The Unexpected Visitor

Chapter 8

The library in Grimmauld Place was perhaps the most peaceful room for Rose to be without ever wanting to leave. She did enjoy her time spent with Buckbeak as well as the comfort of sharing a room with Sirius, because the house did get occasionally lonely, but something about how being in the library made her feel was what kept her going back at least once every day. Sirius was more than happy to utilize all those free hours with Rose in a productive manner; once Harry had left for Hogwarts and everyone else had also returned to their respective homes, there was a need for Sirius to set a routine lest he forgot how important it was to focus on a new day everyday. Together, he and Rose had formed a schedule which worked well in their favor - they would wake up at the same time every morning, get ready for the day, go down to breakfast, tend to Buckbeak before continuing their task of cleaning up the house, eat lunch, finish some more chores and by afternoon they would move to the library for several hours, check up on Buckbeak again, have dinner and sleep as soon as the clock struck 10.

At first, Rose had thought that once Harry was back at school, it would mean that Sirius would be sad and have bad dreams, but she was pleasantly surprised to see otherwise; there still were some nights when he did wake up in a sweat or moments when he would drift away into thoughts of the past or suddenly remember something painful which reflected in his eyes, but Rose was always there to make sure that he had her support. And Sirius was helping her too - not just by keeping a light on every night and reading her stories or letting her sleep on his chest, the last one being more of a mutual help to each other - he was also teaching Rose a lot of important and basic things during their time together in the library.

“Done!” Rose exclaimed happily one afternoon, as she sat up from her position on the carpeted floor which was scattered with parchments and quills everywhere.

“That was fast, love.” Sirius commented as he glanced up from his work, “Are you sure?” He asked, wanting to know that she had managed to complete her task already.

“Yes. I did it all.” She said to him, walking over to where he worked, holding a parchment in her hands.

“Alright, let us take a look.” Moving his chair to face her, Sirius took the parchment from Rose and studied it carefully.

While he was momentarily distracted, Rose did her best not to let the nagging curiosity in her mind win as she focused on Sirius himself rather than trying to sneak a peek at his work. It was a mystery… well more of a surprise… for her… but even though it had been days since she first saw him take up this task, Rose wanted to know exactly what it was that he was doing.

“Well love, I do believe you’re right. And you did get everything written correctly too.” He finally said with a smile forming across his face.

“Really?” Beaming at his words, Rose came over to stand by his side and for a quick second, she noticed that there was a parchment covering the surprise which she’d expected.

“Yes, see here.” Sirius indicated to her work which had the names of 5 people written out -

R.O.N

R.O.S.E

D.O.R.A

R.E.M.U.S

S.I.R.I.U.S

“All of your spellings are correct love! Good job.” He said, patting her head proudly.

It had fallen to him to take on the responsibility of teaching Rose everything a child at her age would need to learn; from the alphabet to colors from telling time to days of the week. Ever since September had begun, Sirius started schooling her. The library was the perfect place to do so, not only were there books and more books to learn from, but it also gave him the opportunity to rediscover an old passion of his. And with that came a change in him, one that seemed well overdue.

“Thank you!” Rose said as she gave him a quick hug before running back to sit down in the midst of all those parchments and quills, getting ready to start the next of her spelling work.

Sirius let out his bark-like laughter before resuming what he was doing. For several minutes, Rose scribbled away more names underneath the first five as she took her time to make sure she remembered what he had taught her. And yet, she was distracted by him, by his secrecy and by having to wait so long for this surprise of hers. She took a moment halfway through her third name and looked up to observe his new look quietly but carefully; his beard was still unshaven, the maroon jacket he usually wore was draped over the chair, black shirt sleeves were rolled up and his hair was tied up in a bun. None of this was the reason behind her curiosity, no… what had left Rose surprised more than anything were the splotches of color dotting his arms and the fact that there was a paintbrush holding his hair in place while he used a different one for work. It was not lost on her that Sirius had started painting, but what he was painting, she couldn’t tell.

“Sirius…” Suddenly, Rose remembered something that both she and Sirius seemed to have forgotten, something just as important as her spelling practice and his mysterious painting.

“Yes love?” Pausing once again, Sirius gave her his undivided attention as always.

“We forgot the story.” Was all she needed to say for Sirius to realize exactly what Rose meant.

“Oh, yes. We did didn’t we?” He said, setting aside his paintbrush for now; this was another aspect of their routine which they’d been following for the last ten days. “I did tell you about the wizard’s chess match already didn’t I?”

