Act Two - A Black Comedy
Tales of Summer
The Tale of Sirius
In the endless gloom and despair of the deepest reaches of Azkaban, time languished on unto eternity. Nothing changed. No sun nor moon marked the passing of day. There was only ever the nauseating light that filtered in from elsewhere in the prison and the silence.
The silence was the worst part. At first, it came as a comfort. No one could be heard suffering. No one would disturb the peace.
But then the aurors left, and their patronuses went with them. Weeks later when the dementors had done their work, it became all too obvious why the silence forever lingered. The dementors tore away everything but the desire to make it all stop whatever the cost. The deeper and closer to the horrors and nightmares at the base of Azkaban, the worse it became.
After years that had all merged together into one endless night with only the rare visiting historian breaking the monotony, Sirius Black found it difficult to readjust to a proper schedule. The almost comfortable atmosphere and patronus presence that came with the holding cells on Azkaban’s highest level often left him a sobbing mess. There only the slightest chill and mental touch of the dementors could be felt. Stranger still, someone usually wanted to talk. He could barely remember the last time he’d had an idle conversation.
Yes, since Harry Potter had stormed back into his life, everything had changed. Now he had daily visits from healers trying to put him back together. His meals were edible and sometimes even luxurious. Harry visited once a week in the company of his obvious future wife or her parents. Amy even stopped by on occasion to update him on how his case was going despite how often Sirius would say something that made her slap him.
This was unexpected surprise, however.
“What brings you here today, Emma?” Sirius asked. He resisted the urge to preen when he noticed he’d not yet stuttered or twitched.
Emma put down her tea. The guards had been gracious enough to provide it for both her and Sirius along with biscuits. Honestly, he thought they were just trying to assuage their guilty feelings over dumping him in Azkaban to rot and be forgotten, but he would not look a gift aethonan in the mouth.
“In part,” Emma said, “I needed something to do while I wait for the kids to finish their business in Diagon Alley.”
While he was well aware responsibility had never been his strong suit, parental or otherwise, Sirius asked, “Are you sure you should be leaving them alone? From what I’ve heard, there are still plenty of people out there who would want to hurt Harry, nevermind your own daughter.”
Emma sighed. “Let’s be honest, Sirius. What good would I do if I were there?”
Although he would rather not, Sirius admitted that Emma had a point. Even if she possessed a gun, against an adult witch or wizard, most shielding spells would block anything from a bullet to a rocket and probably even artillery, too.
“Besides,” Emma continued, “Hermione’s appearance is…well, only recently becoming known. But those two changed Harry’s hair colour, I put some makeup over his scar, we bought him contacts, and they’re in unassuming robes. I doubt anyone will recognise either of them.”
“Oh. Harry does know he can have his eyesight fixed once he’s done growing, right? Or multiple times if he really hates his glasses.”
“He’s considered it and decided to wait. He said he’s fine with glasses for now, but–” Emma chuckled. “–if there’s anything that boy loathes entirely, it’s contacts. I swear, his hands should be constantly red whenever he wears them. Hermione smacks them away every time he goes to rub his eyes.”
Sirius chuckled. That sounded so much like something Lily would do to James. Probably. He was still trying to piece together the good times from the twisted nightmares the dementors had turned his memories into.
“So what are those two up to? Something mischievous, I hope.”
Emma raised her eyebrows in question.
“I am the silly, nonsensical, secretly not irresponsible adult. Are we going to have a problem?”
A snicker escaped Sirius. “No, Ma’am. I’m not responsible at all.”
“Good.” Her territory defended, Emma sipped from her tea. She then said, “Hermione and Harry bought a small piece of land over near… Well, I doubt you’ve heard of the place. Regardless, there are a number of wards hiding a sizable plot of land, so they bought the surrounding area from the mundane government for pennies.”
Sirius slapped his leg as he laughed, coughing up a few crumbs of a biscuit in the process. “Brilliant! James would have been so proud.”
“Hmm. Yes, well, right now they’re negotiating with a curse breaking company to clear out the old wards. They checked that no one owns the land inside the wards, so whatever is in there is all theirs.”
Sceptical, Sirius asked, “You’re letting them negotiate a business contract alone?”
Emma shrugged as she nursed her tea. “Dan and I like to let Hermione spread her wings. Nothing final will be decided today, so he and I will be there to catch them if they fall another day. Those two are at the age when they need guidance and support, not orders and lectures.”
A silence fell as Sirius nibbled on another biscuit and thought that over. He found it easy to agree that Hermione seemed like a very responsible young witch despite how shortly he had known her. Harry, he was a bit more worried about, but then he might be biased. At Harry’s age, no one would have called James mature. Maybe there was more Lily in him than Sirius thought.
“You’re a good parent,” Sirius eventually concluded, a bit of his own disappointment and bitterness creeping into his voice. This was the price he paid for his failings; he’d missed his chance with Harry. He sighed to himself. There was nothing for it but to accept his mistakes and attempt to make up for them.
“I try,” Emma said with what Sirius suspected was supposed to be an encouraging smile. “It’s not easy. It’s a fine line between helpful friend and supportive guardian, and it’s not always obvious when you’ve crossed it. I’m still working on exactly how to tell Hermione that she should just go and kiss the boy who obviously thinks the sun rises and sets with her.”
That brought a smile back onto Sirius’s face. “You’re rooting for them, too?”
