All Things Understood
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge #57: AlternateUniverse: What if Sirius and Remus switched problems? Remus's family hates him and Sirius is an outcast. (You decide how and why: use the same reasons, use different reason, and make it a 24-hour Christmas look upon, etc.)
Author Notes: This didn't come out as an AU, even though that's what the challenge was. It still fits the rest, though.
Sirius Black’s stomach plummeted when he recognized the snowy owl swooping towards him. His father’s. He wondered briefly what he’d done to disgrace the family name this time, what was he going to get yelled at for in this letter. He sighed audibly as he saw that the envelope the owl was carrying was normal off-white parchment, not the red that would indicate a Howler. However, his relief died within him as he read what was written.
I am writing to inform you that you will be returning home for the holidays. Several relatives and members of other pure-blood families, not to mention high-ranking Ministry officials, will be coming to Grimmauld Place for Christmas. As son and heir of the Black family, your presence is required. You will be here, you will behave properly. We must keep up appearances. If you do anything, anything at all, to disgrace the family name, it will go harshly with you.
Antares Orion Black
“Hey, what’s up?” asked Sirius’ best friend, James Potter, noticing the stricken look on his face. “You look like someone cancelled Christmas.”
“Might as well have,” Sirius muttered angrily. “I’ve got to go home for the holidays.”
“What?! But I thought your parents hated having you there.”
“They do, but apparently not as much as they hate losing face in front of the other families. There’s some fancy to-do at my place this year, and I have to be there. Son and heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and all, don’t you know. Can’t let the other muckety-mucks know that I’m a turncoat. Must 'keep up appearances.'”
“Geez, tough business. Anything I can do?”
“Probably not. If I think of something I’ll let you know, though.”
“Morning, you guys,” said their fellow Gryffindor Remus Lupin as he joined them at the table. “Who’d you get the letter from, Sirius?”
“My parents. Bloody closed-minded bigots that they are. Have to go home for Christmas.”
“Well, I know it won’t be fun, but at least they’ll know you’re there.” “What?”
“I know their yelling and cursing at you is horrible, but at least they acknowledge your existence. My family usually just pretends I’m not there.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to worry about that, not till summer.”
“Afraid I do. I’m going home, too. Got the letter yesterday.”
“I dunno. Guess they kinda feel bad. They might even be nice, for a day or two.”
“Honestly, you guys,” James cut in. “You’re making me feel guilty for having a normal family to go home to for Christmas. Now hurry up, or we’ll be late to class.”
As the end of term grew closer, Remus and Sirius became more and more upset and apprehensive at having to spend the holidays with their families. Sirius became more irritable, Remus more withdrawn. They started to argue about every little thing. James knew the two boys often enjoyed arguing with each other, mainly so they could enjoy make-up sessions afterwards, but this was getting out of hand. Things finally came to a head on the last day of school. He was heading up the stairs to the dormitory when he heard raised voices coming from inside.
“How’d you like to spend two entire weeks being completely and utterly ignored by the people who are supposed to love you?”
“You think that’s worse than spending two weeks with people you know hate you, and do everything they can to show it? I’d rather be ignored.”
“You have no idea. I’d rather people acknowledge my existence, even if they did it by yelling at me.”
“I have no idea?! And you’ve been hexed left right and center by the people you’ve grown up with, have you?”
“Forget it, just forget it; you can’t possibly understand what I go through.”
“And you’ll never know what I have to put up with. I really thought you’d be more understanding about this, being my boyfriend and all, but I guess I was mistaken.” Sirius stormed out of the dormitory and down the stairs, not even noticing that James was standing right there.
James entered the room, wondering what he could do to patch things up between the two boys. He knew how deeply they loved each other, and hated seeing something like this come between them. Suddenly, an idea hit him. He knew he’d read something just the other day… He began to dig through his bag, looking for books, trying to ignore the stifled sobs coming from behind the curtains on Remus’ bed. He wanted to comfort the other boy, but knew that now was not the time. He finally pulled out one book and began to turn the pages furiously. No, it was not here. Not in his other books, either. Where was it? He knew he’d read about it somewhere recently, only where and what for he couldn’t remember. Maybe the library….