Rose thought about that for a moment, and then she nodded when it came back to her. Just a day or two ago, Sirius had indeed talked to her about a game called Wizard’s chess and she had been quite fascinated by the story. As per her request to learn all about Hogwarts and the life one lived in a beautiful Castle with different magical subjects and other adventures, Sirius would tell Rose a story everyday about his time there; the happy memories which he hadn’t remembered existed even after all these years had passed by. His shenanigans with James, pranks with Moony, late night talks with Lily in the Gryffindor Common Room, double duo matches of wizard’s chess - James and Remus versus him and Lily, the ‘incident’ in Year Three which was harmless of course or he wouldn’t have told a child about it, how he first met Rose’s aunt Marlene, but first and foremost, the day he and James both signed up to be on the Quidditch Team… that memory was the strongest, most vivid one of all… from the tryouts to being selected as Beater and Chaser respectively as well as their first match together.

“You said, ‘I will tell you about Padfoot’ next time.” Rose piped up, knowing that this was the one which had stayed with her because this name was new and unknown to her, but it certainly sounded like an interesting story.

“Of course; the story about the Marauders - Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.” Sirius began to say and then a second later, he fell silent.

Rose, who had been speaking to Sirius while still writing with her head bent down, didn’t realize what had happened until she heard a very unusual noise; at first she thought it sounded like a creaking, but when the loud SNAP! reached her ears, she was startled. The first instinct she had was to look to Sirius and see if he was okay before finding out what the source of this sound was… but when Rose found herself staring at his face, she realized that something had happened, because the paintbrush that was in his hands now lay broken on the floor.

“Sirius?” Her voice was a soft whisper as she quickly got to her feet once more, going back to him and without a second’s thought, Rose touched his hand, snapping his attention to her.

The first thing that she noticed were his eyes… they seemed different. Over the past few weeks, those grey eyes had revealed many emotions to her, but for the first time, she was surprised; it hadn’t taken her more than a few seconds to recognize what Sirius’s eyes showed, and what she saw in them now was… anger. And though Rose may not have known why this was happening without warning, none of that mattered… Sirius in pain meant she needed to help… the more she observed him, the more she saw how affected he was by something he had just said - his hands were curled up in fists, his breathing heavy, and he didn’t seem to remember his surroundings. Still, as he met her eyes, Rose could see his attention focusing on her. He blinked rapidly and slowly started to relax his nerves, all the while feeling that tiny little hand holding his with just enough pressure to remind him she was here by his side.

Rose.” He finally said, her name sounding like a sigh, but Sirius knew that she had pulled him back from those dark places his mind had turned to the moment he’d spoken another name. “I’m sorry love.” His shoulders slumped ever so slightly and he sighed, covering his face with both hands.

“Are you okay?” Was all she asked him, tilting her head as she stood up on her toes to pull his hands away from his face, making him look at her.

“I will be.” Sirius managed to say and he instinctively reached to pull her up onto his lap and hugged her.

“We don’t have to talk about the story.” Rose could see that he wasn’t smiling and thought perhaps it had to do because of the name he had spoken of… the Marauders.

“No, it’s fine love, really.” His words sounded sincere as he went on, “Thank you, Rose. I’m okay now and I can tell you the story; there are three people to talk about… Moony, Padfoot and Prongs.” He wasn’t going to let his reaction affect this tale, not if he could do something about it.

If Rose realized the change in his words, going from four to three people and omitting one name completely, she didn’t say anything about it to Sirius. What she did do however, before he began to tell her this story, was simply lean back a little, knowing his arms were safely holding her as she gently removed the paintbrush from his hair, letting it fall down loose and handed it to him without a word. And in that moment… having forgotten where his spare paintbrush had disappeared to, Sirius let out a chuckle. He took it from her hands and set it aside on his easel, deciding on another course of action; there was a sketchbook lying at the foot of his chair, from within he grabbed a Muggle quill called a pencil which worked wonders when he needed something different to draw.

“Right, so where were we?” Sirius glanced down at Rose, his left hand was still holding her by the waist and with his right, he was free to create something new as he spoke; it would be another thing to keep him distracted and calm.

“Moony, Padfoot… and… Prongs.” She said, turning just a little so that she could look up at him and still be able to see what this new painting was going to be.

“Remus, myself and James. We used special names because it was cool and also because we had to keep a secret; when you choose to learn how to become an animal, the most important thing to remember is that you must inform the Ministry and register.” If he was going to tell her about the Marauders, Sirius knew he had to be truthful.

