"Severus, right? Lena's son? You're alright, stop yellin', you're fine! I got you!"
His vision exploded into black spots and starbursts. His shoulder—his shoulder was definitely broken.
"Nah, you're okay! See, it's fine!" Firm hands cradled his elbow and held down his chest. He was pinned against the house. He shook, reaching for his wand, but having lost all grip strength, felt it slip from his fumbling fingers.
With a jerk and a nauseating 'clunk,' the torment of his shoulder reduced to an ache. The arm hung limp, freshly rehoused in its socket. He cried out, and stumbled away, clawing for the door handle. He had to escape!
"Dammit, Fred, take care of 'im! I got the girls!"
"Mum, who is this guy!?"
"Who d'ya think, genius!? He's who you got the house from! Move 'im inside!"
A great, shaggy head eclipsed the sun and Severus was cornered, wandless, enraged, panicking.
“Uh, this ain't 'dead'." He was manhandled through the front hall, forced to leave his wand on the ground.
"Oh, got it." His wand was swept up from the ground and stuffed into a back pocket. Severus despaired. "So, ya really are the New Agey warlock type, then?"
He struggled in the guiding hands, turning away, pressed into the doorframe. Everywhere he looked, hovering arms were closing in.
”Can you hear m—,” the voice bore down
"Don't talk to me!"
"Right-o. Let's go, then—in the house,” and a firm grip pried him from his post, pushed, “and oof, that's a nasty cut. Want me to—."
"Don't touch me!"
"Bit hard to carry you with no touchin', but I'm sure I'll manage. Hup!"
Severus was deposited on the couch. They were indoors. He was trapped. The huge Muggle man then reached into his jeans pocket and produced the wizard's wand, aiming at his head. Curling into the couch cushions, Severus howled, "Who are you! Who sent you!?"
"Whoa, okay! Relax!" His wand was dropped with a clatter.
"We're Toby's kids! Well, y'know, the other ones."
Addled by the taste of sneaker tread and grit, Severus squeezed his eyes shut and shouted the roof off the rafters.
"GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"
The evening progressed well past midnight where Severus stood awake, thinking, propped up in the hall, a wisp of cigarette smoke rising from his pinched fingers. He rested his back against the puckered wallpaper opposite his mother's portrait, grilling the photograph.
His eyes listed from his own fledging self to Eileen Snape's wane visage. His shadow fell between them, impressed upon by the proximate flicker of late night telly down the hall.
He watched blue light play across his mother. She wouldn't waste away until years after the picture had been taken.
Captured unmoving in the Muggle photograph was the larger part of a woman. Her face was thin but not gaunt, her eyes dark, but not fathomless. It probably helped that the process of enlarging the photo had degraded its quality, blurring the more precise lines of her frown. She wasn’t much by the end, but all she had been: framed here.
Severus ashed the cigarette on the floor. To think, Eileen had such involved secrets, coming untucked twenty years after she'd passed. The house settled around him television, shifting boards and footsteps belying its other occupants.
"Toby's kids," hah, he thought. Of course.
His father stepping out made more sense than the man being faithful. Tobias Snape was bent on taking, even if it was some girl from up the street. Severus didn't mourn the man, only survived him. And that fact hadn't changed.
But his mother...she wasn't meant to have secrets. Severus was her secret. Eileen Prince and her halfblood son, fading in obscurity: that was their story. He was more betrayed by her making due with other people's kids than by his father messing around.
So Severus smoked, crushing a pack in his off hand, glaring at his family portrait. He almost wished Tobias was in it, instead of off to the side, drinking and heckling—the prodigal father to a spartan son.
Family, he disparaged. He wanted to curse the whole, foolish facade.
"Here, ya might as well have these."
He looked askance at the tattooed woman approaching him, carrying the box of "Lena's" things. She'd been gone a while, most likely asleep. Severus weathered the outrage of a stranger sleeping in his room, now taken over by this woman and her littlest brat.
That's another thought, he considered, returning to scowling at the wall. Where do I sleep?
The potions master needed a place to brew, to send and receive correspondence, and least of all, to lay his head. He gleaned enough energy to stand and angst from his long bouts of unconsciousness earlier that day. But as the night crept on, he'd need a place to settle. He wanted self-imposed and fiercely protected isolation, and his wasn't a five person home. With the mother and child in the main bedroom, the brother in his boyhood room, and the maniac in the basement, all he had left was the attic.
