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Chapter 5: Punishments and Portraits
I felt the sorting hat being pulled off of my head as the young intruder came further into the office. I whipped around and ended up face to face with a boy, almost exactly my height, with longish black hair. He was grinning wildly at me when I heard more sounds coming from behind him. I stretched up on my tip-toes to look over his shoulder, and then smiled.
In from behind him walked James, who was being pulled along by the ear by an obviously irritated lady in all green robes – James didn’t seem too fond of his predicament. Two more boys entered behind them, one lanky and tawny haired and the other squat and blonde. The tawny haired one had his face in his palm and was shaking his head in obvious dismay and embarrassment. The other one kind of stood in the doorway as if he was about to piss himself from fear.
The green-robed lady swiftly came up behind the long-haired boy just as I was coming back down from my tip-toes and proceeded to inflict the same punishment on him as she was on James – her fingers clamped around his ear, she dragged them to the side toward the Headmaster.
“Albus, I caught these four trying to sneak into the Restricted Section of the Library not more than ten minutes ago!” the irritated lady proceeded to say as she pulled the two black-haired boys up beside her. “This is the second time this week! Fifth in the past month!”
She was cut off by a rising of Dumbledore’s eyebrows and an upward tweak of his lips. “So, they seem to have an interest in smelly old books. I see no problem with that, Irma…” he trailed off, looking down at the two boys. The boys seemed a bit more embarrassed now, but the expression on the lady’s face went a different direction.
“The Restricted Section, Albus!”
Dumbledore simply chuckled. “Leave them here, Irma. I’ll figure out a punishment worthy of their… crime.”
At that point, both of the boys started to giggle, but it was quickly cut off by a harsh jerk of their ears. Finally the woman let go and turned around in a huff, barely pausing to brush the other two boys aside before she stormed out of the office. Silence enveloped the room, broken only by Dumbledore’s movement around his desk back to his chair and the soft patter of feet as the tawny haired and blonde boys stepped up behind their accomplices. Dumbledore quietly sat in his chair and put the tips of his fingers together. Then, looking over his half-moon spectacles at the four of them, he smiled to himself.
“Seeing as I do owe you a great deal of debt for bringing Miss Douglass back to the castle safely…” At this point he gestured toward me and the four boys looked at me curiously. I returned the look, measuring them up. They had to be the four marauders-to-be – the blonde one, Peter, the tawny haired one, Remus, and the other ebony haired one – Sirius. “…I will not punish you as severely as I ought to for breaking –“
Sirius and James let out a half-laugh, half-holler that drowned out the rest of Dumbledore’s words. Only when Dumbledore cleared his throat did the two boys let him continue.
“As I was saying, I will not punish you as severely as I ought to. Therefore, your punishment will be one detention a piece…” James and Sirius seemed unfazed by this, but Remus and Peter were much less amused.
“But professor!” Remus started, his voice oddly quiet. “Peter and I were trying to stop them. They’re the morons here!”
“Hey!” Sirius started to say before Dumbledore continued.
“I understand who is directly at fault here, Mr. Lupin, but it would have been wiser to alert a teacher rather than get mixed up in this plan yourself.” At this, Remus let his head hang. “As I was saying,” Dumbledore continued yet again, as if not bothered by the interruption, “one detention a piece and you will also spend at least one hour a day helping Miss Douglass catch up with her studies until she is up to scratch with the rest of the first year class. Am I understood?”
Remus was the first to nod, looking over in my direction. He seemed all too eager to get out of the office before his “friends” got him another detention. James nodded as well, grinning my way before turning back toward Sirius, who was still looking at me. It took a few moments for him to look back toward Dumbledore and nod. Peter just stood there looking as if he was about to piss his pants.
“You are dismissed then,” Dumbledore said, gesturing toward the door. Peter scurried out, followed by the other three. As I turned to go, Dumbledore called my name again.
“Miss Douglass, do watch out for those two – Black and Potter,” he said grinning. “You may not want to end up like Mr. Lupin, innocent and yet punishable…”
I quickly nodded and hurried out the door, eager not to get lost on my first official day at Hogwarts.
By the time I made it down the stairs outside Dumbledore’s office, the boys were already scurrying away, all except Remus who had stayed behind. He was waiting quietly in the shadows, obviously still irritated that he had landed the detention. I approached him slowly, shifting my belongings (what few I had) to my left arm to relieve my right.
“Remus, right?” I began, allowing him time to look up at me and nod his head. “Could… do you think… I mean…” I didn’t really know why I was stammering. I shouldn’t have been – all of seventeen years of talking should have worn the stammering out of my usual voice pattern.
“Common room?” he finished for me, starting to smile a little. “Sure, I’ll take you there.” Gesturing for me to follow him, he started off at a brisk pace, following a different path than the ones James, Sirius, and Peter had taken. After a little while of walking down the empty stone corridors, he started to talk again.
