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Chapter 9: Shadows & Truth
Author’s note: So this was a difficult chapter to write, especially getting the conversation to flow on page. I’m happy enough with it to finally publish it. Hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 9: Shadows & Truth
“We need to talk.”
The Grandfather clock ticked. The fire crackled. James shifted in his chair. He was wearing a robe with emblem of the Nimbus Quidditch Supply Company sewed on the front. His eyes were firmly fixed on Sirius as James tried to figure out where he wanted to begin.
Sirius was as still as a statue, shoulders in and muscles tense. He wore a red long sleeved shirt with Gryffindor across the chest in faded block letters. He must have thought James was waiting for him to speak first because he suddenly launched into an apology. “I was an idiot - I’m sorry. I – I don’t know what made me tell Snape –but – I did. I can’t go back in time and I don’t know what else I can do or say-”
“Why are you here?” James interrupted.
Sirius looked taken aback by his question. “I didn’t mean…I was just looking for a place to rest and I fell asleep…I was planning to leave before anyone knew I was even there, but your parents found me…”
James already knew that and it wasn’t hard to believe that his parents had convinced Sirius to stay. His parents would take Snivellus in if he showed up at their doorstep. “I meant, why did you run away? You did run away?”
James considered this bit of news before stating, “I can’t believe it. I know you’ve always talked about it, but-“
“I know. I wasn’t serious about it half the time I mentioned it.” There was a beat of silence and then Sirius said, “I was supposed to meet Voldemort on the day I showed up here.”
“Voldemort? In person?”
A shiver ran up James’s body as he waited for Sirius to elaborate. They both stared into the fire, watching the flames jump into an array of colors. It would have been mesmerizing if James hadn’t had so much on his mind.
It took a few moments for Sirius to find his voice, and when he did, he spoke carefully; his tone telling. “You know how they’ve been on me to join up with him. To publically declare that I agree with his stance on blood?”
James nodded; uneasy. He didn’t like where the story was heading. Only he out of the Marauders knew about Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix approaching Sirius about all this.
Sirius squeezed his hands together, wringing them. “And this was all before I was sixteen…”
“That’s right. You turned sixteen. I never even wished you a Happy Birthday.”
“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t expect you to,” Sirius said flippantly, as if he didn’t deserve his birthday to even be acknowledged. James opened his mouth to disagree. He wanted to tell Sirius he still had his present all wrapped up in his trunk at Hogwarts, but Sirius didn’t give him a chance.
“Their patience, my parents’ that is, quickly ran out once I was sixteen. Not that I was sixteen for long, but they knew I’d fallen out with you…”
“They knew we were fighting?” James questioned. He imagined that must have thrilled the Blacks.
Sirius sighed. “Regulus told them.”
“Sneaky little git.”
Sirius’s expression flitted briefly into a smile. “Right, well they seized the opportunity. They figured I had no one to turn to. And it almost worked, James. Do you realize how close I was to meeting Voldemort? How close I was to fulfilling the destiny I’d been fighting? Only hours before I was to meet him did the idea of running away even cross my mind. Hours.” Sirius’s voice broke slightly with the last word.
“You didn’t though.”
“You’d never have gotten that close. Remus wouldn’t. A good person wouldn’t.” His voice still sounded thick. James could hear him breathing in and out determinedly, trying to regain composure.
“None of us have a family like yours. Who knows if any of us would have been able to stand up to them like you have…”
Sirius didn’t look convinced, but he continued on, his voice steady again. “My father must have suspected I’d get cold feet. As usual they’d confiscated my wand the moment I was home and he caught me trying to get it back. The strange thing is he gave it back to me even when it was plainly obvious I was in the middle of running away. Then, after the wand was in my hand, he gave me a choice; I was either to join Voldemort or be disowned. So I left.”
“And when did that happen?” James nodded toward Sirius’s bandaged hand.
Sirius glanced down at his hands, his palms facing upwards. “First I touched a cursed door knob. Burned skin right off my hand. The cut was from my dear Mother. She said something insane like how I didn’t deserve the pure blood that ran through my veins, and cut me, using some kind of curse.” Sirius brought his gaze back up, his eyes moved to James and then he was back to staring into the fire. “She didn’t agree with my father about giving me a choice. If it had been her decision, I would have been forced to join – tied up and thrown at Voldemort’s feet.”
James inhaled sharply. “Would Voldemort have taken you like that?”
Sirius shrugged. “I don’t know…you join his ranks for life. You leave; you die. Maybe he would have taken the chance…the worst outcome for him would be to order my death. And that would have made quite a statement among the old families.”