“You did not?” Rose asked him, her eyes transfixed on the parchment now, seeing how fast his fingers moved and how he was still able to talk at the same time.

“No, neither James nor I did…” Sirius said with a laugh, remembering how that decision had come about one night in their Fifth Year once the transformations were complete. “Remus on the other hand, well… he was the reason why we decided to become animals in the first place. He’s a werewolf after all.”

“I did not know that.” Unsure of exactly how she was supposed to react, Rose paused and waited to see if Sirius would say something about it.

“Now you do; it’s been tough on him all these years, but when we found out about his condition, the only thing that made sense was to use this idea of changing into an animal so we could spend those few days on the full moon every month by his side.” He explained to her, “The way to change yourself into an animal takes a very long time, three years in fact, but we did it and ever since that day, I know that doing so was worth it.”

There was a brief moment, where Sirius felt his hand starting to tremble as he thought about the meaning behind his words, but he pushed it aside and focused on continuing his sketch; the idea was simple enough and he already had made progress in these few minutes.

“What animal was Harry’s daddy?” Rose asked. She already knew that Sirius was a dog and now learned of Lupin being a wolf, which left only James.

“A stag. It’s like a big deer, but with antlers?” Sirius said, but realized it was very likely he would have to show Rose a picture. “Anyway, the funniest thing that happened in school while we were still studying to become an Animagus - that is the right term - was the one month where James and I had to keep a Mandrake leaf on our tongue without swallowing it? I think… I don’t remember now, but Moony definitely had a hard time trying to keep us both out of trouble at the same time. Each of our professors reacted differently; Minerva knew from the beginning but we made sure that she would never be implicated as our… mentor, if something were to happen, then there was Professor Binns, he’s a ghost so that was a no-brainer, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was a bit tricky and we also had Professor Slughorn to deal with, our Potions teacher… that was something else.” There was a wistful hint of a smile playing on his lips as he spoke.

“Moony… like the moon?” Having heard this name many times now, Rose thought about what the meaning was behind it, knowing that was the special name given to Lupin.

“Yeah, because of the full moon which turns him.” His sketch was halfway complete already, most of it had been hurried, including the words written below, but he kept the pace steady, “Prongs is the name we gave James because of his antlers, and I was called Padfoot because… well… dogs have padded feet.” He explained with a grin.

“I like Padfoot.” Rose said not a second later with a big smile. “What did you do?” She was curious to know more, this sounded like a fairytale in its own way; friends turning into animals in order to help another friend.

“Well… we created the Marauder’s Map… Harry has it now, but I can always ask him to show it to you when he comes to visit next.” Sirius told her, “It has all the secrets of Hogwarts, there are places to hide, you can see where everyone else is, pathways to places outside the Castle; that map is our legacy.”

“Wow.” One word, that was all Rose could say and at first, Sirius thought it had to do with him telling her about the map, but when he glanced to her, she seemed focused on the sketch.

“It is finished isn’t it?” He hadn’t even realized when exactly the drawing was complete but observing it now, Rose’s exclamation of wonder made sense, seeing as everything looked finished indeed.

“What is it?” She asked him as she stared at it in wonder, her eyes wide and curious; she could see animals and a letter and a big word written, something which was almost familiar and yet Rose wasn’t able to figure out where she may have seen this.

“This love, is the school crest.” Sirius said, as he began to describe the drawing in detail, knowing that Rose did recognize it now. “The big ‘H’ in the middle stands for Hogwarts, there are four animals to represent each of the four Houses - a lion for Gryffindor here on the left, a serpent for Slytherin next to it.” He pointed to the animal he had sketched on the bottom left, “This is the Hufflepuff badger and an eagle for Ravenclaw. And below is the school motto - ‘Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus’ right here.”

“Draco… what?” Rose wrinkled her nose when she heard that sentence, wondering what sort of language that was.

“It’s Latin which is translated as ‘Never tickle a sleeping dragon’ in English.” By now, Sirius had set aside his pencil too and sighed, he’d been working on his original drawing for a few hours judging by the twilight sky outside.

“There’s a dragon in the school?” She asked, sitting up a little straighter on Sirius’s knee; if there was one magical creature she knew about, it was dragons.

“No, no… this is just a funny statement that the school likes to make. We don’t have dragons at Hogwarts. It’s one of the safest places in our world, but you already know that don’t you love?” He said to her.

“Yes.” Nodding her head, Rose turned around to face him properly now. “This is very pretty Sirius.”

