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Chapter 10: Going Back
Chapter 10: Going Back
Sirius looked over at James whose face was scrunched in concentration. There was a strange feel to the air. Sirius wasn’t sure he’d describe it as tension…more along the lines of awkwardness. Last night they had been so comfortable with each other.
Last night was New Year’s Eve and the boys had the Potter manor to themselves. James’s parents had gone to a party hosted by the Bones, a popular influential pureblood family. James had been invited, but convinced his parents to tell the host that he was sick in bed with a cold. The party guests were likely to include Sirius’s cousins Bellatrix and Narcissa, so it was quickly decided that Sirius shouldn’t be in attendance. Sirius had told James that if he wanted to go he didn’t mind spending the night alone. James had scoffed at the idea telling him he’d been looking for an excuse not to attend the stuffy grown-up party. Sirius knew it was a bit of lie since it was well known the Bones threw quite exciting and extravagant New Year’s Eve parties. He appreciated it all the same.
New Year’s Eve had passed quickly. They played every board and card game in James’s closest including those they had outgrown. They gorged on sweets and finished eight bottles of butterbeer between them. They opted not to raid the Potter’s liquor cabinet. Sirius did not want to repay the Potter’s kindness by nicking alcohol and he knew James didn’t want to disappoint his parents. Despite James having the same general disregard for authorities and indifference to school rules as Sirius had at Hogwarts, James respected his parents enough to follow most of their house rules.
They listened to the countdown of the most popular Wizard Band Songs of the past year on the radio. They chatted about normal teenage boy topics; carefully not treading on anything having to do with Remus, their fight, and Sirius’s family. They had laughed and joked so carelessly that it was hard to believe that only a day or so ago Sirius hadn’t been sure James would be his friend again. Sirius had fallen asleep with a smile on his face and then woken up with an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He knew part of the awkwardness or uneasiness was due to his attempt to ignore all the terrible things that had happened. It wasn’t healthy and it wouldn’t make the problems go away. Last night he’d also had a strange dream involving Remus. He didn’t remember anything about it upon waking besides the peculiar-ness of it. The dream had ultimately put Remus in the forefront of his mind and Sirius couldn’t help wondering how Remus had spent his New Year’s Eve. He imagined Remus brooding the night away alone in his room; the image made all the worse since he had spent his laughing with James.
James had also woken up a bit pensive and quieter than usual. Was he thinking about Remus as well? The conversation between them was stilted over breakfast; Mr. and Mrs. Potter doing most of the talking, regaling them with details from last night. It was almost as if they didn’t know how to be normal around each other. They could have serious, tense conversations or a night of carelessness, joking, and bantering, but nothing in between.
So as they settled into the sun room that late morning James actually started a conversation about OWLs, of all things. OWLs that were still months away and something neither of them really needed to worry about. Of course they did take schoolwork and testings seriously to a certain extent. There were rumors going around that the duo had never entered the school library or revised for an exam. Both of these ideas were ridiculous because though James and Sirius were considered two of the brightest wizards in the school, they weren’t that clever.
“Gallagher was telling me he got extra points by one of the test administrators by performing some of the spells non-verbally,” James commented. Gallagher was in his last year, chaser and Quidditch Captain of Gryffindor team.
“Do we even need to worry about extra points?” Sirius asked James, who shrugged. “Aiming to impress someone?”
James colored slightly.
“Oh! I see. You want to impress Evans,” Sirius teased.
“Nothing seems to impress her,” James said bitterly. It was true; Lily Evans had neither been impressed by James breaking the record of most goals scored in first half of the Quidditch game nor his quick reflexes with his wand when he hexed others in the hallway. “I just thought it would be something to try.”
“We can give it a go. How hard can it be right?” Sirius didn’t need much convincing. He’d always enjoyed the practical part of their magical training and if the skill was supposed to be beyond the level of the magical ability of their age, it only made him want to learn it quicker. It was like with the Animagus transformation.