Like some sniveling rat, he maligned, thinking of Wormtail in his servitude. The idea of nesting upstairs repulsed him. He fought the urge to evict these invaders from his home all over again.
"Well? Take it," said the woman, sucking her teeth impatiently. She jostled the box, its contents clinking.
Severus just took another pull of hazy nicotine. Frankly, he’d forgotten she was there. Eventually she just dropped her package at his feet, cast in the cool glow from the moon outside the kitchen window. The box sounded padded inside, and something in it clacked, maybe dishes.
"There," she grunted. "She sent me her tea sets 'fore she passed. You can keep 'em, seeing as she was your mum."
The woman then dusted her hands off on her flannel pyjamas and ran them over her face. Severus himself was still in his hard bottom shoes, wool slacks, and shirt stiff with filth. He needed to shower and change, but into what clothes?
Everything I own is gone. Cheers, Severus. He recalled his last look at his own, proper, just him apartment going up in spellfire. There's likely nothing left. All of it, blown to shit.
"Why would she send you her things," he asked, now frowning down at this woman. She looked back at him warily.
"By your own admission, you were my father's paramour, and yet she deigned to mail you her saucers in her final days. Ridiculous."
"Y’know she wasn't all there, at the end," she answered brusquely, crossing her arms. "Besides, we was friends."
"Ha," he retorted, smiling humorlessly. "'Friends.' Tell me, where were her friends when I buried my mother in a churchyard, alone."
It had been years since Severus cared to remember the small chapel funeral in Dover. It was the closest he could get to the Prince plot south of Kent. Twenty-two and excommunicated, he used the scattered mentions his mother spared him to bring her as near as possible to her ancestral home, by the sea.
He doubted he'd even gotten close.
"She didn't have any friends," he declared.
"Feel how ya must. But nobody was Toby's 'paramour.' It weren't some whirlwind romance with lords and ladies, not between a grown man and some dumb kid. You're a teacher, right?"
Severus let his indifference linger, exhaling a cloud of stinking tobacco. His lungs were growing sore from chain smoking after over a year of abstinence. Then he processed her question, and sneered: "According to whom?"
"Eileen, because we was friends, you stuffy prick. We talked, obviously. But you taught kids, that's my point. Say you fooled around with a girl like seventeen years old: would you say you two was passionate lovers?"
"Ugh," he cringed, pressing a hand to his roiling gut. Now he definitely needed to feel clean. "Don't make me sick. I am not my pervert father."
She presented the empty air between them, having made her point. "Glad to hear it!"
Then she pulled a face and uncrossed her arms, "By the way, great to know you're livin', but you don't smell like it. How's about a wash?"
Now he crossed his arms at her. She barked a laugh and strutted past him.
Following her with a barb on his tongue, he came up short when she swaggered up to the downstairs bathroom, its door ajar. For show, she knocked with a knuckle and called into the darkened room.
"Anyone in there? Nope? Brilliant," she said in a singsong voice, pushing the door with a smirk. It squeaked open. The lights ticked on.
Severus grimaced. The toilet wore a fuzzy peach cover, and a bedraggled bath mat thrown over the blackened tile and grout. His gaze floated up to the flashy pink undergarment still flung thoughtlessly on the shower rod. He refused to step foot in there.
"In ya pop," the woman said. He dropped his gaze to her and hissed.
"Who the hell are you to—."
"Name's Georgina! My lovers call me Georgie. My friends call me Grace. You can call me nothin', because quite frankly, I think you’re a shithead," the woman rattled off, grinning all the while.
Then she happened to peek back into the bathroom, as if checking for something, and tittered. "And don't mind the underthings, sweets. Very common, actually, bras are. Funny how Lena wore 'em, too."
"Mum, please!," came an affronted yelp from down and around to the living room. Severus, who'd gone hot in the face, was mortified to realize another person was eavesdropping on their conversation.
Ironic, that, piped up a traitorous voice in his head, with a suspiciously Northern cadence.
He stormed into the bathroom past—the woman's—amused huff, snapping the door shut behind him. Finally getting a hand on his wand, he locked the door, whose original lock had broken disregardably long ago.
Severus faced the shower, and snarling the spell, shot the bra off of his curtain. That they had the gall to make themselves so at home offended him.
