarts and if I remember Padfoot's organizational system there will be older ones on the bottom."
Harry's smile turned up a notch. "And you've got the stories to go with them?"
"Well… I don't know if all of them are fit for a professor to be telling a student, but then I'm not your teacher anymore am I?" Remus said with a quick grin as he settled on the bed next to Harry and opened the box. A look of uncertainty passed over Remus' face. "We weren't always as… out of bounds… as what you saw in Professor Snape's memories." He felt compelled to add.
Harry winced. "I, I didn't think you were."
The following hour was spent pleasantly immersed in a happy carefree past as the pair sorted through the old photos and Remus relayed the Marauders' earliest stories to Harry.
"I can't believe how little you guys look." Harry laughed when they had unburied a handful of pictures from the Marauders' first year at school.
Remus smiled fondly. "Look at your own pictures, I think you'll find yourself no bigger."
"Hey who's that?" Harry asked as a new photo was turned over. "I recognize Dad, you, Sirius… and Pettigrew." For a second a dark edge over took Harry's voice then he shook it off. "But who's the other kid."
"Oh…" Remus started a bit as caught sight of the picture. Sirius and James stood front and center mugging for the camera; two grinning, dark haired boys with matching looks of mischief in their eyes. After a moment Peter pushed between them, his dishwater blonde hair falling into his eyes. He stood on tiptoes to sling an arm around each of the taller boys' shoulders. Sirius used the distraction to give James rabbit ears. Off to left a youthful version of Remus watched, the brown-haired boy shook his head fondly at his friends' antics. A third black haired boy stood off to the right, he was turned away from the camera, a book cradled in his arms as he edged away from the general chaos that surrounded Sirius and James.
Harry watched carefully, hoping for a better look at the fifth boy. "I haven't seen him in any of the other pictures, but he looks a little familiar." He said.
"I suppose he would." Remus remarked.
The Marauder's First Year, Christmas Break
Minerva McGonagall stood in the courtyard in front of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Her hands were planted on her hips as she stared disapprovingly at the two dark haired first years awaiting her judgment. One was lean and nutmeg brown from long hours out of doors, including a number of hours his teachers might have preferred he spent studying for his classes, his blue eyes sparkled brightly with mischief. The other boy was pale and thin; his eyes were so dark that they appeared black and secretive.
"What have you to say for yourselves gentlemen?" She asked sternly.
The first boy's mouth tightened unhappily, his dark eyes glittered with resentment. "I was studying. I lost track of time and missed the train."
"That was the day before yesterday, Mr. Snape. Am I to understand that your studies were so absorbing that they kept you from noticing that you were forty-eight hours overdue for the holidays?"
The boy just shrugged. "I didn't think it was worth mentioning. I missed the train, I assumed that my parents wouldn't want to go to the bother of making alternate travel arrangements."
"And the sensible course of action was to remain in the dungeons, telling no one of your whereabouts, leaving us to think you'd been lost or kidnapped?" Professor McGonagall demanded irritably. "We were all frantic when your parents informed us that you failed to meet them at the train station. Your father was very upset."
Snape flinched then his face settled into a carefully blank expression. "Am I staying at school for the holidays?" He asked.
"Of course not. Your father was contacted as soon as we found you, he's at the apparition point now." Professor McGonagall replied then turned her attention to the other boy. "Your turn, Mr. Black. Would you care to explain how you ended up at the Potters' home rather than your own?"
"I told my parents James invited me!" The blue-eyed boy exclaimed. "I don't see why you had to go dragging me back!"
"Your mother told us that she specifically forbid you from spending the holidays at your friend's house." Professor McGonagall remarked.
Sirius looked rebellious. "It's because they're Gryffindors. My parents are creeps, like all the rest of the Slytherins; they hate me. You've gotta let me go home with James, Professor."
Snape quietly muttered something that sounded like: "Typical Gryffindor melodrama."
Professor McGonagall sighed. "Mr. Black, I understand that your parent were somewhat, surprised, at your Sorting…"
"Pissed you mean." Sirius corrected under his breath and earned a watch-your-language-young-man glare.
"… But I'm quite certain that they don't hate you. Your mother was very insistent upon having you home for the holidays, they've had a number of months to accustom themselves to the situation and I believe that they wish to heal the damage to your relationship. I know you haven't opened a single communication from them since the howler incident."
"You don't know them Professor." Sirius protested excitably. "If you send me home, I may not make it back for the next term."
Snape rolled his eyes at the other boy's antics. McGonagall didn't seem much more sympathetic. "Sirius, your parent will not kill you for being sorted into my House. The Headmaster and I have had several meetings with them, I promise you that there won't be any more problems."
A large hook-nosed man stormed into the courtyard. "Mr. Snape." Professor McGonagall greeted the man. "I apologize for your inconvenience."
"It's hardly the first time the boy's made a nuisance of himself." The elder Snape growled. "Severus, get your things and hurry up about it. I've wasted more than enough time over this fool stunt of yours."
