Disclaimer: Still valid.
Thanks for all your lovely reviews. Sorry for being so terribly late with this chapter. Work, real life, too many fanfics to keep alive, lack of inspiration – there are always explanations, though they are not real excuses.
James tried to extenuate it. Merlin, he really was the idiot that Teddy always made him up to be! "Well, my Dad is his godfather. He's always been an important part of his life."
"Was he, now?" There was genuine interest in Sirius' voice.
James nodded energetically and feeling quite in his element now, started a long story about his Dad, Teddy, himself and the Potters' family dog. He even managed to avoid mentioning that the mutt's name was Snuffles, for that would provoke a new series of questions that James would rather avoid.
Sirius listened patiently to his ramblings. Finally, James fell silent, already congratulating himself with taking Sirius off the track, when the Anumagus disappointed him.
"All this is very nice, cozy and informative. I just have one more question."
"Why was your father the one to make the traditional gift for Teddy's birthday?"
James scrambled for an excuse. "Because his parents were busy somewhere else?" he suggested hopefully.
"Were they? And who paid for the watch in question?"
James did not answer.
"Yeah, so I thought."
"Where were Remus and Tonks, James?"
James pointed his wand at a closet and tried to open it. He did not succeed.
"Oh no, not another malicious locking," he muttered, referring to some other cases when the furniture in the Black mansion had proven to be stubbornly unlockable – and when they did manage to open it, they often wished they hadn't! They were most often met by nasty surprises, like a Stinking Charm spreading all over the house, or a bunch of fairies, or something even worse. Sirius sighed, irritated.
"Leave it be," he said. Right now, he did not care one bit about the closet.
James scowled. "Give me your wand," he said.
"What? It's up to the person casting, kid, not the wand," Sirius said and wondered what they taught children at Hogwarts those days… or rather, James-days.
"Oh. just give it," James snapped and Sirius complied without thinking and went to inspect the closet closer.
"I'm sorry. I really wish I didn't have to do this."
"What?" Sirius asked, still oblivious.
"It's nothing personal. I like you. I really do."
Sirius was still inspecting the closet – which was not locked at all; in fact, they had opened and cleaned it only the day before – when James shut the door of the room. Sirius heard him casting the locking spell.
After that, all he heard was the silence.
Eleven hours later…
It was Remus who liberated him in the evening, eleven hours after his incarceration began. The moment he heard someone moving in the hall, he started banging his fists n the door and screaming for help.
A startled Remus shouted, "Who's in there?"
Within seconds, the Alohomora was casted and the door was open. Remus gawked at him in utter shock. "What are you doing in there?" he asked.
"Later," Sirius said and made a beeline for the bathroom. When he returned, Remus' expression remained unchanged. "What's going on?" he asked.
Sirius was still steaming with anger and said only, "James."
"I don't understand."
"James locked me here in the morning."
"James locked me in this godforsaken room this morning," Sirius said, spelling it out.
"But why?" Remus asked, as if he was hoping that there were a logical explanation.
"Because he is James," Sirius answered. Remus nodded, accepting this statement as the valid truth it was, which was good, for Sirius had no intention of sharing the highly troubling conclusions that he had reached during his lonely imprisonment.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Sirius replied. "I think."
"Are you hungry? Do you need something?"
"Yes, a bottle of Firewhiskey," Sirius said. "Oh well," he went on, seeing by his friend's expression that he was not likely to get it." Forget it. I need Teddy. Any idea where he is?"
"Still the library."
Sirius stared at him, terrified. "With Snivellus? He's still with Snivellus?"
"They are working together, Padfoot, and Teddy is a big boy. He can fend for himself."
"I know, Moony, but – it's still Snivellus. Teddy might never be the same after twelve hours straight with the slimebag."
Remus smiled at his friend's concern. "I think he's all right," he said seriously, "for now, at least. By the way, he isn't still with Severus, he's with him again. And besides, Severus and McGonagall are leaving soon."
Having his mind thus soothed, Sirius decided that if he was going to wait, he could at least make something useful out of his time. He headed for the kitchen – briefly meeting Al on his way; the boy suddenly looked very interested to be somewhere else – and prepared a plate for himself.
Teddy came in while he was still eating. He looked tired, his face sunken, his hair a dull brown – but then, he had just spent hours with Snape.
"Hi," he said and made a beeline for the coffee.
"Hi," Sirius said. "I want to talk to you."
Teddy sighed. "Yes, I thought you might."
"I take it that you saw James?"
"I did," Teddy confirmed. "Would you mind to talk somewhere else?"
Sirius grimaced at the thought of having the conversation further delayed, but Teddy was right: here, they would probably be interrupted.
"Let's go to my room," he said.
They went upstairs and Teddy took in the messy state of the bedroom – Sirius' little revolt against the order set up by Dumbledore and Molly for the rest of the house.
"So?" Sirius said.
"James told me that he'd locked you in only a few minutes ago," Teddy said apologetically. "I was going to come and free you. Honest."
