Snacks And Letters - Part 73

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks And Letters - Part 73
Word Count: 4129
Rating: PG 13

~Severus~


“Wait,” I pause at my door and Sirius stops following me. The fact that I'm entering Regulus' room seems a little ... odd. But I have to in order to bring out two phials of potion. I enter the room, snatch up my black leather case and come back into the hall. Sirius watches me move about with interest dulled by alcohol. I'm getting a headache already.


“Kreacher! Come here!” I call and the elf appears bewildered at my knee. “Can you paint the contents of this potion in large amounts into the portrait of Phineas Nigellus? Can you do it now?” Kreacher looks at the phials, both stoppered, one greenish one a brownish-grey. He nods his head. “Yes, Master Snape.”


“It should keep him busy handing out Sobering Solution to the other portraits and Hangover Remedy to those too dim-witted to accept the first tonight, when they complain in the morning.” Kreacher nods vigorously, a strange smile on his face. “You are an exceptional elf. Run and do it as quickly as you can, before the portraits are all asleep.”


The second potion is basically caffeine with a few added tweaks, but there was a little foolish wand waving involved in these specific mixtures. The elf hurries down the stairs. Sirius is smirking. I do that, not him. “What?”I snap at him, massaging my temples.


“You just gave away pure gold and left us with nothing.” Sirius says.


“Don't be such a massive dunderhead. Of course I can provide. I always make doubles of my essential stores.” Sirius waits as I enter Reg's room again and retrieve the Sobering Solution. We both take a measured gulp. Sirius smiles as the effects of the drink is dispelled.


“I had no idea Kreacher was an artist,'' he says after a long pause where I thank sweet Salazar that I brought a potion that is normally worthless to me. I consider Kreacher's case.


“He can do whatever he is ordered, within limits of possible magic, that's my impression.” I shrug, Useful elf. “Now get to bed. Knowing what Regulus thinks of you, you'd talk half the night...the other half of the night...and never let me sleep. I get irritated when I don't sleep well.”


“I wouldn't know what it's like for you to be irritable, Severus, you're generally such a sparkling, vivacious and bubbly person.”


I wince as I fed him half those words about me, sarcastically of course.


“Good night... good riddance until tomorrow,” I snarl. He's already turning away and I slip into Regulus' room where there aren't any portraits. Smart boy. I pull the jeans and black shirt off and fold them in a corner of the dresser. I pull on my rather boring nightshirt and throw Regulus' sheets and a woollen blanket over me. Sobering Solution contains more than a touch of Valerian root and Chamomile. I am asleep within five minutes.


***


I make my way downstairs. Sleep was spotty. I feel distinctly foul-tempered and hope that I don't have to deal with idiocy. I hope Kreacher was able to follow orders. I don't want to walk into the kitchen with an elf punishing himself and horridly hungover portraits. As I pass the sitting room on my way down, all is silent. I poke my head into the room. They're all asleep, or feigning it very convincingly. Only the greyhounds look awake. What time is it? I check my watch. What in the name of Salazar Slytherin an I doing awake at five-thirty in the morning? Kreacher will likely make me toast. I feel more foul than ever. I'm in plain black robes again, cheap ones. They feel better, looser around the collar, and I don't prefer Muggle attire.


Regulus is probably asleep. I walk briskly to the kitchen and pull open the heavy wooden door.


Sirius is there, feet on the scrubbed surface of the table, reading a sheaf of parchment. Sirius? Up at five-thirty? I notice the polished brass pots again. Kreacher isn't here, but if he knew we were awake he would be on hand.


“Mooorning.” Sirius says the word with a yawn in his voice. “Woke up at five. Do you have caffeine in that stuff? It works but it's side effect is...”


“Wakefulness? Shame it doesn't contain gratefulness. There was no caffeine in the Sobering Solution” I give Sirius a crooked smile. My eyes must be smoking because Sirius says, “Turn off the headlights! The glare! I'm reading, hopefully in peace. How can I sleep when there's such good reading material?


