Title: The Lion's Star
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Summary: The sequel to "The Hollow's Child." Rose, still reeling from her brother's death, gets thrown into an even stranger situation. Time travel galore. In this chapter: Rose and Lily find themselves in the Grimmauld Place house when it was under Black ownership. Regulus is a snob and Sirius gets them drunk.
Note: Thank you to the reviewers so far! Keep 'em coming! I love feedback.
"Shit." It was the only word to explain how Rose felt right now.
"Am I missing something?" Sirius, a wry smiled on his face, was still standing in the doorway, staring at them. "I mean, have my parents already warned you off me completely? Ah well, guess that doesn't really matter. You won't be tutoring me, after all. You," Sirius gave a nod towards Lily, "look familiar."
"Do I?" Lily asked all the while pushing Rose further in front of her so she was blocked from view.
"Yeah," Sirius nodded. "A lot like a girl who was in my year at Hogwarts…"
"What a coincidence," Lily shrugged, and Rose could see, out of the corner of her eye, her cousin push all her red hair so that it hung down in front of her face.
"How old are you?" Sirius was focusing on Rose once more.
"Eighteen," Rose answered honestly, not realizing in the one second it took her to answer that she probably should've lied.
"And you look it too." She felt Sirius' eyes run her up and down. "Awful young to be a teacher-"
"Tutor," Rose corrected.
"Yeah, but my father hired you 'cause you're a teacher at Beauxbatons."
"Ah, oui, yes, that is true," Lily, from behind her, said. "But Rose here graduated super early. Right genius, she is."
"And you, hiding behind her, what are you, her assistant?"
"No," Lily shook her head. "No I'm her tutee. Her other tutee. I'm studying for my N.E.W.T.s."
"Just like Reg," Sirius said. "Speaking of which, that git should be down here by now. If you'll excuse me…"
And with that, Sirius stepped back into the house, and the heavy door slammed in their faces.
"Well that was rude of him," mumbled Lily.
"Lily!" Rose turned on her cousin, not sure whether to scream at the top of her lungs or whisper what would surely sound very odd to anyone eavesdropping, so her words came out like hoarse hisses through gritted teeth. "What are you doing telling him I'm the tutor?"
"I don't know," Lily shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea."
"A good idea? Really? A good idea would be- A good idea would be-"
"What? Can't think of one?"
"Just give me a minute." Rose took a deep breath. She looked down at the necklace still in her hands. This evil little necklace that had done something terrible to them. "Alright. Now. We just have to assess the situation-"
"We are in the past." Lily interrupted. "Situation: assessed."
"No, look, Rose, we're here. We should accept that as fact. And from there we can start working on ways to get back."
"And how do you propose we do that?"
"Well, I don't know, but it seems pretty fortuitous, doesn't it, that we show up and we have an excuse for being here?" Lily looked Rose straight in the eyes now. She seemed serious, and calm, though Rose didn't know how she could be either. "Clearly whoever sent you that necklace – I'm pretty sure it wasn't Scorpius now that, you know, time travel and all – anyway, whoever sent it to you wanted you to come here, didn't they? Like, exactly to this moment, 'here'. Because we turned away the real tutor and now you can take her place and we can… Well… I'm not exactly sure what we can do, but it all seems very coincidental, doesn't it? Like it was meant to happen, or something? I don't know. I'm just getting this feeling. Something tells me this is right."
Rose stared blankly at her cousin. Is that what she'd sounded like, every time she'd told Albus and Tandi that she just 'had a feeling' about Tom? Because it was very annoying, she now realized. Because whatever feeling Lily had, Rose did not share it. She could not see the point in this, could not find the logic in being here, and had no clue what she was supposed to do now. Not to mention she had no possible idea who could have sent her that necklace. And whoever had sent it had meant for her and her alone to get it, that was certain, or else she would not have had to sign for it. So… Someone had wanted her to go back in time to- She wasn't exactly sure where in time she was. Before her parents were born, she figured. That certainly seemed pretty far back to her.
"They're sure taking a long time, aren't they…" Lily was looking up at the door.
"Are you in a rush to be somewhere?" Rose asked, looking sideways at her cousin.
