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Chapter 11: Wading Through
Chapter 11: Wading Through
The first day was both better and worse than Sirius expected. The day started off with the realization that Remus was still using avoidance as a means to cope with the situation. Sirius had awoken up really early, showered and upon returning into the dorm room found that Remus had already left. On one hand Sirius wanted to have a confrontation with Remus as quickly as possible and on the other he wished it would never come, convinced that if he said the wrong thing or said the right thing the wrong way it could very well mean the end of their friendship.
James and Peter both had different thoughts on the matter. James didn’t think it was odd that Remus had bolted. He told Sirius to wait a few days to see if Remus warmed up to the idea of a conversation. Peter stayed silent on the matter until James went into the bathroom. It wasn’t too difficult for Sirius by asking the right questions to coax out Peter’s thoughts.
Uneasily, Peter stated, “James didn’t want to tell you that Remus didn’t sit with us last night during the feast.”
“He didn’t?” Sirius asked. The news was not only unexpected, but a grim reminder of the reality of the situation. It was one thing for Remus to be giving him the cold shoulder, but towards James? It was impossible for Sirius not feel like it was his fault. As much as James didn’t deserve such treatment, Sirius couldn’t control Remus’s actions. To make matters even worse it was clear James was trying to protect his feelings, but in truth he didn’t want Remus’s feelings towards him sugar coated. Taking the opportunity to get the truth from Peter who tended to speak more candidly about this sort of thing, Sirius asked, “You think he’s mad at you two because you’ve forgiven me?”
Peter glanced toward the closed bathroom door and began packing his school bag as he started talking. “I don’t think he’s mad at me, but he didn’t like what James said to him on the train…”
“What did James say?”
Peter stopped his packing for a moment. “Stuff about being both your friends…not choosing one over the other…”
“That doesn’t sound that bad…”
Peter looked like he really didn’t want to say the next thing. “James sort of has chosen your side.”
“In what way?” Sirius immediately demanded. Peter shrunk back and Sirius took a breath, thought for a moment and asked, “Because he’s talking to me?”
Peter nodded. “I’m not saying I agree with it, but Remus was the wronged party…”
“So no one is allowed to talk to me until Remus says it’s ok,” Sirius griped.
“I just don’t think you should flaunt it in his face that you’re mates again,” Peter said.
Sirius was actually brought speechless by that statement. He had enough to worry about without now being concerned if he was being too friendly with James in front of Remus. The one upside of having detention almost every night at least meant there would be little hanging out with James outside of eating and attending classes. Still avoiding James was not an option. Their friendship had been very recently repaired and Sirius couldn’t avoid James without telling him the reason. And he knew if he told James the reason, James would likely confront Remus which would only make the situation worse.
In addition to the problems going on between his friends, throughout the day, Sirius had to deal with the various reactions of the student body. One of the hardest things for Sirius to do was walk down to the Gryffindor common room the very first morning. The Gryffindor reaction, particularly the purebloods, could very well set up how the rest of the school would treat him. These were his housemates and as Professor McGonagall had told them all that first day before their sorting, his house after five years had become like a family.
The common room turned silent as Sirius entered the room with James and Peter behind him. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence for students to pay attention to them when they entered a room; it was part of being popular. Certainly no one threw rotten fruit his way, but there was something in the atmosphere that had never been there before. Maybe it was his imagination but Sirius swore there was a judging look to everyone as their eyes traveled over him. There was no way to even know what any one person was focused on. Was it the 100 points he’d lost? His falling out and now falling back in with James, but not Remus? Or was it a reaction to the Daily Prophet article?
It did not get any better for Sirius as he encountered more and more students as the first day went on. It was during meals in the Great Hall that he really felt he was on display. There were a lot of stares – angry, curious, calculating, and apathetic. The air surrounding the Slytherin table was the most hostile, and directly in the middle of it sat his brother. Regulus now sat among the sixth and seventh year; an accomplishment for a third year. He was already taking his place as new Black heir. Sirius met his brother’s eyes for the briefest of seconds. Regulus looked away swiftly and Sirius ignored the ache in his chest. Their relationship had been close to irreparable before his disownment and now he wasn’t sure how he really felt about his brother.