I notice a tube, and that the pages of his document are curved slightly. “I'll leave a certain amount to your discretion,” I say as if I knew all along what he was reading, “ as Regulus says you have such a natural affinity for the Dark Arts.” Is he reading the timeline or the basic curricula? “I do want a professor with knowledge of the Dark Arts from both ends of the spectrum.”


“Looks like you're getting it. Look, I'm not teaching Unforgivable Curses, and no more than an overview of defence against curses, hexes and jinxes that are unfriendly.”


“Because curses, hexes and jinxes are generally friendly...” I say sardonically. “Maybe the mutt needs a chew toy. Something better to spit out than my words.”


“I'll teach my way or not at all. I notice Voldemort's jinx has lifted with his death. Are you sure you want me around spitting out your words year after year? I'm on as full-time tenured staff. Or not at all,” Sirius says.


I survey his stubborn face and my irritability sharpens. “Spitting tacks may be your tenured position but that means full-time in my domain. Teach what course material will see them through their exams and into practical defence required in wizarding life. And then some. You may notice that the course name is indeed Defence Against The Dark Arts? And that the textbook isn't by Vindictus Viridian?”


Really the whole situation, two men arguing with their stomach growling and too little sleep, is humorous. I start to laugh. That nasty laugh turns from baritone to tenor. I feel exposed by the light laugh and change it quickly back to my normal, unusual laugh.


Sirius probably noticed.


Regulus would say I'm afraid of showing my better nature. Maybe he's right. That thought brings out the low sneer of a laugh again, fully meant. Why should anyone, portrait and dead or otherwise, tell me what to think of myself? I turn away from Sirius. His laugh was like waterfalls. Powerful, cascading, a hint of gentleness.


I loathe feeling vulnerable.


Well, mutt, do you accept my terms and yours as a contract?” I spit. Sirius' face breaks into a wide smile with a hint of wickedness. “Then we'll shake on it. Shake a paw.” Irony, and he knows it. He makes his hand paw-like and I shake it. We're both on the edge of laughing but it's too serious for that. I have a teacher, and on my terms, if with a wrench or two thrown in. Looks like there's no one harder to get rid of than Sirius Black.


~Sirius~

That's settled. I think we will be getting along pretty fine; Severus' syllabus is less dark than I expected and he wants it to look like. He looks tired. After what the kids told me, I'm surprised. Their tales made it look like he's prowling the castle every night and doesn't need any sleep at all.


“Breakfast? I'm afraid we have to serve ourselves. Kreacher spent the night in the study. He popped up, when he heard me rise, but I sent him to sleep. I put the kettle and pan on. Can you get whatever we need from the pantry?”


“I'm fine with a slice of toast.” ,Severus grunts, but he opens the pantry door.


“Trust my vast experience with the morning after. We need a good breakfast.”


I mean to hear some muttering about indecent cheerfulness at this time of the morning which makes me even more cheerful. I hardly remember being caught reading at unusual hours and no one making a fuzz about it. I acquired the habit of reading before dawn at Hogwarts. It was the only time studying was possible without James teasing me. He never saw a point in doing more than the bare necessity unless it was about our projects like becoming Animagi or creating the Map. I admit we didn't need to revise to pass the class work, but some subjects were just interesting. 'Caught a bug from Snivellus' was his usual diagnosis, when he saw me study. Last summer they were worried about about me having nightmares or insomnia. Even Hermione needed some time to understand that she's not the only Gryffindor who can and does read.

I'll never forget her face when she found me discussing fantastic beasts with young Miss Lovegood under one of Arthur's apple trees. It's a pity that Luna couldn't come to the Christmas party, because she is on an expedition to find a Sasquatch with her fiancée Rolf Scamander. She is a clever girl and her ideas about Padfoots were inspiring.


Severus puts some bacon, eggs and mushroom on the worktop beside the stove. He understood what I meant with 'good' breakfast. I summon some orange juice from the icebox and pass him a glass.


