Snacks and Letters - Part 93 - 2

Authors: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks and Letters - Part 93- 2
Word Count: 3463

~Sirius~


Regulus is gone again. I'm starting to understand my parents' complaints about us. Cornish Pixies, free from the duty to make up for my misbehaviour he's much too lively for a dead portrait. So he's going to tell Sev? Fine with me, I can argue my point if necessary. Later....

Now I really want to get rid of those robes and take a shower. The Merman on the bathroom wall gestures to convince me to take a bath instead. Why not? Since I can't get rid of all those luxury potions without offending Kreacher I could as well use them. I stretch out in the tub and let the warmth and the fragrances surround me. The Merman was right the hot bath helps to forget the cold and the stench of death.

I notice a few bruises and scratches from the fight, nothing that needs treatment. I've often been in a worse state after duelling with Sev in the past.

It's so good to have a purpose and I don't really mind some excitement like this morning's fight. Being ambushed by idiots who fancy themselves Dark Wizards is not anything I should enjoy, but in a way I did. I like duelling no matter whether for real or for fun. Watching Sev's spell work is fun, even more when we're on the same side.

I've forgotten to ask Sev about the other potions Kreacher supplied. The bottles only have numbers on the labels, no description other than 'Bath additive' or shampoo. I've chosen number 2 for its nice colour. Its smell makes it hard to concentrate on anything but the pleasure of hot water on my body.


“Hey Merman, can't you find anything to keep yourself busy for a while? Counting the shells for example? I'd rather have some privacy.”


The Merman smirks, much like Severus would. No, Severus wouldn't smirk; he'd give me a lecture about thoughtless use of potions supplied by an undoubtedly mad elf... then he'd smirk.


*

Regulus is tapping his fingers against his frame.


“Where have you been so long? I've called you.”


“Goodness grace, can't I use the bathroom without you?”


“For an hour? I thought of sending Kreacher in to check, if you have drowned.”


“Thank you for not doing it. So what? Told the headmaster and now running errands for him?”


“I'm not running errands for anyone! Severus wants to see you tonight. Strangely he doesn't seem to mind your mad idea. He even has a surprise for you, memories of the old days....,” he's grinning slyly.

Memories from the old days? Not even my optimism is strong enough to think such a surprise can be nice. Reggie waits for me to inquire further, no chance. I can deal with my misdeeds... with most of them. It can't be undone anyway.


“Headmaster's Office or dungeon?” I ask.


“Dungeon, I suppose. Severus hasn't mentioned anything else. He's not using Dumbledore's office very often, is he? The portraits complain about being locked out from most of the headmaster's business.”


“Have you met the old man, Reggie? Dumbledore, I mean.”


“Yes, I have. Phineas invited me over. Dumbledore sends you his best wishes and says he's very glad that you managed to return from the dead. He'd like to talk to you.”


“Does he?” I reply very curtly.


“Your admiration for the 'greatest headmaster Hogwarts ever saw' has lessened over the years I notice.”


“You can only take so much of his kind wisdom. I still feel the after effects from the last overdose.”


He sniggers and mutters something about totally unexpected flashes of insight.

I don't care. At the moment I prefer a talk with the current headmaster. Regulus follows me on my way through the castle hopping from one portrait to the next. The students we meet giggle as he waves at them. Should I ask him to stop undermining my authority?


Severus opens his door at my first knock and invites me in. His rooms could do with a bit of Kreacher's design. Regulus settles in the portrait of a surly healer who looks very displeased by the unwanted invasion and leaves muttering to himself. The empty space is immediately occupied by our dear ancestor Phineas. I feel outnumbered three to one. As usual Severus comes straight to the point.


“Your brother has told me about your first attempts in teaching. Do you really think you can make them work together? They're more likely to wreck your classroom. I will hold you responsible for any damage done to the school property.”


“I promise to protect the valuable antique furniture with my life,” I wink cheerfully. “You may call me an expert on detentions and I assure you that scrubbing floors or writing lines never had any effect on the juvenile delinquents. I want to try something new.”