Nonverbals were harder than Sirius thought. In the middle of the room between the two teenagers four lightweight quills were floating the air. Both Sirius and James had managed to silently levitate the quills after a few tries, but both were failing to summon the quills with the slightly more complex Accio spell. Nonverbals took a lot more concentration and will – the intent of the spell had to be completely in your own mind, rather than in the strength of your voice and pronunciation of the word.
Sirius took a deep breath, concentrated only on the quill and where he wanted it to go, and pointed his wand -
“There you boys are!”
The floating quills dropped clattering onto the table; the spell breaking as Sirius and James, startled, turned to see Mr. Potter enter the room.
Mr. Potter surveyed the two teenagers before saying, “James, you know your mother doesn’t like it when you use magic outside of school.”
One of the reasons Mrs. Potter enforced the underage magic in her house was she had worked in the Misuse of Magic department of the Ministry, particularly on cases of underage magic. Though she was now retired, she still felt it was only right that her own son followed the Ministry rules. Also magic had always exacerbated James’s penchant for trouble.
“We’re practicing for OWL’s,” James replied quickly.
“Since when are non-verbal spells required for OWL’s?” Mr. Potter asked.
“Ok, so it’s not required,” James replied lightly. “We just really want to impress them. You know us, overachievers.”
“Hmmm,” Mr. Potter said. He knew when it came to schoolwork James had never done more than necessary.
“We could always stop this and go back to our original plan. Filibusters in the toilets, wasn’t it, James?” Sirius said, jumping in. He attempted to sound serious, but he could barely contain the laughter in his voice.
“Exploding toilets? Haven’t you two outgrown that prank? Losing your touch, boys?” Mr. Potter asked looking amused.
James pretended to look affronted. “It may be simple, but it’s a classic.”
Mr. Potter laughed and Sirius and James joined in. “If you stick to levitating quills and nothing larger or breakable, I’ll let you keep at it,” Mr. Potter said. “I actually came to deliver Sirius a letter.”
“A letter?” Sirius asked with surprise.
“Two letters. Professor Dumbledore forwarded it over.” Mr. Potter handed Sirius two official looking envelopes both with the Gringotts seal. “It was sent to Hogwarts since no one knows of your whereabouts.”
Sirius nodded staring down at the letters addressed to him.
“Well I’ll leave you to it. Lunch will be ready in a bit. We’ll call you then,” Mr. Potter said.
Sirius looked up watching Mr. Potter leave the room relieved he could open the letters in private or at least only in front of James. Sirius had a distinct feeling that James’s father had a good idea what was contained in the letters and that was the main reason he hadn’t tried to stick around while Sirius read them.
Sirius ran his finger along the edge breaking the seal and unfolding a piece of thick parchment. He scanned the letter quickly and placed it down the table. He picked up the second envelope and repeated his actions. James was watching him silently and the room had suddenly gotten tensely quiet.
“What’s it say?” James asked after a moment.
Sirius sighed. “The first says I no longer have any access to the Black Family vault in Gringotts. The second says that my own vault has been completely emptied…though I do still have access to that.”
“Emptied? Are you saying your parents took the money you had in there out and put it into their own vault?” James queried, shocked.
Sirius shrugged, playing it off as if it didn’t matter. “It was only a junior account. My parents always had full access to it. The vault doesn’t turn over to me fully until I’m seventeen. I’m sure it is the same as with yours.”
“Well, yes. I can’t believe they’d go as far as leave you penniless! It is one thing to disinherit you, but-”
“They’d love nothing more than to find me begging on the streets of Diagon Alley for a scrap of food,” Sirius cut in harshly.
James opened his mouth. Probably to protest that Sirius’s family couldn’t be that cruel and maybe there was a misunderstanding.
Sirius silenced him with a wave of his hand. “It’s fine. I don’t want their money. I don’t need it.”
“What are you going to do when you actually have to buy something?” James asked bluntly.
“I still have a bag of gold in my trunk at Hogwarts. Birthday money from Uncle Alphard I’ve been saving.”
“And when that runs out?”
“I’ll figure something out. I most certainly won’t go begging to my parents.”
“I can always loan you some.”
Sirius leaned back closing his eyes for a moment. “Can we not talk about this right now?”
