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Falling Star by Lioness06

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Format: Novella
Chapters: 21
Word Count: 97,558
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, General, Angst
Characters: Lupin, Snape, Sirius, James, Pettigrew
Pairings: James/Lily, Snape/Lily

First Published: 05/04/2011
Last Chapter: 04/24/2013
Last Updated: 04/24/2013

Summary:






Banner by laelia @ TDA

Named after the brightest star in the sky, Sirius Black, heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, was always destined for greatness. But even the brightest of stars may one day fall.

Marauder 5th year. Cannon Compliant. Includes Whomping Willow Incident.


Chapter 1: Chain Reaction
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Chapter 1 – Chain Reaction

Named after the brightest star in the sky, Sirius Black, heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, was always destined for greatness. But even the brightest of stars may one day fall.

Falling from grace should have not been in the boy’s cards, but destiny had other plans. This would be the year. The year of secrets betrayed. The year of lines crossed. The year family loyalty would be defined, once and for all.

***

Fifteen-year-old Sirius entered Hogwarts expecting a year like any other. There was the usual pressure from his family as heir to excel. Over the summer his parents reminded Sirius daily what a disappointment he was. In turn, in true rebellious fashion, Sirius had spent the summer flouting his differences from the Black family legacy – his favorite act had been covering the walls in his room with Gryffindor colors and Muggle posters. Sirius was pretty sure his parents were happy to be rid of him until next summer.

The O.W.L.s they were to take later that year to not faze Sirius either. He was naturally clever enough to receive above average marks, and if he decided to apply himself, he could actually surpass the Black’s exceedingly high expectations for their eldest son.

The Black family might have held Sirius in disdain, but at Hogwarts Sirius was popular and well-liked. Sirius, and his best friend, James Potter were considered the height of cool by their peers. It would be an understatement to say James and Sirius let popularity get to their heads. Neither boy had grown up in an environment that cultivated modesty – James an indulged only child and Sirius brought up to believe the Blacks were practically royalty, so it was not unexpected that they got carried away. There was not a student in the school that did not know who they were, and the they included Sirius’s two other good mates, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. Remus was appointed prefect over the sumer, which had caused a lot of chatter among the students. No one envied the position he was in. How would he juggle between being a prefect and close friends with two biggest trouble makers in the school? Only time would tell.

Despite their popularity, the boys mainly hung out among themselves, keeping membership to their inner circle highly exclusive. The need for such exclusivity centered on Remus’s secret; he was a werewolf. After witnessing how painful Remus’s transformations were, the boys came up with a plan to join their friend as Animagi in their second year. Two weeks into their fifth year– three years after they’d first decided on the endeavor- Sirius, James, and Peter successfully transformed into animals at will. High on their success, they’d fashioned nicknames for each other. Sirius who turned into a dog was nicknamed Padfoot; James as a stag was called Prongs, and Peter, Wormtail, as he transformed into a rat. Lastly Remus was referred to Moony. They also began referring to their group as ‘The Marauders’.

The first few months of fifth year passed very quickly. The boys attended classes, pulled pranks, and explored the Hogwarts grounds as animals on full moon nights with a werewolf in tow. There were high and low points for them all, and through it all they had each other – no longer just friends, but brothers.  They threw a party in the common rom after James scored the winning goal in Gryffindors’ first Quidditch match, listened quietly as Sirius ranted and raved after an altercation with younger brother, Regulus, and tutored Peter for hours so that he wouldn’t fail Transfiguration.

On the surface Sirius’s life at Hogwarts was perfect. And most of the time Sirius could fully immerse himself in that role – carefree, brash, the center of attention. He could ignore his family problems. He could forget about loyalty and destiny. Pretending was sometimes easier than facing the problem head on. Every so often though it crept into his mind, and he’d become moody and distant. Only his friends witnessed this and only James knew how to deal with him when this happened.

As December approached it was getting more and more difficult to pretend. How could he continue to ignore family responsibility? He was the heir and once he turned sixteen his parents would begin expecting he step into his role fully. How could he ignore the fact that Voldemort was after his support? Voldemort had not spoken to him personally, but used Lucius Malfoy and Sirius’s cousin, Bellatrix to extend the offer. Three times Sirius had told them to leave him alone (never quite saying no, but certainly not giving any indication he would fold any time soon). Even after James’s life had been threatened. Even after three houses of blood-traitors had been blown apart to show wizards and witches like Sirius the price one paid for denying Voldemort what he sought. Still despite his protests, Sirius’s was pursued. As a Gryffindor and a friend to blood-traitors, his allegiance was too good to pass up.

Sirius spent nights tossing and turning trying to think of the best way to deal with this all. The different paths he could take would go round and round in his head until Sirius felt like he would scream. He needed an outlet and found getting into trouble the best one. He’d be disruptive in class or forget to complete a homework assignment. He’d hex a student in the hallway or pull a prank. There was a thrill in it that never failed to make him feel better. The chance of getting caught made him feel alive (and even if he did get caught it did not diminish the feeling of the moment); it helped him forget.

By December the teachers were so exasperated with the amount of detentions he’d accumulated, they’d begun assigning him three detentions for an infraction that only warranted one. More than half the time, James was right there with him. The only time James would not join in on the mischief was the two week time period before a Quidditch game. James had been warned by the current Quidditch Captain that if he missed practice that close to the game because of a detention, he’d be benched – star player or not.

***

The event that started it all occurred on a Wednesday, ten days before Christmas break. It was early evening; the Great Hall was almost empty with just a spattering of students. The ceiling reflected the clear, crisp sky outside, stars twinkling. Most of the plates and silverware had been cleared with a few half-empty dessert platters scattered about.

Sirius, James, and Peter were some of the few students that were left. Remus was in the Hospital Wing. He’d been feeling ill all day as consequence of a full moon that very night.

“Don’t you have to meet Professor Keenan?” Peter asked.

“Oh – right,” Sirius stated glancing at the time. His black hair fell into his eyes with casual elegance; just a bit longer in length than his mother approved. James raised his eyebrows; he’d been unaware of this recent development.

 “Why’d he want to speak to you anyway?” Peter said, taking a large gulp of pumpkin juice.

“Who knows? I cause enough general trouble so it really could be anything.” Sirius jumped to his feet. He didn’t appear concerned about that fact. Peter was frowning perhaps wishing he could be so cavalier about this sort of thing. “See you later.”

Sirius was a bit down the hall from the Great Hall entrance when he heard James calling. “Hey! Padfoot! Wait up!”

 “Yes?”

“Look – just try not to get detention tonight-” James ran a hand through his messy dark hair. He could never get it lie flat. He was the same height as Sirius, brown eyes instead of blue-grey. 

“Me? Get detention?” Sirius asked mockingly. “I perish the thought.”

“I’m not joking. Maybe you’ve been right about Keenan springing to discipline you faster than other students – but don’t forget what tonight is – if we want to join-“ James stopped mid-sentence noticing a change in his best friend.

Severus Snape had followed James out of the Great Hall unnoticed.  Sirius bristled as Snape crossed their path. The bad blood between them had started the first time they met on the Hogwarts Express and had escalated through the years. This year Snape had made a habit of following the group around hoping to uncover one of their secrets.

Sirius and James shared a worried glance. How much had Snape overheard? At least they had stopped speaking candidly before they said something that they did not want Snape to overhear.   Still the way Snape sneered at them, nagged Sirius especially, as if he knew something more. Sirius convinced himself it was only Snape trying to ruffle their feathers.

“Got a problem, Snivellus?” James called out.

“Just walking by. I didn’t realize that was a crime,” Snape answered nastily.

“Maybe you wouldn’t be so bloody interested in our lives if you actually had friends to speak of,” Sirius said.

Three Hufflepufff fourth year girls leaving the Great Hall heard Sirius’s comment and tittered. Snape was rather unpopular.

Snape turned a deep red. “At least Evans can stand my company. Last I heard, Potter, she rejected your invitation to Hogsmeade.”

James curled his first. He looked ready to launch a spell at Snape.  Sirius put a hand on James’s shoulder. “Remember, Prongs. Tonight,” Sirius mumbled under his breath.

Snape smirked. Sirius could see Snape felt he’d won the round; hitting James as hard as possible with the comment about Lily Evans. James had grown smitten for the vivacious redhead this year, but she didn’t seem particularly taken with his romantic interest. It was certainly a sore spot for James.

“Problem here?” an authoritative voice asked. Finn, Headboy from Ravenclaw had been strolling by.

Sirius rolled his eyes. This wasn’t the first time this year they’d had a run-in with the Headboy. The power had gotten a bit to his head, and Finn was known to throw students in detention without any real cause. James, aware of this as well, launched into an answer that would minimize the chance of that happening this evening.

Sirius didn’t bother to listen; instead glared after Snape who had taken the moment to skulk away. Whatever James had said seemed to do the trick. The Headboy told them to stop loitering in the hallway and went on his way.

James returned back into the Great Hall, and Sirius continued on to Keenan’s office alone. Only now did he take a few moments to ponder what Professor Keenan wanted. He’d clashed with Professor Keenan since the first week of classes. After losing points for rudely answering a question that first day and then ending up with detention in the next class for misusing magic (ie cursing Snape when Keenan’s back had been turned only to be snitched on by a Slytherin prefect who had seen him), Professor Keenan had kept a close eye on Sirius.

Professor Keenan was a young teacher, around twenty-five years of age. Tall, dark, and good-looking; many of the girls had crushes and he’d become a favorite teacher of many in his first few months of teaching. Sirius couldn’t understand Keenan’s popularity. His mates thought he was paranoid, but Sirius was convinced Keenan had a particular interest in him. None of his friends ever found themselves in conversation with Keenan about family and responsibility.   At first Sirius suspected his teacher knew his family and was keeping tabs on Sirius for them.  After uncovering Keenan was Muggleborn, he had put the thought to rest. His parents might associate with a Half-blood to reign in their son, but not a Mudblood.

Sirius headed up the stairs towards the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. He turned the corner and the figure down the corridor caused him to come to a full stop. A haughty looking women in a long winter cloak lined with fur, stood where he was headed. Her stance was familiar and there was no hiding her anger and impatience.

“Sirius!”

The voice caused all the hairs on his arm to rise. “M-m-mother?” Sirius approached her cautiously.

“Your teacher demanded to speak with me and doesn’t even have the courtesy to be on time!”

Sirius gaped at her. A teacher had called his mother here?

“Mrs. Black,” a cordial voice said from behind Sirius, “terribly sorry to keep you waiting. Ran into two students hexing each other.” Professor Keenan paused. “I sometimes fell like I discipline more than I teach, and I believe Sirius knows something about that.”

The unease that started at the sight of his mother only increased, and he almost considered running.

“Let’s speak in my office, shall we?” Professor Keenan opened the door. Sirius could feel his mother’s angry eyes upon him. As Sirius walked past him, Professor Keenan gave him a smile and a pat on the shoulder that did not reassure him in the least.

“Please sit.”

“I’d rather not,” his mother stated sharply. “I don’t see why this couldn’t be handled over letters.”

“Mrs. Black, I would hope you care enough about your son’s well-being to give me a few moments of your time.” Keenan gestured to the seats again.

Sirius’s mother stared Keenan down and then perched herself on the seat, her back as stiff as a rod. Sirius noticed Keenan’s office was tidier than usual. The papers on his desk were all neatly stacked in piles. The bookshelves were more organized.

“Well?” Mrs. Black asked disdainfully.

Professor Keenan did not speak immediately, but considered the mother and son in front of him for a moment. “I am concerned about Sirius.”

“Concerned about his school work?” Mrs. Black asked.

“Not exactly. As someone who sees Sirius every day-”

“Is he passing all his classes?” Mrs. Black demanded.

“He is.” Professor Keenan looked taken aback.

“Then I don’t see what possibly could be the problem. I send him to Hogwarts to get a proper magical education. His teachers’ are supposed to ensure that and nothing else.”

“The problem is Sirius is becoming uncontrollable with his acting out.” Keenan looked suddenly at him and Sirius shrunk back in his seat. “As I’ve mentioned in the letter, in the past month he’s been in detention more nights than not.”

“Then discipline Sirius. It is about time someone else sees how unruly my son can be.”

Sirius sat frozen in his seat not sure if interrupting would help or make things worse.

Keenan ignored the line of thought his mother was trying, determined to get to the point of the meeting. “I am trying to see what the root of his actions is. I do not believe he is merely doing this for the sake of it.  Through some of the comments Sirius has made over the past few months I believe he’s been acting out because problems arising from his relationship with you and the rest of your family.”

Sirius gulped. Where had Keenan come up with such an idea? His heart was now racing and he could feel his face heating up in embarrassment.

“How dare you!” Mrs. Black was becoming enraged and the color of her face mirrored her son’s, though for a different reason.

“Mrs. Black, please, I am just trying to help. If you’d just listen.”

“No – I suggest you listen! How I raise my son – is my business. The relationship I choose to have is my own decision. I will not sit here and let you lecture me on what I am doing wrong.” Mrs. Black’s eyes swept Keenan’s office contemptuously. Her eyes found the picture of Keenan and his brother; the picture was not moving. “You’re a Muggleborn, aren’t you?”

“I am,” Keenan answered cautiously.

Mrs. Black turned to Sirius and her gaze was so intense it was as if an icy shower had just doused him. “A mudblood, Sirius? Talking to a mudblood about our family?”

“No! I never –“ Sirius managed, but his mother had already dismissed him. She had resumed her fierce gaze on Keenan.

“I ask you do not use such language in my office,” Keenan stated forcefully.

“Oh it is easy to sit there and judge me, but you would never understand. Centuries our family has been held in the highest of regards and it is my own flesh and blood that seeks to destroy it all. Do you know what I have to deal with when Sirius comes home? Back talking and rebellion! What have I done that is so horrible? I’ve given him a warm bed, a full belly, and the best robes money can buy. I know half the things he does is just to anger me!”

“I can understand that Sirius can be a handful-“

“A handful is putting it lightly. You yourself have stated how disruptive he is being. I’ve tried to knock the rebellion out of him when he is home over the summer and back in my possession, but then he is back in the environment that has caused the problems to begin with. It is the environment of this school and Gryffindor House, and the mindset of the Headmaster – Muggle-loving fool - that has caused my son to be unmanageable. There was a time at Hogwarts when blood purity mattered and a proper hierarchy was maintained. If he’d been sorted into Slytherin House you can be sure most of this behavior would have never been allowed. Sirius needs disciplining – proper disciplining. Back in my days you received more than lines and scrubbing desks! And you wonder why the students walk all over you.”

“Mrs. Black, maybe if you spoke to Sirius in a safe, controlled environment--” Keenan choose not to reply to her statements about how Hogwarts was now run.

“Talking? Talking!” Sirius’s mother rose to her full height. “You know nothing. Do you really believe if I have a heart to heart with my son he’ll suddenly start behaving?”

“Nothing that simple, but it could be a good start-“

“Sirius is a spoiled, ungrateful brat. I’ve already given Dumbledore and any Professor my permission to use any means necessary to discipline Sirius. If you aren’t willing to use them; do not waste my time calling me here.” She rummaged around inside her handbag. It was large enough that it concealed the quick nonverbal Transfiguration spell Mrs. Black cast on her umbrella inside of it. “In fact – use this.” She threw down some sort of black strap. “Trust me when I say Sirius will be much more agreeable after a- well I don’t think I have to spell it out to you.”

Mrs. Black strode out of the office without a departing word. The offending black strap lay on the desk, both Sirius and Keenan staring at it intensely. The silence in the room was deafening.

“Does she use this on you?” The question was said quietly but clearly enough that Sirius could not pretend he had not heard.

A rush of emotion engulfed Sirius and he shouted, “Are you mad?” 

“Has anyone in your family used this?” Keenan said more forcefully.

Sirius threw his arms up in the air. “Are you mental? Calling my mother in! You’ve only made things worse!”

“Please, Sirius. If you are being harmed in anyway-“

The use of his first name by his teacher only aggravated him more. Sirius felt shaken and the office was becoming more cramped as the seconds ticked on by. “You’ve made things worse! Do you understand?!”

“I only wanted-”

“Let it alone!” Sirius yelled and he could no longer stand to even look at his Professor. He was out the door. He could hear Keenan still calling for him having reverted back to using his last name.

Sirius tore through the hallways. Who did Keenan think he was? And that strap! Why on earth had his mother been carrying that in her purse to begin with? His mother had never used something like that on Regulus or him before. In fact corporal punishment was rare in the Black household; and if it was used it was usually a few slaps on the wrists or hands with a ruler. Punishments were generally long, harsh lectures, lines, recitation or revoking of precious few privileges Sirius and Regulus received. Most summers by the time Hogwarts started Sirius was only allowed in his room, the playroom-turned-into-study room, and dining room. And he was required to have supervision for two out of those three rooms. 

If Sirius had been able to think clearly, he might have grasped his mother’s motivation. The appearance of the strap was supposed to shock Professor Keenan to the point he would not bother the Black’s again and rattle Sirius enough that he would be sure to think twice before acting out. Mrs. Black’s school of thought had always been that a child should fear their parents. This fear would then turn into respect. She was too proud to admit that this form of parenting had not worked on Sirius as well as it had other children.

The farther he walked the emptier the halls got. He stopped. His breathing was erratic and he leaned his forehead on the cool stone wall and banged his fist in frustration. He’d pay for this. His mother would find a way through his brother or even if she had to wait until he came home in the summer. His mother did not forget things easily. Talking to an outsider about any family issue was one rule you did not break and Keenan had made it appear as if they spoke about it weekly.

“Are you crying?”

Sirius whipped around and his mood darkened as Snivellus stepped out of the shadows. Tears had begun threatening to spill over (seeing his mother had really shaken him) and this was not the state he wanted a friend let alone an enemy see him in.

“The big bad Black crying in the hallway! Wait until your fans here this!”

“Leave me alone, Snape.” Sirius was not looking for an altercation. Running into Snape twice in under an hour was not something he wanted to deal with.

“If you prefer I could go bother Lupin.”

Sirius looked at Snape oddly. He wanted to leave. He just wished to be left alone. If only Snape had let him go; if only Snape had not uttered the next words; how different things would have been.

“He was out sick again. Full moon just like last time. Do you know where I could go find him?”

Sirius’s mind flashed to a conversation they’d had with Snape last month around the full moon. Funny thing for a wizard to be sick so often.  Sirius and James had brushed aside the words; not really concerned that Snape was anywhere close to finding out Remus’s secret. “You have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Don’t I?” Snape’s eyes flashed dangerously. “I know what Remus is! I know where he goes!”

“He’s ill, Snivellus. Everyone knows that. He’s in the Hospital Wing; there’s no conspiracy.” Sirius was surprised on how calm he sounded, but his mind was racing. Snape was just guessing – grabbing at straws to form loose connections – right? Sirius was ready to walk way. He was turning away, one step and then another when -

 “I was betting on the Whomping Willow tree myself.”

Sirius stopped dead in his tracks. His mind was rolling. Snape couldn’t possibly know of any connection between Remus and the Whomping Willow. There was no way he would have been able to make such a conclusion.

A funny feeling erupted in Sirius’s stomach. Was it possible Snape overhead them talking about the full moon? They were usually careful, but sometimes, despite Remus’s protests, they spoke in code in front of other students, laughing later in their dorm at the odd looks they received. They never thought anyone would be clever enough to figure it out. Snape was not only clever enough, but he had the motivation.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” Sirius repeated as off handedly as he possibly could. He could tell he had failed miserably by the way Snape’s smirk grew.

“Oh I think I do. If you think anyone in the school still believes Lupin is visiting his sick mother, than you really are as stupid as you act.”

Sirius clenched his fists. He needed to walk away. He couldn’t let Snape get to him; not now and not about this. “Get out of my face, Snivellus!”

 “I have a theory about Lupin myself– but he’s only a small fish. Now my theory about Potter and you –”

“You are delusional. James and I don’t disappear each month with Remus – what possible theory could you have about us?”

“Right like Potter and you weren’t just talking about meeting Lupin earlier outside the Great Hall?” Snape paused dramatically. Sirius grabbed his wand pointing it right at his enemy. Snape laughed. “Thought so. I happen to know Potter and you sneak out of the castle each month to join Lupin. No one else knows that! I bet whatever illegal activities you lot are up to would get you expelled faster than you can blink.”

“Who is going to listen to anything a greasy git like you says!” Sirius stepped forward his wand still trained on Snape.

“I’ll find out what you are up to. I found out about Lupin; didn’t I?  It is only a matter of time. One slip up…one misstep…if not this month, then next one…every full moon so it seems…” Snape stepped toward Sirius – toward the wand.

“Why don’t I make finding you proof easier?” Sirius asked. The words were out of his mouth before their meaning registered his brain.

For the first time during their conversation, Snape looked uncertain. 

“If you aren’t too much of a coward to follow through with my instructions – that is.” Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Tonight – wait until the moon’s out – that is essential – there’s a large knot on the Whomping Willow tree.”

“And?”

Sirius lowered his wand, though he did not pocket it. “Use a long enough stick to prod the knot. This will freeze the tree. You can figure it out from there.”

Snape snorted. “Right, the last thing I’m going to do is poke a tree that doesn’t like to be poked. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Sirius shrugged, finally feeling an upper hand in the conversation. “Good idea. Too dangerous for someone with such limited magical ability.”

Snape’s eyes flashed and Sirius grinned at his adversary. With one last meaningful look Sirius walked down the hallway feeling a bit better. He doubted Snape was boneheaded enough to take the bait – and it would eat him up inside…and if he did, well Snivellus could use a good scare.


Chapter 2: No Turning Back
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Severus Snape hated James Potter and Sirius Black. He detested, despised, and loathed them. Both were purebloods, rich, conceited, and thought everyone should worship the ground they walked on. And the worst was students did worship the ground they walked on. Everyone thought they were so bloody wonderful and bloody hilarious. Snape couldn’t understand it, but he was used to the unfairness of life. And if the way they picked on him wasn’t bad enough, this year Potter had taken a fancy to Lily Evans. Of all the witches in the school; Potter had to go after his friend. Of course that last four years Severus and Lily had spent plenty of time ragging on Potter and his gang, but that didn’t stop Snape from worrying. He was always carefully watching Lily to make sure that she didn’t fall under the same spell that made everyone else love Potter. 

And now Snape was sure he was very close to uncovering one of their secrets. He’d dreamed of this day, dreamed of their downfall. All evening Blacks’ instructions rolled around in Snape’s head. He was a bit at a loss about what to do. Should he take the bait? Was the very information to get Potter and Black expelled really in front of him? It seemed too good to be true, but Black’s words made sense. The Whomping Willow clearly had something to do with it all. After all Snape had spotted Madam Pomfrey leading Lupin towards the tree last month during the full moon.  The Whomping Willow played a part in this all; Snape was sure of that. Obviously there must be some way to freeze the tree. And Lupin was weak enough that Black and Potter would have been able to coerce the information about the Whomping Willow tree from their friend, even if Lupin had been instructed not to tell anyone.

Still why would Black tell him this information willingly? Was it a trap? Black had been very upset when Snape had come upon him. He hadn’t imagined it; Black had been close to crying. In such a state of mind and after all the jibes Severus had then said, did Black say more than he wanted to?

Severus was eighty percent sure he knew Lupin’s secret. Disappearing three months in a row during a full moon, always being sickly; there were not many afflictions that occurred because of a lunar cycle. Then there was the nickname, Moony. Lupin was hiding something, but Snape wanted to get his friends more than anything. And the way Black had reacted when he’d told them he knew they were up to something on full moon nights as well was the thing that had sent Black over the edge. If there was no connection between this all then he’d buy everyone at Hogwarts a butterbeer.

As the moon rose, Snape became more and more antsy. His body had known his decision before his mind. Anyway, there was only one choice in Snape’s mind. He had to do it. He had to follow Black’s instructions. Even if it was a trap, he’d lived through plenty humiliation from that quartet; he could deal with some more. He couldn’t bypass the chance to finally get them caught.

So Snape waited until the common room emptied out. It wasn’t strange for him to be the last one left. One of the Slytherin prefects was last to leave, and Snape could barely contain his impatience as the boy headed to his dormitory with barely an acknowledgement. He seized the moment and immediately slipped out of the common room. Of all the placement of the common rooms – in terms of sneaking out – Slytherins’ were the luckiest. Snape only had to ascend a flight of stairs, walk through the hallway outside the Great Hall and head to the exit that led to the grounds and the Quidditch pitch. It was quiet and dark, and Snape was easily able to slip outside.

The moon outside shone brightly and Snape headed determinedly towards the Whomping Willow. He’d made his choice and he wasn’t going to back out now.

***

Sirius groaned. There was a soft movement in his pocket. He felt disoriented and it took ten seconds before he realized he’d fallen asleep staring into the night sky in Astronomy Tower. It was the two-way mirror in his pocket that had woken him up. He’d felt it move before, but couldn’t face talking to James. He’d needed some time alone; though he hadn’t meant to doze off.

“Padfoot? Finally! I’ve been trying to contact you for a while now. Where are you?”

“Astronomy Tower…” Sirius said his words still muffled with sleep.

“Astronomy Tower? I was worried you’d gotten detention.”

“No. I – ah – Keenan invited my mother.”

“Your mother?” The disbelief was evident in his best friend’s voice.

“Yes. I needed to cool off so I headed here and I guess I fell asleep. Is it time to join Moony?”

“Just about. Stay there. I’ll have Wormtail transform and come under the cloak.” The cloak James was referring to was an Invisibility Cloak; a family heirloom that James’s father had bestowed on his son’s twelfth birthday, during his first year at Hogwarts. It had been a great aide in their mischief making, though the four of them could no longer all fit under it at one time.

“That’s completely out of the way. Let’s just meet at our usual spot.”

James sighed. “All right, but be careful.”

“And Prongs?”

“Yea?” It was on the tip of his tongue to tell him about his altercation with Snape. “Never mind.”

Sirius sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He stood up stretching his legs and arms. He silently began descending when he heard love-struck voices heading in his direction. He ducked behind a cabinet and peeked around. Just great – it was the Head Girl and her boyfriend, and they were snogging like they’d expire on the spot. He waited patiently, but the couple instead of cooling it, was getting more intense by the second. Without the cloak, Sirius was trapped. Sirius fished out the mirror and whispered James’s name. After relaying he was trapped until the couple left, James said he’d come with the cloak leaving Peter in the spot they were originally going to meet.

It felt like an eternity before Sirius felt a tap on his shoulder, a swish of fabric, and his best friend’s face looking a bit peeved. “Knew I should have just come here first,” James whispered.

“Let’s just go. And thanks, Prongs.”

“Ugh – those noises are really revolting,” James mumbled as they slipped past the entwined couple. They could both just barely fit under the invisibility cloak.

Outside the castle the boys wrenched off the cloak. Wind whipped around them as they hurried along.

“I’m surprised Snivellus hasn’t been lurking around,” James said conversationally. “I was worried that he’d think we were sneaking out tonight after hearing us outside the Great Hall. He never gives up a chance to get us expelled.”

“Er…I took care of that.”

“What?”

“I think Snape figured out about Moony. Well at least where Moony goes to transform…so I told him how to get past the Willow.”

“Are you thick?”

Sirius was startled by James’s tone. “What’s got your wand in a knot? Snape’s too much of a coward-”

“And if he’s not?”

“He goes down the tunnel-“

“Straight into a full grown werewolf!”

Sirius opened his mouth and for the first time that evening he felt the slightest bit of concern for Snape’s life.

James ran a hand through his hair. “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you!”

“You’re overreacting. Chances of Snape listening to me are low and chances that he got close enough to Moony before-“

“James! Sirius! James! Sirius!” A frantic, panting Peter, white as a ghost, lumbered down upon them.

“Wormtail, what’s wrong?” James asked.

“Snape!”

Sirius’s blood turned to ice. Snape couldn’t – Snape wouldn’t –

“Where is he?” James demanded, clenching Peter by the shoulders.

“I saw him! Snape! Going into the Willow! He knew how to freeze it and everything.”

“No!” Sirius choked.

James swore. “You bloody idiot!” James yelled, throwing his invisibility cloak to Sirius and then dashed down the path Peter had come.

In shock Sirius could only watch until his brain came to focus. “James! James! You can’t go after him!” he yelled uselessly and he turned to a gaping Peter.

“How’d Snape know?” Peter asked; his voice wobbly.

“Use your brain, Wormtail,” Sirius snapped.

“You told him,” Peter accused.

“Not you too! I have to stop James from playing hero – and –“ Sirius didn’t finish his thought, he just began running toward the Whomping Willow. James was already inside the tree – after Snape – and he’d activated the Willow’s branches inside, and there was no branch lying around…and by the time he found a branch it would be too late…if Peter could transform- but Peter had not run after him.

Sirius stared at the tree. All he could do now was wait and hope.

***

James sat numbly in Professor Dumbledore’s office; Sirius to his left and Snape to his right. Peter had fetched Professor McGonagall after he’d seen James go in after Snape. It had been the right thing to do; especially since Snape was ready to blab the story around the entire school the moment they had appeared alive from the Whomping Willow.

James’s head hurt and every time he closed his eyes the night’s images flashed through his mind.

Snape sneering at him, his dark hair limp around him. Having not yet sensed he was in danger, Snape had looked triumphant when James had caught up with him in the tunnel.  “You’ll be expelled by morning!” he had bellowed.

Gasping for air, he’d never run faster, and his heart hammering, the damp smell of the earth invading his senses, he’d attempted to reason with the Slytherin. “Sirius – Sirius was playing a trick on you! There’s nothing down there.”

Snape had laughed. He could plainly see that James was willing to do anything to make him turn around. And James could tell he wasn’t about to be persuaded to back down. So James had changed tactics quickly – for with each step forward they were inching closer to a werewolf.

“Stop Snape! Stop. You have no idea what you’re walking into. Please, we need to leave now.”

Snape answered by sending a hex right at him. The spell caused James to stumble backwards, shoulder banging against the hard rock wall. Before James knew it another spell sent rock crumbling down upon him, almost trapping his leg! The idiot. After extracting himself from the pile of stone, James had to sprint to catch up again.

This time James ran literally into Snape, who had come to an abrupt halt; his eyes glued at the opening of the tunnel ahead. He heard the menacing snarl, saw the yellow eyes – and they were much too close. James, who ran monthly with a werewolf, felt his courage drain – the werewolf had clearly caught their human scent. In their Animagus form, Moony turned almost playful, but staring them down was a monster that wanted to rip them limb from limb.

Instinct took over. James shot two spells – one that hit the werewolf (a howl of pain) and the other that slammed the trap door shut. James tried to snap Snape out of his stupor; the boy wouldn’t budge and the clawing and scraping was getting more frantic. The werewolf had been denied human prey for so long that his sheer determination would break him through.

Unable to move on his own, James began to half-drag Snape. Cursing under his breath, James could hear the werewolf howling and crashing through the door. James unclasped his over-cloak throwing it down on the ground – it had been a hindrance – and it might just stall the werewolf; even if it was just for seconds.

At this point, Snape finally snapped out of his trance, and had begun racing up ahead. At one point Snape tripped on a rock, falling flat on his face. James had to haul him to his feet; blood was dripping from the gash on Snape’s nose, and he pushed Snape forward. How they both reached the Whomping Willow opening before the werewolf caught them, James would never know. He remembered the feel of the grass on his face and the icy cold air kissing his skin. And Sirius – looking pale, but relieved – was helping him to his feet.

Before either boy could exchange words, Snape having picked himself of the ground, started screaming about ‘werewolves’ and ‘murder’, over and over again. Sirius had given him pleading look, but James had purposely turned his back on him – and turned to their mutual enemy – who was still bleeding all over the place.

Murder.

The word had rung through the night air. Before there was a chance for them to handle it on their own, Peter and Professor McGonagall turned up. She had looked from boy to boy to boy, her face going from alarm to shock to anger. She was forced to silence Snape with a spell as she herded them straight to Professor Dumbledore’s office.

James opened his eyes back up and met the piercing blue eyes of the headmaster. He had never seen Dumbledore so furious before, and he could see why other witches and wizard considered him such a formidable opponent. James had already had his chance to speak; though his involvement had only come in at the end. Now Dumbledore was questioning both Sirius and Snape…but it didn’t seem to be working too well. They both kept cutting each other off; arguing about details and intentions.

It appeared that Dumbledore was watching their body movements with as much scrutiny as the words they were saying: Sirius crossing his arms defiant and defensive; Snape’s face splotched with righteous anger; and James unable to look at his best friend only an arm length away.

Perhaps Dumbledore did know what he was doing because slowly a story emerged – both boys unintentionally giving more information in anger. It certainly didn’t make Snape look as innocent as he’d painted in the beginning; then again it didn’t make Sirius appear a saint either. For a boy who’d been so shocked he couldn’t move, Snape’s calculating mind had quickly concluded they’d all – Remus and Peter included – plotted his murder for weeks; and he became quite enraged when Dumbledore glossed over his conclusion. Snape did not want to face any culpability at all. It was apparent Snape had gone looking for trouble and knowing how to push Sirius’s buttons more than any other Marauder had gotten the information he’d been fishing for all year. Snape had known like every student that nearing the Whomping Willow was forbidden under the threat of expulsion and yet he’d approached the tree anyway. Eventually Dumbledore seemed to get Snape to understand, if only on the surface that having not been forced or under duress – it had been his own actions that had placed him in the deadly situation, and if he had used a bit of common sense the fact he’d seen Remus approach the Willow in accompaniment of staff meant that Lupin had been there for a reason and with permission. Snape did stop frothing at the mouth; though none of these facts excused Sirius’s actions.

Sirius didn’t seem to see the seriousness of the situation. His excuses laid flat.

Snape had been following them around!

Snape didn’t leave them alone!

Snape was looking for trouble!

All true, James loathed Snape as much as Sirius- but to feed him to a werewolf? Sirius was blaming all fault on Snape and Snape’s stupidity.

“What exactly did you expect to happen to Mr. Snape once he reached the end of the tunnel?”

Sirius throughout the discussion always appeared to lose his voice the moment a question was thrown at him directly. “Mr. Black, I need an answer.”

“Wet his pants?” Sirius said, phrasing the answer in the form of the question. He’d even turned toward James to see if he could get a smile.  Sirius was so focused on James not sharing the humor in the situation like they usually did – that he did not see the way Dumbledore’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“I fail to see the humor in any of this Mr. Black.”

Sirius’s eyes snapped back to the Headmaster and he paled under the headmaster’s unrelenting gaze.

“You knew Remus Lupin was a werewolf?”

“Yes,” Sirius answered.

“You knew tonight was a full moon?”

“Yes.” Despite the trouble he was in, James could detect an edge to Sirius’s tone, and he hoped that Dumbledore would not notice, but the way he was gazing at Sirius did not look very promising.

“Werewolves have been covered in your Defense Against the Dark Arts class?”

“Yes,” Sirius answered and then carefully added, “Though it was all rubbish what we were taught.”

Dumbledore sat back looking puzzled. “In what respect?”

“Werewolves aren’t dangerous. Remus isn’t dangerous.”

“I would agree, except on a full moon, Mr. Black. I doubt that part was not covered in class nor do I doubt Mr. Lupin failed to explain to you that he cannot be allowed to roam freely. A transformed werewolf would murder their best friend if given the chance. Mr. Lupin would have killed Mr. Snape. Do you understand that?”

Sirius looked away, cheeks flushed. Perhaps Dumbledore was finally getting through.

Out of nowhere, Sirius suddenly said, “Snape knew though.”

“What was that?”

“Snape knew Remus was a werewolf.” The accusation rang through the room. Many of the portraits of past Headmasters shifted within their frame; they’d all been silent so far, even Phineas Nigellus Black, great-great-grandfather to Sirius.

“I did not!” Snape said loudly, but there was something calculating in his expression. James wouldn’t doubt that Snape was lying, but it really didn’t change things. It only proved that Snape was as much of an idiot as Sirius. The truth did not dawn on James in that moment. He did not see that Snape cared more about their expulsion than about the presence of werewolf at Hogwarts. And seeing the hot water Sirius was in, Snape certainly wasn’t going to admit to something that would take any of the responsibility off one of his enemies.

“You said you knew what he was,” Sirius insisted.

“I didn’t mean I knew knew,” Snape said. “I knew Lupin disappeared often, Professor Dumbledore that is all.”

A silence fell over the room. Professor Dumbledore stood up. “I think it is getting late. I would still like to speak privately to Mr. Black. Mr. Potter, you may leave-”

“What? You’re letting Potter go!” Snape snarled.

“If my memory serves me, Mr. Potter saved your life at great risk to his own.” James felt his own face color. He didn’t feel like much of a hero.

“Saved?” Snape spluttered. “He was in on it! So was the werewolf! Potter just got cold feet-”

“Remus had nothing to do with it,” protested Sirius. “Nor did James or Peter. I came up with it all on my own. It was my fault.”

“Sir, you don’t believe that?” Snaped said incredulously.

“I do.” Snape made a derisive noise. “I have more than one way of knowing when students are being truthful. Please stop in the Hospital Wing where Madam Pomfrey will administer a Calming Drought, so you can get a full night’s rest. I will no doubt contact both of you in the morning.”

Snape rose up looking lived. Sirius was staring moodily at his shoes.

“Of course, you will tell no one Mr. Lupin’s secret,” Dumbeldore called out, like he was commenting on the weather. Snape turned around sharply. “Do I have your word?”

“Yes,” Snape muttered.

“You are going to take his word?” Sirius protested looking suddenly up.

“Can’t you Oblivate his memory or something,” James added. He couldn’t think of a single thing that would prevent Snape from babbling this all over school.

“I try not to tamper with my students memories if I can help it.”

Sirius blurted, “This isn’t fair to Remus. He’d tell the school just to get back at me.”

“I have full faith in Mr. Snape.” Snape looked awkward standing there; suddenly being seen as someone worthy of trust. “Let us not forget, Mr. Black, if you hadn’t been so careless with a fellow student’s secret, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.”

Sirius opened his mouth but closed it abruptly. James could see the words had cut deeply. Snape exited the office with the door shutting loudly behind him. James stood up; he could feel both Dumbledore and Sirius gazing at him. James knew that if he nodded or gave Sirius reassuring look that it would translate to Dumbledore that James didn’t think any of this was a big deal. But it was and his emotions were all over the place. Angry at Sirius, furious at Snape and then feeling like a terrible friend at the same time. This time Sirius would have to stand alone. He left not saying word to either of them, not looking at anyone.

***

Sirius shifted in his seat as he heard the door click behind James. He didn’t know what to think of James blatantly ignoring of him. Now was not the time to think too much of it because he knew he was in for a heated lecture. He was now completely alone with the Headmaster; not even Snivellus around to deflect the blame.

The lecture didn’t come as Sirius expected. Dumbledore continued to prod Sirius about his motivations in the whole incident. The non-existent motivations, since it had all been in the heat of the moment. The details of the conversation with Snape were not even clear in his own head. He’d been so angry at Keenan and humiliated by his mother; he had not been thinking properly.

Snape had been driving them all off the wall last eight weeks. Despite the fact that Snape usually came off worse in most of their altercations, he continued to tail them and bother them, as if he was asking to be hexed. Dumbledore did not know of his mother’s visit, and even when Sirius was given the chance he couldn’t bring himself to tell the Headmaster. Even if it explained his feelings at the moment and that Snape had purposely riled him when he was near breaking point; he was too proud.

Dumbledore did look disappointed by what he’d said so far and Sirius was beginning to fear Dumbledore believed he was capable of murder, which was ridiculous, except if you looked at his family. Why was it when he was in trouble did his surname haunt him? It hadn’t even been his intention to injure Snape severely – only to humiliate him.

“You are traveling down a very dark path, Mr. Black.” Dumbledore’s voice was quiet, but firm and this was worse than any other time he’d been shouted out. “It is up for me to decide whether you meant for harm to come to Mr. Snape.” Sirius looked sullenly to the ground. “If there is anything else you’d like to add in your defense?”

“No, sir,” Sirius mumbled.

“I see,” Dumbledore said sadly.

Realizing a second too late that he should say something, he began rambling, “I really didn’t mean – I didn’t intend for Snape to be hurt – at all- not physically. I thought he’d be embarrassed – hear Moony – err – Remus howling and be scared out of his mind.” Sirius didn’t know what else to say. If he wasn’t going to be candid about his mother visiting; this was the best he could come up with.

“You felt Mr. Snape deserved to be frightened?”

Sirius faltered, wondering if that was a trick question. “I don’t know. I guess.”

Dumbledore regard Sirius pensively. “You are fortunate no one was physically harmed. This would have been a very different conversation had Mr. Potter not stepped in. You acted thoughtlessly with no regard to the dire consequences they could lead to. I am afraid if you do not learn to control your temper soon, next time you will not be so lucky.”

“Yes, sir,” Sirius muttered. His stomach was in knots; he wanted to hear his punishment and leave the room as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of important life lessons to be learned from this situation, and you’ll be given plenty of time to think about your actions. I would like to carefully deliberate your punishment and I will take both Professor McGonagall’s and Professor Slughorn’s inputs. I suppose I should have realized your mutual animosity would escalate to something along these lines. Maybe I could have done more to force you boys to get along. But I digress. First things first, I want you to be the one to tell Mr. Lupin what has transpired tonight.”

“Me? I don’t think he’ll be too happy to hear it, sir.”

“I believe in time Mr. Lupin will appreciate that the news came from you; that you admitted to your wrongdoing. It will also help you understand how severe the consequences could have been.” Dumbledore paused as if he expected Sirius to say something. When Sirius stayed silent, he continued, “I expect to hear from Madam Pomfrey that you spoke to Mr. Lupin before your first class. You are to attend all your classes tomorrow – if I hear you were late or caused any disturbances, I may change my mind about expulsion.”

The word hung in the room. How many times had the teachers threatened James and him about expulsion, neither of them ever taking it seriously? This was the first time Sirius believed he really was in danger of this and he felt sick to his stomach.

“We will meet again tomorrow. I believe I will have my decision of your punishment as well as if any other parties involved will receive any. I will let know the time. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go straight to your dormitory. I hope I do not need to find you an escort?”

“No, sir,” Sirius stated. He could not help but note that Professor Dumbledore did not offer him a Calming Draught.

Leaving the office, Sirius did not expect to find James waiting and for a moment he thought maybe James had been putting up a front for the Headmaster. Upon closer inspection his best friend was unrecognizable. His hazel eyes cold and his face uncaring. “Well?” James snapped.

Sirius stepped back from the venom in his tone. He knew James did not agree with what he’d done, but his anger seemed over the top. James disliked Snape as much as he did.

“Well what?” Sirius asked back. There was an unspoken challenge in his voice.

“Were you expelled?”

“No. Not yet.”

“You’ve done some stupid things, Sirius – but – this – THIS!”

“It was only Snape,” Sirius snapped back. He’d come to regret his anger over the next few days. After the lecture and questioning with Dumbedore, Sirius couldn’t stand being looked down by a friend who was as much a troublemaker as he was. If only he’d looked sorry and let James rant and rave at him... but Sirius had never taken to be yelled at well.

“Only Snape? Do you hear yourself? Snape could have been killed!”

“Come off your high horse! When have you ever cared about Snape? You bloody well started the whole feud with him to begin with! You hate him was much as I do!” It was true. Snape’s personality had clashed head on with James’s the first time they had met. It was James and Snape who had fought and argued those first few months. It wasn’t until the end of first year that Sirius had gotten more involved in altercations after he’d grown closer to James.

“Doesn’t mean I think he deserves to be mauled.”

“You think I did?” Sirius shook his head. How could James look him in the eye and believe he was capable of murder?

“What am I supposed to think? The entire time we were in Dumbledore’s office, did you show even the slightest hint of remorse?”

“I took responsibility for it! Isn’t that enough?”

“I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t run after Snape? I saved your sorry-”

“Oh. Right. Oh thank Merlin, Perfect James Potter was there to save the day!”

James looked shocked by his words. “You really don’t understand, do you? Did you stop to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone in there after Snape?”

“We’ve been through that already.”

“Forget about Snape! What about Moony? What about Remus?” James had worked himself up and he grabbed Sirius’s arm with the last sentence. They’d both forgotten they were still outside the Headmasters office, but if Dumbledore heard any of it, he did not step in. “He’s our friend. He was your friend! You know he can’t control himself in his transformed state. If he’d bitten Snape – or worse – he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself! And all because of you! His life would have been ruined. Expelled, at the least and probably thrown into Azkaban or executed!”

Sirius felt his rage at James suddenly leak out. “I – I – didn’t think.”

“That is obvious enough!” James yelled breathing heavily.

“Professor Dumbledore told me – ordered me – to be the one to tell Remus.”

“Good! Maybe it will sink into your big fat head when you see his face!”

“Maybe it will,” Sirius said back evenly.

“Don’t come up to the room for a while – I need time – I – just stay away.”

“Fine,” Sirius said curtly. James’s words had hurt him. If James didn’t want him up in the dorm; he’d camp out all night in the common room. Sirius wasn’t about to beg to be let into his own dorm.

***

Author’s note: Thanks for reading. A review would be so awesome and put a smile on my face!


Chapter 3: Consequences
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Chapter 3 - Consequences

“Get up.”

Disoriented for a few moments, Sirius opened his eyes to see James towering over him.  The first rays of sun just peeking through the clouds streamed into the Tower right on the couch Sirius had fallen asleep on. Sirius was still in his school robes from the other day; he had not returned to the dorm after returning from Headmasters office.

A nights’ sleep did not seem to have softened James; he looked as humorless as he had last night. James was already dressed in his school robes and he appeared impatient, as if Sirius had slept in. “Remus will be awake soon.”

Glancing at the clock above the fire place, Sirius could see it was only 6:30 am. “It’s still early,” Sirius said

James gave him a hard look.

“Fine. Can I change robes? Am I allowed to get my school bag?” Sirius asked sarcastically.

“Do it quickly. Peter’s up there.”

Sirius rolled his eyes; as if Peter could make him do anything. He also wanted to tell James exactly where he could shove his order, but just mumbled under his breath, “Yes, sir.”

As Sirius stood up and stretched his stiff muscles – as comfortable as the couches were they weren’t meant for sleeping - two first years had ambled down to the common room. Only 11 year olds would be up this early; breakfast wouldn’t be served for another half an hour.

The first years looked at them with wide innocent eyes. Sirius was pretty sure the first years knew who they were and not to mess with them.  

“Mind your own business,” James told them gruffly.

The two first years blanched and quickly took seats as far as possible from the fifth years. They’d learned in the short few months of being at Hogwarts that continuing to bother James would only find them in the Hospital Wing with sprouted antlers or an elephant’s trunk.

Sirius felt James’s eyes on him, as he took the steps two by two. Peter was pacing nervously upstairs. He stopped when he saw Sirius. If the circumstances had been different, Sirius might have found humor in the situation. It was a waste of their time to watch him so carefully; Sirius wasn’t about to disobey Dumbledore’s orders to see Remus this morning. He didn’t know what to think of his friends’ treatment, but he had other things to worry about at the moment: Remus.

“Be quick or else,” Peter stated. Sirius bit his tongue from saying, “Or else what?” and instead said, “I know.”

Sirius threw on a clean black school robe, adjusting his tie. He didn’t bother to change his clothes underneath. He swept some books and papers into his bag – his mind too focused on what he’d say to Moony to wonder if they were the right books. Peter followed him downstairs, and there were now more students in the common room.

“Ready?” James demanded tersely. The tone of his voice alerted their fellow Gryffindors that something was amiss and a few glanced curiously at the trio.

Sirius ignored the attention. He could not let this treatment go without some comment. “Come on – isn’t this a little ridiculous, Prongs?”

“Don’t call me that. If those names meant anything to you-” James’s voice was strained.

“Let’s go,” Peter interjected nervously. James had gripped his wand and Sirius had followed suit. The onlookers were now watching avidly. “Everyone is watching.”

James lifted his eyebrows and Sirius sighed. He turned from them and walked out. He could feel their presence behind him, but he kept his head held high. After they’d covered the distance of three hallways, Sirius came to an abrupt halt.

James gave him a push forward. “Keep moving.”

Sirius swirled around, coming face to face with James and Peter. He folded his arms. “What are you two my guards?” Sirius demanded.

James kept his face impassive. Peter bit his lip.

“Well I don’t need guards! I’m perfectly capable of walking myself to the Hospital Wing,” Sirius continued hotly.

There was a trio of Hufflepuff girls with their mouths gaping open a few feet away from them. Sirius frowned; maybe he should have waited to say this in an empty hallway. The way things were going - the fact they were fighting was going to be all over the school before the sun was at its highest point.

Staying calm, controlled, and still very expressionless, James replied, “Remus is going to be upset. We want to be there for him.”

Sirius didn’t move. He could see James’s point, but still their actions were grating on his nerves. It still didn’t explain why they had to walk with him; they could arrive to the Hospital Wing separately. And he didn’t like this indifferent, void of emotion person James had become.

James sighed exasperatedly as if Sirius was a disobedient toddler. “I’d start walking if I were you. You wouldn’t want to tempt me,” James warned and he drew his wand once again. Sirius had seen this side of James before, but never directed at him.

Sirius eyed his mate’s wand. He could certainly take on James; they were evenly matched when it came to dueling. And it was very much in his character to go ahead and tempt James into a fight. Then Dumbledore’s warning rang in his head. He knew any further misbehavior could tip his punishment toward expulsion.  Sirius took a deep breath, stuffed his hands into his pockets, and strolled ahead. The girls scattered as the three of them passed.

