Disclaimer: Don't Own. Don' Sue.
Author's Notes: This is obviously rather AU, and is also from the point of view of a complete OC, I know, I know. WTF?! But I swear, it isn't your run of the mill OC thing at all. I think it's actually pretty damn original. (-cough- bighead-cough-) BUT anyway, thank you thank you to my loverly Beta, nilecrocodile, who took time out of admiring her bald head (well, peachy fuz head) in the mirror, to read and fix.
The World Turned Sideways
I met Star four years ago. In 1981, it was the third of November, I think. It was cold, and raining in sheets so thick and icy they could almost be sleet, and I had never, in my life, seen someone who so resembled a wet dog as he did that day.
He is tall, and lean, and he has longish brow hair of an ordinary shade, and eyes the colour of the inside of a cucumber. Sometimes, when you look at him, from out of the corner of your eye, I would swear, on my life, that his hair is as black as night, with eyes like a thunder storm.
Star's always been like that. You look to close, and you see someone else entirely.
Star isn't his real name. He told me that the night we met. He was asking me for a job, I think. You see, I say, "I think" because he wasn't so much as asking, as taking.
He waltzed into my office, or what I call my office, as it's actually a big sort of storage closet right behind the bar, and he said, with a voice a few shades darker than violet silk:
"Hello ma'am. I am in need of work, and you seem to be able to give some."
It didn't occur to me to say no.
I work in a club, and it's a rather ordinary sort--not very sleazy, but not particularly posh either. Just in-between. I've been the head bartender here for a while, and so I can pick up new bartenders when I need them.
After I hired Star, I thought that it might be good to know what his name was, if he had any experience, how old he was, and other such important matters.
I asked, and he gave a startling sort of smile that reminded me of a puppy who knows he done something wrong, and knows he's going to get away with it.
I had stood up, and I was turning in a jointed sort of circle in the tiny office, looking for an application form, and I tripped over a half-dead potted plant, sitting on the floor.
Star caught me before I even knew I was going to fall.
"You know, kid."
I was about to correct him on this point because I was, and still am, pretty sure that Star is younger than me, and I'm also, technically his boss…but he has always called me kid, and…if you saw his eyes…
He's older than I'll ever be.
"You remind me of my cousin." He continued, not letting go of my arms. I believe he might have forgotten he was still supporting me. I, for my part, don't attempt to stand up on my own while he was talking. It seemed rude. "At least, I think she's my cousin, my family is rather confusing, you see. I like you. So I'm gonna tell you something.
I don't particularly like secrets. In fact, I despise them. Most everything bad in my life that ever happened had been because of secrets. Tell'n secrets and keep'n secrets.
But secrets have a way of following me around, and getting themselves wedged up in my life. So I will tell you, I can't tell you my real name, and I'm not gonna tell you how old I am, or where I'm from. And I have never, in my life, been a bartender…though I'll bet you I can make a lot of drinks. Almost like magic.
Kid, the less you know about me, the better it is for both of us."
It didn't occur to me to demand any information. I nodded, and stood up before he could forget that he was holding me and let go, and he picked up a pen and filled out the application.
Then he squinted, sort of, in a way the made his eyes go from green to grey, then he looked up at me and said:
"Hey kid, you like dogs?"
Naturally this seemed like an odd sort of question at the time, but nevertheless, I nodded. I do like dogs. They're nice.
He grinned then, but it was a sad sort of grin, that made my heart hurt, and the he handed back the application, waved and said something sounding like: 'I'll be in tomorrow'. And then he was gone.
I almost expected the application to disappear in a puff of smoke. It didn't.
I glanced down at it.
It was blank, except for the space asking for a first name.
He has precise, perfect handwriting. The kind you expect people in stories to have, people who come from families that had them learning table manners before they could talk. He has the sort of writing that people in castles with quills have.
First was written 'Si', but that had been scratched out. Next was written 'Padf', but that had also been scratched out.
Then it said 'Star'.
I folded the paper, slipped it into an employee file, and went home.
That was the day my world went wonky. Tipped sideways. That was when I met Star.
People ask me how long I've known Star. The thing is, I don't know Star at all.
