- Death-Major Character
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
“I don’t understand how you’re here,” Sirius whispered into shoulder. “Why are you here. Why are you so soggy. Actually why are you so soggy?” he asked curiosity getting the better of him.
Larger considerations were beyond him for the moment but the damp chill slowly creeping across his skin was wonderfully real. Sirius had imagined visitors before, Remus, McGonagall once, other friends, and somehow even when it had been James his stupid brain had still believed it in that moment. But he had never dreamed up visitors who had been dragged through the North Sea on their way to Azkaban. It had to be true.
“We can’t use a drying charm, or any spells come to that, because it will set off the Azkaban wards.”
Sirius nodded, that made sense, as much as anything did. He pressed closer, rubbing his cheek against Feuilly’s cool wet skin. The dog was back, a heavy weight against his legs, and the bird was trilling, there was a gathering presence like the tension before a thunderstorm, and then a shimmery chime.
“And death and life meet,” declaimed a voice. Sirius shivered at the sound of prophecy and hid his face against Feuilly’s neck, “guardian and guide, theirs is the –”
“Oh fuck no,” swore Grantaire, there was a smack of a hand against flesh. “We are not having any more prophecies fucking us over.”
Sirius lifted his head in astonishment. The woman, Eponine, was hovering an inch off the floor, her eyes rolled back in her head so they showed pure solid white, an obvious instrument of prophecy; and Grantaire had slapped his hand over her mouth obscuring whatever she might have said.
“Grantaire,” Feuilly was both coaxing and resigned to coaxing failing.
“Don’t give me that, Eponine would rather bite through her tongue.”
The echoy chime deepened into the threatening crash of bells. Grantaire didn’t back away just hunched his shoulders and hung on. He turned his head to yell back at them,
“Feuilly. Get out of here.”
“Oh shut up,” said Feuilly. “It wouldn’t have occurred to me to try and stop it but do you think I want another prophecy strangling the life out of us.” He tightened his grip around Sirius for an instant, then let him go. “You should leave though,” he smiled weakly at him, “I’m not sure what the consequences are for messing with a prophecy but I can’t imagine they’re great.”
Sirius wasn’t stupid. Of everyone he knew, exactly one person had come to see him. Grabbing Feuilly’s arm he tugged it back around his shoulders, grinning when he was pulled closer. The idea of so directly disrupting a prophecy had startled him but he could find no reason to argue against it. It wasn’t like he had any fondness for prophecy to begin with, and after James and Lily –
“Do you need a hand?” he called.
The clanging bells became deafening and a glowing Eponine shot into the air even as Grantaire clutched after her. Hovering a foot over their heads, she extended her arms and the noise abruptly dropped.
“Even you?” demanded the voice speaking through her. It had lost the sing-song quality of the prophecy and was flat and direct.
“I know you like to be obscure, but you’ll need to be clearer than that if you want an answer,” sniped Grantaire.
Feuilly groaned. Sirius patted his arm comfortingly.
“Even you,” she reached out one hand to Sirius. “My child of loss. The last of your line who’s blood will die with you, even you reject my guidance?”
“Forgive me my lady but I cannot see that prophecy has brought anything but grief in its wake,” Sirius said as respectfully as he could, because you got away with far more if you were polite about it.
“I am not responsible for how evil men twist my words.”
“You could stop giving them words to twist,” Grantaire muttered. Her attention scorched on him,
“And you my child of doubt, I could grant you your heart’s greatest desire.”
“You could also shove off and leave Eponine alone. I’m picking door number two.”
The pure white eyes turned to Feuilly.
“Don’t look at me,” he said, “I’m with Grantaire.”
“So the child of new sprung life also turns from me. My bright child of hope spat at my very words. Yet I have given you such gifts as have not been seen since my child of wild magic walked this world. And still you reject me. Does none of you wish to know of the secrets I keep?”
