The tree-lined path was entirely silent and still, except
for the crunch of snow under Abigail Loomis’ boots. Mounds of white rose high on either side as she made her way down
from Hogwarts, through the woods, and on into the village of Hogsmeade. Pulling her cloak more tightly around her,
Abby stopped to take in the surroundings.
The moon overhead illuminated the snowdrifts and individual tree
branches, creating a ghostly serenity that made the December night fit for a
“Lovely,” Abby whispered, before resuming her thoughtful
The evening had been a joyous one. She and several other Hogsmeade residents had traveled to the
school, at the request of Albus Dumbledore, to join in Christmas festivities
with several of the Hogwarts staff. The
house elves had prepared a succulent dinner, and libations had run freely,
courtesy of Rosmerta, who’d stayed back to tend to her busy pub. The conversation had been lively and
pleasant, and the desserts brought up from Honeydukes would have been worth the
walk alone, Abby decided. The same
could be said for the sight of Severus Snape disdainfully extracting tinsel
from his hair, the result of overly exuberant cracker.
Abby had excused herself early on the pretense of a busy
workday ahead, and while the other partygoers had protested her departure,
they’d let her go with little difficulty.
The next day was Christmas Eve, after all, and Gladrags was sure to be
bursting at the seams with last-minute shoppers.
She’d hesitated for a moment in the doorway, but she’d felt
sure of her decision when she heard the voice of a tipsy Professor Sprout
suggest that the group sit in a circle and try out a Muggle party game that
involved a bottle and spinning. As enjoyable
as the evening’s merriment had been, Abby couldn’t stop reflecting on the last
time she’d been to Hogwarts, and the even more enjoyable company she’d had on
It had been only a few weeks earlier that Abby had sat in
Professor Dumbledore’s office, sharing with him her ideas for incorporating
voice capture spells into embroidery.
After a lengthy discussion, they finished off a box of tart Fairy
Berries, having a good laugh when a particularly impudent sweet – a raspberry,
judging by its shape – made a rude noise and repeatedly covered the
Headmaster’s face in powder. Abby
giggled helplessly as Dumbledore batted the sugary cloud away from his
“I think certain sweets are feeling too empowered these
days!” she finally managed to say, after Dumbledore dispatched of the offender
with a decisive chomp of his jaws.
“Alas, I may have to agree with you,” he said, with a note
of good-natured resignation. “Why, just
the other day I caught some licorice wands in the process of trying to cast the
Reductor Curse and escape from their package.”
He flicked his hand, brushing the last of the white film off
his spectacles, and sighed again. “And
now, if you’ll forgive me,” the Headmaster said with a barely perceptible wink,
“I must confer with another visitor.
You are welcome to stay, of course.”
He snapped his fingers in the direction of his office’s oak door. Abby looked around curiously, at a loss for
why Dumbledore would want her to remain.
No one had ever taken part in their meetings before…
The door opened as if blown by an unseen, unfelt wind, but
before the invisibility cloak ever slipped off a pair of tall shoulders, the
faint shimmer in the air told Abby who was there. She felt a giddy smile take over her entire face, spreading out
until even her toes felt happy.
Sirius. She hadn’t
seen him since the night they’d first kissed, although many slips of parchment
had since been owled between them. She
barely knew what to do or say, seeing him here now. While she was immeasurably grateful to Dumbledore for arranging
the meeting, she felt rather odd having him as an onlooker to her first romance
in more years than she cared to number.
Mercifully, the Headmaster turned his head and feigned an immense
interest in his cuticles, granting Sirius time to give Abby a gentle squeeze of
the hand, a quick brush of his lips to her cheek, and a grin that made her
forget her name for a good five seconds.
After a long moment, Dumbledore cleared his throat to
indicate his renewed attentions, and Abby departed rather reluctantly for the
other side of the room while they conversed in low whispers. She found plenty with which to occupy
herself among the many gadgets in the office, including an interesting display
of sweets dispensers shaped like famous witches and wizards. While wondering if it would be unseemly to
try and eavesdrop, Abby amused herself by pulling sherbet lemons out of
“Oops,” she stammered apologetically when one dropped to
floor, disrupting the tête-à-tête. Dumbledore smiled kindly as she stooped,
red-faced, to retrieve the sweet.
Sirius winked, causing her to drop it again.
Abby then decided that she’d had enough of sherbet lemons,
so she began to peruse the titles on a nearby bookshelf instead. She tried to give the men their privacy, but
she found her gaze being continually drawn back to Sirius…the resolve in his
jaw as he spoke, the focused intensity and determination in his eyes… Her heart gave a twinge at the thought of
what he’d undergone for so many years.
Shortly, the meeting ended, and Dumbledore beckoned for Abby
to rejoin them. She tried not to look too
keen as she walked back to Sirius’ side, but the doting look on Dumbledore’
face led her to believe that the wizard took delight in arranging this sort of
encounter. Now, if she just knew a way
to someday tell her father that she was attached to a man with his own wanted
“Sirius, perhaps you would like to see Abigail out?”
Dumbledore asked. He turned to
Abby. “I am terribly sorry, my dear,
but I do need to detain Sirius a moment longer.”
Sirius took her hand, leaning over to whisper into her
ear. “He’s sent for Harry to come up
here – do you mind?”
Abby shook her head, although she felt some guilt at her
fleeting desire to tell Harry to take a number and join the queue. Harry Potter needed to see his godfather,
and although it was rapidly becoming her least favourite activity, she could
“Goodnight, sir,” she said, stepping forward to grasp
Dumbledore’s outstretched hand.
Sirius gave a swift nod.
“I’ll be back shortly.” They
turned to leave, and Abby felt a pleasant shiver as Sirius guided her out with
hand on her back. But after the door
closed, and before she could say anything else, he had covered himself with the
invisibility cloak. She gave a small sigh
as they passed silently through the guardian gargoyles. Perhaps it was for the best – a romantic
rendezvous on Dumbledore’s staircase was probably in poor taste, and several
students, many of whom she recognized, still populated the corridor outside.
Mustering up her composure, Abby returned the students’
greetings with serene waves and words.
However, she soon found that maintaining a bearing of dignity and
decorum was a monumental challenge with a hidden Sirius Black walking behind
her, pinching her waist, blowing across the back of her neck, and well, doing a
few other things to distract her.
Fortunately, the corridor cleared of students by the time
they reached its end. Abby turned to
hiss an only half-meant rebuke at Sirius, but she never got the chance. Before she could say a word, a feathery
sweep of silver covered her head, an arm hooked her around her waist, and
Sirius pulled her behind the statue of goblin leader Hugor the Hungry for a
delightfully thorough kiss.
“And I thought Dumbledore would be the only man in my life
tonight,” Abby whispered at length, trying to catch her breath. The novelty of his lips was still rather
dizzying. “I’m so glad you came.”
Sirius wrapped his arms around her tightly. “How could I have stayed away? I always come back to you, even with the
fear of what you might throw. At least
you’re not angry with me this time.”
“I make occasional exceptions,” Abby giggled. “You know, it’s good you didn’t have a cloak
of your own while at school, if this is the sort of thing you’d have done with
“I think kitchen raids would have been my first inclination
back then,” he replied, stroking her hair, “although of all its possible uses,
this is the one I now prefer most. I’m
sorry this was cut so short. I’ll try to
come and see you as soon as I can. I
want to see you so badly.”
Abby rested her head against his chest, glad to hear that
his heart was beating as quickly as hers.
“Likewise. Preferably, we won’t
be in Dumbledore’s company next time.”
“Then I wasn’t the only one who felt as if I’d been caught
behind the greenhouses?” he laughed softly.
“Perhaps we’ll get a detention together. How…how is Harry getting on?”
“About as well as could be expected. He has good friends looking out for him,
though. I’m grateful for that. Have you ever met him?”
“Just once, in Gladrags last March. He was quiet, but he did make a few good
jokes at Draco Malfoy’s expense.” She
relaxed even further in his arms, wishing they were somewhere other than
Hogwarts. While the corridor was dark
and deserted, the backdrop of goblin statues and suits of armor left something
to be desired.
“That’s my boy!” Sirius chuckled. “I’ll have to coach him on a few more choice phrases.” In the darkness of the cloak, Abby thought
she saw the shadows of his face grow sober.
“I promise, we’ll have more time together soon. I – I just need to do all that I can now to
help in the fight.”
“I understand,” she said, fighting off the reluctance that
was so eager to creep into her voice.
“You’ll be careful?”
“Of course. I have a
great incentive to do so.”
“Ginger biscuits?” Abby murmured against his robes,
breathing in the scent of him.
Sirius grinned, tilting her face towards his for one warm,
final kiss. “Among other things.”
The sight of an owl flying overhead caused Abby to pause for
a moment on the moonlit path. This
Christmas promised to be more pleasurable than last year’s lonely mess, but she
couldn’t help but be hurt that work obligations were keeping her father in
France. Sirius was absent, too. Although she’d received a message from him
only days earlier, she had no clue as to his actual whereabouts. Her mouth twisted wryly as she stooped down
to tighten the lacings of her boots.
I’m making a regular martyr of myself, aren’t I? I
suppose I can’t expect Sirius to keep a calendar on the wall of his cave.
She straightened up and readjusted her scarf, thinking she
should hurry. The other Hogsmeade folk
would probably be returning home soon themselves, and dawdling would only
increase her chances of bumping into someone.
Tonight, she really didn’t want to be caught up in any additional
revelry. Oh, but the landscape was so
beautiful. Everything seemed to just glow.
Abby granted herself one more minute to look around, before
picking up her skirts again. She hadn’t
gone far, however, when she felt something reach out and touch her arm. Her body froze for a few panicked seconds, before
remembered images of fire-spouting, smoke-breathing creatures took over with
vivid ferocity. Giving a shriek to
rival a sleep-deprived banshee, she ripped her cloak away from whatever held
onto her. The momentum sent her boots
into a mad spin on a patch of packed road, which ended only when she careened,
arms flailing, into a snowdrift.
Pulse racing, eyes screwed shut, Abby hid her face in the
cold crystals and clung to the irrational thought that if she stayed perfectly
still, the thing might leave her alone.
The plan made perfect sense to her frantic mind until she heard the
sound of distinctly human breathing above her.
She cracked open an eye.
There stood Sirius Black, equal parts chagrin, concern, and – her eyes
narrowed – amusement on his face.
“Er, sorry,” he said, as a smile strained the corners of his
mouth. “Happy Christmas, Abby.”
From her hollow in the drift, Abby opened both her eyes and
blinked incredulously. No, this hadn’t
been what she was expecting, but it didn’t leave her any less shocked.
