The day was ending as it had begun overcast and in that lazy way in which Sundays usually do. The winter was just starting to recede, and an adventurous soul could venture outside without fearing immediate regret and prompt frostbite. Remus Lupin was such an adventurous soul and after finishing his chores and schoolwork —and after his mother was done fussing about his lack of layering— he made his way to the garden, he just wanted to get away from the house, it was always like this on the week before the full moon. Not even the thought or preparations for his upcoming birthday were enough to dissolve the thick sludge that passed for an atmosphere in his parents' house.
They would have to move again soon, Remus could tell from the fact that his mother refused to let him out of his sight (even now he had to stay within view of the living room window) and his father's almost frantic search for accommodation in the Daily Prophet. It wasn't easy but Remus had already learnt to distinguish between the usual pre-full-moon anxiety and the usual though infrequent we're moving soon anxiety: he found it was all in the way his mother looked at him. As the full moon approached his mother would look at him with tender anxiety, both the tenderness and anxiety would be directed at him whereas when the time approached to move again, his mother would look at him with a sort of sad anxiety, sadness of his condition and anxiety with regards to their future home and what it would bring. They would probably wait for at least a week, after his birthday and after at least three days of recovering from the full moon that would appear in the sky just two days after he turned eleven.
As the sun fell over the house, Remus picked himself up from where he had been taking in the sights and slowly made his way back inside. He looked almost like any other ten-year-old, he was a little tall for his age and if you ignored the curious fresh-looking scars on his calf and the fact that he looked as though he was permanently recovering from a cold, he looked perfectly normal. However, nobody seemed to want to ignore either and those were the signs that drew the attention and curiosity of his neighbours. Muggle or magical, they always seemed to notice that there was something off about him, the muggles always put it to his mother's lack of care (which was ridiculous) and the wizards tended to believe that he was perhaps a little slow and a squib (and in consequence thought ill of his father for hiding him and obviously beating him at least once a month). Whatever the neighbours thought there always a day when the attention and curiosity got too intrusive or when the neighbours started putting two and two together and began approaching the real reason for Remus' monthly disappearance, in the end they moved, usually in the dead of night and always without much warning.
He was shaken from this chain of thought when his father shot out of the house, wand on hand and his mother following close by. ‘Remus! Hide!’ Remus had never seen his father look so fierce and he obeyed the command immediately. They had talked about this many times, he was to go hide in the basement where he would be protected by his father's enchantments until they were able to return for him. He was dutifully hurrying into the house when he literally ran into a very tall, thin man. Firm arms caught him to stop his fall and he was just starting to resist when he recognised the man: Albus Dumbledore. This shook him deeply as did the kind eyes that regarded him from behind the half-moon spectacles.
‘Ah! You must be young Remus Lupin.’ Dumbledore's voice was calm, entirely unconcerned by the fact that both of Remus' parents had just shot out of the house in search, no doubt, of a threat. ‘Would you mind if I sit?’ Remus opened his mouth to reply and then closed it. To run or not to run. Follow his father's command and accept that he might be in danger, or follow his mother's insistence that he was nothing if he was not polite?
‘Yes. Uh... Yes, of course.’ He guided the old wizard through to the living room. ‘Crumpets?’ He asked, offering the plate that his mother had set out for their tea just as Dumbledore lit a fire with a flick of his wand. ‘M-my parents just left... I...’ he was unable to look away from the flickering fire or to really figure out what he was supposed to do now.
Remus stood before Dumbledore, unsure of why he wasn't scared of the old wizard, after all Remus was a werewolf and Dumbledore a member of the Wizengamot, he might be there to arrest him or... something. The problem was that Dumbledore had given no sign of hostility, in fact the only reason why Remus considered being scared was that both his parents had shot out of the house a second before Dumbledore appeared. He also doubted that the Ministry of Magic would send the world's greatest wizard after a ten-year-old werewolf. He cocked his head to the side and in a bid to do something other than stare at the old wizard he said the first thing that came to his mind.
‘Gobstones?’ Dumbledore's lips drew into a small smile and his eyes twinkled.
‘Yes, I think I would enjoy a game. It's been years since I was invited to play: no doubt one of the downsides of being old and respectable,’ he said with a wink. Remus thought that the lack of invitations had more to do with the fact that he was Albus Dumbledore than with age but didn't say anything, instead he fought to keep a blush from spreading. This was ridiculous, he was not playing gobstones with Albus Dumbledore.
