The Sugar Quill
Author: Kwinelf (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Falling Even More  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Falling Even More

Falling Even More

Desperate for changing

Starving for truth

Closer to where I started

I’m chasing after you

Lifehouse, Hanging By A Moment

Sirius stood at the top of the Astronomy Tower, watching the three figures below him walk about the Quidditch pitch. He was not worried about being discovered. The trio was thoroughly engrossed in their conversation – so much so that they would never even think of looking up to the tower.

A strange clenching feeling gripped Sirius as he watched. It was not the frustration of being alone – after three years of living as ‘the most dangerous escaped criminal in wizarding history,’ he was resigned to the long periods of solitude enforced upon him because Peter Pettigrew was still free. He had even begun to accept the fact that his name might never be cleared. So it was not frustration.

Nor was it envy. True, he had so few chances to spend time with his godson that he couldn’t understand how his best friend managed to teach a whole class without being totally distracted every time James’ son walked into the room, or made a comment, or wrote a paper. Which was yet another reason why he would never be a Hogwarts professor.

And it wasn’t fear either – along with Dumbledore, and a few other trusted friends, these three below him were the only ones in the wizarding world who would always accept him, and never betray him.

And maybe that was the root of what he was feeling. An awareness of how lucky he was, of how special these people were. The three people closest to him. The three people who meant the most in his world.

Remus. Harry. Norri.

He smiled wryly as he watched Remus say something to his two companions, both dressed in Gryffindor robes. If he didn’t know better, he would have concluded that Harry’s companion was just another seventh year, one of the many Hogwarts students he was unable to place as children or relatives of friends and acquaintances.

But he did know otherwise.

And knowing otherwise meant that he saw past everything that obscured the truth from the world at large. The Gryffindor scarf, the black robes, the brown hair scrawled up in a pony tail, the nondescript blue eyes, the small, slightly high voice. The mannerisms of a mouse. The total incapacity at Quidditch. The disinterest in Charms. The bizarre attention to a member of the Malfoy family (that was a spinner, if ever there was one!). All the characteristics of a fairly average teenage witch in her last year of schooling.

Past all that, Sirius knew, was the real Norri. Tall. Blonde. Intelligent. Full of integrity – and laughter, and joy, and hope. Hopelessly disorganised – it was literally a miracle she had managed to stay in control of her secret life so well; at the beginning he had expected all sorts of disasters which would reveal her true identity, but none had eventuated. One mean Quidditch player (Harry didn’t only get his skills from his father’s side of the family). Boundlessly faithful. And beautiful.

Quite simply, the woman of his dreams. The girl who had stolen his heart without even knowing it. The girl he had been chasing for more than six years.

Sirius grimaced as he was forced, once again, to face that last fact. Though his attraction to Norri had not been acknowledged at first, even to himself, it had been a long time since he had attempted to convince anyone that he was not interested in Elinor Evans. Though it was also true that he had not publicly declared his intentions. But who could have done otherwise, considering the obstacles he had found piled up against him?

First there was the fact that she considered him to be a brother figure – “Like Remus,” she had said once, unwittingly piercing his soul.

Then there had been Charlie. Sirius had always liked Charlie Weasley, and when he convinced himself that Norri was in love with the dragon keeper, he had stoically refrained from pressing his own suit where he was convinced it wasn’t wanted. He had even taken the news of her engagement without saying anything to her of his own feelings – though he thought that she had realized something on that occasion; utter despair could only be contained so much, and he had been emotionally drained at the time as it was, having just escaped from Azkaban, exhausted in every sense of the word.

Then Norri had broken off her engagement, shocking everyone from Charlie to Sirius to Professor Dumbledore and back again. Sirius privately believed Charlie had never gotten over it. He could quite understand the feeling. But he was too selfish not to hope that Norri’s actions meant she had realized there was someone else, someone whose soul was more completely in tune with hers…someone whose name was Sirius Black.

But Norri hadn’t realized anything – unless one counted her determination to protect Harry with her own presence in his life as a realization. However, it certainly wasn’t the blinding flash of light Sirius had been hoping would hit her.