Classes that day went straight into full force lectures. With OWLs in a few months the teachers could not afford to give the fifth years one day to get assimilated. After two intense classes, Sirius was relieved when lunchtime rolled around even though it meant being in Great Hall with entire student body. Of course the moment he was in the Great Hall he suddenly wished to be back in class again. Sirius’s mood worsened when a gaggle of giggling third year girls took seats right beside them. He refused to look in the girls’ direction, but that didn’t stop the girls from continuing to giggle and check them out throughout the meal. Sirius picked at his food and kept glancing at the clock willing the time to go faster. He didn’t want to worry James and Peter by just getting up to leave, so he was waiting for a reasonable amount of time to pass before making an exit. Thirty minutes had now gone by and Sirius was ready to tell his friends he would meet them later when he looked up from his plate and saw that Peter’s normally straw colored hair was a vibrant blue color. Noticing Sirius’s gaze on him suddenly, Peter said, “What?”
“Er – nothing,” Sirius said a small smile forming on his lips because now Peter’s hair was a magenta pink.
By lowering his gaze Sirius could glimpse James’s hidden hands under the table, one of them tightly around his wand. James was trying his best to look nonchalant. Peter looked sideways at James and back at Sirius. Peter’s hair was now black and white like a skunk.
“Do I have something stuck in my hair?” Peter asked running a hand through it.
“No,” Sirius said grinning; it was the truth after all.
Peter’s hair was now flashing between purple and silver. Both Sirius and James were having trouble holding in their laughter. The flash of color was starting to attract attention around the Gryffindor table and the girls beside them were some of the first to notice. Peter was slowly turning red as more students began pointing and laughing towards him
“Please tell me,” Peter said. “Is my tie on right? Is my robe on backward? Did someone hex me?”
“Your tie and robe are fine,” Sirius answered amazed he was able to speak and keep a straight face. James nodded in agreement.
“They are definitely laughing at me,” Peter said his eyes darting around the Gryffindor table. There was a movement at the far end of the table. Sirius saw Lily Evans stand up, revealing that Remus had been sitting beside her. It made sense Remus would sit with her as they were fellow prefects. As Lily made her way towards them Peter’s hair was still continually turning color. Lily stopped in front of James her eyes looking from Peter’s reddened faced and multicolored hair to James holding his wand underneath the table. Sirius waited expectantly for her to tell James off.
James ruffled his hair and threw Lily a cocky grin. “Can I help you, Evans?”
Sirius knew something wasn’t quite right when Lily smiled sweetly at James. “This is for you Potter.” She slapped down a folded piece of paper her arm brushing against James.
She straightened up and obviously feeling sorry for Peter told him, “Do you know your hair is purple?”
“My hair? Purple?” Peter spluttered, frantically patting it as if that could change its color back. “Is my hair really purple? Why didn’t you tell me? Can one of you change it back…please?”
“It’s back to normal,” James said with a dismissive tone.
Sirius watched Lily saunter away her long red hair flowing behind her. Facing James and Peter again, he could see James was still completely captivated by Lily. Concerned James would start drooling if he didn’t break him out of his thoughts, Sirius cut in with, “Love note, James?”
“Huh?” James asked looking dazed.
Sirius just made a pointing gesture toward the unopened note in front of James.
James grinned looking like he’d just won the lottery and unfolded the note hurriedly. His grin crumpled and his face turned indignant. “Detention?!” James bellowed. “Evans! Detention?”
The sudden increase in volume was enough to now have every student staring at James. Sirius was amazed to find he didn’t mind that James had brought attention back to their group. This light hearted kind of attention was better than the judging kind. It had nothing to do with blood or family. James sprung to his feet and quickly gained on Lily.
“Problem, Potter?” she asked hand on her hip and green eyes narrowed towards James.
“What’s this detention for?”
Lily gave James a withering look. “Students are not allowed to do Magic in the Great Hall… and that includes everyone, even Quidditch players.”
“That? That was just a bit of fun. Peter’s my friend…and he didn’t mind!”
(James hexed me? Peter mouthed at Sirius. Sirius waved his question away not wanting to miss the conversation. Peter could be rather oblivious.)