"Well, no, I suppose not. But still. It's very rude. This Sirius bloke." She paused. "My dad's godfather, wasn't he? Isn't he? I'm confused about what tense to use."
"You'd know who your dad's godfather is or was better than me."
"No," Lily shook her head. "He doesn't really like to talk about it much. I know your parents share more with you while my dad's all about keeping the past in the past. Which can get quite annoying."
"Well, sorry, but I'm about as clueless as you are." Rose paused, then added. "But I know he's in the picture up on Albus' wall."
"That's why he looks so familiar! Yes!"
Just then the door cracked open again.
Hermione was exhausted, and let her briefcase drop from her hands the second she stepped into her apartment. She breathed out a sigh of relief, immensely glad to be home. She'd spent the entire day arguing against some inane elitist pureblood laws that had no business still being on the books. This whole process of changing old laws was so sticky, it made her look back on her days at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures fondly, which she'd never thought she'd say.
"'Mione, that you?" Her husband Ron's voice reached her from the kitchen. Oh no, she hoped he wasn't trying his hand at cooking again.
"Yeah," Hermione walked into the kitchen and hopped up to sit on the counter, something she'd always lectured her children never to do. "Long day."
"Really?" Ron was opening a bottle of wine. Bless him. "Thought you said it'd be easy going today-"
"That's what I thought. You'd be surprised, though, how much people cling to old laws, even when they are clearly discriminatory. 'It's tradition' I keep hearing. Tradition! As if that were a proper excuse for giving near a quarter of the population fewer rights! Tradition! Oh, thank you, that's wonderful."
Hermione gratefully accepted the glass of wine her husband handed her.
"Yeah," Ron nodded as he took a sip from his own glass. "Tradition my ass."
Hermione laughed. Her husband meant well.
"And how was your day?"
"Not bad," Ron shrugged. "Some of the new stock came in, and it's selling like mad, just like George predicted. Then James took off for a long lunch without telling anyone, so I spent my afternoon reaming him out, unfortunately."
"I don't want to say anything negative," Hermione said, knowingly shifting her voice into an authoritative tone, "but James could be a really good kid if he just got it together more."
"Mm," Ron agreed through a mouth full of wine. Then his eyes lit up and he put down his glass. "Oh! So James told me something actually, something about Rose."
"Yeah?" Hermione did her best to try not to look shocked at whatever would be said next while her innards buzzed. What about Rose? That Rose was mad at her? That she was why Rose wasn't coming home? That Rose was telling people now just what her mother had done-
"Apparently," Ron interrupted her thoughts, thankfully, "Rose has been taking all her meals over at Grimmauld Place lately."
"Really?" This did not actually surprise Hermione much. Her daughter was avoiding her, she knew that already.
"Yeah," Ron nodded. "So I think maybe she's out of money, or something, that she can't afford her own food. We should put some into that, what'd'ya call it?"
"Her debit account?"
"Yeah, that's it. Just to make sure she can get by. I know she's too proud to ask for anything herself. Hasn't even brought it up the couple of times we've gone to lunch together…"
Hermione winced at this. Rose was still seeing Ron, still visiting him at work and going to lunch with him and talking with him about her life. It was just her that their daughter was avoiding. And it was no wonder, really. Ron had never done anything wrong. He'd never erased their daughter's memory or kept a very serious secret for years on end.
"…so I'd put the money in myself, but they don't take galleons, do they? It's all that weird paper stuff-"
"I'll take care of it," Hermione interrupted him. "Don't worry."
"Good," Ron smiled as he breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I was starting to worry about our little Rosie. Can't all support themselves by playing professional Quidditch, can they?"
Ron laughed and finished his glass of wine before pouring himself another. Hermione was proud of her daughter, though, the way she had chosen to attend university. A Muggle university. And the top one at that. She wished Rose would forgive her. But she knew, in the back of her very practical mind, that that wasn't likely. So instead she finished her own glass of wine, swallowing in one big gulp, and then looking over at her husband.
"So, what are we going to do for dinner? Curry take away?"
At first it looked as if the door was opening of its own volition, but then Rose looked down and saw the familiar house elf there.