He knows me. He knows how I like my coffee, and what my favourite colour is, and where I live, and where I was born, and he knows my parents, and my goldfish, and he knows my taste in decorating, and how I hate to cook but I love to be around people who do. He knows how old I was when I first learned to ride a bicycle, and he always meets my dates before I go out with them, and he's seen all my baby pictures.
It's like having an older brother, only he's younger. And he works for me.
But I don't really know him.
His flat is incredibly impersonal.
It's got a couch, an armchair, a coffee table, two potted plants, and over the couch, hangs a stark sort of modern art piece.
His bedroom is nearly empty. There's just a bed, a wardrobe, one straight-backed chair, and a bedside table.
In fact, the only indication that someone real owns the place are three pictures, one is a medium size portrait, which hangs next to the wardrobe. It's of a young girl, seven or eight probably, with bright pink hair, and I swear, that once, it winked at me. A tiny bronze plaque at the bottom of the portrait says "Nymph T." in thin curling letters.
I asked him about it once.
He gave once of those trademark grins that was both happy and heart wrenching at the same time, and said "My cousin. She's clumsy like you. Emergency phone-line. Surprisingly enough I use it more than she does."
He gives answers like that a lot. They don't ever make sense.
Next to the portrait, hang the photos.
The first is of a girl with bright green eyes and long red hair, sitting next to a man with messy black hair. They are holding a baby, with eyes the same shade of green as the woman.
The other one is of two boys, and they seem to be sitting on a four-poster bed, one of them has black medium length hair but you can't see his face, because he's leaning in to kiss the boy sitting next to him, who's sort of thin, and sickly with two great scratches stretching from his eyes to just beneath his lips, he's got mousy brown hair and odd golden eyes, but he's smiling, and it's a beautiful smile.
I asked him who those pictures were of once, and he gave another Patented Impossible Answer. I think it was, "People who I love, people who I wish weren't dead, and people who wish I was dead."
He does a lot of odd, quirky sort of things, and I've never been able to tell why.
He disappears every Halloween, and once, I went to his flat. It was dark, like he wasn't home, but I walked up to the door, and I swear I could hear crying from inside.
He doesn't own anything made out of silver, which I suppose isn't that odd, as it's sort of expensive, it's just that he wears a lot of jewellery, gold and copper, and plastic and gems, and everything to anything, but he won't buy or wear anything made of silver. He said so once. I asked him why, and he replied that: "My parents liked silver. They said it kept werewolves away."
The full moon makes him nervous. I asked about that, too, and he didn't say anything. I pegged it up as a phobia.
Also, sometimes, you'll do something completely ordinary, turn on the television, or the lights in a room, or use a microwave, and he'll stare, like its something incredible. He doesn't do that so often anymore…but when I first met him, I swear, all the time. As though I had just preformed magic.
There are other little things, that I don't think anyone but me has noticed, and I wouldn't ask about. Like how, after he showed up, we never had any robberies, and bar fights were down to a minimum.
And then there's that thing about well, dating I guess. Star is so charismatic, and friendly in an off sort of way, and he's very tactile, and he flirts with people all the time, you'd think that he…would date people, or at least go find a one-night stand, or even kiss some one.
I guess I should be happy, because in some ways, I'm a little in love with Star. It's easier to deny it if I don't have to get jealous. But the way he avoids…it isn't like he doesn't want to date, or like he's a-sexual.
It's like there's someone else. Waiting.
And there's a funny sort of feeling, in the back of my head, when I'm around him. It's similar to the whole, looking at Star out of the corner of you're eye. A feeling, that if you push a little farther, you'll see something unexpected.
It's almost like magic.
I did ask him about that once. It's hard to surprise Star. Really hard. In fact, the only time I've ever managed it was when I asked that.
He laughed then, something he doesn't do very often, and said:
"Look kid, I'm all about magic." Then he grinned that sad grin, and patted me on the head, and then, just before he left the room, he turned with an incredibly grim expression on his face. "Hey, kid…if you ever feel like that around anyone else. Tell me, okay. Doesn't matter what I'm doing. You have to let me know."
It was an odd request. But he was so serious. It seemed so important. And I did. Once.
It had been a real slow night, a Monday, and so there was hardly anyone around. A couple university students, and some maybe shady sort of people in the back. And then, all the sudden, this little man in a green and pink pinstripe suit bustled in through the door. He had a magenta top hat on, and a determined, nervous expression.
