"Do grown up people cry when they are sad?" It was an innocent question that Rose suddenly asked as she glanced at both Lupin and Tonks who were sitting with her by the fireplace.
"Ah... that is a good question Rose." Lupin said after his initial surprise passed, not completely sure why she had brought it up now.
The whole of Grimmauld Place was bustling for the first time since that summer; it was holiday season once more now that Christmas had arrived. And though things had been a little somber given the atmosphere after Arthur's attack at the Ministry, tonight was Christmas, which gave everyone a chance to celebrate; together, they had managed to transform the house complete with decorations all around - the chandeliers were covered in garlands of holly, gold and silver streamers, magical snow glittered in heaps over the carpets, a great big Christmas tree, obtained by Mundungus was decorated with live fairies, red and green stockings hung above the fireplace and even the stuffed elf heads on the hall wall wore Father Christmas hats and beards! After a delicious feast that Molly had prepared for them all, they'd retired to the study for dessert. Rose had spent most of the evening with Sirius who seemed to be filled with the Christmas spirit, for she witnessed firsthand a rare moment of him singing carols that afternoon, something which sounded like, ‘God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs’ to her.
“Why do you ask?” Tonks spoke up, exchanging a look with Lupin and maybe for a moment they did know where this question had come from.
“Sirius.” Rose said simply as she kept her gaze fixed on him, finally voicing her thoughts out loud after months of pondering.
Across the room, Sirius was talking to Harry, Ron and Hermione about something; they and the others had gone to visit Arthur at St. Mungo’s that afternoon again. Rose remembered how the Weasley’s had all shown up a few nights ago after Harry had told them about the attack. It was frightening to say the least since everyone had been so tense, she even moved to sleep with Ginny until Hermione had arrived. But all throughout, her focus never wavered from Sirius. He was better now… but still… seemed a little sad.
“What about Sirius?” Following the little girl’s gaze, Lupin realized that she too may have picked up on something he had noticed several weeks ago.
“He doesn’t cry.” She answered him and turned to focus her attention on both the adults sitting in front of her, “I don’t know when he did cry. Do you know Moony?” Rose asked in return, hoping that maybe he would have an answer for her.
Now that the house was full again and Harry had returned, Sirius was in good spirits; she could see only faint twinges of sadness reflected in those grey eyes, but never once had she actually seen him cry. There was a moment when Rose thought she saw tears on his cheeks, just that morning, but it had been more a result of Sirius laughing so much until his sides hurt… not in a mocking way of course… Harry’s gift to him, a combination of a late birthday present and a Christmas present, which turned out to be a black leather biker jacket. Something which Sirius told her was very thoughtful of his Godson as it reminded him of his days at Hogwarts; and even though he probably couldn’t pull off the look anymore, he still wore the jacket all day long.
“Well now that you mention it, I don’t think I do know.” Lupin said truthfully; his mind returned to the day of Halloween and how he had teared up, but not Sirius. The more he thought about it, he realized there was a good chance in these last two or three years since he’d been reunited with his best friend, Sirius had not cried even once. “No, he hasn’t cried at all.”
“Not once?” Tonks was surprised to hear that as she finally began to understand the importance of this and why Rose seemed worried.
“I saw one tear… at night after his party, when I gave him Lily’s book.” Rose shook her head and began to tell her side of things to the two of them, “Many months back, when Sirius read me a letter from my daddy, I did cry… and he told me… it was ten days later.” In her heart, she knew that the shock of losing her parents had kept her from crying, but where it had taken her days to finally cry and start to feel better, Sirius had lost James and Lily very many years ago.
“Oh Rose…” Reaching out to squeeze her hand, Tonks turned to look at her cousin and saw a smile on his face, a smile that this girl had brought to his face. “What can we do Remus?” She asked the man sitting by her side, his hands folded as he thought about this… surely there was something… anything… to do.
“He’s not in shock anymore, that much we know.” Lupin began to say as he tried to rationalize what the facts were, “He has accepted what happened to James and Lily… but he hasn’t mourned them. Not properly. And if he doesn’t cry, then I don’t think he’ll truly be able to heal.” It was the only thing which made sense.
Sitting there, with her gaze focused on Sirius and this new information that she had just learned, Rose wondered what was there for her to do; surely with Lupin and Tonks, the three of them would be able to figure out something.
“We make him cry.” Rose said just then; it was the obvious answer really.
“That… might actually work.” Lupin replied almost immediately as he looked over at his friend who was deep in discussion with Harry… luckily no one else was close by to hear what Rose had said.