The temptation was there. Sirius yearned for reassurance, to know there was a resolution. More urgently he needed to know where Harry was. But what good would some cryptic answer be that would no doubt send him searching everywhere Harry wasn’t.
He shook his head. Feuilly and Grantaire had already turned away.
“See,” said Grantaire, “his family must be saturated in ancient magic and even he thinks you sh –,” and that was when Feuilly grabbed him from behind and got a hand over his mouth.
“Idiot,” said Feuilly. “There’s no need to actively insult the spirit of magic.” From the aggressive sounding noises from behind his hand Grantaire seemed to think there definitely was.
Sirius bowed gracefully, “My lady you are gracious to honor us with your presence but your words are too great for us mere mortal creatures stumbling our way through life.”
She laughed, “Yet you no desire my aid than my rebellious despairing one.” There was one fine high chime like a striking clock. “Fine. I gave my child of wild magic and his bonded every aid I could, yet thought they built gloriously, it lasted but on brief summer. Very well, as you will my children, we shall see what you can build with my gifts without my guidance.”
“Thank you my lady, you are very good.”
She laughed again. “We shall see if you continue to think that my child who walks hand in hand with my brother Death.”
The glow that filled the small cell died abruptly and Eponine fell like a stone. Grantaire ran forward almost faster than Sirius could see and caught her as she dropped, rolling them both into a heap. He spoke softly as she sobbed and choked, “No, no, Ep, no, it’s okay, you didn’t say anything I swear. Well you said things –”
“Not again, not again,” she moaned.
“But no prophecy, I swear it Eponine, there was no prophecy.”
She still sobbed.
Sirius turned his back to give them what privacy he could. Feuilly walked over to him.
“Sorry,” he said. “And thank you for talking to her. We – our history with prophecy is fraught.”
“I’m no fonder of it,” he reassured. “It killed my best friend and his wife.”
“Yes, there’s a prophecy, and well…”
“Yeah, we had a prophecy too. Or rather our friend Marius’ family did. It was prophesied, back when his grandfather was a young man, that his line would lead to a new era for the wizarding world.”
“And his grandfather was excessively proud of the honor. He thought to marry his only child, a daughter, to the highest in France on the strength of it.”
“And how did that work out?”
Feuilly laughed harshly, “You have a guess?”
“Ran away with a muggle-born?”
“Better, ran away with a muggle. Well he must have had a little magic of his own or he’d never have found magical Paris, but to all intents and purposes he was a muggle.”
Sirius covered his face with one hand, “How long did it take them to kill him?”
“The history’s a bit fuzzy here because no-one who knows is talking, but by the time Marius’ grandfather caught them, she was pregnant and too far along for it to be stopped safely.”
“I can’t say that would have discouraged my family under similar circumstances,” Sirius admitted.
“She was his only child. So Marius’ father was killed, and his mother died giving birth to him.”
“Died, or ‘died’.”
“I’d believe it of his grandfather but nobody wanted to discuss the possibility with Marius.”
“Marius was brought up in seclusion at his grandfather’s mansion knowing nothing of his father. When he was seventeen he found a letter his mother left him which told him who his father was and how he died. He left his grandfather’s house immediately and who knows what would have happened to him but he bumped into our friend Courfeyrac and of course Courf took him in and there you are,” Feuilly shrugged his shoulders. Sirius squeezed his hand.
“What happened to your friend?”
“He fell in love. Cosette, she was lovely and sweet, what did Grantaire call her, a disney princess in human form, but she had no history. And that matters.” Feuilly shivered and his heart stuttered in his chest and Sirius was certain the lack of history was a more personal concern than his friend’s girlfriend.
“Not to anybody with any sense,” he said. “Nobody you actually want to know would care a button about your family’s history or lack of. If my family was held against me, nobody would ever speak to me again.”
And when Sirius thought about it, that was so nearly what happened. He shivered himself and pressed his fist against his mouth as he swallowed down his rising sickness at the back of his throat. Feuilly wrapped both arms around him and said firmly,
“They are all ignorant assholes who never deserved your time in the first place.”