He knelt on the floor and was just drawing the required circle when his parents burst into the room. He saw his dad lower his wand when he saw Dumbledore while his mother rushed to his side, intent on checking that he had not been harmed in any way. There was a beat of silence, as though the adults in the room were having a silent conversation and what was said with looks and twitches took a long time to be digested.
‘I'm sorry to barge in but this was the only way I could make sure that I would be able to say my piece without any of us resorting to magic. My dear, Lyall, lower your wand, let us sit.’ Dumbledore turned to Hope and offered her a smile. ‘I don't believe we have met; I am Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.’ Hope nodded and, looking from her husband to Professor Dumbledore, she made the executive decision to defuse the situation.
‘Hope Lupin.’ She stood between Dumbledore and Remus, shielding her little boy from view. ‘A pleasure. My husband,’ she shot a look at Lyall who had already lowered his wand and was thinking of how to best handle a situation that could have far reaching consequences, ‘has spoken very highly of you.’ She now turned to look at Dumbledore, defiant, almost daring him to do anything that would contradict Lyall's high opinion. ‘Do sit.’
‘Thank you.’ The Headmaster sat down and with a flick of his wand, tea materialised in the hands of everyone present. ‘You're rightly wondering what made me so uncouthly break into your house.’ He nodded at both parents. ‘I have come to extend my invitation to young Remus to join us at Hogwarts next term.’
It was just as Sev had promised: a letter had arrived by muggle post informing her parents that a Professor McGonagall was going to be visiting them to tell them all about the school to which Lily had been accepted. Lily had tried to explain it to them, to repeat everything that Sev had said but they blamed it on her overactive imagination and when she turned to Petunia for backup she played dumb and simply said that she didn't think Lily should hang out with Severus any more. It was frustrating but when the date came when Professor McGonagall was due to arrive, her parents were dutifully waiting for her with tea and scones, after all, who wouldn't want to give their child a good schooling opportunity?
Professor McGonagall arrived at five on the dot, the stern-looking woman was dressed in a very smart tartan frock and didn't look anything like Lily had imagined. She had been expecting a witch after all and this woman looked more like a mean head teacher than what Sev had described. McGonagall was not a woman to be trifled with and that be and that became apparent the moment she appeared at the door.
Lily's parents showed her inside, the letter they had received made it clear that there was much to talk about and Lily's parents were curious to know how this new school had heard of their daughter. Of course, they knew that Lily was very smart but after inquiring at Lily's prep school they had been told that no external observers from Hogwarts had ever taken part in their recruitment programs. Besides, eleven was an unusual age to star recruiting for a boarding school. After the pleasantries were done and everyone had a cup of tea in front of them, Professor McGonagall spoke.
‘You will no doubt be curious about why I am here.’ Lily had decided to remain quiet and let the Professor speak, after all her parents had not believed her when she told them she was a witch and she was sure that McGonagall would be able to convince them. ‘Your daughter is very special and she has been shown to have the abilities required for entrance to our school. As deputy Headmistress, it is my task to explain the ins-and-outs so let me begin by saying that your daughter is a witch.’
Mr and Mrs Evans turned to look at their daughter at the same time, wondering how she had managed to convince an adult of repeating the same thing she had been saying for the last week or so. They looked at her in confusion, they soon came to realise that there was no way in which Lily could pull off a prank like this so they returned to look at McGonagall as though expecting her to start cackling and sprout a few warts.
‘A witch?’ Mrs Evans asked. ‘What exactly do you mean?’
‘Your daughter can do magic. At this stage I expect that you have been able to dismiss displays of magic as oddities or particular talents. She will have displayed magic in moments of intense emotion like fright or shame.’
‘I don't fall when I leap off the swings, mum, I land. You've seen it,’ Lily ventured, voice quiet, shaking a little. ‘And Tuney has seen me play with the flowers, they-they open in the palm of my hand. I can show you!’
‘That will not be necessary, thank you Miss Evans.’ Lily retreated into her seat, wondering if Sev had been wrong after all and she could be arrested for doing magic even though she still hadn't been trained.
‘But that's... That's luck, isn't it? She's agile! She's a gymnast after all! Best in the county!’ Mr Evans explained, still not understanding what on earth was going on.
‘I assure you, Mr Evans, it is not luck. I've no doubt your daughter is a talented gymnast but she's been helped by her magic. The fact that she is already able to control some of her powers tells me that she is a talented witch and she will no doubt thrive at Hogwarts.’
‘Hang on. You're telling me that my daughter is a witch and you want to take her away to a school nobody has ever heard about? This is insane, it sounds like you want to induct her to a cult!’ Mr Evans stood up as he said this. ‘We've never heard of such a thing!’