"Oh, hey Kreacher," she said, without thinking. The elf looked up at her, a scowl forming on his face.
"Wow," said a voice from the other side of the door. "You're good."
Rose looked up towards the voice, blushing, realizing that, of course, in the past, she had not met Kreacher before and would not know his name. Crap.
"I know father said he hired a Divination specialist, but usually I think all that stuff's just rubbish. You might prove me wrong."
Coming into view now as the door swung open wider was another boy. And this, Rose thought, must be the infamous Regulus Black. Tall and slim with dark hair and gray eyes he should have looked just like his brother, but instead he managed to look quite the opposite. He stood up straighter, his hair, kept much shorter than his brother's, was neatly combed and parted, and his robes, of the most traditional type, looked freshly pressed. He was also, Rose noticed, perhaps a little younger. But of course he would be. He was studying for his N.E.W.T.s.
His eyes scanned over Rose in the same cool manner that his brother's had done. She didn't like it.
"You must be Regulus," Rose said, sticking out her hand, but the boy merely looked at it, as if it held some disgusting and smelly piece of fish.
"Master Regulus, if you will," the boy said in the same cold voice. "I believe strictly in the propriety of employer-employee relations."
Rose narrowed her eyes. It was very easy for her to decide that she did not like 'Master' Regulus at all.
"Well… You may come in. Though in the future it'd be preferable if you used the service entrance." Regulus took a step back from the door and motioned for Kreacher to open the door wider, enough so that she and Lily could pass into the front hall.
"Wow," Rose heard Lily breathe as they stepped inside. And it was no wonder.
Rose had always been very used to the warm atmosphere that seemed to seep throughout the house on Grimmauld Place: the golden glow, the photographs of smiling faces, the persistent smell of cookies. This was nothing like that. It was almost as if she had just stepped into a different house entirely.
The room was very dark, and despite the fact that it was still quite sunny outside and the door was still open, no light seemed to be getting in. Instead, old fashioned silver lanterns burning green flames lined the walls and offered only a dim glow which tainted everything it touched and made Rose feel as if she was existing in some sort of nightmare. The photographs were gone. Instead, old paintings of unhappy looking witches and wizards, all either scowling or snoring, some doing both, took their place. And by the door, what appeared to be a severed and hollowed out troll leg was serving as an umbrella holder.
"Kreacher, please fetch the paperwork father left behind and bring it to the drawing room."
"Yes, Master Regulus," Kreacher gave a little bow as he shut the front door. "Kreacher will do as you ask."
"Thank you, Kreacher," said Regulus while he gave what was perhaps the warmest look Rose had yet seen on his face, though it still could not be called a smile exactly. Then Regulus turned to look at her. "Through here."
He immediately began walking towards what Rose had always known as the living room without any sort of pleasantries or chitchat as he walked. Rose followed, glaring at his back, while Lily was close at her heels. When they arrived in the drawing room –thanks to the Black family crest which had remained in tact all these years, the room looked fairly similar, if a little darker than what Rose was used to – Regulus sat down in an ornately carved dark wood chair and motioned to two much lesser, stooped chairs, for Lily and Rose. After they'd taken their seats, Regulus took a deep, sharp breath.
"Well, then, I suppose you're the tutor father has chosen for me and so it will be your duty to fully prepare me for my N.E.W.T. exams-"
"You don't have to say 'exams' after N.E.W.T." Rose interrupted.
"Excuse me?" Regulus cocked a thin eyebrow.
"It's redundant. N.E.W.T. already stands for Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, so to add the word 'exams' to the end would make it Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests Exams, which would be redundant."
Rose watched as Regulus pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes.
"Well, then, you've proven your point that you're qualified. Now, if you don't mind, in this household we much prefer if servants wait to speak until they are spoken to-"
"I'm not a servant," Rose interrupted again.
"No," Rose shook her head. "I am your tutor. I am not your servant. And if you'd prefer if I wasn't your tutor, then that'd be just fine too." Next to her she heard Lily give a squeak. "Though," Rose began to add, only for Lily's sake, "you'd really be much better off having me as your tutor. I really am the absolute tops."