“Ok,” James answered though he was still frowning in thought.
Sirius pointed his wand toward the feathers and thought Accio. One of the quills jerked, but did not move any further. He just wanted to forget about the letters, but the weight on his shoulders that had been lifted after he had talked to James had returned suffocating his good mood.
His father had said he’d do everything in his power to make his life miserable if he left, so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It was overwhelming to think that besides the bit of gold in his trunk he had nothing else in his name. There were very few places in the Wizarding World that would hire someone not yet out of Hogwarts and of those few places, there would even be less who would hire the runaway Black heir. Sirius appreciated that James was willing to loan him money, even more so for the fact that James had known him well enough to suggest a loan rather than a gift. James and his family could certainly afford to gift him the money. Sirius didn’t fancy himself some charity case and for once understood how Remus must have felt when the four of them went to Hogsmeade and they insisted on buying him treats and butterbeer since Remus rarely had spending money. As it was he was eating and sleeping here for free…and would probably spend next summer with the Potters as well, again for free. James had already hinted to him that he’d spoken to his parents and they would be more than glad for him to live with them permanently.
Suddenly one of the quills zoomed straight at James and hit him in the face. “Yes! Finally!” James was grinning broadly.
Sirius stood up. “I don’t feel well. I’m going to have a lie down.”
“Still the after effects of the hex?” James asked. The bouts were Sirius suddenly felt weak, tired, and awful were occurring less and less with each passing day as the hex wore off. This was the first time Sirius had used it as an excuse to be left alone.
“Yes,” Sirius lied. He scooped up the letters. He noticed the disappointment in James’s face. “I’ll see you later.”
James nodded thoughtfully as Sirius left the room.
James was downstairs waiting for Sirius to finish showering. His parents had left them alone for the morning. It was too chilly and rainy outside for Quidditch (especially since they never knew when Sirius would suddenly feel ill and dizzy), so they were stuck indoors another day. James was trying to think of what they could possibly do that would not cause any damage to the house when there was a loud rap on the door. James jumped in his seat. James wasn’t expecting anyone and it wasn’t normal for them to have unannounced visitors. James gripped his wand. The knock sounded again urgently. James opened the door warily and came face to face with six Ministry officials.
“Can I help you?” James asked.
“Is Harold Potter home?” one of the men asked, the leader of the group, and the one who had knocked. He had hard eyes.
“No, he isn’t here,” James answered carefully. His gaze travelled over the six men and one woman. He recognized Walter Hartman, a heavyset, balding man.
“We’ve got a warrant to search the house.”
“What? For what?” James demanded.
His question was ignored. “Is anyone else in the house?”
James hesitated. “My friend’s upstairs -“
The leader nodded to the men behind him who began to surge forward. “Please step outside.”
When James didn’t immediately follow direction, the leader grabbed his arm roughly and pulled down the steps.
“I know him, Patterson. I’ll take care of it. Just step here, James. Nothing to worry about. They’ll do a quick sweep of the house.”
James shivered as the wind picked up. At least the drizzle had turned to a mist. He looked up to see Sirius being whisked outside. His hair was still wet, no shirt, and his hand was only halfway bandaged. He looked bewildered. James did not like the calculating look Patterson gave him. As Sirius passed him, Patterson gripped Sirius forcefully and whispered something in Sirius’s ear.
Sirius joined James whispering heatedly, “What’s going on?” He began to finish wrapping his hand.
“I don’t know. They’ve got a warrant…don’t know what they are looking for,” James said quietly back. Sirius started shivering beside him as they waited for the Ministry Officials to continue on with their search.
“I think Minnie went to get your parents,” Sirius said referring to the Potter’s house-elf by name, and in that moment, Harold Potter Apparated into the front yard.
“Patterson? Walter? What is the meaning of this?” Mr. Potter demanded.
“We’ve got a warrant, Potter,” Patterson said contemptuously.
“We’ve got a tip that you’ve been selling illegal cauldrons out of your house,” Patterson stated.
Mr. Potter laughed. “You’re not serious? Walter?”
Walter shrugged. “I’m here just doing my job.”
