Characters: Remus, Nymphadora.
Pairings: None really.
Time: July, 1996.
Disclaimer: Ms. Rowling owns all recognisable characters and plot-points. This is being done for pleasure, not profit.Summary:
They avoid him. All the adults, even in the hurry of packing up Headquarters. They give him space, time alone. He’s used to that, people have been avoiding him all his life. But these are his friends, and they do it out of affection, not hatred. They treat him like a thing spun from glass, to be cocooned in the cotton wool of their concern. Molly fusses over his starved appearance, Kingsley passes on all their information about Greyback, Arthur involves him in insane searches for Muggle paraphernalia. Nymphadora, in the youthful exuberance that is so ruinous for the house and its brittle furniture, drops hints about losing loved ones that are as subtle as a cauldron to the cranium. Even Mad-Eye Moody, over five shots of Firewhisky, confides in him about the death of his first (probably only) lover. Disturbing, the idea of Moody with a heart and hormones, but he appreciates the thought. Perhaps the single most touching (and terrifying) gesture has come from Hestia Jones, who hugged him, two days after Sirius died, then bolted, muttering something about “hadn’t meant to, but no how it feels to lose a spouse, damn the legalities to hell.”
They are avoiding him, caring for him, because they think he’s a widower, or as close as makes no difference. Merlin, how Sirius would have laughed. His most successful prank, started near twenty years ago, probably carried home by Bill Weasely, who started school the year before they left it. Baby Bill, who used to carry Sirius’ Quidditch gear, now near thirty years old and betrothed to a girl who makes his mother fume. He certainly spread the story well, because they all believe it, even Nymphadora, and he still cannot find it in himself to resent Sirius this subterfuge.
But not one of them blames him or hates him – not even prudish, conservative, respectable Molly, for all she may have disliked Sirius for loving Harry more than she did. Indeed, she’s the most caring, guilt-ridden about her treatment of Sirius. So much so, indeed, that she asks him to clean out Sirius’ room, decide what to preserve and what to discard. Insists on it, even.
He’s glad, in a way, that she made him do this. No matter how ‘accepting’ Molly might be of a relationship between two men now that one of them is dead, the things stashed in here would sorely try her tolerance. For one, she would think that Sirius had been ... erm... unfaithful to him. For another, she’d feel very, very sorry for Lily and Harry. Either way, it would require a tedious explanation, and he hasn’t the energy to explain to humdrum, normal Molly the intricate complexity that was Sirius and James.
He’s known about them since seventh year, though he doubts anyone else in the Order does. Didn’t find out by eavesdropping, or Peter would have known. It’s just that he’s been reading faces for signs of hidden disgust since he was seven and so saw their secret in the things they left unsaid. In Sirius’ masochistic doggedness of planning James’ dates; in James’ cruel kindness of telling Sirius every intimate detail; in the near-courtly courtesy Sirius offered Lily in the beginning, before she became family. In the circle of Lucius Malfoy’s arm, almost holding Sirius up, the day James announced his engagement; in the crooked curves of Narcissa Malfoy’s smiles at the reception James couldn’t avoid giving after his wedding, commending Lily for being brave enough to fight such an unequal battle. Lily had thought, then, that her foes were James’ upbringing and social status. Maybe they were. Something darker and more malicious, too, lurking in the strength of that arm and the glee of that smile.
But he never thought he’d obtain evidence to back up his speculation – photographic evidence, that too a box full. Kingsley’s work, of course. The Aurors had put all Sirius’ things in storage; Kingsley’s been bringing out boxes of his personal effects, ‘to aid in investigation’, and smuggling them over to Headquarters. The children had found old family photographs in the attic and Sirius had been planning to show Harry some of later years. A thick package marked ‘For Harry’ lies on the top. Then scrolls of official documents; wills and leases, records of sales of property. Below those are letters and photographs – ones obviously not meant for Harry. Nor for him, he’s sure. But that doesn’t stop him from taking a look.
The letters first. To Lucius, hurt and frustrated; to Andromeda, full of anger and sorrow; to James, determinedly cheerful. All with inked-out lines and scratched out passages, one doodled round the sides. Never sent, or maybe the drafts of letters actually owled. There are others, to people he does not know, whose faces he has never seen except in dark alleys under black hoods.
Then the photographs, old and less so, all with the air of things too full of memories to be thrown away, yet too distasteful to be properly preserved. The Aurors went through these—maybe they convicted Sirius solely on their content, maybe they realised the inherent temptation of joining the Death-Eaters if this be the reward. On top of the pile is a photograph of Bellatrix Lestrange, dark eyes glittering, red mouth shaped around a strawberry. It’s grubby with the touch of many hands, and she looks offended by the pawing. One of a dark girl with red curls, bearing a passing resemblance to the Lestrange brothers. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy kissing, his eyes locked with the photographer’s, Sirius’ slapdash style evident in the taking. So very glad Molly made him do this. He piles the scrolls back in, ignoring the stern look Orion Black throws at him when his photograph gets folded, and closes the box.
