A/N: I did not plan on posting until my exams were done, but I got really sad. Thank you for the follows, favourites, reviews, kudos, hits, bookmarks—everything! Thank you for existing. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Be safe.
Disclaimer: The Potterverse doesn't belong to me. But Harry and Hermione belong to each other.
The Wicked Witch Is Dead
27 November 1979
"Let me get this straight: you married some aristocrat, whom you're not allowed to marry because it's against the law, and now you're hiding from said law?"
Lily gritted her teeth in order to stop herself from lashing out against her sister. She refused to succumb to what was known as the 'Evans temper'—dubbed by James and Sirius, of course. Breathing in and out in an effort to calm herself, she answered succinctly, an edge to her voice. "Yes."
"Wow, that was stupid."
Lily felt something inside her—her sanity, perhaps—snap as she whipped her face in Petunia's direction.
"That's all you've got from what I just told you?" she asked in the most incredulous tone she could muster.
"What? You think I'd weep over your pathetic sob story?"
Lily flushed at Petunia's condescending tone.
"Too bad, Lily-flower, you haven't got the monopoly on a tough life."
Lily narrowed her eyes as she was struck with a sudden realisation. "This is about Mum and Dad's deaths again, isn't it? I did offer for you to live with us at Potter's Cottage, yet you still chose to live with that...walrus-looking wanker of a guy whom you've only been dating for a couple of months!"
It was Petunia's turn to flush, as Lily raised a lofty eyebrow.
"As if I would live with you!" her sister scoffed, breathing heavily. "It's unnatural, I'm telling you, brewing your ridiculous potions and turning your teacups into mice! I wouldn't—I mean, just—living with—with…freaks like you?" she laughed mirthlessly.
Ah, there was that word again. Freak.
Lily had endured a lot of disgusting names during her education at Hogwarts, and they hadn't relented in the least even after graduating a year ago. Still, one could never get used to the cruelty of some people, and that word was like a knife in her lungs. She couldn't breathe. She was afraid to breathe, as if the soul action of inhaling and exhaling would make it true.
"Love, Lily. It'll make you do foolish things."
Lily raised her head to look directly into her sister's eyes, searching for the words she knew would never be uttered. I'm sorry, Lily, Petunia's eyes said. More unexpectedly were the understanding and compassion in her gaze. For the first time in a while, Lily let herself admit how much she had yearned for her relationship with her sister. How much she'd missed her family and how close they had used to be. Perhaps hiding for a while would turn out to be fruitful, and she could make up for lost time with her sister.
In a daze, Lily found herself kneeling in front of Petunia, weeping on her knees for everything that had gone wrong in her life. The injustice of her parents being unable to live life until they were old and wrinkly, how unfair it was that Petunia's wings were suddenly clipped from receiving further education, when her sister forbade her from seeing each other again after their parents' funeral, the memory of Petunia as she begged and begged and begged for her to use magic to bring back their parents—but she couldn't. It couldn't be done.
She herself desperately wished to bring them back into the realm of the living, but one carefully worded question to Sirius about necromancy (she knew they were a dark family, which was the reason she hadn't asked James or Remus instead) resulted in her getting a lecture from four different men and a tight-lipped head of house. Not to mention being banned from the Restricted Section of course.
She cried because it was unfair that only she was gifted with magic—her sister deserved it so very much. She shed tears for losing her first wizarding friend after years of fighting for their friendship. She wept for only ever wanting to live with and marry the man she loved—but instead she was hiding, as helpless as a damsel in distress as she cried over her sister's knee.
Helpless was Lily's least favourite word in the world.
It took a couple of minutes for her hysterical crying to diminish into sobs, and then into sniffles. Petunia said nothing amidst all of her crying, but that was enough for Lily. She knew Petunia hated crying—emotions, in general, really—and letting Lily bawl into her living room carpet was a symbol of love in Petunia's language.
Looking up, Lily saw that Petunia was regarding her with remorseful eyes. Realising she was being watched, Petunia moved to stand up, grabbing Lily's arms and guiding her into the kitchen, muttering, "Make yourself useful by helping me prepare dinner. Vernon will be home soon—and I don't want him to see you."
Petunia grabbed a knife from the table and started to fiercely attack an onion.
"He'll definitely notice if you stayed in the baby's room or even the guest room. Besides, paint's still fresh and we know you have a sensitive nose."
Lily couldn't scarcely believe her ears. Was her sister allowing her stay the night?
