Disclaimer: All the characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
Author’s Note: This violates canon just a teensy bit in that I have Sirius encounter Bellatrix after he’s done school.
“You aren’t going to go, are you?” James asked when he saw Sirius rereading the note from his brother.
“I think—I have to.”
Sirius sighed and refolded the note to return it to his pocket. “It’s the first time he’s asked me to meet him since—forever, it feels like. I need to know why.”
“Just because he’s your brother, it doesn’t mean that you can trust him.”
“I know.” Sirius snorted. “Believe me, I know. I know my family better than you do.”
He reached forward for a quill and dipped it in an inkwell while he grabbed a square of parchment with his other hand. “I’m changing the location of the meeting from The Hog’s Head to The Sword and Shield in Bray. If Regulus brings friends along, they’ll stand out more in a Muggle pub than in a wizard one.”
“I’m coming; I can blend in.”
“Only if Lily picks out your clothes,” Sirius said with a smile, but he shook his head. “I’ll bring someone that Regulus won’t recognize as easily as you.” He gestured around the room at their fellow auror-trainees.
“Better plan,” James said. “Me and someone Regulus isn’t likely to recognize. He’ll spot me and won’t bother looking for anyone else with you. I’m the distraction.”
Sirius smiled. “Very devious, Mr. Prongs. I approve the plan.” He used his wand to direct a puff of warm air at the parchment in order to dry the ink before he folded it. “I wonder why he contacted me here instead of my flat. He said it was family business, so you think he’d send it there.”
“He probably doesn’t know where you live.”
“Do you really think he couldn’t find out?”
* * * * *
Sirius deliberately arrived a half-hour late for the meeting with his brother. When meeting someone untrustworthy, one had two choices, arrive early to better control the situation, or arrive late to put the other person off balance. James and an older auror, Tireus Prewitt, had arrived early and begun watching for anyone who might be there to help Regulus spring a trap on Sirius. With any luck, Sirius’s late arrival might tempt Regulus and his companions into making eye contact with one another. And if they did, James and Prewitt would notice.
But it was Sirius who was thrown off balance on his arrival, for it wasn’t Regulus waiting for him, but his cousin Bellatrix. She sat alone at a table in the center of the room, facing the door, and smiled at him as he entered. Sirius quickly scanned the room, looking to see if Regulus was there as well. James and Prewitt were both present, but Regulus was not in sight. Nor did he immediately spot anyone who stood out from the crowd by having longer hair than Muggle fashion currently allowed for men or by dressing inappropriately, but if a Death Eater were there, he felt confident that James and Prewitt had spotted him.
“Please sit down, Sirius,” Bellatrix indicated the other chair at her table with a graceful gesture of her hand. “If you’re looking for Potter, he’s near the back corner. If you’re looking for Regulus, he isn’t coming. I’m the one who wanted to meet with you, but I didn’t think you’d come at my request. Regulus was kind enough to contact you as a favour to me.”
Sirius approached her table but did not sit. “What do you want?” he asked gruffly.
“It’s a private matter,” she said calmly. “A family matter. I would appreciate it if you would sit so we can discuss it quietly.” Sirius looked at the chair warily, deciding. Bellatrix huffed in impatience and leaned across the small table to grab the back of the chair and push it back one inch. “I haven’t turned it into a portkey, you paranoid fool. I want to talk.”
“You have five minutes,” Sirius said as he sat. “Less if you irritate me.”
“Yes, and we all know how difficult it is to irritate you.”
“Four minutes and fifty two seconds.”
Bellatrix frowned sourly and then allowed the frown to vanish as she tucked her long black hair behind one ear. “I want you to do me a favour—”
“Not bloody likely.”
“—and I thought you might be willing to consider it as there is a benefit for you as well.”
Sirius pushed back his chair, ready to stand. “Whatever it is you want me to do, forget it. Whatever it is you want to tempt me with, forget it; I’m not interested. Tell your red-eyed freak of a master that my answer was—” He made a rude gesture as he stood to leave.
“This is a personal favour, a family matter,” she hissed. “And you still owe me four minutes.”
“I don’t owe you anything,” he countered, but he did pause rather than leave.
“Actually, you do. You just don’t know it. Let’s leave it at that, shall we?”
“Fine,” he said as he sat back down. “Four minutes. What do you want?”
She allowed the anger on her face to melt away again and fingered the silver chain around her throat. “Why don’t we start by discussing what you need—a child.”
Sirius laughed. “Sorry, Bella, but I abdicated my responsibility to carry on the family name the day I walked out. It’s Regulus’s job now.”