He glanced around for a few moments, and then took off his cloak, which had been, apparently protecting him from the light rain outside.
I'm not kidding. A cloak. Like little red riding hood.
He shuffled up to the bar, and clambered onto a stool, and he sat there for a few minutes, before I came over to ask him what he wanted. He seemed nice enough…
But I got that feeling. And it wasn't the feeling you get from Star, that fuzzy, buzzing with energy, protecting, reaching, hiding, quiet, nervous, watching feeling.
It prodded, wanting something. It was like being in some sort of otherworldly spy movie.
Either way, he smiled at me, albeit a little oddly, and asked for a whiskey.
I brought it over, and then he examined it, but didn't drink any. "Young lady," He began. "I was wondering if you happen to have come across a young man with-"
I guess it was rude, but I felt, at that moment, that it would be better if I got Star right away. Because I knew, that if anyone could dispel this odd man, whom I didn't think was bad…just not right, it was Star.
"Excuse me sir, I've…ah, I'll be right back."
Star was draped across the bar counter where it stretched to the other side of the room, out of view of the little man. I coughed once and he jumped up, his hand slipping straight into his pocket. He does that a lot, if you come up on him, he always puts his hand in his pocket.
Like he's holding on to something. Checking for something.
"Star…I…you remember how you said to come get me if I ever got that weird feeling around someone else? Well…there's this guy, and I think you should see him."
I suppose I was worried that he would laugh, and say he was joking. But he didn't. He nodded once, without saying anything, and followed me back around the bar, to where the little man was studying his whiskey warily. Next to me, Star groaned.
"Crap…Dedalus. How did…damn it. I wish…" He wasn't really talking to me, but watching the man on the chair with undisguised dread. "Er…wait here, kid."
He walked over to the chair, and plopped down next to the little man-Dedalus, and the thing was, I was standing petty close to them, but I couldn't hear a word they were saying.
But I watched anyway, and Star was sitting there, talking to him, and then the man turned to look at Star closely, and I just know that he caught onto that weird thing…about how when you look at Star just the right way…he's someone else.
The little man opened his mouth, and his eyes were wide, in surprise, but then Star leaned forward, and I couldn't see what happened. But all of the sudden, Dedalus kind on slumped forward with this weird, dazed expression on his face.
Then Star helped him to his feet and he and they walked past, with Star supporting him.
"Hey kid…I'm gonna take my break now, alright?"
I only nodded. And, sure enough, fifteen minutes later, he came back in, alone.
I asked him where he went, and he grinned, making me wonder how someone could look so torn apart while smiling, and said: "London."
I guess that I'm thinking about all this now because of what's just been happening.
We get gigs here sometimes, but usually new bands, a mix between the ones that won't go anywhere and the kind that will have forgotten us when they make it big.
But anyway, I told Star about it a week or so ago, how we were going to have a band here on Wednesday night, and that he really needed to be there, and ON TIME, because they were attracting somewhat of a crowd.
I think he gave a very non-committal grunt in reply.
But anyway, on Wednesday, he wasn't there on time, just like I knew he wouldn't be, and ironically, one of the band members, lead guitarist, and singer, I think, was late as well.
"Listen…" The drummer was worriedly explaining. "He'll be here. He's actually always late, and I don't know…he's a little off sometimes. He's kind of sickly, I don't know. But he said he'd be here. So he will be. Just give it a minute."
I knew the feeling, so I nodded.
He did show up, too. Three minutes before their set.
And…it was the boy. The boy from the picture. The "People who I love, people who I wish weren't dead, and people who wish I was dead" boy.
I don't know…why. It's just that Star has always been from another world. From someplace that doesn't connect to us. The one, single time I came across someone whom he recognized, the little man with the magenta top hat, it was so strange, so off, and other-worldly, that it only proved my point.
So to come across someone…who…must have known Star.
Not like I know him.
But someone who knew who Star was, who knew his name, and what made him the way he is.
It seemed strangely unlikely. And it made me scared.
And so…that's why I'm hiding in my office right now. I pushed the set back another half an hour, letting this poetry kid come up and do his bit, because Star…he needs…to be here. I mean; I can't deal with That Boy unless Star is here.