"Yes sir, sorry sir." Snape replied by route. As soon as he was out of sight the other three heard the sound of running feet echoing back from the hall.
While they waited for him to return a second disapproving parent arrived to collect her straying son. Mrs. Black arrived by carriage; she was accompanied by a cringing house-elf. "Professor." She said. "Sirius, apologize for the trouble you've caused everyone."
The blue-eyed boy stared at the ground. "I'm sorry everyone got in such a fuss. 'Course you could have just left me with James…"
Mrs. Black frowned darkly. "Have you forgotten all manners and polite speech in just four months?" She asked. "Those hooligans you consort with are a bad influence, don't think I haven't heard about the trouble you've been into."
Head still down turned to hide his face; Sirius mimicked his mother's reprimand mockingly.
Professor McGonagall's expression cooled. "Mrs. Black, Sirius is high spirited certainly, but he's a quick study and he's made a number of close friends. As his House Head, I feel he's settled in very well, despite some early problems."
Mrs. Black sniffed disdainfully. "I'm certain his behavior is quite typical for students in your keeping, but I expect my son to remember some decorum regardless of his deplorable choice in companions."
Professor McGonagall scowled at the other woman but refrained from commenting.
"Esterhazy, it's a pleasant surprise to see you here." Mr. Snape said with a false smile. "It seems my imbecile son isn't the only determined to cause his parents grief."
Mrs. Black gave him an appraising glance, as if she were judging whether or not he was the type of person to be worthy of using her first name. "Snape isn't it?" She remarked then dismissed the man. "Come along Sirius, you've caused me more than enough problems for one day."
"I have to get my stuff." Sirius complained.
"You've clothing at home and I won't have any of the nonsense you've acquired here in my house." Mrs. Black stated. She turned and walked out. Sirius trailed sullenly behind her.
The elder Snape watched the pair go with a look that was equal parts anger and speculation. "Which house is the Black boy in?" He asked McGonagall conversationally.
The Professor smiled proudly. "Sirius is one of my Gryffindors." She replied.
"No doubt that came as a surprise to the Black family." Snape remarked.
Professor McGonagall sighed. "Students being sorted against family history does tend to create difficulties. I'm quite proud of how my Gryffindors rallied around the boy after his parents made their displeasure public knowledge."
A moment later Severus reappeared. His trunk bobbed unsteadily after him under the effect of a Wingardium Leviosa charm. The elder Snape took charge of the trunk; he shrunk it down to a more manageable size then pocketed it. The older man started back toward the edge of the apparition wards with a brisk stride, when his son failed to keep up he grabbed the boy by the upper arm and half dragged him along in his impatience. Once they were off school ground the elder Snape disapparated pulling his son along with him.
They reappeared outside of a sizable but badly run down house. Dizzy from the abrupt transition, Severus fell. His father's unforgiving grip on his arm threatened the joint with dislocation for a moment then he was released to collapse into the snow. A moment later a hand on the back of his collar hauled the boy back to his feet. "Do you think I pay for you to go to that school so you can hide with your potions or your books? You're there to make connections." The older man snorted disgustedly. "Or do you think you can get ahead on talent?"
"I get top marks in potions and DADA." Severus protested.
His father's short bark of laugher was derisive. "You're nothing special. There's nothing you could do to equal having a name like Malfoy... Don't think I haven't heard about your moronic quarrel with the Malfoy boy."
"He's the moron." Severus muttered under his breath and earned a sharp cuff to the ear and shove toward his rooms.
"Get a move on it, we are going to get something accomplished before Christmas break ends."
The Black family carriage, complete with anti-muggle charms pulled to a stop in front of no. 12 Grimwald Pl. "You're a disgrace Sirius, what kind of example do you think you're setting for your younger brother by disobeying me and running off with riffraff like that Potter boy?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Geeze Mom, get a grip. What's your problem with James anyway? Even by your standards the Potters should be acceptable, the family's been around forever."
"They're hardly purebloods. You can barely find four consecutive generations without one of them marrying a mudblood and the only reason they aren't as obnoxious as the Weasleys is that they don't have the same tendency to over breed."
"Better than inbreeding." Sirius muttered and received a sharp rap to his knuckles.
"While you are home I expect you to remember how to comport yourself properly. I won't have any Gryffindor-ish scenes in front of your relatives. It's shameful enough that they all know what happened, you shan't compound the situation by behaving as if you've forgotten all trace of proper manners. That McGonagall woman may put up with your 'high spirits' but I expect better from my flesh and blood." Mrs. Black decreed. "The nerve of her, coming into my house and acting like I should be proud that my son's been declared a brazen fool before the whole of polite society."
"If you hate me so much WHY CAN'T YOU JUST LET ME STAY WITH MY FRIENDS!" Sirius yelled. "James invited me. Peter invited me. Hell, I could have just stayed at school with Remus. They like me; they want me around, but no, YOU'VE got to drag me here just to remind me how much I disappoint you."