Madam Pomfrey was displeased to see him. She’d grown warmer towards Sirius, James and Peter over the years. She took her charge of Remus’s furry problem seriously and at first was annoyed by their monthly visits to the Hospital Wing the day before and after the full moon. Though after some time, she could not ignore the way Remus would light up when they visited and that they genuinely cared about his welfare. It helped that Remus had begun to fair better and she didn’t have to spend hours tending to his injuries.

“Professor Dumbledore told me to speak to Remus this morning.”

“I know what he said,” Madam Pomfrey said crisply. “He is not awake yet, and I will not wake him up for you to only further distress him.”

Sirius looked lost for a moment.

“Wait outside. I will retrieve you when Mr. Lupin is ready.”

“Ok,” Sirius relented.

James and Peter took station on the wall opposite where Sirius stood. James ran a hand through his hair and shared a look with Peter, who looked confused. The seconds ticked by slowly and it was disarming to have to deal with the inner turmoil of his mind under his friends’ watch. Sirius began remembering conversations they’d had with Remus – talks Sirius had even had alone with Remus. Hadn’t that been Remus’s greatest fear to bite one of them; to bite anyone? Inflicting on an innocent victim what another werewolf had done to Remus as a small child. Or worse taking someone’s life when he had no control over himself. Snape wasn’t exactly innocent but...his defense was starting to sound flat even in his own mind. What had he been thinking? Why had he only remembered now? It was easy for Sirius to forget what a terrible time the full moon was for Moony when it was filled with daring adventure for them. It was no excuse…he was beginning to see what Dumbledore and James had been trying to get at. He felt ill to his stomach realizing he’d been an idiot and then in his arrogant way he had barely apologized and showed no remorse. James had been right to shout to him about that last night. James and Peter had been whispering intently to each other oblivious to Sirius’s inner revelation.

“We’re going to breakfast,” James voiced.

“I won’t run off,” Sirius stated and there was no longer any challenge or sarcasm to his words. James noticed and his expression softened, but he didn’t offer to hide some toast or muffins in a napkin. It wasn’t like Sirius had any appetite and he stared down at his shoes.

It might have been five minutes after or twenty since his friends left, when Madam Pomfrey ushered him in. His stomach did an elaborate flip flop.

“Don’t upset him too much,” she warned. He gave her an exasperated look; that would be impossible.

Remus was lying down, his skin pale against the white sheets. An ugly bruise, deep purple in color was visible on his left side. Sirius approached the bed solemnly. Remus greeted him with a smile and appreciation, which made what he was about to say all the worse.

“Padfoot, you look worse than me,” Remus joked. Sirius hadn’t the most restful night of sleep.

Remus yawned. “Where are Prongs and Wormtail? I don’t know what happened last night – I haven’t felt this awful since, well you know.”

“I’ve got to tell you something,” Sirius said his voice hoarse.

Remus looked at him curiously, trustingly. Sirius hesitated. He opened his mouth, but the words wouldn’t come immediately. That was when Remus picked up on that fact that something was terribly wrong. Remus paled further, if that was even possible, and the fear in his eyes was not something Sirius would easily forget. “No-”

“You didn’t hurt anyone,” Sirius said quickly.

Remus did not appear to have heard him. He was still shaking his head. Sirius stepped forward and forcefully stated, directly in his friends face, “We’re all ok. No one was hurt.”

“I didn’t bite anyone?”

“No.” Sirius cursed and took a deep breath. “I did something terribly stupid.”

Remus waited.

“Snape knows.”

“Knows?”

“Snape knows about the knot, how to get into the tunnel, about your secret – everything.

“He couldn’t-”

“I told him.”

“No. No, you wouldn’t. You didn’t,” Remus insisted.

“I’m sorry, Remus. I’m sorry. It was all my fault. I didn’t believe Snape would follow my instructions. I never believed he’d get close enough to see you.”

“He saw me?”

“James ran in after…James got him out before – before you could get at him.”

“Get out.” He’d never heard Remus’s voice so deadly quiet.

“I-“

“Get out!” Remus was now yelling. He’d sat up; the pain of betrayal clearly on his face. Sirius stepped back. “Get. Out!”

Madam Pomfrey flung herself into the room to the rescue.

“Look what you’ve done. Please leave, Mr. Black.”

Remus had turned his body. Sirius could hear him groan from the movement. Without them his transformation would have been awful. Madam Pomfrey took Sirius roughly by the arm and pushed him out of the Hospital Wing.

James and Peter had returned; stomachs full and still glaring.

“Well?” James asked, leaning against the wall. Sirius wanted to punch him.

“I told him,” Sirius said. “Happy?”

James frowned. “I think you should stay away from Remus for a while.” They must have heard the yelling.

Sirius flushed. “Gladly.”

Sirius stormed away from their disappointing gazes. He immediately regretted lashing out at James again. He could have thanked James for going after Snape. He could have explained how sorry he really was. Two things that he should have done last night and now failed to do again. Was there even a point? His friends’ faces swam before his eyes. They weren’t going to forgive him, were they?

***

Remus had spent a lonely day in the Hospital Wing. He was in pain; both physical and mental. The news Sirius had brought…just thinking about it turned his stomach. It had taken time and effort for Remus to trust his friends, and he had fully trusted them with his secret.  And Sirius had gone and told the one person in the whole school who hated the lot of them. Sure Sirius had shown thoughtlessness before, but never to this level.

Professor Dumbledore visited him late in the morning. No one else but Sirius had been allowed contact with Remus. Remus wished to speak to James and Peter, but at the same time glad to be lost in his own thoughts.

“How long do I have to clean my room out?” Remus asked hollowly. Snape would have surely told the whole school by now and even if he hadn’t, surely Dumbledore now saw he was a menace to student body.

“No one is forcing you to leave, Mr. Lupin.”

“But I almost killed a student!”

“You didn’t,” Dumbledore said kindly. “I will need your word that you were not aware of a plot to lure Severus Snape into the tunnel under the Whomping Willow?”

Remus started in shock before stumbling over his answer. “N-no sir.” Had Sirius tried to make it sound as if Remus had been in on this?

“Very good. Mr. Black, insisted you had no part in it, but I needed to verify it. Having watched you grow close to Potter, Black and Pettigrew, I assumed you had told them of your condition. I did not think you’d go as far to tell them about the Whomping Willow.”

“I’m sorry. I trusted them. I trusted Sirius.” He threw out his friends name with disgust. “They were so full of questions when they first found out that it seemed harmless to let them in on it. I was very grateful they hadn’t abandoned me, sir.”

 Professor Dumbledore nodded. “I have forbidden Mr. Snape to tell anyone about your secret.”

If Dumbledore hoped to reassure Remus he did not. “He won’t, sir,” Remus stated softly. “After I almost killed him? Why would he protect who I am?”

“I believe he will. I am suspicious he might have already known you were a werewolf before this.” Remus stared at the Headmaster, unsure of what he meant by that.  “Anyway that is all I can do. This is a consequence you will have to deal with.”

For trusting his friends? This was his punishment for putting faith in them? Hanging over the rest of his Hogwarts career the knowledge Snape could ruin his life with one word.

“There is another matter I wish to discuss: Mr. Black’s punishment. I would appreciate your opinion on the matter.” Remus shrugged. “Though I do not believe it will come to that, expulsion is on the table. As I am sure you are aware, the consequences of Mr. Black’s actions would have been terrible for a multitude of people if Mr. Potter had not stepped in.”

It would have been easy for Remus to tell Dumbledore to expel Sirius. He’d never have to see his friend again. He could forget this ever happened. They could remove his bed from the room, rummage the beds around; and it would be like Sirius had never been there. Remus didn’t know what to say. The word expulsion repeated over and over in his head.

“I don’t need an answer this moment. Mr. Potter will be here to walk you to my office tonight at 7 pm. Mr. Black and Mr. Snape will be there, and we will decide what to do with Mr. Black then.”

“Ok.” Remus’s stomach clenched. He didn’t want to face Sirius so soon, but he didn’t want to seem like a coward in front of the Headmaster.

After Dumbledore left, Remus had a restless day. He did not know what to do with himself. He picked up a book, but could not concentrate. Eventually the physical drain of the transformation took its toll and Remus fell into a deep sleep for a few hours.

James swung by to pick him up at exactly 6:50 pm. Peter was not involved enough to be present and was waiting in Gryffindor Tower. James looked grave and only attempted a half-hearted smile.

On the walk over James explained in more detail what had exactly had happened.

“Mrs. Black was here? At the school?”

James shrugged. “I don’t know details. It sounded like Professor Keenan invited her…I never got to ask him.” Remus could tell how hard this was for James. James and Sirius were practically brothers – never saw one without the other; and even if he was angry at him, James would be feeling the loss of brotherhood far more keenly than Remus. “He was such a thoughtless prat.”

“Do you think he meant for Snape to be harmed?”

James deliberated the question. “I’m not sure he fully understands what he’s done, but I don’t think he intended for Snape to be bitten or killed.” There was a silence with only the sound of the clicking of their shoes. “Doesn’t excuse what he did.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Remus agreed. “Does it warrant expulsion though?”

“I figured since he wasn’t expelled yet…that meant Dumbledore wasn’t even thinking about it,” James admitted.

“Well Dumbledore certainly is thinking about it and he wants my input.” It occurred to Remus that neither of them had said Sirius’s name yet; everything was still all too fresh in their mind.

“Bloody hell!” James ran a hand through his hair. “He wouldn’t survive you know – living at home-”

“I know,” Remus replied softly. If Sirius’s parents didn’t murder their heir because of the expulsion, there was a good chance Sirius would take care of it for them. But it was hard – even knowing this – for Remus to care about Sirius’s predicament. Expulsion would still be a better outcome than Remus would have faced if James hadn’t stepped in.

The two boys did not speak again before their arrival in front of Dumbledore’s office. Sirius was slouched in a chair under Professor McGonagall’s watch. James cleared his throat loudly and Sirius jerked his body up. Remus suddenly felt as if he was frozen to the spot and he couldn’t look at Sirius. Why couldn’t this all be handled without his presence? It was all too soon for the werewolf. And worst of all Remus wasn’t sure he’d be able to control himself if Sirius did utter word. Before anything violent could erupt, James tugged Remus’s shirt and they took the two chairs farthest from their former friend; leaving the last seat for Snape, which under the best of circumstances would have been dangerous.

Professor Slughorn and Snape arrived shortly after. Snape sneered at Sirius, and Remus wondered if he can tell there’d been fallout between them all.

As Snape neared closer, he hissed, “Werewolf!”

Remus winced at the word. Just as they always would have done both Sirius and James tensed at the same time; almost like everything was ok, but it wasn’t. Snape wouldn’t have called him that if this hadn’t happened.

“I’m sorry about last night,” Remus managed.

“Why are you apologizing?” Sirius asked.

“Because you haven’t!  Have you?” Remus accused.

“Boys! That is enough,” Professor McGonagall stated. “No one will speak until Professor Dumbledore calls us into his office, and you will only speak then, when addressed.”

To his surprise it wasn’t Sirius who was called in first, but Remus and Snape. Professor McGonagall didn’t look happy about leaving Sirius and James out in the hallway. For once Remus was pretty sure the two troublemakers of the school would be on their best behavior.

“How is everyone this evening?” Professor Dumbledore asked as they all took their seats.

“I will be better once I hear Black’s been expelled,” Snape announced. Slughorn sent him a warning look, McGonagall pursed her lips, and Dumbledore turned his full gaze on the boy.  Remus had been in that position before. A look like that would make any person squirm, and Snape did cower a bit.

Remus thought it was a bit strange for Dumbledore to seriously take Snape’s thoughts on the matter. Dumbledore knew they’d had a feud going on with Snape for years. After this incident Snape would want the worst of punishments. Then again Remus was supposed to be the best of friends with Sirius, and on any other occasion he would have done his best to lesson Sirius’s punishment.  Maybe Dumbledore hoped to balance out the extremes…

“Mr. Lupin, have you had a chance to consider Mr. Black’s punishment?”

Remus could feel everyone’s eyes on him. “I don’t think he should be expelled,” Remus said quietly. He wasn’t sure what his friend deserved, but having his Hogwarts education cut away certainly would not help Sirius learn any lesson. Maybe having to face what he did would.

“Of course,” Snape scoffed. “Still sticking by them Lupin! Even after all this!”

“I think the Professors can come up with a severe and suitable punishment that does not involve expulsion,” Remus replied.

“I agree, Mr. Lupin. The other Professors and I have already come to the conclusion that Mr. Black’s expulsion would serve no one. It would also complicate things. The Board of Governors would have to be contacted; everything would need to be explained. This would inevitably result in Mr. Lupin’s expulsion and I think we all agree Mr. Lupin is the most innocent party in all of this. It might also bring up things in your past Mr. Snape.”

“What? I’m just as much of a victim as Lupin!”

“We can discuss this later privately, Mr. Snape – but I think you know what I am speaking of.”

Snape looked furious, but he said nothing. The three Professors then went to back of the room and talked in hush tones for several minutes. James and Sirius were then brought into the room. Though Remus didn’t believe it was done on purpose, the chair Sirius ended up sitting in was situated away from them all. The positioning of Sirius’s chair brought the point home that Sirius was facing this all alone. Despite looking downtrodden and as if he hadn’t slept the night (which he probably hadn’t), Sirius still managed to show some strength and defiance. It wasn’t an easy feat with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Slughorn, Snape, and James all glaring down at him. Remus was the only one not looking at him.

“Well let’s get to it,” Professor Dumbledore said gravely. “Mr. Lupin you have been cleared of all wrongdoings. I do not see a reason to punish you for something you had no control over. Mr. Potter you showed immense bravery last night, and I am awarding Gryffindor 50 points.”

James looked faint with surprise. Snape was looking rather livid, but he didn’t choose that moment to argue with Professor Dumbledore.

“Mr. Snape, you broke some rules last night as well. I have overlooked everyone being out after curfew, but I cannot overlook your approach to the Whomping Willow tree. It was made quite clear to the student body that under no circumstance was anyone to go near the tree. Whether you knew more about the situation you were getting yourself into, only you will know. 25 points off Slytherin.”

“Potter gets rewarded for getting cold feet, while I get punished?” Snape asked clearly unable to stay quiet any longer.

“There is no proof that Mr. Potter was any more involved in the planning than Mr. Lupin,” Dumbledore stated.

“Give Potter Veritaserum. Give them all Veritaserum.  You’ll get the proof you need, Headmaster.”

Remus’s anxiety spiked. If Dumbledore did give any of them Veritaserum, it was doubtful it wouldn’t be uncovered that there was three unregistered Animagi running around with a werewolf every full moon.

Before Remus could worry any further, Professor Slughorn intervened. “I am in agreement with the Headmaster on your punishment. You knew very well that Whomping Willow was out of bounds.”

Snape closed his mouth, but did not apologize. Snape’s deference to his Head of House was unexpected.

Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Lastly we have Mr. Black.”

Sirius looked at Dumbledore pointedly – waiting to hear his sentence. Despite all the feelings Remus felt toward him he was still impressed (even if Sirius wasn’t doing himself any favors by not looking all that bothered) that Sirius could look so cool and collected.

“We only have a week before term ends. In this week you will attend all your classes, but all free periods and meals will be taken alone under supervision of a teacher or a prefect. After dinner you will have a detention – some task- and then you will be escorted straight to the dormitory and you will be expected to go straight to bed. We will rely on the prefects to let us know if you do not follow this.” There was no reaction from Sirius. “Do you understand so far Mr. Black?”

“Yes,” Sirius muttered.

“Sir!” McGonagall reprimanded.

“Yes, sir,” Sirius replied again.

“Also, your request to stay over break has been denied-”

“What?” Sirius spluttered.

“Sir!” McGonagall chastised again. Sirius ignored her and Dumbledore let it go.

“Mr. Snape has also requested to stay over break and under the circumstances we do not think it would be wise to have you both here.”

“You’re making me go home?” Sirius asked, and they could all hear how upset he was by the news. McGonagall seemed to have given up on making Sirius address their Headmaster properly.

“Yes-”

“I can’t go – please sir – I can’t go home,” Sirius pleaded. A smirk was forming on Snape’s mouth and Remus knew it must be difficult for Sirius to admit this in front of Snape.

“Unless you tell us that it is unsafe for you to go home – this is non-negotiable.”

“Professor – I swear – I won’t leave Gryffindor Tower. I won’t leave the dormitory – just let me stay.”

“Will you be in danger at home, Mr. Black?” Professor Dumbledore repeated.

Something flashed across Sirius’s eyes, but he just shook his head. Remus looked over at James. James knew the most about Sirius’s home situation. Remus knew Sirius hated going home, but would he really be in danger?

“Now when you return, the first three weeks you will be able to eat with your classmates and use your free time the way you please – with a detention every night. Saturday will be all day detention.  You will have a break on Sunday. Then for six additional weeks you will have all day Saturday detention. You have lost all extracurricular privileges; this includes Hogsmeade visits, Quidditch games, clubs and anything else that comes up. A hundred points will be deducted from Gryffindor, but it will only reflect 50 points after adding Mr. Potter’s earnings quietly.”

A few moments of silence passed as everyone digested the punishment.

“What are you going to tell my parents?” Sirius asked suddenly. “You don’t want them knowing that Remus is-“ Sirius met Remus’s eyes and looked away. “Trust me you don’t want them knowing what Remus is, and they aren’t going to believe I suddenly want to spend the Holidays at home.”

Professor Dumbledore folded his hands carefully on the desk. “We will explain to them that the animosity between Mr. Snape and yourself has been escalating to a point that keeping you both here over the break will be too much of inconvenience for the teachers. Last altercation between the two of you was your fault, Mr. Black, which is why you are the one to be sent home. I will have to come up with something if they request more information. There will be no need to bring Mr. Lupin into any of it.”

Sirius nodded.

“I would like to add, Mr. Black that if you are involved in any further major disciplinary actions, you will be expelled. I expect exemplary behavior in your classes. I will receive weekly reports of your behavior and if need be we can extend your detentions. I also expect your grades to be kept up. Do you understand, Mr. Black?”

“I understand, sir.” Sirius’s voice wavered with the words.

Professor McGonagall rose to her feet; her mouth a thin line. “I shall escort Mr. Black back to Gryffindor common room.” It was clear Sirius’s every action would be carefully watched, and should he step a toe out of line there would be grave consequences.

Sirius stood up. He kept his head high; eyes dark.

“Wait-” Remus voiced. Everyone turned to him, but Remus only looked directly at one person in the room. “Sirius should apologize to Snape.”

Sirius looked back at him with disbelief. Remus stared back – he needed to stay strong. His heart was beating quickly; he’d rarely stood up to his friends. It was about time he did.

“Well Mr. Black,” Professor McGonagall chided. She looked eager to get this whole business done with. Snape wasn’t hiding his smirk and Remus ignored the guilt he was feeling. This wasn’t about Snape. This was about Sirius and his friend learning to take responsibility. Knowing Sirius – this would make more of an impression than weeks of detention.

“Sorry,” Sirius muttered.

“Was that satisfactory?” Remus asked politely. It took a moment for Snape to realize Remus was addressing him.

“No,” Snape stated crossing his arms, enjoying this all.

Sirius gave Remus a glaring look and then looking directly at Snape, cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, Snape. I apologize for my actions.” Sirius spoke each word with deliberate carefulness. By the end of the sentence, he was flushed from humiliation of being forced to apologize by one of his peers.

Remus looked at Snape again, who shrugged. “I suppose that was satisfactory.”

Professor Dumbledore gave Remus a nod of approval. Professor McGonagall smiled at Remus and her face turned grim as she turned her attention to her charge. Sirius had his hands in his pockets and he was led away.

 Professor Slughorn met Dumbledore’s eyes and said, “Glad that messy business is done with. Boys these days…”

“Well that is all, Horace. Mr. Snape is free to leave as well,” Dumbledore stated, though he still looked troubled.

“Good night, then.” Slughorn stood up and Snape followed his Head of House out.

 “Mr. Potter, would you escort Mr. Lupin back to the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey wishes to keep you there another day. I insisted you be let out for this. I felt it was important this be dealt with swiftly.”

“Yes – of course, sir,” James agreed.

The whole meeting had really tired Remus. He wasn’t used to such terrible transformations and it had really taken a toll. Remus supposed he’d have to get used to them again. There would be no more Animagi joining him – Sirius had seen to that.

Their walk back to hospital wing was done in silence. James looked uneasy and Remus didn’t know what to say to him.

“Why would Dumbledore send him home?” James blurted.

Remus shrugged.

“It isn’t as if he’s going to start fights with Snape. I am pretty sure he’ll be avoiding him…it doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s a good punishment though – he doesn’t like being at home.”

“How would Dumbledore know that though?”

“I’m sure even the teachers know he doesn’t get along with his family. Anyway, he could have spoken up. His parents can be mean, but he isn’t in danger, is he?”

James shook his head. “I don’t think so. Maybe I should have said something – but – I don’t know. I don’t know how to act towards him, you know…”

“I can’t deal with him right now ...and I’d rather not talk about it.”

James nodded. “Yea – ok.” It was obvious James still wanted to speak more about it.

Remus bade goodbye to James and let Madam Pomfrey fuss over him. For once he was glad for his affliction. Tonight he wouldn’t have to face Sirius. He wouldn’t have to sleep in the dorm that held so many fond memories of the four of them. Remus gulped down the potion beside his bed; eager to fall into a dreamless sleep.

  ***

Author’s note: Thanks for reading! Recent studies have shown that people who review fanfiction live longer, happier lives! ;)


Chapter 4: Rumblings
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Chapter Four – Rumblings

Outside in the corridor with Professor McGonagall, Sirius struggled to keep up his brave façade. He just needed to keep it up until he was in the dormitory. He’d been expecting weeks of detention, and the revocation of his privileges though unexpected was understandable.  Sirius had no clue where Dumbledore had gotten the idea to send him home for Holiday break as part of his punishment. He wouldn’t have been more shocked if a Bludger had appeared out of nowhere and knocked him in the head.  

There had not been a shred of sympathy for him even after he pleaded not to be sent home. Sirius had scoffed at Dumbledore’s question about his safety back home. He hadn’t told about his mother’s visit when he was alone with Dumbledore and he certainly wasn’t about to surrounded by all those people. He wasn’t really in danger, not at least in the physical sense.  The fact of the matter was that his mother would make sure his stay was as unpleasant as possible (after the meeting with Keenan and now this…he didn’t even want to think about it), and telling the Headmaster would not change that.

Then to add to the humiliation Remus had forced him to apologize to Snape. Apologize to Snivellus who had never looked so smug. Remus usually looked the other way when James and he got into mischief even though he was now a prefect. The few times he did show his disapproval had always affected them more than any Professor’s disappointment. Sirius was sorry he’d involved Remus in this all, but he wasn’t sorry about showing Snape that there could be grave consequences for putting his large nose into things that were none of his concern. Sirius didn’t mean for Snape to be injured or killed, but maybe Snape had learned a lesson himself about messing in other peoples’ business.

At the entrance to the Gryffindor Common room Professor McGonagall stopped and instructed him to wait. She went in and came back with five of the six Gryffindor prefects; it was just Sirius’s luck that they were all there.

“Everything I am about to say is confidential,” McGonagall began. The prefects looked interested. They were all bound to have heard that Sirius had not sat with James or Peter in any of their classes today. Something as big as that would not go unnoticed and now being called out into the hallway – if McGonagall thought this would stop the rumors she didn’t understand the thrill of teenage gossip. “There’s been an altercation between Mr. Black, Mr. Snape in Slytherin…and the Whomping Willow.”

Lily Evan’s eyes widened at the mention of Snape.

“Mr. Black’s actions put Mr. Snape’s life in danger and we are taking it very seriously. Mr. Black is to go straight to his dormitory tonight and every night until fall term ends. Any breach of this is to immediately be reported to me.” McGonagall stopped a moment to glare severely at Sirius as if he’d already disobeyed. She went on to explain about the need of the prefects to escort him between classes and that they hoped not to involve prefects from other houses.

“Professor, how many points did we lose?” Jenna Morey, sixth year prefect, asked.

McGonagall frowned, her lips in a thin line. “One hundred,” McGonagall replied. There were grumbles from the prefects. “But we are only down fifty. Mr. Potter intervened and was awarded 50 points.”

“Can you tell us what exactly happened? 100 points is a lot,” Morey stated eying Sirius with distaste. Morey had told Sirius off more than once both last year and this year, so she wasn’t exactly a fan of his.

“I’ve told you all you need to know,” McGonagall said tersely. She apparently only trusted the prefects to a certain extent. Still Sirius didn’t see why she had to bring up James’s intervention at all. “Mr. Black, I will be by to pick you up at 7:15 am tomorrow morning. Do not be late or I’ll add another week to your detentions.” Sirius did not respond and she did not force him to. “The rest of you please meet me in my office before lunch. I’ll have a copy of everyone’s schedules.”

There were murmurs of agreement and McGonagall left. Sirius entered the common room first followed by the prefects. Silence greeted them, and everyone was staring at him.

“Wait a minute, Black,” Morey said. “I think you owe us an explanation.” Sirius glared at her. “Black’s lost us a hundred points!” she clarified for the crowd.

“Jenna!” Gideon Prewett interrupted. “We aren’t allowed to talk about this.”

“Everyone will see soon enough.”

“Come on, Black. I’m going up to bed as well,” Prewett stated. He motioned for Sirius to start walking up the stairs. Sirius stalked up the stairs. Prewett watched him enter the fifth year dorm wordlessly before he continued to the next level where he slept.

Sirius knew he should expect more students like Jenna demanding to know what had happened. The gossip was likely to only get worse. He had to hope Remus’s involvement in it all would go unnoticed.

Sirius barricaded himself in his bed, drawing the curtains tightly. He didn’t want to be disturbed. He figured James and Peter would leave him alone, but there was chance his other two roommates would not. Laying in bed he finally allowed himself to break down far from the prying eyes of the public. He felt shaky and terrible… and guilty. It was only because of pure exhaustion that Sirius fell asleep.

***

Sirius woke up the next morning early enough so he could shower. He was expected to be ready in the common room at 7:15 am. Professor McGonagall would be escorting him to a room where he was to have his first solitary meal.

The water streaming down on his body felt wonderful. Sirius stepped out wrapping a towel around his waist. James was standing at the doorway, his arms crossed.

“I want my invisibility cloak back.”

Sirius stared at James. “Give me a moment.”

James nodded, but he didn’t move from his spot. Sirius walked by him. He put his clothes on quickly. He’d completely forgotten that he still had James’s cloak. James had thrown it at him before he’d rushed after Snape. Sirius rummaged through his things, before finding it. James approached him and Sirius handed it to him. There were no words exchanged.

Sirius turned his back again on James. The seconds ticked on by, but Sirius didn’t turn to see if James was still watching him. Sirius knew he should say something. He needed to say something, and just as he was about to open his mouth and do that very thing, maybe even apologize –

“Maybe I should have listened to everyone.”

Still keeping his back to James, Sirius questioned, “About what?”

“About you.”

“What about me, James?” Sirius said turning around. James would have to say this to his face.

“Once a Black. Always a Black.”

Nothing that James could have done – not even the stab of a knife – could have hurt worse than those words. 

“Is that right?” Sirius tried to keep the hurt out of his voice.

“Yes!” James said aggressively.

“You’ve always told me the opposite,” Sirius said quietly.

“I was wrong! Just look at what you did! It proved you aren’t so different from your family after all. I thought you were different. I thought because you were in Gryffindor – it was proof you weren’t like them! But you are!”

Sirius wanted to hit James. Sirius wanted to lash out at him. He knew James was angry, but this was taking it too far. “I thought you were a different person as well.”

“You know that you’re worse than your cousins…than your brother. At least Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Regulus have the excuse of being brainwashed – ”

“Go to hell, Potter!” Sirius yelled gripping his wand and a spell shot out erratically hitting one of the walls with a loud crash. Peter jumped straight out of bed. Their other two dorm-mates, Jack Connor and Derek Newell had opened their curtains looking concerned.

“I’m not going to fight you and get you expelled,” James stated.

That statement was almost enough to undo Sirius. He couldn’t handle James again acting as if he were suddenly the better, more mature person who had to save Sirius from himself. “Oh right!  It is just so difficult to keep up with your ever changing moral code of conduct. Hexing first years is ok, but dueling me is not - how silly of me not to realize.”

“Is everything ok?” Connor asked.

“James –“ interjected Peter nervously. Predictably Peter had taken James’s side in this all.  If Sirius didn’t have a million other things running through his mind, he might have been bitter about it.  

“Should I get a prefect?” Newell asked getting out of bed.

“Everything is under control,” James replied his eyes never leaving Sirius. “Isn’t that right?”

Sirius slowed his breathing, his gaze traveling around the room to Newell, Connor, Peter, and finally back to James. There was a tense standstill. Sirius knew there was a chance Newell or Connor would report this to a prefect despite what James said.

“Right. Under control,” Sirius muttered.  He wrenched his school bag up and bumped aggressively into James as he walked by. He leaned back on the dorm door that he’d slammed behind him. He tried to get his breathing under control. It wouldn’t do him any favors to have his temper out of control with McGonagall. He could hear his roommates from where he stood.

“What was all that about?” Connor continued.

“Yea, Black looked ready to rip you limb from limb,” Newell added. James and Sirius had fights before, both being hot-headed and proud, but it had never gotten to this extent.

 “It really isn’t any of your business,” James answered coldly.

And there was only silence. Sirius could imagine James running a hand aggressively through his hair – something James did when he was nervous, annoyed or trying to impress someone. He could imagine James kicking his trunk and then stomping to the bathroom to take a shower. These thoughts made a lump grow in his throat and he felt ill losing the little appetite he had when he had awoken.

Sirius took the stairs down the common room slowly. It was going to be a long week, and at the end of it – home sweet home.

***

Snape was fuming. He had just had a meeting with Dumbledore. At first Dumbledore had made it seem like the meeting was to assure Snape that no one was sweeping what had happened under the rug and that Black’s actions were being taken very seriously. It quickly turned to Professor Dumbledore protecting his precious Gryffindors – particularly the werewolf. 

It became quite apparent that Dumbledore’s main goal of the discussion was to make sure Snape kept his mouth shut about Lupin. Snape could understand that Dumbledore had taken a huge risk in accepting Lupin into Hogwarts. Dumbledore took several minutes to explain all the precautions that had been put into place; mainly being a murderous tree. It was clear (without Dumbledore coming right out and saying it) that the Board of Governors were not aware of Lupin’s situation and if they were to be tipped off there was a very good chance Dumbledore would be fired from his position as Headmaster.

“We all do questionable things in our youth, do we not Mr. Snape?”

Snape had no answer for that.

“Over the years as student, Professor, and Headmaster I have seen many students get carried away with their own cleverness. Since the start of the year there have been a substantial number of students in the Hospital Wing because of darker magic. Your name has popped up quite often by both victims and perpetrators.”

“I’m not well liked, sir. Black and Potter have seen to that.”

“You have been caught using questionable magic since your first year.”

“Spells that I found in books, sir.  Old books from my mother during a time when students were taught both dark and light magic.”

“Yes, but these spells are more than slightly dark and even during that time such magic was not allowed. I am not here to debate the difference between dark and light magic. Part of growing up is finding out that out for yourself. I have not pursued any of these accusations because they are just that. You have not been caught casting magic of that dark level.” Dumbledore paused to look deeply into Snape’s eyes. “But all this would certainly come up if Mr. Lupin’s secret came out. We would have a full hearing, and everything about your background and motivations would be out on the table.  I would also like to point out that the Black’s regardless of their feelings toward their heir would not take kindly to the boy who brought this upon them.”

“I see, sir,” Snape answered coldly.

He could see the Headmaster had him in a bind. Whether Professor Dumbledore was bluffing or not, Snape could not take the chance. After all he was guilty of using and teaching other students darker magic. He supposed he would have to keep Lupin’s secret. The risk was too great even though he would have enjoyed it immensely; particularly Black’s reaction to having brought it upon his friend. That probably would have broken up the Gryffindor quartet for good. There was one perk in the situation. The Gryffindors did not know that Dumbledore had a way to keep him quiet. They still believed that even the slightest provocation could set Snape off, and he could use that to his advantage.

Snape certainly didn’t have to worry about any attacks from Potter and Black before Christmas break. First of all there wasn’t a ‘Potter and Black’ anymore. Only last week you rarely saw one without the other and now they were fighting.  Snape didn’t have to worry about Potter going after him alone; without his best friend, Potter was quiet and subdued. It helped loads to see Black estranged from his friends. Of course it would have made him feel even better if Snape could fully rub the fact into Black’s face, but it was difficult with the teachers always hovering over the boy.

Snape listened carefully to all the rumors floating around. He wished they were less close to the truth regarding his part and more towards the truth regarding Lupin. Potter had pre-empted Lupin’s involvement by making sure all the students who mattered knew Lupin had been the hospital wing with the flu. No one thought this was the least bit suspicious as everyone knew Lupin tended to catch whatever was going around. It was unfortunate no one else had been admitted to the Infirmary at the time or their story would have fallen apart.

 Everyone was aware that Sirius had ‘goaded’ Snape into messing with the Whomping Willow tree (no one seemed to think it was odd that Black knew how to silence the tree – apparently he was thought to be clever and brave enough to figure it out) and that Potter ‘saved’ Snape from whatever the tree was hiding. No one agreed about what the tree was protecting only that Snape would have ‘died’ had Potter not come to his rescue. His housemates had badgered him about what he had found underneath the tree. He’d been forced to lie. He’d told them he’d only gone a bit down the tunnel before Potter had knocked him out with an overenthusiastic disarming spell before he could truly see what was there. Snape certainly wished he’d come up with a better story after seeing their disappointment – wishing he had used their interest in him to a better social advantage. Dumbledore had placed wards around the Whomping Willow to ensure no students would try to further investigate, and anyone found trying to break the wards would be expelled – no exception.

Worst of all, Snape had found out that his best friend, Lily Evans, believed the rumors. Their conversation began on a topic that was becoming all too frequent – his choice in friends.  Lily had gone on about how much she detested Avery and Mulciber once again. She couldn’t understand how hard it was for him in Slytherin house as a half-blood. His low social standings meant he couldn’t be choosy in friends. Then she’d brought up the incident with Mary MacDonald  - which had been funny –even if technically it was Dark Magic. Severus had never understood other wizards and witches aversion to powerful magic just because some old out-of-touch wizards labeled it dark.

Angry at the fact that she was always on about his friends when her housemates weren’t any better, Snape demanded, “What about the stuff Potter and his mates get up to?” His color rose again as he said it; his resentment shining through.

“What’s Potter go to do with anything?” said Lily.

Potter had everything to do with it, Snape thought grimly. He didn’t say that of course. “They sneak out at night. There’s something weird about that Lupin. Where does he keep going?”

“He’s ill,” said Lily. “They say he’s ill --- “

“Every month at the full moon?” said Snape.

“I know your theory,” said Lily, and she sounded cold. Lily had been the only person Snape had ever hinted his theory about Lupin being a werewolf to. Since he’d already spoken to her about it, he didn’t see it as breaching the code of silence he’d promised Dumbledore. Unfortunately she had not reacted kindly to it and things hadn’t changed. “Why are you so obsessed with them anyway? Why do you care what they’re doing at night?”

“I’m just trying to show you they’re not as wonderful as everyone seems to think they are.”

The intensity of his gaze made her blush.

“They don’t use Dark Magic, though.” She dropped her voice. “And you’re being really ungrateful. I heard what happened the other night. You went sneaking down that tunnel by the Whomping Willow, and James Potter saved you from whatever’s down there-“

Snape’s whole face contorted and he spluttered, “Saved? Saved? You think he was playing hero? He was saving his neck and his friends’ too! You’re not going to – I won’t let you -“

“Let me? Let me?”

Lily’s bright green eyes were slits. Snape backtracked at once.

“I didn’t mean – I just don’t want to see you made a fool of – He fancies you, James Potter fancies you! And he’s not…everyone thinks…big Quidditch hero-“

Snape had trouble staying coherent. He couldn’t live with the thought Lily might see Potter as a hero when he’d sent him to his death!

“I know James Potter’s an arrogant toerag,” she said cutting him off.

Those words were music to his ears. He didn’t know what he’d do if he ever lost her favor. She was not aware of the power she held over him. Clever, beautiful, perfect; she should have made him seem inadequate in comparison. Instead, her brightness was strong enough to cast even him in a better light

This was why he kept his darker side from her. There was no reason for her to see it. She did not know he’d begun seeking information about the Dark Lord. It was all for academic purposes for now, but the ideas excited him. Power is what he sought. And when he’d have it, he could protect her no matter her blood and she’d be thankful. She’d see that the ends justified the means. Muggles would fear them and blood traitors like Black and Potter would be brought to their knees begging for mercy.

For now Lily tipped the balance of the dark and light inside of him into the light. It would stay that way as long as he had her friendship, as long as he had her and Potter did not.

***

Remus felt tired all the time. A few days had not healed the hurt from Sirius’s betrayal. It didn’t seem to make a difference that he rarely saw Sirius; his friend was often enough on his mind. And when he did see Sirius in class, he still got a terrible sickly feeling in his stomach.  Since the dormitory was the only place where Remus was likely to encounter his friend on his own, Remus had taken to going to bed as late as possible to ensure that Sirius would be asleep. Remus was unaware that he did not need to go through the trouble. Sirius’s detentions were heavy on manual labor and Sirius was asleep in moments most nights from exhaustion. 

It helped that Remus had James and Peter at his side through it all.  In all honesty Remus had expected James and Sirius to have made-up by now, but James’s anger at his best friend was still going strong. Remus had underestimated the betrayal James himself felt. Sirius had not sought Remus out. Nor did Sirius seek out James. It bothered Remus more than he cared to admit. It was not like Sirius to avoid confrontation.

Remus expected at any moment for Snape to tell all of Hogwarts his secret, but so far it had not happened. Dumbledore had told him that Snape had given him his word, but Remus didn’t believe for a second that it meant anything. Remus was on edge when Snape was nearby, but all Snape did was stare at him in revulsion and when James wasn’t around snarled comments about half-breeds.

Remus was sitting alone in the common room late one evening. Five days had passed since the incident and only three more days until Holiday break (not that he was counting).  He was looking forward to going home where he hoped to forget what had happened for a bit. It was late enough that everyone had already gone to bed. Remus had always been the type of person that needed time each week for solitude and reflection, so he was enjoying the emptiness of the common room.

Something had been bothering him all day. He had a strange feeling that he’d forgotten something important, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. He had double and tripled checked his planner thinking he hadn’t completed an assignment or studied for a quiz, but that was not the case.

The feeling was still there even this late in the day, but Remus was doing his best to ignore it as he tried reading ahead for Transfiguration. Remus frowned when he heard what sounded like someone bounding down the steps of the boys’ dormitory and looked up to see who it was. He hoped whoever it was had simply forgotten a book or sweater, so he wouldn’t be forced to make small talk.

Sirius was the last person he expected to see.

 “You shouldn’t be down here,” Remus said.

Sirius widened his eyes; evidently as surprised as Remus to find anyone down at this time of night. “Going to snitch on me?” Sirius said it so casually as if they were back to being friends.

Remus turned away. He felt sick to his stomach as usual, but in addition, he could feel his blood begin to boil and anger begin to overtake his other emotions. He closed his eyes to calm his breathing; he needed to stay in control. It was bad enough one night a month he had no control over himself.  Lashing out would only give him a moment of pleasure.

Remus opened up his eyes to see Sirius holding up a book. “I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to wake any of you up.”

Remus made a noncommittal noise.  Sirius took that as permission to take a seat, choosing a chair a bit closer to Remus than he would have liked. Sirius remained silent. He opened up the book and for all intents and purpose appeared to be reading.

Despite the silence and try as he might, Remus could not concentrate. He sighed heavily hoping Sirius got the message that he was a large nuisance. He snapped his book shut, rustled his papers obnoxiously as he put them away, and rose to his feet.

Since his back had been turned away from Sirius; Remus had not realize that Sirius had been watching. “So is this it? Just going to ignore me until graduation?”

Remus wasn’t about to dignify that with a response. He headed toward the dormitory stairs. “You really don’t have anything you want to say to me,” Sirius stated standing up.

Remus clenched his fists. Ignore him, he thought to himself.

“Won’t you say anything,” Sirius demanded.

Remus forced himself to continue walking.

“Never understood how passive aggressive a werewolf could be!”

Remus was suddenly in Sirius’s face. He drew his wand and jabbed it right under Sirius’s throat. “Well you know what? Dumbledore didn’t come up with sending you home for the Holiday. It was my idea.”

Sirius stepped away from him. There was shock and betrayal, and for a moment Remus felt superior. For a moment Remus felt incredibly good making Sirius feel even a little bit of what he felt.

As the words sunk in Remus expected Sirius to call his bluff. Remus would have not argued. Only none of that happened. Sirius just backed away, picked up his book and moved over to the corner without a word.

Still stuck to his spot, Remus felt horrible. He shouldn’t have said that. This wasn’t like him at all. He couldn’t believe Sirius thought he was telling the truth? What had happened to their friendship that they could believe such terrible things about each other?

Knowing he should say something, but unable to summon the courage to do anything Remus trudged back up to the dorm. As he jerked his curtains around his bed and dumped his body onto the bed, he suddenly remembered what he had forgotten – a birthday.

And not just anyone’s birthday.

Today had been Sirius’s sixteenth birthday.

***

Author’s note: Direct quotes taken from “Prince’s Tale” in American Edition of Deathly Hallows are not mine. Thanks for reading. Review, please!

 


Chapter 5: Shattered (Part 1)
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Author's Note: So I decided to split up this really long chapter even though I published it in full on another site. Enjoy!

***


Chapter 5 – Shattered (Part 1)

There was a knock on the door. 

Sirius was alone in the dorm. He was alone a lot lately; partly due to the punishment and partly from his own accord. Sirius had always used anger as a defense mechanism and the last few days had been no exception. It hurt less if he pretended he didn’t want to sit with his friends any more than they wanted to sit with him. The anger could only last so long and he could not fool himself forever. The wall he’d built around himself eventually crumbled and the pain hit him sharply.

The guilt of what he had done weighed heavily. He deserved this, Sirius thought. He deserved to be alone and miserable. He deserved for his friends to treat him as if he didn’t exist. He’d betrayed their trust. He didn’t even react to the jibes of the Slytherins anymore. And now the pain had moved to a sort of numb feeling.  He went through the motions of daily life, but didn’t really feel anything.

Sirius’s birthday had come and gone with barely an acknowledgement. None of his friends had said a word, so it was a good thing he wasn’t feeling much these days or that would have hurt worse. He wondered vaguely what his friends had planned for that day before this had all happened. Only Lily Evans and Mary MacDonald had actually wished him a Happy Birthday. It had shocked him because Evans thought he was as arrogant as James and he rarely spoke to MacDonald; she was too silly and girly for him. Sirius knew from Remus that the fifth year prefects were in charge of posting a monthly birthday list on the Gryffindor bulletin board. Apparently Evans actually kept tabs on the list unlike most students who could care less.

Over the course of the week he had endured every possible version of the ‘think-before-you-leap’ and ‘all-actions-have-consequences’ lecture. The Professors were taking turns in overseeing his detentions and they all felt the need to lecture him as well. When Professor Keenan had attempted to speak with him, Sirius had walked right out of detention. He’d hid in one of the secret rooms his friends had found last year and returned to Gryffindor Tower around the usual time he’d been returning. No one in Gryffindor acted suspicious and though Sirius was on the edge all day waiting to be reprehended, it seemed Professor Keenan had not told anyone

Sirius had no desire to keep up with the rumors going around. He didn’t have to in order to know the falling out between him and his mates was the main topic of discussion. There was a definite coldness whenever he entered a room. If he’d been so inclined Sirius would have found out that there were a percentage of students on his side, at least based on what they thought had happened with the Whomping Willow. Snape, after all, was unpopular. Instead Sirius was short and rude to any student who attempted to speak to him. He decided it was better this way than to wonder if they were sincere or just trying to get him to talk about what had happened.

The knock sounded again on the door; a little louder.

“Yes?” Sirius called dully.

Gideon Prewett walked in. “I’ve got to escort you down to the train. McGonagall’s orders, sorry.”

“Yea- ok.”

Prewett hesitated looking around the room and at the small bag on Sirius’s bed. “Are you all packed?”

Sirius nodded, clasping his over-cloak on, pocketing his wand, and slinging the bag over his shoulder. It wasn’t as if he needed very much. He would very likely be banished to his room most of the time, and given clothes to wear to whatever event his presence was needed.

“And just to warn you, you’ll have to sit in the compartment across from the prefects… for the entire ride. I or another prefect will be checking up on you.”

“I see,” Sirus said and Prewett frowned. Sirius was actually relieved to have been assigned a compartment; saved him from having to sit with fellow students. Prewett was clearly expecting some sort of argument, and he appeared lost with Sirius’s agreeableness. “Well I’m ready.”

They descended down the stairs together. James and Peter were walking up in the other direction – laughing. Their laughter hit Sirius like a punch in the gut. The boys sobered up when they saw Gideon and Sirius.

“Hello, Prewet,” James greeted. His eyes met Sirius’s briefly and for a second it seemed as if he was going to say something. It was the first time James had really looked at Sirius since his cutting words to Sirius a few days ago. The tension on the stairs was practically unbearable and Peter broke it. “James, we still need to pack.”

James turned abruptly from him and Sirius could feel his face flush. “Right. Right,” James muttered. James and Peter continued by the stairs.

Prewett cleared his throat. “If you get bored I can hang out in your compartment during the train ride…it’s not meant as a punishment…just…well –“

“Keep me out of trouble?” Sirius asked dryly. They had just crossed across the common room.

“Probably not a bad idea, Dumbledore and the Professors came down pretty hard on you.” Sirius gave Prewett a look. “Sorry…rumors have gotten kind of out of hand. McGonagall probably shouldn’t have told us prefects even anything, but I suppose word would have still gotten around.”

Sirius nodded. They walked in silence the rest of the way to the carriages that would take them to the Hogwarts Express. The wind outside was biting cold, but Sirius, senses dulled, barely felt it. Gideon shivered beside him.

“We’ll go in the first carriage up there.” Prewett pointed. “I’ll join you in a bit.”

Sirius nodded again and stepped up into the carriage. Sirius was relieved to see it empty. Lost in his own thoughts, staring up unseeingly at the peeling paint of the carriage ceiling, Sirius wasn’t sure if 10 or 20 minutes passed when Prewett entered with three other prefects. They all chimed hello to Sirius as if was perfectly normal for him to be seated with them. The conversation inside was a bit stilted, and it was a relief for Sirius when they reached the station. Prewett led him to the compartment across from where the prefects’ sat.

“I’ll be across the aisle or patrolling. If there’s any problem you can go to any prefect. And I’ll check in every so often.”

“Ok,” Sirius muttered.

“If you want company –“ Prewett began.

“I’d rather be alone,” Sirius cut in sharply.

“- if you change your mind. I won’t ask you anything about what happened.”

“Thanks, but no.”

Gideon shrugged with a half-smile shut the door quietly. Immediately he heard some fervent whispering outside the compartment. Sirius sat down heavily on the seat closest to the window. If he cared to – he could have listened to what they were saying about him. Sirius leaned his head against the window and stared out. He was thankful for a small things; his compartment side was not facing the side where students would be entering. It would have been difficult to watch students with their friends now that he didn’t have any.

The harsh words he’d had with James and Remus were fresh in his mind. James had hurt him the worst.  James, who knew him best, had known the way to hurt him worst. Once a Black. Always a Black. Ever since stepping into Hogwarts Sirius had to prove he was different from his family. He had to fight for his housemates’ respect. Even when others were suspicious of his intentions, James had never been. A month ago when Sirius had shared his worries about Voldemort’s attempt to recruit him into their ranks, James had told him quietly, “I know you would never join. You've gone through hell over the past few years against your family. You aren't going to suddenly become a blood purist."

What would James say now?

And though he hadn’t spoken to Peter and didn’t really know Peter’s true opinion on the matter, the silence spoke for itself. Peter’s loyalty was clear and even though he wasn’t as close friends with Peter as James and Remus, it hurt.  He wondered if he’d made more of an effort to show he was truly sorry that things would be different.

Gideon stopped in about once an hour – always attempting a conversation and never without a smile, even when Sirius’s responses bordered on rude. No one else bothered him the entire train ride. Every time Sirius thought of his destination it sent his stomach lurching.

Gideon was by his side when the train arrived at King’s Cross. Sirius wondered if Gideon had been instructed to stay with him until he was in his parent’s grasp. Regulus bounded over immediately.

“You can leave now, Prewett,” Regulus stated rudely. Though the Prewetts were purebloods and related through marriage, the families had never quite got along. Just as the Black’s were a family of Slytherins, the Prewetts were a family of Gryffindors. 

“Have a Happy Christmas,” Gideon stated with a curt nod.

“There’s going to be nothing happy about it with you being home,” Regulus mouthed. Sirius refused to comment so Regulus continued, “First time I heard of someone being forced home during Holiday break.”

