Fandom/Pairing: Harry Potter / RLSB
Rating: PG13 for talk about sex, some language
Beta: harriet_black is a total angel!
Summary: An off-stage kiss and two lectures. Follows 'Seduction', but can be read independently. Reading them back-to-back makes me laugh, though.
A/N: This is another backstory for The Maddest House. It doesn’t have much in the way of plot, just lots of talking and some painting. Don’t know why I keep posting these, really: the fingers just have to type….
It was not how Sirius would have had it happen. His parents were often angry, and he was often bruised, but never in the essential core of who he was. But this, the air thick with parental disappointment and disapproval, so heavy that he had trouble breathing—he'd sunk as low as he could go.
There was a tool bench with a shelf of paints and potions and dirty buckets at the foot of the stairs, and a heavy steel door to the right, in the shadows. He went through, knowing but not knowing what he would find.
It smelled like old blood, even though he saw nothing but shabby cleanliness when he held the lamp aloft. The walls were bare and white, with damp spots. The cage was rusted iron. The smell might have been the smell of the cage.
But it still smelled like blood, and he couldn’t bring himself to touch it.
He did what he usually did in his parents’ cellar, sat in the farthest corner, arms around knees and back to the wall. He nursed the light and tried to block out the words that came down through the floorboards of the kitchen and resonated.
"—how could you, in this house—"
"—after what you did last summer, reeking of alcohol and sex—"
"—only fifteen, my God—"
Remus’ voice was too low to hear, but Sirius could picture him. Arms crossed, chin down, one of his precious fags cupped in one hand. He heard the footfalls move from the front room (oh gods, why did he choose the front room of all places?) to the kitchen, right over his head.
"—his father could get yours fired in a minute—"
"—have you sent down from school—"
"—no, you didn’t think, did you—"
"and put that blessed thing out."
"It was one kiss, damn it." Remus wouldn't shout, didn't shout, but he was speaking loudly, and Sirius could hear every word now. “That's all. I'm aware of what you think. I wouldn't do anything more in your house.”
His mother, always so calm and sensible. “We want you to be safe.”
“Safe from friends? From lovers? What’s the point in staying alive if I can—never—touch anyone?”
“You know that’s not—“
“Use your head–you don’t need to corrupt the son and heir of a leading family—“
“It’s not corruption.”
“Well, what is it? Love?… I didn’t think so.”
“You can wait until you’re an adult….”
“It’s illegal, we’ve been over this and over it—“
“It’s not fair.“ He’s not crying, is he? Sirius thought. He wanted to sink into the ground; the cellar was not low enough.
“He knows what you are, Remus love, and he could use that against you. If you fought. If you… scared him.”
“He kissed me.” Oh gods, Remus was crying, hiccupping horribly through the words. “He kissed me because I’m me, not because he wanted to get laid, and d’you know, that has never happened before? Did you know that?”
“You sell yourself too cheaply, Remus.”
“It’s what I’m asked to do.”
There was a silence and a rattling noise; perhaps, Sirius thought, the crisis had blown over and the tea phase was beginning.
“Does he know—about next year?”
Chairs scraped loudly overhead. “When I decide, if I decide, then I’ll tell him.”
“But you’re not going to stay?”
“Mum—you’re not going to get any grandbabies out of me, anyway.”
“You can’t know that at fifteen. Things change, you meet the right person.”
“You want me to trade my magic, and all my friends, on the off-chance that someday I might fancy a girl, and someday I might want children.”
“You know enough magic. You’ll sit your fifth-year exams. That’s good enough.”
“Most parents don’t pressure their children into dropping out of school.”
“Go to school. There are plenty of good schools there.”
“I don’t want to.”
“My great-grandparents didn’t fight their way out of slavery to have you line up to be branded and castrated. Like an animal.”
“Mum. Jesus. Can we go back to fighting about sex?”
“I want you to go back to being my little boy.” There was a rattling of crockery set on the table. “I don’t know who you are anymore.”
“I wish you wanted to find out.”
There was silence after that, a tea-drinking kind of silence.
“Where’s he gone, then? Sirius?”
“Upstairs. Out. Anywhere but here. I’ll find him.”
“No. It’s late. He’ll come back if he’s coming back. You go on up to bed.” Chairs moved.
“I’ll make up the bed in the guest room.”
“You don’t trust me.”
“Do we have reason to?”
Sirius couldn’t hear the answer to that, but he did hear footsteps moving out from the kitchen. He let out a long breath he hadn’t known he was holding and rocked, letting his head hit the wall behind him.
