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The old stool wobbled as I sat down. One wooden leg was shorter than the other two, probably worn down over the hundreds of years of use. I liked that. The idea that for every year since Hogwarts first opened, people just like me have been a part of this decision.
Somewhere amongst those hundreds of thousands of children were the Blacks - and if you were to study them, you’d find most as dark as their name. But if you were to look really hard, beyond the depth of lies and hatred, you may find a few sparks of light that shine out of the darkness.
It was those Blacks that I thought of when the old hat was lowered onto my head. The ones whose names were said in muted whispers, the ones who were burned off the family tree, the ones named simply ‘blood traitor’.
My first thought was that it smelt. Really bad. Like a hundred years worth of must; the kind that one would espect to be the home to a nest of moths. Like it had been left in the pouring rain and dried on the fence of a farm. Like yellowing, crumpled paper pressed against your nose. Gross.
The material scratched against my skin, making me want to itch my head and rip the decaying hat off my head. But I didn’t. I stayed still; expressionless. Years of training, of learning how to keep quiet and speak only when spoken to kept me still. Back straight. Chin up. Eyes blank. That was the Black way.
Yet, curiousity seemed to get the better of me as my grey eyes slid to the woman standing rigidly on my left. She held a scroll in her hand with the new First Year names listed in green ink. Her long wand was clutched in her right hand and her gaze occasionally drifted over the Gryffindor table. McGonagall. Teacher of transfiguration and Head of Gryffindor house.
Bellatrix said she was a Muggle-lover. A half-blood who adored her precious house and dismissed all others. She didn’t appreciate the purity of our family – probably didn’t even know who the Blacks were. Narcissa disagreed; saying she was fairer than most of the idiots who taught here; she even showed occasional sparks of intelligence. Nothing special.
She knew who we were though - Narcissa had been quite clear about that. Apparently Bellatrix had been ‘educating’ a first year on blood purity a couple years ago. McGonagall had walked in and lost it.
Sparks of intelligence, I thought to myself, she sounds pretty intelligent to me. Of course I'd never mentioned that to them. I knew my duty. The Black heir. I was to marry a fellow pure-blood Slytherin and carry on the blood line. Teaching my children the truth about blood superiority. To have a marriage as happy as those before me; the thought made me feel like heavy rocks had been thrown against my stomach.
It was only Andromeda who had stayed silent. Her brows were furrowed into a frown and her dark eyes glared at the dusty rug. Her shoe knocked against the wooden floor. Andy's sisters' paid her no notice. Her more reserved behaviour had given them the impression that she was somewhat simple. An idiot amongst the deranged.
I've never agreed with them though - Andy had always been my favourite cousin. She was old enough to step in when Cissy went too far, or stand up to Bella if she'd lost it again. Sometimes, on the frequent occurrence of being sent to my room without dinner, she'd sneak in when everyone else was asleep and we'd have a midnight picnic. Not with Regulus, though. He always whined too loud and forgot we were supposed to be quiet. Andy was my closest friend as well as my cousin. After she started Hogwarts, she told me about Mudbloods and how different they were to my parents descriptions -she helped me understand that there were other ways to act.
I found Andromeda amongst the crowd of green and silver, her Head Girl badge pinned to her left. Her dark eyes were anxiously glued to the hat on my head. She was worried about me. We both knew that if I was sorted into Hufflepuff, no one would say it was because I was tupid or lacked magical skill. If I was sorted into Ravenclaw, my family would think I was too smart and therefore would be cut off before I could ‘educate’ anyone else. I had to be a Slytherin, it was the Black way.
I discretely shook my head in her direction; a little movement that went unseen by most, but was enough to tell her not to worry.
The small movement caught the attention of the Transfiguration Professor who was still stood by my side. Her calculating eyes flickered in my direction. She had been expecting me to be put in Slytherin immediately. She was wondering if I had the brains to be a Ravenclaw. Her lips were pursed and she had faint lines around her mouth. I wondered when the last time she smiled was - I wondered what I would have to do to make her smile.
The low mutterings in the hall and the odd screech of moving chairs showed the impatience in the room. I slowly began to realise with a panic that I'd been sat on the stool for a while - much longer than Avery before me. Shouldn’t something of happened by now? Had I done something wrong? Had I missed something? Is that why the Professors on the top table kept sending me questioning glances?
"No," a deep voice instantly answered, "they are curious as to why I haven’t sorted you into Slytherin yet." I had been warned, many times, that the hat would speak - my parents didn't want me to make a fool of the Black name after all. Yet I didn't expect the hat to be this... real. I could almost sense it's amusement as it listened to my inner thoughts. "But you're not a Slytherin. You're loyal – a Hufflepuff, perhaps? But no. I expect great things from you, Sirius Black. It will not be your loyalty that will achieve your future. Your intelligence and wit is a strong possibility. You are intelligent; magic seems to come easier to you than most. But no, you won’t reach your potential there either. You are brave, very courageous. Oh yes, indeed. It is clear where you should be, very clear, oh yes. You are a-"
The hat roared its proclamation into an astounded hall. The deep voice echoing against the stone walls. Silence. A couple gasps. The screech of a bench being moved so the occupants could stand and get a better look. A Black? A Gryffindor? Had it ever happened before?
My body sat rigid as if glued to the seat. My eyes were wide and my breath seemed to be lodged within my throat. What? McGonagall had paused in what I expected to be shock, but now stepped closer to me and pulled the hat off my head. Her eyes were bright with surprise.
"Very well, Mr Black." she said shortly. "Go take a seat."
I swallowed loudly and walked towards the Gryffindor table who were beginning to cheer enthusiastically. I passed the boy with the messy raven hair from the train who gave me a thumbs up and a grin. I nodded, a small smile pulling on the edge of my lips. I'd never even considered Gryffindor. I strode towards a group of my childhood friends who were also awaiting their sorting. They were huddled together, separating only when I passed them.
"Blood Traitor!" Travers spat.
My steps faltered and I turned to face the only group of boys I'd been allowed to socialise with throughout my childhood. My mouth hung open but my mind was blank for a retort. What? I felt a hand tug on the back of my robes and I was pulled away. I landed with a heavy thump on the bench of my new house.
The hall quietened down as a girl stepped up to be sorted and I took the opportunity to gawp at the large hall. My gaze landed on Andromeda who was frozen with panic; looking like she couldn’t decide whether to be extremely happy, sad or scared. Narcissa sat a couple seats down from Andy, her Fifth Year Prefect badge reflecting the candle light - her icy grey eyes flashed coldly in my direction.
It was her glare that reminded me so much of Bellatrix who'd graduated in June. I didn't doubt that if Bella had been present, thinks would have gone very differently. If she couldn't have cursed me herself, she would have demanded a re-sort. It was with a sinking feeling, mixed with relief, that I watched as Cissy pulled a quill from one of her large pockets and started to scrawl on the edge of a napkin. I didn’t doubt that Erubus, her owl, would be flying South as soon as the meal was over.
The teacher’s voice echoed around the Great Hall. There were no gasps of surprise, or muted whispers about my family. Nor were there boos or hisses or even students stretching to get a look at me. Nothing like the dark-haired boy who went up two students ahead. Thank God.
That didn't matter though; I knew that if this room was aware of the truth about me, then it would all be different.
Perhaps some students would leave the tables immediately to write to their parents. Others would find a camera to take a photo as proof, maybe even shouting remarks to see if they could get a reaction on film. Everyone would crowd round me, yet none would come close. They didn’t want to catch ‘it’, you see. After my sorting, they wouldn’t share the table with me. The other First Years would decline to sit on the stool after me. The professors would refuse to speak to me, and when they had no choice, their eyes would dart to the side – looking for an escape from the freak. I took a seat on the wonky stool.
Broken, just like me.
The teacher lowered the faded hat onto my head, as she did so, her eyes locked with mine and she gave me a small nod of acknowledgement - almost as if she knew. But she couldn't have known, because she didn’t run away. Yet there was something in her gaze, a look of understanding that I couldn't relate.
"What are you?" croaked a low voice.
"Remus." I muttered anxiously. "Remus Lupin."
"I asked what, not who."
My back tensed and my throat tightened; even the hat knew I didn't belong. I felt it coming before my vision began to fade.
We were walking home after an evening of celebrations. It was Bonfire night and I clutched a brown paper bag in one hand which was overfull of chocolate and toffee, in the other hand was a burnt-out sparkler that I had used as a ‘wand’ - much to my father’s entertainment. Around my gap-toothed smile were the sticky remnants from my third toffee apple.
My eyes still shone with the flames from the bonfire as I watched with delight as Guy fell into the flames. My parents were laughing; my dad had a hand resting on my shoulders and my mum leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. I pulled away - to her amusement - so she ruffled my hair instead as the cold wind blew through our scarves. I was telling my parents everything I'd learnt and proudly recited the poem that Mr. Jacobson had taught me beside the flames.
The fifth of November.
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why Gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot!’
Before I could utter the second verse, my dad tapped our back gate with his wand which sprung open upon touch. Mum giggled as she pulled me into the house, loudly whispering that Dad couldn't function without his wand. Dad heard and pulled my chuckling Mum into a close embrace. I laughed along with them and Mum pulled away to unwrap my scarf and take off my coat.
"Mummy," I asked, looking at her innocently, "can’t I stay up a little longer?"
"No, Remus. It’s already hours past your bedtime!" Dad scolded gently. "Remember, tonight is a special night – so don’t push it!"
"Please? Everyone else would be allowed!"
"Oh really?" Mum teased, pulling me into a hug. "Remind me Remus, which other five year olds are allowed to stay up this late?"
I had no response and instead chose to give them both my best puppy-eyes and pleading face. "Please?" I asked in my most innocent, small voice.
They looked at each other, chuckling. Mum fluttered her eyeslashes and Dad rolled his eyes to the ceiling in response. "Ten minutes," he sighed.
"Yey!" I shouted. "I’ll go get Mr Snuffles."
I heard a muffled laugh as my parents embraced once more. I looked around the living room for my familiar bear. "I think I left him in the garden, can I go get him?"
"Be quick, otherwise you’ll miss out on my special Hot Chocolate delight!"
I gasped and ran back out the door into the garden. The little garden lights were dotted around the edges, making it easy to see. There was also a full moon in the clear sky which eliminated the garden with a silver glow. I could see Mr Snuffles by the sandbox, beside the spade, and eagerly skipped over to him. Bending down, I heard a growl.
I stood up slowly, clutching Mr Snuffles to my chest. The garden was empty, and I could see my Dad swirling my Mum round the kitchen to the song on the radio. I giggled and started to skip back across the garden when I heard the growl again; this time much louder and closer.
I paused once more, and turned towards the strange noise. There was a heavy thump as a great, dark beast leaped down from the shadowed trees. Spit hung from his jaw that was surrounded by dark blood. Its eyes were wild and its tongue eagerly licked its lips. I was frozen, my heart beat loudly like a ticking clock. It pounced before I could let out a cry and I instead screamed in agony as I felt its teeth tear through my skin.
The music behind me stopped. My eyes rolled back into my head; enough for me to briefly see my parents frozen with fear, looking out of the kitchen whilst the beast carried on tearing - unaware of their terror.
"Remus!" My mother screeched, running for the door.
"Charlotte!" My father shouted. "No!" He ran after her and grabbed her arm whilst slamming the door shut with his foot. Before she could pull away, he reached into his pocket and locked the door. Locking them in. And me out.
My father was yelling and my mother’s screams joined mine as if she was also being torn apart. Both of them were at the window, glued, watching with horror as their only son was ripped to pieces. My father opened the window in a spark of inspiration and shot a red spell at the heavy beast. It roared in retaliation, but wariness of magic seemed to force it to retreat. I lay a bloody mess beside my sandbox and forgotten teddy bear. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move, all I could feel was the pain and slow burning.
"Charlotte," I heard my dad whisper, his voice thick. "Not yet. It’s a full moon." My mother yelped with more pain and I glanced upwards to see her collapse against my father. The burning in my bones felt like it increased. Hotter. Scalding. More pain. How was this possible? My bones felt to be breaking and stretching. My skin was splitting. Pain. In a sudden wave of indescribable agony, I screamed in unbearable pain and instead a howl filled the air.
I was bigger than before. Wilder. But the pain had left. Left what? What was before? I was nothing. I was wild. I was a creature of the night. I was free. I was hungry .I knew the pain would come back. I knew I would always have to face the pain. I knew everything had changed now. What was I? I knew before the howl left my throat once more.
"I said what are you?" the hat repeated.
I thought to my ongoing transformations. Always facing them, never complaining. I thought of the truth I awakened to every morning. I thought of my future, if I would ever have one. I thought of the many who I'd read had turned bad - but then I thought of my parents, and I knew I’d try to be different. To matter. I would do whatever I had to. I would be brave.
"A Gryffindor." I whispered to myself.
"And so you are." The hat responded smugly before it's brim ripped opened once more to announce;
I was still in shock. I barely heard as the stern Proffessor called out, "Pettigrew, Peter." Was this real?
The gold plates, the floating candles and the shimmering cutlery. The gleaming white tablecloths, the massive oak doors and the never-ending ceiling. Then there were the people. All different, different hair, different skin, different eyes, different clothes. Wealth shone from them all. Some with thick velvet robes, others with Madam Malkin’s finest jet-black uniforms.
I self-consciously patted down my greying robes. We'd found them in a small, second-hand shop which had previosuly been worn by someone at least six foot tall. Dad said they'd be good for 'growing room’, unfortunately this made the chance of me tripping up much higher. Brilliant.
The only positive of such a long hem was that they covered my shoes. My shoes were really my Dad’s and they were nice... a long time ago. Now the sole had a habit of flapping open, making a loud clapping noise every time I took a step. Also, they were a couple sizes too big and so the paper I had previously stuffed at the top of the shoe kept slipping out.
Unfortunately, nothing could hide the sound of the slapping shoes against the oak floor; much to the delight of the students whose robes were outlined with green. Smirks were beginning to stretch across their faces. Feeling embarrassed, I hastily sped up my pace, forgetting the too long robes and too large shoes.
With a loud squeak, I felt myself tumbling to the floor. My face burned scarlet as I saw the floor approaching, when suddenly an arm reached out and stopped my flight. I turned; it was the boy behind me with very messy black hair.
"Thanks," I murmured quietly. The boy nodded with a smile on his face and I spun back round to face the front of the Great Hall; very aware that the majority of the students were failing at hiding their grins and sniggers. I was near the front when I passed a white-blonde haired boy, wearing a prefect-badge on his green-trimmed robes; he looked like Christmas had come early as he greedily eyed my clothes.
"Did you see the pig squeal? I’m surprised he could even fit in any robes! Perhaps that’s why those robes are too big?" The Prefect drawled to his neighbour. "Merlin, Hogwarts really has gone to the dogs."
His nearby friends spluttered with laughter and pointed at me, jeering over my flaws. The prefect looked smug which soon turned to disgruntlement as he noticed a girl nearby with similarly light hair wasn't giving him any attention. Instead, she carried on hastily writing on a napkin.
I kept my chin high as I walked the last few steps and blinked rapidly – hoping to reduce the burning in my eyes. I sat down apprehensively on the fragile-looking chair. Please, please don’t break. Please, just this once, let things go my way. Don’t break. Not now everyone is looking. Please.
I knew I was bigger than most other boys my age but the stool stayed intact as if it had been magically constructed to hold any weight. I looked out at the levitating candles and came to the conclusion that it probably was. I was so focused on the fragile chair that I didn’t realise the woman had placed a large hat on my head. It was quite comfy really, didn’t itch, and didn’t smell too bad either. It reminded me of the clothes I was wearing.
"Peter," a voice echoed inside my head.
No one had mentioned how we got sorted; my Dad forgot to tell me. Just like the rest of the school had.
I yelped and in my shock, became off-balanced and lost my footing. The floor hit my cheek heavily as the stool sprung away from my legs; the Great Hall erupted into laughter and jeers. Some students were pointing, some were snorting, a sparse few attempted to hide their giggles beneath a hand.
The pointed face Prefect chose this moment to get his friends' attention once more. "Did he fall or did the chair break? Merlin I bet the fat piglet has never even done any magic!"
"When I want your opinion, Mr Malfoy, I shall ask for it." Professor McGonagall said sharply over the jeering crowd. She hastily picked up the stool and placed it back on the ground.
"Mr Pettigrew, I would suggest that it would be wise to sit back down now." said the Professor in a much softer voice. I nodded and pulled myself off the ground. Professor McGonagall sighed. "Mr Pettigrew, would you mind fetching the Sorting hat?"
I turned around and saw, with a sinking feeling, that the hat had flown a fair distance and was now on the floor in front of the teacher’s table. Red-faced, I quickly padded over and scooped up the hat.
Straightening, I met eyes with an old white-haired wizard with a beard as long as his robes. He had electric blue eyes and a kind smile. "I often have trouble not tripping over it." he whispered, gesturing to his beard. "The trick is to take small, quick steps and not let anyone else guess. That, or cut it I suppose, but I find it such a convenience at times, you see on the occasion where I have lost my way, the end has a tendancy to point me North.’
I didn’t know how to respond and simply nodded, feeling the wizard's twinkling eyes follow me back to the old stool. This time I braced myself and attempted to ignore the laughter throughout the hall, the snide remarks and the pitying looks.
"Shall we try that again, boy?" asked the hat's deep voice.
I nodded but stopped immediately as I felt the hat slip forwards. "W-w-what do I do-o?" I asked shakily, not completely sure whether to speak aloud or think in my head and so therefore settled on a low murmur.
"Do?" The hat enquired. "You do nothing. That is my job. You just have to think. I see that you are inquisitive, a skill worthy of a Ravenclaw – however I feel you lack the wit and confidence to fit in well." The hat mused. "No, don’t be disappointed, yes I can see your thoughts, you never expected to be a Ravenclaw anyway. No you’re not a Hufflepuff either, the house and people would fit you well but sadly you wouldn’t fit them at all."
The hat paused and my eyes flickered to the two tables at either side of the hall. "So that leaves Gryffindor and Slytherin. There is a some Gryffindor in you; I can sense your courage and kindness. Oh yes, I sense much courage. You face the bullies with your head held high; you've had a difficult past. You want them to know, to understand - but how far will you go to give them that knowledge? In that sense, you're ambitious and cunning; you hold the ability to be a great Slytherin. Yes, I see it now. A-"
"No!" I interrupted the hat’s whispers. "Please, no! They’ll kill me! I don’t look like them! I don’t act like them! Please!"
"Boy, they are your struggles to face. These struggles will make you better for it. Slytherin will make you strong instead of a shadowed man. I see this. I see it all."
"Please; I'm brave. I know I am. Please, just let me enjoy Hogwarts. You've seen my mind, you must know about home. Please, just give me a chance." I begged, my eyes becoming glued on the blonde Prefect. "Please?"
The hat remained silent, and my eyes flicked to the Gryffindor table. I was focused on the only other boy whose clothes didn’t look brand new and who had a sense of roughness about him. The boy with brown hair and dark bags under his eyes. Lupin, the Professor had said. Next to him sat a boy as unlike him in looks as was the ‘Malfoy’ Prefect to me. The boy looked regal and handsome; if he were my friend then perhaps the Prefect would back off for a while. "Please?" I asked desperately; feeling my heart beating rapidly.
The hat was silent; pondering and murmering as it searched my mind. Enough time passed for the Prefect to get restless again. "The hat’s probably attempting to see if he has any magic in him at all!" Once again, he recieved sniggers from his ‘friends’.
The hat's rim ripped open to loudly declare; "Gryffindor."
I couldn’t help it; a groan escaped my lips. I was certain he was a Hufflepuff. Then after he shrugged off my arm when I stopped him falling - I was certain he was a Slytherin. But a Gryffindor? Really? Was my luck really that bad?
I looked behind me at the shortening queue. There were very few boys left in it. So far Gryffindor had the most male First Years – three already! And we’d only just reached the P’s! Ravenclaw had two and so did Hufflepuff. Slytherin, however, had only one male so far. Typical. The odds really weren’t in my favour.
I know the hat was supposed to sort you by your own qualities and skills etc etc but really? Come on, the houses are nearly equal every year! That can’t be a coincidence, can it? I’m pretty sure the hat just places randomly so that it can make up the numbers. And if Gryffindor was already meeting its quota, would the hat push me into one of the others. God, what if it makes me a Hufflepuff? I’ll never live it down.
I looked up as a girl with dark curls got sorted into Ravenclaw. It’ll be fine. I’ll just make an argument that it can’t turn down. Gryffindors are... couragous. I'm brave! Like last year, when the biting mushrooms escaped, and the big green one went straight for little Annie – a Muggle child who always had a snotty nose – I was the only one who went to save her. Of course, no one else could actually see the mushrooms and I did end up pushing her into the river by mistake... but I still saved her!
Well, until Dad had to intervene when it turned out she couldn’t swim and didn’t pop back up to the surface. But that wasn’t my fault! I understand a three year old wouldn't be the best of swimmers, and she might now be afraid of water, but Dad saved her, that's all that matters, right? Perhaps I won’t tell the hat that specific story.
Cheers fill the hall as Ralph Pirker got sorted into Slytherin. Gryffindors are... daring. Well, you need daring to be good at Quidditch, right? I'm great at Quidditch - like that time I played Quidditch against the Hopper family. It was supposed to be a friendly game between family friends. But Jack had just come back from his Second Year, and he was on the Quidditch team. I just wanted to show him that I was good too.
I didn't mean for him to end up in St Mungo's. Honest. He was meant to dive whilst I dodged! How was I supposed to know that he was now dodging whilst I was now diving? I know he mentioned it a couple times, but it was unlikely to work anyway. Most people call me ‘spirited’. I don't know where they get that impression from.
The Slytherin's chants and jeers fell silent. It was my turn now. Don’t panic, James. There must be something. The stool is getting closer... Think!
I’ve got it - I’m smart! In Summer I beat everyone else in Wizard’s Chess. I even beat Jack! Of course, I did move the odd piece when my opponent wasn’t looking, but only Dad noticed and he played down all of their suspicions. No, not that one either. The hat would probably sort me into Slytherin.
I wouldn’t know what or how to tell Dad. I’m a Potter and every Potter is a Gryffindor. I couldn’t be the one to break the mould – could I? Dad was a Gryffindor, he was top of his class in everything – except for Transfiguration, he always struggled with that one. He’s still a bit bitter.
But when he left, he became one of the most respected Aurors in the country. If he hadn’t retired when he did, I bet he would have been made Minister for Magic. Yeah, Dad’s good like that. They expect me to be the same, they all do. I’m Charlus' son, Charlus Potter’s boy. 'I must be so proud; I must want to be just like him when I grow up. Oh look, there’s Charlus's boy he’s doing well in chess isn’t he? I bet Charlus taught him everything he knows!'
Sometimes I just want to snap back that I'd learnt it myself, thank you very much! Not that Dad wouldn’t of taught me, but he was always a little busy you see. I do love my Dad, I do. Sometimes I just wish they’d notice me first.
See, I’ve got to be a Gryffindor. If I’m anything else, then he beats me. Everyone knows Gryffindor is the best house; I’ve got to be the best. I felt a surge of panic as I reached the rotten stool. Couldn't they buy a new one? The stern Professor looked at me expectantly. Don’t panic James! Just be nice and polite, make an argument that you really are a-
What? But – I mean- the hat didn’t even touch my head did it? I looked up and saw the thin-lipped Professor looking a little startled. The hat seemed to have only grazed my untameable hair. Well, that was easy wasn’t it?
I always knew the hat sorted people into the houses where they belong. Nothing to do with quotas or anything like that, nope just the good ol’ hat.
With an impish grin, I jumped off the chair and strode to my table. My fellow house mates cheering their newest addition - except one red-haired girl who was slowly clapping but her gaze was stuck onto the greasy-haired boy who was a couple in the queue behind me.
I’m sorry, but that’s a little rude isn’t it? I am in her house now, probably the quickest sorting since like, ever. Shouldn’t she at least look at me? Or at least a quick smile? It’s just plain rude not to!
Yet her bright green eyes were furrowed, creating small lines against her pale skin, not noticing the glares I was shooting her from my side of the table.
Okay, so perhaps I shouldn’t have insulted her spotty friend on the train, but really, who wants to be a Slytherin? Speaking of-
"Alright, mate!" The regal-looking boy with dark hair asked. "James wasn’t it? From the train?"
"Yeah, Sirius Black, right? Merlin, a Black who’s not a Slytherin! Never thought I’d see the day!"
The regal boy’s eyes narrowed for a second and he glanced at some girl on another table, before turning back to me and bursting out laughing.
"Yeah, and a Potter who’s a Gryffindor – you couldn’t have bet on that!’ Sirius teased; his eyes alight with mirth.
"I bet the odds were astronomical!" I joked back. "I’m James, James Potter." I announced to the rest of the First Years I was sat with.
"I’m Remus, Remus Lupin." A tall boy said, who looked slightly tense and had dark bags under his eyes.
"And I-I’m Peter Pettigrew," whispered the plump blond boy whose face was still tinged slightly pink.
"Oh yeah, right, you’re the one who fell over. Twice." I noticed, causing Sirius to snort into his Pumpkin juice.
"Yeah." Peter replied quietly, his face already starting to glow red.
"Well I bet most people will forget by morning." I said simply, hoping his colour would go back to normal. I don’t want to get in trouble for giving the boy a heart-attack or something. "How about you?’" I asked the girls opposite us.
"I’m Mary, Mary McDonald," replied a small, petite girl with mousy-brown hair and a face of freckles.
"Amelia Bones," announced a blonde-haired girl who had a smile on her face but her eyes were watching us all with a calculating expression.
"I’m Lily Evans," whispered the fire-headed girl reluctantly; who now appeared to be attempting to end the conversation so she could watch her ‘friend’ be sorted, "and we’ve met before." She added, noticing Sirius and I sat opposite her.
Eventually the sorting ended, Lily’s friend was sorted into Slytherin - I smirked a little - and food magically appeared on the golden trays in front of us. Peter’s mouth gaped open, Lily’s eyes widened, Amelia’s smile seemed to finally reach her eyes, Remus was looking round at the other students to see if we were allowed to eat and Sirius – well, Sirius looked bored. There was really no other way to describe it. Catching my eye, he winked and gestured to the food and then to the boy from the train who was enthusiastically talking to the Slytherin Prefect. I nodded, a grin already formed.
We both grabbed a handful of the nearest food as if it has been previously planned and flung our arms forwards. I swapped a satisfied smile with Sirius as we heard the squelch as the gooey food hit its target. The hook-nosed first year, and the pointed-face Prefect looked murderous as they were covered in yellowing potato.
"Mr Black, Mr Potter." The stern-faced Professor seemed to have appeared out of mid-air. "Would you be so kind to see me after the meal?"
"Why Professor, we’ve only just met." I replied cheekily; earning us admiring looks from most of the table.
The Professor's eyes flashed coldly. "Out. Now."
I looked around the table as I stood up to recieve my first punishment. I caught Sirius' eye and we shared a mischievous grin. I knew instinctively it wouldn’t be my last.
Welcome to Gryffindor, First Years. It’s going to be fun.
Edit (27th May 2012):
Firstly, thank you so much for reading this chapter and I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the story. My plan is to follow all three boys until their eventual deaths.
I started this story at the end of 2011 and have already learnt so much from your wonderful reviews and helpful tips. So if you notice any errors or have any queries, then please don't hesitate to ask!
If you have a spare second to leave a review, it would mean so much. I hope you enjoy the next chapters and the Marauders instinct for mischief.
P.S. I'm not J.K Rowling - so everything you recognise belongs to her.
The female prefect walked ahead as she led the First Years to the Gryffindor common room. Her hair swished as she walked and her laugh echoed in the hallway as she responded to Mary's question. Yet, every so often she quickly glanced back to the male prefect who'd briefly introduced himself as Crouch. His hair was perfectly groomed with his dark hair was gelled neatly to the side. His glasses were perched on the top of his nose whilst his eyes seemed to be permanently narrowed.
I watched, intrigued, as he scowled at everything other than the female prefect - his eyes roamed over her as if she didn't exist. James hit me on the arm and gestured towards Crouch who'd shown a moment of weakness and glanced at the female. I grinned and James wiggled his eyebrows.
"Is she your girlfriend?" I inquired innocently, my voice echoing slightly in the old corridor.
Crouch flinched and his eyes darted to the girl ahead; she seemed to have not heard – or at least was attempting to pretend she hadn’t. "No," he said stoutly.
James coughed and looked at the prefect with a large grin. "Do you wish she was though?"
Crouch's face burned red and the female prefect seemed to pause in answering Amelia's question. "No," he choked.
I couldn't help myself - I was high on the excitment of Hogwarts. "Sounds like denial to me, eh James?"
Jaes grinned, his hazel eyes shining with mischief. "Sure does Sirius, maybe he’s confused. Have you asked her out?"
"No," the prefect gritted teeth, "not that it's any of your business."
"Then why are you blushing?" I asked curiously, tilting my head to the side. "Did you used to go out?’
"Wait, Sirius. Maybe he did ask her out," James pondered, "but she turned him down?"
"Yeah, that'd make sense. Why did she turn you down?’"I asked.
The prefect’s blush seemed to have reached his neck and his hands slowly screwed into fists. Yet, he refrained from answering and instead sniffed loudly.
"Were you best friends?" James continued.
"Or were you just a distant stalker?" I added helpfully.
"Did you speak to her a lot?"
"Were you friends with her friends?"
"Did you even know her at all?"
"Enough!" Crouch snarled. "Enough!" His hands shook with one fist curled around his wand. "When I want to be questioned on my love life, I’ll ask for it. But I certainly don’t appreciate some cocky first years trying to gain some credit in front of their peers by embarrassing me! Haven’t you already made a nuisance of yourself enough tonight? Professor McGonagall has already given you both a warning! No! Don’t smile at that! It is not an achievement to be proud of!" The prefect glared at the grins James and I were giving each other. "We are nearly at the common room, do you think you have the self-preservation to stay quiet until we get there?"
Silence followed his words and Crouch nodded with an air of superiority. The female prefect sped up her pace whilst the red head, Lily, scowled in our direction. The Bones girl rolled her eyes, Mary smirked at the prefect, and Remus and chubs- Peter - were both glancing at us; trying to hide their grins. The silence ticked on, until suddenly;
"So are you going to ask her out again?" James asked.
"ARGH! FOR THE LAST TIME I-"
"Mr Crouch, I believe there will be an explanation for you screeching like a bumbling banshee, when you should be leading these first years to their rooms?" Professor McGonagall inquired, appearing from the shadows and coming to a stand by a painting of a monk playing the trumpet.
"I-these-brats-boys will not be quiet and follow my orders." Crouch stuttered. "We would have arrived at the common room a while ago if these two would stop asking inappropriate questions!’ he replied haughtily.