“Yea…well-“

Sirius wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say, but before he could figure it out, Regulus blurted, “Aren’t you worried about what mother and father are going to do to you?”

Sirius was terrified. He expected it to be unpleasant. He wasn’t going to tell his little brother; who more than likely would let that fact slip in front of their parents. Besides he couldn’t do anything about it. He needed to use all his Gryffindor courage to survive until school started again.

Before the brothers could further converse, Mrs. Black appeared, her heels clicking importantly. Sirius steeled himself in preparation.

“My sons,” Mrs. Black said her eyes held no warmth as she surveyed her offspring. Regulus bowed his head slightly in greeting. Sirius might have done the same if his mother was still looking at him. Sirius followed her gaze and his heart gave a leap to see James watching them steadily, his face impassive. James gave a slight shrug, which Sirius did not know how to interpret. Then Sirius turned back to look at his mother and she had a calculating look to her. Since his sorting, James had always stayed by his side as they waited to be picked up by their respective parents. Could his mother tell just by this that they had fallen out?

“Let’s go home, boys.”

Mrs. Black led her sons to a shop where they could Floo home. The Blacks were above using Muggle transportation. They arrived in the living room of Grimmauld Place. It looked as dark and dreary as Sirius remembered. Most of the rooms were decorated in dark green colors and lit using gas lamps rather than the natural light outside. He was not about to linger near his mother, so he inched toward the stairs.

“Not so fast, Sirius,” Mrs. Black said. Sirius paused and he turned around forcing himself to look at his mother straight in the eyes. “Your wand.”  She held out her hand, forcing Sirius to approach her. Sirius relinquished his wand. It was more than just the humiliation of it; but he literally was now defenseless from armed family members to all the magical enchantments around the house.

Mrs. Black then sent them up to wash and dress in formal robes. They were to be ready in an hour. Regulus insisted Sirius use the wash room first and when Sirius emerged Kreacher was in his room laying out the robes he was to wear.

“Young master,” Kreacher said, bowing lowly, but in a way it was clear the house elf had no respect for him despite Sirius being the heir.

“Get out, Kreacher!”

Kreacher scuttled out across to Regulus’s bedroom. Sirius dressed himself and the dark colors emphasized how tired and awful he was feeling. He certainly did not give off the usual confidence he emitted. He needed to be self-assured and defiant when confronting his mother and father and now without it, he didn’t know what would happen. 

Regulus came to fetch him at dinner time, and they walked down together. Regulus bowed as they entered and Sirius followed suit without even bothering to glance around. As he picked up his head he was startled to find only his mother seated regally in her usual chair. Their most elaborate cutlery was set out and three candles flickered in their goblin silver holders.

“Your father will not be joining us for dinner,” Mrs. Black announced. She offered no other information to her sons and they both hastily took their places.

“How were you grades this term?” Mrs. Black asked. She had taken a few sips of wine, but had not touched her food yet.

Regulus opened his mouth to answer, but Mrs. Black cut him off. “Sirius first.”

Sirius shrugged. Only minutes downstairs and he already wanted to be back in his room. “Satisfactory.”

“Satisfactory? Your father and I expect top marks from you. It would be a grave disappointment if they were merely satisfactory. If they are, there will be consequences.”

“Yes, mother.” Their grades would be owled in a few days and he knew he had done well enough, but he certainly wasn’t top student in each class as his parents expected.

“And what about you, Regulus?”

Regulus straightened up before answering and proudly gloated, “I know I excelled in them all.” Sirius just barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. Regulus could be such a kiss-up. Sirius knew he’d be punished if Regulus’s grades were higher than his. Sirius might have been naturally the smarter of the two, but Regulus made up for it in effort.

“Very good.” She abruptly turned her attention back to her eldest. “Now I don’t believe this nonsense that Dumbledore sent me about you, Sirius. I’d like a truthful explanation.”

“It is the truth, mother,” Sirius responded. He tried to sound as respectful as possible. His mother must never know the truth.

“I can’t believe you’d be sent home for a scuffle with another boy.”

Not just any boy, Sirius thought darkly.

“This Snape boy. I’ve heard him mentioned before. Who is he?”

Sirius wasn’t sure how he would be able to explain Snape to his mother. And of course she’d heard about him before. At least half the letters sent about his detentions had to be because of Snivellus.

“He’s just…” Sirius searched for the right words. “Just…just someone I don’t get along with.” He figured saying nothing would be worse. Regulus scoffed at this answer.

Mrs. Black turned her eyes to her younger son. Sirius could tell she was debating between forcing him to say more and choosing the more fruitful route of letting Regulus speak. “What do you know of him, Regulus?”

Regulus straightened up again, all important and shot Sirius a look. “He’s a Slytherin. Half-blood. An upstart that fancies himself the same status as purebloods.”

“Half-blood?”

“His mother was a Prince; at least that is what I heard.”

“Interesting. You don’t get along with him either?”

“Snape is sneaky and clever. A true Slytherin. I wouldn’t want him as an enemy, but at times he needs to be shown his place.”

“You forgot greasy git,” Sirius muttered, almost inaudible, but loud enough for Regulus to hear him.

Regulus took a breath. “None of these are the reasons Sirius dislikes him, mother. It is more of personality clash. Potter and Sirius gang up on him often.”

Sirius dropped his fork at Potter. He hastily picked it back up, but it had zeroed his mother on him again. Looking down at his plate Sirius desperately wished the topic would go anywhere – even prospective marriages or joining Voldemort – literally anywhere except to James.

Mrs. Black took her time slicing into her chunk of chicken and chewing a piece slowly, deliberately. “So have the Potters invited you over for the Holidays?”

“No,” Sirius croaked.

“Why not?” Mrs. Black asked gently, as if she was concerned about there being a problem between her son and a family of blood traitors.

Sirius shook his head. He certainly wasn’t going to speak the words aloud.

“Sirius. Why. Not?” his mother demanded once more. Each of the words punctuated with hardness.

“Just family,” Sirius managed to choke out. “Just spending it with family.”

Regulus moved in his chair, eager to speak. Only a glare from Mrs. Black stilled him. 

“I wondered you know, Sirius…when Potter wasn’t glued to your side when I went to pick you up…”

“We’re just …we’re just not as close. Shouldn’t that please you?” Sirius said, hoping that would be enough.

“So are we to add liar to your list of admirable traits?” Mrs. Black asked coldly.

“I only learn from the best,” Sirius spat out.

“Silence!” Mrs. Black slammed her fist down on the table. She had enough of the games. “I know the truth. Regulus owled me days ago that you have fallen out with Potter.”

 “You wrote to them?” Sirius asked looking at his brother. They’d always been at odds, but since his sorting into Gryffindor their relationship had only disintegrated, and when Regulus got into Slytherin it had snowballed quickly. They were now enemies; not on the same side like brothers should be.

Regulus looked startled. “Why wouldn’t I? Anyway I didn’t think you’d be fighting this long…”

“It isn’t any of their business or yours!”

Mrs. Black cleared her throat. “Oh I think it is our business. Anything concerning the company you keep directly reflects this family. This is a very interesting development. Sirius, how long have you been fighting?”

Sirius stayed stonily silent.

“You will be punished for the disrespect you are showing me, Sirius,” Mrs. Black stated. She turned to Regulus.

Regulus answered immediately. “About a week.” Regulus earned another glare from Sirius. “Potter’s completely shut him out. He’s got Lupin and Pettigrew on his side, so whatever it is – it’s big.”

Sirius bunched up his fists, furious. He wanted Regulus to shut-up. He didn’t know how to do that and punching his brother in the face certainly would only make the situation worse.

“It was only a matter of time before this happened,” Mrs. Black said thoughtfully. She had a calculating look as she watched her eldest.

“What do you mean?” Sirius asked, despite knowing he should have stayed quiet.

“What happened between you two, dear? Did you finally show your true colors? Finally show Potter that you are a Black no matter what House colors you’re dressed up in?”

“No,” Sirius stated, but that was all he could get out because her words had a ring of truth to him.  He tried not to think how closely his mother’s words had mirrored James’s. It only made him feel ill.

“We are your family. Even after all you have done; we have not abandoned you, and we won’t. Not like Potter. Not like your precious Gryffindors who only trusted you, I bet, because of Potter. We understand the temptations. We understand the thrill of rebellion.”

Sirius looked away. He couldn’t bear to see the triumphant gleam in his mother’s eye. His mother had always wrongly thought that he went against the family simply to rebel. It might have started off like that in the beginning, but it was no longer the case. His family tree was filled with horrible people. They were Muggle-haters and pure-blood supremacists. They were power hungry and deeply entrenched into the Dark Arts. It still sickened him that he had been brought up to see these people as models to emulate. He now saw their actions for what they truly were, but Regulus was still blinded. Regulus still wanted to be just like them.

Mrs. Black smiled and it made Sirius feel very cold. “Oh how you’ve touted your friends! One for all and all for one! And where has that got you? Where are your wonderful friends now? You’ve been dropped like your nothing! As if a Black’s friendship is nothing!”

“Can I please be excused?”

“No. Kreacher has spent the day cooking and preparing for your welcome home dinner.” She gestured to the lavish set-up. There was enough food to feed half of Gryffindor. “You will finish your dinner.”

There was a moment or two of silence. Sirius took a bite or two of his meal; hoping that at least he’d cut off his mother’s rant.  Mrs. Black continued looking a bit grim, “When your father returns I will let him in on this recent development. This couldn’t have occurred at a better time. Now that you are 16, this gives our family so many possible ways to rise. There is hope for you yet.”

He knew immediately what his mother was referring to. It sent the hair on Sirius’s arm straight up and his stomach to knot up. His throat suddenly felt parched and he gulped down half a cup of water. The only reason his mother would care that he’d turned a year older had to do with Voldemort. Even though Voldemort’s attempt at recruitment had so far not been through his parents, he should have known they knew what had been going on. It seemed like a lifetime ago when he’d actually been excited for this birthday. At one time it had meant only a year more to go before he would be an adult in eyes of Magical law, but now it had a darker significance. Sirius coped with it in the only way he could. He buried his worries deep in his mind. He had too many other things to worry about and he didn’t believe his parents had any influence with Voldemort.

Dinner dragged on and on.  Sirius fidgeted in his seat alternating between being anxious and bored.  Mrs. Black chatted about this or that bit of gossip. Regulus readily chimed in when he knew a daughter or son of the said family. Since the incident, Sirius hadn’t been eating properly, but he forced himself to eat that evening, worried he’d never get to the solidarity of this room.

“May I be excused now, mother?” Sirius tried again; his plate as empty as he could stomach.

“Very well. Lines before you go to bed for your disrespect. Page twelve in Nature’s Nobility. Ten times should do the trick.  Kreacher will pick it up and bring it to me.”

“Yes, mother.” Sirius had no idea what page twelve in the book would say, but he knew that book well. It was written in the small print and each page had a good 500 or so words. At least lines were a nice change from all the manual labor he’d been forced to do during his detentions. He stood up.

 “And Sirius I haven’t forgotten what happened with Professor Keenan.” A chill filled the air, the words threatening. Sirius hadn’t for a moment believed his mother had forgotten. “But under the circumstances, if you choose correctly…that sordid deal might never have to be brought up again.”

“Yes, mother,” Sirius replied. There was no sarcastic comment, not even a rolling of the eyes.  He was not sounding at all like himself. He was never this agreeable. He could see how pleased this demure behavior was to his mother. He suddenly did not see the point of antagonizing his mother any further, and he never thought things like that.

“I will call on Lucius and Narcissa to come to lunch tomorrow or the day after. Will it not be nice to see your cousin? And Lucius will be a great mentor for you, Sirius.”

“Will I be in attendance, mother?” Regulus asked eagerly.

“Of course. What do you say Sirius?”

“Sounds splendid,” Sirius said sarcastically.

***

Author's note: Thanks for reading! If you have a chance please review; it would make my week!


Chapter 6: Shattered (Part 2)
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The next two days were rough for Sirius. If he stayed in his room, the Gryffindor colors everywhere mocked him. The picture of the Marauders he’d tacked on the wall was now empty except for him. At night Sirius stared at the two-way mirror, and countless times he almost said ‘James’. He had never realized how much he had relied on the strength his friends had given him to battle his parents. Yet despite this need, he did not try to call James.  Sirius could not bear the thought of James not answering… or worse, James answering and telling him he belonged with the Blacks, so why fight it?

If he ventured out of his room, he had to deal with his mother, father, and brother. Every time he was in her presence, his mother purposely said things about blood purity and mudbloods that she knew had previously enraged him. Mrs. Black’s words became more and more deplorable as she tested to see how far she could go before her son snapped. He could not find the energy required to get into shouting matches with his mother. Sirius’s lack of defiance and the way he moped around filled the Black’s with hope. Sirius’s father had already spoken to him twice at length about ‘sense of duty’, ‘loyalty’, and ‘family honor’. And he had let his father prattle on, suddenly in the role of devoted son. He wasn’t though; Sirius clung to that belief.  He just wanted to be left alone. He didn’t want to argue. He was soon to see the consequence of letting his family believe he was compliant.  

***

On his third day home, Lucius and Narcissa arrived for lunch. In all honesty Sirius had forgotten that his mother had sent them an invitation. Narcissa, her light colored hair fell in graceful waves past her shoulders, hugged and kissed him. She said sweetly, “I am so glad to have you back.” Sirius gave her an odd look.

Lucius, his white-blonde hair pulled back, shook his hand formerly. “Good to hear you’ve changed your mind.”

“But I haven’t,” Sirius said befuddled. He might have been out of it, but Sirius was pretty sure he had never said he’d join up with Voldemort. Though his parents hadn’t actually come out and said this is what they expected of him, it was now clear all his father’s talk of duty was leading up to this.

Mr. Black stepped in, putting firm pressure on Sirius’ shoulder. “We have plenty of time to discuss such matters! Let’s all sit down to eat.”

Lucius nodded and took Narcissa’s arm as Mrs. Black moved them to the room where the platters of sandwiches had been set-up.

Sirius was taken to the side by his father. He was pushed right up against the bricks built around the fireplace. He could feel the heat of the stones through his robes. “What rubbish was that just then?”

Sirius loosened his father’s grip; a bit of the fire that he’d lost back in his eyes and voice. “It isn’t my fault you gave Lucius the impression that I am suddenly joining up!” His words were braver than he felt. It suddenly dawned on him that even though his parents didn’t have any association with Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy did.

Mr. Black stared back hard at his eldest. The firelight cast shadows on his face. “You will join up.”

Sirius opened his mouth to protest.

“You no longer have the resources to defy us. No friends. You are very close to having no family.  It can be a very cruel world. Do not forget that I do have the resources to ensure your misery should you not do your duty. Now let us enjoy the company of our extended family.”

Sirius didn’t move.

“You can come at your own will or I will use magic. Stop acting like a child; this is not the time to make a scene.”

Sirius clenched his jaw and followed his father into the other room. He felt dazed. How had this happened? He’d been a bit more agreeable and suddenly his parents thought he’d jump when they said so.

He had trouble focusing on the topic of conversation; though there was no need, as he was expected to sit silently and only speak if called upon. Lucius and Sirius’s father talked about the Ministry mostly; who was bribing who, who was trying to advance.

Lunch ended. The women stayed in the room to gossip about more trivial manners, while the men went into the formal study. It was a different room than Mr. Black’s personal study.  Sirius bet his mother had put up a fight about not being in the room when the more important matters were to be discussed. She took just as much – if not more – interest in her heirs as her husband. Narcissa though would not enjoy such talk nor would Lucius feel it was appropriate for his young wife to be in on it all. Regulus was completely thrilled about being allowed to be present.

Mr. Black poured Lucius and himself some brandy. Both men were standing while the boys had taken seats under their father’s direction. Regulus and Sirius were not offered anything. It wasn’t unusual though for the boys to be allowed wine during formal dinners.

“Sir, can I be excused?” Sirius asked before any topic about Voldemort had been broached.

 Lucius looked amused by his question; while his father’s face darkened. “This is about your future.”

“It isn’t as if I have a say in it anyway,” Sirius muttered. He crossed his arms over his chest defiantly.

“Orion, forgive me, I was under the impression that Sirius was willing. The Dark Lord does not give second chances…but given Sirius’s unique set of circumstances.”

“He is willing, Lucius.” He sent a dark look at his son, daring Sirius to say otherwise.  “Sirius’s induction will be a great win for the Dark Lord, and I only want to ensure that both our families are duly rewarded.”

“We will be.” Lucius walked over and examined a silver box decorated with gleaming emeralds on one of the wooden shelves. He placed it back down before saying, “The Dark Lord is being very selective with those still at Hogwarts. Sixteen is the minimum age, and that being said the inductees will still be two years under Dumbledore’s nose… it is not the most ideal of situations. Luckily Dumbledore usually likes to see the good potential in all this students. He would not kick out a student he merely suspected was a member.”

Mr. Black cleared his throat and took a sip out of his glass. “How soon can this be all arranged?”

Lucius placed his cup down with a thump. “Since this is putting my reputation and life on the line, I can arrange a meeting, but I will not go alone. Sirius must be present with me. If Sirius does not show up, I have other matters I can discuss with the Dark Lord to cover up the real purpose of the meeting.”

“Sirius will be there,” Orion said forcefully. Sirius looked away, unable to meet his father’s eyes. A month ago he would have probably stared straight back. He would have insisted he would not be there. Now Sirius was at a loss about what he should do. Maybe it was time to stop fighting his destiny…

“I hope you are right.” Lucius’s dark eyes traveled up and down the sixteen year old boy in front of him.  “I shall contact you the day and time. The Dark Lord is very busy and with Christmas so near-”

“The sooner the better – I hope you understand. It must be done before Sirius is sent back to Hogwarts.” This made sense to Sirius. Back at Hogwarts he’d be with the Gryffindors, and there was the slightest chance his friends’ would forgive him. His parents planned to entrap him in his destiny while he was at his lowest. He knew and understood this, but he didn’t know if he had the strength without his friends to stand again them.

“I will try my best.”

“Excellent. Let us join the women for some dessert?”

Narcissa and Lucius left around 4 o’clock, and they did not hear about a meeting for days. Christmas passed with lavish celebrations and parties. His parents only forced Sirius to attend one such event. Sirius had stayed to the side and out of the way during the party. He spotted plenty of schoolmates, mostly Slytherins, though there was a spattering from different Houses. Sirius ended up spending some time with two Ravenclaws a year older than he was. He didn’t particularly enjoy their company, but conversation followed easily enough and they were too proper to ask him too much about his falling out with James.

At the party Sirius spotted his father conferring with Lucius causing his heart to beat erratically. His fear of coming face to face with Voldemort surfaced every so often, but Sirius was usually able to keep it at bay by simply not thinking about it. The fact that Lucius had not yet contacted them about a meeting with the Dark Lord gave Sirius a glimmer of optimism. He dared hope that Lucius was not as influential with Voldemort as he bragged. Maybe Voldemort wasn’t giving Sirius another chance. It might even mean that when the time came Regulus would also not be asked to join.

***

Two days after Christmas they received word from Lucius.

It was still early morning and Sirius had been lounging on his bed when Mrs. Black barged into his room. He slipped the two-way mirror under his pillow just in time. Even if he never used the mirror again, he didn’t want his mother to confiscate it.  Sirius’s mother barked at him to follow her to his father’s study where the letter was read out loud.

The Dark Lord has agreed to meet me tomorrow, December 28th, at 10 am. I will arrive at Grimmauld Place at 9:45 am.

Sirius felt his stomach drop. He had convinced himself that Lucius would not be able to arrange this meeting and his brain did not want to process what the letter meant. His parents did not say a word, watching his reaction and waiting for him to speak.

“What time do I need to be ready?” Sirius found himself asking, only because it was expected.  He needed time to think. He needed time to process. This couldn’t be happening tomorrow. He needed more time. It didn’t seem real. It felt as if it was happening to someone else.

Mr. Black looked pleased. “Be ready for inspection at 9 am. Dress in your dark green robes. Comb your hair neat. We’ll go over the proper way you are to address and act in front of the Dark Lord then.”

Sirius spent the day in turmoil. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t believe he had let it get this far. Tomorrow he could very well be in the service of Voldemort. If his parents were suspicious about the fact he could barely take two bites at dinner, they did not mention it. Sirius supposed even a fervent follower would be nervous about his first time meeting Voldemort. The man certainly hadn’t gained a reputation of being kind and understanding. Sirius was glad to be allowed in bed early to get proper rest. Sirius had expected lectures all day about duty and honor, but he received none.

In the shower that night Sirius couldn’t help thinking about his mates. What would they all think about this? James’s words about him being a Black had stung; but had James thought his words would have this kind of consequence. Did Remus believe this would happen when he suggested he be sent home as a punishment? If Peter had been here, he would have voiced loudly the same terrified thoughts that were running through Sirius’s head.

Sirius trudged into his bedroom shutting the door closed. Finally alone after hearing the news, he felt tears threatening to spill over. The numbness had put him in a vulnerable state. He didn’t think anything his parents could do would be worse than the abandonment of his friends.  He was wrong. He’d been foolish. It had taken this to snap him out of the stupor he’d been in since returning home.

He glanced over on the picture of the Marauders pasted to his wall. There was James! Sirius shook his head and looked more closely, but James was gone again. After staring a few more moments at the empty picture Sirius was convinced he had imagined it. And then suddenly James was peeking in again. Only for a few moments, but there he was. He watched again and it filled his heart with something. This had to mean something! Right? After days and days of staring at the empty photograph for this to happen on this night; it had to be a sign.

Sirius dressed in his sleeping attire and moved across the room to unlatch the window. The rain had not let up all day. The moon and stars were hidden by a thick layer of dense dark clouds. A gust of cold air hit him and a spray of raindrops caused him to shiver. The icy rain felt good; it made him feel alive

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t obey his parents. He couldn’t fulfill his duty. Not if the only way to do so was by joining Voldemort. Even if James, Remus, and Peter never forgave him; they had changed the person he was inside irrevocably. James had shown him the distinct difference between right and wrong; good and evil. James had shown him that there were so many more important things than blood.  There might have been a time when he wanted to make his parents proud, but those days were long gone. His friends might hate him, but that did not change the fact that Voldemort stood for everything that Sirius now stood against.

Sirius shut the window. It clicked close and Sirius looked around his room at a loss. Making the decision was one thing, but now what was he do? Lucius had stated he would only take him if he was willing, but could he really rely on his word? Would his parents force him to join Lucius? There were spells and curses that Sirius couldn’t hope to fight against. His mother would have no qualms about using any form magic to force him to obey.

The Blacks’s problem had always been that they had never taken his views on blood seriously; still believing to this day that Sirius did not really believe that blood did not matter and that he said he believed in those things solely to aggravate them. If nothing else, this would surely show them he’d been sincere all along in his views.

His parents’ rage would be unimaginable, when they realized his choice. They had gotten so close to getting him to fulfill the destiny they had planned for him and they would not give up without a fight.  With this choice, came only one path. If he wasn’t joining Voldemort; he had to leave.

Tonight.

And as soon as possible.

***

Author's note: Thanks for reading! I would the thrilled if you left a review!


Chapter 7: Removed
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Chapter 6 - Removed

Sirius knew the runaway plan hinged on his acting as normal as possible the rest of the night. The actual escape would have to wait until everyone was asleep. He had said goodnight to his mother and father before his shower and he was expected to stay in his room until morning. Even though it had been a good hour since he’d seen his mother, her piercing gaze occupied his thoughts. Something or someone (his father more than likely) had stopped her from uttering a word about what was to happen tomorrow. Sirius didn’t need more than that look to understand that the punishments he’d endured from his mother throughout the years would not come close to comparing what she’d dish out to him if he failed them now.

Sirius opened his bedroom door and glanced both ways down the hallway before shutting the door firmly. He couldn’t lock it from the inside, but he had at least a few minutes of guaranteed privacy. Quickly Sirius packed the small sack he’d brought from Hogwarts, and stowed the bag under his bed.

Next he glanced inside his closet to only find two robes hanging inside; the dark green one he was to wear tomorrow and the fancier robe he’d worn to the Christmas party a few days ago. Last he’d looked, there had been at least three or four casual robes inside. Sirius almost laughed at the thought that someone had come into his room while he was showering to take them out. It was silly that they were worried he would defy them by wearing a casual robe; that defiance would be tame compared to what Sirius was about to do. He walked over to the wooden dresser, slid open the second drawer finding the trousers and white collared shirt he’d worn under his Hogwarts uniform the day he’d returned home. As he shut the drawer, he figured that would be his best option to wear during his escape.

Sirius crawled into bed only because it was expected of him. He lay still, staring straight up at his ceiling restless and anxious to leave. He wasn’t one to wait around after he’d decided something, but he knew he had to be patient. Sirius closed his eyes and the next thing he knew a snake was erupting out of the ceiling. He cried out and almost fell out of bed. He opened his eyes and for a second didn’t know what had happened. He glanced around his dark room that was very much snakeless and looked over toward his clock to see it was already three in the morning. He groaned quietly. He’d unexpectedly fallen asleep.

Sirius slipped out of bed and walked over to the dresser. He hurriedly dressed, his fingers fumbling with the buttons on his shirt. He retrieved his bag from under his bed and then paused a moment to look around his room, his eyes straining to see anything in the darkness. He’d done his best last summer to Gryffindor-ize his bedroom. There was red and gold all over the walls. He’d also pasted Muggle magazine clippings of models and motorcycles to further infuriate his mother. Rather than to make him feel more at home his choice of decoration had been to illustrate his differences from his family, so he felt little nostalgia. The room may have been his refuge, but it didn’t hold too many fond memories.

Sirius sighed and turned to the door. He opened it slowly and crept down the hall. The floors creaked a bit, but not obnoxiously and not any louder than the usual sounds of an old house. Sirius took the stairs swiftly. He paused midway listening anxiously, but did not hear even the slightest rustle. He stopped by the hall closet that held their winter cloaks. If the chilliness of the house was any indication of the temperature outside, he’d freeze out there without another layer.

Sirius moved his right hand to touch the door knob…and he was thrown into the air, straight into one of corner tables, banging his head and just missing one of the sharp corners. His heart thumped loudly inside of his chest…there was no way that hadn’t awoken someone…he sat there frozen in fear...waiting to be found…waiting for his mother’s wrath. As his breathing went slowly back to normal the house stayed eerily silent, and it was only then he noticed the burning sensation in his hand. He turned it over to see a circular mark in the exact shape of the door knob. 

Sirius pushed himself to his feet. If the closet was jinxed what was the chance the front door wasn’t? He’d been able to open up his bedroom window earlier, but without a wand there was no way he could safely use that as his escape. Sirius looked around suddenly lost. His plan of escape was already dead in the water, and knowing he might freeze outside even if he escaped didn’t exactly give him hope that he’d be successful. If only he had his wand… but that was locked in his father’s study. He knew Regulus slept with his wand under his pillow, so stealing that was out of the question.

He nearly gave up when an idea popped into his head. He moved forward toward the kitchen leaving his bag on the floor. There was the possibility something there could be used, Muggle-style, to help him find a way out of the house.  To get to the kitchen, he had to pass his father’s study and Sirius reasoned checking to be sure it was locked was at least worth the few seconds it would waste. Creeping down the hall past the painted portraits of his ancestors, Sirius halted in front of the study and reached for the door. He braced himself to be vaulted into the air again only to find the door to simply…swing open.

Peering into the darkness, he was in for another shock. Sirius froze. His stomach dropped.

 “F-F-Father?”

 “I had hoped to be wrong about you, son. I really did.” Two lamps flickered on as his father spoke, filling the room with an eerie glow.

“Sir – I- sir- I just-“ Sirius stumbled over his words.

“You came for this, did you not?” His father held out his wand. When Sirius just stood gaping, Mr. Black waved him closer. “Well. Take it.”

Sirius stepped forward, unsure if this was some trick. Once the wand was in his hand he quickly stepped back. He winced as the wood rubbed against the burns on his hand. Hoping his father would take no notice, he transferred the wand over to his left hand.

“Going somewhere?” Mr. Black asked standing up and turning to stare out his window.

Sirius straightened up. His mind was still trying to wrap itself around the situation he’d fallen into. “I can’t do it, sir. I can’t.”

“I suspected you would have cold feet. It is why I waited up. It is why I didn’t lock you in your room as your mother suggested.” Mr. Black turned back to his son. Father and son looked at each other; their eyes were a very similar shade. “I won’t force you to join.”

“You won’t?” Sirius croaked. Was there a slither of decency in his father after all?

“You are no longer a child. I will no longer treat you as one. I will no longer impose my will on you. It is your decision to make.”

“And if my decision is to-“ Sirius began, his voice surprisingly steady given the circumstances.

“Abandon the family? Leave?” Mr. Black cut in.

“No,” Sirius said. “Not go with Lucius.”

“One and the same.” Mr. Black folded his hands. “An adult should only make a decision after knowing all the consequences.” Mr. Black paused to stare down at Sirius and lowered his voice slightly. “Do you?”

“I think I do,” Sirius said unsurely.

Mr. Black laughed, but there was no humor to the sound. “Think? Think! You should know! You should be sure!” Mr. Black walked around his desk to stand in front of it. “I am gracious enough to give you one last chance, do not take this opportunity lightly. Think it through, but know what you want. Running away from your responsibilities is not a very Gryffindor thing to do, so maybe there is hope for you yet.

Sirius watched his father, tense with his wand clenched in his hand, ready to defend himself.

“Now understand this: I refuse to cloth, feed, or house someone who is no longer loyal to the family, even if that individual is my own flesh and blood-“

“What is the meaning of this?!” Sirius turned to see his mother in her dressing gown looking livid. Kreacher was beside her. Sirius had a feeling his crash into the corner table had woken up the house-elf, and Kreacher had thought to wake his mother. “I told you we should lock him in. Drug him if we have to!”

“Go back to bed, dear. I am handling this.”

“You call this handling it? He’s about to runaway! And you’ve given him back his wand.” She gestured violently toward Sirius.

Mr. Black moved back behind his desk. He looked annoyed by his wife’s presence. “Yes, I have and for good reason. Our son has caused this family enough scandal. Frankly I am sick of it. I will not allow him to bring further shame to this family only to have him come crawling back to us in a few days. There will be no second chances. Sirius, will be given an ultimatum and then he will chose his path. Now, if you would be so kind to let me continue?”

Mrs. Black face turned uglier. “This is not the way things are done! Children are not given such decisions!”

“Ah! But Sirius is no longer a child. If he was, the Dark Lord would not take him into his service. It is time we stop treating him like one.”

“This better not backfire, Orion.”

Mr. Black ignored his wife’s last comment. He did not continue immediately and Sirius shifted one foot to another as his father considered him. “Sirius, there are two paths before you. One is with your family, with your blood-line. A path where you are loyal to the family, proudly do your duty, and thank Lucius profusely for his help in getting you in the Dark Lord’s good graces. The other path is bleak... a life without family and honor, in the gutters with the other filthy blood-traitors. Disowned, homeless, penniless…worthless.” There was strong stress on the last word.

The words hit Sirius hard. He didn’t know what he’d been hoping for, but this would not be a clean break from his family. They’d be estranged. He’d be alone. There would be no turning back the clock if he changed his mind. Sirius had imagined running away countless of times…usually telling them exactly what he thought of their horrid family and cursing them all into oblivion. Instead he no longer felt so confident about his decision. It took all his inner strength to hide the fact he was visibly shaken by the turn of events.

“This is nonsense!” Mrs. Black exclaimed.

“No it is not. If Sirius is not willing to do his duty then it is time to cut the ties. Clearly time will not change the boy’s mind. If Potter abandoning Sirius will not do it either, then there is no reason to expenditure more energy on him. It is time for Regulus to take his place. This family needs to continue advancing. Our sons are the only ones who will continue to carry on the family name. There is no one else.”

Mrs. Black looked thunderous, but she did not argue. She threw her eldest the most venomous of looks. Sirius stepped back as if actually struck.

“What will be your path?” Mr. Black questioned.

Sirius looked from one parent to the other and back again. Kreacher was glaring at him at his mother’s side. The house elf would love for Regulus to be heir; he basically already treated him as such. Sirius couldn’t find his voice to speak. His eyes traveled around his father’s office; Black family history littered the space.  There was a beautifully embroidered Black family crest hanging on the wall; it had been a wedding gift given to Sirius’s great grandparents many years ago.  Silver goblets dating back to beginning of the century lined one of the bookshelves. Then there was the elaborately carved desk his father sat behind that would never rot because it had been treated with a potion by one of his ancestors. And lastly his eyes fell on a silver framed photograph of Regulus and him, 9 and 11 respectively. It was taken around the time Sirius had received his Hogwarts letter. They were smiling and looked like proper brothers.

“I’d like to get some sleep tonight,” Mr. Black said dryly. Sirius’s eyes locked back on his father. Mrs. Black made noise of disapproval; she didn’t think it would be wise to rush their son’s decision. “What have you decided?”

Sirius felt un-footed and uneasy.

His decision to leave had been an act of survival. It was the safest way to get out of the terrible situation he’d been thrown into. He hadn’t expected a confrontation tonight. He hadn’t expected to have the consequences laid out neatly in front of him. He had wanted time to regroup. He had wanted for just time to pass before facing his family head on like this.

Sirius took one last look at the picture; thought one last time about the boy he’d been at that time. Even at that age he had never been as obedient as his parent’s had liked. He was always disciplined more than his brother, but back then his parents had chalked it up to misplaced enthusiasm.  His sorting into Gryffindor had changed that. He became a ‘disappointment’ in their eyes…that had not changed and his stomach flipped in the realization that they had never forgiven him for it.

That thought reminded him of the reason he was here in the first place. The cold hard facts about what would happen to him if he didn’t leave. It reminded him of the sort of life his parents wanted for him.

His uneasiness turned to coldness. The coldness strengthened his resolve.

“I’m leaving,” Sirius stated softly.  There was an unnerving silence, as the words hung in the room. “I’m leaving,” Sirius repeated, this time his voice louder and sure.

 “So be it,” Orion said and there was a fleeting of hurt in his eyes.

Sirius pocketed his wand. He turned to pass his mother and she grabbed his arm tight enough to cause pain. “It will be pleasure blasting you off the family tapestry!” Sirius tried to push away from her, but Mrs. Black would not let go. “Why wait? Let’s get that messy business done with now.” She pulled a struggling Sirius out into the hallway.

“Walburga…” Mr. Black called out warningly suddenly worried for his son’s – no the boy’s - safety. The whole point of giving Sirius a choice like this was so they could play up the fact he’d abandoned them. Sending Sirius off injured and banged up would only put people on the boy’s side.

Mrs. Black ignored her husband as she pushed Sirius along the hallway toward the room that held the Family Tapestry. The sight of her other son stopped her suddenly in her tracks, though her grip stayed firm on Sirius’s upper arm.

Regulus stood in front of them looking dumbfounded. “What’s going on?” Regulus was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and had no idea the seriousness of the situation.

 “Your brother is a coward,” his mother bellowed. Sirius cringed slightly at her loud tone. “Skirting his duties.” She squeezed Sirius’s arm painfully. “Running away!” She shoved Sirius against hallway wall and with a contemptuous glare let go. 

“You’re running away?” Regulus asked his eyes widening as he took in the scene in front of him. The rage in his mother’s eyes, his father’s silent presence in the background, and that defiant glint in Sirius’s eyes.

 “If you call it that,” Sirius said. It was a combination of running away and being kicked out, but now was not the time to point it out. Regulus didn’t seem capable of speech.

Sirius backed away from his mother and father, closer to Regulus. He clutched his wand back in his right hand, ignoring the pain of the burn. Until he was safely out of the house he was not going to put that away again. Sirius turned his back on his family and swiftly walked back to the closet. He swept up the bag.

Regulus and his parents had followed him. Regulus called out. “Sirius…wait…”

Sirius paused to look at his brother. Regulus looked upset. It was too late to wish that things were different. His only hope was that his brother could withstand the pressures of being the new Black heir.

“Sirius,” Regulus repeated; there was sadness in his tone. Sirius waited for Regulus to say something more. The words did not come. The silence was as good as acceptance of the situation in Sirius’s eyes. He berated himself for even thinking for a brief second that Regulus would try to persuade him to stay.

Instead Regulus turned to their father, and Mr. Black stepped up beside him. He put his hand on Regulus’s shoulder, his eyes on Sirius. “Take your winter cloak,” he commanded. Sirius was surprised by the gesture. If he froze to death overnight surely it would make things simpler for the Blacks. For Orion it was again for the sake of appearances. He didn’t want Sirius spreading around that they had not let him retrieve proper clothing in the dead of winter before kicking him out.  “You’re dressed like a common Muggle…at least have pride in being a wizard even if you have none for your bloodline.”

The comment erased any positive thoughts he’d momentarily had about his father. Sirius’s voice hardened as he stated, “I’d get it if I could.”

Mr. Black waved his wand and muttered under his breath for a good thirty seconds undoing all the jinxes. Sirius retrieved the cloak and clasped it over himself. It was handsome cloak, navy blue and made with the warmest of wool. Mrs. Black’s fierce gaze went straight to the Black family crest prominently displayed on the upper left side of the cloak. Sirius didn’t notice, nor had he realized that during the interaction with his father that his mother had placed herself directly in front of the door.

Sirius who had planned to make a beeline for the door, hesitated. He looked to his father for help, expecting him to order his wife out of the way. Mr. Black looking resigned did no such thing. 

Sirius gathered his courage and plodded towards his mother anyway. He didn’t raise his wand, but clenched it, ready to fire a spell at any moment. Right on top of her, he waited for her to yell a few curses (non magical) at him and then move out of the way.

There was a dangerous look in Mrs. Black eyes and stepping forward, she hissed loudly, “How dare you!” Instead of steady stream of obscenities a spell flew from her wand. Sirius recoiled and only heard a strange ripping noise. Shocked to find himself in no pain, he looked down to see the Black crest had been torn off. It lay in tatters on the floor.

Giving Sirius no time to recover she grabbed at hold of his wrist, twisting it so his wand clattered to the floor. She pointed tip of her wand only a centimeter from his hand making a slashing gesture. The pain was sudden and sharp; the hex had sliced open his hand, cutting into some of the blisters that had formed from the burn. Blood begin flowing out, bright red, dripping onto the floor. Sirius clenched his hand in pain. Mrs. Black forced his hand open lifting it closer to Sirius’s face.

“See this, Sirius. Purest of blood flows in your veins and you care not! You do not deserve a drop of this blood – I would bleed it out of you if I could-” Mrs. Black cocked her wand as if to use the Slicing hex again.

“Walburga – that is enough,” Mr. Black said forcefully.

“Do not worry husband,” Mrs. Black said with a callous laugh. “The cut will heal…unlike our family.” Mrs. Black abruptly let go of her son and then her back stiff and head held high, she stalked away.

Breathing heavily, Sirius inspected his hand to see it was still bleeding heavily. Some of the blisters from the burn were oozing as well. He looked up to see his father and brother still side by side staring at him.

“Go to bed, Regulus,” Mr. Black ordered.

Regulus did not protest, scurrying up the stairs. Mr. Black continued to stare at Sirius, disdain marred his face.  Mr. Black shook his head slowly and the last bit of emotion in his face disappeared, his eyes now void of emotion. With not another word to his eldest, he left Sirius alone at the foyer. Not bothering to process what had just happened, Sirius crouched down for his wand. As he stood up he felt momentarily dizzy and almost knocked into the serpent vase beside the door. Beneath the vase he spotted a white dresser scarf. He grabbed it and wrapped it haphazardly around his hand a few times. Using his other hand he turned the knob, using his body to push open the heavy oak door and stumbled out. He clicked the door behind him and walked swiftly away from Grimmauld Place.

With a good block and a half distance away Sirius turned to view his house. He was free of them! Really free. He wanted to shout it out loud; he felt giddy. He almost did until he looked into the dark bleak night and realized he had nowhere to go. He was homeless, disowned, banished…this was no time to celebrate…a blood traitor. Though it was the worst thing a Black could be called, blood-traitor was the one label he was proud to carry.

His hand throbbed and he could see the blood had started soaking through the cloth already. Sirius ignored it; his mother had stated it would heal so it wasn’t high on his list of priorities. The constant mist had already chilled Sirius to the bone and when the rain started up again, he knew sooner than later he needed to find shelter.

Further down a few streets a Muggle police cruiser stopped to make sure he was ok. He must have been quite a sight with his cloak on. It was dark and raining so it was hard to for the policeman to make him out, so Sirius hoped he didn’t look too odd. When the policeman insisted he take him to the station to call his parents, Sirius made a dash for it. He might have his wand back, but he was underage. He had no wish to be called in for a hearing because of underage magic. He eventually averted the Muggle police but not before jumping over one fence, squeezing through another that had two broken wooden planks, and scraping both his knees on concrete steps.

The police had chased him near a playground and Sirius took a seat on a bench to catch his breath. The rain at this point turned to a downpour and Sirius’s cloak and clothes underneath were soaked through in a few minutes. He shivered involuntarily and his hand gave a twinge as to remind him that it needed to be looked at properly.

Knowing he had to make a decision about where to go, Sirius called the Knight bus. The bus was nearly empty, and he debated about whether to give them Andromeda’s address. Andromeda’s letter surfaced to his mind; the one that had stated she would not take him in if he ran away, fearing for her child’s safety above all. She had barely escaped the Black family wrath herself a few years ago. The bus driver was not patient, so in a rush Sirius blurted out, “The Potter’s residence.”

As the bus took off, Sirius sat down carefully. The pain in his hand seemed to be increasing instead of decreasing and he shivered rather violently. He declined the hot chocolate that was offered; he did not have much coin on him and it would be embarrassing not to have enough for the trip. Sirius closed his eyes and before he knew it the bus driver was kicking him awake and demanding fare. He noted that he was rather sweaty and despite how wet he was, his skin was very warm to the touch. He dug into his pockets and by the driver’s grin he knew he overpaid, but he did not care.

The rain was now pelting down as Sirius approached the Potter mansion. Staring at the familiar house where he’d always been welcome, Sirius faltered. He should have not come here. James was no longer his friend. He’d used up the bit of coin he had in his pockets and he was in no state to walk to Andromeda’s. Remembering the wooden gazebo the Potters had in the back, Sirius made a decision. It would give him shelter; he could rest, and head out to Andromeda’s in the morning. Even if she would not take him in permanently, he believed at the least she’d give him extra clothes, something to eat and a few galleons.

***

James awoke from a restless night of sleep. He’d given up on actually enjoying the Holiday break. Guilt was eating at him. He felt guilty about his treatment of Sirius and then guilty about the guilt on behalf of Remus. He had every right to be furious with Sirius. He had every right to ignore him. James did regret telling his friend he thought he was as awful as his family, but it had been in the heat of the moment and an insult he knew Sirius would be unable to brush away.

James had seen firsthand at King’s Cross the resignation on Sirius’s face when his mother had picked him up. For the thousandths time he wished he had spoken up in Dumbledore’s office or at least gone later to speak to the Headmaster. He alone really knew what Sirius faced at home. He also knew Sirius would be too proud to admit it to Dumbledore. Another conundrum was Sirius keeping mum about the meeting Keenan had set up with Mrs. Black that had transpired minutes before the incident with Snape. It would have explained Sirius’s mindset, which Dumbledore might have taken into consideration. Maybe Dumbledore had…if Keenan had not kept quiet about it.

To get his mind off his two friends he tried picturing Lily Evans…her flawless skin, bright green eyes, and flame-red hair. He closed his eyes hoping to dream about her and then sighed in annoyance a few seconds later. It was early in the morning, but sleep would not come. He threw his blue comforter off in frustration. James slid his feet into his fluffy red slippers. If he was awake, he might as well get on with the day.

He clamored down to the kitchen and was surprised to find his parents not only up, but whispering conspiratorially.

“James, please sit, dear. We need to talk,” Mrs. Potter said gently, patting a seat beside her. She had warm blue eyes and a welcoming look to her.

James’s stomach lurched. Someone had died; he was sure of it.

“Sirius… turned up this morning,” Mr. Potter began. His eyes were hazel like James and though he still had a full head of hair it had long since lost its dark color.

“Sirius?”

Mr. Potter nodded gravely. “I found him out in the gazebo. He’s running a high fever. His right hand is burned and there’s a horrible gash. It was raining last night so his clothes were soaked…looks like he’d been out there a few hours.”

James was unable to speak. His heart thumped loudly.

“He’s resting upstairs at the moment,” Mrs. Potter added. She looked at James expectantly.  

“Are you going to send him to Saint Mungos?”

“Why would we do that?” Mrs. Potter asked sharply. James had told his parents the bare minimum about his falling out with Sirius. He would have preferred not to tell them at all, but he didn’t have a choice when they began questioning when Sirius was visiting during the holidays as he had done the past two years. Mr. Potter had taken the information in stride, but James’s mother had been fishing for details since James had first spoken about it.

 “You said he was sick. Last time I checked you two aren’t medi-wizards,” James mumbled.

“I’ve tended a sick child or two in my day. He had his school bag with him. If his family is responsible for the injury to his hand then I don’t want them to know where he is. Nor will I send him to a hospital that will give them access to him.”

“Maybe he cut it on a rock.”

“That cut was caused by magic…I can’t tell yet what kind, but knowing the Blacks…Anyway when Sirius is awake, you can ask him yourself,” Mrs. Potter replied.

“I don’t think I’ll have time. I’ve got plans,” James stated. He scraped the chair along the wooden floor, standing up. He put two slices of toast in the toaster and smothered them with strawberry jam. He kept his back to his parents who he could hear conferring softly. James poured himself a cup of tea and sat back down to enjoy his breakfast. The Potter’s had a house-elf, but unless it was Sunday breakfast, James was expected to fix it himself.

As James sat down to eat, Mrs. Potter left the table, busying herself with fetching more tea. Mrs. Potter poured herself and Mr. Potter another cup of tea before asking the next thing on her mind. “Are you not going to see Sirius at all?”

“I said I’m busy,” James said defensively as Mrs. Potter sat back down. He’d already devoured the first slice and was now eating the second.

“Then after your plans,” Mrs. Potter insisted, glancing at her husband for aid.

James glared. “We aren’t on speaking terms, ok?” Before today James had let his parents believe his spat with Sirius was minor. He hoped they’d get the hint now that it was more than that and not bother him about it. “I don’t even want him here!”

Mrs. Potter raised her eyebrows and sternly stated, “This is my house. Sirius is welcome to stay here until he needs. I thought I raised you better than this.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to talk to him,” James countered. He crossed his arms. “He’s your guest then.”

Mrs. Potter looked pointedly at her husband. Mr. Potter took a long sip of the strong tea before casually asking, “James, you said you weren’t on speaking terms?”

James rolled his eyes. He knew his parents meant the best, but they could be infuriating. “That’s what I said.”

“And Sirius knows how angry you still are at him?”

James hesitated. “Yes…he knows. So?”

“Yet he still came here knowing you wouldn’t speak to him and how furious you still were…”

James shrugged.

“That suggests to me Sirius was desperate. He really had nowhere else to go. Something happened to him and whatever it is…he’s going to need a friend.”

James shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His father spoke the truth. It was an act of desperation on Sirius’s part to show up here. Nothing James had said nor his behavior had indicated he had been close to forgiving Sirius. What in Merlin’s beard had happened in the few days Sirius had been home?

“I’m going out for a fly,” he said rising to clear his plate. The fresh air would clear his mind.

“In this weather? You’ll catch your death,” Mrs. Potter said.

“I’ll be fine, Mum. We practice Quidditch in this weather all the time. Please? I’ll dress warm.” James looked over at his father. He understood the thrill of flying and Quidditch more than his mother.

“Can you wait until it gets a little warmer? Perhaps after lunch…”

“I can do a Warming charm on my clothes,” James suggested.

“You are underage,” Mrs. Potter reminded him.

James huffed. His parents usually allowed him to perform simple spells outside of Hogwarts even if technically it wasn’t allowed, but he didn’t press the matter. He looked moodily at his empty cup of tea. Now what was he supposed to do with his morning.

“All right…a half an hour,” Mrs. Potter relented. “Ask your father to do the Warming charm. You can go out longer later in the afternoon.”

James grinned. “Thank you!” he said jumping to his feet his energy renewed.

Mrs. Potter sighed softly looking fondly at her only child. “Fly carefully…I worry about all those flips and dives you like doing. Please don’t do them when you are out there alone.”

James smiled innocently. “I won’t,” he lied. Mr. Potter sent his son a cheerful wink. He was well aware that flying for teenage boys was all about tricks and stunts; the more dangerous the better.

 Thinking James might now be more agreeable since he had gotten his way; Mrs. Potter interjected casually, “And Sirius might be awake when you come back. I hope you change your mind and speak to him.”

James looked at his father exasperatedly and when Mr. Potter gave him an encouraging nod, James muttered, “I’ll think about it, Mum. Ok?” Before he could blink Mrs. Potter engulfed James in a hug, wrapping her arms around him tightly.

 “Mum…” he groaned good-naturedly, pushing her away.

“Off you go,” she said now smiling. James hurried out the kitchen anxious to get in the air. He could hear his mother calling out after him. “Remember, half an hour!”

James climbed the steps to his room passing the guest bedroom that usually Sirius used. He paused before it. Though he’d said he’d think about speaking to Sirius to placate his mother, he knew it was going to very difficult to avoid Sirius if he was to stay until school started up again. James sighed; he’d worry about that after flying.