He came to apologize to me, for being late I guess. And he had this low gentle, throaty sort of voice, and he was so quiet and shy, but I got this…vibe…like a stay away, back off, and I won't kill you vibe, but also he felt like Star, safe and hiding and protecting, and…
He smelled like chocolate. Which is weird, I guess, to notice, but I've always had a pretty good nose, and he smelled like chocolate.
Star loves the smell of chocolate. I don't think he knows I've noticed this, but he really loves the smell of chocolate. And he always carries some around with him, but I haven't ever seen him eat it. Like it's not for him, but for someone else.
And Star is so dead if he doesn't show up soon.
I wait another ten or so minutes, and I know I'm letting angst-ridden poetry kid have more than his fair share of time, but finally I hear the jingle and clomp of Star's shoes which are some type of combat boot that he sewed hundreds of tiny golden charms onto.
He opens my office door to hang his coat up on the back of it, and he is whistling something Christmassy even though it's only March. It takes him nearly a full minute to realize that I'm crouched on my old black leather spinning desk chair.
"Jeeze Kid, gonna give someone a heart attack doing stuff like that. What are you, some sort of poltergeist or something?" I want to roll my eyes, because Star hadn't even flinched when he turned around, and I doubt that I scared him at all.
"Hey…Star. You remember, a while ago, when that little short man with the hat came in…"
Star looks up to meet my eyes, and they don't look very green at all today, almost completely grey, like granite and doves. I know he didn't expect me to bring this up, because after that incident we've been operating on a you-don't-talk-about-it-and-neither-will-I sort of plan, but now I'm talking and he's got no choice but to join in.
"Sure," he says "What about it?"
"You didn't kill that guy, did you?"
Star almost looks startled, but I need to know, because if I'm gonna tell him about That Boy out there, I don't want Star to hurt him. Because That Boy might have felt dangerous, but not evil.
"No." He replies, laughing. "No, I didn't kill him. I told you what I did with him."
"Right," I say, rolling my eyes, "Right, you took him to London. And I'm Mary, Queen of Scots."
Star just shrugs his shoulders like he knows the truth and could care less whether or not I believe him.
"Well, the band I wanted you to help with," I give him a little glare as I say this, reminding him that I haven't over looked his lack of punctuality, and he ignores it. "Well, they came in today…and one of them. He gave me that feeling."
Star sighs, and tugs on the fringe that falls over his eyes. "Yeah…" He says. "Yeah, I'll take care of it."
"But," I say, "He doesn't, I dunno, but he doesn't feel like that other guy did. And, umm, he's kind of scary. Which is weird, because he also looks kind of sickly. And I don't think he's…bad or anything. Okay?"
Star just glances down at me, which is something he can do real well, he doesn't do it often, but…jeeze. He can glance down at people. People who are older, people who are taller, he can glance down at them, make you feel like you don't deserve to clean the mud from his shoes. "You don't ever think anyone's bad, kid." And then he sighs, and I wonder if I should tell him that That Boy was in The Picture, from his house, but he's already out of the office and I'm half jogging to keep up with him.
"It had better not be Greyback." I hear him mutter. "Because my control only extends so far."
A tiny shiver runs up my spine, and suddenly I am wishing Star hadn't come in to work today at all.
And then we round a corner, and Star drops the stick he's been holding in his hand, which I haven't noticed until now, it's thin and probably about ten or so inches long and has a handle on one end, and suddenly Star's hair changes colour to black as ink and soot, and he has a look of absolute shock on is face and his eyes are so very grey I can't imagine I'd ever thought they were green.
And I am really thinking I should have told him that That Boy is the one from the picture on his wall.
Everything seems as though it has been tilted sideways, because Star isn't Star at all and even though I knew he was more than just Star it's one thing to know and another thing to have someone freaking change appearance right in front of you're eyes.
And before the world has even thought about righting itself, Star is pressed back up against the wall and how could That Boy move so fast.
"Remus" Breathes Star, a look of complete wonder on his face.
"Black." Spits out That Boy, also know, apparently as Remus. That Boy/Remus has jammed another mysterious stick up against Star's jugular, and I suddenly become aware that there are several other people in the room.
It's the rest of the band that came with Remus and they are all looking nervous and slightly shocked but in a way that made one think they often expected a burst of oddness from their band member. Angsty poet stands in the corner leading to on stage with a look of horror on his face.