The professor’s eyes narrowed as she observed James and me with a calculating expression. "Mr Black, Mr Potter, I would've thought after receiving a warning earlier this evening you would have seen fit to behave in the proper manner." Her spectacles flashed dangerously. "As you appear to have not taken that warning seriously and have delayed the rest of your housemates from reaching their common room - I believe that you will be seeing me after your classes tomorrow for your first detentions. A record, I’m sure." Professor McGonagall added dryly before pausing. "Mr Crouch, Miss Williams - if there are any further incidents then don't hesitate to inform me. I expect to see you at breakfast tomorrow to hand out the new timetables."
The Prefects nodded hastily and hurried us along the corridor; Crouch giving both James and me a pointless poke in the shoulders to speed us up. James looked like he was about to continue when we abruptly stopped in front of a painting of a rather large lady.
"Where on Earth have you been? Most students returned a while ago." The slightly obese woman frowned, her painted eyes roaming over the crowd. "Password?"
"Godric." Williams answered. The big woman nodded and the portrait swung forward to reveal a large circle opening. "Well, go on," the prefect gestured towards to hole.
One-by-one we all slowly clamoured through the entrance. I managed to catch James’ eye as Peter went through - it was a slight tight fit. Smirking, I climbed in afterwards.
The first thing that I noticed was the red and gold covering every surface. There was a large fireplace on the right wall that was surrounded by some ruby seats and a comfy-looking sofa. Dark, wooden tables were placed sparingly around the room with stacks of scarlet and gold cushions stacked beside them. Tapestries hung from every wall and two staircases led in different directions on each side of the back wall. The room itself felt like a welcoming fire; protruding heat and light.
It felt homely, yet a distant cry from the House of Black. Immediately I envisioned my house; the dark corridors, the menacing portraits, the elf heads nailed to the wall and the serpant coating on every item. Kreacher and his looks of loathing. My cousins and their strict rules. My parents. I swallowed loudly.
What will they say? Will Mum take me out of Hogwarts? Will they not let me home in the holidays? Will Dad even notice? What will they say to Regulus? What will Bella do?
The thoughts bounced round my head; blocking out the Prefects' welcoming speech. Before I could fully come to, I was pushed up one of the staircases towards the dormitory; the girls going to the right stairs whilst we climbed the left.
I shook my head in an attempt to focus on my surroundings and immediately saw James winking in my direction. He turned back around to face the common room; full of older students talking to their friends.
"Hey, Crouch, you didn’t answer! Are you going to ask Williams out or are you scared she’ll turn you down, again?" James inquired loudly.
Crouch’s face turned a deep beetroot colour and the common room erupted into laughter.
"BED NOW!" Crouch roared.
I lifted the trunk lid to find some pyjamas, desperately attempting to ignore the feeling that had been in the pit of my stomach since we arrived in our room.
I felt bad; I had stood on those stairs and laughed with everyone else at the poor Prefect’s discomfort. I knew what it was like to be the outsider. To be made a fool of, for everyone else to know that you were different.
Yet, I'd laughed. All because I wanted to fit in. I felt really bad - yet noone else seemed to mind. Sirius had snorted and clapped James on his back for his quick wit, whilst Peter had squealed with laughter and turned red when he struggled to breathe.
The girls had already gone to their dorm; except for Lily who was still making her way up the stairs and responded by sending James and Sirius a withering glare. And I laughed.
I felt really bad. Ashamed. I’ll apologise in the morning, I decided, perhaps James and Sirius will as well. Maybe they feel as bad as I do. However, I soon became slightly doubtful, as they both pulled out their wands and proceeded to have a Muggle sword fight whilst Peter clapped along enthusiastically. Brilliant.
Giggling, they both fell to the floor in defeat. Sirius having pulled on a pair of dark green pyjamas which looked expensive; James wore a similar pair, except in red.
Momentarily, I felt self-conscious in my torn, grey pyjamas which were a little short on the leg – there was no point buying new ones when they would probably be destroyed by the following month - however this moment passed when I saw Peter shyly pull on his.
They were different. His trousers were extremely long and were rolled up at the bottom; patches had been sewn over most of the gaping holes - yet some were still on show. His top was yellow and much too small; his stomach looked like it had a tendency to hang out where the material couldn’t reach and its arms looked like they were cutting off his blood circulation.
He turned back round; his chin raised defiantly whilst he lowered his eyes and bit his lip. When I didn't say anything, Peter hesitantly raised his eyes and caught my own. I smiled reassuringly and he slightly smiled back.
Thankfully neither James nor Sirius laughed - instead both choosing to stare.
"What do you reckon your detention will be?" I asked quickly; hoping to distract them from Peter. Fortunately, it worked and they both turned to face me instead. Peter sighed in relief.
"I don’t know," James answered. "I doubt it'll be anything too bad – we’re First Years and technically school hasn’t started yet. My dad got detention once; he said that he just did stuff like tending to the Herbology plants. But, then again, we haven't done Herbology yet - so they won't make us do that."
"Yeah, Bella did that once but she said she had more detentions with some bumbling oaf who wouldn’t be able to find his way out of a maze with a map." Sirius mimicked a high-pitched girl’s voice with some distain. "I think he’s the gamekeeper - so maybe it’ll be something with the animals?"
"Well something like that'd be fun." James replied, "It better not be really dull like cleaning or writing lines." James rolled his eyes and opened his mouth, before closing it abruptly and turning to face Sirius again. "Did you say Bella? As in Bellatrix Black?"
Peter gasped dramatically and even my eyes widened. Bellatrix Black's name had been in the Daily Prophet a lot recently. It was a name that the adults said whilst shaking their heads and rolling their eyes.
She'd only left Hogwarts in the previous year and had already used her family's contacts in an attempt to make Muggle-hunting legal, to make sure no muggle-borns could play Quidditch professionally and had reportedly started to turn to dark magic.
Most of the rumours had been hidden by my parents; not that I'd have taken much notice - my nerves of starting school seemed to have made my transformations more painful and my wolf-form was becoming more distressed; meaning I was taking longer to recover.
Sirius glared at the floor for a moment before slowly nodding. "She’s my cousin. But- I – I mean, I’m not like her. I’m not much like any of them. I-I-’ Sirius stuttered before closing is mouth; looking too uncomfortable to carry on. I pitied him slightly; I knew what it's like to want to hide a part of you. Peter seemed to feel the same and looked away to find inspiration for a different topic.
James, however, was frowning at Sirius, and in turn Sirius was glancing apprehensively back at him. James bit his lip and his eyes scanned over Sirius' pyjamas. "Does that mean – do you know much about the rumours?" Sirius actually looked to physically deflate and smiled in relief, James tilted his head and continued. "My parents won’t tell me much. They keep saying it’ll work out – so do you know much? About that wizard, Voldemort?"
I frowned; the name was familiar but I couldn’t place it. Peter looked like he was trying to remember where he heard of it, as well.
"Not much." He paused, noticing James' disbelieving expression. "My family didn’t tell me much either incase I repeated anything when I came here." Sirius snorted and pushed his dark hair away from his eyes as he realised that he was doing exactly that.
"But, yeah, that’s his name – or at least what he’s calling himself. You must of heard the rumours about what he’s been saying? About the mud-ggleborns? From what I understand, he’s trying to find followers and I think the ministry’s a bit worried about it; don’t really know why." Sirius shrugged, his eyes distant and a small line appeared between his brows. "He’s just another wizard off his rocker. He’ll pass, just like the others."
James nodded slowly, "I thought it’d be something like that." There was silence for a short moment whilst we all pulled out our clothes for tomorrow. James obviously preferred noise and turned back to face us with a grin on his face. "Did you see that greasy haired kid's face when he got hit? What was his name again?"
Sirius sniggered quietly. "Yeah! Perfect aim - if I do say so myself! Erm, Spiverness, wasn’t it?"
"No, that’s not right. Wasn’t it Snivellus?"
"That sounds right," Sirius agreed. "Are you going to try out for the Quidditch team next year? I can’t believe we have to wait a whole year!"
"I don’t know - I’ve never flown a broom before,’ I replied. "Don’t we get lessons?"
"You’ve never flown before?" James looked gobsmacked. "But – you’re not a Muggle-born - are you?"
"Nope, Half-blood." I smiled at James’ and Sirius’ looks of complete confusion. "My parents just didn’t think it was that important." Compared to turning into a werewolf.
James shrugged in disbelief whilst Sirius turned to Peter. "What about you, Peter?"
"Erm - I used to," he replied meekly. "I haven’t flown in about four years though. My parents couldn-uh-are too busy."
"Oh." Sirius responded; unsure at how Peter suddenly lunged towards his trunk and started burrowing. "Well-"
The door slammed, interrupting Sirius, and revealed Crouch. He was stood in the doorway with his wand out, looking murderous.
"Why in Godric’s name are you still awake? Light’s out was nearly an hour ago and your continuous mutterings are keeping us all up!" However, I noted, the corridor outside was silent with the odd interruption of a snore. "Get to bed, now, before McGonagall hears of this." Crouch snarled threateningly.
Peter yelped and dove into bed. I also headed towards my bed; trying to make up for my behaviour previously that evening. James looked like he was about to argue but Sirius nudged him and rolled his eyes. James grinned and they both reluctantly pulled the curtains around their beds.
The door slammed again; announcing Crouch’s exit and I turned under my covers to face the window; overhearing James and Sirius’ muted conversation. A slither of the moon was shining in the sky. 6 days, the moon seemed to shout, you have 6 days. I sighed, it didn't matter how hard I tried to fit in, I couldn’t escape the wolf.
I'd been awake since dawn, just lying in bed, thinking. My cheeks were cool to the touch, but they burned with embarrassment from within; James and Sirius had brand-new pyjamas that seemed to scream wealth. Remus’ were normal though he looked like he'd recently had a growth spurt. And then there was me.
I was wearing a top my mum had made me when I was 8; she had brought new material and spent weeks learning how to sew; I didn’t have the heart to tell her I hated the colour yellow. So I wore it for her and she beamed every time she saw me wearing it. When I grew too large for it, she still grinned. When I started to stretch the seams, her eyes still lit up. And after the accident, I couldn’t throw it away. My trousers were rolled up several times at the bottom of each leg; they belonged to my Dad. He always seemed more giant than man to my younger self. I, well, I didn’t exactly get the height gene.
Stupidly, I decided to bring those pyjamas with me for familiarity. It was only when I started pulling on my too-small yellow top, clearly handmade, and too big trousers that had been covered with patches of yellow material to cover the holes, that I realised how tatty they really looked. I'd never minded until I turned to see the others, and all I could think was why didn’t I throw them away? Remus smiled, was it out of amusement? Or worse, pity?
I shook my head and caught sight of Sirius beginning to wake from the corner of my eye. It was an amusing sight, he sat bolt upright with a groan. "I’m up, I’m up!" Yet when no one responded he opened his eyes a fraction; his face furrowed in confusion. Sirius coughed with embarassment with the sudden realisation that he was at Hogwarts and discretely slid out of bed.
James seemed to sense movement around him and loudly groaned; signalling that he was awake. James' eyes flicked open and a beam slowly stretched across his face; looking the image of excitement. Remus, however, was dead to the world. Sirius looked at James and then to me; his eyes had a hint of mischief.
Sirius reached over to James' bedside table and grabbed his alarm clock. Keeping low, Sirius muttered at the clock with his wand in his other hand, whilst sneaking closer to Remus’ bed. Sirius tapped the clock another time and quickly set it on Remus' pillow before slowly retreating back. Thirty seconds later, the alarm went off.
A loud shrill horn bounced around the walls of the rooms and a sleeping Remus leapt into the air, his eyes wide with fear and a yell escaping his lips.
Remus' hair was stuck in all directions, his breathing coming out in heavy pants and his arms raised in defence. James laughed first, before Sirius joined him and then me. Our laughs echoing round the room whilst a moody Remus glared at us, before eventually seeing the funny side and his lips twisted into a smile.
Crouch, it appeared did not see the funny side, as Sirius didn’t know the counter-curse to stop the wailing, it continued to echo, forcing a very angry prefect to storm into our room.
"What the hell are you playing at?" Crouch's eyes froze with horror as he glared at us all. "It’s quarter to eight! You should all be dressed! Argh! Silencio!" The prefect screamed at the clock and the screeching immediately fell into silence. "Get. Dressed. Now." Crouch seethed.
His ears and neck burned red as his glasses flashed dangerously; he still clutched a wand in one hand which was emitting small red sparks. Deciding that the safest option would be to follow his orders, the four of us leapt into action. Just minutes later, we had all hastily dressed and were being frog-marched to breakfast.
I was nervous; I'd dressed at such a speed that I hadn’t had time to stuff more paper at the top of my hand-me-down shoes and groaned as I felt myself slipping out of them. Remus shot me a sympathetic glance whilst James simply looked confused.
"Oi, Narcissa!" The blonde prefect, Malfoy, yelled down his table. "Looks like your cousin’s got a new pet; part pig, part porcupine!"
Evidently, my hair had rebelled in the night and was now sticking up in all directions. My cheeks burned and my eyes began to itch at the unwelcome attention; seeing this made Malfoy laugh harder with the inclusion of his close friends.
I turned and started to walk towards those in red and gold rimmed robes. Yet none of the others moved and I swivelled my head to see Remus, James and Sirius glaring at the Slytherin table with great distaste. I felt a small smile tug at my lips as I recognised the mischievous glint back in Sirius' eyes. Crouch, seeing this, put a hand on Sirius’ shoulder and led him towards the Gryffindor table.
"Stay." Crouch ordered sternly, though he eyed Malfoy with open disgust. "Just eat and collect your timetables. Don’t give McGonagall any more reason to dock our points before term has really started. Okay?" He glared at each of us until we all nodded in agreement; James and Sirius albeit slightly more reluctant.
The Gryffindor table was full of food, the tables seemed to creak and groan under the weight of the full dishes. Each dish contained a certain type of food. And every table contained hundreds of different dishes. There was every type of food imaginable; bacon, muffins, eggs, toast, croissants, bagels, cereal, porridge and much more. Additionally, on each side of every tray were two glass jugs decorated with a golden boar head, full to the brim of different types of juice.
Sirius and James both raised their eyebrows in amused surprise before shrugging and settling on the nearest bench. Remus looked as overwhelmed as I did, but catching my eye, he gestured to the table and we joined the two dark-haired boys whose heads were bent together with muted whispers whilst sending the occasional glare to the Slytherin table.
The vast amount of food available was overwhelming; I couldn't choose what to eat first and ended up grabbing everything and anything close, almost fearful it would disappear at any moment. Once my plate was bulging with a bit of everything, I looked up to see that the others were just eating a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal. My plate seemed to beckon my eyes and I felt a motion of shame sweep through my body.
There was a loud guffafle and I fearfully dragged my eyes to look at the green-rimmed table. Malfoy was pointing to me, laughing. Some of the other First Years who were sat near him were standing on their chairs to see how much I had piled onto my plate.
I felt the sudden urge to be sick and nibbled on a slice of dry toast, found underneath all the piled bacon and beans. I blinked furiously and was extremely grateful when the food disappeared minutes later; signifying the end of breakfast.
Professor McGonagall was slowly making her way up the table; handing out timetables as she passed each year group. One girl looked close to tears as McGonagall handed her timetable to her with a shake of the head.
Why would you be upset? Just cause you can’t do a subject. Really? If she wanted to do it that bad, then why didn’t she just learn the stuff before her last exam? Stupid.
"-and then we’ll pull and he’ll go flying." Sirius whispered excitedly, pulling me out of my thoughts.
"What?" I shook my head, turning to face my new roommate.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Where’ve you been?" He gestured to Malfoy. "Anyone who goes soppy every time they look at Cissy needs their head checked. I suggest we simply help him find the hospital wing."
Sirius grinned innocently and I found myself grinning back. I know mum said to behave, but why is it so hard? Plus Malfoy keeps making the tubb-Peter go red, which is pretty embarrassing.
I snorted. "Right I’m in! What’s your plan?"
"Something simple that they can’t blame us for. Crouch is right; we don’t want to lose Gryffindor any more points. Nothing that would harm him seriously either, otherwise Cissy would write home so fast I’d-" Sirius trailed off into silence, and looked up to the ceiling with his brows furrowing into a frown.
I waited for him to continue but he seemed to have forgotten that I was sat next to him. There was a sharp cough to my left and I looked up to see the stern professor looking standing over us with one eyebrow arched.
"Hello," I said innocently.
She sighed and handed me a piece of paper. "Your timetable, Mr Potter. And yours, Messers Black, Lupin and Pettigrew. I see your first class is Charms with the Slytherins." Her lips pursed as she looked at each of us carefully. "I better not hear of any misconduct or your detentions tonight will be extended. Is that clear?"
"Clear as crystal Professor, but if I do say so myself there’s no need to sound so-" OW! Remus kicked me under the table. Hard. I glared at him and he responded by shaking his head slightly. Oh, right, we’re trying to not dock any points. I forgot.
The professor seemed to sense this and her eyes narrowed. "For your detention you shall meet me outside these doors at 5pm. No later." Her eyes flickered to Sirius. "You as well Mr Black."
Sirius' timetable remained untouched on the table. He was still looking to the ceiling and frowning; McGonagall's face seemed to soften slightly. "Mr Black, have you received a-?"
"No, not yet." he replied sharply. Yet, almost like an unheard signal had echoed through the building, the sky was suddenly full of birds carrying packages of items that had been left at home. There was a loud hoot and a large, black eagle owl flew through the windows and dropped a sealed envelope into Sirius’ open palms.
He stared at the thick, ivory letter facing him, his eyes still furrowed. Sirius swallowed, grabbed the letter by its edges and pocketed the envelope like nothing had happened. Sirius smiled at the Professer innocently, but the mischievous glint was back in his eye. McGonagall seemed to sense this. "Perhaps you'll meet me fifteen minutes earlier, Mr Black?"
He sighed dramatically but nodded slowly so the Professor moved away. What in Merlin’s name was that about? Sirius pushed off from the table. "Well? Are you coming?"
I nodded and climbed off the bench, Remus and Peter following close behind. We reached the massive oak door at the same time as the Slytherins, and Sirius, obviously trying to keep his mind off a certain topic, gestured me towards a metal stand with rope looped around the hook.
"Releshio," Sirius whispered. At once the rope came undone from the stand and fell to the floor. Peter gasped in amazement and clapped his hands in excitement. Not to be outdone, I remembered a spell my Dad used to get the snotty Muggle girl out of the water after I accidently pushed her in.
"Extenshio!" The rope slithered along the floor, remarkably resembling a snake, and reached the other side of the door – just as Malfoy strut through the hall with his nose held high; meaning he didn’t see the moving rope.
I released the spell with a large flourish and the rope popped back together. Malfoy's eyes widened momentarily as his feet got tangled under the thick rope. He struggled with his arms flailing before crashing spectacularly onto the cold floor. There was a satisfying crack; Malfoy looked up to reveal a small puddle of blood on the stone floor that was pouring from his crooked looking nose. His blue eyes were cold and his lips formed a snarl.
Around us, the Slytherins gasped, the Ravenclaws laughed, the Hufflepuffs whispered and the Gryffindors hooted. Many of the older years clapped us on the back as they stepped over the spluttering prefect and headed to their lessons; most looked back with a snort.
Sirius and I swapped astonished gazes; neither of us planned for that to go so well. With a bewildered laugh, we stepped over the Malfoy; who was still tangled within the rope. Behind us, Malfoy let out a shrill shout. "You rotten little-"
"Mr Malfoy, I do not appreciate any kind of foul language in the corridors at Hogwarts. Set an example - you're a prefect!" Professor McGonagall stood over Malfoy as she made the ropes disappear with a flick of her wand. "Five points from Slytherin for aggressive behaviour."
Thank God we got out of there; she’d have had us in detention for the rest of the week! I looked at Sirius and Remus who both looked like they were thinking along the same lines.
We'd just reached the classroom when the red-haired girl from the day before stepped in my way. "I hope you’re not going to do that often," she rolled her eyes at our innocent expressions. "I saw you, so don’t try to deny it. Class hasn’t even started yet, and you've already got a detention. I don’t want Gryffindor to come last; so you better buck up your ideas!"
"What’s it to you?" Sirius replied furiously. "Go join your slimeball pal in Slytherin if it’s that much a deal!"
The greasy-haired boy approached us, his black eyes flashing angrily. "Don’t you dare speak to Lily like that!"
"Sev, leave it. They’re not worth getting in trouble for." Lily sighed, tugging him away.
He followed Lily immediately but glanced back over his shoulder maliciously, "-wouldn’t expect anything different from a Black anyway."
Sirius' eyes widened and he stepped forward, his neck burning red. Remus reached an arm around Sirius’ shoulders to pull him back, Peter squeaked and cowered against the wall, and I raised my wand.
"Pardon me for lateness," a squeak came through the gathering crowd.
A small wizard who was clutching his sides, pushed through the children. His eyebrows lifted as he took in the situation with Sirius and I pointing our wands in the Slytherin's direction.
"We don’t tolerate magic in the corridors boys." The small Professor squeaked. "You were told this last night. Five points from Gryffindor."
The red-head sighed and scowled in their direction. Somehow I knew McGonagall would be hearing about this. Brilliant.
A/N: Me Again. Hello :) Sorry for the delay - life got in the way!
Quick note: Yes, I am planning to follow the boys right through their Hogwarts years and beyond!
I hope you enjoyed it, and would you mind feeding that little gray box below? He gets hungry :/ Til next time :)
Chapter 3: First Year: Secrets and Punishments
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It was the last hour of the day when James stabbed me. A gasp escaped my mouth as the blood seeped to the break in my skin and I cursed myself for paying attention to Professor McGonagall. Turning, James grinned impishly, holding his weapon at his side whilst I glared at him and wiped away the blood.
James laughed and spun back round to face McGonagall who frequently sent suspicious glances in our direction. Narrowing my eyes, I glanced down at the matchstick in my palm. Two could play at this game. My parents had been training Regulus and I since we were able to walk.
For a moment, my mind was full of images of Regulus and I growing up in the cold, dark house of Black. The house always had people visiting. My family were the ‘purest of all wizards’ which, according to my mother, made us the wizarding equivalent of royalty.
We used to wake up for lectures on blood superiority. There had been a massive decrease in wizarding purity in recent years and even the wealthiest pure-blood families would seek solace at our house. In the evenings, we were paraded to all in our finest robes, like princes. We represented the hope of the next generation.
Some demanded more than a glance at the wealthy princes; they wanted to see us perform magic. Day after day we were taught spells and potions, and punished harshly if we got anything wrong. My father would watch our lessons like a hawk, waiting for any mistake. The smell of fire whiskey would cling to his robes as his dark eyes remained unblinking.
We had no breaks, learning magic was our goal. In summer, the thick curtains would be drawn so we wouldn’t be distracted by the warm light. We were to be the best. We were to save the wizarding world from the threat of mudbloods and Muggles. Once I asked my father why we were superior. He had no answer. But he had a punishment.
My cousins would join us often; they were our only company. We were of royal blood - we should be the best. With nothing else to do, insanity seemed to spread from my father’s blood-shot eyes to Bella’s. We all noticed the change, yet no one said anything. That was our future. We had to accept it.
The pure-bloods wanted an heir. An heir who was superior. They didn’t want to know how that heir became so wonderful. My tenth birthday was an initiation. The pure-bloods came in number to watch me prove myself. I was one of their last chances; I had to prove I was brave enough.
I was in the dining room, a plank of wood lay on the table in front of me. My father reached down into a dirt covered sack by his feet and pulled out the rotting head of Beastie; the old house-elf who had gotten too old. I had heard a shallow gasp from behind me; Kreacher had entered the room.
Father pushed the head into my arms, and held it there as I attempted to recoil. Uncle Cygnus stepped forward with a fist full of broken twigs. I knew how I was supposed to prove myself.
As much as I hated myself to admit it, I liked the looks of admiration that the guests gave me, the presents, the whispers of my future. I swallowed and gathered my courage.
My stomach had sunk and my throat became tight as Kreacher, the house-elf, watched my hands like a hawk as I lifted his mother’s head to the plank of wood.
"Nervano." I had whispered. Nothing happened; some of the guests coughed uncomfortably.
"Nervano." I repeated. Nothing happened again; my father’s hands twisted in agitation.
"Nervano." My stomach tensed as there was no reaction once more; Andy gasped and Bella snorted.
For a moment, I caught my father's swaying body and my mother's hawk like eyes pierced on my face. Her eyes were narrowed and my hands started to shake. I had time for one last chance, otherwise the punishment would come and it would probably fall upon Reg as well. For my stupidity. I couldn’t let that happen.
My back tensed and I spoke the words with as much power as I could muster, "Nervano!" This time, one of the twigs transformed into a nail.
I swallowed, ignoring the joyful feeling that danced in my stomach. "Creyja."
The nail made a sickly crunching noise as it penetrated the elf’s flesh and flew into the wall. Behind me, I could hear Kreacher gasp and he started to mutter under his breath. House-elves don’t understand death; he didn’t understand that my father had killed his mother for being too old. He just saw me nailing his mother to the a plank of wood.
In his eyes, I was the murderer. There are few things that elves hold grudges for, that was one of them.
The elf’s mutterings faded in my ears and I found my eyes still fixated on the matchstick. "Nervano," the matchstick became thinner and longer, the colour fading from brown to silver and the square ends twisting into a sharp point and a flat top. It was identical to the nails from all those years ago. James gaped at my nail, and then looked back at his, which was feeble and small compared to mine.
With a wink, I smiled and pushed away the thoughts of home. "En guarde!" I whispered and hit James’ nail with mine, sending it flying across the classroom.
His eyes sparkled mischievously as he pointed his wand at another matchstick. The matchstick transformed into a stronger looking nail; my spell obviously giving James more determination and he picked it up in a swift movement then turned and attacked mine. I swerved and the Muggle sword fight began. If James swayed right, then I’d block him right. If he stirred left, then I’d catch him left. We were evenly matched and our movements became more exaggerated as the game progressed.
James’ cry when I stabbed him in his arm caught the attention of Professor McGonagall. She sighed and stormed over to our table; fully expecting to dock Gryffindor points. However when she reached us and saw our nails – James’ had become increasingly stronger as his kept breaking – she started in surprise. "Are these your matchsticks boys?" McGonagall frowned.
"Yes Professor," I replied, hoping that if I was polite she wouldn’t dock any points.
"How?" McGonagall’s brow was still furrowed.
"Well with magic." James obviously didn’t share these hopes. "You see there’s this place called Hogwarts where they teach it and-" he was silenced by a glare from the professor.
"What I meant Mr Potter," she said through pursed lips, "is that these are both very advanced nails. I would expect a third year to transform a nail to this standard, certainly not a first year."
Her eyes darted between us both and her eyes lingered on mine. "Congratulations boys," she paused. "Five points to Gryffindor for Mr Black’s nail."
"What about me?" James responded outraged.
Professor McGonagall didn’t even look back as she made her way to the front of the class. "I don’t tolerate rudeness Mr Potter, nor do I reward for it. If you want to receive house points, then you earn them."
I snorted at the look of shock that spread across James’ features and Remus joined in; his own matchstick already transformed into a small brown nail. Peter however, was still focused on the matchstick in front of him. His wand making jagged, quick movements through the air whilst he muttered the spell, his small eyes never wavering from the object. Repeatedly nothing happened.
His face tinged pink and with an emotion of pity, I saw the Snivellus boy had just transformed his. Peter was one of the last few, and the Slytherins were starting to notice.
"Here," I whispered, "smaller movements, more fluid. Yep like that. Now when the wand moves to this point, you say the spell. Okay? Yep. Now."
With full concentration, Peter muttered the spell and the matchstick started to transform. It shrunk and became very thin; I swapped a despairing glance with James as the matchstick now looked like a tac rather than a nail. However, Peter’s eyes shone with excitement and a massive grin covered his chubby cheeks. "I did it!" he whispered in awe.
It seemed impossible that a week had passed already. I was currently hiding behind my bed, along with James and Sirius – attempting, unsuccessfully to stifle the giggles that kept escaping the clenched hand over my mouth. James was bright red and sniggering, Sirius was more composed but even he kept snorting and peering over the bed.
I couldn’t believe that these boys wanted to be friends with me. That they were friends with me. Remus was really friendly, thoughtful and he had already helped me with some homework. I thought Remus and I shared a lot in common; he was shy, wore scruffy clothes and was desperately trying to fit in.
It was just something James and Sirius couldn’t understand. Sirius was funny, slightly sensitive when talk turned to home, moody when letters arrived – he still hadn’t said anything about the letter he had received on Monday. Yet he was smart, he didn’t have any trouble with the lessons and he helped me a lot. On Thursday, he even swapped Potions with me and simply said he’d been ‘meaning to get to know the Potions professor a bit better anyway.’
James was... well, James was spoilt; it was obvious that he was adored at home. Every morning a new package arrived from home; full of sweets, jumpers, stuff from Zonkos and the occasional bit of stationary. He answered back to the teachers and was shocked when they didn’t do as he asked.
Once or twice, I felt jealous. I knew that I would never receive the same treatment; my dad was too busy trying to get a job - or keep one - to send letters and packages, and my mum- well, after the incident mum wouldn’t-couldn’t do much. She probably didn’t even realise I’d left, perhaps she did – I was her main carer after all.
But James was fun. He shared everything with us all. They were, well they were cool. And they were friends with me. Even when the Slytherins kept tripping me up or stuffing cakes into my bag; they all just laughed and shared out the cakes.
But if there was one thing they were really good at, it was making trouble. Sadly for Remus, James had found Sirius, who was just as talented at creating mischief and then me, a willing trouble-maker who the teachers didn’t suspect yet, and then there was Remus. The one person who managed to keep some sense of control this week, yet somehow James and Sirius persuaded him to get involved every time.
Sirius nodded at James, and he snuck to the window and opened the blinds causing sunlight to catch on Remus’ ruby red bed curtains; Remus groaned as he awoke; realising that there were no sounds of heavy breathing from my bed or faint snores from Sirius’ or even low mutterings of James talking in his sleep.
Remus hated getting up and when he slept, nothing could wake him and now he knew we were awake.
Already this week Remus had needed two extra showers, help from a prefect to find all his socks and had been forced to beg for the counter-jinx for his singing shoes - all within five days.
Remus looked like he sat up with some trepidation in the silent room before collapsing back onto the bed after finding he couldn’t sit up - asif he was glued to his bed sheets. With another groan he pulled his hand out from under the duvet to find his hand covered in sticky yellow goo. Treacle.
None of us could contain our glee at the look of disgust on Remus’ face, and there was an eruption of giggles from my bed.
"Guys," Remus sighed. At once, us three boys; two with dark raven hair and one with thin blonde, popped out from behind the bed. Red-faced and giggling. Remus glared at us for a moment before joining in laughing as well. "Where did you get the treacle from?" Remus laughed.
"'James’ package this morning," Sirius responded cheerfully. Remus’ face showed an expression that seemed to say ‘of course.’
"Why treacle?" Remus asked.
"Well we thought you loved your bed so much that you’d want to stick around it," James replied innocently. Sirius shook his head at the bad pun.
Remus snorted. "Well give me a hand then!"
I waddled over with Sirius and James behind me; when suddenly Remus grinned mischievously and with a squelch, ripped his hand from the treacle-covered bed and ruffled Sirius’ hair. Sirius screamed and laughingly dived for the bed; pulling me with him.
