Snacks And Letters - Part 76

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks And Letters Part 76
Word Count: 3104
Rating: PG 13

~Severus~

I wake up early but spend some time in my room, alone. I am not as full of dread as I was last night but I wonder at the situation Sirius has put himself – us – in. Harry Potter will have something to do with the funeral whether it's Auror business or not and I decide not to take part unless it is specifically requested of me. Potter is likely to provoke a reaction I really don't wish to witness. I muse on this as I pull off my nightshirt and get dressed, until my feet are clad in boots and my pressed black cotton robes are swathing me. I may be a thin person but despite that I can make a presence that commands respect. And I may need all of it to police this cosy little gathering, against my will or no, for Sirius' sake and respect for my memories of Regulus.

I hear no movement from Sirius' room through the service lift. I tidy my cuff. I rarely care if I look terribly presentable but today it is essential. Formal occasions are better than plain social occasions because they have a format one can operate in. It's much easier on the nerves.

I make my way downstairs looking carefully around for Sirius but no sign of him. Kreacher comes out of his place of vigil of Orion's study and hurries over.

Master Sirius will arrive soon. What would Master like for breakfast?” he asks eagerly, but I notice his eyes are bloodshot. They haven't been this bloodshot for a while. Since I first arrived. But he seems happy enough, and doesn't notice me looking at him strangely.

Rashers of bacon and eggs?” Kreacher prompts.

Black coffee, and toast. That's all I can manage.” He peers at me and nods, blowing his nose on his new outfit. I guess old habits die hard. I feel no rancour today, but an eerie blank sadness. I suppose my normal temper will be back before long. I want to go see Regulus' body but something holds me back. It would be of no use to me or indeed anyone. But I think of what I would say as I accept the coffee from the slightly trembling elf.

The elf will have a harder time than anyone. But he will be happy the ritual is over with, that he will have respects paid to him. My hand shake a little so I make a fist of one, and grasp my coffee like a grenade with the other. Regulus Arcturus Black. A star that went supernova without anyone but an elf to tell the tale.

I say without words, I wish I could have made an Unbreakable Vow for you as I did Draco, you were no age to die and certainly more admirable than Draco or myself. I would have paid just as high a price and perhaps have had the decency to die when I should have. I hear the clock of boot-heels and they're not my own. Sirius is approaching. He looks worn, but somehow more present than he has been over the last few days. Something about him is different. My eyes scan him for oddities and I spot at once that he is wearing black, soft robes with a chain tucked down the front. Sirius has never worn a necklace. I decide to not mention it.

I start off the morning without pleasantries. I can't stand not to talk business when so much is whirring through my mind. “When did you say the goblins were coming?”

~Sirius~

Severus' business-like tone startles me for a moment. Maybe it's the best way to deal with today's proceedings. He has noticed the locket, before I've manage to push it under my robes. I feel relief that he doesn't ask about last night. I don't fully understand it myself.

Boruk hasn't given an exact time. I try to remember what it's been like in the past.

“Goblins? It's been a while, but I don't think there will be goblins. Not more than one, the rest will be men. They're going to arrange it according to the Statute of Secrecy. They'll come for the body around ten and take it to the funeral parlour to do all the necessary preparations, I suppose. We'll be meeting them at the chapel. Andromeda will probably be here before we leave.”

Severus is clutching his cup. Something to hold on to like the locket under my robes. Kreacher brings me toast and tea. I thank him. He seems to want to take me in his arms again, but thinks the better of it in Severus' presence. Instead he returns to the stove and starts dangling with a pan.

No, Kreacher. Toast is all I need this morning. Have you eaten yourself? Come here sit down and have breakfast.”

Kreacher opens his mouth to protest and closes it without saying anything. Severus watches us with curiosity. A house elf asked to sit down with wizards? Why not? It seems fitting. The three of us were close to Regulus and we're in this together. There's no difference. Kreacher shivers and rocks on his feet.

“Oh c'mon, don't make such a fuss. You've sat beside me at this table plenty of times before.”

“Only to feed you your porridge, Master Sirius.”

Severus' mouth twitches slightly at the image.

“All right, then consider this your punishment for forcing me to eat porridge. I order you to sit down and eat your breakfast.”

I try to sound strict while there's no denying that I think the situation extremely funny. Kreacher's eyes are bulging out of his head, his ears flapping while he's struggling between the two evils.

He can do the unthinkable and sit down with us which is going against nearly everything he believes in or he can disobey a direct order. He finally decides to obey and sits down beside me on the very edge of a chair nibbling on a buttered scone and sipping warm milk. He throws wary glances at Severus as if he awaits to be hit by a hex or struck down by a lightning from his dead ancestors.

Nothing of the kind happens.

I can see the severe disapproval in Severus' face. I guess it reminds him of Hermione's ill-fated attempts to free the elves. I have no intention to free Kreacher. The shock would kill him. Malfoy's Dobby was probably the only elves in a 1000 years who could cope with being free. I've seen a few of the unhappy creatures who had lost their Death Eater owners in the war. They are hiding in Knockturn Alley. They belonged to the old families for generations. Belonged to, there's a fine distinction to simply being owned by a wizard. Kreacher knows deep inside. He belongs to the House of Black as much as I do.

