The Sugar Quill
Author: Dark Princess  Story: Not Again  Chapter: Default
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Not Again

Disclaimer: Anything you recognise does not belong to me, however much I wish that it did. Instead, it all belongs to J. K. Rowling. However, anything you do not recognise does belong to me.

 

 

Summary: Two friends sit reminiscing about the past and remembering better times. But the arrival of dire news causes arguments to erupt and choices to be made. Guilt is still felt, the past is remembered, but he won’t let it happen again. A Missing Moment from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and a submission for the “Spring Challenge: A Different Viewpoint” on MNFF.

 

 

Author’s Note: A huge and grateful “Thank You!” goes out to thegirllikeme of MNFF for beta-ing this story. She did a fantastic job on such short notice, helping turn this story into what it is, and for that, I thank her. Also, a ‘Thank You’ goes to PirateQueen for looking it over before putting on the SQ. Now, I present for your enjoyment, Not Again.

 

 

~**~


Not Again


~**~



Everything was silent in the house as a heavy, orange sun began its slow descent below the horizon. All of the portraits were quiet; one could not even hear a rustle of robes, a sigh of breath, a scraping of chairs, or a shuffling of feet come from any of the occupants of the numerous framed canvases that dotted the walls of the ancient house.


But it was not just the portraits that were silent and unmoving; the occupants of the house were as well. No one wandered through the long and dark corridors; no one climbed or descended the stairs. Not even the common creaking of the bottom three steps could be heard. Even the sole house-elf was silent and still, hidden in the library on one of the ancient house’s upper floors. And regardless of the fact that four of the five people in the house all sat together in the home’s basement kitchen, not a one of them spoke. Why? One could only guess.


The silence was not an awkward one, nor was it brought on by any particular grief or sadness. No one was asleep and, fortunately, no one had died recently, regardless of the ever-present threat that each of them faced every day. Death always hung in the air, whether certain people would admit it or not, and these four individuals faced it every day. Still, they had been fortunate the first time around; all of them had survived the terrors of the 1970s — some by fortune, some by luck, and some because they were too young to have been put in danger the first time. But the question remained. Would they all be as fortunate again? Was it possible to keep escaping death?


And so, they each sat in silence, lost in individual thought and staring into their drinks. Two mugs were filled to the brim with un-drunk Firewhiskey, one was half-filled with tea, that was, by now, cold, and another was an almost-empty glass of simple water that the young, purple-haired witch had drunk almost all of.


“Did I miss something?” said a voice from the kitchen’s doorway. “It’s like someone died in here.”


All of the heads turned to look at the dark-haired man entering the kitchen. Uneasy laughter broke out as the silence slowly evaporated, and the fifth individual took a seat at the table’s head, summoning the bottle of Firewhiskey from the figure sitting opposite him — a scarred, older man who had a chunk missing from his nose and an electric-blue eyeball that swirled around in its socket. The older man focussed both of his eyes on the new arrival.


“I was drinking from that, you know, Sirius,” he grunted, and the other man gave a smirk, before bringing the bottle’s tip to his mouth. After taking a deep swig from the bottle, he replaced it on the table and, leaning forwards in his seat, spoke.


“You still have an entire glass in front of you, Mad-Eye,” he said. “I believe you could spare me the bottle.” And he took another, lengthy swig.


“How’s Buckbeak?” asked a thin, brown-haired man sitting to Sirius’s right. This man — the one with the cold tea — ran a hand through his brown, though severely greying, hair as he spoke. He looked up at his friend, awaiting the answer.


Sirius glanced over and took another drink, before replying. “He’s fine, now, Remus,” he said, running a hand through his own, long black hair to shove it out of his eyes. “It was just a cut on his left leg, easy enough to bandage, but I’m still going to kill that elf.”


Remus sighed, evidently not wishing to get in another ‘discussion’ over the house’s very … colourful … house-elf. Kreacher really was unlike any house-elf that Remus had ever come across, but judging from certain portraits in the house, an odd house-elf was almost to be expected. In fact, one could consider it to be one of the milder aspects of life at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.


Silence descended on the group again, punctuated only by the occasional sigh or clinking of glass on wood as someone set their mug down on the table. The quiet, like earlier, still didn’t feel too awkward, though there was an air of moroseness about it that had not been present earlier. Or, perhaps it had, but no one had really realised it. But the heavy silence did not last for too long before being broken. Sirius rose abruptly from the table and, grabbing the Firewhiskey, walked moodily from the room, sighing and not even bothering to close the door behind him.


“What’s wrong with him?” said a large and muscular dark-skinned man once he was sure that Sirius would not hear. His voice was low and seemed to almost rumble when he spoke. He turned to the man on his left. “Do you know, Remus?”