***

Author’s note: I had a few different versions of Sirius running away. I debated between a range of possibilities all the way from Sirius sneaking out without any confrontation with his family to the opposite where they have a full on duel where Sirius is seriously injured. Anyway I’m happiest with the version I published and I hope I did it justice.

So how did you like it? Leave a review to let me know.


Chapter 8: Blurred
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Chapter 8: Blurred

Sirius opened his eyes. He was enveloped in the softness of white fluffy pillows and blankets. Sunlight filtered into the room through the large windows adorned by lacy curtains. The walls were painted blue and the furniture was arranged in a professional manner.

For a few seconds Sirius had absolutely no idea where he was…and then the night came rushing back to him like a freight train. His father holding his wand out to him…Regulus…his hand being sliced open… He sat up suddenly and a wave of nausea hit him. He closed his eyes lying back down.

He then remembered Mrs. Potter gently shaking him awake inside the gazebo, and Mr. Potter lifting him off the ground. A warm liquid had been poured down his throat, and he didn’t remember anything after that.  So he was at the Potter’s. Opening his eyes again, he now recognized the guest room.

Sirius threw the white cover off. He was not wearing the clothes he had last night. He was in a white t-shirt and navy blue pajama type pants. He saw his winter cloak draped over a white velvet covered armchair. His hand was thickly bandaged and as he wriggled his fingers it ached. As Sirius attempted to get out of bed, the door to the room opened revealing Mrs. Potter. Sirius’s face flushed at the sight of her.

“How are you feeling, dear?”

Sirius didn’t know how to answer. “Sorry to be a bother- ” Sirius began, “I –“

“Oh don’t be silly! You are always welcome here,” Mrs. Potter said gently, and the warmth in her words caused the next words he’d been trying to get out to catch in his throat. After falling out with his mates – after seeing how his own blood had treated him – this kindness was almost unbearable. He didn’t deserve it.

Mrs. Potter took a seat on the bed and laid a hand on his forehead. “Hmmm still warm.” She stuck a thermometer into his mouth and after a minute or so, “Well it is a lot lower than last night at least. That’s a nasty cut on your hand.”

Sirius shrugged. He didn’t really want to answer any questions about what had happened.

“As far as I can tell, the cut isn’t infected, but your body thinks it is. Never saw a curse like this, but then Dark Magic does all sorts of strange things. It didn’t help matters you were out in the freezing rain all night. Why didn’t you wake us up last night?”

“I…James and I…are-“

“I know you two had a row. Well it doesn’t matter. You can stay here to rest and once you are up to it, we’ll need to talk about what happened.”

“I appreciate this all, really, but I just needed a place to rest…I’ll be out of your way...”

“You think my son dictates who I invite into my house? You’ll stay at least until that fever is gone and I won’t take no for an answer. I’ll whip you up something to eat in a moment. Since there really isn’t an infection, I’m just going to give you some general healing potions. We’ll see how you react to that.”

After eating a delicious batch of homemade vegetable soup, Sirius was beginning to relax. Mrs. Potter insisted on looking at his hand again and she was very careful as she unwound the bandage. The cut was still an angry red and bleeding slightly. The burns didn’t look any better.

Mrs. Potter dotted a purple salve on the burns and then spread a white one on the cut; then covered it first with gauze and then another bandage.

“Who did this Sirius?” Mrs. Potter asked suddenly, perhaps hoping if she sprung the question on him, he’d just tell her.

Sirius looked away, his face heating up. The Potters were too good to understand how horrible a mother could be to her own son.

“Someone in your family?” Mrs. Potter prompted.

Sirius nodded.

Mercifully Mrs. Potter did not press the topic. “If we can’t keep your fever down or if this doesn’t begin to show signs of healing, we’ll need a medi-witch or wizard to have a look.  Hopefully it won’t come to that. Why don’t you rest? Is there anything else you need?”

“No…Thank you.”

Mrs. Potter smiled, her hand running through his black hair in a motherly way, something Sirius’s own mother had never done.

Sirius sank back down into the softness and comfort of the bed. He was grateful to have food and shelter, a safe place to get back on his feet, but that did not stop his thoughts from straying to last night. Images flickered through his mind – his father’s resignation, his brother’s surprise, Kreacher’s smirk, his mother’s disgust…over and over. Sirius tried to empty his mind. He didn’t want to feel. He didn’t want to think about them. He was supposed to be free of them. His family shouldn’t be occupying his thoughts any longer.

The ‘infection’ his body was fighting caused him to be really drowsy, so his mind finally calmed (with the help of a Calming Draught Mrs. Potter had added to one of the healing potions unbeknownst to Sirius) and he ended up sleeping away most of that first day. The second day when Mrs. Potter inspected his hand she reported the cut and burns were healing normally, only his body didn’t seem to realize that. His temperature was spiking and he was still exhausted. The third day the healing potions finally started having a better effect, actually bringing his fever down for about five hours at a time. Mrs. Potter thought it was best if while the fever was down that he get out of bed. So that third day Sirius found himself wandering around the Potter house as per Mrs. Potter’s instructions; and he found walking about did give him more energy.

He loved the Potter’s residence. It was the total opposite of Grimmauld Place. It was airy and friendly. It was colorful and well-lit. One of his favorite rooms was the sun room, windows all around in a dome like shape, enchanted plants placed artistically around, and furniture that just molded around your body in luxurious comfort. James, Remus, Peter, and he last summer had spent countless nights chatting and star gazing in that very room. Sirius smiled sadly to himself at the memory.  Thinking about James was difficult. It hurt; like a fresh stab at a scabbed wound. If James was avoiding him in his own house what hope was there that things would be different at Hogwarts.

In the late afternoon, Sirius took a short stroll around the neighborhood with Mr. Potter, who had left work a few hours early. The pair was so bundled up with scarves and hats that no one would have been able to tell that Sirius was not James. For the first time Sirius spoke a bit about what had happened the night he ran away. Sirius felt more comfortable talking to Mr. Potter versus Mrs. Potter about this. He didn’t go into detail and in no way mentioned that his decision to not join Voldemort had anything to do with his sudden flight from his home. He made it sound as though he just had enough of his family and couldn’t take it anymore, which wasn’t an outright lie. He did tell Mr. Potter that his mother had been the one to curse his hand and that he believed he’d been disowned, including being burnt off the Black family tree. Mr. Potter had nodded quietly and he did not judge Sirius’s decision, only gave Sirius a reassuring squeeze of the shoulders.

It turned out Mr. Potter had news of his own. He explained to Sirius that rumors were rapidly spreading across all magical families about what had happened. Sirius wasn’t surprised; when you were part of such an old and powerful family more than often your losses were of more interest to others than your triumphs.

“Professor Dumbledore thought it was prudent that no one knows you have taken refuge at our house.”

“Why?” Sirius asked.

“I suppose for your own protection.”

Sirius nodded, but in his mind he couldn’t help think that Dumbledore hadn’t thought much of his safety when he’d sent him home; even if Remus had come up with the idea. He wasn’t about to voice his complaints with Mr. Potter.

“So I’ve been inquiring the last two days about your whereabouts as a concerned parent of a friend of yours. It seems to be working. No one in my division suspects you are here. We only have a few more days to deal with it before Hogwarts starts and it won’t matter.”

“If it’s too much trouble…I can leave-” He couldn’t help but feel he was taking advantage of the Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s kindness, especially since James didn’t seem to think of him as a friend any longer.

Mr. Potter laughed. “Not on about that again. You are not trouble at all. You’ll stay until Hogwarts starts and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

Sirius smiled. It was one of his first true smiles since the werewolf incident. A shiver ran through him that had nothing to do with the temperature. For the first time Sirius was not looking forward to going back to Hogwarts. He was enjoying being at the Potters; being looked after and cared for was…nice. All that he had to look forward to at Hogwarts was weeks of detention and loneliness. He would have to face Remus and his brother. He would have to face his housemates and the snotty purebloods. He’d have to deal with their assumptions and questions.

Sirius sighed following Mr. Potter back inside. He went upstairs to take a shower as dinner would be ready in an hour. Sirius was now well enough to join the Potter family downstairs. His nervous thoughts strayed to James. He had to hope for the sake of Mr. and Mrs. Potter that if James was still as angry as he’d been at Hogwarts he wouldn’t show it in front of his parents during dinner.

***

The same morning Sirius was checking out the Potter’s sun room, Professor Keenan was lounging in his personal quarters. He’d skipped breakfast because he was feeling a bit under the weather and with so few students staying at Hogwarts over break, his presence wasn’t vital. Keenan cleared this throat, deciding a stroll to the teacher’s lounge to brew a strong cup of tea would be an excellent idea. He hoped to find a copy of today’s Daily Prophet to leaf through. Keenan situated himself on one of the small wooden tables, this one happened to be painted blue and silver, and spread out the newspaper. He flipped through the first few pages; none of the headlines really caught his interest until page three. 

Sirius Black: Heir No More?

By Jenny Jenston

The author alone was enough to give Keenan pause. Jenny Jenston had written controversial articles before and she wasn’t known for double checking her facts. She was very popular for this exact fact. Still there had to be real evidence for Jenston to write something like this about the Blacks. He’d fear for her life if this wasn’t true, and even if it were, she might want to watch her back. Keenan continued to read.

As part of a generation of Daily Prophet writers, my family has written a plethora of articles on the Black Family. Today I will not be writing about one of their lavish parties or engagement with another powerful family. I have on good authority received word from someone close to the Black family that Sirius Black – eldest male heir – was disowned, effectively forfeiting his inheritance. Once all the paper work has been completed, all 16 year-old Sirius will have left will be his family’s last name.

The details about how this all transpired are still forthcoming. Some sources say the boy left Grimmauld Place in a rage; others say that he was thrown out after an argument. My original contact indicated that the Black family had ‘done all they could’ and that ‘that a string of the boy’s actions over the years had finally culminated so that this outcome was unavoidable”. Our contact described Sirius as ‘troubled’, ‘with a violent temper”, and that ‘he took pleasure in the pain his rebellion caused his family”.

Sirius’s path diverged from his ancestors, the moment he stepped into Hogwarts as the only Black to be sorted into a House other than Slytherin. He also became fast friends with James Potter, the son of one of his family’s biggest political enemies. As the years passed by, Sirius became more vocal about his dislike of his family.  Even though Sirius excelled academically, he was quickly labeled a ‘troublemaker’- earning heaps of detentions. As the boy has matured, his troublemaking has only increased. A Hogwarts prefect told us Sirius was a ‘bit of bully’ and was ‘apprehended often for hexing other students’. Apparently right before break – not very long before this all happened – Sirius received a severe punishment. It included weeks of daily detentions as well all his Hogwarts privileges revoked until the end of the year.

Keenan stopped. He’d been expecting an article against the Black family and Sirius, but Jenston was blatantly just attacking the boy. He wondered who these Hogwarts students were that the reporter was quoting and how she’d found them. Keenan shook his head and plodded on wanting to read the entire thing.

If this does not paint a picture of a troubled boy, one most ask why any sane person would choose to forfeit an inheritance as large as the Blacks; and effectively lock shut all the doors his family name would have opened upon graduation.

We may never know if this was rash last second decision or a calculated break from his family that had been in the works for a while. The fact remains that less than a week ago Sirius Black went from heir to one of the largest fortunes in the Wizarding World to a penniless runaway scoundrel.

Where is Sirius now? Did he flee to Hogwarts?  To the Potters? Some distant cousin twice removed? No one knows. We hope to publish very soon an interview with Sirius Black.

Professor Keenan gaped at the article, a hundred thoughts running through his head. It was as if his worst fears for the boy had come true. No one on the staff knew that besides teaching, he had been given an additional role to play. Professor Dumbledore had confided in him Voldemort was recruiting sixteen-year old students and he had been put in charge of keeping an eye on Sirius Black. He supposed other teachers may have been assigned other students, but no one would be as large a prize for Voldemort as Black. Keenan hadn’t agreed at first to the task; not sure he was qualified. He supposed at only twenty-three his teen years weren’t that far behind him, but he was no Muggle psychologist.

Of course, Dumbledore had known exactly what to say to get him on board. Dumbledore had only to mention Keenan’s brother and outline the similarities between the two boys…and before Keenan knew it, he’d said yes. Jack, his younger brother, had been a Muggle as had Keenan’s parents. Like Sirius, Jack was a troublemaker, insolent and had a certain disregard for authority. There were, of course, glaring differences between Sirius and Jack that Keenan came to see. Jack was more a loner and though Jack had fought constantly with their parents, they were supportive and not awful like the Black’s. Jack was also slightly below average in academics, while Sirius was one of the brightest students at Hogwarts. Jack had been through three Muggle boarding schools before dying in a tragic accident in his last year. Keenan had been out of school at the time, but at nineteen he had been too busy with his own life to spend time aiding his brother.  He should have realized the downward spiral his brother had been caught up in and put a stop to it. So he had hoped in helping Black it would make up for his failings as a brother.  His best intentions had gone awry.

Keenan abruptly stood up knowing he had to immediately speak to Albus Dumbledore about the article. He clutched the newspaper in his hand and strode to the door. As he opened it the very person he wanted to see stood in his way. Startled, Keenan spluttered over his first few words, “A-Albus, h-have you seen the Prophet today?”

Dumbledore surveyed him in that way of his, always making Keenan feel as if the Headmaster was seeing more than the average wizard or witch. “I have.”

“And?”

“I was surprised there hasn’t been an escalation of attacks since it is the Holidays, but I suppose Voldemort is still keeping a lower profile.”

Keenan stared at him. “I was referring to the article about Sirius Black.”

“Ah…yes. Not to worry. The boy is safe. The Potter’s owled me this morning to let me know he is staying with them.” Dumbledore took a seat in one of the many squishy armchairs. The way the Headmaster settled casually into his seat made it clear he felt that was all there was to discuss about the matter.

Keean sat heavily in an armchair directly across from the older wizard. He slammed the newspaper down on the small wooden table between them. Dumbledore did not flinch.

“Is that all you have to say? I warned you not to send him home.”

Did Dumbledore feel no responsibility for what had happened? Keenan been adamant that Sirius be allowed to stay at Hogwarts over break and Dumbledore had completely disregarded his opinion. Hadn’t the point of him keeping a close eye on the boy been so Keenan would have more of an understanding on what was happening in the boy’s life than the Headmaster?

He had emphasized the vulnerable position Sirius was in after the altercation with his mother at school and then losing his best friends after the incident with the Willow. It was like they were handing the boy over to Voldemort gift wrapped and on a silver platter. 

 “I know you did. Please do not think that I disregarded your opinion.”

Keenan flushed. He wondered again if Dumbledore could read his mind. He still felt like such a schoolboy in front of the older wizard at times.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and continued, “I thought about your points carefully. But staying at Hogwarts is a privilege; I had every right to send Mr. Black home.”

“That’s not why you did, is it?” Keenan replied. Dumbledore had not ignored his points. On the contrary, Keenan realized with a jolt, though he hoped he was wrong, that it was because of those reasons Dumbledore had sent Black home.

Dumbledore sighed. He took off his eyeglasses, wiped the glass, and perched them back on his nose before carefully answering. “I did what I thought was best and everything turned out fine.”

“I don’t call a sixteen year old boy disinherited as everything turning out fine.” He did not bother to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“I can’t afford to coddle these students. They may be only teenagers, but they are going to head very important political families. The sooner I know where they stand; the better.” There was an edge to the Dumbledore’s voice now, but Keenan was too angry to pay any attention to it.

“He’s not the head or heir of the Black’s anymore,” Keenan spat.

“And now I know that he is firmly on our side.”

“How do you even know that? How do you know this mess (he jabbed at the newspaper) had anything to do with Voldemort?”

“As I told you at the start of term, I knew through gathered intelligence that Voldemort was targeting certain underage students.”

Keenan waved his hand impatiently. “Yes, and I kept an eye on Sirius. I tried to gain his trust. I invited his mother in hopes to mend his relationship with his family. Failed miserably in it all…but I did what you asked.”

“These same sources said that rumors were flying around that a powerful pureblood family was joining the ranks a few days before Sirius ran away. I contacted them this morning and when my source inquired further about when this powerful family was going to reveal itself, the source was told not to mention it again on the pain of death. Now I can’t be sure it was the Blacks, but it would be a huge coincidence if it weren’t.”

Keenan mulled over Dumbledore’s statements. He was still unhappy with the way he’d gone about it all and one thing still bugged him. “What would you have done if the opposite happened? If your source had told you the Black’s had pledged their allegiance to Voldemort’s cause through their heir. Would the boy be expelled? Arrested?”

“No. Not immediately at least. The longer I can keep the students at Hogwarts and out of the brewing war, even budding Death Eaters, the better. I’d keep a very close eye on him. Any trouble he’d cause would have been investigated carefully to see if it had any underlying pureblood or anti-Muggle motivation.”

Keenan had heard enough. Risking any boy’s future was something he could never stand behind. He didn’t yell, but drew himself up to his full height. He lowered his voice, his tone quietly furious. “All I can say is we are both very lucky Mr. Black had stronger character than either of us thought.” The door banged closed behind him as he stepped out of the room, his cloak flapping and words echoing in the silence.

***

James was spending a lazy morning in his bedroom. He was flipping through a Quidditch magazine when the most delicious smell wafted into this room. James recognized the aroma immediately. His mother was baking her famous chocolate chip cookies. Anyone who tried them raved about them. Most of Gryffindor had tried them as his Mum mailed large packages bursting with sweets throughout the year. James’s stomach growled and he sprung off his bed leaving the Quidditch magazine he’d been studying lying haphazardly opened.

James clamored down the grand staircase. He passed their house-elf Minnie who scolded him to not run. James grinned good-naturedly, but did not slow down.  James skidded to a stop in front of the swinging kitchen door.

The laughter inside caused him to hesitate. He recognized the voices immediately; it was Sirius and his mother. James had managed to avoid Sirius so far and wasn’t sure if he was ready to face him. The first two days Sirius hadn’t left his room, so it hadn’t been difficult. Yesterday James had spent all day with two of his childhood friends who though didn’t live nearby did visit their grandparents regularly. They were twins (boy and girl), a year older than him and attended Durmstrang. Since James hadn’t seen them since the summer, he had readily agreed when he was invited to eat both lunch and dinner over their house. 

James thought about the argument he had with his mother upon returning. She had reminded James that they had their own guest here and it would be courteous if he attended meals here and not somewhere else. He reminded her that he had been a guest himself, but she didn’t seem to find that a plausible reason for his absence the entire day. James hated fighting with his mother and it didn’t happen often.

James took a deep breath. He shouldn’t be nervous facing Sirius. This was after all his house, not Sirius’s. If anyone should feel out of sorts it should be Sirius.

James burst forward. “Hello, Mum.” He strolled into the kitchen with forced casualness ignoring Sirius. “I could smell those upstairs. Are they almost ready?”

 “Three minutes or so. Have a seat. Want some tea?”

“Sure,” James said and slipped into a seat. He flicked his gaze over to Sirius. His friend looked very pale. The laughter had put some color back into Sirius’s face, but he still had a peaky look about him. 

“Milk and sugar?” Mrs. Potter asked.

“Yes,” James answered. His eyes roamed again toward Sirius and at the moment Sirius had brought both his hands up to cup his tea and James took in the bandaged hand. James frowned. He had forgotten Sirius had been injured. All this time James had believed Sirius had been sick with a cold in bed from being out long in the rain and cold. Of course he hadn’t made any effort to investigate the reason Sirius had turned up at their doorstep.

Mrs. Potter placed a steaming cup of tea in front of James and took a seat. “I was just telling Sirius stories about my Hogwarts years. Oh – I have a great one. I am sure James has heard this one many times. The one during the Quidditch match?”

James rolled his eyes. He knew the story his mother was referring to, but it was a good one. James motioned his hand for his mother to continue.

Mrs. Potter beamed at James. He suspected she thought he’d be difficult about hearing this tale again. “It was during my fourth year. My best friend, Annabella and I had an enormous crush on the new Seeker who was in our year. He had golden hair and golden brown eyes to match. We had planned to send up sparks that would erupt into a good luck sign, but it all went horribly wrong…”

James glanced over at Sirius who was listening to his mother avidly.

“…I still don’t know exactly what happened, but the sparks didn’t erupt into words…instead they came crashing down on the crowd. It hit a Hufflepuff banner, bursting into flames and then one thing after another caught fire. It was quite a sight…twelve students were sent to Hospital Wing, the match was postponed, and Annabella and I had Saturday detention for a month. And James’s father who was Quidditch Captain at the time was so angry at us. In the Common room later that night he roared and raged for what felt like hours – I must have turned the color of beet. As horrible as it was, it also was the first time as a lowly fourth year that I caught the attention of sixth year Harold Potter and…”

Ding!

Oh the cookies are finished!” Mrs. Potter fumbled on oven mitts that were covered in snitches.

“Do you need help?” James and Sirius asked in unison.

“I’ve got it,” she answered taking out two large sheets of cookies and placing them on a rack to cool. Sirius and James regarded each other coolly as Mrs. Potter returned to the table. “So what was I saying? I caught the attention of Harold, but he stayed angry at me even when Gryffindor won the rescheduled game. I think he finally forgave us when Gryffindor won the cup. We started chatting the year after and the rest you can say was history…Annabella and I am still close friends. One thing I learned about Hogwarts, you’ll never make better friends than you do there. Treasure those friendships.”

Sirius was nodded slowly and James sent his mother an exasperated look. He knew his mother meant the best, but she didn’t have to be so obvious about it. Staying seated Mrs. Potter took out her wand and with some elegant wand movement had a plate of the cookies in front of them.

James’s mother smiled softly in memory of her younger days. “That wasn’t the last time I got in trouble. Trouble always seemed to find me…unlike you boys who go looking for trouble.”

“Can’t help it, Mrs. Potter,” Sirius said lightly reaching for one of the cookies. James grabbed one as well savoring the way the cookie melted in his mouth. Sirius was looking at him as if he expected James to make a similar comment. James cast his eyes downward and didn’t see the disappointment in Sirius’s grey-blue ones.

“Well look at the time. If I don’t start getting ready, I’ll be late for that lunch I’m supposed to attend,” Mrs. Potter exclaimed. She flicked her wand once more, and one of the cabinets opened and an ornate dish flew out. She filled it with half of the cookies. “Don’t eat the rest of these today if you can help it. I’m taking one tray to lunch. I’ll be back for dinner. Minnie can make you sandwiches for lunch. The healing potions are on your dresser if you need them, Sirius.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Potter,” Sirius said. Mrs. Potter walked over and squeezed Sirius’s shoulders in a motherly fashion causing Sirius to color. James looked away, aware of the way Sirius seemed to soak up the parental attention. He felt strange as if it was a private moment he shouldn’t have witnessed. 

“Be good, James. I’m going upstairs to change and I’ll Apparate there,” Mrs. Potter continued and she kissed James on the cheek. The ornate dish filled with cookies floated up behind her.

The sudden absence of James’s mother caused the tension in the room rapidly rise. Sirius was sitting tensely and James felt uncomfortable. Still hungry, James moved to grab another two cookies. As he munched on the cookies, out of the corner of his eyes, James saw Sirius stand up. Sirius only managed a few steps before he was suddenly swaying. James jumped to his feet immediately and he reached Sirius just in time to prop him up as Sirius’s knees gave out. James helped him sit back down on the kitchen chair. Sirius’s pale pallor was ashen now and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead.

“Sorry…” Sirius mumbled. He was breathing heavily and every time he opened his eyes he immediately closed them as though everything in front of him was spinning.

“Maybe you should lie down,” James said. “Let me help you to the couch.”

Sirius opened his eyes looking surprised by the offer. “All right.”

Sirius put his arm around James’s shoulder and it took all of James’s strength not to buckle under the weight. If Sirius was leaning this heavily on him; he really wasn’t well. In tune with each other’s movements even though they weren’t on speaking terms, they made it quickly to the sitting room. Sirius stretched himself out on his back; he was lanky and he took up the entire length.

“Can I get you anything? Water?”

“Actually…your mother…there’s a green potion on the dresser in the guest room…three drops in a glass of water…” Sirius was struggling to speak, but James understood.

“Be right back!” James took the steps two by two. There were four potions on the dresser, luckily only one was green. James rushed down the stairs to fill up a glass of water. Sirius sat up carefully as James handed him the glass. He watched Sirius drink slowly. James took back the empty glass and Sirius laid back down closing his eyes. James fell back into a seat on the other side of the room. He watched Sirius’s chest rise up and down. James had become lost in his own thoughts when he heard a quiet Thank you.

James looked over to see Sirius was no longer ashen, but back to being pale. His dark hair fell into his eyes, strands clinging to his sweaty forehead. “Sirius…” James began, running a hand through his own hair.

Sirius opened his eyes and he brought himself back to a sitting position. “I’m ok now. Your mother said the curse might have strange and random effects on my body.”

Silence filled the room again. Millions of questions filled James’s head; he wondered why Sirius was here, about the bandaged hand, the rumors that Sirius had been disowned, the curse Sirius referred to and the fact Sirius had nearly passed out.

James met Sirius’s eyes and at the moment James didn’t care what had happened before Christmas. He felt that familiar tug of friendship. He missed Sirius. It wasn’t just that Sirius had practically passed out in front of him. He suddenly saw again the parts of Sirius’s personality that he liked – Sirius’s barking laughter, his joking nature, his strength… he knew now he not only missed his best friend, but he wanted to fix things between them.  James took a deep breath. “We need to talk.”

***

Author’s note: I know…another cliffhanger…but look James is finally turning around! So hopefully that softens it! Let me know what you thought of Keenan’s POV part. It will probably be the only part of the story in his view and I debated about not putting it in at all. Hopefully it puts some insight into both Keenan’s and Dumbledore’s characters, but not too much that it feels it doesn’t belong in the story. Now’s the time you press that lovely review button and make my day!

 


Chapter 9: Shadows & Truth
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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?”

Sirius nodded.

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?”

“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-”

“Remorseful?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

James snorted.

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?”

“Yeah.”

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.”

“Write who?”

“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.

“What?”

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!


Chapter 10: Going Back
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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.

“For what?”

“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!

 


Chapter 11: Wading Through
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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…”

“I suppose…but…”

“But what?”

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.”

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!

 


Chapter 12: Taking Strides
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Chapter 11 – Making Strides

Sirius had been looking forward to Sunday all week. It was his one free day without detention, and he wanted to get some enjoyment out of it. The sun was shining so brightly that it looked deceivingly warmer out than it was. Sirius managed to convince James and Peter to take a walk with him.

They had only just reached halfway to the lake when Peter began complaining about the cold and the mountain of homework awaiting them. Sirius, who was desperately trying to ignore the numbness in his hands, feet, and the fact that even the muscles in his face were frozen, did not appreciate it.

Also he really did not want to go back inside if all they were going to do was homework. The work would have to get done. Even though he no longer had to worry about his grades for his parents (it was a freeing thought), he still couldn’t slack off.  Part of conditions of the probation was keeping his grades up. Between his marks the last week before Christmas, assignments during the holidays, and this first week, his grades had fallen and if he wasn’t careful, the Professors would get on his case.

While Peter complained the entire way, the boys did reach the lake. Sirius went up straight to the edge eying the frozen section in the shallower waters.

“Do you think the ice would hold our weight?” He did not want to go back inside and maybe doing something out here would make them forget the temperature.

James shook his head. “I don’t think so, and it’s too bloody cold out here to risk it. If you fall in you’d surely die.” James’s voice was slightly muffled from the huge red and gold scarf he’d wrapped around his neck.

“You’d fish me out, wouldn’t you?” Sirius asked.

“No way,” James said.

“Peter?” Sirius asked hopefully.

“You know I’m rubbish at swimming,” Peter said evasively.

“I won’t go far out – you can wade. No swimming required.”

Peter looked helplessly at James.

James came to the rescue. “How about we walk back and grab some hot chocolate from the kitchens and…”

“Don’t say do homework,” Sirius interrupted.

James rolled his eyes. “I was going to say we could work on our next prank.”

Usually Sirius would light up at the word prank, but he frowned. “That’s probably not a good idea.”

“Don’t get all sullen. You can still be the mastermind behind the prank. Peter will just have to step up and take your place in the execution of it.”

Peter bit his lip. “Well my Mum as it is, isn’t happy about all the detentions I’ve been getting…”

James scoffed. “You haven’t collected even half as much as Sirius and I have. Anyway the plan is not to get caught.”

Peter didn’t look convinced. Sirius grinned to himself as they began walking. He was glad to see the old James back; the one who considered detentions as a collection, as if was something positive and to be proud of. He’d been a bit worried that the consequence-worrying James would persist and that he’d insist they all be on their best behavior until the end of their seventh year.

They boys walked in silence until out of nowhere, breaking into Sirius’s thoughts, Peter asked, “James? When are we going to-”

“Later,” James said briskly, cutting Peter off with a look. Sirius might have been confused, but James knew exactly what Peter was talking about.  

“What’s later?” Sirius asked suspiciously.

Peter colored and James smiled in that charming way he did when he was lying. “It’s nothing. I said I’d help Peter with Charms.” James patted him on the back. “Let’s continue. Yea?”

Sirius nodded, he suddenly had a funny feeling in his stomach. James didn’t keep things from him, so that meant this probably had to do with Remus. Did they have plans with Remus? They didn’t have to keep it from him. He was more than capable of hearing about it. The carefree feeling he had momentarily had soured. It was happening quite often lately; his mood up and down in a matter of seconds.

The three Gryffindors trudged into the castle and they paused in the entryway to warm up. There was a group of four students huddled on the other side, but Sirius didn’t pay them notice.

“Black!” One of the members of the huddled group had called out.

Sirius looked up. As the students turned to face the Gryffindors, their identities became apparent.  Five fifth year Slytherins; Mulciber, Avery, Gibbon, Walker, and Snape were glaring at them. Sirius could feel James tense beside him and Peter stepped back closer to the door as if edging for an escape.

“Black!” Mulciber called again. He had been the one who had spoken. “There’s something I’ve been wondering.”

“And what’s that?” Sirius asked without care, trying to stay nonchalant even though his heart rate had quickened. A duel would certainly spice things up, but it could also get him in a world of trouble. Did the Slytherins know about his probation?

“I’ve been wondering - how’ve you managed to stand the stench all these years? Surrounded by all the mudbloods and even when you do find a Gryffindor pureblood they tend to be bloodtraitors.” Mulciber locked eyes with James with the last word. “I’m sick to my stomach just thinking about it.”

Sirius stepped forward. “I’m not the one standing next to greasy haired gits. If anyone smells…” Sirius trailed off, but it was clear to everyone he was referring to Severus Snape.

“Let’s not forget about half-breeds,” Snape stated. The words turned Sirius’s blood to ice. Snape wouldn’t out Remus now, would he? Sirius looked sideways to James who looked equally anxious.

“Half-breeds?” Gibbon asked looking revolted. “Half-breeds in Gryffindor?”

“I’m sure there are,” Snape said snidely, his beady black eyes boring into Sirius.

“Snape may be right. My father told me there’s goblin blood in Professor Flitwick’s family. He not only went to Hogwarts, but he’s still teaching here,” Walker stated.

“Well everyone knows half the Slytherin Quidditch team has troll blood in them,” James announced.

There was a long pause of quiet. Every one of the Slytherins looked like they were ready to murder James.

“There’s no troll blood in Slytherin. Our house founder would have never allowed it,”Mulicber said with barely controlled fury.

“Yes, but do you know if the Sorting Hat can sense troll blood?” James asked. There was another silence. “I didn’t think so.” James who had taken his wand out at some point, made a show of pocketing it.  “Anyway while this has all been a very riveting conversation, we need to go.”

James turned to leave, and while Peter followed promptly, Sirius did not.

Sirius, let’s go,” James said again.

And Sirius had every intention of leaving - of walking away from a duel that could end up in his expulsion. He even started following James until he heard;

 “That’s right, Black. Listen to your master.”

It took only a few long strides before he was inches from the Slytherins. His wand was out and ready. There was a flicker of fear in Mulciber’s eyes that Sirius relished, but was quickly extinguished as the others whipped out their wands. Sirius suddenly found himself outnumbered, but before anyone could call out a spell, James stepped in front of him.

“Let’s call it a draw. You go your way and we go our way,” James said his tone placating.

Mulciber shrugged; his fear gone now. “He’s your bloodtraitor, Potter. Make sure to keep him on a shorter leash!”

Sirius felt a surge of anger and the hex was out of his mouth before he could stop it. James grabbed his arm just in time so the spell hit the floor in front of the Slytherins with a loud crack. They backed away looking at Sirius as if he were crazy.

 Sirius met James’s eye and he turned stalking around the bend away from the Slytherins. James and Peter followed shortly after.

“Are those idiots worth being expelled?” James demanded once they were out of earshot.

“Did you hear what they were saying?” Sirius asked hotly.

“I heard it as clear as you.”

Sirius shook his head. “Just forget it.” He didn’t want to argue and he most certainly didn’t want a lecture.

“Do you think they know?” Peter asked glancing worriedly over his shoulder.

“Know what?” James asked tiredly. He’d taken his glasses off and was wiping them clean.

“That Sirius turns into a dog,” Peter said referring to Mulciber’s comment about the master and leash.

“Don’t be thick. Of course, he doesn’t,” James stated.

Sirius rolled his eyes and made to turn left.

“Aren’t we going to the kitchens?” Peter called out to him. “That’s in the other direction.

 “Not in the mood anymore,” Sirius said briskly and he continued walking. No more than a minute later James came running after him.

“Ditched Peter, I see,” Sirius remarked.

“Told him to get a thermos of hot chocolate and some sweets, and to meet us in the dorm,” James said lightly. “There’s something Peter and I wanted to give you. I’m sure it will cheer you up.”

***

Twenty minutes later Sirius was enjoying a large mug of hot cocoa, munching on his favorite chocolate, and sprawled out on his bed. He was also fiddling with his new wireless radio.  

He found out that James and Peter had been trying to find the perfect time to give him his birthday presents. They told him they were late as it was so to make up for it they wanted to find the ideal moment, and had finally decided on this afternoon.

The wireless radio he was fiddling was from James (the box promised it would receive Muggle radio stations). The chocolate he was consuming was from Peter, who had given him a large assortment of his favorite sweets and chocolates.

Sirius continued to fiddle with his radio. He knew Hogwarts was too far from Muggle areas to get one of their stations but it didn’t stop him from experimenting. Sirius felt the bed dip as James took a seat.

“I’ve one more thing for you.”

“More?” Sirius asked looking up.

“This is from my parents and me.”

James was holding a small envelope in his hands and he handed it to Sirius.  Inside was a plain thick card; his full name was printed out in fancy silver print. 

“Uh – James what is this?”

James’s face split into a grin. “Since you practically live at my house now, my parents wanted to make sure you can come and go as you please without one of us needing to be there to let you in. You just need to tap your wand twice on that card and it will complete the magical contract.”

Sirius swallowed, unsure of what to say. “You didn’t need to do this,” he managed. As with most magical houses there was no actual key to be let inside the house like Muggles. The house was enchanted to only let those the owners allowed inside.

“We wanted to.”

“But – I – it hasn’t even been decided where I’m going to go in the summer,” Sirius said.

“Not officially…no…but as you can see my parents want you there. And where else would you go?”

Sirius knew there were only two possibilities; his cousin Andromeda or his Uncle Alphard…but even he knew the likelihood either would allow him to live permanently with him was slim.

“Look even if you do live somewhere else. My parents will still expect you to visit regularly. This will make it easier.”

“Thank you,” Sirius said quietly, gazing down at the card. He took out his wand and tapped the paper twice. The paper glowed as the magic activated and then returned to normal. “I’ll have to owl your parents to thank them as well.”

James returned to his bed. He fished out a book on Goblin wars and a fresh piece of parchment and settled on his bed to work on it. Peter had already started on his homework.

“Chocolate frog?” Sirius asked tossing one to Peter when he nodded. He looked around realizing it was the first time since they were back he honestly felt that he had fully fixed things with James and to lesser extent Peter. And if he pretended Remus was on prefect rounds or in the library or mailing a letter than it really would have been as if the Whomping Willow prank had never happened.

***

Severus Snape sat down with Mulciber and Avery at the Slytherin table for breakfast. Mulciber and Avery were shooting glares at the three boys sitting at the middle of the table next to the sixth and seventh years. Before Christmas break the seats had belonged to them, but now they were occupied by Regulus Black and his two closest friends. Regulus was now the heir to the Black family, which had considerably increased his status overnight.

As purebloods Avery and Mulciber particularly felt the blow and disliked they had been pushed to the side by a mere third year. It stung a lot less for Severus as a halfblood since in terms of blood line and family influence Regulus had usurped him even as a second son.

Snape tuned out his friends’ grumblings and his eyes unconsciously scanned the Gryffindor table. Lily met his gaze with a smile and little wave. The small gesture was enough to lift his spirits. They were no longer as close as they used to be; between studying and spending time with their respective friends; it took effort to spend time with each other. Their closeness had more to do with their shared history than anything.

 Unfortunately Avery noticed the interaction. “You know, your friendship with the mudblood is holding us all back.”

Severus bristled. “No, she’s not.”

Avery nodded towards where Regulus and his mates had just sat down. Mulciber was shaking his head in agreement.

“That’s not my fault,” Snape said. “You know why he’s sitting there. If you want to blame anyone…” Snape let his voice trail off because they did know who to blame; Sirius Black.

Severus had proven time and time again to the older Slytherins that he was worth more than Avery and Mulciber at least in talent. The purity of his blood he had little control of, but he’d brewed illegal potions for them and shared the spells he’d designed. Then there was also his knowledge of curses and dark magic that outrivaled many.

“Blood-traitor Black will get what’s coming to him,” Mulciber said ominously. Mulciber was still sore about what had happened in the entryway two days ago. While most students were wary of Mulciber and Avery (with good reason), Potter and Black had not looked particularly nervous or alarmed even though Slytherins had outnumbered them six to three…well six to two and a half. Pettigrew couldn’t exactly be considered full wizard.

“I know,” Severus said. The sentence was innocent enough, but he put enough inflection in it so his roommates would get the message.

Mulciber narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean? They’ve involved you.”

Snape smirked. He’d been given a small assignment in the grand scheme some of the Slytherins had devised to get back at Sirius Black. He didn’t know the finer details (though Avery and Mulciber didn’t need to know that). He wished he knew more, but he had carefully hid that. There was a fine line he had to walk with showing his ambition, but not seeming too eager. His standing in Slytherin had steadily dropped since Lucius Malfoy had graduated. He needed a way to continue rising in Slytherin and the additional benefit of ruining Black’s life, only made his decision easier.

“Just helping out with something.”

“With what?” growled Mulciber.

“I’m not supposed to tell…if you don’t know then I don’t think you are meant to.”

Severus stopped there. He had to be careful not to rile his roommates too much; as difficult as it was. They were haughty and snobby, and Snape had never had any patience for such traits. Still they were useful for variety of reasons. Snape looked back at Regulus Black. He should also make strides to be friendlier with the younger Black. It would do him good to have an ally within the Black family. A good word from that family would help him rise quickly.  He wondered how Sirius would feel about his friendship with his brother. Surely Sirius would be displeased and if he got Regulus to trust him. He might even be able to pry more information about Sirius’s home life and then throw it in his face to humiliate him further. Sirius would rue the day he sent him out to the Whomping Willow; Snape would make sure of it.  

***

James found Remus late Sunday afternoon in the common room. He had been working on homework with Lily Evans and four other Gryffindors for most of the day. They were much more studious bunch than James and Sirius had ever been. Hanging out with them meant that his life was duller, but he did get his homework completed more quickly.

James had entered the common room with Peter and Aidan Gallagher. He looked angry as he sat down and without preamble stated, “Sirius is in the Hospital Wing.”

Remus didn’t know how to respond and he was saved from having to by Clara York asking, “Is he going to be ok? What happened?”

“He’ll be fine,” James said. He ran a head through his hair.

“What happened?” Remus asked; his voice sounded hoarse.

James grimaced. “His school bag was cursed with Dark Magic.”

Clara and Mary MacDonald gasped.

“Are you sure?” Lily Evans asked.

“Sirius touched his school bag, was jutted into the air as if he’d been shocked, convulsed for a few minutes in pain, and fell unconscious. So yes Evans I think I’m sure.” His tone icier than it had ever been when addressing Lily.

 “Madam Pomfrey said the same thing, Evans,” Gallagher said. “We think the Slytherins did it.”

“Of course you do,” Lily stated.

“Who else would be cowardly enough to do something like that?” James demanded.

Lily fixed her green eyes on James. “Well how would the Slytherins even have access to Black’s bag?”

“We were in the library and we went to get a book from the stacks. His bag was left unattended long enough for it to be done. There were Slytherins in all the tables surrounding us.”

“That doesn’t make them guilty. They have every right to be in the library as any other house,” Lily responded.

“They blocked my way to get help when it happened. Wouldn’t let me through until Gallagher and Higson showed up,” James said.

“And the librarian wasn’t there,” Peter piped in.

“That’s right! When have you ever known her to leave the library unattended? It was planned. Planned by the Slytherins,” James added triumphantly.

“It does sound suspicious, Lily,” Clara said.

“What’s the motivation?” Lily countered.

“You’re joking, right Evans?” James asked and Lily shrugged her shoulders. “I know you’re Muggleborn, but surely even you know what has been going on!”

“So you think it was politically motivated?” Remus asked rescuing Lily from having to answer. “Because they consider Sirius to be a blood traitor?”

James and Gallagher both nodded.

“If this is because Black was disinherited…surely all that would be just between Black and his family…” Lily protested.

“It should be,” Gallagher stated, “but fact of the matter, it isn’t.” He was also pureblood though only half as old as Potters and the Blacks. “Because regardless of the reason Black walked out on his family – even if it was entirely personal – pureblood society saw it as him turning his back on them.”

“I just can’t understand this blood obsession,” Lily admitted. “It seems silly to me.

“It’s not silly to them,” James said coldly. “Nor Snape.”

“There’s no need to bring him into his,” Lily stated hotly.

James leaned closer towards her. “He was there, Evans. Maybe you can ask him about it.”

Lily flushed. “I don’t need this.” She swept up her belongings leaving to the girls’ dorm.

The remaining Gryffindors looked at one another silently. Remus noticed students who hadn’t been part of their conversation looking over at them. They’d likely been listening in; not that any of them had kept their voices down to ensure privacy.

“Sirius is very brave,” Mary MacDonald stated coloring slightly. “Fighting against his family. He’s defended me before when Mulciber and Avery called me a mudblood.”

“It’s rather extraordinary, isn’t it?” Fay Clark asked. She was sitting in a table nearby. She was a year above them; very pretty with curly blond hair. They all turned to look at her and she continued, “Hasn’t been a scandal like this for generations. A heir taking a stand against his family? In recent history it’s usually been daughters, second or third sons.”

“We can’t let an attack like this happen again,” Gallagher stated his voice loud enough so he was addressing everyone. He seemed to realize that most of the room had least an idea about their ‘private’ conversation.  “This isn’t just about blood politics. The snakes are attacking a Gryffindor. They can’t think they can go around harassing Gryffindors – not without reproach.”

James was just as surprised as Remus by the murmurs of agreement throughout the room.

“I suppose the only thing to do is strike back,” James asserted. “They get Sirius or any of us; we get them back. And keep your eyes and ears peeled…if you see or hear anything...”

Gryffindors nodded in agreement and started chatting excitedly in smaller groups. It was then James met his eyes and Remus knew as a prefect he should say something. He was the only prefect present now that Lily had gone upstairs.

He shouldn’t allow James to encourage others into disagreements even on behalf of a wronged housemate. As usual, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He might not be ready to forgive Sirius, but that didn’t mean Sirius didn’t deserve support. The hatred toward his former friend had subsided. He hadn’t mentioned this to James or Peter, but once or twice when he was alone or lying in bed, he’d almost decided he would give speaking to Sirius a go. Then later when he’d see Sirius, he’d lose the resolution. The familiar distressing ill feeling would return and he’d start thinking of what could have happened, and he knew he wasn’t ready for the conversation.

***

The next week resembled very much the way students acted right before a Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match. It wasn’t just scuffles; there were spontaneous duels, cauldrons exploding, hair turning colors, and changing body parts. Madam Pomfrey was busy undoing hexes and the Professors were constantly throwing students in detention.

The Gryffindors had come out in full support of Sirius. Remus wasn’t convinced any of this had deterred anyone in Slytherin from having a go at Sirius. Remus supposed at the least Sirius had regained his House’s support and respect, even though he had lost it from his parents, brother, and other family members. He definitely looked cheerier since his return from the Hospital Wing.

At the end of that week, on a Thursday, Remus was running late to the required study hall in the Great Hall for all fifth years. He was just about to go in when Sirius came round the bend. Sirius looked disheveled and he was out of breath as if he’d been running. The bell sounded for the beginning of the class as Sirius came to a stop at the big oak doors.

Before the boys could say anything; or not say anything and walk inside the caretaker, Filch came crashing down the hallway.

Filch pointed a grimy finger at Sirius. “I caught you! I caught you, Black!”

Sirius looking genuinely confused stared at Filch as if he was insane. Of course Sirius and James had driven the man mad over the years. He was often the brunt of their pranks.

Professor Keenan stepped out of the Great Hall looking for stragglers. “Black, Lupin, you should be inside,” the Professor reprehended. He noticed Filch then. “Can I help you?”

“Trophy room has been vandalized. There’s glass everywhere. Trophies broken and overturned. Black did it, Professor.”

 Professor Keenan considered the information. “Do you have proof?”

Filch grinned in a menacing way. “Course I got proof. Two portraits saw the boy.”

“Saw Sirius?”

“Well he was crafty enough to wear a hood, but portraits saw his robes.”

“Saw Gryffindor robes?” Professor Keenan asked. Keenan was also constantly glancing at Sirius to see his reaction to Filch’s accusation. Sirius remained expressionless.

“No saw the Black family crest!” Filch pointed straight at the Black family shield adorning Sirius’s robes. Because of coldness and dampness of the castle, Sirius wasn’t the only student to wear a warmer robe over his school robes. Though there could only be one other person in possession of a robe with that symbol on it.

“Portraits also said he was carrying a rock. Used it to break he glass. Check his bag!”

Curiously, Sirius paled as Professor Keenan ordered him to hand over the bag.

It didn’t take long for Keenan to rummage through and soon enough he lifted out a large black rock. Keenan stared at the rock and then looked sternly at Sirius. “Well Mr. Black, what do you have to say for yourself?”

Sirius shrugged looking defeated. He looked even guiltier in Remus’s eyes. Professor Keenan hadn’t seen Sirius come running down the hall. Something about it all didn’t sit right even though all evidence pointed to Sirius.

“Professor, Sirius couldn’t have done it.” All eyes were suddenly on him and Remus only realized the consequences of his words after he’d uttered them. Now that he’d begun he knew he couldn’t back out. He wasn’t good at adlibbing, but he had to try. “Sirius had to stay behind in Herbology…and I waited for him – because – because we needed to talk. We’ve been fighting and we needed to talk. So we did – we talked and time just flew by. We hurried to class, went straight here. So you see it couldn’t have been Sirius. The portraits must have been mistaken.”

Filch’s face had turned an angry red with Remus’s words, but Professor Keenan looked thoughtful.

“The rock! The rock was in his bag,” Filch shouted.

“Yes, I’d like to know that myself. What was a rock doing in your bag, Mr. Black?” Professor Keenan questioned.

Sirius was ready with an answer. “James fancies himself a ladies man and I said he was delusional. So we thought up this bet. I bet him 10 galleons he couldn’t convince the girl of my choosing that a plain old rock was actually an expensive jewel with a really good concealment charm. That’s why I had the rock in my bag, Professor. He was going try this evening in the common room.” The story was ludicrous and Remus could tell Keenan didn’t know quite what to make of it. “You can ask James yourself. He should be inside.”

“That’s all right,” Keenan said. “I’ll take your word for now. This will be looked into. Mr. Filch, if you could close off the corridor to the trophy room. Leave it as it is. I’ll speak to the portraits myself and alert the other Professors. Also I’ll need to verify your story with Professor Sprout to be sure you were kept after class.”

Remus and Sirius nodded. The first rule of a good lie was to be as truthful as possible. In this case, it had just been luck that he had built the story around Professor Sprout speaking to Sirius after class. And Remus had walked back to the castle alone which meant there was no way to prove he hadn’t spoken to Sirius like he had said.

Filch was furious, and he left raging about the injustices in this school and lack of proper punishments.

Professor Keenan looked at them. “Let’s go inside.” He held open the door. Sirius went in first, as he passed Remus; he muttered a barely audible thank you. Remus entered next. He had planned to sit with Lily and a few other Gryffindors, but he knew he now couldn’t. If his story was going to hold up, he was supposed to have mended things with Sirius. If Keenan hadn’t fully bought the story (and Remus couldn’t be sure he had), it would look suspicious to not sit with Sirius after just mending the relationship. So he took a deep breath and slid into the seat next to Sirius, and across from James and Peter.

James and Peter looked at him dumbfounded before erupting into big grins. Remus forced a smile. He didn’t like to lead his friends on that things were fixed, but it couldn’t be helped. Sirius was quickly scrawling something out on a parchment (talking wasn’t allowed and technically neither was note passing), and he slipped it to James. Obviously Sirius was telling him about the story with the rock bet incase Keenan questioned him.