The resulting thud meant more treacle flew into the air and landed on James’ trousers who laughed and dive-bombed on top of Sirius. I was having fun, but at the same time couldn’t stop the nagging worry that I was weighing the bed down. Or that I was sitting on someone; stopping them from breathing. But each thought got pushed away as more treacle went flying.
Treacle was everywhere and we all had the one goal to cover the others as much as we could. James’ hair was more ruffled then normal and Sirius’ eyes were alight with excitement, even Remus looked like he was having fun.
"Oh for Merlin’s sake!" It was Crouch, again. Oops. "Really? Treacle? It’s Saturday! People are trying to sleep! Who do you think is going to clean up this mess?"
"The house-elves?" James said in a slightly arrogant voice, Sirius nodded in agreement.
Barty Crouch’s eyes narrowed. "Professor McGonagall will hear about this. Now go get washed for Merlin’s sake- and don’t get any of that goo on the carpet!" With that, Crouch turned on his heel and stormed out of the room.
There was silence for a couple of heartbeats before we all burst out laughing. Remus jumped out of the bed and ripped off the sheets that were still stuck to his body before heading to the showers; for his third additional wash this week.
The rest of the day passed in a similar way to how it started. James and Sirius wanted to annoy Barty Crouch more, so took to following him – dragging Peter and myself with them – and constantly asking him questions.
To their joy, they found that he often went red and spoke in incoherent sentences when infuriated and also that he couldn’t get them in trouble because they were simply asking him questions, and as he was prefect – it was his duty to listen.
When we were not annoying Crouch, we were exploring. At lunch, Peter accidently squished the pumpkin he was sitting on in the pumpkin patch which meant we all had to run away before the hairy giant of a man caught us.
At dinner we were interrupted from our loud food-fight in which James had hit Amelia with a soufflé that had splattered onto Mary who picked up a Cherry Tart to hit James back, but James ducked and it hit Sirius instead. Sirius then decided to pick up the whole tray of cream puffs and throw them into the air – meaning that we all got covered in cream.
It was war after that, and after a rather spectacular throw from Lily which caused two Pumpkin pastries to splat against James’ head, McGonagall approached the table.
Her lips pursed as any food that had hit the floor or tables disappeared along with all the rest of the food which signified the end of dinner. The girls slyly snuck away from the table and got lost within the crowd.
"Not so fast boys," she said sternly. With resignation, we turned back to face the stern-faced teacher who was looking at our food-covered clothing with despair.
"I may not be able to punish you for acting like bumbling buffoons at dinner, as you are all at perfect liberty to cover yourselves in food - but Prefect Crouch has informed me of your ‘treacle’ experiment with your bed sheets. This sort of behaviour is not tolerated at Hogwarts. After having a discussion with the headmaster, a suitable punishment has been found. Since you have no regards for the rules you will have your special detention tomorrow evening. Leave the sheets where they are, and you will deal with them tomorrow. Understood?"
We all nodded but James frowned, "Professor? Remus has got to sleep tonight; we can’t keep the sheets on the bed."
Professor McGonagall nodded slowly and then turned to face me. "Which brings me to my next point. I’m sorry Mister Lupin but we’ve just had news that your Grandmother has been taken ill. Please go see Madam Pomfrey immediately and she will floo you to your house." I nodded in understanding.
James and Sirius frowned and patted me on the shoulder as I left, Peter bit his lip and gazed at me in a mix of understanding and pity.
The professor was still looking at me – though her gaze had softened considerably – and I took my cue to leave. I walked out of the Great Hall and up the first moving staircase when Lily and Amelia bumped into me.
"Remus!" Amelia started.
"Hello," I replied. "You alright?" I added as both girls were swapping looks of guilt.
Lily nodded, "yes, we’re fine. But well – we felt a bit bad that we left you guys to get told off. I mean we threw food as much as you guys did. It wasn’t fair of us, so we’re going to see Professor McGonagall now to explain."
"No don’t worry about that!" I smiled. "McGonagall didn’t punish us because all the food disappeared anyway."
"Oh," Amelia laughed. "Thank Merlin for that! I was wondering how I could explain to my parents that they’d got a letter when I hadn’t even been here a week!"
She giggled, and Lily smiled with her. But soon her smile turned to a slight frown, "are you okay Remus? You don’t look too happy and well – you look slightly pale."
Ah, I thought, I wasn’t hiding it that well. Thank Godric for McGonagall’s excuse.
"Me? No, I’m fine Lily, thanks. McGonagall’s just told me that my Grandmother’s ill so I’m just a bit shocked. Though they’ve arranged for me to go home tonight, so it’s alright." I smiled reassuringly and both girls nodded with understanding.
"Oh, well we won’t keep you then. See you around Remus." Lily said softly, before following Amelia in the direction of the library. I arrived at the hospital wing in good time and the healer sighed in relief.
"Hello Dear, I’m Madam Pomfrey – you must be Remus?" She spoke softly as if speaking to an ill patient. She gestured to her office and I followed immediately.
Although the wing was empty, she shut the door and cast a spell over it. Then turned to me and smiled once more. Did she really have to smile so much? Remus, don’t be an idiot – she’s only trying to help. She’s probably disgusted or scared anyway. You'd prefer the smiles over sneers.
"So Remus, Professor Dumbledore has informed me of your – situation – and has come up with a suitable solution. In about half an hour – just before the sun goes down – we shall walk out to the grounds together. Professor Sproat has planted a tree over a passageway where you will be statying - it'll stop anyone following you at least. I’ll leave you there, but you must follow the hidden pathway to the room at the end."
I nodded and Madam Pomfrey disappeared back into the hospital wing after hearing someone call for her. With nothing else to do, I sat down and tried to stop myself from thinking about the oncoming pain. The transformations that split my bones and tore my skin. The burning, the screaming – the wildness. No matter how many times I transformed; nothing stopped the fear I felt before every full moon.
It seemed minutes had barely passed before Madam Pomfrey returned; her wand clutched in one hand and an extra cloak in the other.
"Right dear, I think we’d better go down now. Now I’m going to disillusion you, don’t panic if it feels strange – it just stops any suspicion if you are seen with me walking across the grounds after hours."
I nodded in agreement and she murmured a spell. I then felt the odd feeling of an egg cracking over my head and slowly sliming down my body. Madam Pomfrey nodded with satisfaction and gestured for me to follow her.
We left the building without arousing any suspicion and stumbled across the grounds before finally reaching a tree of about my height, waving in the breeze. Madam Pomfrey looked over her shoulder and murmured under her breath. An orange spell jetted out of the end of her wand and hit a small knot at the base of the tree. The tree immediately stopped.
"The tree is fast growing and vicious. It will attack anyone who nears its base so no one shall be able to enter the entrance." Relief swept through me, I had worried that I would accidently attack a student or teacher if anyone got curious.
"But, if you hit the knot, it will allow you to pass, so-" she paused and gestured to the tree regretfully. "I’m sorry Remus – I wish there was another way." I nodded and smiled at the witch’s kindness. She patted me on the shoulder as I passed, before the entrance closed behind me and I was left in a damp tunnel.
With no light or clocks, I was unsure how much time had passed whilst I stumbled through the dark tunnel. I could only rely on the increasing itch that covered my skin and the increasing sharpness of my surroundings as my eyes altered. After what seemed like much time had passed and the itching was beginning to feel unbearable, I reached a small wooden room with a bed and a chair. Before I could register much more the clouds moved and the full moon hit me in the face.
The familiar burn spread across my skin. And the indescribable pain swept through my head; my body collapsed against the floor and automatically curled in on itself – trying to protect against the pain. Yet there was no remedy, no soothing in the fire.
I am not normal. I never will be. Remus. I am not normal. I will never be. Rem-. I am not normal. I will never be. R-. I am not normal. I never will be. Wer-. I am not normal. I never will be. Werewolf.
I am wild. I am free. I am the night sky. I am the creature of the night. I am wolf.
I was chasing Sirius. He had tripped me up a couple corridors ago and I'd fallen into a suit of armour. Peter could be heard breathing heavily behind me somewhere – gasping to keep up. Sirius ran faster than us all as he shot round the last corridor. I pulled out my wand and nearly ran head-first into him as he stood still as a statue in the centre of the hallway. I caught myself in time – but sadly Peter didn’t and he ended up running straight into me, who then fell on top of Sirius. For the third time this weekend, we were in a huddle on the floor.
Sirius groaned with pain as he pushed Peter’s knee away from his chest and I pushed Sirius’ elbow away from my face. With a couple scrapes we managed to detangle ourselves and crawled away from the huddle – only to come face to face with McGonagall. Brilliant. Detention. Forgot. Oops.
Her lips we’re pursed as she watched us scramble to our feet. "You are fifteen minutes late for your detention. I do not tolerate poor conduct. You will stay for an extra half-hour today. Is that clear?"
We nodded our agreement and she moved to the side slightly to reveal Remus. He’d been gone since yesterday afternoon, but being back so soon must mean his grandma's okay. Unless McGonagall brought him back for his detention – and that’s just mean! I looked at McGonagall once more and decided that I wouldn’t put it past her.
Remus nodded at us with a slightly strained smile and McGonagall flashed a concerned look at him quickly. I noted that he was very pale, and had dark circles under both of his eyes. He seemed to be slightly hunched over and his clothes seemed more scruffy than usual – Peter looked at him in concern.
Sirius was frowning at the small cut above his left eyebrow and the scratches over his arm where the flesh was in eye-sight, before taking a step towards Remus, then shaking his head as if changing his mind. Hope he hasn’t caught his Grandma’s illness, I thought.
"Follow me boys." Professor McGonagall said sharply – interrupting me planning my next prank on the distracted Sirius. We followed in silence, Peter and I exchanging looks of curiosity – we were going down some stairs behind a painting of a dwarf fighting a dragon which was just left to the Great Hall.
Sirius and Remus walked side by side behind us. Sirius sending the occasional look at Remus whilst Remus stared ahead, walking slower than the rest of us as if he was tired.
We were in a small hallway; a painting of a bowl of fruit was to our right. We carried on walking, past a group of old barrels in the corner which had a cactus sat on top of the biggest one. We took a left, then a right, then another left – yet McGonagall carried on walking. Until at last the Professor halted by a small wooden door in the brick wall which was only as high as our chests.
The small door creaked open and an old house-elf, wearing the Hogwarts crest on its grey garment, slipped through the door. It’s eyes were unusually large and the elf squeaked as it bowed to McGonagall – who pursued her lips and nodded in response. A house-elf? Hah! We can just ask it to do whatever the punishment is and just sit and watch! Brilliant.
But Professor McGonagall seemed to have seen my quickly disguised smile, "this is Dokkin, boys. He shall be overseeing your detention today and has sworn to tell me if you misbehave in any way. Clear?"
That’s not fair! If the elf’s sworn to the Professor – then we have to do it ourselves. But – I mean – that’s just stupid!
Her eyes met each of ours in turn and everyone nodded, yet her eyes seemed to watch me more carefully than the rest as I nodded in resignation.
"Dokkin wonders if the misters want to follow me?" the elf squeaked. We nodded; Sirius and I swapped a smile as we each crawled through the small door. But the smiles soon faded as we straightened up into what seemed to be the Hogwarts laundry room.
As stupid as it sounds, I felt my jaw drop. Hogwarts has a laundry room?
I’d known that we just put our dirty washing in the yellow bin by the door, and then the following morning they were folded in our trunks. I suppose it made sense that the house-elves cleaned them, but I’d just accepted it as magic. Huh.
My shock was mirrored on Sirius’ face whilst Peter nodded to himself as if confirming a thought – Remus had no reaction – he seemed too tired to notice anything. Maybe he didn’t get much sleep last night?
The roof curved into a dome and was supported by eight marble pillars that were evenly scattered around the circular room. Candles floated between each pillar – giving the room a warm yellow glow.
We were currently stood on a platform which had three wooden steps to the side. The steps led to a small wooden bridge, which stretched over a streaming pool of water. The water spun round the dome room in a circular wooden tub, going right round the room continuously. Yet the water wasn’t calm, it was full of white school shirts which kept appearing over the pink and green bubbles, whilst being scrubbed by floating brushes. Every couple of metres was a dolly that was levitating over the water and in sync they would dip in and help push the water round the room.
Over the bridge were three giant platforms, which were centre to the water that rushed round them. On the first platform were two giant rocks with an elf standing by each one, at first they seemed pointless but after a loud whistle echoed round the room, a group of elves hurried to a long red lever on the far wall and pulled it towards them. With a sucking sound, all of the white school shirts were sucked from the water and landed in baskets placed by the rocks. One by one the shirts flew towards the rocks, and the elves standing beside them waved their arms like a conductor. The shirts started to slap against the rocks and I realised with a jolt that the water was being beaten out of the shirts.
With another wail, the third platform which was covered in a mound of jumpers and trousers sank into the water below, and the stream was full of coloured washing instead. Old-fashioned washboards jumped out of a cupboard and attacked the washing.
Once the shirts were beaten dry, they floated into another basket and were transported to the second platform. This platform was the busiest as it had around twenty house-elves stood by a hundred ironing boards, with a wave of their arms; each iron lifted off the board and attacked the shirt with speed, ironing out every crease.
The shirts then folded in on themselves and landed neatly in a labelled basket. Behind these baskets were four doors, each labelled ‘Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor’. Four more house-elves stood by these doors, watching a board of lights, when a light flashed green; a house-elf squealed and grabbed a basket.
Dokkin seemed to notice my gaze and gestured towards the lights. "A good house-elf is not seen by their masters," he said simply. It became clear what the light were then, the lights flashed green when a student left the dorm room, telling the house-elves that the room was clear for them to put away the washing.
Dokkin gestured for us to follow him down the stairs and over the bridge to a small platform that was hidden behind the rocks. On it was a small tub of water with some brushes, a washboard and a dolly – all perfectly still.
My stomach seemed to sink as another house-elf stumbled over to our group - which was attracting a lot of looks - in her arms was Remus’ sheets – still covered in the treacle from the prank the previous morning.
"Professors McGonagall says you boys must clean every stain off the sheets without magic to learn respect for the elves that clean them," Dokkin squeaked. Then his ears bent, "Dokkin doesn’t mind cleaning sheets. Dokkin happy to clean but Dokkin must follow orders."
The small elf seemed miserable as he gestured for the other elf to hand us the sheets and with a snap of his fingers, four three-legged stools appeared around the wooden tub.
A/N: Hello again :) So what did you think? Hogwarts laundry room? Is it what you imagined?
Once again, I'm still not J.K. Rowling - so everything you recognise belongs to her, anything you don't, to me :)
Also, if you fancy feeding the little grey box - you're very welcome :D
Silence. The house was completely silent. It seemed like months since I had gotten off the Hogwarts Express, but in reality it had only been a couple of days. I knew this Christmas was going to be different as soon as I stepped onto the platform.
My parents were both waiting, along with Regulus. None were smiling. Regulus glared at the floor, refusing to meet anyone's gaze and his left hand was curled into a fist. Behind them stood my aunt and Uncle whilst Bellatrix leant against a brick wall sneering at those who passed her. Narcissa joined them and Andromeda looked at them hesitantly before turning to face me.
"Come on, Sirius. I think we’re with you this Christmas." To anyone else this would mean nothing, to me it meant I had an ally. James and Remus swapped uncertain looks as I nodded goodbye to them before Andy led me towards the family in black.
Silence. I could faintly hear the dripping tap from the bathroom below. It was dark. The darkness of mid-winter took away most of the light. I sat curled on my bed, wrapped in blankets; trying to stay warm against the December chill. The door to my room was locked, as it had been for the last three days. Only opening twice a day for toilet breaks and once around lunchtime for some food.
I had used my time in imprisonment to my advantage. I was different to them, why hadn’t I noticed it before? A photo of the new Gryffindor first-years was plastered on the wall and I had drawn lions and banners on scrap pieces of parchment that had been laid waste on the floor. I was a Gryffindor and I wouldn’t let them forget it.
I moved slightly towards the window, trying to guess the time. Wincing slightly as my bare feet padded across the cold wooden floor and shivering as a gust of wind whistled through the crack in the window pane. There was a creak; I turned to face the door. There was a small whisper, I bit my lip. With a loud scraping, a key was pushed into the lock and the door was pushed open. They were back.
With a sigh of relief, the shadows at the door were too small to be adults and instead were the smaller frames of my brother, Regulus and my cousin, Andy.
Andy stepped into the room cautiously. "Sirius?" her wandering eyes sought out mine. With a burst of energy that seemed to startle Regulus; she rushed towards me. "Sirius! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I’m fine." I whispered as she went to hug me, burying my smile in her shoulder at the sisterly embrace.
"I've tried speaking to them-" she whispered immediately, looking guilty. Andy didn't carry on and instead turned to face the door where Regulus was stood. "Reg! Come here, have you got it?"
My brother nodded and turned back to the door as if looking for an escape before quickly running over to us; a small brown package gripped in his hands.
"Happy Christmas," he muttered quietly, pushing the package into my hands.
"It’s from both of us, it’s not much, but they were checking and so-" her voice faded out uncertainly. I looked up at both of them, touched.
"Thank you – I – y-you didn’t have to," I stuttered in surprise.
Andy beamed in response and even Reg allowed himself a small smile. I eagerly ripped open the brown package to find a bundle of soft red and yellow material in my hands.
"It’s a Gryffindor scarf," Andy said shyly. "I know Uncle Orion and Auntie Walburga wouldn’t of- and it’s cold... so we thought that-" her voice faded away in embarrassment.
"It’s perfect." I grinned and Andy blushed in pleasure. Regulus coughed and stepped closer, pulling out a small book from his back pocket.
"I-I thought you might like this," he muttered quietly.
I turned the book over in my hands, ‘Broomsticks of the Century'. I grinned once more. "Reg?" he looked up, "thanks mate. It’s brilliant."
Reg grinned back and I pulled him into a hug. We separated before with a deep swallow I asked him the question that had been on my mind for months.
"Reg? W-why didn't you write to me? I haven't had any post since the letter after my sorting. I knew they wouldn't write, but I-I thought you would have."
Andy moved towards the window to give us some privacy and pretended to become entranced with two pigeons outside. Reg's face burned red.
"I-I-they found me writing... with my left hand." He swallowed noisily. "Blacks aren’t left-handed. Blacks are pure. Blacks write with their right hand," he imitated perfectly. "I needed to be corrected," he shrugged in acceptance.
"Reg!" I said aghast, this was what I always used to protect him against. "That’s not true! Don’t you dare-" I stopped myself when I saw his eyes darting to the door once more. "But why would that stop you writing?" He didn't answer. "Reg?"
"I was writing to you," he whispered. "They said that I was tainting myself by speaking to you, that you were leading me astray." Reg bit his lip and lifted his eyes to meet mine.
"Oh," I swallowed. It almost sounds like he believes what they're saying. But Reg wouldn't believe them. Would he?
There was a loud knock against the open door, so any response was lost. We all started and jolted to face the entrance; my uncle Alphard stood in the doorway.
"Alright, alright, don’t stun the messenger," he joked. "Our happy relatives want to see you, all of you, downstairs." We nodded; Andy and I swapping looks. They haven’t wanted to see me since I arrived.
I hid my Christmas gifts under the blanket on my bed and followed the others out the door. Uncle Alphard grabbed my arm as I passed through the door.
"Gryffindor eh?" He smiled, I nodded. "Well if you had to break away, you did it in style," he laughed. "Here. Merry Christmas kiddo." Then he turned and walked down the stairs, leaving me with ten galleons tucked in my left fist.
By the time I had reached the bottom floor, there were quiet murmurings from inside the ajar door. I distinctly heard my mother speaking.
"...the Christmas ball. We can’t take him now. Not until he learns some manners and the correct way to act – Merlin knows what behaviours he’s picked up from the Gryffindors. Who did you say he had become friendly with, Cissy?"
"The Potter boy, Auntie Walburga. Pure-blood-"
"Well at least he has some sense to stay away from any mudbloods," uncle Cygnus butted in.
"Really Cygnus, think! The Potter boy! The Potters have gone stray in recent years, Charlus and Dorea were always odd balls and I’ve heard that they’ve taught him to mix with mudbloods. No, it simply won’t do to have Sirius mix with the likes of him."
"Yes you’re quite right Druella, it won’t do. I’ll tell Orion to have another word with him." My mother said curtly, I flinched.
"Wally – you can’t punish him forever! The kid got sorted through no fault of his own! Can’t you just leave him be?" Uncle Alphard argued. I felt a rush of affection towards my favourite uncle.
There was a short pause before my mother replied, her voice shaking with rage. "I would appreciate it if you would mind your own business Alphard, he is my son and I will treat him as I see fit!"
I leant towards the door, hoping to hear more of their whispered argument when Bellatrix who had been following their argument with amusement, saw my face pressed against the crack. With a cackle she said, "the brat is standing outside the door Auntie Walburga."
I swallowed and pushed open the thick door. My family stood in silence, glaring at me – so different to how they used to act, when I was the precious Black heir – my mother broke the silence.
"Sirius. Your father has accompanied your grandparents to the Christmas Ball. We shall all be leaving shortly, you should know that we were planning to make your announcement this year - as a Black it is part of your duty – however, after your- your- affliction, we have decided that you will wait a year longer until- until you can be properly prepared." I wondered what went into this preparation and hoped that it didn’t involve my father.
My mother clicked her fingers and Kreacher, the house-elf appeared. "Kreacher will be our eyes and ears to make sure you fulfil your Christmas tradition this evening." She handed the elf a sharp stick to which the elf responded by grinning with pleasure. "If we feel that the message has sunk in after this Christmas, then you may accompany us next year instead." She paused to look at me, "there is still hope." With a loud thud, a thick book was then dropped on the table in front of me.
‘Pure-blood Aristocracy’ the book read – the cover was the Black family emblem.
My mother yawned, "now, recite."
My uncle Alphard glared at her, but he knew his place and nothing would come of it.
After a while the house was silent once more. The adults had apparated to the ball, leaving Reg, Andy and I behind. The kitchen grew cold and the candles blew out. Yet I remained standing in the middle of the dining room, reciting every page from the book.
It was the Black way to spend Christmas; children should learn that blood purity matters every day, especially on special days – for that is when mistakes are made.
Yet although I was long-used to spending Christmas in this way, for the first time I couldn’t stop myself thinking sarcastically, Merry Christmas to you too.
My mum was smiling. Every time she glanced over to look at me, her smile widened and her eyes creased. My dad kept chuckling to himself. He would be writing on a document or reading the newspaper, when he would suddenly pause, shake his head, and chuckle again.
Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, I had walked into the warm kitchen to find my mum humming to herself. My father had laughed with delight when he recognised the tune and pulled her away from chopping the vegetables and into a close embrace, where they then proceeded to dance around the kitchen. Both laughing loudly, so their glee echoed around the house and for a moment it felt like I was a child again. They had been the same since I had stepped off the Hogwarts Express.
I stepped off the Hogwarts Express. Peter thought he had dropped his sandwich in the aisle and was determined to find it. I saw my parents immediately. They were slightly separate to the crowd of anxious parents and their eyes were scanning the rush of children who were climbing off the train. My mum was biting her lip and my dad was twisting his hat in his hand in agitation.
Mum saw me first and she nudged dad in my direction, they both seemed to visibly relax when they saw me. I smiled, they smiled in return. Then my father frowned suddenly, and something hit me across the back of my head.
It was James, and it was Peter’s sandwich that hit me.
"Peter’s been looking for that!" I exclaimed.
"I know," James shrugged. "That’s what’s funny."
I snorted and playfully shoved James; he grinned and with a loud war cry, dived at me – pulling Sirius, who had been glaring at the crowd, along with him. We were in a pile on the floor and I couldn’t seem to stop laughing as James pulled a bottle of treacle from his bag and aimed it at us both.
Sirius was laughing as well, before he saw his family in the crowd. "I-I’ve got to go," he said soberly. His cousin joined him and pulled his arm towards the group. James and I swapped confused looks but James just shrugged again. He pulled me up and I shoved him once more, chuckling.
"Have a good Christmas mate," he said cheerfully before running into the crowd. I looked up to see my parents watching me with disbelief. I was about to apologise when they both broke out into massive grins and my mum pulled me into a hug. I looked at her and realised what they were thinking. I blended in with everyone else, I had made friends, I was normal. And I could see in her eyes that for the first time she was thinking, ‘he’s going to be okay.’
"Remus," my mum called from downstairs. "Remus, are you nearly ready?"
"Yeah." I shouted back as I wrapped my new scarf round my neck and turned to face the mirror. I was dressed in Muggle clothes due to living in the Muggle village that my mother had grown up in. When my father had told her he was a wizard, she had accepted magic fairly quickly but had asked my dad to live with her in the Muggle village, to keep a ‘sense of sanity’.
The mirror’s reflection showed a tall boy with ruffled brown hair. The bags under my eyes were faded and I couldn’t seem to contain my grin. Full moon wasn’t for another 2 weeks, everything was okay.
I pounded down the stairs in my new trainers and jumped the bottom stair. My dad chuckled and pulled me into a hug when I passed him. His eyes were brown, like mine, but flecked with green.
"You alright chap? Saw an owl fly towards your room this morning."
I nodded, "Yep, that was James, the one from school, you know the one with really messy hair? He, uh, he sent me some treacle." I snorted.
Dad frowned momentarily then laughed loudly. "You’ve made some odd friends chap," he paused and looked at me, "I’m proud of you chap, you know that right? I’m really proud of you." I blushed and hugged him once more before pulling away as my mother entered the hallway.
"Right I think we’ve got everything, we don’t want to keep Mr Jacobson waiting on Christmas, we’ll never hear the end of it! Remus – go put your coat on. John – go put on some gloves. You’ll freeze out there!" She scolded. We both nodded meekly and shared a grin before rushing off to find our extra clothing.
Before long we were rushing towards the circle of people from the village who were standing outside the church. They were obviously waiting for us, but no one complained. The village was like an extended family, we had all been born there – dad was one of the few exceptions, but after helping Mrs Lane with her cat after he had moved here, he had been added to the family.
I noticed many of them give me appraising looks and most of them beamed when they saw how well I was looking. To explain my continuous disappearances and then the cuts and bruises after a transformation, my parents had told everyone that I was ill. An illness that I had caught when I was 5 and was unlikely to ever go away. Which meant frequent trips to the hospital out of town, curiously always around Full Moon.
Although I didn’t want to admit it, the town adored me. They brought extra food when mum looked tired, lent Dad some money when he lost his job a couple years ago and every single person always remembered my birthday. To explain about Hogwarts, my parents had sadly told everyone that my illness had progressed and I was moving into a hospice for kids my age.
The village had been distraught, according to my parents. That was why they had thrown me such a massive party the day before I left; the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to all my childhood friends. It was then that had Kaitlyn had kissed me.
The music started and the village pulled out their books of Christmas carols. Kaitlyn appeared from the crowd, wearing a wooly hat and her eyes lit with excitement.
"Remus!" "She squealed as she pulled me into a hug. "Come on! Mr Jacobson is giving sweets to the best singers!"
Her hand reached into mine and dragged me through the crowd. Smiling parents ruffled my hair as I passed, the older kids shouted a welcome whilst the younger kids squealed, "Remus is home!"
After a couple carols such as ‘O ye Faithful’ and ‘Silent Night’, the music turned more upbeat into ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’. By the end, my face was flushed and we were all giggling amongst ourselves.
Mr Jacobson opened his tin of chocolates and gave me first pick, "Merry Christmas Remus," he smiled.
I looked back up to him and thought of my village family, "Merry Christmas to you too."
I sighed and picked up the jar of baby food. She was being difficult today and refusing to eat solids. Though thinking about it, it was probably for the better. I looked over at the empty takeaway boxes and crushed cans of fizzy drinks. We were completely out of food, except for the weird mushroom thing that I’d got at the Chinese takeaway a couple days ago. But it looked so gross that I’d put off eating it. It’ll be my dinner tonight. I decided, because the takeaways are still shut for Christmas.
"Peee-terrr. Peee-terrr." She wailed, her voice echoing through the closed door. I sighed once more and went to find a spoon. "Peee-terr," she wailed again.
"I’m coming, Peter’s coming." Whilst holding a tin of baby food in one hand, I waddled through the door. Taking care to step over the pot of mushy peas that she had thrown in a tantrum the night before.
I pulled over a stool from the wall and winced as it creaked under my weight. "Here we go. Peter’s here. Open your mouth for the spoon then."
She clamped her mouth together and shook her head so her hair spun round her head. I sighed.
"Please mum, just eat a little bit," I persuaded.
Her watery eyes relaxed from their narrowed position and her lips split into a small smile. Her grey-streaked hair still hung around her face and I reached out to push it behind her ear. Mum tilted her head as if considering something very important.
"Carrot?" She questioned.
"Yes, carrot. You like carrot. Don’t you, Mum?"
She nodded happily and opened her mouth so I could spoon the baby food into her mouth. She sucked the spoon happily before opening her mouth to show me it had all gone.
I nodded and momentarily felt a wave of sadness hit me. She’s still in there somewhere. She has to be. Maybe if I keep speaking to her, then one day she’ll recognise me and dad and Sar- I shook my head in agitation and pushed the thought away.
"Do you know what day it is today mum? Do you?" She looked at me blankly. "It’s Christmas mum. So you remember what that is? Do you? Do you remember when we used to go down to the river with-with... and you used to make us those big Christmas dinners. Do you remember?"
She still looked at me like I was speaking another language but I carried on. "I’m not too good at cooking mum. You were always the best at cooking. I’ve tried, honest I’ve tried. But-but it keeps going wrong and I don’t want to waste any more food." I paused for a moment.
"Hogwarts is everything you told me it would be. I love it mum. I really do. I’ve made some friends and they like me mum, they do! Some of the Slytherins keep saying stuff about how much I weigh though," mum frowned.
"But they don’t understand do they? I don’t have home-cooked meals three times a day, not anymore. It’s just me. And the takeaways give me special deals now, which is easier for Dad. B-but I wish I could cook mum. Because maybe then you’d get better."
I heard a loud sigh behind me and spun round to face the door. I hadn’t even heard him come in. He stood slumped against the doorframe, he was naturally tall but over the years his appearance made him seem more shrunken then before. He had dark bags under his eyes and his shoulders slumped forward.
His eyes were currently focussed on a portrait behind me of a young blonde haired girl with big brown eyes. She was holding a chocolate ice-cream and occasionally waved out of the frame. A necklace hanging around her throat spelled out the word ‘Sarah’.
"Dad?" I pulled him out of his memories, it doesn’t do to dwell on the past, that’s what he always says. He blinked and looked at me.
"Peter," he whispered hoarsely. "Happy Christmas Peter."
"You too," I smiled.
He dragged himself over to where we were sat and pulled a squashed bag out of one of his pockets. "Here, I picked it up on the way home."
I eagerly opened the bag to find a pair of black shoes inside. They were slightly shabby and the tops were scuffed. I looked at them in silence before looking at my dad. He looked anxious, I smiled. "They're brilliant."
