Notes: I know it's been a while but, like I promised on my tumblr, I GOT IT OUT BY THE END OF JANUARY, YAY! So enjoy this chapter and thank you everyone for your patience.
Hadrian walked down to the dining room on Tuesday morning to find Remus frowning over his coffee. "Weren't you working today?" Hadrian asked as Peachy magicked him his breakfast.
"I flooed in sick for a family emergency," Remus said. "Sirius's grandfather died today."
"Which one?" Hadrian asked, knowing both Arcturus Black and Pollux Black were living last he checked.
"Lord Arcturus Black, the previous Head of the House of Black. It's… it'll be a big funeral. I'm sure you'll be getting official invitations to the wake once Sirius finishes drafting them."
"Sirius is doing that?" Hadrian asked. "I thought he wasn't close with the other remaining Blacks."
"No, they didn't want anything to do with him even after the trial," Remus said in a low voice. "Of course all the remaining are rather aged and set in their ways. But… but Arcturus never officially disowned Sirius and by right of blood, since Orion was the oldest, that makes Sirius the next Lord Black. Whether they like it or not, he's in charge of what's left of that cursed family now."
Hadrian nodded. He hadn't realized, though he should have. When he'd known Sirius in his past life, all the other Blacks had already died so he'd always figured that if Sirius had been able to take his title as Lord Black, he would have. But Sirius hadn't so he'd always assumed Sirius had been actually disowned. Then again, maybe Sirius had been disowned, perhaps by Arcturus right before he died. In this life, with Sirius free, Arcturus would have had no reason to do so.
Arcturus dying bothered Hadrian though, for more than just the obvious difficulty it put upon Sirius. He contemplated it while he finished his breakfast—with Remus brooding and Harry gone over at the Malfoys, having requested to introduce the totally fun idea of sleepovers to Draco, the time was oddly silent. Hadrian decided to check on Sirius before flooing over to get his charge.
He walked up the stairs and popped his head into Sirius's bedroom—the door already partially open. "Sirius?" he asked.
"Yeah," Sirius replied, voice gruff.
Hadrian opened the door fully and took note of the dog animagus. Sirius looked dead tired, eyes red and bags under them. There was a scruff on his cheek, likely he'd forgotten to do his morning shaving spell, and he wore a robe thrown over his night clothes.
"What time did you find out?" Hadrian asked as he watched Sirius drafting a letter.
"Don't know. Middle of the night. The family magic crashed down on me kinda angrily, probably 'cause Arcturus never liked me much." Sirius sighed and set down his quill. "You have any experience writing obituaries?"
Hadrian had too much experience, from his previous life. He swallowed down the memory and nodded.
He helped Sirius draft three different versions of the obituary—one to send to the paper, one for Black family members including those closely married from the family like Lucius Malfoy, and to all the other members of ancient and noble houses that were expected to come to the funeral of a lord of such a house.
"I'll need to go to Diagon Alley to order enough owls to send all of these off," Sirius said. "And I need to deliver Grandfather Pollux and Aunt Cassiopeia and that lots' in person. Probably stay at Black Manor with them until the funeral." Sirius rubbed his face, frowning as if just now noticing his own scruff. He grabbed his wand and casually waved it away.
Hadrian watched the nonchalant use of non-verbal magic and considered how quickly the family magic was settling over Sirius. Family magic wasn't alive, not really, but it was a weight and with that weight brought a kind of deeper understanding of magic itself. There was a reason that the heads of noble houses were so respected and it came from a time when it was acknowledged they had a connection with the essence of magic—even magic tainted with the presence of all their house—that most would never experience.
Hadrian knew one of the reasons he felt just a little different from how he had as Headmaster Harry Potter was because he held the family magic of the Naga line instead of Potter. A subtle change, but one powerful enough to give him altered perspective.
Recently he'd been considering how he'd veered off his original path for traveling back in time. The destruction of the magical world as they all knew it was not too far in the future and yet here he was focusing on building relationships and raising himself and maybe dealing with some relatively smaller problems. But he knew that all of these building blocks he was laying would help him rally together the magical world when the time came to come up with a solution to keep them all safe. Still, if he were Lord Potter, he wondered if the famous Potter arrogance would have pushed him to trying to act sooner, maybe too soon.