“So because he’s your friend you think he likes being humiliated!” Lily replied sharply.
“It was just for a laugh,” James retorted. Sirius spotted McGonagall walking towards the pair, but James who had his back turned did not.
Lily looked unimpressed by his answer. “I don’t think Professor McGonagall would agree.”
“McGonagall?” James asked confused until he heard a familiar throat clearing; recognizing the sound of reprehension.
“Professor, I caught Potter changing Pettigrew’s hair colors. I assigned him a detention for misuse of Magic, but he doesn’t feel he deserves it.”
“Is that what you were shouting about, Mr. Potter?”
“Yes, Professor,” James answered managing to look ashamed. Technically Magic outside the classroom, designated study areas, and House common room was against the rules.
“I hope you do realize breaking the same rule over and over again will not change it to the way you see fit. I’m overseeing Mr. Black’s detention tomorrow you can serve your detention then.”
“Yes, Professor,” James said not looking cheery anymore. Lily, on the other hand, looked satisfied. James turned from the Professor and prefect and stalked back over to his seat. Sirius swore he saw Lily watch James a little longer than was necessary before she said something to McGonagall and exited the Great Hall.
“Reckon McGonagall is feeling ok? Putting us in detention together?” Sirius asked.
James laughed. “She’d probably forgotten how much trouble we can get into…we haven’t had detention together since September!”
Peter was biting his lip. Now that Peter knew James had been the one to hex him, he seemed unsure whether to laugh along or be cross at James for using him for a quick joke. James must have sensed this because looking apologetic, he turned to Peter. “Sorry about that Peter…I just wanted to lighten the mood.”
Peter so surprised by the apology just muttered that it was ok and then asked, “Why is Gallagher glaring at you?”
James suddenly turned pale and cursed. Sirius looked over towards the middle where the Quidditch Captain was glowering in James direction. “He’s going to have my head. We were supposed to have first Quidditch practice tomorrow night. Everyone full? Let’s go before he murders me.”
Over next few days Sirius’s disownment was the top topic of gossip. Though Sirius expected the retribution to be upped a notch there was just more of the same; the staring, the pointing, and the loud whispering as he passed by groups of huddled students. The few students who dared ask Sirius about what had happened quickly learned not to bother. If they were lucky enough for Sirius to even answer, Sirius’s remarks were so flippant and sarcastic that it was hard to know the truth. He gave the same treatment to anyone, even if he’d been on friendly terms with them in the past. The oddest thing was besides some sneering and jeering, the Slytherins for the most part left him alone. He expected at least some bumping and jostling in the hallway. It was quite unnerving.
The Professors continued being extra hard on Sirius both in class and during detention. He was called on at least once in each class forcing him to be more attentive than he’d ever been. He also suspected his schoolwork and homework was more scrutinized as well, and couldn’t help and wonder if they’d had a meeting about it. The detentions continued to be grueling, including the detention Sirius had with James. Professor McGonagall had them work on cleaning the suits of armor in one of the Hogwarts corridors. They first had to scrub each of them clean with a special soap. Then use a cloth to shine them spotless. Professor McGonagall arranged for one of the portraits already up in the corridor to watch over them. The portrait was connected to her office so the portrait could report if they misbehaved. In addition, McGonagall charmed it so she could hear exactly what was going on. The blonde-haired woman in the portrait was so excited to be given responsibility that she took her job a bit too seriously. Sirius and James could barely exchange annoyed glances before they were being yelled at to continue with their tasks.
The day after the detention Sirius and James had together, it was drizzling as the Gryffindors walked across the grounds to Greenhouse 3. Professor Sprout, her hair frizzy from the dampness, had the class gather in the front before telling them to form into the same groups they’d been working in for past month. Sirius was in a group with two Hufflepuffs, Alice Benet and Grace Kard. They had gotten on well enough before and Sirius didn’t expect them to be the sort to treat him differently based on past events. They were both kind and studious so they made for good partners.
The girls barely acknowledged his greeting and ignored his attempts at small talk. They kept their attention completely on Professor Sprout as the Professor explained to them the steps they needed to complete.
