Author's Note: I did not intend to start this up again just yet, and there are no guarantees that I'll be updating quickly. (Even quickly for this story.) It's just that every time I post a new Heroes fic, I feel really guilty. Like if I have time to write, why am I not writing for this story? So I have guilted myself into starting Part Two. Enjoy.
Vivian knew that Sirius had been having trouble breaking up with Charissa, because she was a "nice girl," and he did not want to hurt her. She also knew that for a week, since his second attempt to end it, he had been avoiding Charissa completely. He did this by spending every night at Vivian's flat. So, when he came in the front door and announced that he had finally broken things off with Charissa, Vivian was a little skeptical.
"So you mean that you broke it off as in she knows that it's over? You didn't just say the words, but she actually acknowledged it?"
"Yes." Sirius settled onto the couch. "That's what I mean. And I was thinking now that I've done that for you, maybe--"
"I'm sorry, for me? You did that for yourself. I did not place any demands on you. You decided it was going to make you the happiest. Because you didn't want her anymore."
"Right, so now that I've done that for us, I was hoping you'd do something for me."
Vivian sat next to him on the couch. "Oh, I will," she said earnestly. "I'll deal with Charissa from here on out, because this is not over."
Sirius laughed at her. "Well, in addition to giving in to paranoid delusions, will you do me another favor?"
Vivian shrugged. "Depends."
She had not really thought that it would be anything too bad, but when it took him a while to speak again, she braced herself. "I want to... I want to be able to tell people about us. I want you to meet my friends. I want—Well, I don't actually want to meet your friends, but you know what I mean."
Vivian was at a loss for words. Telling people, going public had never even occurred to her. "It's too soon. My fiancé just died. We can't go public. We—We just can't."
"I'm not saying go public exactly. It's just that you are a part of my life, and I don't want to have to hide this anymore."
Again, Vivian had never really thought about the future. To her, it was as though their relationship existed in a bubble. Now they were in a real, monogamous relationship, and she supposed that changed things. She had pushed him into this, or maybe he had pushed her with the talk of love, but still, these were the terms of the relationship to which she had agreed. "We need to work out an official story, because the truth? The truth is no good. I can't have people knowing that I cheated on Evan, especially not with you."
"Right. James might already know the truth."
Vivian chuckled. "Of course you told him. Okay, you can tell James whatever you want, but beyond that, we have to tread carefully."
"So what's the official story?"
"You want me to make it up?"
He raised his eyebrows. "I am allowing you to spin it however you want."
"All right, now some people know some things." She paused thinking hard. "Obviously, we slept together after my break-up with Lucius. Severus thinks it was not a one-time thing, so that needs to be taken into consideration. If he thinks I'm lying... We'll be vague about that, but if pressed it was more than once. It was a few times, before I ever sought out Evan. There was intense sexual tension, it was resolved, and we went our separate ways. After he left me for Charissa, it happened again. I did it because I was feeling undesirable and rejected, you did it... for your own reasons. You can spin that however you want. It was over when Evan and I got back together. But now, I'm lonely, and I'm tired of being alone, and... And you've been a constant in my life. I found myself succumbing to your charm again. And you get the gist."
"Yes, I think I can remember that. Basically, the gist of it is that you find me irresistible, and every time you were single, you were drawn to me. And you've finally stopped fighting it."
"I don't think I'd put it like that exactly." He shrugged, and he managed to look fairly charming and irresistible. "And what were your reasons for getting involved with me?"
"Well, like you said, there was the sexual tension. And you have this bad girl thing going for you. And there was something about shagging Snape's sister. And then, once I'd had you, there were whole lot of other reasons. You were just such a freak in bed."
Vivian smacked him on the arm. "You are not going to say that."
"I had to have a reason for leaving Charissa. When you came to me all needy and alone, not even caring that I was already seeing someone..., it turned out you just have a way of driving me crazy. So I dumped the hot blonde and convinced you to try to make it work for real this time."
Vivian smiled broadly. "You're not going to believe this, but I really, really like that version of the story. I mean that even almost works with what Charissa knows. She knows that I cheated on Evan, but you and I really did just get back together."
