Snacks And Letters - Part 87

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks and Letters - Part 87
Word Count: 4619

~Severus~


Sirius is strutting behind me like a minor god. Or he thinks he's Icarus perhaps, flying with his pureblood prat wings. I have to correct him of that impression. If he thinks he has ever been in worse trouble with me since letter number one, he is mistaken.


“Black!” I snarl at him without bothering to look at him, addressing his left shoulder. I hope he knows he is unworthy of my attention. This is Sirius Black, should I expect better? “Perhaps we should return outside and tell Filch to park that contraption under the gutter or open drain? Along with what sense I thought you had? Well? What in Salazar's name were you thinking? You may have avoided the Muggles, unlike little Potter, but you thought you'd play irresponsible Godfather and fly around Hogwarts? You needed to make a grand entrance like Harry once did?”


I'm pressing him. I don't want him to fight me, I want him to listen for one blessed moment in his life.


There is excited, cheery talk around us, and sniggering. I could kill him. Students and faculty murmur the fantastic story to one another and leave us room to walk only so that they have a better vantage point from which to stare at us.


My eyes find Regulus' portrait. Sirius has a half-smile on his lips, even still.


“Explain,” I ask Regulus. “Your brother is obviously incapable of simple reason.”


Regulus winces. “I think Sirius wanted to show off his bike Gryffindor style, is all. No need to add to that. We both know Gryffindors are morons.”


“Do you know mythology, Regulus? I think Sirius here is Icarus. Icarus had waxen wings built by his father. His father told him to fly at low elevations because the wax could be melted by the sun. But noooo, Icarus became exhilarated by flight. Ignoring his father's warning, he flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy fell into the water and drowned.”


I glare at Sirius. He looks unnerved, though he has seen me glare at him many times.


“It was a violation of my trust for you to melt your wings, Sirius. A lie that you would do what I asked of you, that you would try hard to win my confidence.” I snarl and fume.


“A violation of your trust? You had some?” Sirius looks at me oddly. I could kill myself for lack of forethought in the wording in that sentence. “Come on...”


“I'm coming nowhere. I should tell you and your accursed elf to get out of my sight and off the grounds of my school. But I have no other person signed for the Defence post.” My voice is getting quieter as Sirius follows me down the stone steps to my rooms.


“I want to hex you for lack of real loyalty. You should know what position it puts me in to have a member of staff, a friend no less, behaving like an utter imbecile.” The throng of Sirius-followers – and I can tell that there will be many – are no longer following. No sensible student wishes to disturb me. The adults should think likewise. I should let Minerva know what I think of her playing along.


Sirius barely defends himself, first time on a bike with Regulus, got a bit carried away. What's the big deal?


We reach my office door, and I use a form of Alohomora unknown to students and staff alike. And I use it non-verbally, for Sirius will have access to my rooms only when he learns that friendship, loyalty, and trust are not to be meddled with. Even a Gryffindor can understand that. I turn as the door opens.


“Severus, I wish... I admit I'm a brat... sorry...”


I slip inside and spit, “Too late for that. If you should need me, please feel free to stay away.” And I slam the door in his face.


~Sirius~

I stare at the closed door, the door of his old office, not the Headmaster's office. What does that bloody idiot think? I haven't endangered the Statute of Secrecy! My bike is legal! Don't know how Arthur and Kingsley did that, but it is.

If he just let me explain. It's not all that simple. All right I enjoyed it, but that's not all.


“You've put your foot right in it.” Regulus states needlessly.


“Oh thanks, I wouldn't have noticed without you. Are you going to help me out? I suppose he will listen to you.”


I've taken him out of my pocket to face him while we discuss the matter.


“If I push you under the door, will you remind him that my reputation with the public is nearly as bad as his? There's more than one wizard who still believes that I've been a Death Eater and the Ministry hasn't made a mistake when they locked me up. Now they've seen that I am a reckless Gryffindor and on good terms with Minerva McGonagall. They will tell their parents. That will make life a lot easier for both of us.”


“You are you trying to fool? You wanted to go by bike and you enjoyed the flight with Professor McGonagall.”


“And you didn't? C'mon, you know what I mean. I haven't planned the flight. It was just a spontaneous idea and it worked. Will you try to explain it to Sev and tell him I'm sorry that I haven't warned him?”