We are frozen. All of us. Remus crushing Star against the wall and the amps and the band looking as though they want to run for it and angsty poet looking as though he's several seconds from wetting himself.
And I…am just…gaping. So I leap to life, and then this spurs the band to high tale it out through the back entrance, and I am thinking 'So much for stick by your band-mates' and if there is about to be a murder, I can't have all of these people waiting in the un-manned lounge area. I stick my head through the curtains and scream "FIRE."
The place is empty in five minutes. Except, for some reason, angsty poet is still here. He seems to have calmed at least a little, and his dark brown almost black hair is now falling more fashionably into is eyes. I can't help but be grateful, because really, having to deal with Star and…and Remus…and colour changing hair and threatening sticks and-
"I'm going to kill you Black." Remus has his hands folded into Star's shirt, or as Remus has been calling him,, but Star isn't looking very worried. Or he is, but he looks almost blissful too and he's…he's…
I have never seen Star cry. Never. Maybe I though I heard him once, that Halloween two years ago, but this is so different.
"Listen, wait." Star whispers, tears falling, crystalline to the floor "Wait, I didn't, I swear. Please."
I wonder briefly how this…this… "Remus" can do it. How can he take Star, untouchable mysterious, ever solidly hidden away, "I don't like secrets but they stick to me like glue" Star, can pull away all those shells and walls to leave…this.
"I'll kill you, traitor." Says Remus voice harsh, and it reminds me of that tall golden marsh grass in the fens in the summer.
"Moony." Star whispers. "Moony."
"NO!" Remus explodes. "NO. YOU LOST YOUR RIGHT TO CALL ME THAT. You lost your right to call me anything. You were supposed to rot in Azkaban." He is breathing hard, and the scar lashing across his face is as white as his flared nostrils.
"Except, nooo," He hisses, "No, The GREAT SIRIUS BLACK escapes every time. Just like in school, hmm. Peter gets in the way and takes the brunt, and I'M LEFT ALONE TO PICK UP THE PIECES."
I think that I should be doing something, like, perhaps preventing Star's imminent death, or checking the pulse of angsty poet who has apparently passed out in fear, but I'm still stuck on "Sirius Black".
Every one has heard of Sirius Black, how he murdered thirteen people four years ago…just a few days before I met Star, and how no one could figure out what had happened because this murderer guy had just disappeared. The media had had quite a field day, as apparently there was no one by the name of Sirius Black stored in government files, and some people said he was some sort of computer virus and others said he was a terrorist and some said he had never existed at all.
But now I know. I know because I have been harboring a mass murderer for four years.
Well, says a voice that reminds me suspiciously of my aunt, who is unfortunately a family legacy in procrastination, It doesn't look like he'll be around much longer. Look at him, he's not made a move to defend himself and that "Remus" person is practically throttling him.
But another voice, who reminds me of my mother is saying Do you really believe that Star is Sirius Black? And even if he is. Do you really think he murdered those people?
He's certainly mysterious enough to be a criminal in hiding. I shoot back, but in my heart I know I can't believe that Star…Sirius….has murdered anyone, and also…also, I realize that this isn't about me at all, it isn't about what I think.
And probably, in the end, Sta-Sirius is not going to give a crap about my verdict…it's the Boy from the Picture, Remus' that will matter.
I have almost missed the next development in Star and Remus, and I still feel like I should do something. But…for someone who looked so small and pale and ill only ten or so minutes ago how could he possible be holding Sirius up against the wall? How could he be…be…so powerful.
So instead I retreat, back behind the stage curtain, and I drag the fainted poet with me. And I'm going to watch because, if someone really does kill someone else here, at least I can…I don't know, be a witness.
And you're dead curious. Says mother-voice. I ignore it.
A strange look has come into Remus' eyes which are more yellow than gold, and it makes shivers run down my spine as I crouch behind the curtains.
"You'll pay, you hear me Black? You'll pay." His voice is so low I almost can't hear it. "Cruci-"
"Please Moony, please. I didn't. I swear I didn't. Look at me. Look at me and tell me I betrayed James and Lily. Look at me and tell me that I would do that to them. Do that to you."