An exasperated sigh escaped Remus as he continued staring into his mug. Yes, he knew exactly what had his friend acting more depressed than usual. Almost six months had passed since anyone outside of the Order of the Phoenix had been in Grimmauld Place. Most notably and most relevant to Sirius, Harry had been absent since then, save for a brief conversation in the fire around two months past. Mutely, he nodded his head in response to Kingsley’s question. The Auror, however, sensing that Remus would prefer not to speak of more details, let the issue drop.


“Dumbledore should be here any —”


“Excuse me for a moment,” muttered Remus as he got up and, leaving his drink on the table, left the kitchen without even a backward glance at Tonks, the young witch he had interrupted.


Taking care to shut the kitchen’s door behind him, Remus entered the next room, where he came across his best friend. Sirius, however, did not seem to notice the other man’s arrival, or, if he did, he made no acknowledgment of it.


Instead, Sirius continued sitting in his chair — an overstuffed grey one that had a bit of the stuffing coming out of a tear on the armrest — with the half-empty bottle of alcohol on a small table in front of him. His long, dark hair fell into his face, blocking his expression from Remus, but Remus could at least tell that his friend was gazing intently at his hands. As the werewolf stepped closer, still not speaking, he saw a small, square mirror and a photograph, though he was still too far away to make out the occupants of the picture.


“Sirius?” he said hesitantly, approaching the form of his friend and taking a seat in the chair next to him. Sirius did not look up; instead, he kept his grey gaze on the mirror and photograph, both of which were being tossed lightly around in his hands. Remus was just about to address his friend again, when Sirius let out a sigh and, still not looking at Remus, spoke.


“Do you ever wonder, Remus, what it would have been like if they hadn’t died?”


Remus did not answer right away, for the question had taken him by surprise. The words were not quite what he was expecting, but, sensing the need of his friend, he went with the line of conversation anyway.


“Almost every day,” he said quietly, “especially in the beginning … right after it happened.” He saw Sirius nod, but he also did not miss the slightly haunted look that shone in his friend’s eyes for the briefest of moments, before Sirius stubbornly repressed it.


“It isn’t your fault, Sirius,” he muttered. “You didn’t kill them, and …”


“Would you have done what I did, Moony?” asked Sirius, finally tearing his gaze from the mirror and glancing at his friend. “If you had known the truth back then, would you have gone after him, too?”


The immediate answer that came to Remus's mind was obvious. Of course, he would have chased after Peter. He would have wanted an explanation and the chance to avenge James and Lily. What other answer was there? But after taking one look at Sirius's eyes, he knew that his friend wanted pure honesty from Remus; Sirius wanted the complete and real truth from him, even if the whole answer wasn’t in agreement with Sirius's own choices.


“I would have wanted to know why,” he whispered. “And I still do; it’s something that I couldn’t understand then, when Dumbledore told me, and I can’t understand it now. So … yes, Sirius, I probably would have gone after him … but I don’t know if I would have tried to kill him.”


Silence that had held its grip over the entire house descended once again on the two friends. And, as they sat in the quiet, rain started to fall from the early night sky, its drops of water tinkling off of the glass window panes of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, and creating a sort of peaceful and musical — yet simple — rhythm.


As Remus listened to the soothing sounds of falling water, he noticed Sirius's discomfort. Suddenly, he remembered that Sirius had never gotten the same sort of emotion out of the rain; in fact, his best friend had always hated rain and storms — an aspect that had struck Remus as being odd years ago, because Sirius's natural chaotic and havoc-wreaking personality should have made him appreciate weather of that sort. With Sirius, however, that had never been the case, and now, after over two decades of knowing each other, Remus thought he finally — and fully — understood the reason behind Sirius's hatred of rain and storms.


Sirius's whole life had been made up of many ‘storms’, and the rain never — or very rarely — happened at a good time for him. From what Remus remembered, a lot of the fights Sirius had had with his family happened on stormy, summer nights. The ‘incident’ that happened with Snape, in their sixth year, had occurred on a rainy night, if Remus recalled correctly. James had told him that, after a particularly bad fight with his parents, Sirius had run away from home on the night of a massive storm, showing up at the Potters’ drenched, yet still grinning. It was raining around the time that James and Lily were killed; the day Sirius went to Azkaban, it had started to storm.


Remus's thoughts were suddenly interrupted when Sirius's voice broke through the silence.


“Do you remember this day, Moony?” he muttered, his voice low and barely able to be heard, but Remus caught every word. Remus glanced up at his friend, tearing his own gaze from the rain-covered window, and saw Sirius extending the photograph he had held to him. Leaning forwards in his chair, Remus took the picture and, looking at it, could not keep the reminiscing smile from his tired face.