He tried to remember all the library books he’d looked at recently, either idly leafing through them or using them to write an essay, and thought he did a fairly good job. The stack beside him was fairly large, and it was taking him a while to go through it. His search was not helped by the fact that he had no idea what kind of book it would be in. He was about ready to give up when he finally found what he was looking for.
Originally developed as a healing spell allowing the Healer to experience the patient’s symptoms, it is now commonly used in disputes to help the parties involved understand one another. Put simply, the Sensus Partis spell allows two people to experience each other’s emotions and feelings, and to a lesser extent, physical sensations. To perform the spell…
This is going to be perfect, James thought as he read.
Sirius stormed around the castle, not caring that he was out after hours. His mind was racing furiously. He felt terrible. He wasn’t mad at Remus, not really. He was mad at his parents, mad at them for what they were, what they did to him, for making him come home on what should have been a joyous occasion. He’d just taken his anger out on the other boy. Remus really didn’t understand, he thought. He can’t. Oh, I wish he could, I wish he had some idea what I go through, maybe then he’ll realize how lucky he is. Ok, maybe he was mad at Remus, a little.
He came to a stop as he passed the library. Wasn’t there a spell to make people understand each other, or something like that? He was sure he’d heard his father mention it, although what for he couldn’t remember. He even thought he’d read about it on one of the numerous occasions when he sought refuge in the huge library of his family’s mansion. His mind started down that track that it couldn’t be derailed from once he’d gotten an idea. Of course! He’d just perform the spell, Remus would know how he felt, and that would be that. He hurried into the library and raced toward the relevant section, yanking the book off the shelf when he finally found it, flipping through the pages. Ah, here it was. Sensus Partis…
Remus sat up in his bed, glad to be alone. He hated fighting with Sirius. Not the silly arguments they usually had, but like this. What made it worse was that he didn’t think they were really mad at each other. They were mad at their respective families, and upset that the other didn’t understand what they were going through, but thought he did. It was really just misunderstanding. There was a spell for that, wasn’t there? Yes, a healing spell, which he knew all about. He probably knew more about healing than any student, and probably most of the teachers. He walked over to his trunk and started digging through it. He finally came to the book he was searching for, the one that contained the Sensus Partis spell. He read over it carefully, noting that it did not seem terribly difficult; in fact, it was almost laughably easy. Besides a wand and the right words, the only requirement was that both people the spell was being worked on be in the same room. He lay back in his bed, curtains drawn. A little while later, he heard James come in and head for his four-poster. Much later Sirius entered, and also climbed into bed.
Later that night, three boys sat awake and listened to the fourth snoring. Three boys held their wands and whispered magic words. Three boys cast spells to help one another understand. And three boys had not read the warning the books contained.
Due the extreme nature of this spell and its effects, great care must be taken in its casting. It should be cast only with the full knowledge and consent of both parties involved. Because of its extreme power, however, only one person should actually cast the spell. The results of these precautions not being taken are unpleasant at best.
The journey to King’s Cross was a long and uncomfortable one. Sirius and Remus were still not speaking to one another, and it was all James and Peter could do to keep the conversation going throughout the trip. The spell had apparently not worked; the boys seemed no nearer to understanding each other than the Chudley Cannons were to winning the league championship. James sighed. Oh well, there wasn’t really much else he could do. He just hoped the holidays weren’t as bad as each boy feared they would be. These thoughts were driven from his mind, however, as the train pulled into the station and the students trickled in small groups through the barrier and into the Muggle world. He said a last goodbye to his friends as he was pulled into his mother’s near-suffocating embrace.
Remus groaned inwardly as he spotted his mother and father through the crowd of people at the station. He made his way slowly toward them, dragging his trunk behind. He received the normal hug from his father, and peck on the cheek from his mother, and they made their way to the car. His mother was Muggle-born and still preferred Muggle modes of transportation, and his father was only too happy to oblige her. He sat silently in the back seat, speaking only when they asked him questions about his classes and his friends. There was a coldness in their voices and a stiffness to their postures that was not usually there, but he didn’t pay much attention it. They so rarely took an interest in anything in his life that he wasn’t about to question anything right now.
