13 August, 1993 19:12
“What are you doing here?”
I started and turned around. Merlin, it was Harry. He was the spitting image of James. “So you’ve heard of me, then?”
Harry reached for his wand, but luckily he was unarmed. “You’re—you’re Sirius Black. You were my dad’s best friend…at least, until you went to Azkaban.”
I grinned. He sounded like him, too.
“Why were you in prison?”
I gestured for him to come closer, in case someone came round, but he refused, so I continued, “I was framed by one of your dad’s supposed best friends. On the night your parents died, I discovered that Peter Pettigrew had given their location to Voldemort. I went out to make him pay, only to have Peter murder twelve people and blame me for them, and for the murder of James and Lily!”
“Sh! Keep your voice down!” Harry glanced around, then asked, “How did you escape? Why did you?”
I stepped closer. “The bastard—Peter—wanted to fake his death. Once I saw him in the papers, I was sure of it. See, your dad, Peter, Remus Lupin, and I…we became Animagi.”
“What are Animagi?”
“We could turn into animals at will—well, a particular animal for each person. It’s a very difficult process, and risky, which is why very few people attempt it. Anyhow, Peter became a rat. Fitting, as it happens. I spotted him in the Daily Prophet, he’s the pet rat of a boy at Hogwarts…”
His expression changed, self-doubt creeping through. “Does this boy have red hair? They were in Egypt?”
“Yeah. You saw the paper, too?”
Harry shook his head. “Ron’s my best mate. His rat’s name is Scabbers.”
“Let me ask you this—does Scabbers have a missing toe?”
Harry went white. “How’d you know that? You couldn’t possibly have seen—”
“He cut off his finger to make it seem like he blew up with the Muggles. How long has ‘Scabbers’ lived with Ron?”
“They’ve had him for…twelve years.”
“Rats only live for three, and your parents died twelve years ago. Strange coincidence, don’t you think? If you ask Ron, I’m sure he could date the time they found him, and I’d bet it was within the month after.”
Harry seemed to work through everything I’d told him. “How did you escape?”
I focused for a moment, then turned into a dog. I had been undercover for so long I could hardly tolerate the transformation, so I turned back. Panting a little, I explained, “You have to register to be an Animagus. The four of us had done it in secret, so the Ministry has no idea. I became thin enough to slip through the bars of the cell in my dog form. The guards can’t see real well.”
A dog started to bark hysterically a few houses over, catching my scent, so we moved farther in the backyard.
Anger finally caught up to Harry. “How could Peter have betrayed his friends? People who trusted him?”
“He’s a bloody coward, that’s why. Wanted to join the winning side.”
“Why didn’t he run away? Why bother living life as a pet? And why didn’t he kill me when he had the chance?”
“I’d think he’s been keeping an ear out for news. He’d only act under Voldemort’s orders, and if he knew there was something in it for him…”
“Then what are we supposed to do? When I see Scabbers again, what then?”
“Bring him to me. I’ll give him what he deserves.”
“But then you could still go back to Azkaban!”
“It’d be worth it, knowing Peter paid the price. He murdered your parents, Harry, surely—”
“You shouldn’t put yourself on the same level as him. He should be in Azkaban, not you, and we—we could put him there.”
“How the hell would we do that?”
I felt a familiar thrill in plotting, this time with James’ son rather than James.
After a minute, Harry said, “I have an idea. In the Ministry, is there some sort of law enforcement department?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Department of Magical Law Enforcement, sure.”
“Ron’s dad works in the Ministry, and I’ve never been.”
I caught on. “So, you’re saying he could take you to the Ministry, and you could bring Scabbers, because if he’s spying for Voldemort, he’d want to go—”
“…And we’ll show up at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, report that he didn’t register as an Animagus—”
“And he’ll be exposed and I’ll be proven innocent.”
1 September, 1993 21:09
It was my first night of freedom. I no longer had to worry about the Ministry finding me, just about Voldemort’s followers, and potentially any skeptics that still believed me guilty.
My feet were like lead. As I made to go to the staircase of the Burrow, up to where my temporary room was, someone behind me cleared their throat.
I turned, and immediately Remus moved in to hug me.
When we parted, I gaped at him. “But you’re teaching at Hogwarts, aren’t you?”
“Tomorrow. I planned to talk to you before I left.” He gestured toward the fireplace, the pot of Floo Powder.
“I wanted to talk, too.”
Remus’ smile faded at my tone. “What about?”
“How I betrayed you.”
“Betrayed me? Peter betrayed me, you just—”
“I should’ve trusted you. Looking back, I don’t understand how I couldn’t have, but in the circumstances of the war…”
Remus drew me into his arms again. “I know. I know. It’s okay, I’ve—I’ve had plenty of time to think about everything, and it’s okay.
When he pulled away, I leaned in to kiss him.
“Er—I can’t.” Remus took a step back. “I have feelings for someone else.”
I blinked. “Are you with him, though?”
Remus flushed. “Her. And I—bloody hell, Sirius, I’m sorry. You were in prison, I thought you betrayed James and Lily, what else was I supposed to do?”
I shook my head, absent, as though disconnected from my body.
“We can still be friends, Sirius. We’re both alive, we should allow ourselves that.” When I didn’t reply, he continued, “You gave in to James every time when we were kids. And with me—even if I was with someone, if I asked you to fuck me, you’d agree. I don’t know what you want.”
I breathed deeply and met his glare. “You, Remus, I want you.” He wavered, so I took the opportunity and continued, “You should want me enough to forget whoever you’re after for me.” When he merely averted his gaze, I added bitterly, “But I suppose we’ll always be each other’s second choice.”