‘Please, Mr Evans, sit down. It is not a cult; the magical community remains secret for the protection of the non-magic folk. We have several laws that govern magical behaviour so it is not strange that you have heard nothing about this. With your permission, I can demonstrate that my claims are one hundred percent real.’
Professor McGonagall was now looking at Mrs Evans who seemed to have kept her head better than her husband. Slowly Mrs Evans nodded and Professor McGonagall pulled out a wand. Mr Evans looked at her with distrust and moved to partially shield his daughter. McGonagall tapped her wand on the edge of her empty teacup and on the third tap it turned into the most fragrant red rose either Evans had ever seen, the smell filled their nostrils. Everyone gasped, even Lily brought her hands to her mouth. Without further ado, McGonagall tapped the rose again and it returned to its previous state, leaving only the smell behind. There was a moment of silence while everyone processed what had just happened.
‘B-but how?’ Mrs Evans asked. ‘W-we're normal. I...’ McGonagall put away her wand and looked at Mrs Evans sternly.
‘There is nothing abnormal about your daughter, we are not sure of how this happens but there is a chance that one of your ancestors was from a magical family and the powers had failed to present until now. Miss Evans was accepted into the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world since she was born.’
‘But where will you take her? How... I don't think... She's eleven for goodness sake!’ Mr Evans was still not quite over the shock, the smell of the rose lingered still and he kept looking between McGonagall and Lily, wondering exactly how this had happened.
‘Allow me to show you.’ McGonagall waved her wand again and a very old-looking projector appeared out of thin air, she tapped it and after a few clicks a film was projected on the wall across from Mr and Mrs Evans.
There was no sound at the beginning, only the clicks of the projector as it worked. The film showed a beautiful castle, lakes and mountains surrounded it, the skies looked clear and beautiful. As the camera zoomed in a gentle voice started speaking. ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry offers the best magical education on offer; subjects are taught by highly specialized teachers.’ The film now showed a classroom filled with children and Professor McGonagall pointing at a complex diagram. ‘Hogwarts has won the International Student Welfare Price eight times owing to the personalized attention each child gets throughout their stay.’ What looked like student rooms were now the focus of the film, each showing comfortable chairs by the fire, then the camera moved outward again. ‘The school also offers a variety of extracurricular opportunities such as the Chess society of Hogwarts Students.’ It now showed a hall with kids of every age playing chess. ‘Which has produced the last five chess world champions.’ There was now a shot of an enormous hall with five tables, all decorated for Halloween, then the same hall decorated for Christmas. ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the place were young witches and wizards find their passions and become the best they can be, student welfare is our focus and our excellent teachers will always make sure that your child will be prepared to face the challenges of the future.’ The film ended with a shot of children celebrating and throwing their hats in the air.
When the film concluded, McGonagall tapped the projector again and it disappeared. She turned to look at the Evans family, they all looked enchanted, Lily looked especially excited. She now produced a letter and handed it to Lily, who took it with shaking hands, trying to suppress her excitement.
‘The school term begins on the first of September; inside that letter you will find instructions to buy her material as well as access the train station that will take her to Hogwarts.’ McGonagall turned to Lily. ‘We look forward to seeing you there, Miss Evans.’ Lily grinned and the professor returned the smile.
‘Can I go?’ Lily asked, clutching the letter to her chest.
‘Well... Well of course you can!’ Mrs Evan recovered first. ‘It looks wonderful. I- We always knew you were special, princess. This... Well... Thomas?’
‘Alright. Alright. It's... It's fine... I...’ Mr Evans struggled for words, having now accepted that magic existed his mind now turned to more practical matters. ‘How... How much will it cost, we had money set aside for her schooling but--’
‘The cost is covered by the Ministry of Magic, you will only need to cover the cost of her books, materials and uniforms.’
‘Right! Well, that's good. And where will we find that?’
‘I assure you it is all explained in detail in Miss Evans' letter. I must ask you for the utmost discretion, it is imperative that nobody outside the magical community knows about any of this.’
‘Professor?’ Lily asked softly. ‘Can I tell Severus? He's a wizard, lives down by Spinners End... He's my friend. He told me about all of this.’
‘If he is a wizard, I don't see the harm in telling him but nobody else outside your immediate family.’
‘Yes, Miss Evans?’
‘Can Tuney come too?’ McGonagall looked at her curiously. ‘She's my sister. She's a good student and I'm sure she could learn; I'll teach her everything I know!’ The Professor smiled compassionately.