Sirius rested his heavy head against Feuilly’s chest and wished with all his heart that he could believe that.
“What happened to you friend?” he asked.
“Well Marius and Cosette were in love, and given they were both such sweet idiots, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise when Cosette ended up pregnant.”
“No contraception charms?”
“Marius’ grandfather was one of those sort who considered it women’s business, and it didn’t seem to have occurred to Cosette’s adoptive father that his little angel might have need of them.”
“Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it merely speeded things up for them. Marius was thrilled and terrified, he proposed straight away and the wedding date was set.”
“Not the wedding,” said Sirius, although he knew obviously that it was. He knew how these types of stories ended, knew how this story ended.
Feuilly gathered himself up with both hands. None of them liked talking, or even thinking, about what had happened in France. But if he wanted to take Sirius Black home with him – and he did, he so did for however long Sirius would allow him – then he couldn’t let the poor man just stumble into their sore spots. He needed to know.
“The wedding. It was a wonderful wedding. Actually no it wasn’t, it was uncomfortable and endless, the band was too loud and we were all starving by the time we got to lunch at four o’clock.”
“Sounds like a typical pureblood wedding.”
“But they were so in love they glowed.” He managed a weak sort of smile.
“That’s much less typical.”
“Then, just as we were about to get started on the toasts, a prophecy hit Eponine.” Feuilly rubbed his hands against his forehead, he could see it all playing out in front of him. “She declared that with this child the wizarding world was setting out on a new path. Everyone stared and the muttering started immediately. But Marius’ grandfather, he – I don’t know if Marius’ grandfather had already made plans, or if the prophecy drove him over the edge. I’d like to know because if it was planned at least Eponine would stop blaming herself for the prophecy.”
“It was definitely planned,” said Sirius. He sounded convinced about it too.
“Are you sure? You don’t even know what he did.”
“He cursed her toasting cup, didn’t he? He planned it. That’s the traditional time.”
Feuilly wondered if he’d heard the quite right, “There’s a traditional time to murder the bride?” His voice sounded strange to his own ears.
“Uh,” Sirius stalled, he lifted one hand nervously to his mouth then picked anxiously at the strings of Feuilly’s hoodie. “Usual time,” he offered hopefully, as if it was his word choice that was the problem. “Generally when these things are done?”
“A traditional time to murder the bride?” Feuilly stared, he had to be hearing that wrong.
“It’s not always the bride. It could be the groom.”
Alright, he hadn’t heard that wrong. “Oh, that’s okay then,” he said, sharply sarcastic to try and keep from swearing. The sarcasm completely flew over Sirius’ head, the idiot smiled and relaxed as if he’d managed to reassure him. Feuilly wanted to scream. There was a traditional time to murder unsuitable brides and grooms and Sirius considered this perfectly normal.
Feuilly gave up, swore, and hugged him tight, because really he wanted to tuck him under his heart and keep him safe for always. “I am never going to let your family near you again.” Which was controlling, inappropriate, and impractical but he didn’t care.
Sirius didn’t seem to care either because he turned his head blindly to kiss his way along Feuilly’s jaw.
“You’re all salty.”
Something like sanity returned and Feuilly remembered where they were and what they were doing.
“We should be going.”
Grantaire coughed loudly, “Not that I want to interrupt, but we need to know. Was he telling the truth just then? Because it sounds crazy. And we need to know.” He wasn’t asking for himself but for Eponine, who was hanging onto his arm and Feuilly could feel the desperate hope rising in her. She had hated herself for the prophecy even though there was nothing she could have done.
Feuilly looked at Sirius. He was a nice person and Feuilly was certain he’d make up a lie to be kind without a qualm. But he wasn’t acting like this was a lie.
“Why is there a traditional time to murder unsuitable brides and grooms?” He should have asked that question in the first place.