“Considering that half of Hermione’s letters home are about Harry and that I’ve seen her laughing more and smiling wider this summer than over the entire rest of her life, it’s hard not to. Besides, Harry is delightful to be around.”
“I’d imagine your husband isn’t too happy about that.”
Emma rolled her eyes. “He thinks I’m pushing them into something they might not want or, failing that, then too quickly. But the idea itself he doesn’t have a problem with. I didn’t marry the kind of man who would happily shag his girlfriend and then turn right around and deny his daughter the same opportunity to make mistakes and find love. The things he and I got up to when we were young…”
A glazed look came over Emma as she got lost in her thoughts. “Dan and I studied abroad, you know. We were in the States when–”
“Whoa! Stop! I don’t need to know.” Sirius could guess well enough.
Emma blinked. “Ah… Sorry. Anyway, how are things going with your legal troubles? Harry and Hermione aren’t very involved in the process, so we’re not terribly well informed.”
Shrugging, Sirius said, “I’m hopeful I’ll get out of here someday. Amy keeps trying to force a trial through, but it keeps getting delayed. Politics and all that. The details elude me as well. I’m safe from assassination, though, so there’s that.”
“Is… Is that a legitimate concern?”
Emma clearly had no idea what to say to that and changed the topic. “Well, how are you personally? How is your recovery going?”
“Alright, I suppose. If nothing else, being a high profile case also makes me a high priority case. Most of my time is spent with mind healers trying to fix the damage. That and just talking to people to get used to it again. Heh. They have me on so many potions and under so many spells that I might as well be smoking opium all day.”
“Oh? You should try morphine. It’d have been such sweet bliss but for having to push Hermione out right after.”
Sirius smacked a hand to his forehead. “Seriously, woman! I didn’t need to hear that.” This, apparently, only amused Emma. “Please, let’s talk about something else. What else is my godson getting up to with your daughter?”
“Men are such babies,” Emma said, but she obliged his request. “For the most part, they’re studying and having fun with magic.”
Sirius was reasonably sure there were laws against underage magic, but he said nothing. There were completely legal explanations for the comment, he was sure, and if not, then good on them.
“Hermione has decided that she wants to make a magical computer. Every morning for the past week, she’s shown up to breakfast with another tiny component of her proof of concept and a grin that wouldn’t leave her face if we cast her from the family.”
Yep, Sirius said to himself. That sounds like Lily, Dorea, and Agatha, alright. Potter men are cursed. Out of curiosity, he asked, “What’s a computer?”
“Er… Do you know what a television is?”
“Pretend the television is interactive and can perform maths for you and remember things you tell it. And control other electrical devices. That’s a very basic idea.”
“Huh.” Sounds useful, I suppose. Sirius noted Emma’s frown and asked, “What is it?”
After hesitating a moment, Emma said, “I don’t believe Hermione understands the gravity of her little project. Anyone can carve runes, magical, squib, or muggle, but they’re not convenient, and no one would accidentally stumble upon them. But if she creates a bare-bones magical processor, she’ll unleash a simple interface to magic into the world. If she develops it further, even muggle children could use it.”
“So? It just displays pictures and such, right?”
Emma shook her head and smiled at Sirius almost in the way magicals did to confused muggles. “Nevermind. Regardless, Hermione has yet to draft Harry into that particular project of hers, but it’s only a matter of time. He made the rune cluster that initially inspired her, and runes is his favourite subject.”
“Really?” That was more than a little surprising. Even Lily had detested runes despite how useful she’d claimed they were.
Emma hummed uncertainly. “I’m not positive, but I believe so. I may have been eavesdropping at the time.”
“I think we’re going to get along perfectly,” Sirius said, snickering.
Emma shrugged. “Time will tell. Anyway, there was another reason I wanted to speak with you today besides boredom. I highly doubt this has come up in any appreciable form while Harry has been around, but I need to talk to you about his guardianship.”
Rather hesitantly, Sirius said, “Yes?”
“He’s in a…difficult situation. You’re aware that his aunt and uncle are his current legal guardians, correct?”
Sirius bit out an angry, “Yes,” and nothing more.
“Forget his life before Hogwarts; it’s not something we can change. This summer he’s only been sleeping at his relatives’ house. He doesn’t even interact with them. The rest of the day he spends with some combination of Dan, Hermione, and myself. I’m sure I speak for the rest of the family when I say we hope we can make the rest of his breaks as pleasant.”
Emma sighed before she continued. “The problem is his mother performed some protection ritual. To maintain it, he’s required to spend a certain amount of time willingly around his aunt – or cousin, possibly – in her home, and she also has to be willing to let him. They’ve settled into a hopefully stable truce where they pretend the other doesn’t exist, but if someone with a legitimate claim asks to take guardianship of him from them…”
There were no words Sirius could find to respond to that, so he glowered into his own cup of tea.
“I know how you feel,” Emma said. “Dan and I hate watching him go back there, and Hermione always looks so hurt. I’m sure Harry would be happy to have you as his de facto guardian, but I just… We may be able to work something out, but please don’t make promises to him or to yourself that you won’t be able to keep.”
Sirius restrained the urge to crush his teacup in his hand, but it was a struggle. Emma was right, of course, but it was still a long while before he managed to calm himself enough to resume chatting over more pleasant affairs.