“Honest work never had any lasting effect on you or your friends. You and Potter were special cases and if I remember correctly you even found a way to undermine the purpose of the punishment with magic trinkets like communicating mirrors.”


“Don't tell me you hadn't used them, if you had the chance.”


“I didn't have anyone to use them with.” Severus whispers almost inaudibly. Regulus looks insulted, but it is true. He rarely got caught. We both did our best to keep him out of the worst trouble.

Severus himself rarely got detention for a number of reasons. First he of course didn't strut through the corridors hexing people for fun indiscriminatingly or rather discriminatingly and he obviously avoided to test his inventions on innocent class mates in front of an audience. I think we were his preferred guinea pigs and we hardly could be called innocent. James and I didn't care much about getting caught and James actually liked to perform in front of an audience.

Then there was and probably still is the old tradition that detentions are only given when you are caught in the act. The serious incidents in our feud were done in secret, more so in later years, because James finally understood that Lily didn't like it. Nobody investigated even when all three of us reported at the hospital wing with various signs of spell damage and it was more than obvious what happened.

Severus has been watching me and again he tries to second guess my thoughts. By the deepening frown on his face I suppose he has come to the wrong conclusions.


“Are you wallowing in sweet memories of youth, Sirius? The golden days of the Potter-Black reign? Or was it Black-Potter? It was hard to tell who was the leader of your little gang. Yes, I think it was Black-Potter. Your brave friend even forgot to pick up his wand, when you weren't there to remind him. You really should have told him how to duel without your backup.....”


“Severus! Stop it! It's enough.” I shout at him. “James is dead! It's over!”


Severus' eyes glitter in malicious triumph. He knows where to aim. Words or spells, they always cut.

How does he know? Harry has had enough sense not to mention that detail in the official report. I thought nobody knew except me and Harry who had seen the truth in Voldemort's memories. Their wands lay on the living room floor, glowing faintly from the shock of the ancient magic that destroyed Voldemort's body and half of the house. I put James' wand in his hands when I folded them over his chest. Nobody should know about it!

Voldemort must have told the tale for the Death Eaters' amusement!


“I hope you had a good laugh when he told you that James Potter died like a Muggle!"


Severus' face turns pale. He had not laughed, not when he thought of Lily. We both have instinctively reached for our wands when I started shouting, not raising them. I should perhaps tell him that I know he didn't rejoice in the death of anyone, that I know he tried to save them all in the end. He shouldn't have said that about James. James was a capable wizard; he just wasn't himself after the months of house arrest. I seek Regulus with my eyes. 'Say something, help us....'

Severus stares into the empty space behind me, his lips pressed together.


Regulus groans loudly.

“You call yourself grown-ups? Five-year-olds in a sand box, that's what you are! Put your wands away and turn on your brains!”


“Shut up! You don't understand!” Shouting at the brat unites us in an instant.


Regulus laughs and we can't help grinning sheepishly at the absurdity of the moment. What are we fighting about?


“It wouldn't have made a difference....”


“No, it wouldn't. They didn't stand a chance after Peter's betrayal. Nobody except Harry has survived Voldemort's Killing Curse.”

There's a moment of silence until I try to explain quietly.


“Look Sev, James was my friend. I'm not saying he was a wonderful person, but he was a good friend.... to me. I've tried to keep his blunder secret.” I raise my hands in helplessness at the twitch of his mouth. “Yes, I know it was idiotic! I have no idea what he was thinking of trying to stop Voldemort unarmed. Probably too shocked to think.... He couldn't have stopped him anyway. Neither could one of us. We both tried, each in his own way to save them and we both failed....”


“A good friend to you,” the bitterness in Sev's voice is barely disguised. “I'm probably expected to kindly understand that you still regret to be left with just me and a sketch of your brother. Poor replacements indeed.”


I open my mouth to tell him that he really is an idiot, but the bored voice of Phineas cuts me off.


“Severus, I usually agree with your judgement, but this time my younger grandson is right. You are acting like five-year-olds. No surprise with my older grandson. Sirius is....” He mercifully spares me the words to describe what he thinks of me. “but you Severus should know that whatever else he is, Sirius is a Black. We Blacks don't go for poor replacements. Only the best is good enough for us.”


