We fall into step and hurry down the corridors to Gryffindor tower. The Fat Lady raises a wine glass. “Password.” She demands, with a hiccup.
“Devil’s Snare.” Sirius replies, as my voice is still hoarse and rasping after crying.
“Wrong!” The woman draped in pink chimes.
“No it’s not.”
“Devil’s glare is incorrect.”
“I said snare! S-Nare.”
“No need to shout.”
She swings open, and we step through the portrait hole. “I’ll see you in a bit. I have to go upstairs and…” I can feel the tears bursting out of my lids. “Merlin, I shouldn’t be upset. They weren’t my parents. I’m sorry. Tell me to shut up. Shut up Jess, nobody cares.”
“I do. I don’t know what I’d do if it were James’ parents. Hold on, there’s nobody here… I think I can help.”
“How? You can’t get up our stairs.”
He grins. “Don’t look, or do… you’ll be impressed.” He takes off his robes, then his tie, then his shirt.
“What are you doing?” I gasp, admiring his muscular back cloaked in flawless pale skin, broken only by his spine and a scar that rips across his flesh. His trousers slip to the floor as he kicks off his shoes. There’s a moment of hideous transformation as black hair ripples out of his skin and his very bone structure changes. I’m left with a dog and a pile of clothes.
I gape at him, open mouthed. “Sirius…? You’re an animagus?”
He barks and I crouch down next to him to stroke his head. I pick up his clothes and he follows me up the stairs, which amazingly don’t turn into a slide. I push open the door of our dormitory and the dog, Sirius, pushes his way in. I turn to close the door and when I look back there’s the behind of a naked man. “Oh my god!” I squeal, blushing furiously and admiring his arse. He turns around giving me a full frontal. I gasp and look away but his gleeful smirk is imprinted in my vision… as well as another… well sized thing. “Could I have my clothes?”
“Oh, um, yes, of course.” I throw them over to him then run my hand through my hair as I beam. What a body! I mean I knew he was gorgeous… but a six pack that defined is far from what I was expecting. And he’s very, very well endowed. “Are you decent?” I ask.
I turn around as he buttons up his shirt. Pity. “So which is Lily’s bed?” He asks and I point to the one next to mine. “And this is your one?” He points to my own.
“So, this is your thong?”
“What? I left my thongs at hom- You were joking.”
“You have thongs plural?” He asks, impressed.
“Lily. We can talk about my underwear later.”
“Good.” He sends me a wolfish grin.
We pack her bags, which is a lot easier now that I have somebody with me. Then we go down the slide and rush to McGonagall’s office. Lily has stopped crying but she looks drained and tired and exhausted. I hand over a bag and she takes it gratefully. She stands up, hugs me and then goes back to James who nods at us in a sign of appreciation. They disappear into the green flames, leaving McGonagall, Sirius and myself standing awkwardly in her office. “Thank you Jessica.” McGonagall says. “I’m sure Miss Evans appreciates all you have done. Now, Black, perhaps it is time for you to take care of Braddock. She too is in need of some affection. Were you close to Lily’s parents?” She asks me. I nod. Sirius wraps an arm around me and takes me to the Hospital Wing.
I take a sip of a sludge grey potion that is somehow meant to relax me. It tastes cool on my tongue and I shiver slightly as it slips down my throat. “Better?” Madam Consano enquires.
“Much.” I reply, feeling as if I had taken some not so legal drug.
The nurse turns to face Sirius. “I suggest you both take the afternoon off, do you have any frees?”
“I do,” He says, and then looks at me. I nod.
“Excellent.” She smiles and ushers us out so as to deal with a purple fourth year. We walk down the corridor in silence until we bump into Matthew. “Jessie?” Matthew asks. “I’ve been waiting for ages. Why are you with him? I had to ask six people where you were.”
“I needed to know.”
“Because I didn’t see you at lunch. I waited outside the girls’ bathroom for ten minutes.”
I giggle. “That’s just silly!”
“No it’s not, I care about you. Then I tried to get into your common room, but the stupid painting wouldn’t let me in, so I asked around.”
Sirius steps in. I giggle again. “Did you know about Lil’s parents?” He asks. Very macho!
“No, what about Evans’ parents?”
“So you just didn’t see Jess?”
“She wasn’t in the Hall for the first two and a half minutes of lunch. I had to find her.”
“Right. Well you’re mental.”
“Actually you are. You’re obsessive. I’ve seen you watching her wherever she goes, monitoring who she speaks to. It’s pathetic. Now go away. I’m looking after her.”
“She’s my girlfriend.” I laugh. Sirius stands closer to him. He backs away. “Dick.”
“You’re the dick.” Sirius calls after him. And I giggle.
“You haave a large dick.” I tell his and laugh as he looks smug and takes my hand and leads me outside towards the crystally lake. His smile even looks like that of a dog’s. Slightly lopsided, lots of teeth and just a very… hungry sort of expression. “Are you smiling at me? I don’t know what was in that sludge thing but I don’t think it’s legal.”