“What are you doing here?I!?” she finally wailed, wiping off
her face with a mittened hand.
“I wanted to surprise you,” Sirius replied. He laughed as her mitten deposited more snow
than it removed.
“Well, you could have chosen another method! And another time and place, for that
matter! I have reasons for being
fearful on this road.”
“But I knew you’d be at Hogwarts tonight! Besides,” he said, stooping down next to
her, “you look pretty in the snow…”
Abby struggled to maintain her scowl. He couldn’t get out of this so easily. Even if he looked so handsome against the
winter background. Even if her cheeks
warmed at the knowledge that he’d noticed her appearance. “Do I, now?
How about cold and wet? Because
that’s what I’ll be very shortly.”
Taking her by the hands, Sirius lifted Abby to her
feet. She stood still as he circled
behind her, brushing off her cloak.
“There,” he said.
“No lasting damage, right?”
“You’re incorrigible, Sirius Black. Just awful.”
“Not quite the words I would have hoped for,” he replied, as
he took a step nearer.
Horrible,” she continued.
Sirius leaned in even more closely. His breath heated her cheek as he whispered
into her ear, “Forgiveable?”
“Perhaps,” Abby said with a smile, drawing the word out
slowly. She could pardon a little snow
– well, a lot of snow – if he was going to act like this. “Perhaps.
But I should tell you, I expect the others will be coming down the path
soon. Would you like to follow me
home? I’d like to get out of these…I
mean, I’d like to change my clothes.”
Sirius stepped back, and the look on his face changed. “Actually, Dumbledore thought it advisable
that we not meet at your cottage for a while.
Voldemort knows my Animagus form, and, well, perhaps it’s best if you’re
not seen in Padfoot’s company too much.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Really?” The grain of irritation she felt at this
“supervision” prevented her from hearing Sirius’ words entirely. “And did
Dumbledore also tell you to have me home by midnight?”
“Don’t be upset,” he said, “we only want you to be safe.”
Abby sighed. “Well,
how about Gladrags? I can dry off
there, we can have a bite to eat…”
brushed the few remaining snowflakes off her nose. “Would you like an escort?”
In an instant, he transformed to Padfoot. The dog came and sat at her feet. Abby looked at him happily.
“You know, sometimes I think I prefer you this way,” she
said, scratching the Animagus behind the ears.
Padfoot had nipped at her heels. Laughing, Abby scurried along the path as quickly as she dared,
the bear-like animal following close behind.
She felt thoroughly chilled by the time they reached the back entrance
of Gladrags, even though her breath was coming in heavy, white puffs. With cold fingers, she fumbled around for
her keys, giggling helplessly as Padfoot kept trying to knock her away from the
door and into a pile of snow off to the side.
She knew he was only playing.
The dog was large enough to drag her to Brighton and back, if he so
desired – if he really wanted her in the snow again (and she wouldn’t put it
past him!), he’d have done so by now.
“So, how was your evening?” Sirius asked, once they were
inside. “Where’s the light in here?”
“It was nice.” She
replied, closing the door and casting a few Locking Spells for good
measure. “A handful of us from
Hogsmeade and most of the faculty were there.
Beware of Hagrid after he’s been near the eggnog, though – he becomes
rather demonstrative. Oh, I
think it’d be best to leave the place dark – I told everyone I was going home
to rest up for tomorrow.”
“All right, then,” he said, hanging up his cloak by the
faint moonlight that came through the door’s frosted windowpanes. “So, did Hagrid give you a big, burly
hug? Enjoyed that, did you?”
“No, I spilled my punch on his shoes and managed to slip
away,” Abby laughed. “But the party was
terrific fun, really. The crackers
alone were amazing. I now own a
fabulous set of steak knives. I’m not
sure Snape cared for his scented hair pomade, though.”
Sirius grunted derisively at the sound of the Potions
Master’s name. “Snape? He was there? That’d be enough to spoil my evening.”
“You two never did get on very well, did you?” Abby glanced at Sirius, but his expression
was inscrutable in the dark. She shook
out the folds of her cloak, and tried to remember what exactly had happened
between the two men at Hogwarts. Snape
had been the victim of several pranks, true, but in those days,
Gryffindor/Slytherin antagonism had been high in several quarters.
“I still can’t believe Dumbledore trusts that slimy git,” he
went on under his breath, bending down to unlace his boots.
“Why do you say that?” she asked, now even more
curious. “He can certainly be nasty at
times, but I don’t know that he’s all bad. He seems to be loyal to Dumbledore now – I suppose that’s what
Sirius pulled off a boot and turned to face Abby. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness by
now, and Abby took a step back, startled at the look on his face. The tone of his voice was even worse.
“Snape would have happily handed me over to a Dementor, Abby
– does that matter?”
“Well yes! But I’m
just saying that Dumbledore trusts him – ”
“And Dumbledore isn’t perfect,” Sirius interjected
sharply. “I wasn’t the only innocent
man in Azkaban, you know. He didn’t
send us there, but I think he could have done more to try and stop it. I admire all he’s done against Voldemort,
and all he’s doing now, but I don’t always put blind faith in him.”
Abby clenched her hands.
Her voice tightened. “Oh,” she
said, “Oh. Like I’ve done, is
that what you’re saying?”
“Well, is this the life you would have chosen for yourself?”
Sirius asked, throwing his hands up in the air. “Have you ever asked yourself that?”
“Of course I have,” she hissed at him. It was one thing to scrutinize her
compliance toward Dumbledore’s requests herself. It was entirely another thing to hear her greatest insecurities
questioned by someone else, especially by Sirius.
“Snape has a history that’s hard to just toss aside,” Sirius
said, his voice a bit calmer. “That’s
all I’m saying.”
“People could easily say the same of you!” she snapped,
feeling ill at the direction the evening had taken. This was not how she’d planned for them to spend their
time together. She turned her back to
him and began to pull off her own boots with shaking hands.
“Abby, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sirius
said, placing a hand on her arm.
“Oh? And why is
that?” She pulled her arm away and whipped around to face him. “Because having lived most of my sheltered
little life in Hogsmeade, I’m not qualified to be a judge of character?”
“That’s not what I said,” he replied tersely. “Please, can we drop this?”
Abby narrowed her eyes.
“Gladly. Lumos!” She handed Sirius her lit wand. “My office is off to the left. My robes are soaked. I’ll be back shortly.” Turning on her heels, she stormed down the
narrow corridor with as much affronted fury as she could gather. The tears barely waited until she’d passed
through the velvet curtains and into the showroom, where she sank her trembling
legs into a chair, but not before grabbing an innocent hat and hurling it
across the room.
That condescending, infuriating little…
The hat’s matching muff went soaring after it, followed by a
pair of helplessly flapping gloves.
Abby curled up into the chair and covered her face with her hands. Just what sort of naïve idiot did he think
her to be? Their cumulative time
together had not been terribly vast, and he had no right, no right at all to
parade his ignorant assumptions around like that. And if that’s what he really thought of her, then he could just…
No. Abby sat up
abruptly and sniffed. Regardless of the
curses she wanted to brutally fling at Sirius right now, she had to grudgingly
admit that he wasn’t wholly in the wrong.
Her accusations were really directed at herself, not him. More than ever, she realized that she was
not completely at ease with the things that had been asked of her in the
past. But, she couldn’t expect Sirius
to know much about something she’d never told him.
Still, her ego felt wounded. Wiping her eyes, Abby quickly rose and moved instinctively
through the shadows of Gladrags to an assortment of evening robes. She rifled through the rich, rustling
fabrics until she found just the thing for which she’d been looking – red
velvet, trimmed with gold braid. Well,
if they were going to be in a tiff, she might as well try to look ravishing
while doing so.
Taking the robes off the rack, Abby went to a nearby fitting
room. She could barely see her
reflection, but her eyes had adjusted to the dark enough to let her know that
they fit nicely. If only there was
something that could be done with her hair, but her wand was back with Sirius
in the office. Perhaps there were other
things she could do to enhance the mood and thus make him feel properly
apologetic. Sprinkled throughout
Gladrags were numerous Christmas trees, befitted splendidly with baubles and
tinsel. Her office was windowless, and
she could easily light the tree in there without detection.
The grandest of the trees was near the front counter. As she surveyed the rotund fir, Abby cursed
her luck again at not having her wand.
Finally, at the realization that there was no graceful way to accomplish
the feat, she stuck her hands through the decorations and grasped the tree at
the trunk. Slowly, she maneuvered the
mass through the showroom, past the curtain, and down the corridor, knocking
down only a single sock display in the process. All was well until she reached her office and its doorway, which
proved to be about two sizes too small for the task at hand…
“Are you hurt?” came the voice from inside.
“No, I’m fine,” Abby called back, as she extricated herself
from the tree to hurriedly brush fir needles and glittery residue off her
robes. “I just misjudged this,” she
continued irritably, no longer caring for the welfare of the tree and its
decorations. She sent the tree into the
room with an aggravated kick.
In the low wandlight, she saw Sirius sitting in her desk
chair, his face unreadable. Abby tried
to swoop majestically into the room, but as a sea of ornaments now littered the
floor before her, the attempt was ill managed.
Muttering under her breath, she stooped down to gather up the sparkly
mess as quickly as possible. To her
surprise, Sirius hurried over to help.
“There…” he said a minute later, as he returned the last
glass globe to its bough. “That’s
Abby had kept her gaze averted, her mouth silent the entire
time, but she braved a sideways glance now that Sirius spoke. His eyes were on her, and Abby felt a flush
creep over her as they covered the length of her dress, moving as though they
couldn’t help themselves.
Did you do that for me?” he said, grinning slightly.
Taking a step back, Abby looked down to verify his words,
even though she already knew he was right.
Blast, blast, BLAST!
“They’re holiday colors,” she said, smoothing the
fabric down stiffly. “That’s all.”
“Oh, but I prefer to think otherwise,” Sirius said. His eyes started to crinkle at the corners.
“But this is more of a scarlet, really, not
Gryffindor crimson,” Abby protested lamely.
“If there was more light in here, you’d be able to see the difference.”
“Either way, it suits you,” he said, taking an awkward step
towards her. Abby tried to move away, still hoping to keep some semblance of
icy detachment about her, but her legs stayed disobligingly in place as he
“I’m sorry I upset you,” Sirius began. He ran a hand through his hair, pushing the
rough edges off his face. “You’ve
spoiled me. I’ve always had your good
faith in the past, even when you’ve had very little to go on.”