I can't help smirking and Severus does too.


“Only a Black can present pureblood arrogance as a virtue.”


“Only a Snape can miss that Phineas tried to make you a compliment.”


As quick as our anger has flared up it has dissolved. That's how it is among good friends, isn't it? I settle in one of the armchairs by the fire.


“Regulus said you wanted to show me a surprise.” I express my curiosity. “More reminiscences from our adventurous past? Do you think we'd better lay down our wands to avoid damage to the school's and your private property?”


“I won't part with my wand and give you the chance to knock me out the Muggle way, Black.”


I follow Severus' eyes to the sketchbook on his desk. He really did drawings of his hexes? And kept them? I prepare for a good measure of embarrassment. Some things would have been funny from a distance. Are 25 years distance enough?

At least I want to know what my brother is giggling about so gleefully.


“Reg said you'd hex me to pieces for a few of them.”


I shrug. “I've most likely already done that as soon as I got back from Poppy. C'mon, show me your trophy collection.”


The sketches are animated and Severus has an eye for the funny details. There's one where I'm hopping up and down without any obvious signs of a cause, my face screwed up in a mixture of pain and fury.


“That toenail growing hex, isn't it? You got me every time with that one until we found out the counter spell.”


Severus grins with pride, rightfully so. The curse was effective. It lasted for quite some time unless stopped and if you didn't get rid of your shoes quickly, it really hurt.


“How did you find out?” Severus throws a suspicious glance at Reggie who protests immediately.


“Wasn't me! I kept your secrets!”


“No, it wasn't him. Reggie never betrayed you. We overheard it by chance.” I hurry to turn the pages. It was Lily who has never been discrete about Severus' spells. She helped Remus after Sev had hexed him and we listened eagerly to every syllable of the counter spell.

James nearly strangled by his school robes, me with my tongue hanging down about 15 inches, some things do look funny after all those years.

There's another where I look like a cross-breed between a walrus and a ghoul. At first sight I'd said that Sev used my own variation of the Bat Bogey, but that doesn't explain the hair.


“Enlighten me, what was that curse? You only used it once.”


Severus looks at Regulus triumphantly. Regulus sticks out his tongue.


“To be honest it was an accident. Pettigrew tried to curse me, it messed up with my counter curse and hit you. But you're right it looks quite interesting. I should have investigated the effect of the two curses combined.”


I raised my hands in mock defense. “Investigate whatever you want, but not on me again. I spent three days in the hospital wing and Poppy called in Minerva to sort it out.”


You deserved it.” Severus is enjoying this. He turns a few pages and shows me a really nasty sketch, purple boils and blisters all over my face. My painted self looks very unhappy. “Who did this? I thought it was Regulus, since it was a rather difficult curse which I didn't share with the others.”


“It wasn't him. You shared that curse with at least one more person. Much to my dismay....”


Severus looks at me with disbelief. “She wouldn't.... not Lily. That was a dark curse.”


“No need to tell me it was dark. It took weeks to fully heal. She overreacted to a joke.”

I hurry to go on with my explanation, because Severus does look very angry.

“Calm down, it was really just a joke and excuse me for saying that she deserved it. Do you remember that Muggle fashion magazine she carried around in early 5th year? The one with the modern short hair cuts?”


A deep, exasperated moan from Reggie confirms that he remembers and Severus also makes a painful grimace. I grin sheepishly.


“She wanted to know what she'd look like with short hair and I showed her. I used Zonko scissors. She screamed like hell and hexed me, before she realized that her pigtails grew back.”


Reggie is shaking with laughter. ”I'd loved to see her face. I'm sorry that you paid so dearly for doing all of us a great favour. Severus, you said you'd sent flowers to the one who stopped that nonsense. Zonko scissors! I should have thought of that.”


I'd killed you had she told me,” Sev mutters through gritted teeth. “and sent the flowers to your funeral.”


~Severus~


I am glad Sirius put an end to Lily's obsession with popular Muggle boy haircuts. I never want to think about Sirius and Lily as friends, as if there is some nasty connection between the three of us, and there is still, though Harry. The man – hard to think of him as a man – is such a source of annoyance to me, we two a type of star-crossed enemies, on the same side. Lily's little stag. Sirius' little stag.


