Friday 20th April 1972
Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead end streets - and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test.
Remus loved Hunky Dory more than anything. It was by turns bright and happy – then dark and introspective. He felt that David Bowie must have some super human insight into his soul. Even if he didn’t always fully understand the lyrics, he felt as though they somehow made sense.
He hummed the tune to Changes quietly under his breath as he walked up and down the dark library shelves, his wand lit for a better look. He really ought to be catching up on Potions – but Lily had offered to help him over the weekend and he’d already been revising Transfiguration all day. It had taken that long to turn an old top hat into a rabbit and back again.
Remus finally found the shelf he was looking for – The British Wizards Guide to Nuptial Laws 1700 – 1950. He hoped that would be recent enough. It was huge, and he had to get up on a step ladder to reach it. Stretching, Remus just about had purchase on the dusty old leather cover, and was about to pull it down towards him, when another hand reached up and grabbed his wrist.
Yelping, Remus yanked his hand back and almost toppled off the stool, coming face to face with Narcissa Black.
“Ugh, it’s you.” She said, distastefully. She was a head taller than him, so they came about level as long as he kept his balance. She did not release his hand, “Give me that.”
“No, I had it first.” He replied, still trying to pull away. She had an iron grip.
“Go away, little boy. What could you possibly want this for?” She gave him a hard shove and he toppled backwards, landing painfully on his backside.
Narcissa smiled down at him, victorious, holding the heavy tome. He scowled,
“What do you want it for?”
“That’s none of your business,” she breezed, tossing her pale hair out of her eyes in a manner eerily similar to Sirius. She turned and began to walk away, between the gloomy stacks. Remus scrambled to his feet,
“Wait,” He said, trying to keep his voice down so that Madam Pince didn’t throw him out again, “Oi, Narcissa, wait!” He tugged her robes.
She spun around with furious eyes, her wand raised. Remus instinctively grabbed his own wand just in time. They both stood like statues for a few moments. He knew that she had cursed James and Sirius on several occasions, and that the whole Black family knew all sorts of dark magic. But at the same time, Remus had never cursed a girl before, and it felt wrong.
“I just wanted to know,” he said, carefully, choosing his words, “If it was anything to do with you and Sirius… the engagement thing.”
She lowered her wand, slowly, regarding him with suspicious interest.
“So he’s told you all about that, has he?” She raised an eyebrow – which was still as inky black as her natural hair colour. “Yes, little boy, that’s exactly what I need it for. You don’t think I want to be married to that whiny little blood-traitor, do you?”
Remus just shrugged. The truth was, it hadn’t actually occurred to him how Narcissa felt about any of it. He’d been so focussed on helping Sirius that he hadn’t considered whether anyone else might be working on exactly the same problem. Narcissa sighed impatiently,
“Well I don’t. And I’m not expecting my brat of a cousin to come up with a solution any time soon, so here I am.”
She didn’t sound angry anymore, just bitter. Now that he was closer to her, Remus could see that she had dark rings under her eyes.
“I want to find a solution.” He said, tilting his chin up to meet her gaze, wishing he wasn’t shorter than her. “I’ve been trying, anyway.”
“Ha.” Narcissa laughed humourlessly, “A second year?! And what have you come up with, hm?" She tapped her black patent heel on the dark floorboards.
"Well..." Remus swallowed, "Not much – nothing good enough yet. Unless... well, unless you were already married."
"I've thought of that." Narcissa snapped, "I'm not of age yet, I can't. I'd have eloped with Lucius the moment they proposed this ridiculous engagement, but I'm not seventeen until October."
"Right," Remus nodded, surprised to hear this, "And... it can't wait, because of the betrothal ceremony this summer, right?"
"Correct." She was looking at him with slightly less venom, now, as if she found the conversation amusing rather than irritating.
"But, I was thinking – what actually is the ceremony?" He asked, feeling braver, "What do you and Sirius have to do?"
"Oh, the usual Black family rubbish," she replied, "A banquet, astrological charts, probably a commemorative portrait of the two of us. Mother still has Bella's hanging up in the dining room."
The thought of a portrait depicting thirteen year old Sirius with his sixteen year old cousin was repulsive to Remus. Narcissa didn't sound like she relished the idea either. "This is all his fault, you know." She said, "Acting as if he's some special case. If he had simply followed tradition like the rest of us, toed the line until he was old enough to get out..." She trailed off, her eyes bright with angry tears, which she wiped away quickly, "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm marrying Lucius and that's all there is to it. Thank goodness he's stood by me through all of this, anyone else would have walked away."