She waited patiently as Petunia surveyed the visible rooms with a critical eye before settling on a door underneath the stairs. "You'll be alright in the cupboard? Chances of Vernon checking there are really low. You can just wave your…wand and do whatever with it, right?"
Lily couldn't help but crack a grin. Petunia still didn't completely understand how magic worked despite the numerous letters she had sent from Hogwarts. Affectionately rolling her eyes, she said, "Yes, I can wave my wand and do whatever with it."
Taking her sister's hand in her own, Lily adopted a serious expression. "Thank you so much, Tuney. Thank you for helping me."
Petunia rolled her eyes and remarked, "Well, even my generosity has limitations." She waggled a finger at her sister. "First one is to never dump your future child on me, you got it?"
This time, Lily felt her grin blossom over her entire face she giggled uncontrollably. "I wouldn't dream of it, Tuney!"
"Good. That's good. Could you pass me one of the frying pans in the cupboard? It's getting a bit hard for me to bend down."
Lily obliged by leaning down to grab one of the pans. She passed it to Tuney and let her take command of the kitchen as Lily merely acted on her sister's requests.
"Well? What's the little tyke's name?" she asked while passing over a container from the fridge.
Petunia opened the container without hesitation and revealed the contents to be pieces of chicken covered in some batter. A hint of spiciness wafted over to Lily's nose. She watched as Petunia sprayed the pan with a can of oil and carefully placed the chicken on it.
"Dudley," Petunia answered softly as they watched the chicken sizzle in pan.
Lily's eyes widened in recognition. "You're naming him after grandmum's family?"
Their grandmother was the last of the Dudleys, an aristocratic family from the sixteenth century. When she was still alive, she had always mentioned that one of their relatives almost married Queen Elizabeth I. It was one of the many reasons why the Evans sisters bought many dresses and ballgowns when they were still young.
"She's one of my favourite people. I did promise her that I'd do it someday," Petunia said in a defensive tone. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, then scowled when she caught Lily staring.
"Onions," she said gruffly.
Lily sprayed her sister with a bit of water from the tap then jokingly advised, "Just don't call him Duddykins, Tuney."
Sirius Black tried to sit as comfortably as possible in his chair as he stared into the embers of the fireplace. Ever since he was adopted by the Potters, it had always been his seat. It was an heirloom, though it had not originally belonged to the Potters.
His favourite feature of the chair was probably its colour: pearly white without a smudge of a dark shade to it. He didn't miss the irony—with him being a Black and all. Honestly, he'd be a dint if he did, and James quite obviously didn't—the puns and jokes he'd been subjected to over the years!
Not, of course, that he cared.
He always felt like a King whenever he sat on it.
It was a fine piece of furniture that would never have been found in his old house, and he'd go through Azkaban-and-back just to bring it wherever he went (he did try, but that's another cauldron).
As he fidgeted and changed his position for the nth time that night, Sirius felt frustrated as even his trusty chair couldn't keep him from becoming sick while he listened to the Wizarding Wireless Network:
"This government believes that the House of Potter has committed treason to its people. There will be a session tomorrow at 10 to conduct investigations and deduce plausible consequences of this despicable act"
Feeling his anger rise, Sirius gritted his teeth as he spoke, "I hate Tom bloody Gaunt."
Hearing a noise of agreement from James, Sirius turned to look expectantly at him. James' troubled expression become temporarily guarded as he rubbed his face with his hands. Turning to look at their father for guidance he asked, "Isn't this a bit too much?"
"In all honesty, yes," Charlus admitted, "But we're the only house capable to lead the alliance against his own."
"The talk is that he's planning to run as Minister soon. He's only eliminating his future obstacles," Dorea surmised. "Unfortunately, that's us."
"You handed him a bullet on a silver platter, son," Charlus added sombrely .
Sirius knew it was inappropriate with the whole dire situation and all, but he couldn't help himself from snorting and adding a comment, "More like you shot yourself in the foot. Ow!" he yelped as he felt a sharp pressure on his neck. Rubbing the sore area, he complained, "What did I do?"
"Not helping, Pads," James countered with his wand still in the air.
"Be thankful I love Lily," he muttered to himself. He was tasked with fetching her tomorrow after all. Maybe he can tell her that James hexed Padfoot instead.
