Sirius Black struggles to maintain hope while he remains inside the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix watching life continue outside the walls of Grimmauld Place and romance bloom within.
This story is consistent with and follows my previous stories A Goblet of Blood, The Prisoner of Memory, and The Secret Keepers, although it may not appear that way at first. If you have not read the other stories, this one can be understood on it's own.
1. The View from Inside
In hindsight, the Firewhiskey was a bad idea. This realization pounded in Sirius' head as he tried to remember where he was without opening his eyes. Slowly he became aware that his cheek was lying against the hard kitchen table, its surface honed smooth by decades of House Elves preparing meals for generations of the Black Family. Sunlight streaming through the one small window in this low ceilinged, basement kitchen burned his eyelids, adding to the pain in his head. With great effort Sirius picked up his arm and willed it into the pocket of his robe, in search of his wand. It was not there and he wondered if he had the strength to find it, but the pain of the bright light told him to make the effort and he blindly swept his hands across the table to search. As bad luck would have it, the tip of his finger glanced against the tip of his wand and the wand rolled off the table, clattering on the stone floor. Sirius moaned and, without the presence of mind necessary for such a task, he picked his head off the table and stood in an attempt to find it. His body unsteady, his eyes still closed, he misjudged the distance between himself and the wooden bench on which he had been sitting. He tripped, sprawling onto the hard, cold floor. He opened one eye just a slit and saw his wand right outside his reach, mocking him. Beyond that, he saw the smashed remnants of the empty whiskey bottle. He closed his eyes again.
In his dream h e was lying on a familiar sofa. He and James had been out drinking again and he had brought James home. After helping James up the stairs to the bedroom where he wife was sleeping, Sirius had stopped to rest on the sitting room sofa before getting back on the motorbike and must have fallen asleep. The last thing he remembered was listening to the rhythmic sound of creaking bedsprings coming from the bedroom above his head. "I guess you weren't as pissed as I thought, eh Prongs?" Sirius thought with a smile. They were young and life was full of possibility and second chances. The sounds of love continued while Sirius drifted off to in a peaceful, alcohol induced sleep.
Now it was morning and he could hear Lily wandering about the kitchen. He heard the tinkling sound of broken glass and knew she had charmed a broom to sweep away the shards of the whiskey bottle. He hoped she would also make one of her famous hang-over relieving potions. Most of the time, Sirius was incapable of getting this drunk. He had a genetic ability to drink large quantities of alcohol without feeling the effects; however, an entire bottle of Firewhiskey was a lot - even for him. "You're lucky you didn't kill yourself," he heard her say, but it wasn't Lily's voice.
Something wasn't right, he realized. Where was he? Was he lying in the past, on the Potter's sofa? Or was that in another lifetime? The still air of the basement room was cool, damp, and musty. He tried opening his eyes again, but everything seemed too bright, blurry. Then he saw her - she was over at the sink. Her long, red hair streamed down the back of her robe. She turned toward him and he watched as the cup she held in her hand move closer to him as she carried it across the kitchen. The potion was clear and Sirius hoped it wouldn't taste too bad. "Here," she said, handing it to him. "Drink this. It should help." Her voice was familiar, but did not sound as he remembered Lily.
He touched the glass to his lips and drank as she had instructed, bracing himself for the bitter medicine, but it was only water. He finished it and handed the empty cup back to her. He looked into her face, but his vision was still unclear. Her features appeared watery as he struggled to focus. Sunlight from the one window played upon her auburn hair and it glittered like strands of gold. Had he forgotten how beautiful she was, or had he ignored it out of respect for James? Her hand was slim and graceful as she reached out towards him. Even above the stink of the Firewhiskey, he could smell her flowery aroma and it calmed him. The despair that had been wrenching his gut since he moved back into Grimmauld Place seemed to wane in her peaceful presence. She walked away from him to refill the glass. He felt strong enough to sit up, although his head still pounded when he did so. He looked across the floor and saw his wand still lying just outside his reach.
And that begged another question: how could Lily Potter be in the basement of Grimmauld Place? He wanted to ask her, but all he could do with his hangover and mental confusion was croak, "Lily?" in a low, hoarse voice.
She didn't hear him, but turned and walked back towards him. She knelt down, bringing herself to eye level with him and for the first time he was able to focus on her face. She smiled at him, "You poor, drunk bastard! Keep drinking the water - you need to hydrate and flush your system if you want to do anything of use today."
She handed him the glass and he smiled back. "Tonks," he said with grateful recognition.
"Who else?" she replied as she kissed his stubbly cheek. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. We can keep these embarrassments en famille."
Although Sirius had known long ago that his cousin Andromeda had had a child, he had only met Tonks recently and it still could not get used to the idea that they were related. To him she was a stranger - a beautiful, charming stranger, but unfamiliar, none the less. Tonks, however, having heard Sirius' name growing up, took to him immediately as if her were an older brother or a cool, young uncle. She adored him and seemed to enjoy being in his presence.
Sitting together with their backs against the damp, stone wall and their legs stretched in front of them, she touched the glass every now and then with her wand to keep it full. "Did you do this by yourself, or did some git like Mundungus help you?" she asked finally.