"Just give me about a week to break the news to Narcissa. I would hate for her to hear about this from someone else."
Vivian walked hesitantly up the steps to Malfoy Manor. Her stomach was doing flip flops. She did not know exactly what she was going to say to Narcissa, and she should have known better than to try to wing it, but she had her story down, and she knew that she would never be ready for this conversation.
In the parlor, Narcissa welcomed her with open arms. "How have you been?" she asked, her brow wrinkled with concern.
Vivian sat on the plush loveseat. "That's an interesting question. You remember how I was drinking a lot and wallowing because my fiance died?"
"Vaguely," Narcissa said facetiously. Within her tight-lipped smile though, there was a certain tension.
Vivian was struck with a fear that somehow Narcissa already knew. "Well, er, I've found a slightly healthier way of coping with the loss, but you aren't going to like it."
Narcissa went from tense to icy. "I swear if you are sleeping with my husband again,--"
"No! Nothing like that." Vivian thought about it. "Actually, it is quite a bit like that, but not with Lucius."
"Oh, whose husband are you sleeping with?" It was not said in an accusatory way but rather in the gleeful tone of someone who loves gossip and scandal.
Vivian did not like that her friend had such a low opinion of her. "I'm not-- He's not married; that's not the problem."
"Then what is the problem?" Narcissa asked, edging closer.
"He's..." Vivian took a deep breath. "When I met him, I was in such a bad place, and I made a mistake. And I kept making that mistake whenever I was feeling bad about myself. But he makes me happy."
Narcissa narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "And who is he?"
"Sirius Black," Vivian said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Oh, Vivian, no." She sounded so disappointed.
Vivian buried her face in her hands. "I'm not proud of it."
"All right, this isn't so bad. It means you're ready to move on, or at least have meaningless sex. So we'll just take that and apply it in a positive way."
Vivian did not know how to respond to that. "Maybe."
"We're going to find you a good one this time. No more blood traitors." Vivian remained silent. "Look, just because he's my cousin, it doesn't mean that I'm blind to him. I get it. He's witty and charming, when he wants to be, and in fairness, he's probably not as juvenile as he once was. And yes, he is so good-looking. It's a family trait," she added with false modesty. "If it weren't for his fascination with Mudbloods, he'd be a great catch, an incredible catch, actually, because he'd still have his money, and I probably wouldn't think you were good enough for him. But the way it stands now? You don't want to go down that road."
This was getting away from Vivian, because Narcissa was actually making good points. Vivian pressed on, though; she had known that it was not going to be easy. "I stopped drinking. I stopped wallowing. Going down this road might just be a lot better than staying on the one I was going down. He's the only thing that has held me together since Evan's death."
Narcissa looked disgusted by this, which was to be expected. "What are you talking about? This is Sirius! He can't be the one to hold you together. It simply isn't allowed. This isn't some kind of political squabble; we're gearing up for a war here."
Vivian shook her head, at a loss. "I don't care anymore," she finally said.
"I don't care," she said with a little more conviction. "I don't think I ever really cared. If you all want to know why I never took the mark, that's why. Sirius is pure, and that's good enough."
"Oh, come off it, Vivian. Are you saying that you actually see this... thing with Sirius going anywhere? Let me break it down for you: he's using you. There's no best case scenario or worst case scenario. There is only one possible scenario. He doesn't see you as a person. He's not making love to an attractive woman. He's shagging Severus' sister. Or Lucius' mistress or Evan's fiancée. End of story."
"Do you think I'm stupid? I--"
"I don't know. You make a lot of stupid decisions."
Vivian knew she had walked into that one. "Well, I'm not so stupid that I'm going to believe your speculations about a situation that you've never witnessed over my having actually lived through it."
"So what-- What does Sirius offer you to make you want to alienate everyone who cares about you? Is it that you really believe someone like him is less likely to be killed than someone like Evan?"
"Evan was killed." Vivian felt that this was the first good point she had gotten in thus far.