In memory of Gimpsy.” I whisper in his ear. He looks at me sheepishly and he understands. Gimpsy, the first elf who served a Black, not a slave, a companion who cared for her wizard. Nevertheless he hurries to swallow his scones and downs his milk to rush back to the sink and start cleaning in a frenzy.

~Severus~

I notice the way the elf's fearful face turning to relief. “Very amusing, Sirius. Just splendid the way you treat your inferiors. Very respectful and in joining with his wishes.”

“It is.” Sirius looks unashamed. He whispered words of comfort to the house-proud creature that I could not hear. Perhaps he can be correct in this instance. But I want to goad him. He's waiting for it. I want to snarl at him but it would just embarrass Kreacher even more, I'd like to see what he would do in Kreacher's situation. Mum always said, Severus, you can be right or you can be happy. Pick one.

Why give me the choice? I know what I chose: I like to be right. I decide it is in my best interest and Sirius' not to be right just for one day. Hmph. I doubt the resolution will last an hour but I'll make the attempt. Does that mean I can't sneer? I can't make it past thirty seconds once I'm surrounded by Death Eaters.

“Loyalty, heritage, true to one's kind come what may,” Kreacher croons to himself audibly 'under his breath' - for Sirius' benefit, obviously. “Master wants a nice clean break. Master is hoooome.”

He must have said the right thing. I'm burning to ask, to demand what was said, but where there is a veil of concealment there is usually a purpose or reason for it. There is an odd connection here I swear was not possible yesterday. Kreacher refills my coffee and I look at those reddened eyes again.

“Do you mind telling my why Kreacher is acting like a nut bar?” I ask Sirius in an undertone. “He hasn't muttered under his breath for a long time, and now it's praise, yet more strange than his former venom.”

Sirius shrugs carelessly but his ears and cheeks are faintly pink. Do I want to be happy or right? Can't I be both? He's refusing to say a word, leaning back in his chair. So far that he falls backwards.

I snort with laughter, that hyena-tinged crow. I put out my hand with every intention of withdrawing it at the last minute but I end up pulling him up, and he falls back again, laughing. That's twice he's crashed now! Three times, actually, including the rebound.

“Shall we make our way upstairs? See Regulus' picture? Before you crack something other than your skull? It's so dense it's very hard to shatter, one gets that with stubborn skulls.” I'm laughing more humanly. Seeing him lying there... what I wouldn't give for the chance to hit him with a Tickling Charm. But he's laughing too. He staggers to his feet.

“Wait until Regulus hears I've tipped my chair twice. I used to do it just to entertain him...”

“That's not Regulus. It's an enchanted drawing.” So much for my resolution.

“You had to remind me, so very kind.” Sirius sarcasm.

“Pleased to have been some service.” Mock politeness works well on some occasions.

We clamber up the stairs and enter the drawing room. The portrait of Phineas Nigellus greets the pair of us. “Headmaster, the dolt Longbottom has a message. You're needed at Hogwarts for a staff meeting about the appointment of a new Defence...”

“Yes, yes.” I snap at him. “Go on. When is it?”

“This afternoon at three-thirty.” That's likely to be when the funeral is over. Saved by the bell. Or the staff. Regulus' portrait appears to be awake too. We walk to it and face him. “You must have mixed feelings.” Sirius says.

“You could tell?” It's Regulus' turn for a mocking tone. “I feel uneasy as long as father's study remains occupied. It's hard to get past it when it's in the same house,” he finishes more desperately. I wish I could help but my version of help usually turns out to be a hindrance in and of itself.

“It's hard on us all. You'll be able to breathe soon enough.” Sirius is patient or stubborn or a mixture. I prefer to think stubborn. He's every bit an ass as I am.

~Sirius~

Isn't the whole situation bizarre enough without discussing it with the deceased himself? Regulus obviously wants to be involved. I shouldn't complain. In his place I'd be even more obnoxious.

“Will they come to see me off? I mean those who are still alive and free?”

“We invited everyone you named, Reggie and all will come except for old Nott who is not well . Nott will send his son instead. We'll meet with them at the chapel. Only Andromeda will come here before.”

Regulus's smirks rather insolently. “What a relief. Severus, we don't need to worry. Sirius always behaves himself when Andromeda is near. Oh by the way...,” he's now grinning broadly. “did I spot Mother's pearls around her neck at the party?”

Severus doesn't reply, but the way he looks at me shows he still thinks there's more than I like to admit. I sigh.

“Just to avoid anyone getting funny ideas. Stop grinning, Reggie! Why is everyone in this family so obsessed with matchmaking? I was thirteen and thought I loved her. She was wise enough to refuse me. We've been like brother and sister ever since and that's fine with me. We both expect more from a marriage than convenience and kindness. She was the most beautiful and kindest witch I've ever met. I still think she is, but I am not in love with her and I have not intention to ask her again. Don't you dare to drop clever hints to her, Reggie or you end up in a drawer again!”

