requiem: (1) a mass or hymn written for memorial and repose of one or more departed souls, usually played at funerals (2) a composition written in mourning of a deceased person
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only one place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
- "Ash Wednesday" by T.S. Eliot
Some say that whether or not someone's lot in life is sufficient for happiness can be determined by whether or not the person is happy during Christmas time. If this is true, then Sirius Black was certainly one of the most unblessed with life's joys.
He was lying sprawled on his back on the hard wood floor of his bedroom where a rather dreery-looking Christmas tree had been magicked into a corner, seemingly against its own will from the looks of it. Sirius had a small notion that his family had forgotten this was his bedroom while decorating the house for Christmas; otherwise they would have known not to waste their time. But Kreacher, the house elf, seemed to have remembered it to some extent because the tree was so crudely adorned with the least of care.
Christmas had come and passed and Sirius had hardly acknowledged it, sleeping in most of the day. His friends had sent him his presents by owl, and his mother eventually had to come in and throw something at him to make him wake up because she was sick of accepting his packages for him. Later he found the object she had thrown at him to be a shrinking paperweight, possibly the worst magic gift someone could give, and was flattered that his mother had gotten it as a present that morning and so quickly decided to pass it on to him. After all, there were some people who would be giving him presents late, but for the most part he wouldn't be getting many gifts this Christmas, as usual.
But today was the day that the Black family celebrated the most during the winter. Traditionally his relatives would unceremoniously spend Christmas at their own homes, and then on New Year's Eve Sirius's entire extended family would reunite at his house to exchange late presents, have a big dinner, and then get drunk enough for the disgusting heinousness of their personalities to become too clear for Sirius to watch without getting sick with the realization that he was related to these people.
Many, many times Sirius had regretted not taking up the Potters offer to let him stay with them during the holiday this time. In fact, when he had told James that he was going home for Christmas even though he didn't have to, he had looked at Sirius like he'd just said that Satan was an awfully pleasant guy to hang out with. But there was really only one reason that Sirius endured being with his family during the reunions, and in the end it always managed to make it worth it in one way or another.
There were no windows in Sirius's bedroom, so whenever he heard someone arrive he had no way of looking out to see who it was unless he wanted to leave the room and remind the other people in the house that he existed, which would only result in them giving him a hard time. But eventually he heard the voice talking downstairs that he had been waiting to hear all day.
"Hello. Where is everyone?"
"Andromeda," Sirius heard his cousin Narcissa say, ignoring her question. "I'm surprised to see you. Mother didn't think you'd be coming."
She didn't sound exactly pleased about her sister being there.
"Oh," Andromeda said pleasantly, paying no attention to the lack of enthusiasm for her arrival. "Well, I haven't seen you guys and mum for a while, you know...Where's Sirius?"
"I don't know," Narcissa said without a single note of care in her voice. She and Andromeda talked unanimatedly for only a few more seconds before Sirius had left his room and was coming quietly down the stairs. Andromeda seemed to know he was standing at the bottom of them, because as soon as her sister left the landing area she turned and smiled at him.
"Well, if it isn't my favorite cousin," she said. "Come here and let me look at you."
Andromeda Black was the only person related to Sirius that he had met who he liked. She was twenty-three and looked a little like a pixie, though she also resembled a tall and skinny boy with her sandy blond hair cut very short. From ending up in many situations in which they were the only decent people to talk to, they had become more like brother and sister than cousins. In fact, the only reason Sirius ever stayed around at family reunions was because he was able to ignore everyone else and talk to Andromeda instead. They usually stayed very closely in touch to decide which ones they would simultaneously show up for and which ones they would both skip. She was the one who had given him his flying motorcycle for his sixteenth birthday, which he had since used many times without ever bothering to get a license to fly it.
"You are getting so tall...look at this," Andromeda marveled with enthusiasm, messing with his nearly shoulder-length hair. "I'm still waiting for you to write to me about a girlfriend one of these days. Tell me you have one."