But he wasn't a Potter anymore, he was a Naga, and he'd never know how it would have turned out. In the end, the only use was continuing on this path he'd set himself on.
Hadrian glanced once more at the obituary on Sirius's desk. Lord Arcturus Black was Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black for 36 years, making him the longest leading Lord Black since the founding of the house. This accomplishment speaks true to his dedication to his family—a dedication he carried all 87 years of his life.
Eighty-seven years, Hadrian thought.
He froze. In his mind's eye, he remembered studying the Black family tapestry, tracing over Sirius's burned out face, finding the connections, wondering about the family Teddy would one day lead.
Arcturus Black was suppose to die in 1991, at the age of ninety. This funeral was three years early.
Hadrian accepted that his traveling back in time would change some things, but dying that much earlier meant it was more likely Arcturus Black hadn't died of natural old age.
So, why had he died?
"I can't stand being in this house anymore!" Sirius exclaimed to Remus. His head was pounding, the shrill voice of his Aunt Cassiopeia still echoing in his ears. "All they ever do is gripe and complain and gossip. I thought growing up with my mother was bad, but if this was the environment she grew up in, I understand why she was batshit."
"Calm down, Padfoot," Remus said. "You're just a little stressed."
"A little stressed, bah. Overworked is more like it. I know my grandfather could do more to help, but all he does is say that if Arcturus died, he surely isn't far behind, and can't the house elves work on his tea any faster, his heart could give out any second now. Lazy sod. And Uncle Cygnus is even worse."
"Maybe a change of scenery would do you good?" Remus suggested.
Sirius sighed. "Yeah, you're right, as always, Moony." He shook his head, knowing it was a behavior that he'd only started doing after all the time he'd spent in his animagus form. His mind healer had told him the next step to acknowledging those behaviors was attempting to stop using them but now was not the time to be playing mental games with himself so he didn't bother. "Want to go visit my childhood house with me? I'm sure the place is a dump but…" and here Sirius hesitated.
Pre-Azkaban, pre-living in the same house as his godson and his godson's too-smart guardian, pre-everything that had happened since he'd begun healing… pre-all that, Sirius wouldn't have said the words on the tip of his tongue. But he felt too old to hold back now, too wise to be afraid anymore because fear was cold and Remus Lupin had been his warm blanket since he was a wide-eyed eleven year old sorted in Gryffindor knowing nothing but his parents' disapproval his whole life. James Potter had been Sirius's best friend, his comrade-in-arms, but Remus had always been the one he went to when he needed to relax and remember that everything would be okay.
In the end, the thing he hated the most about Dumbledore's scheming during the war was how the man had managed to manipulate him into distrusting the only person he'd always felt completely safe with.
So, because they'd agreed to start over and because starting over with Remus meant childlike innocence and the desire to be at Remus's side and never leave, Sirius said, "I'm not happy, having to visit that place. I don't have a single good memory from there that isn't tainted by the rest and I can't imagine what it'll feel like to go back after I left. But I have a responsibility as the head of my house to check on all our holdings—the few that are left to this cursed family. So… I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're with me, it won't be so bad. If you're willing."
Remus looked at him, amber eyes frozen and face expressionless for long enough that Sirius began to feel uncomfortable by his frank words. Then Remus's shoulders dropped and he stepped closer to Sirius, as if trying to fit into Sirius's space. "Padfoot… Sirius, I'd go with you anywhere you asked."
Sirius felt his heart try to claw it's way out of his chest. He raised his hand as if to push it back behind his ribs, and then his arm moved in the other direction and he found himself pulling Remus closer by the back of the neck. Remus came, too easily to be anything but willing, and rested his head on Sirius's shoulder. Sirius lay his forehead against Remus's fine hair—already greying but just as soft as it had always been—and closed his eyes.
Despite the near funeral, the many arrangements Sirius had to make as the new Lord Black, and the dreaded upcoming visit to Grimmauld Place, Sirius felt utterly at peace.