The wind blew his hair, reminding him of the months he had been forced to scrounge England as Padfoot, living outdoors for a whole two years, and Sirius grinned again. He couldn’t help it – living under a roof helped you to appreciate the forces of Nature precisely because you didn’t have to deal with them all the time.

A little like observing other people falling in love rather than doing it yourself.

Which is no doubt why Remus is being such a prat about all this, Sirius thought, taking consolation from the conclusion that Remus didn’t actually know what he was talking about – he just felt more qualified to advise because he was detached from the situation. Not all that detached though, Sirius mused, remembering that Remus had apparently been giving Norri as hard a time as he had given his best friend. I’ll have to thank Dumbledore again for keeping me up to speed on the other side of things.

He wondered – not for the first time – about his old Headmaster’s secret determination to see Norri thrown together with Sirius on as many occasions as possible. Originally, he had put it down to a concern that if they were not ideologically united, they would never be able to stand together against Voldemort. But this latest spate of private indications about Norri’s state of mind and the relaying of whatever comments she made about Sirius and their relationship puzzled him.

Could Dumbledore be playing matchmaker? And if so, why?

Sirius shrugged, not willing to allocate more time to solving that particular problem than was necessary. His priority right now was Norri. But then again, his priority had always been Norri. From that moment – a whole world ago, in the dank confines of his cell at Azkaban – when he had first realized his true feelings for her, he had never looked back. Never felt tempted or inclined to look elsewhere. Even in the most discouraging moments, when he didn’t see Norri for months on end, or on the occasions when their relationship was fraught and stilted (as it had been for the last few months, thanks to his slip around Remus’ birthday)…even then he knew that she was worth it. And somehow, he felt compelled to continue in his dogged devotion.

Now there’s a pun, he chuckled softly, ruefully reflecting that he had little choice about continuing in his attachment to Norri; his emotions didn’t seem to respond to his otherwise perfect control.

Almost makes me want to be Snape, with his steel control, Sirius thought – and then his whole expression darkened.

To be Snape….

Sirius swore, remembering what Norri had told him earlier that day – of her feelings for Snape, her long-standing interest in a man he had never liked. He had managed to control his reaction to her words only through a rigid exertion of control. Even now, remembering what she had told him, the expression on her face when she discussed the Slytherin Head of House…

“It’s not my fault that I’m attracted to him.”

That he would like to believe, though Norri’s assertion that her attachment to Snape was the same as his own attraction to her had been almost too much. Thank goodness she didn’t expect a response! he thought, not for the first time that afternoon. But not having to talk to Norri about the issues she had raised hadn’t stopped Sirius from churning through them over and over again for the rest of the day. Throughout the Quidditch match – and after it was over. He had not been able to forget her words. And the damning conclusions they raised.

“…hoping that if I could pretend what happened between us never took place, we could go back to the way things were before, when I was young and lonely and you were the best friend I never really had.”

Sirius turned from his vigil on the trio below him, suddenly overcome with frustration. How was he to continue acting like nothing was wrong, after what she had told him? She was only interested in him as a friend, another big brother figure. Another Remus. In many ways, she was still the insecure teenager who had braved her way into Azkaban – and her lack of confidence had led her to count on his feelings staying the same as hers had. The fact that they had not was building a wall between them. Thankfully, their conversation that day had succeeded in bringing down some of the barriers.

At least we were honest with one another, Sirius thought, then grimaced as he recalled what he had said to Norri; the honesty he had employed in an attempt to make her realise how deep his feelings for her really ran.

“I never considered hating him until I saw you give him the same charm you gave me after Harry was almost killed by Voldemort.”

Why had Norri’s gift been such a turning point?

But, of course, it wasn’t the gift. It was the fact that Sirius had seen the emotions Miss Elinor Evans had revealed in the giving of the charm.

“I nearly came back and killed him when you touched him. Touched him as you had never touched me.”

Yes, that was the central issue at hand. Sirius’ doubts, his desperation, stemmed from that moment. He had nearly lost all hope when Norri had announced her engagement to Charlie the year before – he remembered that wet, cold night with a bleak clarity he had once thought could not be surpassed. But Charlie was a Gryffindor. A Weasley. Someone whom Sirius could respect, even as he envied him.

Snape, on the other hand, was everything Sirius despised.