He shrugged. "Sure. I have, you know...girlfriends."
"Not like that," she scolded. "I mean the kind whose names you remember after having a couple snogs with them, at least."
Sirius laughed. "What about you?"
"We'll see," she said, putting her hands together and starting to fidget with them a little.
"Oh, come on. I hate it when you're all mysterious like that."
"Usually I'm just bluffing and have nothing to tell you about at all. Haven't you figured that out by now?" He thought he saw her take something off of her finger and hide it in her pocket, but when she went on talking he forgot about it. "Hey, how about helping me unload the car?"
"Unload the what?" Sirius asked, his voice elevating in surprise.
"I have a car now. Didn't you hear me landing?"
"It's a flying one?"
"Of course. We Blacks are strictly magical," she started in an impression of a typical member of their family. "We don't need any useless Muggle technology influencing our traditional and much more sufficient ways of life."
She had barely finished saying that by the time Sirius was headed out the front door to look at her car outside. It was a tiny, two-seater convertible with its lid up. It had an off-white color and gleamed brightly in the sunlight. It somehow seemed to fit Andromeda perfectly.
"Andy, since when did you...?"
"I'll tell you about it later," she dismissed. "Let's just get my stuff inside."
They unloaded all of her bags from the trunk and then Sirius was looking at the car thoughtfully. "Hey, I want to try something."
Sirius got his wand out, pointed it at the top of the car and encanted, "Alohomora."
The hood of the car immediately opened up to reveal the inside.
"Nice leather," Sirius noted, looking at the seats. Then he noticed something sitting in the passenger seat: a big box wrapped in metallic green paper and white ribbon.
"I wonder what that could be," Andromeda said in her mysterious voice that he found annoying.
"Is it...?" He pointed at it unsurely, looking at her.
"Go on, have at it. Merry Christmas."
Sirius seized the package and started tearing at the paper. Inside was a leather case with a carrying handle that snapped shut, square-shaped and a little bigger around than a dinner plate.
"A suitcase?" he asked more in confusion than dissapointment, but then he opened it up and gasped. There was a round circular disk on the bottom and small speakers on two sides of the top lid. "This is a...! What do you call it...?" Sirius spouted in excitement. "It's a turnable!"
"Turntable," Andromeda corrected with a smile.
"But...I don't have any records!"
"You don't yet. But from now on, I'm going to send you a bunch every Christmas. Believe me, Muggle music is the best nowadays. I think they're way ahead of us with these record albums."
"Oh, you don't have to tell me that." Sirius stopped. "Wait. What do you mean you're going to send me records?"
"Never mind," she said, seeming a little nervous for a moment. "Anyway, you can learn how to play this with a spell instead of electricity so you can use it at the school without it going spastic on you. All you have to do is make it rotate and use an amplifying spell."
Sirius laughed at her description of how electronic devices would malfunction if used on the school grounds. "Good, cause there's no way I can use it here. Mum would do the old AK on me if she suddenly heard rock music coming from my room."
Sirius's mother had slapped him across the head just a few days ago for wearing a pair of sunglasses around the house which he'd bought because they were just likes ones he'd seen Jim Morrison, the singer of his favorite Muggle band, wearing in a picture once. He couldn't imagine what she'd do if she found something in his possession reeking of Muggle culture as much as a turntable.
"Geez, Andy...Thanks. I love it," he said. "Hey, you should come upstairs and see everything else I got. Unless you actually want to go in the cellar and visit with your ugly stepsisters."
She laughed. "Why do you call them that? They're my real sisters, and a hell of a lot more beautiful than they deserve to be, I'd say."
Sirius wrinkled his nose. "Oh, I don't know about that. Bella wears way too much make-up so her eyes are always so shadowy. And Narcissa might look okay if she didn't have that snobby look on her face all the time."
"Well, I'll take it as a compliment as much as I can."