The floo connection to Grimmauld Place was too old to be safe to use, so Sirius side-along apparated Remus to the street outside. As always, the sight of the muggles on the road filled Sirius with glee. Grimmauld Place hadn't always been number 12 in a line of muggle townhouses. It was, in fact, a manor in it's own right—with a multitude of rooms across three floors and a basement level. But a muggle neighborhood grew up around it and Sirius's great-great grandfather had been forced to ask the goblins to put the house under a set of charms to allow it to fit in with its new neighbors. During the last war, his parents had discussed putting it under Fidelius, but honestly the house was hidden enough. No one suspected that the ordinary townhouse fit between numbers 11 and 13 was actually a Black family manor.
Sirius glanced over his shoulder at the corner store that had been his haven growing up. His parents never used the front door—never would have dared associate with the muggles outside, preferring to take the floo to Diagon Alley or the Ministry instead. But Sirius had often snuck out to intermingle with the preteens and teenagers of the street. That corner store, with it's unchanged broken neon sign, was a spot of comfort in this bleak area.
"You grew up here?" Remus asked, the surprise in his voice evident.
"Shocking, isn't it?" Sirius agreed. He stepped across the street and up to the door of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. On the door step, the old wards reached out to feel him and his companion. A muggle would have been convinced to turn away because of the heavy matrix, but the wards recognized Sirius—recognized him as a child that once lived there and as the Lord of its family. The door opened with a small creak.
Sirius walked in first, hand still on Remus's arm. The physical contact was necessary for the wards to perceive Remus as a guest. If he were more confident in his skills as the family head, he could have just sent out a pulse of magic to tell them, but he wasn't. Especially not in this place—which had some of the nastiest intruder wards of any of the Black properties.
Remus closed the door behind them with a slightly creak. Sirius glanced around the dark hallway. There was a couple candles lit on an entry way bench next to a large portrait. Sirius had a second to wonder who had kept the candles going when the portrait spoke.
"Back, are you?"
Sirius took a deep breath, allowed himself to be bolstered by Remus's solid presence at his back, and raised his chin. His mother's portrait watched him with a shrewd expression. "Yes, Mother," Sirius said. "I am."
"Took you long enough," his mother said. "I suppose you ran out of money, then? Thought you could get free lodging out of this place? Pathetic. That's what you've always been, dear son, absolutely pathetic."
"And you, dear mother, have always been wrong about me." Sirius replied. His hands shook, just minutely enough to hide from the portrait but enough so he could feel the quivers. He want to rage at the painting, scream and yell and cry. His mother had never minced her words around him, never failed to tell him just how disappointed she was in his existence. Being here in front of her cruel gaze again was nearly too much.
But then Remus stepped up closer to him, warmth covering his back like a thick blanket, and he knew that it didn't matter what that craggy old woman thought. She was just a portrait, just a painted representation of a terrible person.
And though he couldn't convince himself that her words didn't hurt him, he could realize that he didn't have to stand here and take them. This was not his mother and her soul was long gone from this world. So instead of retaliating, instead of telling her that he was now the head of the family, he just turned away and walked down the hall.
Sirius turned into the kitchen, expecting to see decaying wood counters and rotted food from dead perseveration spells. Instead, he was greeted with a clean space and a loud pop.
Kreacher, his mother's favorite house elf, bowed low. "Master Sirius has returned!" he squeaked. "Kreacher is so pleased Master Sirius has decided to return here. Kreacher has kept the house clean for his Master. Kreacher has not missed a day of work, he has not!"
Sirius stared. He hadn't expected to find the old elf still alive—had honestly not even given the creature a single thought. But if he had, he would have expected the thing to hate him like it always had. Was it different now because he was the head of the family?
"Uh, good, Kreacher," Sirius said. "That's really good."
Kreacher beamed. "Would Master Sirius be liking anything to eat or drink for himself or his guests?" Kreacher paused and pulled at his ears. "Stupid Kreacher, stupid. No food or drink to offer Master Sirius." He walked over to the counter and began beating his head on it.
"Stop!" Sirius commanded. "Stop, it's okay, Kreacher." He never liked the elf, but he certainly had always hated seeing any house elf punish itself. "Are you not connected to the family funds anymore?"