Then he ripped back the curtain and wheezed. The bathtub, spout, shower head, shower stool and the handrail on the wall were plastered with underwear: lacy knickers, bathing suits, thinning boxers. There was an entire t-shirt for what seemed to be a band—Black Sabbath. On it was rendered a torture scene with bloody monks and faceless terrors, in scummy browns the shade of human leather.
He'd seen worst in person, so was hardly disturbed. But a vague recollection of heavy bass in a hazy bar needled the beast of autumn 1981. He wasn't the man of his youth, who needed a draught of his worst memories to spur him on.
Unless blind drunk, or dying, he never harkened back to the '80s.
Severus tossed the wet shirt on the ground and turned the water on. While it heated, he made target practice of the other garments, shooting them to floor.
Washing speedily, Severus stepped out into the bath mat, feeling horribly exposed. He transfigured a towel from a square of toilet paper and then cursed himself. He'd forgotten clothes.
"Oi," someone rapped sharply on the bathroom door. "You!"
He flinched, took a lap around the bathroom looking for clothes, and found only damp underwear, nothing of his. He took his rough towel and whipped it into an even rougher robe, swearing under his breath.
"What!," he snipped back, yanking on the robe. "Get away from the door!"
"Jesus, chill out," the voice continued. It wasn't the mother, and from the deep timbre, Severus realized it wasthe sasquatch brother. "You need clothes, right?"
"No," he lied. He suspected he heard snickering in the muffled shuffling outside the door. "Leave!"
"Alright well, let's pretend ya do," hummed the man. "You have some shit upstairs, like some costumes. They ain't all motheaten, so there's that. Only if you need 'em though, of course. I wouldn't wanna push."
"I don't need anything," he replied, punching the "t" in "don't." "And what use would they be to me upstairs, I ask? How would I retrieve them, by magic?"
His sarcasm was left where he'd put it. The brother rambled on, "Are you a reverend or summit? A lot a black and hard collars in the closets."
"No," he said, losing patience. Again, he was ignored.
"Question, your holiness: why's a man a the lord, such as yourself, legally disappeared all these years, or better yet! Anybody's got a reason to disappear. Why'd you come back? Bloody, at that."
He froze, wand trained at the door, stone silent. The voice on outside the door chuckled, and soon barefooted steps padded away to the living room. Severus released a breath through his teeth and looked around for his pack of cigarettes.
Creating a pocket in his robe to put it in, he walked to the door and cracked it open a hair, enough to yell through. What stopped him was the repeated shock of there being several inches of person before he made eye contact. A version of his face glowered down at him.
He almost felt like a boy cowering before his father. Almost. But he had years more practice at looking fearsome than this man.
"Ah, my apologies," he professed. "I hadn't realized. Is this some pathetic attempt at intimidation?"
The taller man frowned and shifted. Severus readied his wand in his sleeve. It appeared the fight brewed between them that afternoon had not been forfeited, only postponed. He was glad for it, really. It would mean relief from this aggravating, domestic ruse.
The brother's hands rose into view, carrying a bundle of black cotton. Severus, moving only his eyes, glanced down at the clothes and then up at the scowling, younger man. Bemused, he took the bundle, and reeled it into the room.
"I don't need to intimidate ya, friend," the sasquatch explained. "Everyone in this house can smash your head in."
Severus was shrugged at and left alone to dress. The wizard did so, vowing to keep his wand on him at all times. He could waterproof it for washing up if need be, and would sleep sparingly, with his wand strapped to his wrist.
He scouted out the hall and found it empty. He then stepped out, clothed in his old teaching robes. The collar fit snugly around his neck. He pulled some stray hairs free of it, uncomfortable with the drag of his damp hair on the material.
Down a ways, he heard his “house guests” bantering:
"Erm, excuse me, little girl, where're your glasses?"
"Fred, I won't actually ruin my eyes. That's a myth."
"You'll 'myth' readin' when you go blind."
"Wow, that's not funny, and I can just learn Braille."
"Put 'em on, lippy miss."
Severus debated following the chatter to the living room. But like earlier in the kitchen, it was as if every few hours the family gravitated to one room. The strobing colors from the television set lit up the end of the hall. He could hear the commercials on low, catchy jingles underlying the conversation.
