Chapter Two: Change
The mild summer of 1915 would prove to be the one in which fate decided that Adelaide Brown and Sirius Black's paths should finally intersect. Their lives would change drastically, and not without struggle, but it would be a magical time for the two of them. Their loyalties would be tested and their faith would be pushed to its absolute limits as their entirely different worlds collided, but both teenagers would learn that sometimes obstacles aren't as big as they seem, and that the dizzying high of true love can be the most powerful magic of all.
The whistle of a train sounded somewhere in the distance, not loud enough to be obnoxious but just enough noise to stir Sirius awake. He lazily blinked his eyes open, yawned and stretched his arms high over his head. He listened to the rhythmical chugging of the steam train as it took off, thinking of the Hogwarts Express and how he'd soon be back at school in his own dorm and his own bed. Ah, how wonderful it would be to sleep in a proper bed. He swung his legs over the arm of the couch he was lying on and pointed his toes, stretching out his cramped calf muscles. He stood up and padded across the wooden floor to the kitchen, where he poured himself a glass of water. He only drank half of it, though, before splashing the rest over his face to help him wake up.
A bar of sunlight was shining in through a crack in the curtains over the window, and when he pulled back the thin curtains and threw it open he revealed a beautiful, sunny morning.
"What a day," he said with a happy sigh, breathing in the fresh air from outside. He clapped his hands together. "Well, now to dig up some breakfast."
The kitchen, however, held nothing appetising. There were a few bottles of fire whiskey, a mouldy banana and a tin of beans. And that just wouldn't do. Sirius was an eighteen year old boy, he needed a hearty breakfast to start his day!
"Marauders!" He called out to his friends James, Remus and Peter collectively using the name of their gang, but received no response. "Lazy buggers," he commented, "still asleep."
Truthfully, it had been a big night the night before – full moons always were – and he couldn't begrudge the others for still dozing. But Sirius's stomach was growling, and he wasn't about to wait for his mates to wake up before going to get breakfast. So he straightened himself up, snuck some muggle money out of Remus's wallet with a mental note to repay him later, and headed out into the bright morning.
Two blocks down from the abandoned warehouse the Marauders had set up camp in, there was a park, and as Sirius crossed through it a ball came flying over his head and landed in a tree behind him.
"Hmm." He looked from the ball towards its owner and spotted a group of children, no older than seven or eight, standing in a circle and staring at the tree that had taken their ball. Their nannies were sitting on benches further behind them, their noses buried in the gossip pages of freshly printed newspapers and their attention completely diverted. The children were all talking over the top of one another, now, pushing and shoving as they blamed each other for losing the ball. "Awww, cute little rascals," he said with a smile as one of the boys ran towards him.
"Mister, hey, excuse me, Mister!" The boy said, coming to a stop right in front of his feet. He tugged on the leg of Sirius's trousers. "Mister, can you get our ball out of the tree?"
"I sure can," Sirius replied, beaming down at the kid.
He turned and walked to the base of the tree. The ball was obviously too high up for him to reach, sitting in the crook of some branches further up than his arm could stretch. But Sirius had no trouble getting the ball out of the tree – all it took was a quick summoning charm and there it was, clasped firmly in his hand.
The crowd of children gathered at his feet were ooh -ing and ahhh-ing in delight, clapping their hands together and squealing excitedly. "Thank you, Mister!" They exclaimed as he gave them back the ball.
"No problem," he said, "Try not to get it stuck up there again, not every grown up is as talented as me."
He laughed as they ran off again to resume their game, and left the park with a smile on his face. "Now, that breakfast, let's see," he said to himself when he reached the street, which was still relatively empty. He surveyed the shops across the road. "Bernie's? Hm, nah. Francois? Oh, no, no, nope. Too much starch." He rubbed his stomach absentmindedly, and continued scanning the street. His eyes lit up as he had a sudden thought; "Ah, Tony's! Oh, that's it. Haven't been there in a week."
He took off at a pleasant pace, already smiling in anticipation of the good grub he was going to get. Before he even got to the back door he heard the chef, Joe, singing to himself as he kneaded dough; "A beautiful day to make a pizza to taste, and they call it bella note."
