Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Credit goes to verdoven. for the story title! :D
A massive thank you also goes to SereneChaos who has been incredibly helpful in allowing me to bounce ideas off of her and inadvertently replacing my muse when it disappeared so I could continue with this story. Serene, you're amazing.
Amazing chapter image by aim.moon @ TDA!
MAY 22ND 1970
Sirius was bored.
His father would have frowned if Sirius had said that out loud; Orion Black was extremely proud of being able to hire one of the much-desired governesses in the wizarding world to tutor his sons, regardless of the fact that both Sirius and Regulus despised the amount of homework that she set them. Sirius had complained that he was only ten and it must surely be some form of torture to inflict such vast amounts of schoolwork on a boy who hadn't even started Hogwarts yet. However, considering his parents dreamt of him being the best student in Slytherin when he eventually went to Hogwarts, his opinion had proved rather unpopular.
His “unsightly attitude” was the reason why he was currently lying on his bed, throwing scrunched up balls of parchment into the rubbish bin standing in the corner- or at least attempting to. Sirius' aim was abysmal, so more often than not the balls would land anywhere but their intended destination.
He wasn't surprised when the Blacks' house-elf Kreacher Apparated onto the foot of his bed, scowling; he had probably just been doing the laundry- a long and tedious task, worsened by Sirius' inability to not get mud or some other dreadful substance on his clothes.
“Mistress requested that Kreacher inform Master Sirius that his governess has arrived for this afternoon's class.” the house-elf announced.
Sirius groaned. He might have been bored, but he considered boredom to be infinitely preferable to yet another study session with a witch he despised. He was sure, from listening to his older cousins discussing Hogwarts, that the private study sessions she inflicted was nothing like classes at Hogwarts, where you actually got to do something instead of parroting seemingly useless facts.
“Tell Mother I'll be down in a minute,” he grumbled. “Clean that rubbish up too, Kreacher.”
“Mistress expressly forbade Kreacher from tidying Master Sirius' room,” Kreacher answered, “so it seems that Master Sirius will have to do it himself.”
Without further comment, the house-elf Disapparated, leaving the eldest Black son alone. Sirius made a face at the space where Kreacher had been seconds previously, before getting up and scurrying over to the bin. He knew perfectly well that if he wasn't downstairs in less than five minutes, his mother would be on the warpath, and an angry Walburga Black was not pleasant to encounter. After he had collected as many parchment balls as he could see, he moved the bin to check that there were no stray balls that had fallen behind- Kreacher would check, he was certain- and was mystified to see a small light shining. It took Sirius a few seconds to realize that there was a hole in the wall, and that whoever was in the room on the other side had their light on- although he wondered why the flames of their lamp weren't flickering.
“SIRIUS ORION BLACK!” he heard his mother scream, and he quickly returned the bin to its original position before bolting out of his room and down the stairs.
And while Sirius ran to the room his father had set aside for the governess to use for tutoring the Black boys, he promised himself that later, he would investigate that hole in the wall.
Lexi hated her sisters.
Her mother would have scolded her for using a word as strong as hate, but at moments like this she really did loathe them. She could hear the giggles from the two sets of bunk beds in the room as she curled up on top of a mattress on the floor. It wasn't fair at all. She had been elated when her mother had finally bought bunk beds and declared that her daughters would be able to choose which bed they wanted, starting from the eldest.
It didn't matter that the bunks were shabby and second-hand; they were still individual beds and after sharing a double bed with all four of her sisters and getting kicked in the face while she was sleeping by Grace's uncontrollable feet, having a proper bed all to her own was bliss to Lexi. The cherry on the cake was the fact that the moment she saw the bunk beds, she had wanted to sleep in the top bunk and, after her mother's assurance that the eldest could have the bed they wanted, she had known she was going to have what she wanted for once. It didn't matter that she was the third-eldest; Melody had an irrational fear of heights, so as predicted, she took the bottom bunk while Grace took the one above Melody. That left Lexi in the other top bunk and Diana in the other bottom; with Amelia sleeping in the mattress in the corner.
Their mother had explained to a dismayed Amelia that the mattress was only temporary and that a proper bed would be supplied as soon as she could afford to buy one, but the moment Amelia started to cry hysterically at the prospect of sleeping on the floor, Lexi had known she was going to be forced to surrender her coveted bunk. Sheepishly, her mother had explained that if Amelia was unhappy, she would make everyone else's lives miserable, so it was better if Lexi gave up her bunk. If she was honest with herself, Lexi wouldn't have minded if she'd known from the start that she'd been sleeping on the mattress, but what hurt was having something they'd all known she wanted, and then being helpless as it was taken away.