"I'm sure you are," Regulus said, also speaking through gritted teeth, "I know father would hire none but the best. Still, insubordination-"
"I'm not being insubordinate when I ask to be treated like a fellow human."
"You're acting very rudely-"
"Me? You're the one who's telling me when to speak and what to call you as if you're some great king and not a sixteen year old boy-"
"Seventeen," Regulus corrected. He was nearly standing now, so on edge was he, Rose noticed. "I was seventeen in March."
"Oh, well then." Rose rolled her eyes.
Just at this exact moment, Kreacher stepped into the room, carrying a roll of parchment, a quill still sitting in its inkpot floating along beside him.
"The papers," Regulus informed as Kreacher rolled the parchment out, holding it taught between his hands. "My father drew up all the necessary clauses after your last conversation with him. All that's needed is for you to sign." He flicked his hand and the inkpot slid through the air towards her. "Though, if I could ask, just before we make this official, what is your blood status?"
"My blood what?" Rose felt her face drop. This kind of behavior was appalling.
"Your blood status. What are you? Pureblood, half-blood, mud-blo-"
"She's half-blood." Lily filled in, answering for her. "And I'm pureblood. Your father wrote that down in the papers, didn't he, that Rose had another student this summer? Because I'm not about to give up studying with her, the great and wonderful Rose… Rose…" Lily fumbled, then looked down at the papers rolled out before her. According to the dotted line Rose would have to sign her name on, her name should be E. Mimieux. "Rose Mimieux."
"Short for Erosion Mimieux," Rose added hastily.
"Erosion?" Regulus lifted an eyebrow.
"My father's a geologist?" Rose filled in.
"Lovely, I'm sure," Regulus sighed, then pushed the inkpot towards her once more. "And I'm sure being a half-blood is tolerable if you're as good as you claim to be, so if you'd please just sign…"
Rose lifted the quill. Making a big show of tapping the tip, draining any extra ink, she hesitated before writing her name. Or her fake name. This was quite the commitment she was signing on to. Becoming the tutor of Regulus Black? It seemed ridiculous to her.
Kreacher coughed. His arms were probably straining to hold the parchment steady. Rose almost felt bad for him. Though not fully.
Finally, she pressed the quill down upon the parchment on the dotted line and signed her – fake – name. As soon as she lifted the quill up again, the parchment disappeared with 'poof' sound and a small cloud of dust rose, some getting into her throat and causing her to cough. Well, it was official now.
"Splendid," said Regulus in a tone that suggested it was not splendid. "And now you're my N.E.W.T.s tutor."
"Yes," Rose nodded. "I suppose I am."
"And since you are, and this is not insubordination but merely propriety talking, you should stop dressing that way. I understand you and your other pupil were trying to assimilate into Muggle London, but that outfit is wholly inappropriate for work."
Rose looked down at herself. She was wearing jeans and a fitted blue t-shirt. Not the height of fashion, certainly, but it was hardly scandalous. But then, she thought, this was the past. And when in the past, do as the past-ians do.
"Certainly," Rose nodded at him. "This get-up was only to fit in."
"I figured as much. Not even a half-blood would wear… that." With that, Regulus stood. Rose and Lily followed his lead. "So, I assume I shall see you tomorrow-"
"Alright," Rose nodded, not really knowing what that would mean for her quite yet. She would have to find a place to stay. No! She shouldn't- She should find a way to get back home is what she should be doing!
"And then tomorrow you'll move in your things."
"You agreed to live here. It's in the contract you just- Oh, you're worried about your other student, I suppose?" Regulus surveyed Lily. He focused for perhaps a second too long on Lily's exposed legs. "Well, she can stay here too. Though her board'll come out of your pay."
"Deal," Lily said.
And Rose did not have the time to argue as Regulus and Kreacher were leading her and Lily back out into the entryway, and then pushing them back onto the front stoop.
"See you tomorrow. Ten o'clock sharp!" Were Regulus' parting words as he slammed the door in their faces.
"Not a pleasant fellow, is he?" Lily asked, looking at Rose.
"Lily…" Rose took a deep breath to keep herself from hyperventilating. "What are we going to do?"
"I don't know," Lily shrugged. "Tutor him?"