"Urgent News: House of Black regrets to inform the Wizarding community that Lady Walburga Black has perished. We send our deepest condolences to the House of Black for their loss. Urgent News: House of Black–"
Momentarily forgetting his painful neck, Sirius gaped at the wireless radio in front of him as he tried to comprehend what he had heard. Walburga? Mo...mother? Mother was dead? Sirius wanted to laugh and cry and laugh at the same time, but he couldn't find it in himself to do so.
He should be happy that the old, wicked witch was dead, right? She certainly was no mother of his.
Why wasn't he happy?
He absentmindedly raised his head to look at the person who called his name. It was Dorea, James' mother—no—their mother who had tried to get his attention. She was looking at him with worry meant only for him. It was the worry of a mother.
He felt his chest constrict in tension as a truck of realization hit him.
His mother had never bothered to look at him like this.
Sirius turned to look at James this time and found a similar expression in his face. He turned to look a little expectantly at Charlus' this time, and sighed in relief when he found the same expression.
Right, these people were his family. Not that woman. But why did it still feel…wrong?
Feeling overwhelmed with their gazes, he tried to meet their eyes as he reassured them, "I'm fine. I'm fine. Just a bit shocked is all."
Before James could even utter his response, there was a huge cracking noise beside Sirius. He spun around in shock, wand drawn, and found Kreacher standing there with Carleigh on his back. The two house-elves fought with each other—the Potter house-elf pulling on Kreacher's ears, the Black house-elf trying to simultaneously wrangle himself free from Carleigh's clutches and claw out the other's eyes. Sirius repressed the urge to egg Carleigh on.
"Carleigh?" James called out while Sirius reached down to untangle the two house-elves from each other. He cast a hasty shield charm to keep the house-elves away from assaulting each other. "What's going on?"
The Potter house-elf immediately collapsed onto her knees as she looked tearfully at James. "I'm sorry, masters! This insolent rascal entered the Manor without my permission! Carleigh is terribly sorry!"
Sirius had to bite back his grin at the description. The house-elf definitely got it from Dorea.
"It's okay, Carleigh," James consoled the teary-eyed house-elf with uncertainty. He pulled the old elf to her feet. Turning expectantly at the other house-elf, he asked, "I'm sure it was something important, right?"
Kreacher inclined his head solemnly at the Potters with grudging respect and turned to look at Sirius, contempt in his eyes. "Master Orion requests for your presence."
Sirius nodded knowingly. He had figured that his father would try to contact him in his newly widowed state. "Is it true then?"
"Yes, Master Sirius. Mistress is passing on. Mistress is dead."
Sirius found himself staring at the sleeping portrait of his mother. He stood in front of it, puzzling at the absence of remorse and happiness, as he thought of how it was typical of his father to hang his wife's portrait as soon as she died.
He found himself studying his mother's face, finding no blemishes nor signs of aged skin in the painting. She had bribed the painter to make it look as 'realistic' as possible to fully showcase her beauty—she had meant for the painter to make her young and beautiful—and she had succeeded.
However, Sirius knew that when his mother opened her eyes, he'd find what she was trying to hide all along.
Her lack of sanity. A shared trait of the Black family.
"The wicked witch is truly dead then," he mumbled numbly to himself.
"Is that a hint of sadness I detect, my dearest son?"
Sirius forced himself to blank his face of any emotion, and glared at the figure across the drawing room. It was Orion, his despised father, leaning on a wall with a glass of liquor in his hand. He looked suspiciously fine considering the fact that he had just become a widowed man.
"I am terribly sad for I was not the one who ended her," he finally responded.
Orion only smirked before beckoning him to enter his study. "Don't be impolite, my son. We're the only ones left in this house. Shouldn't we consider ourselves a…family?" he asked with a faux smile as he offered him a drink.
Sirius took a sniff off it before taking a sip of his own. It wasn't proper to turn down alcohol, after all. "So? How did it happen? Did you kill her?"
"Alas, she did it on her own," Orion said with a wave of his hand. "It was a messy one."
"Pardon?" A messy one?
Orion flicked his wand to summon a letter inside one of his drawers. He took a peek at it before flicking his wand again to hand it to Sirius. "She was being nosy...and thus found this. It seemed her Gift ended her life." Orion barked a laugh before sipping on his drink.
Sirius stopped himself from looking at the letter. He wouldn't give into his father's game. "You seem to find this awfully funny."
"It is, when you think about it." Orion tipped his glass in Sirius' direction. "She created a life for the Gift, yet her offspring didn't inherent hers—ours, but her despised mother's instead. Fascinating, isn't it?"