Sirius stops yawning at the look on my face. “What's eating you. Severus? So suddenly? Maybe I'll leave …it's about time, almost midnight. Reggie, come with me, and let's let Severus Rest In Peace.” Regulus nods. I can hear the sardonic capital letters as he speaks with his half-smile. I can´t do much but nod my head. I ask myself if I must let Lily rule my life at all any more. The honest answer is yes. But hearts are made to contain more than one person.


Friends have a place, and Regulus slips out of the ugly, brooding healer's portrait frame and Sirius slips silently with a nod through the door I bring down my head to rest with a fist pressed next to it. Then I realize I look like Rodin's sculpture of the Thinker and, al I know Phineas is about to mention it. He interested me in the wizard's art in the first place. No, I don't want to speak with Phineas. I raise my head and glare at the wall. He's hanging there.


“Are you still deep in thought? You mutter in your sleep, you know. I wonder if the topic is still delicate with you and your pet Mudbl--” Phineas Nigellus Black and his lovely terminology.


I silence him with a glare so potent I think it could make paint curdle like milk, I was about to think of the damn doe again and that's what I remember of sleep. There are more important things.


“Do not use that term with me!” I snap. “I was thinking about the underground lake and its inhabitants, not dreams, whoever they might feature.”


“By the way, your cat has been annoying me, she climbs on the shelf and scratches at my frame. She will soon ruin a superb work of art.”


I suddenly notice the scratches and I smirk at him. “She's good for something then – aside from being the best mouser in the castle.” His thin eyebrows raise and his look of annoyance is so present that I promise to train her out of it. Phineas calls Alexi and she slinks around the corner of my desk and walks past with a slightly arched back


Zara always keeps an eye on her. He has never trusted her. He doesn't want to end up being another version of an owl treat. The cave and thoughts of it rise in my head, being trapped by the wasting spell that fed on my magic, the way it leeched my doe--


Good thing Sirius has a sensible head. Phineas closes his eyes and does not reopen them. One thing I value in a friend is their common sense, uncommon as it is. Despite Sirius being ever the Gryffindor, he has a good head on his shoulders. Alexi hops onto my lap very lightly. She hardly occupies space, she is small and sleek and a good hunter. She stares for a moment, then curls on my lap.


The room is full of animals. Should I investigate another? The one I saw crumple, blackened, the wounded Patronus? She will be light again. I know her well, but to see her as leading me on a quest is I admit a potent idea.


My wand slips into my hand again. Sirius yelling at me about the wandless James Potter makes me feel slightly ashamed. Could my doe have lead her too? Could I have protected Lily with my own doe? I was attempting not to interfere other than through Dumbledore, who always shooed me away from direct assistance, even indirect. Keep my eye trained on the Dark Lord instead. He was disgusted that I ask that Lily be spared, yet would he not have done the same?


We fools who love,” he said, over and over. I whisper other more important words through the silence, as if speaking the spell aloud could make this more solemn.


Expecto Patronum.”


Phineas is asleep again, or pretending.


The silver doe dazzles me with her brilliance, shining like the moon spread into the shape of a female deer. Her head is always lifted into the air, true to the picture in that dratted book, and I notice that her eyes have an intensity I do not at all associate with Lily.


Zara is hooting softly and her eyes seem even more round than is natural. But Alexi is not disturbed. She just lays her head on my knees, and I feel her purrs vibrate through my robes.


The doe and I have an understanding. She is original, mine alone, and I thought her value lay in her likeness when her power lies in being genuine. She is more than that picture or Lily's doe, she is hope made of the power of magic itself, ancient magic, purest protective magic.


She led Harry Potter on his quest, why not mine? I reach out a had and she vanishes. I smile as I strip and put on my nightshirt, and give Zara fresh water. Then I crawl into bed, and Alexi curls by my feet. I feel warm as though the doe were here too. Perhaps it is better than to be with a memory, to be alone – alone but for a few friends.


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October 2013

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