"Oh. And did he tell you why he locked me in?"
Teddy nodded and sat cautiously in a chair, relieved that it didn't crumble under his weight. His movement, however, stirred a cloud of dust that sent both men coughing.
"Where were your parents?" Sirius asked. "Why didn't they buy you this watch?"
Teddy looked at him, his eyes calm. "I think you know the answer to that."
"I want to hear it anyway."
Teddy nodded again. Maybe Sirius needed to know what would happen to make peace with his mind. Maybe he though it would be worse than it actually was.
"I have no parents," he said softly. "They died, when I was only a few weeks old. They died in the final battle, fighting the Death Eaters."
Sirius swallowed. He had expected to hear exactly those words. He, however, had not expected the shock that the actual hearing gave him. Remus and Tonks would both die? It simply wasn't possible. Tonks was so vital, so full of life and joy. Surely death would not dare come near her? And Remus? Would life give him this final injustice, after everything he'd been through, including Sirius' own betrayal?
"Are you all right?" Teddy asked, concerned.
"No," Sirius answered.
"Not your fault."
"Is that why you avoid them?"
Teddy nodded. "I'm afraid that if I'm near them, they will realize that I know nothing about them."
"I hope so."
Sirius sat heavily on his bed, suddenly and irrationally angry with James for being so careless, for letting him know. "James really is an idiot," he muttered.
"Shut up!" Teddy said angrily.
Startled, Sirius looked at him. "Well, he is."
"Yes, he is," Teddy agreed. "He is also impulsive, hotheaded, and has troubles with discipline. But you have no right to say it. Only I have the right. No one else."
"That makes sense too," Sirius acknowledged. "Were you happy?" he asked. "when you, wrre a child, I mean.
Teddy smiled. "I was," he said. "I was very happy. And I wasn't alone. No one is ever alone in the Weasley clan. The women in the family all took turns to mothering me and as Ginny says, the only cause of concern is that this upbringing gave me trouble to which authority I should answer to."
Sirius estimated him with strangely piercing gray eyes. The boy was telling the truth.
"Are you well now?" he asked.
"No," Teddy said. That was the truth, too.
Half an hour later…
As soon as she saw him, Victoire realized that he was not well at all. To the others, he might look just a little tired, but she knew him better than everyone, as she was supposed to. He was both exhausted and sad and she felt guilty for letting him take the bulk of responsibilities of their current situation and letting herself be lulled by the weariness caused by her pregnancy. That was not how a partnership was supposed to work. He needed a good rest to begin with, and no one around – except for her, of course.
"Lily, Rose, you're going to move to another room for tonight."
"What?" both girls exclaimed. "But it's so late, Vicki," Rose went on. "We don't have the time to prepare a room – "
"Very well, then you can spend the night in the boys' room. Teddy is staying with me."
Rose nodded without further protests. Clever girl. Lily, however, was not to be persuaded so easily.
"I am not going to be thrown out of my own room just because you're feeling like it," she snapped and glared at Rose's retreating back with contempt. "And I am not staying in the same room as James and Al, just so you know. I am not doing it."
"Really?" Victoire said. "Listen, Lily, Teddy and I need to be alone tonight. Tomorrow, you may go back, but for this night – "
Lily sat on the coach to show that she would not be moved. Victoire sighed and motioned to Teddy to sit next to her. Brows raised in surprise, he did as instructed.
"You give me no choice," Victoire said, as she approached Teddy, straddled him on the coach, and planted a long, passionate kiss on his lips.
Within seconds Lily, struck with horror, shrieked, almost vomited, sprang to her feet, and was out of the door.
Victoire and Teddy looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Come on," Victoire said afterwards, "I think we both need a rest."
They both undressed and lay side to side. "I missed you," Victoire said softly. "I mean, Lily and Rose are not a bad company at all, but they cannot hold a candle to you."
He laughed. "I certainly hope so! I'm the one you're marrying, or did you forget?"
She looked at him and asked, "How did the conversation go?"
"James told you?"
"He told everyone."
Teddy sighed heavily. "In short, Sirius wanted a piece of me. Everyone wants a piece of me, by different reasons – the children, Remus and Tonks, McGonagall and Snape – Honest, Vicki, I'm already getting tired of being the one they all look at for answers and/on instructions."
She smoothed the hair off his brow. "Tonight, there won't be any such demands," she promised.
He snuggled closer. "Actually, I am not sure whether I can meet the demands that you might make," he joked.
She shook her head. "Just stay with me. I'm so tired of the girls waking in the night out of fear that we'll never go back home. I'm trying not to show it, but I'm scared too. And I'm happy that it's you here with me tonight. I'm tired."
He held her tight. "I'm scared and tired too," he admitted. Then, he looked at the door. "Do you think I need to reinforce the locking spells?" he asked.
Victoire giggled. "After Lily tells them what she saw? I don't think there is any need. In fact, I think there will be years before any of them dares to put a hand on the doorknob."