“Ye… wait. What?” Tonks exclaimed softly when she processed the words, “You want to make Sirius cry?” She repeated, eyes widening at the thought.
“Yes.” Nodding her head, Rose turned to Lupin once more.
“It makes sense if you think about it.” He explained to Tonks, even though the idea of doing something like this wasn’t his first thought.
“When do we do this? Now? It’s… today’s Christmas!” As she thought about it a little, Tonks realized maybe this was the only way.
“We might not get another chance like this.” Lupin said, and then addressed Rose, “If this works then that’s good, but if not…” He trailed off.
“And how are we going to do it?” Tonks couldn’t imagine doing something on purpose to make Sirius cry and yet, it did sound… logical. A bit crazy, but logical.
“Lily.” Rose didn’t need to think of that answer; ever since she had seen Sirius almost crying that night of his party, because of Lily, it was possibly the one thing which would help them… help him.
The three of them realized how this idea of theirs sounded out loud. It was Christmas night and with everyone gathered there, perhaps… no… the sooner they attempted this the better it would be… and since they were all in agreement over what needed to be done, the only thing missing now was Sirius himself. Fortunately for Rose, Lupin and Tonks, almost as if the universe wanted them to go ahead with the plan, the subject of their discussion promptly sat down beside Rose merely a few minutes after they’d fallen silent.
“There you are love, I was wondering where you’d gone off to.” Sirius pulled Rose onto his lap and kissed the top of her head, “Have you two been keeping her company?” He asked Lupin and Tonks who were trying not to look suspicious or give away the fact that they’d been just talking about him.
“Just telling her some stories.” Tonks said the first thing that came to her mind in reply, she looked to Lupin for help in backing her up.
“I like stories.” Rose added as she twisted around so that she was face to face with Sirius, “I want more stories.” She figured this was the best way to get him to talk about Lily.
“What kind of stories do you want to hear?” Sirius was more than happy to tell Rose as many stories as she wanted; surely he could think of several more which he hadn’t still mentioned before.
“I already told her about our adventures on the Hogwarts Express every year.” Lupin pointed out, although he didn’t mention that this was a conversation from the week before when he had stopped by to visit them.
“Well that’s seven stories done.” Sirius said, remembering those memories easily; those were good times and definitely something fun for Rose to hear about.
“Tell me about Lily.” It was direct and sudden, but coming from Rose, it sounded like nothing more than an innocent and curious request on her behalf.
“What about her?” He looked at the girl on his lap for a second before glancing up to see Lupin and Tonks watching him with… worried expressions? Sirius knew that he never really talked about Lily a lot.
“How did you meet her?” Rose asked simply, hoping that he would answer the question; there were times when he didn’t talk about James as much either… but she had heard all the Quidditch tales, Marauders pranks, and not enough Lily.
“Ah, well I suppose that’s a story I could tell you now.” Sirius said at last, and turned to Lupin for a moment before speaking again, “Have you told Rose about how you and Lily met?” He figured that if this was something he’d share with Rose, then his best friend couldn’t be left behind.
“No. I haven’t told her yet,” Lupin knew that Sirius wanted him and Tonks to stay, which is what they both did. “Mine isn’t as interesting as yours though… you were the first one to meet Lily before any of us, remember?” He also could tell when his friend was putting off telling a story, but if the plan had to work then Sirius needed to open up.
“That is true.” Though he wasn’t sure what exactly Lupin was up to, Sirius figured that it was a simple story to tell Rose and so he began, “I met Lily in our first year itself, before Lupin and James even… it was just after our Christmas holidays, the first time I came back home after joining Hogwarts and things were as good as they could have been.” Sirius paused as he thought about how much he should tell Rose about his life in this very same place they were living in now and decided Lily was more important, “I had ended up in the Astronomy Tower the night before classes started again, not really sure why; I think I just wanted some time alone and even though I had a great big cloak on, it was freezing up there as it always was during winter… and somehow, Lily found me.”
“What happened next?” Rose was intrigued to hear more, she loved how there was a big story behind this meeting and her eyes were focused on his face as he spoke.
“Well, being the clever witch that she always was, Lily conjured up Bluebell flames for us to stay warm and she sat down beside me, introduced herself and we started talking.” Sirius went on with his tale, “I found another best friend that night; she was patient and a good listener and even though our families were different, we did find some common ground. Both of us had younger siblings, but while Regulus and I were still close, Lily and her sister grew apart after she joined Hogwarts… I learned how to listen too, and that was enough.” He had a small smile on his face now as he remembered that night.