‘Your sister has no powers, Miss Evans, and as such she cannot go to Hogwarts, you could teach her everything you know and she would still be unable to perform even the simplest of spells.’ Lily bit her lip and McGonagall turned to Mr Evans. ‘I take it you have accepted our invitation?’
‘Yes... I won't lie, this is... unusual at best but... Well it's true, isn't it?’ He turned to his wife. ‘We've always known that our Lily was special...’
‘Excellent, I shall let the Headmaster know.’ McGonagall stood up and everyone followed her. ‘I know you will need time to get used to the idea and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to write.’ She handed them a card. ‘Professor Dumbledore or I will always be available.’
After inviting McGonagall to stay for dinner two or three times, Lily's parents showed her to the door and said goodbye. Lily wanted to go and tell Sev everything immediately but it was getting dark and her parents wouldn't let her go. She'd have to be content with reading and re-reading the letter and memorising the instructions to get to Diagon Alley and... Platform 93/4? She had a lot to learn...
It was just after dawn and the house was completely still, silvery winter sunlight filtered through the gaps in the curtains and a young boy in his bed was dutifully pretending to still be asleep. It was his birthday and staying still was no mean feat but he knew that any moment now his parents would sneak into his room to sing him awake with 'happy birthday'. The reason he was pretending to sleep was that he found that his parents felt happier if they thought they had actually woken him up with their singing. Like so many well-loved children, James Potter had already taken it onto himself to protect his parents' innocence.
A step creaked in the distance and James nearly jumped at the sound, unable to contain a shiver of excitement, he adjusted his position and concentrated on looking how he imagined he looked while he was sleeping. His door creaked open and James only had to wait for a moment before his parents started singing in hushed voices. James pretended to groggily sit up and only when he was sure it was believable; he allowed a gigantic grin to spread across his face. The song ended and both Euphemia and Fleamont Potter clapped.
James allowed himself to be kissed and hugged, half of him pretending that he was too old for that kind of thing while the other enjoyed the attention profoundly. ‘There's treacle tart for you downstairs and we can discuss your presents when you come down,’ Mrs Potter said sweetly just as she was leaving the room.
At the mention of his favourite treat James' eyes lit up and he rushed to get dressed and go down. It wasn't long before James was sitting at the table surrounded by his parents and eating treacle tart. There was a small pile of presents across the table from him and James wasn't sure what he was more excited about, the tart or the presents. He felt a small pang of disappointment upon realising that none of the presents were shaped like a broom but he quickly suppressed it. He supposed it made sense that he wasn't given a new broom, his Cleansweep 5 was in good working order and he would not be allowed to take it to Hogwarts, though he had to admit that he would risk smuggling in the new Nimbus...
‘The Altons will be coming later. Their children will come too.’
‘They're hardly children, dad. They've been out Hogwarts for ages,’ said James, licking his spoon before reaching out to take another slice. ‘The youngest is twenty!’
‘A child!’ His dad exclaimed, grinning at his son. ‘He will remain a child until he turns thirty-five, at least.’ James rolled his eyes.
‘Presents, James. As soon as you can unstick your mouth,’ Mrs Potter said with a wink.
The first present was from his aunt Lindiwe, a beautiful eagle feather quill with a self-cleaning charm. The second one was rather heavy and it was from one of his father's best friends Phrixus Genov, it turned out to be a set of training Quidditch balls.
‘Look at them!’ James grabbed the parchment with the instructions. ‘The bludgers and snitch have a homing device!’
‘You'll have to write to Phrixus to thank him, love.’
James almost didn't want to keep opening presents, he doubted anything could be nearly as good as this. Still he kept at it and soon he had unwrapped a wand maintenance kit (from his grandmother), a beautiful edition of A History of Magic (from his Aunt Ophelia) and a hornbill feather quill with disappearing ink (from Noreen Abioye, his mum's best friend). At that point his father handed him a simply wrapped parcel, upon taking it James' eyebrows knitted in confusion: surely his parents had not decided to give him new robes for his birthday.
‘Stop looking like we kicked your puppy, James, and open it.’
James wiped the look off his face and pretended instead to be excited. He unwrapped the present quickly and when it was revealed he found that he didn't have to rearrange his features to look excited.
‘But this...’ He looked at his dad, eyes wide. ‘It's your--’
‘It's yours now, James.’
With trembling fingers James pulled out the silvery cloak. It felt almost like a liquid, it was light and incredibly soft, no holes or damage. James looked back up to his father and grinned widely, the invisibility cloak clutched in his hands.