"Why's she even up, Freddy? It's one in the bloody mornin'! Don't think because we had a little fracas that she'll be up all damn night."
"Mum, look she's not even up. Right, Laney, are you up?"
With a resonant hoot that made Severus jump and loud stage whisper, "No, say no!"
"Oh, then no."
"See, Mum? She's asleep."
"Horse shit!," she objected.
Someone snored loudly. Severus believed he saw the convict take an evening pill earlier and pass out on the couch within minutes. The family resumed gabbing over her, as they did the late night infomercials.
His feet had carried him within spitting distance of the busy living room. He hovered, listening to the banter, cloaked in late night shadows. Then, before he could be noticed, Severus about faced and made for the attic.
"Okay, I'll do it."
Harry hooked his arm with Ginny's, keeping the overeager witch in place.
"Over my dead body," he said, moving them away from the closed bedroom door.
"Oh, please, Harry. We're both adults here, we can look," Ginny insisted, although respectfully loosening her hold on the doorknob. "Fine, I won't, since it's your mother. But then who will?"
The pair stood outside the closed bedroom of Harry's late godfather, the illustriously defiant Sirius Black.
Following the fight from the evening before, and his apology, Harry had tried to lighten the mood by ribbing her brother's one-track mind. He and Ginny shared in the comedy of Ron's blithe interest in racy pictures, laughing and eye rolling, until gradually, an inauspicious silence fell over them.
"What else did Lupin say about...that?," Ginny had prompted.
"Er, n-nothing, just that bit," Harry had replied, grinning nervously, "'lesbian pin-up girl,' just like that. Sirius 'admired her' and then I didn't need to know more about that, so I ran off. Can you believe that?"
The two had shared another chuckle, this one quieter, more distracted. They had eyed each other as they smiled tightly, until the smiles drooped into contemplative frowns, and Harry couldn't miss the spark of curiosity in Ginny's gaze. He had seen the question form before she asked it, and filled with dread, wondered if all Weasleys rode the same train of thought.
"But, well… do you think?"
And so the couple had shared a fitful night's sleep and an awkward morning following. Ginny ran and Harry cleaned up and, as if compelled, the two found themselves side by side before Sirius' room, debating who would go in. They would agree on something, change their minds, bicker and storm off. Then without fail, they would reconvene at the door.
This had gone on for most of the afternoon. It was now nearly dinner, and neither of them could make the final call.
Harry quite vehemently refused to explore Sirius' collection himself. What would he do had he actually found evidence of his birth mother's craft? Claw his eyes out? Slink away in shame?
And Ginny, Harry felt, was altogether too willing to look. He knew his girlfriend well and loved her every bit. So he knew that, like himself, Ginny toted a healthy appreciation of the womanly form. She was generally more composed than Ron's guileless panting or Harry's tongue tied fumbles, but the Harpy wasn't immune to a batted lash or a well-swayed hip, on any person, at any time of day.
So when she leaped at the chance to check Sirius' collections for a tattooed, wild haired model, Harry shut her down. Even if the woman in the sketch was a stranger to him, he didn't need her enticing his girlfriend from the pages of a glossy magazine.
Harry suggested the only person he could trust to do it: "Let's Floo Ron."
Ginny rolled her eyes but conceded. She offered to stay upstairs while Harry went down to call her brother. The young wizard began down the stairs, but then, thinking better of it, returned to lead his girlfriend along by the wrist. Again, he loved her, but knew her all too well. He was sure if he left her alone for a minute, he'd return to her digging under Sirius' mattress.
Harry knelt in the parlor in front of the fireplace, keeping the fire low as he chucked in a handful of Floo powder. Once it flared green, he resettled on his knees and poked his head in the grate. A warm, tickling spin later, he was in the fire at Ron and Hermione's apartment, catching them in a messy embrace.
He'd only called them at home but so many times, so he smiled in greeting as he surprised the couple on a couch-shaped cascade of scrolls. He caught them leaning in tenderly for a kiss, disheveled in their frumpy house clothes.
"Hullo, one and two."
Hermione squeaked, butting her boyfriend in the nose. Ron swore, jerking away from her forehead, rubbing the assaulted appendage.
"Merlin, Harry! What're you doing there!?"
Harry grinned, just a head in the licking, emerald flames, only somewhat sorry to intrude. He was glad to see his friends had made up.
"I need your help with something. Ginny and I are stuck."
