Mothers and Sons
"A word, Molly," Sirius calls. A moment passes, and he adds, clearly an afterthought, "Please."
Molly has dealt enough with the Malfoys to know when she is being intentionally slighted, and it does not put her in a receptive mood as she follows Sirius through 12 Grimmauld Place, coming to a stop in the kitchen. Sirius is fond of this room, as he saw very little of it in his childhood, and the vast majority of his memories regarding it have been created in just the past few months. Molly, too, is very familiar with it, and decides to interpret Sirius's choice as an attempt at finding neutral territory for the two of them, rather than another slight—typically, the kitchens are hardly the place in which to entertain guests. But Sirius is hardly typical.
Perhaps another wizard might have made a pretense of preparing tea, some pointless act to occupy idle hands, but Sirius forgoes the little deception. He crosses his arms and frowns at Molly. Though his body language is irate and nearly hostile, he does not actively seek to intimidate her, but stands on the opposite side of the room and leans against the wall. Molly puts her hands on her hips and meets his glare; after raising the boys she has, Sirius's expression is nothing more than a petulant teenager's pout, and she treats it as such.
"What did you want to talk about, Sirius?" she humours him.
For all that he asked to speak with her, it takes another several seconds ticking by before he is able to give her a response. Even then, it isn't terribly well formulated. "This. All—just this." He gestures broadly with his hands. "You and this house and—I mean I appreciate your help, I'd be useless with the cleaning myself, but you're so—only it isn't your house, do you know that? You can't just barge in and order everybody around without so much as a by-your-leave-"
"But I did get a by-your-leave, Sirius," she cuts him off, only the slightest edge to her voice. Both of them are saving up for a bigger argument, and she is willing to let him escalate it. "Or would you prefer that each time I want to make another room habitable, I run it by you first, make sure it's all right? Or shall we all wait until you take initiative?" She doesn't bother adding that nothing would ever get done that way; he hears the unspoken jibe well enough anyway. Really, the whole thing has been just like trying to get the twins to clean their room, right down to this attempt at diplomacy which is just another tantrum waiting to happen.
"That's not the point of it, that's not what I meant," he gets out in a rush, clearly expecting her to cut him off before he can finish. When she doesn't, he has to find his footing again, but she waits once more. Fortunately for both of them he abandons the argument about her taking control of cleaning up the house, as they both know he's grateful for her there, and it would be a waste of breath to argue about it further.
Unfortunately, the next topic he chooses is one they don't share views on. "This—with Harry-"
"What with Harry?" Now she does cut him off sharply.
"With you, with your trying to tell him about what he can know-"
"Oh, heaven forbid I'm concerned for the poor boy!"
Sirius is clearly annoyed at being interrupted repeatedly, and his voice begins to raise, as he paces up and down his side of the kitchen. "That doesn't mean you get to decide what's best for him!"
"I've raised seven children already, I think I've a good idea of what's best for a boy his age!" Molly stays standing where she is, knowing that the appearance of nonchalance—as much nonchalance as she can show while raising her voice to match his—will only aggravate Sirius further. She's right.
"Just because you can't control your own brats doesn't mean you get to move in on Harry!"
It's a low blow, and she has a feeling he both knows and regrets this, but she waits a beat and there is no indication he will take it back. Only a beat, though, and then she is back in the fray. "I care about that boy, Sirius! I love him just like another son, and don't you dare, don't you dare insult that!"
"I'm his godfather!" Sirius stops, stops moving and stops yelling and just stands, clenching and unclenching his hands and breathing harder than Molly thinks their little shouting match should warrant. "I'm his godfather, not you," he repeats, voice once again at an acceptable indoor volume. The anger, however, has not been alleviated. "I'll take care of him, so you can just shove off."
Molly does not give him time to regroup. "I will not. You may be his godfather but I will not let you put him in danger-"
"I'm not putting him in any more danger than he's in already!" Sirius tries to interrupt but Molly plows right over him.
"-you know he's going to want to do something! Don't you see he can't sit still when he knows what's going on! Bad enough there's a war starting and he's in the middle of it! He wants to help, bless him, but the boy's only fifteen, Sirius, surely you remember what that's like! Seeing as you never matured past that age! If you want me to treat you like his godfather, or the master of this house, then you need to act like it, Sirius Black!"
"Shut up! You're not my mum!"
Molly is, for the first time that night, shocked into silence. It seems mutual, however, as Sirius has clapped a hand over his mouth and has a look of horror on his face that she recognizes from all her boys, but especially Fred and George.