‘It's been passed down from parent to child for generations. Eleven is a good age to receive it,’ his dad said with a wink. ‘Now, put it on.’
James jumped up and excitedly threw it around his shoulders, his body disappeared and he could not suppress a laugh when he looked down. Without taking it off he threw himself at his dad, hugging him tightly.
‘Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is amazing!’ He was going to have so much fun at Hogwarts with this... He didn't say that to his parents though, he didn't want to make them rescind the present.
Mrs Potter had brought down her camera and snapped a picture of the two Potters even though half of James' body was missing.
‘Now, darling. The party will start at three but we have some time to go pick up your last present,’ said his mother, waving her wand to clear the table of wrappings and dirty dishes.
‘My last present?’ Visions of the newest Nimbus flashed through James' mind. ‘Could it be--’
‘No, no, my darling. I know what it will be I just need you to choose it.’ She looked at her son and as though reading the glint in his eye she shook her head. ‘It's not a broom, James. You couldn't take it with you but I'll make a promise right now: we'll get you a broom if you make your House Team or on your third year. How's that? For now, I thought we'd get you an owl. You'll need it to send all the thank-you notes today and to communicate when you're off to Hogwarts.’
James grinned. ‘Fair enough,’ he said with an invisible shrug.
‘Well take your stuff to your room and we'll leave right away.’
‘Could we pick up my wand as well?’
‘No, it's tradition. You don't get one until you get your letter.’
‘But we know it's coming!’
‘Yes, dear, we know but it's still traditional to go and get your school stuff after you get the letter. Besides, what do you want it for? You would barely be able to throw sparks with it!’
In the end James chose a Northern white-faced owl and named her Isilmë, name he found while he was going through a book in Flourish and Blotts and waiting for his mother to stop talking to an old witch. Back at the house, James helped prepare everything for his party. The guests started arriving promptly at three, most of them were older wizards whose children had already grown up but there were enough children who were closer to James' age to play three-a-side Quidditch.
The only guest who was the same age as James was a girl with curly brown hair, big hazel eyes and rich brown skin: Dorcas Meadowes. Apparently, they had been inseparable when they were little kids but the Meadowes family had to move away for work and they had not seen each other since, as it was, they were only back because Dorcas was due to start Hogwarts that year. James found her to be a little snobbish and Dorcas found him to be extremely annoying but whatever had been there when they were three years old must have remained because by the end of the party they played like no time had passed and even James —who prided himself on being an excellent flyer and was not known for his modesty— had to admit that Dorcas was a very impressive girl, especially when she came at you on a broom.
That night James went to bed, exhausted, overfed and joyous. Visions of him captaining the Gryffindor Quidditch team flooded his brain: he could not wait to get the letter and finally be off to school.
In the frontier between Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley there is a shabby looking building with an antiques shop facing Diagon Alley and an apothecary facing Knocturn Alley, both are managed by the same people. The antiques are sold to the rich and the curious, to those fighting to show their status; the potion ingredients are sold to those who would rather their activities go unnoticed. It is in this building where the Dark Arts manage to coexist with the rest of the wizarding world, it does not fight for dominion but rather feeds off the resentment and despair; in return, this dark world spits out the week and meek to be absorbed (and absolved) by the rest of the wizarding society.
Above these shops are two flats, one that was turned into a warehouse, and the other inhabited by a small family: an only child and his two parents. The family had only been allowed to move in because they were useful, the shops' owner, Caractacus Burke, was always in need of people able to grovel and make the rich clients of the antiques shop feel important. The father ran the apothecary, the mother ran the antiques shop: both actually served the store that hid deep in Knockturn alley.
There was an air of festive joy that had nothing to do with the only child's birthday but with rather grimmer subjects: a wealthy family line had just ended and, without an heir, their stuff had been auctioned off. The family that lived in the flat, the Pettigrews, had handled the auction in the name of Mr Burke which meant that when it was all said and done they would get a nice reward, the only thing that had been standing between them and said reward was the fact that up until that morning they had failed to place the old family's house elf. That morning his son, Peter, had turned eleven and it was this that gave Mr Pettigrew the idea to place the elf at Hogwarts, after a few owl exchanges the elf had been accepted and it was time to celebrate.