“That’s not true, Sirius.” But Remus’ words were flat.
“You chose some woman—”
“And you chose James. Admit it, if he were gay, you’d have chosen him.”
“But he chose Lily.”
Remus flinched, as though he’d been slapped. “So if he hadn’t…?”
“No, Remus, that’s not what I—c’mon, look, Remus, I—”
“If it hasn’t worked by now, Sirius, it’s not going to work. It hasn’t worked, even when we were kids.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say in that moment. By the time Remus climbed into the fireplace and disappeared, I had retorts buzzing in my head, but it was too late. Why hadn’t I said our relationship didn’t have to be perfect? Or that the past didn’t matter? Even saying that I loved him might’ve made him stay a little longer. But a part of me wanted to punish myself. I wanted to force myself to accept responsibility for suspecting him, for succumbing to James, for letting myself be imprisoned for as long as I had.
12 December, 1996 1:09
I became numb to the decision Remus and I made. The war was an ugly but suitable distraction from our relationship, and because he acted so normal, I followed suit.
The woman he’d fancied was Raven Faralyn. In the Hogwarts teaching workshops over the summer, they’d become close. The details I heard through rumor were vague, but eventually they got together.
And then they split up. Because I’d avoided asking about his relationship with Raven, by the time I found out they’d split up, he was seeing someone else—Tonks. Through the Order, they’d sleep together in my home; I fumed about it, but I didn’t want Remus to see me as irrational. And when the war ended, I didn’t see it as an opportunity to be with him, or to try and win him back. I was used to pitying myself—I had twelve years of practice—so I let myself be forgotten in their wake.
7 March, 1997 16:05
I stared at the invitation. 12 July, 1998. So it was really happening. Tonks and Remus were getting married. If I told myself enough times, I would believe I was happy for him, that I was alright with any possibility of rekindling our relationship to be over.
We’re not meant for each other. She’s better for him. She makes sense.
I gritted my teeth and tried not to think of the similarities between me and Tonks. She was funny, liked adventure, and was more energetic and talkative than Remus. If she was more different from me, I could say that he was really meant for someone else. But why be with the female version of me when he could just have me?
5 June, 1998 11:58
I know you’ve kept to yourself for the most part since the war ended. I don’t know entirely why (I can only guess it’s to do with being in Azkaban for so long, even though that was years ago), I have an opportunity that might help. As you probably heard me say at one time or another, Charlie has been growing distant, and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and see if you wouldn’t like getting away. I asked him a couple months ago and it’s taken him this long to respond—he agreed, of course.
There’s only a week or so before the wedding, so I thought you’d leave whenever you’re ready this week and return before the 12th. Anyhow, I’d appreciate it if you could get an idea of how dangerous it is—I know I shouldn’t worry, he’s old enough to take care of himself, but it looks like he may spend the rest of his life with dragons, so it’s only fair I know what he’s gotten himself into. Write back to let me know what you decide.
8 June, 1998 19:49
Charlie counted up the payment for the dragon scales, then nodded at the vendor and we started back down the street. “Let’s go for drinks. After coming so close to death, you deserve it.”
“Oh, I thought near-death encounters with dragons were reward enough, but if you insist…”
Charlie put his hand on my shoulder, and we Disapparated.
When we reappeared, we were at the back door of a pub. When we entered, I looked around; as a Muggle pub, it was rather unremarkable, but lively nonetheless. Charlie ordered us both a drink in Romanian, then explained, “It’s a local brew.” We took our beers to one of the tables in the back.
As we talked, I realized how much of an enigma Charlie really was. He clearly didn’t spend much time interacting with people, but I vaguely remember hearing he was popular in school, so he possessed the quality of someone who knew how to act to be liked, but chose to be himself. After we talked about our lives after the war, I could sense him relaxing.
“So Molly tells me you’ve been mostly alone out here.”
Charlie huffed. “She always says that as if it’s a bad thing. She’s used to being surrounded by friends and family and doesn’t realize not everyone wants to live like her.”
“She asked me to report back on how you’ve been doing, you know.”
Charlie nodded. “I’m not surprised. To be honest, that’s why I took so long to respond. I wasn’t ready to have her know what I was doing, and there were some rather dangerous operations then.”
“So this is the first time you’ve had someone visit you?”
“I’ve had people visit, but you’re the first to stay with me. It took me at least all day last Sunday to clean; I’m not used to company.”
I raised my eyebrows and looked behind me, around the bar. “We need to get you laid.”
Charlie looked at me, amused, then turned red. “I thought you were joking.”
I smirked. “I would never.”
With a resigned glance at me, he searched the room. “What do you think about her?”
I followed his gaze. “She’s pretty. But I’m not interested in women, so don’t take my word for it.”
“Oh.” Charlie blinked. “Then…?”
I glanced over at a younger bloke who I’d caught eying me earlier.
“Oh!” Now he knew what I meant.
I studied his reaction to see if he was repulsed. Would he ask me to leave? As I worked it over in my mind, I told myself that I wouldn’t want to spend time with someone who had a problem with my sexuality. Finally, I couldn’t handle the silence, so I said, “I didn’t take Molly up on her suggestion because of that. You needn’t worry, I’m not interested in you.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought you were.”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with you.”
I looked back at the woman. “I mean, I bet if you bought her a drink, she’d sleep with you.”
Charlie downed the rest of his drink. “Either your insulting her, or complimenting me.”
