Platform 9 3/4 was just as busy as ever. Owls screeched, cats meowed and hissed, and the sound of parents and students hustling to catch the scarlet engine rang throughout the air as usual.
"And you've both double checked to be sure you've got everything, yes?" Mrs. Potter asked, raising an eyebrow at both James and Sirius.
"Mum, we've got everything. We're not first years, you know. We're sixteen, practically grown." James impatiently waved her off, looking around to make sure no one, particularly no girls, saw him being fussed over by his mother.
Euphemia gave her son a knowing look before shaking her head and reaching into her bag. "Practically grown, eh?" She tutted softly as she pulled James' wand from her pocketbook. "Suppose you don't need your mum to double check for this then? Seems rather important."
James' face turned bright red and he quickly snatched his wand, throwing Sirius a dirty look as the shorter boy howled with laughter.
Mrs. Potter chuckled softly with amusement as she rounded on her son's best friend. "Think that's funny, Sirius?" Sirius' laughter immediately died as the older woman handed him his tie and his new Potions text book.
"Thanks mum." Both teenagers muttered quietly, their cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment and just glad that none of their friends had witnessed this particular moment.
Mrs. Potter sighed and kissed them both on the cheek. "You boys behave yourselves this semester, alright? I don't need another letter home, James Potter, I mean it."
"Oh, we'll be absolute angels." Said James, who had spotted Lily Evans across the crowded Platform and was hardly paying attention to his mother anymore. "Won't we, Sirius?"
"The picture of innocence, really." Agreed Sirius, his eyes scanning through the hoards of students to try to find Remus and Peter.
"I'm sure." Euphemia muttered flatly. "Alright, then. Off with you both, I can see you're both far too 'grown up' for proper goodbyes to your mother."
Neither of them needed to be told twice, and with one last quick hug they took off to find their friends.
"See Moony or Worm anywhere?" Sirius asked as they pushed past a group of giggling third year girls who were crowded around a copy of Witch Weekly, fawning over some celebrity or another.
James craned his neck. "Nah. Bloody packed this year, isn't it? I feel like it gets more crowded each year, you know?" He sighed, taking his glasses off to clean them on his shirt. "Split up? It'll be easier to find them. Meet you back here, yeah?"
Sirius nodded and James took off in the direction that Sirius was sure he had seen Lily and Marlene just moments ago. He rolled his eyes and headed the opposite way, shoving his way through the masses. James was right, it really did feel a lot more crowded every year. He supposed it was that more and more Wizards were marrying Muggles every day, and that meant more children being born with the chance of having magic, which meant more students being accepted into Hogwarts. He wondered if the castle somehow expanded itself to have enough room for the increasing numbers of students, and if-
A hand on his shoulder cut his thoughts short and he smiled to himself as he turned to face Remus.
His stomach dropped and suddenly he forgot how to breathe, as the person standing in front of him was not Remus Lupin, but his mother. The hand on his shoulder tightened as Walburga's lips twitched up into a cold smile.
"Did you think you could just dishonor your family name and run off forever, Sirius?"
Sirius' eyes dropped to the ground and he swallowed hard. He could feel himself trembling and he silently begged for it to stop. He wanted to run off, but his feet seemed to be glued to the spot. He wondered if maybe she had hit him with a leg locking curse. He started to panic.
"Walburga," The ever calm voice of Mrs. Potter made Sirius remember that he needed air in his lungs in order to live. He took a breath as her warm, gentle hand rested on his other shoulder. "Can I help you with something?"
Walburga's face twitched just slightly as her piercing grey eyes landed on the other witch.
"Euphemia." Her lips barely moved as she greeted the woman before her with a forced sweetness in his voice that made the hair on Sirius' arms stand on edge. "I do apologize for any trouble my son may have caused you and your husband over the last few months. I understand what an inconvenience he can be."
"Inconvenience?" Repeated Euphemia lightly, feigning confusion. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Walburga. Sirius has been nothing but a pleasure." Her hand squeezed reassuringly on Sirius' left shoulder in contrast to the nail-digging grip from Walburga on his right. Sirius remained silent, still too terrified to move or make a sound.