“I'll try. There's no guarantee with Severus. It was just the thing we hated about you and Potter, making a show of everything and getting away with it. You always got away with everything.”


“We didn't! I think we still hold the all time record with detentions and that's saying something after seven Weasleys.”


“That's nothing to be proud of.”


“Spoil sport! You would have loved to do the same.”


“We wouldn't. We preferred not to get caught. If we'd done some of the things you did, we'd have been expelled.”


“That depends on the headmaster. Tell him I won't fly my bike again without his permission. He can have the keys. Next time I'll take him for a round over the castle.”


“I certainly won't tell him that.”


“Tell him what you want, but please make him open that door and talk to me again, will you? Please Reggie.”


“You owe me. Keep that in mind.”


“I know. I always did, didn't I?”


I shove the picture under the door. I can hear them whisper, Reggie trying to explain things and pleading my case and Sev growling.


~Severus~


I can stand the bike trip, I agree with Regulus that I can even stand the little jaunt with Minerva as I listened to the brothers speaking outside the door. I wonder if Sirius wanted to be overheard, be was speaking so loudly and clearly.


It does make a good impression, him being friends with Minerva and not a real Dark Arts teacher who might teach Defence on the side. Not the Dark hound of Azkaban. Reg says so the minute he passes under the door.


But Sirius could have warned me. He does everything by the seat of his pants. I, at least, fly by the seat of my pants when I have a specific destination in mind. He's infuriating.


Regulus sits in my palm. The portrait is so small, it seems horrible to rage against a defenceless thing. And this is Regulus my old friend, and a fellow Slytherin. He's always had more going on in his head than the intellectual nonsense Sirius and I have. What did he say?


“Severus, he's your friend, and when friends make mistakes you teach them the right way and back them up against their enemies. If you come out as Headmaster showing all this derision, it will tarnish your reputation as much as his.”


I glare at the tube-worms and the ocelot spleens. No matter how much I'd like to hex Sirius, I see some truth in that argument. “I don't wish to divide the staff.” I mutter these words to a flask of formaldehyde. Then I look at Reg, in my palm. “We will disagree privately about the manner of his arrival.” I pause before continuing.


Anything Sirius accomplished, he did so by mistake. Except sending the first letter.” I'm murmuring low, speaking so that no prying ears, Extendible or not, can hear me, just Regulus. “That action I don't wish reversed. That's why I'm so angry. He betrayed me.”


Not in his mind,” Regulus says.”Your trust means everything to him.” He shrugs his narrow sketched shoulders. “He's a nutter but he's my brother and I ask you to give him a little free space. He'll be tortured enough by his thoughts of your anger for you to add extra helpings.”


Argh!” I say vehemently, “Sweet Salazar, why does he never think ahead?”

“He does. You know it. He just goes off kilter sometimes. With you it's rationalizing, sarcasm and sneering. With him, it's all in good fun, edginess and devotion.”


I thought you didn't spout nonsense.” I smirk at the portrait.


“I'm a teenager! I have to spout nonsense! Come out into the hall. You have to see what Kreacher has done to Sirius' quarters. Kreacher's been telling me. A Gryffindor four poster, piled high with extra crimson sheets, silk pillowcases with room for three, there's even a Muggle picture of a motorbike. He really wants to surprise him. Of course there's about fifty types of lotions and balms for corns and cracked heels that survived Azkaban. And the robes... the best robes that never go out of fashion, simple and of supple, elegant material. There are carpets and area rugs, an Axminster, a lifetime supply of Floo powder in an ornate Chinese box. Then there's the ones meant to show Sirius that he comes from the Black Family...”


The last I can witness.” I suppress a smile.


“Come on, Sev. Let bygones be bygones. You two have let go of so much crap I would hate to see you fail over something as trivial as this. Come on, won't you see the Black family crest on the Gryffindor headboard?”


I try to keep frowning but find it very hard. Sirius is lucky to have Regulus. The picture I made. If Sirius doesn't kill me the irony will.


“Very well.” I open the door, and Sirius stands on the other side, so near to the door he must have heard some of the conversation.


Ask for Kreacher to give us a tour of your quarters, Professor Black.” I say, disarming him with politeness. “We have more to discuss than the trivial exploits of your arrival,” I add. I hand Regulus back to him. Regulus winks.


~Sirius~

Thank you,” I whisper to the portrait as I put it back to my pocket.