I laughed. “Alright, well, take it how you’d like.” I set my drink down and thought for a moment. “You know, I could see how this lifestyle would make it hard to be with someone, let alone have friends.”
Charlie nodded, then shot me a pointed look. “I suppose I’ll just have to see.”
14 June, 1998 18:14
We had gone to the bar every night, primarily because I needed alcohol to acclimate to the intensity of the work.
After I polished off my first beer, I told Charlie, “This has been the best week I’ve had since…well, in a long time.”
Charlie smiled. I couldn’t tell if he agreed with me or was simply acknowledging my sentiment. “I’m sure it’s been nice to get away. It’s a different sort of excitement over here.”
“Yeah.” I felt a swell in my chest as I studied the freckles on his face. I could only compare it to the intimacy of Remus’ scars.
Charlie noticed me staring and averted his eyes. “You’re welcome to stay longer, if you’d like.”
“How long is longer?” I ordered us two more drinks.
“However long you want.” Charlie tried meeting my gaze.
“You haven’t had enough of me by now?”
Charlie shook his head. “Course not.”
“Alright, then you’re stuck with me.”
Charlie smirked. “Alright.” He took a sip of his drink. “Why don’t we go over the plan for tomorrow?” He took out the map he’d been using to plot his progress over the years. “I’ve covered about twenty percent of the Maramures Mountains…” he pointed at Munții Maramureșului. “We should probably pick back up there tomorrow and see if we can find a Romanian Bluefire. I haven’t had a chance yet to track their nocturnal patterns, and there’s a full moon tomorrow, so we’ll have plenty of light.”
At the mention of the full moon, my mind jumped to Remus, and I forced the thoughts down with my drink. “Yeah, good plan.”
“Teodora thinks there’s a nest here.” Charlie traced his finger to the highest point in the mountains. “So we’ll have to check it out, see if she’s right before we bring more people to the site.”
The next evening, we Apparated to the SPFB (Scamander Post for Fantastic Beasts) at the base of the mountains range. “Animalele Fantastice Post,” the sign read. We grabbed two of the enchanted canteens from the rack inside before Apparating to the edge of the mountain range’s protective enchantment.
“So what do Muggles see if they go here?” I stared up at the gaping cavern before us, then turned my gaze down the side of the mountain.
“They’d think they reached the top, and would go back down. In other areas, it’d make them believe it’s impossible to climb.”
We adjusted our detecting gear, then started in the first cave. It took several hours just to scour one, and although we didn’t find any dragons, we had evidence that one had lived there.
In the second cave, we were luckier. About ten minutes in, a dragon lumbered out of the darkness and into the light of our wands. We stood still, waiting to see who would make the first move.
“Sirius,” Charlie whispered. “I think she may be protecting her young.”
I looked past the dragon, but couldn’t tell. “I’ll take your word for it.”
“I’m gonna Apparate and take a look. You distract her.”
If only we had James’ Invisibility Cloak. “Okay. Count of three? One…two…” At three, I sprinted in the opposite direction. With a roar, the dragon followed suit. The cave lit up with her fire, and flames caught on my jacket. Just as I glanced back, I heard a crack next to me, and Charlie grabbed my hand. We Disapparated.
I felt the fire at my back for the agonizing fifteen seconds we traveled, and as soon as we reappeared in the flat, I stripped my jacket off.
“Shit, Sirius, I didn’t realize—” Charlie glanced at me, then grabbed a fire jar and let some blue flames creep inside before extinguishing my clothes.
We stood in silence for a moment. When the shock wore off, I said, “Well, that was successful, wouldn’t you say?”
Charlie burst out laughing, and though I tried to grin, it turned more into a grimace at the pain in my back.
He noticed. “Are you okay? Let me see what I have for your burn, it’s a different kind of fire, so I didn’t know how to protect us…” Charlie rifled through his store of potions. “Anyhow, she did have two babies. One was born with a mutated wing, we’ll have to take him in before the mother stops feeding him. How bad do you think your burn is?”
I gingerly peeled off my shirt and turned so he could see my back. When there was silence, I turned round to see what he was doing. He was focused on reading the labels. I cleared my throat.
Charlie looked up and blinked. “Sorry, I was…” I turned back around and could hear him put down the bottles. “I suppose I should see it first.” I heard him approach, but his voice got quieter. “Your back is red from the heat, so it’s hard to tell…” He trailed off. “Accio O-2!”
“Orange serum—orange for the color of the flame, 2 for the 2nd degree burns.” He uncorked the bottle and began to apply the serum, sending tiny shivers through me. “Anyway, what can I say? I like things organized.”
“That’s a lie. This room is awful, I haven’t seen anything organized since I’ve been here.” Already, my pain had ebbed.
“I only said I liked things organized.” I heard Charlie reseal the bottle and set it on the table next to us. “Besides…you’ve been a bad influence.”
When I turned around to protest, Charlie kissed me.
I almost pulled away in surprise, but he placed his hands on either side of my head and drew me in closer. His touch was warm, and I relished his urgency—
“Wait,” Charlie said, pushing me back lightly, eyes hazy with desire. “You should know…I’m a virgin.”
I titled his face back toward mine. “Hang on, how old are you?”
“I’m thirty-eight. So you’ve never…?”
Charlie shook his head.
“And you want to…?”
Charlie nodded and kissed me again.
12 July, 1998 8:52
I glanced up. Harry had walked into the kitchen, looking dazed. “Hello, Harry. It’s been, what? Two months?” I hugged him, then held him at arms length. “I think this is the first time you haven’t grown.”