He was the first one through the door when they arrived home. He stood in the entryway, bracing himself to be bowled over by an enthusiastic greeting from his younger brother, who was the one family member always glad to have him home. But there was no pounding of feet on the stairs, no fierce, ten-year-old tackle-hugs. It was rather unnerving.
“Where’s David?” he turned to ask his father, who was coming through the door.
“I don’t know. Not around you, which is good enough for me.”
Remus was cut to the quick by his father’s comment. While his parents were often indifferent towards him, they had never been outright hostile to him before.
Remus was just gathering his trunk to take it up to his room when his brother appeared at the foot of the stairs. David’s face was not glowing and happy the way it usually was when he saw Remus. Instead, it was marred by a sneer that was far too old for his ten years.
“Hullo, freak,” he said, condescension dripping in his voice.
And that was the beginning.
Remus had never known his family to act like this before. Usually they just pretended he wasn’t there, polite but distant. This time, the distance was replaced by disgust, the courtesy by hatred. Horrible epithets were hurled at him, words that his parents had taught him he was never to use. “Freak.” “Monster.” “Half-breed.” They cut him to the quick, had him crying in the silence of his bedroom. What had happened to them? They had never really shown it, but they had loved him. Hadn’t they?
Things came to a head when relatives began arriving for Christmas Day; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Since his parents were busy in the kitchen, and David was busy being a ten-year-old on Christmas, Remus was the one who ran to the door every time the bell rang, yanking it open and inviting the never-ending flood of relations inside. He always gave a polite and cheery greeting, but it was continually met with some variation of “What are you doing here?” After this happened five or six times, Remus resigned himself to opening the door silently and taking coats.
As the oldest child, it was Remus’ job to keep all the other children occupied, out of trouble, and out from underfoot. It was one of his favorite things about the holidays; he loved to play games with his cousins, or tell them stories, or listen to them tell, in breathless, excited voices, what Santa Claus had left under the tree.
This year, however, the older children seemed to be getting on fine without him. They were involved in some complicated game involving lots of shouting and giggling, and at least three decks of cards. He had asked if he could join in, but had been rudely spurned by Amanda, the next oldest child, two years younger than he was.
He was taking care of those too young to join in the game, settling them down on the couch and opening a book, when one of his aunts looked over at him
“Keep away from those children,” she said sharply. “I don’t want someone like you anywhere near them.”
Remus stood up, completely taken aback. Everyone in his family had commented on how marvelous he was with children, telling his he should be a teacher, he had such a way with them. Having no idea what else to do, and needing time and space to think, Remus put on a coat and hat, and announced to the house at large that he was going for a walk.
“Don’t bother coming back,” was hurled after him as he headed out the door.
However much he hated disappointing his relatives, it was too cold to stay out for very long, and besides, dinner was almost ready. He came through the door just as everyone was getting ready to load up their plates and take a seat. After a curt instruction from his mother to wait until everyone else had served themselves, Remus finally got a plate and headed into the dining room, taking a seat between David and Tim, his second oldest cousin. He was absolutely famished, not having eaten much all day, and as no one seemed inclined to strike up a conversation with him, he began to eat ravenously.
His mother looked at him disapprovingly from across the table.
“Honestly, Remus,” she said. “Just because you are an animal doesn’t mean you have to eat like one.”
Remus had finally had enough. “I don’t know what’s going on around here,” he said angrily as he shot to his feet, knocking his chair over. “I really don’t. But I do know that I don’t need anybody, especially not you, saying things like that to me.”
Remus’ father stood up also. “Don’t you talk to your mother that way,” he growled.
“Then don’t let her talk to me that way,” Remus shot back.
“She’ll talk to you anyway she likes, boy. You ought to be damn grateful to us, after all we’ve done for you.”
“Yeah, and what is that? Ignore me for twelve years, and then, when you finally start paying attention to me, treat me like shit?”