“But you’d like one, wouldn’t you? Your own small piece of immortality. Knowing that part of you will live on through countless generations.”
Sirius had grown up mesmerized by the family tapestry. Listening to his mother tell him numerous stories of his ancestors as she traced the line down to his own name. Sometimes her long finger would follow the line through her own branch of the family, and sometimes she would shift at his great-great-grandparents and follow the line through her husband’s branch. As she told him of their achievements and accomplishments, Sirius had felt pride, for weren’t they all a part of him? He’d known that someday, his own descendants would see his name up there, tell stories about him, know that he was a part of them.
But that was when he was a child. He no longer felt pride in his twisted ancestors, and he recognized that having a child just to live on through him or her was a selfish act. Having a child to share your love was another matter entirely, but it wasn’t a part of his destiny. He had already accepted that.
“Doesn’t matter if I want a child or not; I’m not going to have one.”
“Because you prefer men in your bed.”
“Because I’m in love with a man. I know that love is a foreign concept in our family, but it does exist.”
She looked at him pityingly for a moment as if he were an ignorant fool who still believed in the flatness of the earth or that magic was a myth. “Fine, you love Lupin, and you’re willing to sacrifice having children because he can’t give them to you. My point is, you can continue your tawdry little love affair, and you can have a child.”
Sirius felt both curious and apprehensive. He suddenly had visions of drinking some vile potion and being able to get pregnant. He’d whinge and complain his way through morning sickness and backaches until Moony finally snapped and killed him. No, Sirius was not cut out to be a “mother.” No matter how much he loved Remus, he was not carrying his baby. And it was even more out of the question for Remus. If female werewolves couldn’t get through a full moon without miscarrying, what chance did a male werewolf have?
But this entire fantastic thought was momentary. He knew that Bellatrix was undoubtedly leading up to something much more commonplace. Perhaps someone she knew had child whose bloodlines weren’t quite pure enough and wanted to avoid scandal by quietly finding a new home for the baby. Perhaps Bellatrix herself was carrying a child from an ill-timed affair. She was newly wedded to a pureblood wizard, but Sirius had no illusions that it had been a love match.
And if Bellatrix was trying to find a home for a baby, Sirius didn’t know quite what to feel. On one hand, there couldn’t be a worse time to become a parent. They were at war, and aurors were dying every day. It would be a miracle if Sirius lived to see the child reach his or her first birthday, so how could he commit to seeing the child through to adulthood? And Remus’s life was just as uncertain—mysterious missions for the Order and growing public anger against dark creatures. Every time they kissed good-bye, they knew it could be the last time.
On the other hand, if anyone deserved an opportunity to be a father, it was Remus. Sirius had listened to Remus’s patient tutoring of younger students when he was a prefect. He’d watched as Remus had helped Nymphadora build block towers and castles just so she could knock them down over and over. He’d been chastened and repentant when Remus scolded him like the wayward child he could be at times. Some people were born to be parents; Remus was one of them. Sirius didn’t know how good a parent he would be—never having had good examples—but he knew he had enough love to share with a child. This could be the only opportunity they’d ever have to become parents.
“Go on,” he said.
“Rodolphus recently had a rather close call—” Sirius smiled. “—and his mother chose to remind me that if he should die without issue, his share of the family inheritance will pass to his brother, Rabastan. I would only get a token allowance from the estate. But if I’m the mother of Rodolphus’s heir, I will be financially secure.”
“It sounds like you’re the one who needs a child.”
Bellatrix nodded. “I have no intention of living my life as my sister’s poor relation.”
“So go do what my mother did. Screw your husband enough times to get an heir and a spare, and then tell him that if he ever touches you again, you’ll geld him personally.”
“Actually, Rodolphus is quite acceptable as a lover. He isn’t inventive, but he takes direction well.”
“Would you get to the fucking point already?” Sirius snapped. He had no interest in hearing about Bellatrix’s love life.
“The point, my dear cousin, is that I don’t want to have his child. Rodolphus is a natural born follower. I don’t intend to be the mother of a flock of sheep. I want my children to be fathered by someone with a backbone, someone with spirit.”
Sirius realized with sickening clarity exactly what kind of favour Bellatrix wanted of him. “No. No, no, no, no. You’re completely mad, you know that, don’t you?”
“Come now, Sirius. I know you prefer men, but I’m sure you could get it up for a woman. I can’t do everything your lover does to you, but I’ll make certain that you enjoy yourself.”