Amelia was a selfish brat to demand the top bunk when Lexi had picked it fair and square. Amelia knew perfectly well that Lexi loved being able to see everything from a bird's eye view after sleeping in a top bunk once at her friend's home, but she had demanded things her way yet again, disregarding the fact that her sisters had feelings of their own too. Technically, the mattress was supposed to be Diana's in the first place, but because Diana was sick, their mother had insisted she have a bunk. If Diana hadn't been sick, Lexi would have kept her top bunk, and therefore she would be having sweet dreams tonight. And of course, it didn't help that neither Melody nor Grace had surrendered their own bunks to lessen Lexi's heartbreak.
Lexi was the one who was named after her mother, Alexandria. That meant, whenever she met someone new, they always smiled at her in that condescending way and exclaimed that she must surely be her mother's favourite. If only they knew the truth: that she was anything but.
She tensed in fright when she heard a scrabbling noise from the wall, instantly suspecting rats in the house. And then out of nowhere, a piece of rolled up paper came out from the wall. Lexi took it gingerly, wondering how paper could appear out of nowhere, and realized the answer to her question when the hole in the wall became noticeable once the paper had been removed. She unrolled it, silently wondering why the texture was so strange, to reveal one word scrawled in messy handwriting.
She smiled gently, quickly pushing the strange paper into her pillowcase then quietly retrieved her notepad and pen from next to the mattress and scribbled out a reply before rolling the lined paper up and pushing it through the hole.
Sirius genuinely hadn't expected a reply. He stared at the brilliant white paper with black stripes and the pretty handwriting.
Hello. My name is Alexandria Fraser, but call me Lexi. What's yours?
She was a Muggle. Sirius knew that he shouldn't reply. He had heard his parents' complaints that Muggles were filthy and inferior. It didn't make sense to him, though. If Muggles were so filthy, why was this smooth parchment the cleanest he had ever seen, with smudgeless ink? If Muggles were inferior, why was her handwriting so much better than his?
And then he remembered a rule of his parents' that he normally loathed: always reply to letters or suchlike that are written to you. It was a rule they usually enforced after his birthday and Christmas, when he was made to write out in his best handwriting “thank-you” notes to those who had sent him gifts, even if he despised such gifts. But it was a rule, and for once Sirius wanted to stick to the rules.
I'm Sirius. Why is your parchment funny-looking?
It's called paper. How is it funny-looking when yours is the strangest paper I've ever seen? And is the name Sirius made up? I've never heard of anybody called that.
Sirius is the dog star. My family like star names. And we call it parchment. Nobody is called Alexandria or Lexi, either. I don't know anybody with either of those names.
A lot of people are called Alexandria, because it's a city in Egypt. Including my mother, who hates me.
My mother hates me too. We have something in common!! My father doesn't like me, either. They both like my brother better. What about yours?
Dad lives with his new family now instead of us, so I think he must hate us, too. How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I only have one brother, Regulus. How many brothers and sisters have you got?
I have four sisters. Melody and Grace are older than me but Amelia and Diana are younger. Is Regulus a star name too? What's it like sharing with one brother?
You're lucky. If you argue with one sister, you can play with one of the others. I can't. Yes, Regulus is a star name too. We have our own rooms.
Melody and Grace ignore us, and Amelia is a spoiled brat. No-one can play with Diana because she's sick and we might hurt her accidentally. How can you have your own rooms? There are only two bedrooms in our houses; where do your parents sleep?
Does that mean you and your four sisters share a room? Our house is magic, so it's much bigger than yours.
Yes. They have bunk beds but because Amelia threw a tantrum, I'm sleeping on the mattress on the floor instead of her, which is why it's me who got your note, not Amelia. How is your house bigger? You live next door, at number 11, and that's the same size as ours.
I said my house is magic. I'll tell you what I mean, if you like. But you have to promise that it must be our secret, just ours. Your sisters must NEVER find out. You can't tell anybody.
Sirius paused, staring at the letter he had just written- assuming it could be called a letter, since the length was more suited to a note. Could he really tell a Muggle girl about Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place? He had asked his parents once why Muggles couldn't see the Black house, and Orion had answered with the sneering comment that Muggles were too stupid to see what was in front of them. And yet despite have only exchanged a handful of written sentences with Lexi Fraser, he couldn't understand the difference between everything he had heard about Muggles and the evidence in front of him.
