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[personal profile] rosivan
Title: Trees Growing in Concrete
Author/Artist: [personal profile] rosivan
Rating/Warnings: PG, angst, mature themes, a lot of yelling
Word Count: ~1600
Summary: Sirius walks through Grimmauld Place before offering it to Dumbledore as Headquarters.
Notes: Written for [brighty18] @ LJ, during [hp_toujours] 2008



The lamplight flickered under the blowing wind, and clusters of leaves wove tangled dances down the narrow street. The air was warm, but muggy, and heavy with the rain that had fallen all afternoon. Pools of rippling water collected between the squares of pavement, and the small patches of grass in front of each house were springy and slick with moisture.

Near the bushes of the small park nearby, a thin man tied a heavy leather leash to the trunk of a tree while eyeing the neat row of homes across the street. He was soaked and looked tired, as if he had been travelling through the unpleasant weather the entire day. His dirty, ripped trousers were tucked into the tops of muddy black boots, and laced with bits of coloured string tied together. Under a worn denim jacket he had lifted the hood of a green coat to hide his face. The man’s long tangled hair spilled out from under his hood, obscuring his features, but his shoulders were tense as he looked over at the houses.

In the bushes something whined, making an odd clacking noise. The man waved a hand and shrugged deeper into the cover of his coat. “I’ll be quick,” he said, his raspy words tumbling from his mouth clumsily. He licked his lips absently, as if unused to the motion of speaking, and cleared his throat. A large turkey leg was produced from his jacket pocket, and the man tossed it in the bush, saying, “Don’t wander.” Sloppy sounds of chewing answered him, and the man quickly crossed the street.

The houses of Grimmauld Place were conservative but quaint, with tall narrow walls made of brick and cherry-stained window frames. The steps and letterboxes were dark-painted metal, and in the center of every narrow door was a gold number.

The man seemed to hesitate on the pavement, standing between the houses eleven and thirteen, as if unable to decide which to approach. His eyes, dimly lit by the nearby streetlight, were focused, but apprehensive. He stared expectantly at the space between the houses for a moment, before shivering visibly.

Within moments, the space between the two houses had widened and slid apart, shaking the street and making another slice of property where there previously had been none. A house, identical to the others on the lane, casually squeezed into existence, settling on the ground quietly like it had been there all along. The number twelve gleamed on the door, completing the row of houses on Grimmauld Place.

The man, now standing precisely in front of the walk leading to the door, sighed to himself. He didn’t seem surprised by the events that had occurred. He glanced back at the bushes for a moment, and then went to the door of the house. It unlocked at his touch, and he went inside.

-

The air was dusty and suffocating, a rough comparison to the outdoors, just as he remembered from the past. The place was empty, that much Sirius knew, and he doubted anyone had been in the house since he had inherited it. Still, he wanted to check the place for surprises before doing anything with it.

Old magic blossomed in the corridors, hands and faces shaping out of empty space – they shied away from Sirius when he passed, and didn’t touch him. Sirius paid the hexes no mind, and ignored the waking portraits that started whispering to each other. The house was his, and as his father had told him many, many years ago, it would obey and protect him.

The house elves didn’t appear, which Sirius found odd, but the house seemed to settle, as if sensing his desire to walk though the manor without any intrusion. The hexes faded away, and the magic that Orion Black had laid into the walls slowly went back to sleep.

The place was dirty and ill-kept, which suited Sirius fine, but it seemed mostly harmless – if mostly harmless was something that could be attributed to the ancestral home of the noble family of Black.

“Toujours pur,” Sirius murmured out loud, and started up the stairs.

There was a curtain hanging over a portrait at the top of the stairs. Sirius hadn’t taken much notice of it until a voice spoke from beneath it. “So,” said a whispery, cruel voice, “Here he is, the misguided, rotted fruit of my loins,” said a voice from behind a set of curtains at the top of the stair. “You dare enter the place where you dishonoured the blood of my fathers?”

Sirius froze in mid-step, one hand on the banister of the staircase that led to the second floor. “Why, hello Mother. You have died, haven’t you?” His voice was calm, but he looked up at the curtains with an expression mixed with horror and disgust.