Molly walked in. I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely cheery, or forcing it. “Good morning, you two. We’ve got our work cut out for us today. Sirius, what time did you and Charlie get in last night?”
I poured myself a cup of coffee. “I dunno, after midnight.”
Molly charmed the cleaning supplies to clean the dishes, then asked, “Are you planning on returning to Romania this summer, or are you all dragon-ed out?”
I set down my mug and crossed my arms. “Actually, I’m going back this Thursday.”
Molly accidentally broke the glass she had been in the process of charming, then sighed and repaired it. “That soon? You just came back.”
“It’s my job, Molly.”
“I know, I’m only saying, you’ve…” she thought for a moment, then lowered her voice, “…you’ve hardly been around for Harry recently.”
I scoffed. “Is that really what this is about?”
Molly hesitated, glancing at Harry, who got the cue and left the room. After craning her neck to make sure Harry was gone, she continued, “You made it seem like you’d be a father to him.”
“Harry’s old enough to take care of himself, that’s not what this is about. You think—” I stopped and looked behind her.
Molly turned around, then beamed. “Charlie!”
Charlie hugged his mum, then smirked at me and hugged me, too, more tightly.
Molly put her hands on her hips, sour. “We need to set up the tent. Charlie, why don’t you get the kids to help, I need to talk to Sirius.”
Charlie glanced at me. “Alright.”
Once he was gone, I said, “Molly, just be honest. What is all this really about?”
Molly put her hand on her hip. “Fine. I don’t condone what’s going on between you and Charlie. You’re much too old—”
“Molly, calm down, it’s not what you think. If it were, though, Remus is just as many years older than Tonks.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down, Sirius! He’s my son, and you can’t go on confusing him, understand?”
I shook my head in disbelief and pushed past her. “Completely.” If his own mother wouldn’t accept us, or even our individual sexualities…was there hope for anyone else?
At dinner, Charlie rested his hand on mine. At first, I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed, then I let it stay there.
Farther down the table, Molly scanned the attendants, then said, “It’s about time for the dessert—”
“I’ve got it, Molly.” I stood.
“I’ll help him,” Charlie offered, a bit quickly.
Molly didn’t have a chance to reply before we slipped away.
As soon as we were in the kitchen, I said, “Your mom doesn’t want me to be around you. This morning she essentially told me that I’m turning you gay.”
“That’s my fault. I’ve tried to explain I’ve just never been interested in relationships, but with you…”
“That’s the problem, I’d think. The one time you fancy someone, it had to be me.”
Charlie pocketed his wand. “Look, I still want you to come back to Romania, Sirius. My mum—”
“She doesn’t know what’s best for you.”
“She means well, Sirius.” Charlie took my hands. “But I…I know what I want.”
I studied Charlie for a moment, then kissed him, weaving my hands into his hair. When I heard a creak in the room next to us, we broke apart.
Harry was in the doorway, his eyes wide. We looked at him, then at each other, unsure.
“I’m sorry, I saw,” Harry said abruptly.
I let go of Charlie’s hands. “Harry, I hadn’t planned for you to find out like this…”
“It’s okay. I’m happy for you. Seriously. I’ll leave you to it, then.” He shot us what seemed like a grimace, then headed back to the party.
Most people took to the dance floor after dessert. I told Charlie to go socialize a bit so Molly could cool off. As soon as he left, Harry approached me.
The cover band began to play a Weird Sisters song, so Harry had to nearly shout. “I couldn’t care less that you’re gay. You know that, right?”
I started to smile. “Really?”
“I only care that you’re happy. So go for it. Don’t pay attention to Charlie’s mum, or anyone.”
I grinned broadly and swayed a little to the music. “You’re better than your father in some ways, you know that?”
Harry smiled in return and mixed back into the crowd. I found Charlie and pulled him over to dance with me. After four or five drinks, we had tired ourselves out.
Breathing a bit heavily, but bright-eyed, Charlie motioned to the refreshment table. “I’m gonna get some more drinks.”
I noticed Remus approaching me, so I said, “I’ll meet you in a second. Oh, and let’s talk to your mum tonight, okay? About us.”
Charlie smiled and kissed me before heading over to the refreshments.
Remus squeezed through a patch of dancers before reaching me. “Hi, Sirius.”
Remus’ eyes strayed in Charlie’s direction. “So you and Charlie are together, now, then?”
I tried to read his expression, searching for the merest tinge of jealousy. He seemed genuinely pleased. “We’re together, yeah. I understand, now, what you thought about the age thing between you and Tonks, but I think we’re about past it…he’s great.”
“Well, I’m glad.”
Charlie reappeared, drinks in hand. “How’re you, Remus? I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you, so: congratulations.”
“Thank you, Charlie.”
Remus glanced at me, and with that look I could tell he knew I hadn’t told Charlie the full details of my former relationship with him.
I put my arm around Charlie. “The reception’s been lovely,” I said, daring Remus to give something away.
“It was a lot of work, but thanks to everyone’s help, it turned out really well.” His eyes lit up. “I’m happy.”
We looked at each other. I realized Remus wanted me to believe him, to move on, to stop playing games to make him jealous.
“I’m glad.” Keeping a hand on Charlie’s shoulder, I leaned forward and kissed Remus on the cheek. “Take care, okay?”
Remus nodded, pain now flickering across his face.
I turned my attention to Charlie. “C’mon, let’s talk to your mum.”
Molly was still at the head table with some of the older members of the Order when we approached her.
“Can we talk?” Charlie said.
Molly studied our expressions, and, sensing his seriousness, nodded.