Mr. Potter walked over to James and Sirius. He offered Sirius his over-cloak since none of the Ministry officials seemed to care that they’d forced a half-clothed teenager out into rainy, below freezing temperatures.
“I’ve see your household has grown,” Patterson said, indicating Sirius. “I’d be more careful about the company you keep.”
“Is giving shelter and food to my son’s friend something to be ashamed of?”
“You’re making a statement.”
“You know better than anyone, Patterson, that I do not involve myself in blood politics.” Though the Potter’s were considered blood traitors because they consorted with all wizards and witches regardless of blood, James’s parents had not involved themselves politically in the brewing war about blood purity. Harold Potter spent his time working against Dark Magic and the Dark Arts.
It felt like an eternity for James before the search was finally over. They found not one piece of evidence to suggest the tip had any validity. There was no apology. A copy of the warrant was handed to James’s father and the Ministry officials disappeared.
Mr. Potter caroled them back inside. He had Minnie brew three strong cups of teas. As Sirius was about to return upstairs to finish dressing, James remembered the whisper. “What did Patterson whisper to you?”
Sirius looked at James’s father then away. “Found you, blood traitor.”
“Thought that was what this all was about,” Mr. Potter stated.
“A bogus tip about stolen cauldrons from my father?” Sirius asked dryly.
Mr. Potter nodded grimly. “The warrant ensured they could search the entire house and that we couldn’t hide you.”
“Now they know,” Sirius said and he walked up the stairs.
Once they could no longer hear Sirius’s footsteps James turned to his father. “Why would the Black’s care where Sirius is? Didn’t they disown him?”
“I suspect the Black’s will be keeping a very close eye on Sirius. He’s more of a liability to them now than ever.”
“Why? What damage could he do to them?”
“Plenty in the social and political circles the Black’s care about. They’ll do what they can to prevent him from further tarnishing their name. He’s the heir, James. Disinherited or not; no one will forget Sirius was the true heir. It’s a big deal to that lot.” Mr. Potter took a deep breath. “He’ll need his back watched at Hogwarts.”
“More than usual?” James asked. Sirius had been taunted plenty over the years by the Slytherins.
“Every magical family will or has already discussed the disownment of the Black heir. I showed you the article about Sirius in the Prophet.” James nodded. He’d only briefly scanned it at the time. “Most of it is idle conversation, but the older families – the purest of families – they’ll be lecturing their children. They’ll want Sirius to be used as an example. They’ll be terrified that someone else’s child will follow in his footsteps. And do you know the best way to stop that from happening? Push their children to ostracize Sirius. Encourage them to bully… or publicly disgrace Sirius for his transgression. Sirius turned his back on the one thing they all hold most important - blood. And if their children see firsthand what happens to blood traitors it is unlikely any of them will follow Sirius’s lead.”
“But he’s been labeled a blood traitor before. Aren’t we considered blood traitors?”
“We are, but our family name has protected us. It would be a dangerous thing to go after a Potter; our family has established a name and respect in spite of being blood traitors. Sirius doesn’t have any protection. Instead his family will be encouraging others on to put him in his place. Just be on guard.”
They could hear Sirius returning down the steps and they stopped talking. James was troubled by the conversation. He knew his father wouldn’t tell him these things unless there was real concern. Both his parents had grown up in the pure-blood world, though they had sheltered James from most of it. James didn’t know what the new year would bring, but he figured it couldn’t be worse than the way the old year had ended.
Platform 9 ¾ was bustling with activity. The overcast sky brought out the brightness of colors around the station from vibrant red of the Hogwarts Express to colorful robes of parents and students.
James and Sirius had already said their goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Potter. Sirius was walking up a little bit ahead of James. James had paused to make a show of waving to his parents, but was discreetly searching the platform for any signs of the Black family. He wasn’t planning on letting any of them near Sirius.
Relieved not to spot them in their vicinity, James looked forward. Up ahead a pretty 20 something witch had tapped Sirius on the shoulder. She was tall, in dark purple robes, and was holding a notebook and quill in her hand.