Kreacher shook his head wordlessly.
Sirius sighed. "Here, how about this, pop yourself to Black manor and report to the head house elf there. Tell her what's been going on, that I'm happy with what you've done, and that you need reassignment to duties on the main grounds."
Kreacher nodded and made to snap with his fingers, and then he hesitated. He looked around the kitchen, then farther back toward the little cubby Sirius knew had always been where he slept.
"Hey," Sirius said, though he wasn't sure where this strange pity in his chest was coming from. "You can grab anything you'd like from your room first. And… I'm not sure what I'll be doing with this old place, but when I figure it out you'll be the first elf I call back to take care of it, okay? I'm sure there's no one who knows this place as well as you do, so it'd be only right."
Kreacher's eyes filled with tears. "Master Sirius is as good as Master Regulus always said. Kreacher should have listened to Master Regulus sooner. Kreacher is sorry." He wiped his face then fled to his cubby. A second later, Sirius heard a pop and knew Kreacher was gone.
Remus followed after Sirius as he walked through the house. It felt right to be behind Sirius, to be guarding his back, to be following his lead. Remus hadn't felt like this in years, not since they were children at Hogwarts, and even then sometimes it had felt more like he was eating Sirius and James's dust rather than being at their backs.
But Sirius had asked him to come here, had shown more emotional vulnerability than Remus had ever expected out of the man, and he wasn't sure how to deal with the swirl of emotions it caused in his own chest. He knew his own feelings, had known them with complete certainty for months now. He'd always had a crush on Sirius, always known it was a hopeless one, but living together with Sirius in Hadrian Naga's house had opened his eyes to other possibilities. They were two lost souls left from a half-forgotten era—an era that had culminated in death and destruction and betrayal. Remus doubted anyone would ever understand how broken he was inside as much as Sirius did and he similarly doubted anyone would understand Sirius in the same way he did.
But Remus had never been a leader, never wanted to take charge, and he was content at doing this slow climb at Sirius's pace. That didn't mean he wasn't grateful Sirius had opened up sooner than he'd expected.
They walked through the bedrooms, the library—which had Remus salivating just slightly—and to the sitting room. There, Sirius paused and Remus stepped up beside him to see what had caught his eye.
It was a tapestry. A family tapestry, by the looks of it. It hardly had all of the Black family members on it, but certainly all the lines from the first Lord Black. Near the bottom, Remus saw Sirius's name, a little crown by it to denote his position as head of the house.
"Huh," Sirius said. "Kreacher must have removed the stains." He fingered his name, then a woman named Andromeda, then a man named Alphard. "I didn't know Uncle Alphie was still alive," he muttered, as if to himself.
"Wasn't he the one that gave you money when you, uh, ran away?" Remus asked.
"Yeah, that was him. He was always my favorite uncle." Sirius snorted. "He never was like the rest of the Blacks. I bet he's in France right now with two veelas on either side of him, charming the pants of their mother. It'd be just like him." He shook his head. "I have to make sure to send him an invitation to the funeral. I doubt he'll come, not if he's really taken care to cut ties with the family, but…"
"You'd like to see him."
Sirius nodded. "Yeah, I'd like to."
Remus pressed against Sirius's side before he could stop himself. The wolf in him just wanted to comfort Sirius, wanted to comfort their mate—because that's what his wolf had seen Sirius as since the first time the dog animagus had knocked him over and bared his teeth against his neck during the full moon. Sirius had no idea the significance of his body language during those nights they used to play as Grim and werewolf, but his inner wolf certainly did.
Sirius didn't pull away from him. He pressed back instead, wrapping an arm around Remus's waist as if subconsciously. His eyes were still fixed on the tapestry, while Remus's were fixed on his face.
Remus wondered if there was anything else he could do to help Sirius get through this. He hoped it wasn't too soon—this responsibility, this forced maneuvering to deal with his past. He hoped it wouldn't break Sirius, that it would make him stronger.
Sirius turned his head suddenly and met Remus's gaze. Remus's breath caught in his throat.
"Thanks," Sirius said.
"What for?" Remus asked softly.