James honestly did not know what to say to that. He ran a hand through his hair. Sirius had only narrowly escaped the Black’s plans for him, and it could have easily gone the other way. To think he had been worried about how to get Lily Evans to fancy him back…and his best friend had to deal with this. He supposed he should have seen the seriousness in the situation after Sirius had first told him about it all earlier in the year. It just didn’t seem plausible or real that they’d want a teenager in their ranks. It had been easy to agree with Sirius when he brushed it off as an annoyance.
“If you want me to leave, I will.”
James was startled out of his thoughts. It took a second for James to realize that while his mind had been whizzing about Sirius had misinterpreted the silence. He shot Sirius a look, but Sirius did not notice as he was staring down, picking absentmindedly at the bandage on his right hand.
“I’m not going to kick you out if you have nowhere to go,” James said seriously. Sirius jerked his head up. “You don’t have anywhere to go, do you?” Those words came out a bit more bluntly than James intended.
“Maybe Andromeda’s…if I begged…” Sirius answered with a shrug of the shoulders
“I think begging would only work if you were in dog form,” James said with a grin.
Sirius smiled hesitantly.
“I didn’t mean what I said…about you being as bad as your family,” James said guessing that it was one of the things still bothering his friend. “I should have never said that.”
“Compared to what I did? Don’t beat yourself over the head about it,” Sirius mumbled.
“I mean it, Sirius.” James stood and took a seat down next to Sirius. He put a hand on Sirius’s shoulder. Sirius met his eyes. “You aren’t anything like them.”
Sirius shook his head.
James continued; he needed Sirius to understand this. “Look, your actions were thoughtless and irresponsible, but were they unforgivable? I don’t think so.”
“I sometimes think it was unforgivable.” Sirius looked away again, but not fast enough for James not too notice the anguish in his eyes.
“No, it isn’t.” James wasn’t used to seeing Sirius so downtrodden. He struggled to find the right words. “I only said those things because…I saw how hurt Remus was. I was so angry…and to make matters worse, you didn’t even seem-”
“I can’t argue with you on that. I was though, even if I didn’t show it. When I was standing outside of the Hospital Wing waiting to tell Remus – that’s when it hit me.”
James sighed. “It would have helped if you had actually said so.”
Sirius met his eyes again briefly. “I know…I even knew it at the time….I-I just didn’t.”
James had never truly believed Sirius’s intentions were as malicious as attempted murder or that he’d wanted Moony to bite Snape. Though Sirius’s attitude and lack of apology had made James question his friend’s intentions. If Sirius had acted like he was now, somber and contrite - so uncharacteristically like himself- they might have never fought.
James rubbed his forehead tiredly. “I still don’t get why you told him.”
Sirius frowned, taking a moment to think over his next words. “I wish I had a real excuse. Honestly. I try to think back and…and I don’t know…” Sirius sighed loudly. “I had just seen my mother…”
“Why was your mother there?” James questioned, suddenly remembering that he’d never inquired further about that.
“Didn’t I tell you Keenan invited her?”
“You did.” James only knew two things about the meeting; Keenan had been the one to invite her and Sirius had not told Dumbledore. He was curious to both why the meeting had been called and what had gone on. “Was there a reason for Keenan to call her in? She must have been quite livid.”
“Quite,” Sirius affirmed. “Keenan was hoping to mend our declining relationship as mother and son…as you can see that worked splendidly.”
Sirius’s eyes flickered with amusement though his tone stayed earnest. “It was then that I ran into Snape, of course…he always does turn up in the least opportune moments. I could barely deal with his obnoxiousness in the state I was in and then he began alluding to absences, full moons, and the Whomping Willow.”
“You really believe Snape knew something?” Sirius had said so in Dumbledore’s office, but as with the topic of his mother’s visit to Hogwarts, they had never fully spoken about it.
“Yes, I do. He just needed proof.”
“And giving it to him on a silver platter would have solved matters how?”
Sirius only cringed slightly at the sudden coolness of James’s words. After all, it was a valid and completely reasonable question. James raised his eyebrows waiting for Sirius to comment.
Sirius swallowed hard. “I can see now it wouldn’t have solved anything. At the time scaring him out of his curiosity seemed like an ok idea. I didn’t think past that…I didn’t think about what would have happened if Snape hadn’t been able to get away. Snape just – he just-” Sirius motioned his hands unable to put into words exactly the way Snape was unable to get under his skin.
“Makes your blood boil like no one else?”
James felt the same way about Snape. He’d wanted to wring Snape’s neck loads of time and he didn’t have as short a temper as Sirius. They had disliked each other on sight at the age of eleven. James clashed with Snape in the same unexplainable way he clicked with Sirius. He could see Sirius was sorry and if he’d told Snape the secret of the Whomping Willow in the heat of the moment, it wasn’t a real betrayal, but a terrible mishap. It meant his best friend did not have it in him to betray one of the Marauders’ secrets and that was an important distinction. In his opinion, no one was a true friend until they could be fully trusted.