"No." Says Remus, and it looks like all of the anger and power has suddenly deflated out of him, and he sags against the wall, his weight, which can't be that much, the only thing keeping Sirius in place. "No…" He whispers, now he is crying too.
Sirius presses his face into the tousled brownish locks, which appear to be streaked through with silver, even if Remus can't be any older than twenty-five. I strain hard to hear what Star is saying.
"I'm sorry." He whispers a mantra. "I am so sorry. It's my fault."
And then he leans forward and hugs Remus. I've never seen people hug like that before. Like in that hug everything is perfect, suddenly something broken is put back together again.
I am so confused. And Star is Sirius Black who is a mass murderer but isn't really and can magically change into a different person, and there is Remus, some strange boy with super human strength and I just wish life was normal for once. Next to me angsty poet has awoken and is staring in wide-eyes incredulity at Sirius and Remus enveloped in each other's warmth.
And I can't ever imagine being part of something so singularly together, like best friends, or brothers, but also not, something moreTheir tears mingle together, and I can hear them breath together.
"God. What'd I miss?" Whispers angsty-poet next to me. "I thought they were killing each other."
"Yeah." I say. "So did I."
"Tell me." Remus whispers in reply, and I feel like a pre-adolescent girl watching a soap opera, only it's so much better, because there isn't even any bad acting. "Tell me that it wasn't you, Padfoot. Please. Tell my why. Because I can't…I can't lie to myself anymore. It's to hard."
"It was Peter. Remus. I'm sorry, it's all my fault, I'm so-"
Suddenly I am surprised. They have been melting against each other, into a tangle of half given apologies, and tears, and hugging, but all of the sudden, it's like they back-tracked, because Remus is clutching angrily at his mysterious stick again, his eyes hard as diamonds.
"Sirius, I thought you meant…I can't. I'm sorry. I was weak. You always do that to me, Sirius, no, Black." I can see that the switch back to his last name has hurt Sirius. "You make me forget. But I can't." He's pulled back, away from Sirius' arms, to hug, instead at himself, like he's clutching in the remains of a crumbling tower. "Blame Peter. And I pick up the pieces, and you murdered them, Sirius. Murdered them."
Sirius looks like he touched his dream, only to have it ripped back away.
"It is my fault Remus-"
"Was that even up for debate?" Remus is holding tight, that stick, and he has the same look on his face he did before, when he was about to say 'cruci-something', and I know Sirius can tell too, and I don't know why it matters so much but he looks panicky.
"I made them change secret-keepers," he splutters, "We didn't tell anyone, not even Dumbledore, but I thought that I was so obvious, and you were doing all of that undercover work and I was so worried, I wouldn't let them give you any more responsibilities, and Peter…he was perfect, the unsuspecting other friend who did little more than make toast and tag along...only he did do more. He was the spy."
I feel vaguely like I have walked in on a very complicated foreign film with badly translated subtitles halfway through, because I don't get what they're talking about at all and mostly, all I understand is that there was betrayal, and someone was framed, probably Sirius…I think, anyway.
Remus looks torn. Looks like he wants to believe. So much, but…I guess, thinking and sticking each piece of the puzzle together, he has probably been convincing himself of Sirius' guilt for the past four years of his life.
Sirius leans forward, slowly, gently, as though Remus might scare away like a nervous horse, and I watch intently, waiting for what will happen, what the verdict is. Quietly, too quiet for me to hear, Sirius whispers something in Remus's ear, and suddenly all that hard and terrible light is gone, and they are both against each other again, crying and then they are…
And suddenly, the world is righting itself, but only to turn upside down and back the other way and I know my mouth has dropped open, because I know exactly who the other person in that photograph on Star's wall is. It's Sirius, or Star because even though they are the same person, they aren't at all. And they a kissing and now I know what Sirius said, because Remus is replying against his mouth, "I love you, I love you, I'm sorry, I ever thought…I love you."
"Wooooah. Hey." Says Poet next to me. "Can boys do that?"
I turn to glance at him, and his eyes are wide with shock. He senses, just as I have, the intimacy, and the personal quality of the moment, and watching is intruding in a sharp way, so he turns to look at me.
"Hey." He says, "Did that guy say that that's Sirius Black?"
"No." I shake my head. "His name is Star, he works here, but I think he's taking leave."