"G'morning," Sirius greeted, swinging open the door and letting himself in.
"Well, buongiorno, Butch!" Joe responded in his strong Italian accent, calling him one of his many nicknames. Joe had a rather lanky build, apart from his stomach, which was rounded – as most chef's are. He had a bushy black moustache growing underneath his large nose, and a giant white hat perched on top of his head. He wiped some flour off his hands and grinned at Sirius. "You wanna your breakfast, eh?"
Sirius nodded, flashing his most charming smile. "Nothing beats a good pizza for breakfast."
"Okay," Joe said, waving his hands around as he talked. "The boss-a, he's-a save-a some-a nice-a food for you."
"Ah, isn't Tony a sweetheart?" Sirius joked, trying not to salivate at the pizza Joe was pulling from the freezer and boxing up for him. When the chef handed it over, he reached into his pocket for Remus's money – but Joe shook his head.
"Nonono, Butch, there's-a no need," he insisted. "For you, no charge."
"Aw, Joe," Sirius said, giving him a genuinely thankful smile. "You are too good to me."
Joe just smiled back, before waving him out of the kitchen. "Now leave-a me be, I have-a work-a to do, eh!" Sirius waved goodbye with his free hand as he exited back into the alley behind the restaurant, but turned around when Joe called out, "Salami a-comin' up from-a left field!"
He managed to catch the sausage of salami that Joe threw to him with one hand, and crowed happily, "Thanks Joe! This should keep us going!"
"Ahaha, good-a catch!" Joe complimented, and then disappeared back into the kitchen.
Sirius trotted off happily with his substantial amount of food, situating himself on a nice park bench to eat. He was on his last slice of pizza when he heard a clattering of horse and cart, followed by the familiar whistle of the Ministry of Magic employee. They were getting stricter with their law enforcement in an attempt to keep unruly young witches and wizards in line while they were away from school. There were posters up everywhere – bewitched to say something mundane to the muggle eye – that proclaimed that any witch or wizard performing underage magic would be arrested immediately and dealt with by the ministry. Why they insisted on using muggle transport, Sirius wasn't sure. Perhaps to make it less obvious to the underage magic folk they wanted to catch and more reassuring to the muggles?
The cart went past him, and he spotted two more familiar faces sitting in the back, behind the bars of the locked door. He swallowed the rest of his pizza in one bite and watched as the auror pulled over to the curb out the front of the muggle entrance to the Ministry, disguised as a second-hand book store, and dismounted.
"Now you two wait in there," he said sternly, pointing to the two captives. "I'll be right back out to escort you inside in a moment."
Rookie mistake, Sirius thought, the corner of his mouth twitching up in amusement. So not a fully qualified auror then, just a small-fry hoping to impress the boss with by arresting some kids for a misdemeanour. As soon as the officer was out sight Sirius stood up and snuck over to the cart.
"Hey! Psst," he whispered, rapping gently on the bars. "Psst!"
"Blimey!" Benjy Fenwick exclaimed loudly, shaking his round head in disbelief. "Look, Marlene, it's Black!"
"Shh!" Marlene McKinnon slid forward to peer through the bars beside Benjy, her blonde hair falling in front of her eyes as she did so. She smiled at Sirius and said flirtatiously, "Hiya, handsome. Come to join the party?"
"All right, all right, no time for wisecracks," Sirius said in a low voice. "I've gotta get you out. Where are ya wands?"
"In his pocket, of course," Benjy replied, nodding towards the building the auror had disappeared in to. "Took 'em as soon as he caught us practicing our duelling."
"Of course," Sirius grumbled. He got his own wand out and hurriedly unlocked the padlock keeping the door shut, thankful that a stronger charm hadn't been placed on it. "I'm tellin' ya, the pressure's really on. Signs all over town."
"Gee, thanks," Marlene said as the padlock clicked open and the door swung outwards.
"You're a bit of alright, chum," Benjy said happily as he jumped down, helping Marlene out after him.