“That isn’t the point you hell-bred harpy,” Sirius whispered angrily. He really didn’t want James or Prewitt to overhear this conversation. “Put aside the fact that I despise you and would prefer being celibate the rest of my life rather than have sex with you. Why would you choose me? I’m the family freak, remember? The Gryffindor changeling in the Slytherin cradle. Do you really want to risk having children who will grow up to despise you as much as I despise our family?”
She dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand. “That’s simply a matter of raising them properly with the correct values—”
“And there’s the fact that we are first-cousins within a family already so in-bred that it’s a wonder we don’t have three heads or something.”
“But we don’t have three heads or any other congenital weaknesses, do we? In-breeding focuses and refines traits, good or bad, and in our family’s case, good. Did you think it was merely good luck that you’re as powerfully magical, as intelligent, as good-looking as you are? You were bred for it. We were bred for it.” She smiled coldly. “Having your child is as close as I can come to having a child who is a pure copy of myself.”
Now her motives made sense—in a twisted egotistical way. “Go screw Regulus.”
“A sheep, like my husband.”
“Go screw Lucius Malfoy.”
She shrugged slightly, and Sirius realized that she had already considered the possibility. “I wouldn’t want to embarrass Rodolphus by bearing a child clearly not his own. Lucius’s child might resemble Lucius. If you were the father, people would merely believe that the child resembled me.”
“And Narcissa would kill you if she found out you were sleeping with her husband.”
Bellatrix laughed. “We never did like sharing our possessions.”
“Sorry, but the only thing more abhorrent to me than having sex with you is the idea of allowing any child of mine to be raised by you.” He stood but leaned down to whisper in her ear. “By the way, whenever I get word of the happy news, I’ll advise your mother-in-law to test the baby’s paternity.” She glared at him, and he straightened up laughing. “But thanks for giving me something to chuckle over tonight.”
“You know how to find me if you reconsider,” she called after him. “Your first opportunity will be about a week from now.”
“Ciao, Bella,” Sirius waved at her over his shoulder as he walked out without looking back.
* * * * *
“What did she want, Black?” Prewitt demanded the moment that he and James returned to MLE offices.
Sirius shook his head. “Sorry to waste your time, Sir. It was just family stuff.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Prewitt said as he sat in the chair beside the desk Sirius was using.
“Actually, Sir, I will.”
Sirius returned to the research he had been doing and did not look up again until Prewitt walked away muttering to himself. He caught the words, “Bloody Blacks,” and “—fool who accepted him in the training program.”
James sat down in the seat Prewitt had used and waited for Sirius to look up. “What kind of family stuff?” James asked.
“I’d say ‘sick and twisted family stuff,’ but given that you’re already familiar with my family, it would be a bit redundant.” Sirius bent his head over his work again, hoping that James would let the matter drop. He found the entire idea of Bellatrix wanting him to father her child so distasteful that he was embarrassed to tell even James about it.
“Could you be more specific?” James persisted.
“She wanted a favour; I turned her down.”
“It took you two a long time to get through a request and a refusal.”
“Are you calling me a liar, Potter?” Sirius snapped as he threw down his quill.
“No,” James said in genuine surprise. “Just curious. I was surprised you even sat down when you saw it was Bellatrix instead of Regulus.”
“I probably shouldn’t have,” Sirius admitted. “Then I wouldn’t have Prewitt furious at me.”
“No” James said shaking his head. “If you hadn’t heard her out, Prewitt would be furious at you for ‘failing to take advantage of a possible source of information,’ or some such rot.”
“Scary how much you can sound like him.”
“And yet, I’m not.” James leaned closer to Sirius and lowered his voice, inviting Sirius to share his confidence once again. “So tell me, what were you and Bella discussing for so long?”
Sirius sighed and raked his hand through his hair. “After the obligatory exchange of insults, she said that she needed a favour. I turned her down, but—anyway, she caught my interest when I thought she asking for one type of favour, one I wouldn’t have minded doing. It turns out that she needed a completely different type of favour. I turned her down and wasted a few more minutes making it clear that I would never, ever, be interested. And I threatened her, ” he added.
“Of course.” James waited an entire minute while Sirius pretended to be engrossed in his research again. “You really aren’t going to tell me what she asked, are you?”
“Not today,” Sirius said without looking up.
“Fine,” James said as he stood up. “When is Moony coming home?”
“Day after tomorrow unless he’s delayed.”
“Do you want to have dinner with Lily and me?”