“Icebox? I'd expected Mrs Weasley to have electricity installed and a brand new fridge.”


“She did, but the icebox works as fine and the fridge made horrible noises. I got rid of it, because it kept me awake half the night. The curse of dogs' hearing. Molly hated it, too, because Arthur once locked himself in to find out, if the light goes out, when you close the door. He had a bad cold afterwards.”


Severus laughs so hard that he nearly chokes on his juice.

We enjoy our breakfast in peace, until we hear shouts from the drawing room.


“Stockings are filled! Come and get your presents!”


Severus only follows reluctantly. He doesn't expect any presents. But of course, there are two stockings and both decently filled. Arthur has sent bottles of his cider for each of us, Andy gift vouchers for Flourish&Blotts, also for both of us. Molly sent a role of parchment with a horribly complicated spell. I know what it does and am very grateful. It's her own invention to detect and disable Weasley products. For Severus she added a box of fruitcake. He obviously won her motherly heart with his help in the recovery of Regulus' body. I almost pity Harry and Ron, because I expect she gave them a hard time about their behaviour in that matter. From Harry it's an army knife, similar to my old one he broke at the Ministry and – Merlin, no - a self-stirring cauldron for Severus. It's the good intention that counts, isn't it?


~Severus~


If I could throttle Harry Potter for his supposed kindness, I might, but I'm to busy suppressing snorts of disgust and amusement. He really could not have picked an item that says more clearly, I am a mundane, mediocre dunderhead. “What a thoughtful gift. A true treasure. Potter's,” I say unnecessarily.


I do enjoy the magic of how he got it into the stocking, Sounds like something Hermione Weasley could manage, not Potter. I'd ask her but I'd be held back by principles. We are not really on speaking terms except to taunt her about her little Ministry sideshow.


I must thank Molly, the gift and added fruitcake. For both of us, the Wizard Wheezes revealing spell. She is an accomplished witch, she has no choice if she is to be Matriarch of the Weasley clan. Arthur's cider is something I want to drink in another ten years when I've recovered fully from last night, There is no potion that truly reverses a hangover. I don't have much experience. A decent breakfast is half the battle, to trust the expert.


Andy gave the only sensible gift, I think, and I hold up the gift certificate to the light, as no one had given me one before and I always wanted by choice of books like a First year who has managed to enter Honeydukes and sees what a wide selection of thoughts...er, sweets, there is.


I know what to get you next year!” The hand on my shoulder. Sirius. I was off in la-la land with the certificate. The stocking has one more thing in it. I reach in and there is a box. “Something else, Severus? Your fan club keeps growing. If this keeps up you'll have to admit to having friends.” He's smirking. I chuck the cauldron at him, case and all. It clangs at his feet as he leaps back. “Maybe you'll start acting like a friend too! Kidding, Regulus knows more than I do.”


I open the flat white box, and try to ignore Sirius. There's a crest on it. I've seen it at Spinner's End. There's a note attached in a scroll. I open it and smooth it, brow furrowed, reading.


For Master Snape,

Kreacher.


I remember Ginny mentioning once that Kreacher gave Harry maggots. The box isn't full of maggots but rather a small watch, which could be either gender's. It would be smallish on a man but large on a woman. Small wrist like mine? A decent fit. I produce my wand and mutter the basic counter-curses, anti-jinxes and anti-hexes. It appears harmless. Sirius is laughing at me, speaking to a watch in fluent anti-dark-arts-ese. Why? Another, smaller note had fluttered to the floor. Sirius hands it over, saying “Aww,” under his breath.


Master Snape

This belonged to Sayla Flint. Kreacher saves and salvages.

It is yours. Family.

Kreacher


Why does the elf keep doing this? He's the most thoughtful of the Blacks. I glare at Sirius and he stoops making noises appropriate to a small child chuckling. Kreacher gave up a Black family heirloom? I 'll speak aloud my frustration.“Again? Something strange with that elf. But it's Sayla's. He counts her related, as he says, It is yours. Family. Confounded elf, I don't want to owe anyone anything. That took up most of my life and look what it got me: a self-stirring cauldron.”