"No! I mean, how are we going to get back home? How are we going to-"
"Look, Rose, as far as I can see it, we're not going home until that necklace of yours takes us there. So you may as well adjust, for now. At least we have a place to stay. Well. We will tomorrow. Tonight… I don't know… We can always get a room at the Leaky Cauldron, right?"
"Lily, you are being far too accepting of very bizarre circumstances right now-"
"I don't know about that. It just feels right, you know? Like we're meant to be here." Lily smiled at Rose. Rose frowned back at her. No, she didn't know. No, this didn't feel right. "So, off to the Leaky Cauldron?"
Before they could even leave the stoop, though, the front door was opening again.
"Oh, you two're still here?" Sirius, looking the exact opposite of his brother with his shaggy hair down in front of his eyes, bedecked in tattered, yet obviously stylish, Muggle clothing, stepped out onto the stoop.
"Yeah," Lily nodded. "Just finished our 'interview' with your wanker brother."
At this, Sirius smiled.
"What'd you say your names were again?" Sirius asked, obviously ingratiated towards them now.
"Well, this is Rose," Lily nodded at her, "and I'm Li-"
"Luna." Rose finished, spitting out Lily's middle name. "She's Liluna. But she just goes by 'Luna' for short." Lily was looking at Rose confused, but Rose knew her cousin would thank her later. "And we're actually about to head off-"
"Oh yeah?" Sirius said, skipping down the steps backwards so he could keep them in his sights. "Where to?"
"To get a room at-" Rose began.
"The Leaky Cauldron," Lily finished.
"Well, what do you know? What a coincidence! I was just headed to the Leaky Cauldron myself."
"Really?" Lily asked, smiling. Rose did not feel so happy herself.
"Yeah, to meet up with my best mates. I wonder if…" Sirius pursed his mouth as if he were just thinking now, though Rose was sure, as soon as she saw that look, that Sirius had been considering this possibility for some time. "I wonder if you'd like to come with me. Have some fun tonight. Before you begin your sentence at the Black household."
"Sounds great!" Lily said brightly, and skipped down the steps so that she was standing with Sirius on the sidewalk. "Rose? Doesn't that sound great?"
"I don't know…"
"But doesn't it sound like just the best coincidence that Sirius was going to meet his friends just now at the same place we were headed to?" Lily's look was pointed. "Like a meant to be kind of thing?"
"I'm not sure about that-"
"Come on!" Sirius said cheerfully. "One night of fun won't kill you, surely."
Rose looked from Sirius, with his scheming smile, to Lily, who was almost jumping out her skin silently begging Rose to go along with this.
"Fine," Rose said, finally coming down off the steps and onto the sidewalk. "Fine."
"Great!" Sirius whooped. "We can take my bike!" He paused as Rose frowned again. "I think it can fit three people."
The ride had been hell. Really. If Rose believed in hell, which she didn't, and if she imagined it, which she never had before, it would be that ride on the back of Sirius Black's motorbike. Lily, of course, had been excited by the whole thing, and had been shrieking with excitement the entire way from Grimmauld Place to the Leaky Cauldron. Rose had been clinging on for dear life.
When they'd finally arrived at the familiar storefront, Rose had never been so happy to see a place in her life. Giddy from being able to stand, on two feet, in one place, once more, she'd merely laughed as Sirius led them into the pub and told them that they were the first to arrive.
"You two can scope out a table, I'll get drinks. You like firewhiskey?"
"Yeah!" Lily exclaimed before Rose could come to her senses. So Sirius headed off to order while Lily and Rose fought their way through a crowd – she'd never seen the Leaky Cauldron this busy – to a tipsy wooden table in a dark corner.
"Liluna?" Lily asked simply once they were seated.
"Well we couldn't say your name was 'Lily,' could we?" Rose looked at her cousin's blank expression. "He already said you look familiar! And chances are you look familiar because you look like your namesake! And it'd be just too odd if there were two similar looking Lilys around, wouldn't it?"
"Huh…" Lily said, shrugging. "I hadn't thought of it like that. Do you think I'll get to meet her?"
"I hope not." Then she saw Lily's dour expression and decided to explain herself. "I mean, I hope we're back home soon."