“It isn’t completely your fault. I mean it was stupid of Snivellus to follow your suggestion. He’s always saying Gryffindors use brawn before brains yet he’s the one who approaches a murderous tree on an enemy’s word.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Sirius muttered.
“It’s the truth. Even Dumbledore saw that.”
“I still shouldn’t have told him.”
“That is true too,” James replied, smiling slightly. He did not mind the silence that then enveloped them. He was pleased they were back to speaking easily with each other once again. Their friendship still needed some patchwork to get it back to where it had been, but it was on its way.
Sirius wasn’t quite as content. He was juggling his knee and fidgeting with the bandage around his hand. James was almost at the point of asking what was still on his mind when Sirius opened his mouth. “Have you told Remus and Peter I am here?” Sirius’s tone was nonchalant, but his eyes betrayed his concern.
“No. Not yet.” James too tried to make his reply sound offhand. In truth he had been debating about sending a letter to Remus and Peter, and he wasn’t quite sure why he hadn’t.
“Do you think Remus will ever forgive me?”
“I think so. He’ll need time. Give him time,” James replied wishing he fully believed his own words. Even now a small part of him felt forgiving Sirius meant he was betraying Remus.
“Don’t humor me,” Sirius snapped.
“I’m not. Remus has never held a grudge before. He’s the most level-headed out of all us…he’ll see your side of things.”
Sirius shook his head. “I think things might be different this time. He was angry enough to suggest sending me home as part of my punishment and he knows how much I hate it there.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It was Remus who suggested to Dumbledore that I be sent home during break.”
“No, it wasn’t. Where did you get that idea? He was surprised as I was. We even spoke out it immediately after.”
“He told me he was,” Sirius insisted.
“When was this?”
“Late in the common room… everyone had gotten to sleep. I shouldn’t have been down there, but I figured no one would catch me. I was tired of Remus ignoring me. It might not make total sense, but I wanted to say something to get a reaction out of him. I’d have enough of Remus acting like I didn’t exist…and that’s when he said it.”
James smiled wryly. “There’s your answer. He just threw at you something that would hurt you as much as you had hurt him. I’m surprised you believed him…this is Remus we are talking about.”
Sirius actually smiled back. “It made more sense than it being Dumbledore’s idea.”
“Hmmm…that was odd. Though I am sure Dumbledore had some idea of your family situation. It isn’t like it’s a big secret that you are clashing with them.”
Sirius nodded before turning more serious. “I never properly thanked you for going after Snape. If you hadn’t stepped in-”
“You just did,” James interjected. “And you’re welcome.”
Sirius’s mouth was slightly open in surprise at being interrupted. They both knew three (four if James had been caught in the crossfire) lives would have been ruined if the werewolf had gotten to Snape. Sirius regretted his actions and James having now forgiven him didn’t need to hear more.
Sirius let out a deep breath. He looked less troubled, his eyes brighter, and that was remarkable all in itself seeing as he was still a disinherited runaway. It was good they had talked. Without his family Sirius would need his friends now more than ever. And James knew Sirius didn’t need just him, but Peter and Remus. They were strongest together. So an idea popped into his head. “You should write them.”
“Remus and Peter. If they haven’t heard the rumors, I’m sure they’ll like to hear it first from you. Let them know you’re safe. Show them you still consider them friends. Okay?”
Sirius agreed reluctantly. After locating a quill and parchment for Sirius, James went upstairs to fetch his owl. Upon return James found Sirius staring down at two blank sheets of paper. James nodded encouragingly when Sirius looked up. Quickly Sirius scrawled out the same message on two separate sheets.
James tied the messages to the owl. He walked out of the room and made his way down a few hallways through two rooms to get to one of the exits to their backyard. He yanked the door open and sent Archer off into the air. He watched his owl disappear into the clear blue sky.
James returned to the room where he’d left Sirius. His friend had sprawled himself out on the couch and his eyes were closed. Figuring Sirius needed the extra rest, James tiptoed across the room and down another hallway, up two flights of stairs, back up to his room. He swept up the Quidditch magazine he’d been reading and settled on his bed.
Remus and Peter were sitting cross-legged on Remus’s bed. His room was small, cozy, and very much reflected his personality. A Gryffindor banner, Quidditch poster and two with fearsome dragons hung on his walls. The year’s lunar cycle was tacked on the door to his closet. The room was fairly tidy except for his bookshelf that was crammed with books. There were storybooks that he loved as a child, novels he now read, and loads on Magical Beasts and Creatures, particularly those considered dark and dangerous. There were also a variety of spell and charm books that though were not required for classes were helpful in the aide of mischief.