Peter had thought that perhaps, with the extra money, his birthday present might have been a little grander than the second hand Remembrall his parents had presented him with but he was wrong. As it was, he could at least pretend that the celebration was in his honour. It wasn't that Peter's parents did not care for their son, they did, and if anyone had asked they would have said that everything they did they did for Peter, the reward would allow them to buy the books and robes that Peter needed to make a good impression at Hogwarts. Mr and Mrs Pettigrew were simply busy and they both knew that nobody would ever gift them anything: gifts were things rich people buy for their powerful friends, the only thing the Pettigrews knew was that hard work paid and hard work for powerful friends paid double.
This was such an entrenched belief for the family that it came as quite a shock when old Caractacus Burke himself showed up at their doorstep to give Peter a birthday present. The youngest Pettigrew was quite timid but, in an effort to show his parents that he too could impress powerful people, he stood straight and took the box from old Caractacus' hands.
‘Thank you, sir,’ he intoned. ‘You needn't have bothered.’
‘Oh, but I did.’ The old man smiled toothily. ‘It's not every day that a young man turns eleven. It's an important age, that, you go to Hogwarts, meet people, make friends who will accompany you through your life. Very important, the friends one finds at Hogwarts.’ The old man winked and Peter had the feeling that this was not the way people usually talked about friendship.
‘I'll keep your words in mind, Mr Burke. Thank you.’
‘Well... Open it, boy!’
Peter obeyed and unwrapped the present as calmly as he was able. It was a beautiful new book; the binding was still stiff and the gold lettering on top was clear as day: The Dark Forces: A guide to self-defence. Peter held in an excited gasp, he was certain that even with Mr Burke's reward, his parents would not buy him any new books.
‘I do believe the book will prove useful, I have it on good authority that the school list has not changed.’
‘No, it hasn't. Thank you, Mr Burke.’ Peter dragged his eyes away from his brand-new book to bow his head at the old man.
His parents insisted that Mr Burke stayed for the celebration but the old man was busy and had to leave after toasting for the auction they had just closed. Peter could not stop admiring his beautiful new book and even though he was not much for reading or much of a student, he found himself enthralled by it.
‘Mr Burke was very generous,’ Mr Pettigrew said, drawing Peter's attention away from his book. ‘That is exactly why your mother and I continue working for him. He is generous and he rewards his friends accordingly.’
‘Yes, dad.’ Peter thought it had been a present, not a reward but he didn't want to argue with his father.
‘Happy Birthday, Peter.’ Mr Pettigrew managed a smile. ‘I'm sorry it got overshadowed.’
‘No, I know how it is. Best to keep busy, I'm sure Mr Burke was very appreciative.’
‘He was indeed, boy. So much so that we'll be able to buy you a brand-new wand rather than you having to use my dear old brother's.’
Peter's face lit up. Two brand new things, he would not be a total weirdo at Hogwarts and he might yet make his parents proud.
There wasn't much activity inside the house that hid between numbers eleven and thirteen in Grimmauld Place, the family was not yet awake and the only movement came from the kitchen where an aged domestic elf was making breakfast. Sirius, the eldest child, was laying on his bed; he had been awake for a while now and all that time had been spent staring at the handsome envelope propped up against his bedside lamp. The crest on the wax seal was that of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Sirius knew it well and even though he had been excited to see it when the letter had first arrived, he was now dreading what it meant. He wasn't sure why he hadn't immediately told his parents that it had arrived or why he hadn't lorded it over his younger brother but he suspected that it had something to do with the fact that he was the heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and thus, he was the warden of the family name and the holder of all the family's dreams and expectations. Something about the arrival of his Hogwarts letter seemed to herald a time when he would no longer be allowed to run from these responsibilities or even pretend that they were of little consequence to the way he conducted his life.
Toujours Pur... What a load of rubbish, surely they could do better than that for a motto. Sirius had many doubts about why exactly his family considered itself —and was considered by others— a 'noble' family. The pure-blood status held little worth beyond the circle his family moved in, regular wizarding society didn't seem to care much about 'purity' or 'nobility', and the fact that they were very rich didn't seem to be —in Sirius' view at least— enough of a reason to consider oneself 'noble'. And anyway, they were only rich because the family was very old, where was the merit in that? Then again, he thought, it could be the case that his opinions on this matter held little truth and were actually the result of his own insecurities and fear that he might not be able to live up to the name and what it demanded of him.
Sirius rolled onto his back and sighed. He couldn't put it off any longer or his parents would begin to suspect; besides, he had made plans to meet Andromeda today and it might be a good opportunity to go buy his school stuff. He feared that his parents would make a fuss, he hated the idea of hearing them say that 'the heir' was finally off to Hogwarts or that Slytherin would finally welcome the heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. It made Sirius want to vomit (out of nerves or slight disgust).