"Okay, okay, get going," Sirius urged, ducking low as the door to the 'bookstore' opened. "I'll get your wands back for ya."
"Hey, what's going on over there?!" The auror called out when he spotted the scene.
"Scram!" Sirius yelled to Benjy and Marlene, who didn't need to be told twice. "And be careful!" He called after them as they ran away and disappeared down the street.
The rookie auror went to go after them, but then he spotted Sirius. "You mangy kid!" He yelled in frustration.
He threw a disarming charm at him, but Sirius was too quick. He ducked the spell easily and shot a quick stunning charm back, which knocked the auror off his feet. Sirius offered a quick apology as he grabbed Benjy and Marlene's wands from the incapacitated man's pocket, and then he took off, trying to get as far away as possible before the effects of the spell wore off.
As fate would have it, he eventually found himself in the nicest part of town, where all of the three-storey, Georgian houses had spacious front lawns with perfectly trimmed, lush green grass and neat iron or picket fences bordering them off. They were painted in bright but un-alarming pastel shades, and everything was so neat and orderly that Sirius couldn't help but feel completely out of place.
"Well, snob hill," he said to himself, "Ha."
He ran his hand along an unnaturally neat hedge and stopped at a drinking fountain at one of the corner, where two teenage girls were standing and chatting.
"Hi gals, how's pickin's?" He greeted them with a smile. The girls looked him up and down and made a small noise of disapproval before turning their backs and crossing the street, casting suspicious glances over their shoulder at him as they went. He shrugged and said jokingly, "Pretty slim, ey?"
He took a sip of water before continuing on walking. "They've got everything all neatly boxed off here, don't they?" He murmured, observing the clean, empty streets around him. "I wonder what this set do for fun."
The letter itself was an innocuous thing, a creamy coloured envelope stamped with a thick red wax seal, marked with a crest that Laidy didn't recognise. It was a little bit thicker than most letters, perhaps, and the way it was addressed was a touch odd. It was for her, according to the neat script inked across the front, which even specified which bedroom was hers.
"Mother, Father," she called out, waving the letter in front of her, "There's a letter here for me."
"For you, Laidy?"
She blinked up at her mother as she appeared at the top of the stairs, her caramel coloured hair tumbling over her shoulders in loose waves and her dressing gown hanging lopsided off one of her shoulders, exposing the lace trim of the nightgown she wore underneath, which stretched slightly over her rounded, pregnant stomach.
"Yes, for me." Laidy looked back down at the letter, turning it over in her hands. "It's a curious looking thing."
In moments her mother was in front of her, and Laidy handed the letter over to her, waiting expectantly for her to show some sign of recognition. Instead, Elizabeth turned and stepped back up the staircase, calling, "Jim dear, Laidy has received a letter; do come look."
Jim entered the foyer from the direction of the kitchen, and from the crumbs sprinkled across the front of his waistcoat Laidy guessed that he had been in the middle of breakfast when they'd called him away. Apart from that he was immaculately groomed, his hair parted and slicked back, his moustache neatly combed and his clothes all pressed and ironed.
"A letter for Laidy, you say?" One of his eyebrows arched as he examined the envelope, running his fingers over the ink.
"Who would be sending a letter to me?" Laidy asked, looking to her father for the answer.
Jim laughed kindly, "We won't know until you open it." He handed the envelope back to her and draped an arm across Elizabeth's shoulders, planting an affectionate kiss on the top of her head.
Bouncing on the balls of her feet, Laidy darted off into the study to get the letter opener, and her parents followed at a more leisurely pace. They entered the room, decorated all black and burgundy to give it a more serious aesthetic, just in time to see her slide the sharp blade across the top of the envelope and slice it open. She reached in and pulled out multiple sheets of parchment, and began reading aloud;
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Adelaide Brown,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1.
We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Laidy's wide brown eyes rose from the letter she held in her now shaking hands to her parents, who were standing quite still on the other side of the room. "You – you don't think it's real, do you?"
Jim and Elizabeth exchanged a glance and walked over to their daughter. "What do you think, Laidy?"