Peter had slept over last night and wasn’t due to leave until early evening. Peter’s mother was out of town for something. Remus wasn’t sure for what exactly since Peter had been hazy about the details. Secretly pleased that Peter had chosen him over James, Remus hadn’t pried. It wasn’t often that it happened. Peter had been James’s friend even before Hogwarts and Remus suspected that Peter still preferred James’s company out of them all. After all, if it hadn’t been for James, the four of them might have never become friends that first year. Remus had a feeling that James’s curtness with everyone (most especially toward Peter who could be thick about things) since ‘the incident’ had made Peter a little wary of James. Regardless of Peter’s reason, Remus was actually glad for the company.
At the moment the two boys were sorting through Remus’s collection of famous witches and wizards cards (from Chocolate Frogs), as well as his magical creature cards (inside every pack of World’s Chewiest Bubble Gum). They were both absorbed in the sorting when there was a loud pecking sound at the window. Peter jumped in fright knocking over a few of the piles that had been neatly stacked.
“Just an owl,” Remus remarked, rolling his eyes.
“Sorry,” Peter said his face bright pink. He was on his knees hastily gathering the cards back up again.
“It’s James’s owl,” Remus stated eagerly. Remus unlatched the window and coaxed the bird in. The owl, Archer, lifted his leg and Remus bent to untie it. “There’s one for you too Peter.”
“Really?” Peter said. He pushed himself to his feet and grabbed the rolled parchment from Remus.
“Lucky owl only having to fly to one house. Maybe James wants to do something for New Year’s,” Remus mused.
Remus put his note down to rummage around the top drawer in his dresser for an owl treat. He stopped noticing Peter’s furrowed brow; Peter’s note was already unrolled. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s not from James,” Peter said in a quiet voice.
Forgetting about the owl treat, Remus leaned over, his eyes quickly taking in the words on the note in Peter’s hands.
The rumors are true; I’ve run away. I’m safe. – Sirius
Remus ripped his own note open to see the same exact words scrawled on his own parchment. He stared at it uncomprehendingly. A note from Sirius delivered by James’s owl only meant one thing.
Remus crushed the paper in his hand. He threw it to the ground.
“Remus, are you okay?”
Remus rushed at the owl and shooed it out. Archer hooted indignantly at him before soaring into the sky. Remus sat heavily on his bed.
“He ran away?” Remus asked hollowly.
“You didn’t know? It was in the Daily Prophet yesterday morning. My Mum pointed it out to me,” Peter explained cautiously. “You always read the Prophet.”
“Why would that be in the bloody Prophet?”
“Sirius didn’t just runaway…he was disowned. I reckon he’s poorer than you now.”
The Lupin’s had always been a middle class family until Remus had been bit. Remus’s parent had spent a good portion of their savings traveling and looking for a cure, unsuccessfully. Though they could afford to pay for Remus’s Hogwarts tuition and other school related expenses, they did not have extra money to spend on frivolous things.
Remus threw Peter an incredulous look, but Peter didn’t seem to notice for he continued speaking. “If it had been me, I would have stuck it out a few more years…even just receiving a third of a Black inheritance would have made it worth the while. Be set for years. Never have to worry about working...”
“Why didn’t you mention this before to me?”
“I was waiting for you to bring it up. I thought you just didn’t want to talk about it.” Peter frowned. “My Mum already threw the issue out; otherwise I’d give it to you. You’re not mad, are you?”
“No. I’m going to the loo. You were right; I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Should I continue sorting the cards?”
Remus nodded. He slipped out of the room, leaving his bedroom door open only a slit. He padded across to the bathroom and shut the door so Peter would think he went in. He silently treaded down the stairs to where the washer and dryer were located. A stack of newspapers lay bound together.
He retrieved his wand out. He could hear his Mum humming in the kitchen. The house was considered a magical space so he’d only get in trouble for underage magic if his parents caught him. Remus smiled ruefully at himself. He’d already broken plenty of rules as a prefect, what was one more?
Remus flicked his wand muttering the charm under his breath. The rope snapped. Remus found yesterday’s paper on top. He leafed through it quickly, his eyes scanning the headlines.
Sirius Black: Heir No More?
Remus stopped. His heart was beating frantically. Peter’s words floated into his head. “I reckon he’s poorer than you now.”
Remus flattened the newspaper on top of the dryer, leant forward, and began reading.
Author’s note: Thanks for READING and please REVIEW! This is a very important chapter in the story and I would really love to read your thoughts!