Things are making much more sense now, though. She always mothers everybody, it's simply her nature. And Sirius, of course, has always resisted any semblance of authority, everybody knows that much—Azkaban and his childhood home only exacerbating what was already a problematic tendency. Between him and Molly, though, the spite has always had that extra edge, and it drove her mad because she wasn't trying to boss him around, but if he would just for his own good-
"No," she says, finally moving to walk across the room. Sirius is petrified as she approaches him. "I'm not." And she's really only ten years his senior, she can see how Sirius would think of it: logic dictates they ought to be equals, both adults. By the time you hit thirty-five, what's another decade between peers? He ought to be the same as any other man or woman there, he ought to be treated the same.
But when he sits at the dinner table with the adults and not the kids, he misses things. He loses threads of conversations and doesn't catch the implications behind weighted words. He fidgets and moves in his seat with all the pent-up energy of a five-year old forced to attend a funeral. He's hardly ten years older than her oldest boy, and you wouldn't even know that by the look on his face, that childish expression so at odds with lean his lean features that make him look like Molly's senior. Twelve years stolen from him, twelve years at the least, and it sets every instinct in Molly to maternal.
She has to look up at him, just like with her older boys, and he tries to pretend he doesn't want to take a step backward and away from her, just like her boys pretend. "I'm not your mother," she confirms. "That woman," her voice grows hard as she thinks of the portrait who seems to exist only to hurl abuse at them, "is—was not fit to be a parent."
Sirius flinches and she can't tell if it's from suppressed laughter or something less jovial, but she presses on. Suddenly it's important to her that Sirius understand, that he know that what he grew up with here wasn't right and, moreover, wasn't his fault. "A mother loves you unconditionally, and doesn't want to see you hurt, and she'll do anything and everything in her power to protect you. She loves you no matter where you go or what you become."
"Figured that's about what unconditional meant," Sirius whispers.
"Of course," Molly chuckles, before she continues. "And sometimes a mother has to make sure you don't have any fun at all, but it's not because of anger or hate." Sirius looks very much like he has trouble believing that; small wonder, when anger and hate were all he received from his family. "It's because she wants to help you. Because if it means in the end you'll stay safe and happy, that even if you get angry with her and hate her, she doesn't care as long as you're all right. Because you're the most important thing in the world to her. Because she loves you."
And the man—boy—the man does take a step back then, and it's obvious from the look on his face that he has no idea why she's telling him any of that. His confusion is written all over, and she absently hopes he never plays poker. "According to you, I didn't have much of a mum, then," he manages.
"No," she agrees, glad that he at least reached that much of a conclusion. "You didn't."
Before he realizes what's happened, she's hugging him.
It is very much like hugging one of her own sons, right down to the immediate freeze as he is torn between trying to pull away and accepting the embrace. He is also too, too thin—she's certain Charlie weighs half again what Sirius does. Slowly he relaxes, and even brings himself to awkwardly pat her on the back. The fact that he clearly has no idea what to do makes her want to cry.
"I'm not your mother and I'm not Harry's either, but don't you make the mistake of thinking that will stop me, Sirius Black." She knows that Sirius understands the difference between threats and promises; he recognizes which one she has just made. He rests his chin atop her head and his arms are still uncertain, but he is trying. She wants to hug him until he's better, but sadly she knows it won't work—for one thing, it would take so long that the war would probably be over and Voldemort dead before her goal would be achieved—and she lets him go before it gets to be too much for him. She doesn't say anything about his shaking hands.
"Now you sit down while I make us some tea. All that shouting, I could certainly use a cup," she commands, and he ducks his head. His hair falls into his face as he does, but not enough to hide the tiny grin appearing there. She's smiling herself as she gets the kettle. It's a shame it's already two nights until Christmas, she won't have time to make another sweater—and she'd have to pick out the right colours for him, too, something nice to bring out those gray eyes would be best, but with his skin so pale...
"Did you ever meet Mrs. Potter—James's mum?" He smiles wryly, sitting at the table now, watching her at the stove. Except for the part where he's not entirely watching her, and his eyes have that far-off look she's noticed from time to time. The far-ff look, however, is usually not accompanied with a smile of any sort, as it is now. "You—only, you remind me of her a bit."
"Only briefly," she says, trying to recall the woman. For all that the Potter's son had been much younger than her, the parents had been the same age as her own. But that is all she knew them as, acquaintances of her own parents. It takes some time for her to remember why Sirius might find resemblance between the two women. She wonders what Mrs. Potter before her thought of this boy.
She sits and hands Sirius his tea. "Why don't you tell me about her, then?" He does, eagerly, and if he has to pause sometimes to take a long gulp of his tea when he mentions James and forgets to use the past tense, Molly doesn't remark upon it.
There will be next Christmas, she decides, listening to him describe the woman who had the audacity to actually ground Sirius Black, and enforce the punishment. She sounds like somebody Molly would have gotten along with.
Next Christmas, she plans, she will make matching sweaters for Sirius and Harry.
[tout ce que chaque enfant veut]