She remembered asking about this painting hobby the first day that he’d started, watching closely as Sirius set everything up that he would need; his answer had been straightforward, art was a passion of his… or it used to be, back at Hogwarts… he told Rose about the time he last painted something was at the age of 18. And being able to do it once more, after all these long years, felt good.

“Why thank you love, it’s yours if you want it.” Sirius smiled as he made the suggestion to her.

“Really?” Rose had not expected Sirius to say that and felt happy on hearing his words; she knew that there was another painting he was making for her, but she couldn’t say ‘no’ to him.

“Yes really, I have a lot of sketches right here.” Reaching down to grab his sketchbook meant Rose had to wrap her hands around his neck to stay on his lap, it didn’t take Sirius more than a quick second.

“May I see them?” It was something which Rose wouldn’t have normally asked but seeing Sirius’s mood made her do so.

“Have you finished your spelling for today?” Sirius asked a question in return, not as a way to distract her from answering, he did feel a sense of nervousness; there was something he hadn’t mentioned to Rose yet. A tiny fact that no one had ever seen these sketches, not all of them.

“I will get it!” Rose exclaimed happily as she jumped down from Sirius’s lap and ran over to the pile of parchments, picked up hers and brought it to him.

“Two in a row of correct spellings… this is very good work love.” He said to her after reading the next 5 names in her list -

F.R.E.D

H.A.R.R.Y

M.I.N.N.I.E

M.O.L.L.Y

G.I.N.N.Y

“Thank you.” She was a little impatient now but waited quietly, until Sirius stood up and took her hand as they walked towards the couch.

“Right, well… here you are.” He gave Rose the sketchbook as she sat down, but held it closed with his hands for a minute. “First, let me show you what your surprise is?” Sirius knew he was stalling her, temporarily.

“Okay.” Nodding and trying her best not to bounce in her seat, Rose watched excitedly as Sirius went to his easel and removed the parchment of the Hogwarts Crest sketch which revealed the painting below.

When she saw what it was, this surprise of hers, Rose’s breath was taken away instantly… she had not known what to expect… perhaps a painting of herself or something simple… but this, this was beautiful and all the other happy emotions which she didn’t know the words to. Sirius had painted Hogwarts for her; but not just the Castle, he had worked on the details of everything into this painting - the Great Lake with the green trees, white clouds, grey rocks, a few black colored birds, and the castle with all its towers standing tall and majestic under a bright blue sky. It looked exactly as it did when she had stayed there.

“Wow… this is more pretty… I love this.” Rose finally found the words as she met Sirius’s gaze and hugged him tight. “Thank you, Sirius!” She didn’t know what else to say but he understood her perfectly and sat down by her side.

“You’re very welcome love, I’m happy that you liked it.” He said, and decided it was time; without wasting another minute, he opened the sketchbook for Rose to show her everything he had ever drawn since he was 15.

If there was another word apart from ‘wow’ which could sum up Rose’s reaction to seeing his works, Sirius figured it would be ‘oh!’ because judging from the look of wonder on her face, there was little else she could think of. The sketches were mostly of different people, friends and family alike; he spoke only to tell her who the respective drawing was of and then waited, for she took minutes to study each and every single one of them with her complete attention riveted to the page. She saw it all - a sketch of James leaning against the bark of a tree with a golden Snitch, one of Lily with a book in hand, Lupin sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room, two of his friends Frank and Alice, a revelation when Sirius pointed out his younger brother Regulus, some scenery pictures of the Castle, Hagrid’s Hut, the Lake, there were even drawings of Minerva McGonagall, Dumbledore and Hagrid; but the one picture which caught Rose’s attention surprised her a little… she didn’t need to know who this was when she reached that page, but Sirius chose to say the name for her to be certain.

“That would be a picture of your aunt. Marlene.” Sirius’s voice was a soft whisper now. When she looked at him, she noticed the sad look in his eyes that he got when talking about James and Lily.

Rose had recognized her simply because she remembered how her father used to always say that she looked very much like Marlene. And now she knew why; they had the same color eyes, lips and face shape. She was a beautiful woman, someone special to Sirius based on how much detail he had given to her and less to the background. Before Rose could say something, the clock began to chime and Kreacher showed up, announcing that it was time for dinner… both Sirius and Rose silently agreed that they were ready and walked hand in hand together downstairs once a wave of his wand had cleared everything pristinely. This had been a productive, happy day and would continue to be so in the few weeks to come… until… Halloween.

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