She inhaled slowly, trying to steady her shaking hands. "Well, it must be a ridiculous joke, surely…" But even to her own ears her denial sounded unconvincing. "I can't be a- a witch. There's no such thing." She searched her parents faces for some comfort, but they appeared just as confused and worried as she felt. "…Is there?"
There was a moment of silence, and then Jim carefully took the letter from her hands and stored it in a drawer of his desk. "Perhaps we just need to think about what this letter means, before making a decision. Your mother and I will discuss it."
Laidy opened her mouth to protest, but at that moment the colour drained from Elizabeth's face and she clutched at her swollen stomach. "A kick," she breathed, rubbing her stomach. "I have to sit," she said suddenly, as though coming out of a reverie. Jim took her arm and began to lead her from the room, effectively ending the conversation.
"Father, Mother, please- " Laidy began, but Jim held up his hand for silence.
"Not now, Laidy, please," he sighed, rubbing his temple with the hand not supporting his wife. "We'll talk later… when your mother's rested."
"But this could be important!" Laidy exclaimed, gesturing towards the desk that now held her letter. "What if it can't wait?"
"It can wait," Jim said curtly. "You're fifteen, Adelaide, and you have to realise that when this baby arrives they're going to take up a lot of our attention."
"I know, but -"
"Not another word."
Laidy watched her parents leave the study without looking back, and tried to quash the disappointment she felt welling at the back of her throat, biting her bottom lip to stop it trembling. Her little sibling hadn't even arrived yet and she was already being pushed into second place; it was ridiculous. She marched over to her father's desk and yanked open the drawer that he'd put her letter in, folding it back into its envelope and placing the whole thing in the pocket of her dress. If her parents didn't want to read it, fine, but it was her letter and she was going to get to the bottom of this.
She slid out of the study and back into the foyer without being spotted by either of her parents, and cautiously opened the front door. A warm summer breeze hit her as she stepped out onto the porch that encircled the entire house, making the lace cuffs on her dress flutter against her wrists. She'd only just made it around the side of the house and settled into a deck chair in a shady corner when she heard her Uncle Jack – who wasn't really her uncle, but her Grandpa Trent's closest friend - and Grandpa Trent calling out to her. Normally she loved their visits, but today she was not feeling in the mood to entertain guests.
"Lassie!" Jack called out his nickname for her in his thick Scottish accent, "Lassie!"
"Oh, Miss Laidy, ma'am!" Grandpa Trent hollered, rolling the words so they were drawn out. "Miss Laidy!"
"Ah, good mornin', Lassie," Jack said happily as the two of them appeared around the corner. "Tis a bonny, braw, bright day, uh, today." He trailed off as he spotted her melancholy expression.
"Why, Miss Laidy," Grandpa Trent said softly, "is, uh, something wrong?"
Laidy didn't say anything, unsure of whether or not she should tell them about the letter.
"Aye, tell us, Lassie," Jack insisted, "If somebody's been mistreatin' ya -"
That got a response. "Oh, no, Jack," Laidy said, straightening up ever so slightly before slumping down again. "It's something I've done, I guess."
"You?" Grandpa Trent inquired.
"It must be," Laidy responded sadly, "Mother and Father are acting so -"
She was interrupted by the soft sound of Elizabeth singing a wordless, happy tune drifting through the open window above them as she placed a post of fresh flowers on the sill.
"Jim and Elizabeth?" Grandpa Trent asked loudly.
"Hush man!" Jack scolded. The two of them followed Laidy around to the back of the small greenhouse in the garden, where they wouldn't be overheard, and Jack continued, "Now, Lassie, get on with the details."
"Well," Laidy began with a big intake of breath, "They're constantly fussing about the baby, and the baby hasn't even arrived yet, but it's already like they don't have time for me."
"Well now, Lassie, I wouldn't a-worry my wee head about that," Jack said reassuringly, "Remember, they're only human. They're bound to be a bit uptight."
"That's right, Miss Laidy," Grandpa Trent agreed. "Uh, as my grandpappy used to say, um – Don't recollect if I've mentioned grandpappy before…"
"Aye, you have, laddie," Jack said tiredly. "Uh, frequently."