“You loved her.” Lupin said at last; everyone else was still busy doing their own things, but the four of them were riveted in this conversation.
Sirius met his friend’s gaze and simply nodded in response; Rose could see the sadness in his eyes but there were no tears visible. “You loved her too.” He didn’t ask, but stated the facts as they were.
“Yeah, I did.” There was a smile on Lupin’s face as he remembered meeting Lily a few weeks later, all of them just eleven years old and still innocent, “She was our best friend, our sister, our mother. Everyone loved her.” He didn’t realize when Tonks had reached out to hold his hand but he was glad for it.
“What about my aunt Marlene?” Rose asked Sirius, wondering where she figured into this story.
“She was Lily’s best friend,” Sirius started to say, “They were as close as James and I; but I didn’t really notice her until maybe our third year… after that… well, we started dating officially at the end of our fifth year. I may have impressed her with my flying motorbike.” Another pause, but this time Rose had already noticed the change, his eyes were starting to water.
“Sirius?” Tonks was also well aware of the fact that she could see the tears in his eyes and spoke up, but he didn’t seem to hear her.
“We were engaged.” His voice was a soft whisper, his attention was focused on Rose, lost in the memory of Marlene once again, now that he had started, he didn’t seem to want to stop. “I had asked her to marry me… just before…” He let the words remain unspoken, “I never imagined settling down, especially not at 22, but after seeing how happy James and Lily were… I thought… I knew that Marlene and I had a chance to make it last, I loved her… but all we got was one perfect day; she was my fiancee for 24 hours… and then she was gone.”
And in that moment, Rose saw a single tear fall at last; it may have been the plan to make him cry, but now she realized this was not a good idea. Without turning from her place on his lap to see Lupin and Tonks, Rose wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged Sirius tightly.
“Who needs some more eggnog?” Sirius said, clearing his throat as he stood up almost immediately, wiping away that one tear from his cheek as he sat Rose down on the sofa, “I think we could all use a refill.” He didn’t wait for an answer but grabbed the three glasses and headed for the kitchen.
“I can’t believe we just did that.” Tonks whispered once Sirius was out of the room, “It didn’t even work did it?” She said, voicing everyone’s thoughts aloud.
“No, not completely.” Lupin said as he glanced at the doorway, “I think perhaps it would be best if we leave this issue aside for the moment, let Sirius find his way when the time is right.” He knew that this method probably wouldn’t have worked out, but at least they each had tried.
“What are you three up to whispering here in the corner?” A loud and familiar voice suddenly interrupted their discussion and they all looked up to see Mad-Eye standing there, holding his hip flask and staring at them.
“Ah, Mad-Eye… good of you to join us at last.” Sirius said as he rejoined the group, “Did Kingsley leave already?” He glanced around the study and saw that only Fred and George were still awake.
“He did.” Moody said to Sirius, “I need to talk to you about something, you and Lupin.” His tone was gruff and even though he didn’t look at Tonks, the young auror understood that it was private.
“Rose and I were just on our way, I’ll make sure she goes to sleep soon Sirius.” Tonks said as she jumped up from her chair and took Rose’s hand, “It’s almost midnight young lady, let’s get you into bed.”
“Okay.” Rose knew better than to say that she wasn’t tired at all and didn’t want to go to sleep.
She waved goodbye to the three men and made her way outside the study with Tonks, but before they reached the stairs, Rose tugged on her hand and when Tonks had knelt down, she whispered something in her ear.
“Oh?” Neither one of them realized that Sirius and Lupin could still see that they were standing by the doorway, Tonks was busy listening to what Rose had to say, “Yes… I know about that… no, well I can’t be sure.”
Rose stopped to think about something else and when her eyes fell on the men, another idea came to her and she continued her secret conversation with Tonks.
“Of course! Why didn’t I think of that. Yes, yes I can do that, leave it to me.” Tonks had visibly brightened up now and smiled as they both left the room at last.
“What was that about?” Sirius asked Lupin who shrugged his shoulders, completely clueless about what he had just seen.
“I really don’t know.” Lupin said truthfully, before turning to Mad-Eye who simply grunted before coming directly to the topic of discussion.
“We need to talk about the McKinnon’s.” There had not been an opportunity for him to speak freely to Sirius and Lupin ever since that night on Sirius’s birthday party.
The main reason for this was because the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge had sent him on several ‘missions’ for a dark-wizard catcher in these last several weeks, keeping Mad-Eye from being able to visit Grimmauld Place. And in the midst of everything, after Arthur’s attack, this was the only opportunity that they would have to talk about the issue at hand.