"I was alone," he confessed.
"Sirius," she scolded. "I know you hate being here. I can only imagine the bad memories this house brings back to you. My mum can't even talk about it. But I want you to know how much everyone in the Order appreciates the ability to have a Headquarters like this. There is probably no place more secure than Grimmauld Place."
Sirius sighed. His head still throbbed. He knew it was childish to feel sorry for himself the way he did, rather than recognize the greater good he was doing, sacrificing his comfort while so many others risked their lives. He looked up along the stone wall to the one small window. Through the narrow rectangle of glass he could see the bright, blue sky of early July. He imagined the warm breeze and the sound of children playing in the nearby park. "I just wish I could get out once it a while. It's like being in Azkaban all over again."
"Well, I hope it's better than that," she laughed, playfully bumping up against him. Her soft red hair, brushed against his face and he breathed in the fresh, clean scent of her shampoo. He tried to ignore how hopeful her youth and vitality made him feel and grunted back, "Barely."
"Stop being so sullen! In just a few weeks the Weasleys will be moving in and right after that we'll go fetch Harry. You don't want him to see you this time as a drunken mess, do you?"
"Of course not!"
"Then there you go - something to live for!" She said encouragingly. "Now, I have to get to work. I promise to stop in again to check on you."
"I'm not a charity case," He responded harshly, then, seeing the disappointment in her face, he added, "but I do enjoy your visits."
"So," Tonks said standing up. Her cheeks flushed slightly and Sirius knew what was coming. "Is Remus around?"
"No," Sirius lied. It was there had just been a full moon and, although Remus was in the house, he was sleeping off the effects of the Wolfsbane potion and was not yet himself. Sirius was not sure if Remus had confided his affliction to Tonks and, therefore, he did not want to divulge it.
"Oh, okay then," Tonks struggled to sound normal, but Sirius could tell she was disappointed. "I guess I should be going then." Sirius followed her up the narrow steps from the kitchen. He placed his hands on her shoulders and guided her through the dark hallway toward the front door to ensure that she would not stumble and wake the curtained portrait of his mother. He undid the locks with his wand and opened the door a little wider than caution dictated to take in the air and sunlight from outside. Tonks turned toward him and smiled. She knew he was behaving recklessly, but she said nothing, choosing instead to be complicit in his risky game. She stepped back slightly, out of the sunshine so that for a brief moment he felt the warmth of the summer light on his pale, gaunt face. Sirius exhaled then breathed in deeply in an effort to grasp a small, precious portion of the beautiful day he could not share. A moment later, she moved into the doorway, blocking his view and shielding him from the outside, before she leaned in and innocently kissed him goodbye.
He shut the door behind her and raised his hand to his cheek. He recalled the soft, warm feel of her lips and made a mental note to shave before he saw her again. One of the things he liked about her was that she never seemed bothered by his unruly appearance. Perhaps, because she could change her own so easily, outside appearances had become meaningless to her. He imagined her now crossing the street, finding a secluded place in the garden, and disapparating. He thought of her arriving amidst the busy crowd of witches and wizards who worked at the Ministry, and he imagined her secretly smiling throughout the day at the thought him sleeping off a hangover, hidden within the walls of Grimmauld Place. He turned with a sigh and headed up the stairs to check on Remus.
Remus' eyes were open when Sirius entered the bedroom. "You're awake!" he exclaimed.
Remus nodded. "I have been for awhile. I was going to venture down the stairs, but I didn't feel strong enough." His face was ashen, sunken, and Sirius, as always, was concerned for his weakness.
"Don't bother. I can get anything you need."
Remus shook his head and looked at Sirius. "I don't need anything, just more sleep. But you look terrible! Were you up all night?"
"Something like that," Sirius responded. He didn't want to confess last night's solitary bout with the Firewhiskey. "I think I'll get some sleep, too."
"In the middle of a beautiful, summer day?" Remus questioned.
Sirius shrugged. "It's not like I can go out and enjoy it."
Remus opened his mouth as if he were about to say something hopeful and encouraging, but before he could speak, Sirius began to undress. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"I told you, I need some sleep." Sirius slid in beside Remus and gently moved him on to his side to face away.
Remus' body was warm and compliant, too weak to mount a protest. "Sirius?" he questioned, but Sirius did not answer. He wanted to block out the prison of Grimmauld Place and his childhood bedroom where Remus lay. His hands ran down Remus' body, which was hot and slick with sweat, pushing off his pajamas. He moved closer so that his face pressed into Remus' graying brown hair. Remus smelled of sleep and of the animal he had been, so different from the fresh, floral scent of Tonks, and Sirius realized that he was trying to block that out, too. "Sirius," Remus said softly, "Why..."
"Shhh," Sirius hushed, and behind his closed eyes he once again saw Tonks standing in the doorway of Grimmauld Place, her figure backlit with the summer sunlight, the red hair sparkling and framing her mischievous, smiling face as she opened the outside world to him for a brief, wonderful moment. He felt once again the warmth of the light as it hit his face and spread throughout his body.
"Don't talk," he whispered. "Just open yourself to me."
Thanks for reading my newest story. Let me know what you think!