"Oh." Nods the kid. "Cool. Hey, can we, like, get out of here? I mean, not that I have a problem with…I mean…well…the stick he's waving makes me nervous…you know."
We rise to our feet, and I dust the chalky cement dust stuck to my jeans onto the floor, and we sneak around the edge of the room, to the door. I tell myself not to look to Sirius and Remus, but right as I reach the door, I can't help but look back.
They sit on their knees, facing each other, and their foreheads are pressed together, and with light glancing touches, Sirius is tracing Remus' face, as though in worship.
I catch my breath.
Yes…this is definitely way better than any soap opera, ever.
Out of a feeling of general thankfulness, apology, and obligation, I feed Poet some crackers and a coffee, and we talk about nothing for twenty minutes, while he waits for a taxi to come and pick him up.
Somehow, we have become friends, and he grins and waves, promising to visit next Friday night, and I feel genuinely happy. He is so normal in an individual way, that just speaking with him helps me forget what's still waiting for me in the room behind the curtains.
Sirius and Remus, and the world turned sideways. It's easy to want to forget, but I won't.
I pick up overturned chairs from the crowd's mad rush to get outside in the "Fire" and even though I've already wiped down the bar top three times, I do it again, just for good measure.
Finally, when, my eyes are starting to think about drooping and the clock on the wall reads five minutes to one o'clock in the morning, I hear the creak of a door.
Suddenly, there is Sirius, his hair black as spilled ink, eyes as grey as early morning.
"Hiya." He says. I cannot remember a time when he has ever sounded nervous to me.
Behind him, and it does not escape my attention that their hands are clasped tightly together, stands Remus, his eyes are bright amber, and an almost smile steals across his lips.
"Hi." He says, too. He steps forward, and reaches out the hand not entangled with Sirius' to shake my hand, I reach my own forward hesitantly. "Umm…I'm sorry, but I really can't quite think of a way to handle this situation, so I'm Remus Lupin, it's very nice to meet you. Sirius says that you've helped him a lot and for that, I am very grateful."
"Er…" I almost want to laugh, but I think that if I started, I wouldn't be able to stop, so instead I nod. "I'm Raz. I…uh…Sta-Sirius once told me that he loved you."
It is possibly the strangest thing I could have said, given the situation, but it also seems right, because Remus smiles a real smile, and Sirius behind him smiles too.
Suddenly, Sirius has reached forward, and I am enveloped in a Star-hug. I can just remember the very first time I ever had a Star-hug and it must have been only a month or so after meeting him and some real jerk of a customer had tried to assault me, and Sirius had very bodily thrown him out and then given me a hug. It was remarkably like being attacked by a large dog.
He pulled back, and he had that smile on his face. The painful one. Only it wasn't really painful at all anymore. And instead, it made me want to smile too.
"Thank you, kid." He says "Really, thank you so much."
"I didn't…do anything." I say uncomfortably.
"No." Says Sirius. "You gave me a chance I didn't even ask for. A chance I didn't deserve, and you let me be something I wasn't so that today I can be something I am."
Sirius and Remus spent the night, or rather the rest of the morning at my apartment. They sat in the living room and just talked, I think. I went to bed. I got up at about five to get a glass of water and they were both just sitting there, legs folded comfortably, and Sirius was cradling Remus face between his hands. His heart between his hands.
And when I woke up at eleven a.m. to get ready to go jogging like I always do on Thursdays they were gone. On the kitchen counter next to a vase of half wilted daisies sat a thin wrapped rectangular object and a thick creamy envelope. I opened the package first. Inside was the framed photograph that had hung on the wall in Sirius' apartment. Only, it was moving. I mean the people in the picture were moving, Like a tiny video snapshot. And I ignored the voice that was telling me that was freaking impossible. And instead watched the picture.
The two of them always started out side by side, each smiling and then Sirius would grin suddenly and brilliantly with a dangerously mischievous glint in his eye and then tackle Remus, until it finally played the part I was familiar with, an inky black head leaning into to kiss a boy with a soft smile, strange eyes and a scarred face…
I set the picture down and picked up the envelope. A black seal held it together, a shaggy dog imprinted deep into the wax, when I had finally picked it open, a single sheet of thin paper slid out.
It was an employee application, and in the same precise handwriting from four years ago, every single space had been filled out.