There were distant door-noises and water ran through pipes. When the house had stilled itself, Sirius pushed himself up slowly. He made it to the bottom of the stairs, lantern in hand, before he allowed himself to wonder where he was going. He supposed he could go to the Potters’ for the last week of Easter break. James would ask questions, would assume some kind of fight between Remus and Sirius. Peter’s house was closer—he might even be able to walk there in a day. Remus said he had gone once or twice by bicycle. He could steal Remus’ bicycle….
He sat on the bottom step and stared up at the everyday household clobber before him. A huff of air came from his mouth at the same time as the idea hit him. “We’ll go out with a bang, won’t we, then?” he said to the darkness, and stood up resolutely.
Someone was coming downstairs. The concrete floor was really quite cold, and Sirius had curled up in a ball, trying to get warm, unable to sleep. He’d wanted so badly to change, to be Padfoot, but the thought of betraying that secret as well was too much.
He sat up. He’d refilled the lantern; it still gave off a cheerful yellow glow. Anyone coming down the stairs would see.
The horrible steel door opened further.
“Good morning, Sirius.”
He jumped to his feet and nearly fell over. “Mrs Lupin. Good morning.” He glanced at her, nervously. “Is it?”
She was looking at the walls with something like wonder. There hadn’t been enough paint to finish everything he’d meant to draw, but he had covered every surface he could.
He thought the effect was rather psychedelic, like being inside one of Remus’ record album covers. He’d used up all the yellow and red paint (and most of the pink), and there was not much left of the blue or green. He had used two cans of black; one of them had been new, and he had thought twice about opening it, but he needed black for outlines, and great shaggy dogs.
Mrs Lupin took the lantern off the hook and walked slowly around the room. “This is your school, yes? The children on broomsticks.”
“The Quidditch team. James Potter's the one falling off.”
“And that’s James as well.”
“And Peter, and Remus.”
“And you. In the scarf. Why are you standing on the table?”
“Ah. We, ah, flooded the room. With treacle. Third year. It was supposed to be lizards, but I sneezed.” Remus’ mother raised her eyebrows; a most dubious expression. “Remus thought it was funny.”
“I see that. He’s laughing.” She reached out one finger, as if to touch her son’s joy.
“Oh—it’s still tacky. The paint. Wet.”
Mrs Lupin’s hand dropped, and she moved to the next picture. “You make me look so very young.”
Sirius waved his hand vaguely. “I wanted—I wanted him to see the people he loves. In this room. Not to be alone.”
“He loves rats?” Sirius had drawn ‘Tail hanging from a very prong-y bit of Prongs.
“A friend’s pet.” Sirius shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets; then recalled that this was rude, and took them out, wiping them nervously on (bugger!) Remus’ trousers.
“Remus did not tell me that you were an artist.”
“Ma’am. Mrs Lupin.” Sirius forced his chin up to look her in the eye. “It’s hard to know what to say when you’re damned for telling both the truth and lies.”
She patted her pocket in a terribly familiar gesture and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. “Do you smoke?”
He took one, not because he liked it, but because Remus had taught him at least how not to embarrass himself. He took Mrs Lupin’s gold lighter and lit her fag for her, then his own. She took a long drag, held it, and then let the smoke out gently. She pushed open the cage door and sat on the sill with such practiced ease that Sirius wondered if this was her morning ritual, sneaking cigarettes in the cellar.
“You heard us last night? You were here, hiding from all that—“ she waved her hand in the smoke, indicating the kitchen above. “Frightening, yes?”
Sirius shrugged. At least his hands weren’t at loose ends anymore.
“First you have to know that we love Remus very, very much. Do you understand that?”
He looked at her, and then nodded at the picture of Remus’ parents dancing in a swirl of colours, his mother laughing and his father with his pale features in his habitual expression of pleased surprise.
“And we don’t dislike you. I think you’re a good boy. Do you understand that?”
Sirius wondered how it was that he had been reduced to communication through spastic twitches of his shoulders and head.
“Well then. Have your parents talked to you about sex yet, Sirius?”
“Please don’t, Mrs Lupin.”
She laughed a deep throaty laugh of real amusement. “Oh, if we are talking about sex, call me Ana. You do these things, and still you blush. If it is nothing you can do and tell me to my face, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Sirius.”
Sirius was definitely bound for deeper underground. He looked up, his face on fire. “I kissed Remus. He didn’t kiss me. But that’s all, I swear to you.”