Remus didn't like to comment. What did he know about relationships? He'd never even seen one close up. They were silent for a few minutes, while Narcissa composed herself. Once she had, she gave a sniff and looked at Remus again, "I shan't curse you." She said, magnanimously, "But I'm warning you – I've had just about enough of people meddling with my future. So just keep your nose out from now on."
With that, she turned and left, leaving Remus with plenty to think about.
* * *
Monday 30th April 1973
"Moony, what are all of these books for?" James asked, as he tripped over a pile Remus had carefully stacked near the dorm entrance – they were useless and he'd been planning to take them back that afternoon.
"Just some research." He replied, not looking up from his current book, "Where've you been?"
"Plotting." Sirius followed James him, stepping over the scattered books which his friend was trying to clear up. Remus raised an eyebrow,
"Plotting? Map or mischief?"
"Bit of both," Sirius grinned, throwing himself onto Remus's bed. He picked up a book,
"Wizard Wedding Rituals?!" He laughed, "Who you marrying, Moony? Not Evans, James'll have to challenge you to a duel."
"I do NOT fancy Evans." James spat, from where he squatted on the floor. "Magical Marriages." He read, picking up the final book and placing it on top of the pile, "Seriously, Remus, what's all this about?"
Remus sighed, putting down the book and rubbing his eyes,
"I'm trying to help you," he kicked Sirius gently with his foot. "Someone's got to get you out of this stupid engagement."
"Oi!" Sirius scowled, "I'm doing everything I can."
"What are you doing?"
"Haven't I had more detentions than anyone else this year? I must get a howler a week. And my lions, don't forget my lions at the quidditch match."
Remus stared at him, dumbfounded.
"How is any of that supposed to help?"
"I'm proving that I'm not the marrying type."
"No offence, mate," James put in, coming to sit on the bed with them, "But I don't think your lot really care that you're not the marrying type."
"Exactly," Remus nodded, "You're the heir. You have to marry another pureblood. And the Black family have a long history of inter marriage, even your parents are cousins."
"Er... how do you know?" Sirius looked uncomfortable.
"I've been reading." Remus gestured at all of the books. "There's loads of stuff in the library on your family. One of the oldest wizarding houses in Britain, traced all the way back to the middle ages, where the family seat was in Inverness in Scotland--"
"I know all of this." Sirius waved a hand.
"Yeah, but did you know that you aren't the first Black who wanted to get out of a marriage?"
"Well obviously Andromeda – though that was more that she did want to marry, only Ted was the wrong sort..."
"Not just her – Lyra Black defied the family's wishes in 1901 to marry into the Crabbe family, and Delphinus Black was supposed to marry his niece in 1750 but left her at the altar and married Fidelia Bulstrode. And, your Uncle Alphard never married either, though there's no explanation--"
"Yeah, we're not supposed to talk about him," Sirius replied, edgily, "I've heard mother ranting about him and I'm pretty sure he was a queer."
There was an awkward silence.
"My dad knew Alphard," James said, "Said he was an all right bloke."
"He was always nice to me," Sirius shrugged, "Left me his money and everything, made sure no one else can touch it until I'm of age. Makes my parents furious, you know, that he didn't return all his cash to the family vault, so I have to give him credit for that, even if he was... well, whatever."
Remus's throat was very dry, and he cleared it, wanting to move on,
"So anyway, it just goes to show that you can get out of this sort of thing. Only problem is, I can't find any good details on how they all got away."
"Don't bother," Sirius said, gloomily, "Even if you did find out – none of them had my mother to contend with. You know what she's like. She's probably going to make us take the unbreakable vow."
"She wouldn't!" James said, aghast.
"She'd do anything." Sirius nodded.
Remus chewed his lip, thoughtfully. He didn't know what the unbreakable vow was – it sounded like dark magic. From what he'd already read about the House of Black, he knew that the library's restricted section would probably have to be his next stop. He'd have to borrow James's cloak for that, and go at night. No matter. He refused to be deterred from this. He owed it to Sirius.
Hadn't Remus once told Sirius that his own problem was hopeless, inescapable? And hadn't Sirius worked tirelessly, learnt to perform complicated, NEWT standard magic, just to help him? This was no different. He just had to work harder. Knowing that Narcissa was also working on the problem was strangely comforting. Remus knew from her curses that she must be a very accomplished and clever witch, and there was no doubt in his mind that she usually got her way.
I'm marrying Lucius and that's all there is to it. There had to be something in that. He remembered Flitwick telling them that love - natural, everyday, human love - was one of the most powerful types of magic. While Remus didn't personally feel that anything about Lucius and Narcissa's coupling was natural, exactly, he knew that it was a lot more powerful than family honour. It had to be.