“Enough of your lip, boy,” his father said, and then backhanded him across the mouth so hard he fell to the floor. “Don’t know why we put up with you, you ungrateful little shit. Should have had you put down when we had the chance..”
Remus lifted a hand to his lip, then raised his fingers to his eyes, staring at the blood shining on them. “Get out of my sight,” his father said, gesturing towards the stairs. “And on the train back to school first thing tomorrow.”
Sirius sighed as he made his way over to where his parents were standing, talking to Regulus. He hated his parents, hated his brother, hated his house, hated everything about being a Black except his older cousin Andromeda. Going home for the holidays was definitely the worst present he could have gotten.
However, no scathing remarks about the ‘blood-traitor’ seemed to be forthcoming, so he was gratefully silent as they walked to the Floo portal and went quickly if somewhat nauseatingly back to Grimmauld Place
The next few days were slow and nerve-wracking. Sirius kept waiting for something that never came. No lectures from his father, no screaming from his mother, no questions from Regulus asking if he was upset that his little Gryffinwhore wasn’t here to put out for him. He wasn’t sure if his brother knew about him and Remus, but Regulus loved to taunt him about it regardless. He was constantly expecting the shoe to drop, but it didn’t.
Indeed, no one seemed inclined to pay him more attention than was absolutely necessary. A direct question got a brief and usually curt answer, but no one seemed willing to initiate a conversation with him, or even really acknowledge his existence. He started to feel rather lonely.
But even that was a minor concern compared with Christmas. Sirius knew that with other pure-blood families there, and people from the Ministry, he was going to have to be to be out and about and basically put in the public eye. He was going to have make conversation with people like Lucius Malfoy, and he’d have to be polite about it. He was sure he’d be driven almost mad, because whenever a bunch of pure-blooded wizards, at least those who thought the way his parents did, got together, one topic of conversation was sure to be how much better they were than anyone else. And he simply did not hold that view, and could not condone it, and would be biting his tongue the whole day to keep from lashing out at the utter stupidity of it all.
At least Andy would be there, and they would do as they always did, laugh and snigger and make comments about stuffed shirts, then go off and try to find the absolute worst hex in the world among the books in the Black family library, a search which had kept them busy for three years running.
On Christmas Day, Sirius say with his brother in the parlor, twisting his head around to try and ease the scratching of his high, starched collar. He heard the doorbell ring in the distance, and a few moments later a man Sirius did not know was led into the room by one of the house elves.
“Ah, Walden,” his father said smoothly, rising to his feet and shaking the man’s hand rather formally. “Pleased to have you here, as always.” He led the man across to where they were sitting. “These are my sons, Sirius and Regulus,” The boys shook hands as they were introduced. “This is Walden MacNair. He works on the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures.”
“And what kind of creatures do you…dispose of, Mr. MacNair?” Regulus asked interestedly.
“Ah, not much around here,” came the rough-voiced reply. “Pretty civilized around here, you know. Hippogriffs, occasionally. Kelpies, if they get too big. Dragons, although you gotta be careful with that. Werewolves, of course.”
Sirius’ stomach clenched at those last words. How could this man just talk about that so casually? Hippogriffs and kelpies and dragons were one thing, but werewolves, werewolves were people. He felt sick at the thought that this man, and many others like him, would kill Remus as soon as look at him, if they knew what he was.
Fortunately, he was rescued from this train of thought by the arrival of his uncle Altair and his cousins Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Andromeda. His uncle was nothing more than a younger version of his father, Bellatrix cruel, and Narcissa rather stupid, so he made polite greetings and passed by. He pulled Andromeda into a tight hug, which she returned rather absentmindedly. He began talking to her excitedly about the Reversus Hex, which apparently turned a person’s body inside out and was quite possibly the worst one in the world.
“Not right now, Sirius,” she said to him vaguely, turning to say something to her father.