Then a terrible thought occurred to Remus. It wasn’t that Sirius probably was guilty of ruining the trophy room that was bothering Remus. And while he didn’t enjoy lying to Professor Keenan, he could live with that. No, the awful part was it was he who had enabled his friend, who as it was rarely thought about consequences, to get away with it. He felt sick to his stomach. He couldn’t betray Sirius now; he was sure James would think of it as the height of dishonor. He just had to survive this hour and later he’d confront Sirius.

***

Author’s note: So I know I promised more Sirius and Remus interaction, and I didn’t exactly deliver. The ‘talk’ you have all been waiting for will happen next chapter. I still needed this chapter to set it more up.

I’d like to thank all my readers for reading, reviewing, and sticking with this story.  As always, let me know what you think with a review!

 


Chapter 13: Mending the Rift
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Chapter 13:  Mending the Rift

Professor Keenan was starting to believe that if his Hogwarts teaching career didn’t work out, he might have enough experience to be a detective or try his hand at criminal investigation. He didn’t know if it was like this every year, but there seemed to be constantly circumstances that required some sort of investigation. If he’d had an office job in the Ministry, instead of teaching, he would have never found himself piecing together bits of information to get to the truth or questioning students to try to glean motivation.

Currently he was looking into two things and they both centered on Sirius Black. The first had to with the cursed school bag that had injured Sirius. The investigation was still ongoing and unfortunately they were no closer to apprehending the perpetrator.

As required, Dumbledore had alerted the Ministry, but they seemed to believe it would be a waste of their valuable resources to send a Ministry Official over. Though traces of Dark Magic were found both on Sirius and his bag, by the time Professor Keenan had looked them over, the magic was at harmless levels. Keenan knew the Headmaster preferred to investigate on his own, but he wondered if Ministry’s apathy to the incident had to do with the fact the victim was Sirius Black.

The quick dissipation of the Dark Magic gave him some information about the castor. The witch or wizard was either a novice of Dark Magic and hadn’t the mental strength to put full power behind the spell; or the castor had purposely done this so the source of the spell would not be easily traced. It was unlikely they would catch the person, unless someone developed a conscience and either turned themselves in or came forward with information.

Right now Keenan had other things on his mind. He was trying to figure out who, wearing a cloak with the Black family crest, had destroyed the trophy room. He had originally thought this investigation would be easier than the other, but he wasn’t so sure.

The Black brothers stood before him, so alike in some ways and so unalike in others. The tension between the brothers could be cut with a blade, and they refused to look at each other. Of course, Keenan knew the tension had to do with what had happened over winter break, and not because they were standing before him.

Sirius acted the more guilty party. His defenses were up, and his dislike of Keenan evident. Regulus from the moment he had entered had spoken politely and respectfully. He had answered each of Keenan’s questions, even though he was lying. In truth, Keenan suspected both boys were lying. He just wasn’t sure what they were lying about. Were they lying about their own involvement or covering up for a friend? Or about something entirely different?

Regulus had known exactly the reasoning for his summoning. The Slytherin had entered with a story too well-rehearsed to be the truth about his cloak having been missing for a few days. He stated he hadn’t reported the missing item because he expected it would turn up. Regulus, however, had a stronger alibi than Sirius. He had been having tea with Professor Slughorn and other members of his ‘Slug Club’, as the students liked to refer to it.

Despite other signs pointing to Sirius, Keenan did not believe the boy was guilty. He had questioned the portraits himself, and they had all been adamant that the person wearing the Black family crest robe had been ‘tall’ (at least taller than thirteen year old Regulus). Sirius though since his punishment had been very well behaved in class and it seemed very careless of him to flirt with expulsion by ruining the trophy room. Sirius’s alibi might not be a Professor, but Remus Lupin was a prefect, well regarded by the staff, and trustworthy. The boys might have been friends, but taking into account what had transpired between them, it was unlikely Lupin would lie for his friend.

So Keenan continued to press Regulus for answers believing the truth lay with him. He was leaning towards the possibility of Regulus loaning his cloak to a housemate. It was up for debate whether Regulus had known it would be used to frame his brother or whether he had been kept in the dark. “Are you sure that your cloak is missing? Perhaps you forgot that you loaned it to a friend?”

Regulus appeared unconcerned about his line of question, answering politely, “I am sure, sir. I had my cloak last week. I don’t think I’d forget I loaned it over such a short amount of time.”

Through the interview Keenan had been trying to mask his impatience, but it was becoming more difficult. “Please explain to me then how someone wearing a cloak with your family crest on it was seen demolishing the trophy room if neither of you has done it?”

“I think it’s obvious,” Sirius declared. “Someone was trying to frame me.” He looked pointedly at his brother.

“Or maybe you were trying to frame me,” Regulus snapped back.

“If I wanted to get back at you, I wouldn’t go about it in such a convoluted way. Everyone would know it was me,” Sirius voiced.

Regulus glared. “I told you my cloak is missing. If someone borrowed it and tried to frame you, I am not responsible.”

“Very convenient,” Sirius muttered.

“Look, I haven’t been involved in any of it,” Regulus said; there was a pleading to his tone.

Sirius stared at his brother and then scoffed. “I don’t believe that for a second.”

 Regulus bit his lip looking upset. “I haven’t. Someone took my cloak and I wasn’t even in the library that day. I haven’t asked anyone to hex you. They’ve been doing it all on their own.”

“You haven’t tried to stop them either!”

The younger boy’s face hardened. “Why should I? You’re no more than a Gryffindor bloodtraitor to me!”

Sirius’s eyes flashed angrily. It appeared the brothers had forgotten they were standing in front of a teacher. They were both clutching their wands, and nervous a duel was about to erupt, Professor Keenan cleared this throat loudly.

Sirius and Regulus momentarily stopped scowling at each other and looked at him; Sirius unreadable and Regulus guiltily.

“I hope Regulus, if you have any information about the trophy room, your brother’s hexed school bag, or any other incident that you would come forward. I can assure you that your identity would be kept secret.”

“I’ve already told you all I know, sir,” Regulus insisted resolutely.

Keenan had left the trophy room in disarray. He had wanted the guilty party to help with the clean-up, even if most of it could only be repaired with magic. He only had enough evidence to put Sirius in detention and he didn’t see the point in it. Sirius was up to his neck in detentions already, and Keenan’s gut was still telling him he was innocent. He’d already surveyed the damage and it would be easy to put everything back together.

Keenan dismissed Regulus and instructed Sirius to finish his detention task. It had been his turn to oversee him. He decided he would inform the other Professors, particularly those Head of Houses, to keep an ear out for information. There was always the possibility that the guilty person believing he or she had gotten away with it would brag about it.

If not, it might very well remain unsolved. Keenan watched as Sirius squeezed the sponge he was using to wipe the blackboard. Black’s task today had been a general cleaning of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. He looked back at the large stack of seventh year exams he had yet to grade. He had wasted enough time, and he really should get back to his real teacher’s duties.

***

Sirius returned from detention, not grumbling about the task which hadn’t been that demanding, but the conversation with his brother.  He didn’t remember how it had happened, but Keenan’s questions about the trophy room had rapidly delved into more personal matters.

It had been the first time he had spoken to Regulus since he had run away. Sirius hadn’t had hopes that their relationship would ever be mended, which was why he hadn’t expected his brother’s words that he was no more than a common ‘Gryffindor bloodtraitor’ to hurt. Regulus had always parroted their parents’ beliefs. If their parents didn’t acknowledge him as a member of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, then why would Regulus?

He let the portrait door close loudly behind him. Everyone in the common room looked his way and several students glared in annoyance. Sirius headed straight up to the dormitory when he didn’t spot James or Peter.

James and Peter were lying about in the dorm and they had a message for him from Remus. Remus wanted to talk. Borrowing James’s invisibility cloak so he wouldn’t be yelled at by the prefects for leaving the common room with curfew looming, Sirius headed to the spacious passage on the fourth floor behind the mirror.

He stood before the ornate mirror, the silver border glistening despite its old age, and squished the cloak into the inside pocket of his robe. He didn’t know what to expect from Remus. Would he be angry and furious? Or would he be cold and indifferent? There was only one way to find out. He took a deep breath and found the latch behind the mirror.

Remus was seated comfortably and sipping a butterbeer. The boys after finding this hidden room had stashed a bunch of old, but comfortable cushions and pillows. Remus had lit the cluster of candles in the middle of the room. It didn’t create an awful lot of light and the ominous shadows cast on the walls added to the building tension of the impending conversation.

Remus offered the second un-opened bottle to Sirius. Sirius took it unsurely. It was a friendlier gesture than he expected.

“Sit, if you’d like,” Remus said.

Sirius quickly arranged a few of remaining cushions and took a seat. The loud snap of the bottle opening reverberated in the room and the silence after seemed emphasized as the boys sat sipping quietly.

Sirius wasn’t sure if he should say something or wait for Remus to begin when he was ready. Before he could decide, Remus cleared his throat. “The rock. Why was there a rock in your bag?”

Sirius stared blankly at Remus for a moment. Of all the things they needed to speak about Remus wanted to focus on the bloody rock?

Remus crossed his arms, sternly. He was more intimidating as prefect than he realized as James and Sirius did not get fazed by authority. “Don’t think I believed that tale you told Professor Keenan about a bet with James.”

“Oh – oh,” Sirius said, realization dawning. “You think I did it?”

“Didn’t you? The robes, the rock, and you were out of breath.”

“I was out of breath because I was running and I was running because I was late,” Sirius replied.

“Doesn’t explain the rock,” Remus argued.

Sirius studied the werewolf before him. He didn’t care so much about proving his innocence.  There was only one big question on his mind. “Then why?”

“Why what?”

“Why’d you cover for me then?” Sirius asked. “If you think I did it, why’d you cover for me?”

“I don’t know,” Remus replied softly. He was fiddling with the bottle in his hands and he took a long swig of butterbeer.

“It’s not really my style anyway,” Sirius continued. “Wrecking the trophy room for what cause? If anything I’d bewitch the trophies to dance or change the spellings of the prefects and headboys to funny words…”

“So why was there a rock in your bag?”

“Sent to me by owl. I thought it was suspicious and I should have gotten rid of it, but I didn’t. Professor Keenan seems to want to believe in my innocence as well. I’m sure your word helped, but even still he has enough evidence against me to at least put me in detention. He didn’t though.”

“Someone set you up,” Remus said and by his tone Sirius couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement.

“My brother’s identical cloak was missing… or so he says. Pretty much means anyone could have stolen it and used it to frame either one of us. Though I know it was me and not him they were framing. He wasn’t lugging a rock around the school all day.”

Remus looked puzzled by something. “Why were you wearing that cloak anyway? With the family’s crest?”

“What do you mean?”

“You have other cloaks. You were…disowned,” Remus began tentatively.  “You ran away from them. Why wear their symbol?”

“We’re only allowed to wear black cloaks, you know that,” Sirius said. His tone was cold and he suddenly felt defensive. “And it’s my cloak; why shouldn’t I wear it?”

“Because you’ve always made a fuss before all this that the Black family crest was on everything you owned. You hated that.”

“I just wanted to,” Sirius replied crossly.

Remus had a valid point. The fact of the matter was he was having two opposing schools of thought. At times he wanted nothing to do with his family; he wanted to be known as just Sirius, no last name, no ties to any history, but his own. Then he found himself wanting everyone to know where he came from. He wanted to tell the world that yes he was a Black and a blood traitor, and then do things that would make his bigoted relatives role over in their graves. 

Either way he’d show his parents that he could make a difference without them. His mother would screech and rage unable to do anything else but stare at the burnt hole where his name used to be on the family tapestry. His father would lock himself in his study and realize that his disowned son was really out of the reach of his dwindling political power.

Of course, he was far from any of that happening. At the moment he was nothing more than a troubled runaway from a powerful pureblood family.  He stared unhappily at the dusty floor.

Remus had nothing more to say on the matter and a silence fell over them. It seemed neither wanted to delve into the subject of the prank. It was then Sirius noticed Remus was looking peaky; full moon peaky. Remus’s skin had taken on the usual paleness and there were bags under his blue eyes. Sirius supposed since he wasn’t the wronged party he should be the one to take the leap.

“How many more days?”

Remus knew immediately what he was asking and answered abruptly, “Four.”

“We could still-”

“Come with me?” Remus asked. His voice was hollow and his eyes burned intensely. “That will never happen again.”

Sirius thought of the horrible transformations Remus had endured before this year. Remus had only a half a year of reprieve and he’d ruined it. “I’m sorry.” It jumped out of his mouth. He’d never said those words so easily, and his voice was slightly thick. “Remus, I’m so sorry.”

Remus was staring at him and he sighed loudly. “I want to forgive you. I miss – I miss our group. I miss our adventures…even the pranking…but-“

“But, I ruined it for us all,” Sirius finished wryly.

“It took me so long to trust anyone.”

“You didn’t though – trust us. We forced the truth out of you, if you remember. Would you have ever told us if we hadn’t figured it out?” Sirius thought back to the moment the truth had dawned on James and him; their monthly disappearing roommate was a werewolf.

“Does it matter? I trusted you after. I trusted you with my fears. I trusted you’d keep me away from humans during our adventures.” Remus shook his head. “How could you? You knew – you know – the one thing I was frightened of the most was biting someone.” Remus’s voice shook…though Sirius couldn’t tell if it was in repressed anger or in anguish.

Sirius swallowed. He wished he had an excuse to give Remus, but he didn’t. He felt ill. He felt horrible. “What do you want me to say?” 

Remus let out a bitter sounding noise. “Are you serious? You want me to tell you what to say? If you don’t know then clearly this conversation is pointless.”

“No, that’s not what I meant. I don’t think I can give you what you want to hear.”

“And what is it that I want to hear?” demanded Remus.

“You want me to tell you it was all a bad dream – that I never told Snape and that none of it ever happened.”

Remus tensed and shifted in his seat.

Sirius gave Remus a long and hard look. “And I can’t do that. I can’t go back in time. I can’t change what I said. If that’s what you are looking for then yes this conversation is pointless. ”

Remus had been staring at the floor while Sirius had spoken and he now lifted his head up. “I want – I want to know why…because I can’t understand it. One day you’re ripping the Daily Prophet into shreds because of an opinion editorial in favor of compulsory werewolf registration and – and the next day you tell Snape how to get to me while I’m transformed. How can you explain that?”

Sirius was at a loss for words. He scrambled to explain. “I just – it was – special circumstances.”

“Special circumstances?” Remus didn’t look impressed.

“I was upset after speaking to Professor Keenan-“

“Since when has reprimand by a teacher ever bothered you?” questioned Remus harshly.

“He called in my mother.”

“I know that, but so what?”

Sirius took a deep breath. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he knew what he needed to say. “Something happened during the meeting that I didn’t even tell James about.” Sirius paused. He never shared the darker parts of the Black family with Remus and Peter. They knew bits and pieces, but never the full extent of the disappointment he was to his family. “After Keenan told my mother how unruly my behavior had gotten, she gave him a strap. A strap to use to discipline me.”

There was an unreadable expression in Remus’s eyes. Sirius plunged on knowing if he didn’t continue he might not be able to. “I was so humiliated and very angry, but mostly humiliated. I knew the humiliation was only a taste of what my mother had in store for me when I returned home. I knew I’d pay dearly for Keenan calling her in.”

Remus had gripped the bottle in his hand tightly. “Your mother, she uses a strap often on you?” Remus’s voice was soft and pained.

“Never. She’s never used a strap.”

“She’s struck you before though?” He leaned forward.

“Yes, she, my father, my tutor…but not often. Nothing too awful…just a snap of a ruler on my hands for gazing outside instead of paying attention to home lessons – instances like that. It was more of a common form of discipline before Hogwarts…” He could feel his face reddening. It had never been easy for him to talk about that sort of thing.

“How did Professor Keenan react?”

“Like you, he wanted to know if she used it on me before. I told him to leave me alone and I ran. Then Snape appeared-”

Sirius stopped. He felt a bit short of breath. He glanced over at Remus, wondering how to continue. Speaking about the next part would not be any easier than it had been to speak about his mother’s visit. 

 “Well go on,” Remus said leaning his back against the wall again. There was a different look in his eyes now and Sirius hoped it wasn’t pity. He didn’t want to be forgiven if it meant Remus pitied his situation. Still Sirius continued telling Remus about the confrontation; his fear that Snape had known Remus was a werewolf, Snape believing they snuck out to meet Remus on full moon nights and the resulting words.

Remus listened carefully and didn’t interject until the end. “Snape actually said he could find me near the Whomping Willow?”

Sirius nodded.

Remus looked as shaken as Sirius had remembered feeling. “H-how could he possibly know that?”

“I suppose we weren’t as careful as we thought,” Sirius said

 “If what you say is true – if Snape was that close to knowing about it all then – then why give him the very information he was seeking? How would telling him how to immobilize the Whomping Willow in any way hinder his pursuit?”

It was similar to what James had asked him during their ‘talk’, and he still didn’t have a proper answer. “First I didn’t know he’d take the bait. I thought telling him something might be enough to get him to think we weren’t hiding anything. And if he did, I thought if he heard the howling-“

“My howling.”

“Yes, if he heard your howling it would frighten him enough that he’d realize there would be a price to pay with meddling in our lives. I felt it would be poetic justice, even, that it would be the sounds of your transformation – one of the things he wanted to verify – that would be the thing to frighten him.”

“I could have killed him! Or worse I could have bitten him…turned him into-“ Remus raked his hand roughly through his light brown hair unable to say the word werewolf. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

“I know. I know. I wasn’t thinking.” Sirius ran a hand through his own hair. His voice had a pleading note to it.  “I was trying to protect you. I know it doesn’t sound like it…but it was because I didn’t think through the consequences. It terrified me to think Snape even had the slightest hint about the truth of your disappearances. Do you know the sort of people Snape hangs around? If he told any one of them…”

“Your plan couldn’t have failed any more spectacularly. Snape knows what I am. He knows where I transform. I almost attacked him and he could be telling the very same people you were afraid he’d tell about me this very moment.”

“The thing is he hasn’t told anyone, has he? I thought it was strange. I suspect Dumbledore has something on him. He wouldn’t keep his word just for the sake of it.”

“Or he’s waiting for the most opportune moment. Waiting to tell when we least expect it.” Remus shook his head. “I have to live with that possibility. I have to live with the fear he could shout it out at any moment, and when he does, I’ll be forced to leave.”

A lump was forming in Sirius’s throat. He could see how upset Remus was and it was his fault. He knew he could be a bit of selfish berk, but for years his friends had been more of a family to him than his own blood. He’d never meant to hurt Remus like this. To make himself feel better as much as Remus, he asserted, “Dumbledore wouldn’t allow it.”

“Dumbledore wouldn’t be able to stop it. Not with all the letters from the parents about a Dark Creature attending classes with their precious children-“ Sirius was about to open his mouth to protest. “And don’t- don’t say I’m not a Dark Creature. Because I am. It’s a part of me.”

“A part of you, but it doesn’t define you.”

“It has and will continue to affect every aspect of my life. Saying it doesn’t or wishing it doesn’t will not change the truth.” By the end of the sentence Remus was breathing heavily, have worked himself to an agitated state.

Sirius never knew exactly what to say when Remus got like this. He always tried to argue that it didn’t matter, but he knew better than anyone that it did matter. The wizarding world was full of prejudices and the rise of Voldemort was giving these prejudices a legal stepping stone.

Sirius sighed heavily. “I wish there was some way to alter Snape’s memory of your secret. Even if it meant in exchange, he’d know something awful about me.  I’d tell him about the strap. I’d let him tell the whole school; if only he’d be unable to speak the truth about you.”

“What happened to you believing Dumbledore had something on Snape?” Remus asked wryly, having now brought his breathing under control.

“I just hope that’s the case. If you get kicked out of school because of me… I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably drop out too.”

“A right pair we’d make. A werewolf and a bloodtraitor. No OWLs. No NEWTs. Ten sickles between us.”

It was a wonder Remus was able to interject any humor into his tone, and Sirius wasn’t sure how to react to it. Joke back or stay serious?

“I have some gold. I’d give it all to you,” Sirius offered, going for serious.

“Let’s hope Snape is a more honorable person than we think,” Remus said softly. “Let’s hope your first instinct is correct.”

Sirius sat still again wishing he knew what Remus was thinking. He had nothing else to say. He took a few quick sips of his butterbeer that he hadn’t touched since they’d begun speaking.

“I still need some time to think things over.”

Sirius nodded.

Remus glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late. Past curfew even.”

“James gave me the cloak,” Sirius said and he produced it. “It will be a tight fit, but-”

“Sirius.”

“Yes?”

“If I’m ever with James and Peter, you don’t have to go off by yourself. You can join us.”

“Ok,’ Sirius murmured smiling slightly. It was more than he had hoped for in the beginning of the conversation. It was probably more than he deserved.

“I suppose I have been acting cowardly. Avoiding you, and leaving the room when you were in it,” Remus admitted.

“I understand why you did. Don’t worry about it,” Sirius said.

Remus looked at him strangely. “James was right,” he mused.

Sirius looked up in confusion.

 “I’ve never seen you so - I suppose ashamed – of something you’ve done. It’s odd.”

“I’ve never done something this awful before.”

“Both James and you have done plenty of questionable things,” Remus remarked. “Honestly at first I didn’t believe you were sorry about what you did at all. Half expected you to even today tell me Snape is a greasy git who deserved what he got.”

Sirius couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “I still think Snape is a greasy git.”

There was a flicker of laughter in Remus’s eyes. “Suppose I can’t expect miracles.”

 “I didn’t want him killed. And I didn’t want him bitten,” Sirius reaffirmed.

Remus nodded. “I know.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I think that’s enough for today. I really am exhausted…with the full moon so close.”

Sirius nodded and also stood. Remus snuffed the candles, and Sirius slid the mirror open after ensuring the hallway was clear.  Out in the corridor Sirius threw the cloak over them. The years of practice of sneaking in pairs under the cloak had not been lost because of their fight, and the two Gryffindors quickly and easily, in tune with each other’s pace, weaved their way back to the Gryffindor Tower without a hitch.

They were forced to show themselves at the Tower entrance to give the Fat Lady the password. She scolded them for being out of bed, but let them in once they stated the password.

Sirius expected an empty or at least a prefect-free common room (they’d passed the Gryffindor six year prefects patrolling on the staircase between the fourth and fifth floor), only to hear –

“Black!” It was Lily Evans. She had her hands on her hips and Sirius was sure she was about to go on a tirade about being out after curfew when she saw Remus. “Lupin?”

“Hey, Evans,” Remus said with a small smile.

“It’s past curfew!” Lily admonished. As Remus wasn’t patrolling he could get in just as much trouble as any regular student for being out and about.

“I know,” Remus said giving Sirius a look to keep quiet. “It’s just…Sirius and I needed to talk.”

Sirius was amazed to see Evans’ gaze soften slightly.

“The common room is no place for that. And even the dorm doesn’t guarantee absolute privacy.”

“So you’ve made up then?” she asked eyeing the two boys before her.

Remus looked at Sirius and back at Lily. “Not quite, but we’re heading in that direction.”

“All right then,” Lily said. “I won’t write you up this time.”

“Thanks Evans. Good night.”

“Good night, Lupin.” She sighed heavily as if the next thing she was about to do was a particularly difficult task. “Good night, Black.”

“Night, Evans,” Sirius said unable to hide a grin.  He followed Remus up to the dorm, and when he looked back he could see Lily smiling as well.

***

Author’s note: Yay! Remus and Sirius talked. Surprisingly it wasn’t as hard to write as James and Sirius talk. You’ll note the absence of any talk about Sirius running away besides when the cloak was mentioned. It will come later; I thought it would be too much to add for the moment. I’d love to know what you thought about the chapter! Please leave a review. Each one makes my day brighter!


Chapter 14: Shaded Moon
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Chapter 14: Shaded Moon

Severus Snape was absentmindedly tracing the pattern of wood on the library table. He’d been studying alone in the library for a few hours. He was glad for the solitude, but was eagerly awaiting Lily’s arrival. They were meeting to revise Potions, and she was about five minutes late.  

Snape heard her familiar laughter before he saw her. The sound brightened his thoughts, but also produced feelings of nervousness. He wanted the afternoon to go smoothly. He wanted to sound clever and make her laugh. He didn’t want any argument to sour the mood between them. Most of all he wanted some indication that Lily was beginning to view him as more than a friend, but even he had to admit at the moment that he had very little to offer her.

Snape stood and walked toward the aisle to flag Lily over. He had found a quiet area where they could be alone. His stomach dropped when he spotted her conversing with Remus Lupin.  He did not like that Lily was wasting the precious hour they had allotted on the werewolf. He was about to call out, but was glad he didn’t because Potter, Black, and Pettigrew descended on the pair.

Snape stepped slightly back behind the bookshelf so he wouldn’t be seen, but he kept an eye on the group through a gap in shelved books.  Potter said something to Lily ruffling his hair to make it ridiculously messy. Then to his astonishment Lily said something back to him while ruffling her own hair in a perfect imitation of James. Her words caused the four Gryffindors boys to erupt in laughter and Snape noticed a tint of pink on Potter’s cheeks. It took all of Snape’s inner strength not grab his wand and hex Potter to oblivion. The librarian shushed them and then Lily left the group glancing around – presumably looking for Severus. Her eyes were bright and happy; and Severus was loath to admit the Gryffindors had been the cause.

Snape quickly returned to his table; his anger at the Gryffindors lessoned when Lily spotted him and smiled broadly. He smiled back even though it was a bit forced after what he had witnessed. It was silly of him to think Lily suddenly fancied Potter after having one short positive conversation, but the fear was in the back of his mind.

“Sorry I’m a little late,” Lily said sitting down and beginning to unload her bag. Snape grunted in response.

Lily paused, frowning. “What’s wrong?”

Despite knowing this would end up in an argument Snape, something he had wanted to avoid at all costs, he couldn’t help blurting out, “I saw you walk in with Lupin.”

“So? We were headed to the same place. It isn’t as if I don’t spend time with him every week during prefect rounds.”

“That’s forced on you.”

Lily gave him a look. “He also wanted to tell me he switched patrolling days with Andrews from Ravenclaw for Thursday.”

“Oh, of course.”

“What do you mean of course?”

Severus leaned in closer to Lily and stated in a low voice, “There’s a full moon that night.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Don’t start on that again.”

“I’m just saying.”

“I don’t want to hear it. Lupin isn’t replacing you as my best friend; if that’s what you are worried about. Now that he’s friends with Black again, I am sure I will only correspond with him during prefect patrols.” She paused and twirled a piece of her red hair. “I’d just rather you didn’t speak ill of him. He’s a good person and I consider him my friend.”

Snape frowned at her mention of Black and Lupin. He tried not to care that the four Gryffindors were friends again. He certainly wasn’t part of the camp of students that were eager for the Marauders’ pranks to start again. He had never found their jokes at all amusing, even when they weren’t directed at him. He knew though that Black and Lupin being friends meant things were going back to normal; and back to the normal interactions he usually had with them. For the past few years he had become an active participant in their feud, and there was little doubt in his mind that it would continue.

He knew Black and Potter still believed instigating him would lead to the revelation of Lupin’s secret, but the secret held no real power. It would only take one time for Black or Potter to lose their temper, hex him, and then come to the conclusion that Severus wasn’t going to tell anyone about Lupin.

There were now two factors preventing him from telling the truth about Lupin’s disappearances. The first was Dumbledore’s threat that his delving into Dark Magic would be investigated. With the current political atmosphere, Dark Magic accusations were serious and Snape had high ambitions. Without family influence, he could not afford any tarnish to his name. He had to walk a fine line; show his interest and ability in Dark Magic, but avoid being caught using it at Hogwarts. He wasn’t absolutely sure he would end up joining the Death Eaters after Hogwarts, but with his growing desire for power and respect, it was becoming each day more apparent that it would be his best option.   

The second factor and probably more important one was looking at him imploringly. She would be highly disappointed in him. The combination of her naivety in being Muggleborn and her innate goodness meant she would not care that one of her housemates was a monster. And word would get out that he was the one to drive Lupin from Hogwarts. Lily’s friendship meant more to him than letting out Lupin’s secret. He could find other ways to get back at Potter and Black.

Certainly he could do a better job than the Slytherins, whose attempts at making Black pay for being a blood traitor had only been mildly successful. Snape had been impressed by only one thing, and that had been the way the Slytherins had built a united front against Black the first two weeks back from break. Somehow without much more than a few dark looks and upturned noses, they had been able to show every student in the school their revulsion and disgust with Black’s choices. Snape wanted to be part of something that could exert that kind of authority over so many students. If Black had still being fighting with Potter, the Slytherins would have successfully isolated him from everyone in the school. Only a family with the amount of wealth and social influences as the Potters could have softened Black’s fall from grace as the eldest son of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. It would have continued to be successful if the Gryffindors hadn’t suddenly rallied around Black, which caused the other Houses to rethink their stance on the matter.

“So you’ll leave Lupin alone?” Lily inquired breaking into his musings, clearly needing some sort of response.

Snape grunted, not agreeing or disagreeing to leave Lupin alone. He turned to his opened Potions book hoping it would be enough for Lily. He relaxed when she smiled at him. In retrospect Snape could have easily agreed to stop looking into Lupin’s monthly disappearances. He knew where Lupin went, so there was no need to keep tabs on him like he had before.

Snape decided he wasn’t going to waste another second thinking about Black, Potter, or Lupin. Lily was before him, he had a full hour of her company, and he intended to enjoy it.

***

James was watching Remus pack his bag for the full moon. Remus was heading early to the Hospital Wing to get a few hours rest before his transformation. He never took very much; a change of robes and some schoolwork for after. James was sitting on the top of his trunk at the foot of his bed. Sirius was on the ledge of the dormitory window, legs dangling and brooding silently. Peter was lying on his stomach on his bed with his head propped up on pillows.

The atmosphere was tense. While Remus had given them no indication he wanted them to join him during the full moon, the implication had not hit them until now. And Remus had left no room for them to interpret his words differently: “I’m going to the Hospital Wing. I don’t want you coming to the Shrieking Shack tonight.”

James had been the first to speak. “If that’s what you want.”

“That is what I want.”

“There must be something else we can do,” James added hopefully.

Smiling slightly, Remus shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Honestly.”

“No you won’t,” Sirius said abruptly. “It wasn’t for a lark that we became Animagi.”

Remus didn’t smile at Sirius. Instead his face turned tense and his mouth formed a rigid line. Sirius was right. Remus had been moody, tired, and peaky for days. He was getting paler and weaker with each passing hour, and this was nothing compared to the pain of the transformation and the inevitable self-inflicted injury.

“We don’t want you to hurt yourself as badly as before,” Peter said from his place on his bed. He looked anxious as if he expected that a fight would break out and someone wouldn’t be speaking to someone soon.

“And you are going to hurt yourself if we aren’t there,” Sirius interjected, frustration at the situation evident in his tone.

 “I’m not going to argue with you,” Remus said staring at Sirius. Sirius stared straight back, not backing down. They both could be very stubborn.

James pondered how best to diffuse the situation. Things were loads better between Remus and Sirius. The four of them sat together at meals, walked together to class, but their interactions were not the same as they had been before. Conversations between them were still stilted and the tone they used when speaking to each other was a bit off…just a little too polite. Still the fact his two friends had talked and mended their relationship to this point was a large step. James had only last week been unsure if even this level of friendliness would be ever possible. He was going to do his best to make sure this argument would not set them back.

Remus was the first to back down. He slung his bag over his shoulder before facing Sirius once again. “I’m not going to change my mind. I’ve thought it over. Accept my decision. My transformation is only going to be worse if I’m agitated…and I don’t think you want that.”

Sirius gestured violently with his hands. “It’s just stupid for you to suffer when something can be done about it!”

James understood the difficulty of the situation. Sirius racked with guilt was viewing Remus’s refusal to their presence as punishment. Remus still struggling to get over the betrayal was obviously not ready to trust them in his most vulnerable state.

“Then I’m being stupid! I’m not changing my mind!”

James cleared this throat. “If Remus doesn’t want us to join him, then we won’t.” Both Remus and Sirius stared at him.

“Fine,” Sirius said flatly.

Remus took a large breath. “I’ll be fine, Sirius,” he murmured quietly.

“We’ll visit you in the Hospital Wing tomorrow,” James offered. He waited for Remus to protest hoping he wouldn’t deny them that.

“I’d like that.”

 “And we’ll take detailed notes as always in all our classes,” Peter said eager to keep Remus in good spirits.

“Thank you,” Remus stated. He looked somberly around the room. “I’d better go.”

James stood clasping Remus on the back. “Take care. We’ll see you in the morning.”

Remus nodded tightly. James knew despite the brave façade Remus was dreading the transformation as much as they all were.

 “Bye, Remus,” Peter called out.

It wasn’t until Remus was almost through the door that Sirius spoke again.

“Remus – wait.”

Remus turned unsurely.

“Don’t – don’t hurt yourself too badly.” Sirius’s voice wavered, his expression pained.

Remus nodded stiffly, yet somehow Sirius’s words gave him courage. Remus left the room with a steadier gait than he had a moment before.

Remus’s departure left the boys in a gloomy silence. Sirius pushed himself off the window ledge. “What are we supposed to do the rest of the night?”

“Besides detention?” Peter questioned.

Sirius groaned. “This is going to be the longest night ever.”

James frowned. He couldn’t help but worry about Sirius’s state of mind. If he remained this unhappy and restless all night, trouble was likely to occur…unless Sirius’s energy was redirected. An idea popped in his head. “Who do you have detention with?”

“Flitwick. Why?”

“Skip it.”

“Skip it?”

“That’s what I said.”

“McGonagall will likely allow Filch to use those chains and thumbscrews he’s always threatening us with. Any good reason I should take such a chance?”

“I thought we should go exploring. We could all use a night of fun.” James felt a little guilty planning an adventure when Remus would be having an awful night, but not guilty enough to backtrack on his idea.  If they did make a grand discovery, it would make a good story for them to regal to Remus when they visited him tomorrow. Certainly telling him about their boring night stuck in the dormitory would do nothing to distract Remus from his pain. “Peter, do you think you can remember where you found that hidden tunnel on the fifth floor?”

“I should be able to,” Peter said looking pleased at having such an integral role James’s plan.

“Good. I have an idea…there’s even a chance McGonagall won’t find out you skived off.”

Sirius shrugged. “I’m listening, Potter.”

***

Snape walked out of the Hospital Wing having left Mulciber to recover there from his injuries.  Mulciber had attacked a mudblood third year Ravenclaw, not realizing his target had twin seventh year brothers. The twin brothers had gotten the best of him. Mulciber generally won duels because of his ruthlessness, but that strategy didn’t work so well when one was outnumbered, two to one.

Mulciber had been rather cross that Severus hadn’t jumped in to help him. Avery hadn’t either, but that hadn’t bothered Mulciber as much. He supposed it was because it was expected of Snape to do things like that to stay in the purebloods’ good graces. It wasn’t a secret that Severus was trying to rise in the Slytherin’s hierarchy and he needed a good standing among all purebloods, including his roommates, for this to occur.

It wasn’t until Snape turned the corner to see Lupin trudging towards him that he remembered what night it was. Snape knew it was up to him to decide how to treat Lupin. He probably should have ignored the werewolf, but he just couldn’t pass the chance to exert the power he had over Lupin; not when most of the time he had so little because he was half-blooded and unpopular.

“Lupin,” Severus sneered, startling the Gryffindor who had been looking downward lost in thought. The werewolf looked terrible – gaunt and frail; and it was hard to believe the terror he’d felt standing before the entrance to the Shrieking Shack had been caused by the boy in front of him. It was unbelievable that someone who looked so pathetic and weak at the moment would turn into a powerful killing machine in a few hours. “Where you off to, Lupin?”

Remus threw him a look. “You know very well what tonight is.”

Snape’s eyes raked over Remus from head to toe and then toe to head. Lupin squirmed under his gaze, and Severus didn’t attempt to hide his loathing or disgust. “Half wizard. Half beast.”

Instead of cringing or hanging his head like Snape expected, Lupin seemed to draw himself taller. His eyes were steely with a wolfish quality. “I- I want to thank you for your discretion.”

Snape raised his eyebrows. This was most unexpected.

“And I wanted to assure you that I won’t be a threat to anyone when I – transform.” Lupin’s voice had grown steadier with each word. He now looked Snape right in the eye.

Though impressed Lupin was showing a backbone, Severus was not going to back down because of it. He would just have to work harder to get to him.  “Professor Dumbledore was trying to convince me that you’re harmless. And looking at you now barely able to stand upright because of the moon cycle – it’s disgraceful.”

“I really need to get to the Hospital Wing,” Lupin answered, though he didn’t attempt to move when Severus walked a slow circle around him; didn’t even make a grab for his wand.

Snape stopped in front of Lupin after he’d made the complete circle. “I did some research on your transformation. It must hurt terribly,” he remarked with mock concern. “Bones breaking. Bones stretching.” Severus paused and he could see something flicker in Lupin’s eyes. “Then the lust for human flesh. The book I read said the severity of the need is almost impossible to imagine. Even being tied up for two days without water in front of a large pitcher of it would not even come close to the agony of being denied prey.”

“Sounds rather accurate, which is surprising. Most books on werewolves I question whether the author has even met one.” Lupin’s voice was hollow and carefully void of emotion. Severus knew the words had somewhat gotten to him, but not in the degree he had hoped. He didn’t expect Remus to start cursing him like Potter or Black…but at least lose more control of his emotions.

“I told Dumbledore that if he was going to allow werewolves in the school, at the least you should be part of the curriculum. I’m sure it would benefit the third years to see a real, live half-breed. Be able to study, poke, and prod you. You’d have to be tied up, of course, for the younger students’ safety. And they’d need to test to see if you had any diseases…”

“I don’t know what your problem is!” Remus stated loudly; Snape’s goading having finally gotten a rise out of him. “To the sort of people you associate with Muggleborns or should I say Mudbloods aren’t any better than half-breeds and isn’t your best friend one?”

Snape balked; one because he never expected a Gryffindor to use the term Mudblood and another because of Lupin bringing up Lily. He was furious that Lupin thought he could talk as if he knew anything about his friendship with Lily.

Lupin eyed Snape’s rigid body coolly. “I’ll be on my way. Madam Pomfrey is expecting me.”

Lupin started to move forward, but Snape stepped sideways so he was blocking Lupin’s path. There were only an a few inches of space between the two teenagers.  “I’m not ever going to forget what happened, Lupin. I will make sure Black and Potter pay…and you too will get what you deserve,” Snape growled, menace lacing each of his words.

They stared each other down for a few moments.

“You shouldn’t threaten a Prefect,” Remus advised.

“It’s not a threat. It’s a fair warning. One I hope you pass on.” Severus stepped back so that Lupin’s path was no longer blocked.  Remus threw him an unreadable look before passing by him quickly. Snape turned and watched as Lupin slowed his pace again once he was further down the corridor.

He expected Lupin to tell Black and Potter about the altercation; it was the main reason he had brought them up in the end. He wanted to show he wasn’t frightened of them just because they’d tried to feed him to a werewolf. He wanted to show them he still detested them and that he wasn’t going to wait around for them to have another go at him. He’d drawn the first sword this time and he now only had to wait for retaliation.

***

Sirius glared up at the canopy of his bed in Gryffindor Tower. He was angry and restless – a bad combination. He’d done many rash things because of those emotions. He hated that he was lying here when he could have been helping Remus out. As angry he was at Remus’s stubbornness that was nothing compared to the guilt assailing him. It was because of him Remus didn’t trust their presence during the transformation despite the fact it would make it so much more bearable for him.

Earlier Sirius had almost suggested that only James and Peter accompany Remus. Without Sirius’s large dog form they wouldn’t be able to take the werewolf out, but having just the stag and the rat in the Shrieking Shack would have helped distract the werewolf. Sirius hadn’t said anything for purely selfish reasons. He was worried that Remus would have agreed. He was worried that the transformation would go well enough that Remus would decide Sirius’s presence would never be needed again. Tonight would be dreadful enough, and he could not imagine going through two and a half more years of full moon nights like this.

He grabbed for his wand, and sliced it through the air; once, twice, three times. There was the satisfying sound of his red bed curtains ripping and for a moment he felt better as he gazed upon the shredded fabric, but it didn’t last long.

Sirius perked his head up as the door to dormitory opened, and was relieved to see James and Peter stumble in. He was now about ten minutes late now for his detention, and there was still a possibility he’d be caught skiving and forced to serve his detention tonight.

“All taken care of,” James announced as he entered. His bag was bulging, as was Peter’s. “Just stopped in Flitwick’s office to tell him you were ill in the Hospital Wing.” James took in the tattered curtains and raised his eyebrows.

“There was a moth. I was trying to zap it,” Sirius lied. He flicked his wand and the curtains were back to their original state before his burst of anger.

“We got you food,” Peter said dropping his bag onto his bed.

James and Peter both began empting from their bags the food they’d snuck out from the Great Hall.  They had napkins full of buttered rolls, roast beef, and slices of fruit pie.  Sirius had been forced to miss dinner; if he was pretending to be too sick for detention that meant he had to pretend he was too sick for dinner.  

 “Thanks,” Sirius said. He didn’t realize how hungry he was until he started eating.

“I’ve been wondering,” Peter began turning to look at James, “Why didn’t you just tell Professor Flitwick that Sirius was sick in the dormitory? What if Flitwick checks with Madam Pomfrey?”

Sirius nodded chewing on a piece of roast beef. “He has a fair point. What if he does check with the nurse?” 

“Have faith in me gentlemen. I thought Flitwick could just as well check to see if you were in the dormitory by asking Prewett or another male prefect… this way if he does check with Madam Pomfrey it will look like I was just lying about Sirius being in the Hospital Wing. No one will be able to prove you weren’t ill in the dorm all night. We can stuff some pillows underneath your blankets and close your bed hangings. As long as no one looks closely, there is no way for certain that even our roommates can claim you weren’t in your bed.”

“Oh!” Peter exclaimed. “That is good plan.”

“Brilliant plan,” James amended.

Sirius grinned. “We’ll see. I certainly won’t be calling it brilliant if I’m given another week of detention.”

He wondered if James realized that including the one he was skipping today, he had only two more of the nights of detentions. He still had several all day Saturday detentions to serve.  It seemed senseless to test the Professors at this point after being so well behaved, but it was too late to back out now. Anyway a detention-free night of exploring was just what he needed to keep his mind off the full moon.

Sirius managed to eat most of the food James and Peter had brought. The boys began discussing how they’d sneak out of the Gryffindor Tower while he ate. After five years of exploring after curfew they had figured out the best and worst ways to leave without being detected.

It was decided that all three of them could just fit under the Invisibility Cloak if Peter changed into his Animagus form and perched on James’s shoulder. The crowded common room made it difficult for them to maneuver from boys’ dormitory staircase to the Portrait Hole, but they made it into the hall without detection. It wasn’t until they reached the designated floor that they took the Cloak off and Peter transformed back to his human self.

Peter immediately began scanning the hallway of paintings. It was one of the longest hallways in the castle, and there were eighteen paintings tacked along the walls.  While Sirius had been fighting with James and Remus, Peter had taken to exploring the castle in rat form a few times. He’d discovered a secret tunnel, but he hadn’t been brave enough to check it out himself.

“Should we keep watch while you look for the tunnel?” James questioned.

Peter nodded. “The painting had a dragon in it, I think. Everything looks different though when you’re a rat…and I only found it because of the crack in the wood bordering the hall…”

“Sirius, you can wear the Cloak. I’ll keep watch on this end and you can take the other end of the hallway,” instructed James

Sirius reached the end of the corridor, scanning left and right. He turned back to see Peter inspecting the paintings, and pushing lightly on the area below each. He turned back to check to see if the hallways were still free and then his eye caught the slowly rising moon out of one of the windows. For the thousandth time that night, his thoughts turned to Remus and the fact they should be out there with him. He kicked the wall in frustration.

The minutes ticked by, first five, then fifteen, and Sirius was quickly growing bored. He didn’t want to be stuck standing here all night. Sirius was about ready to suggest that Peter transform back into a rat to get the same perspective he had before when Peter called, “Found it!”  

Sirius verified one last time that both directions of the hallway were clear before bounding over to Peter. He didn’t take the Cloak off until he was right next to Peter, causing Peter to jump in fright. James was already kneeling beside Peter, having seemed to expect Sirius to show himself that way he was not startled. Sirius bent down to inspect the section of the wall Peter had pushed in. A small door had formed without any outside handle, swinging inward. The three Gryffindors peered in, but all that could be seen was darkness.

Lumos,” James said and he inched closer so that his wand lit up the entrance. The tunnel wasn’t very large, but Sirius was sure they would just be able to fit. There was a layer of dust on the floor and along the edges, but otherwise, it looked safe.

Peter was biting his lip looking nervous. Sirius shared a look with James. “I’ll go first,” he offered. He handed James back his Invisibility Cloak so it wouldn’t get dirty and lit his own wand. He had to crawl on his hands and knees, and it has hard not to be disgusted by the layer of dust each time his hand touched the ground or wall.  It wasn’t until the tunnel was about to make a sharp turn that he checked to see if James and Peter were following behind him at a decent pace. James was about a foot away and Peter a few inches behind James.

 “All right?” Sirius called.

“We’re good,” James said. “We’ll probably have to take a long bath after this…”

They continued onward, the tunnel was very winding, and went up and down a few times. At one point Sirius heard Peter cry out in fright, convinced a spider had crawled over his hand. James was able to calm him and they continued forward. Then without warning there was a rather steep drop, and since Sirius was first and had no warning, he found himself sliding and tumbling down it, unable to stop the momentum until he was at the bottom.

“Sirius? Sirius?!” James yelled out.

“I’m fine,” Sirius said picking himself up. “Watch out for the drop.”

Sirius found he could now fully stand and using his wand light inspected the area. The room was empty except for three empty wood crakes stacked in the corner.  He waited for James and Peter to join him; making a much more graceful entrance having had the proper warning.

“Where are we?” Peter asked as he tried unsuccessfully to dust himself off. They were all covered in grime, dust, and cobwebs.

“Wherever we are, it’s a dead end,” Sirius muttered. He was rather disappointed that the tunnel had only led to this empty room.

“What’s that?” James questioned suddenly. “There’s a square of metal on the wall.”

The boys drew closer to inspect the bit of metal James had spotted. Sirius had missed it during his surveillance. James pressed against the wall and like it had with Peter out in the fifth floor corridor a square door shape emerged. The moment James took his hands off the wall it melted back into the wall as if had never been there.

“Looks like there used to be a handle where that metal was,” James observed.

“The door probably swings inward from the outside. We’ll need to pry it open,” Sirius remarked.

“With what?” Peter asked.

Sirius frowned. “James, push lightly on the wall and don’t stop the pressure. I might be able to force it open just using my hands.”

After several failed attempts, Sirius was ready to give up. They needed something thin to push between the door and the wall.

Peter had been rummaging around in his robe pockets, but Sirius took no notice until Peter produced a butter knife. “Do you think this will help get it open?”

Sirius stared at the knife. “Why do you have that in your pocket?”

Peter flushed. “I – uh – took it from the Great Hall. My mum sent me a jar of my favorite blackberry jam and I didn’t have anything to spread it on the biscuits.”

Sirius took the knife, James pressed on the door, and on the first try Sirius was able to wedge the knife, lift the door far enough from the wall so his fingers could get a firm hold of it. They had no idea what lay on the other side, so Sirius only cracked in open enough so that he could look just look through.

 “See anything?” James whispered beside him.

Sirius shook his head. “I can’t really see much. I’ll have to open in wider.”

“Wait,” James said. “Let me put the Cloak on. I’ll check it out. Just leave the knife wedged in so I can make a quick retreat if need be.”

Sirius and Peter waited patiently as James disappeared under the Cloak. James whistled when he was completely through and Sirius hastily shut the door. They extinguished their wands and the only light came through the sliver of the door. Sirius had no idea how long Peter and he stood there in the dark. With no warning the door swung wide open, knife clattering to the floor. The sound and light startled Sirius and he felt Peter give a squeak of fright.

James was peeking through, no longer under the cloak and grinning as if he’d found a vault of gold.  “Come through,” James beckoned. “There’s no one here and you both have to see where we ended up.”

Curious Sirius and Peter crawled through the opening; it was the same size as the one they had entered through. Standing up, Sirius was greeted by a well-stocked small pantry; there were packaged biscuits, cakes, and canisters of teas and coffees. Bewildered Sirius continued out of the pantry into the main room. He glanced back to see Peter falter at the entrance out of the tunnel. Sirius motioned him forward. Peter could be such a coward at times.

The room Sirius entered was not at all what he expected. It was spacious with several comfortable couches and armchairs. He counted four hand-carved wooden tables in varying degrees of state. Some painted and others kept in natural hue of the wood they were produced from.  There were two low bookshelves stuffed with volumes of thick books and a brick fireplace similar in design to the one in the Gryffindor common room. On one wall hung the Ravenclaw and Slytherin banner, and on another Gryffindor and Hufflepuff.

“Are we where I think we are?” Sirius asked in astonishment.

James nodded fervently; his eyes were dancing with excitement.

“Do you think they know about the tunnel?” Sirius pondered.