I pulled them on and found they fit. They both had laces, though one was slightly chewed. I looked up at dad, "thank you."
My dad grinned and some of the lines seemed to disappear, making him seem years younger. "I’m glad." He paused, "look, I’m sorry Peter but I’ve got to go." My face fell slightly and he seemed to notice.
"I would love to stay Peter. You know that. But Paul reckons there might be some work going at the Wizarding scrap yard."
"But you already have two jobs." I pointed out stubbornly.
He sighed, "and it’s still not enough Peter. We’ve been through this. I need to pay for someone to look after your mum since you’ve moved away. Then there’s also all your books and uniform for school. I can't afford it."
My stomach immediately tensed with guilt. I had shown no magical ability and we had all assumed I was a squib. After Sarah... after mum... after the accident, it seemed that dad was relieved. Until the letter came. And then the bills. It would have been better if I was a squib.
Dad stood and patted my shoulder as he passed, pausing to momentarily kiss my mum’s forehead. He watched her for a moment then turned and walked out of the room. For a second, I thought I saw his eyes wet with tears, but he was gone with the slam of the front door before I could check again.
I pulled off my new shoes and put them on the table so they wouldn’t get dirty before I could return to Hogwarts. My mum looked puzzled as she reached down to a raggy blanket beside her feet.
"Mum? What are you doing? I can get it."
She swatted my hand away and grunted as she pulled something out from under the blanket. With a big grin she pushed a bundle of yellow material into my hands. I pulled it apart. Socks. With a few knitting holes. Yellow. "Christmas Peee-terr," she murmured.
I grinned. I knew she was still there, my mum. "Merry Christmas to you too."
"Muuuuummm," I whined loudly.
"Yes Jamsie? What do you need lovely?" Mum replied, pausing in powdering her face.
She picked up some lipstick. "Why don’t you play with some of your new toys?"
"Already have," I moaned.
"Why don’t you go for a fly on your new broomstick?" Mum sighed, looking down at where I was laid on the floor.
"Got no one to race against."
"Why don’t you write to your friends?"
She sighed. "Why don’t you ask Dondie if she can think of something for you to do?"
I looked up at where she sat at her dressing table. Really? Dondie? "Mum, she’s a house-elf! She’s cleaning!"
Mum rolled her eyes and ruffled my hair. "Well I’ve got to get ready for the ball honey. So unless you’d like to give me your opinions on which dress looks best or help me decide on what jewellery to wear, I’d advise you to go occupy yourself."
I groaned. "I’m going, I’m going."
I walked out of the cream bedroom and called over my shoulder, "I like the green one by the way." I heard her laugh through the walls.
With an exaggerated sigh, I sat down on one of the stairs on the left staircase whilst facing the opposite one. I wonder if I could jump all the way to the other staircase? Maybe if I fell then mum and dad won't go to the stupid ball?
The staircases made the house look grand, it split into two and landed on different levels – great for hide ‘n’ seek, if you had anyone to play with.
It was times like this that I really hated being an only child. My parents were always going out for dinner parties or balls, leaving me with Dondie. The most miserable house-elf I’ve ever met.
Dad came jogging up the stairs, fiddling with his cufflinks before frowning when he saw me sitting on the top stair. "‘Dorea! We’ve got to be going soon!" he called.
"Coming, give me five minutes!" Mum called from a floor up.
"You alright mate?" My dad bent down to sit beside me.
"Yeah." I sighed loudly, "can’t I come with you? It’s so boring by myself."
"James, we’ve been through this. The Christmas Ball is the dullest event we have to attend. It’s full of witches and wizards talking about blood superiority. Women comparing how much they had spent on their dress robes and their child’s latest achievement whilst looking down on those who can’t compare. The men stand in the corners making deals or offers on their children’s future marriage prospects. Then of course there’s the royal parade. The Blacks. The purest of blood." Dad snorted, "we actually have to applaude their entrance James! So the answer's no. Your mother and I don’t want you mixing with those types of people."
There was silence after his rant, my head rested on my hands. "The Blacks? So Sirius will be there? Please let me go Dad! Please! I want to see Sirius!"
Dad rolled his eyes. "James, I very much doubt Sirius will be going this year." He paused at my confused expression. "Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor – no Black is a Gryffindor, I’m sure Orion and Walburga would see it as a punishment to not let him go."
I snorted. Why would it be a punishment? Sirius has all his cousins to play with - and a little brother! I bet they're all having races and Christmas games... and staying up til midnight... whilst eating ice-cream!
"Right boys, I’m ready. Let’s go meet that awful family of mine, shall we?" Mum descended the stairs in her green gown made of thick velvet with jewels round the cuffs and chest. Her dark hair was pinned back into a bun, the streaks of grey covered with an emerald clasp.
"Why do you have to go?" I whined. Mum and Dad shared a look as he kissed her on the cheek.
My dad sighed and bent down to my level on the stairs. "It's our duty James. As pure-bloods and it gives us some... protection."
"Protection?" I frowned.
Mum shook her head at dad and snarled, "Charlus!" as he went to open his mouth. Dad frowned, but nodded in agreement after a moment's pause.
"James," mum had turned to face me. "Dondie has set up some Muggle board games in the back room, and I know it’s Christmas but I want you in bed by 10 at the latest. Understand?"
What? Ten? But that's not fair! I bet Sirius get's to stay up all night! She giggled at the look of horror that spread across my face, distracting me from the previous conversation.
"Because tomorrow, your dad has promised to take you out flying. Deal?" She said, her red lips fighting a smile.
I thought it over for a moment, before sighing in defeat. "Deal."
She smiled and kissed me on the head as she continued down the stairs. Dad patted my shoulder, "Merry Christmas mate."
I nodded and sighed as the front door slammed shut. My bedroom door was open and I could see the bursting stocking at the bottom of my bed. The floor was covered in wrapping paper and gifts. Three sacks were under my window; all full of presents that I’d opened this morning. Yet I was still bored. It sucks having no one to play with.
I could hear Dondie in the kitchen downstairs and decided to go find something to do. I walked up three flights of stairs, along the corridor and stopped in front of the room where we kept the broomsticks. I turned the handle; locked. Brilliant.
They’d obviously locked it before they left. So I wouldn’t go flying without dad and his- his-. A smile spread across my face and I ran down the corridor, pulling open a door and climbing the stairs behind it. Please don’t be locked. Please. Please. Please. Luck was on my side and the doorknob turned easily.
I’d been in dad’s office before, but only with his permission as he liked to keep things from his auror days stored in here. Mum said it was much too dangerous for a boy who liked to find trouble. But I’m not a little boy anymore! I’m at Hogwarts now. They won’t mind...much.
But I wasn’t planning on snooping anyway, they’d be plenty of time for that. I was looking for something in particular. Something which would let me have fun without getting into trouble all the time. The drawer was slightly ajar; dad hadn’t locked it. He had no need usually. It was his fault really, not mine.
I reached into the drawer and felt the thick, soft material press against my fingertips. I grabbed the material and pulled it out into the room. It was big; a pale blue with red patterns around the edges. It was beautiful. I grinned and turned to face the mirror. With a swooping motion, I pulled the cloak over my shoulders and watched with awe as the boy in the mirror disappeared. The invisibility cloak.
With a grin on my face, I thought of my father’s parting words. ‘Merry Christmas to you too,’ I whispered.
A/N: Hello :)
I know, two chapters in two weeks - wow! So.. we get a glimpse at the Marauders first Christmas with their families after going to Hogwarts. Thoughts?
I'm not too sure on James' POV at the moment, so might re-do it after the queue reopens :) I'd just like to thank everyone for reading/reviewing/favouriting this story and want to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Hope you all have a great day! And if you'd like to leave me a Christmas review int he box down there, I'd be very grateful!
I arrived onto the platform with my mother’s hand clenched tightly around my shoulder, feeling slightly sick; I took a step away from her to take a deep breath. Her nails dug in deeper, “not here,” she hissed angrily, “there are people watching. Don’t you dare make a fool of us by being sick after apparating. You’re a Black. Act like one!”
She smiled pleasantly as the Rosier family walked by; each giving my mother a respectful nod, but their eyes seemed to linger on me. A coldness that was never in their eyes before seemed to glare at me now.
Before I could retort with a comment I knew would get me in trouble when I returned in summer, there were three loud cracks behind me. We turned to face the newcomers, and although the cracks were lost in the loud bustle of parents saying their last goodbyes to their children, the newcomers were already gaining a lot of looks. Conversations seemed to halt in mid-sentence.
There were five people that stood in front of me; Andy with Uncle Cygnus, Reg and Cissy with Bellatrix. Andy’s face had turned a deep shade of red and was currently attempting to pull away from her father. Reg looked around the crowd eagerly; I knew he couldn’t wait to leave home. He was counting the days, just like I used to. Cissy looked incredibly bored as she scanned the rows of parents and students but her lips pulled into a small smile and she ran her fingers through her blonde locks when Lucius Malfoy and his parents approached us. Bellatrix was smiling, her head was held high and she surveyed the other people on the platform with an air of regality.
The crowd split as we walked towards the train; parents pulled their children who were too young to attend Hogwarts into close embraces. Whispers filled the air and my face burned with embarrassment. My mother tightened her grip on my shoulder.
"Don’t you dare shy away from them,” she hissed angrily, “hold your head up. You’re a Black!"
I did as she asked and looked all the wizards and witches in the eye who were all currently dragging their children away and making them promise that they weren’t friends with any of us. Not all though, a small percentage of the crowd waved and bowed their heads in respect to our arrival. I was counting the seconds until I reached the train.
One. Two. Three.
“For Merlin’s sake Andromeda! Will you stop fidgeting?!” My Uncle Cygnus snarled from behind me.
Eight. Nine. Ten.
“My father reckons I’m going to play Quidditch professionally, you know? He bought me the new Cleansweep 180 for Christmas, not even all the professionals have one of those yet.” Lucius Malfoy’s voice drawled, Cissy answered my giggling and clutching his arm.
Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen.
“You can’t blame yourself, Auntie Walburga. There are oddballs in every generation – perhaps he’ll grow out of it. Of course we must make sure that he doesn’t socialise with any Muggle lovers to encourage his behaviour…” Bellatrix’s voice trailed off as I attempted to block out her voice.
Thirty-Four. Thirty-Five. Thirty-six.
"I’m walking! You don’t need to cling onto me all the time.” Andy whined.
Forty-one. Forty-two. Forty-three.
“Bellatrix! Bellatrix, I’ve been meaning to speak to you about your petition for Muggle Hunting – I think I’ve found a loop hole!” exclaimed a man with a large nose and a slight limp who appeared from the crowd.
Fourty-nine. Don’t say anything. Fifty. Just keep on walking. Fifty-one.
“I swear the amount of mudbloods has increased this year.” Bellatrix said with some distain.
Fifty-six. Block it out. Fifty-seven. You’re nearly at the train. Fifty-eight.
"Mudblood?” the word spread like a disease through the crowd.
Sixty-one. Nearly there. Sixty-two. Don’t think. Sixty-three.
“Mummy, what’s a mudblood?” a small girl with pigtails tugged on her mother’s leg. People around her gasped, more mutterings filled the air.
Seventy. Just breathe. Seventy-one. At the door and-
“Reg, don’t look at them. You’ll probably catch some sort of disease.” Bellatrix ordered.
And that was all that did it, Bellatrix filling my brother’s head with more of her warped beliefs. He was my brother.
“Would you just stop it?” I yelled. My mother’s eyes widened in shock, Bellatrix’s eyes narrowed, Andy stopped fidgeting and Cissy pulled her eyes away from Lucius. The group was still as they watched me. “Just because you believe that rubbish doesn’t make it true!”
The crowds were silenced; stunned. Some of the students tried to hide their smiles unsuccessfully; some of the parents’ eyes were darting between me and the trunks behind us which were currently being pulled by a half dozen of house-elves. My trunk had a large red lion in the corner so the school house-elves could put our trunks in the correct dorms. Parents eyebrows’ raised and they looked at me with a new interest.
I dragged my gaze from the crowd of Hogwarts families to my own – and I knew I had gone too far. Bellatrix looked like she had been slapped and was holding her wand which had red sparks shooting from the tip. Andy’s eyes were wide; I could almost hear her begging me to run. Cissy’s mouth was dropped open and Reg seemed to me imitating her. My mother took a step forward, her eyes a frightening, cold black.
She took a step forward; I took a step back.
My heart was hammering inside my ears as I anticipated her next move. ‘Walburga?’ a kind voice called out from the crowd. The crowd separated to reveal an older woman with grey-streaked hair. Small lines were round her hazel eyes and she looked somehow familiar. “Yes, it is you – well? Aren’t you going to say hello?” The woman stepped forward; in between my mother and me.
My mother’s eyes narrowed, “Aunt Dorea,” she snarled, “what a surprise.”
Dorea smiled in response and turned her back on my mother to face me. “And this charming young man must be Sirius?” I nodded with some apprehension. “Well it’s nice to meet you Sirius; my son has spoken very highly of you this Christmas.”
At this moment, James had pushed through the crowd with his father in tow. He grinned when he saw me and I smiled back. “Pleasure to meet you, Mrs Potter.” I said as I shook her hand.
“No, please – it’s Dorea. And this is my husband, Charlus.” He smiled warmly and shook my hand as well, before he turned to Dorea and exchanged a look with her. She nodded faintly.
"Sirius! Did you get my letter? I’ve got something really cool to show you! What did you do for Christmas? Mine was good though they,” he gestured to his parents, who were listening with a trace of amusement, “left me for that stupid ball. Dad said you wouldn’t have gone – so what did you do? I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got! Remus and Peter said they’d meet us in the compartment.”
Charlus Potter chuckled, “try to remember to breathe next time, James? Or perhaps even give Sirius the chance to reply?” James grinned mischievously. “Now before you go, aren’t you going to say goodbye to your dear loving parents?” Mr Potter joked.
“Or would that embarrass you too much?” Mrs Potter interrupted. “Would it be embarrassing if your mum gave you a big kiss before you leave?” James yelped as he tried to squirm away from her embrace to no avail. “Now, try to behave this term? Remember what we discussed? No more than four owls sent home this time, okay?”
James reluctantly nodded and turned to speak to say goodbye to his dad. Dorea looked behind us with a frown; my family had vanished. All that marked their presence was the lone trunk on the platform. James’ mum was obviously noting how they didn’t say goodbye; my cheeks felt very warm.
James pulled away from his dad and gestured towards the train; I nodded and went to follow when Mrs Potter leant down to give me a hug. “Have a good term Sirius,” she whispered.
I started, surprised, “thank you,” I whispered back before following James onto the Hogwarts Express.
A loud noise came from James’ and Sirius’ direction. They were in the corner of the classroom, behind Peter and Mary, with similar shocked expressions on their sooty faces. Sirius opened his mouth to speak but I coughed to alert them that Professor Lech was hobbling in their direction; James quickly stored something in his pocket.
“Boys? What have you done this time then? Well? What prank did you find hilarious this time? Dying Peter’s hair green? Gluing each other to the wall? Well? I’m getting sick and tired of your continuous childish games – I have a six year old niece who is more mature then both of you put together!” Professor Lech snapped.
"Sir, we were only-"
“I don’t want to hear it Black.” Professor Lech scowled. “This is defence against the dark arts! Not playtime! If you don’t think you can handle paying attention for one lesson then perhaps I should recommend to Dumbledore that you go home and try again next year! Hmm?”
Sirius and James swapped amused glances and I tried to withhold a snort with some difficulty; Lech used the same threat every week. “Sir if you’d listen,” James argued, “we were only doing the spell you told us to – but Sirius must have done it wrong.”
“I did not! You did it wrong – I did it right!” Sirius replied, outraged.
“Did not! It was you!” James replied childishly.
“You!” Sirius, just as childishly, retorted.
“Enough!” Professor Lech yelled. I saw Amelia roll her eyes beside me. “Honestly boys! You were supposed to be practising the full-body bind spell and I may not expect you to master it first-time but it would certainly not cause a minor explosion – so tell me what did you do?” There was silence as James and Sirius swapped looks. “Come on, out with it! Don’t make me write to your parents again!” They still didn’t say anything and I took the opportunity to get my friends out of trouble.
“Sir?’ Professor Lech turned to face me slowly, ‘I was watching – they only did the spell. Honest, though they both did it at the same time so I didn’t see what set off the explosion.” Professor Lech looked at me appraisingly before deciding that I wasn’t lying and strode back to the front of the class; James and Sirius both gave me a thumbs up behind his back.
Amelia used my distraction to her advantage and loudly said “Petrificus Totalus!” I was caught off guard and didn’t even see the spell hit me, yet I felt a peculiar sensation in my feet. I went to move them but found each foot stuck in place – I could move the rest of my body, but just not my feet.
Amelia laughed when she saw the spell had partially worked and Professor Lech yelled “Brilliant!” with an air of triumph. I grinned but lost balance and ended up sitting on the floor, with my feet and shins in the exact same position. Amelia smiled and sat down beside me, before turning to me with her face returning to its usual serious expression.
“Why did you cover for them? I know that you saw James put something in his pocket – you could have just told and then you could have focussed on the lesson.” Amelia said; her brows furrowed in a frown.
I shrugged, “they’re my friends. They were only having a bit of fun – you would do the same for Lily and Mary, wouldn’t you?”
Amelia didn’t answer immediately and instead looked over at Mary who was giggling at James and Sirius whilst Peter was attempting to hit her with the full-body bind spell. I could tell that Amelia refrained from rolling her eyes with some difficulty. Instead her gaze travelled to Lily who was two rows in front of us. Lily was practising the spell with Jacob Bell; a blonde haired Ravenclaw. They were both laughing as it appeared Lily had done the spell – yet only Jacob’s arm had been affected, meaning it was stuck in a claw shape.
Amelia bit her lip, “I don’t know. They wouldn’t do it anyway, but- Remus, sometimes you’ve got to choose between what’s right and what’s easy - that’s what my papa always says. And lying for James and Sirius wasn’t right, it was easy – they won’t learn anything from this now.” I felt my cheeks grow warm and started to feel slightly guilty.
Amelia bit her lip, “sometimes I wonder if any of you have any idea of what’s starting out there, my papa said-” Amelia stopped mid-sentence and looked at me with her uniquely serious eyes, she cocked her head to the side then seemed to decide something, “never mind.”
“What?” I asked, intrigued. Her lips pressed into a thin line, a sign that she wasn’t going to say anymore. “No, tell me Amelia, please?” I smiled hopefully. She rolled her eyes and turned to look at my feet instead. I could move my right little toe and my entire left foot now.
“No Remus, forget I said anything. Papa told me to not spread it around anyway.” Amelia said with an air of finality.
“Amelia, come on – what were you going to say? I won’t tell anyone. Honest.”
“It’s nothing Remus. Drop it. You wouldn’t understand.” She said simply.
“What do you mean I wouldn’t understand? I bet I would!”
“Remus! Drop it. You just wouldn’t! You wouldn’t understand because,” she paused momentarily, “your life is perfect. You haven’t even noticed what’s happening!”
I paused to stare at her for a moment. “My life isn’t perfect.”
“Oh yeah? You live with both of your parent’s right?”
I nodded slowly, faintly I recognised the spell wearing off my feet but I seemed to be frozen in place at her accusation.
“You’re an only child right? Probably spoiled rotten?”
I didn’t answer; she took my silence to be a confirmation. My teeth ground together.
“You’ve never had to worry about bills have you?”
I felt my anger rising, it was rare that I got angry but Amelia had no idea what my life was like. She opened her mouth to continue, but I interrupted her first.
“Just because I live with my parents who have never mentioned paying bills in front of me does not mean my life is perfect, Amelia. You have no idea what you’re talking about.” She scowled in my direction and I felt my neck start to burn.
“Try me.” Amelia said simply, a dare. I was aware that the classroom conversations had quietened and we were attracting a lot of stares, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to care. My heart was thumping against my chest and the werewolf emotions that I tried so hard to supress started to rise to the surface.
Amelia rolled her eyes and returned to the front of the classroom. It was that single gesture which made me do it. I raised my wand, “Petrificus Totalus!”
Amelia jolted and her eyes widened in surprise. She was frozen; a full body-bind. Professor Lech loudly clapped as he walked towards me. “Well done Remus. Excellent. Five points to Gryffindor.”
I barely heard him over the blood beating in my ears and my eyes watered with anger. Faintly I heard the school bell ring and so grabbed my bag and walked straight out of the room without a word to anybody else.
How dare she say that my life is perfect? I fumed angrily. She has no idea what my life’s like. No idea. The thoughts buzzed round my head, on some level I knew I was over-reacting. But the lycanthropy made my emotions unstable at times and was sometimes hard to control. Well, she might not have said that if she knew the truth? I tried to reason with myself. No, the other side argued, she’d just run away screaming instead. Like the rest would. And then what? Then I’d have no education either. It’s not fair! Why can’t I just have a normal life?
I kicked the wall beside me in agitation when a hand grabbed my shoulder. I spun round to instead see James and Sirius, looking very concerned. “Remus?” James asked; his brows furrowed in worry. “Are you okay?”
Are you okay? I thought of Amelia’s comments. I thought of the full moon. I thought of the pain every month. I thought of my parent’s faces prematurely aged with worry. I thought of the burden I had bought on them. I thought of the secrets I was keeping.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I smiled, “do you know what the homework is?”
James and Sirius frowned at each other and Remus ran from the room. They grabbed their bags and gestured to me to follow. I nodded and they ran from the room, expecting me to be following.
I grabbed my bag off the desk and attempted to imitate how Sirius had swung it over his shoulder, but instead I hit Mary who squealed as she fell into the ink bottle on the desk. The bottle smashed against the floor, covering all those nearby in ink; including Amelia who was only just starting to regain the use of her body.
“I-I-I’m so sorry.” I squeaked as I bent down to help Mary up. To my disbelief she was laughing as she looked down at her ink splattered jumper. “It’s alright Peter,” she giggled “it was just an accident. Aren’t you going after Sirius and James?” Her head tilted to one side so that her brown hair fell over her freckled face.
I nodded and smiled as I turned to leave. Before I reached the door, a hand reached out to grab my arm, it was Amelia.
"Peter,” Amelia bit her lip, her face the image of regret. “If you see Remus, tell him I’m sorry – I didn’t mean what I said and I didn’t know he would react like that. I-I – Just tell him I’m sorry, please?”
I nodded but frowned as I continued into the hallway. It was no secret that Amelia was more mature than the rest of us – even Remus, but she looked especially serious today. I couldn’t help but notice that the bags under her eyes were deeper than before Christmas.
The halls gradually became clearer until I was the only person in them; I still couldn’t find my friends. Every so often I thought that I could hear footsteps or a muted conversation, but every time I stopped to listen there was only silence. I rounded a corner and jumped when I heard something smash, but once again I looked round and there was nothing there.
My neck tingled and I started to feel uncertain. I was pretty sure that I was lost; I had passed the Dungeons three corners ago and had since climbed up a flight of stairs and descended down three more. The hallway I was now stood in wasn’t as well-lit as the others had been, the paintings were grimier and the people in them stared down at me threateningly. I gulped and stepped backwards; yelping as I backed into a suit of armour which I was sure wasn’t there moments before.
“Huh,” a voice echoed down to hall, “you’re right Lucius – the pig sure can squeal.” The voice was followed by snorts of laughter which bounced off the walls.
I spun round to see where the voice was coming from, but could see no evidence of another person in the hallway.
"Told you Evan – how loud do you reckon he can squeal?” Another voice responded; the hallway remained empty.
“Well, why don’t we try and find out?” This time I heard the sharp tap of a foot stepping towards me. I spun round again, my heart hammering in my chest and my blood pumping in my ears.
More laughter, yet this time I saw something move out of the corner of my eyes. I turned to the wall which was cloaked in darkness. Slowly, five people began to appear in front of it. It seemed like they were part of the wall, but their bodies gradually came into view as if the background was just melting off them.
“M-Malfoy.” I said, my voice coming out in a squeak. He responded by pushing his pale hair away from his face and smiling menacingly. His prefect badge reflected the torchlight behind me.
They all took a step forwards, their minds seeming to work in sync. Each of them looked at me with eager eyes and I struggled to swallow. Malfoy nodded and they all spread out; a pack of wolves surrounding its prey.
“Piggy,” Malfoy nodded, “are you lost little piggy? Can’t you find your way to dinner?” He looked me up and down, “not that you need it. Tell me, does your mummy cook you five meals a day, piggy? Huh?” My lips opened to speak, but my throat wouldn’t work and a resounding squeak echoed in the hallway. The Fifth Years laughed. “Huh? Answer me!” Malfoy ordered.
He raised his wand and muttered something that I couldn’t catch. A purple light shot from the tip of his wand and hit me in the stomach. I fell to the floor, the spell winding me.
I looked desperately for help, but the hallway remained empty. Hoping that he wasn’t as bad as Malfoy, I pleaded, “Evan – please?”
The Evan boy stepped towards me, his grin turning to a snarl. “It’s Rosier to you, piggy!” He repeated the spell and another purple light hit me. I gasped for air.
My hands were shaking and I curled into a ball on the floor. Their laughter echoing around me as I desperately tried to shut it out. Time seemed to drag and I had no idea how long I remained on the floor whilst they stood over me, entertaining themselves.
Then a voice called out into the hallway which awoke me from coma state. “Oi! Leave him alone!” The voice was nowhere near as deep as the Fifth Years and they looked round with a start.
James, Sirius and Remus stood at the other end of the corridor – they’re wands raised. James looked at the group, dislike etched into his eyes. Sirius stood next to him, glaring in hatred at the group. Remus was on the left, his narrowed eyes swapping between glaring at the Slytherins and looked in concern at me on the floor.
Remus edged closer to James and whispered something hastily. James hesitated but then nodded and whispered to Sirius. They all moved forwards carefully whilst the Slytherins watched in amusement.
“First Years,” Rosier snorted, “what are you going to do? Shine a light at us?” The others snorted in agreement.
“No,” Sirius said simply, “but you’re going to move away from Peter and let him go.”
I groaned internally, couldn’t they see that we were outnumbered? I pulled myself to my knees; my friends just a couple metres away.
“See that’s where we disagree, Piggy here is learning a lesson.” One of the other Slytherins spat, sending another purple spell towards me; I slumped forward gasping.
“Peter!” James moved forwards; the Slytherins raised their wands. “Now!” Remus yelled.
At once, the three of them yelled “Petrificus Totalus”. Jets of light filled the hallway and the Slytherins were knocked off their feet. I looked in disbelief at my friends, two of whom had been unable to do the spell just the previous lesson.
Remus and James reached down and both pulled me to my feet. “Are you alright?” Remus asked me quietly. Sirius shouted before I could respond, “not now! Run!”
Remus spun back round to see the Slytherins getting to their feet. James looked at us with alarmed eyes before nodding, “run!”
They kept their hands on my arms as we all ran down the corridor. The Slytherins were yelling behind us and by the sounds of the echoes, a couple were already on their feet.
I felt my face burning and I flushed with embarrassment when I realised sweat was starting to drip down my face; the others weren’t even out of breath.
“Come on Peter – keep running!” Sirius yelled; ducking as a red light hit the wall to the side of him.
“Up here!” James yelled, diving into another passageway. Remus pushed me into the turning and I found myself faced with another staircase.
“Come on – keep going Peter!” Remus called encouragingly.
I nodded and swallowed the bile rising in my throat; the Slytherins’ voices seemed to be getting louder. At the top of the stairs we took a right, then a left and then another right before we fell into a small circular room. It was a dead end.
I swayed; black spots appearing in my eyes as the others desperately looked for an escape. “Come on, we’ve got to go bac-” But Sirius was cut off by the sound of the Slytherins’ on the stairs. James bit his lip.
I lost my balance and fell towards the tapestry of an eagle sitting on a Lion. My hands reached out to catch myself against the wall, but instead my hands brushed the tapestry corner and I felt myself falling forwards.
“Peter?” James yelled fearfully. It was dark but I could see a long corridor in front of me. Then suddenly light filled the corridor as the tapestry was lifted once more; Sirius stood with the light shining around him. His eyes glittered with excitement, “it’s a passageway. A secret passageway!”
“Never mind that now, get in!” James yelled; pushing Remus and Sirius into the corridor. The room was dark once more as the passageway was covered by the tapestry. We held our breaths as Malfoy and his followers ran, panting, into the room.
“Where are they?” Rosier roared angrily.
There was silence, my heart beat painfully against my chest. “They must have gone the other way – this is a dead end!” Malfoy spat. Their feet pounded against the floorboards as they left.
James let out a sigh of relief before turning to me, “Peter are you alright?”
I nodded; too out of breath to speak.
Peter eventually regained his breath, though is face was still ashen. Remus and I reached forward to help him up. Merlin he’s heavy, I bit my lip to stop my thoughts being said aloud. Sirius looked just a little too smug in my opinion.
"Sirius, hold Peter for a moment – I’ve er got to tie my shoe.” I said hastily. Sirius’ grin disappeared off his face and instead scowled at me as I transferred Peter’s weight onto him. I hid my snort whilst pretending to tie my shoe.
“Where’d you reckon we are?” Remus asked curiously.
“I don't know,” Sirius gasped under the weight. “Only one way to find out.”
I nodded and started to walk down the corridor, from Sirius’ grunts I assumed they were following. We had only walked a hundred metres or so when I reached the end of the corridor, shallow light beamed through the edges of what I assumed to be another tapestry. I put my fingers to my lips and slipped out the tapestry – checking the coast was clear for the others.
To my astonishment I was suddenly in the corridor only 50 yards from the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. “Guys come out,” I whispered. There was a cough and then all three of them tumbled out from behind the tapestry of a badger playing with a snake.
Remus looked around, puzzled. “How are we up here? We were down in the dungeons at the other side of school just a minute ago!”
Wasn’t the answer obvious? I coughed, “Magic?”
Remus blushed and Sirius snorted, before Remus laughed as well.
Peter had let go of Sirius and Remus and his face had returned to its normal colour, sweat glistened on his head and down his face. He looked confused. “T-thanks for helping me,” his face burned and he looked to the ground in shame, “they just came out of nowhere. H-how did you find me?”
I blushed at this, “well we would have been there sooner if it wasn’t for me. Sorry Peter.” Peter looked at me, still confused. I continued, “we saw you disappearing in the other direction – you were obviously looking for us. So we decided to follow you, just to see how far you’d go before you gave up. But, well, you just carried on walking. Anyway I accidently dropped my bag and my ink pot smashed everywhere-”
“I thought I heard something smash!” Peter butted in.
“Yeah, that was James – the klutz.” Sirius added, snorting. “But by the time we’d picked everything up you’d disappeared and we’d lost you. After a bit we heard the Slytherins and well… you know the rest.” Peter nodded, and then he frowned again.
“But you weren’t following me, I kept looking because I thought I could hear someone – there was no one there.”
“Oh! Yeah, that was me. I’ve wanted to tell you guys for ages and I told Remus to cheer him up. I’ve got my dad’s invisibility cloak now – I got it at Christmas.”
Peter’s mouth dropped as he reached out to touch to cloak that was draped over my arm.