“So…” he said quietly. “You’re Brendi, right? Brendi Douglas?” I nodded and let him continue. “You got the book, I sent you? In the hospital wing? I thought James might have just ditched it after I told him it was for you.”
“Why would he do something like that?” I asked, already half-knowing the answer.
“Because that’s just what he does,” Remus sighed, his hands in the pockets of his robes. I reached into mine subconsciously and gripped the long wand that sat in the inside pocket. I held it for a moment, as if I was afraid it would fly away, and then released it, content that I could feel it bumping against my side as I walked. Remus and I continued our conversation in an odd sort of manner – he would ask questions, I would answer, and then there would be a long, pregnant pause before the next question. And then…
“How did you get here?” he finally asked. He must have been thinking about it the entire walk down from Dumbledore’s office to the common room. I hesitated a moment before answering – I had absolutely no idea what to say. I couldn’t just tell him that I wasn’t a witch until this morning, but…
That’s when I thought of Aaron.
He must have been worried sick about me. I hadn’t said goodbye, I hadn’t even… he had no idea what was going to happen. We never got to say goodbye. I could be stuck here for a while, and my whole family would be worried about me. What if they stop looking for me? What if Aaron just forgets about me? What if…
“What if I never got back?” I mumbled, unaware that Remus was still waiting for my answer.
“What?” he asked, curiously, his eyebrows pinched in a pitying form. “Did you hear me, Brendi?”
My eyes snapped up into his and I tried to smile. “Nothing, I just was thinking.” The smile must have looked real enough, because Remus looked away. He still looked worried, but there was relief written on his face. And I still had to come up with an answer for him.
Luckily, I never had to give one.
At that very moment, a very odd little shiver went up my spine, just before our pathway was blocked by a very angry looking crowd. Fortunately, they were not directing their anger toward either of us, but toward a very empty painting at the end of the corridor.
“Oh come on!” Several angry male voices drifted down the corridor. “This is the third time this week!”
There was a brief pause, then…
James came bounding down the corridor with a sloppy grin on his face. “Hey, you wanna go find the Fat Lady for us? She abandoned her portrait… again.” I looked up toward where James had come from to see Sirius and Peter standing plainly in front of the empty, bronze rimmed portrait. Peter was glancing nervously (the boy seemed to do everything nervously) between James and the portrait, while Sirius’ eyes were focused happily on the back of James’ robes.
“Go check Violet’s portrait. She’s probably enjoying herself over there.” Remus said calmly, flipping his bangs out of his face. He casually motioned toward the other end of the corridor.
“Oh, right,” James said, a look of understanding coming over his face. Then confusion took over again. “But Violet’s portrait is off the Great Hall! That’s six floors down!” Remus gave him a look and sighing, James turned back around and walked away, somewhat upset. He stopped near where Sirius and Peter were still standing and started whispering with them.
“Brendi,” I heard Remus say. I ripped my eyes away from the boys just as Sirius looked over James’ shoulder at me. Turning to face the tawny-haired boy, he looked into my eyes. “Since the Fat Lady seems to have,” he cleared his throat and mimicked James’ irritation, “'abandoned her portrait', would you like me to show you around the castle?” I nodded nervously, clutching my belongings to my chest, once again remembering how little I had in this world.
Remus started toward the corridor on the other end of the Fat Lady, just as the other three boys took off in the same direction. I had to take long steps to catch up with Remus, now watching the tails of Peters robe disappear behind the next corner.
“Do they normally… you know,” I started. “Leave you behind?” Remus nodded, smiling sadly. Sadly?
“They have so many ideas, so many things they have to do,” he said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his robes. “I’m not like them.” Noticing my worried look, he tried to reassure me. “Don’t worry about me. I’m an only child, so I’m used to being alone.”
I started to say something, but he cut me off.
“Really, don’t worry about me. I’ve known worse than being stuck giving tours. Oh!” He started to look flustered. “That came out wrong… what I… I didn’t… I mean…”
I started to giggle. Putting my hand over my mouth did not stifle the laughter, and Remus started to look horrified. His face flushed, which only served to increase my humor in the situation.
“Oh, Remus,” I said between giggles. “You look so red!” He reached a hand up to his cheek and smiled.
“I suppose I am,” he said, letting a chuckle escape him. “I really don’t know why.” We laughed for a few moments in the hallway before he decided we should be off again.
“Anyways,” he tried again, his mood obviously heightened. “What I meant was that letting them run errands while I lead you around the castle isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.” He said it with a turn of his lips. If he had been talking to anyone else, they would have interpreted that smile as exaggeration – surely an eleven year old could not know such terrible things yet.
I knew better. My mood quickly dissipated, and Remus seemed to catch its fall, so I stuck a fake smile on my face to comfort him. He seemed satisfied, as he turned around and headed down the nearest staircase. I watched him go for a moment, allowing my smile to drop from my face, a frown of worry replacing it. I closed my eyes and released my kept breath in a sigh, then looked forward again to fall in step behind my newest friend.
Oh, Remus. How much you think I don’t know…