“I doubt it. Think they would have done a better job blocking it if they did.”

“The door handle was missing.”

“Wasn’t too difficult to pry open though with the right tool.”

Peter was still gazing about looking stunned. “We aren’t in the teacher’s lounge, are we?” he asked shakily.

“It appears we are!” James exclaimed. None of them had actually been inside the teacher’s lounge before, but it had crossed their minds to find a way in before. And now accidently they had discovered a secret entrance.

Sirius wandered around, running his hand over different items of room. “This is brilliant. We could properly prank the Professors without any chance of being caught.”

“Peter?” James said, looking perplexed.  “What are you doing? Is this really a time for a cup of tea?”

Peter had toddled over to an area that looked to be used for preparing tea and coffee. “I think we need to leave,” Peter said urgently. His watery eyes had a panicked look.

“Nonsense…most of the Professors should be patrolling or in their offices at this time,” James said with a dismissive wave.

“These cups of tea look freshly poured,” Peter insisted. He was already hedging away from the table towards the pantry.

“What are you talking about?” James asked, but he noticed at the same time that Sirius did the steam coming from the tea cups.

And that’s when they both heard it…footsteps, voices, and the jingling of a turning doorknob.

***

Author’s note: So what did you think? Leave your thoughts in a review

On a side note, I know this chapter had quite a bit of Snape. Since I’ve decided to take the story until the end of fifth year I needed to set things to make “Snape’s Worst Memory” Scene workable. J.K. Rowling definitely threw a curveball in my thinking of the events when in seventh book we found out the werewolf prank happened before “Snape’s Worst Memory”.


Chapter 15: Lounges and Lists
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Chapter 15: Lounges and Lists

There was no time to think.

Sirius dropped to the ground. He’d been standing right next to a small table that had four chairs crowded around it. He scooted closer so that he could hide under it. James dived toward the same table even though if he had dived in other direction he would have had better cover. There was a chair between them as they both ducked semi-underneath the table.  James’s hazel eyes mirrored Sirius’s; a mixture of both worry and excitement about the predicament they were in.

James began slowly taking out his Invisibility Cloak, but he quickly realized it was too late to use it.  The Professors were entering the room and any movement could possibly catch their attention. Sirius waited tensely, listening carefully. Adrenaline surged through his veins, and he was only jolted further by the recognition of the voices; Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout had just walked in. McGonagall would be livid to find them in the Teacher’s lounge; especially when she realized he had skipped detention. James would be in equal trouble since he had been the one to lie about the illness.

McGonagall and Sprout headed over to where the boys had seen the two steaming tea cups; their focus was forward and not to the left where Sirius and James were. The teacher’s lounge was one of the few areas in the castle that the professors could let their guard down, so it was this fact more than luck that they were not spotted.

With the Professors backs turned, James took the opportunity to unfold the cloak, and he inched around the chair so he was on the same side as Sirius. Together they draped the Cloak over them. The rustling of the fabric sounded especially loud to Sirius and he was convinced that any minute McGonagall or Sprout would spin around and spot them. Once they successfully covered themselves, Sirius spared a moment to think of Peter. Peter had been close enough to duck into the cupboard and he hoped that Peter had enough sense to shut the tunnel door. If the Professors discovered the existence of the tunnel not only would they not be able to use it, but the Professors might then do a careful search of the lounge. 

Eventually McGonagall and Sprout picked up their teacups and looked for a table to sit at. Of course of all the tables in the room, they headed straight for the one they were next to. Sirius made a silent gesture to James who nodded in agreement. Very slowly the boys backed away from the table on their hands and knees (it was too much of risk to stand up at this point). They were just far enough away when Sprout pulled the very chair they’d been next to out from under and table and took a seat.

Sirius shared a look of relief with James. They were both breathing heavily, but if the Professors heard, they must have decided the noise wasn’t coming from students hiding under an Invisibility Cloak. The conversation between Sprout and McGonagall was very mundane. They complained about the weather and tests they needed to grade, and they discovered that Sprout was looking for a gift for her sibling.

There was a flurry of noise and more teachers entered the room. Sirius was surprised by this. It had never occurred to him that the Professors might actually socialize with each other during the evening. He thought they just did teaching duties every night like patrolling the corridors and grading papers in their private offices.

Flitwick and Keenan were two of the several teachers that had entered, and James and Sirius were forced to move again from their spot when Flitwick and Keenan chose the table they were now hidden near. James tapped him on the shoulder and Sirius looked at him inquiringly. James made a motion towards the cupboard. It did make sense that while the teacher’s lounge was bustling with activity for them to make an attempt to reach the tunnel. Unfortunately it was still too risky for them to try standing up, so they had to crawl across the room, constantly pausing to make sure the cloak didn’t slip or get caught under one of their limbs. At one point Flitwick went to the cupboard to grab biscuits and almost tripped right over them.

Though it took them quite a long time they eventually reached the safety of the cupboard. Quickly they stood, keeping the Cloak half on them. Sirius pushed against the wall, slipped from under the Cloak and crawled through. James came next and he wasted not a second before latching the door shut.

They stared at each other in the darkness and then erupted into laughter from relief. Sirius lit his wand. He half expected Peter to be waiting for them here, but clearly he had left. 

“I thought for sure we’d be caught!”

“I didn’t know McGonagall and Sprout were friends!”

After they went through a few more exclamations and discussed how lucky they were, they made the decision to head back down the tunnel. They were slightly delayed by the slanted pathway that Sirius had tumbled down. It took a running start to get enough momentum to reach the flatter area. As they were both much more athletic than Peter, Sirius wondered how he had managed to get up it.

Once out in the fifth floor corridor James insisted only Sirius wear the Cloak. There was still five minutes before curfew which James said would give them plenty of time to arrive to the common room. They made it through the corridors without a problem and as they neared the Portrait of the Fat Lady they noticed the floor littered with pamphlets. Sirius bent down to pick one up, careful to keep it under the Cloak. James had also grabbed one.

The front cover read: Truth About Mudbloods

There were slanted stripes across the first page in a muddy maroon color that was clearly meant to look like mud mixed with blood. Sirius stared at in disbelief before flipping through the pages. It didn’t take long to see it was filled with anti-Muggleborn propaganda. James was looking as appalled as he felt and before either of them could speak, Lily Evans stepped out.  

 “Potter?” She looked surprised to come face to face with James. Quickly her gaze travelled from James to the surrounding mess. “What did you do?!”

“Me?” James protested indignantly. “Have you looked at these?” James stepped closer to Evans thrusting a pamphlet at her. It didn’t take long for Evans to pale and look slightly sick.

“This is horrible,” she stated softly. She looked at James again. “Did you see who did this?”

James shook his head. “No. Sorry. It was like this when I got here.”

Lily sighed. “Help me pick them up. Then we’ll go find a Professor. Don’t want the younger students seeing these if we can help it.”

James agreed and he glanced behind him where Sirius stood. Evans had left the Portrait door open and Sirius understood that it was best he took this moment to slip up to the dorm. Peter was waiting nervously attempting to finish an essay. Sirius quickly filled him in on their discovery outside the Gryffindor Tower. James arrived back about twenty minutes later. He had found out that the pamphlets had been distributed outside each of the common rooms and by the Great Hall. The Professors had no leads and they were baffled how a student or groups of students had managed this feat without someone seeing them as this had all been done right before curfew of the fourth and fifth year students.

The pamphlets weight heavily on their minds to the point that Sirius forgot for an hour that it was a full moon night. Instead of strategizing about uses for the tunnel, the boys found themselves discussing the implication of the pamphlets. The mood in the dormitory stayed somber for the rest of the night and it took some time before Sirius was able to fall asleep.

***

Remus Lupin woke up alone in the isolation room of the Hospital Wing. It was nearing dusk; he’d been in and out of consciousness all morning and afternoon. His head throbbed and his throat felt like sandpaper. He drained the glass of water beside his bed. The small movement that it required set a ripple of pain through his body. He lay still waiting for it to pass and once it was gone he noticed a sharp pain in his upper thigh and a dull ache in the wrist and shoulder of his left arm.

He closed his eyes briefly only to snap them open when he heard the voices of his friends. Madam Pomfrey was with them and he overheard her sternly say, “I need to first check on him. Only if I feel he is strong enough for visitors may you then come in.”

Madam Pomfrey bustled in shutting the door firmly shut. Remus suspected if she had not his friends would have simply followed her in.

 “How are you feeling?” she asked gently. She laid a cool hand on his forehead.

“I’ve felt worse,” he managed.

“I have two potions for you to drink. It should help dull the pain.”

“How did I fair?” he asked as he took the first one.

“Nothing that won’t heal fully in time. There’s a large gash on your upper leg. You’ve sprained your wrist and injured your shoulder. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but your cheek is badly bruised and swollen. Besides some medication for inflammation that will have to go heal on its own. There are also the usual surface scratches.”

Remus nodded. He’d certainly had worse injuries after previous transformation. Madam Pomfrey waited patiently as he took small sips of the first and then second potion.

Handing her back the empty cups, he asked casually, “Are my friends out there?”

“Heard them, did you?”

“I told them they could visit.”

Madam Pomfrey frowned. “I want you to be honest. Are you really up for visitors?”

“Yes,” Remus responded immediately. He was tired and hurting, but he knew his friends would be anxious to see him.

Madam Pomfrey sighed. “No more than thirty minutes. You need still plenty of rest and I don’t want you overexcited.”

“Thank you.”

Madam Pomfrey opened the door to let James, Sirius, and Peter in. She told his friends the same thing she had just told him.

They entered the room all smiles and he saw them all falter at his appearance. James sat on the only chair in the room. Peter plopped on the corner of the bed. Sirius stayed standing, his body held stiffly and arms crossed.

“It looks worse than it is,” Remus insisted hoarsely.

James grimaced. “There will be no hiding that bruise on your face.” He suddenly grinned. “We’ll have to come up with some story about you single handedly defeated ten Death Eaters.”

Peter let out a laugh, but Sirius kept his expression guarded. Remus appreciated James’s attempt to lighten the mood.

 “How about trolls or giants?” Peter offered.

“I think I’ll just say that I clumsily fell down a flight of stairs,” Remus said smiling slightly.

“That’s boring,” Peter said.

“It needs to be heroic,” James agreed.  “Get the witches interested.”

Remus laughed. It caused a spasm of pain, but he didn’t care.

However Sirius noticed his grimace of pain. Quietly he asked, “Where else are you hurt?”

Remus rattled off to him the injuries as Madam Pomfrey had him. He watched Sirius’s reaction, but wasn’t sure what his friend was thinking.

“Not so bad,” James said.

“Sounds pretty bad to me,” Sirius mumbled.

“I’ll be healed in no time.” Remus didn’t want to dwell on his injuries. He wanted to talk about other things than the full moon. “So what did you do last night?”

He expected them all to moan and groan about how bored they’d been, but instead they exchanged glances. Remus knew something interesting had occurred. He looked inquiringly at James, but it was Peter who burst.

“We found a tunnel to the Teacher’s Lounge!”

“What?” Remus asked.

“When are you going to learn to tell a story properly? As in start from the beginning?” Sirius stated condescendingly.

Peter colored, but he didn’t hang his head as he might have a few years ago. “I thought you didn’t want Remus to know you skipped detention!”

Sirius scowled and Remus was sure he had just imagined the calculating gleam in Peter’s eyes.

Remus waited a moment, but when no one willingly stepped up to tell him more he spoke. “You skipped detention?”

“I was going to tell you,” Sirius responded defensively.

Remus looked from Sirius to James, and James to Sirius. Remus was filled with dread. How much trouble had Sirius gotten into? “Tell me you weren’t caught.”

“I wasn’t caught,” Sirius replied, and Remus couldn’t tell if he was lying or not.

“Truthfully?”

Sirius shrugged as it were little matter to him. “Appears I am in the clear. James told Professor Flitwick I was sick. He saw me this morning, asked me if I was better, and said I could make-up the detention on Monday.”

“He didn’t check to see if you were really ill? Ask for a note?”

“Professors had their hands full with other troublemakers,” Sirius answered.

Remus looked at Sirius curiously, but it was James who explained about the anti-Muggleborn pamphlets. They spent a few minutes on the topic, but Remus found himself wanting to know more about the tunnel they had discovered once he realized they really didn’t have any concrete information about source of the pamphlet distribution.

 Remus changed the topic back to the tunnel by stating, “So this exploring couldn’t wait for another night when Sirius didn’t have detention?”

James grinned. “We wanted a good story to tell you. And really what’s the harm? Sirius will still do the detention.”

Remus sighed. A lecture about following rules was on the tip of his tongue, but he knew it would be a waste of breath. James and Sirius didn’t view school rules the same way he did. They seemed to think the rules were there so that they could figure out ways to break them without being caught as entertainment. And he didn’t wish for Sirius to get into trouble, but he knew it would only verify in his friends’ minds that they were correct in their views.

“So what are you waiting for? Are you going to tell me the story or not?”

James laughed and began the story. He took turns with Sirius at parts, and Peter interjected here and there. Sirius visibly relaxed during the story telling and he drew closer to the bed. And as usual with their adventures it was a good story and it fully distracted Remus temporarily from his pain. 

Remus was rather surprised that there was a secret tunnel that led to the Teacher’s lounge, but Hogwarts was full of things like that. It rather had a mind like its own with doors that only opened certain days and trick steps that no one was able to fix for more than a few days. He wondered if it had been built for a specific purpose and then somehow in the passage of time the knowledge of it was forgotten. He knew the Marauders would make good use of this discovery and he found himself actually excited by the prospect. If they kept the prank clever and light hearted they might even impress the Professors more than anger them.

As his friends continued to speak – their easy banter and laughter caused a sudden pang. It wasn’t until Madam Pomfrey shooed them away that he realized it was jealousy that he had been feeling. They hadn’t had that sort of camaraderie since the Whomping Willow incident, and Remus had now missed the first opportunity for them to feel like a group again.  It was his fault. If he had let James, Sirius, and Peter accompany him last night, they would have waited for another night to scout out the tunnel. If he had let them come they would have been speaking to him about their night with the werewolf and he would have been part of the conversation, even if he could only remember snatches of the night. Without the Animagi as company, he remembered nothing.

He closed his eyes emptying his mind as best he could; he was still physically exhausted so despite his troubled mind he was easily able to succumb to sleep.  

***

Remus was released from the Hospital Wing Sunday morning. Sirius was the only one in the dormitory when he arrived.  James and Peter were at the Quidditch pitch; James to practice, Peter to watch.

Sirius was frantically getting ready at the moment Remus walked in. He was running late for a group meeting for a Charms Assignment. It only took a quick glance for Sirius to notice that Remus’s black eye and bruised cheek looked worse despite the fact Remus had regained his color. The boys exchanged pleasantries, but the conversation did not get any further than that before Sirius excused himself. In a rush down the dormitory steps, Sirius almost crashed into Connor, who was coming up the other way.

Connor batted away Sirius’s attempt at apology, stating authoritatively that Professor McGonagall was down in the common room, looking for him, and was quite unhappy. Sirius frowned, not exactly thrilled to hear this. His first thought is that McGonagall had found out about his skipped detention. If the Professors all spent time together in the teacher’s lounge it was possible that Flitwick and Pomfrey had spoken and the truth had surfaced.

Connor had been right in his assessment of McGonagall’s mood. She looked very grim, but Sirius couldn’t help feeling that her unhappiness was not directed at him. Everyone in the common room was looking at him with interest. It had been almost a week he supposed since he’d offered them a source of gossip. McGonagall ushered him out into the hallway so quickly that it took Sirius several minutes of silently walking beside her to realize he had no knowledge of their destination.   

“Where are we going, Professor?” He had to take long strides to keep up with her pace.

 “The Great Hall,” McGonagall answered. “You have a visitor.”

Sirius gaped at her. “A visitor?”

She did not pause to answer him. “Yes. Your visitor was quite adamant that you would be fetched as quickly as possible.”

“Who is it, Professor?” Sirius questioned.

She continued walking as if she hoped he would forget about his question if they kept moving.

“Professor? Who is it?” Sirius repeated his tone slightly more demanding.

“Your cousin. Bellatrix Lestrange.”

“Bellatrix?” he asked horrified. “Bellatrix wants to see me?” Even before he was disowned the idea of Bellatrix visiting him would have been frightening. She lacked a moral compass and enjoyed bestowing cruelty.

Professor McGonagall kept her features stiff. “Yes, she has requested to speak with you. She is waiting by the Great Hall.”

Sirius clenched his fists. “No. No I won’t speak to her.”

“I’m afraid you have no choice.” She held her hand up when Sirius opened his mouth to protest. “This is a legal matter. She has brought a lawyer with her. Things will get messy if you refuse to speak with her.”

Legal matter? Sirius couldn’t think of anything that Bellatrix could possible want from him. He couldn’t think of any reason she would want to even associate with him. She’d completely abandoned her sister when Andromeda had married the Muggleborn wizard and they’d been much closer than Sirius had ever been with her.

“I know this won’t be pleasant,” Professor McGonagall said her tone uncharacteristically soft. “However, I advise you speak to her.”

Sirius nodded, a lump was forming in his throat. He walked beside McGonagall reluctantly. Before he knew it they reached the Great Hall. Bellatrix was dressed in formal, elegant robes and her hair was pinned up. She stood poised and proper, though it did not prevent the hair on Sirius’s arms to rise as she smiled at him. Bellatrix had a haunting beauty about her; stunning yet frightening.

Bellatrix strode toward him and engulfed in him in a hug.  “My dear Sirius!”

The gesture put him more on edge than if she had hexed him for being blood-traitor. He didn’t know who Bellatrix was putting a show on for. Professor McGonagall had taught her for several years and knew she was not an affectionate, warm person. If she meant to play with his head, she had certainly succeeded.

Sirius then noticed a tall, thin man with beady eyes, a large nose and a shrewd expression, standing to the side near the four hourglasses with House total points. Sirius recognized him as their family lawyer; however he had never spoken with the man. As the man had been working over ten years for the Blacks, Sirius knew his sense of morals would be as skewed as anyone in his family. He’d have quit by now if that wasn’t the case.

Sirius attempted to extract himself from Bellatrix’s grasp, but she kept a strong grip on his shoulder and smile on her face. “Professor McGonagall, if I may speak to my cousin in private?”

“You may use the Great Hall,” McGonagall said sharply, clearly not being taken in by Bellatrix’s politeness.

“Thank you ever so much.” Bella smiled, though her eyes had a dangerous glint to them. “Frank, wait out here please.”

Sirius was shuffled inside the Great Hall. The empty large room only served to make him feel more alone in facing his cousin. He still did not know if this was a personal visit or a visit on behalf of the Black Family. Unfortunately neither was something he wanted.

 “Let’s sit on the house table of our ancestors,” Bellatrix commanded.

It was an order, not a suggestion, and Sirius decided not to argue. He didn’t want to waste his breath on such a small matter when he had no idea what the impending conversation would bring. If felt very strange being on the other side of the room. This side of the room stood for so much that he opposed; the enemy the moment the Sorting Hat had shouted Gryffindor. Bella took a seat opposite him. To think if he had been a different person, someone more like his brother or cousins, this would have been his table.  

“How are you, Sirius?” Bellatrix asked her eyes watching Sirius’s every movement and every breath.

“Fantastic. What do you want?” Sirius snapped.

“We’ll get to that,” she said with a hand wave. “You look well enough.”

“Disappointed?”

Bellatrix chuckled. “I wanted to see you for myself. See how you are holding up. After all I missed all the fun. I was out of touch with most of the family during my trip abroad for the Dark Lord. Imagine my surprise when I found Regulus was the new heir.”

Sirius stared straight at her, but his courage was faltering and his mouth felt dry. He didn’t want to talk about his brother.  He didn’t want to think about his choice to leave his family.  Bellatrix reached out and grabbed his hand as if to comfort him. The hard squeeze she gave was more threatening than her words.

“You would have made a great addition to the Dark Lord’s forces. You have the right mixture of courage, cleverness, passion…and most importantly purity of blood, he seeks. You could have risen to the top…been a leader among his followers. Pity that your choices have led us here.”

Sirius jerked his hand away. “If you are here to get me to change my mind, save your breath.”

Bellatrix looked scandalized. “Heavens, no! You have lost your place in our family for good. Turns out you were not irreplaceable. Should have disowned you the moment you were sorted into Gryffindor.”

They both knew why the Black family had held on for so long in hopes of reforming Sirius. While Regulus would never rebel, he would also not advance the Black family in the same way Sirius could have. Regulus would keep the Black’s in the sidelines and out of the Daily Prophet, but that necessarily wasn’t a good thing in the Black’s minds. As Sirius’s family always believed being a Black meant you were practically royalty, they expected to be in the spotlight. Still they quickly had found out that it was sometimes better to be unremarkable as Sirius had recently brought them only negative attention among the pureblood elite.

 “You are no longer important to the family,” Bellatrix added studying him.

“Really?” Sirius asked, hiding his uneasiness by turning the tables and putting Bellatrix on the defense. “I’m not important? Yet here you are. You travelled all the way to Hogwarts just to see me. You paid a lawyer to come with you, and I’m sure it took some convincing on your part to get Dumbledore’s permission to allow you back in the castle.”

Bellatrix smiled, though her eyes stayed dark. She appeared unruffled by his words. “You’re important like a thorn in my side.”

Sirius’s heart was beating quickly and took a large breath before continuing to speak. “My parents ordered you here, didn’t they?”

Bellatrix was not amused. “I’m an adult. I hardly take orders from your parents.”

“So, why are you here?”

Bellatrix reached inside her robes and on instinct Sirius made a grab for his wand. His quick reflex amused her. She did not take out her wand, but a sheet of thick folded paper. She slid it over to him.

 Sirius snapped the paper up and unfolded it. There was a list of items.

Chess set, marbled stone

Cufflinks, silver with a snake

Quill box, gold-plated

Large trunk (black with silver trim)

Sirius recognized the items on the list for they were all in his possession. He looked at Bellatrix confused. “What’s this?”

“These items have been reported stolen to the Ministry.”

“Stolen? I didn’t steal any of these.” He paused, the realization of Bellatrix’s angle hitting him. “These were all given to me and you know that.”

“Given to the Black heir, which you no longer are.”

“You only had to ask, I would have given them back without all this fuss.”

“Aunt Walburga did. She’s sent you three letters. You haven’t responded to any of them.”

“I never received any letters.”

“Who do you think the Ministry will believe?”

Sirius stared at Bellatrix. “What is it you want?”

“Just the items back. Once they are in my possession I will owl the Ministry immediately that it was just a misunderstanding.”

Sirius narrowed his eyes. It seemed too simple of an order. Yes, his parents were showing him an example of their influence. Proving that Hogwarts could only shield him so far, but it seemed more trouble than the message that was delivered to him was worth. Sirius looked over the list again. He didn’t have any problem handling over most of the items.  It was only his trunk that in any way was a necessity. Though he knew it was also an heirloom. It had been forged by goblins and belonged to the original Sirius Black.

“That’s all you want? These items back?” Sirius asked just to be sure there wasn’t another stipulation.

“That’s all.”

“Fine,” Sirius said. It seemed pointless to fight this. He would be glad to get rid of any reminders of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He convinced himself that it wasn’t as if his parents really had any control over him any longer. He stood, stuffing the sheet of paper into his pocket.

 “Excellent. Seeing some sense finally,” Bellatrix commented. She also stood and took a moment to smooth out her robes, which was a strange, ladylike gesture for her. “I also have a message from your mother to pass on to you.”

Sirius who had been ready to make a beeline for the door paused warily.

“She is pleased your marks have improved this week. Though she believes you can still do better in Potions.”

Sirius stared at Bellatrix. It took a few seconds for the words to sink in and when they did he felt a growing chill. Bellatrix continued, “All the Professors seem pleased with your behavior as of late. They wrote that you are more attentive in class and put more effort into your assignments.” Bellatrix watched the disbelief wash over his face. She chuckled. “Why do you look so shocked, cousin?”

It took a second for Sirius to find his voice. “I was disinherited.”

 “So you thought that meant your parents wouldn’t have access to your marks and behavior at Hogwarts?” Bellatrix, of course, knew this was exactly what he thought.

“Yes! Why should they?”

“Silly boy. That deals with titles and possessions. Not your parents’ access to your records at Hogwarts. You are still underage.”

“That’s – that’s not fair.”

“Dumbledore agrees with you…he tried to stop it, but luckily Board of Governors stepped in. They agreed since you ran away it should not affect your parents’ rights.”

“I didn’t just run away.”

“Didn’t you? That’s what the Daily Prophet said and since I wasn’t there, I can only assume as the Board of Governors have that you are just a troubled young man who ran away from an affable home.”

“Maybe I’ll go to the Prophet and tell them the truth!”

“You could,” Bellatrix admitted, but she didn’t look worried. “It’s doubtful the truth would ever be published.”

“You’ve paid them off?”

Bellatrix walked around the Slytherin table closer to Sirius. “There’s no point in fighting it Sirius. There is nothing you can do. This is how it will be. Your parents will receive weekly reports on your behavior; individual reports from each of your teachers. Then every two weeks they will also receive a report about your marks. This will occur until your seventeenth birthday. ” Sirius stayed rooted to his spot as Bellatrix walked closer toward him. “Should your behavior be vulgar and out of control or should your marks drop, your parents might investigate other parental rights they still have, including your living arrangements in the summer.”

“My parents would never allow me back in the house over the summer.” He hated the fact that his voice wobbled slightly betraying his distress.

“Did I say they would? But they could make sure you had to live with someone unpleasant and not the Potters.”

“I’d just run away again!” Sirius shouted.

Bellatrix shook her head with a sad smile as if she felt sorry for him; as if he were a young child that didn’t yet understand the way the real world worked. The gesture was too much and he abruptly turned away for his cousin, furious. He barged out the Great Hall startling McGonagall and Frank who were standing several feet from each other. He wanted to hit something, but the fact there was an audience stopped him.

 “Is everything all right, Mr. Black?” McGonagall questioned sensing his anger.

Bellatrix answered for him. “He’s fine. You know how high-strung and emotional teenage boys can be.”

Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows, but didn’t press the truth from Sirius when he didn’t make a comment.  Sirius was trying his best to calm himself down. After all he’d been through; he couldn’t believe that his family had found a way to still monitor his behavior. He felt trapped and unable to breath. Several students were walking by the Great Hall glanced at them curiously. At least it was early enough in the morning that most students hadn’t ventured out since going back to their common room after breakfast.

“I’m ready to get the items,” Sirius announced more loudly than he meant to. The sooner it could be done the better.

 “I presume Frank filled you in, Professor?” Bellatrix asked.

McGonagall nodded curtly. “Though I am afraid Mr. Frank’s insistence that he accompany Sirius to his dormitory is not possible. Only Professors and current Gryffindor students are allowed in the common room and dormitory.” Sirius had a distinct impression that McGonagall enjoyed denying Bellatrix her request.

Frank cleared his throat. “And I tried to explain that this would only benefit young Mr. Black. My presence would prevent any accusations later that Mr. Black attempted to hide any of these items.”

“I already told Bella that I have them,” Sirius responded. “I’m not going to bloody hide any of them.”

Frank smiled at him indulgently. “I’m afraid I must insist that an adult be present in the dormitory with Mr. Black. Let us not forget these items have been reported stolen. We could have easily sent the Ministry here instead of coming ourselves.”

McGonagall frowned, though relented their request. “I suppose I can find a male Professor that is not busy at the moment. If you could please wait in the Great Hall while I bring Mr. Black upstairs.”

McGonagall waited until the door to the Great Hall shut before ushering Sirius along.  “We’ll stop by Professor Keenan’s office. He’ll go up to the dormitory with you.”

“Professor Keenan?”

“Professor Flitwick is out for the day and I thought you would rather him than Professor Slughorn.”

McGonagall was correct, but he still didn’t like the idea of Keenan being involved.  He supposed though of all the Professors, Keenan would be the least surprised by this since he already knew first-hand how awful his family was.

Inside Keenan’s office, Sirius stood uncomfortably in the spotlight as McGonagall explained to Keenan the situation at hand. Within moments Sirius found himself walking slightly behind the two Professors up the seventh floor. The Fat Lady was flustered by Keenan’s presence, fluffing her hair and blushing slightly. Professor McGonagall handed Keenan a copy of the list before the two of them entered. She told them once items were collected to head back to the Great Hall. She was already walking back and Sirius assumed it was to keep an eye on the visitors.  

The common room was now even more crowded and silence fell over the room again. A group of first years looked at Professor Keenan with wide eyes and opened mouths. A seventh year couple that had been snogging on one of the couches turned bright red and hastily moved apart. It was very rare for a teacher besides the Head of House to enter a House common room. As far as Sirius could remember this was the first time for it to happen since he’d entered Hogwarts. Professor Keenan smiled mildly at the Gryffindors and acted as if were perfectly normal for him to be strolling through their common room.

Keenan followed Sirius up the stairs. Remus looked surprised to see him when he opened the door. “Sirius - Connor told me –“ Remus faltered as Professor Keenan entered.

Professor Keenan smiled pleasantly at Remus. “Hello, Mr. Lupin.”

“Good morning, Professor Keenan.” Remus looked back and forth between Sirius and Professor Keenan; his face was creased with worry. “Should I leave?”

Professor Keenan looked at Sirius inquiringly. Sirius shrugged. As much as he didn’t want Remus to see this, it would make Remus only more curious to know the truth.

Keenan studied the list in his hand and then suggested that they start by empting his trunk. Sirius agreed quickly and opened the lid. Remus watched this quietly and as Sirius began taking his items, he blurted, “Are you expelled?”

“No,” Sirius replied curtly. He continued to methodically place his things on his bed.

“Suspended?” Remus asked next.

“No,” Sirius answered not bothering to look up.

“Do you want help?”

Sirius paused for his work to glance at Keenan unsure if it would be allowed.

“Don’t see the harm,” Keenan said.

So with Remus’s help his trunk was emptied out onto his bed more quickly; a jumble of clothes, books, and other things. Keenan checked off each item as Sirius placed it back in the trunk. Sirius had stored most of the items at the bottom of his trunk except for the chess set on Peter’s desk and the cufflinks in a velvet pouch in the first drawer of his desk.

Keenan levitated the trunk and moved to exit the dormitory.

“Are you lending your trunk to someone?” Remus asked.

“Something like that,” Sirius muttered. He picked his head up and was surprised how worried Remus looked. “I’ll explain later,” he added hoping to allay some of Remus’s concern.  He then followed Keenan back down to the common room. It was worse than before to walk back through. Sirius knew they all must think that he was either suspended or expelled. Hopefully word wouldn’t reach James and Peter until he had a chance to speak to them.

Sirius and Professor Keenan descended down to the Great Hall in silence. It wasn’t until they had almost reached the landing on the first floor that Professor Keenan spoke.

“Do you have anything to store your things in?”

“Who doesn’t have a spare trunk in their back pocket?” Sirius answered sarcastically.

Professor Keenan looked at him. “There is no need for rudeness. I am on your side, Mr. Black.”

Sirius stared straight ahead without answering. He thought about the pile of things sitting on his bed. He wondered if his friends had any room in their trunks or drawers.

“I’ll have house-elves bring up some boxes so you can store your items in their temporarily until we can figure out another solution.”

Sirius nodded, but he could not bring himself to thank Keenan.

In the Great Hall the lawyer verified that all the items were there. He took each and every item out, turned them over to inspect them. Frank snapped the trunk back closed and nodded at Bellatrix.

“Is that all you require?” Professor McGonagall asked.

“Yes. That is all.”

“I shall see you out.” McGonagall moved toward the door. He knew McGonagall was anxious to get Bellatrix out of the castle as soon as possible.

“If you think it necessary,” Bellatrix answered. “Goodbye, Sirius. I hope today has been…educational for you.” Her eyes glittered as Sirius stiffened.

“Goodbye, Bella,” Sirius answered choosing the nickname her sisters used.

Professor McGonagall held the door open as Bellatrix and Frank exited the Great Hall leaving Sirius alone with Professor Keenan. He was glad McGonagall was busy seeing his cousin out because that meant she wouldn’t have a chance to try to speak to him about what had all happened. Of course Keenan might not afford him the same courtesy.

“If you need a few minutes, Mr. Black, you are welcome to stay here. Make sure the doors are shut tightly on your way out. It’ll lock behind you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sirius answered surprised that Keenan was leaving it at that. He waited until Keenan left before collapsing onto a bench on the Gryffindor table. His thoughts were whirling around in his head.

He knew now that the whole visit with Bellatrix had been carefully planned out by his family. He had almost begun to believe that they had decided to leave him alone, but clearly that was not the case. For some reason they had chosen until now to begin to flaunt their influence. And it appeared they knew his weaknesses better than he thought. Somehow they had known how bothered he would be by the simple fact that they had privy to his behavior and grades at Hogwarts. He knew he should not let it bother him so much because really what harm could come out of them knowing if he had the highest mark in Charms or that he’d lost ten points in potions?

Despite his attempts to convince himself that such knowledge was harmless, it still troubled him. The very idea that he had done such a radical thing as run away to only find out that he wasn’t really free of his parents’ grasp was what upset him the most.

Sirius’s thoughts tumbled around in his mind for several minutes. Eventually he grew sick of thinking and decided he was ready to head back to Gryffindor Tower. He was in no mood to meet with this Charms group anymore, but he knew he owed Remus some sort of explanation about what had occurred. It was then an idea popped into his mind. His family expected him to take this all quietly; the humiliation and powerlessness. They expected him to grumble about it to his friends and spend sleepless nights tossing and turning about it. Maybe then the best way to get his family back was to do the exact opposite. A common room full of Gryffindors had seen Keenan take his trunk and there was bound to be questions. Maybe instead of ignoring their questions, he’d tell them the truth. Instead of being ashamed about it, he’d joke out it and put a positive spin on it.

The idea, whether he would actually go through with it or not, immediately made him feel better and with a steady stride, he pushed opened the door out of the Great Hall.

***

Author’s note: Thanks for reading. Now in the spirit of the Holiday Season, send the gift that just keeps on giving: a review!


Chapter 16: Trunk Tales
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“And here I thought you were sending out your trunk to be refurbished.”

Sirius let out a nervous laugh leaning back against the wooden chair. He could feel his heart beating fast. “I’d be a right prat if that were the case.”

Remus’s joking response had been unexpected. It had been difficult to tell Remus the reason he’d ran away and why he’d need to empty his trunk. Though in hindsight, Sirius wasn’t sure why. Remus wasn’t judgmental by nature. And Remus couldn’t possibly think less of him than he had after the werewolf incident. It might have had to do with the fact that Remus had loving parents who scoured the world and used up most of their savings searching for a cure for lycanthropy. As with James and Peter, none of them could really relate to being treated so terribly by the very people who were supposed to love you unconditionally. Though he wasn’t being completely fair because Remus certainly understood hardship and the cruelties humans were capable of.

The bit of light streaming through the half open curtains illuminated the mess of items still on Sirius’s bed. Remus was sitting on his bed and Sirius had pulled over one of the extra chairs in the dorm. His bed looked strange with the empty space where his trunk had been.   

“Your parents they are…” Remus’s voice trailed off unable to complete the sentence.

“Crazy? Insane? Horrid? Shall I continue listing adjectives?”

Remus smiled briefly. “I suppose those will do, but…“

Sirius who had been fiddling with his tie glanced up. “But what?”

“Aren’t you more worried about…” Again Remus trailed off.

“About what?”

“Voldemort.” Remus uttered the word quickly. It was brave to say it at all as so many were too afraid to now-a-days. “From what I’ve read in the Prophet he doesn’t usually like it when you say ‘no’ to him.”

Sirius laughed drily. “No, he does not. Good thing he never knew.”

“He didn’t know?”

“I’ve been approached before this to show my support, but did he know one of the reasons I was disinherited was because I refused to join him? No.”

“I suppose that’s good,” Remus said and he suddenly sat up straighter. “Wait...you’ve been approached before?”

Sirius shrugged. “I was heir of a powerful ancient pure blood family…it was to be expected.”

Remus appeared to be processing this information. “Was James approached?”

“Not that I know of,” Sirius said. “His family has been blood traitors for several generations. I’m not sure if they’d even bother.”

“Then maybe they’ll leave you alone, now that you aren’t the heir?”

“I’m not sure. If he’s heard I was disowned, and I don’t see how he hasn’t, then I’m sure he’ll be watching me.”

“That’s a pleasant thought.”

Sirius nodded. Honestly he hadn’t given Voldemort much thought at all. He’d been more focused on how his family would try to make his life miserable as possible; almost forgetting that if Voldemort heard of his defiance he’d surely be murdered. It was naïve to believe he’d be written off just because he was no longer heir.  Sirius had been a public figure as heir to the family and running away had not changed that. As long as he stayed the topic of gossip then Voldemort would remain interested in him. Though whether it was to continue to recruit him or kill him would remain to be seen.

Remus cleared his throat breaking Sirius’s thoughts. “What are you going to do about your parents?”

“What can I do?” Sirius gesturing roughly to his possessions scattered on his bed. His thoughts about Voldemort had left him agitated and speaking about his family only made it worse. “I ran away and it still feels like they won.”

“You did get away, isn’t that what matters?”

“Not when they can barge in with lawyers demanding whatever they please!” Sirius sprang to his feet, walking swiftly over to the window. He didn’t speak again until he had his emotions better under control. “Just knowing they are still monitoring me…”

“I know it’s not what you wanted or the ideal situation,” Remus began.

Sirius turned, throwing him a withering look.

“Use it against them.”

“And how do you propose I do that?” Sirius asked sarcastically.

“By being on your best behavior and achieving top grades.”

“That’s what they want.”

“Is it? From what you’ve told me, I would think they’d want you to fail. It will reflect better on them if your grades are awful. If the disowned Black heir is expelled from Hogwarts, won’t everyone think that your parents’ made the right decision? No one would blame them that they took the reins of the family away from someone so unstable and unsuitable.”

Sirius opened his mouth to protest and then shut it because Remus was right. Somehow Remus had guessed correctly his family’s motivation despite having nothing to do with the pure-blood world. “I just…it sounds like an awful lot of work. Failing would be easier.”

It was Remus’s turn to give him a look.

“I’m just kidding. I haven’t forgotten that I’m on probation and I don’t want to be expelled.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Remus stated. “I do sometimes wonder.”

Sirius let out a laugh. He sometimes wondered too why he so often skirted the line between detention and expulsion.

 “What are we going to do about all your stuff?”

“Professor Keenan said he’d send some boxes up later.” Sirius walked back over to his bed picking up an old shoe box that he had stored odds and ends in. Lifting the lid on the top were several photographs of the four of them taken in third year. They all looked so young. “Maybe I should go through some of this stuff. What are your plans for the day?”

“I’ve got to do some research in the library.”

Sirius groaned. “For what? We don’t have any reports due this week.”

“Extra credit for Flitwick. I have to make up points for that practical test I spectacularly failed.”

“What are you researching?”

“Map Charms.”

“Hmmm…doesn’t sound particularly interesting.”

“I didn’t pick it,” Remus replied. He pulled several books out of his satchel before adding a notebook and quill.

“Suppose I’ll join you. I have plenty of school work and since now I’m going to be a model student, I suppose I better get started.”

“Didn’t you have a group meeting to go to?”

“We were only going to meet to assign different sections to work on. I’m sure I’ll run into one of them later today and find out what they assigned me.” Sirius glanced sideways at Remus suddenly worried that Remus might not want his company. They were getting along better, but it certainly wasn’t like before when he could assume that Remus would want to spend time with him. Perhaps asking about his group meeting was Remus’s way of hinting he didn’t want Sirius to tag along. “Unless you want to be alone?”

“No, you can come,” Remus said, slinging his school bag over his shoulder.

Sirius grinned and scooped up his bag from the floor. It was still packed from before when he planned on meeting with his group. “Ready?”

The boys descended down the stairs and they were met with a still very lively common room. Gryffindors glanced their way and Sirius hoped that this was enough to dispel rumors that he’d been expelled.

“Oi! Black! Where are you going?”

Sirius turned to see that it was Elizabeth Stroud who had called his name. She was in his group. She was sitting with Mary McDonald and Clara York. Sirius approached them, while Remus hung by the door. “Sorry I missed the meeting. I was delayed.”

“I heard. Getting your trunk repainted?” Stroud demanded, unimpressed by his excuse. Stroud had her arms crossed and her boldness amused him.

Sirius laughed. “Remus asked me the same thing.”

“And?” Stroud commanded

“Liz!” Clara York said. “Maybe it’s personal.”

“It’s ok,” Sirius stated. He took a deep breath. MacDonald was a big gossip so if he wanted everyone to know what had happened, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have her hear this. “My parents were really angry I ran away so they demanded some of the heirlooms back…including my trunk.”

He was greeted with three identically shocked faces. York’s mouth has actually hanging open. Though Sirius couldn’t control his family and it was them who were acting crazy, Sirius couldn’t help but feel some embarrassment from the situation. He wasn’t worried the Gryffindors would taunt him though. Even if any of them did find it at all amusing, they’d more than likely be too scared to say anything. Everyone in the castle knew Sirius wouldn’t hesitate to hex someone that annoyed him, and that James would back him up. Now the Slytherins were another case entirely, but he wasn’t going to worry about them for the moment. “Anyway I’m heading to the library, what part do you want me to look into?”

Stroud snapped out of her shock and fumbled with her papers. “Here – uh – I listed what everyone was assigned. I made copy for you.”

Sirius took the sheet from her and folded it twice depositing it in his bag. “Right. Thanks. I’ll start working on it straight away.”

The girls were still studying silently and he nodded at them before heading to the Portrait Hole where Remus was waiting. Remus threw him a questioning look, but he didn’t voice his thoughts until they were several feet away from the entrance to Gryffindor Tower.

“What did you say to those girls? Stroud, York, and MacDonald?”

“I told them that my parents were mad at me and demanded some heirlooms back.”

Remus looked taken aback. “You did?”

“You don’t think I should have? Too many students saw me with my trunk and I know there-“

“No,” Remus said cutting him mid-sentence. “It’s good you did. Using what they did against them. I’m just surprised.”

The boys lapsed into silence and the walk to the library was long enough to build up the wall of awkwardness back again. Once they choose a table Remus didn’t waste a second before he went off into the stacks leaving Sirius alone. Sirius glumly flattened the paper with his assignment. He knew he had to stop overanalyzing Remus’s actions.

Remus returned with the book he needed and after several minutes Sirius looked up to see Remus staring at him.

“What?” Sirius asked. He wasn’t one to feel self-conscious easily, but if he had ink on his face he would like Remus to just tell him instead of staring.  

“Nothing…it’s just nice to be studying again together. To just be able to be normal again with each other.” Remus paused looking suddenly embarrassed. “That sounds sappy doesn’t it?”

“It does,” Sirius agreed a grin appearing on his face. He wasn’t one to share feelings constantly, but sometimes it did need to be said.  “But I’m glad for it too.”

They shared a grin and then went back to working on their separate assignments.

***

James swerved in and out of the defense players and drove the quaffle straight through one of the hoops. There was a large eruption of cheering from the stands, distracting James for a moment as this was only a practice and not an actual game.

Distractions in quidditch always had a potential for causing danger.

“Potter!”

The shout came from his right and when he looked a Bludger was hurtling straight towards him. There was only enough time to dodge to the left, but the small movement was enough to save James from a direct hit. The ball still hit his shoulder and caused his broom to spin out of control for several seconds before he was able to regain control of it. Once he was sure he wasn’t going to fall to his death the pain from the impact began to register. He flew towards the ground with his teammates close behind him. The grass was still the brown winter color. The temperature hadn’t been quite warm enough to turn it back to green. He winced as he tried to rotate his shoulder. There were no broken bones, but there surely would be bruising.

The Beater who had hit the Bludger began apologizing profusely. He had meant the Bludger to stop James from scoring, but had misjudged the timing completely. Gallagher, the team captain, was the last to approach James and he did not seem at all concerned for James’s welfare. Instead he looked more peeved than anything.

“I want you to tell your fanclub that I’ve banned them from watching our practices!”

“What?”

“You heard me Potter. We have a game in two weeks and I won’t have you distracted.”

“I – they aren’t my fan club.” James glanced back at the four fourth year girls who had made the racket. It was quite a feat that such a small group was able to make so much noise. The girls weren’t there just to see him surely. Watching Quidditch Practices was a popular pastime of girls that age and all his teammates were considered popular by just being on the team.

“No? They only cheered when you score and for no one else.”

James didn’t know quite what to say to that.

“Tell them, Potter! Practice is over for a day.” Gallagher marched off towards the changing rooms.

James turned to his teammates for support, but they apparently were just as annoyed with the girls as Gallagher. James, of course, recognized the fourth years. Last year they’d begun the tradition of holding signs with his name and the other chasers in red and gold glitter. He’d even spoken to them a few times, but so had other members of the team.  He’d probably even flirted with them.

As he approached the girls, the tallest named Gloria called, “Did we get you into trouble?” She had strawberry colored hair and pretty blue eyes, which happened to be the same color of the sky. She looked innocent, but if the rumors were true she’d gotten farther with several boys than James had ever gotten with a girl.

“A bit…thought it isn’t me Gallagher wants to ban from practices.” James looked around the stands for Peter, but did not see him. “Did you see where Peter got to?”

“Pettigrew? Err…he left suddenly,” another girl, Jessica answered blushing. She had her long black hair in a single braid and was also very pretty.

“He say why?”

Jessica bit her lip. “He asked me to go to Hogsmeade, but I had to decline.”

James raised his eyebrows knowing Peter would have not taken that well.

“Nothing against him,” Jessica added quickly. “I already said yes to someone else.”

“Already? Has the Hogsmeade notice even been up yet?”

“It’s supposed to be up today,” Jessica answered. “I can’t help it if someone was quicker.”

James nodded. He had a feeling he’d be spending the afternoon trying to boost Peter’s self-esteem.

“What about you? Any plans yet?” Gloria asked hopefully.

“No…not yet…”

“We were hoping to buy you a butterbeer…to make up for the distraction this afternoon,” Gloria stated. “And you can bring your mates.”

“Especially Black,” a girl with dark brown hair chirped.

“Marla! Honestly,” Gloria admonished rolling her eyes.

James grinned. “Sorry to disappoint you, but Sirius won’t be able to come. He’s still on probation.”

Marla frowned and she looked so disappointed that James found himself insisting that Sirius would have loved to come if he could. Even though James knew his best friend would never deem this group of silly girls the time of day.

“So is it a date?” Gloria interjected.

James let his eyes sweep across the group. They were silly, but it could be entertaining. Even though he’d been thinking about trying to ask Lily Evans to go with him, this might be for the better. The way she scowled at him at every opportunity probably meant she’d decline his offer.  “Sure. One butterbeer is all I can promise and I’ll bring Peter and Remus along.”

“Great!” Gloria said all smiles. If she was disappointed on his insistence of the one butterbeer she didn’t show it. “And we promise to be better behaved next practice. We don’t want to be banned.”

“Perhaps if you cheered for other players than myself?” James suggested.

Gloria looked scandalized. “But you are our favorite player!”

“Of course I am, but the others are pretty good, right?”

“We’ll think about it,” Gloria replied. James sent her a grin, ruffled his hair and said his goodbyes. He could hear them giggling and talking animatedly behind him as he made his way to the castle. Convincing Peter to come along shouldn’t be too hard, though Remus might take some persuading.

Up in the castle James found Peter sulking in the common room. Jessica had been right and the Hogsmeade notice was on the bulletin board. As James walked toward Peter it sounded as if that was all everyone was talking about.

James took a seat gingerly as to not jostle his shoulder. “Cheer up, Pete. You’ll still see her when we meet the girls for butterbeers.”

His words startled Peter. “What?”

“You know Gloria, Marla…Jessica…”

Realization dawned on Peters face and he looked mortified. “They told you!”

James shrugged. “She sounded sorry about disappointing you.”

“Really? You think she would have said yes?”

“Probably,” James said even though he wasn’t so sure. As horrible as it was to think, most girls as pretty as Jessica did not find Peter a suitable match. Though being a Marauder significantly boosted Peter’s popularity.  “Seen Sirius?”

“Mary said he went to the library with Remus.”

“Really? The library?”

“He’s probably still trying to get on Remus’s good side,” Peter muttered.

“I’m going to go change. Need to use some of Remus’s bruise cream, my shoulder is hurting and then I suppose I’ll head there too.”

“Can’t we do something else,” Peter whined.

“We need to get our assignments done at some point. Might as well do it as a group.”

Peter grumbled his acceptance and followed James up to the dorm.

***

Author’s note: Hopefully this update didn’t completely disappoint. Thank you to everyone who is still sticking with my story and please review!


Chapter 17: Hogsmeade Part 1
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Chapter 16: Hogsmeade – Part 1

The gossip about Sirius’s parents demanding back their heirlooms was around the school by breakfast the next morning, but it died down quickly. With Sirius being so forthcoming about what had happened, it had taken the fun out of speculating. Even the Slytherins had been relatively tame and after an altercation with Regulus, Sirius figured out the reason. The pure-bloods were too busy being angry at him to taunt him; he hadn’t taken this part of the punishment quietly.  It was generally frowned upon to complain to outsiders about anything having to do with family, and it was even a worse offense since Sirius was already considered a blood-traitor.