“Because you want everyone to know you did it. It’s a way of showing you’re in control. If they died beforehand, anyone could have done it; if they die after the sun sets then you’ve accepted them into your family. But if you kill them at the wedding you show everyone you mean business and you punish whichever member of your family stepped out of line. You don’t have to do it at the toasting exactly but it’s usually done then. I think they find it amusing to propose the health of someone and then curse the cup they drink out of. There’s a particular wandless spell for that, which is why it was planned, he must have practiced.”
Feuilly’s brain whited out for a few seconds as he thought about Marius’ grandfather practicing how to curse Cosette. He regretted voting for not killing the man.
“Why not poison?” Grantaire asked.
Sirius straightened up in shock. “You don’t poison people. That’s not the done thing at all. Being reduced to poisoning people, it’s practically muggle. My great-great aunt Dorabella poisoned her husband and it was a frightful scandal.”
“The poison part, not the murdering your husband part?” Grantaire checked.
“You can make allowances for murder but poisoning is just beyond the pale.”
Grantaire looked as boggled as Feuilly felt.
“Lemme get this straight,” slurred Eponine, “it’s not murdering someone on their wedding day but poisoning someone that causes a scandal with you people?”
“It’s not that many someones who get murdered on their wedding day. You only need one or two a generation for everyone to understand. My cousin Andromeda didn’t even try for a wizard marriage with her muggle-born lover. Although there was one recent case in France –” he broke off, “Was that –?”
“Yeah,” said Feuilly, “that was probably us.”
“The Gillenormand wedding. That was you? The groom who died with his new bride?”
“Yes. After the prophecy Marius’ grandfather stood up and proclaimed a toast to the future. Cosette took a tiny sip, muggles think too much wine is bad for pregnant women, and she stumbled against the table.” None of them had known what was happening only that Cosette looked ill, and they’d started to get to their feet. It was over before they could understand. “She put the cup down so carefully, she’d tried so hard to be perfect for the wedding. She was falling. Marius caught her. If it’s tradition he must have realized. That’s why he was so quick. The cup was right there, still full. He drank it down. He tumbled to the floor with Cosette. They were both dead when we got to them.”
“We didn’t realize it was tradition.”
“It’s only once or twice a generation to be sure everyone understands.”
Feuilly wanted to yell that did not make it better. He wanted Enjolras to be there to yell for him because Enjolras had been the best of them at yelling and Feuilly missed him.
“It’s okay,” said Grantaire. And Feuilly wanted to yell at him too, because it was not okay. “It’s not your fault.”
That seemed an irrelevant comment, of course it wasn’t Sirius’ fault. But when he looked at him, Feuilly saw he’d grown fiercely white and had brought his one hand up to his mouth defensively like he expected to be hit.
“Grantaire’s right. It’s not your fault. It’s not any of our faults.”
“It’s Marius’ grandfather’s fault that he’s a hideous old man who couldn’t stand the thought that a new era would spring from his disreputable mongrel of a great-grandson damned twice over with bad blood,” said Grantaire, because of course Grantaire remembered those horrible words.
“It’s why we’re here,” said Feuilly, desperate to move the conversation on. “We came to Britain because we wanted to fight back. Also we figured we’d better leave France for a time. Because while we didn’t kill him in return – it felt too much like we were declaring an even trade. Nothing will make up for their deaths, certainly not his death – our friend Jehan studies old texts and he knew of a spell.”
“Gravel-rot,” said Sirius, awed. “Everyone heard about that. You cursed his Paris house with gravel-rot and it’s slowly dissolving into the Seine.”
It was the most amazing thing he’d heard in years. Sirius had been one of the first to hear the rumors because he’d been cultivating his French connections at the time. He’d gone to Narcissa, because she was the only member of his family he could find who he was still on speaking terms with, and they’d both got blitzed on sloe gin. Lucius had shown up, and the angry bafflement on his face was still a treasured memory. After they explained he broke out the honey wine and in the end James had to be called to collect him because Sirius couldn’t stand up on his own. He tried to explain why it was so amazing to James, but James hadn’t understood. Sirius had been too drunk to mind. It wasn’t as if he wanted James to have been at Caius Rookwood’s wedding anyway.