“I thought I should tell you explicitly that Sirius and I are seeing each other.”
Molly’s face reddened, but she didn’t raise her voice. “For how long?”
“Since the first week in Romania.”
“Are you gay, then?”
Charlie glanced at me. “I haven’t really been interested in relationships before. I don’t really know. I suppose, I—well, I haven’t been attracted to a woman yet.”
Molly furrowed her brow. “Then why Sirius?”
I gritted my teeth. “It’s not like I’ve got him under a spell, Molly. I’m not some sort of predator.”
“But you are gay?”
“Who else have you been with? How come you know and Charlie doesn’t?”
Charlie answered before I could. “There isn’t just one or the other, two options everyone tics off, Mum. Just like every person is different, every person’s sexuality is different.”
That idea seemed to take root with her. She looked back at me. “But you don’t seem gay.”
Charlie replied again, “That’s nothing to do with him, it’s how you think we should act.”
Molly opened her mouth to protest, then caught herself. “You’re right, love.” She uncrossed her arms and sighed. “I suppose I—this all came as a shock to me, and I felt like you didn’t make it a big deal, and it got me thinking that I should’ve known by now—your own mother—”
Charlie hugged her. “That’s the thing, though: I haven’t fancied anyone else. Maybe the timing helped, but it’s Sirius, Mum.”
Molly turned to me, a little reproachful.
“I don’t mean he turned me gay, that’s not how it works. So if you don’t like him for that…well, don’t not like him for that.”
I smiled before considering how big-headed I probably looked to her with that expression. “Look, I’m not any happier that I fancy Charlie than you are.” I glanced at Charlie, smirking. “But he seems to think I’m okay, maybe better than dragons—”
“Let’s not get carried away, now,” Charlie interrupted, nudging me.
“…Almost as good as dragons—”
“…and that’s what matters.”
Molly looked between us, then cracked and pulled us both into a hug. “I’m sorry, loves.” She pulled away, then glared at me. “Keep him safe for me, alright? Charlie on his own is dangerous, but with you…the world might not be ready.”
Charlie laughed, relieved. “Alright, Mum.”
She smiled at him. “Right, let’s get back out there. I still have a bit of dance left in me.”
I pretended that, as I danced, I was letting go of Remus. I drank heavily enough that, somehow, I became convinced that I was casting the Memory Loss Charm. Part of the process was dancing so close to Charlie that I felt as though I were falling into him, energy flowing between us. I pressed my forehead to his, hands around his neck. A pulsing in my throat told me not to be this close, but it only encouraged me.
In the midst of the pounding music, the swirl of bodies, I kissed Charlie, slowly. His mouth twisted from a grimace to a smile beneath mine, and he was still smiling when I pulled away.
I looked around. Whispers quivered through the crowd, but I dully searched for reactions from those I cared about. Harry and Ginny were quelling the stares of the other guests, and while Tonks grinned at us, Remus just stared in shock.
At first, a thrill of pleasure at his jealousy shot through my body. But at second blurry thought, I realized his expression was because he had always wanted to be out, whereas I insisted to keep our relationship secret. I pretended to be oblivious to his gaze and rubbed a thumb over Charlie’s stubbly jaw, conveying to everyone the nature of our relationship.
That night, after Charlie and I had gone to bed, there was a soft knock at the door. I glanced at Charlie, who had already fallen asleep. What if it was Remus? My heart pounded from a mix of adrenaline and dread.
I crawled quietly out of bed and went to the door. “Who is it?” I whispered.
Relieved, I opened the door and slipped out of the room.
Harry hadn’t changed into his pajamas, and his eyes darted around the hall. “Can we go somewhere private? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Are you okay?” A thought struck me. “Is this—is this about what you saw earlier?”
“I’m fine, and no, not really. It’s not an emergency. Ginny’s gone to Hermione’s room to give us space to talk.”
I couldn’t read him. It was clear he was uncomfortable, but was that because he now knew that I was attracted to men?
Harry motioned for me to sit down next to him, and breathed in deeply before saying, “This might be confusing. Well, I expect it to be confusing.”
“Just trust that I’m telling the truth, alright? Severus and Raven can tell you I’m being honest.”
How had they known before me? I rested a hand on Harry’s arm. “You can tell me.”
He nodded, pausing as though he might reconsider, then cleared his throat. “I…changed time. Dumbledore left me his Time-Turner, and I went back in time, and I didn’t mean to change things this much, but it happened anyway.”
I studied him. He seemed to be telling the truth, but I didn’t know what to say.
“In the time I’m originally from, you died in ’96. And two years later, in the months after we brought down Voldemort, I was depressed. I didn’t understand what my role in the world was, I was tired all the time, and I had trouble motivating myself to do anything. Then Ginny gave me a Time-Turner Dumbledore had left for me—well, I didn’t know it was his at the time—and I decided to find peace with everything I had to meet my parents, and try to…Oh, hang on, I should explain this, too—in my timeline, Severus was killed, and afterward I found out he’d been protecting me all along, and he loved Lily, and I wanted to help him…” He took a breath. “Let me just explain what my timeline was like.”
Harry described everything from his childhood before he had altered time, and though at first I frequently interrupted with questions, eventually I was wrapped up in the story.
“…That brings us back to the Time-Turner. I went back to just before your first year at Hogwarts. I disguised myself as Jacob Walker; changed my hair, glasses, and even my eye color; I expected that whatever I changed would stay changed. That wasn’t the case. Anyway, I became a part of your life as a kid—”
“You’ve met us?”
Harry smirked. “Well, you hated me.”