The picture was almost two decades old, but Remus remembered the day clearly. In the photograph were three boys, all around eighteen years of age, grinning largely at the camera. They all had their arms draped over the shoulders of the others. One of the boys — the one in the centre — had messy black hair, and his mischievous hazel eyes were behind a pair of round glasses. He kept glaring at the figure to his right — a tall boy with black hair that fell to his shoulders — who would shrug innocently, an expression made pointless by the joyful and mischief-filled gleam in his grey eyes. Finally, there was the other boy. He had light brown hair, and his blue eyes were looking at his two friends in exasperation, though he, too, couldn’t keep from smiling and laughing.


“Yes, I remember,” said Remus, grinning at his photographic image. “It was the day James said that he planned to propose to Lily.”


“He had called us all up, saying to meet him at the Leaky Cauldron, because there was something he needed to tell us,” said Sirius.


“You joked that it probably had to do with Lily, and that she finally wised up and dumped James. Which is why he’s glaring at you in the picture.”


“And one of the witches working there loved the expression on his face so much she decided to take a photo.”


The two of them laughed as memories came back — good memories of times that should have continued forever between four friends. But now, only two are where four should be, Remus thought bitterly. However, he kept the bitterness from his voice, knowing that the carefree enjoyment that Sirius now felt had been missing for too long. And perhaps Remus was being selfish, but he wanted his friend the way he was sixteen years ago … the way he was before Azkaban. And while Remus wanted that change for Sirius, he also wanted it for himself.


“It’s good to see you laugh again, Sirius,” he said, grasping his best friend’s shoulder as Remus stood up.


Sirius gave a returning grin and nodded. Still holding the mirror in his hands, he watched Remus leave and rejoin the others in the kitchen. Sirius probably would have continued sitting in the chair, had it not been for the words he heard come from the kitchen when Remus opened the door.


“–Potter believes it.”


The words alone were enough to make Sirius jump from the chair and rush back over towards the kitchen, haphazardly tossing the mirror he had held into his abandoned chair. He caught the door before it managed to fully close behind Remus, and he wrenched it back open.


“Is Black at head — Oh, there you are.” The sneering voice of Severus Snape echoed around the basement kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, and Sirius did not even have to look at the greasy git’s face to feel the loathing directed at him. It was a good thing that the feeling was absolutely mutual.


“What do you want, Snape?” he hissed venomously, though the words were barely out of his mouth before Kingsley spoke.


“Yes, Sirius is here, but —” said Kingsley, but his answer was interrupted by Remus.


“What did Harry see?” the werewolf asked, focussing his gaze on Snape.


Harry had another vision? Sirius thought to himself. He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he almost missed Snape's answer.


“–the Dark Lord has Black in the Department of Mysteries,” said the Potions professor. “He and Granger went into the forest with Umbridge, but none of them have returned yet, which implies —”


“That Harry still thinks You-Know-Who has Sirius,” interrupted Kingsley, who had risen from his chair and was already in the process of putting on his cloak.


“You really think he’s going to the Hall of Prophecy?” muttered Tonks, looking at her former professor.


Snape shot the witch a look that seemed to say ‘Are you completely stupid?’ but, fortunately, they all knew — and were used to — Snape's personality. “It is exactly the sort of idiotic and foolish thing the boy would do; he doesn’t have the sense —”


Snape —” started Sirius, but he was interrupted by his friend.


“Sirius, Severus, now is not the time,” said Remus calmly, his voice still portraying the feeling of exhaustion that he felt towards the two men, neither of which would ever be able to have a civil conversation with the other. “We will go to the Ministry, find Harry, and bring him back. Voldemort wouldn’t risk coming himself, so there will just be Death Eaters.”


Alastor Moody and Nymphadora Tonks stood up from the table, joining Kingsley against the wall. They all started to leave the kitchen, with Remus and Sirius at the end, when Snape's voice caused them to halt.


“Where’s Dumbledore?” he asked.


“He’s due any moment,” said Tonks. “Someone should tell him what’s happened —”


“Black can stay,” said Snape, jumping onto the end of Tonks’s sentence.


“What?” asked Sirius, staring at Snape. The professor glared at him, a condescending look on his pale face.


“Are you deaf as well as stupid, Black?” he spat. “You, of all people, can’t go to the Ministry, though I have no idea why you would even risk it.”


“What are you on about, Snape?” Sirius hissed, paying no attention to Remus's words to calm down. All he could think of was Harry and the obnoxious Snape. “It’s Harry we’re talking about, and —”


“And you, Black, haven’t left this house in almost a year. You also haven’t fought any duels in almost fifteen years, and in that last one, you didn’t quite come out too well, did you?”


Remus's words of “Severus, that wasn’t called for” were completely overridden and drowned out by Sirius's own voice as he spat at Snape.