Everything about Narcissa demeanor changed. "You've lost faith. You think they're going to win."
"I don't care anymore! I don't-- Yeah, I think they're probably going to win."
Narcissa bent her head down. It was difficult for Vivian to hear, but it sounded like Narcissa said, "I don't care anymore either."
She lifted her head. "I have a son now, and all I care about is making sure he grows up with a father. So I do care who wins, but I don't care why or what they do with it. I just care about what it means for my family. But you don't have a family. Don't try to tell me that you love Sirius the way I love Lucius."
"I don't. I could say that it's because I'm an opportunist, but that's too easy." Vivian paused to think about it. Narcissa had given her a perfect opening, and she needed to figure out how to use it.
Narcissa spoke again. "He's not that different from Evan, you know. They're both arrogant, handsome, wealthy. I mean, there are differences of course, but if anything, this is you playing it safe. You don't care if he's using you, do you?"
Narcissa was coming up with all the answers to her own questions. Vivian wanted to nod and go along with whatever Narcissa wanted to believe, but she could not follow her friend's train of thought. "What do you mean?"
"Sirius. He's like the anti-Evan, in that he's a blood traitor, but he's also exactly like Evan. He even kind of looks like Evan. He's... safe, ironically enough. And you're using him to make you feel safe."
"So you think that his agenda doesn't matter to me. You think that I'm letting him--" Vivian stopped herself from saying something vulgar. "--have his way with me because... Because of what?"
Narcissa shook her head, like it was not her place to say anything. "Nothing. Never mind."
They sat in an amicable silence for about a minute. That struck Vivian as odd. "Wait, so are you okay with this?"
"Vivian, you slept with my husband. Do you really think I care if you sleep with my cousin? Just stay away from my father, and we'll be fine."
Vivian had no doubt that soon her association with Sirius would strain this friendship, but she was glad that had been forestalled. Despite the problems they had in the past, Narcissa was the closest friend Vivian had ever had. The way she had accepted Vivian's poor choice, as she would see it, made Vivian even sadder to think of the friendship ending. She wanted to enjoy it for as long as she could. "I kind of stole him away from Charissa," she said sheepishly.
"Oh." Narcissa's eyes lit up. "That was a piece of the puzzle I did not have. So you are using him."
Vivian shrugged. "What's so wrong about wanting to feel safe anyway?"
Narcissa snorted. "How safe is going to be when he dumps you? He's probably dying to break your heart and hurt the people he hates even more."
"Do you think I'm among them? You think he hates me? Because I've been there with him, and I think he kind of likes me. I'm good with men. I can entice them away from their wives, and--"
"Not away from."
"--and incredibly beautiful blonde sluts. Men like me, more than Charissa apparently. I might be able to hold onto this one."
Narcissa laughed. "I hope that's true."
To hear Narcissa, albeit backhandedly, wish her well in her relationship with Sirius meant more to Vivian than she could have possibly imagined. She wanted to change the subject. "So where is my godson?"
"You are such an idiot," James said.
Sirius nodded. "Thank you for your support. It really means a lot to me."
James shook his head. "I'm telling you, this a mistake. That girl is trouble. She's just done whole number on you, and that scares me. What did she say to you?"
"About getting back together. How did she do that?"
Sirius did not think that the details of her drinking were pertinent. "She... You're not going to like this, but she didn't have to talk me into anything. She told me she couldn't live without me. That was probably what really did it for me."
James narrowed his eyes. "She can't live without you?"
Sirius shrugged. "That's what she said."
James pondered this. "So she sought you out and begged you to take her back."
Sirius geared up to explain what had happened, but instead he just left it at, "No."
"So it came up in conversation? By the way, I'm dying on the inside, but I don't care if you come back or not. Is that how it went?"
"No. You know how she refused to say she loved me?" James nodded. "Right, well, she was upset with me for sleeping with someone else, when I supposedly loved her, and she kind of spat out her affection. But at least she finally expressed it."
James shook his head and sighed with a smile on his face. "I don't understand your relationship at all."
