THE WOES OF MR BLACK
Disclaimer- The characters, plot and places of Harry Potter are the property of JK Rowling.
THE WOES OF MR BLACK
By Templa Otmena
Everybody had gone to bed a while ago.
It had, after all, been a very busy and eventful night. Ron and Hermione’s Prefect Party had offered the residents of Twelve Grimmauld Place a brief respite from the pressing commitments that the Order of the Phoenix demanded of them. The knowledge that this small handful of witches and wizards from all walks of life was all that would potentially stand between the Dark Lord Voldemort and another reign of terror was constantly a forefront thought in the minds of all involved. All of the Order’s members took their responsibilities and the secrecy required seriously.
But for one night they were offered a chance to relax. Excuses had been flying around the kitchen all day as preparations were made-
‘It’ll be good for moral…remind us what we’re fighting for…’
‘The kids’ll love it…not had a chance to muck about all summer…’
‘Give Molly a chance to put a spread on…’
But the fact of the matter remained that simply being in each other’s company, not having to discuss any up-coming missions or Death Eater activity was something that everyone yearned for and would enjoy. Even Alastor Moody had donned a vibrant, and to any normal eye, decidedly tasteless shirt, making his intentions to make the most of the occasion glaringly obvious.
Now, however only Remus Lupin and Sirius Black remained in the kitchen of Twelve Grimmauld Place. In silence they had finished tidying up and had soundlessly occupied their usual seats around the well-worn table. If anyone were to walk into the room they would wish to beat a hasty retreat. The tension was near tangible. Neither had spoken since returning from the ordeal upstairs…
‘No!’ Mrs Weasley moaned. ‘No… riddikulus! Riddikulus! RIDDIKULUS!’
Crack. Dead twins. Crack. Dead Percy. Crack. Dead Harry…
Lupin had come running into the room, closely followed by Sirius, with Moody stumping along behind them. Lupin looked from Mrs Weasley to the dead Harry on the floor and seemed to understand in an instant. Pulling out his own wand, he said, very firmly and clearly:
Harry’s body vanished. A silvery orb hung in the air over the spot where it had lain. Lupin waved his wand once more and the orb vanished in a puff of smoke.
Remus blinked, coming out of his stupor. It had now been nearly two hours ago since he and Sirius had been left alone. Everyone had either quietly gone home or retired to bed.
Remus uneasily looked up from the patch of table that he had been intently studying for the better part of an hour in order to face Sirius but the stubborn man blatantly avoided his gaze. Remus sighed. He knew, as soon as he had been left alone with Sirius that he would have to be the first to act. Sirius was either too difficult or too naïve, both, Remus decided. Either way it would not be Sirius who would act.
Deciding to play Sirius’ game Remus pushed his chair back and went over to the sink. He noted with a smirk that Sirius jumped and followed his movements rather indiscreetly from the corner of his eye, a scowl set upon his handsome yet haggard face as if he knew what his friend was up to. Remus pretended to ignore all of this however and proceeded to make himself a cup of tea… the Muggle Way. Just to be infuriatingly slower.
With his back to Sirius Remus sadly smiled at this. Muggles’ and their ways had always fascinated him and it had been one of the many topics that had left Sirius and James both baffled and with another opportunity to have some harmless fun at his expense. Remus was not alone however. After reading extensively on Muggles’ throughout his Hogwarts career Remus had found a superb ally in Lily as she and James became closer. Gone were the days when Remus would submit to Sirius and James’ heckling, roll his eyes and resume reading elsewhere. Lily proved to be a stalwart ally in impressing their debate upon the two cynics.
When they had all left school and James and Lily had gotten married it would eternally amuse Remus to see how much of an influence Lily was having on James… or rather enforcing on James.
He would never forget the time that he had come to visit the newly-weds in their new home at Godric’s Hollow. He had Apparated just outside their new front gate and in the process had nearly fallen over James who was kneeling just in front of him. James had started, jumped up and rounded on him, reaching for his wand…
‘Moony!’ James gasped.
Remus slowly looked from the thick wooden paintbrush, menacingly pointed at his exposed chest, with a dollop of green paint… ready to drop at any moment, to the face of his friend.