It was one of the reasons why his mother officially kicked him out of the house at age fifteen. Orion and Walburga married to become the Blackest of the Blacks. It had been the joke of the Wizarding community when Sirius inherited House of Crabbe's Gift instead—Human Pheromone.
Sirius wanted to puke. "You're mad."
"And I'm a Black. Open the letter, Singer."
Sirius gritted his teeth to stop himself from snarling. The Singer was a derogatory term for those with the Gift like him. Perhaps only for him, since the Crabbes hadn't produced another Gifted since Irma Crabbe. He glared at the piece of parchment before opening it.
I thank you for your hospitality, but I shall have to part ways with this House. I have come to this conclusion and I stand by my newfound beliefs. It is my intention to commit miscegenation with Muggles to cleanse this House's filthy blood. I hope my brother will do the same. Please do not try to find me.
As soon as the words had fully processed in his mind, Sirius dropped the letter as if it were the Snake of Slytherin. He looked at it in terror and pointed his wand at Orion. "You...you...when was this given?"
He couldn't believe it. His brother...little Regulus had ran-off because he couldn't stomach this House's disgusting beliefs anymore. Pushing away the proud feelings inside him, he focused on his anger towards his father. "Answer me!"
"I'm getting old, my son," Orion said in an amused tone. "Perhaps a couple of years ago?"
With a flick of his wand, Orion's glass smashed into one of the bookshelves. "You said he was sent to Durmstrang and had to redo a couple of years!" He flicked his wand again, this time with excessive force as it flew out of his grasp. No matter—it served his intention. Orion's beloved desk was thrown against the wall.
A wave of nausea hit him like a knight bus. His little brother, little Reggie, had strayed from their family and he wasn't even there to guide him. He wasn't there for his little brother. Another realisation came to him and he struggled to stand straight. "It wasn't...It wasn't true that he was killed in a tournament then? How was he killed? Is he even dead?"
"Muggles rounded him up in some village. He refused to use Magic."
Sirius found that he couldn't find it in himself to believe his father anymore. Not after all the fibs he had been fed with since he were a baby. "You lie," he called him out, "these are all lies."
He couldn't even muster the energy to glare when Orion had the audacity to smirk at him. "It is up to you whether or not you are to believe me."
"Why are you telling me all this? Why now?" Sirius demanded.
"Ah, my son, so tactless," Orion said morosely. "I know you're more like me than what you let on. Why must you hide it?"
"I didn't come here to play your games, Orion," Sirius retorted.
"Is that true? What a shame," Orion patronized as he conjured another glass and poured himself some whiskey. "Potter's case is talk of the town, I dare-say. It has gotten me interested."
"I didn't come here to frolic with you either" Sirius said, making sure that his statement had enough bite.
Orion tipped his whiskey again in his direction before speaking, "I do have a proposal. It concerns a certain mudblood."
"No," Sirius answered without hesitation. He had promised to James that he would help Lily in any way he could, and was not about make a deal with the devil on her behalf.
"Ah-ah, Sirius, one of my lessons," Orion said, wagging a finger at him. "Never turn down a proposal until you know what it is."
"Do I look like I still care about your goddamn lessons?" Sirius asked in disbelief before pivoting around to leave the room. "I'm leaving. Have fun in hell."
"The House of Black offers the Mud...Muggle-born sanctuary by being daughter to the House of Black."
Orion's statement made him stop in his tracks. He pondered the advantages of being adopted through blood and magic. It would indeed be a great help for Lily's case—this would classify her as a pure-blood in the eyes of magic and law. However, if Lily were to be put under the House banner, she would be put under Orion's lordship as well.
Finding himself staring at the House of Black's tapestry, his eyes bore holes into the burned portraits sitting side-by-side. If he concentrated enough, maybe he'd be able to see his brother's portrait. "What are you asking of me?"
"What is it you can offer me?"
Acceptance of the Lordship. Sirius didn't dare say it out loud. Besides, there were too many holes if that was the agreement. "What else?"
Sirius could hear the mirth in Orion's voice. "You are not to interfere with my politics. You are to accept the Lordship when I ask you to."
He turned to face Orion again. "You won't ask me not to kill you?"
Orion laughed merrily before tipping his glass in Sirius' direction. "Silly boy, I know you won't be able to do it."
Sirius hated how his father was right.