Just then, Sirius walked over to them, four rather large glasses of amber liquid in his hands.
"Bottoms up!" He said as he slammed the glasses down on the table. Then he picked up one glass and tilted it into his mouth. Just as Rose had been about to ask who the fourth glass was for, Sirius finished his drink, pushed it to the side, and claimed one of the fresh ones. Well, that was good planning on his part. "My friends should be here soon. You'll like them. I can tell. You mentioned James Potter before, didn't you? Well he'll be along soon." Sirius took a sip from his new glass. "How do you know of James Potter?"
"I-" Lily jumped in. "I've heard of him before. Told Rose. I think he's a distant cousin of mine, maybe?"
"What's your last name?" Sirius asked, inquisitorially.
"Weasley-Granger?" Lily phrased it as a question. Rose practically snorted up the first sip of her drink. Lily was going to steal her name?
"Well," Sirius began after another gulp. "I don't know any Grangers, but I know of a couple of Weasleys… Seem like a good lot… I bet they're probably related to the Potters. All the pureblood families are crossed somehow, aren't they? Ah!" He turned his head towards the door. "Here they come now!"
Sirius began waving his arm in a big showy fashion at the three boys standing in the doorway. Rose could tell immediately which one of them was James Potter. He looked nearly exactly like Albus, and like her Uncle Harry, with his dark messy hair and glasses. The other two boys she couldn't identify right away. They both looked familiar. She figured she had seen them before. In the photograph hanging on Albus' wall. Yes. Here they were, incarnate. It was very odd.
They approached, not realizing, of course, how odd their presence was.
"Rose, Liluna, this is James, and Remus, and Peter." Sirius did not bother pointing out which of his friends was which, leaving Rose to wonder, beyond James, who was who. "They're all absolute sods."
"Now that's not true," James hit Sirius soundly on the back. In this dimly lit room he looked so much like Albus it was very odd having to remind herself that this was not her cousin. "Everyone knows you're the real-"
"Now now, no harsh words." Sirius cut him off. "There are ladies present."
"Ah, of course." And James turned, seamlessly, so that he was facing Rose and Lily. "Nice to meet you-"
"Rose," Rose filled in for him, as she stretched out her hand.
"And it's just Luna, for short," Lily said, echoing Rose's motions.
"Luna… You know, you look just like-"
"Eh, none of that tonight, Prongs, we're all single and having a good time tonight." Sirius took another deep swallow of his drink and this time finished it off. "Now, who wants to accompany me to the bar to buy a round?"
James and the shorter of the two other boys agreed to go with Sirius, and soon the three of them disappeared. Meanwhile, the remaining boy sat down at the table with them.
"Sorry if my friend's been rude to you at all," the boy said in a very gentle voice, almost too soft to be heard over the bustling crowds. He rested his elbows on the table, and almost as soon as they did, the table wobbled. "Oh, tipsy table, is it?"
"It's all we could find," Rose said to explain herself.
"Well, it's not that bad," the boy shrugged. "Looking at the crowds, I suppose if Sirius hadn't found pretty girls to claim us a table we'd've been left standing." Then the boy blushed. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be rude-"
"Since when is it rude to call us pretty?" Lily interrupted him.
"I- I just don't want to overstep my bounds." The boy looked down at the table. He was blushing. "I'm Remus, by the way, in case you couldn't tell. Sirius doesn't have knack for introductions."
"Lovely to meet you, Remus," Rose said. It had clicked in her brain just this moment that this was the father of Teddy, the husband of her cousin Victoire.
"So, uh… How'd you meet Sirius?"
"Rose's tutoring his brother," Lily said.
"Really?" Remus looked over at Rose. "He's kind of a prat, you know."
"I have discovered that," Rose nodded.
"Well then, as long as you're aware." Remus smiled at the two of them. He had a very nice smile, and when he smiled liked that he looked very much like his son. Which was difficult to say, in general, as Teddy typically changed his appearance by the hour. But there was something in the stretch of the smile across the face, the warmth, and something in the eyes, that reminded Rose very sharply of Teddy. This familiarity ingratiated her instantly towards Remus.