Grantaire crowed, “Points to Jehan,” and exchanged a congratulatory hand-slap with Eponine.
“It was that successful?” Feuilly asked. “We knew it was damp and mold but the whole house is dissolving?”
Sirius blinked a little because that was the whole point of gravel-rot. A slow inevitable corruption that rotted the house from the inside, and the master if he didn’t get out. It needed a genuine grievance and a clever spellcaster so it wasn’t much used.
“Yes,” he said, “and eventually him too. Apparently you can already see mildew growing in the folds of his skin.”
“Oh my god, we need to give Jehan a medal,” said Grantaire.
“You got the man too,” said Feuilly. He turned to Sirius, “Grantaire and Enjolras managed to stop arguing long enough to collaborate on a sterility curse.”
“Old school style,” said Grantaire. “He won’t be squirming his way out of that with a counter-charm. So the prophecy can suck it.”
“Grantaire,” Feuilly protested, but he was smiling. “We don’t have much time for prophecy here,” he said to Sirius. “And that one isn’t going to come true. Gillenormand’s line isn’t going anywhere, let alone kick-starting a new era.”
Sirius wasn’t sure how to tell him but Gillenormand’s line had already started a new era, though not one the old man would approve of. Bitter Weddings had taken place for centuries and the most that ever happened was the devastated spouse pined away. But Gillenormand’s line, Marius, he had friends who weren’t scared to claim vengeance on his behalf. The shock was probably still echoing around the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Just this August Sirius had met Feuilly at a wedding between the daughter of one the most imperiously pure families and the penniless fourth son of a muggle-born father. They had bound their magics together in a true wizard wedding. That would have been unthinkable before. Far too much risk for a careful girl like Imogen Fawley.
She’d been at Caius Rookwood’s wedding along with the rest of them. Sirius had just turned eight and he’d been so proud of his new robes. The wedding had been tiresomely boring, Reggie had been whiney, Cousin Cissy was gushing because the whole thing was so romantic, and Sirius had wanted to be anywhere else. But his father grabbed him and told him to pay attention and Sirius had thought the whole thing was silly but he’d watched as the girl drained the toast cup, and then how she’d crumpled to the floor. Magic can project emotions and when Caius Rookwood screamed –
Sirius’ teeth started to chatter.
“You’re freezing,” Feuilly exclaimed. “I’m such an idiot. Here we brought you clothes, proper wizarding robes, hopefully they’ll fit okay. You reminded me of Grantaire and he’s about the same size as Courfeyrac, which is fortunate because he’s the only one of us with nice enough clothes for you.”
There was a loud ripping sound and Grantaire pulled a large packet out from under his top.
“Ow, ow, I think I tore all the hairs off my back.”
“Baby,” said Eponine, “you should try waxing your legs.”
Tearing the pack open, they pulled out, miraculously dry, a robe, close fitted and fashionably edged in red and purple, and a long, sleeved cloak in a dashing yellow. Sirius took them thankfully, the robe was soft wool lined with linen and the cloak was a thick wool knit. These were very nice clothes.
“Are you sure your friend doesn’t mind me borrowing them?”
“Of course not.”
The casual confidence left Sirius with a sudden intense longing for James. James would have minded very much having his clothes lent about because he was a particular little sod and Sirius would never have thought that was something he would feel sentimental about.
He quickly pulled on the robe and cloak. Then he was handed a set of silk socks and a pair of boots. The boots looked distinctly muggle.
“They’re my boots,” said Grantaire. “Courf only owns one pair of shoes suitable for running fast and if this blows up in our faces he’ll need them himself. We should have bought you stuff, but once we figured out you were you, Feuilly wasn’t up for hanging around another minute, let alone waiting for the shops to open tomorrow.”