Sirius heard his parents go downstairs and finally rolled off the bed to get dressed, he made sure he looked presentable in case either of them was in a combative mood. When he entered the kitchen he nearly laughed: both his parents were dressed to go out, this way he would not have to put up with either of them offering to take him to Diagon Alley.
‘Morning!’ His parents looked at him with concern, it was rare to see him up so early. ‘I got my letter,’ he said by way of explanation.
Walburga was the first to react. Her eyebrows shot to her hairline and she put up an air of disdain. ‘Well it was about time. Your father and I were thinking of sending you to Durmstrang.’ Sirius hid his horror behind a bemused and slightly excited look. ‘It's still an option, darling, we all know Hogwarts is not what it once was. Not with Dumbledore at the helm.’
‘It had occurred to me but...’ He shook his head. ‘No, what would Uncle Phineas say if I were to desert Hogwarts?’
‘Well said, son. We can't deprive Slytherin of the membership of a Black! Even if Durmstrang has a more agreeable admittance policy.’ Orion smiled at his son.
‘I'm meeting Andromeda today, I thought I would kill two doxies with one spell and get my school stuff while I'm there.’ Sirius hoped his mother would not object.
‘That is very nice of her... I'm sorry I can't go with you; I have an auction to get to. I simply cannot miss the opportunity to get my hands on some of the Bloxam family treasures, the family went extinct, you see,’ she said this with some glee. Walburga Black was an avid collector of what she liked to call 'antiquities' and others would call 'very old dark artefacts'.
‘It's alright. Andromeda can handle him for an afternoon.’ His father extended a rattling purse to Sirius. ‘I'll open a side account for your allowance, you will need to start learning how to manage your own money but for now this should tide you over.’
‘Thanks, dad.’ Sirius finally sat down for breakfast, sure that both of his parents would run out in no time at all.
When it was time to meet Andromeda, Sirius practically skipped downstairs. He had told his parents that he would floo over but he was actually going the muggle way. There was something about muggle London that fascinated him, the cars, the motorcycles, the tube lines and stations; it was, as far as he was concerned, cleverer than magic, these people actually had to invent all the substitutes for good old magic. And the music was excellent, somehow wizarding music paled in comparison to some of the artists around in the muggle world: there was very little to appreciate in Celestina Warbeck once you heard Aretha Franklin. But all of this Sirius kept secret, his parents would lose their minds if they ever knew that their precious first born had a thing for muggle stuff, the only one who knew was Andromeda who had once caught him in a muggle record shop, now he thought about it, he didn't know what she had been doing there...
After taking a small detour into his preferred record shop and listening to some of the latest singles, he made his way to the Leaky Cauldron and into Diagon Alley. He met up with his cousin by Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlour, as usual she greeted him with a smile (which was one of the reasons she was his favourite) and an ice cream.
They went around Diagon Alley, joking around and getting all the things Sirius would need to start his school year. As they approached Ollivanders, a young man approached them, he was tall with wavy blond hair that curled around his ears, he also had an easy smile and Sirius almost dropped his new books when he took Andromeda by the waist and planted a kiss on her lips.
‘Hey beautiful,’ he said grinning when he pulled back. Andromeda looked tense, shooting Sirius a sideway glance.
‘Hey Ted.’ She stepped back from him as though that might repair the damage that had been done by him kissing her in the middle of the road. ‘Uh, this is my cousin.’ she shot Ted a warning look. ‘Sirius.’
‘Oh, sorry. I thought you were on your own.’ He looked at Sirius who was looking at him distrustfully. ‘Oh, come on. Why so serious, Sirius?’ The eleven-year-old tried to stop himself from laughing but he failed and it came out as a snorting chuckle: he was a sucker for terrible jokes. Ted grinned. ‘I'm Ted Tonks.’ He extended his hand and Sirius, after leaving his stuff on the ground extended his own.
‘Sirius Black.’ Ted's smile wavered slightly at the sound of the 'most noble last name'. ‘Good to meet you. I think it's my duty to now warn you about hurting my cousin, after all I am the future man of the family.’ He winked at Andromeda, they had often joked about this same thing and she visibly relaxed.
‘Oh, against such a formidable opponent, how could I ever dare to hurt 'Dromeda?’ Ted bowed and Sirius chuckled. ‘I'll catch you later, yeah, luv?’ Ted kissed her again. ‘See you later Sirius.’