“…and I was hoping to get your side of the story…”
James sidled up next to Sirius only hearing the last part of what the witch, who James had not surmised was a reporter, was saying.
Sirius looked sideways at James before addressing the witch. “What article?”
“Oh! Oh my! You haven’t read it?” the witch exclaimed looking positively thrilled by this notion.
“If you’ll excuse us,” James said coldly, “we need to get on the train.”
“And you would be?” Her eyes traveled up and down James. “James Potter?”
James glowered in response.
“Pleasure to meet you,” the witch said keeping up with the pleasantries. “Jenny Jenston from the Daily Prophet. Fancy your name in a news story? I could make it work. Interview the best friend – a Potter - of the ex-Black heir. Yes, that could work quite nicely.”
“We need to get going,” James insisted.
“It will only take a few minutes. The train isn’t due to leave for at least another ten minutes.”
James threw her a dirty look and propelled Sirius forward.
“I’ll send you a copy of the article!” Jenny Jenston called after them. She at least did not continue to pursue them.
“What article?” Sirius asked again once they were out of the reporter’s range of hearing.
James shrugged not sure what to say.
“You knew about it?”
“My father showed it to me. I only skimmed it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It was just a bunch of rubbish. Not worth your time.”
“What did it say?”
“It was rubbish.”
Sirius smiled wryly. “You mean it was against me, wasn’t it? Made it sound like I was an arrogant berk? That I threw away the Black family fortune?”
“Everyone knows the Daily Prophet isn’t always a hundred percent accurate.”
Sirius raised his eyebrows. Everyone should know that, but the fact of the matter was a good portion of the population did believe everything they read in the paper.
“I just…I didn’t expect everyone to know. I thought I would have at least tonight and maybe tomorrow morning before it was around the school…but if it was in the Prophet …” Sirius suddenly was looking around at the students and parents walking around them as if he could suddenly feel all their eyes on him, judging his actions.
James didn’t expect Sirius to be so concerned about this. Sirius wasn’t the type to shy away from attention. He regularly sought it and rarely stopped himself from doing something because of other people’s disapproval or possible embarrassed. It took a lot for Sirius’s confidence to be shaken. Of course that didn’t mean Sirius didn’t in some capacity care what other students thought of him. It was also confirmation in James’s mind that Sirius needed the support of his friends and James feared his alone would not be enough without Remus and Peter.
“Look it was going to get around the school one way or another. If everyone already knows that means they’ve had time to talk about it at home, now there’s the train ride and the welcome feast…so before you know it will be old news.”
Sirius didn’t respond still looking miserable with the notion.
“Hey Potter, Black.” Gideon Prewett bounded toward them, waving to get their attention. Upon them Prewett faltered as if he didn’t know what to say next. He couldn’t exactly ask them if they had a good Christmas…and pretending not to know about Sirius’s disinheritance would be disingenuous. “Er – Black, I came to tell you that you’ll need to sit in the same compartment across from the prefects.”
“I figured,” Sirius answered. James noticed the way Sirius’s body tensed and his eyes hardened. James wished he could think of someway to cheer Sirius up, but throwing dungbombs into the crowd in front of prefect was probably not the best of ideas.
“Professor McGonagall wrote to me to inform you that you won’t be attending the feast tonight. You’ll go straight to her office where a meal will be provided and then you’ll serve your detention.”
“They won’t even let him attend the feast?” James asked. He had thought that after the holiday break Sirius would again be allowed to attend meals in the Great Hall.
Prewett shrugged apologetically. “I think it’s because dinner is always served later than usual the night everyone returns and the professors want Sirius to serve a full night of detention.” Prewett turned to address Sirius. “As far as I know you can eat the next day in the Great Hall.”
“At least I don’t have to sit through Dumbledore’s welcome back speech,” Sirius stated and James realized Sirius was trying to make him feel better by lightening the mood. Dumbledore’s speech after holiday break was always much shorter than his speech in the start of the fall term after the long summer break. “I’ll see you after my detention.”