Feeling more romantically inept with each passing moment, Abby
shifted her eyes downward.
Opportunities to see Sirius would likely be infrequent and unpredictable
for some time – what hours they had shouldn’t be squandered with such silly
arguments. She should probably
apologize in some way herself, especially as there was no easy way to remain
aloof and indignant while those eyes – those very blue eyes – were looking at
“I shouldn’t assume or expect that you’ll always trust me so
implicitly,” he went on, moving close enough to lightly finger the velvet of
her sleeve. “Rather unfair, I’d think.”
“It’s not entirely your fault,” Abby replied, still hesitant
to look at him, though his feet were now in her line of sight. “I shouldn’t have snapped.”
Fabulous – now she was apologizing to the man’s feet. Abby had the uncomfortable feeling that she
still had much to learn about relationships of this nature. For Circe’s sake, it was his face she should
have the gumption to look at, not his socks.
Especially not socks like these, ones that had…was that a…a toe
protruding? She squinted again to
confirm her suspicions, and a smile began to form on her lips. This was unfair – she couldn’t very
well be put out at a man with insufficient foot covering, prat or not.
“No, I should have known better,” Sirius said, taking her
other hand and moving even closer. Abby
swallowed the monstrously inappropriate urge to snicker. She’d have never thought that holey socks
could be so disarmingly cute.
“Of course, this isn’t the life you’d want for yourself,” he
continued earnestly. “A woman like you
needs someone who’s an upstanding member of wizarding society – a bloke with
Ministry employment and his Galleons wisely invested. That’s hardly me.”
Unable to contain herself any longer, Abby burst out in a
full laugh. All pretenses gone, she
fell forward and rested her forehead on his chest.
“Oh, but you’re so much more interesting!” She turned
her face up to his and wrapped her arms around his waist without
reservation. Sirius seemed a little
startled, but he didn’t question her behavior as he put his hands on her
shoulders and pulled her to him. Abby
closed her eyes and gave a soft laugh, and then was quiet for a long moment,
grateful to be enclosed in the scent and warmth and feel of Sirius.
“As much as I’d like to let you take all the credit,” she
said at length, “I really can’t blame you.
There are a few things I need to sort out in relation to Dumbledore,
Sirius kissed the top of her head, leaving his lips against
her hair. “How exactly did he ask you
to do this?”
The faintly scratchy feel of his chin caused Abby to smile
to herself, despite the topic of conversation.
“It was towards the end of my fifth year. My mum was ill – Hesternus Syndrome – and
her mind was going quickly. I’d only
had a few summers’ worth of Weaver training, and so Dumbledore wanted me to
start on my own cloak before I forgot what little I’d learned. I didn’t want to leave school, but I didn’t
think I had much of a choice. My dad
was too distraught over Mum’s condition to be much help, and there wasn’t
really anyone else I could ask, so I did it.”
“Admit it, you did like being through with Divination
lessons,” Sirius lightly teased.
Abby rolled her eyes.
“Well, I might have been, but I’d only been out of school and at Gladrags
for a short time when…” – her voice went quiet – “well, when Will was
killed. That changed everything all
She paused. Her life
might not have always been what she would have liked, but Will hadn’t had the
chance to have much of a life at all.
An aching feeling in her stomach caused her to shift in Sirius’
arms. People never spoke to her
directly about the manner in which Will died – hoping to “shield her from the
blow”, she supposed – but they hadn’t bothered to keep their whispers terribly
quiet, either. It had been
horrible. In an instant, Abby
remembered again why she, Sirius, and so many others were doing what they did.
Sirius held her, quiet, until she finally continued. “I
don’t remember much of what happened in the year or two after that,” she
said. “When I finally came around
again, this was my life. I worked at
Gladrags during the day, and I tried to weave an Invisibility Cloak at night. At first, I didn’t care enough to complain,
but then I just didn’t know what else to do, so I stayed. I felt mildly discontent, but I didn’t think
my life had any other options.”
“And the locals really believed that head injury
story?” Sirius wound one arm around her
shoulders and lowered the other around her waist. Abby nestled in closer.
“Well yes, I had the head injury and then there was the
shock of Will’s death. I was really treated with kid gloves for some time. I don’t know what they believe by now. They certainly wouldn’t expect that I’d be
consorting with men of a dangerous and disreputable nature. Or then again,” she added wryly, “perhaps
Sirius pulled his head back far enough to see Abby’s
face. In the low light, his smile
looked tentative, his face pensive. He
ran a finger down the side of her face, tracing her jaw.
“So if it wasn’t mental impairment that caused you to
believe Sirius Black might actually be innocent…” His sentence trailed off as
he fixed his eyes on hers. Despite the
undercurrent of gravity in Sirius’ voice, Abby broke into a wide smile,
remembering again just how many things they’d never properly discussed, and
wondering if they were going about this romance in a rather backwards fashion.
“I never did explain that to you, did I? You probably did think me a trifle
addled. That’s actually one of the few
things I do remember from back then – you know, from the time when you were
arrested. I just didn’t believe
it. I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps I thought I had some sort of secret,
special knowledge from watching you and James – ”
“I believe ‘spying on’ would be a more fitting phrase
“ – from observing you and James together.” She
swatted his shoulder. “And I had a
tremendous gripe at the Ministry, too.
Everyone else my age was Apparating all over Britain, while I had to
apply for special permission just to use my wand. It was ridiculous. And
then they claimed that you – well, that you did all that, and I just couldn’t
take it. I felt like, ‘Oh, you think
you know so much, do you? Well, perhaps
you don’t. Phooey to you.’”
Sirius laughed and pulled Abby close again. “I’m sorry that I didn’t know you then. You know, I’m out of Azkaban, but in many
ways, you’re still trapped in all this.”
“Sirius, I’m not going to pretend for even a second that
I’ve had it worse than you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean for that to come across so morosely,
but I think you understand me. What a
cheery lot we are, eh?”
“Misery loves company,” Abby laughed, and her heart gave a
strong pound as Sirius held her away from him and covered the length of her
robes once more with his eyes.
“I’ll gladly accept more company if it looks like
this.” Abby felt her knees quaver a bit
at the tone of his voice. Under no
circumstances should Sirius know how utterly charming he could be when he
really tried. He flashed her a rakish
grin. “I was a bit of a prat earlier,
“Yes,” she replied,
“but I’ll keep you all the same.” She
squealed as he pinched her waist. A
chase around the room ensued, but ended shortly when Abby nearly fell over her office
chair. Sirius held her around the waist
as she struggled to right herself.
“Perhaps we should save this activity for better lighting,”
he chuckled. Abby flashed him a glare,
which he blithely disregarded as he loosened his grip and sat down on the
desk. “I’ll never be pardoned if I
cause the death of our last Weaver. And
why ever did you bring a tree in here?
Were you planning to wallop me around the head with it? Or dare I ask?”
Abby looked back over her shoulder at the tree. “Oh, that was for ambiance. I was going to torment you with my haughty
beauty, but the plan went sadly awry.”
The sight of some gunk stuck in her hair – tree sap, upon closer
inspection – only reinforced that conclusion.
I could still try for ambiance, however…
“Hand me my wand, will you?” she asked. “It’s right there – um, you’re – ”
Somewhat sheepishly, Sirius shifted to one side and handed
her the piece of willow, on which he’d been partially sitting. Raising her arm, Abby cast a few spells to
light the tree’s candles and star, ignoring Sirius’ teasing admonition to not
burn the whole thing down. The tree
began to illuminate the room with a soft glow as Abby uttered the final spell,
grateful that she really hadn’t set the tree a-blaze.
She was admiring her handiwork, her wand still in the air,
when she let out a small gasp. The
loose velvet of her bell-shaped sleeve had slid down her arm, and Sirius had
leaned in behind her, moving the soft fabric down a fraction further.
“I do like these robes,” he murmured in her ear.
Well luckily for me, I know how to procure many, many more sets of them!
“You’ve done pretty well for yourself,” he continued,
looking around the room at the overstuffed chairs, the burnished paneling on
the walls, and the numerous Self-Stitching Tapestries, through which golden
needles twirled in synchronization.
Abby stared at the lit tree distractedly. Did Sirius have any idea of what these
things did to her? He seemed
artless and open in his affection. But
if he really knew how little he had to do to start her heart pounding and he
acted in this manner anyway – well, then he was just mean. She gasped again as he moved his fingertips
in a small pattern on her arm. Very,
“It has its own loo, too?” he asked casually, still
surveying the room.
“Oh, and that’s not all there is,” Abby said, now
remembering what she’d been excited to show him when they’d first entered
Gladrags. She was reluctant to move
from her very comfortable perch on her desk, but she crossed over to the corner
of the room and tapped the top corner of the wall three times with her
wand. The panel slid smoothly back to
reveal an open space behind it.
“Come and see!”
Curious, Sirius ambled over to the wall and peered inside. By the light of the tree, a small room with
a table, cupboard, and comfortable-looking sofa was visible.
“You have a thing for secret rooms, don’t you?”
“Managerial perk,” Abby said, giving a smile to his dazed
expression. “Do you want to have a look
inside? Rosmerta might still have some
food left over at the pub; I’ll send an owl to her right now and ask if she’ll
send a bite over.”
“You’re not going to mention – ” he began warily.
“Oh, of course not!
I wasn’t really ‘whomped’, you know. Don’t worry; I’m often here late, and now’s an especially busy
time for both of us.”
Leaving him with a smile, Abby went her desk and rummaged
about for parchment and ink. She was
only moderately hungry, having eaten her fair share at the Hogwarts dinner, but
if past habits were any indication, Sirius would surely welcome something to
eat. A couple of Rosmerta’s turkey
sandwiches would be just the thing.
Abby’s conscience prodded her for a short moment, questioning whether
this was a wise action. It had been
months since the conversation, her mind stubbornly replied. Months.
There was nothing suspicious in this.
But Rosmerta’s probably going to see right through me anyway…
The memory of a windy April night came easily back. Her legs and voice had been shaking from the
trek down from Hogwarts and back into the village. As she’d rapped on Rosmerta’s door in the dark, her heart had
shaken even more at the thought that Dumbledore had known of Sirius Black’s
true whereabouts all along. The
landlady had been preparing for bed – hair down, dressing gown on – when she
opened the door.
“Abby!” she gasped the sight of her winded, tear-stained
friend. “Are you all right, love? Are you hurt?”