"You are a Black and you will behave like one!" Sirius' mother hissed. "I may not have any say in where you're placed at that school of yours, but I will drag you back here at every opportunity and I will make a proper Wizard of you or we'll both die in the trying! Now go to your room and put on some proper clothes, you look like a muggle."
"Enough argument, ten paces then turn." The elder Snape instructed.
Severus didn't move. "You did what!?" He exclaimed as he fought the urge to check his ears.
Artalocus Snape turned and scowled at his son. "I owled Esterhazy Black with the suggestion that you might be a positive influence on her wayward son."
"B… but Black's a Gryffindor!" Severus wondered if someone had cast a babbling charm on him. Normally he knew better than to talk back to his father. But Black? The self-righteous git and his friend Potter acted every Slytherin student was the next dark lord in training. Go to Black's home? He'd be better off throwing himself down the first flight of stars and saving the other boy the trouble. "Sir, Black hates Slytherins."
"His family is well known and well respected in certain circles." Artalocus replied after a casual curse sent his son to his knees. "You've proven that you're incapable of cultivating connections on your own so I'm going to help you. The brat might be a Gryffindor but he is a Black. The family's nearly as old as the Malfoys, they've got money, they've got influence… but given her son, Esterhazy can't set her standards too high when it comes to finding him suitable friends. Not that I expect that you'll convince him of anything, you couldn't persuade a Dementor to take your soul. Still it's a reason for you to spend time in the Black family's social circles, try not to screw up this time. And next time I tell you to duel, you do it. I won't hold back if you're daydreaming. Now, ten pace and turn."
The pair step off the required length for a duel then turned. On Artalocus' count of three he shouted. "Expelliarmus!"
Severus erected a quick blocking spell, only to have his father's hex blast through it and knock him across the room. His shoulder connected forcefully with the wall before he crashed to the floor. For a moment he lay there, stunned.
"Get up, we're not done."
A pair of curly haired teenage girls tumbled out of the fireplace in the Black family Manor's foyer. The first, a seventeen-year-old with cropped auburn locks quickly dusted herself off and gave Esterhazy a perfunctory hug. "Thanks for having us Aunty. I've a ton of Christmas shopping left and London's ever so much better than Hogsmeade."
Esterhazy Black held her niece at arm's length. "Just remember, your mother swore I wouldn't have to deal with any of your muggle nonsense here."
" 'Course Aunty. I solemnly swear; you won't see a single muggle gadget in your house. Now where are Siri and Reg? I can't take off without saying hi to my ickle cousins."
Esterhazy scowled disgustedly as the girl hurried off then turned to her other guest. The fifteen-year-old shook the soot out of her waist-length black ringlets then smoothed her robes. "Aunt Esterhazy." She greeted the older witch.
"We're quite certain your sister is a Ravenclaw Bellatrix?" Esterhazy asked snidely.
"Andromeda is, unfortunately, of the experimental bent. Not a respectable theorist like most of her house." Bellatrix sneered. "Then there's her whole muggle fixation, it leads her to associating with the worst sorts of wizards… Still it was amusing to watch Molly Carington have conniptions over the amount of time Andromeda and Weasley spent together. Anyone except a Gryffindor could see that Andromeda was more interested in his 'ragio' than in him."
Esterhazy shuttered distastefully. Whether it was at the mention of a muggle gadget or the thought of one of her nieces dating a Weasley was left to the imagination.
"If I could have your opinion Bellatrix?" Esterhazy asked as she handed the dark beauty a short missive.
Bellatrix scanned the note. "Sirius is a lost cause Aunty, he'd dive headfirst off the Astronomy tower if he thought it would make him more Gryffindor, but I'd extend an invitation anyway."
"So the Snape boy has potential?" Esterhazy asked.
"He's got a sharp mind and a sharper tongue." Bellatrix replied. "He doesn't have the sense to reign either in but when he gets older I imagine he'd make a good asset if a body could get a leash on him. That is, assuming Lucius doesn't hex him into an early grave for impertinence."
"How is darling Lucius?" Esterhazy asked.
"I encouraged him to notice Narcissa." Bellatrix replied off-handedly.
"What did your sister do to earn such generosity?" Esterhazy asked.
Bellatrix shrugged. "I didn't want him but it seemed prudent to keep it, him, in the family. They'll do well together, Narcissa never was the type to get her hands dirty and Lucius wants an ornamental hostess. Myself, I prefer to be an equal. Rodolphus Lestrange's family might not be as prominent or as rich as the Malfoys but he listens to my advice."
"There is much to be said for finding a compatible match." Esterhazy remarked. "As long as one properly screens the candidate pool before hand. As for the situation with my disgrace of a son; I believe having a guest from his year might distract him from causing too much trouble at my annual holiday get-together."