I faltered. “No. Why?”
“I was friends with Severus. And Lily, and Raven. That was the second biggest change, I think, other than me being there: Severus and Raven were sorted into Gryffindor. They still went into the Dark Arts for a time, but they eventually left.”
“You can’t be serious. Snape left the Dark Arts?”
Harry stared at me. “You didn’t see the signs when he was a kid?”
I blinked. “What signs?”
“I mean, do you know why he joined the Dark Arts?”
“Because his mum hadn’t taught him to wash his hair?” I expected Harry to laugh, but he didn’t. I cleared my throat. “The other version of you, the one I knew—he would get annoyed when I said things like that. But he never gave me the look you’re giving me now.”
Harry lowered his gaze. “I’m sorry.” He stood up and began to pace. “You know how you can’t forget how Severus was when you were kids?”
I nodded slowly. “You can’t forget how I was.”
“Now I understand why you’ve always been so angry with Severus. You know him too well. You can tell most of him hasn’t changed.”
I considered this for a moment. Could Harry say the situations were the same?
“It’s hard because…well, I’m just glad you’re alive. I don’t want to get caught up on details. But anyhow, both you and Severus tried to escape the part of themselves they hated. You didn’t want to be associated with the Dark Arts, or Voldemort, and Severus didn’t want to be associated with weakness.”
I chewed this over. “That’s simple. He didn’t have to join the Dark Arts to be powerful.”
“But his personality didn’t fit well in Gryffindor. Even when he wasn’t in the Dark Arts, when he was in Gryffindor, people didn’t like him. And, look, he’d probably hate me for telling you this, but…his dad was abusive. I mean, your parents were probably similar, except—Tobias, Severus’ dad, pissed their money away on alcohol, and…” Harry breathed in deeply. “Well, when I say abuse, I mean he beat them, but also he…” Harry stopped staring at his fidgeting hands to look at me.
I shook my head, not understanding.
“He sexually abused Severus and his mum.”
My breath caught a little. “Oh. Are you sure? I thought Severus’ mother was a witch—”
Harry’s expression darkened. “She would make potions to calm Tobias, prevent it from being as bad as it could be, but he hated magic, and whenever he realized what she was doing, Severus would suffer.”
I hesitated, knowing how Harry might react, then said, “But I can’t forgive Snape because of that. I saw what he confessed to in the Daily Prophet, for Christ’s sake. He told Voldemort about the prophecy, he’s the reason James and Lily were killed, and he hates me even though I have never fucked up to the degree he has—”
“I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but you should try.” Harry gritted his teeth. “He regrets that time of his life more than anything. And know, because of what I learned in the timeline, that it didn’t have to be that way. When I was there, and he was in Gryffindor, he gave up the Dark Arts. Look, you both have to set the past aside. I’ve talked to him too, and he’s just as stubborn. But with time, and I suppose if I mediate…it’s possible.”
“Even if we put the past aside, you realize he’ll still be the same unemotional, homophobic…” Something clicked into place in the back of my mind. Years of abuse, and from his father, no doubt—
Harry pressed his lips together. “Now you understand why he is the way he is, don’t you?”
“He’s homophobic because of his father, and what he—” I was sick at the thought.
Harry smiled slightly, pleased I’d caught on, but still grim at the subject. “He’s uncomfortable with touching—intimacy in general, but I suppose with men, that could be why…as far as being unemotional, that’s more complicated.”
We sat in silence for a while, thinking.
Then Harry cleared his throat. “Sirius, this may be a bit uncomfortable to talk about, but when I was in the past, I found out you fancied my dad.”
I froze. “What?”
Harry flushed. “James was harassing Lily on Valentine’s Day, so we gave him this chocolate that made him fall in love with the first person he saw: you. And when he kissed you, you kissed him back, because you didn’t know about the potion—and as time went on, it was more clear. At one point, James asked me—shit, sorry, I keep forgetting I haven’t explained everything yet; I told James I was his son. He knew who I was. So he asked me if you were with anyone in my time. I think he was starting to fancy you back. But I left before anything else could really happen…”
I ran a hand through my hair. “Your dad and I, we…I’m not sure how to describe our friendship.”
“It seemed like, if he were gay, you two would’ve…” Harry picked at a piece of lint on his trousers. “I dunno, you two made more sense together than him and Lily.”
Anger blazed through me. “You’re wrong. If you had known them when they were together, you wouldn’t say that.”
Harry was taken aback. “I’m sorry.”
We sat in an awkward silence for a minute before I finally said, “I didn’t mean to snap. It’s only that—well, he said that to me once. More than once, actually. But if we had been together, we would’ve gotten ourselves killed. We were both too…intense.”
“He was killed anyway, and with Lily. You wouldn’t have made a difference.”
I nearly started to scold him, but James and Lily were his parents, after all. “You shouldn’t think they didn’t love each other. James just couldn’t always settle for one person.” I caught myself. “What I’m trying to say is, your dad, much like me, wanted to live life as much as he could.”
“I know,” Harry said.
I thought I saw his eyes shine a bit, so I changed the subject. “What about Remus?”
“What do you mean?”
Harry blinked. “No, I don’t think…no, there was nothing really between you two like that. I assumed he only fancied girls. Why, is that not how it was in your time?”
“Remus and I were together until I went to Azkaban. Since sixth year at Hogwarts.” What he’d started to say earlier about James starting to fancy me back sunk in. Before I could ask how he knew James felt the same way, Harry said—
“There has to be a reason why it was different for me. Did Remus fancy Lily in your time?”