Over his shocked and somewhat embarrassed expression James was a mess. His glasses were covered in numerous green fingerprints, his cheeks and forehead smeared with the same coloured substance. Looking down Remus noticed that the shirt and the trousers that the young wizard wore were equally as covered in the same green paint.
Looking back up to James’ face Remus was intrigued to find his previous expression exchanged with a decidedly more menacing one. He mentally grinned and decided to ignore the clear warning that his friend was giving him.
‘James…’ he simply said.
James’ eyes narrowed ever so slightly and his lips pressed into an even tighter line.
‘Remus…’ he threw back.
Once again Remus blatantly brushed aside the danger that was conveyed as James coldly uttered those two syllables.
‘I didn’t see you there.’ The young wizard pleasantly stated, a sickly sweet smile added just to be extra infuriating.
Some might not have noticed but it was clear to Remus that James was one step away from either doing some irreparable damage to himself or to the person who was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that glare. Had it been anyone else Remus would have worried for them, he might even have intervened but as it was himself he remained where he was. He was having too much fun.
Clenching his jaw James replied from between his teeth, ‘Evidently… you might try to be more careful next time… friend.’
Before Remus could ponder whether or not this had been a threat of any kind Lily exited the cottage that stood behind James. She warmly greeted Remus as he handed her the book that she had leant him. Out of the corner of his eye Remus noticed James standing off to the side, his expression further darkening with every moment. At the same time Remus noticed that Lily also bore green smudges, but, whilst James was covered from head to toe in the paint Lily merely had a mark here and there, her red hair practically kept out of her face with a make-shift headscarf.
‘James.’ Lily said, her tone rather clipped as she turned to him.
James turned his, by then deadly glare, on his wife, which did not seem to perturb her in the slightest.
‘James. You’ve not even finished the gate properly, let alone the front. Sirius is already on to the left side by now… what have you been doing all this time?!’
It was at this point that Remus noticed that James had indeed been painting the gate. There seemed however to be more paint on the footpath than on the actual gate, something that Lily had obviously noticed too as she let out a long-suffering sigh.
‘I knew I should have done the front… the first thing that people will see…’ She shook her head disappointedly.
James opened his mouth as if to say something but before he could Lily turned back to Remus.
‘Come Remus… I’ll get you a drink and then we can go into the back garden and see Sirius’ progress. I’ve already finished my side,’ she glanced pointedly at James.
Remus nodded and dutifully followed Lily through the unfinished gate and into the house, stopping once to send James an apologetic glance, only just missing out on a missile of green paint that hit the wall by the side of his head in the process.
The afternoon passed rather lazily for Remus and Lily who both sat on the patio sipping lemonade at their leisure, ignoring Sirius’ angry glares and sometimes pathetic glances in their direction.
By the end of the day the fence was finished, gate and all, complete with splodges on the footpath, something that Sirius pointed out to James when comparing his handiwork to his friend’s. Another green missile flew. James didn’t miss that time…
Remus chuckled from where he stood at the sink and as he turned around he was slightly startled to find Sirius unabashedly looking at him, confusion clear in his eyes.
‘What are you laughing at?’ he asked. Whether he sounded intrigued or offended Remus did not know.
Remus took a sip of his tea as he resumed his seat. ‘I was just thinking of that time when Lily got you and James to paint the fence around Godric’s Hollow…’ he took another sip.
Sirius blinked, clearly not having expected that answer and shook his head. ‘What made you think of that?’ he asked, earning him a shrug from his friend.
After a few moments of silence Sirius quietly chuckled as he grinned at the same memory.
‘I never did find out how Lily managed it…’ Remus remarked as he set his empty cup down.
At that Sirius chuckled anew, rolling his eyes he answered. ‘It was our own stupid fault. But Lily did goad us into it, saying that we were just afraid of hard work and that we couldn’t handle the fact that she’d beat us.’
Remus smiled. ‘And she did.’
Sirius sighed. ‘That she did.’
Seeing his friend’s expression quickly recede back into misery Remus knew that they wouldn’t get anywhere tonight and it was pointless trying. Tempers would only get frayed and a conflict was the last thing that Remus wanted.
