Snacks and Letters - Part 81

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title:
Snacks and Letters - Part 81
Word Count: 2850
Rating: PG 13

~Sirius~


I lower the parchment and announce to Regulus and Kreacher: “You may call me Professor Black from now on.”


“The hell I will. The Wizarding World must have come down to an all time low when someone like you is teaching the youth.” Regulus laughs.


“Given the fact that among my recent predecessors were illustrious names like Quirinius Quirrel, Gilderoy Lockhart, Dolores Umbridge and your mate Amycus Carrow, I guess Severus considers me a massive improvement.”


Regulus gasps. “You're kidding, aren't you? Who in his right mind would hire them?”


“Voldemort put a curse on the job. You surely remember that none stayed for more than a year even in our times. Dumbledore was running out off suitable candidates and Severus had to hire whom your master suggested during the last year of the war....But you wanted to see my Patronus. I feel like it right now. Expecto Patronum!”


A happy thought, there are two. I'm feeling very happy right now. I have a job that interests me and Severus is coming back. He said he wouldn't after our task is finished, but now he wrote he will be here for dinner.


“Kreacher, dinner for two! And I hope you've learned the headmaster's taste during your time at Hogwarts. Nothing too grand I suppose.” I need to remind him. In his eagerness to please he might be overdoing it. Kreacher disappears. The bear cub is still frolicking around the room. Regulus watches it.


“Sirius, when you leave for Hogwarts... are you going to take me? I mean are you going to take this portrait with you? I don't want to be left alone in this house again.”


“Of course I'm going to take you. I wish I could have taken you with me for real when I left for the first time. I've never wanted to leave you behind. Your assistance is needed anyway. I'm sometimes at a loss with Sev. He still doesn't really trust me.”


“Sev doesn't really trust anyone. Nobody has ever given him a reason to trust. Get used to it is my advice. You can trust him. In your terms his bark is worse than his bite.”


“Hey little brother, you haven't earned the right to make dog jokes.”


Regulus smirks. I get serious again.


He can trust me, too. I really like him. I will do my utmost to earn his trust and I swear I will never let him down.”


My last words feel solemn like a magic vow and I want them to be as binding. Regulus doesn't speak for a moment and when he speaks it's merely a whisper.


“The three of us together as friends, I always wanted it to be that way.”


I remember him saying that after his first year. I called him mental. I'm pretty sure Severus found more eloquent words, if he mentioned it to him. “Not before hell freezes and our world is turned upside down.” I've come to the conclusion that hell is the coldest place on earth.


Kreacher hurries into the room again, carrying a second letter. Kingsley expects me at his office tomorrow morning at 10. The letter doesn't give any hints about his opinion on the matter. He'll come round, when I tell him about Caradoc.


~Severus~


I am covered with raindrops. Drenched, actually. I walked from an alley one street away. Sopping robes. I'll dry them when I feel like it. I come up the stairs at Number 12. Sirius left the door unlocked. I have the spell to make the lock and chains fall open, anyway. I wonder if he left it open for me but no, why would he? Friendly idiocy has never been the Black way. If it was, I wouldn't be back here.


I hear movement in the sitting room, and sense someone or something is nearby. I narrow my eyes and look, drawing back into the shadows. Kreacher is at a window, his papery-skinned arm out for an incoming owl. I whisk to the door of the sitting room.


“He can trust me. I really like him. I will do my utmost to earn his trust and I swear I will never let him down.”


This is Sirius Black? Perhaps speaking to Regulus? If that's me he's talking about I will pretend not to have heard until some slip occurs, then I will shove his well meant but certainly false words. He doesn't feel they are false perhaps. But they always are, with everyone else.


I hear whispering, indistinct, and draw back into the shadow as Kreacher comes down the hall bearing a letter. I walk back downstairs, quietly and quickly, and hear the door of the sitting room open. I make a mild racket with the locks, ensuring that someone notices me.


Sirius charges into the hallway and says,
“Kreacher will have dinner ready in a jiffy, I told him to surprise us. Yes, I told him nothing fancy. Hang up that cloak, you're soaked through with the chill rain!” He's holding a corner of a door with his hand, striking an imposing image. I wince. I can't stop the association with that body language of his teenage years.


“I hadn't noticed. I'll have to keep a watch on you as a Professor. I do not hire idiotic people who state the self-evident, whatever their wishes. That must be why I am here. I can't trust that Sirius Black will do as I wish.” I don't mean the last sentence but I'm so irritated it gets through my verbal defences.