They went up to Sirius's room where he showed her all the presents he'd gotten. James had sent him a chaotic board game called Dud, which involved trading wands back and forth between players so that someone was always left with the cheap dysfunctional one that came with the set, making it almost impossible to play their turns successfully. Peter had given him a large bag of Drooble's gum and a long roll of edible parchment, which Sirius liked to use to write "confidential" notes to James that always ended with messages like "Eat this as soon as you receive it to ensure complete secrecy." Just for good measure, he had added a couple pairs of twin parchments, pieces of paper that would each read whatever was written on the other so that two people could use them to write notes to eachother without having to pass them. Lily had sent him a book of photos and descriptions of old cars because one Muggle thing that he was very interested in was automobiles, and he liked to study the names of the models. Finally, he had gotten somewhat of a prank gift from Remus, a kind of compass which had a red hand that would glow and point in the direction of any female that was currently looking his way or thinking about him. Andromeda laughed a lot at the idea that someone would get him some kind of "babe radar," while Sirius tried to tell her she didn't even realize how funny it was since she didn't know Remus, who did not exactly have the most prominent sense of humor of everyone in his circle of friends.
"So how is James, by the way?" she asked him later, helping herself to some of his gum on the bed. Andromeda had been a Seventh Year when Sirius and James started going to Hogwarts, and James was the only friend of his she was very familiar with.
"Oh, he's pretty good," Sirius answered. Then he put his hands to his face and batted his eyelashes girlishly. "He's in love," he said with humorous emphasis.
"Really," she said curiously.
"Yeah. He's completely clueless about it, though. He finally realizes that he likes her, but that's about it."
"Maybe he's just not solely interested in shagging girls like you are."
"Hey, excuse me! What evidence do you have that I behave that way?"
"What other kind of person would get a compass like that as a prank gift?"
"Oh, shut up," Sirius said, throwing a pillow at her.
This, of course, turned into an extensive pillow fight complete with screaming laughter, which was undoubtably of great annoyance to anyone near enough in the house to hear them, until they both got tired and sat back down.
"You seem kind of different," Sirius noted after they had been resting in silence for a minute.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. It's like I can't decide whether you're acting happier or sadder than when I saw you last year. But it's one of the two." He looked at her unbreakingly for a moment. "There's something you're not telling me."
She stood up from the bed and bit her fingers, but said nothing.
"Andy?" he pressed.
"Not right now, alright?" She didn't seem to be hiding something just to get on his nerves now. She sounded very serious.
No one bothered to come and get them when it was time for dinner, but they could tell when the time was getting near just from the smell of the food that drifted upstairs. For ten minutes or so they went down to the living room where they were eyed contemptuously by their relatives but rarely spoken to, and then finally everyone started to gather at the very long table in the dining room.
The middle of the table was where Andromeda's family ended up gathered. Narcissa and Bellatrix sat with their mother on one side, across from Sirius's mother. His father was next to her, who seemed to be stemming off into a male section of the table. The grouping of women away from men was too perfect for the ensuing of gossip for Sirius to be very comfortable with. But there were two empty seats by Sirius's mother. Andromeda, all nerves of steal, went over and sat in one of them so that she faced her mother and sisters, and Sirius sat next to her.
"Well, well," mused Bellatrix, looking them over. "The two white sheep of the Black family."
Bellatrix, who was about Sirius's age, was wearing a tight and low-cut red velvet dress and black nylons adding a dark tint to her shapely legs, and her raven hair fell in rich curls at the bottom. Her younger sister Narcissa was all in black, looking suffocated by her lace choker because of the lack of color in her face, and giving an altogether tightened look with her pale blond hair pulled up. Sirius's aunt Elladora wore sinisterly formal robes of burgundy and a doll-like mask of make-up to hide her real age. Looking at the three, he couldn't believe Andy was so closely related to any one of them. It was like someone must have switched his aunt's child at birth.