Abby help up a quivering hand to try and halt Rosmerta’s
“I’m fine, Rosmerta, I’m fine. I’m just…it’s just that I…” a loud hiccough, and an even louder
wail ended her sentence. Sirius had
left, almost certainly because Dumbledore had sent him away. Did he think she deserved nothing
enjoyable in her life? It was all too
“Oh, Abby…” Rosmerta murmured, opening the door completely
and putting her arms around Abby. After
a few good sobs, Abby lifted her streaked face off Rosmerta’s shoulder.
“Do you ever just want to just bag it all and run off with a
Muggle?” she laughed tearfully. She
knew enough of Muggle life. She could
manage in their world. And, she
could use magic, an advantage to any seamstress. She could even open up her own shop in London somewhere –
“Five-Minute Fashion”, or “Rapid Robes”.
The plan was much more appealing than lost dogs and lost
“More times than I can count, dearest,” Rosmerta said. “More times than I can count. Come in, now.”
Abby gave a sniffle and a nod, and allowed herself to be pulled
across the doorstep and into the warm flat.
Rosmerta guided her a chair and wordlessly took her cloak.
“I’ll make us a spot of tea, then?” she asked, having hung
the garment up by the door and fetched a cozy blanket to take its place. Abby nodded again, feeling all of twelve as
Rosmerta bustled around, preparing the tea and buttering some scones. It was nice to be mothered, she decided,
staring absently at the curio cabinet that covered all of one wall. She missed it.
The sound of clinking china and a tray being set down
brought Abby back to her senses. She
looked at Rosmerta’s kind face, becoming increasingly concerned about how she
was going to account for her presence in the landlady’s flat tonight.
“Some nice trinkets there, wouldn’t you say?” Rosmerta said
softly, with a nod at the cabinet. “My
regulars bring them back for me from their travels. I don’t open their tabs up again unless they bring me something
Abby smiled faintly into her teacup and took a sip, very
aware that Rosmerta’s eyes were on her.
She was much too tired to think up a plausible excuse, and Rosmerta was
too close an ally to hear a fabricated tale about an unbalanced register or a
late delivery. She took another sip of
her tea and let the warmth creep down her throat. At least Rosmerta would never guess at the real reason; that was
too incredible for anyone to imagine.
“I suppose all this fuss is over a man, then?” the landlady
asked, picking up her own tea calmly.
Abby looked up hurriedly, her mouth agape.
Leave it to Rosmerta to come bloody close...
“Why…why do you say that?”
“Remember the line of work I’m in,” Rosmerta chuckled
softly. “I notice things. It’s the same wizarding nature you see in
Gladrags every day. Whatever he’s done,
love, I’m very sorry.” She added
another cube of sugar to her cup.
Abby tried to make a reply, but her mouth only moved like a
hexed goldfish as Rosmerta continued.
“And I can’t help but believe the there’s something dark and
mysterious about this chap, or else you would have told me about him earlier.”
“Wha…how – ”
“Again, Abby, I must call you to mind of my profession! You’ve been changed for many months
now. It’s been breaking my heart to see
you so sad, it has.”
Abashed, Abby forced her lips to make coherent sound. “Rosmerta, I’m so sorry…I hated to keep
things from you, but I…I…I just couldn’t…I can’t…”
waved her hand. “There’s no need,
dear. I’ll admit to some curiosity, but
it’s your business. As long as it’s not
that insufferable Bagman fellow – he once brought goblins into the pub,
did I tell you? – I’ll be fine.”
At the vision of herself dressed in luridly striped robes,
clinging to Ludo Bagman’s arm, Abby felt the tightness in her chest
lessen. Rosmerta wouldn’t pry. “Oh no,” she laughed, “It’s definitely not
Rosmerta reached across the table and squeezed her
hand. “Of course not, Abby. I knew it’d have to be someone special to
get you in such a flutter. I only hope
he realizes what he has.”
Again, Abby was left without a whit of explanation. She stared at the blanket on her lap and
traced its woolen patterns with an awkward finger.
“Well, bring him ‘round the pub someday, if you can,”
Rosmerta said gently. She passed Abby
another scone. “Now, have you heard
what Jasper Zonko’s gone and done? He
had the gall to try out his ‘Bounce, Trounce, Pounce, and Flounce’ powder on
Betty’s entire collection of porcelain thimbles. Imagine what happened!
Blimey, the man can’t even read the labels on his own products…”
Rosmerta had continued to chatter about the latest follies
and foibles of Hogsmeade’s inhabitants for another half an hour. To Abby’s great relief, she didn’t press for
further information. Abby left for home
warmed by the tea, scones, and company, feeling somewhat better. She wouldn’t curse Dumbledore’s wardrobe
quite yet – maybe just the socks.
Abby laughed softly at the memory as she quickly sealed up
the owl to Rosmerta and left the room to find her owl. Hubert was a little miffed at being woken,
but Abby managed to placate him with a pair of Mallow Mice. Once he’d nibbled up the last of the creamy
sweets, he set off to The Three Broomsticks.
Abby was watching the last feather of him disappear into the night sky
when she heard Sirius from the other room:
Is this all yours?”
Abby hurried closed the door at the sound of Sirius’
exclamation and rushed back in, curious as to what he could have possibly
found. She knew the reason as soon she
reached the side room and saw him standing in front of an open cupboard. Oh, she’d completely forgotten about that…
Sirius was examining a large stash of Honeydukes’ chocolate
– a very large stash, by all counts – and smiling as he read off the
various flavours. Upon seeing Abby, he
flashed a wicked grin and began to loudly count the gaily-wrapped stacks.
“There’s a good two dozen just right there…do you get that
hungry on the job?” he paused to ask.
Abby’s face twitched.
At least the box under the sofa was hidden from view. “Well, you see, there was a sale at
Honeydukes, and so I bought all of that to slip in with my Christmas gifts…”
she began to explain.
Sirius looked as though he didn’t believe her in the
“So, how much of it have you given out already?”
“Well, I’m a bit behind in getting my gifts ready, so I – ”
“How many bars have you eaten yourself?”
“Well, eight or nine, but I did buy a few extras, and I was
planning to wrap the rest of it up in the morning…”
Sirius continued to smirk.
“Oh, bugger off, or I won’t share,” Abby snapped.
“When have I ever bothered to ask before eating all your
food?” he replied with an arched eyebrow.
Her retaliatory remarks now spent, Abby simply folded her
arms across her chest with a cross huff.
Sirius, knowing better than to worry too much, shut the cupboard door
and walked toward her with a hangdog face.
“I’m sorry,” he said, in a voice that was hardly
Abby struggled not to laugh. That was a mighty horde of chocolate in the cupboard, and Sirius’
exaggerated expression did not make the most of his facial
features. Though she felt completely
pathetic at the admission, the late hour was making her start to feel rather
“Oh, but the damage is done,” she retorted. “And if you don’t offer up some sort of
compliment quickly, I believe the only proper thing for me to do is to turn you
out in the snow again.”
He glanced over her shoulder. “Um, nice tree?”
“That’s all you’ve got?”
“No, really, it looks great.” Sirius turned her around by the waist, and then moved in behind
her. “It’s been some time since I’ve
seen a proper Christmas tree.”
The tree was lovely, bedecked with all its flickering
candles and multitudes of glittery, glowing things. The fairy lights twinkled once again in soft hues, as though
they’d forgiven Abby for their unceremonious entrance into the room. Candlelight was a wonderful thing, Abby
decided as she lolled her head back against Sirius’ chest. It was nice enough to make her not
want to remind him that they’d decorated a tree together last year. She knew what he’d meant. Azkaban.
A brief snatch of a Christmas carol, sung in a surprisingly
melodic baritone, thankfully distracted her before she could follow that line
of thought any further –
“On Christmas eve the bells were rung,
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung;
The damsel donn'd her kirtle sheen,
The hall was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the woods did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe;
Then drink to the holly berry,
With hey down hey down derry!
The mistletoe we'll pledge also,
And at Christmas all be merry,
At Christmas all be merry…”
Abby’s eyes widened.
Unless the sofa had been taking voice lessons on the sly, the tune had
come from Sirius.
“You sing?” Abby asked, her words more of an incredulous
statement than a question. This was
almost more surprising than the sensation of his hands moving downwards a
fraction to rest at the very top of her hips.
Sirius’ nodding head rubbed against her hair. “And I had seven years of piano lessons with
Professor Lieder while at school. I
sang in St. Albans’ choir before that,” he said simply, as if this information
didn’t sound at all out of place.
“Really? What’s St.
Albans? A Muggle church?”
“Uh-huh. It’s the
cathedral in that town.”
“And you sang in its choir?”
“Then, that would make you a – ”
“Is that so hard to believe?”
She swallowed a snort.
“It’s just that ‘Sirius Black’ and ‘choirboy’ aren’t words that I’d
think to put in the same sentence.”
Sirius’ arms went fully around her waist, and he pulled her
back tightly. “Don’t get too many
ideas,” he growled into her ear. “I
also once owned a motorbike.”
motorbike? A Muggle motorbike?”
“Yes. So you see,
you don’t know everything about me.”
She craned her neck around to get a better look at his
face. “Such as why the mention of
Professor Snape makes you grouchier than a wet Doxy, for example.”
Sirius flinched, as though he’d been poked with a sharp
stick. “I still can’t believe an idiot
like that ever became a professor,” he muttered irritably, staring off to the
side. “I wouldn’t trust him to paint a
fence, let alone teach children.”
His mouth opened further in a mounting diatribe, but froze
when he noticed Abby’s watchful stare.
His lips twisted wryly. “I’m only proving your point, aren’t I?”
Abby nodded, and then waited. Something inside her head told her to remain quiet, and see what
Sirius might say. Slowly, she turned
herself around until she faced him.
He’d looked away again, and his face was indecipherable, as though
countless mixed memories were playing in his mind.
“Do you see Snape often?” he asked all of a sudden, looking
at her quickly.
Startled at the question, Abby racked her brain for an
answer. By his tone, Sirius certainly
wasn’t asking out of jealousy. A
good thing, too, as ill tempered, unkempt Potions Masters were most definitely
not her cup of tea. What, then?
“No, not really – two or three times a year, at most. Why’s that?
Why do you ask?”
“Does he ever talk to you?”
“Not if he can help it!
I’m a bit beneath his notice.
Sirius’ mouth open and shut several times, as though he were
searching for words.
“Abby, Snape hates me too,” he began at long last, speaking
in short, choppy cadences, his gaze somewhat averted. “That’s no secret, and if you’re up at Hogwarts often enough, and
if you continue to work for Dumbledore, you might find out why. Snape thinks he has his reasons, but I want
you to hear the story from me – I have no doubt but that he’d embellish it in
his favour. So, I want to tell you
myself, and I will tell you, but please – not now. Not tonight.”