James and Peter also needed to be told the details of what had transpired. It was easier telling them than it had been Remus. James had taken the news without much comment until he proclaimed that he’d like to ‘have a go’ at the Blacks.  Peter had been just as quiet only to surprise Sirius several days later. Peter offered to send a letter to his mother and ask her if the old trunk in their attic that was storing old fabric could be loaned to Sirius. The boxes Professor Keenan had given were adequate in the short term and this ‘borrowing’ sat better in Sirius’s mind than James’s offer to just ask his parents to buy Sirius a new trunk.

The week passed by quickly and suddenly it was Saturday, which for Sirius meant another day of detention. At least he no longer had daily detentions. This Saturday was a Hogsmeade weekend and the next Saturday would be a Quidditch game. As he was banned from both events irregardless of a detention, Sirius supposed being forced to keep busy wasn’t a terrible thing.

 Sirius split from his friends as they headed downstairs to catch the carriages to Hogsmeade. Detention today would prove interesting. Yesterday Professor Keenan had offered him an alternative to the usual detentions. Professor Keenan was holding a beginners class on dueling for the first and a second years, since it was not part of their curriculum. Keenan needed a student volunteer to help out and had offered it to Sirius. Sirius had hesitated at first. He was still wary of the teacher, though he supposed Keenan wasn’t as awful as he originally thought. After witnessing two rather humiliating interactions between Sirius and his family, Keenan hadn’t treated him any differently in or out of class. In fact Keenan hadn’t even brought it up. Sirius had agreed after hearing he would only need to be present 2-3 hours in the morning, and the same in the afternoon.

Sirius knocked on the closed classroom door and Professor Keenan called him in.

“How are you Mr. Black?”

“Er…fine, sir.”

Professor Keenan was dressed in more casual robes than the usual robes he wore when teaching. “First years will be here shortly. The second years will be in the afternoon.”

Sirius nodded in understanding and looked around the room. Professor Keenan had his wand out and was stacking the desks along the perimeter of the room. Sirius placed his bag on the floor.

 “So what exactly do I have to do?” Sirius questioned.

“I was planning on having you do most of the demonstrations.”

“Me?”

“Yes. This would free me up to do the explanations. I can more easily point out the correct dueling form.”

“What if I am not doing it properly?”

“I wouldn’t worry. You have the best technique in your year…if not in the school.”

Sirius swallowed hard. He knew where that wand technique had been instilled; years and years of instruction and drilling from his parents and tutors.

Keenan continued, “The younger students want to go straight into all the flashy wand waving. They don’t want hours of technique correction, but it is more important than they realize.  I’ve hounded them all year about the right grip on their wand. Nearly gave up trying to explain to them the subtle differences in wand motion. No matter how many times I told them the right motion will give the spell more power, they still were waving their wands too abruptly – at least for the spell we were working on.  If they see someone like you, someone they admire, doing all those corrections that I’ve said are important, it might finally stick in their mind.”

“I never thought a Professor would consider me a model student.”

Professor Keenan laughed. “Well I am hoping they only copy your wand-work rather than your behavior. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. You’ve certainly made my first year of teaching interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

“So you won’t be teaching again next year?”

“No, I plan to. I’ve heard you’ve had bad luck in the past few years. I think some consistency in such an important subject will do you all good.”

Sirius nodded. At the beginning of the year news that Keenan wanted to continue to teach would have probably made him want to do his best to cause him to leave. Now he realized he didn’t care one way or the other. If he was forced to have an opinion, he’d lean towards Keenan staying since the replacement teacher could be ten times worse.

“Feel free to sit at my desk while I finish rearranging the desks.”

Sirius took a seat and watched as Keenan moved the desks around. Keenan made it appear effortless, but Sirius knew from experience that it wasn’t easy to lift multiple objects and at the same time have them zip around the room to different spots.

Five minutes later the first of the first years began timidly walking into the room. Most of them greeted Professor Keenan warmly and they all glanced at him curiously. Twenty-six students showed up, which was more than Sirius expected out of a non-compulsory class. After the students had all stored their bags and taken their wands out, Keenan began to speak.

“Welcome everyone. I’m glad to see so many of you. As you can see I have enlisted the help of Mr. Black. He is one of my best students in the upper years, so I hope you learn a lot from him.”

Keenan made no mention that he was here on detention, which Sirius appreciated.

“We will start this lesson with a demonstration. Mr. Black, if you would please move to the middle of the classroom and everyone else make a circle around him. Remember wands in hand.”

The first years shuffled around encircling him; whispering and giggling amongst themselves. “Now Mr. Black disarm them one by one as quick as you can. Go!”

Sirius was caught off guard as much as the other students, but he did what he has told. He had half the circle disarmed, wands clattering the ground, before the first years realized even what was going on. The second half tried to grip their wands tighter, but even the tightest grip was no match for strong Expelliarmus.

“Excellent, Mr. Black! Took you a respectable thirty-five seconds. Gather your wands!”

Sirius watched in amusement at the mayhem that ensued as the students scrambled to find their wands around the floor.

“Mr. Black, what was running through your head as you were going student by student in terms of proper magical technique?”

Sirius stared blankly at Keenan for a moment and then he noticed the first years were all waiting for his answer expectantly. Had he impressed them with his skill?

“Err…that I have a firm grip on my wand and-” He glanced at Keenan who nodded encouragingly. “-and that I had proper aim and a strong swish…and that I said the incantation properly.”

A little girl with a high ponytail raised her hand. “Is saying a spell important even when you do it nonverbally?”

Keenan answered for him. “Great question. It is very important even for nonverbal spells, which is why if you don’t learn it correctly now, it will only hurt you in the future.”

Professor Keenan called out five students to step forward and instructed Sirius to disarm them in a slower, more controlled manner and to say the spell verbally. As he moved from student to student, Keenan pointed out different things (grip, stance, wand movement, aim).

Next the students were paired up and they lined up in two neat rows and were told to practice disarming each other, taking turns. Sirius began to lose interest in this part of class and his gaze wandered over to the windows. The sun was actually out and he wondered if he could eat his lunch outside. Then he heard a high voice ask, “Mr. Sirius Black?”

Sirius turned in surprise to find the same first year girl who had spoken before. The girl and her partner were the two closet students to where he stood. “Am I holding my wand right? The spell doesn’t seem to be working.” Sirius could hear the frustration in her voice. He looked toward Professor Keenan who was busy on the other side of the room.

“Let me see. Hold your wand like you are about to cast the spell.” The girl did and he could immediately tell that she was gripping it too tightly.

“You need to loosen your grip…”

“I don’t want my wand to fall!”

“It won’t. Just loosen it a little. And move your grip a little lower. Yes, like that. Now give it a try. A strong swish directly at your partner.”

The girl scrunched her face in concentration taking his instruction seriously. She was successful on her second try and cried out in delight. And before Sirius knew it, other first years were also calling him over for aide. Keenan hadn’t been kidding by how lacking they were in the basics of magic. As he helped a pair of boys he caught Keenan looking at him. Keenan smiled and gave him a nod of approval. Sirius sighed and rolled his eyes. Just because he was willing to help these first years didn’t mean he suddenly fancied himself a teacher or worse a teacher’s pet. He didn’t have much time to grumble about it because another pair was calling out to him. Hopefully the second years wouldn’t be as needy.

***

James loved Hogsmeade on Hogwarts visiting day. Shops bustling with students, laugher and chatter in every shop. That wasn’t to say that the days James and his friends snuck out to Hogwarts didn’t have its own advantages. He was certain they were only students in the school that knew a way to sneak out of the castle. Still he’d be lying if he didn’t equally enjoy the crowds of students. James enjoyed being around others. He was even looking forward to meeting the group of girls for butterbeers. Yes, they were rather silly and shallow, but having them fawn over him wasn’t exactly torture. He didn’t always have to have stimulating conversations. Plus the girls would be more than happy to hear him prattle on about Quidditch for as long as he wanted. Even Sirius who enjoyed talking hours about strategy and tactics of Quidditch would tell him off for obsessing about it.

 “Where to first?” Remus asked as they neared the shops.

The snow covered roofs glistened in sun. Most of the holiday decorations had been taken down, but there was still a festive atmosphere. Fellow students were milling, discussing which shops to hit first. Shop owners hung signs and banners in freshly washed windows hoping to entice students in, eager for the usual increase in purchases the day was sure to bring.  Besides two Aurors patrolling the busier streets, there was no obvious added protection from any possible threat from the blood purity movement.

James suggested the small sporting goods shop. It was nowhere as large as Quality Quidditch Supply Shop in Diagon Alley. For one they didn’t sell broomsticks, only items like bats, Bludgers, and kits to clean equipment. Still it was a stop that was required whenever James was in Hogsmeade.

 “Fine by me,” Peter replied. Peter was dressed in his best robes hoping to make a good impression on Jessica, the girl he had a crush on. James had to admit he did look more put together than usual.

Remus nodded in agreement. “I do need to make a quick stop in Puzzle’s Papers.”

“What for?” Peter asked.

“I need some heavier parchment for that extra credit project. It’s supposed to take to magic better,” Remus explained. “I can go on my own and meet you when I’m finished.”

“Are you sure? We could go with you,” James replied.

“I’ll be fine. This way you can take your time in the Quidditch store.”

“Suit yourself,” James said with a shrug. “Come on, Wormy-“ James froze, but the forbidden word was already out of his mouth. James colored. “Err…Peter. Sorry it just slipped out…”

“It’s fine,” Remus murmured rather calmly, barely glancing back at them. Remus just kept on walking toward the parchment shop.

James stared after him for a moment than called out. “Wait! Shouldn’t we… talk about this?”

Remus turned back to face them. He approached them solemnly. “There’s nothing to say.”

James motioned Peter and Remus to the side into an alley. He didn’t think they should have this conversation in the middle of the walkway. He crossed his arms. “Nothing to say? Let’s start by what you mean by ‘it’s fine’. It is fine I slipped up and you won’t hold it against me? It is fine and we can go back to using the nicknames? Or is it only fine because you don’t feel like having an argument in public?”

Remus adjusted the knitted hat on his head, pulling it down so that less of his brown hair was visible. The return of color to his face did nothing to hide the bruise from the transformation. Remus’s blue eyes looked troubled. “I suppose it’s a combination of the three. I’ve patched up with Sirius, so that should mean that we can use the nicknames…but those nicknames represent a time before this all happened. Are we ready to go back there?”

“I think we should have a vote, and if even one of us votes against using it, then we won’t use them. No questions. No arguments. It is what it is,” James stated.

“That is fair,” Remus conceded. “Unless you think it should just be your decision. You were the one, according to Peter, who first told Sirius not to use them.”

James remembered furiously telling Sirius not to call him Prongs. He shrugged. “I thought it would also be something you wanted. I didn’t think you’d want us using them.”

Remus sighed. “Honestly at that time I hadn’t planned on ever addressing him either with his real name or nickname.”

“Then it’s settled. We’ll have a vote when we are all together.”

“Don’t we know what Sirius will vote?” Peter questioned.

“Doesn’t matter. We each should have a chance to vote,” James answered. He had a feeling everyone would vote in the affirmative and if they did, maybe they could begin to move past this.

Remus went on his way; James and Peter headed to their destination. In the Quidditch shop, James pestered the owner hoping for some insider information about the release of this year’s new broomstick model. James wasn’t very successful. In turn, the owner was unsuccessful in getting James interested in a new line of Beater’s bat. The bats were supposedly the lightest around with the same power as the heavier models. As Chaser, James had little interest; maybe next year if he was made Captain.

Remus arrived in the store as James was trying on different gloves. One set of gloves that were supposed to give a Chaser a better grip on the Quaffle interested James for several minutes, but after seeing the price, even James knew it would be a hard sell with his parents. In the end he purchased only new polish for his broomstick. James hoped his parents would appreciate his careful purchase.

The boys made their rounds in the usual shops. Zonko’s Joke Shop wasn’t nearly as fun as it would have been with Sirius along. James tried to throw out prank ideas as they roamed the aisles, but the result wasn’t the same with Remus’s more practical mind and Peter wasn’t very good with coming up with suggestions on the fly. So they ended up making general purchases, such as dungbombs, itching powder, and hiccup sweets; the sort of items even a casual prankster always had in supply.

There was one item that caught James’s eyes. It was a small green bottle and according to the back, a few drops of this in any water pipe would cause the tap water, bath water, or drinking water to have the smell and appearance of disgusting, slimy swamp water (without actually being dangerous if ingested). He hoped it would be useful for a prank.

Their stop after the joke shop was Honeydukes Sweetshop. Despite having stepped into the store numerous times, James still got a thrill from seeing the walls of sweets and treats.  The shop was busy, but not as overcrowded as it sometimes could be. James broke away from Remus and Peter when he spotted his favorite treat, a candied apple. It was generally a seasoned item and he was surprised to see one left over to the side. He reached for it not realizing another person had her eye on it as well. The brush of fingers sent a shiver up James’s spine and as he made eye contact with -

“Evans?”

“Potter!” Lily Evans stepped back; eyes narrowed. He found her constant suspicion about his actions a bit amusing. 

She looked especially pretty that afternoon. She was wearing her hair down and it fell in waves below her shoulders. Her cheeks were lightly colored from the warmth of the store. James decided to be a gentleman and offered pleasantly, “It’s yours if you want.”

“Are you sure?” she asked hesitantly.

James nodded and she threw him a tentative smile.  Despite the good impression he had managed to make, he couldn’t help adding, “And you could thank me with - “

“Actually, Potter. This isn’t for me,” Evans responded coolly. “It’s for Severus. I’ll be sure to tell him – well exactly how was it that he could thank you?”

James gaped at her. “You’re buying this for Snape?”

Lily put a hand on her hip. “I am. So?”

“No thanks needed,” James muttered, frowning. He’d only been teasing. He didn’t understand why she’d responded so frostily. He didn’t understand why she had to bring up Snape at all. After the whole Whomping Willow incident, James would rather forget he existed. Being reminded of Lily’s high opinion of the greasy git was enough to get James thinking about avenues of revenge. Even though he knew he shouldn’t let it cross his mind as there was still the very real danger of Snape spilling Remus’s secret.

 “Great.” Lily picked up the candied apple. She appeared to want to say something else, but was interrupted by one of her friends.

“Lily!” Mary MacDonald linked arms with Evans.  “You need to help me! I don’t know which assortment of candy to buy my sister.”  MacDonald only then seemed to notice James. “Sorry, Potter…but my sister’s birthday is today! So it’s a bit of an emergency.”

She tugged Lily towards the front of the story. Laughing at Mary’s theatrics, Evans allowed herself to be dragged, though she did glance back once at James.

James still befuddled by the whole exchange joined back with Remus and Peter. He kept on eye on Lily, but eventually lost sight of her in the store.  If his friends noticed that he kept herding them where Lily happened to be, they were polite enough not to comment about it. After buying more sweets than they should have, they headed to Three Broomsticks.


The place as expected was already crowded. James looked around the room taking in the familiar faces and smells. He waved at a few of his Quidditch teammates. James debated about stopping to chat with them when Gloria called out his name. She was seated with her friends and they had gotten one of the better booths. It was situated in the center, but against the wall (a combination of being seen with just the right amount of privacy). It was a tight squeeze, but they were all able to fit in the booth.


Ruffling his hair James looked around the girls with a grin. “So where’s the buttebeer you promised?”


Chapter 18: Hogsmeade Part 2
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Sirius was relieved to find that the second years had a much better grasp on the basics during the afternoon session. Around the same number of students showed up for this group. They started off the lesson in the same way with Sirius disarming the group in a circle. Sirius, expecting it to happen was able to decrease the time it took him.  With this group, they were able to move on from simply disarming a static partner. Professor Keenan had the pairs moving around the room making the target a bit harder. Students who wanted an extra challenge could pair up with Sirius and about five students gave it a try. One of them was able to successfully disarm Sirius, who was only allowed to use a Shield Charm as a defense.

The session passed even more quickly than the first.  Sirius was almost disappointed that it was over. Keenan waited until the last of the students left before addressing him. “Thank you for your help, Mr. Black. I hope you got some enjoyment or at least fulfillment from this.”

Instead of commenting on his enjoyment or fulfillment, Sirius asked, “Do you need help putting the tables back, sir?” After all, the best part of assisting was still the shortened detention. This hadn’t been a life changing experience.

“No, I’ve got it. I plan on having at least one more Saturday of lessons for the first and second years. If you still are serving Saturday detention at that time, would you be interested in helping again?”

“Probably,” Sirius replied. It was better than scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. He supposed there had even been something endearing about the younger students.

“There is a possibility you will no longer be serving Saturday detentions, since I am not sure when I will schedule it. You would also be free to volunteer if that is the case. I believe the students gained a lot from having an older student there.”

Helping out instead of detention was one thing, but giving up his free time? He tried to appear as if he was sincerely considering it. “I don’t know…with OWLs coming up, I’ll be swamped with school work…

“I only ask that you think about it. Volunteering like this could look good for a CV when you graduate. You could use a boost with your detention record. Just keep that in mind.”

Sirius was getting nervous about the direction the conversation was heading. He found Keenan much more likable when he was not in lecture mode. So, he needed to make an exit quickly. “Can I go then, sir?”

Professor Keenan looked disappointed. “Yes. And try and stay out of trouble.”

“I will, sir,” Sirius answered. He hadn’t given a career very much consideration up to this point. As Black heir his future had been laid out before him. Now he actually had a choice. Now he had to pave his own path.

Sirius loitered at the door of the classroom, Keenan’s advice circling in his mind. He didn’t usual seek out the advice of adults. He still had two years before he graduated, so it wasn’t urgent he needed the answer. Yet something made him swallow his pride, and ask, “Will it really matter?”

Professor Keenan lowered his wand slightly; the desk he’d been levitating remained floating in the air. “Sorry?”

Sirius already regretted asking the question, but now that he had, he figured he’d continue. “My detention record…will it really matter for jobs?”

Keenan appeared thrown by his question. He lowered the desk back to the ground before answering. “The extent it will matter will depend on the job. Is there a career you were leaning towards?”

“I don’t know…maybe an Auror?”

“Hmmm…well yes I believe for that job it would be a significant factor, but I don’t say that to discourage you. You have two more years at Hogwarts to improve your behavior.”

Sirius frowned. “How much will it really matter? What bearing would detention have on being an Auror?”

“Discipline for one. A record of detention would certainly indicate lack of it. All recruits must pass an extensive training program. They’ll be testing not only your skill, but your conduct as well. You’ll be expected to follow orders of your superiors without question. Failure to do so could get you or a member of your team killed.”

Sirius wasn’t impressed by what he was hearing. Would the job really consist of just taking orders? “So they want robots that will just do what they are told without thinking?”

“No, Mr. Black. This is why I believe, with a little bit of self-control, you’d be an ideal recruit. It’s a balance they’ll be looking for; discipline and obedience with bravery, skill, and quick thinking.”

Sirius stood quiet for a moment. It was strange to hear an adult even consider he have positive attributes. His parents and family had always focused on the negatives.  “There’s still the fact that I’m a Black.”

“You’ve broken ties with your family rather publicly. They might vet you more carefully, but I wouldn’t think you’d be given any problems. The best advice I can give you is to work on the things you can control. Put your best foot forward, so this way if they deny you, you will know it was because of something you couldn’t control and not because you slacked off. Study for OWLs, stay out of detention, and keep up those grades, and you will have a very good chance.”

There was an awkward silence as the teacher and student looked at each other. Sirius looked away feeling out of place. Keenan’s advice was logical and reasonable; Sirius just wasn’t sure how qualified Keenan was to give it. How would Keenan have any insider information on Auror training? It was very possible Keenan had said what he said so Sirius wouldn’t give up because while he couldn’t quite understand it, he could tell Keenan wanted him to succeed.

 Keenan cleared his throat. “Anything else I can help you with, Mr. Black?” His tone had become more business-like.

“No, sir. Thank you,” Sirius mumbled. As he crossed the threshold of the classroom, Sirius realized this was the second time in the past week he had thanked Professor Keenan. He wasn’t sure how that had happened, but he was grudgingly beginning to respect Keenan as a teacher. Sirius sighed loudly and as he trudged back to Gryffindor Tower, he thought of how he would spend the rest of the afternoon.

 ***

Snape approached Three Broomsticks warily. He knew it would be crowded and filled with the type of students he avoided in the castle. The crowd was one of the reasons Lily and Severus had agreed to meet up at this time. There would be so many students around that a Gryffindor and Slytherin have a butterbeer together would hopefully go unnoticed by both their Houses.

Severus Snape spent several hours with his roommates at Hogsmeade before going off on his own. He even had a chance to peruse a secondhand book store before meeting up with Lily Evans. He’d been chased out when the owner realized he didn’t have the coin to buy anything.

Snape ducked into the room, right at the heels of a loud, boisterous group of boys from Ravenclaw. They carried on in way that Snape was relatively sure they were Quidditch players. He wasn’t obsessed with the sport like so many boys his age. He paid so little attention that even under the threat of death he wouldn’t be able to name the players for each House. The group of boys in front of him grabbed the only large table left in the place. Snape hung in the shadows as he searched for Lily or an empty two-seater table.

Diagonal from where he stood, he saw Potter and he couldn’t stop himself from throwing a glare in the boy’s direction. Potter, of course, was too busy with his fans to notice. How someone so arrogant was popular made no sense. To add to his frustration hanging over him was the fact Potter had saved his life. After getting cold feet, he reminded himself; unfortunately this did not negate the first factor.

He had some ideas about how to get back at them. He’d rediscovered a spell he’d been tweaking over the summer after arguing with his worthless Muggle father. He knew it was Dark Magic, he knew it was dangerous…he knew if uncontrolled the magic could be lethal. And he wasn’t planning on killing Potter and Black – just convince them that he was; an eye for an eye. The spell was for another day. And at least presently he could revel in the image of Black in detention…scrubbing on his hands, knee deep in filth.

He spotted Lily next. She was sitting alone at a small table, book opened. She was twirling a piece of her red hair and looked deep in concentration. Severus smiled at the sight of her. She was waiting for him. Not Potter. Not some other suitor.

He started to move towards her. Usually he couldn’t wait to spend time with her, but he found himself faltering. He wished he could forget yesterday’s conversation with Lestrange. Seeing her brought it all back to the forefront of his mind.

Rabastan Lestrange had summoned Snape to the seventh year dormitory yesterday. It was Snape’s second summons of the year, and it was difficult to know whether to be honored or concerned.

Lestrange was lounging in an armchair. The seventh year dormitory was larger and furniture looked more expensive. It had been like that back in first and second year when he’d been called up by Lucius Malfoy. He suspected that the furniture was not Hogwarts issued, but brought in by pureblood families.

“Severus, have a seat.”

He did as he was told; the use of his first name put him on guard.

Lestrange surveyed him with his cold eyes. Snape felt conscientious of his threadbare robes that were now too short courtesy of a growth spurt. Lestrange’s robes fit him perfectly and fabric looked brand new. He felt his cheeks begin to redden, but he reminded himself that they knew he was poor, and yet he was still important enough to be summoned. It was yet to see if it was for a positive reason. “Severus, you’ve been doing very well in Slytherin. For a half-blood, you’ve excelled past our expectations. This is why it saddens me when I continually receive reports about questionable behavior.”

Not prepared for the direction of the conversation, it took several seconds for Snape to answer. “I was not aware that my behavior was not proper.”

“It has. It is one thing to be irritable and anti-social, but it is unacceptable to have no House pride and act as if you are superior or better than everyone else.”

Severus wanted to disagree. He fervently hated Gryffindor House as a unit. Did that not show his pride in Slytherin? And as far as being better than everyone else, he was…academically speaking. He could stir circles around anyone in potions. He was also gifted enough that he could invent spells. Since he’d shared some of his spell inventions with them, Lestrange was well aware of it.

“I admire that you don’t let your blood status prevent you from getting to the top, but it must not be forgotten. You must not forget your place. Some of us are concerned that you have forgotten that your blood is tainted.”

Severus wanted to laugh. As if he could forget? The Slytherins, especially his roommates, constantly made note of it.  It was why he had to try harder than anyone else. “I’m well aware that I am a half-blood,” Snape responded icily.

 “And what does that mean?” Lestrange asked leaning back in his chair, regarding him coolly.

“Mean?” Snape echoed, not exactly sure where Lestrange wanted the conversation to go.

Lestrange’s tone turned more conversational. “Let’s say you had to pick from two partners for a school project. One is a pureblood, one is a halfblood. The halfblood is a better student, which would you pick?”

“The better student. I’d want the best marks I could receive,” Snape answered, already guessing this was the wrong answer. This was obviously a meeting to remind him about the importance of blood. His best bet was to look ashamed and let Lestrange lecture him.

“There lies the problem. You do not seem to grasp the importance of blood. The importance of magical purity. This idea is the very foundation of our movement.”

Snape knew he should just agree and move on, but it was important he get a little more information on Lestrange’s view. The only way to do this was make a comment. “I just thought half-blood status wouldn’t matter in a case like that. Especially a half-blood that has proven magical ability-”

“It always matters,” Lestrange cut in. “If you start with half-bloods being equal to purebloods…well it is a slippery slope…and one you’ve already slipped down.”

“I-I have?”

“Evans. The mudblood. Do you think we don’t know about her?”

Snape felt his stomach drop. “No…I haven’t kept her a secret. Besides she’s full of magic and…”

“And again you show poor judgment thinking it does not matter. That for some reason when it involves you and magical ability, that it should be considered a special case.  I’ll repeat what I said before. Blood purity always matters. It is more important than anything.”

Severus waited for Lestrange to continue. He was convinced if given time he’d be able to prove Lily was an asset to the Magical World. Someone like Lestrange might not understand, but surely Lucius Malfoy would at least hear his argument out.

It appeared Lestrange was waiting for Snape to speak and though he was worried he might say something that would put him in a worse light; he didn’t want to sit here in silence for another second. .

“I’m not a Mudblood supporter.”

It was a safe statement and it was true. He didn’t care about their rights. He only cared about helping her. He only cared that Lily could share his future.

“I can’t say I’m convinced,” Lestrange drawled.

“I’m not,” Snape stated forcefully again.

“How can you be smitten with a mudblood and then say you are not a supporter?”

Severus couldn’t answer that.

“She’s a trap, Severus. She may smile at you prettily, but she’s filthy and dirty. She’s a mudblood.” Lestrange paused and there was a gleam in his eyes, “Say it.”

Severus felt himself tense. Lestrange was smirking. “Say it.”

 He knew he didn’t have a choice. “Evans is a mudblood.”

“Very good. Remind yourself of that every day, every hour if you must, and your crush on the Mudblood will fade.”  Lestrange leaned forward, his expression more intense. “I’ve been officially recruited now. The day I graduate I’ll be seeing the Dark Lord himself. You might be wondering why you should care? More than likely I’ll be asked how Lucius Malfoy’s half-blood prodigy is fairing. If I were asked today, I would give you a negative assessment.” Lestrange stared straight at him. “But I believe your potential value allows for a second chance.”

“What sort of second chance?” Snape asked warily. He hadn’t made a decision about joining Voldemort because it was over two years away, but to think that door could be shut made him nervous. He was beginning to think it was the only way he could become someone important.

“Prove to me your devotion. Prove to me Mudbloods don’t matter. Do that convincingly before summer starts, and I’ll gladly sing your praises.”

So there it was; his first test (though unofficial) to becoming a Death Eater. He should have been really nervous, but he was relieved. Lestrange hadn’t said he had to prove Lily didn’t matter. Yes, there was a conflict of interest with Lily being one of them, but he would figure out a way to keep her out of it and prove his dislike of Mudbloods.

Snape couldn’t stand there loitering any longer because Lily looked up from reading.  He approached and Lily’s face split into a warm smile.

 “Sev! Hello! How are you?”

For a brief moment Snape couldn’t speak. She looked stunning with her hair let down and wavy. It was if the lighting in the room had been set up purposely to cast her skin and hair in the best way possible. It was becoming a nuisance the way he could so easily get tongue-tied around her. He just had to hope Lily didn’t notice the change in behavior. “Hi, Lily,” he finally managed. He could feel his face flush, but blamed it on the heat of the room.

“Ugh,” Lily said flipping her hair back over her shoulder. “My hair feels like it is all over the place today, but Mary says I should wear it down more often.”

“I like it down,” Snape stated, feeling self-conscious the moment the words were out of his mouth.

Lily beamed. “Thanks!”

Severus nodded, hoping she couldn’t see his cheeks were still burning and took a seat quickly across from her.

 “We lucked out with this table. A couple was leaving just as I walked in, so I snagged it. I’m thirsty. Want a butterbeer?”

“Yes, I’ll go-” He was halfway out of his seat, but Lily would not have it.

“No. This is my treat. I insist. Be right back.”

Snape rolled his eyes, but knew it was pointless to argue with Lily when she had made up her mind. He hated how often she ended up treating him since he had very little extra spending money. Each time this happened he vowed it would be different soon. Malfoy had suggested monetary rewards for the Dark Lord’s most loyal followers. It was another reason to consider joining them.

Lily returned with the butterbeers and conversation flowed smoothly. It helped that he could just listen to her chatter on for hours. She was also one of the few people he felt honestly wanted to hear his opinion about things.

As Snape took the last sip of his butterbeer, he saw Lily’s eyes widen slightly. Wondering what had gotten her attention, he followed her gaze. She was staring at Potter snogging one of the girls he’d been sitting with. As fate would have it, their table had an unobstructed view of that table.

Snape’s eyes darted from Lily back to the couple back to Lily. “That’s revolting,” Severus tried. Lily seemed unable to tear her eyes off the kissing Gryffindors, and he suddenly felt nauseous.

Lily cleared her throat looking slightly embarrassed. “Yes. Very,” she agreed curtly.

He wished not for the first time for the ability to read her thoughts. She hadn’t been staring dreamily at Potter, but that certainly hadn’t been disgust in her face either. And it appeared it was taking effort for her not to look in Potter’s direction. Strange.

“This is a public place, we should have to deal with – with that.”

“What do you expect?” Snape asked dryly. “This is Potter. He probably only kisses girls when there’s an audience.”

Lily laughed, which again was the reaction he’d wanted. He suddenly wanted – needed- confirmation that Lily didn’t fancy Potter. He racked his brain for a way to do this without straight out asking her.

Lily glanced once more in Potter’s direction. “Still going…ah, they’ve stopped. She’s leaving.” Lily suddenly ducked her head and stared straight down at their table, looking flustered. “Merlin, Potter saw me looking.”

Her statement only confused him more. Why would she care if Potter knew she’d seen? Lily must have sensed his puzzlement because she added, “It’s just I don’t want him thinking…” She trailed off and then suddenly brightened. “Oh! I bought you something at Honeydukes.”

He stared at her blankly, but as she rummaged through one of her large bags he didn’t comment on the change in topic. He’d rather they stop speaking about Potter. Lily handed him a small box. “

You didn’t have to get me anything,” he said, though secretly he was thrilled she had thought of him.

He opened the box and inside was a candied apple. Severus stared at it. Candied apple? He knew they were one of her favorite treats and while he didn’t dislike them, certainly fudge or licorice would have suited him more.

It was the thought that counted anyway, so he thanked her and placed it into his own bag. He didn’t see Potter’s narrowed gaze. He didn’t notice Lily giving James one last side glance.


Chapter 19: Step Sideways
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“Toss me a chocolate frog,” Peter asked throwing a used chocolate wrapper into the pile beside him.


Rummaging around in the pile of sweets his friends had purchased from Hogsmeade, Sirius obliged.  He listened in amusement as his friends took turns narrating their day. They had settled in for a quiet evening opening the windows to let the cool night air in and Sirius’s radio was playing softly in the background. All the purchased items were scattered on two of the beds.  

James was most proud about a particular purchase. Sirius inspected the small green bottle as James handed it over to him, but the packaging did not look particularly enticing. It was the type of bottle you would easily look past on a store shelf. “What’s this for?”

“Read the back,” answered James.

Sirius studied the back of the bottle that explained exactly what it would do and an idea immediately popped into his head. James saw the spark in his eyes. “Perfect, right?” James asked.

“I suppose.” Sirius didn’t even question James was thinking along the same lines as him.

“Wait? Perfect for what?” Peter blurted out.

“A prank for the teacher’s lounge,” James announced.

Sirius nodded. “I can see it already…green scum spitting out of the faucet as McGonagall tries to fill the teapot!”

“When did we decide that?” Peter inquired. He looked at Remus for help. 

“I’m not quite sure,” Remus answered dryly.

“What’s the point of having a secret entrance to the teacher’s lounge if we aren’t going to do anything with it?” James stated looking at Remus innocently.

“Only if we can do it without getting caught,” Remus mumbled.

“Why do you always assume we’ll get caught?” Sirius groused. He stretched across the bed and popped another piece of fudge into his mouth. “It will be the perfect prank. Anyway enough about that, I want to hear how the butterbeer with the girls went?”

There was a beat of unexpected silence before James stated casually, “Oh…it was fine.”

“Fine?” Sirius asked raising his eyebrows. “Something happened. Spill it.” Sirius looked inquiringly between his three friends.

“James should be the one to tell you,” Peter revealed, caving in first to Sirius’s inquiry. 

James shrugged. “It was nothing…Gloria snogged me.”

“You were snogging her back,” Remus said with a wide smile.

“All right so we snogged. Call the bloody Daily Prophet!”

“In front of everyone in Three Broomsticks,” Peter added also grinning.

“It’s not a crime,” James said his cheeks were now slightly colored. It was obvious Remus and Peter had already teased him about it.

“So you fancy her now? I suppose she’s a better pick than Evans,” Sirius replied.

“I never said I liked her more than Evans. It just happened. I don’t know if I like her or not. Honestly what is the big deal?”

“Doesn’t she seem like the type of girl that picks out her wedding dress the day you start going out with her?” Sirius looked at Remus and Peter for confirmation and they both readily agreed.

James shook his head. “Not every girl is like that.”

“I can see what Sirius means…” Remus said slowly. “Hasn’t she been to almost every one of your Quidditch practices? If she’s obsessed with you…”

If she’s obsessed with me – if.  Look, didn’t we all have fun with Gloria and her friends?”

“We did,” Peter asserted and Remus nodded his head.

“She acted normal and she was fun. And to tell you the truth I wouldn’t mind snogging her again!” James proclaimed.

“All right. All right,” Sirius responded with a laugh.

“So you’d go out with her?” Peter asked.

“Maybe,” James said. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow and you’ll see that you were all worried for nothing. And before I forget one of Gloria’s friends was asking about you, Sirius.”

“No, thanks.” Sirius was not interested in Quidditch- obsessed fourth year girls.

“Don’t you even want to know which of her friends?” James now looked amused.

“No.”

“You aren’t even the least bit interested?” Peter marveled.

“Not at all.”

“Fine. If she asks I’ll pass that along to her,” James said. He straightened up before announcing, “And now if we may move on to the next topic at hand?”

“And what topic would that be?” Sirius asked lazily.

“At Hogsmeade today, I called Peter by his nickname and after some discussion, we decided we should have a vote about using them again. We thought this would be the fairest way,” James stated.

Sirius crossed his arms, slightly puzzled by the turn in conversation. “We never voted to stop using them.”

“Right, but none of us have used them since. So I think it is important we all agree on this unanimously. Let’s start the vote. I vote in the affirmative.”

“Me too,” Peter said quickly.  

Sirius still feeling as unsure by this all, called out, “Wait! Aren’t we going to discuss this first?” He was off-footed by the vote, having not expected this topic tonight. It was strange how casual everyone was being about this.  The nicknames represented everything they had lost since he had told Snape how to get into the Whomping Willow.

“What is there to discuss?” asked James.

“The bigger picture.”

Judging by James’s sudden change in expression, Sirius could tell James understood his objection, yet he still pleaded, “Don’t make this more than it is. This is simply about the nicknames.”

“How can that be? One is meaningless without the other.” Sirius glanced at Remus who had stayed solemn and quite. “Did we forget the reason we came up with the nicknames in the first place?”

“Of course not,” James declared.  “We will need to have that discussion.” James looked at Remus then back at Sirius before continuing. “Just not now.”

 “Well if we aren’t having that discussion then I don’t see the point this.”

“It is still a step forward,” James insisted.

Sirius shook his head. “It isn’t…at the most it is a step sideways.”

James held up his hands in frustration and perhaps even disappointment. Sirius wished he could back down, but he felt it was best for the group if he held his ground.

Remus cleared his throat bringing all their eyes to him. “Well I vote yes,” Remus stated. There was a steely quality to his voice that usually wasn’t there. “So it is up to you, Sirius.”

“Of course, I’m ok with using the nicknames,” Sirius replied impatiently. “That doesn’t change where I stand about the other issue.”

“Noted,” Remus answered. “If you’ll excuse me I need to shower and do some work.”

There was silence besides the music still playing in the background as Remus gathered his towel and change of clothes, and headed off to the showers.

“I just wish we could all be friends again,” Peter said mournfully after Remus left the room.

Sirius threw Peter a dirty look. He wanted that more than anything. He was trying to save their friendship. Was he the only one who could see that?

James took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I need some fresh air.”

Swallowing his pride, Sirius stated, “I didn’t mean to upset everyone, but until Remus trusts us – or me – enough to let us join him again…until that happens there will always be a rift in our relationship.”

“I know,” James admitted softly.

“Then why didn’t you back me up?”

“Because he’s not ready to trust you and I’m afraid if we push him we will have our answer.”

“You think his answer will be no?” Peter exclaimed. His surprised echoed Sirius’s. James had always been adamant that Remus only needed time.

“Let’s transform. Go out for adventure in the forest,” James said as an answer.

“Now? We’ve been outside all day,” Peter complained.

“I could use some more. Padfoot? Wormtail?”

“I’m in,” Sirius said, never one to pass on an adventure. “Bring the cloak. I don’t fancy another load of detention because we get caught after curfew.”

“I’m staying in,” Peter said, though he looked conflicted. Sirius was surprised because Peter did his best not to be left out of things.

James and Sirius were out the dorm within minutes and managed to exit the common room without much attention. All the students were still riled up from their day of freedom, so the noise and action around them made it easy to slip out unnoticed. The school corridors were fairly empty; though they stuck to the least traveled routes to be safe. They arrived at the edge of the Forbidden Forest without issue and immediately ventured into a few feet deep before getting ready to transform.

“Prongs?”

“Yes?” James was staring stoutly into the depths of the forest.

“We will get him to change his mind,” Sirius said.

James didn’t answer, instead he transformed into a stag. Sirius stared at the stag his stomach in knots. James was rarely pessimistic and Sirius now felt awful to be the reason this had occurred. Maybe he shouldn’t have said something about it this evening, but on the other hand, it needed to be said. They could all walk around smiling pretending their friendship was ok…or they could meet the problem head-on.

 Sirius closed his eyes and allowed the magic to flow through him for his own transformation. While his mind stayed human as an Animagus, with practice it was possible to fully immerse yourself in the animal’s mind. It was something they had never tried as they usually had a werewolf to keep in check. Regardless it was a freeing experience to see the world through eyes of a dog.  Sirius as Padfoot let out a bark and the stag answered with a toss of its head, and they raced off into the darkness.

***

Sirius groaned as he heard James call his name. He drew the curtains to his bed open to see James rushing around the room in a half state of dress and hair sticking out wildly in all directions.

“We slept in late,” James muttered.

“So? It’s Sunday,” Sirius replied wanting to continue to sleep. They had stayed out late last night, even stopping in the kitchens for a late night snack after their adventure in the Forbidden Forrest.

“I’ve got Quidditch practice in 15 minutes! I don’t even have time to stop by the kitchens.”

Sirius extracted himself from the bed. “I’ve got a muffin from last night still in my robes.”

James took the muffin gratefully, inhaling it in a few bites. “Gallagher is going to run us hard with the game next week.” Within the next few minutes James finished dressing and slinging his broom over his shoulder, he grinned. “I need to go. See you later.”

“Have a good practice,” Sirius said yawning. It wasn’t until James had left that Sirius bothered to wonder where Remus and Peter had gone to. Their beds were empty, which more than likely meant they had gone to breakfast on their own. Sirius frowned. That wasn’t a good sign. Were they going to go back to the days when Remus rarely hung around them? He’d told James last night that they’d get Remus to change his mind, but in all honesty Sirius had no idea how to do that.

He didn’t have another moment to come up with a plan of action because Remus and Peter walked in. Peter was in a good mood, his round face shining. “Oh, you’re up!  Where’s James?”

“Quidditch Practice,” Sirius answered sharply, deciding he wasn’t going to hide his discontent from last night. “I see you’ve both been to breakfast already.”

Peter colored. “We thought you needed rest…and I forget James had practice.”

“We snuck you food,” Remus replied coolly. He approached Sirius and dumped his bag on Sirius’s bed.

 “Oh…well thank you.” Sirius undid the buckle and inside Remus’s bag were buns, pastries and fruit. He was grateful for the gesture because the extra sleep had been needed. It was the uncertainty in their friendship that had caused him to question their motives to begin with.

Remus’s expression softened. “You’ve brought breakfast to me often enough when I wasn’t feeling well before and after the full moon. I thought I’d return the favor.”

“James wasn’t angry, was he?” Peter inquired.

“Not about that,” Sirius answered taking the food out of the satchel. He handed it back to Remus and took a bite out of one of the apples. He contemplated what to do next. There was homework as always. Fifth year had a never ending supply of it and even if one had done all the assignments, there were always OWLs to revise for. Since James wouldn’t be able to start until after Quidditch practice, there really wasn’t any reason to get ahead.

“Padfoot? Do you have a moment? I wanted to show you something,” Remus began unsurely. “You too, Wormtail.”

Sirius shrugged; intrigued despite everything. “What is it?”

Remus motioned them both over to his bed. He had a folder opened and one side held sheets of notes and the other several drawings

 “This started out as part of the extra credit I was doing for Professor Flitwick. I was bored with the project at first and then after I began researching, I realized how useful it would be to – to map Hogwarts,” explained Remus.

“Map Hogwarts?” Sirius exclaimed. “You want to map Hogwarts? It’s supposed to be unplottable.”

 “Technically yes, but I looked into the theory of the spell and it doesn’t mean the inside of an unplottable property can’t be mapped. The spell only stops it from showing up in relation to other landmarks.”

“But why would you want to map Hogwarts?” Peter asked, echoing the question Sirius had already voiced.

“It would be useful…for pranks and if we ever needed to sneak out of the castle after hours. I wasn’t thinking of mapping it all, just the rooms and corridors, we use most often. And I think it would be possible to track who is there in those areas in real time.” Remus took out of the folder one of the drawings. “I thought I would start with something simple, so I drew our dormitory. At the most there are six people in and out of that room.”

Sirius leaned over to get a better look at the drawing. It was very simple sketch; Remus had denoted the areas where the beds and other furniture by shaded shapes. There was also a label that read ‘Gryffindor Fifth Year Dorm’.

“I haven’t been able to get any tracking spell to work. And see the label that says ‘Gryffindor Fifth Year dorm’?” Remus tapped the parchment. “I didn’t write that. It just appeared on its own while I was working on the tracking spell. I’m not sure why or how. If it was the spell I was using or some sort of internal magic from the castle…”

“Hmmm…that is strange. What tracking spell did you use?” asked Sirius.

“I started with the one in the Standard Book of Spells. I kept track of the variations I attempted.” Remus handed Sirius one of the scribbled sheets of paper in the folder.

Sirius studied the list. Remus had systematically gone through different endings for the spells. It was always a possibility that Remus was mispronouncing the spells, but Sirius doubted that was the reason it wasn’t working.  

“Any ideas?” Remus pondered.

“I think this requires a more advanced spell. Maybe even something like the trace all underage wizards have. I’m sure in the library we could find some spells to try-”

“We can’t do that today,” Peter whined. “Remus promised he’d help me with my Potion’s essay.” He’d edged away from where they were gathered as if distancing himself from the project. It took Peter longer to ‘get’ things, so even without the looming Potion’s essay, Sirius could see why digging into complex spells wouldn’t really appeal to him.

“I will,” Remus responded patiently. “I was just curious for some input; it’s been on my mind all week. If you’re interested you can help…James too. You too, Peter...if you want.”

“I’m always up for a challenge,” Sirius replied. “I’m sure James will be interested. After all we know Hogwarts better than anyone. Who better to map it?”

“But a large project like that? Do we have time? We have OWLs in a few months!” Peter said worriedly; clearly not keen on the idea.

“It’s just a side project. Studying of OWLs will take precedence, of course,” Remus replied.

“Of course,” Sirius agreed sarcastically shooting Remus a grin.

“All right, Wormtail, ready to work on that essay?”

Peter nodded, but he looked slightly subdued. Sirius declined their offer to come along. Remus left the folder with the drawings and notes for Sirius to continue looking over. Settling back on his bed, Sirius continued to survey the papers while he finished his breakfast.

It was quickly clear that there was no progress to make without further research in the library. He put the pages away and readied for a shower. As he allowed the warm water to fall over him, a thought suddenly occurred to him. It was a bit strange for Remus to bring up this map idea all of sudden. Was there a hidden purpose to it? Working on the project would bring them together, but why the sudden need for it? If Remus had decided that he didn’t want them joining in him for the full moon then maybe he was hoping this would soften the blow? Sirius hoped he was wrong, but it was hard to erase the possibility from his mind once it had taken hold.

***

James fell backwards onto his bed with a groan. The windows creaked against the force of the wind and rain pattered loudly against the glass. Peter walked over to one of the windows, squinted at the blackness out of the dorm and pulled the curtains closed tightly.

“Maybe you’ll be lucky and they’ll cancel the game tomorrow?” Peter stated.

“And why would I want the game cancelled?” James growled.

“I just thought…since you aren’t feeling well,” Peter replied timidly.

“Yea…well I feel fine.”

“Madam Pomfrey did say she wasn’t sure how long it would take the Charm to leave your body…” Remus began.

“I’m not still Confunded!” James stated loudly. It was only half a lie. He felt close to normal; just slightly off. Remus was right that the nurse couldn’t tell him exactly when he’d be back to normal, but James had expected it to be have worn off by now. And with the Quidditch game tomorrow James wasn’t going to allow the possibility that he wasn’t fully right.

James was still grappling with the idea that someone had successfully cast a Charm on him without his knowledge. There were few students who could get away with it and even fewer that would try. The team had been dumbfounded by his sudden clumsiness. It wasn’t like James to drop passes and miss goal hoops by several meters.  Gallagher, the Captain, had become very agitated – yelling more than usual at everyone.  With the Quidditch game against Ravenclaw that week, it was about the worst time to have a slump.

It was Gloria who first suggested the possibility of the Confundus Charm after watching his horrible performance at Quidditch practice. Since the kiss at Hogsmeade, James and Gloria hadn’t become a couple, but they had been spending more time together. James suspected at least a few of his teammates had thought she was the cause of his lack of focus.

After Madam Pomfrey had confirmed that James had been Confunded, word had spread like fire. The obvious culprit was someone from Ravenclaw, but that idea was dismissed when Jake Stockton, approached Gallagher and James, swearing no one on the team was responsible. Perhaps it was just fear of retaliation, but James believed the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain. Stockton even offered a game postponement until the Saturday after to allow James adequate time to rest. James had declined the offer (even though Gallagher had considered taking it) fearing it would make him look weak. The person who had cast the Confundus Charm was still out there and James would not give him the satisfaction of having gotten to him.

How was your flying today?” Sirius asked taking a seat beside James who was still prone on his back.

James pushed himself up to a sitting position. “Better,” James answered. Gryffindor team had gotten an hour of extra practice in before the weather had turned nasty. It was the first time since Tuesday when he’d been diagnosed as being Confunded that James had been allowed to get back on the broom.

“If you aren’t all better, you really should tell Gallagher,” Remus said.

“Even on an off day James is a better player than most of the school,” Peter argued.

 “I’m not saying he’s not – but if his reflexes are slow – Quidditch is a dangerous sport.”

Sirius chuckled. “I don’t think calling it dangerous is the best way to talk Prongs out of flying.”

“You’ll not talk me out of it. If I thought I couldn’t handle it, I would have agreed to postponing the game,” James said ending the discussion. There was a sudden howling noise louder than before as if to emphasize James’s point. Simple wind and rain wouldn’t cause Quidditch game to be cancelled, but if the storm became violent enough to be a danger, it just might.

“So want to play cards tonight?” Sirius asked. As usual Gallagher had implemented a team curfew, so James wasn’t allowed to leave the common room after 7 pm and was supposed to be asleep by 10 pm. Of course with his Invisibility Cloak, James could have ignored it, but restful night of sleep would only do him good. His friends were abiding by the curfew was well to keep him company.

James glanced at the pile of the books near Sirius’s bed that Sirius had checked out for the ‘mapping project’. James had been brought up to speed about the project and as a troublemaker at heart, thought the idea was brilliant.

He had been thinking about suggesting working on the map, but he was worried it might reopen the rift between them. Sirius and Remus were had put the full moon issue behind them for the time being, and James didn’t want to be the one to bring it up.  Ignoring the problem wouldn’t make it go away, though ignoring the problem tonight would make the evening more pleasant.

The boys arranged pillows on the floor and Sirius retrieved the deck of cards. Peter took a seat and Sirius used his wand to shuffle the deck.

“Get us four butterbeers, Moony?” James asked as he too sat down.