After that, aside from introductions, Sirius was left completely alone by everyone at the party. So much for ‘keeping up appearances’, he thought bitterly. Why even make me come home if no one’s even going to pay attention to me? He wandered off around the house, not really knowing what to do or where to go. He couldn’t stand to be in the parlor, with people milling and talking all around, but no one saying a word to him. He stopped in the library, but left quickly; it did not seem right to be in the library without Andromeda on Christmas.
He had no idea how long he had been gone, but it had to be a couple of hours. He was starting to get hungry, and headed back to the main area of the house, hoping to find out how long it was until dinner. The parlor was empty when he walked into it, but he could hear voices coming from the dining room. He entered and was shocked to find the meal half over. No one had even been sent to fetch him. It was truly one of the worst things he had ever felt, to know that his family cared so little for him that they didn’t even notice he wasn’t there for Christmas dinner.
No one turned to look at him as he entered the room and silently took a seat at the end of the table. No one spoke to him as he dished up his plate. No one acknowledged him when they headed back to the parlor for coffee and brandy. He was completely ignored by everyone the rest of the day.
He sought Andromeda out as everyone was preparing to leave, hoping to ask her why she hadn’t spent time with him, as it was their tradition to do. But she merely hugged him loosely, said “Good-bye, Sirius,” then turned and walked out the door, leaving him standing there, staring forlornly after her.
Remus looked up when he heard footsteps on the stairs. He had spent a very lonely week, since he had come back to school before break was over, and was glad to have his friends back with him. He smiled as three grinning boys walked through the door to the dormitory. James and Peter pulled him into rough bear-hugs, and Sirius threw his arms around him and kissed him soundly on the lips, ignoring the groans from their roommates.
“I missed you soooooooo much,” he said, spreading his arms wide as he talked. “Why weren’t you on the train?”
“My dad sent me back early. Can’t say I mind. Everyone was being horrible to me.”
“Horrible? To you? Oh, no, Moony, that’s terrible.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. Calling me horrible names, and treating me like shit. A lot like your family treats you, I guess.”
“My family has lost its mind, I swear. Not a cross word out of them the whole time I was there. Not any other kind of word, either, mind you. Just like I wasn’t there. Like your family treats you, I suppose.”
“I’ll take it any day over the crap they put me through.”
“Ugh, no thanks. Two whole weeks without any kind of conversation, even a yelled one? Practically drove me up the wall. Andromeda ignored me, too, that was the worst part.”
“I’m sorry I was so horrible to you before the holidays. I just didn’t understand what you went through. I even did this spell, but I don’t think it worked…”
“No, no need to apologize, I was just as horrible to you, I didn’t understand either. Wait, what spell did you do?”
“Sensus Partis, it’s called. Here, I’ll show you.” He pulled the book out of his trunk and placed it in Sirius’ hands.
“Moony, this is the same spell I did.”
“Same spell you did? Well, I guess it didn’t work for either of us.”
“Look, I’m glad you two lovebirds have worked out your differences and all,” James interrupted, “but there is a brand new Exploding Snap deck over here that needs to be broken in, so if you would please stop whatever you’re on about and come give Peter and me some assistance?”
“Of course,” said Remus, looking over at James. “I was just showing Sirius this spell I did before hols. Can’t figure out why it didn’t work though.”
“What spell would that be?” James asked, momentarily intrigued.
“S’called Sensus Partis,” Sirius informed him. “Turns out we both did it, but nothing happened.”
“Sensus Partis? I used that spell. Trying to get you two berks to see some sense. Stop your fighting and all.” He and Peter came and peered over Sirius’ shoulder.
“Well, there’s your problem right there,” said Peter, tapping the note at the end of the spell. “You didn’t read carefully enough, and everything screwed up on you.”
James, Sirius, and Remus read the note. They glanced at each other.
“Guess it did work,” Sirius said quietly. “Not the way we expected, though,” Remus added.
“Well, it did it’s job; that’s good enough for me,” James said cheerfully. “Now are you two quite finished, or are these cards going to have to break themselves in?”
Sirius and Remus smiled at each other as they made their over and sat on James’ bed. They were glad that they now understood each other, and that their fight was over. However, the method was not one they would recommend to anyone.