“Phoenix.” Remus said to the fat lady at the Gryffindor entrance. We scrambled through the entrance whilst I answered Peter’s questions. The others were listening intently and I was just about to describe how I took it from dad’s study without him noticing when a loud laugh interrupted my story.
Lily was surrounded by the other two Gryffindor girls and a couple other students in older years. She looked up when we entered and beamed, “thank you for the book guys. Professor Slughorn recommended it – I’ve wanted to read it for ages!”
Book? What in the name of Merlin is she talking about? The others were smiling and accepted her thanks; I frowned and tugged on Sirius’ sleeve.
Sirius looked at me for a moment before rolling his eyes. “Well you only turn 12 once Lily,” Remus smiled, “and we all pitched in.” We did?
Sirius smacked me on the arm and I glared at him. What? He gestured to Lily, oh. I realised they’d all just spoken to her.
“Happy Birthday.” I murmured before turning back to Peter to carry on my story that Lily had rudely interrupted.
Remus hit me on the arm this time. What? He gestured to Lily as well. Merlin, how needy was this girl? I was trying to tell a story!
I looked at Lily, her face was as red as her hair and she was looking at the floor. She looked slightly hurt; I took a deep breath and let it out. “Fine, what did you get for your birthday?” I asked her.
“Well there’s no need to sound so patronising James!” she snapped angrily.
“How was I being patronising?” I snapped back. Honestly! Can’t she see I’m trying to talk to my friends? “I was just being polite!”
“Polite?” she snorted, “how in Godric’s name were you being polite?”
“I asked what you got for your birthday didn’t I? You’re the one not being polite by not answering the stupid question!” I exclaimed. Honestly!
Her cheeks burned even brighter; her laughter from before completely forgotten. “Well for your information I got this jumper from my parents – not that you actually care!” She gestured to the green jumper she was wearing; it had a stag and three deer embroiled on the front.
I snorted. “If they sent that as one of your presents then I can’t wait to hear what else they got you.”
Someone in the common room gasped. Remus clutched my arm and said warningly, “James.”
I shrugged him off, “well?”
Her mouth hung open as she regarded me with cold green eyes, “well what?”
“What else did they get you?” Honestly! Was she stupid?
Lily ground her teeth together and stared at me, her head slowly moving from side to side. I suddenly felt my stomach clench as her eyes seemed to glimmer with unshed tears. “They didn’t send anything else, Potter. Because unlike you, I’m one of the majority who doesn’t get everything they ask for! I, unlike you, am not a spoilt toe rag who believes he can just get everything he wants without any effort. And my parents, unlike yours, can’t afford hundreds of presents. So yes, my mum knits me jumpers for my birthday but that sure as Merlin does not give you the permission to mock it!” She yelled angrily. Lily lifted her arm to wipe her face before storming past us, towards the portrait hole.
My stomach was tense. Why didn’t I think before I spoke? It’s her birthday and you’ve ruined it James. James Potter strikes again. And now what you idiot? Your dad isn’t here to sort it out this time.
Lily turned as she reached the portrait hole and I felt a new wave of guilt hit me as I saw the tear marks down her face. “Guys, although somehow I doubt James had anything to do with it, thank you for the book – I really do appreciate it.” She smiled slightly before turning to the hole.
“Lily!” My voice broke slightly, “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said – I just got carried away. I’m sorry.”
She appeared to hesitate for a moment whilst climbing out the room, but then continued through the portrait hole as if I had never said a word. There was a quiet murmuring; she was speaking to her Slytherin friend.
“Sev? Yeah, don’t worry ab-”
The portrait closed and her voice was cut off. I felt guiltier then I ever have as I turned to face my friend. Sirius rolled his eyes and went to pull me towards the boys’ dormitories. Peter was looking at the floor; ignoring my gaze whilst Remus stared at me, frowning.
“Why?” Remus asked simply.
“I-I didn’t think.” My face filled with shame. “I didn’t mean to- I didn’t want to- how can I make it up to her?”
Remus bit his lip and shrugged. I tucked the cloak into my trunk; no longer feeling the need to tell them how I had got it.
I was vaguely aware of Sirius and Remus re-asking Peter if he was alright before they all headed to dinner.
Sirius lagged behind, “are you coming mate? Look, I’m sure Lily will forgive you. We all know you regret what you said and I mean it’s not really your fault.”
"Not my fault?” I questioned, “why’s it not my fault?”
Sirius looked uncomfortable, “well you- I mean, you, well, you don’t really know what it’s like-”
A sudden realisation hit me, “you agree with Lily, don’t you? You think I’m spoilt.” I paused to think of my birthday the previous year; it took me two days to unwrap all the presents, most of which I’d never used again and were squashed at the back of one of my cupboards. “Am I?”
Sirius shrugged and looked at me before hesitantly asking, “do you want the truth?”
I nodded my focus solely on Sirius. Was it true? Am I spolit?
“Then yeah, I think that you’re slightly spoilt. But then again, so was I. It’s not really either of our faults – it’s just the way we’ve been raised. Don’t feel bad because your parents care for you too much.” Sirius said bluntly, pushing his dark hair away from his eyes.
I frowned, looking over Sirius. He was leaning against the bed; both hands gripping onto the wooden frame. He was taller than me now and his dark hair curled around his ears.
“Was?” I questioned, noticing the past tense.
Sirius jolted, his eyes moved to my face in alarm and his hands clenched the frame tighter. He seemed to be scanning my face for something. Sirius bit his lip before seeming to make a decision. “M-my parents aren’t too happy that I got sorted into Gryffindor.”
Weren’t happy? Why? Gryffindor’s the best house there is! I got a new broom for my sorting, why in Merlin’s pants wouldn’t you want to be a Gryffindor?
Sirius noticed my perplexed look and sighed. “You said it yourself after our sorting remember – there’s never been a Black in Gryffindor.” Oh.
"So – t-they treat you different now?”
Sirius paused before nodding. “I’m starving. Shall we go get dinner then?”
I nodded at the obvious change of conversation and followed him out the room. Stupidly I’d always assumed that everyone had grown up like I had. The image of Lily in her new grotty jumper filled my head. Somehow, I was going to make it up to her.
Well, that was quite an angsty chapter wasn't it? Well, as angsty as a First Year could have. I hope that makes up for the lack of action in the previous chapters - afterall they are only First Years :D Also an apology for the late chapter! I had exams and also started my new WIP, so this took a while to put in the queue. So sorry about that!
Oh! And also a massive thank you so Beeezie and DirtyDeedsDoneDirtCheap for helping and teaching me with my writing! :D
And I'd also love to dedicate this chapter to my friends; Anna and Roisin. Simply because no matter what challenges we face your friends are always there to support you! OKay.. signing off now :D Until next time :)
Come on Peter. Come on.
I silently pulled back the curtain and pushed my head around the side. There was silence as I strained my ears to hear the sound of feet hitting against the wooden floor. There was nothing.
Where are you, Peter? We’re going to be late.
Sighing, I retreated back into the hidden room. I had no idea what the room was originally used for but due to the long, dusty table that was placed in the middle and the surrounding suits of armours all holding swords, James had proclaimed that it was obviously a sword fighting room. And had then proceeded to pick up a sword and attack Peter. I’ve never seen Peter move so fast.
Obviously, I’d picked up another sword and dared him to a duel. Before turning and aiming at Remus instead, who ducked and rolled out of the way in one swift movement. In my defence, I couldn’t have known that the sword Peter picked up was ridiculously heavy and therefore was dodging our blows my running round the room dragging the sword on the floor behind him.
Yes, James may have got a little ’too animated’ and yes, Remus did end up picking up another sword for his own protection. Yes, it may have turned into a full out war – but there was no need for Peter to trip out of the room and run away.
Well, unless you count James chasing him with his sword held high screaming; "Fight!"
Or Remus and I following James in the same manner. And in all fairness, it would have probably worked out if we hadn’t run into McGonagall. She wasn’t too happy. Two weeks of detentions for ‘unruly behaviour with potentially life-threatening items’. Pssh. Over-dramatic.
We got an owl sent home for that. Peter got a reply from his dad requesting that he apologise to anyone he may have ‘intimidated’ whilst running through the corridors with a sword. McGonagall personally made sure Peter fulfilled this request and unfortunately the majority of the Slytherins said they had felt ‘personally threatened’. Idiots.
Remus had got a reply the next morning from his parents. He didn’t say what was in the letter, but he looked ashamed and ended up apologising to the teachers. My mother sent me a lovely letter, stating that if I wanted to play with Muggle weapons then she could arrange for me to get some extra practise during summer. Somehow I doubted that I’d be the one holding the weapon, more likely I’d be the one running away.
James got his letter three days later. Crouch looked extremely smug as the owl landed, some of the Slytherins looked over with grins plastered on their faces; all expecting a howler. Their smiles all turned to looks of disbelief as James opened a package to find four boxes of plastic swords and armour with some handy tips on specific movements. Apparently Mr Potter had found it hilarious. Typical.
After finding the first passageway in January, we’d spent the majority of our free time looking behind every tapestry, painting and curtain.
However, this was more difficult then it appeared. As sometimes a door would pretend to be a wall, sometimes the paintings would scream if we went near them and the suits of armour seemed to keep moving. Also, I admit we looked slightly suspicious tapping every wall we passed and hopping from stone to stone in case there was a trap switch – James’ idea of course. This meant that quite a lot of our ‘spare time’ was spent in detention.
I sighed and perched against the table. Peter’s late.
We’d planned it perfectly so that everyone would be leaving the Great Hall after breakfast. Peter was the bait. It was payback for them bullying Peter at every chance, for Cissy telling her ‘dear Lucius’ that I was allergic to garlic – so the Slytherins threw it at me whenever they could – and simply for them being Slytherins.
The curtain was ripped back suddenly and I jumped to my feet. Peter nearly collapsed into the room; his face beetroot red as he gasped for breath. “T-The-they’re com-ing.”
I nodded and pushed him away from the door. My hand became damp as I touched his sweaty back. Gross. Peter seemed to regain some of his normal colour as he leant on the table. He’d lost weight over the last couple months and could slide into the portrait hole a little easier, but he was still really unfit. Does his mum feed him every hour? Merlin.
I heard the faint sound of feet hitting the floor and got into position. It wasn’t a complex spell – it was one of the simplest my dad had taught me. But it would be enough.
I held my breath as several pairs of shoes and green-rimed robes ran past. They’d only gone a couple metres when I slipped my wand from behind the curtain.
“Ignis Flammei.” I whispered. A small blue spark shot from the tip of my wand to the hidden fireworks on the other side of the corridor.
Three. Two. One.
The spark had hit the fireworks with a triumphant sizzle and they started to explode. Yet these weren’t normal fireworks; James had assured us that these were special tracking fireworks. And he was right. They seemed to sense the Slytherins gaping and turned to face them. Only Lucius had the sense to move immediately; leaving his friends behind. The others weren’t far behind though as they all ran down the corridor being chased by the exploding fireworks; learning what it was like to be the prey.
I held a hand up to my mouth to hide the snigger and backed back into the room. Peter grinned when he saw my face; the plan had worked. “Come on then. We better get up there.”
Peter took a deep breath and nodded as we both walked to the corner of the room. There was a small button beside the fireplace which was the same colour as the wall behind it. Peter reached out and pressed it, the wall slid open and a ladder dropped down.
I let Peter go first; he was the one to find the button in the first place. Besides, this way I could push him along to hurry up – he normally took his own time. And time was something we were short of.
“Pete! Come on! Hurry up!” I yelled from below.
“I’m-nearly-I’m… nearly… I’m nearly-there.” Peter gasped, his sweaty hands slipping off every bar of the ladder.
“Come on.” I scowled at his sweaty back, “they’re going to be there soon! I don’t want to miss it!”
Peter merely nodded in response, his eyes focussed on the door hatch above us whilst beads of sweat ran down the side of his face. For a moment I wondered what Regulus would make of this situation.
I smiled slightly as I imagined the look on his face if he saw me pushing a fat kid up a ladder. He would have laughed. I would have joined in and then Dad would have stormed in. Told us off for ‘misbehaving’ when we could have been working. Like always.
I sighed at the thought of Regulus. He had been so distant over Christmas; we’d always been close. I’d always looked out for him.
“Ah! Peter!” I snarled. He had just slipped off one of the ladder poles meaning that his bum hit me in the face, Nice.
“Sorry.” He mumbled, quickly grabbing the next bar and pulling himself up. The ladder definitely wasn’t the quickest escape when Peter was involved. I sighed again when I saw his face was bright red.
“Right. Just hurry up will you? Open the hatch.”
Peter nodded and reached up to slide the door open. He put a hand on each side of the gap to pull himself up and after much hefting – and pushing from my side – Peter lifted himself through the door. I climbed up quickly behind him.
“You alright?” I questioned; Peter was breathing heavily again. He nodded and pushed the rock covering our exit out of the way. I slid through the gap first and once seeing the coast was clear, helped Peter into the hallway. We were just a corridor away from the Great Hall. I clapped Peter on the back and headed towards the hall whilst I attempted to hide my grin at the faint sound of yelling.
Nobody really noticed our entrance; everyone was too busy talking to their friends or eating. Though one of James’ friends, Jack Hopper, nudged the boy next to him and gestured in our direction. The small group of Sixth Year Gryffindors turned to look as we passed. James and Remus were sitting at the other end of the table, both failing to hide their grins. James was nearly bouncing out of his seat.
“Did it work?” he asked immediately.
I nodded and slid onto bench. Peter nodded as well and collapsed into his seat; the bench sank as his weight fell on top of it.
“Did what work?” a snooty voice asked, his body casting a shadow over the group.
“Crouch!” Sirius yelled cheerfully, “to what do we owe the pleasure?”
I bit my lip whilst James and Peter attempted to stifle their laughter. Sirius grinned at them, happy for the attention.
“Did what work?” he repeated. His eyes glinting dangerously as he took in Peter’s sweaty appearance. “I’ll give you three seconds to tell me what you’ve done this time or you’ll all be in detention for the rest of the week. I will not let Gryffindor lose any more points because you four deem yourself practical jokers!”
Crouch took a deep breath to continue his rant when a loud screech stole his attention. Two brown owls, one with a smudge of white in his chest, were flying towards us at speed. Both owls were sharing the weight of a large package; the weight of which seemed too much for the small of the owls who was dipping towards us at incredible speed.
Sirius ducked instinctively and James followed suit. Luckily, my senses were still incredibly sensitive due to the full moon three days ago, so I had more warning then the rest. Peter remained oblivious to the situation so I pushed him down onto the bench on our side of the table. Crouch wasn’t so lucky.
“Argh!” he yelled as the smallest owl swooped lower; causing the package to hit Crouch in the face. His arms span in comical circles as he attempted to regain his balance and he nearly did, before the owls turned back round to land and hit him again.
With a loud yelp Crouch fell backwards, onto the table which was currently covered in the food for breakfast. I winced as the squelching sounds of food and the smashes of plates hitting the ground attracted the attention of the hall. I grabbed Peter and pulled him upright at the same time James and Sirius came back to the surface of the table.
Crouch looked murderous. He pushed himself off the table and glared at all the other students in the Great Hall who were pointing and laughing at the Head Boy. Barty slowly turned to face us; egg white slid down his ketchup-covered face and bread crusts were sticking out of his collar. His white shirt was covered in spilt orange juice and circular ‘Magic-O’s’ were stuck to his jumper. His hands shook with rage and his blush deepened to a scarily purple colour.
I looked at him in silence; I knew what it was like to be segregated from everyone else. James and Sirius were bright red with laughter with James wiping away tears from his eyes. Peter was chuckling quietly; his eyes darting between Crouch and the two chortling black-haired boys opposite.
Sirius attempted to take a deep breath to calm himself to no avail. “Blimey Crouch, if you wanted some breakfast so badly you could’ve just asked,” he spat out in between his gasps for breath. The laughter in the hall increased. Crouch’s eyes narrowed dangerously in Sirius’ direction.
Suddenly, the laughter reached a deafening level. Crouch looked round to see what was causing it now; he didn’t have to look far. At that moment, the group of Slytherins we had pranked earlier had run into the hall.
All of them were red and gasping for breath. Behind them, the fireworks sparked colourfully; but it was not the fireworks which had got the hall’s attention. The group of Slytherins looked murderous as pink goo covered them from head to foot; most of them also had feathers stuck to their uniforms.
The goo and feathers were due to James and me. Peter and Sirius were supposed to set off the chase whilst we readied the trap. James had wanted to add swelling lotion to the goo but I’d only just managed to persuade him not to.
Lucius Malfoy growled and his eyes swept the hall until the rested on his. “You!” he snarled. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks, but the closer Malfoy and his cohorts got, the larger they appeared. He wouldn’t have. Not after I spoke to him.
I turned to face James suspiciously and was met with his mischievous grin. “You added the swelling lotion?” I growled.
He had the decency to look slightly ashamed before his eyes widened at someone behind me.
“I’m not going to even ask.” Professor McGonagall said sternly, her lips were pursed into a tight line and her eyes were narrowed in anger. “30 points off Gryffindor and detentions for you four,” her finger hovered over us all, “for three weeks. Starting Monday.”
I suppressed a groan with some difficulty, Peter’s shoulders slumped and Sirius jabbed his bacon with his fork angrily. James, however, looked extremely pleased. Typical.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why; it was the same reason the large parcel had been delivered. The same reason why large parcels had been arriving from his parents all week. Tomorrow was a Saturday. The 29th April to be exact. James’ twelfth birthday.
Professor McGonagall’s eyes narrowed even further and she pursed her lips as she looked at him. “Shouldn’t you boys be going to your lessons whilst I once again sort everything out? If I hear any more points have been taken due to you four by the end of the day, then I will make sure you all have detentions tomorrow.” She sniffed. “Yes Mr Potter, even if it means we miss Gryffindor’s qualifying match for the final.”
I don’t think any of us have ever seen James move so fast. By the time we’d caught up with him, we were nearly at the Potions classroom. By the time Peter had arrived, the Potions door was open and a large stomach appeared through the frame, announcing the arrival of Professor Slughorn.
“Well come in, come in – we’ve got a tight schedule today.” His voice boomed down the corridor as we filed into the classroom. He pat many students on the shoulder as they past and shared a joke with Lily. His gaze followed Sirius who was making his way to his usual seat; for some reason Slughorn looked disappointed.
After the scraping of chairs and the thuds of bags being dumped on the floor had settled, Slughorn coughed loudly to get the class’ attention. Lily and Severus were on the front table; the only sign of a mixed-house pairing. The rest of the Slytherins were huddled together on the right side of the classroom whilst the Gryffindors sat to the right. Peter and James were behind Lily, Sirius and Amelia were behind them, and then Mary and I were on the back table.
Slughorn coughed again and Sirius finally stopped whispering to Amelia; he had made it his mission to make her laugh during class.
“Today we will be making a very complex potion for a First Year. So pay close attention and be warned, you may find this potion in your Potions exam at the end of the year.” Slughorn boomed. Lily stopped fidgeting; her sole focus on the Professor. “It is of course the Forgetfulness Potion. You will find the ingredients on page two hundred of your books and the instructions,” he flicked his wand, “are on the board. You have two hours. Begin.”
Severus was flipping through the book and Lily leapt towards the Potions cupboard before any of us noticed that Slughorn had finished talking. “Shall I get the ingredients?” I asked Mary quietly.
She nodded and carried on turning the page whilst glancing at Amelia; obviously having daydreamed through Slughorn’s introduction. “It’s page two hundred.” I whispered as I stood up; Mary smiled in thanks.
The cupboard was crowded with students attempting to grab the correct ingredients. With a deep breath, I pushed myself into the crowd. An elbow hit me in the stomach, some hair was flicked in my face and with a grunt and a shriek, I was pushed into a girl with red hair.
“Oops! Sorry Lily, here,” I offered her my hand.
Lily smiled and took my hand, “thanks Remus. You’d have thought that over the years someone would have thought to enlarge the cupboard.” She mused before groaning in despair. “Eurgh. I’ve dropped the bat spleens.”
I scanned the floor but found no spleens. “They were in a jar.” She sighed as she looked back at the crowd, “they must have rolled into that.”
I laughed quietly at the look of determination on her face. “Well I need to go get ingredients for Mary and me, partners?” I offered her my hand, grinning.
She laughed and took it as we headed back into bustling group of students in the cupboard. We were both pushed and shoved in different directions, but I kept held of her hand and pulled us towards the shelves in the corner.
“Right… Lily, you get the bat spleens and I’ll get the rest. Do you need anything else?”
“Sounds like a plan.” Lily replied. “Nope, just the spleens.”
“Tadpole tail… Newt’s eye… three spiders legs… Chicken blood.” I ran through the list in my head, double checking I had all the ingredients when Lily popped out from the crowds, clutching two jars of bat spleens.
“Got them.” She grinned, placing the jars onto the ingredients basket. “Have you got everything?” I nodded. “Right, let’s go.”
I laughed as she took a deep breath, grabbed my hand and jumped back into the crowd. After what felt like several long minutes of being pushed and prodded, we were finally pushed out of the crowd and back into the classroom.
Lily laughed and dropped my hand. “Right, I better go get started.” She spun round and before I could give her any warning, she shrieked.
“Oops! Sorry Lily! I didn’t mean to!” James spluttered.
“You didn’t mean to?” She shrieked. “The spleens were in the jars, James. Why did you take them out, if it wasn’t to throw them all over me?”
“I-I heard you needed some spleens so I thought I-I’d-”
“Pour them over me?” Lily took a deep breath. “James, I get it. You don’t like me. I have no idea why or what I did, but can’t you just leave me alone instead of attempting to embarrass me at every opportunity?”
“No, I-I-I didn’t mean…” James trailed off at the look Lily was giving him. She sighed and pushed past him towards Severus, who was glaring at us with loathing.
James looked defeated as he returned to sit beside Peter. Since Lily’s birthday in January, James had constantly been trying to make up for how he acted. It soon became obvious; however, that James wasn’t used to making up to someone. The weekend after Lily’s birthday, James handed Lily a parcel of three expensive jumpers that, in James’ words, you can wear instead of the horrid one you got for your birthday.
That didn’t go down too well. A couple weeks later James then tried to make up for the jumpers by giving her a book on Potions… for children aged 5 to 7. ‘So you can catch up… due to living with Muggles.’
So far every attempt to make it up to her had ended up with Lily disliking James even more. Much to Sirius’ amusement; somehow I had a sneaking impression that Sirius was behind the idea of James giving Lily a bowl full of maggots to help her get over her ‘disliking’ of them.
I shook my head at James and went back to my table where Mary had set up the cauldron.
I used to like flying. So did Sarah. When we were younger Mum used to take us to this field in summer. The field was surrounded by massive trees; all entwined together making the field invisible to anyone who didn’t know of its existence. The grass was covered in pink and yellow flowers where Mum used to set up the picnic whilst Sarah collected some flowers to give to her. Sarah used to run up to me with a toothy grin and hand me her bunch of flowers so that it would look like I’d been picking them for mum as well.
After the picnic Dad would swing us off our feet and carry us over his shoulders whilst mum’s laugh would echo in the breeze. The summer sun shined directly on our patch of paradise and I was sure that my parents were the best parents in the world. Dad and Mum would pretend that the afternoon was over and that it was time to go home.
Sarah and I would laugh and refuse to move, Sarah’s hand clasped tight inside mine. The sun would shine behind us and her pale hair looked like a halo around her cheeky face. It was only then that mum and dad would swap amused glances and pretend to leave without us.
Sarah and I would giggle and fall to the floor in protest; my little sister secretly glancing at our parents to make sure they hadn’t left. Then out of nowhere my parents would laugh and tickle us until we admitted surrendered. Mum would wave her wand and their two hidden broomsticks would fly from their hiding spot. Sarah clamoured on with Dad whilst I sat with Mum. Her hands wrapped around my waist as we flew into the sky. The air would rush through our hair, my Mum’s laughter in my ear. I was safe.
That was before the accident. Before Dad had to get two jobs to afford my Mum’s care. Before Dad sold their broomsticks to pay for the funeral. I returned to our field just once since it happened. It was winter. The flowers had been dead for months. The grass was covered in the grey slush of icy snow. The trees were bare, tall and threatening. My paradise disappeared the day my sister’s hand left mine.
A loud screeching noise brought me back to my surroundings. We were on the Quidditch pitch and it was the last the lesson on Friday.
Madam Hoolis was stood with her arms crossed, her whistle in her mouth and her broom on the floor beside her. In front of her were twenty broomsticks; the Slytherins on one side, the Gryffindors on the other.
It was the only lesson where both Sirius and James got points for being well behaved. By this point, the class had reached a certain level of flying ability; today we would be learning about flying in high winds.
Madam Hoolis blew her whistle once more and everyone climbed onto their brooms; a signal I seemed to have missed. I took a deep breath and carefully lifted my leg over the stick. Don’t break. Don’t break. Please don’t break.
I could imagine the looks of joy on the Slytherins faces if it snapped in two; I’m sure Malfoy would have told them to keep an eye out for anything he could use against me. Especially after this morning.
With a sinking feeling, I saw Snape look over; his eyes narrowed in glee as I lowered myself onto the broom. I let out a sigh of relief as the broom stayed steady in the air, and although I couldn’t be certain, Remus looked relieved as well. James and Sirius were too focused on Madam Hoolis.
She smiled slightly as she took in their eager expressions; Sirius’ legs were braced to take off and James’ broom seemed to vibrate with anticipation. She shook her head and blew the whistle again. With a feeling of dread, I pushed off the floor and into the air.
The wind felt the same as it did when I was little, the sun still shined in face and the broom still reacted in the same way. But this time there was no laughter in my ear, no shrieks of Sarah when Dad taught her to dive and no hands wrapped round my waist to keep me safe. The best part of flying had gone and I was now left with the fear the broom would snap and the memories of the accident.
I squeaked and grabbed the broom tighter as two figures whizzed past where I was sat stationary. “Come on Pete! Fly! It’s easy!” One of the voices yelled. The other one laughed in response.
James and Sirius flew like it was second nature and I idly wondered that if it never happened, would I be able to fly like them?
James swerved to the right and Sirius cut him off, laughing. Another figure passed me, much slower than the first two. It was Remus. Although he’d never flown before our first lesson, he had learnt remarkably quickly and despite not being as fast as Sirius or as confident as James, he could fly reasonably well.
“Are you alright, Peter?” Remus hovered in front of me. I nodded and smiled, they thought I was useless. Remus gestured to where James and Sirius were now racing each other, and I nodded in agreement.
Remus turned and started to fly towards them and I followed, wobbling slightly as I flew. To everyone else it looked like I was scared of flying, in reality I was scared the broom couldn’t hold my weight.
The Slytherins were right, I was fat.
But as I flew closer, the smile on my face struggled to stay hidden as I saw that I wasn’t the only one having issues. Amelia was only a metre off the ground, one toe still touching the grass; she shrieked as the broom rose a little higher. Lily and Mary were doing much better.
Lily looked slightly nervous and was gripping her broom a little too tightly whilst Mary held her other hand for support. Mary could fly really well, perhaps better than James; not that she would ever admit it. But what gave me the most joy was Severus Snape. He was amongst the Slytherins and gripping the broom like his life depended on it. His body was flat against the stick; his legs wrapped round the end whilst his nose rested on the wood.
Snape looked murderous as he muttered under his breath whilst his eyes darted from side to side. Something that James and Sirius didn’t miss.
“Oi! Snivellus! You know you’re supposed to fly, right? Not leech onto it.” James yelled as he shot past the Slytherins.
“I’m not sure James. Perhaps with all the grease, he might just slip off!” Sirius yelled back, laughing. Remus had stopped flying and was watching them with apprehension. Lily looked angry and seemed to be struggling to remember how to turn.
Sniv-Snape eyes were narrowed in dislike, “just because your parents had to pay someone to teach you how to fly, doesn’t make you any good Potter.” Snape snarled angrily. “Why? Were they embarrassed to have you as a son that they had to try and make you good at something?”
James’ eyes widened momentarily before his neck started to go red. “What did you say?” James snarled, his wand now clenched in his hand.
“I said you’re an embarrassment!” Snape shouted back. James paused in the air for a moment before nodding and shooting forwards towards Snape. He was only metres away when Remus, who seemed to of been anticipating James’ next move, and Sirius, who was faster than James, grabbed his arms to stop him. I was the next to arrive; we all knew what Snape was trying to do.
“James, don’t!” Remus said sternly. Sirius nodded, looking at James – though his eyes kept darting to where Snape was landing.
“You heard McGonagall. If any more points get taken then we all miss the Quidditch game tomorrow. You’ll spend your birthday in detention with McGonagall.” I hissed quietly.
The thought of the Quidditch obsessed professor being forced to miss Gryffindor’s qualifying match to be in detention was enough to scare anyone. James nodded and took deep breaths; Snape had hit a nerve.
The whistle blew again and Madam Hoolis was calling us in. She seemed to have missed the entire conflict due to trying to persuade Amelia to take her foot off the ground. We landed with a thump; Remus and Sirius still holding onto James.
The Slytherins disappeared fairly quickly, leaving the rest of us to put the brooms back in the shed. Sirius and Remus were obviously trying to distract James by talking about the match tomorrow. Lily was walking with Mary and Amelia behind us whilst glaring at James’ back. I was about to join in the conversation when a squawk distracted me.
It was a grey owl, an owl scrawny owl called Bellah. It was my mother’s owl, one of the only items that belonged to Mum that Dad hadn’t been able to sell.
I held out my arm and she landed heavily with a small piece of parchment tucked inside her claws. “Thanks Bellah.” I murmured, it hooted quietly in reply.
The others were looking at us with some curiosity and I couldn’t think of any excuse to not open the letter then. With a sigh I opened the parchment, silently wishing that Dad hadn’t written anything about Mum.
Your mother was insistent that I send you this today. She wouldn’t eat until I agreed.
I opened the smaller piece of parchment with some trepidation. It was a drawing, to most it would just be a page of scribbles, but I could see the pink and yellow flowers amongst the pen. I could see how the brown lines were the broomsticks and with a big lift in my chest, I saw a small number four in the corner. She remembered. Even if Dad forgot.
It was the 26th of March. Four years since the accident.
“Hey Peter, I didn’t know you had a little brother or sister.” Mary remarked as she looked over my shoulder. The others frowned as she pointed to the picture.
I nodded. How could I explain that this picture wasn’t done by a younger sibling, but by a middle-aged witch? How I could I tell them that they were actually looking at my mother’s drawing?
“Yeah. Her name’s Sarah.” I paused, thinking of that day in the field. My paradise before it crumbled. “She’s five years old.”
Best. Birthday. Ever.
There are those birthdays which at the end of you thank your parents for the presents and the day out and then you tell them it was ‘the best birthday you could ever have’ just to make them happy. But really you’re thinking, I wonder how I can top this next year.
Then there are those birthdays where you collapse onto your bed, exhausted. To wake up in the morning and feel that twinge of regret that you went to bed early and missed hours of your birthday. So then you’d get upset until your parents said that today could be your birthday as well. Then they’d buy you new presents and plan a whole extra day of fun.