"In what?," grumbled the redhead. His freckled nose bridge reddened as he talked. "Stuck up your own arses, more like."
"Probably. Can you come through? I'll explain when you get here."
Hermione, recovering from her mortification, nodded and flapped a hand at him, shooing him back to Grimmauld Place. He thanked the pair and withdrew, spinning back to his own parlor and making way for his friends to step through. He looked down at Ginny, waiting impatiently with her crossed arms, and deigned to peck her on her furrowed brow. Her frown immediately softened, but didn’t leave.
"Well?," she asked.
"They need a second," Harry replied, just as the fire flared and a slippered foot stepped through.
This time Hermione led the way through the Floo, Ron following. They both were blushing, the former more pointedly displeased than the latter, but not by much. The frizzy haired witch postured in her housecoat, planting her fists on her hips, wand jutting out of one. She looked not unlike a sleepy McGonagall catching her Lions out of bed past curfew.
"What is the meaning of this, Harry James Potter," demanded Hermione. Harry started speaking and floundered, running into a distinct lack of words. Saying "I need someone to sift through Sirius' frisky lady fun mags," was leagues easier when intended for Ron than for Hermione, junior ambassador, brightest witch of their age.
"Bikinis," was what left his mouth. And in a moment of true communion, Ron understood Harry perfectly.
"Sirius' room?," he piped up, looking more thrilled than was proper. "Gotcha, mate, no worries!"
"What is going on," puzzled Hermione aloud, looking from the sputtering Boy-Who-Lived to Ginny, who coughed forcefully to cover her laughter.
The younger witch explained to her friend as the group journeyed to the top landing.
"We kind of wanted to see if Lupin was right, and Harry's birth mother really did model. We figure Ron might be on to something and Sirius had collected some of her stuff in his room. But Harry doesn't want to see see, see?"
Hermione giggled, "I 'see.' And what about you, 'Most Charming Chaser'?"
"That's 'Hottest Harpy' to you, Miss Granger."
"Stop flirting," Ron threw back at them, almost as a reflex. Harry snorted, threading his fingers with Ginny's.
The group came up on the door with the nameplate reading, "Sirius" affixed to it. They hadn't paused more than a second for breath before Ron barged into the bedroom, going straight for under the wide, musty oak bed.
"A bit eager, aren't we," Hermione observed, quirking an imperious brow. However, at a far more leisurely pace, she followed the gangly ginger into the room, and began searching the posters pasted on the walls.
"Hermione!," gasped both Harry and Ginny, with respective horror and glee.
The studious witch just huffed at them, eyes never leaving the women and motorcycles.
"I see a lot of pretty women next to motorcycles, but none with birds on their neck. Goodness, Sirius had a lot of these."
"Yeah, but 'Mione, that's just the light stuff," complained Ron, moving up to grope behind the large headboard. "I'm sure Sirius wanted to shock his folks, not get put away for perversion or kicked out on his arse."
"He did get kicked out, though," Ginny retorted, still in the corridor beside Harry, leaning back against the bannister.
"No, he ran away," Harry corrected her. "And Ron, I don't know how heavy a rating we're looking for here. Might wanna relax, you just got back on Hermione's good side."
"Yeah, Lupin said pin-up, not Playwizard," quipped the man's sister.
"Mm-hmph," Ron agreed, engrossed in a magazine he'd fished out from behind the nightstand. The young Auror then turned so bright a red, he nearly glowed.
"Merlin, Sirius! Where'd he find this stuff, Knockturn Alley!?"
"Don't show me!," Harry cried. He didn't need to know.
"Honestly, you two, it's just a naked body. Everybody has one," Hermione tsked.
Undeterred, she finished her perusal of the walls and, looking about, decided to tackle the closet. Harry hitched a breath when she had to wrench the door open and climb inside. There was some ruckus as things were pushed aside and knocked over. A broomstick swanned out of the closet, pirouetting before falling to the floor. Clothes and papers fluttered out as the witch pawed through the debris.
"Alright," came her muffled voice from the depths of the chaos. "There's a crate of records sleeves in here, and a player, aaand…aha! Swimsuit calendars!"
"Quick, woman, get out while you still can!," urged Ron with narrowed, watering eyes. "Before you've seen too much!"
"Harry, I found her!," Hermione shouted in triumph.