At the time, he had not known that Snape had never been a Death Eater. That, in his own way, he was as honourable and self-sacrificing as Lily and James had been. No, at that time, Sirius had been filled with worry for Harry – who only just escaped with his life after both Voldemort and Barty Crouch had done their utmost to destroy him. He had been paralysed with fear upon discovering that Justin had almost captured Norri. He had been forced to make peace with a man he would not, could not, accept as someone on his side. And then he had seen that same man embraced by the one person he wanted, but whom he knew he would never call his own.

“And I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let you see how I felt. But I have never been good at deception. And I scared you off even more.”

He had done his best – no, his utmost – not to reveal to her the depth of his feelings. But she had known. How could she not know, when he was unable to control his anger at her references to Snape, or his frustration that she would not explain the truth to Charlie?

Then there had come that afternoon in spring – that wonderful afternoon when she had been relaxed and open for the first time since Elsie Norr had come to life, when his emotions could no longer be withheld, and he had somehow believed that she was ready to hear him at last.

But she had run. From him – and from the truth she saw in his eyes.

It had taken months to coax her back into a normal conversation with him. Those months had been the loneliest in his life, worse by far then Azkaban, where at least he had known her presence was definitely forthcoming. And now, at the cost of having peace with her, he had been forced to hear the brutal truth once more. She had admitted what he had always dreaded hearing.

“I do care for him. I always have – and ironically, the main reason was because he was in love with my sister and he was so alone at Lily’s wedding.”

Sirius groaned. She had been seven years old. Little more than a baby. While at her big sister’s wedding, surrounded by family and friends, she had seen a bitter, lonely man – and her heart had gone out to him. And, according to Norri, her heart had stayed with him ever since. Though if their paths hadn’t crossed again, her affection would probably have faded away eventually. What had been the chances that she would actually see a man like Snape again, anyway? Almost negligible.

Probably the most likely opportunity for a reunion would have been the night her parents were killed, Sirius thought cynically, then berated himself for being so unforgiving. He knew, along with everyone else in Dumbledore’s exalted circle of confidence, that Snape had been acting as a spy since before Harry was born. Since before Lily was married, in fact. The rumour that Snape had become a Death Eater because of his fury that Lily Evans had chosen James Potter instead of him was totally unfounded.

What no one knew, except those who were members of the Order of the Phoenix, was that Snape had never been a genuine Death Eater. From the very beginning he had been a spy for Dumbledore. His frustration at failing to save so many people in the last months of Voldemort’s ascendancy was as strong as Sirius’ sense of guilt in convincing Lily and James to use Peter Pettigrew as their Secret Keeper instead of himself.

We’re both blaming ourselves for something over which we didn’t really have control, Sirius thought, surprised that he was actually in sympathy with Snape on one issue. I never saw that before - not that I’d ever tell him we’re actually two of a kind! he promised himself.

But it was something that Norri saw, he realized, once again surprised at the similarities she had obviously drawn between the two men. He remembered something else she had told him during their long conversation – something about why she was so attracted to Snape.

“And then I didn’t see him for years, but he was always sort of at the back of my mind. A little like you, I suppose, in that I never stopped thinking about the fact that you weren’t guilty of betraying Lily and James.”

Yes, the similarities Norri drew between himself and Snape were really quite incredible – not the least because they were much better founded than anyone else apparently realized. Looking again at the initial reason for Norri’s interest in Snape, Sirius was forced to acknowledge that it was exactly the same as her reasons for determinedly visiting him in Azkaban for six years: he was as bitter and lonely in Azkaban as Snape had been at James and Lily’s wedding. And Norri’s heart had gone out to him at the age of fifteen, just as it had gone out to Snape when she was seven.

Sirius thought this over for several moments, his attention still turned away from the Quidditch field below him. He knew without having to look that the trio was still there, walking and analysing the game that had taken place. Norri might not have played Quidditch in more than six years – and as Elsie she certainly pretended she was pathetic on a broom – but she gave mean commentary on Harry’s game plans. And Remus was obviously an old hand at contributing himself.

Thinking over the beginnings of his friendship with Norri, Sirius realised that there were things that the two of them shared that she would never have developed with Snape. Conversation. Laughter. Trust. And the truth about who Elsie Norr really was.