Sirius leaned forward and rested his forehead on Remus's. "For being here with me."
Remus closed his eyes. "I already told you, anywhere, anytime you ask, Sirius. I won't abandon you again."
"I know," Sirius murmured. He pulled back and lightly kissed Remus's head. "When this is all over, Remus, we'll talk about us, okay? Just… I can't, right now."
"Whatever you need," Remus said honestly, though his heart pounded so loudly in his chest he was sure Sirius could hear it. "I don't… I'll wait as long as you need."
Sirius watched him with those piercing grey eyes and it seemed like he was seeing Remus for the first time. Remus felt naked, vulnerable in a way he rarely was with Sirius. "No," Sirius said, "You've been waiting long enough." He gently kissed Remus full on the lips. "I won't make you wait much longer, I promise."
And with that, he pulled away and continued walking through the house.
Remus didn't even bother holding back his tears, at least until the salty drops began to drip onto his smiling lips and he was forced to wipe them away.
The funeral was a painfully formal affair, just as Arcturus would have liked. Severus wished he hadn't been invited, wished he'd been snubbed because the mutt was the one sending invitations. But Sirius Black had sent him a formalized letter, despite the fact that Severus was really only on the outskirts of high society.
"It's a wonderful thing that you've been invited, my boy," Dumbledore had said. "Just the excuse you need to remind Lord Naga that you're open to talking about Lily with young Harry. We need you to build that connection, Severus, you know that."
Severus knew exactly what Dumbledore's aim was, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
He gathered his robes around him and walked down the line of guests toward where Sirius stood. It was customary for a funeral guest to announce his presence to the one presiding over the event and though Severus hated the man, he would not give the new Lord Black a reason to publicly ridicule him.
"Lord Black," he greeted, though he didn't try to keep the sneer out of his voice. "My condolences on the death of your grandfather."
"My gratitude for your presence here, Master Snape," Black replied, just as formally.
Severus nodded and turned his gaze to the people standing around Black. The werewolf stood at Black's side, a position customarily meant for a spouse. Severus had always wondered about them in school. He briefly contemplated how the rest of the Black family would react to their new Lord mating with a werewolf. The thought amused him.
Standing on Black's other side was Pollux Black, whom Severus graced with a slightly deeper head nod before he moved on to allow the next arrival to talk to Sirius.
Standing by the outdoor fire, Hadrian Naga was talking with Arthur and Molly Weasley. Beside them, Ron and Harry huddled together. It looked as though Ron was showing off chocolate frog cards to Harry. Severus internally scoffed.
"Ah, Professor Snape," Hadrian said, spotting him.
Severus glided over to the small group. "Lord Naga," he greeted. "Arthur, Molly."
"Good to see you, Severus," Arthur said, just a touch too jovially for a funeral. "I didn't expect to see you here."
Molly elbowed her husband in the side. "Of course he's here. It would have been rude for Sirius to not extend an invitation to an esteemed Potions' Master like Severus. Not to mention the only heir left of the Prince family." The even if he can't inherit the title of Lord Prince went unsaid. Like many old families, the Prince family law barred a halfblood like Severus from inheriting the house even if all the other family members were dead. Few old families had done away with those archaic rules, the Potters being one of them.
His eyes drifted over to Harry again. The boy was looking at him, seemingly ignoring the young Weasley boy's chattering in favor of observing him.
"Oh, that's right," Naga said. "I forgot I hadn't created a chance for you two to meet yet." He beckoned Harry over and the boy came quickly. "Harry, this is Severus Snape. I think I told you about him."
"You're the Potions Professor at Hogwarts, right, sir?" Harry said. "And you were the youngest ever Master in the field from Britain! I read about it in The History of Magical Mastery."
"Yes," Severus said, surprised despite himself. "Both statements are correct."
Harry practically beamed. "I'm so excited to learn potions from you! Hadrian lets me help out with him sometimes but I bet you know far more than he does."
Hadrian laughed, though Severus cringed at the insult. If he'd said such a thing about his father to one of his father's associates… But Hadrian merely ruffled Harry's hair. "I'm sure that's true," he said. "You've still got a couple years left until you're off to Hogwarts though."