As everybody ate, Sirius and Andromeda were allowed to stay invisible but were regarded just enough to be passed platters of food. While eating with the delicate nature and manners of royalty, the Blacks engaged in monotonous and unbearably shallow conversation that was so obnoxious to Sirius's ears that he started to stab at his food savagely as if it was all he could do to keep from lashing out and shouting at all of them. It was especially difficult for him to sit calmly when the subject came up of all of the Death Eater stories covered in the news lately.
"You know, it is unfortunate how many perfectly dignified people's lives are being threatened by these protests," Sirius's mother remarked, "but this is the price we're going to have to pay for the wrongs that have remained present in our society for far too long."
"Quite right you are," said Sirius's uncle Altus. "These Death Eaters, as they're called - what a ridiculous name - may not be very subtle about showing their ideals, but I suppose it's what you have to do to get anyone to pay attention. Hell, I can't think of any time in history when reform didn't come without some kind of sacrifice. But it is always for the better in the end, right?"
After the feast was over Sirius resorted to stuffing balls of the gum Peter had given him into his mouth and chewing it angrily since he had no more food to abuse. It was practically forbidden for anyone to rise from the table for at least another half-hour just because the adults would now enjoy some wine, so everyone carried on in the same way. Eventually Andromeda looked to the side at Sirius and her eyes widened; he had put more than ten balls of Drooble's in his mouth and a gigantic wad of gum was bulging in the side of his cheek as he chewed vigorously.
Sirius had just managed to tune out what his family was talking about and make small conversation with Andromeda when Bellatrix boredly looked over at the two of them. "So how's dear little Evans?" she asked in a fake sweet voice.
"You can shut up about her," Sirius responded automatically, hardly even looking up at Bellatrix.
"What?" Andromeda asked confusedly. "Who's Evans?"
"It's nothing. Lily Evans, she's just a friend of mine," he told her off-handedly.
She thought for a moment. "Oh! Your car book friend?"
"His Mudblood friend," Bellatrix emphasized darkly.
Andromeda looked across the table at her sister with a sharp and icy glare that could only express loathing as intense and personal as that for a sibling. "Now really, do we have to use language like that at a dinner table?"
Sirius knew she was imitating the way her mother used to act when she and her sisters used to get into screaming arguments at dinner. He looked at her, then at Bellatrix, and then back, and then noticed that the table had gone a little more quiet than before and many of the guests were peering down the table at them.
"Well, it's no surprise that Sirius has become such a retchedexample of this family," Elladora said to Andromeda, "seeing as you've had such a bad influence on him ever since he was very young. No offense to you, Lenora," she added quickly to Sirius's mother. "No one can deny you did your best with him."
Sirius chewed his gum extra loudly.
"If Sirius has grown up to be the way he is because of me at all, I'm immensely proud of it," stated Andromeda stoically.
"Oh, honestly, Andromeda," her mother sighed in exasperation. "He may even be lower than you." She started to uncork a wine bottle to pour herself a second glass. "A Black...befriending such worthless filth of people like that...It's unheard of. Could he sink any lower?"
Sirius straightened up in his seat as if he had sat on something sharp. "My friend is not-"
But Andromeda grabbed his arm to make him calm down, and when he looked at her she had an expression like he'd never seen in her eyes before. She looked so determined and serious that she didn't have to say anything for him to know to sit back and let her handle the situation.
Andromeda took in a deep breath. "Actually," she said, her voice almost sounding a little shaky, "I'm even worse than him." She was fumbling her hand around in her pocket, but Sirius got a feeling this wasn't a nervous habit. Something was going on, and it suddenly worried him very much.
"What are you talking about, Andromeda?" Elladora asked with some impatience.
Sirius glanced to the side at her lap and then turned his whole head to look, his eyes widening. She was putting a gold ring on her left hand. Slowly, she lifted it so that Elladora could see. "I'm married, mother."
A kind of choking, solitary laugh escaped Sirius as his gum flew from his mouth onto the table cloth. But no one else reacted visibly; it just became horrifyingly quiet.