"Oh, yeah," Grandpa Trent said, as though he'd just remembered that he'd told every story there was about his grandpappy more than a dozen times and was extremely disappointed that he wouldn't get to tell one again now.
"But now," Laidy continued, as though she hadn't been interrupted, "they're always telling me to leave them alone and discussing things that I'm not allowed to know about, and it's not fair."
Jack and Grandpa Trent gave each other a knowing smile that infuriated Laidy. "Now, Lassie, do not take it too seriously," Jack advised. "After all, at a time like this -"
"Why, yes. You see, Miss Laidy," Grandpa Trent intersected, "there comes a time in every family, when, uh, well -"
Laidy blinked at him with huge, brown, innocent eyes.
Jack cut off his ramblings, "What he's trying to say, Lassie, is that for a while your parents will have to focus on the baby, because babies are helpless and they demand all their parents' attention."
"But they're mighty sweet," Grandpa Trent said, smiling down at her reassuringly.
"And very, very soft," Jack added nicely.
"Just a cute little bundle," an unfamiliar voice chimed in. Laidy whipped her head around to see a strange young man meandering down the path into the garden from the open gate. He was incredibly handsome, with shaggy, dark hair and chiselled features, but his suit looked a little bit too worn and he walked with a confident swagger, not at all in the refined manner than she was used to seeing gentlemen walk. "Of trouble. Yeah; they scratch, pinch, pull hair, cry. Aw, but, shucks, anyone can take that. It's what they do to your happy home."
As he got closer she noticed that he had grey eyes, and deducted that he was probably a few years older than her. Her heart fluttered as he looked her over and a smile tugged up the corners of his lips. Jack and Grandpa Trent exchanged wary glances. The boy gently pushed Jack aside to stand right in front of the shocked Laidy.
"Move it over, will ya, friend? Home wreckers, that's what they are!"
That was too much for Jack. He bristled, "Look here, laddie! Who are you to barge in?"
"The voice of experience, buster," the strange boy replied calmly. "Why, just wait til junior gets here. You get the urge for a hug from your mum and," he put on a high pitched voice, "Go away, I'm busy with the baby!" Back to normal tone, "You want to play some music in your room," high-pitched again, "Stop that racket, you'll wake the baby!" He crossed his legs and leant back on the greenhouse casually, continuing normally, "And then, they hit you in the room and board department. You're no longer the baby of the family, so you have to take on more responsibility. Say goodbye to sleep ins and relaxing Sundays, you'll be cleaning and cooking and soon enough they'll be making you pay rent -"
Laidy couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Oh dear!" She exclaimed, feeling as though she might cry. What this strange boy was saying was so horrifying that it drove all thoughts of the letter stashed in her pocket from her mind.
"Do not listen, Lassie," Jack said comfortingly, "No parent is that cruel."
"Of course not, Miss Laidy," Grandpa Trent added. "Everybody knows that parents love their children equally."
The boy laughed. "Oh, come on now, fellas. You haven't fallen for that old line now, have ya?"
"Aye, and we've no need for mongrels and their radical ideas!" Jack growled and started to shoo the boy away, apparently fed up. "Off with ya now, off with ya, off with ya!"
"Okay, Sandy," the boy teased, completely unfazed as he casually backed away.
"The name's Jack!"
Jack seemed to realise that he deserved a better title than that, and said, "Mr O'Glencairn, to you!"
"Okay, okay, okay," the boy said placatingly, but his smile was still infuriatingly arrogant. He turned and began strutting off back towards the street, saying over his shoulder as he went, "But remember this, Pigeon. A parent's heart has only so much room for love and affection. When the baby moves in, you move out."
Laidy was too stunned to say anything in reply, and so simply stared after him, wondering who he was and if she'd ever see him again - and desperately hoping that what he'd said wasn't true.
a.n. sorry about the wait, this story is kinda on the backburner compared to my others, but I do have fun writing it so I will try to update it fairly regularly. hope you enjoy it, please let me know in a review!