Harry pouted. "I know."
Severus found he couldn't take his eyes off Harry. His hair was all James, the Potter family curse as it were, but his facial structure, his expressions, his eyes, that was all Lily. And it was almost too much for him.
Severus looked up finally to find Hadrian's own shrewd green eyes observing him. "Now might be a good time for you two to have some time to talk," Hadrian said. "Funerals are a place of remembrance, to reminisce about the dead. I know Harry would love to know more about his mother, if you're up for sharing."
And underneath the weight of those two pairs of green eyes, Severus could only nod.
As he walked away with young Harry, he heard Molly ask Hadrian, "Is that wise? Severus has never been known to be good with children and I would hate for him to hurt Harry unintentionally."
"Have faith, Molly," Hadrian replied. "I think the experience will be good for the both of them."
Harry tugged Severus until they were by one of the far outdoor fires, mostly secluded from the other guests. "Did you really know my mum?" he asked and the hope in his tone was just strong enough to wrench at the iron doors around Severus's heart.
"I did," Severus said. "I grew up in the same neighborhood as her." Here, he took a deep breath. He thought of Dumbledore, of Naga, of James Potter and finally of Lily. And for the first time since her death, he let himself hope just as Harry was.
Have faith. Severus didn't know if he could do that, but at the very least, he could hope. Maybe, just maybe, this little boy would be his salvation. Maybe, with the help of this child's innocent trust, he could finally allow himself to move on.
"The first time I met your mother, I was seven years old…"
"You know, Hadrian, I was thinking," Sirius said as the funeral began to wrap up and the guests started leaving. "There's only four people living in Black Manor right now. Pollux, Cassiopeia, Cygnus, and Druella. Quite frankly, I hate all of them."
"I know you do," Hadrian said, having heard his complaints about his relatives in the weeks leading up to the funeral.
"Right, well, so I visited my old childhood house. It's pretty big and not in bad shape, honestly. Certainly filled with enough dark objects and forbidden books to keep those old croaks happy until they die. And if I convince them to move there… or you know, order them cause I'm Lord Black and I can do that."
Hadrian blinked, seeing where this was going. "Then Black Manor will be empty."
Sirius grinned. "And Black manor is large, relatively safe once we take down some of the wards, filled with a host of willing house elves to clean and cook and garden. There's even a quidditch pitch and stables. It's pretty much perfect."
Hadrian could already see it, see those spacious halls filled with laughing children and their caregivers. There were plenty of sitting rooms they could convert into classrooms to teach the children the basics of magic and reading and writing. The bedrooms could easily fit multiple four-poster beds, with nice rooms for the caretakers to sleep as well.
"It's perfect, Sirius," Hadrian said. "Of course, we could give you the funds we'd already collected as recompense."
"No," Sirius stated. "No, leave that money for the orphanage fund. I have plenty enough now that I'm head of this stupid house." He ran an hand through his hair, messing up the charm work Hadrian was sure Remus had done to keep it neat all through the funeral. "I'm just happy I can help. I really think this'll work."
"Let me know once you've figured it out with your relatives but… well as soon as you do we can let the rest know and continue onto the next stage. It's going to be great, Sirius, I can feel it."
"Me too," Sirius said. He looked around, watching the funeral guests take their leave. "I'm not happy about Arcturus dying. He wasn't a terrible person, really, but… I am happy I can be useful now."
"You were always useful." Hadrian argued, frowning.
Sirius snorted. "You know as well as I do that I never fit in with the crowd you walk with most often. Not then. Now, as Lord Black… now I can join you guys on equal footing." Sirius held up a hand before Hadrian could interject. "Hadrian, for the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I can be something other than a failure, a fool that makes mistakes one after another. I feel like I can atone for the deaths I've caused." He smiled and it was beautiful and bittersweet. "Will you let me?"
"Yes," Hadrian said honestly. "Stand on your own two feet, Sirius. I won't help steady you anymore."
"Good," Sirius told him. "Thank you."
Hadrian watched the man who'd once been his godfather walk away. And though he wasn't quite sure why, he felt a weight lift from his own chest with each confident step.