Dinner is a very stifled affair, but at last Sirius relaxes as he picks up a book. “You'd like our family collection. You must have read a few when you came here to be with Regulus. Would you care to inspect the library?” Sirius asks, and he's smiling as Kreacher takes away the leftover bits of pork chops, roast potatoes and overcooked vegetables. I nod at the elf encouragingly and he does the dishes at double speed. Did I glare at him? But the library.


“How it could have passed notice before now I don't know. I've seen enough to know I could get lost there.” That's my remark. My true partner in this world might just be a book. Slight sarcasm and no one to share it with, it would bring up too many very awkward questions. I am eager to see the books and stand to show it. Sirius laughs at my apparent enthusiasm. He's pleased but I'm afraid I showed too much there. No use second-guessing myself more than usual.


I leave the kitchen and the carpets on the stairs are no longer worn. Kreacher must have restored them. They were depressingly bald and worn. Now they are back to being a rich deep and dark green, more Slytherin than emerald ones. Understated but speaking volumes. I really do have affection for that elf. But the books. I look at Sirius as we reach the library door. “You may lead on, Professor Black. But I know enough of the system of this library to find my favourite books straight away. They're by subject, then author, then date. Regulus did show me enough that I find...”


I reach up into an upper row, slightly to the left. “Adventures in Hexing.” I read aloud. “Simple and very powerful, and effective. My first book on the Dark Arts. Must have been knee high to a Kneazle when I first read it.” Sirius looks amused. He reaches his arm into the row farthest from mine.


~Sirius~

Severus considers that Dark Arts? I suppose we both knew it's content by heart before we came to Hogwarts. I smirk as I pass him my choice, “100 Curses for the Initiated”.

He frowns and looks at the first page.


“You're kidding, aren't you? This is a Muggle book. None of the spells works.”


“It's darker than the hexes from your book. Just reading it makes you sick. My father bought it to show us what Muggles are like. He couldn't convince Reggie that anyone would really want follow the instructions. Why in Merlin's name should anyone kill a black cat and bath in its blood to call up a murderous demon?”


“ 'Adventures in Hexing' is not dark enough for you? No probably not, you and Potter cast those curses on everyone during our first years and noble Gryffindors wouldn't use Dark Arts.”


“I don't say they are nice. 'Adventures' is about combat spells. What are you trying to prove? That James and I used nasty spells? We did and so did you. We're not talking Ministry nonsense here, are we?”


“You used those curses and that makes them acceptable. Where's the limit for you? Use of human body parts? Deadly curses? The Unforgivables? I need to know what you intend to teach or more precisely what you refuse to teach, because you have been so adamant about not teaching the Dark Arts.”


“The subject is Defence against the Dark Arts. The only Unforgivable which can be directly countered is the Imperius Curse. I'm willing to show it to NEWT students, if you insist. However I think one either has the strength to resist it or not. Better not get hit by it. The same with the Cruciatus Curse. Block it, dodge it or pray that the caster stops before you go mad. So my answer to what I intend to teach is duelling skills, detection spells and protective wards. For the early years how to avoid Dark Creatures, recognise them and how to deal with them, if you can't avoid them. What is the point in showing them real Dark Arts as you and I have seen? The fear will make them even more susceptible.”


“What does that mean in practise? The Wendelin the Weird approach? Enjoy the tickle of a Freezing Charm to quench Fiendfyre?”


“What are the chances that a random Hogwarts student is attacked with Fiendfyre, Sev,” He smirks. I don't give him time to remind me of Mr Crabbe. “...after what happened to the last one who tried? Just for my information are you trying to make a reasonable point about my teaching schedule or do you want to pick a fight? In the first case get to the point, in the latter... Ready when you are!”


~Severus~

“You stupid mutt, ready to fight, ever the reckless Gryffindor. Your spirit makes me groan. I think the students are allowed to have knowledge and seek knowledge. I do not think they have the right to be taught exactly how it works, more the existence of Dark Magic, combative or otherwise.” I pause before speaking again.


“You tell me what you think should be taught? It is my syllabus and I will make the final decision. You make me regret my decision on whether to hire you or not. Certain advanced Dark Magic needs to be shown and only a little completely concealed.”