Instinctively I avoid eye contact with Severus until I remember that with humans this means trying to hide something and not respect and peaceful intentions. Reason is what is called for.


“I'm sorry I haven't informed you about my travelling arrangements, Headmaster. It's not like I've just been relying on my luck to get here unseen. We only took to the air north of Manchester. My bike is legal. I have a Ministry permit to fly it and a valid Muggle driving license.“


“Always good to have connections with the Ministry, isn't it?” Sometimes it's hard to tell whether his sarcasm is just sarcasm or he's really angry. I drop the topic.


“My quarters then? I hope Kreacher hasn't given you too much trouble. He was unstoppable. I thought I'd better let him have his way and undo the worst later.”


“He's outdone himself as far as I know. You're rooms are certainly worthy of the last of the Blacks.”


Severus smirks at my look of despair. In my mind I see masses of green velvet and snake-shaped handles at every door and drawer.

I follow Severus through the ever-changing staircases of Hogwarts. I'm sure the Defence classroom wasn't on the 7th floor when we were students.


“Kreacher?” I knock at the door.

Kreacher opens immediately. Whatever he has accomplished it has made him happy. I intend to yield to the headmaster, but she smirks again and shakes his head.


“Your rooms, you should have the first look.”


His politeness and suddenly improved mood is not a good sign. I enter hesitantly and sigh in relief. The office is rather decent, a bit on the red side. There's plenty space for books and a nice desk to work at. He has really outdone himself with the poster of the bike, though I feel a little bit too old for the bikini girl.

I smile at Kreacher who takes my hand to lead me to the bedroom.

It is red! Crimson red! Curtains, bed linen, everything!The family crest on the headboard looks a bit out off place. Kreacher looks at me expectantly. He really tried please me.


“Padfoot will love the carpets and the bed. Kreacher, it's really nice. Thank you very much.”


Stop grinning, Sev. I know this room is fit for – it starts with the same letters, but it's not professor.


“Nice setting to turn a trick.”


“Severus, please.”


Kreacher luckily doesn't get the point; Regulus giggles, though. I guess it's the right moment to take him out of here.

Unfortunately the tour is not over, yet. Bathroom? Can it get worse? It can. He must have gotten his inspiration from the prefects' bathroom. James and Remus shared the password with me. The friendly mosaic of a merman waves at me from the wall over the tub. There's a shelf with potions or lotions and soaps. Severus is chuckling. He has taken up one bottle.


“Your elf is very thoughtful. Azidirachta Indica.”


“Bless you.”


“Indian lilac, neem? Ever heard of it?”


I take the bottle out of his hand. Neem shampoo?


“Kreacher! I haven't had fleas for years!”


Kreacher smiles sheepishly. I can't be really angry with him. He has managed to cheer Severus up.

We can return to the study at last. I praise Kreacher again for his efforts. Severus keeps a straight face. He has understood that I don't want to hurt the elf's feelings. This is what he thinks Gryffindors like. Talking about unfortunate prejudice.


Let's find a place for Regulus.”


I take the postcard off my pocket and undo the Shrinking Charm. Regulus stretches his joints.


“I'd like a nice place in your study. I don't want to disturb you, when I come home at night.”


I look at the headmaster for support. He shrugs.


“He's a portrait not a boy.”


I give up. To me he is my brother frozen in time at the age of fifteen, but in fact he is a twenty-four years old portrait of a fifteen year old boy who died twenty-one years ago. Does that make him of age somehow? Arithmancy has never been my favourite subject.

I have a good look around the office.


“There's a perfect spot over the fireplace, but...”


Kreacher jumps up and rips the picture of the bike off the wall and with it that ridiculous half-naked girl. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that even at sixteen I wanted the bikes on my wall and the girls were only a bonus to upset my mother? It's nearly impossible to get a bike without the girl.


“Best place for Master Regulus! Nice and warm and he can see everything.” Kreacher squeals. I'm glad we agree and put Regulus on the wall.


“You wanted to talk, Severus? Would you accept my hospitality for now?”


I point at the two armchairs in front of the fire. Severus follows my invitation and sits down.


“One more thing. Kreacher, I have a task for you. Mistress Ginny expects guests on Thursday night, the girls from her Quidditch team. She hopes you can help her with the preparations. Why don't you go to Godric's Hollow and discuss it with her?”