~Sirius~

“You'd better keep the watch and be quiet. Elves are easily insulted. Rest assured it's not a Black family heirloom, when Kreacher feels entitled to give it away without asking me. By the way self-stirring cauldrons are good for whipping cream. Regulus favourite dessert, strawberries with loads of cream.”


I feel a bit reluctant to open the small box which looks very much like the one Severus holds. Did we manage to throw away anything in all those cleaning attempts? I lift the the top. No, we didn't! Two toy figures made of tin, colours faded. I haven't seen them since I was eight or something and felt too old to play with them. There were dozens of those tin wizards, but those two were our favourites. Regulus and I had them go on quests to explore father's study. The could raise their wand arms to duel, but they never duelled each other. Mad Elf!

I have been thinking about what to give Kreacher for some time.


“Reggie, can I have a word in private? Severus, if you excuse us.”


Walking up to the portrait I start to whisper with my brother. He nods and as I have hoped for knows where to look for the special item.


Thanks Reggie.” I leave the drawing room and run up the stairs. On the third floor right at the end of the corridor there's the oak chest which contains mother's dowry. I carefully put aside her wedding dress, protected by wrapping tissue and spells. There it is the Irish linen which was used for the old cradle, still brilliantly green from all the in-woven protections the large pillow case which served as a cover fine lace at the edges and the Black crest stitched on in the centre. It survived countless generations of unruly brats and won't fail the elf even at work. I conjure a wrapping and return to the drawing room.


“Kreacher, Master Regulus wants you to wear this from now on. You've got to change it to stick your head through and fix ribbons to tie it around your waist. I couldn't do it, because with such changes it might look like clothes and I don't want to lose you.”



The bloody elf starts sobbing and muttering again. Severus rolls his eyes and Regulus puts an end to it.

“Shut up Kreacher! Go and do as you're told!”


Kreacher obeys immediately. Regulus laughs.

“Has it become a tradition under the new rule that everyone starts sobbing at presents? Stop grinning, Sirius. You looked like overflowing, too, when you opened Kreacher's present.”


I show him the figures.

.

“Folks get sentimental with old age, don't they? Anyway, you got your presents and I want to go back to sleep. Don't you have anything to do?”


“We have indeed. Severus, are you coming? I may need your help.”


We return to kitchen while Regulus makes a show of curling in his painting to sleep again. We do have indeed a few things to do. I summon note paper.


“I thought it a bit inappropriate to write the invitations to the funeral in front of Regulus. Can you enquire about the people Reggie wanted to be there. It's still a holiday, so I can hardly owl the Goblins today. I hope they can arrange everything at short notice.”


“You can owl them right away. Goblins don't do Christmas. I will write to the Notts and the Flints and Slughorn. We'll see how they react.”


“You're sure about the Goblins? I should think so. All right I write to them and if they are at the office I'm sure they will reply soon. We should enquire about the legal issues with a couple of pardoned Death Eaters to gather in public. Us two and Andromeda are fully cleared, but Lucius is still under probation. I don't know about Nott and Flint. The last thing I want to happen is an article in the Prophet. Harry and Hermione would be very annoyed. “


“Regulus' friends were Death Eaters. There's not much you can do about it, unless you want to make it a propaganda show about the Slytherin boy who turned against the Dark Lord.” Severus replies sharply.


“I don't! It's just that there are things which need to be done and there is pointless provocation I wish to avoid..... Can you make it clear to them that I don't want politics discussed at the funeral?”


“That's something I do agree with.”


We settle at the large table and start writing our awkward letters, Severus' probably worse than mine.

The letter to the family lawyers is easy and I send it immediately. The one to the Malfoys is a bit more tricky, but I've warned them to expect to hear from me soon. There's one more, to the Daily Prophet, a simple announcement. No time, no place, I don't want to advertise it, but I refuse to keep it secret. There's no reason to feel ashamed.