There are those kind of birthdays, but then there was this birthday.
The. Best. Birthday. Ever.
I’d been awake since two, but Remus had grunted that I wasn’t allowed to wake him up. And for once, Sirius had agreed. Peter was silent, just staring at the picture his sister drew. I mean… really? It’s just a picture. It’s not even that good. Just a bunk of scribbles in different colours. He’s never even mentioned a little sister. Like…ever. I bet he made her up. I bet he drew the picture himself and then just got the owl to deliver it… to get some attention. I mean… it’s my birthday!
I sighed and fidgeted as I waited for the clock to hit 6 o’clock. Sirius said that six was a good time to wake up on your birthday and that Remus couldn’t disagree. I sighed once more, loudly. Perhaps if I yelled or something then they’d all wake up and I could just pretend that it was a nightmare? Yeah! That’d work!
I took a deep breath, preparing to yell when I calm voice interrupted me.
“I swear to Merlin, James. Don’t you dare get Crouch in here this early – we’ve got enough detentions this term.” Remus said slowly, his voice slightly muffled by his pillow.
“But it’s my birthday.” I whined.
A chuckle came from Sirius’ bed. I grinned and I even heard a snort come from Peter’s bed. Remus was not a morning person.
“Come on Remus.” Sirius laughed, sitting up. “We’ve all been awake for ages anyway. James has been sighing every minute to make sure.”
“You’ve been awake all this time? Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, shocked.
Sirius laughed. “It was funny.”
“Argh! I’m up! Will you two just shut up?” Remus glared from his bed, his eyes narrowed.
I grinned. “Peter! Presents!”
The stairs were full of students making their way to breakfast by the time we’d finished unwrapping the presents. I’d got new clothes and new stuff for school – the boring stuff that parents give you so they feel like something educational is in there. As well as that complementary book which will never be read – though Remus looked interested in it, so I gave it to him. And then Peter seemed to look at one of the pairs of shoes a lot, so I gave him a pair.
Then there was the fun stuff. A square of plastic which stuck to a wall or door and let you see into the room. Some Puddlemere United team posters – including a Erik Daniels figurine, some chocolates which made your head grow to twice its size, some gum which made you bounce along the ceiling, the new WizKidz record and the best present of them all; the Jetlight 290. It had only been released a month ago – much to the despair of all those who bought the Cleansweep 180. It was super-fast and I’d heard that there were only a 100 in Britain.
Sirius and I just sat and stared at it. If only they let First Years onto the team then Gryffindor would definitely win if I was playing.
By the time we’d got ready and gone to breakfast, the Quidditch team was leaving the hall. “James! Happy Birthday mate!” Jack Hopper clapped me on the book. He was a sixth year Gryffindor who played seeker. I’d grown up with him due to my parents pushing me onto nearby Wizarding families; they felt guilty I was an only child.
“Cheers Jack. Do me a favour? Win the game, alright?”
Jack laughed loudly and clapped me on the back once more as he rejoined his red-haired friends before following the team out the doors.
I hardly tasted the breakfast and Sirius nearly dropped his pumpkin juice down his robes in our rush to get good seats at the pitch. We needn’t have rushed though as Jack had saved us some seats, with a piece of parchment left on one of the seats.
‘Cause it’s your birthday. So don’t get cocky.’
I laughed and took our seats. The pitch was just beginning to fill up and I realised with a sense of dread that everyone else had painted their faces or made banners.
“Sirius! We ha- oh! Cheers mate.” Remus rolled his eyes as he handed over our house scarves that he’d obviously picked up. Sirius grinned as he wrapped the scarf round his neck, before scanning the area curiously.
“Be right back.” Sirius whispered. I frowned and watched as he approached some Fifth Year girls. They were laughing and one of them reached into their bag to hand him something.
“Peter,” Remus’ voice brought me back to the seats, “so there are two chasers, a beater and three keepers. Right?”
I snorted whilst Peter replied. “Close, but not quite. There’s three chasers; they throw the quaffle into those three hoops at each end. Then there’s a keeper who guards their hoops against the other teams chasers.” Remus nodded in understanding. “Then there’s two beaters who hit the bludgers at other players so their team can have an advantage. And finally there’s the seeker; he has to catch the snitch – it’s worth 150 points and as soon as it’s been caught then the game ends.”
Remus frowned, “so if you catch the snitch, you win? What’s the point of the other players then?”
I shook my head, really? Quidditch was simple! “No, if you catch the snitch the game ends – it doesn’t mean you win! You win if your team gets the most points!”
“Ohh.” Remus nodded his head in understanding just as Sirius returned, grinning mischievously. “What did you do?” Remus asked immediately, looking round for any explosions or shrieks.
“Nothing.” Sirius grinned. “Just persuaded those girls to give us their lipsticks.”
“Lipsticks?” Peter asked slowly.
“Yeah! For face paint!” Sirius replied as if it was the most obvious answer.
I nodded and grabbed one of the lipstick tubes from Sirius hand. “Woah. So you… like… you actually spoke to them?” They were Fifth Year Girls!
Sirius nodded, looking a little smug. My eyes narrowed as I twisted the lipstick tube. Game on.
I dived at Sirius, who seemed to be expecting it and only managed to draw half a red moustache before he was drawing on me. It was war as we rolled on the floor; determined to cover the other with more lipstick.
Suddenly, the crowd roared with delight and Sirius and I leapt to our feet; the match was starting. The seven, red Gryffindors entered the pitch from one side whilst the blue Ravenclaws entered from the other. Our cheers were lost in the mass so I bent closer to Sirius to yell in his ear, “next year. That’s going to be us!” Sirius nodded vigorously.
The strangely loud whistle went once more and the game was off. Adam Daulet; a strangely optimistic Hufflepuff was doing the commentary for this match.
“And they’re off! Ravenclaw’s Mercer has the Quaffle! To Clay! To Chang! Chang looks like he’s going to score and –no! Blocked by Gryffindor’s keeper; Gideon Prewett. Looks like his twin is keeping an eye on that Quaffle as Fabian Prewett catches the Quaffle.”
The Gryffindor’s roared around us whilst the Ravenclaws booed.
“Prewett has the Quaffle- and he dodges Clay to pass to Wright – Moore – Prewett – Moore –Wright and Sally Wright goes for the hoops and SHE SCORES! 10-0 TO GRYFFINDOR!”
The Gryffindors yelled with triumph, as did Hufflepuff who had chosen to support us after their embarrassing defeat at the last match.
“Moore has the Quaffle again and –Ah! Clark’s bludger is aimed perfectly and Ravenclaw are in possession of the Quaffle once more! Clay- Mercer –Chang- Mercer and… RAVENCLAW SCORE! 10-10!”
The game was moving at a fast pace, if you blinked then you could have missed a major moment. Peter was whispering to Remus as he asked questions about the game. The Gryffindors roars when we scored and moans when we missed filled my ears. Mary was pointing to the players whilst talking to Lily. Stupid. If Lily wanted to know about the game then why didn’t she ask me? Hey! Maybe I can make it up to her by telling her about Quidditch!
Another roar filled my ears and I turned to face the match once more.
“Gryffindor score again! 90-80 to Gryffindor!”
It was an evenly matched game. Mercer made some incredible dives but was quickly blocked each time by Macy Moore. “And it looks like Hopper has seen the snitch!” The stadium went deathly quiet as all eyes focused on Jack; even the chasers stopped playing.
“King is on Hopper’s tail. It’s a race to the snitch! They’re side by side now! Hopper’s reaching for the snitch, but so is King! And… Hopper catches the Snitch! GRYFFINDOR WINS! 240-80 TO GRYFFINDOR!”
The crowd went wild as we were all pulled in separate hugs. Some of the older students were clamouring down the stairs and onto the pitch. Gryffindor was in the final. Camera flashes were going off and red streamers were falling around us.
Lily was holding a camera which was whisked out of her hands as she was pushed towards our group. “Smile!” Someone yelled.
I stood next to Lily with Remus, Peter and Sirius while Mary and Amelia were stood by Lily. We were all laughing, even Lily wasn’t glaring at me. The flash went off and the moment was captured.
Poor James. He never quite gets it, does he? So what did you think? Can you imagine them checking every painting and running through the corridors with swords? Potions? Quidditch? How about Peter? - You will eventually find out about the accident - I promise! :P
Now, I think that's the end of First Year! I could so easily write 20 chapters per year... but as each chapter is usually around 6000 words... and I'm writing this up to the Battle of Hogwarts... I don't think I'll have the time! :O So I'm more picking random bits, if that makes any sense?
Please, Please, Please Review! You've no idea how much a review can make my day! Oh! And for the person who asked, James isn't wearing glasses yet. He will, I'm not ignoring that. But it's due to a circumstance which you are yet to read.... Mwahaha ;)
Oh! (Really sorry for the ridiculously long Author's Note!) Thank you to the Last Marauder for leaving such amazing reviews which really made my day! And... if you fancied reading a Tonks/Remus then I've posted my latest WIP 'Playing at War'! (Shameless Plug! ;) )
I grunted as his arms clasped around my shoulders and pushed me to the ground. My knees hit the wooden floor with a loud smack and my hands reached out to prevent my face doing the same. My neck jarred from the unexpected impact and I had a second to comprehend what had happened before the hands moved; ready to make their next move. It was war.
I twisted to grab hold of his waist and saw a quick glance of dark hair and grey eyes before, using all my strength, I pushed him to ground. He seemed to be expecting it and quickly rolled out of the way so my arms grabbed at thin air. Suddenly he was up and darting towards my head, pushing me back to the floor. I lifted my leg to trip him so he tumbled down with me. He tried to wriggle away whilst I held him down. It was his speed vs. my strength. I went to hold his arms down but was a second too slow because he tucked his head under my arm and slithered out from under my body.
It was over in a second. He pushed off from the floor and had me in a headlock with an excited giggle in my ear, I knew I had lost. “Reg,” I wailed.
Another giggle answered me as he slowly slid off my shoulder and sat on the floor next to me. I looked up at him scowling but couldn’t stop the grin sliding onto my face as I watched his grey eyes already lit up with excitement and a big smile stretched across his face. His previously neatly groomed hair was now messy and sticking up. “What?” he grinned.
I looked at him for a second before dating forwards and dragging him to the floor where I ruffled his hair and tickled him until he squealed. “M-mu-m s-says w-we’ve got t-to go dow-wnstairs-s.” he spat out between his laughter.
I sighed and pulled away from my younger brother. “Why? I saw her this morning. Merlin, what’ve I done now?”
Regulus shrugged and stood up, offering both hands to pull me up. I sighed and stood up, before turning to Regulus with a smile. “Race you.”
I didn’t wait to see his reaction and took the pounding feet on the stairs as a sign that he was following me. We were both out of breath by the time we reached the second floor and just as I was about to jump onto the last flight of stairs, Regulus pushed me into the wall and jumped in front of me. I laughed and ran after him. He reached the door to the dining room at the same time as me, so I stuck out my foot so he tripped into the room. But once again, he was too fast and pulled me down with him.
We were on the floor once more, laughing, but before I could resume my tickling from before – a low cough interrupted us. Both of our eyes widened at the same time in realisation of where we actually were. I jumped off Regulus and pulled him up beside me, wincing slightly as I noticed his shirt had been torn in the scuffle.
I raised my gaze to look at the other people in the room. My mother was the closest, her dark hair pulled into a bun. Aunt Druella sat beside my mother, her mouth slightly ajar as she stared at us. My father was at the other side of the table, a bottle of fire whiskey close by. Uncle Alphard was leaning against one of the walls, wincing slightly as he predicted how my mother would react. Andy was sat in the centre of the table with a hand pressed to her mouth as she tried to contain the giggles. Cissy, who was sat next to her, darted between looking at us and whoever was standing behind her father.
Uncle Cygnus’ eyes were narrowed and he slightly shifted to the side to reveal, with my stomach tensing, Bellatrix. It was a family meeting; they were all there. I could only thank my lucky stars that there were no other guests present; how could my mother explain that the pureblood princes were playing at Muggle fighting?
“What do you think you’re doing?” My mother asked in a clipped tone. Her eyes narrowed into slits as you looked me up and down.
I shrugged, annoyed how Regulus seemed to shrink under her gaze. “Playing.”
“Playing?” My mother repeated, her voice scathing. “And do you think that playing is the correct way to behave, Regulus?”
Reg’s eyes widened slightly and he took a step backwards. “N-no.”
“Do you think that you’re not too old for playing?”
Regulus turned to look at me desperately; I took a step closer towards him. “I-I s-suppose.”
“You suppose?” Mother glared. “Well if you’re not sure then I suppose you’re not old enough to attend Hogwarts. Perhaps you would be better suited with private tutors? Where you’ll be under our supervision until you’re of age, hmm?”
“No!” Regulus gaped, “I want to go to Hogwarts – please! I want to go to Hogwarts.”
My mother laughed shortly, no humour evident in her eyes. “Well, it’s good that I don’t care for what you want, isn’t it?”
Regulus’ mouth snapped shut and he looked at me with pleading eyes. Yet before I could say anything, my father snorted. He held up the empty fire whiskey bottle to his eye and yelled, “Kreacher!”
There was a loud crack and the house-elf appeared at his side. Kreacher flinched slightly as my father pushed the empty bottle into his hands. “More.” My father demanded, before raising his head to look at us. “Leave the brat alone, Walburga. He’ll go to Hogwarts – I can’t stand anymore of his whining.” My mother opened her mouth to retort when my father slammed his glass on the table, causing it to break into shards. “That’s my final word, Walburga.”
My father’s dark eyes flashed dangerously and my mother opened her mouth once more. I put a hand on Regulus’ shoulder; knowing that he’ll sneak into my room tonight. He always felt safer with me when our father’s yells and our mother’s screams echoed around the house.
My mother turned to face the rest of the family who had been watching the scene unfold. “Druella, Alphard, take the boys to Diagon Alley and after buying their equipment and books for next year, bring Regulus back here for his lessons.”
My aunt and uncle nodded at her order whilst Bellatrix frowned. “Please, Aunt Walburga, I can take the boys.” Bella looked over at me with a strange glint in her eye. That can’t mean anything good.
To my relief, my mother shook her head. “No Bella, thank you for offering, but you and your sisters have other plans for today.” Bellatrix tilted her head curiously whilst Andy looked apprehensive. “The LeStrange family have been kind enough to invite all three of you for afternoon tea. Rodolphus is especially keen to see you, Bellatrix.”
Bella’s eyes widened in understanding and a look of desperation passed over her face. “Aunt Walburga, please don’t-”
“Your parents and I have already discussed this at great length. Toujours Pur.” My mother stated. Bellatrix closed her mouth and nodded slowly; her eyes focussed on the carpet. “The Malfoy family will also be making an appearance,” she continued, looking at Cissy who beamed in response, “and the Rosier family.” My mother added, looking at Andromeda; who frowned and looked despairingly at her parents. “You will wear your finest gowns and be on your best behaviour, understood? Your father, Cygnus, shall be accompanying you.”
Slowly everyone in the room nodded in response to her summons. My father was too distracted with another bottle of fire whiskey that Kreacher had given him.
I swallowed, readying myself for the question that had been on my mind throughout her orders. “If I’m not coming back with Regulus, where am I going?”
Her grey eyes locked with mine and her lips pushed into a thin line. “The Potter family have requested you to stay with them. Of course I refused, but I am beginning to realise that you are like an illness – spreading your wayward beliefs and corrupt personality on others.” Her eyes lingered on Regulus. My stomach tensed as she spoke and I saw Uncle Alphard shaking his head from the corner of my eye.
“I expect the LeStrange family’s presence at this house will be more frequent, and it is best if you are not here to show them your abnormalities. We don’t want to give Sansa LeStrange the wrong idea! Until then, I have no choice but to separate you from influencing your brother and cousins. Kreacher, make a bag for Master Sirius; he may be gone a while.”
Although part of me was ecstatic that I would be living with the Potter’s and away from my family, the other part was gripped with fear. Regulus. They’ll make him listen to the lectures on being a pureblood. I won’t be there to tell him, to protect him. They’re separating us for a reason. Even at Hogwarts I could owl him. Regulus.
Bizarrely, I was faced with the sudden notion that I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t leave Regulus behind. My mother seemed to recognise this and as Kreacher re-appeared back in the dining room, she handed me the bag with a malicious grin. “Druella – I think you should be going now.”
Aunt Druella nodded, “girls, Samson has left some suitable gowns in the Foyer. Wear those. I’ll see you tonight.” My cousins nodded at their mother and walked to the fireplace. Andy lagged behind to speak to me, but was herded away by her father.
I locked with her gaze as the flames engulfed her body, and immediately felt slightly reassured at the promise in her eyes. I’ll watch out for him.
“Mum, I’m home.” My voice echoed around the house as I pushed open the front door. Kaitlyn smiled and followed me into the hallway. “Mum?” I called out again, there was no answer.
“Aren’t your parents in?” Kaitlyn asked. “We can always go back to mine – Mum said she’d take us to the park, if you want?”
I smiled at Kaitlyn, her chocolate brown hair hung round her face in ringlets and her cheeks were stained red. “Really? I haven’t been to the park in ages! Did they build the new swings?”
Kaitlyn nodded, “and there’s a new slide. Jimmy Eeteen says that Mr Jacobson heard they were going to build a roundabout. But Katie Smith says that it’s not a roundabout, but a climbing frame – and her mum works for the council, so I reckon she’s truer. Though Bertie Gill argued that all the big boys persuaded the council to build a football pitch – and lots of the village have said that we should have one so we can all have a village match.”
I laughed, “but Bertie threatened to start playing football against the shop windows, so everyone’s agreed that he needs a football pitch instead.”
Kaitlyn giggled as I pushed open the door to the kitchen. It was an odd sight – the normally sunny kitchen was cloaked in darkness. The blinds had been pulled down and the lights were on instead. Both mum and dad sat round the table which was covered in pieces of paper. Dad was running his hands through his hair whilst mum bit her nails. “Mum? Dad?”
They jumped out of their seats in an instant. “Remus? We thought you were playing with – oh, hello Kaitlyn.”
“Hello Mrs Lupin. Hello Mr Lupin.”
Mum stepped forward, blocking the table from view whilst dad quickly gathered all the papers into a bundle. “What are you both up to then? It’s a lovely day – why aren’t you out playing?”
“We were,” I shrugged, my eyes straining to make out the headline of the Daily Prophet whilst Dad was throwing it into the drawer, “but it’s really hot and we thought we’d have an ice cream. Do we have any?”
Mum smiled and ruffled my hair. Dad walked over, “’fraid not, chap.”
“Oh. Okay, never mind. Hey, do you mind if Kaitlyn’s mum takes us to the park? I haven’t been in ages and there’s always an ice-cream van there.”
Mum and Dad exchanged glances. “Well there’s no need to bother Mrs Kerr. I can take you both – ice-cream is my treat.”
I looked at Kaitlyn and exchanged a grin. “Why don’t you go put on a hat, Remus? It’s hot out there and I don’t want you getting sunstroke.”
“Don’t ‘but mum’ me, Remus John Lupin. Kaitlyn, do you have a cap to take with you?”
“No, but I never burn anyway – so I’m fine without one.” Kaitlyn responded.
Mum smiled and raised her eyebrow. “Well Remus has a spare cap – will you wear it for my own peace of mind? And some suncream? I don’t want to return a red tomato to your mum tonight.”
Kaitlyn giggled, “okay, Mrs Lupin. Oh! Can I have strawberry ice cream? I tried chocolate last time and it wasn’t very nice.” Kaitlyn wrinkled her nose.
I turned to Kaitlyn with my mouth hanging open, “I love chocolate! It’s the best combination ever - chocolate and ice-cream! How can you not like it?”
Mum and Dad both laughed. “Not everyone is as much of an addict as you Ree. You’ll be bouncing off the ceiling all night.”
“That would be so fun!” I laughed.
“It would be!” Kaitlyn nodded. “Imagine if you could fly – then we could fly anywhere we wanted, and I could come visit you at the hospice!”
Mum laughed, though it was slightly forced. Dad immediately jumped in, “Charlotte? Shouldn’t you take the kids? After all, we don’t want all the ice cream to go, do we?” He grinned at the look of horror which spread over our faces.
I took Kaitlyn’s hand and dragged her up the stairs. “Come on! We don’t want all the chocolate ice cream to go!” Kaitlyn giggled in response as I desperately sought for my two caps. I found the green one at the back of my wardrobe but the second one seemed to have disappeared. “Here,” I handed Kaitlyn the green cap, “you can have this one. I’ll go ask mum if she’s seen my other one.”
I ran from the room and took every second step on the way down the stairs. By the time I reached the kitchen I was out of breath. Yet as I was about to push open the door, I heard my parents arguing from inside. Intrigued, I leant closer.
“-write again. They can’t pass this legislation, they can’t! How in God’s name is he ever going to find a job? He won’t even have any normal qualifications, so he couldn’t even get a job in this world.” Mum whispered anxiously.
“Dumbledore-” Dad interrupted.
“Never mind Dumbledore. I know he said that it would work out, but how can he know that?” She paused, through the gap in the door I could see my Dad pulled her into a hug. “He’s just a boy. Why did this have to happen to him? Why us? Why can’t it have ever happened?”
I’d heard enough. My lips pressed together as I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The feelings I desperately tried to keep hidden rose to the surface. Why did it have to happen? Why did they have to have me as a son? They’d be much happier with a normal son.
I backed away from the door slowly. If they didn’t have me around then they wouldn’t have to lie to everyone anymore. Mum wouldn’t have to keep pretending that I’m getting worse and Dad could just be a normal man at the Ministry.
I paid my actions no notice. Burden. I took another step. Lies. And another. Threat. And another. Secrets. And another. Outcast. And another. Wolf. I reached out and opened the front door.
Burden. My feet hit the gravel. Lies. There was a slight breeze which rushed through my hair. Threat. My arms swung in time. Secrets. My chest started to burn. Outcast. My muscles ached and moaned. Wolf. I pushed myself faster and further than ever before.
The thoughts span round my head, why couldn’t I be normal? I was in the woods now, the tall trees blocked out any of the remaining afternoon sunlight. I noticed that the running was beginning to feel easier – I could jump from root to stone with ease. I was going faster than ever before – why should I ever stop? Faster. I’m a wolf. Faster. I’m a reject. Faster. I’m nothing. Faster.
I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, nor where I was running from. I only knew that I needed to run – to breathe. Yet no matter how fast I pushed myself, nor how much I tried to convince myself otherwise – the same thought kept circling within my head. I just want to be normal.
It was raining. The hot sun from what felt both minutes and days before had long gone. I had no idea where I was, but it was cold. I tucked my arms inside the thin t-shirt in an attempt to keep warm.
I deserve this, I thought to myself, I’m different – I shouldn’t be allowed to stay with everyone else. They’ll all hate me for it in the end.
Although I was focussing on my parents, the images of my three friends, James, Sirius and Peter briefly filled my mind. Don’t fool yourself, Remus. If they knew the truth about you then they’d run away screaming. You don’t belong with them.
I’d reached an opening in the woods; the trees parted slightly for me to see the sky – the wolf must always see the moon. It was dark; the stars covered by black clouds – the summer sun feeling like a forgotten memory. Water ran down my face and plastered my hair onto my skin. My thin clothes hung heavy upon my frame and my trainers squelched with each step.
I collapsed by a tree trunk which was slightly sheltered from an overhanging branch and rested my head onto my knees; desperately trying to ignore the shivers running down my body. I was tired, yet almost wishing it was full moon for the warmth of a thick coat and the freedom of my mind. My eyes were heavy as the rain pounded around me.
I jolted awake with the realisation that it had stopped raining. I was leant against something hard and uncomfortable. It was cold, very cold. There was sound around me, though I couldn’t make out what it was. Something was holding my arm. Something else was shaking me.
Blearily, I opened my eyes slowly. The first thing I noticed was a dark beard. The man’s lips were moving but I couldn’t make sense of the words. His eyes were brown, but flecked with green. One hand was on my chest whilst the other was on my neck. I shook my head to clear my thoughts.
“Remus. Remus – look at me please. Remus!” the man demanded.
I coughed, my eyes focussing on the familiar man above me. “Dad?”
He visibly sighed with relief and let out a heavy sigh. “Remus,” he choked, pulling me into his chest and wrapping his arms around me, “oh God, you’re okay.”
I felt myself shiver and Dad immediately pushed me away whilst he pulled of his coat and wrapped it around me instead. “Why Ree? God, why did you run away? Y-You’ve been gone hours – we’ve been looking for you everywhere! The whole village is out looking – it was Kaitlyn who suggested the woods. It’s been-why?” He choked again and took a deep breath, before placing both hands on either side of my head and looking me in the eye. “Why’d you do this, Remus?”
“I-I… thought that if I went away then you wouldn’t have to lie anymore.” I whispered quietly, my cheeks burned as I realised how pathetic I sounded.
“And you thought running away and making your mother and I go out of our wits was the way to achieve that?” Dad questioned, one eyebrow raised.
I bit my lip as shame filled me. “I didn’t think… about that. But you would have got over it and… and then you would be normal – like if you had a normal son.” I muttered quickly.
Dad’s eyes flashed with an emotion I couldn’t decipher. “Now you listen to me, Remus John Lupin.” He said sternly. “You. Are. Normal. There is no difference between you and your friends – you just have an extra… gift once a month. Don’t you dare believe you’re inferior in any way – is that understood?”
He’s wrong. I bit my lip to keep the thought in and slowly nodded. Dad’s shoulders relaxed slightly.
“Don’t think this is over. But I think it’s a good guess that your mum will be having kittens if I don’t find you soon so we better head back.”
I nodded but couldn’t stop the laugh which burst from my mouth when Dad caught me unawares and swung me over his shoulder.
“Dad…” I whined. He responded with a deep, throaty chuckle.
“What?” he said innocently, “I can’t have my boy running off again, can I?”
She giggled and clapped her hands with merriment as the owl flew through the open window and landed on the chair gracefully. I smiled and wiped away some of the leftover paste which was smeared over her lips.
“Okay mum, I’ll get it. No – don’t pet the owl mum. Remember what dad said? The owls don’t like it when you pet them.” I reminded her with a small smile. She giggled again and clapped her hands once more.
I pushed myself off the groaning seat and walked towards the owl slowly – hoping to show my mum the correct way to approach an owl, rather than running at it screaming whilst flapping her arms as she had taken to doing with Bellah, her old owl.
The owl was a deep red with a white chest. I’d seen it before, arriving at Hogwarts nearly every morning. It was James’ owl. He remembered. I thought happily. It was nice to know that someone still did.
The owl, named Rufus, carried a letter and a large green package. Intrigued, I opened the letter first.
Happy 12th Birthday!!
You’re so lucky to have a birthday in summer; well that’s what mum says anyway. I don’t agree because if your birthday was in term time then we’d all be there to celebrate. But I guess you’ll be spending the day with your parents and sister – but they would have sent your presents to Hogwarts anyway. So I’m sure I’m right that having a birthday at Hogwarts is better than one in the holiday.
The paper was slightly scrunched and instead of James’ handwriting another person had carried on the letter instead. It was much neater and written in an old-fashioned cursive font. It was obviously Sirius.
Sorry about James. Mrs Potter is telling him off for being rude – though he is right, it would be really fun if we were with you! I’ve been here for about two weeks now, but I’ll tell you everything when we see you – oh! Yeah – can you come to James’ house either tonight or tomorrow? James had organised with some of his friends in Sixth Year (well Seventh Year now) to come over. We’ve written to Remus as well. You’ve got to come! It’ll be fun!
Anyway, the present’s from both of us. Hope to you later and have a good birthday with your family. I remember when Regulus was around Sarah’s age – not fun! Good luck with that.
Sirius (and James).
I smiled as I noticed some small tears in the paper where James and Sirius had obviously fought to write. They couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
I looked around the cluttered kitchen. The bin was overflowing with takeaway boxes again. There were two buckets full to the brim with clothes that needed ironing. The white floor was covered in stains, as was the table and chairs. My mum sat in the middle of the room, her grey hair decorating her pale face and sunken brown eyes.
“Peee-terr,” she wailed to get my attention. “Peee-terr.” Mum was pointing to the window where the regal owl had just flown through on its way back to the Potters.
“Yes mum, it’s an owl. You like owls, don’t you?” I walked closer to my mother and sat close beside her, she tilted her head and studied me curiously. “That was James’ owl. You remember James? He’s the one with messy hair that I told you about. Sirius is staying with him at the moment as well. Do you know why they came?”
I looked at her desperately for some hint of recognition, she clapped and giggled again. “It’s my birthday today, mum. It’s my twelfth birthday. Do you remember what you used to do on my birthday? You’d spend all night baking me a chocolate cake, because you knew it was my favourite. But then you’d also make a smaller plain one because Sarah didn’t like chocolate cake. And then we’d go out to our special place and go flying-”
“Enough.” I didn’t hear him enter and spun round to face the door on instinct. Dad stood in the doorway, his tall figure filling the entire gap. His arms were crossed and his features were twisted into a deep scowl. “Enough Peter. Stop speaking to her like that.”
I gritted my teeth. “Like what?”
“Like she can understand a god damn thing you’re saying!” Dad roared, stepping into the room. “When will you get it through that thick head of yours? She. Is. Not. Coming. Back.”
“Yes she is!” I yelled back. Mum had placed her hands over each ear and was quietly whimpering. “Just because you gave up on her, it doesn’t mean that I have to as well. She understands what I’m saying – she does!” My voice shook slightly, “I-I promised Sarah.”
Dad froze and his eyes immediately sought out Sarah’s portrait which still hung on the wall. “Don’t- just don’t, Peter. Look,” he paused and walked over to me uncertainly with a slight limp, “it doesn’t dwell to think of the past. It’s gone, Peter. Just- Agatha, don’t cry. Aggy, it’s just me, it’s Tim and Peter. Shh, you’re okay.”
Dad knelt on the floor and pulled mum into his arms. Her whimpering had increased into wails and tears were now running down her face. It didn’t take much to upset her anymore. “See, we’re just talking. Look at us, Agatha. See – it’s just me. Look at Peter, see, he’s fine as well.” Dad frowned as he noticed the unopened green package still clutched in my hand. “What’ve you got there, Peter?”
I shrugged and opened the package. It was a red jumper, looking as if it had been taken straight from Madam Malkin’s, and three bars of chocolate, each boasting of different flavours for every bite. I’ve never had anything new before. Even the takeaways were the last picking from the day so were sold at a cheaper price. “It’s from James and Sirius.”
“Why’d they give you them? I swear to god, Peter, it better not be pity. How many times have I told you about telling people about our money? I’ve-”
“It’s August 12th,” I interrupted quietly.
Dad opened his mouth and stared at me for a moment. “Damn Peter – look, I’m sorry. It just skipped my mind. I haven’t well – your gift-”
“It’s alright. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, Peter. It’s not alright. God damn it – it’s your eleventh birthday and I haven’t even-”
“It’s my twelfth.” I interrupted again, biting my lip as I looked at my dad. Dad opened his mouth once more and I suddenly came to the realisation that I was tired. Of his excuses. Of his promises. Of him always leaving me to deal with mum. I sighed. “James and Sirius have invited me over to their house. Can I go? I’ll be back for the weekend.”