I pick up Possession and Reanimation and flick through it. It mentions Horcruxes. I place it back on the shelf. “The students need to know the subject. It is how they are armed. Dumbledore refused to let me teach my DADA students Occlumency and Legilimency. Considered them too Dark for anyone but precious Harry. And lower your expectations of me getting along with Potter, I never shall.”


He considered those Dark Arts?” Sirius looks a bit sceptical. He ignores the Harry comment, and I wonder how his feelings for the boy, now a man, will affect my future dealings. But I am surrounded by books, not to be distracted.


They have been considered such for ages. Occlumency is seen as darker, as no one can tell whether one is an agent of division or chaos or not. No one can force one to reveal the mind behind the mind. Legilimency is less subtle but no less fascinating, penetration of mental defence can have many layers. One can be driven mad merely by wielding such a spell wrongly or falling prey to it, as readily as with the Cruciatus Curse. But you know what they are.”


You don't use it that way.” Is there a small question mark to Sirius' statement?


Of course not.” I tut impatiently. “The students need arming against it, they need to be shown what it is like. And not just those grey areas, those morally ambiguous spells. What the Darkest Arts are. They need to be told of the real thing,” I growl.


~Sirius~


“All right, you want to see the real thing?”


I call for a large leather-bound volume from the topmost shelf. It glows in an ugly green when I move it to a small table. Severus moves closer, but he knows better than to touch it with bare hands. His eyes search the room for something. The dragonhide gloves are in a chest of drawers. I summon them.


“This is not an original, is it?”


“No, it's an early copy. Not even my family was mad enough to have an original in a house they want to live in.”


“The Dark Lord owned one. It has a power in itself. It seems to...”


“Call you? Whisper to you to open it? Yes, it does.”


Severus looks at me. I can see he wants to try. Regulus said I can trust him. “No more a Dark Wizard than you are.” I can hear the book whisper, promising power beyond compare.


“Feel free to have a look...” Maybe I am a reckless idiot.

Severus slowly moves his hand over the cover. I know what he must feel. If he still craves the power the book offers I'm in deep trouble. He opens the first chapter. The illustration shows a wizard, tall and strong, figures crawl on their bellies at his feet. They bring gifts to please their master.

Severus inspects the drawing carefully. His eyes move over the first lines of the incantation. The book whispers for me to speak the words before he does, to show him my power, make him submit. My fingers clench my wand. I breathe deeply, when Severus finally slams it shut.

We both need a few minutes to recover.


“Have I passed your test?” Severus says hoarsely.


“It wasn't a test. If I had any doubt that you can close it, I'd kept it hidden. This is what I call Dark Arts. Do you really think I should show this to the students?”


~Severus~


“Perhaps not.” I say, still panting slightly. One of life's more disturbing moments. “Show them? No. Perhaps you have made a point. A very specific point. As far as generalities go I think we are in agreement.”


“Are you saying I'm right?”


“Let us say I'm not negating everything you said, that we concur on most of the issues discussed, that I trust you to teach the subject with occasional remarks, however they appear, by the person who designed the curriculum.”


“Say it straight.” Sirius is grinning. I should not use doublespeak.


“You're fine to teach so long as I have a hand in it.”


“Thank you, Headmaster.” Irony. I like it.


“A useful enough jaunt in the library. I will have to come back here.” I pick my cloak off from the armchair. Kreacher must have brought it. I swing it around my shoulder. “I'll meet you in Diagon Alley, at noon. We have books to buy and I certainly want to spend the Christmas voucher Andromeda gave me to Flourish and Blotts.” My cloak is now completely dry but my lower legs and shoulders are still damp. I got drawn in, hadn't noticed that I was still spattered with rain. I dry my cloak quickly and hot steam rises. Sirius smiles strangely and says, “You'll just get wet again.”


“This time I am spending the night at The Leaky Cauldron. I can Floo. I can stay using the staff budget. After all, I am on Hogwarts business.” I look at Sirius and he seems no more than a tall teen, making idle comments. But this is adult Sirius, joking playfully, wagging his internal tail. He's not conventionally nice, but he has his ragged charm. Much better than being hit by friendly fire.


Sirius leads the way to the sitting room and nods curtly to let me know it's okay with him that I go. That he should care what I think of him unnerves me, and irritates me. I nervously scatter the shimmering powder into the flames and step into the flickering green fire. I am surrounded by thoughts of the glowing book, the power of the Dark Arts, and passing Sirius' test. No matter what he says it was a test. For me at least.



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October 2013

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