“For a little while, yeah.”
“What about Raven?”
“Raven? Not until they taught at Hogwarts together.” I thought back to my Hogwarts years. “But they did snog in sixth year once—twice. At a party.”
“Well, they were together for a while in the time I knew.”
I realized why he wanted to know. “So if he had Raven at Hogwarts, then he wouldn’t have been interested in me.”
Harry mulled this over. “That had something to do with it, but more than that, it was because he didn’t spend as much time with you. He sometimes preferred to be with me, Lily, Severus, and Raven, maybe not more time with you all, but I think he didn’t depend on you and James as much for validation. I think he saw that you all were kind of knobheads compared to us.”
I couldn’t help the cold shivers down my spine. I felt a bit sick. I’d had the delusion—albeit a suppressed one—that Remus and I were meant for each other. Obviously it could never’ve worked out. How much more proof did I need?
“I assumed you were with Charlie to move on from James. Is it actually…Remus?”
I hesitated, then nodded. “No one besides Tonks and Charlie knows about me and Remus. And even then, it’s not much.”
“What happened in your timeline with Remus, exactly?”
I told Harry as much as I felt to be appropriate; Remus and I were both initially confused about our feelings, I was also involved with James, and how not trusting Remus during the War fucked up our relationship. Then I went to prison, and when I came back, Remus was with Raven. “…By now I have moved on, though.”
Harry’s eyes darted slightly, as though memories lay on the bedcovers for him to search. “I suppose…I never really thought of you and him in that way, but in the original timeline, you lived together after you escaped Azkaban, I think.” The thoughts came to him more quickly now. “And in my time, Remus didn’t originally return Tonks’ feelings until a year after you died. It seemed to be just because of his age, and his being a werewolf, but it makes sense now that he didn’t think he could be with her—or anyone—after you.”
My heart pounded, hopeful. “In this timeline…it’s similar. Remus fancied—well, fell in love with—Raven, and they were on and off until she ended it in the summer of ’96…you would’ve been in fifth year.”
“Why’d they split up?”
“Remus hasn’t told me. It was for the best, though, we aren’t right for each other.”
“We’ve always been each other’s second choice.” When I noticed Harry’s skepticism, I explained, “There’ve been so many signs that it wouldn’t work out. My distrust, my relationship with James even when we were seeing each other, and him moving on to be with women.”
“It matters that he was with women?”
I felt my face grow hot. “I suppose it shouldn’t, you’re right.”
Harry fidgeted. “Sirius, I don’t want you to hate me because of what I tell you next.”
A chill swept through me. “I couldn’t hate you, Harry.”
“I still have to explain everything, but for now—in our fifth year at Hogwarts, 1976, Lily and Severus got together. I helped them get together.”
I felt nauseous. “How? Why would you…?”
“I owed it to Severus. For hating him for so long, for how James treated him…And James wasn’t right for Lily. I’m sorry if you think they were, and maybe eventually they would be, but once Severus renounced the Dark Arts, it made sense. The night they—they met up, sealed their fate, it prevented me from being born, so the universe I’d created started to fall apart. And after I undid everything, I had one last idea for how I could change things.” Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of parchment. “I wrote a letter to Raven and to myself. I gave Raven her letter on 17th September, 1981. I don’t have it with me, but essentially I told her to go to Hogwarts to ask for a job because her life was in danger.”
“Was Raven actually in danger, or did you make that up?”
“She was going to be killed a few hours later. Have you heard about her switching sides?”
“Yes.” I exhaled, slowly. “Is that why you asked me not to hate you? Because without you, Raven and Remus wouldn’t have been together, and he and I…?”
“Yeah. It’s difficult because without me, you and Remus would still be dead. But at least he wouldn’t be with someone else…” He searched me for an opinion.
“It’s a lot to process, but you’re right I—I should be happier, knowing the alternative. And I’m not angry with you.” A thought struck me: How would Remus react if he knew about the change in time? “Are you going to tell Remus?”
Harry mulled it over. “I should, but—he has his life figured out. I don’t want to fuck things up for him. I mean, I told my friends and Raven because I had to, and I told Severus because I wanted him to move on with his life. And I didn’t tell Remus who I was when you all were kids, so I have no idea how he’d react now.”
“Why’ve you told me, then?”
“Because…” He searched for a response. “Because you died, and I had questions…”
“Remus would want to know, Harry. Especially because he’s alive now because of you. Knowing he’s been given a second chance, a better life, that would motivate him, I’m sure.”
“But then he’d have to tell Tonks, wouldn’t he? I mean, it wouldn’t be healthy to keep that from her, and I don’t feel comfortable with her knowing. Then everyone might as well know.”
“Why shouldn’t anyone else know?”
“I’ve learned that it’s not—it’s not right to feel like things don’t have to be the way they are. If people knew they had the power to change the past, then sooner or later everyone would want a Time-Turner. It could start another war. And, more than that, even, I’d be killed. Hardly anyone would agree to tampering with time as much as I have. Who knows how many people I’ve prevented from existing in the future, regardless of who I’ve saved? So it’s best for as few people to know as possible.”
The next morning, Raven approached me, and I now recognized that her standard expression toward me, previously that of indifference—coldness, even—had shifted to something more genuine, interested.
“Sirius, we should get drinks tonight.”
I raised an eyebrow.
She pulled me aside, voice lowered. “Harry told you. There are some things we should discuss, wouldn’t you think?”
I nodded reluctantly.