Kreacher nods with his eyes gleaming and Disapparates on the spot. I drop on the other chair and sigh.


“I need to keep him busy, before he gets even more creative. Severus, about Thursday... Harry would rather avoid a house full of Harpies. We'd like to spend a few hours in town, just the two of us together. Is this all right with you? I'll take the floo of course.”


~Severus~


“Of course, fine by me,” I echo with a hint of a sneer. Sirius looks at me and shakes his head. “Sev...”


“Run off to Potter if you have to, only you know where your loyalties lie,” I snarl softly, giving him a hard look.


He stares, and then rolls his eyes at the crimson ceiling embedded with gold flakes. I glance up too, then fix my stare on Sirius. One minute he's irresponsible, I try to get over it. Then he ducks out to run to Harry. If he speaks the words “get over it” I will express my extreme displeasure.


“Can't you of all people believe that more than one allegiance is possible? Family, friends, it used to be the Order, you too, and you being my friend after our history? I don't question your loyalty. And Harry is my godchild. Harry. Wake up, Severus.”


Close enough. I raise an eyebrow full of irony and say, “Just one little thing. I wanted to see if you have a predisposition toward Occlumency.”


Sirius gives me a challenging look. He shrugs and stands, withdrawing his wand. “I have a good idea of how it works,” Sirius says. He's silhouetted by the dancing red flames. I think of red hair and the Dark Lord's eyes and my temper doesn't improve.


“Do you really?” My wand is in my hand quicker than a snitch in Potter's. I goad myself if he won't do it, just to add some interest to the ... informal training.


His wand and mine raise at the same moment. He waits. He knows. “I will attempt to breach your defences using Legilimency. Empty your mind, make it calm, make it blank. You may block me, using any means but a curse.”


I can see the barking dog in his grey eyes, now that I'm used to light. It's a chase and toy with him, isn't it? A shadow crosses his face. Is this real, my so-loyal mutt? It is.


“Three, two, one - Legilimens!” I hiss and I encounter more immediate resistance than any other. But he lets me in, I bowl over his inner dog. I see flashes....


A small boy being read to in bed by a house-elf, Potter and Sirius vanishing dead snakes all over what must be his dormitory, even eels in the toilet. Regulus and Sirius chasing a snitch. The same boys running hand in hand through Muggle streets. A stag and Padfoot chasing along either side of a werewolf...nothing damaging...


Suddenly I am myself and he has used a Hurling Hex to knock me back, and for a moment, I'm seeing my memories, and I'm curious how far he can get in. My curiosity cost me.


I'm eight, fishing through a bin for scraps of food to take home. A Muggle woman comes out of the pub and silently hands me fish and chips....I'm leaping off a swing at the same time as Lily. She floats up and lands lightly. I float higher. I land in a sprawl beside her, ankle twisted. She laughs and....


I block Sirius. I can see him staring at me with his hand raised
. “Expelliarmus!” I use it silently. Sirius has lost his wand. “Not bad for the first attempt.” It's hard to stay angry with him. As long as he doesn't ask about Lily's laugh. She was not herself. Or at least didn't live up to my expectations of her. We're both still standing upright, both panting. I steady myself first.


“This is a baseline to operate from. The harder you resist, the more I see. The calmer the mind, the better.” I straighten my robes. “I allowed you easy access. You kept yourself quite controlled but I can easily use your reckless challenge-hungry nature against you.”


“I know you're mad at me again,” Sirius says, no longer panting so hard. Quick recovery for a first attempt. I'm not as mad but...


“I am not full of puppy snuggles.” I state it like any other statement. This makes Sirius snort and laugh, and it looks like he can't stop.


~Sirius~

I can't help laughing. Puppy snuggles, I'm thinking of the furry, fringed crotched cushion Lily made. Padfoot spread it all over the living room, feathers and threads and all. Padfoot looked like the cushion himself afterwards and Lily screamed like hell, until James had sorted it out. Severus raises his wand again for another attempt.

I have to get James out of my mind. And Lily! All this may destroy the fragile trust we have built up in the last two weeks. There are memories I don't want to share, only a few and mostly because I don't want to remember myself. There are also plenty of memories he won't like to find, good memories for my part, bad for him. I think of James, ruffling his hair, playing with a snitch, about to hex.... He doesn't want me to see 'his' Lily. I doubt he wants to see mine, James' Lily.