“You should be drinking that herbal potion Gloria sent up,” Sirius teased.

James made a face. He knew she meant well, but the potion tasted like dirt and soot. “I already drank one cup…don’t think I could stomach another.”

Remus retrieved the butterbeer from James’s trunk and handed them off one by one. Sirius began dealing the cards as Remus took his place in the circle. James popped the cap of this bottle. “Cheers?” he said holding the bottle towards the middle of the circle. Sirius and Peter clinked bottles with his chanting ‘Cheers’ at the same time. Remus held his bottle up in the air. “Cheers,” Remus muttered, taking a sip of the bubbly substance. Remus glanced down and then his eyes flitted briefly to each of his friends’ faces. “I want you all there at the next full moon.”

The words were spoken softly, but firmly. Peter dropped the cards he was holding, Sirius gaped silently and James found himself choking on the sip of butterbeer he had taken.

Peter was the first to find his voice. As he scrambled to pick up his cards, Peter exclaimed, “That’s great!”  

“What made you change your mind?” Sirius asked eyeing the werewolf.

Remus shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m tired of this all as much as you…and just contemplating about another transformation like last month when I’ve barely recovered from the last one – when I know I only have to say the words to make it more bearable…”

“I told you how awful it would be last full moon,” Sirius replied, his face unreadable.

“I know you did and I knew it would be – but I wasn’t ready. I can’t explain exactly why I wasn’t ready then and why I’m ready now. All I know is I want you there now.”

“Well I’m glad you’ve finally seen sense,” Sirius said seriously.

“Me too,” Remus agreed and they both broke out in grins. James let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and he too was smiling.

“Me three!” Peter jumped in and they all laughed.

“You had us worried when you showed us the idea of the map,” James revealed.

“The Map? Really? Why?”

“I thought you were hoping to replace our full moon outings with working on the map. So we had something to work on together,” Sirius relayed.

“Quite the opposite. In hopes to allay my fears, Professor Dumbledore told me there would be extra security on full moon nights. It will not be easy to sneak out of the castle…even with the Cloak it will be difficult.”

“Oh…” Sirius replied. “And that’s where tracking everyone in the castle will be useful too…”

“Exactly,” Remus agreed.

“Are we still going to play cards?” Peter pondered.

“Yes, I’m not up to working on it tonight,” James admitted.

“I’ve got to save my strength for detention with Filch tomorrow,” Sirius muttered.

“Filch? That’s bad luck,” James said. The boys’ over the years had made the caretakers life rather miserable and Filch was not above retaliation at every opportunity.

“I suppose most of the Professors would rather watch the game than babysit me, but Filch on the other hand…” Sirius shrugged. “I’ll survive it. I hope you know that I expect there to be a celebration in progress from your spectacular defeat of Ravenclaw tomorrow when I arrive back to the Tower.”

James laughed. “Of course. So Peter, do you want to go first?”

The rest of the evening was filled with laughter and light hearted banter. As the boys climbed into bed, James turned out the lights feeling better physically as well as mentally. He was more ready for the Quidditch game then he’d been when the night had started. It was naïve to believe that everything would go back to how it had been before. The shadows of the last few months would always be with them. As James closed his eyes he couldn’t help pondering the importance of the Map that they were planning to work on.  After all it had been a secret that had brought four very different boys together; perhaps another secret would be the very thing to do it again.


Chapter 20: Into Trouble
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Chapter 19: Into Trouble

Sirius was first to wake up the next morning. He drew open one of the curtains to see the storm had passed. The grass was soaked, the grounds littered with branches and leaves. The Quidditch game would go on as scheduled. He hoped James was up to playing

Once the rest of the Marauders stirred awake, the four friends headed to breakfast. Sirius didn’t have much time to eat before having to report to Filch for detention. He forced himself to eat a full meal as he expected Filch would have manual labor planned. When the owls arrived to deliver the mail, James received the usual ‘good luck’ note from his parents.

James grinned as he read the note and Sirius felt an involuntary pang. “My Mum and Dad say hello to you all,” James relayed folding up the note. It was childish and unrealistic to still wish for a warm and fuzzy family like the Potters, but the longing crept up on him when he least expected. Sirius met Remus’s eyes briefly and for a moment he saw exactly what he was feeling mirrored in the werewolf’s eyes. The Lupins were normal and kind, but as a werewolf, Remus had nowhere near the happy childhood that James had.

Grabbing an apple for later, Sirius wished James and the rest of the team luck before heading out. He hadn’t been late to one detention yet, and this one would not be a good one to start. The excitement of the Quidditch game was palpable as Sirius strode through the halls.  The halls grew quieter and darker (though that was probably just his imagination), as he reached Filch’s office. There was another person slouched with his back turned perusing the list of banned items – many of them Sirius was proud to admit was because of the Marauders.

As he approached the person, his identity became all too clear. “Snivellus.”

Snape twirled around, his black cape flying around him, his black eyes flashing. “Ah Black, suppose I should have expected you’d be here.”

Sirius gripped his wand glaring at his adversary, but before any other words could be exchanged Filch opened his doors. “Wands,” Filch said outstretching his calloused hand. Snape relinquished his wand first and Sirius rolled his eyes as he handed his wand off. Filch was never content with the students leaving their wands in their dormitory for detention. Since he was a Squib, students looked down upon the caretaker, so he took any opportunity to yield some power over them. Filch stepped back into his dingy office and placed the wands in the front drawer of his desk, behind it hung a set of manacles and chains. Filch noticed his gaze and he grinned toothily. “Polished them last night, got to have them ready when the School Governors approve my petition to bring these punishments back…Headmaster has gotten too soft and I have a special set picked out for you, Mr. Black.”

Sirius kept silent even though he wanted to lash out. He could feel Snape’s eyes on him and the smirk on his face.

“Right then,” Filch muttered and locked his door securely. “I better not have any problems with you two.” He took a moment to glare at each of them. “No talking. Follow me.”

Sirius and Severus followed Filch through the corridors and surprisingly out into the courtyard. Filch made a turn towards the greenhouses and he stopped at Greenhouse 3. Professor Sprout was bustling out the door. She looked up. “Oh good, you’re here. I was about to leave.” She motioned for the two teenagers to step into the greenhouse. “The damage is quite extensive.”

It turned out Sprout’s words were an understatement. Sirius’s eyes widened as he took in the damage around. The storm last night had blown several windows out scattering shards of glass everywhere. Then after the windows had been shattered, the wind and rain had done additional damage – bags of fertilizer were soaked, soil sacks torn, shattered ceramic pots, upturned planters. It was a mess.

“Your task today Mr. Black and Mr. Snape will to begin cleaning this mess up,” Sprout explained. “I need to leave, but Mr. Filch knows the location of the brooms, dust pans and anything you’ll need.”

“Are we expected to clean all this today?” Sirius voiced unable to keep quiet, knowing Snape was thinking the exact same thing. It seemed an impossible and even with the aid of magic it would be an arduous task.

“No, Mr. Black – but bear in mind that if you two do not made significant progress, then you can finish up in detention tomorrow.” Sprout cleared her throat. “I will be going then. I suggest you have them start on opposite sides of the room, Mr. Filch. And brawling in detention will get you another weeks’ worth, so keep that in mind.”

Filch waited until Sprout had left before issuing instructions and predictably Sirius received the worse job. Snape’s first task was to take inventory; put an ‘X’ on those items that were too damaged and a ‘check’ for those in good condition. Snape was then to throw out any unusable items and line up the others in an orderly fashion.  Sirius had the honor of starting to actually clean the room.

First he swept up the shards of glass, and then he moved to the stacks of fertilizer and regular soil bags. The bags had small tears in them, so he was to move the bags outside where several large barrels were set for storage.  There were separate barrels for the regular soil and the fertilizer. He was given a small wheelbarrow to move the bags; something larger wouldn’t fit in the aisles of the greenhouse.

Filch didn’t stay long claiming he had other errands to do. Sirius doubted it, but he didn’t complain. He’d rather work without Filch breathing down his neck.  Filch told them he would check up on them randomly and periodically - and if he caught them for even a moment taking a break, it would be an automatic week detention no questions asked.

The air in the Greenhouse smelled even more musty than usual. The chilly outside air flowed freely in through the damaged windows. Sirius rubbed his hands together trying to warm them as he approached the stack of soil and fertilizer bags wearily. He grabbed hold of the first and as he lifted it, the bag fully split open, drenching him in soil. The sacks were made of very thin material and it was impossible to tell the severity of the rips without lifting the bag first.  Cursing, Sirius threw the now empty sack to the ground. Snape peeked his head out and when he saw the new mess, he smirked. “We are supposed to be cleaning up the place, Black – not making it worse.”

Sirius gave him a rude hand gesture. He swept the soil off his clothes with his hands, but it was wet and clung to him. Even once most of it was on the ground, he now looked as dirty as if he’d been rolling around in it. 

Snape tutted. “Manners, Black. I’d like an apology, unless you want me to tell Filch you purposely causing the bags to split open.”

“You can tell him whatever you bloody want to,” Sirius spat. Sirius wanted to say more. He wanted to insult the Slytherin further. His hatred for the boy was still very strong, but having fully gained Remus’s trust, antagonizing the person who knew Remus’s secret would not be a smart choice. Sirius retrieved a broom and dustpan from the closet and upon return saw that Snape had skulked back into the storage room. Sirius couldn’t help feeling slightly satisfied that he’d avoided a huge altercation. He swept up the mess and chucked it into the wheel barrel. If the bags kept splitting like this it was going to be a very long process.

Detention was tiring and by lunch break Sirius’s arms, back and legs were all hurting. He was also sweaty and dirty. As he feared at least half the bags fell apart while he moved them. Snape having the easier job looked merely bored. More thirsty than hungry, Sirius gulped own two large glasses of water and picked at the sandwich. Filch scanned the room to make out their progress. He even walked over to where the pile of bags had been.

“Did you move all these already?” Filch demanded.

“Yes,” Sirius said and he glanced at Snape waiting for a comment.

Filch sniffed and that was as much as a compliment Sirius could hope for. Filch only gave them a twenty minute lunch break before setting them to work again. Eventually Snape joined him at the more laborious clean-up task, but as he was physically weaker than Sirius, he wasn’t much aid at the harder tasks. Surprisingly it was Professor Sprout who appeared to let them out of detention. She was full of praise of their hard work and handed back their wands. She must have stopped by Filch’s office to retrieve them.

Curious about the outcome of the Quidditch game, Sirius lingered. “Professor, is the Quidditch game over?”

“Yes, Mr. Black,” Sprout answered distractedly already busily attending one of her plants.

“Who won?” Sirius asked carefully.

Sprout glanced up. “Gryffindor.”

Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. At least that meant James had played at his usual caliber. Sirius noticed that Snape had not left yet and Sirius threw him an annoyed look. He then sped up hoping to create as much distance between them as possible. While Sirius knew they would be traveling along the same path for quite a bit of the journey he didn’t expect to find Snivellus following him so closely. By the large smirk on Snape’s face, Sirius knew he was doing it on purpose. Finally at a corridor near the Grand Staircase, Sirius had enough and whirled around to confront the Slytherin.

“Say what you want to say and let’s be done with it!”

Snape regarded him with a smug look of superiority. “Last time we were this close in a hallway, you sent me to my death.”

Still on about that.”

“Forever and ever until you are fully punished –“

“I have been punished. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still serving detention.”

“Not that kind of punishment…more along the lines of retribution.”

Sirius couldn’t help rolling his eyes; Snape did have a flair for the dramatics. He could see Snape slowly grow angrier as he realized his threat hadn’t exactly done its job.

“And there will be worse things in store for your pet werewolf –“

“Werewolf?” called a voice around the corner.  Lestrange appeared several seconds later along with several other Slytherins. They were dressed in heavy cloaks obviously having come back from the game. Lestrange’s eyes raked over both fifth years. “Black’s friends with a werewolf? And here I thought you couldn’t sink any further.”

Time stopped for Sirius. He froze, unable to breath, unable to even protest Lestrange’s words. Here was Snape’s chance. Here was his chance to tell the Slytherins Remus’s secret. And there was nothing Sirius could do about it. He couldn’t mask his horror. He couldn’t mask his dread. The Slytherins would see the truth on his face.

“Of course not,” Snape snapped. “Even a werewolf would find it not politically advantageous to befriend a disinherited Black.”

The Slytherins laughed appreciatively, but Sirius was still frozen. He stared at Snape in disbelief. He wanted to ask Snape why he hadn’t told. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Why hadn’t he acted?

“You had such a bright future,” Lestrange murmured and Sirius, still shaken by what could have happened, focused his attention away from Snape. It was only then he became aware of the precarious situation he was in. Remus’s secret was still safe, but Sirius was trapped; his back against the wall, Snape to his right and the Slytherins to his left. He did not immediately grab for his wand forcing himself to first think about his options.  At best he could hope to disarm two, maybe three Slytherins if he took them by surprise. He was outnumbered with his wand, and if they managed to disarm him (which was likely), he would be completely at their mercy.

He was a Gryffidnor for a reason and they had always been hailed for their foolish bravery. If he put up a fight perhaps it would be over quicker. His hand was barely around his wand when Snape sent a hex crashing into the wall right above his shoulder. Sirius flinched and in that moment another curse originating from group behind Lestrange hit his upper thigh. The searing pain washed over him moments later; he gritted his teeth and had to use his left hand to keep himself righted.  His wand was still gripped in his other hand, but the pain was making it difficult to think. He looked up to see only Lestrange was not pointing his wand at him. They all were sneering and smirking making it impossible to figure out who had sent the curse.

“Patience, boys,” Lestrange admonished. “Let’s not be hasty. Give Black a moment to catch his breath.”

 “My breath?” Sirius spat. “Why don’t you fight me one on one? Or are you only brave enough to face me eight against one?”

Lestrange laughed. “I could take you one on one, but this isn’t a duel, Black.”

“Maybe we should move into a classroom,” Snape stated looking worriedly behind him. The corridor was moderately used, so there was a good chance someone would come along eventually. Though if everyone was returning from the pitch it was unlikely they would take this route. With a dark calculating look Snape added, “Then we could take our time…and I’ve been practicing Oblivate. I believe I can manage it. Black won’t remember a thing.”

Snape’s suggestion to erase his memories was spoken so casually that Sirius felt icy wave of fear wash over him. The suggestion had scared him more than any of Snape’s threats previously. He couldn’t allow them to take him behind closed doors. It turned out he didn’t have to worry.

“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it, Snape,” Lestrange retorted coldly. Sirius’s head whipped back to Lestrange. Sirius expected Snape to make another remark, but he deferred to older Slytherin. “It won’t be necessary to take this behind closed doors.”

Lestrange wanted the assault out in the open? Did this make the situation better or worse?

“As I was saying this isn’t a duel. This will be an example for all bloodtraitors, both those who have already betrayed us and those thinking of doing so. This is what will happen to them if they don’t crawl into a dark hole and never show their faces again.”

Sirius let go of the wall and took a step toward the Slytherins. The movement caused such fresh stab of pain that he had to bend down slightly to get his breath even again. Lestrange was amused by his bravery. “See boys, it is because of this Black is the perfect example. Has he asked for leniency? Has he begged for forgiveness? No. Because he isn’t sorry for his choice…but he will be. I will ensure it.” Lestrange paused letting the words sink in. “It is a pity though. I don’t wish to do this. I should be handing you a personal invitation from the Dark Lord himself to join his ranks. I shouldn’t have to waste my time doing this…teaching you your place. Did you know my father sat me down before third year and instructed me to become acquainted with you? That even though you’d only be a first year, I wasn’t to treat you like one. This was before you disgraced your family and got sorted into Gryffindor. There was so much anticipation about your arrival at Hogwarts in Slytherin and among the purebloods.”

Sirius hadn’t known at the time. He’d been sheltered and sequestered by his parents before Hogwarts. Regulus had asked him only last summer why he’d chosen Gryffindor. Regulus, having gone through his own sorting, knew that whether the Sorting Hat thought he really belonged in Slytherin, it would have put Sirius in there if he’d only asked.  

“You barely knew Potter at the time. You may have been frustrated with Mother’s and Father’s strictness, but you still loved them. You weren’t against the purity movement yet. For Merlin’s sake Sirius, you still referred to Muggleborns as mudbloods then. So why?” Regulus had demanded.

It had been hard for Sirius to articulate his answer. He still remembered his sorting as if it were yesterday. The train ride full of laugher and jokes with James and several other boys fresh on his mind. Along with the other first years, he’d been bustled into the Great Hall, which was more magnificent than any words could describe.  He’d looked around feeling a fluttery feeling in his stomach as they were marched down between the tables of older students. His name was called before the reality of finally being at Hogwarts settled in. He remembered the way James’s eyes had widened with the realization of his surname. He’d told the boy his family was all in Slytherin, but that was all. James had not asked and Sirius had not offered his last name. Sirius had thrown him an apologetic look as he made his way to the stool. Then he straightened up, composure perfect, he’d been trained to hide his emotions from a young age.

The Sorting Hat had been placed on his head.

 ‘Ah the Black heir at last…Slytherin I believe would be – wait, hmm interesting.’

‘Interesting?’ Sirius had answered in his head.

‘I’ve been around a very long time, young Mr. Black. There’s been very few in your family tree that Slytherin wasn’t the best fit. And of those few none of them were brave enough to take that chance. They all begged me to sort them in Slytherin.’

Sirius remembered sitting there confused and afraid. It was the first time in his life he’d been given a choice other than Slytherin. It was not a question; Blacks were Slytherins just as water was wet. He hadn’t really been serious when he had told James he might ‘break tradition’. It had just been an off-comment; he’d been trying to be clever. He’d never dreamed the Sorting Hat would give him the opportunity to do that very thing. For all the trouble he’d caused at home even his parents hadn’t thought about this possibility. The warnings hadn’t been about getting sorted into Slytherin. No all the warnings had been about acceptable behavior once he was in Slytherin.

Sirius had closed his eyes; he’d taken a deep breath. “Not Slytherin.”  The first Black in history to utter those two words.

It might have been a second later or a full minute. The exact time didn’t matter because it was already too late…too late to rethink the decision.

“Gryffindor!”

Instead of trying to explain any of this to Regulus, he had looked directly at his brother. “I have done things I regret, Regulus – but getting sorted into Gryffindor was not one of them.”

Regulus had shaken his head, disappointed in Sirius’s answer. He hadn’t understood then, and perhaps he never would.  

Lestrange walked slowly up and down in front of Sirius, the movement bringing Sirius back to the present. Lestrange was in control and he was letting Sirius know it. “I am disgusted just to look at you. You’ve become a shadow of the boy you should have been.” Lestrange turned slightly to address the Slytherins. “Remember, friends, this is for our Cause. This is for the Dark Lord.”  Without warning Lestrange, in one swift motion, he sent a curse straight at Sirius.

 “Protego!”

The hex rebounded harmlessly toward the floor. Sirius was saved by his quick reflexes.

Lestrange smiled. “Very good!” he praised Sirius, and the praise only alarmed Sirius. He didn’t want to play into their hands, but what choice did he have besides defend himself? “Keenan would have been most impressed!”

“Indeed,” a voice broke in. So intent on what was happening, no one had seen Professor Keenan coming from behind the Slytherins. All the Slytherins, including Snape moved quickly to the side, pocketing their wands. Lestrange eyed them distastefully and stood his ground.

“This is disgraceful behavior,” Keenan stated, his voice commanding. He was wearing a red and gold scarf and a Ravenclaw pin, showing his support for both Quidditch teams. “Ten points each off Slytherin.”

None of the Slytherins argued, instead they looked down and away.

“And detention tomorrow night.”

“Worthy repercussions for putting a blood-traitor in its place,” Lestrange muttered. His wand was still out and it was pointing in Professor Keenan’s direction. Sirius wasn’t the only one to wonder if it was intentionally aimed at the Professor.

“Put your wand away, Mr. Lestrange. And since I saw you cast a spell, let’s add an additional two nights detention for you.”

Lestrange smirked. “Don’t think I’m not aware you’re a mudblood.”

The audacity of his remarked was mirrored in all their faces. Keenan looked furious. He disarmed Lestrange with a quick flick. “The Headmasters office – NOW!”

Lestrange shrugged. “Think I care about Hogwarts! It’s the Dark Lord that matters! Not points or detentions.” Lestrange looked straight at Sirius for a moment before finally leaving.

Keenan took a deep breath clearly trying to control his own temper. The other Slytherins hadn’t moved, perhaps still in shock at the quick turn in events. “Professor Slughorn or I will be in contact about the detentions. Now off you go. Straight to the common room and if I hear otherwise, I’ll be doubling the punishment.”

Dismissed, the Slytherins hurried away. Sirius stumbled backwards to the wall and leaned against it. Adrenaline was still coursing through his body. His heart still beat rapidly, palms sweating; his body trying to catch up on the fact that he was no longer in danger.  

“Mr. Black, are you hurt?” Professor Keenan asked, striding over. 

Sirius wanted to tell Keenan to leave him alone, but the pain in his leg was only intensifying. He looked down and saw the curse had burnt straight through his outercloak, robe, and the pants he wore underneath. The skin was red, raw, blistering…he saw something white, but it hurt too much to even think about what that could be. “My leg,” he managed to croak out.

Keenan bent down to inspect the wound better. “I’m going to move your heavy cloak away from the wound,” Keenan warned.

Sirius nodded and even that slight movement caused such jabs of pain that it left him breathless in agony. Keenan lifted the cloth carefully, but some of the blood had already dried and as the fabric pulled away from the skin, Sirius could not stop himself from crying out. The hallway began to swim in front of him and he felt his knees begin to buckle.

“Mr. Black! Mr. Black, stay with me –“

***

James lay almost flat on his broom, coaxing it to fly faster. The Quaffle was clutched to his right side. He’d made a break away after intercepting a pass from the other team. As the hoops loomed closer, he saw the panic in the Ravenclaw’s keeper. The Keeper yelled frantically for the Beaters, but they were too far away to deter James. He barreled forward, feigned to the right and slammed the Quaffle straight through the left hope. He looped around as the cheers erupted in the stands.

“Potter scores again!”

James scanned the area, ready to get the Quaffle back in Gryffindor’s possession. He felt good. He felt alive.

“Ravenclaw has the Quaffle now. Morey looks to be in good position to score. And – wow- impressive save by Gallagher! That looked sure to go in!”

Gallagher threw the Quaffle to Roberts, shouting, “Phoenix!” It was one of their plays. James and Roberts were already in position, and Gray joined in flying swiftly from below into the formation.

“Roberts tosses it to Potter. Potter to Gray, and then back to Potter. Roberts again – and wait the Snitch, ladies and gentlemen, has been sighted!”

The Gryffindor Chasers continued down the pitch, but the announcer and the crowd was focused on the Seekers racing side by side. As they had practiced the play ended with Roberts in the optimal position to score and he sent the Quaffle flying – just barely passed the Keeper’s outstretched hands, through the hoop.

“- Green is pulling ahead and yes, she’s caught the Snitch! Wait was that another goal for Gryffindor? Ah who cares! Gryffindor wins!”

The Gryffindors in the stands went wild, the sound was deafening. The game had been competitive, thrilling and exciting. Gryffindor had only pulled ahead at the end. Roberts and Gray circled around James, pumping their first in the air in celebration. James grinning high-fived Gray, and Roberts clapped him on the back. The rest of the team had surrounded Green, who was beaming, her hand still clutching the Snitch.  The Chasers headed towards the ground and that’s when James started feeling strange. The world lurched and everything looked out of focus. James blinked eyes several times hoping it would help, but the fuzziness around him only grew. His head was pounding loudly and the noise around him sounded distorted. Gray and Roberts were flying still close enough that they noticed something was wrong.  James could see their lips moving and they kept coming in and out of focus. The thumping in his head was getting worse; the ground was getting closer and closer. They were forty feet in the air, thirty, then twenty, and just as James thought he could hold on until his feet were on the ground, the world went black.

***

Author’s note: I’m not quite sure how this chapter happened. I had no intention to hospitalize either Marauder, and well here we are. Sorry to end the chapter this way, but I thought it was a good place to stop with what I have written next. I would love to hear what you think about the chapter, so please review. And thanks as always for continuing to read my story, even with the long time between updates.


Chapter 21: Brewing Storm
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Chapter 20 – Brewing Storm

Severus Snape was the first to enter the Potions classroom. Professor Slughorn greeted him, albeit not as warmly as usual. Snape suspected it had to do with his involvement in the attack on Sirius Black several days ago. Snape recalled Slughorns carefully worded lecture, especially when Slughorn had told them sternly:

“Boys, the halls of Hogwarts are not the place for pureblood politics.”

It wasn’t lost on Snape and he doubted on the others that Slughorn did not seem to have a moral objection against the punishment of a blood traitor. Slughorn was only concerned that it might harm his reputation as Head of Slytherin House.   

Professor Slughorn had always focused on those students he deemed a worthy investment. And Snape had a feeling Slughorn hadn’t quite decided whether it would be politically wise to invest in the future of those aiming to be Death Eaters. For now Snape, Lestrange, and a good number of the Slytherins were part of his Slug Club.

Looking up at the blackboard, Snape saw Slughorn had written Invigoration Draught in big block letters. Severus flipped open his Potion’s book until he found the correct page and immediately read the instructions carefully to see if there were any modifications to be made. He was so absorbed in his work that he was startled when Lily took a seat beside him.

“Hey Sev,” Lily greeted, though she barely spared him a passing glance.

“Hello, Lily,” Snape replied frowning slightly. This was the first time they’d interacted that week, so it was unlikely that she was angry at him. Perhaps she’d tried to write that Muggle sister of hers, still hoping after all this time to get a letter back.

Severus decided his best bet was to wait for her to tell him if something was bothering her.  This was now the only class they still regularly partnered up for. They were both top of the class in Potions with the next student far enough behind their skill level that it was easy for both their housemates to understand their need to work together. Snape thought wistfully back to their first and second year when they’d partnered quite often together.

As they neared the start of class and the room began to fill up, Lily remained pensive. Predictably the last students to file in were Potter, Petteigrew, and Lupin.  The warning bell rang as the Gryfffindors stepped into the room.

“Come on boys, take a seat,” Professor Slughorn stated waving them in. “Is Mr. Black still in the Hospital Wing?”

“Yes, sir,” Lupin answered taking a seat by himself on bench in the back of the room. Black was his usual partner for Potions.

“Now if only we could whittle down the number of mudbloods in here we might be able to be rid of the stench in this room,” Mulciber muttered behind Snape.

Mulciber had raised his voice just enough so that Lily and Severus could hear the words clearly. Snape stayed still, his eyes glued to the page he was reading, pretending to be completely immersed. He felt Lily’s eyes on him, but he pretended he didn’t notice, pretended he hadn’t heard Mulciber use that slur. He was in a precarious position. He could not afford to anger Lily or Mulciber.

“Mr. Lupin, you can join Ms. Evans and Mr. Snape today,” Professor Slughorn instructed.

Lupin stared dumbly at Professor Slughorn, frozen to his seat.

“Is there a problem, Mr. Lupin?” Slughorn asked brushing a nonexistent piece of dirt off his expensive robes.

“No, sir,” Lupin said finally getting up and moving to the front of the room, though with no enthusiasm.

“Good. You will learn a lot from working with these two. Your Potions grade will need it if you expect to take my NEWT class next year.”

Lupin colored slightly at the mention of his Potion’s grade. There was some snickering from the Slytherins. Snape smirked, and glanced back to see Potter and Petteigrew glaring in his direction. As much as he didn’t want to work with the werewolf, he knew Lupin would dread this even more.

“Be nice,” Lily muttered to Snape. She had seen the look he’d given Potter. “And budge over.”

Snape moved his things over a bit, and Lily slid closer to him so that her shoulder was almost touching his. He could smell the flowery shampoo she had used. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad he thought. Lupin put his bag down and went back to drag his chair over.

Lily smiled warmly at Lupin. “Don’t worry Severus promises not to bite,” Lily said lightly.

“Only if Lupin extends us the same courtesy,” Snape said back icily, satisfied as Lupin tensed, losing the color that had returned to his face.

The Whomping Willow incident was never far from Severus’s mind. Every time he received an opportunity to ‘out’ Lupin it was like sand being rubbed into a raw wound. His last chance, of course, had been a few days ago. He’d seen real fear in Black’s eyes those few seconds when he thought Snape would reveal Lupin’s true nature to the Slytherins. It would have been sweet retribution to watch Black’s life go up in flames once the Slytherins made Lupin’s secret public. For the time being he could only imagine it.

He had somewhat gotten back at Potter. Snape had been the one to use an altered Confundus Charm on the Gryffindor. He’d found that version in an old book that Lucius Malfoy had given him. Unfortunately Snape being in detention meant he’d missed Potter fainting at the end of the Quidditch match. It would have been even better if it had affected Potter during the game, but it was even beyond Snape’s ability to time the effects of the magic so precisely. Snape knew Potter suspected him, and since he didn’t fancy another detention he didn’t mind not taking public credit for it. Severus had told Lestrange, but the older boy had not been impressed, instead echoing once more that if Snape wanted to prove himself, it was the mudbloods not the blood traitors he was to go after.

Slughorn spent fifteen minutes going over the history and background of the draught before allowing them to begin brewing. Lupin was sent to get the ingredients they needed from Slughorn’s cupboard. Snape watched out of the corner of his eyes as Potter swiftly joined Lupin, and they spoke quickly, Potter gesturing wildly. “Let’s stick to the instructions in the book today,” Snape whispered.

Snape had the fire under their cauldron going and Lily was setting out the ingredients found in their potion’s kit in the order they’d be added.  

“Why?” Lily asked furrowing her brow. “I’ve already thought of some changes that could help us out.”

“I’d rather Lupin not know about our…adjustments.”

“It isn’t against the rules,” Lily argued. “What harm could it do for him to know?”

He couldn’t answer that, but he was sure if Lupin found out, he’d tell Potter and Black. And those two couldn’t be trusted. He didn’t know how they’d use that information to make his life worse, but he had a feeling they would. “If you do change anything just do it and don’t mention it to Lupin,” Snape insisted.

Lily sighed exasperatedly, but when Lupin returned she assigned him to tend the stirring of the cauldron and time keeping for addition of ingredients.  This allowed Severus and Lily to be in charge of ingredient preparation.  If Lupin noticed any differences in their preparation, he did not say so.

Lily did the best to keep some sort of conversation going. The first part of the potion brewing required diligent, careful watch so the bouts of silence weren’t very noticeable.

“We’ve got a fifteen minute break,” Lupin announced.

Lily sighed again. “Do you think Slughorn’s going to assign us a lot of homework?” she pondered. “I don’t know where I will find the time to do it if he does, especially with the added prefect patrols.”

“I hope not,” Lupin mumbled. He was keeping careful watching of the bubbling potion, and glancing at the timer constantly as if the fifteen minutes they had to wait would suddenly fast-forward and he’d miss the next step.

 “Why do you have more patrolling?” questioned Snape.

“Because of the increase of attacks on students,” Lupin answered.

Snape narrowed his eyes at Lupin. He had been speaking to Lily, not him.

“He’s right…especially the Muggleborn students,” Lily added. “Make sure to keep stirring it. Once or twice every few minutes. The book doesn’t say so, but I think the airflow will help.”

Lupin nodded, not questioning Lily’s instructions.

“And this increase in patrols has nothing to do with the attack on the Pureblood?” Snape asked dryly.

“You think it is just because Black was attacked?” Lily asked.

“I’ve heard of no other attacks this past week,” Snape stated. “One of Dumbledore’s favorites is in the hospital wing and suddenly we need more patrols? What’s next Aurors at every entrance and every floor?”

“That’s utter nonsense,” Lupin said placing the wet spoon on the desk, having just stirred their concoction. “Sirius has been attacked several times and nothing was done. I think they’ve just realized how out of hand it has all gotten.” Lupin took a breath. “And the injury was caused by very Dark Magic according to Madam Pomfrey and Professor Keenan. Using that sort of magic would never be overlooked by the Professors.”

“I wouldn’t think you’d be so frightened of Dark Magic, Lupin,” Snape interjected.  Lupin’s eyes hardened fully understanding the implications that as a ‘dark creature’ he would have penchant for the Dark Arts.

“Severus thinks magic is magic,” Lily said, rolling her eyes slightly.

Snape shrugged. “It’s all about control. There’s no reason to be scared of it; Dark Magic just requires more control.”

“If that were true we wouldn’t have a whole class devoted to the defense of the Dark Arts,” argued Lupin.

“There are some wizard schools that do teach it,” Snape replied.

Their conversation was halted as Professor Slughorn passed by to see how they were coming along. Slughorn inspected the color and consistency. He appeared satisfied, and so began speaking to Lily about his next Slug Club event.

Snape didn’t bother listening. He’d hear about the event eventually.  He was more interested in the news that Black’s injury was a result of Dark Magic. Snape had witnessed it, but Black had flinched in pain in the same way a student might have to Stinging Hex.  Of course, often dark curses took time for full effect to be felt by the individual.

He’d surmised Black was milking the injury and that was why he was still the in hospital wing after several days.  If Lupin wasn’t exaggerating than Lestrange’s attack was more successful than Snape had given him credit for. As much as Severus liked to think he was in the ‘know’ with Lestrange’s group, he obviously wasn’t. He’d heard Jackie Wagner had taken responsibility, but she wasn’t known for dabbling in the Dark Arts. He wondered if she’d tell him the spell if he asked her. He was always looking to add magic to his arsenal.

Snape waited patiently for Slughorn to finish speaking, and the moment Slughorn went on to check the group behind them, Snape leaned in so he was closer to Lupin.

“I haven’t heard. What did this dark curse do to Black?”

Lupin look affronted. “It’s none of your business.”

Lily threw him a look. “You aren’t curious?” he demanded.

“I don’t see why it matters.  It obviously causes a severe injury. It isn’t as if you’d use the curse.”

Snape forced himself not to laugh. Oh, he’d be more than willing to use it on Potter and Black. He was working on his own curse…he was aiming for a sword-like injury, but he was still tinkering with it. It wasn’t quite ready. He couldn’t tell Lily any of this, so he lied. “Perhaps I want to learn how to defend myself against it.”

“This discussion about the Dark Art is over,” Lily commanded.

“Fine,” Snape muttered. He stayed quiet for the rest of class except to instruct Lupin and ensure he wasn’t missing a step.  Snape was relieved when the class period ended. At least Lupin could take direction and Snape was satisfied the potion was just as good as if he’d only been partnered with Lily.

Lupin carefully filled up a medium sized empty vial, handing it over to Lily to scrawl their names on the outside. Slughorn had a tray set up on his desk which Lupin placed their vial in. While Lupin was doing that, Lily had gotten up to put away the unused ingredients back in Slughorn’s cupboard. Alone at their table, Severus glanced sideways at Lupin’s open satchel.  Seeing several rolled up parchments, an idea struck Snape.  He rummaged around in his own bag and extracted his recently filled ink bottle.

Snape glanced around the room. No one was looking his way busy cleaning up their own spaces. He quickly poured the ink into the opening of the three rolled up parchments, and flipped Lupin’s bag closed. He closed his hand around the empty ink jar bringing it back underneath the table keeping an eye on Lily and Lupin. He waited a few moments and bent down to put the empty jar back in his bag. As he looked back up, his eyes fell on Potter’s looming figure with Pettigrew shadowing him.

 “Snivellus,” Potter said under his breath. He was eyeing Snape suspiciously, but Snape knew if he’d seen anything he would have announced it to the class. Severus scowled in return.

Lupin bounded over in that moment. He gave his Potter and Pettigrew a hard look. “Ready to go?” He slung his bag over his shoulder not waiting for a response. Lupin waved to Lily as he passed her. Potter and Pettigrew followed him slowly out the door.

Severus held his breath as he watched the Gryffindors leave. As most school bags were charmed to be water resistant, he didn’t believe the bag would start leaking and alert Lupin to the damage being done to his assignments and other possessions. Both Gryffindors and Slytherins had their morning break next, so there was a good chance Lupin wouldn’t look in his bag until next class.

“You look cheery all of a sudden,” Lily remarked rejoining him.

“Being rid of Potter is always a cause for celebration,” Severus replied. He was picturing Lupin’s shock later at his ruined assignments. At least some of the Professors would be sure to give him zeros for not turning his homework in on time.

“I saw him over here. He wasn’t making trouble, was he?”

“I took care of it,” Severus answered cryptically.

Lily raised her eyebrows in question. “I don’t want to know.”

“Lily, are you coming?” Mary McDonald called from the doorway. She was beckoning Lily towards her.

“Be right there.” Lily looked over at Severus and he could see sadness in her green eyes. Several strands of red hair had fallen over her eyes and he had to physically stop himself from brushing them aside. “I know Potter makes it difficult, but I really wish you’d be the bigger person and end this feud.”

Severus watched Lily leave, and his good mood faltered. He had planned to ask her to meet later in the week, and instead he missed his chance by speaking about retaliating against Potter. He should have never said anything. She’d be there when Lupin found the mess of ink in his bag, and she would put two and two together.

Severus was the last one to leave the room. He’d never given his housemates reason to wait for him. He would be allowed to join them, but unless he was needed for something, his company was never sought out without reason. So he trudged alone through the hallways. With the dark, brooding mood he was in, it was better he was alone anyway.

***

The pain was intense, knife-like, rippling through his body. He gritted his teeth to prevent himself from crying out, though he could not stop the tears from forming in his eyes. He twisted and turned, the white sheets tangling around him.

As always the pain eventually subsided. He lay there, eyes closed, trying to catch his breath. He felt a damp towel being placed on his forehead. He opened his eyes to see Madam Pomfrey beside him, and behind her his friends; their faces a mixture of concern and fear.

The nursed looked back towards his friends. “Perhaps now is not a good time for a visit, boys,” she advised.

“No,” Sirius croaked. “Let them stay.”

Madam Pomfrey handed him a cup of water, which he sipped eagerly.

“It’s best you rest, Mr. Black. Your energy is drained each time this happens.”

Sirius had been in a sleep-induced state for two days, and since he’d woken up, he’d been having these sudden bouts of pain several times a day. The pain lasted anywhere between 30 seconds to 15 minutes. This was his fifth day in the Hospital Wing, and no one had figured out a way to stop it from happening. The wound in his leg usually opened up as well, requiring a redressing. Madam Pomfrey suspected it was another effect of the curse, rather than it reopening from his thrashing around in pain.  He’d been told the person responsible had come forward, but he was given no other information.  

Sirius knew it was always tricky dealing with an injury caused by Dark Magic. Instead of giving him a high dose of pain medication when these strange burst of pain occurred, Madam Pomfrey had him on a steady dose of potions. She felt it was best to keep the levels of the potion constant in his system.

 “I have all night to sleep, Madam Pomfrey. Please let them stay,” Sirius begged. He’d already spent most of the day alone. He’d been looking forward to a longer visit from his friends. Tonight they were also to bring their notes on the Map, so Sirius could work on it during the day. Between working on his schoolwork, of course (at least that’s what he had promised Remus).

Sirius needed something to keep himself occupied because the long hours in bed were giving him too much time to think. He thought about his parents and brother. He thought about Lestrange and the Slytherins attacking him. He should have been more vigilant. He’d known he’d be targeted again.

He knew the purebloods wanted him and the other students to believe there was no escape for a blood-traitor like him. It didn’t matter that he was clever and talented. It didn’t matter that he was popular, and had a group of friends that always watched his back. As a blood-traitor he was the enemy, he would always be the enemy, and he would spend the rest of his existence waiting for the next attack.

 “We won’t stress him out,” Remus assured. “We promise. I’ll keep them in line.”

Madam Pomfrey frowned, but Sirius could tell she was already caving. She’d grown a soft spot for Remus over the years of caring for his injuries after the full moon. “Ok,” Madam Pomfrey relented after a moment and turned to Sirius. “Let me check if your bandages need to be changed first.”

Sirius tensed anticipating more pain as she unwrapped his bandage. “Just the gauze needs to be changed. The wound has barely reopened this time.  Looks like you might be on the mend, Mr. Black.”

That was good news to Sirius. He’d been worried that if he didn’t start improving that Madam Pomfrey would have no choice, but to admit him to Saint Mungos.  Outside of Hogwarts walls his parents and family members would have full access to him, and he wasn’t ready for any sort of reunion.

After fussing a bit longer, Madam Pomfrey eventually left them alone. His friends filled the three chairs available for visitors, surrounding his bed. Remus handed him the folder of notes they’d been making on Map Charms, and Sirius placed it on the small table beside the bed.

“Are you sure you are up to us visiting?” James asked.

“I look that awful?” Sirius pondered. Even though it was the first time his friends had witnessed one of the pain episodes, it was unlike James to ask something like that. 

“Worse than Moony before a full moon,” Peter admitted.

“I’d like the company…though I don’t think I’m up to working on the Map tonight.”

“I brought cards, if you lot want to play,” Remus stated nonchalantly, but there was something off about his tone. Remus produced a deck of cards out of his robe pocket, which was odd. Remus often carried his school bag with him so he could grab extra moments of studying in.

“Did something happen?” Sirius queried.

“No, nothing’s happened.” Remus smiled in assurance, but it was forced.  Remus began shuffling the cards nervously. “What do you want to play? Rummy?”

Sirius was about to protest, but James coughed loudly. Sirius eyed his best friend curiously. James gave a barely discernible shake of his head.  Of course, this only made Sirius more curious, but he relented for the moment.

“Rummy is fine with me,” Sirius replied casually.

“Can I deal?” Peter asked, and Remus handed him the recently shuffled deck of cards.

Staring at the cards in his hands Sirius tried not to feel too hurt that he was being excluded. With only his gut to go with, Sirius concluded the ‘something’ dealt with Remus. And if it involved Remus and they were trying to keep Sirius out of it then in all probability Snivellus was also involved. Perhaps Remus had a run-in with Snape or maybe all three of them had.

Still they shouldn’t be keeping anything from him, and that included incidences involving Remus and Snape. He was a bit peeved thinking further about it, even though he didn’t know if his thoughts had any bearing in the truth. He knew what was at stake. Even if he wasn’t confined to a hospital bed, he knew better than to go gallivanting after Snape even if the git deserved it.

Yet his thoughts recently had taken a more dangerous turn. He’d begun musing about possible reasons why Snape had not taken the chance to spill Remus’s secret to a group of prejudiced pureblood Slytherins. He knew what Remus would say if he brought it up. He’d tell him to leave it alone and be thankful Snape was keeping his word. James would probably say the same thing, but there was a sliver of possibility that James would find the information as interesting as Sirius. On second thought if he was thinking like this his friends were probably right in keeping him in the dark.

Sirius shook the thoughts out of his head. It was best to focus on the present. They played several rounds with Peter winning three times and James twice.   After they grew tired of that they discussed in low voices (so the nurse wouldn’t hear) about ideas for their next possible prank. Sirius was thrilled that James was still in agreement that hitting the teacher’s lounge should be a priority. They threw around ideas and Remus wrote down some of their more realistic suggestions to be further looked into.

The night went by quickly and before Sirius knew it, Madam Pomfrey was warning them that they had only fifteen minutes left before she was kicking them out. James and Peter stood up stretching their limbs.

Remus still seated turned to Sirius. “Listen Padfoot, if you do get a chance to work on the Map tomorrow…”

“I plan to.”

“Well I was thinking instead of focusing just on the tracking spells maybe we should look into the Homonculous Charm? I copied some pages from two books yesterday, but I haven’t had time to read it. It’s up to you, but I left the pages in the folder- on top- if you want to have a look.”

 “Hmmm,” Sirius answered. “Sure I’ll read it over. It would be worth looking into.”

“Good,” Remus replied jumping to his feet. “Do you have any assignments completed you want me to hand in?”

Sirius opened his mouth to answer and was interrupted by a loud, jingling noise, followed by the Hospital Wing door swinging open.  Regulus Black stepped into the room looking as surprised to find the three Gryffindors surrounding his brother as they were to see him.  Madam Pomfrey rushed out. “Mr. Black, are you hurt?”

“No, I – uh – wanted to check on my –“ Regulus paused unable it appeared to say the word brother aloud. The younger Black shifted uncomfortably, but quickly composed himself. Using a more authoritative and slightly condescending voice said, “My parents informed me despite several inquiries that they have not received one report on Sirius’s state of health.”

“It will only disappoint them to hear I haven’t perished from my injuries,” Sirius muttered darkly.

“That’s odd, I was just speaking to Professor McGonagall earlier and she told me she had owled your parents late this morning,” Madam Pomfrey explained.

Regulus colored. “I suppose the letters just crossed,” he mumbled.

“Well it’s a bit late for a visit, but you are welcome to stay here for the next eleven minutes,” Pomfrey said in a kinder voice than Sirius thought his brother deserved. “Let’s keep this cordial, boys.” She moved back to her quarters to give them privacy.

A sudden silence loomed over them all. Sirius waited for someone to say something only realizing that they were in fact all waiting for his reaction; for him to speak.  

“Why are you really here? If you wanted to know extent of my injuries I’m sure your fellow Slytherins would have gladly explained to you the effects of the curse.”

Regulus faltered, suddenly looking every bit of his thirteen years.

“Well?” Sirius demanded.

“I’ll tell you, but they need to leave.”

 “No, they’re staying. They’re my brothers.”

There was a flash of something in Regulus’s eyes; a mixture of hurt and anger. Sirius had used the word brothers mostly because it was true, and partly to hurt Regulus. In all honesty, he was surprised to see Regulus show any emotion towards the word.

Without preamble, Regulus began speaking.  “Mother and Father – they haven’t touched your room since you left.”

What?”

“I know Father gave you an ultimatum. I know Mother burned you off the tapestry. Your room though, it hasn’t been touched. And Kreacher told me he’s to dust it every other week.”

“Are you mad?”

“Sirius, they didn’t want you to leave. The days after you left were horrible. It was like someone had died,” Regulus said quickly, desperation in his words.  “It’s too late for you to be reinstated as heir, but they could give you back the gold and-“

“Stop,” Sirius shouted. He stared at his brother in bafflement. Regulus was delusional to think it would be that easy. He’d never be allowed back in the house without some payment or humiliation – probably both. “Mother cursed me. Father left me penniless.”

“Yes, but you aren’t listening. They had to do that to keep face. They could do so much worse. Father has barely used a knut of his political power.”

“Even if any of that was true the only way I’d ever step a foot in Grimmauld Place is if I was dragged there in chains after being tortured for hours.”  This had to be some sort of trick. Sirius could not - or perhaps would not - see sincerity in his brother’s words.

“You don’t mean that,” Regulus protested, taking a step closer and causing James and Remus to tense.

Sirius let out a humorless laugh. “I don’t mean it? I ran away in the middle of the night!”

“Yes, but you’re a Gryffindor! You’re rash!”

“You’re wasting your breath.”

“You will regret this,” threatened Regulus.

“I certainly regret telling you to speak,” Sirius spat, holding onto his anger. It was the only thing stopping the other emotions swirling around his mind to surface.

Regulus shook his head in disgust and defeat. “I don’t know why I even bothered. There’s no reasoning with blood-traitors.”

“I think you’ve outstayed your welcome, Black,” James cut in.

Regulus scowled at James. “I’d tell you to be careful Potter, but it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying to rub Slytherin’s slaughter of Gryffindor for the Quidditch Cup if you weren’t playing.” Regulus turned on his heel, robes whirling around him, and exited the Hospital Wing in a purposeful manner.

“Idiot,” James muttered after him.

“Yea,” Sirius agreed halfheartedly. He tried to smile, but he suddenly felt an overwhelming sadness. He didn’t understand it. He hated his family, and by extension his brother. He’d accepted the fact he could no longer be part of them. He hated them. I hate them, Sirius repeated silently to himself. He looked around at his mates who were all watching for some indication on how they should react.

“What was he playing at?” Sirius asked and he could hear the hollowness of his own voice. He knew there was no answer to it.

“I suppose none of you noticed?” Peter asked casually.

“Noticed what?” James questioned gruffly. He looked just as ruffled from the confrontation as Sirius felt.

“Regulus will find later that his shoes have mysteriously turned red and gold,” Peter announced proudly.

“You’re going to jinx him?” Sirius looked in puzzlement at his shorter friend.

“Going to? I already did! I know everyone always overlooks me, so-“

“You jinxed him? While we were all here? In this room?” James asked doubtfully.

Peter nodded.  

“Wormtail! That’s brilliant!” Sirius exclaimed. “Nonverbally?”

Peter seemed to grow a head taller with Sirius’s praise and he glowed with pride. “I don’t know if it was fully nonverbally…I did sort of move my lips.”

“Still brilliant,” Sirius said looking at his friend suddenly in a different light. It wasn’t often Sirius felt such genuine affection for Peter. Sirius grew impatient with him almost on a daily basis, but it was times like these that he was reminded why Peter was a true Marauder.

Madam Pomfrey re-entered the room carrying a tray of potions ready for Sirius to take. “Ok gentlemen, time to go. Best to head straight back to Gryffindor Tower if you don’t want to be caught after curfew.”

James, Remus, and Peter left chorusing good byes and good nights to Sirius and Madam Pomfrey.  The nurse began measuring out the different potions and Sirius grimaced already anticipating the strange flavors and textures that he’d have to endure. The mixture of potions always left him drowsy and by the time Madam Pomfrey pulled up the sheets to tuck them neatly in around him, he was fast asleep.


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