"Well," Said Walburga, her tone hitting an octave higher than normal as her gaze rested yet again on her son. "I'm so very glad to hear it. Perhaps a little discipline was just what the healer ordered. No matter, he'll be returning home after this semester. Won't you, Sirius?"
Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but still no words seemed to form. Luckily, Euphemia jumped in instead.
"He certainly will be returning home." She agreed and for a moment Sirius felt like his heart was going to pound right out of his chest. "With me and Fleamont and James. Where he belongs." She took a step closer to Walburga, who looked positively livid. "Mrs. Black, Sirius is a wonderful, kind, intelligent young man and I love him like he's my own. He won't be returning to The House of Black, I'm afraid-" Walburga made a sound as if to argue but Euphemia cut her off. "And if I were you, dear, I wouldn't try anything further on the subject. I doubt the ministry has the same ideas as you seem to have on how to 'discipline' a child...one may even consider your actions unforgivable."
Walburga's eyes widened and the color drained from her face at what Mrs. Potter was suggesting. Euphemia's lips tugged into a smug smile as she saw realization and defeat wash over the other woman. "Now then, take your hand off my son, Walburga." Sirius gasped, his head snapping to look back at Mrs. Potter. It was one thing to say that to other people, as she had before, but to say it to Sirius' own mother...."You may think that being of the Sacred Twenty Eight makes you practically Royal, but it certainly doesn't put you above the law. And if you or your husband try to come in contact with Sirius again, I'm sure the ministry would have a field day with what I could tell them about what's going on at The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. And you wouldn't want that, now would you? In times like these" She sighed heavily for effect. "...a ministry raid would certainly put quite a stain on the family's reputation, wouldn't it?"
Something Sirius had never seen before flashed in his mother's eyes. Was it fear? Nevertheless, the bruising grasp she had on his shoulder was gone, and she took a step backwards, still staring at Euphemia as if the woman had physically slapped her. Sirius' lungs filled with air, finally able to breathe once again, and his body relaxed as Mrs. Potter pulled him closer to her side and she smiled kindly at him. "Say goodbye, dear."
He lifted his gaze back to his mother, or at least the woman who had supposedly given birth to him, and the corner of his lips twitched up into a satisfied smirk. "Goodbye."
Walburga Black did not make a sound, nor did she allow herself to show any form of emotion, and her face resorted back to its usual stone-like appearance as she turned away sharply, her long, expensive cloak billowing out behind her. Sirius watched her walk away for the last time.
"Bloody hell, mum!" James shouted and Sirius turned to see him, Remus and Peter all staring, eyes wide and jaws dropped. When they saw him they immediately averted their eyes, pretending that they hadn't just witnessed the entire thing.
"Language, James." Sighed Euphemia, smiling still but shaking her head.
But James didn't pay her any mind, grinning from ear to ear and regarding his mother with the utmost respect. "That was bloody incredible! You dragged that bitch-"
"James Fleamont Potter, that's quite enough." Mrs. Potter scolded firmly. "Now, on to the train, all of you."
Unlike their earlier, too-cool-for-mum hug, James flung his arms around his mother tightly and kissed her cheek. "Bye mum!"
"Bye Mrs. Potter." Both Peter and Remus waved from where they were standing before following a proudly chattering James Potter toward the scarlet engine.
Finally Sirius looked up at her. He smiled, biting his lip and feeling heat rise in his cheeks as he thought of everything Euphemia Potter had just said about him. Without another thought he stepped forward and hugged her tightly, which she returned with just as much enthusiasm.
"Thank you." Sirius muttered against her shoulder, his voice very small for fear of getting too emotional right there on the platform.
"You're very welcome." She kissed the top of his head and pulled away slightly, brushing some of the boy's hair back from his face. "Have a good term, dear. I'll see you at Christmas."
Sirius grinned and nodded. "Right. Of course..." He licked his lips anxiously. "Love you, mum."
"I love you too, son." She held his gaze for a moment, then laughed lightly. "Go, or you'll be riding your broom to school!"
Sirius finally let go of her and took his trunk, quickly heading towards the train.
"And for the love of Merlin, behave yourselves! All of you!" Euphemia called after him. He didn't respond. He didn't want to lie to her, after all, and she knew it was a lost cause anyway.