“Why not?” she asked, eyes narrowed. She wasn’t at all sure what to make of this
secretive, yet confessional manner.
When Sirius finally met her eye, she had to relax a fraction. Sirius Black, dangerous criminal and madman,
looked for all the world like a fifteen year-old wizard on the terrified verge
of asking if he could hold her hand on the walk down to Hogsmeade.
“Why not?” she asked again, a little more kindly.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“I want you to like me tonight,” he replied, and what looked remarkably
like a blush crossed his rough cheek.
Abby considered him for a long moment, wondering about
skeletons and closets and what information she really needed to know, or
was entitled to know, from Sirius.
There was much she was afraid to ask, and more she knew she never would
ask, given his past. She made a faintly
exasperated sound. Somehow, it all
seemed so much simpler back when they just didn’t tell each other things,
although she had to acknowledge that such a practice wouldn’t add much to the
longevity of a relationship.
“I’ll hold you to that,” she said, mostly to halt the
growing look of dread on his face.
Sirius nodded soberly, before a grin broke out on his
face. “Agreed. Now please, talk to me of something
other than Severus Snape! The mere
thought of him drives the holiday spirit away entirely.”
Winding his arms around her, he began to take steps
backward, moving until he landed with a laugh (and a small push of assistance
from Abby) on the amply stuffed sofa.
She fell partway onto him, her forearms on his chest, her face nuzzled
into the crook of his neck. She
released a soft breath near his ear, mostly out of an impish desire to see his
reaction, and was rewarded with a groan of helpless contentment. His hands tightened on her waist, and though
he seemed to remove half her face when he moved his cheek against hers, Abby couldn’t
imagine a better way to spend an evening.
They were alone, in a darkened Gladrags, and he was so very…
“So,” she said with a cheery sigh, as she lifted her face
up, rested it on her chin on her hands, and sought for a more agreeable topic
of conversation. “Whatever happened to
this fabled motorbike?”
She regretted the question immediately, seeing the change it
made on Sirius’ countenance. Abby had
the uneasy feeling that this likely wouldn’t be the last of her blunders. There was no definite way, unfortunately, of
knowing which category certain questions fell into, but she should have thought
this one through more carefully.
“I’m sorry – I should have realized – ” she stammered.
“I gave it away.”
Sirius replied flatly. “That
night, I gave it away.”
Abby didn’t know which awful night of his life to choose
from. She tilted her head to the side,
and lowered it onto his chest. He
didn’t need her staring at him, especially while she cursed her
imprudence. Was there any safe ground
in the memories before Azkaban? So much
seemed tainted, whether or not it deserved the designation.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“You don’t need to tell me.”
Sirius gave a dry laugh.
“Abby, aren’t you going to want to know all of this at some point?”
“I can wait until you want to talk about it. I reckoned that’s what you’d do, anyway.”
“Well, there’s never going to be much from back then that
I’ll want to talk about.”
“That’s why I thought – ”
“But that doesn’t mean I can keep it from you, or Harry, or
anyone else whom I care about.”
The room grew silent and tense, as though the air in it had
been stretched taut. Wordlessly, Abby
began to run her fingers over his hand, tracing the hairs, the lines, and the
scar shaped like a quarter-moon that ran across the base of one thumb. Through her mind ran anxious musings about
what she was going to hear, and whether, after he was done, she’d be glad he’d
spoken. There were times, undoubtedly,
when she didn’t want her own emotional wounds re-opened and put on parade.
“Peter,” Sirius said simply, almost unemotionally, as though
that one word explained it all.
“Sorry?” Abby asked
in confusion. How did this pertain to
Peter, from his gang at Hogwarts?
Peter, whom he…whom he’d allegedly killed, blown to smithereens on a
Muggle street? Had he given the
motorbike to Peter?
“I don’t understand…” she whispered lamely.
“You remember how I told you that all my friends became
Animagi?” Sirius voice grew soft and
distant, and Abby felt a chill course through her. “We all did – James, Peter, and I – to help Remus. To be with him, when he transformed. James was a stag – ‘Prongs’, we called
him. Peter became a rat –
‘Wormtail’. A fitting form for him, I
“But Peter...isn’t he…isn’t he – ” She couldn’t say the
“No.” Never had she
heard such chilling hate contained in one small word. “No, he’s alive, sniveling at Voldemort’s feet like the miserable
piece of filth he is. Peter Pettigrew,
my old mate from Gryffindor, a willing servant to the Dark Lord. That’s how Voldemort knows my Animagus
form. That’s why we have to be
A clouding numbness took over Abby’s mind, hindering her as
she tried to fully process his words.
Stories of all sorts had once floated around the wizarding world,
accounting for Sirius Black’s lunacy, betrayal, and imprisonment. None of them matched this account.
“But how did he survive?
The newspapers all said…I mean, someone would have had to have seen
“He lived as a rat, true to his wretched character. That’s how he escaped, as a rat. Cut off his own finger to frame me
perfectly, and then scampered away.”
“But how – how could he stay hidden? Surely, there’s only so long a person would
want to remain a rat?”
Sirius laughed bitterly.
The sound made Abby’s hair stand on end, and she was selfishly relieved
that she couldn’t see his face. There
were parts to Sirius that would never be jovial and carefree, and while she
accepted that, it didn’t make his pain any easier to witness.
“Peter didn’t seem to mind,” he said. “But I don’t know how he did it, how he
managed to never get caught. He was a
pet to the Weasley boys, you know. All
“The Weasleys? Molly
and Arthur?” Abby was incredulous. “He was at their house?”
“Right under the Ministry’s nose.”
“Wait – that’s not the rat their boy Percy used to have, is
Sirius gave a small sound of disgusted affirmation.
“That rat’s been in my shop!” she cried out, as her stomach
took a sick lurch. “Here, in my shop! That was him?”
“It’s worse than that.
He was at Hogwarts for three years with Ron Weasley, in Harry’s own
dormitory. He sold James and Lily to
Voldemort to save his own damn hide, and then he hid in the shadow of their
son. It’s despicable, and when he and I
next meet, he’ll regret his choice of master.”
Speechless, Abby continued to stroke his hand until she
finally dared to look at him.
“I had no idea,” she choked, tears stinging her eyes. Sirius removed his hand and touched it
softly to her cheek.
“Harry was the sweetest little lad, Abby,” he said, in a
voice both bright and heartrending.
“Even when he almost killed Lily with colic those first two months, and
even when he later made a regular habit of covering my robes in orange
glop. The green stuff always ended up
on Remus, somehow. But we all loved
him. And I got to be his
“He used to ride around on my back, you know, holding on to
the fur, and he never once fell off.
Not once. We always said he had
James’ grip. That’s what I thought when
I first saw him play Quidditch – he had James’ grip. The weather was horrid, but Harry held on to his broom
magnificently – well, that is, until he thought I was a Grim and a crowd of
Dementors made him fall to his near-death.
But he flew so well, I thought I was seeing James out there on the pitch
Abby smiled sadly to herself, using her silence and the
pressure of her hand on his chest to urge his narrative on.
“Lily would get hacked off sometimes,” he continued,
“telling us we were too rough with him, she didn’t really mean it. Well, she did mean it about the off-colour
lullaby I made up once, but Harry would just laugh and laugh when we tossed him
around. He’d pull on my robes until I
read Danny the Doubtful Dragon to him – at least half a dozen
times on each visit. I bet I could
recite the entire thing now, if you asked me.
I almost got him a copy of it for this Christmas, but then I realized that
he wouldn’t even catch the joke. Thanks
to Peter, Harry has never known any of this, and as soon as I get two seconds
to talk to him, something else invariably drags me off. Some godfather I am, eh?”
Abby shook her head across his chest. “Don’t say that.”
“That’s when I first knew they suspected me. I’d gone to their house in Godric’s Hollow,
where they’d been hiding, praying that my suspicions were wrong. They weren’t. James and Lily looked…just awful. I can’t even describe it.
Bloody awful. I hope Harry never
asks me what I saw that night, because I’m going to have to tell him, and I
don’t know if I’ll be able to get through it.
But Harry was alive, and I had to force myself to think of him. But then Hagrid said he wasn’t to give Harry
to anyone else but Dumbledore – not even to me, the boy’s godfather! Dumbledore didn’t trust me, and soon no one
else would. And it was all Peter’s
doing. I left my motorbike with Hagrid
and went to find Peter and kill him.
It’s ironic, since that would have put me in Azkaban anyway, but I was
going to kill him, and I didn’t care who saw it.
“It seemed too easy when I finally tracked him down,” Sirius
went on, pained, “but again, I didn’t care.
The smart thing would have been to corner Peter somewhere, get him
alone, but at that moment, I only wanted to make him pay for what he’d done to
James and Lily. So when he accused me – me! – of betraying them, and he
blew up the street, killing all those Muggles, something snapped. I don’t know how long it’d been since I’d
eaten or slept, and then this. I was in
shock, pure shock. Really, how in Hades
did Peter Pettigrew pull off a stunt like this? He’d left me in the middle of this horrific mess, and if I hadn’t
known any better, I’d have thought me guilty too.
“Peter was a never a fool, but some things didn’t come
easily to him. I don’t know how much
sleep I lost in fifth year, trying to keep him from turning into an Animagus
centipede. That’s why I believed he’d
be the perfect Secret-Keeper. No one
would ever, ever choose Peter.”
“Secret-Keeper?” Abby gulped, uncertain as to whether she
feared asking the question or hearing his response to it more.
The Fidelius Charm. Dumbledore
thought it would give them the best chance.
They would pick one person to hold the secret of their location, and as
long as that person kept his silence, Voldemort could never find them.”
“And…they chose Peter for something this important?”
“No, they didn’t,” Sirius said hoarsely. “They chose me.”
Abby’s eyes widened.
This story was so far-fetched and miserably unlucky, it could only be
true. Her heart hurt too much to want
to look at his face, so she gripped his hand instead. Such a rotten joke, played by misfortune and an untrue friend.
“I convinced them at the last minute to use Peter
instead. I was going to go into hiding
to lead the Death Eaters on a chase, draw them away from James and Lily,” he
continued. “But if the Death Eaters
found me, I wouldn’t have anything to tell them, even if they used the
Unforgivable Curses on me. I wouldn’t
be the Secret-Keeper. It all sounded so
bloody brilliant at the time. I didn’t
suspect Peter a whit. I was more
worried about Remus, if you can believe that.”