“This is perfect,” said Sirius, as he pulled on the boots, storing away the comment about Feuilly to think about later.
“Now this is more of a stretch, but Feuilly thought it might work, so I brought my spare wand.”
Sirius cautiously accepted the thin whippy wand and felt it warm softly in his grip.
“Hmm. Not quite, but good enough.”
Grantaire laughed, “Sounds like a description of me.” And Eponine smacked him on the shoulder.
“Come on,” said Feuilly. “We need to get out of here.”
They had just paused to rebolt the door, when Grantaire cocked his head and said,
“Uh-oh, too late.”
Sirius had no idea what he was referring too but listened intently, spreading his listening out over the whole horrid island. He swayed slightly with the effort and Feuilly grabbed his arm to steady him which allowed him to focus in on alarmed shouts about a boat.
“You came here by boat?” he demanded.
“And swimming,” said Eponine. “Grantaire couldn’t keep the charms active on the boat once we were inside Azkaban’s wards and over we went.”
“Keep moaning about it and you can swim back,” said Grantaire. He tilted his head again and winced, “Oh that is not good. And also illegal surely.”
“They think we’re muggles. Or rather they think muggles accidentally came here by boat. They’re going to release the dementors.” Sirius wasn’t sure why he wasn’t panicking. In fact he felt painfully calm.
“They can’t do that,” protested Eponine.
“Actually,” said Feuilly, “as long as it doesn’t breach the secrecy statutes there’s nothing in law that prevents dementors being set on muggles. If we we’re muggles we’d be kissed and the muggle authorities would think we were lost at sea. All perfectly legal.”
“I think now would be a good time to run,” said Sirius.
They made it out of the prison and almost to the rocky shore when the dark robed dementors came flooding out of the shadows at them. Sirius gritted his teeth, clutched his borrowed wand and tried to think of a happy thought.
Feuilly grabbed his wrist and tugged him along, “Keep running. Grantaire’s got us covered.”
At that moment there was an explosion of silver light as Grantaire roared, “Expecto patronum,” and a unicorn appeared. Sirius stared. The unicorn was a pure brilliant white, its softly curling mane swung glossily, soft puffs of breath huffed from its nostrils. It was the most beautiful creature Sirius had ever seen. It also looked distinctly homicidal.
“Uh,” said Sirius.
The unicorn pawed the ground with one hoof. It lowered its head, its horn shone in the moonlight. Its eyes gleamed white fire.
“That is one very angry unicorn,” said Sirius.
“You should have met the man who inspired it,” muttered Feuilly. “Come on you don’t want to get in its way.”
The unicorn charged.
It slammed straight into the clutch of dementors. The shrieking was like nothing on earth. They stumbled on but couldn’t not look back to see spouts of screeching grey ghosts erupting into the air as dark robes dropped lifelessly to the floor.
Grantaire raced towards them whooping, “Come on, come on,” he urged, “Enjolras can’t do it all himself.”
“That’s not –,” Eponine started, but Feuilly grabbed her arm to pull her along and Grantaire was shoving them on from behind and they all clattered down to the sea and a small boat with a single sail. They scrambled on board, ducking the beam of the sail and trying not to fall over the edge of the boat.
“It’s rocking quite a lot,” said Sirius. He didn’t understand much about boats but rocking seemed undesirable.
“It’s called a topper,” said Eponine, “because it keeps toppling over. Grantaire thinks he’s hilarious.”
“Everybody sit down and quit nitpicking my boat.”
On shore they heard a loud triumphant whiney.
Sirius squirmed around trying to look back. “Did that unicorn ractually kill the dementors?” He could see the unicorn rising up on its hind legs to kick its defiance at the sky. And were those shapeless heaps of cloth really once dementors – he leaned further out squinting into the gloom.
Which was when the boat lived up to its name and they were all dunked into the sea.