"So, Remus…" Rose looked at the boy. "What do you do for a living?"
"I… Er… I'm in a bit of tight spot right now, actually-"
"Drinks! Drinks!" Right at that moment Sirius and his friends returned, each holding several more glasses of firewhiskey than seemed necessary. "Drinks all around!"
Sirius sat down at the table, shifting his chair so that it was very close to Lily. He pushed a glass in front of her, though her own was not yet empty, and then flung his arm around her and pulled her into a side hug. It made very Rose very uncomfortable to watch.
"You're worried about your friend?" Remus spoke in a quiet voice, leaning in so that only she could hear. Rose nodded. "Don't worry. He's harmless. Really." He must have seen the still concerned look on her face, though, because then Remus picked up a glass and raised it high, forcing, through his action, the other boys to mirror him and do the same, so that soon Sirius' arm was in the air rather than around Lily. "I would like to propose a toast! To our new friends!"
"To our new friends!" The boys and Lily echoed.
"And to our old friends!" James added on.
"And to our old friends!" The boys repeated. And then they drank.
"Oh, come on, Rosie. You're job doesn't start until tomorrow, right, may as well have one night of fun?" Sirius was smiling at her. A broad, handsome smile.
Well, Rose thought, if nothing else, tonight could be an interesting experience. A chance to learn about people she'd only ever read about before. Educational, really. And there was nothing wrong with enjoying an educational experience, was there?
And with that, Rose picked up one of the free glasses on the table and raised it to her lips.
"Cheers," she said, and opened her mouth, and poured the burning liquid down her throat.
After all, she could drink them under the table at college, so surely she'd be able to do the same here? Right?
The moon was very bright, Rose thought. Very bright and pretty in the past. She wondered if anything had happened, to the atmosphere maybe, or something, the ozone or whatever it was that was always talked about, to make it less pretty where she was from. When she was from. She'd barely thought about that for a while. She hiccupped. She was having a very nice time this evening. All educational. Sure.
"That better?" Remus was standing next to her. Closer than next to her. She was leaning on him, really.
"Yeah," she nodded. Or she tried to. It came out more like a mumble. Just how much firewhiskey had she had? She hiccupped again. Remus laughed. "What're you laughin' at?"
"Nothing," he said, but his body still vibrated with the laughs he was now trying to suppress. She could feel it as she leaned against him.
His body was very strong. Surprisingly strong. He'd look fairly slim, fairly worn, but he was very strong. And his arm was coming around her shoulder now. And it was holding her tighter. Rose felt very warm. The moon was very pretty this evening.
"Moon," Rose said. She tried to point up, but it didn't work. "Nice."
Remus gave a grunt. She felt it. Did he not like the moon? She wondered. But who wouldn't like the moon?
The air felt very sharp and fresh, exactly what she'd needed after sitting inside the very crowded tavern for nearly… She'd heard chimes, recently, indicating it was midnight. And she'd arrived around what time? She wasn't sure. But she'd been there a while now. And it was nice to get out of there, and to stand in the short brick passage between the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley. It seemed very familiar, comfortingly so, back here. And yet it also felt very different. Because the moon seemed so different. And because Remus' arm was around her. Remus, who was dead now. But she couldn't think of that. If she started thinking of that she would cry, she knew it. She couldn't think of Teddy, either. That would also make her cry. And she couldn't think of-
"Are you crying?"
"No," Rose brought her hands up to her face and tried to wipe away the tears that had been forming. "Just allergies, I guess. And the moon. The moon is just so beautiful."
Again she felt Remus vibrate with laughter he couldn't contain. And this made Rose laugh as well. She was laughing, quite enjoying herself, when the shorter boy, Peter, walked up to Remus. He punched him in the side.
"Gonna get lucky Moony?" Peter asked in his clipped nasal voice. Remus, Rose was glad to see, punched him back. "Ow!" Peter exclaimed, but then he sulked away.
"Never mind him," Remus said. "I love my friends, but they can be prats."
"Uh huh," Rose nodded, unable to express any deeper thoughts. She wanted to. She wanted to tell Remus that he was definitely not going to get lucky – though she figured he did not expect to as he had not actually hit on her all night – and she wanted to tell him thank you for punching Peter and she wanted to cry some more over his fatherless son, but instead all she could do was just barely open her mouth and just hardly push out sound. "Uh huh."