“What news do you have?” Knowing that Sirius probably wanted to hear everything immediately and so Lupin asked the question.
“I’ll keep it short; you two already know that I went to Azkaban last month. I found Barty Crouch Jr. or what was left of him anyway.” Moody paused for a second to see if either man would say something but they didn’t interrupt him. “The man’s not even alive anymore, they buried him after I left… but I got what I needed from his memories; somehow they were still intact and from there I found another lead which took me to Lockhart.”
“Lockhart? Why?” Sirius said at last, sounding surprised and confused, “What does he have to do with anything?” He asked Mad-Eye, wondering where this was going.
“He was the reason why Evelyn McKinnon left her house that day five months ago with her husband.” It was time to explain all that he had learned, “Barty was able to make the connection that Lockhart was Evelyn’s cousin and pass along the information to his friends before getting caught… and using the news of Lockhart dying at St. Mungo’s with the wish to see his family one last time, the Death Eaters lured Thomas and Evelyn away from safety, out into the open and attacked them when no one expected any danger.” Moody’s expression was grim as he finished.
“He was used as bait?” Lupin couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “How… how did they get to Lockhart? We just saw him at St. Mungo’s and his condition hasn’t changed.”
“I know that, boy!” His voice was a little raised by thankfully there was no one else in the room now. “I went to see Lockhart for myself after Arthur was attacked; Dumbledore ordered me to find out what I could from his memories. There was no sign that he came into contact with any Death Eaters in the last six months.”
“They didn’t need him.” Sirius spoke up, his hands folded under his chin, “As long as they had some proof that Lockhart was dying, something they could have conjured up, it would be enough to draw Evelyn out.” There was still one point Mad-Eye had not mentioned. “You haven’t said anything about Rose; is she in danger? Do they know about her?”
“No. The girl is safe; I checked all my sources, no one knows about her, no one is coming after her, not even Voldemort.” Moody added as an afterthought, “He’s too busy worrying about the weapon to bother over one last McKinnon.” He let Harry’s name stay unspoken but knew that Sirius and Lupin were thinking the same thing.
“That’s good. We know that everything is still the way it is meant to be, Harry is here for a few more days and after he returns to Hogwarts, Dumbledore will keep an eye on him.” Lupin realized that Sirius had to be worried about Harry and Rose, who were both his responsibility.
“Harry can take care of himself.” It was not lost on Sirius that his Godson had a knack of danger finding him as Harry often mentioned, but with his friends and the protection Hogwarts offered, he could breathe a little easily now.
“What will you tell the girl?” Moody asked Sirius as he took a sip from his hip-flask.
“Everything. One day, when she’s older and can understand all of this.” Sirius didn’t need to specify that it included his past as well. “She deserves to know.” He couldn’t keep the truth from her for long, but at only 4, Rose was still too young to hear all the details.
“Do you know who was responsible for what happened to Thomas and Evelyn?” Lupin had been thinking about this for a while now.
“Amycus Carrow and Antonin Dolohov. Unconfirmed.” Of course it was a lie, everything could be confirmed and official, but given the state of the Ministry and Fudge’s behavior… things were different. They all had to stay under the radar as always, that was what being part of the Order meant. Mad-Eye reiterated that with one word to both Sirius and Lupin.
“What does it matter?” Sirius suddenly got to his feet, “They’re ghosts, hiding in the shadows, untouchable.” He didn’t want to be here discussing these pointless things on Christmas night, he wanted to be somewhere else.
“Where are you going?” Lupin asked him, he had a good idea of what was on Sirius’s mind now.
“To see Rose.” Was all the other man said before he bade them both goodnight, muttered a ‘Merry Christmas’ under his breath and left the room.
Sirius was in for a surprise however; as soon as he reached his and Rose’s bedroom a few minutes later, he saw that not only was she awake and standing outside in the corridor, but that Tonks was still with her. When they both noticed him there, Rose ran over to hug him while his cousin raised her hands in defense.
“I tried to get her in bed but she wouldn’t let me tuck her in,” Tonks explained, “I had to listen to Rose say ‘I want Sirius!’ at least ten times before I gave up and brought her out here to wait for you.” There was a grin on her face as she spoke and Sirius got the feeling that there was more to the story.
“Is that true love?” He decided to ask Rose herself about this and knelt down to meet her eye to eye.
“Yes. I want you to tuck me in, I don’t like sleeping alone.” Rose said, nodding her head; Tonks had managed to change her into night clothes but that was it.