Dad sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry, Peter. But I need someone to look after your mum – Sherry’s gone away for the summer so I can’t even call her over.”
“You could look after her.” I replied stubbornly, and then carried on before he could respond. “There’s enough baby food in the cupboards for her and Mr Chan said he’d drop off the leftovers from the shop each night in payment for cleaning his windows last week. You never phone in sick and we haven’t been on holiday since before the a-a-accident. They owe you time off!”
Dad opened his mouth to retort and I already knew the answer was a no, so I cut him off once more. “Please, Dad. Summer’s nearly over and I haven’t even been outside unless I’m picking up takeaways or groceries. I’ve taken care of mum all summer – and I don’t mind. I really don’t. But please just let me go.”
Dad’s shoulders seemed to shrink as he looked around the room in desperation. He looked at mum for a moment then looked at Sarah’s portrait. He sighed again. “Fine. Call it your birthday present – but be back for Friday – deal? I’ll sort out work, but I have some… meetings that I have to go to on Friday afternoon.”
“Really?” I jumped up with a grin stretched across my face. “Can I go? Can I really?”
“As long as you’re back for Friday – promise me, Peter. I can’t miss these meetings.” Dad looked at me seriously.
“I promise!” Then I did something that I hadn’t done in years, I ran up to Dad and hugged him tightly. “Thank you.”
Dad patted me on the back awkwardly. “Right – well go get your stuff then.”
I grinned and ran to my room which I used to share with Sarah, pausing only to kiss my mum on the head as I passed. “Alright, Aggy.” I heard Dad speak to mum behind me, “you like carrots, right? Come on Aggy. Eat up.”
It wasn’t that bad.
“Damn, James. What did you do?” A startled voice asked from the doorway. Jack’s mouth hung open as he looked around the room.
“Erm… nothing?” I replied hopefully, whilst stepping closer to Sirius to hide some of the evidence.
Behind Jack came two, loud laughs. The owners stepped around him, their red hair shining in the sunlight. “And we thought you were joking, Jack. Bloody hell Gid, don’t think even we’ve done anything this bad before.”
“I was thinking the same thing, Fab. Kind of makes our achievements look a little dull, doesn’t it?” Gideon said whilst picking up a shard of a vase. “Though if we did something like this mum would’ve had our necks.”
Fabian snorted whilst investigating a collapsed table. “Never mind mum, imagine if Molly caught us.”
Gideon made a face and shook his shoulders. “Fair point – if Molly caught us… we’d be dead within the hour.”
“Especially now she’s pregnant again.” Fabian continued. “She’s always easier to wind up when she’s pregnant.”
“Though to be fair,” Gideon argued, “that’s probably more to do with Billy screaming all the time. Why would you have another baby if your other one’s only a year old?”
“Think Billy’s nearly two now, Gid.”
“Really? But he-”
“Guys!” Jack interrupted, rolling his eyes as he looked at his two friends. Gideon and Fabian both grinned and turned to face Sirius and me. Jack shook his head, “now, are either of you going to tell me why Mrs Potter’s back room looks like it just exploded?”
Sirius and I swapped guilty looks. It wasn’t one of our best ideas. I looked around the room with a wince.
The cream rug which had previously been pristine and running along the length of the room, was now creased with a small rip running through the middle from when Sirius had tripped over the fireplace stones and got his foot caught under the material. There was also a large purple stain at one side of the carpet and splatters of orange stains along the rest from when I fell into the wooden table, which promptly collapsed, and sent my blackcurrant juice falling onto the rug with me only just managing to catch Sirius’ pumpkin juice before it all fell onto the white material.
“Oh for god’s sake.” An exasperated voice came from the other doorway. Remus looked at the room with his jaw open and he slowly shook his head. Peter stood beside him with his eyes wide, looking more and more anxious as he took in the mess. Behind them was a tall, dark-haired man who looked slightly bemused.
“Bleedin’ heck, Jack.” Frank Longbottom laughed, “I thought you were exaggerating.”
“James, I told you this was a bad idea.” Remus scolded. “Your dad said he’d take us to the field when he got back! Why, in God’s name, did you think it was a good idea to play Quidditch inside?”
“Wait,” Gideon chortled, “you played Quidditch-”
“-inside?” Fabian continued, laughing.
“It was a good idea at the time.” I said defensively. “But Sirius wanted to practice playing Beater… and the bludger got a little out of hand.”
“You let a bludger free in here?” Frank stated with his mouth open.
“Yeah – but I hit it too hard and it went into the ceiling.” Sirius reluctantly pointed to the smashed glass pane in the conservatory roof.
“Then it bounced off in my direction – but I was diving after the Quaffle and-” I gestured towards the broken table and spilt juice.” Jack looked slightly dumbfounded.
“So instead it hit the cabinet.” Sirius looked at the eight broken vases and the fallen cabinet.
“But then it went for me again, so Sirius managed to get there first and hit it away.” I said, before adding sheepishly, “and… er…into the desk.”
Frank and Peter stepped closer to the broken desk as Remus bent down in an attempt to collect some of the pieces of ripped paper which littered the room.
“We caught it though.” Sirius bit his lip. “Though the only thing big enough to properly catch it were the,” he pointed to the curtains which were hanging off the poles, “curtains.”
One of the curtains had been tied into a knot where the bludger was now encaged. “We were only gone a couple minutes.” Peter whispered.
There was silence for a moment whilst the Seventh Years all looked at each other, before Frank, Gideon and Fabian burst out laughing. Jack looked to be struggling between laughing hysterically or crying. “Your parents are going to kill me.” Jack moaned, “I was supposed to be looking after you all.”
“We don’t need looking after!” I retorted indignantly.
“Obviously.” Jack said dryly, whilst gesturing around the room.
“Why didn’t you just play Chasers? Why bring Beaters into the game if there were only two of you?” Fabian asked curiously.
I exchanged glances with Sirius who reluctantly nodded. “Well,” I stalled, “Moore and Entwhistle have left Hogwarts now…”
Gideon and Jack swapped looks whilst Frank snorted. Remus rolled his eyes and Peter laughed quietly. “And?” Fabian pressed.
I sighed. “And… that means that there are two openings in the Quidditch team. Chaser and Beater.” I looked up at the amused Seventh Years. “I play Chaser and Sirius plays Beater.”
“So you think you two can fill our slots?” Fabian continued with a smile in his face.
“Why not?” Sirius asked stubbornly.
“Well are you any good?” Gideon asked.
“Course!” I responded. “We’re great!”
Gideon and Fabian shared a grin before turning to face us again. “Well, you’re in luck – guess who just got made captain.” Fabian clapped Jack on the back, who promptly groaned.
“You’re captain?” I yelled. “Well then you can just put us on the team!”
“No.” Jack replied.
“Because that wouldn’t be fair – and I’d need to see you fly with the team first anyway. At try-outs.”
“We can go flying now! Most of the team is here anyway.”
“Ed and Sally aren’t.” Jack stated.
“So? Frank or Remus or Peter can fill in! Please?” Jack shook his head and was about to respond when Sirius interrupted.
“We promise to not make any more mess.” Sirius smiled innocently, whilst Jack warred with himself over the temptation to get us out of the house.
“Fine. But you’ll have to try out like everyone else with Sally and Ed. Before you ask – I’m not calling them over. Sally’s on holiday with her family and Ed is looking after his little sisters – one of them is in your year, I think. Amelia Bones?”
“Yeah, she’s in our house.” I nodded. “Amelia could come over.”
“Yeah, but they should spend some time together, don’t you think?”
Remus, who had been following the conversation with a look of boredom was suddenly intrigued. “Why?”
Frank frowned. “Well they haven’t spent much time with their little sister since their mum.”
“Their mum?” Peter questioned.
“Well, she died last Christmas – didn’t Amelia tell you?”
I frowned and swapped astonished looks with my friends. I vagualy remembered Amelia looking slightly pale - Remus had menitoned it a couple times, but we'd just shrugged it off. Peter spoke first, “what did she die of?”
“Die of?” Gideon looked confused and his twin looked at us with a similar expression. Both seemed to be missing Jack’s eyes widening with panic. “Well, she was murdered. It was in the prophet – Susan Bones. You must have heard about it. She was head of Law Enforcement – it was believed to be the work of one of Voldemort’s supporters.”
“Voldemort?” I tilted my head to the side. “Isn’t he that guy who doesn’t like muggle-borns?”
The Seventh Years all looked astonished as they looked at us. “Surely you know abo-”
“Guys.” Jack interrupted suddenly. “That’s up to their parents – though I’ll mention it to the Potters.”
“But what-?” I asked.
“No, James.” Jack said firmly, with the distinct expression of someone trying to brush off a topic. “That’s up to your parents to explain. Now step back – we’ll see what we can fix.”
I was about to argue when I caught Remus in the corner of my eye. He was looking extremely serious as he shook his head. Sirius gestured to the door and I followed. Peter was biting his lip and glaring at the floor.
The Seventh Years were crowded around Jack, each sending looks to where we stood. Jack was shaking his head furiously. Eventually they moved away and took place in the room.
Gideon smiled, “right. Stand back or be prepared to be hit.” Fabian laughed behind him and the tension decreased slightly.
I watched as Jack effortlessly pointed his wand at the table, the broken legs rose into the air and re-attached themselves onto the wooden top before floating back to the floor. Fabian pointed his wand to the ceiling and the shards of glass rose slowly and pieced itself into the roof. Fabian flicked his wand again and the lines around the smash started to disappear.
Gideon was levitating the cabinet back into place. Then with another swish of his wand, the vases reformed one by one and flew into place. Frank was frowning at the desk; he’d flicked his wand several times so that the papers were neatly stacked on the table, yet no matter how many spells he tried – the gaping hole couldn’t be fixed.
Soon, the room was restored to order whilst we stood gaping in the doorway. I was used to wizards being able to do magic so quickly and skilfully – but Jack, Frank, Gid and Fab are still at Hogwarts!
“Right – well that looks fine. James, you’ll have to come up with some excuse for the hole in the desk and get Dondie to look at these stains in the rug – I’ve lifted most of it, but I’m sure the house-elf will be able to get rid of any remaining evidence.” Jack said, running a hand through his hair. “Let’s just get you out, ey?” Jack smiled.
“Right. James, come do some Chaser drills with me – we’ll see how good you are. If you get on the time you’ll be playing with Sally and me.” Fabian grinned.
“And Ed’s the other beater, Sirius. But Jack’ll play for today, so you can get some practice?” Gideon nodded at Jack.
“I guess the rest of us will just show off our amazing flying skills then.” Frank said dryly at his friends.
They laughed, “you got it in one, Franky-boy.”
We left the room to collect our broomsticks. I looked at Fabian as he walked and couldn’t stop the thought crossing my mind, I bet I’m faster.
Well.. that was a slow update wasn't it? It's been a... month? Sorry! Not only have I had to fill out a 'missing' form for my muse... but I got sent on one of those 'intensive revision' courses with no internet by my parents. -_-
Have you seen the wonderful new banner? What do you think?
I'll go back and edit this chapter soon - I haven't really got signal here (I'm now on holiday) but have just enough time to post the chapter! :)
Oh! So First Year is fully finished now - if summer counts as First Year? Anyway, the aim was to give you a fair introduction to each character throughout their first year a Hogwarts. Now, I'd love some advice - should I carry on giving each character roughly 1,700 words each OR should I start giving one character more focus per chapter? For example, three of the characters might have 400 words each and then a fourth character would have around 5000? So there would be more focus on each character?
I don't know - so please give me some advice on what you'd prefer! :P Thank you all so much for supporting this story so far with your reads, reviews and favourites. It means so much that you like this story!
Okay - I'm rambling... see you in the next chapter! (Or if you leave a review in that box down there.. then I can reply.. *hint hint* ;) )
I could hear them long before I saw them. We’d only walked a couple steps down the corridor before the sound of something breaking echoed down the carriage, shortly followed by Remus’ unmistakable voice moaning, “James,” and then Peter’s resulting giggle.
I chuckled and sped up, whilst one of my hands remained clutched on Regulus’ shoulder protectively, guiding him further along the train. Regulus’ grey eyes, almost identical to mine, greedily watched the activity in each compartment as we passed; smiling slightly as in one compartment two friends rushed to embrace each other before blushing as we passed another with a couple in Sixth Year getting ‘re-acquainted’.
I squeezed his shoulder to encourage him to walk, typically, the closer we got to my compartment – the louder it seemed to get. Regulus, who had grown up in the quiet Black household with just me for company, seemed to hesitate with his eyes repeatedly darting to me for confirmation that he had to carry on walking.
“Sirius,” Regulus whined, coming to a standstill in the corridor. His shoulders hunched under his dark blue robes. I paused and turned to look at my younger brother, his face was pale and he was subconsciously biting his lip as his eyes darted between the compartment door and me.
I sighed. “What now, Reg?”
“C-can’t we go sit with Cissy? She said that she’d save us a seat and t-then I could sit with some other first-years?” Regulus replied uncertainly.
I refrained from rolling my eyes with some difficulty. “We both know who you’d go sit with – Event Rosier and Thornus Greengrass.”
“They might not be there,” he said stubbornly.
“Of course they’d be there, Reg. Look at me.” His eyes were still glued on the compartment door ahead, so I lifted his chin to look me in the eye. “Don’t you understand? You don’t have to pretend to like them anymore. You can make a fresh start here. It doesn’t matter what mum and dad say, none of it matters anymore – you can be who you want to be. Hogwarts is your chance, Reg. Don’t waste it.”
His grey eyes had widened and narrowed as I spoke to him, I could practically see the conflicting thoughts running through his head. “That’s what you did – and now mum and dad don’t like you anymore.” Regulus said quietly.
My eyes tightened slightly but otherwise I showed no outward reaction. “But I’ve made some great friends, Reg. They like me for who I am, and not just because of who my ancestors were.”
Regulus bit his lip and nodded slowly. “But what if no one likes me?”
I snorted, “of course they’ll like you. Just – don’t go on about the blood purity stuff- yeah?”
Regulus winced and his eyes moved to floor. Not for the first time I wondered what had happened this summer whilst I was at the Potter’s, yet whenever I asked Regulus about it he immediately clammed up and changed the subject. We’d never had secrets before.
I put my hand back on his shoulder and gestured towards the loud compartment, Reg nodded but as we reached the door, he grabbed my arm and whispered, “are you sure you don’t want to sit with Cissy?”
I rolled my eyes. “Positive.” Then, before he could complain anymore, I pulled open the compartment and pushed Regulus into the room.
I saw a quick glance of my three friends standing in a huddle, with Peter biting his lip, Remus pointing his wand at something behind them and James running his hand through his unruly hair, before an excited shout filled the compartment and I was pulled into a welcoming embrace.
Remus was the first to notice that we had company. “Hi, you’re-you’re Regulus, right? Sirius’ little brother?” Remus smiled kindly in his direction.
Regulus looked at Remus with his lips pressed shut and his head tilted to the side. His grey eyes flicked to me momentarily before he glared at the floor. “Yeah.”
Remus frowned slightly as Regulus stood in silence. I glared at my brother’s head, his dark hair neatly groomed with a straight parting. Peter bit his lip and cleverly picked up a chocolate frog from a pile of bags on the floor. “James bought them off the trolley lady when we got on board so that he’d get first pick of the trolley.” He said by way of explanation before turning back to my brother cautiously. “Do you want some chocolate? Remus reckons that chocolate cures everything – even nerves.” He said simply, opening the box with one hand.
“I’m not nervous.” Regulus replied immediately. “And I’m fine, thanks.”
I gritted my teeth and refrained from rolling my eyes. Why was he acting to awkward? Reg’s not like this.
“You know, for Sirius’ brother – you’re kind of dull.” James stated bluntly.
“James!” Remus interrupted sharply.
James shrugged his shoulders, completely ignoring that he may have been rude. “Well it’s true.”
An awkward silence filled the compartment as Remus stared at James in disbelief, whilst Peter bit his lip as if fighting to withhold a snort. I glanced at James and Regulus who both seemed to be watching the other with a mix of apprehension and suspicion.
“So what was all the yelling about?” I asked Remus who rolled his eyes in response. “We heard something break.”
Remus let out a long sigh and moved to the side, revealing a smashed wooden panel where one of the compartment benches used to be. “James decided that we should test how strong the benches were.”
I felt my lips twitch into a smile as I turned to James with my eyebrow raised. “If you think about it,” James argued, “they’ve been here for, like, centuries and everyone’s sat on them – even fat kids – and they’re still here.” I hoped no one else noticed how James’ eyes wandered to Peter momentarily as he mentioned ‘fat kids’. “But you guys agreed as well!”
I turned back to my other friends with both eyebrows raised, Remus looked distinctly uncomfortable. “I thought you’d go ask someone if they’ve got spells on!” Remus spluttered.
“And I thought you’d just stack some heavy stuff on it!” Peter laughed.
“It was you who decided to push our trunks off the racks and onto the benches.” Remus continued. “And it was you who then decided to jump of the luggage racks yourself and onto the trunks!”
James opened his mouth to retort, before pausing, shrugging his shoulders and slowly nodding. “Yeah, that’s true.”
“Y-you did that?” Regulus whispered; his eyes wide and his lip quivering slightly. James nodded proudly, now looking at Reg again as if re-evaluating his fist impression. “B-but that’s vandalism!” Regulus said sharply.
The expression left James instantly and a scowl replaced it instead. “So?”
“You’ll get in trouble.”
“Not if we fix it first.”
“How in Merlin’s pants are you going to fix it?” Regulus replied, a small smirk on his lips; he was obviously still smarting from James’ earlier comment.
“It’s none of your business.” James replied through gritted teeth.
I stepped forward cautiously; this wasn’t like Reg at all. Yet before I could say or do anything, the compartment door slid open.
Amelia stepped in first; her blonde hair pulled into a plait, followed shortly behind by Mary; her freckles more pronounced as if she’d recently been on holiday, and lastly came Lily; her bright green eyes darting round the compartment.
“Alright?” I said to the girls, using their distraction to push Regulus further from James.
“We didn’t see you at the platform – I thought you might want to share a compartment.” Remus smiled.
“Yeah, that would be Lily’s fault.” Mary laughed and shared a grin with Amelia whilst Lily blushed.
“My sister refused to come onto the platform but my parents said she wasn’t old enough to stay by herself – and they really wanted to see me off since they rarely see anything to do with this world – so it took a while to get through.” Lily muttered by way of explanation.
Peter and I snorted – we’d witnessed Petunia Evans at the end of last year, she’d refused to touch anything ‘magical’ and nearly had a fit when Peter ‘accidently’ dropped his wand by her feet.
Regulus watched Lily carefully, his gaze sizing her up as she talked with us all as we recounted our summers. His penetrating gaze caught Lily’s attention as she turned to him, frowning slightly.
“Sorry, that was really rude of me. I’m Lily; I’m guessing your Sirius’ brother?” Lily held out her hand, Regulus just looked at it until Lily awkwardly retracted her arm.
Regulus nodded stiffly, his eyes darting to me once more as he looked like he was struggling to phrase his response correctly.
“A-are your parents… Muggles? Regulus asked simply, though he struggled to keep the intonation out of the word ‘Muggles’ – to me, I recognised him trying to be polite rather than asking something much worse which was likely to have sprung to his mind. To everyone else, he had sneered as he spoke.
Lily’s kind eyes turned frosty, the grin on Mary’s face faded and Amelia’s eyes darted toward me. “Yes.” Lily replied sharply.
Regulus frowned again, looking at Lily more intensely before suddenly appearing to become aware of the tense atmosphere in the compartment. I didn’t know what to do; to tell Regulus off would set his pride off – and he tended to rant in response, which wouldn’t do him any favours. Whilst to ignore his comment would make the others think that I agreed with what he said. I looked at Remus desperately.
Remus coughed to get the girls’ attention. “Amelia,” he started carefully, “w-we heard about your mum.” The blonde-haired girl immediately started to fiddle with one of the buckles on her coat. “Why didn’t you tell us t-that she was k-killed?”
Regulus was forgotten as the girls stepped closer to Amelia, Lily glaring at us for our ‘lack of tact’. Amelia shrugged, “I didn’t need any of you to pity me… and I still don’t.” She raised her eyes in determination. “Mum died because she made some enemies when she refused to pass the Muggle-born legislation. Everyone deserves a fair trial, no matter of your blood.” Amelia crossed her arms, as if daring someone to contradict her.
No one spoke; James and I swapped uncertain gazes whilst Remus and Peter nodded slowly. My stomach tensed as a small voice broke the silence.
“Why though?” Regulus asked, his grey eyes looked curious. “If you’re family has lived in the Wizarding world for generations, worked in the Ministry, found cures for magical diseases and helped build the Statue of Secrecy – then why should you be treated the same as someone who has no past with magic, who are the children of the people who used to want us dead?”
I heard the question within his words; he was looking for someone to contradict what we’d always been taught. But no one else seemed to.
Lily and Mary turned away from the broken bench that they were investigating to face my little brother instead. James and Remus stood up whilst Peter and Amelia shook their heads in disgust.
Lily opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it and shut her mouth. “Amelia, Mary – Eliza said that they’d save us a seat in their compartment.” The other two girls nodded and took Lily’s lead.They pushed past me; Amelia glaring as she did so.
“I guess we’ll see you at the feast.” Mary called over her shoulder; it was clear that she didn’t mean Regulus.
The others sat down slowly, Remus pulling on James sleeve and giving him a look. Regulus looked at me uncertainly; his fear of nobody liking him already coming true. I sighed and sat down next to him. “Why?” Regulus asked simply, his excitement from the train platform already evaporated.
“It’s all crime, Reg. If you steal someone’s broomstick or you kidnap someone’s cat – why does it matter how pure your blood is? It’s all crime.”
“But I didn’t mean that! I just meant that you shouldn’t be treated exactly the same.” Reg responded desperately.
Why didn’t he understand? Why can’t he just act normal?
“Hey Sirius, fancy a game of exploding snap?” James asked, his grin slipping back onto his face, though his eyes remained hard.
I looked at my brother with his desperate eyes, and back to my friends with the cards ready to play. “Sure.”
I didn’t say anything when James only counted out four stacks and I pretended not to notice when Regulus left the compartment silently to go find Cissy.
The platform was packed; every student dragging their trunks behind them in the race to get out of the pouring rain and into the warm castle. Over the thunder and squeals of girls’ whinging about their hair, I heard the distinctive call of the groundskeeper, Hagrid. “Firs’ Ye’rs over ‘ere.” He held up a large lantern; the light shining like a beacon through the darkness.
James was behind me, arguing with Jack and Gideon that he had everything under control and they didn’t need to fix the bench for him. Peter and I were helping Fabian and Frank pull all the trunks off the train. Sirius stood facing the crowd, his eyes darting to the face of each person, before darting forward and grabbing the arm of his passing brother. “Reg!”
His small brother fell forwards, bringing with him two other first years who sneered as they noticed Sirius. Sirius glared back and pulled his brother closer, whispering quickly his ear. I heard parts of his conversation over the thunder due to standing the closest. “Remember… family… last chance… Reg, remember.”
Yet before Sirius could say much more, a blonde-haired witch appeared from the moving crowd. She put a hand on Reg’s shoulder and pulled him away, her icy blue eyes glaring at Sirius as she did so; I vaguely recognised her as Sirius’ older cousin.
By the time all the trunks were off the train and we’d walked through the platform, there were only a couple carriages left.
“Jack!” A voice yelled over the rain, his features were lost in the downpour but his signal was clear. The Seventh Years nodded and grabbed their trunks. “See you at the feast.” Frank muttered before following his friends.
“Oi!” I shouted over the thunder. James turned round from where he was climbing into the carriage.
“What?” he shouted back, the rain plastering his usually uncontrollable hair round his face.
“Trunks!” I gestured to the abandoned wooden cases which were left on the platform. James jolted and instinctively scanned the nearby area; possibly for a house-elf. Turning back to face me, I saw with some amusement a slight trace of red on his cheeks as he hopped down off the step and helped pick up his trunk.
“For God’s sake Peter,” Sirius snapped behind me, “this is heavy – can’t you just walk normally?”
“I’m trying – but I don’t want to go near it!” Peter whined. “It looks like it’ll bite me!”
James and I deposited the trunk on the carriage before turning to see what Peter was talking about. Sirius was holding most the weight with Peter holding the other side whilst staring at the front of the carriage.
“Er… Peter?” I asked cautiously. James stepped forward to take the trunk from Peter as Sirius started to go red. Peter blinked and steeped back; allowing James to take the weight.
“What?” Peter responded, his eyes darting to each of us in turn. “The horse things!”
James and Sirius now stood next to me after disposing of the trunk. “What horse things?” Sirius frowned.
Peter gestured to the front of the carriage again. “Er… Peter there’s nothing there.” I replied calmly.
“Of course there is, don’t be stupid.” Peter said indignantly, “look – it’s sniffing James’ sleeve now!”
I swapped alarmed glances with Sirius and James snorted in response, but before any of us could say anything – a mocking voice interrupted us. “Let me guess – the fat piggy is too scared to climb on the carriage?”
It was answered by jeers and laughs; Malfoy and his friends were passing us in one of the final carriages, which the Sixth Year Slytherins had charmed with blue flames to float and produce a wave of heat. “Don’t blame you Piggy – it’d probably break the second you climbed aboard.” Malfoy called out.
“Didn’t you hear Luc? They smashed one of the benches in their compartment – had to get some Seventh Years to sort it for them.”
Another Slytherin called out, his friends laughed in response.
Malfoy grinned and looked at Peter menacingly. “That true, Piggy? Did you sit on it and it broke?”
James and Sirius had pulled out their wands whilst Peter stared at the floor, rapidly blinking. “C’mon,” I whispered, “let’s get to the feast.”
Sirius and Peter nodded, slowly climbing into the carriage. Though James remained standing, glaring at the retreating Slytherin carriage as it made its way through the rain. “James,” I said slowly. He nodded and climbed onto the horseless transport after me.
The rest of the journey was silent; Sirius twisting his hands and looking out the window, Peter staring at the space in front of the carriage, James glaring at his wand whilst grinding his teeth and me staring at the sky, the moon would be fully risen within the next three hours; just enough time for the feast and to sneak away to my holding pen.
The Great Hall was a welcome sight; the fire blazing out warm heat and the familiar chatter of the school echoing against the stone walls. Our late arrival went unnoticed by the majority and we’d just slipped into our seats when the doors were pushed open to reveal Professor McGonagall, her lips pulled into a tight line, leading the new First Years down the aisle.
Whilst some had grins plastered from ear to ear, others looked pale with their eyes darting from side to side. One girl with plaits waved briefly in our direction; Amelia responded with a grin.
“Who’s that?” James leaned forward to whisper to Amelia.
Amelia tucked a loose curl of hair behind her ear before responding. “That’s my little sister, Jane.” She whispered before turning to face the front where the stern Professor had just placed the old sorting hat. There was silence for a short pause as the hall waited with anticipation for the hat to talk. With a large blow of dust, the hat’s rim ripped open and the hat started to speak.
“Four founders were united by pride,
Until trouble rose and caused a divide.”
“Hey,” I whispered to Sirius across the table who was currently watching his brother intently. I followed his gaze to see Regulus standing between the two boys at the platform. “You’re just going to make him more nervous.”
Sirius nodded and turned to face the hat again, though his eyes kept darting back to his younger brother.
“You may be of Gryffindor,
with courage and chivalry at your core.
Or perhaps Hufflepuff is your home,
those fair badgers mean you're never alone.
Maybe Ravenclaw are more your kind,
reserved for those of wit and clever mind.
Or should you be cunning Slytherin,
those with ambition make up their kin.
Put me on and let me see
what type of person you may be.
Hear me talk, let me speak,
for I’m the cleverest hat you'll ever meet.”
Applause broke out as the hat’s rim closed, signalling the end of his rhyme. Peter and Mary were pointing to the First Years; some looked relieved whilst others looked petrified. Professor McGonnagal stepped forwards, gripping the end of a scroll as she read out the first name.
A tiny girl with dark hair shuffled over to the three-legged stool; I’d briefly seen her at the platform with what looked to be Muggles. The hat was lowered onto her head briefly before the hat’s rim opened to shriek, “Ravenclaw!”
The table full of blue and black uniforms let out a roar of celebration as they applauded the small girl to her seat. Professor Flitwick grinned at a scowling Professor Slughorn on the head table. The hall quietened down again at the fierce glare of the stern professor.
I could sense the curious glances from the rest of the school thrown in our direction; ready to see Sirius’ reaction. Sirius was still, his jaw clenched and his hands screwed into a fist as he watched his brother stride to the stool. Regulus sat on the stool gracefully, scrunching his nose briefly as the uneven legs wobbled slightly. The greying hat was placed on his neatly combed hair and silence ensued.
It was longer than with the Adams girl, long enough for the other First Years to get restless. James started playing with his spoon and bet Peter on how long he could keep it stuck to his nose. Sirius stayed in the same position; his eyes never leaving his brother’s small figure.
After a couple minutes the hat’s brim ripped open. “Slytherin!”
Its voice echoed around the hall before being silenced by the cheers of the green table, whilst the other tables clapped politely; most faces turning towards Sirius who was imitating a statue with his mouth slightly ajar. The only sign of movement was his grey eyes as they followed Regulus to his seat. Regulus seemed to be deliberately looking anywhere but in our direction.
I looked to the head table to see Dumbledore watching us curiously. Beside him, Professor Slughorn was now grinning at a sullen Professor Flitwick; it appeared they had a bet of some sort.
“Sirius?” Mary asked cautiously. He grit his teeth in response and twisted his body to he was fully facing the front. Taking it as a cue, I shook my head at Mary who nodded in response.
Amelia’s little sister scrambled forward, her blonde hair slightly darker than Amelia’s but pulled into a similar plait. I was starting to get nervous; Madam Pomfrey had sent me a letter reminding me to wait for her to ‘collect’ me so she could make sure the lock was secure but full moon was fast approaching and I hadn’t seen her yet.
The hat had barely brushed Jane’s hair before it shouted, “Hufflepuff!”
The yellow table exploded into whistles and yells as Jane made her way to the table closest to ours. James snorted in response which caused Lily to tap him on the back of the head reproachfully.
Luckily, Amelia didn’t seem to hear as she smiled and clapped enthusiastically. “I knew she’d be a Hufflepuff; she’s too loyal for her own good.” Amelia said warmly.
The Hufflepuffs were still cheering when someone patted me on the shoulder. I turned to see the familiar sight of the kind Matron. “Sorry to interrupt Remus, but we’ve got to go.”
I felt a rush of relief that she’d appeared, though took in her slightly rushed appearance. “Where you going?” James frowned, leaning forward to hear what was going on.
Madam Pomfrey was tugging on my sleeve to hurry up; but I was already starting to feel sluggish so it took me slightly longer than usual. “Remus’ uncle has had a fall and his family thinks it’d be best if Remus went home tonight.” The matron said simply; the girls responded appropriately but my eyes were drawn to my three closest friends. Sirius had turned back round to face us and they were all swapping confused looks. We’d talked about our families many times; they knew I had no aunts or uncles. “Come along, Remus.”