Elladora swallowed. "Surely you mean...you've gotten engaged."
Andromeda shook her head. "No. We eloped. Two months ago."
"...I see. And...who is your husband?"
"He's a photographer for the Daily Prophet. We met when I went to apply for that writing job."
"What do I care about that? What's his name?"
"Tonks. Ted Tonks."
"Tonks," repeated Altus in a mildly curious tone, as if he was deceiving himself into thinking this was a light and pleasant discussion. "I've never heard of that family. What kind of people are they? Foreign?"
"Well," Andromeda said. "Mostly, they're...Muggles."
Elladoras wine glass shattered in her tight grip. Now the table erupted into exclamations of shock. Sirius turned to Andromeda and glared at her in a very different kind of surprise than most people there were now expressing. "Two months ago?! Why didn't you ever tell me anything about it?"
"I'm sorry, Sirius. I just wasn't ready to bring it out in the open yet-"
"Andromeda," Elladora said in somewhat of a low growl which somehow vibrated underneath the loudness of the crowd so that she heard it. "I hope you're damn grateful that your father isn't alive to see you now! You're right, you're worse than a Mudblood lover like him," she said with a deadly look at Sirius. "You're a shameful, absolutely disposable blood traitor!"
"I assume that with all of this now established," Sirius's mother said to her coldly, "you don't intend for your stay here to be very long."
"Oh no," Andromeda assured her. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning."
From everyone's reaction, it was clear that that wouldn't be nearly soon enough for them. As they all glared at her hatefully, Sirius stared at the tabletop, feeling like all of his shock and anger mixed together was going to make him explode any moment now.
"Well," said Elladora, "you can leave then. And you can never come back again to any gatherings of this family, and I don't care to ever see you again either. I hope you enjoy your life with your filthy disease of a husband, because as of now you will never be a part of this family again."
"Yes, I know that," Andromeda said calmly. "That's why I came here at all, you see. I came to say goodbye to you all."
All of the people at the table were apparently infuriated by her indifference to everything her mother said to try to make her feel guilty. And soon she was standing up from her chair looking quite unaffected by all of the chaos she had fueled at this dinner.
"I'll just go upstairs now," she said. "I think I've had enough to eat."
And as she left the place where she had been sitting, Sirius automatically rose to follow her.
"Sirius, you sit down!" his mother commanded.
He ignored her and pushed his chair back so he could walk out from in front of it.
"Sirius Roderick Black!" she shouted. "I forbid you to follow her!" Her words had now stopped Andromeda in her tracks and she was standing in the entrance to the dining room, watching. "You need not mind her anymore. You will not. And you will not speak to her again. It's time you grew out of the nonsense the both of you have in your heads. Now sit down."
"I will sit down and get up when I want to!" Sirius roared, the anger that had collected in him all night finally coming out. "And I'll speak to whoever I damn well want to!"
"Not anymore! SIT DOWN!"
Sirius turned and started to walk from his chair.
"You ungrateful brat!" she screamed after him. "I should have known a long time ago that there was no fixing you. You're an incorrigible disappointment! You should be on your knees thanking me for putting up with you this long, feeding you and raising you. But if I was smart I would have kicked you out of this house a long time ago."
Sirius had slowed his pace of walking, and now stopped and whirled around. "Well, let me save you the trouble then! I'm leaving!"
A small pause of silence passed. Then Lenora started to laugh hysterically. "You?! Leave?!"
Andromeda's sisters started to giggle as well as she said it.
"And where exactly are you going to go?" she asked.
"Well, I don't know," he said. "And I don't really care. It doesn't matter. Anywhere is better than here."
"Sirius!" Andromeda gasped, coming back into the dining room. "You're being crazy. It's the middle of winter. You don't have anywhere to go!"
"Yeah, Sirius," Bellatrix said in a mocking, high-pitched voice, as she and Narcissa tried to contain laughing fits. "Don't leave us."