His governess provided him with a very basic Muggle Studies education, declaring that Muggles were irrational fools who served little purpose in life. He had already seen with his own eyes proof that Lexi's light, whatever she called it, was more advanced than the lamp in his bedroom- he hated how the flames in it flickered needlessly, but she obviously didn't have that problem. And how could she be stupid, when her sentences were more articulate than his and her words better spelt?
Walburga had insisted that Muggles were filthy, but he'd already worked out that her strange version of parchment- paper, she called it- was cleaner than his parchment, and her ink didn't blot or smudge. He must really ask her how that was possible; his governess was constantly complaining about the blots of green ink smeared all over his homework and if Lexi knew a technique to avoid that, she could teach Sirius how to do it and then he would get brownie points with his family. In that moment, he realized that despite the internal debate within his mind, he actually wanted to continue talking with her.
He re-read the letter once more, certain that he had emphasised how important it was to keep quiet about the magical world. After all, if Lexi or her sisters inadvertently knew a Mudblood currently at Hogwarts- two of her sisters were older, so it was possible- and if they let slip that Lexi had a wizard friend called Sirius, he could guarantee that his cousins would find out and consequently tell his parents. Once again, he wondered if it was the best idea to trust a Muggle stranger, but forced his doubts aside and pushed the note through, causing it to become irretrievable if he changed his mind again. After several minutes had passed, Lexi replied. Sirius unrolled the paper quickly to read her answer, and then slowly, he smiled.
Raven hair was sprawled across a tear-sodden pillow as Sirius Black buried his face in the familiar silk material, ashamed of his inability to control his emotions. He knew that if he continued to cry, and one of his parents walked in, he would be punished for misbehaving; a Black was not permitted to reduce themselves to, as his father put it, “a snivelling git”. He felt a sudden twinge of guilt in that moment, remembering his first journey on the Hogwarts Express, where he had labelled Severus Snape with the same insult that he was so afraid of now. Could it be that Snape had felt the same way then that Sirius did now?
Sirius sat up then, shaking his head in an attempt to banish his sympathies towards the Slytherin. Even if Snape had felt that way, he didn't deserve sympathy. He hung around with the Slytherins who considered themselves superior, he bullied innocent victims and he loved to fling curses in the direction of Sirius and his friends. He would rather dance naked in front of the whole of Hogwarts rather than have an affinity with Snape. His eyes were drawn once again to his desk, where remnants of paper lay scattered. He knew it was risky to leave them there lest his parents or Kreacher saw them, but he couldn't justify hiding them away. Sirius got up and walked over to the mahogany desk, his fingers brushing the paper that held countless words which he had already memorized over the course of his summer.
He picked up the last letter he had received from Lexi, remembering his final words to her the previous year: that he would be staying at his cousins' for three weeks, and then leaving for Hogwarts.
Of course I'll still be here, Sirius. You're my best friend! If I won't be here (I might be at my grandparents') then I'll leave you a note, I promise.
In the year since he had first met Lexi, he had never known her to break a promise. He'd threatened Kreacher with clothing, hoping that the house-elf would confess to stealing a letter of Lexi's, but no such letter had arrived. He'd slipped letters through the hole in the wall daily ever since the beginning of summer, hoping that even if Lexi wasn't there, one of her sisters might be. Or, if the Fraser family had moved out of Number Thirteen, Grimmauld Place, then the Muggles living there now would notice the accumulation of parchment coming out of nowhere and track down Lexi for him. He sighed before picking up his quill and writing his final letter.
Tomorrow I go back to Hogwarts. Tomorrow I'll leave this house for another year. I've sworn Kreacher to secrecy about you, so please, if you ever see this, write back. It won't matter that I'm at Hogwarts, because he'll bring your letters to me. I should have thought of that last year, and I wish that I had because then I wouldn't have lost you.
What happened... whatever caused you to break your promise, just remember this.
You will always be my best friend.
He rolled his parchment and, for the final time, scurried to the corner of his bedroom expecting to push his letter though the wall. He gasped in surprise when he realized that the hole had been filled up; his family hadn't known about it, so Lexi's family must have discovered it, assuming they were still there. And then his back fell against the wall, and he slid down into a sitting position, yet more tears rolling down his cheeks, unrestrained.
“Oh, Lexi,” Sirius whispered, his heart breaking. “What happened?”
But once again, there was no answer.
Author's Note: Just so you're aware, my dear readers: this story won't be as angsty as the above prologue. I just felt that Sirius and Lexi wouldn't be likely to start conversing with strangers if their lives were happy and perfect. I'd really appreciate reviews on how I'm doing! :)