“See you then,” James answered. Prewett led the way and James watched them disappear into the train. He ruffled his hair as his eyes traveled around the platform. He didn’t see Peter or Remus, so he figured he’d go ahead and find a compartment. As he walked the train’s corridor he nodded and said hello to various students. He waited until the end of the train before he started peaking inside and was pleased to find their usual compartment empty. He settled in closing his eyes briefly. It wasn’t long before James saw Remus and Peter peering into the compartment through the glass windows of the compartment door.
James shot to his feet as they entered. “Hey! Happy New Year! How are you?” James could hear the forced enthusiasm in his own words.
“Has Sirius been staying with you?” Remus demanded with no preamble.
James sighed, sitting back down. “Lock the door.” He didn’t want them to be disturbed. Peter eagerly jumped up to turn the lock as Remus heavily took a seat across from James. Remus looked worn-down and pale, but in a different way than he did when the full moon was approaching.
“Yes, Sirius has been in my house since the day he ran away.”
“So just like that. Just like that you’re friends with him,” Remus accused.
“No, not just like that. My parents took him in. I didn’t see or speak to him for the first three days. Then finally we spoke-”
“And now you’re back to being best mates,” Remus spat, his tone resentful.
James didn’t respond to the statement, instead he said, “You need to do the same. Please talk to him.”
Remus opened his mouth to protest.
“I’m not saying you have to forgive him – but at least talk to him.”
“I don’t want to hear his excuses.”
“I think you’ll be surprised by what he says.”
“And if I don’t? If I don’t talk to him?” Remus asked; his eyes were narrowed and his tone was taunting, as if he daring James to tell him to his face that if that did happen he would choose Sirius over him.
“Don’t ask me to choose you over him because I’ll refuse. You are both my friends and that isn’t going to change.” James’s words rung with finality through the compartment.
Remus pursed his lips then said quickly, “I’ve got Prefect duties.” Remus was almost out the door when stopped and abruptly turned to look James straight in the eye, his eyes shiny as if he was close to crying. “Just remember, James, it wouldn’t have been your life ruined.”
James groaned as he watched the door slam shut behind Remus.
“He’s still upset,” Peter said unnecessarily.
“And you?” James asked.
“I – er- well if you’ve forgiven him, I don’t see why I wouldn’t…I was barely involved in it all and…” Peter reddened as he continued to mumble on. “But I don’t want Remus mad at me either…or make him more unhappy…I just want us all to be friends again.”
James nodded. “That’s what I want as well. I know Sirius wants that. You’ll help me convince Remus to give Sirius a chance, won’t you? He’ll be sure to listen to you more than me.”
“He will?” Peter asked unsurely.
“You and Sirius have never gotten along in the same way Sirius and I have. I think he’ll believe your opinion about Sirius more than mine. He might think I am making excuses for his actions just because I want my best friend back.”
James didn’t notice the way Peter cringed at ‘best friend’; reminding Peter for the millionth time he would always come second to Sirius. His attention was suddenly on girl with red hair who had stopped in front of their compartment chatting to one of her friends. Her back was turned so James couldn’t tell if it was Lily Evans, but he desperately hoped it was. Then the girl turned around, her friend pointing out that James was staring at her. The girl’s eyes widened as she met James’s gaze. She was most definitely not Lily Evans, but a Hufflepuff with brown eyes and unfortunate case of bad acne. James looked away quickly embarrassed and was relieved when he looked up that the girl wasn’t standing their anymore. He hoped she didn’t think he fancied her.
James frowned as he heard the train whistle blow and he watched the waving parents and younger siblings as the train began moving forward, quickly picking up speed. There had to be a way to get Lily Evans to give him a chance and go out with him. Peter really wasn’t the person to brainstorm with when it came to that topic.
“Do you want to play a game of Exploding Snap?” Peter asked interrupting his thoughts.
“Sure,” James said. “If you have your pack of cards because I don’t.”
“I have it somewhere.”
After a few moments of rummaging in his bag, Peter said, “Found it.”
Peter began dealing the cards and James felt himself begin to slightly relax. It was going to be a stressful start of the new semester, but at least he had a long and quiet train ride with Peter to prepare for it.
Author’s note: Thanks for reading and please review! I really love hearing your thoughts!