“See! I even tried to bribe her with a fairy tale or two but that didn’t work either.” Tonks even reminded Rose that she was staying over tonight, which didn’t help either and she couldn’t figure out what had happened in the last half hour.
“Maybe what she needs is a little midnight snack, am I right love?” Sirius said as soon as he heard a growling noise coming from Rose’s stomach.
“Maybe?” Blushing immediately as she hugged herself by the waist, Rose tried not to look too guilty as she admitted the truth.
Sirius couldn’t help but chuckle when he heard her say that, and lifted her in his arms, “C’mon then, let’s go find something to eat.” He hadn’t forgotten his cousin of course, “Dora, would you like to join us?”
However, before Tonks could answer, they were all met with an unexpected surprise as Lupin suddenly showed up on the landing.
“You forgot that I’m staying here tonight didn’t you Padfoot?” Lupin addressed his friend, arms crossed over his chest.
“It might have… slipped my mind yeah.” Sirius said and felt Rose’s warm breath in his ear as she whispered something to him.
“I figured as much.” Since he couldn’t see Rose’s face, Lupin couldn’t tell that she had spoken to Sirius and Tonks was standing away from them too.
“Well, I was just about to take Rose downstairs for a bite to eat…” Trying to hide the grin on his face, Sirius spoke casually, “And I had promised to walk Dora to her room, she’s a little exhausted.” He could see his cousin’s eyes widening in surprise as she tried to say something but Sirius went on talking to Lupin, “Do you mind, Moony?”
“Oh. No, not at all.” Lupin said as he turned around to face Tonks who had been standing behind him without saying anything. “May I walk you to your room?” He asked her, offering his hand.
“Yes, thank you.” Tonks finally said and hoped the lights were dark enough to hide the redness in her cheeks. “I’ll see you tomorrow Sirius, Rose. Goodnight.” A part of her was glad to have heard that Lupin had agreed to stay here tonight, but mostly she was just hoping not to trip over her feet.
“Goodnight!” Sirius and Rose said together as they watched Lupin walking with Tonks towards her bedroom.
Once it was just the two of them alone in the corridor, both of them did their best not to burst out laughing as they headed downstairs towards the kitchen; it had been Rose’s idea of course to give Lupin and Tonks a little more time alone and Sirius had executed the idea perfectly.
“Shame we didn’t have any mistletoe.” Thinking out loud, Sirius didn’t bother to hide his smile which made Rose wonder what he was talking about.
“What’s that?” She asked him, not having heard the word ‘mistletoe’ before.
“Let’s just say that it’s a special kind of magic, a plant which works wonders on Christmas.” Sirius explained, “Although now that I think about it, maybe if we had used mistletoe then maybe Moony and Dora would have… not been too happy…” He said, talking more to himself in that moment, “I think we should leave them to figure their feelings out on their own don’t you think?”
“Yes. Good idea.” Rose wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about but she knew that if it was about Lupin and Tonks, the same suggestion they had agreed on in regards to Sirius’s sadness was the best idea.
“So what will it be?” Sirius asked her when they had reached the kitchen and sat Rose down on the counter. “How hungry are you?”
“Not hungry, thirsty.” Rose said to him, “May I have some hot chocolate please?” She made her request and still held her stomach, dinner had been a few hours ago and even though she had eaten a little bit of almost everything, the hunger seemed to have returned.
“Yes you may have some hot chocolate, with cookies. You need some food in your tummy love.” Sirius told her as he removed two mugs for them and began to get their midnight snack ready. “We can share some of the cookies Molly baked this afternoon yeah?”
“Okay!” Hearing the words ‘cookies’ brought a big smile to Rose’s face, she could never say no to that.
“Alright, here we go.” Barely a few minutes had passed in comfortable silence between them as he laid the table for two. “Hot chocolate and a plate of chocolate chip cookies for you and for me.” Sirius said as he held out a hand for Rose, helping her off the counter.
“Thank you Sirius.” She said and took her seat at the table beside him, breathing in the fresh scent of cookies and hot cocoa; it was the perfect midnight snack on a winter’s night like this.
“You’re very welcome love.” Ruffling her hair, Sirius grinned and broke a cookie in half to share with Rose; there were only three left and if they each ate half then there would be equal pieces for them.
“I like Christmas.” Rose smiled in between bites and blowing to cool the smoke from her mug before taking a tiny sip.
“You know what? I like Christmas too.” Sirius smiled at her and raised their mugs together in cheers.