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Disclaimer: As much I would like to, I do not own anything that you recognize in this story.
A/N: It's a season of thanksgiving. Thanks to Chary, my beta, and ivy and Honeybee for their input, and Spartina for her encouragement and ideas.
It was quite rare that Mother put us to bed.
It was considered a treat, really, as the governess usually did it. The governess would make us wash our faces and brush our teeth. She would tuck me in and she would sit on my bed watching as Sirius would try to tuck himself in. He always made a mess of it. I would laugh at him, but he wouldn’t get mad since he did it to make me laugh. The governess would only smile indulgently—as she supposed she should—at him, his arms and legs tangled in the green blankets.
‘Master Sirius,’ she would say, suddenly playful, and he would stop flailing about and peek over the blanket at her. Inevitably, his hair would be all over the place. She would go over to him and smooth his hair, although he hated it, and say, ‘How will you ever get a girl to love you if you look like that?’
'Why would I want a girl to love me?’ he would say defiantly, still annoyed at her for smoothing his hair.
She would pretend to be shocked at his lack of interest in girls. ‘You’ll think differently when you’re older.’
‘No I won’t! I don’t need a girl to love me. I already have Regulus to love me.’
‘Yes,’ I would chime in. Brothers love each other.
‘Ah, this is true, but you will feel differently when you are older and on your own.’
‘On my own? I won’t be on my own, I’ll be with Regulus. Right, Regulus?’
‘Yes,’ I would say, very pleased that Sirius wanted me with him.
‘You say that now, but I know that you will see it differently when you’re older and married. You won’t want Regulus to be with you all the time. The love between brothers is very different from the love between a husband and wife.’
‘Love is love,’ Sirius would say. That would be the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned. She would press her lips together, wanting to make her point. Sirius would never let her. Even at age seven, he had that power over people. No-one ever told Sirius something he did not want to hear.
She would conjure us each a small tumbler of water, would watch as we drank it, would turn down the lamps, and quietly close the door behind her—all the while tense from wanting to say something to him but not daring. She never did. None of the governesses ever did.
But it was always better when Mother put us to bed, because it was her and she would be happy to be with us. She would tell us how much she loved us and she would let us have cakes before bed. Sirius would even let her tuck him into bed without the flailing about, and she would never tell him that no girl would love him with messy hair. She would never have to smooth it down. She would never tell us that someday girls would love us, that we wouldn’t want to always be together.
Sometimes we would try to get her to tell a story.
‘Tell us a story, please, Mother?’
‘All right, my wee ones. Just this once.’
She always told the same story.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful and very powerful witch named Jacinda. Not only was she beautiful, but she was also a Countess. She had two daughters who she loved more than anything and there is nothing that she wouldn’t do to protect them. One day, her husband, the Count, died and she was left very lonely and on the brink of poverty. The Count had been ill for a very long time indeed and she did not know that he owed a lot of money to different townspeople.
In fact, the townspeople demanded that she sell her home so she could pay them her husband’s debts. But Jacinda refused. The townspeople took to following her around and eavesdropping on her conversations. One night, Jacinda’s neighbour saw her Apparate in her garden. That’s how they found out that she was a witch. They were jealous of her magic and the house that she would not give up. So they caught her off guard in her garden one evening and chased her out of town. She barely got away and she only had the robes she was wearing, her two daughters, her wand, and a few coins.
Jacinda and her daughters, Carina and Auriga, walked and walked. In fact, they walked so long that they used up all the money they had managed to take with them. They came to another town and poor Jacinda had to do something she never thought she would have to do—she begged for a place to rest and a bit of food to eat. She was afraid the townspeople would kill her and her daughters, so she lived like a Muggle and had to work like a Muggle and did not dare tell anyone that she was a witch.
She met a man, a landowner, who took pity on her and her daughters. He invited Jacinda to keep his home. He was struck by her beauty, and after a few days he had to have her as his wife. So he asked her to marry him. Now this man was a Muggle, and she was afraid that when he found out that she was a witch, he would kill them. But she saw that her daughters, after many days of near starvation, had full stomachs and were happily dozing in front of the fire and she did a very stupid thing. She said yes.