With that Ted left the two cousins looking at each other nervously, neither wanted to be the first to talk in case they said too much. In the end it was Sirius who broke the silence.
‘I'd never heard of the Tonks family,’ he said casually, wanting to confirm his suspicions. ‘Are they foreign?’
‘No, they're from Cornwall,’ she replied evenly, almost daring Sirius to comment further on Ted's family.
‘Right.’ Sirius narrowed his eyes. ‘Is he a mudblood then?’ Andromeda's reaction was instantaneous and for a second Sirius thought that she was going to slap him. She pulled him into an empty side street and admonished him.
‘Don't say that word ever again, Sirius.’
‘Well, is he?’
‘That is beyond the point.’
‘Is it though? Because to me it looks like you're seeing a mudblood--’ Slap. Sirius staggered back. Before he even had time to take in the fact that Andromeda had actually slapped him, his cousin already had her arms around him.
‘I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, please forgive me, Sirius.’ She kept this litany of apologies until Sirius stepped back from her embrace.
‘I don't understand. Everyone I've ever met uses that word.’
‘It's not a nice word, Sirius. Not out here. I shouldn't have slapped you, please forgive me.’
‘It's... fine, I don't think I've ever been slapped before.’ He brought his hand up to his reddening cheek and quirked an eyebrow. There was a moment of silence between them. ‘So is he...’
‘Muggle-born. Yes. He is.’ Sirius nodded, not sure of how to react in case it earned him another slap. ‘But you met him, is there anything wrong with him? He treats me right, he understands me, he's... Well he's wonderful and the fact that his parents are muggles is irrelevant. He's a good wizard.’
‘But your parents.’
‘Oh, Sirius don't be that person. You like muggle stuff, don't you? I bet you came here on the tube.’ Sirius blushed. ‘What would your parents say if they found out?’
‘But it's different!’
‘Is it?’ Andromeda crossed her arms in front of her. ‘You like muggle stuff; you think they're ingenious and you like their music. I've seen you, remember? So, is there anything wrong with liking muggle stuff?’
‘I-I don't know, there must be, otherwise why would our parents forbid it?’ Even Sirius realised that this was a very lame argument, Andromeda didn't even have to say anything before Sirius conceded the point. ‘There's a difference though, isn't it? I mean, I'm not marrying the record...’
‘Well I'm not marrying Ted either. Not yet anyway...’ She bit her lip. ‘Is there anything wrong with him? Honestly, Sirius, did you like him? He's funny and he loves me. He really does. He helps me with Charms and he can fly as well as anyone...’
‘Is he in Slytherin?’
‘Hufflepuff.’ Sirius sniggered and Andromeda blushed. ‘Oh, shut it.’
‘No, I mean, it's fine, they're supposed to be loyal and just, right?’ He contained his laughter. ‘He's cool,’ he said after a moment of amused silence. ‘He is funny. When are you going to tell uncle Cygnus?’
‘Not soon. I want to break it to them gently.’
‘You'll fail but listen, I'm not saying anything. I don't know if you're doing the right thing here, it goes against everything I've been taught and... Well I don't get it anyway because you're in love and apparently that makes people kind of stupid sometimes.’ Andromeda rolled her eyes and was about to reply when Sirius continued, ‘but he seems cool and I can't deny that he obviously loves you back so... Well I suppose I approve.’
‘You clearly don't need anyone's approval, otherwise you'd be smooching Malfoy.’ Andromeda looked disgusted by the prospect. ‘Isn't he supposed to be handsome?’
‘Kreatcher is more handsome than he is.’ Sirius burst out laughing, he didn't particularly hate the Malfoys but he did think they were a bit too over the top.
‘Well... I... You're still my favourite cousin. I hope your parents take it well...’ It was obvious that both Sirius and Andromeda thought it impossible but it was still a nice wish.
‘Let's go get your wand. It's the last thing and you can floo home from Ollivanders.’
‘Are you going to meet Ted and that's why you want me to get off your back.’
‘Yes.’ Sirius smiled and together they went into Ollivanders where Sirius got his first wand (Aspen and Dragon heartstrings, 10 inches) and then flooed home, his mind reeling over what he had learned that day.
A week later he received by owl, one that mercifully found him in his room rather than at the breakfast table. It was a largeish package with a small warning note that told him to open it alone. He locked his door and unwrapped the package: it was a portable cassette player, Sirius recognised it from the music store, taped to it was a very detailed hand-drawn manual, and the latest Rolling Stones tape. Another note fell to the floor:
Thank you. -T. T