~Severus~

I snigger a little at the idea of a thirteen year old Sirius seriously proposing to Andromeda. I stifle it at the look on Sirius' face, like someone both irritable and constipated. I just snort and shake my head at Regulus, who has his mouth open again. “I wouldn't risk it, Regulus. You don't want to get on the wrong side of someone who can tip over their chair and manage to land on the floor twice. Even Kreacher was ready to split his sides. Isn't that the most awe-inspiring, forbidding image?”

Regulus laughs just as the doorbell goes off and there is hammering on the door below. Regulus suddenly has a tense and nervous face and Sirius looks as though his blood has run cold. I won't let Reg leave the room, I don't want him to witness them removing the body.

“Just stay where you are. It will be over in less than half an hour, most likely,” I tell Regulus.

We hear Kreacher's bullfrog voice from the hallway. “They are taking Master's body, and Master wears his locket, Kreacher is a good elf and kept it safe those dark days...Master Regulus is really going this time. At least Kreacher can see no nasty Muggle disturbs the funeral.”

We hear his voice inching down the staircase. “Kreacher's service to Master Regulus will never be over...Kreacher keeps him inside as much as Kreacher kept the family treasures...Kreacher will go to his Master Sirius. Master Sirius needs his Kreacher.”

There were three other voices. The guttural rasping of a goblin and a male human voice, mixing with Sirius' intense speech.

A sound of walking and a door opening. The scrape of something. A wizard casting a Hovering Charm. I think of 'Mobilcorpus' and wince at my thoughts which seem as always painful or sarcastic, it comes just as unwillingly as willingly. I suppose unintentional snark that has all the bite of the calculated kind. Regulus' perfect corpse out there to be laid under the earth. I suppose they will prepare the body and I hope they don't let him just decompose. Hope they don't release him from the last spell he'd met, from his faithful house-elf.

The house-elf who is now crying his misery. Be quiet, Kreacher, people other than Regulus are lost too. I think of those lost to me. Evan Rosier always made Hogwarts tolerable. Lucius was once a proud prefect, now formless as a shadow, a trace of himself just discernible. He's lost too. Wilkes. Avery. Nymphadora Tonks. The Nott who is too ill to come. The waste of space called Richard Flint, who will no doubt ask me doltish questions about Sayla's watch. He was once a man, now a joke. Even Lupin had his place. Albus Dumbledore, no matter how my views have changed. Travers. Mulciber, we knew each other ever since he irritated Lily on the first train ride to Hogwarts. Antonin Dolohov. Regulus Arcturus Black himself. And of course Lily Evans-Potter. I'm scratching the surface. There were the Prewetts, the Bones', the McKinnons. Fred Weasley. Charity Burbage. Who cares what side. They were there and now they are not. So much has changed but for occasional faces, Horace, Minerva, a few others, who remained. None as good as those who perished.

I may be lost in thought but I notice Regulus trying to edge out of his drawing. I tell him off. Sirius edges in.

“We may as well get ready, they'll be ready in an hour or so. Andromeda sent an owl saying she would be here shortly, before lunch. We should skip lunch, I think,” he adds.

I know not to cross Andromeda if I don't want a formidable witch and an angry, talented wizard hexing me to smithereens. It's not worth the hassle. I'll try to keep my snark in check around her. Most of all, she means so much to Sirius.

The doorbell chimes again, the knocks on the door soft but distinct. I think I like her style. Sirius rushes to the door and Regulus starts to snigger. I silence him with a look.

“Hello, Severus,” she says, extending her hand. I don't know what to do so I click my heels like a Prussian and kiss her hand. She giggles. “I've come early so we can depart soon. I want some time by the casket to say goodbye. Thank you both for recovering him. ”

“Kreacher did more than both of us combined,” Sirius says humbly. “Are you quite ready then?”

Andromeda nods her head, her eyes wet with emotion. She turns to me and looks quizzical.

“I'm ready.” I can tell my eyes are glittering by the feel and by the look Sirius gives me.

“Yeah, me too,” Sirius informs me. “We're to Apparate at Highgate Cemetery, at two o'clock, as you told the others I hope. Want to go get ready to greet the guests, then?”

Andromeda smiles at us getting along. I can't blame her. It's nearly obscene given Sirius and my history.

“I certainly feel ill-disposed to lunch. Yes I told them where and when. Do I look like a blithering fool to you? I'll go if we have something constructive to do there. The body won't arrive for some time?”

“It was taken care of. They say they'll use Kreacher's protection, and they've removed the body to the chapel. It's been protected from prying Muggles. Kreacher's job is to ensure our privacy.”

“Theo Nott...he's worse than I was at his age, if somewhat similar. Yes I noticed. He's so jumpy, he'll have set concealment charms around everything I'm sure.”

“So we're off,” Sirius smiles a little.

“We're off,” I echo.


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October 2013

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