“What?” he exclaimed, and then his voice became lower. “Are you inferring something? Are you calling me a coward, Snape?” he hissed venomously, his voice deathly quiet, despite the temper and anger that Remus could see bubbling just below the surface. His friend had never had a great grasp on his temper; Sirius's own rash personality usually resulted in actions occurring without complete thought behind them.


Snape looked ready to respond, and the smirk on his pale face told everyone in the kitchen exactly what the response would have been. The former Death Eater, however, did not get the chance to have his retort heard.


“Perhaps Snape is right, Sirius,” grunted Moody, turning both his regular and magical eye in the direction of Sirius. “Not about what you think,” he continued, raising a scarred hand to forestall the inevitable arguments that seemed ready to come from the black-haired man in the doorway. “There aren’t any ‘cowards’ here, but if you’re caught —”


“I don’t have time for this,” Sirius interrupted the retired Auror, not really caring about what was going to be said, and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him.


Did they really think that they had to keep reminding him about his situation? Did they honestly believe he was incapable of understanding what would happen to him if he was caught? Not even Dumbledore would be able to save him, and just the thought of seeing — of feeling — those creatures again caused a shiver to run through Sirius. But this was Harry they were talking about. It was his godson who needed help, and Sirius would be damned if he wasn’t there. He had already failed once — with James — but there was no way he would break another promise.


That was how Remus found his friend when he entered the upstairs drawing room. Sirius was pacing along the worn floor, running his hands through his long hair as he did so, and his chest still rising and falling rapidly with the heavy breathing that the discussion downstairs had caused. However, as Remus stepped into the room, Sirius immediately ceased his movements and stared at his friend.


“It’s Harry, Remus,” he said, before Remus could open his mouth to speak. “James’s son, and you of all people should know that I have to go.”


“I know, Sirius, but …” Remus paused for the briefest of moments and debated internally whether or not he should continue. He knew the words needed to be said, but, at the same time, he knew his friend, his brother. In the end, he decided to speak. “But they are right, you know,” he whispered. “You would be safer here, and if you were caught —”


“Goddamn it, Remus, I know!” exclaimed Sirius as he glared at his friend, the frustration and anger he had felt inside finally being unleashed. “How could I possibly forget about it, especially with people reminding me of Dementors and Azkaban at every chance they get? I mean, does everyone in the whole bloody Order think I’m too ignorant to know that if they catch me, my soul is gone? Do you think I could forget twelve years of that?”


When Sirius had finished, Remus found himself unable to respond. He ran his hand slowly through his own hair in an effort to think, to try and discover something to say, but nothing came. He had known that Sirius still felt haunted by his time in Azkaban, but if he was perfectly honest with himself, Remus had almost believed it to be almost trivial, in a way; sort of like it was just a small, distant thought deep in the back of his friend’s mind — always there, but not precisely in the forefront. And it was not until today that Remus really understood how wrong he was.


Padfoot, I …” But Remus trailed off into silence, no words coming. What do I say to that? he thought. ‘I understand’ wouldn’t be right, because there isn’t a way I could understand his pain. So how does one comfort a brother if they cannot relate to him? An answer to such a question, however, seemed impossible. Fortunately, though, Remus was spared having to find one right away.


“I already failed once, Remus,” muttered Sirius. “I won’t fail again … not Harry.” Sirius looked at his friend, almost like he was daring him to argue with him, daring Remus to tell him he wasn’t coming to save Harry. They both knew that there were plenty of reasons that existed why he shouldn’t go. But all of them had been spoken before, and Sirius refused to listen to them. As far as he was concerned, they paled in comparison to the one reason why he should go — Harry.


Remus knew he should say something to try and convince his friend to stay, but after meeting Sirius's intense gaze, he realised it wouldn’t do any good. Sirius's eyes burned with determination, and his face held the same expression it always had when he had made a decision; and Remus knew from personal experience that it wouldn’t be possible to talk his friend out of going. Therefore, he didn’t give any objections, and Sirius stalked towards the door, brushing past his friend as he did so.


He made it to the end of the corridor before the words of his friend caused him to stop.


“You didn’t fail James either, Padfoot,” whispered Remus.


Sirius, his back still facing his friend, turned around slowly so that he was seeing Remus out of the corner of his eye. He did not face Remus fully. Instead, still staring at the ground and sighing, he spoke, his voice so quiet that Remus had to strain to hear the words.


“Yes, Moony, I did.”


And with that, Sirius headed off in search of Kreacher. The elf could stay to tell Dumbledore what had happened. Sirius was going after his godson.

 

~**~

 

 

Author’s Note: Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun writing this fic, (though coming up with the title and summary gave me a headache), and I’d love to know what you think.

 

 

~Megan

 

 

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