“We said some things, last night, which you were not meant to hear. Two things.” She sighed, and her hands moved in the shapeless form of pulling understanding from the air. “Last summer Remus discovered sex has the power to make people like him; do you understand what I am saying? That if he spreads his legs he can buy what feels like love for a short while. A day, perhaps, or an hour. As a mother, of course, I must feel appalled. And I think, we must have done something wrong, that he cannot see that he is worth more. So I tell you this. If you think he is trying to buy your affection, or if you want to buy his, do us all a favour and stay the hell away.” She took a last long drag on the cigarette and then stubbed it out on an iron bar.
Sirius opened his mouth, having no idea what to say, but she waved him quiet. “The second secret you have stumbled upon is that his father and I want him out of Hogwarts and out of the wizarding world, and preferably the country, before his seventeenth birthday. When, if you didn’t know, he will report to the Werewolf Registry and be marked with a number, and he will leave unable to father children. There are places where this is not so.” She gestured again, her hands describing frustration. “Brazil, for one. He could go there. Live without magic. Have children.”
“But Remus is gay,” Sirius said, feeling rather stupid. The words had a magic of their own to him; he felt as if by speaking something until now unspoken that he has called something into existence, summoned a demon. And if Remus is gay, what am I? Do I want to know?
“He is fifteen. Good Lord, I was a total fool at fifteen. I wanted to be a nun, and then I wanted to be a doctor. I was going to go to Paris, you know, for dancing, and, oh, I was picking out husbands right and left.”
“But not wives.” She looked at him, and he squirmed. Yes, Remus, he heard himself saying brightly, while I was sneaking smokes in the basement with your mother, I asked her if she fantasized about women. His life was not worth living.
“I went to a girls’ school. Most girls, but not me, no, had their first kisses with other girls. It was safe practice. What Remus is doing, it is not safe.”
“But it’s his decision.” Sirius dropped down on the floor, needing not to tower over Remus’ mother. “If he has sex, if he goes to the Registry, or if he graduates from school. You can give him advice, but you can’t make him do anything. You never really could.” He rubbed out the cigarette on the floor, watching the sparks. “Look at my parents. If Remus were their son they’d just keep him in that cage.”
“You can’t cage your children, Sirius, I know that.”
“You can. I spent most of my summer break locked in my parents’ cellar,” Sirius said, something he’s told no one, the fount of his nightmares. “Tell me why that’s not illegal and being with Remus is.”
Mrs Lupin got up and sat down beside him, putting one arm around his shoulders to hug him. Sirius stiffened.
“Poor little boy,” she said, her hand moving in small reassuring circles on his shoulder.
Sirius snorted. “No one ever says poor Sirius Black. It’s just not done.”
“All the more reason.”
“When I’m seventeen,” Sirius said, “I’m leaving my parents’ house, and I’m never going back. I’ll sleep in the streets before setting foot there again. I hate them. Den of vipers.”
“Do you love Remus?”
Sirius’ ears went red, and he ducked his head. Somehow it ended up on Mrs Lupin’s shoulder, with her hand stroking his hair. “He’s one of my best friends. It doesn’t matter, right, if he’s—“Sirius waved at the cage—“because we look out for him anyway. He’s a mystery and a puzzle and I like him. A lot.”
She sighed. “You might’ve just said yes.”
“I’m a Black.” She looked down at him in question. He spread his hand helplessly. “I don’t know what love is. Besides,” he added, “I’m fifteen. You wouldn’t believe me if I said I did anyway.”
“I want him to be happy.”
“So do I.”
Mrs Lupin stood in one graceful move, and Sirius stumbled to his feet beside her.
“We’ll go upstairs, and I’ll make you a cup of hot milk. Then you go and lie down for a while.”
“Shall I pack?”
Mrs Lupin looked at him, her face expressionless. “Oh, we have lived with Remus bitten and turned into a monster and Remus drunk and debauched, I think we might be able to learn to live with Remus kissed. By a good friend, who likes him a lot. Learning to live with it…That’s what it means to have children. And to love.”
And she led the way up out of the cellar into the lustral light of dawn.
And now I know, yes I know
I know love’s what you do
No, it’s not just a word
And to love and be loved
Is to hear and be heard
It’s perched on my heart
It’s splendid and bold
It’s the wings of home
It’s the wings of my soul
And now I know
I can love, I can love, I can love and be loved
To Love and Be Loved by David Brown