The witch tumbled backwards over a pile of discarded robes and school books. She flew out of the closet, losing her grip on the crate she had in hand, sending calendars flying through the air.
Harry, who had sprung into the room to help, was suddenly caught in a cascade of tropical views and sun-tanned ladies. Had one of those women not given birth to him, it might have been a pleasant experience.
Harry threw himself backwards, arms pinwheeling as he landed hard on his bottom and was showered in vintage pictures of beautiful women. He sat perfectly still, squeezing his eyes shut. He didn't move an inch until everything wound down: Ron's wheezing laughter, Hermione's annoyed swearing as she disentangled herself from the mess, and even Ginny's wistful sigh.
"There's no nudity. You can open your eyes," informed Ginny. Harry jumped at her hand ruffling his hair. "Adorable."
Mouth pinched, Harry slid open one eye, and deeming it safe, opened the other. He shushed Ron, who had dissolved into side-stitched sputtering on the floor beside him. Hermione, now freed from the pile, approached and sat primly on the edge of the bed. With only a little pause, she dropped a specific calendar in his lap.
"It's really quite tasteful," the bushy-haired witch reassured him, as he hesitated to even touch it.
He thanked her, taking in the broken, bald quills she accumulated in her fall. She nodded sagely back, resembling a dandelion fluff. Glad for his friends' presence, he took a deep breath and looked down.
In his lap was one of six or seven calendars, scattered about him. He glanced around, surprised by the difference in the one he held. The rest seemed to feature multiple models, all in colorful swimsuits. One calendar was actually an office edition, with businesswomen in pencil skirts, poofy hair, and huge shoulder pads leaning seductively over desks. It was so unlike any wizarding office Harry had seen, he actually grinned.
Sirius does seem like kind of an oddball, looking back, Harry mused. This was really his thing, huh?
It was refreshing to find new perspectives on his late godfather. Although, it seemed like all Harry had recently were new perspectives.
The calendar Hermione have him stood apart from the rest. For one, it wasn't of swimsuits or offices, but overwhelmingly of leather jackets and motorcycles. The cover depicted a woman standing on a cliff over a crowded beach, in a metallic gold bikini top, ripped light wash jeans, and heavy combat boots. Driving goggles were perched on her mop of flyaway hair. She slung an apple-red leather jacket over her shoulder, off-set by the blue-green of the ocean. Her head was thrown back, the woman laughing raucously, teeth flashing in the sun.
"Well, that's certainly aimed at ladies," said Ginny. "I see why Sirius liked her."
The model had one leg thrown over a gleaming black motorcycle with longhorn handles and chrome pipes. A gorgeous butter-yellow blonde in a striped dress and an ascot lounged in the background, picnicking beside a sleeping man. The man was laid out, with a book over his eyes, unable to see his date checking out the main show over her white circle sunglasses.
Harry was blown away by said model's cheeky grin, recognizing her as the woman from the sketch. In this, she was younger, and freer than the morose picture wedged in his book.
Across the top of the calendar read, "Gun It, Gracie!" He noted the year, "1976," four years before he was born.
"This is her," he said quietly, relieved.
All the time he spent thinking that Sirius and this woman was a lascivious thing. Seeing it with his own eyes, Harry thought it more likely that his godfather emulated her.
He didn't know when exactly Sirius bought a flying motorcycle. But in the photo, the woman on the cliff, sea and sky stretching forever behind her, half mounting a bike, cackling into the wind. Again, on her neck was the persevering sparrow: FLY ANYWAY. Harry wouldn't have been surprised to hear Sirius looked for a bike the very next day.
"Whoa," Ron intoned. He had finally regained control of himself, only to gape over Harry's shoulder.
Then, on another track entirely, the ginger tapped his girlfriend's knee and pointed to his magazine. Hermione yipped and shoved him away, "Ronald!"
"But can you imagine?," the man defended.
Ginny hushed them and took up Harry's other shoulder, lowering herself to the ground and leaning into his side. Waiting for his nod, she flipped to January. This photo proved a bit more daring: no pants or boots, just Gracie on satin sheets, reclining in a white men's dress shirt and yellow-lens aviator shades, a cigar held between two many-ringed fingers.
"Does it say the photographer's name?," Hermione asked, motioning for the calendar's back. Harry showed it to her. "Hm, just the publisher and the year. Oh, wait, here it is: 'Chuck Pacifico.' An American, maybe?"