His voice slowed into a dull rhythm. “When I went over that night, I hoped
against hope that the spell was still intact, that Peter had just gone to his
mother’s. I knew they were in Godric’s
Hollow, but I shouldn’t have been able to see them. Peter held the secret now.
I thought that if nothing else, I could stand in the town square and
yell for them to be on their guard. But
I saw the smoke from a long way off, while I was still on my motorbike. I wanted to crash the thing into the
ground. My world went mad that night,
and before I could get a shred of sanity back, Crouch threw me into Azkaban
without trial. He shut up anyone who
might have believed me innocent, and he left me there to rot.”
Sirius was quiet for a long moment before speaking again.
“So, there it is.
Are you certain you still want me?” he asked with a hollow laugh.
At that, Abby turned her head to see him fully. The candles from the Christmas tree
flickered over a tangle of emotions on his face, handsome still, though too old
for its years. Grief, regret, a touch
of fear, deep need – his eyes kept nothing back. She searched for something reassuring to say,
but futilely. “I’m sorry” seemed so
trite, so insufficient. “It’s over now”
was even worse. It would never be
completely over for Sirius.
Bereft of words, Abby did the only remotely helpful thing
that came to mind. She sat up quickly
and rose from the sofa. Sirius made a
small, pained noise as she moved away from him, and she stopped to touch two
fingers to his lips in a quieting gesture before scurrying to the cupboard,
opening the door, and filling her arms with Honeydukes’ finest. Returning to the sofa, she dumped the
assortment on her lap and began to hurriedly break open the bars.
“What are you – ” Sirius began, only to be cut off with a
determined “Open up” and a chunk of cherry-chocolate nougat. He was still reclined, and thus more at her
mercy; in the confections went with swift resolve. Milk chocolate, lemon crème, hazelnut mousse – she looked up from
her lap only long enough to take decent aim for his mouth, and she continued
with her makeshift consolation until a choking noise echoed throughout the
room. Abby glanced up from her pile of
wrappers and foil to see Sirius, who looked like a chipmunk that had grossly
overestimated its winter storage needs.
Perhaps she’d got a little carried away…
“Um, you’ve got a smudge right there,” she said, trying to
keep a straight face as she gestured at an errant bit of chocolate, most likely
the result of her haste.
“You don’t say,” he managed to rejoin through a mouthful of
mint truffle. He watched Abby with an
amused expression until he’d finished chewing and swallowing the creamy
“You might have just said, ‘Yes, Sirius, you may continue to
stick around’, and saved a bit more of that for yourself,” he said.
Abby’s cheeks coloured with embarrassment, but she didn’t
mind – laughter was in his voice, and his eyes were smiling.
“If I wanted to be rid of you, I would have done it a long
time ago. My bathtub is still
“Yes, but now you know…” he said, his voice uncertain.
Her hands full of half-eaten chocolate bars, Abby locked her
eyes on the beautifully blue pair before her.
“Sirius, you may continue to stick around,” she said
meaningfully, decidedly, her heart leaping as he broke into a wide, crooked
Looking much more at ease, Sirius reached over and snapped
off a last caramel-filled wedge. “I
don’t know what they put in this, but it seems to help,” he said with muffled
words and a pleased sigh.
“Just don’t think that I’ll always be this generous! And you do really have some on you, I wasn’t
making that up."
Sirius rubbed the back of his hand across his face, coming
nowhere near the offending smear. “Did
I get it?” he asked.
A second attempt also passed widely by the chocolate,
causing Abby to giggle.
“Blimey! Where is
She leaned in and waggled a finger toward the corner of his
mouth. “Right there.”
Sirius’ face took on a new expression as he watched her
near. “Where, again?” he asked, with a
singular sort of smile. A thrill
coursed through her. Emboldened by the
dim room, the hour, and the lingering scent of chocolate, she moved in further.
“Right there,” she said, placing a fingertip softly on the
spot. Some of her hair spilled over her
shoulders and fell onto his chest.
Abby felt a crackle in the infinitesimally small space
between their robes. “Here,” she
replied, and she exchanged her finger for a light touch from her lips.
Sirius ran both his hands into her hair. “You’ve got a bit there yourself,” he
whispered, and his face turned to meet hers, seeking out a connection that was
much less “light”. He kissed her
hungrily, and his mouth, strong and sweet, didn’t break contact as it traveled
from her lips down to her jaw, and then even lower.
“Sirius,” Abby breathed shakily, “I don’t remember getting
chocolate on my neck.”
His laugh was low and warm across her skin. “Trust me, it’s there.”
Some time later, a sharp rapping resonated throughout
Gladrags and interrupted the happenings inside. Instantly alert, Sirius clapped a hand over Abby’s mouth to keep
her quiet and scanned the shadows of the office with furtive eyes. The sound startled Abby also, until a
second, more annoyed series of taps began to take on a familiar pattern.
“No, no!” she cried out, prying off his hand in relief. “It’s only Hubert. He’s back with the food.”
She rose from the sofa and found she had to blink her eyes a few times
to reacquaint them with the room. Her
legs wobbled a bit, but she flashed Sirius a bashful, somewhat dazed smile and
headed for the back door, picking up her feet as Hubert threatened to
single-handedly crack the glass.
I don’t know why he’s so vexed about fetching a few
Abby smoothed down her hair her hair in the last few steps
and gave her robes a quick adjustment, noting that she would have to deduct
their price from her salary. They were
certainly in no state to be returned to the rack. She knew velvet rumpled easily, but really…people would
hardly believe that she’d only been going over the ledger late at night. No bother, she would keep the robes as a
nice memento. Gauging by his reactions
this evening, Sirius wouldn’t mind seeing them again.
Now at the door, Abby fumbled at the lock and hissed for
Hubert to quiet down. If he kept up the
racket, he’d soon be loud enough to catch the attention of the night crowd at
The Hog’s Head, and that was saying something.
She soon saw the reason for the owl’s perturbation. Instead of the small, paper-wrapped parcel Abby
had anticipated, Hubert held a wicker hamper in his claws. A large wicker hamper. Once inside, Hubert dropped his delivery,
gave a hoot of displeasure, and returned to his perch with eyes that cautioned
Abby not to wake him again, upon peril of her life.
Bewildered, she hooked the hamper over one arm and began
walking slowly back the room, sifting through the contents as she went. She was staring blankly at a red and
white-checkered tablecloth when Sirius saw her again.
“Um, it’s dinner.”
Abby replied, as she placed the hamper on the table and started to pull
out various containers. Roast beef with
mushroom gravy…boiled, buttered potatoes…peas and carrots…pumpkin tarts…and
then some of Rosmerta’s better crystal goblets, silver flatware, and fine
“What exactly did you ask her for?” Sirius asked. He’d stood up himself, and was looking over
her shoulder at the bounty.
“Only a few sandwiches…”
“Are you sure?”
Abby began to laugh helplessly as she looked down at the
table, now blanketed with food. “I
promise, that was all!”
Rosmerta’s too perceptive for her own good. Or my good, more likely.
“Sirius,” Abby began, biting her lip, “there was a time last
spring when Rosmerta guessed that I might be seeing somebody...”
His eyes widened in honest surprise. “Why did she think that?” he asked, as his
voice faltered slightly. “Was – was
Abby gave him a stare of loving exasperation. So observant at times, so spectacularly non-observant
“Sorry, go on,” he apologized, grinning.
“I’d been sad for several months, and well, she tends a
bar. She sees that sort of moping a
“You were sad?”
The tenderness in his eyes took her aback. She nodded.
“I was. My dog had run away.”
“I didn’t think you would mind…” Sirius murmured, before
noting her expression and hastily adding, “but I was wrong.”
Abby gave a coy smile.
“And they say you were one of the brightest in your class,” she said,
shaking her head.
“Women require an entirely different sort of magical
“We’re not that difficult!”
It was now Sirius’ turn for exasperation.
“Perhaps only a little difficult,” Abby conceded,
giggling. “Now, shall we set into
“With pleasure,” he replied, as he scouted for a serving
spoon in the depths of the hamper. Abby
began to unfold the napkins and uncover the dishes, when his voice caught her
Sirius had located a bottle, tucked away in the back of the hamper, and
was tilting it to catch the candlelight.
She glanced over at the label. “Um, I believe that’s what Rosmerta calls ‘the good stuff’”.
“Really?” he asked, his eyes lighting up.
“Don’t be too excited – it’s just a French variation on
butterbeer, infused with vanilla. She
likes it because she can drink it on the job.”
Rosmerta had another theory about that particular butterbeer,
based on its aromatic properties, but Abby decided against telling him that.
“Madam Rosmerta…” Sirius said with a touch of nostalgia, as
he filled his plate. “I remember
her. James and I would joke with her
all the time, when she wasn’t banning us from the pub. We thought she was rather – ” his voice cut
off on a faintly guilty note, and he glanced sideways at Abby.
“Oh, you and half of Hogwarts!” she laughed. “Believe me, she gets it in spades. We compare notes occasionally on the best
hexes with which to oust the worst of our male customers.”
“Men still bother you, too?”
“Sometimes, although it’s not nearly what she has to put up
with. But they’re usually the sort that
wouldn’t think twice about making a pass at a one-eyed harpy, if you know what
I mean. I could forego bathing for a
week and they’d still act the same.
Mmmm, this roast beef is divine.”
Sirius nodded his concurrence over the top of a mountainous
array of food. Spoon in hand, he
carefully crammed the last of the peas onto the outer fringes of his plate.
“I think Rosmerta would approve of this,” Abby said quickly,
with a slightly self-conscious gesture of her hand. “Of us. She likes
Now sitting on the sofa, balancing his plate precariously on
his knees, Sirius gave her a look of curiosity and caution. “I thought you said she didn’t know – ”
“Not specifically, no, but we did talk about you once.”
“You did? Blast,
Abby, you’re confusing me.”
“The entire wizarding world was talking about you then,” she
replied calmly, as she gathered aside her skirts and sat down herself. “It was back when the Ministry was truly
after you, back when the Dementors were in town after dark. We both hated them – they chased off the
late shopping crowd, and then you felt miserable for the rest of the
night. I even used this ridiculously
complex route through two fireplaces and three alleyways to get home. It took me twice as long, but I usually
managed to avoid them, the horrid things.”
She paused to hunt around the crowded table for utensils.
“What do the Dementors make you remember?”
The abrupt, hoarsely voiced question caught Abby unawares;
her fork hung in mid-air for several seconds as she turned to look at
Sirius. Though surprised, she knew her
answer instantly. Some things were
always easily recalled, regardless of whether a Dementor was present.
“My mum. And Will.”
“You loved him?”