Pushing his chair back again he quickly rinsed his cup and returned to the table where he quietly announced that he was going to bed.
‘Goodnight Moony.’ Sirius looked up at him from where he had been intently staring at his fidgeting hands.
‘Night Padfoot.’ He replied. He quickly reached down before his friend could react and cupped his shoulder in a crushing grip, silently conveying that he knew and that he was there.
Sirius once again looked down, audibly gulping down whatever emotion it was that clouded his throat.
‘Try to sleep, Sirius…’ Remus quietly added.
Smiling grimly his friend once again looked up. ‘Yeah, yeah you too Remus…’ as an afterthought, ‘don’t let that old hag bother you on the way up.’ He added, trying to lighten their parting.
Remus forced a wry chuckle. ‘No, I won’t…’ he smiled, turning away and leaving the kitchen and Sirius behind.
Sirius watched as Remus’ figure retreated from the kitchen into the encompassing darkness of the hallway beyond. He was both relieved and afraid at the sudden absence of his friend. Remus, after all could be entirely infuriating when he wanted to be. When he especially wanted to get on a person’s nerves, particularly Sirius’, as Sirius strongly suspected he had just then, it would seem that every movement, every word, every syllable, had a motive and a purpose. At this thought Sirius’ brow furrowed and he turned away from the door, deciding that he was definitely relieved that his friend had gone. It was then however that his gaze lingered on the unoccupied seat, and then he took in the empty kitchen and he suddenly felt very alone. The lack of distraction was also a problem. Remus, though he might not have known it afforded an extremely bored person, or a person intentionally looking for a distraction an interesting form of entertainment. His numerous mannerisms, that only a friend as close as Sirius would notice were the subjects of jokes that had long since passed from memory.
With that thought Sirius’ mind once again darkened as his expression returned to a scowl, a look that was not at all unbecoming on so handsome a face but for the turmoil within.
The man sighed tiredly. Yes, he was relieved that Remus had left him alone. The pressure to speak had gone but that did not mean that he did not think and dwell on all that was left unspoken. Quite the contrary, memory upon memory of images, conversations and encounters’ passed through Sirius’ mind. Not all of them were good, many of them were not good and they were torn and churned with eternal feelings of guilt and regret.
Unsurprisingly it was Remus’ bizarre recollection that Sirius clung to, for it was a happy one…
‘Right, you two… off!’
‘Lil… I’ve been working all day. For you might I add!’
‘I know Sirius, and I appreciate it… we appreciate it.’
‘But…’ he offered.
‘But…’ Lily continued, ‘we have a big day tomorrow, James and I… look at the state he’s in! Magic won’t suffice, it’ll take hours to get him clean for starters!’
‘I’m sure you’ll help him.’ Sirius innocently grinned.
Lily glared at him as her eyes danced. ‘Be that as it may, you’ve been here long enough, and Remus has to be off anyway. Some people have jobs to attend to!’
Maintaining a worthily wounded expression Sirius rose. ‘Right then Remus… that’s us told, best be going…’
‘Indeed…’ Remus grinned. ‘Bye Lily,’ he embraced her as they stood. ‘See you Prongs.’ He patted James on the back, his palm coming away green.
‘Bye Moony, take care…’
‘D’you want a lift Moony?’ Sirius earnestly offered as he scooped up his motorbike keys.
Eyes widening and face paling Remus uncomfortably gulped. Whilst ignoring James and Lily’s amused glances he diplomatically replied, ‘I’ll be all right Padfoot… As Lily said, I’ve got to get home now… the, the quicker the better!’ He added in an all too enthusiastic tone.
Not seeming to notice Sirius shrugged as he pulled on his jacket, making his way towards the door. ‘Lil, you had better appreciate the services that you employed today for their rarity. Never again I tell you!’
Lily rolled her eyes, following Remus as she slipped her arm around James’ waist who draped his arm over her shoulders. ‘You know you enjoyed it…’ Lily quietly offered.
Sirius didn’t reply.
Eventually they all stood at the gate, James conveniently standing over and covering the green splodges on the path.