This man had some money and a lovely manor, and a spoiled daughter whose mother had died several years before. This daughter was brazen, undisciplined, and very rude to her new step-family and made it very hard for them to feel like a family. Eventually, because she was suspicious and watched Jacinda carefully, she figured out that Jacinda was a witch and she told her father. Jacinda hid her daughters in fear that he would cruelly kill them. But he didn’t. He left, and that was the worst thing he could do.
Despondent over the turn of events as she were, Jacinda couldn’t help but feel very put out because was left in a very difficult position—left in a strange land with no husband and very little money for she didn’t know how to properly manage the farmland on his manor, not to mention having to raise a girl she could not love but who kept out of sight after the revelation. She had to do away with most of the servants, she partook of no social engagements, and she kept her daughters close to her for they were the only light in her solitary life. She, who was once a countess, was now a commoner.
One day, Jacinda was particularly hungry and searched the kitchen for something to eat, and while she was searching, she came upon a secret cache of Muggle money and the deed to the manor hidden in the back of a cabinet. There was more than enough money to set up her daughters and herself far away from there—closer to where her people were from, in a wizarding community, anywhere but there. She took all the money and put in her wand case, which she wore at her side.
Jacinda went into the next room to tell her daughters about the cache when the brazen twit of a step-daughter appeared. Jacinda was not very concerned about it, since the girl often ran wild about the countryside. In fact, she was hoping that the child—Elle was her name—would come home because Jacinda wanted to have words with her. Elle was covered head to toe in dirt and soot. She pointed a very dirty finger at Jacinda and shouted, ‘Stop, witch!’
Before Jacinda could do anything, several of the townspeople came rushed in waving torches and pitchforks at her and her daughters. The torches did not worry Jacinda, but the pitchforks—and there were a lot of them—did. Jacinda raised her wand. There was a flash of silver light and a loud boom! Everyone but Jacinda and her daughters were knocked out. She reached a hand out to them and they carefully stepped around their would-be captors. Jacinda paused only to cast an Impervius Charm on the soot-covered step-daughter whose dirty arms would serve as reminder the rest of her life as to what happened when you trifle with a witch. Jacinda, Carina, and Auriga fled through the nearby wood.
‘I hoped you learned something from this story, my wee ones.’
Sirius nodded, stifling a yawn and rolling over. But I wasn’t sure. ‘What were we supposed to learn, Mother?’ I asked.
She sat down on my bed and smoothed my hair. I didn’t mind when she smoothed my hair. ‘Regulus, this is a very important lesson—Muggles don’t like witches and wizards.’
‘They don’t?’ I didn’t know any Muggles to be certain.
‘No, they don’t. In fact, I’ll be so bold to say that Muggles hate wizards,’ she said matter-of-factly.
‘Why, Mother? I want to know.’
‘Regulus, I wish that you never have to find this out on your own, so I’m going to tell you the truth so you don’t have to seek it. Muggles are scared of wizards because they don’t understand magic and they never can. They lack the ability to believe.’
‘I believe in magic, Mother.’
‘Of course you do. It’s easier for children to believe in magic. And, more importantly, Regulus, you believe because you are magical. You were born a wizard; you’ve been around magic all your life. Muggles are not born magical so they cannot understand it as we do.’
‘What about Muggle-born wizards and witches, Mother?’
‘Well, they have magic but it’s weak, and they don’t realize there is magic until it’s almost too late, so it’s hard for them to believe in it, even when they have magic. And they are not around it all their lives, like pure-blood wizards.’
‘Yes, like us. Muggle-borns are not nearly as powerful or magical as pure-bloods. And Muggles don’t have any power at all.’
‘And that means that pure-bloods are better because we have more power, and more magic,’ I added as an afterthought.
She smiled a genuine smile at me and kissed my forehead. I did not mind. ‘That’s right, Regulus! And it’s better to keep wizarding lines pure to maintain that power. You are strong. Always be proud of your wizarding heritage. Toujours pur, Regulus. I hope that you will never forget this. You will promise me that, won’t you?’
I learned those lessons at my mother’s knee. I never forgot those words: You believe because you are magical. You are strong. Always be proud of your wizarding heritage.
Sirius did not remember. My parents told him that he was ‘powerful but lacked proper wizarding pride.’ He told them that he had had enough.
And then he left.