She stared down at her potatoes. “I did. We’d talked about
him coming to my house for that part of the summer holiday, you know,
but he wanted time to sort things out after my accident and the O.W.L.s fiasco,
and so he went to see his cousins instead.
He never knew I was a Weaver.
The Death Eaters killed him there.
He was a nice boy who liked to play Quidditch and make me smile, and
they killed him.
“Mum was essentially gone, too. She was still alive, but she didn’t remember who I was. She talked to me as though I were a
stranger. I couldn’t ask her what I
should do, and when I cried on her shoulder once, it only scared her. She did tell me stories about myself, though
– supposedly, she’d wanted to name me ‘Hepzibah’, but Dad held his ground and
prevailed with ‘Abigail’. She was still
mad about that.”
“Does your father ever come to see you here?”
“He does when he can.”
“Not since I’ve known you.”
“But you’ve been on your own all this time, you’d just think
that he’d – ”
“I know,” Abby said with soft force. “I know.”
You’d think that he’d care enough about his daughter to
look in on her from time to time.
“I’m not criticizing him,” Sirius said, by means of
apology. “I just would have hoped that
he’d have taken better care of you.” He
grinned. “I mean, look how you’ve
turned out. Look at the company you
A smile broke through her melancholy remembrances. “Am I one of those women from those trashy
tabloids who fancies the incarcerated type?”
Sirius nodded gravely, “Which is a compliment to me,
although it doesn’t speak so well of you.
Now, what about Rosmerta?”
“Oh, well, one evening she and I were griping about how the
Dementors were hurting our revenues, and she started to talk about you. It wasn’t long after the children had been
down in the village, I think, and she’d heard something about you that upset
her. She told me how you once jinxed
the pub’s piano to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, night and day.”
“I did do that, didn’t I?” he laughed, a dreamy expression
on his face. “It took her ages to set
the piano right again, and she cursed my drink for it the next time I came by. I was talking in limericks for a week.”
“She said she didn’t understand how that same boy could have
done the things they said you did,” Abby finished. She paused, curious. “You
didn’t also enchant the door of the ladies’ loo, by any chance?”
“It whistles rudely whenever you pass through it.”
At that, Sirius threw back his head and hollered so loudly
that his plate nearly teetered onto the floor.
Abby reached forward quickly to save the china from its perilous plunge,
watching as a few stray peas fell off and disappeared into the shadows. Drat.
She’d have to get down on her knees later and hunt them out. She’d make Sirius do it, but then he’d find
the additional stash of sweets hidden there, and that would never do.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, turning her attention back to
“That was James’ doing!
It was only supposed to whistle at Lily, as a joke, but he was too
thorough, the ruddy Head Boy! He must
have never got around taking off the spell.”
With a sigh, Abby reached over to the table and helped
herself to a pumpkin tart. She might
later regret eating so much at this hour, but Rosmerta’s desserts were not to
be denied. Sirius continued to chuckle
lightly, but Abby simply shook her head.
She wasn’t even going to bother asking what else he and his band of
reprobates might have masterminded.
“What was your first thought when you showed me who you
really were?” she asked instead, as she settled back onto the sofa and stifled
“Something I shouldn’t repeat in polite company.”
“Do you know what my first worry was? Well, one of them, anyway?”
“What?” he asked, as he concentrated on spearing the last of
the peas on his plate.
“If Snuffles had ever seen me in my knickers. I tell you, I was petrified that he might
I must be pretty knackered, if I’m telling him this!
Sirius looked up from chasing vegetables, and a rakish
upturn began to take over his mouth.
“No, but I wouldn’t – ”, he began, but he shut his mouth quickly, as
though Minerva McGonagall had materialized before him and issued a stern
reprimand. “Erm, never mind. Most sane people would have been busy
fearing for their lives,” he continued, more decorously.
“That came a few minutes later.”
Laying aside his now empty plate, Sirius gave a hearty laugh
and reclined back against the corner of the sofa, gazing openly at Abby. She flushed, more than pleased at the
admiration in his eyes.
“You continue to surprise, Abby. That night ranks among the better of my poorly made
decisions. I’d have to say it’s the
best of them.”
“Then I’m glad I drove you to it. I’ll try to throw things at you more often.”
“Imagine if you hadn’t!
I could be living in misery as your neighbors’ pet.”
“Or,” Abby offered in wide-eyed solemnity, “you could be having
this tryst with Mrs. Boorman right now.”
Sirius laughed, and he nudged her knee with his stockinged
foot. “No cheek from you,” he said, “or
I’ll hold back your Christmas gift.
That woman frightens me. Really,
think of it. I might have had to put up
with months’ more of tail-pulling and ridiculous commands, while you’d have
thought of me as only a dog.”
“But I do still think of you as only a dog,” she
said, snickering into her pumpkin tart.
His eating habits weren’t too far off, but that could be easily
She swallowed the last tasty bite of her pastry, blissfully
unaware as to the danger in which she’d now placed herself. But as Sirius stirred from his corner, a
voice of warning told her at once that she should move, and move quickly. She had barely a second to set down her
plate, before lunging away to the opposite end of the sofa, evading his
indignant grasp. She wasn’t safe for
long, though. Sirius followed after –
to her delight, since she hadn’t truly meant to escape – and trapped her
there in a warm tangle of robes and arms and eager kisses.
They tussled playfully in the beginning – she tousling his
hair wildly, he biting at her lower lip – but before long, Gladrags and the
world seemed to fall away, leaving nothing but the two of them and their small
room. At that moment, Voldemort and all
that came with him were temporarily put aside.
She and Sirius were together, and while that idea would have been
laughable to a prank-inclined Gryffindor and a shy Hufflepuff, it made perfect
sense now. Soft, heated, magical,
thrilling, perfect sense.
As they kissed, random thoughts began to dance through
Abby’s hazy mind. How Sirius certainly
seemed to appreciate the texture of fine fabrics…how she was really
going to have to wear robes like this more often…how she could lock the two of
them away here – shoppers be hexed – and no one would be the wiser…how they
could live for a few days on chocolate…how Chanella could manage the shop…how
she would be perfectly content to celebrate every Christmas this way. And all other holidays of the year, she
decided, stretching out languorously into the cushions, as well as the days in
between. This – the sensation of his
mouth claiming hers, his hands clutching at her robes – was infinitely preferable
to lonely nights spent staring at her loom, wishing that Will might somehow
come back to life and hold her again.
He would always remain her first love, but she was now happily ready to
let Sirius be the last.
Abby wound her arms around Sirius’ neck, his shoulders, as
her pulse did a giddy dance. She was
rapidly losing all sense of space and time, as well as the ability to breathe,
but she found she didn’t mind. The bottom
of the sofa could fall out and she wouldn’t notice, not when Sirius seemed intent
on eliminating every last remaining pocket of air between them, and especially
not when his hands were traveling the length of her arms, pushing back the
loose velvet, tunneling past the sleeves, and gripping her bare shoulders. Abby whimpered at the touch, keenly aware of
fingers that reached across her collarbones and curved up at the base of her
neck. She’d received attention from men
over the years, but she had never felt so…desired. And ready to pass out. A low groan from Sirius only complicated
matters. The sound sent a jolt of
heady, exhilarating terror through her, and Abby held on more tightly,
shivering at the knowledge that this evening differed in a thousand ways from a
schoolboy’s kisses in Hufflepuff Turret.
But before she could get around to losing consciousness,
Sirius broke off the kiss and withdrew his hands abruptly. He hovered barely above her, a little off
the side, and each exhale blanketed the side of her face with hot air. Abby’s head reeled as she tried to
comprehend what was going on. The room
now seemed terribly quiet, apart from their laboured breathing. Why had he stopped? Had she done something wrong? It had been an embarrassingly long
time… Oh, no. An even more horrifying thought occurred to
her, and she frantically tried to recall the culinary fare of the night. Onions?
Had there been onions?!!?
She was still trying to regroup her muddled wits when Sirius
mumbled something heavy and unintelligible.
She strained her ears and squinted.
“Huh?” she gasped, with all the befuddled eloquence she
“I just – are you – ” he panted, each breath caressing her
face, “I’m sorry – is this too much for you?”
He raised himself a little further up, to where Abby could
see his face and his wild, darkened eyes.
“I’m wanted by Voldemort and the Ministry,” he said,
gulping in air. “You don’t deserve to
be put in this sort of situation…my odds couldn’t be worse…”
His tone was serious and concerned, but Abby was so relieved
to hear that odiferous vegetables hadn’t been part of his motivation, she
almost laughed. She couldn’t think of a
particularly genteel way to say that she quite liked being squashed
beneath him in the dark, and so she simply smiled.
“I’m fine, Sirius.”
“But if I ever put you in harm’s way, I couldn’t – ”
“Don’t start in on that again!” She actually did
laugh then, and the sound brought a look of reassurance back to his face. Abby looked him squarely in the eye.
“Technically, I believe I was wanted by Voldemort before I
even met you,” she said. “I might as
well make the most of that misfortune.”
Sirius stroked her hair for a few quiet seconds, pushing it
off her face. “It won’t always be like
this,” he said softly.
“You won’t always kiss me?” she quipped, trying to lighten
He laughed, but a trace of somberness remained. “You know what I meant.”
“But you’re the one who’s in a compromising position with
the town simpleton – all things considered, people might question your
“But you’re not a simpleton.”
Abby pulled him to her.
“And you’re not a criminal,” she breathed against his mouth. This wasn’t a trivial undertaking, a
decision she could simply change her mind about later, like the rash vow made a
few years ago to never stock anything in the color lilac again. Sirius was part of her life, and an
invisibility cloak would always connect them, even if emotion already
hadn’t. She tried to let him know as
much with her lips. For such an
intelligent man, he could be incredibly thick at times!
Sirius was silent, once they broke apart, but far from
uncommunicative. His eyes roamed over
her face, poring over every feature as if to imprint them in his mind.
“Seeing you does me great good,” he said at length. “When I’m with you – when I talk to you or
Harry or Remus – that’s the closest I feel to the old days.”
Twelve doses of Swelling Solution could not have had greater
effect on Abby’s heart. “That’s just
the chocolate talking,” she replied, as her cheeks began to warm. Sirius just looked at her with one eyebrow
raised, accepting her self-effacing comment as some sort of challenge. Before she could say another word, he
proceeded to kiss her again, in a manner that made her knees give way (even
though she was already on her back) and her mind totter like a windblown
“No,” he said when finished, laughing at the glassy-eyed,
slack-jawed state to which he’d reduced her, “I’m fairly certain it’s you.”