The voice of Walburga Black hissed at him, muttering to herself. “Blood traitor….blood traitor…”

The word ‘traitor’ hit him hard, making Sirius gasp with sudden anger. It was too fresh of a wound and something that he didn’t think he was going to hear in the empty house. ‘Blood traitor’ wasn’t an unfamiliar phrase, and had been a term he’d accepted with pride, but over the years, when ‘blood’ had finally been dropped, and the war had gone terribly wrong, Sirius was left with the word ‘traitor’. It wasn’t in the same context as it once had been, but to hear it now suddenly pulled away from the mahogany staircase and lavish entrance hall, and was shoved him back to the cold stone floor where the scratches of days and years lined his cell like wallpaper.

Traitor, betrayer of his friends…. The words splashed across headlines and newspapers that the entire world had read. Pettigrew Dead, Black a Killer. Traitor Black: Betrayed All. Murderer.

“INNOCENT,” Sirius roared, and stormed up the stairs to yell at the covered portrait. “INNOCENT, DAMN YOU.”

“TRAITOR,” the portrait screeched back at him. “BLOOD TRAITOR, ABANDONING THE FAMILY, BRINGING DISGRACE ON THE NAME OF BLACK. SHAMEFUL AND DISHONORABLE, A TRUE HUMILIATION.”

“I. AM. INNOCENT.” Awareness of the things around him seemed to narrow as he dug his fingers in the heavy cloth of the curtain. He tore it, repeating himself over and over, his nails clawing the surface of the portrait. Walburga continued to scream at him, her words quickly dissolving into noise, and the other portraits in the hall woke again, adding their voices to the mess of jumbled, wretched shrieking.

Sirius pulled at the frame of the portrait, desperately trying to rip her from the wall. When it wouldn’t yield, Sirius staggered back, using a small table to brace himself. It exploded at his touch, falling to jagged pieces, and picked up the sharpest, heaviest sliver. His blood rushed through his ears, deafening him to the cries of the household, and Sirius swept the wrecked portrait curtain aside.

The old, decrepit, screaming remains of a woman he once knew, impossibly, screeched louder, her voice rising above everything. Sirius stabbed at the portrait furiously, but the canvas wouldn’t rip, and Walburga continued to wail, her thin, brittle hands held in front of her like claws.

Exhausted, he dropped to his knees, still shaking with rage. Sirius was dimly aware of something large shattering behind him, and the room went dark. As he unsuccessfully tried to gain control of himself, the portraits stopped yelling, their voices stopping one-by-one until only Walburga was still crying out in the dark.

A small puff of smoke hailed the arrival of a house elf. Instead of approaching his new master, it moved to Walburga’s frame, his gravelly voice whispering comfort to her. Sirius, sick with fading fury, recognized the house elf immediately.

“Kreacher?” he asked, causing Walburga’s thin cry to grow stronger.

The house elf turned to glare at him, but it was clear that his attention was still focused on his former mistress. With a wave of the creature’s hand, the curtain covering Walburga’s frame was whole again, and he went back to whispering dark assurances to her.

Sirius stumbled down the hallway away from them, heading for the back staircase instead of moving past the portrait again, and down to where his outburst had torn the chandelier down from the ceiling of the entrance hall. The figures and ancestors hanging in the hall looked at him with intense disapproval and hate, wordlessly watching him flee from the image of a mother he never knew.

He’d pulled open the door to the back stairs, where it was hidden away from the view of guests, when another voice spoke out in the dark. Heart pounding, Sirius turned his head only enough to peer over the shoulder of his extended arm.

Lit by the flame of a tiny greasy candle, the soft curves of a young man’s face were made visible. Light grey eyes examined Sirius in a familiar way, and thin lips were drawn in an exasperated half-smile. The portrait of Regulus sighed and tilted his head, asking quietly, “Why do you bother fighting with her?”

“Why did you give in?” Sirius choked out, before rushing down the stairs and out of the house.

It was all too much – Walburga and her permanence, Regulus’ portrait and the last things they’d ever said to each other, even Kreacher and his devotion to a mistress long dead. If this trip had taught Sirius anything, it was that he was right; Grimmauld Place was a perfect place to hide the Order. Who in their right mind would ever think he, or anyone, would willingly hide there?
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