Raven assessed my face, then relaxed, though now appearing more solemn. “I should’ve talked to you a long time ago. My relationship with Regulus and Remus—there is a lot, no doubt, that we can relate to, especially now, knowing what we know.”
Despite agreeing to drinks, I felt uncomfortable at the idea of spending time alone with Raven in light of my talk with Harry. Would she want to discuss Remus?
She chose an entirely different subject. “I should start with your brother.”
I wasn’t conscious that I had clenched my fist on the table in front of me until Raven glanced down at it, wary. I cleared my throat. “Sorry. I know you told Harry about the locket, how Regulus betrayed Voldemort.”
“That’s right. But you never heard it from me.”
I sat back in my seat, indicating for her to continue, but hesitant to listen. It was painful to know Regulus died before I learned of his innocence. We never had a chance to reconcile.
Raven took a small sip of firewhiskey, more as a formality than to steel herself, before beginning her story. “As you know, Regulus and I were close friends. He became my best friend, and for a while, he considered me the same. Nobody in the Dark Arts can rightly be called kind, but he was the closest to it. I was a Hufflepuff, which most consider to be the opposite of Slytherin house, yet he accepted me, and I him. Looking back on it, and I suppose the purpose of telling you, is that there was at first a sort of innocence to it. I could only see it later on, but Regulus didn’t have his whole self poured into the Dark Arts.”
She paused to allow me to interject, so I said, “He seemed sincere enough about it.”
“To you, sure. Part of the reason I left the Dark Arts is that he—rather suddenly—became passionate about joining Voldemort. That was the summer after you left home, you see.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“I suppose…” Raven frowned, collecting her thoughts. “In the way that you chose to go against the Dark Arts to spite your parents, he went with the Dark Arts to spite you.”
She watched as I considered the legitimacy of her claim. “You’re saying that because I ran away, he joined Voldemort?”
“Not exactly. But, well, it’s common for one sibling to follow the rules and for the other to break them. Because your personalities were so different, it was bound to happen. Some people have their fates predetermined for them, making it only natural that they join the Dark Arts. Like Severus. Both he and Regulus defied their fates.”
I grunted, unwilling to argue the differences between my brother and Snivellus. No good one-line retorts came to mind, and I preferred to listen than drag out the conversation.
“Anyhow, he convinced himself the Dark Arts gave him a purpose, but as soon as he faced the reality of it, he realized otherwise. By the time he showed up at the safe haven—the one I founded for runaways, as you know—he was set on taking down Voldemort.”
“Why did you believe him?”
Caught off guard by the question, Raven considered this. “He didn’t have proof. I was about to turn him away, already panicking at the thought of having to find a new hiding place, when he told me to use Veritaserum on him. Knowing he wasn’t nearly a good enough Legilimens for him to lie under its influence, I had to trust that it worked. I thought—” She ducked her head in embarrassment. “I thought he was trying to seduce me, catch me off guard. If his intentions had been to betray me, he would’ve succeeded in doing so. I was young, still naive, and lonely…it could have come crashing down.”
We sipped our drinks in silence, both painfully aware that she was skirting the details of her relationship with Regulus.
“Anyhow,” Raven continued, “In those two weeks, he confessed a lot to me. He knew he might die, but didn’t admit it.” She studied me. “He didn’t talk about you that much, because he had no reason to think I’d ever be able to convey what he wanted to say to you, you know, but I can tell you how he felt. He admired you. He thought you were a prick, sure, but whenever he mentioned you, he became intensely saddened. And although siding with Voldemort ultimately allowed him to help bring him down, he regretted that you pushed each other away.”
I blinked quickly to clear my vision. “He shouldn’t have—doing what he did, he shouldn’t have felt sorry. It’s my fault.”
“He didn’t give you much choice.” Raven hesitated. “You shouldn’t feel bad for pushing Regulus away for his involvement in the Dark Arts any more than how Lily shouldn’t feel bad for pushing Severus away for his involvement in the Dark Arts. Sure, both of you might have been able to convince the other to be better, but it’s unfair for Regulus or Severus to expect that of you or Lily, and they don’t—didn’t expect that of you.”
I was tired of picking apart the comparisons between Snape and myself, so I just fumed silently. Looking to sway her assuredness, I asked, “Why did you and Remus split up?”
Raven sighed, seeming to anticipate I would eventually ask her this. “It was my fault. I had feelings for someone else.”
I bristled with anger. Remus had chosen Raven over me, and she’d left him for someone else, in the end.
“And I knew if I ended things, he wouldn’t be alone.”
“Tonks had feelings for him. I was right; they connected soon after, and it all seemed to work out. It did all work out.” She glanced up at me. “It’s hard to see someone reject someone you care about because it comes off as meaning they don’t care. I loved Remus, and I do care, and I know how lucky I was. But I also cared enough to know there was someone else I was meant for, and someone else he was meant for.”
“If he was meant for Tonks, who were you meant for?”
Before she replied, I realized what she was going to say. Harry had explained all of the relationships to me the night before. Remus had fancied Lily and Raven, Severus had fancied Lily, I had fancied James, Lily had fancied James and Severus, and Raven had fancied Remus and—
I didn’t meet her eyes. “How has finding out about the alternate timeline changed that?”
“It’s impossible for it not to change anything. I know now there’s something at my core that connects me to both Remus and Severus.”
“Well, it doesn’t help my case.”
We had skirted the fact that I still had feelings for Remus. I knew Raven could tell, but neither of us wanted to explicitly discuss it. If I applied Raven’s interpretation of the timeline, it would mean James and I were meant for each other. My love for Remus was just a chance infatuation, not fate.