* * * * *
Sirius did not join James and Lily for dinner that night. Usually he welcomed their efforts to keep him out of his empty flat when Remus was away. He knew they were trying to distract him from the danger Remus was in, and he did appreciate it. But he knew that he’d feel like an intruder tonight. Sometimes a couple should just be a couple. And although he didn’t know know why he felt it, he felt that tonight James and Lily should just be a couple. He asked for a rain check until the night after Remus returned.
And so three nights later, he found himself lying on the Potters’ sofa with his head on Remus’s lap and listening to Remus talk about the rather interesting vampire he’d just met and how she made her “living,” as it were, by writing Muggle books—historical fiction, mysteries, children’s books—under a variety of pen names.
“She writes under one name for several decades and then gets started under a new name at a different publisher. She writes under both until the new name gets established, and then the older name goes into retirement. She used to have a problem going to daytime meetings, but now she pretends to have agoraphobia so her agents and editors have to come to her.”
“Agoraphobia—fear of the marketplace?” James asked as he translated the word literally.
“Fear of public places,” Lily explained the Muggle psychology term to him.
Lily and James were sitting on the opposite sofa. He was sitting in a corner, one leg stretched out along the back, and she was sitting just in front of him, leaning back against his chest. Remus listed some of the titles of books the vampire had written—none of them meant anything to Sirius as he hadn’t read Muggle books as a child and very few since then, but Lily suddenly picked her head up off James’s chest.
“Really? I loved that book,” she said. “It’s probably in one of those boxes of things I brought here from my parents’ house.”
“Find it, and if I ever have to go see her again, I’ll ask her to sign it for you,” Remus said. “It’ll be a nice thing to pass on to your children someday.”
Lily turned her head to give James a look, which he pointedly ignored. It was all too easy to guess that they had recently discussed—and disagreed upon—the subject of having children soon.
“You should have kids,” Sirius said immediately. “Lots of them. A whole house full.” He had spoken without contemplation, but as soon as he spoke, he knew that he was right. James and Lily would be wonderful parents. He said so.
Remus was chuckling softly. “And are you offering to mind this houseful of children when James and Lily want a night off, Padfoot?”
“Of course,” he said looking up at Remus again. “You and I are Nymphadora’s favourite minders.” He looked back to James and Lily. “Moony and I come highly recommended.”
“And does Andromeda recommend you as highly as Nymphadora?” Lily asked with a smile.
“Someday, Padfoot,” James said. “When things are safer.”
“That day might not come,” Remus said, “not for us at least.”
“Moony the pessimist,” James said, but his somber expression betrayed that he felt the same.
“Don’t wait,” Sirius urged, as he thought of his own willingness to take in and raise a child if Bellatrix had offered. He sat up and looked at James intently. “Sometimes you only get one opportunity; don’t waste it. Maybe none of us is going to survive this war; maybe all of us will. All we can do while we’re here is live our lives as fully as we can. If being a father’s important to you, Prongs, now is the time.”
“Eat, drink, and change nappies, for tomorrow we die,” James said. He took off his glasses and polished them with the hem of Lily’s shirt. Sirius suspected that his friend was using the movements to avoid looking at him. “It isn’t fair to have kids if you aren’t sure if you’ll be there to raise them,” he said quietly.
Lily had sat up a bit and was looking back at James, but she wasn’t saying anything. She’d probably said all she could on previous occasions. Now it was Sirius’s turn. As he wondered what to say next, Remus spoke.
“No parent is ever sure, James. They just have to hope they’ll be there and make plans in case they aren’t.”
“You’ll make it through this, James,” Sirius said confidently. “I’m the reckless one, remember? You really ought to have at least one sprog before I get myself killed. Kids love dogs.” James had put his glasses back on, but Sirius almost wished he was still looking away. Sirius didn’t like seeing the worry in James’s eyes when Sirius joked about his death.
Sirius tried to lighten the mood. “You do have an obligation to have lots and lots of children, you know. Remus and I can’t have any, obviously, and Peter—well, let’s not hold our breath for Peter to have any.” Remus gave him a playful shove for disparaging their friend. “Which means that it’s up to you and Red to repopulate Gryffindor.”
“I hear that the Weasleys are taking care of that,” James said.
“Ah, but can we count on the Weasleys to carry on in our footsteps, to torment Filch and the Slytherins? No, you need to have kids so we can help you raise them properly.”
“We?” James echoed and finally smiled. It was a slight smile, but Sirius took it as a positive sign. “Too bad we don’t have the map to give them someday.”
—Written April 2004