"I'll be honest with you; sometimes I don't either. She is so neurotic it drives me insane, but I can't get that woman out of my head."
"Yes!" James raised his hands in triumph. "So you admit it?"
"I'm not sure to what I'm admitting, but sure. Anyway, Vivian and I are really doing this. She has already told Narcissa that she wants to be with me, and we're going to be a real couple now."
"Which means I have to throw her a dinner party."
Sirius laughed. "It doesn't have to be anything too fancy. I just want you to meet her."
"I did meet her. She... was quite neurotic. You're right about that."
Sirius nodded. "If it helps she's less excited about meeting you and Lily than you are about meeting her. She thinks you guys hate her for some reason."
James thought about it for moment. "Didn't she talk about enslaving muggleborns?"
That sounded vaguely familiar to Sirius. "I don't know. Maybe. She was probably joking."
"Yeah, that is funny," James said dryly.
"She just has a very dark sense of humor."
"I guess it goes with her dark soul. Not to mention her dark lord."
Those were the kind of comments that worried Sirius. "You're not actually going to say things like that when she's here, right?"
"Do you have to have dinner with Lucius and Narcissa?"
Sirius did not like how James had avoided answering the question. "No."
"Because they are technically your family."
The thought of those people being family gave Sirius chills. "I thought we agreed never to mention that again."
"So how is this fair that you're throwing her to the lions so to speak, but you don't have to... do anything for her?"
"Why are you suddenly taking her side?"
James shrugged. "You come from two different worlds, and I don't see how it works if you're not making any kind of concession to her."
"You're right, we do come from two different worlds. She was raised in poverty by a Muggle father. I was raised wealthy and pureblooded. So really,--"
Sirius stopped when he saw James's face. His eyes were wide. "Her father's a Muggle! Wait, the one who raised her?"
Sirius forgot that he had not mentioned that before. In fact, he had promised Vivian that he would not tell any more people. "Yeah, maybe you shouldn't--"
"The ones who are Snivellus' real parents, they're Muggles?"
"Just his father, but I wasn't supposed to tell you that."
"That disgusting little worm. What he's not even pure and he's spewing that hate speech? He called Lily a you-know-what; what does that make him?"
"A halfblood and a hypocrite. But can you please keep that to yourself? Vivian and I just got back together, and I promised her that I wouldn't tell anyone else."
"Because she's ashamed. Because she's a bigot."
Sirius shook his head. "She just wants to protect her brother. And I don't mind you saying things like that, but please promise to be nice to her face."
James leaned back with a triumphant look on his face. "Sure."
As Vivian walked up the path to the Potters' house, she had a similar feeling to when she had to meet Mrs. Rosier. The difference here was that she actually needed to care what these people thought of her. She knew, no matter what Sirius said, that James hated her. She had heard his criticism first hand about a year before, and Sirius was never convincing when he tried to tell her that had all changed. She sucked in her breath as Sirius knocked on the door. He squeezed her hand to reassure her, but it did not help very much.
Time seemed to move in slow motion from the moment the door opened. Lily took her coat, and the two couples made awkward small talk for about a half hour. Sirius dominated the conversation, just as Evan had in his mother's parlor. This was when Vivian realized the weight of the meeting. It was the equivalent of meeting Sirius' parents.
The polite conversation was unbearable for Vivian because she knew the hard questions were coming. She could see in the way James and Lily looked at her that they were just waiting to ambush her. But the pleasantries stretched on for what seemed like hours. Finally, toward the middle of the meal, James turned to Vivian and said, "So Sirius tells us that you've been spying for the Order."
He had caught her with her mouth full, and she was forced to chew with everyone staring at her, just like with Mrs. Rosier. She reflected, as she swallowed, that was something she needed to remember in case she ever had children, because it was very effective. "That's true. I started right after I finished school."
"And yet didn't you tell Remus that you wanted to enslave muggleborns?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "James!"
Vivian wanted to tell him that she could not possibly be expected to stand behind everything she ever said, but then she remembered the context of when she had said that to Remus. "Only after he suggested killing them. I was simply trying to mitigate the carnage. And I'm not a hundred percent sure that I used the word enslave anyway."