“Is it all right for you to sign the announcement in the Prophet with Andromeda and me?”


“May I read what you want me to sign?”


I shove the text I've already written over the table.


Regulus Arcturus Black

28.8.1961-12.7.1979


Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die


Remembered in brotherly love and friendship

Sirius Black

Andromeda Black-Tonks

Severus Snape


“Am I supposed to get used to Gryffindor cynicism now? 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', isn't it? Do you think they will get the point?”


“A few will, others won't. May I leave your name on it or not?”


“Leave it for Salazar's sake. I guess Regulus would like it.” Once you get used to his ways he sounds not nearly as grumpy as he wants to.


“Do you want to add a personal note to the Malfoy letter telling Lucius that Regulus would want him to attend?”


~Severus~


I can feel my brow furrowing with concentration. I become very aware that Sirius, Lucius and I have Azkaban in common. I was there for a short period. Sirius was there the longest. The claimed crime committed by each of us was Dark magic and fealty to the Dark Lord. That Sirius served there longest seems a reversal of how it should have been. Lucius is a rotten apple, but he was a mentor, a friend of sorts, from the moment I sat down at the Slytherin table and he clapped me on the back, in my first year. He left a legacy in the common room and I enjoyed teaching his son.


I look for parchment and a quill. There's one on top of a .. dear me .. writing table. I snatch up the quill and smooth the parchment,


Lucius, old friend.


You'd be very welcome at Regulus' funeral, and I will be pleased to see you. But please, no political nonsense about true blood and true magic and true ideals, which I won't argue are or are not true. I wish you to know you may see former friends, and I suggest you skip the chit-chat about the nobility inherent in the Dark Arts. The younger Nott, Theodore, Richard Flint, and Horace Slughorn will be there but we are there to celebrate Regulus' life and mourn his death. It's not a cosy gathering of .. you get my point. You don't deserve to be sent back to Azkaban. Behave!


Yours,

Severus.


I shove the letter across to Sirius and he snorts reading it. “Ours is no to lecture why...” he apes his own use of the Charge of the Light Brigade. I snicker.


Are you sure you want him to come? But Reggie does, that is what matters,” Sirius says.


I smirk. I know. But


“Lucius needs warning, but he is very good at presentation... “ I let my snark be heard in tone of voice.I have wanted to see Lucius for years. It's never been ... prudent. I'm sure he feels the same way even if he does call me “half impure traitor” with that affectionate sneer. I'll write the others notes more to the point, much more invitation than rant.”


I walk out, knowing I seemed a little odd there. But it doesn't matter. Regulus matters, in portrait or memory and most certainly in body. I stump up to Regulus' room. He has a writing table of course.


I scrawl identical notes for Theo, Richard and Horace. Unlikely or at least curious house mates. Lucius, the privileged snoot of the Dark Lord, Theo the Charms geek cum Death Eater, Richard the “social conscience” repentant type, and a Potioneer cum social climber. Horace will agree to no politics. Will the others? There are two owls here, mine, Sirius' owl is gone and the family owl is ancient. I wish someone would investigate making letters travel by Floo powder.


I let my owl Zara out into the wind, every letter bound to his leg, feeling this can't come too fast and also can't be over with too quickly. I still have the trace of a hangover. Perhaps that can be an excuse for talk of affectionate sneering.


~Sirius~

Severus has left the kitchen to write his letters in a more fitting surrounding. I don't mind the kitchen table. Kreacher has returned in his new dress and removes the mess we left after breakfast. I call for Andromeda in the fire. She is already awake. Teddy keeps her busy. I don't need to explain to her that there will be Death Eaters at the funeral. She knows, but she urges me to make sure that there won't be legal problems. I promise to talk to the lawyers. Legal concerns about a family funeral....

My owl picks at the window with the reply from Boruk, Boruk & Laddkill. The second Boruk, son or nephew of the first announces his visit for this afternoon.


“…. delighted to be of service to the Black family”


I look at the ring on my hand and feel odd.


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October 2013

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