He sinks onto the bed, feeling faintly guilty for looking through Sirius’ things. But at least he knows most of his friend’s history and is far less likely to be judgemental than any of the others. It’s not really any more worse an invasion of privacy than just being in this room and sitting on this bed, where the sheets still feel like Sirius and he keeps thinking Padfoot is going to walk in through the door. He rips open the package and spreads the contents out.
Letters again— from James, recounting some incident in the Academy; from him, rambling about new jobs and old disappointments; some notes from Lily, designating places to meet and things to do.
More photographs – Sirius had always had a fetish for taking and collecting them – James’ parents, in one, Dorea at her desk, Charlus leaning over the back of her chair, both smiling. Regulus, in the Hogwarts library, looking up from a parchment, quill in one inky hand. James on his wedding-day, kissing his bride, lost to the world. Sirius and him, in the Shrieking Shack, a tangle of long limbs and cloaks and chocolate. Sirius and James, after Quidditch Cup ’77-’78, drinking out of the Cup. Lily in the library, books heaped around her, swotting for N.E.W.T.s. Him again, perched on a battlement on the roof of Gryffindor dorms. Lily on a hospital bed, propped up by pillows, holding Harry, motherhood making the girl a woman. Sirius in biking leathers, helmet tucked under one arm, other hand on his new bike, grin threatening to split his face. Dorea again, clipped from a magazine, imperious in silver-edged black robes, Lucius standing guard. Barty Crouch Jr., talking to Regulus, holding his wrist, gesturing expansively. Frank Longbottom, dangling his son in his arms,
Oh. So Sirius had wanted to tell Harry. Must have, because the quiet intimacy of this couldn’t have been explained away as friendly or fraternal. To Harry, maybe; to Ron, yes. But Sirius must have known as well as him that Hermione would know, and would tell them. Why? Why tell? Had he been so desperate to be acknowledged? So goddamn needy to claim Harry?
Well, it would have been a smart move, strategically speaking, a pre-emptive one, at any rate, because, sooner or later, someone would tell Harry, and better Sirius than anyone else. The Malfoys, most likely, because they had known, if no-one else had. Maybe Sirius wouldn’t have been wrong in telling Harry… and he’d prided himself on being able to stay non-judgemental.
But what now? Now that Sirius is dead and Lucius Malfoy in prison? ‘Tis unlikely Narcissa will tell, and unlikely Harry will believe Bellatrix Lestrange if she does. Need Harry be told? What good will it do to awaken their ghosts? Let Harry keep the illusion of his parents’ perfect marriage, of James and Sirius as brothers. The boy needs something to hold on to.
A thick scroll makes up the package, accounting for most of the bulk. Sirius’ will, as old as Harry. Almost exactly, the drafts had been prepared during Lily’s first trimester and the documents filed in triplicate by an hour after the delivery. It’s lengthy, every possible loophole blocked, a dozen and more clauses ensuring that Harry, and only Harry, will inherit from Sirius. More money for the boy, a house in
But what must be, will be. Harry is a soldier now, their symbol, their champion. He cannot also be a home-sick, heart-sick child crying for what-might-have-been. He needs one-dimensional enemies, the Malfoys, Bellatrix, cannot have human sides. Harry does not have the luxury of grief – Sirius would have understood.
“Destroying evidence?” Nymphadora, leaning against the door, still so shockingly young.
“Exorcising demons,” he says. She hasn’t lived through a war, wouldn’t understand why he has to do this. Gods preserve her ignorance.
“Oh.” Her mother would never have believed him. But then, Andromeda is a Black, and this girl isn’t, clumsy and graceless, totally devoid of sly deceitfulness. “Did you find anything?”
“His will.” He brandishes it, walking towards her. “Tonks, can we go downstairs? This room’s…”
“Of course. Let’s go.” How is it that a girl this naively trusting is an Auror? “I know it must be hard for you.”
“Life goes on,” he shrugs. “Sirius wouldn’t have wanted us to dwell in the past.” Lies. Platitudes.
“My fault.” She scrubs her nose (round, today) with the back of her hand. “I should have held off Bellatrix.”
“Not your fault, Dora.” She allows the endearment, allows him to fold her into his arms. “Nobody’s fault. Casualties occur in wars. We bury our dead, improve our tactics, move on.” She sniffs into his shirt. “Nobody blames you. Come on. Last lunch in Grimmauld for a while.”
She smiles weakly at him, pulls away. “Molly’s promised to outdo herself.” She looks away, then back. “Are you going away tomorrow?”
“For a while, at least. Greyback’s pack has been traced.” He sighs, foot on the first step.
“It’ll be quiet here, with Headquarters packed up and all of us scattered.”
“It’s a war, Dora. We all do what we can.”
They climb down to the kitchen. Behind them, a pile of memories burn into non-existence.
- Current Mood: groggy