Lily crossed her arms. "So what makes you think that you're good enough for our Sirius?"
Vivian looked at Sirius. "I never said I thought I was good enough for him. He's pretty amazing."
Lily rolled her eyes. "You're just pandering. Really, why should we accept this relationship when there are so many better options for him?"
Sirius objected to this. "That might--"
"No, I'll handle this. That was not the first time I've been asked that question. I don't know what exactly Sirius told you about us, but you are absolutely right. He deserves so much better than what I've been able to give him. Still, and I can't quite wrap my head around this, he loves me."
"Do you love him?" As he asked this, James had a smug look on his face that Vivian could not figure out.
She hesitated for only the slightest moment. "Yes." Saying that was easier than trying to explain. She avoided Sirius' eyes. "And just out of curiosity, what are his better options? Because when we were apart, he did not do that well for himself."
Lily laughed incredulously. "You must be joking. Sirius--"
She was drowned out by the flapping wings of three owls descending on the table in unison. One owl landed in front of James, another in front of Lily, and the last in front of Sirius. They all opened their post in unison.
Sirius pushed himself away from the table. He gave Vivian an apologetic look. "There's an emergency meeting. We have to go."
"We'll try to reschedule sometime," Lily said. "If you last that long," she added under her breath.
In a matter of minutes, Vivian was alone on the front stoop. This was not the first time she had experienced something like this. Evan's mark would flare up, and he would drop whatever he was doing and be out the door. Standing in front of the Potter house, it felt different though. She had not really felt that she belonged to begin with, and now she was left feeling even more out of place than ever. She sat on the step. The emergency Order meeting made her realize something. She was useless now. No one was going to tell her anything while she was dating the most famous blood traitor of their generation.
What did an emergency meeting even mean? Was that code for busting up a Death Eater raid? Vivian remembered Narcissa's allusion to the fact that Sirius was just as likely to die as Evan. She placed her elbows on her knees and buried her face in her hands. The memory of Evan death hit her hard, and then it faded into the memory of the day she found out about Benjy's murder. Overwhelming emotions came over her in waves. The last thing she wanted to do was cry outside a relative stranger's house, so she pulled herself to her feet and Apparated home.
Her flat seemed so empty without Sirius, despite the fact that he did not even live there. She went into the kitchen. It was not a conscious choice as she opened the cabinet to take down a bottle of wine. But the wine was not there. She looked through the other cabinets, in case she had misplaced the bottles, but they were all gone.
Vivian sat on the kitchen floor in shock. She knew that she had at least four bottles of wine left from back when she was drinking daily. She knew it, so there was only one explanation. Sirius really did think she was an alcoholic. Although she had managed to choke back her tears until then, this thought sent her over the edge. It was not the facts of it that bothered her right then, or even that he was probably right. She just did not want him thinking that of her.
Two hours later, Sirius found Vivian still sitting on her kitchen floor. She looked up at him but did not say a word.
He crouched down to her level. "Is everything okay?"
She shook her head as though in a fog. "It occurred to me that you might die tonight. And I felt like I was barely hanging on, to what I don't know." She gave a very dry laugh. "All I wanted was a drink, but there's no alcohol in this flat, which is weird."
Sirius opened his mouth to explain, but she continued, "All that time I was worried about turning out like my mother, either of them, and I became an alcoholic like my father."
Sirius was so glad she realized that. He sat down next to her. "You were only drinking heavily for a few months. I think you'll be able to bounce back from this."
She put her head on his shoulder. "I'm glad you didn't die tonight."
It had not been that kind of emergency. It was literally a meeting. Dumbledore needed to tell James and Lily about a prophecy that had been made months before. Dumbledore usually did not put much stock into prophecies, but he had just learned that Lord Voldemort had been made aware of it. After hearing about this prophecy and what it meant for the Potters, or alternately the Longbottoms, Sirius felt a little like he needed a drink too, but given Vivian's state, that was obviously not a good idea. He stood and pulled her to her feet. Then he led her to the bedroom.