But while she was incapable of expressing herself, Rose was totally aware. Possibly even hyper-aware. Everything seemed crystalline clear to her right in this moment. Like the moon, for example, which was glowing so sharply. And like the air, which felt so crisp and fresh against her face. And like the sound of Lily's giggling, which punctured the silence and echoed off the bricks. Lily's giggling. Oh no. Rose had almost forgotten her cousin, so comfortable she had become.
It took nearly all her effort for Rose to turn her head. There, at the far reaches of her periphery, tucked into a corner in between rubbish bins, was Sirius with both of his arms around Lily, whose head was thrown back as silver peals of laughter erupted from her throat. Rose could not hear what Sirius was saying, not even with her hyper-senses, but she could see that his face was drawing closer and closer to her cousin's.
"That," Rose tried to move her head in Lily's direction. "Stop that."
Remus followed Lily's glance.
"Well…" He looked down at the ground. "I mean, it looks like your friend is having a good time…"
"No." Rose said, this time with more force behind her word. "I've gotta- It's weird-"
And she took a step forward, out of the comfort and safety of Remus' grasp. She had to keep one hand against the brick wall to keep herself stable.
"No!" She called, louder, as she approached her cousin. "That is- That is a very bad idea-"
Her words were coming out more slurred than she intended, but she was glad to see that she was gaining her cousin's attention anyway. Lily looked up at her. She looked somewhat displeased.
"Rose…" Lily began, but her speech sounded off as well, and the name sounded gurgled, from the back of the throat.
"You should know better," Rose tried to say. It came out: 'Yeew shoe node butter.' But Rose could not focus on her vocal inaccuracies, because just as she spoke, she lurched forward, and her right foot got trapped on a cobblestone and she began to tilt forward, her arm incapable of finding the stone wall now. She was going to hit the ground, she saw it happening, and yet she was incapable of stopping it-
"Alright," Remus took a step forward, his arm reaching around Rose's waist, catching her before she toppled over. "I think we should call it a night."
"Moony…" Sirius moaned.
"I think we should, Padfoot."
Sirius sighed, unhappily, and shut up his eyes, and uttered a curse word, but still, he took a step back from Lily, his arms falling to his sides.
"Fine," he said, finally. "Fine."
"Good," Rose smiled. She knew she must look half insane. She could feel her eyes, heavy from liquor and adventure, closing. Still, she looked over at her cousin, expecting some sort of congratulation for saving the day. Instead, Lily just frowned at her.
"James and I can get you home," Remus said, trying to break the tension. "Where do you live?"
"Nowhere," Lily said, crankily. But Rose noticed that her eyes were also almost shut.
"Alright… Then…" Remus shrugged, Rose could feel it, the rippling of his body against hers. She also felt him turn his head, to look at something or someone she supposed, and then he turned back. "You can stay with James and I for the night."
"'S alright-" Rose began, intending to argue her way out of this, to say that they'd really be better off renting a room, but before she could make her case, she was being led back inside, towards the fireplace.
"Just hold on, alright?" Remus was saying as he guided her into the green flames. "I'll get us there."
"But-" Rose began. But before she was finished they were already off, spinning, his arms wrapped around her, through space.
When at last they landed, Rose could barely gauge that her feet were on solid ground again, so dizzy was she. She followed Remus out of the fireplace. They were somewhere dark. It was very dark. Or it was just night and all the lights were off. She couldn't tell. Her head hurt terribly. She was so dizzy. Her insides were still spinning. It was awful. Awful. She just wanted it to stop. She bent forward without wanting to, her upper body just no longer able to support itself. She bent over, felt her hands grasp her knees, felt her head come down between her legs, felt all the blood rush into her skull. She didn't feel good. Not at all.
"Here," Remus' voice echoed over her. He was trying to lead her somewhere, trying to move her. But she didn't want to move. She didn't want to do anything. She just wanted to- She just wanted to-
She felt her entire body wretch. And with that, Rose vomited all over the floor, and Remus' shoes.