Empty your mind, easier said than done. The moment I try to hide a memory by not thinking of it, I do think it. I see James' head popping out of a compartment door. He stretches his hand out in greeting and I take it. James' arm around my shoulders. James laughing, pointing at....Snivellus. Lily telling us off, turning her back to smile. She smiled a lot watching James making a fool of himself to impress her. She smiled when he raised the Quidditch Cup. She even smiled when she picked the last bits of wool and feathers out of Padfoot's fur. She didn't smile when I cut off her pig tails with Zonko scissors.

Lily pleading with me while I shake my head. Lily with tears in her eyes. An old spell book....

.... the secret which is subject of the Fidelius Charm will not be buried with the Secret Keeper..... will become Secret Keeper in his own right, after the death of the original Secret Keeper.” …. “To protect the secret eternally ….decide to transfer it into the living soul of another wizard. …. The original Secret keeper can die in peace knowing that the secret will remain untouched by his death.”


~Severus~


I pull out of Sirius' mind, violently. I break the connection with all my force of will. He does not get the opportunity to see into my mind because this is not a trivial nonsense game going on here. I know he tried not to think of her – the hidden always appears first.


So that is how Lily was in his books.


And James. I never wanted Potter dead until today. He changed my Lily into a foul..and Sirius!


This is the man I want teaching here? To do what, snipe at the most obvious target? Children can be very cruel. Witness Ronald Weasley and the damned godchild hoping I was sick or sacked or dead... and teenagers as well. They will always go for the open provocation whether it's intentional or not.

I don't care that Sirius is on his back on the floor. I feel like spitting...hexing...cursing. But I am not yet as cruel as a child. I'll let him get to his feet before I start on him. I reach out a hand and Sirius reaches toward it, but I swiftly pull my hand away.


I'm incredibly socially mature.


The images pierce me like white-hot daggers. Lily of the treacherous smile, the smile I thought was so mysterious has meaning and images of her eyes, of Padfoot – she loved that hangdog hound better than she did me! The tenderness of her hands removing feathers and wool.


Sirius is on his feet. “Happy, Black? Your putrid mind tells no lies, except perhaps to itself.” I've got a stitch in my side from restraining my body from shaking and my wand arm striking. “You offered me too much opportunity to see if you can block me without resisting me! To perhaps set up a false image. And don't try to tell me you lied,” my voice is getting very waspish,


Sirius looks angry. He'll send me down my end of the castle, down seven floors and more beneath. Do I care?“That's your truth.”


A pause.


Did Lily ever mention me as an adult?” The question I wanted to ask since the beginning of our correspondence eats me like corrosive battery acid or perhaps Bubotuber pus.


Sirius sighs. “You have to understand, Lily was in love with James. She never talked about anyone or anything but him and their little world of planets with Harry as the Sun. She spoke about you in her letters. Never in front of James. The letters are lost. I'm sorry.”


This is so inadequate compared to what I feel, have felt, almost my entire lifespan. Everything for her. Nothing else mattered, but her and her unfortunate child. And he only mattered in saving what she loved most. He's grown. He and Sirius will be meeting on Thursday. Sirius slaps me on the back a little harder than necessary. We're both irate.


“I don't mind your visiting Harry. Just keep clear of me and spare me the details.” This is far out in left field for Sirius, who can't possibly know where my mind is tumbling. But-


“I'll take care of Harry from here, shall I? Give you some peace. Before you try any more Legilimency, I think we should split for the time being. Too much, too raw, we both need time to think.”


I jerk my head to indicate assent while staring at my shoes. I can tell my eyes have the haunted cold tunnel look the minute I raise my head and our eyes meet. He is equally haunted, likely more than I. My mind is formulating cutting remarks but I rethink them.


“You show some small aptitude. On the first attempt. Tonight, deep breathing, centre yourself and empty your mind, not that it holds a lot.” I have to add that, I was born to snark.


I stand and Sirius walks me to the door. “If you wish I can alter the house colours,” I add, smirking.


“Kreacher...” He foresees danger.


“Can enjoy changing it back when he returns. I have a certain skill at interior design.”


Every scarlet inch turns emerald green, silver serpents streak the ceiling instead of gold leaf and I have a nasty grin. It's only the office, but still. “Enjoy yourself, Professor.” How many times in one day can I snap a door behind me, leaving behind a no doubt consternated Black?

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