Name: Sirius Arcturus Pollux Black
Ethnic Background: Pureblood, disowned, see The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Ministry Records, section 13.
Any spouse/alternate family member: Remus Lupin, bondmate, Civil Partnership, (see Werewolf Registry for further information)
Previous Employment: Auror, See national protection Agency for The Ministry of Magic, London, also Board of Werewolf Rights, activist/treatise advisor. Order of the Phoenix recon and protection division.
Any recommendations (i.e. previous employers): Alastor Moody, Head of Section Four Alert; Aurors, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster or Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Criminal Record: Wanted for the murder of thirteen innocent muggle bystanders, Peter Pettigrew, and the betrayal of James and Lily Potter by association with Lord Voldemort.
Telephone: None, (see current address)
Address: (May be used by any standard mail Owl)
Probably Somewhere with Remus Lupin
On the Run
Any further notes/information: Wizard
I spend a long time reading it. Once over, twice over, like some strange half understood joke. But I cannot bring myself to believe that none of it is true. Because I had seen it. Seen the truth.
Sirius Black. I think about that for a long time. Mass murderer, and wanted criminal.
Wizard. And he always said that he was "All about magic." How strange that he should never even have attempted to lead me astray from thinking anything except the fact that he was indeed a wizard, but what was I supposed to say? "Really, that's fantastic, may I see your wand, and not that one, either"
And then I think about Sirius and Remus, sitting on my old ratty couch, inherited from my dead great-great-aunt when I left Uni, looking at each other. Just looking at each other, like maybe the world is sideways or rightways or leftways, or upsidedownways or any and all sorts of ways but it doesn't matter at all to them because if their just together it is always perfectways.
I fold the application and I put it back inside the thick parchment envelope, and I wrap the photograph in tissues and I put them in a shoebox on the highest shelf in my closet and I remember that some secrets are better left known and forgotten.
Tap. Tappity tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tapitty-itty-tap.
Raz Johanson glanced up through strands of three coloured hair to glare at a small pink woman standing sharply at the back bar door.
"What?" She growled angrily, to the empty stool sitting in front of her.
Sighing, Raz searched through handfuls of tiny silver keys chained to her waist in search of the one that would open the back door. Finally, finding the correct key, she shoved it, huffing, into the lock and jiggled until the door pooped open, and a wind brushed in carrying a burden of leaves and plastic bags.
"We don't open until eight, it's only half past three." She gestured blatantly to the large laminated paper stuck to the door, clearly stating the business hours of the establishment. "What do you want? You have been standing out here, tapping for nearly thirty minutes, and it is driving me insane."
"Well." Replied the woman, whom looked remarkably like the toad Raz had caught, when she was eight, and kept in a glass tank until she got sick of catching flies for it to eat. "If you had let me in before, we could have avoided that, hmm?"
She smiled, sickly sweet, and the fuzzy pink fluff ball earrings she wore bobbed with her nodding.
"Well," Said Raz. "You could have gone away."
"I have some questions to ask you."
And Raz felt a peculiarly familiar but much more grotesque feeling creeping up her spine. Only this time, there was no one but herself to repel it.
"Yes." She answered shortly.
"Have you, or have you not, ever employed a person by the name of Sirius Black?"
Raz nearly shut the door in the woman's face, but she figured that might make things seem suspicious, Instead, she said, "You mean imaginary mass murderer Sirius Black?"
The woman looked uncomfortable and Raz turned her glare to the small purple cat figurine bobbing up and down on the cap of the woman's pen. "Yes, that would be the one."
Raz replied this time with a look. Because a friend had once shown her it was easier, sometimes, to just not provide the answers to secrets at all.
"Have you ever hosted a band with a man named Remus Lupin as a member?"
"No, I haven't." Said Raz, and this time there was no lying at all, because that band Remus had been in had never played, so she hadn't really hosted them.
"Have you or have you not-"
"No, I haven't. Thank you and goodbye."
Without stopping once to think of the consequences, Raz slammed the door in the woman's face.
End Notes: Raz is apparently an Armenian name for secrets, but this could be wrong.
Oh, and those waiting for Where the Heart Is updates, I'm really sorry, it will be continued, I just haven't had the time or patience to deal with Harry and his sad time travelling life right now, and I PROMISE that I will evenetually continue it. I SWEAR.