Hell, he’d better not know that one! Sirius thought savagely.

He knew from what she’d told him in their conversation that day that she had never really had an opportunity to share anything with Snape. What was it she had said again?

“We actually never spoke until the night Justin killed Bastian. And then I don’t think he realised who I was.”

His hands clenched with pent-up rage at Justin Malfoy. Norri had never told him the whole truth about the events that surrounded Bastian’s death. At the time, Sirius himself had still been incarcerated in Azkaban, convinced that Wormtail was dead, and he was doomed to live out his life in a cell surrounded by Dementors. And afterwards, Norri had found it too difficult to deal with the memories her experience evoked.

Memories of Justin.

So she had done her best to forget the entire episode. Not even Remus, who had been researching in Transylvania at the time, had been told exactly what had taken place. Charlie hadn’t even known that the Death Eater in question was Justin – Norri had been afraid that he would go after Draco’s uncle and get himself killed. Not that Sirius could blame Charlie for that kind of reaction. He would have done exactly that if he had been free. But then, there were so many things he would have done if he had been free.

In the end, it had been Remus who told Sirius the truth of Bastian’s death. Of how close Norri had come to a kind of death herself. And he had only discovered the story after Elsie Norr had begun her brief tenure as a Gryffindor student par excellence, thanks to a Christmas present Draco had received from his uncle containing the same type of weapon that had killed Bastian. It had been Remus who dragged the truth from Norri, Remus who had discovered what Justin had planned…Remus who had learnt that Snape had been Norri’s rescuer that night.

Though it had been Sirius who had given Norri the answer to what she had always wondered – where Snape had gone after he had rescued her; where he had disappeared so that she had never had the chance to thank him for what he had done, or explain who she really was.

“He was keeping me company in Azkaban.”

Once, when he had observed Snape from across in his own cell, Sirius had reveled in the fact that one of his archenemies was sharing his living death. At the time, he had still believed that Snape was a Death Eater, and he had felt a harsh satisfaction that at least one of those responsible for the deaths of Lily and James was being punished. Apart from the Lestranges and Barty Crouch, of course, all three of whom he had observed quite closely during the years of his own incarceration. It had been ironic that his guards often placed them together, believing them all to be followers of Voldemort.

The truth could not have been more different.

But, in the end, Sirius had not been able to keep from pitying the Potions master. Whatever he was there for, he certainly spent his time in agony. And it didn’t appear to have anything to do with the Dementors, either. For the most part, Snape lived a kind of retreat, not talking to anyone, not sharing any information about the outside world. Though his parting shot to Sirius had been trademark in its cruelty.

“I’ll give your regards to Dumbledore then, shall I?” he had asked in a cold sneer, his eyes glittering horribly as he was walked past Sirius’ cell.

Though to be honest, Sirius supposed that Snape must have been as convinced of Sirius’ own guilt as he had been of Snape’s. Not that there was really a standing truce of any kind between the two of them now, though there probably would have to be one somewhere in the near future. If they were to win against Voldemort, that is.

He sighed.

Turning back to once again consider the trio on the field, Sirius wondered what the outcome of the next few months would be. His hands tightened again as he recalled what the Weasley twins had said about Justin and his obsession with Norri.

And then there was the suspected attack on Hogwarts, which was due to take place sometime in February…not to mention his own quest to finally capture Wormtail and force him to confess his role in the deaths of his best friends.

And Norri?

He smiled, a smile of wry humour mixed with ruefulness, affection…and hope. Though she had not said it in so many words, Sirius suspected from their conversation that day that he had more of a chance now than he ever had before. And there was still time – and many opportunities. Older, sadder and wiser he might be, but he was still a Marauder. There were still tricks to pull. And cards to play. And besides, what was that rule they always used in Muggle movies?

The good guy always gets the girl in the end.

Sirius laughed out loud – and turned to go down the stairs to meet his friends.

Author's Notes:

There is a companion piece to this, written by the wonderful Aieshya, and told from the perspective of Severus Snape. Unfortunately, it can't be posted here at the sugarquill. But, for anyone who's interested, I'm happy to send it to you via email. Alternatively, it should be up soon under my name at Cheers – and Happy New Year!!

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