“Nor do I.”
“You know, you are really pretty. You’re prettier than me. Your hair! Your hair is so glossy, it makes me so sad. Is it dog shampoo?”
“Keep your voice down!” He laughs, putting his hand over my mouth. I lick it. “You are disgusting! Foul!”
We sit in silence, until the potion drains all of the sparkle from my sight, and I realise that the lake is the same murky blue it always is in December. I sag. My whole body just crumples and the light fades away. He puts his hand over mine. Gentle but firm.
I grab his face and kiss him. Hard and passionate. I can feel his slight stubble scratching my face and his soft lips pressing against mine. They’re warm and I feel the heat pouring into my mouth. He runs his hand through my hair and pulls me closer to him. My legs are either side of his and my hands reaching up, inside his shirt. He pulls away suddenly, leaving me begging for more. His face is split into a massive grin and he can’t meet my eye. “What?” I ask.
“Nothing. Just, wow. You know how to kiss.”
“Thanks.” I pull back and press my legs together. “I’m sorry.”
He kisses me. “Please, don’t be.”
“Do that again.”
He kisses me. Gently. Softly. Carefully. As if I might break.
We sit in silence for a moment and I rest my head on his shoulder, looking out over the lake in the bitter cold. I swear that some of it is starting to ice over. I start to shiver and Sirius waves his wand in a short and precise movement which summons fire that warms us instantly. “Thank you.” I say quietly. “So, that scar?”
“I knew you’d seen it.” He groans and I feel his body stiffen.
“Hard to miss.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay. Sorry I asked.”
He sighs. “You shouldn’t be. You know that I’m not exactly close with my family, well one day me and my brother were playing his favourite game, Muggles and Wizards. There were a load of ornaments, they were the muggles and one of us would be the evil wizard trying to kill them and the other the good wizard, trying to save them. Reg always wanted to be the good guy. The hero. So I always let him. He’s my brother. We were playing, and I accidentally got too enthusiastic.”
“I can’t imagine that,” I say gently.
He chuckles. “Yeah, course not. Well I did and I broke all these heirlooms that Reg was meant to be protecting. There was this really loud bang and all of the ornaments and stuff exploded. He burst into tears, he wasn’t upset about the stuff- who would? It was really ugly. But he hadn’t saved the muggles. Anyway, my Father…” He spits the words, as if nothing was more repulsive. “He came rushing in and saw all of the broken stuff and he knew I was responsible! I was always responsible. Then Reg said that he was to blame because he didn’t protect them- the muggles. That’s when my Father really snapped. He accused me of filling my brother’s head with evil thoughts. He told Reg to stop thinking of muggles as people because they’re not. He called them animals, primal beings with no sense of sophistication. He sent Reg away and then he laid into me.”
“Your mother would never be with anything less than a pure blood, but that is the only way I know you are my son. You’re nothing but a disappointment. I finally have a child who understands the dignity of the name Black and you poison his mind against us. You make him believe animals can think, and feel. You make him think that muggles need protecting- not persecuting. I have never been more ashamed to have to call you my son. You are no Black.”
The eight year old boy looked up at his father with large grey eyes that showed every sign of spilling over tears but didn’t. He knew better than to cry. It just made thigs worse. Instead, he bit the inside of his cheek and focused on the pain. “If I could disown you…” Orion Black hissed, bending down to his son’s level. “I would. I never wanted someone like you. You have all the privilege in the world, a good name, wealth, this glorious old house-”
“It’s not glorious.” Sirius whispered, terrified.
“What did you say?”
“It’s not a glorious house. It’s hideous. And old and smelly and there isn’t a garden for us to play in.”
“Be quiet. You disgust me Sirius. You disgust me.” He pushed his son against the wall and drew his wand. “You will never teach Regulus anything like that again. Understood?”
Sirius shook his head. Orion lifted his son’s shirt and turned him around so that his back was bare. He muttered a spell under his breath and slowly, as if a blunt knife was dragging itself down Sirius’ back, a slit cut itself into his flesh. “You disgust me.” Orion hissed and the rip got deeper, becoming a gash. Sirius cried, but didn’t dare make a sound. Tears slid silently down his cheeks and he thought of Regulus. He had to be strong so that his little brother wouldn’t hear. “You disgust me.” Spittle from his father’s mouth landed in the eight year old’s ear.
The glossy look that had appeared in Sirius’ eyes disappeared and he continues. “I had disappointed him.” The simplicity of his statement shakes me. To have a family like that is unthinkable.
“How old were you?”
“Eight. My childhood ended a lot earlier than yours. I think I was about six when I stopped worshiping my family. Then I realised I had to protect Reg.”
“I was right.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are a good brother. And a good person.”
“I’m a prick, and I know it. ”
I peck him on the cheek. “A prick wouldn’t have thought about whether I was alright. A prick wouldn’t have sat with me in the freezing cold. A prick wouldn’t be like you.”
He smiles and we watch the last of the sun dip under the peaks of the mountains.