‘Have a safe journey you two.’ Lily said.
‘We will…’ Sirius and Remus chorused.
As Sirius started up the engine of his flying motorbike Remus said one last quiet goodbye before Disapparating. Over the clamour of his bike Sirius also bid James and Lily good night and as they stepped back he steered the vehicle down the path and launched himself into the night sky.
As he maintained his altitude Sirius cast one last look over his shoulder. He saw Godric’s Hollow, it’s newly painted green fence and Lily and James. They stood, sharing a kiss, oblivious to his observing them and to the world. Sirius smiled, revved his engine and shot off into the dark abyss.
Shaking his head Sirius returned to his surroundings.
Memories like those had been denied him for so long during his incarceration in Azkaban, he had either tried not to think of such happy times or the memories were stolen from him by the Dementors’ ceaseless assaults.
But for a few moments he had actually been back there, at Godric’s Hollow with Remus, Lily and James. Sharing their company and partaking in their jests and having a good and carefree time. It had all gone so fast. Not long after that night Lily and James had announced that they were expecting Harry, Harry was born, Harry’s first birthday, and then…
Sirius inhaled sharply and clenched his eyes shut. His hand became a fist on the table as he tried to quench the tide of emotions warring within him.
Memories… memories like those were always with him. Day and night. He would fall asleep with them and he would wake with them.
Any other day he would have resigned himself to the fact that the pain of his loss would never hurt any more than it did in his waking nightmares. But it was today and what he had seen earlier that brought the original sting back, something that he could only reconcile with how he had felt when he had found James and Lily’s bodies nearly fourteen years ago in the crumpled rubble of their treasured home. And this evening, like a cold knife through his heart he had been there again and that horror, for those few brief moments had been relived.
Finally it all became too much for Sirius. The great well of grief and guilt that always stayed hidden and stagnant despite its torrential assaults suddenly crumbled the wizard’s painstakingly erected dam of resolve. His body trembled and then it shook from head to toe. With his head hanging between his arms, which cradled his stricken face, Sirius Black succumbed to his torment.
Terrible, painful, wrenching sobs escaped him, coming from somewhere dark and unnatural. His grief was so consuming that he had neither the strength nor the awareness to quell it, he could only surrender himself to it, so completely was he at its mercy.
As the storm began to lose its strength bitterly did Sirius return to awareness. He violently ran his fingers through his hair, painfully stretching the strands. As he closed his eyes against his self-inflicted agony he tried to escape the images that only made themselves clearer within his minds eye…
…Sirius was staring at the patch of carpet where the Boggart, pretending to be Harry’s body, had lain…
It was the shock. One moment Sirius had been downstairs with Moody, looking over his picture of the old Order of the Phoenix, reminiscing in pride and nostalgia. Then, upon hearing Molly Weasley’s screams he had quickly vaulted after Remus into the darkness of the hallway, ran up the stairs two at a time and then into that room and then he had been transported to another time and another place.
He saw a body, prostrate on the ground with no sign of life to be attributed to it but gone was he from Twelve Grimmauld Place. Rather, he had seen James and he was in the ruins of Godric’s Hollow.
Sirius had been transported back to that terrible night when his world had fallen apart. James would not move no matter how many times he shook him. James would not answer his calls and no matter how feverishly Sirius wished it his face would not crack into its ridiculous lopsided grin, telling him that it was all a joke. Instead James’ face was pale and cold, his expression holding a look of undisguised terror and hopelessness, something that he had never thought to see marring his friend’s features.
All of this had been brought back to him upon seeing the Boggart in the guise of Harry, dead and lifeless on the floor. It seemed an eternity before Remus was rid of the creature. Sirius had stared enthralled at the silvery orb as it vanished in a puff of smoke; so easily and carelessly extinguished. It was then that the horror of what he had just seen and relived hit him as a tidal wave, causing him to wince and stumble from the room, making no excuses and without once looking at Harry.
Sirius warily opened his eyes, which harshly adjusted to the light of the empty room. How long he had sat in this ruined and pitiful state he did not know and only the exhaustion he felt, that had slowly crept into every inch of his body gave him any indication that it was very late and he was well past his endurance.