Harry shrugged and opened July, just to see. In it, Gracie pointed a camera at the viewer. He could see the photographer reflected in the lens. Mostly he just saw narrow shoulders in a floral shirt, a pair of thick fingered hands with painted nails, and a braid of steely grey hair. The photographer's own camera obscured the man's face.
While the picture clearly featured Gracie in all denim, at a photo studio with lamps and foil, the subject of it seemed to be the man, Chuck. Fully clothed, at least from the waist up. Older. Distended by the curving lens.
Harry let loose a deep sigh, grateful. The calendar wasn't too bad at all. As Hermione had said, it was rather tasteful. Seventies and dated, but nothing to boil his eyes over. Then he flipped to December, caught a glimpse of just skin and hair, and slapped the calendar shut.
"That's enough of that!," he staunchly declared, chucking the whole thing under the bed. "That's for nobody now! Nope, Ron, leave it! We're going!"
"Wha—hey! Wait, maybe there's other stuff," Ron protested. He fished the calendar out again and yipped, bug-eyed and scandalized.
"Gods, what are Muggles on!?"
"What," Hermione said bristling, "as opposed to the old pureblood bon vivants who just painted everything and published their conquests?
"I wouldn't be ashamed of your mother, Harry,” she continued, sternly staring him down. “First of all, it's sexist, but also, she clearly did good work.
"Remus explained a bit after you left. 'Gun-It Gracie' was famous in the underground pro-Muggle circles, especially for gay and lesbian magical society at the time. In the '70s, young witches were still being pushed into early marriages to grow the population. Gracie was a Muggle who ripped around, kissing whoever and moving right along.
"She earned more respect than the Martin Miggs comics, for sure. Even straight witches bought Gracie calendars, I think just for the fantasy of freedom."
"How do you even know all this," Harry asked, putting his hands in his pockets, shoulders around his burning ears. "How does Lupin?"
Hermione went pink but kept his gaze. Her intensity didn't surprise him, as his friend was a champion for people's freedoms. He was mostly shocked that she felt the need to defend them to him.
"You should talk to Remus," Hermione pressed. "Regardless, she wasn't insignificant, or a laughing stock. I've found a book on it since yesterday, which wasn't easy, mind. I swear, wizarding society is so missish! It's easier to find a Dark Arts grimoire than an honest monograph on sexuality.
"But pin ups were a big deal leading up to the First War. There were even rumors that Gun-It Gracie calendars were shot by a wizard, using Muggle tools and models. It got young people interested in integrating.
"But then Voldemort came to power, and the photographer either died or fled overseas. Gracie disappeared and the calendars stopped.
"Wizard adult culture hasn't been the same since," Hermione finished. She then took a shaking breath, plucking the corner of the magazine in Ron's hand. "Just these things. Fine, they get the job done, but they're absurd! If there is anything Muggle in them, it's a naked witch holding light bulb and a SEGA Genesis.
"What's she even meant to do with them? It makes no sense. There’s more cultural value in one Gun-It bikini string than in all the trifle from that last quarter century combined!"
Harry leaned against Ginny, steam pouring from his ears. Ginny dropped her head on his shoulder with a quiet, "Huh."
Ron stared at Hermione in awe, like he was seeing her for the first time. Harry took solace in that. The young Auror worshipped more of the witch's depth of knowledge the longer they stayed together.
"That's wicked," Ron breathed. Hermione punctuated her lecture with a stern nod, and reached out to take his hand.
"That's…," breathed Ginny by Harry's ear. "What're you thinking?"
Harry searched her arm and, finding it, gave it a squeeze. In his mind, the bright, confident model in red leather was juxtaposed with the sullen runaway from the sketch. Was there a real woman between them? And even then, even if there was, both references were over twenty years old. Who was she now?
Harry could find out.
"I want to meet her," he said. Ginny shifted and wrapped her arms around him.
"You're sure?," Ron probed. "She's still, y'know, the woman who gave you up."
He nodded, firm, borrowing Hermione's determination. He took in his friends' worried expressions and Ginny's weight on his back. Around him, the chaos of Sirius' room reminded him of lost things, and new things, and above all, to value caution.
"I'll be careful. First, I'll talk to Lupin to make sure I do it right. But yeah...yeah, I'm sure."