"Why shouldn't I go?" Sirius demanded of Andromeda, and then turned to his family and pointed to her. "She was the only thing I liked about this family, and now she's not even a part of it anymore. By all means, I'll be glad to stay if you can give me one reason I shouldn't leave right now."
"Fine," his mother said stiffly. "Leave. The both of you in one night; it's good riddance if I ever knew it. But when you come back here begging for me and your father to take you in again because you're starving and freezing to death, you can forget about it and turn right back around."
"Believe me, that's not going to happen." With that he turned and left the dining room, and Andromeda followed him.
"Sirius, I can't believe you're doing this! Just because I jumped into something a little quickly, it doesn't mean you have to-"
"Don't waste your time taking responsibility for this," Sirius said as they went into the landing area, which was dimly lit above by a chandelier with candles in it. "This is my decision. I just can't take it anymore. The way they were talking to you in there...No matter how hard I try to live with it, I can't just..."
"I know." She looked down at the floor quietly. "Funny, the two of us standing here, actually believing that it takes nothing but a fly away on a broomstick and we can be rid of our family forever. As if it's something you can just sever away from yourself, like getting a divorce."
Sirius looked at her sadly, and could only sigh. "So what's this guy like, anyway?"
"Ted?" she asked, starting to smile again. "Oh, he's great. You've got to meet him some day. I've learned so much about Muggles from him - it's so interestng, it almost makes me feel like I could be happy never doing magic again. We're going to go to America and Canada as a kind of late honeymoon. They're the most devoid of magical establishments of all places in the world. It's going to be be great."
Sirius smiled. "So that's how you have a car now, and suddenly know where to come by a turntable."
Andromeda nodded. "Oh, Siri," she sighed, using the name she hadn't called him since he was six. "I can't tell you how happy I am, though. You probably can't tell, but I really am. I feel like Ted's rescued me in a way. I've felt a kind of freedom in the past two months like nothing I ever could have imagined." She abandoned her reverie and looked at him again, patting a hand on his shoulder and keeping it there. "You know, Sirius, I am so proud of what you've become. And I don't mean in spite of the kind of influence you've had to put up with. And I don't mean how much you've become like me. I mean who you are just on your own, as a person."
"Stop it, Andy," Sirius said.
"Oh, come here." She brought him into a tight hug. As he hugged her Sirius realized that he was a little taller than her; he could remember vividly when he was young and she had been the taller one. And now she, his cousin Andromeda, was married. Where had the time gone? There had been no gradual transition. He could have sworn a couple hours ago in his bedroom she had still been the young girl he used to play games with, and then at a dinner table everything had come out and everything had changed, just like that.
Andromeda tried to convince him to wait and leave with her the next day, saying she and her husband would figure out a way to get him back to school when the time came. But Sirius was insistent about going to the Potters. All of the disorder that had happened tonight was starting to make him really want to see his best friend again. However, his biggest concern was that if he left with Andromeda in her car he would have no way of taking his motorcycle along, and all of the possessions he left with tonight would have to be the only ones he kept.
So Sirius went to his room and started getting his things together. It didn't take long, because most of his valued things had been left in his dormitory at Hogwarts. The most important thing he took was the turntable, which was held in a corner of his small suitcase by surrounding wadded-up clothes. He strapped the suitcase securely to the back seat of his motorcycle and then said a final goodbye to Andromeda.
"I suppose it could be a while before we see eachother again," he said.
Andromeda smiled unhappily. "I will write to you all the time. And if you do ever need a place to stay, or anything at all, you just send me an owl." She rubbed her hand over his head affectionately, messing up his hair. "Now, you keep having fun. But try not to get into too much trouble."
Sirius nodded. Andromeda stepped back and waved as he got ready to drive away. And then from the inside of the Black house, everyone heard the roaring of a motorcycle and the sound of it ripping away down the road, which was shortly followed by a sudden silence when it lifted from the ground, as if it had disappeared completely along with him.