The girls’ only spoke to him as much as was needed to split up the tasks to harvest their plant. Alice and Grace took care of the first part. This consisted of carefully trimming the plant in order to get to the hidden star-shaped pods underneath all the leaves. Sirius was then to take the pod, plunge it under water, squeeze the stuff inside the pod out, wait exactly one minute for it to harden underwater, and then promptly take it out to dry. They were told the hardened secretion had loads of medicinal purposes and they were to pick three and write a paragraph about them to be handed in next class.
Sirius had decided to let Alice’s and Grace’s strange behavior to go without comment. Then while the girls were busy putting away their things, Sirius found himself slipping Alice’s notebook into his own bag. He ignored James calling his name after Professor Sprout dismissed the class. Instead he rushed out of the greenhouses and spotted Alice surrounded by Hufflepuffs heading to the castle.
“Benet! Benet!” Sirius called out loudly.
Alice turned around looking embarrassed.
“Forgot your notebook!” He held up her purple notebook and stopped so that she would have to come to him.
Alice threw her friends an apprehensive look and slowly walked over to him. She glanced around as if she suspected someone was watching her. He held the notebook firmly and she stood in front of him. “Can I have it back?” Her voice wavered ever so slightly.
“Once you tell me what the matter is. Both you and Kard were acting strangely all through class.”
Alice bit her lip. “What do you mean?”
“Come on…you were giving me the cold shoulder.”
“Look its nothing against you. I wasn’t even going to listen to my mother and father-”
“Listen to them about what?” Sirius asked, but before the words were out of his mouth, he already knew.
“To stay away from blood traitors, to stay away from you.”
“So what changed?” he asked holding out the notebook. Alice was from an old pureblood family. He wasn’t so sure about Grace’s family history, but he did know both her parents were magical.
She took hold of it and stuffed it into her shoulder bag. “Didn’t you hear about Swift?”
Sirius shook his head.
“Merlin…he’s unconscious in the hospital wing. Some of the pureblood Slytherins have been going around telling other purebloods to make your life awful…and Swift – well Swift defended you and said he wouldn’t do it. They bloody attacked him and now have been spreading that they’ll do the same to anyone else who has the same idea.” Her eyes roamed around the area they were. “I’ve said too much as it is.”
“There’s no Slytherins here and aren’t Hufflepuffs supposed to be loyal…would any of them really tell that you spoke to the blood traitor for a few minutes?”
Alice colored. “I don’t want trouble. I don’t want to be involved in blood politics. Sorry.” She scampered off without another glance in his direction.
James and Peter ambled over; they’d been watching the conversation in the background.
“What was that about?” James asked.
“Forgot her notebook that’s all,” Sirius answered even though he had a feeling neither James or Peter believed his answer. He needed to think over this new information before deciding whether to tell them. So to really throw his friends off, Sirius commented offhandedly, “Benet’s cute, right?”
Sirius was still thinking about Alice Benet’s words the next day during Charms class. It was a clever strategy the purebloods had. Find those brave enough to defend the blood traitor, squash them, scare anyone else out of siding with him, and then really go after him. He was amazed to find someone like Swift, who he barely knew, taking his side in the whole thing. Alice had also taken a risk, a small one, but a risk all the same, by giving him the information.
Professor Flitwick was using the entire period to revise the theories they’d learned last few months, so it was easy to feign attention. He couldn’t think of a way to offset the Slytherin’s plan. He couldn’t ask anyone to take his side. Warning students of the scare tactics Slytherins were using would do no good because as they demonstrated with Swift, they weren’t afraid of carrying through on their threats. He didn’t blame anyone who wanted to stay out of the messiness of blood politics. Class ended with Flitwick passing back their assignments from over winter break. Sirius frowned when Flitwick handed his back with a large red “P” on the top.
“I was disappointed by the effort you put into this, Mr. Black,” Professor Flitwick admonished. “I expect better work from you.”
Sirius knew he probably did deserve the grade. He had too much on his plate to put any effort into any of his work over break. He had supposed the Professors knowing this would be a little bit more lenient, but it appeared they would not be. Sirius stuffed it into his bag and then noticed on the top of Peter’s paper was a large ‘E’. Peter colored with happiness as Flitwick congratulated him on a job well done. Sirius echoed the Professor’s praise knowing it would do boast his friend’s confidence. He knew he didn’t do things like that as often as he should.