“Mean…very mean…” was all Abby could mumble.
“Now, would you like to see your gift?”
She wobbled her head in the affirmative, although as far as
gifts went, she felt he could just give her another kiss or two like that and
consider his Christmas obligations fulfilled for the year.
“Good,” he said.
“Now, where’s your wand?”
Sirius sat up and leaned over to search among the clutter on
the table. After locating Abby’s wand
under a tureen of potatoes, he Summoned his cloak from the entryway and
rummaged through the inner pockets before pulling out a gold-wrapped
parcel. He presented it to her with a
Her curiosity was definitely piqued. Abby propped herself up on one elbow and
accepting the offering with a dazed smile.
Sirius had brought her a gift – something that took thought and
planning, care and consideration. He had
brought her a gift. She peeled back
layer after layer of paper, and what looked like cut glass, gleaming and
opalesque, began to come into view. Oh,
it was beautiful! Was it some sort of
perfume? How did he manage to get
it? She removed the last of the
wrapping eagerly and peered at the elegant bottle. After a few seconds, her eyes focused enough to read the gilt
“Welkin’s Wondrous Wild Thing Wash…For your pampered
pooch, your coddled canine...Scrub animal thoroughly and often for best results.”
Huh. She looked up
to fix a blank stare on Sirius, who looked as though he thought he should be
made Head Boy for his cleverness. “If
you think I’m trying that again,” she said flatly, “you’re two Sickles short of
“C’mon, Abby, it might be fun,” he teased.
“Only if you clean up.”
“I thought you would appreciate that the most,” Sirius
continued, pointing at the bottle. “I
did consider a few other things, such as an enormous box of raisins, to be used
when you’re ticked off at me – “
“I’m not always ticked – ”
“ – or a grooming brush,” he interrupted, “so you could
brush out Padfoot’s coat every night in front of the fire – ”
“How about a collar and leash, so Padfoot will stay in one
place for longer than five minutes?”
“ – and then there was the Hagrid-sized tin of ginger, so
that you could keep me in biscuits for the next dozen years – ”
“Obedience lessons might do you more good!” she countered,
collapsing into giggles. This Christmas
was certainly shaping up to be one she wouldn’t forget. Holding the bottle lovingly, Abby forced her
mouth into a serious line. “Thank you,”
she said, trembling at the effort of keeping a straight face. “I’ll treasure it always.”
Sirius then scooted himself between her and the back of the
sofa, draping an arm around her shoulder.
A small, light blue box was in his hand. “You didn’t let me tell you about the last gift I had in mind,”
he said quietly.
Dumbstruck, Abby took the box from him. She stared at the embossed logo of Bobbins
and Bangles, the village jeweller, and wondered if her poor mind would burst at
one more surprise tonight. She opened
the box slowly. Resting on a velvet bed
was a bracelet made of several delicate, intertwining golden tendrils.
“I didn’t resort to any illegalities to get it, if that’s
what you’re wondering,” Sirius said, when she continued to gape
wordlessly. “I had Gringotts owl over
the money – they don’t care who their clientele is, a good thing to know if
you’re ever on the run – and then Remus picked it up for me.”
“Tell Remus he has good taste,” she gasped, clasping the
bracelet around her wrist. She marveled
at the craftsmanship, turning it around to catch every glint of light the
candles could offer.
“Do you like it?” Abby thought she heard a note of anxiety
in his voice. Need he ask?
“I love it,” she responded, turning her face to
his. “I absolutely love it. It’s beautiful.”
“I’m the one who picked it out. I lurked around the shop for a few hours, peeking in the window,
but I had to leave when the owner’s little girl tried to put sparkly beads
around my neck.”
“She probably liked the pretty doggy.”
“I wanted to have something unique made for you, but that
could attract attention.” He
hesitated. “I heard the woman say she’d
made several of these. I hope you don’t
Abby beamed reassuringly.
“It will only solidify my reputation as Hogsmeade’s fashion maven. Truly, it’s lovely. Tell Sirius he has good taste.”
“I happen to think so,” he replied with a smile, and he
buried his face in her hair. They were
quiet for a moment, during which Abby marveled both at the exquisiteness of her
gift and the extremely cozy feel of Sirius’ body curved around the back of
hers. She leaned against him, happy,
warm, and secure, until an unpleasant thought came to mind.
“I don’t have anything for you,” she blurted out, suddenly
abashed. She had a shopful of robes to
offer, but she’d given him plenty of robes in the past. That would hardly be memorable.
“There’s nothing I need,” he shrugged drowsily.
“Not even a decent haircut?” she asked, twisting her neck
around to see him. “Or a razor?”
“Nope,” he said, and his arms went around her more tightly.
“Well, let me at least give you these,” she said as she
picked up her wand, still feeling terribly remiss. “Accio Hufflehoofers!” she called out. Within seconds, a pair of black socks,
vibrantly striped with yellow, flew into the room and landed in Sirius’
hand. He stared at them
“Look at your feet,” she prompted. He lifted a foot up in the air and was greeted by a very visible
“I really did make an attempt to look presentable tonight!”
he chortled, before setting her gift down on the floor.
“Aren’t you going to put them on?”
“Later,” he said through a yawn. “You still have to work tomorrow, don’t you?”
She nodded her head ruefully. “In a few short hours, even.”
She was going to have a very difficult time concentrating on cash
flows and sales displays when this evening was fresh in her mind!
“Mmmm,” he replied, sounding as though he’d already joined
the ranks of the sleeping. She nestled
back against him, and had almost dozed off herself when the unexpected sound of
his voice startled her:
“Socks for Christmas?
Pretty pathetic, Abby.”
“You said you didn’t need anything!” she gasped.
“Well yes, but still…” he drawled, nuzzling the back
of her neck.
“I – I had no notice!” she said, spluttering. “I didn’t know that I’d see you!”
“What do I get next year, underwear?” he went on, grinning
sleepily at her flustered state. She
growled and sent a gentle elbow back to his stomach, too tired for much
more. Her eyelids were greatly
protesting the hour.
“Happy Christmas, Sirius Black,” she said softly, as he took
her arm in his and tucked it back around her.
“Happy Christmas, love,” he replied.
Love. Abby sighed,
gloriously content. Love. She shut her eyes once more, trusting Hubert
to wake her up at seven o’clock, hopefully early enough to shoo Sirius out the
back door unnoticed. The owl always
made such a smug spectacle of himself for Babette, the snowy owl who delivered
the daily bulletins from Gladrags’ corporate offices at that hour. Once Sirius was gone, she’d have to change
and freshen up as best she could, and then somehow concentrate on having
a productive workday. As Abby drifted
off, lulled by his restful snores, the last thing she heard was the faint
melody of the tune he’d sung earlier…
The mistletoe we'll pledge also,
And at Christmas all be merry,
At Christmas all be merry…
Mile-high list of Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments:
First off, Abby has been a busy girl in the fandom these
last few months. If you’re interested,
she’s had cameos in the following excellent fics:
Remus, by Yolanda (Remus falls in love in his early
twenties with a woman who doesn't know she has magical powers. He's a happier
and less cautious person before the Potters are killed. Do Remus and Laura have
Girl, by Yolanda (Lily Snape, daughter of Alex and
Severus, is having trouble convincing her father that she's growing up. Will
Severus allow her to go to the Victory Memorial Ball with the boy she likes?)
Expelled, by Sweeney Agonistes (Where did Dumbledore go when he
was removed from the school by the governors? A CoS tale.)
by Alkari (Remus Lupin is returning to
Hogwarts as Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, much to Poppy Pomfrey's
joy. But the shadow of Sirius Black
hangs over Hogwarts.)
Spirits: A Hogsmeade Tale, by Violet Azure
(With the Dementors
removed from Hogsmeade and the village buzzing about the up-coming Tri-Wizard
Tournament, life is looking up for our favorite tavern owner. But things take an unexpected turn when
Madam Rosmerta finds business and pleasure mixing.)
mysterious letter from “A Kind and Caring Friend” can be found here:
as dictated to Catherine by Sirius Black
wonderful people have also created fan art:
by A.L. de Sauveterre
Loomis, by Arianrhod
Whew! Now on to
Many thanks and much e-chocolate goes to Alkari,
who requested this outtake and was then very patient while I took forever to
write it. Keep an eye out for a lovely
Abby/Sirius fic she’s written herself, titled “Coming Home”.
I’m also very appreciative of the feedback, suggestions, and
support offered by the many (and I mean many) people who looked over
this for me.
I borrowed Musical!Sirius from Mincot,
who also provided the carol he sang (George Shaw’s “Merry Christmas,” found in
The Oxford Book of Carols). You can
read more about him more in her works "A
Ministry Christmas" and "Andantino",
as well as in Alkari’s "A Most
I learned that Sirius liked peas from Rugi’s “A Model”. Abby’s secret room is a little tribute to my
favorite passage from Rugi and Gwena’s “Tough
Guide to Harry Potter”, under “Secrets”:
“Secrets are an integral part of any tour and exist, like evil,
actively and passively. Consequently, Original Characters with secret
identities, secret pasts, or secret gifts will be flitting through
secret rooms, reading secret books, or searching for secret artifacts.”
Many of what Sirius remembers
about baby Harry comes from Violet Azure’s “A Simple
Request”, and Bangles and Bobbins exists in her “High
Spirits: A Hogsmeade Tale”.
ColicMonster!Harry can be found in
Midnight Ride”. Sirius should know
better than to ever, ever make mothering wisecracks to a sleep-deprived new
Welkin’s Wondrous Menagerie, a
Diagon Alley pet shop, is part of Catherine’s
stories. The “Wild Thing Wash” is my
creation. J And to think, I’m not even a “pet person”.
My depiction of how the Fidelius Charm
worked is taken from bluemeanies’ comments here.
And, just because I really like
the Sirius/Padfoot characterization in it, I’m going to recommend Mosylu’s “The Woods
Are Lovely, Dark and Deep”.
Lastly, thanks to my husband for
inspiring most of Sirius’ more obnoxious behavior. And now that you know how wholly unoriginal I am, thanks for
reading! I know there wasn’t a whole
lot of plot here, but they really did need a moment together to talk, among
other things (wink, wink). I haven’t
abandoned the Whisper Weave and other plot threads; I’m just still not sure
what to do with them, and I don’t want to start a big undertaking before Book
5. Suggestions welcomed, however!
Also, some problem with my
computer always causes formatting to go wonky in the Floo transfer to the sites
on which I post. This explains the
weird font sizes, lack of italics, etc.
I promise, I do know how to format properly! Thanks for understanding.