Slowly he rose from his chair and extinguished the light, stretching and cracking his aching body. His progress was sluggish as he dragged himself up the flights of stairs, but as he came upon the room that had been scene to the drama this evening he abruptly stopped. Shaking his head at his own fear Sirius reached for the door handle and turned it, ignoring the cold grip of fear that had settled in his stomach.
Of course, there was nothing in the room that should not have been there and Sirius released a shaky breath that he had not known he had been holding. For many moments he stood there, a silent spectre, staring at that spot of carpet that had given birth to so many old fears and memories tonight. And this time when he shut his eyes it was Harry who Sirius saw dead. His smaller frame spread-eagle over the carpet, motionless and cold. Blinking back the tears that threatened to overcome him again this night Sirius cleared his throat, turned on his heel and hastily retreated from that place.
As he speedily made his way to his own room Sirius made one final, reluctant and very hesitant stop outside the door of his godson.
Harry was alive and he was behind that door.
Taking in a deep draught of air Sirius slowly turned the handle, wanting to look upon his godson for himself. He placed two fingers on the hinge as the door opened, preventing any unnecessary creaking as he peeped in, the dim light from the corridor conveniently falling over Harry’s bed and his quietly sleeping form.
The boy lay on his back against his pillow. The warm summer weather meant that he was sweating and his hair was messily plastered all across his forehead. As Sirius watched Harry turned over in his sleep, mumbling incoherently and kicking the covers off and as he did so several Extended Ears slipped from their hiding place within the quilt.
Sirius smiled. James would have had a few choice words about his son’s carelessness.
Satisfied that his godson was safe and sound the wizard silently closed the door and left Harry in peace. He decided to leave the offending items where they were, reasoning that if Molly found them in the morning it would be a lesson well learnt in that Harry would find a better hiding place next time.
‘I tell you Prongs… he’s going to look just like you when he’s older.’
James smiled from his position above baby Harry’s cot, opposite Sirius. ‘Lily keeps saying that…’ he replied warmly.
‘Well she’s right… poor thing…’
Not looking up James smiled and reached down to stroke his sleeping son’s cheek. The young wizard sighed as he withdrew his arm and resumed his vigil.
‘What’s wrong Prongs?’ Sirius asked, concern edging his voice.
It was a while before James replied, but when he did his voice was small and desolate. ‘He’s so small Sirius, so tiny and vulnerable and to think that, in this world that we’re living in… everything is so uncertain and anything might, anything could…’
Sirius cut his friend off by reaching over and grabbing his shoulder, he didn’t speak until James’ teary eyes locked gazes with his.
‘Nothing’, he vehemently stated, ‘Nothing, will happen to Harry, ever, James… We’ll never let it… I’ll never let it.’
‘I know Sirius… it’s just…’
‘I know,’ Sirius gave James’ shoulder a squeeze before releasing it, ‘we’re living in uncertain times James, but I know that this little one will be all right.’
‘Turning Seer are you?’ James quipped as he sniffed.
Sirius grinned but ignored him, looking down at Harry he continued. ‘He’s going to do great things this one… there’s a rich life ahead of him to be fulfilled and nothing will be able to touch him. We’ll see to that Prongs…’
‘I know we will. I know you will! Lily is getting really sick of you being around here all the time you know! She puts on her airs and graces but once you’re gone…’ James comically made of sharp intake of breath but then released it in a tired sigh. ‘I know you’ll always be there for him Padfoot, you don’t have to promise me because I know you will and you have no idea how great a comfort that is. Thank you.’
Sirius silently nodded, not trusting his voice.
‘I won’t let you down James.’ Sirius whispered from outside Harry’s door. ‘… Lily. Never shall he come to harm,’ he proclaimed as he lay a palm against the wood of his godson’s door. ‘Not so long as I draw breath… I won’t let you down.’
Sirius closed his eyes and let his vow wash over him, reinforcing his purpose and his focus that guided him through the darkness of his guilt. He allowed himself a smile as his despair lessened and stepped back from the door. He then turned down the corridor and made his way to bed.