Class was adjourned for the day and the three teenagers walked over to the library for their break. As was now usual, Remus had tagged along with other Gryffindors. With OWLs looming, they were being swamped with assignments and Sirius not having most of his evenings free needed to use this time wisely. Almost an hour into their break Sirius excused himself to use the bathroom. It was located outside the library down the hall.
Sirius pushed the bathroom door open and heard a deep voice say, “My father thinks there’s something wrong with him…you know wrong with his head. He believes the Black’s should have had Sirius committed to Saint Mungo’s long ago-“
The boy stopped speaking the moment he heard Sirius walk in. Sirius not one to avoid confrontation, moved around the corner to find two Ravenclaw standing by the sinks. Sirius stared at them for a moment and they stared back silently. He recognized the one who’d been speaking; Kane, captain of Ravenclaw Quidditch team. He couldn’t remember the other boy’s surname. During the silence both Ravenclaws had slowly moved to grip their wands. If he wasn’t on probation Sirius probably would have hexed them…two on one regardless.
Instead, Sirius used the only arsenal he had at his disposal. “Funny you should mention your father, Kane, still paying back his gambling debts, isn’t he?”
Sirius knew his comment had hit the mark as Kane stiffened, clenching his jaw. It was the one benefit of his mother constantly forcing him to know all the gossip and goings on in the pureblood families.
“Let’s get out of here,” Kane told his friend.
The boys muttered something else about ‘addled brains’ as they exited, but Sirius ignored the comments. He took a deep breath and turned the water on in the sink. He splashed some water onto his face. It was then a door to another stall opened and Sirius found himself alone with Remus for the first time since before Holiday break. If Remus had been in the stall that meant he had not only heard what Sirius had, but whatever the two Ravenclaws had been saying before Sirius had walked in.
Remus’s face remained expressionless. “Black.”
“Five years of friendship and that’s all I am to you? Another Black?”
“Better than what you think of me,” Remus spat.
“What do you mean?”
Remus turned the facet on and washed his hands. He faced Sirius. “A -” Remus eyes moved swiftly around bathroom confirming they were alone “- a monster you can just turn loose on your enemies.”
“What?” Sirius yelped. “I don’t think of you that way…I -”
“Actions speak louder than words,” Remus stated coldly. The words silenced Sirius. He hadn’t expected Remus to say that. He’d expected words about betrayal and trust, but not that. He didn’t think of Remus as a monster; he’d never thought of him as a weapon. He wanted to say all that, his brain moving a mile a minute and his mouth unable to form the words. Remus stared at him intently…waiting for an apology perhaps, and then he turned heading towards the door.
“Don’t punish James.” The words were out of his mouth before he’d even thought about it.
Remus turned incredulously to Sirius.
“Don’t ignore him because of me,” Sirius continued.
Remus shook his head and Sirius was unable to read if he was shaking his head in disbelief or as a negative answer. He could only watch helplessly as Remus stepped out of the bathroom. He was left to wonder if he had just made huge mistake. Should he have taken the opportune moment to beg forgiveness rather than talking about James?
It wasn’t until the end of that day when he trudged into the common room exhausted from helping fill pots with manure for a first year class with Professor Sprout that Sirius had his answer. He stepped through the portrait hole to see Remus pouring over homework on the same table as James and Peter. James beckoned Sirius over the moment he spotted him. Sirius shook his head sadly knowing he wasn’t welcome by Remus.
He continued up to the dorm feeling strange, a mixture of relief and bitterness He now knew he’d done the right thing in pushing Remus toward fixing things with James. It was a repentant gesture. He owed them both, even if Remus never did forgive him. Sirius collapsed onto his bed suddenly consumed with loneliness. He feared these feelings- bitterness and loneliness; and he dreaded the thought that he might have to learn to live with them. He thought of all the good times the four of them had and knew he could not give into this fate just yet. There was still the chance Remus would forgive him and he had to hold onto that.
Author’s note: So I hope it sort of ended on a positive note…I had planned on more Remus and Sirius interaction, but this is how I ended up writing it. Anyway, leave your comments and thoughts!