Chapter Two: Greetings
arrived at Grimmauld Place with the usual feeling of having a hook in his
navel, and the Portkey ride hadn’t been very pleasant either.
Meliflua took on of the boot Portkeys
(the other one was her ride back home) and gave both of them to Andromeda while
she knocked on the door. By all appearances, it was going to be the usual Black
Family Pre-Christmas Dinner. Uncle Al greeted them warmly, with one hand
holding a champagne bottle and the other casually waving them towards the
dining room. A house-elf took their coats and disappeared dutifully. The
portraits crowded up against their frames, leering and cheering and looking for
any excitement. Yes, it had all been done before and Sirius’s hopes did not go
The Black family all lined up to
greet the new arrivals. Fastrada, standing unnaturally straight, was looking
upon her son with the most disdainful look a woman could muster while still
trying to smile and be charming to the other guests. Cassiopeia was honestly
appraising her daughters, walking towards them with practiced elegance. Their husbands, Magnesio and Cepheus, stayed
behind Cassiopeia and Fastrada. Those chose to not bother their wives and
instead continue chatting disapprovingly (or maybe amusedly) about the antics
of the guests in the dining room.
“Hello,” Cassiopeia said, and then
carefully stepped backward (it took a lot of work to exude class, and every
word and movement had to be considered and evaluated for effect). She laughed, the golden ringlets around her
face bouncing in a way that made her look like she could be Andromeda’s
sister—except that Annie’s eyes were somehow childlike (if there’s such a thing
as baby-black eyes). Today,
though, Andromeda’s eyes looked different: more like her mother’s.
“Hello!” The agitation from the
train station was gone, and Andromeda was cheerful (annoyingly so, some would
say) again, leaving no trace of sadness except in her adult eyes. Well, she was
now a legal adult of twenty-one.
“Mother! It’s so nice to be back. Happy Christmas!” She laughed
for no particular reason and headed towards the stairs. “Ooh, I just love your
earrings. Where did you buy them?”
“Oh, Brittany’s.” Cassiopeia
swelled up brightly, bringing out the rings from a hiding place of equally
golden hair ringlets. “I’ve got a necklace as well; simply gorgeous.” They
linked arms like old school chums and glided off towards the jewelry room. “In
a pentagon shape, mother of pearl—French, of course...”
Narcissa and Bellatrix barely
managed to look insulted about being abandoned by their mother; they could see
the glowing dining room from the door and were too excited to attempt small
talk with their parents anyway.
“Happy Christmas,” Fastrada said
simply. “Sirius, go fetch Regulus. He’s in the kitchen.” Her nostrils flared
out (a very loving sign, for her). They belonged to a rather large and ungainly
nose that made her otherwise distinguished face look rather severe. (All the
blame went to the nose, of course, not the fact that she was a severe woman. It
had even managed to make her hair silver.)
Sirius’s head turned towards the
kitchen door, a small grin forming in the center of his face. He was very still for a moment, remembering
his brother for the first time. “Excellent,” he said softly. “Regulus.”
“Yes, that’s what I just said!”
Fastrada remarked crossly
Perhaps he could have a little fun
over break after all.
When he was
found, Regulus wasn’t in the kitchen at all, but crouching in one of the
countless corridors, besides a statue of Elysia d’Angle. On her base, instead
of a plaque reading ‘Miss Ghost of Christmas Present 1873’, was an
ancient Wireless spewing out classical music. He was fiddling with it in an
attempt to change the station. A rather valiant effort, considering that the third-year
was supposedly so ill that his mother had demanded that he be brought in early
from school and treated by very expensive Healers.
There was a
creature in the folds of his robe, a tiny thing with oversized ears and eyes.
The baby creature was shaking like a leaf, possibly from trying not to drown in
the folds of a pillowcase twice its size. Regulus said something to it in a low
voice and kicked the “idiot machine”, changing the station to some calming,
traditional style music, a mellow Jingle Bells flowing out in Latin.
“Ah, got a
new familiar, have we?” Sirius grinned, and it was only barely cruel. “That
makes three friends: that creature and its parents.”
looked up. For just a moment, his face crumpled and some curse started to escape
his mouth. Then he slipped back down to the now slightly calmer house-elf. He
rarely talked to Sirius these days, and barely noted the insults unless they
showed a bit of effort. Being a rather ugly child who had been slapped in the
face by puberty at an early age (and then kicked in the shins and smashed into
a brick wall for good measure), he was far too easy a target.
baby,” he murmured absently, playing with its disproportionably long fingers.
thought it was just deformed.” Sirius tried to look menacing, but the animal
lover was too interested in his toy to be insulted on its behalf. Only
Bellatrix, who was lurking around the upper floors, would be able liven up the
kitchen. She, besides possessing a rather morbid imagination, spent a lot more
time with her only slightly younger cousin, and knew all his weak spots.
Mother wants you in the dining room,” Sirius said resignedly. He would save the
torture for after any distractions were gone.
she does,” replied Regulus, smiling without looking up. He turned the dial on
the Wireless up, shaking the house-elf gently. It tried to bite his finger off.
don’t believe me?”
don’t. Go away.” His tone lost the amusement as the wireless swirled with
static and had to be rattled around to work again.
Sirius could do nothing but raise an eyebrow at the blunt statement. Usually,
Regulus would run to Fastrada, or, more recently, ignore him. “That’s…”
lowered as Sirius laughed. “An order?”
Command. Declarative sentence.” The entire time, Regulus stared stonily at the
young elf, with no obvious changes except for a steadily lowering tone.
with a slow effort, stopped laughing. “Pretty big words for—”
someone with an unfortunately familiar voice called from the dining room. “What
did I say?”
know, what?” Sirius muttered under his breath.
“I said to
get Regulus!” Fastrada had found the corridor, the wrinkles in her forehead
jutting out like knives. “The appetizer is very delicate, you know, and must be
eaten fresh.” Her features softened, ever so slightly. “Come here, Regulus. Put
that creature away and let me see if your hands are clean.”
creature grabbed its chance and lunged away from Regulus, crawling at
break-neck speed toward an empty cupboard before the boy’s foot slammed on the
hem of its pillowcase. Regulus’s hands came out, spotless but probably cursed
from touching the creature. Fastrada’s face hardened again as she took out her
wand, preparing for a good Scourgify. She glanced at Sirius to make sure
he was dirtier than his brother, but he was already gone.
Author’s Notes: Thanks to my beta-readers, Ozma