I nodded, swearing to myself that I’d come up with a better excuse tomorrow but for now focussed on leaving the hall without arising any more suspicion. Luckily the Hufflepuffs were now cheering over another addition so I was able to slip away from the table and out the door with only a few questioning looks. With Madam Pomfrey clutching my arm and her wand raised in her other hand; we stepped away from the warm building and into the dark, wet night.
But no one else saw them. I carried on thinking, my mind focussing on one topic throughout the entire meal. Am I crazy? The others said that there was nothing there – but I saw them! They were pulling the carriages; looking like scaled horses with those black wings. They were there! Why didn’t anyone see them?
The others were looking at me curiously so I turned to the desserts instead; hoping to use them as a distraction from my previous thoughts. I reached across the table to the plate of chocolate truffles. It’d been so long since I’d eaten anything that didn’t come out of a box; I couldn’t help but fill my large plate with anything in reachable distance.
“Steady there, Pete.” Jack laughed behind me. “There’s plenty of it.”
The others laughed whilst Mary handed me her napkin to clear some of the crumbs around my mouth. I swallowed deeply and looked to the plate of half-eaten food in front of me. Without much thought, my shoulders hunched and I felt my eyes itch momentarily.
“What’s up, Jack?” James asked, grinning at the older boy. The others turned to face Jack and I used the distraction to push the rest of my plate away; shame filling my body.
“I’ve spoken to McGonagall – she said we can have the Quidditch pitch for try-outs next Saturday.” Jack grinned at the look of confusion on James’ face. “So if you’re still up for trying-out, then make sure you’re there.”
“Try-outs?” James repeated. “Why would we try out? You already said that Sirius and I were on the team!”
Maybe they’re all playing a trick on me. Trying to make me think I’m going crazy. But… no one else seemed to see the horses either.
“No,” Jack replied, his lip twitching slightly, “I said that we’d have a game of Quidditch and see what you were capable of – we never fully agreed that it was a try-out.”
James scowled and looked to Sirius for support, but the latter was glaring at the Slytherin table again. Regulus was sat opposite his two friends, who were unsurprisingly made Slytherin, and next to Snape. Malfoy and his blond-haired girlfriend frequently looked up to smirk at Sirius.
Jack’s friends had joined us, all clutching napkins full of deserts on their way to their dorm. “Sirius,” Frank asked cautiously, “are you alright?”
Sirius’ eyes flicked to the older students. “Fine.”
Maybe the horses are invisible – but why can I see them?
“James, Sirius?” A tall Gryffindor with shoulder-length blonde hair held out his hand. “Ed Bones. Amelia’s brother. The guys told me about summer; did you really play Quidditch inside?”
The other Seventh Years snorted, whilst those in other years who were nearby turned to look at us in disbelief. James coughed, trying to ignore the astonished looks being sent his direction. “Yeah. But in our defence, it would have been fine – but the bludger lost control after Sirius smacked it. Jack sorted it out though.”
“The bludger?” Lily repeated dryly. “Isn’t that one of those big, fast balls that try to destroy everything in its path?”
Sirius appeared to be snapping out of his trance-like stance and muttered, “yeah,” whilst rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.
Ed snorted, “wish I’d of been there. Well, if you try out next week then you’ll be partnered with me. I’m the other Beater.” Ed added at my confused glance.
“Just leaves me, Peter and Remus then.” Frank rolled his eyes before looking at the table with a frown, “wait – where’s Remus?”
I looked at James, biting my lip. Then turned to face Sirius and swapped a confused look. Remus had told us that he didn’t have any aunts or uncles.
“His Uncle had an accident or something, so his parents wanted him to go home tonight.” Mary responded. “Hope he’s okay – Remus must be one of the most unlucky people ever.”
The Seventh Years frowned, but before any other comments could be said aloud, Fabian groaned. “Damn.” Gideon looked at his twin curiously. “Molly’s going to kill me.” His friends all turned to face him as Fabian gestured to his wrist. “My watch! Where the hell did I put it?”
Frank and Ed rolled their eyes whilst Gideon looked slightly panicked. “Please don’t say that you’ve lost it already? Where’d you last have it?”
“Uhh,” Fabian scratched his head whilst Jack peered down the table to their original seats, “I had it in the carriage because we were timing how long it took Flitwick to climb the stairs.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that; James had previously wondered the same thing. “Right,” Gideon nodded, “we’ll go check the carriages.”
Maybe they’ll see the horses this time? Should I ask them tomorrow?
The Seventh Years murmured goodbyes as they left the hall. A wave of relief hit me as the food in front of us disappeared; taking with it any evidence of how much I’d grabbed.
“What did you mean before?” James suddenly asked Mary, who was currently climbing off the bench with Lily and Amelia. “About Remus being unlucky?”
“Well, you know,” Mary looked at her friends uncertainly who had both turned away, “his Uncle’s injured, before that his great aunt died, before that his dog got hit by a Muggle car, then his friend went missing, his dad lost his job and… wasn’t there something about his gran?”
“Yeah,” I said slowly, my mind racking back to last year, “she got sick.”
James’ permanent grin faltered and his brows furrowed into a frown. Sirius, distracted from his brother, looked to be deep in thought. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“Are you coming?” Amelia interrupted expectantly, turning away from her little sister and pushing her in the direction of the other Hufflepuff First Years. Mary nodded and smiled in our direction before turning to Lily, who was mouthing something to Snape on the other side of the hall. “Lily, we’re leaving.”
“Hm?” Lily replied absentmindly, turning to face her friends. “Right.”
“Did you realise that Remus goes home that often?” I asked Sirius and James cautiously as we followed the girls from the Great Hall.
“I just-I mean, I knew he went home, but-not that much.” James shrugged, a dark crease between his eyes.
Or perhaps there are no horses. Perhaps I’m just seeing things. Perhaps I’m just mad, fat Peter.
Sirius remained silent, deep in thought and on the few occasions he opened his mouth to speak, he would catch his brother in the corner of his eye and would return to brooding. I tried to ignore the older Slytherins pointing in my direction to the amusement of the younger years. I kept my eyes on the floor to the others wouldn’t see me blush when the Slytherins puffed up their cheeks and imitated a waddle down their aisle. I hoped no one noticed when I sucked my stomach in.
Their eyes were wide and fearful. Each boy stood at the end of their bed looking at us with a mixture of confusion and anxiety. I stood in the centre, Peter and Sirius standing slightly behind me.
I pointed to the boy closest to me; his glasses perched at an angle on the end of his small nose. “You! Name?”
“S-Simon Creyte.” The First Year answered immediately, his glasses glimmering in the candlelight.
I walked up to the boy so our noses were centimetres apart; behind me I could hear a muffled giggle from Peter. “Well, Simon, I don’t like glasses. Take them off.”
The boy squeaked and hastily removed the frames from his face. His eyes become unfocussed and I stepped back into the centre of the room. I pointed at another boy, his blonde hair hanging in ringlets round his pointed ears. “You! Name?”
The boy lifted his chin defiantly, though his eyes darted to the side to his companions. “C-Caradoc Dearborn.”
I looked the boy up and down intimidatedly, fully relishing in Sirius’ dare to freak the First Years out. I pointed at another one, his pointed features accentuated by his dark pixie haircut. “Name?”
This boy’s lips twitched as if he was fighting a smile. “Benjy. Benjy Fenwick.”
I nodded and looked at the others disapprovingly. “We’re the Second Year Gryffindors and tradition states that you lot have to go through an initiation ceremony that we create. Now, some tasks are evil – worthy of a Slytherin, right Peter?”
“Horrifying.” Peter whispered behind me, standing beside the doorway to the Gryffindor First Year room.
“There’s normally four of us. But Remus has such bad memories from our initiation that he’s currently hiding in our room waiting for the evening to be over.” The one who previously wore glasses, Simon, squeaked. “This is Peter, and this is Sirius. You might have heard of him, Sirius Black. Heir to one of the darkest Wizarding families there is.” The First Years turned to Sirius apprehensively, whose eyes flickered to me in annoyance. “But we’ve decided to be nice this year. Peter suggested sending you to the dungeons were the Bloody Baron is waiting to ambush you and place his bloody chains around your bodies for ever more for being from his ancient rival house.”
Two of the First Years who I hadn’t asked for their names, gulped and stepped backwards so they were virtually leaning against their bed posts.
“Sirius thought you’d prefer to be sent to the kitchens with the house-elves. Those elves have been driven mad in those kitchens; constantly being demanded to make food for us when they have little for their own. Dumbledore, the mad headmaster, strangles any of them who complain with his long white beard. They’re waiting for revenge and you may be the perfect victims.”
Caradoc and Benjy stared at each other and gave a nervous laugh, whilst backing away.
“I thought that we should send you out to meet Hagrid; the bearded monster who keeps hideous beasts which will tear your kidneys from your blood-dripping bodies for breakfast. On Hagrid’s hip is the keys to every room in Hogwarts; he’ll lock you away so no one will ever find you again.”
Simon yelped and I noticed with a grin that his hands were shaking. Sirius stepped forward, and the First Years turned to look at him instead. “Of course there are other alternatives, like binding your arms to your feet so you’ll always walk bent in half. Or cursing you to quack like a duck every time someone says the word ‘Professor.”
“Or,” I continued with a grin, “we could sneak in here when you’re fast asleep and take you outside, locking all the doors behind us. So you’ll wake up in the middle of the night to deal with all the beasts that wander in the darkness.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Look, it’s full moon tonight.” I pointed to the open window. “Hope you’re not scared of werewolves – those vicious monsters which will tear you limb from limb as they seek revenge on those who cursed them.”
I stepped back into line with the others as the First Years watched us with wide eyes. Sirius waved his wand and muttered under his breath. I big gust of wind filled the room and every candle blew out; leaving us in darkness. The First Years whimpered as they lost their sight. As planned, we snuck forward so we were each in front of a pair and raised our wands.
“But like we said, we’ve decided to be nice this year. You’ll get your instructions soon.” I said simply, my voice echoing around the dark, silent room.
Putting my wand under my chin, I hissed quietly. “Lumos.”
Ours wands lit, making our faces appear in the dark room. Immediately the First Years started screaming in fright and fought to climb onto their beds. Unable to contain my laughter anymore, I turned and ran from the room, Peter and Sirius at my heels.
We’d barely gone a metre before I ran straight into Frank. Gideon and Jack stood behind him. I was suddenly aware that the First Years were still screaming like banshees.
“D-Do I want to know?” Jack said carefully, his eyes darting between the screaming room and our grins.
I looked at Sirius, who eyes were alight with mischief and seemed to have momentarily forgotten about his brother, then at Peter, whose face was red with laughter and had a grin stretched from ear to ear.
“No, you probably don’t.” I smiled at the older students, who just shook their heads slowly.
Somehow I suddenly had the impression that this year was going to be fun.
Sorry for the delay - school has been extrememly hectic, but the good new is that it's nearly summer! Thanks for your support on this so far - it means a lot!
Until next time, Keira :)
“Reg!” I called down the corridor; I’d just seen him disappear round the corner. “Reg!” Behind me, James was cursing and Peter’s feet were slapping the floor in their attempt to follow me. I skidded round the corner, pushing Benjy and Caradoc out of my path. Simon was further in front, he squeaked as he saw me approaching. His dark eyes widening behind his rimmed glasses as he dived into the wall.
I bared them no second thought as I continued to race after my little brother, though I heard James snort behind me. Regulus was nearly at the door to the Great Hall and I could instantly tell something was wrong; the other Slytherin First Years were crowded round him – his small frame making him much smaller to the others. His body seemed to shake whilst his eyes darted to the side; as if searching for someone to help him.
I didn’t pause as I ran straight at Cortner and Toadsby. Their parents were friends of ours’ which meant I knew the two boys well enough. Both boys normally held a degree of respect for us, the pure blood hierarchy possibly ingrained within their minds, but they were away from their parents now and could act differently. Any concerns over my conclusion disappeared as I neared the group of Slytherins and noticed tears running down Regulus’ face.
Instinct took over as I sought their attention. “Oi!” I yelled, metres from the group. They all turned at once; their eyes blank with surprise. My stomach tensed as I realised Cortner was smiling and I dove forwards; my only thought on punishing the gits that were tormenting my brother. Cortner and Toadsby fell under by weight; both lacking the speed that Regulus used instinctively.
Yet before I could even decide on what I would do next, two pairs of arms grabbed each of my arms and heaved me away from the stunned Slytherins. I instinctively surged forwards but the pair of my arms on my right released and instead latched around my waist; pulling me away from the First Year Slytherins.
“Let me go!” I roared, my sole focus on the stunned boys inches away. How dare they bully my brother! He’s twice as good as any Slytherin scum – they swore! They knew he’s higher status then either of them put together – the traitorous tw-
“Sirius!” Regulus yelled in my ear; his full weight pushing me away from the bullies. Was he hurt? I relented from pulling forwards and immediately fell backwards – on top of the person with their arms wrapped around my waist, who I highly suspected was James.
My suspicions were confirmed as James let out a loud ‘humph’ as my full weight landed on his chest. “Bloody hell, Sirius.” James gasped, pushing me onto the floor. “What the hell were you doing?”
“R-Reg,” I stuttered, my eyes landing on my brother’s furious face. “T-they were bullying him.”
“I,” Regulus replied angrily, “was not being bullied.”
“Yes you were! They were st-”
Regulus sighed loudly, shook his head and walked back to the Slytherin First Years. “Garrick, Bernard – you okay?”
Garrick Cortner nodded, giving a hand to Toadsby to help him up. “Yeah – we’re fine. Reg, what’s your brother’s problem?” Cortner scowled in our direction, his blonde hair flicking into his dark eyes.
“Sirius?” Regulus paused, throwing me a similar look. “He’s just wound up – look I’ll meet you at breakfast. Save me a seat?”
“Sure,” Bernard Toadsby nodded, “but is he alright?” The boy flicked his dark skinned hand by his head. “You know, mentally?”
Cornter snorted. My stomach tensed as I heard Regulus reply. “Yeah – I wonder sometimes. Look, I’ll meet you in the Great Hall.”
“Sirius,” Peter said quietly, “they’re First Years – if McGonagall found out then you’ll be in detention for the next two weeks.”
“And you’d miss Quidditch try-outs.” James added importantly.
“So? He’s my little brother, I was just-”
“Just what, Sirius?” Regulus had walked back to join us. “Did you even consider for a moment that I could have handled myself?”
“But they were ganging up on you.” Regulus just looked at me blankly; Peter and James swapped uncertain glances. “Y-You were crying.” I added desperately.
James snorted which quickly turned into a cough as I elbowed him sharply in the stomach. Regulus’ cheeks burned red and smoothed his hair down in habit. “I was laughing. Bernie was telling us about what his sister saw at the Slug Club in June. Then you tackled him to the floor!”
I paused; remembering how he was shaking whilst surrounded by the other First Years. “Oh.”
“Yes – oh! Now I look like a fool.” Regulus paused and bit his lip; the lines between his eyes disappearing and he once again became an eleven year old boy. “Sirius, I’m just trying to make friends – like you said.”
James snorted behind me again and Regulus immediately tensed, his eyes narrowing in James’ direction. “James,” I said sharply, “go stand over there.”
“What?” he replied, outraged. “I haven’t done anything!”
“Yeah, but I need to speak to my brother,” I paused before grinning, “and the smell of cabbages is making me sick.”
James’ face split into a grin, “alright – I know you’re still delicate.” He winked cockily, “only a man can carry this aftershave.”
“Oh?” I laughed, “tell me when you see one, right Peter?” Peter snorted and nodded enthusiastically. “Besides, the clue’s in the name – aftershave - you need to actually shave to use it. Otherwise, you’re just putting on perfume.”
James scowled, “I could shave!”
“Yeah, course you can - but I’m all out of microscopes.”
“James!” Peter interrupted. “I thought I just saw Snivellus.”
“Where?” James asked enthusiastically, I saw Regulus roll his eyes.
“Dunno,” Peter said uncertainly, “think he was talking to Lily.”
“Come on then,” James hurried Peter, “let’s see what they’re talking about.”
Peter winked as they ran towards the Great Hall and I turned to face my brother.
“Reg, I’m sorry.” The mask slipped easily from his young face and he looked at me uncertainly. “I just saw those Slytherins crowding round you and I… jumped to conclusions.”
Regulus paused, my words calculating through his mind slowly. “Those Slytherins.” He repeated. “Look – Sirius – I get it. You want to protect me. But… I’m fine. I can look after myself.” He paused once more and looked at me carefully. “I’m a Slytherin, Sirius.”
I immediately looked to the ground and felt my shoulders tense. “Well – you… you know… you had the longest sorting out of your entire year. You could easily be in another house.”
“Sirius.” Reg said sharply, his grey eyes flashing in agitation. “You don’t understand - I’m glad to be a Slytherin.”
I jarred my neck as my head shot to face him. “You’re glad? But Reg-”
“Regulus?” I was cut off by a high-pitched voice from behind. My teeth grinded instantly and I struggled to refrain from rolling my eyes. She walked around me swiftly; her heeled shows tapping loudly against the stone floor. She brushed her blonde hair over one shoulder and reached around Regulus so her manicured hand hung by his chest. “Sirius.” Cissy said sweetly, his tongue dragging out the ‘s’; resembling a snake. “You’ve been speaking to our newest Slytherin, I see.” She tightened her grip on his shoulder. “That’s everyone in the family.” Her icy blue eyes darted to mine. “Well, everyone that counts.”
“Cissy! I almost forgot you could speak – don’t you normally stick to drooling and giggling, or is that just reserved when Malfoy is around?”
Narcissa gasped, she pushed Regulus away and pulled her long wand from her pocket. “You insolent little brat! How dare you!” Her eyes were narrowed and she waved her wand before I could make a movement. “Livarto Mev-”
“Miss Black!” A sharp voice echoed down the hall from behind. “What on Earth do you think you’re doing?” Cissy’s eyes widened before abruptly turning into a scowl as she stored her wand in her pocket. Professor McGonagall stepped forwards, subtly putting herself between us. “You’re a Sixth Year student – and a prefect! Ten points from Slytherin.” Cissy’s mouth gaped like a fishbowl and Regulus watched everything with wide eyes. “You’ll be seeing my for two weeks detention – starting tonight in my office. Now, disperse.”
Narcissa stood still, glaring at the Professor, and then at me. “Aunt Walburga will be hearing of this.” She hissed, grabbing my brother’s shoulder and pulling him towards the Great Hall.
“Mr Black,” McGonagall’s stern voice seemed to soften slightly, “are you o-”
“I’m fine, Professor.” I interrupted quickly, my eyes focused on the ground. There was a pause; I felt her hand rest on my shoulder lightly before she pulled it away.
“You best go to breakfast – I’m sure Mr Potter will have found something to amuse himself.”
I nodded and walked into the Great Hall; ignoring the Slytherin table where my brother now sat. He never looked back.
My eyes were strained in the brightness; there were black shapes above me that seemed to swing in and out of my vision. The ground was uncomfortable, sharp objects were pressed in my back. I moved my head to the left slightly and a spasm of pain instantly ran down my back. I could taste blood, its familiar iron taste flooding my mouth.
My muscles ached and I could distinctly smell a combination of mud and forest water. It took me a full three seconds of lying on the ground and listening to the squawks of birds and rustles of nearby creatures before my vision cleared into sharp focus and I leapt to my feet.
“No, no, no,” I muttered, turning round on the spot, “I’m in the forest. No! No, no, no…”
I could see parts of the castle through the trees; I was close to Hogwarts. How the hell did I get out? I could have killed someone, unless… My neck jarred as I quickly looked in the surrounding area for signs of blood or bodies. There were none. I swayed slightly as the adrenalin faded and was instead replaced with exhaustion; my knees hit the floor heavily.
My eyes focused on the rough pair of hands resting on my thighs; the nails were outlined with dry blood and two long scratches ran along my left arm. My tongue could feel a large cut on my lip and my back ached in a way that I knew it would be covered in bruises. My right ankle twinged with sharp pain when I attempted to move it; a clear sign that it had been badly sprained. What happened last night?
My mind always worked slowly after a transformation and slowly I began to put random images together. I was in the Shrieking Shack. The fur on my arms was slightly darker than before – it was itchier. The room seemed smaller. I needed air. There was a crack in the door. The wood splintered under my claws. I was outside.
I kneaded the side of my temples as my mind attempted to make sense of the images. There was… a rabbit. It was a brown rabbit. I followed the rabbit to the nearby trees. Part of me wanted to leap and tear, but there was another part that just wanted to follow. To see where the rabbit went. It was black from then on.
I’d never escaped before; the door was always too strong to break and I was perfectly happy in my wooden room. It was like I was stronger… bigger somehow. Was it a special moon? Not for the first time I wished that I knew another werewolf to ask them questions.
There was a rustle to the left and a large brown rabbit hopped from the foliage. Huh. It survived. Strange. I watched the rabbit apprehensively, slightly unnerved by its calm persona as it nibbled on the grass. I stepped away carefully; desperately trying to ignore the dull throbbing in my thighs. My clothes were slightly ripped, though there was nothing that couldn’t be easily fixed by Madam Pomfrey. I’d need to go see her as a priority; to collect my school robes, to take some pepper-up potion and to inform her of the broken door – it would need to be fixed and strengthened before next month.
But as I slowly reached the castle, dragging my body along the worn path and my eyes staying open by sheer willpower, the fragrant smell of bacon and the warmth of the Great Hall caught my attention and left me unable to do anything other than walk towards the ancient doors.
I was immediately hit by the loud chatter of excited students, scraping benches, munching food and clanging cutlery. I cringed as the loud wall of sound flooded my ears; they were still sensitive. Strange. It normally fades within minutes. I didn’t have to look far to see my friends; James’ untidy hair was moving erratically as he gestured towards the Slytherins. Peter was rolling his eyes and Sirius was focused on the plate in front of him. Peculiarly, the new Gryffindor First Years kept sending them nervous glances.
Luckily they were sat at the top end of the table; I doubted my legs would carry me much further. I collapsed onto the wooden bench and didn’t hesitate to reach across and grab some bacon. There were a few fried eggs left simmering on a hot plate in the centre of the table and a couple bowls of baked beans in reaching distance. My instincts seemed to outweigh my exhaustion as I piled my plate with food, working on auto-pilot. It was a while before I realised the table around me was quiet.
“Er… Remus?” Peter’s unmistakeable voice asked carefully.
I barely managed a grunt as I stuffed a piece of bacon into my mouth, my taste buds much more sensitive than normal.
“Mate, are you alright?” James asked after a moment’s pause.
I was suddenly struck with the notion of how thirsty I was. The food lay abandoned on my plate as I dove forwards to grab the glass jug full of pumpkin juice. The jug was topped with an odd hog’s head which opened if you ran your hand past its ears. Strange. There was a glass beside my plate and I filled it to the top with the juice. After discarding the jug on the table, I gulped the entire glass down.
“Er… steady there, Remus.” Sirius said carefully, “have you just got back?”
I didn’t answer as I refilled my glass, and swallowed the entire thing once more. Why was I so thirsty? The smell of my remaining breakfast suddenly wafted past my nose and I dived back into the last scrapes of my plate.
“Remus?” Peter asked more urgently.
My plate was empty and I began realise just how tired I really was. My eyes began to droop, but I was interrupted by the familiar stern voice of my head of house. “Boys, here are your timetables for your Second Year.”
There was a scuffle of papers being handed out. “Transfiguration first two.” James said happily.
“Yes, Mister Potter.” The Professor replies sternly, though a smile was evident in her voice. “And I expect you to be punctual and well-behaved, boys. You’re setting an example now; is that clear?” There were muted responses, and my lids slipped lower. “Mister Lupin? Where are your school robes?” I didn’t reply. “Mister Lupin?” The professor repeated. “Madam Pomfrey did remember to give them back, correct? Mister Lupin? You have been to see Madam Pomfrey?” Her voice seemed to become more urgent and I hadn’t a clue why.
“Madam Pomfrey?” James repeated. “Why would she have his robes? He’s been home for his Uncle.”
Uncle? Strange. “I-I don’t have an uncle.” I said as clearly as possible, but instead my voice seemed to squeak strangely. I was vaguely aware that the others were looking at me; Peter with his head tilted to the side, Sirius with an eyebrow raised and James with his jaw hanging open. It must have been the peculiar squeak. I tried to speak again. “What are you looking at?” Strange. My voice squeaked once more.
There was a thundering of footsteps behind me. “Minerva? Oh thank goodness – Mister Lupin.” The breathless voice of the resident nurse said. “I went to find you and you were… come along, Remus.”
“Wait.” Sirius stopped her. “Where are you taking him?”
“The hospital wing, dear.” The nurse replied immediately, my limbs feeling heavier than before. “For the shock – his Uncle has slipped into a long Muggle sleep.” She paused as she shifted some of my weight onto her. “Come along, dear.”
“Uncle? Bu-” James started.
“That’s enough Mister Potter.” Professor McGonagall butted in quickly. “Mister Lupin is in good hands with Madam Pomfrey, and as I was saying, I expect you all to be punctual to class. Understood?”
I faintly heard James and Peter argue back as the Nurse pulled me out of the Great Hall. I was barely aware of the Gryffindor Seventh Years passing me, questioning the Matron if I was alright. Strange. I pondered absentmindedly. The rabbit survived.
“Peter!” A voice called after me. My back tensed and I was immediately on edge; it seemed that I couldn’t walk through the school halls without the Slytherins finding me. But it was as they often pointed out; you’d have to be blind to miss me. I swallowed thickly as the footsteps hurried to catch me up. Before sighing with relief; it was Mary.
Her familiar mousy-brown hair flying behind her as she ran towards me. “Peter,” she gasped, “I thought everyone had already gone.”
“Nope.” I smiled at my freckled friend. “Amelia said she was going to show the Hufflepuff First Years where Charms was, Remus is in the hospital wing, James and Sirius ran ahead to get the best seats and Lily’s waiting for Sn-Severus.” I noticed Mary looking at the number of bags draped over my arms, “James said it’d slow them down, and I don’t know if Remus is coming or not.”
“Oh – is Remus okay? His Uncle isn’t… you know.” Mary gestured around herself; her face flushing slightly.
“No.” Didn’t Remus just say that he hadn’t got an Uncle? “He’s gone into some kind of Muggle sleep – Pomfrey said he needed to take something for the shock.”
“Shock?” Mary repeated, her brows furrowing as she glanced towards me. “He- well – he looked ill at breakfast. Are you sure she said shock?”
I shrugged, we’d already discussed this at length. Whatever it was – Remus obviously didn’t want anyone to know. “Well… he probably caught something at the hospital, it’s like you said – Remus is just really unlucky.”
Mary frowned for a moment before shrugging. “He sure is. So, did you have a good summer?
We were walking through the second floor corridor, I just spotted Malfoy and Rosier walking ahead but they luckily went down the staircase before I was spotted. “Erm… yeah. It was alright. Dad works a lot, so it was just me and mum most of the time.”
“And Sarah?” Mary prompted.
I jolted, briefly recalling mum’s owl delivering her drawing after Quidditch back in March. “Yeah, Sarah.” Mum pointed to her picture many times of the holiday, yelling out ‘Saree’ repeatedly. Dad always sighed and on several occasions I’d walked downstairs in the middle of the night to see him just staring at some old pictures. “She was definitely around.”
Mary smiled, “I guess you’re really close to them.”
I nodded, how much further to the classroom? It was always dangerous territory when my family were brought up. “Yeah – so, what did you do over summer?”
Mary frowned again; noting the quick change of subject. “It was good – I just got back from France with my Grandpa Turpin.”
“Just you and your grandpa?” I asked curiously. “Where were your parents?”
Mary looked at the floor, her shoulder-length hair covering her face momentarily. “We… er… I spend a lot of time with my Grandpa.” She looked up, taking in my confused expression. “He’s a wizard as well. But my parents are just… Muggles. I guess I have more in common with him.”
“How’s that work? If your Grandpa’s a wizard then surely one of your parents must-”
“My mum’s a squib.” Mary said simply.
I sensed there was more to it, but decided to change the topic, as Mary had allowed with me. “Did you do anything else?”
“I went to the Fizzing Fangs in July. You’ve probably not heard of them, they’re a pretty old band but-”
“Are you kidding? They’re my favourite group - Spider’s Spell and Danger Dots are just classics!”
Mary stared at me with wide eyes, her jaw hanging open. “Really? I’ve never met someone who likes them as well. Danger Dots is alright, but my favourite is Wormtail Wretch.”
“I haven’t heard that one.” My mind desperately sped through the Mecho disks in my mother’s old filing cabinet. “When did they bring that one out?”
“Er… it was after Mat Milk, so… 1968?” Oh. The year of the accident. Mum wasn’t able to collect any of their mechos – besides, we didn’t have the money to buy the new songs anyway. “I’ve got some of the disks with me – you can borrow it, if you want?”
“Really? That’d be good – though I haven’t seen a pl-”
“There’s a Mecho Player in the common room, though the Sixth Years always hog it to play some muggle disk – the falling pebbles - or something like that.” Mary said, her nose scrunching in distaste.
“What was the concert like?” I asked eagerly; mum and dad had apparently gone to see them on their first date. “Did Lisa Lindsar play the Exploding Tuba?”
Mary nodded enthusiastically. “She did in the encore. It’s still banned and there were a couple magical law enforcement guards there to make sure that she didn’t play. But at the end, one of them had already left and the other was really drunk, so she brought it out! It was amazing!”
“Did she blow anything up?” I asked, my sole focus on Mary.
“Not really – Uncle Lyndon said they must have put protective spells over most of the equipment – but there was massive flames out the end and the edges of the tuba were all melted at the end. The fire was brilliant – there were even purple flames!”
I gasped; mum had always wanted to see purple flames. “But, I thought the purple flames were really rare?”
“They are! But Uncle Lyndon said they must have got a massive donation because the purple rocks cost a lot.”
“Woah.” I shook my head in disbelief. “I wish I was there – it sounds brilliant.”
Mary nodded feverantly. “It was! You should come with us next time.”
I smiled faintly. “Sure.” Though I knew I’d never afford to go.
We pushed open the door to the room and were immediately met by the stern faced professor. “Mister Pettigrew. Miss McDonald. I’m so glad that you decided to grace us with your presence.” Avery and Wilkes snorted from their table, each gesturing towards their emerald badges as if they were trying to scare me. Idiots.
“Ah. I see you have Mister Potter and Black’s bags – please remember that Mister Pettigrew is not a carrying donkey and you would be correct to carry your own bags from now on. Five points from Gryffindor for lateness and sheer laziness.” Sirius and James groaned as I passed them their bags, each glaring at Snivellus as he held back a snort to avoid arising Lily’s attention; though he still managed to look towards us gloatingly.
“Sit down, please. You’ve disrupted my class for long enough. Yes, there.” She gestured towards the desk behind Lily and Snivellus and in front of Wilkes and Avery. Great.
Just for the record; it wasn’t my fault. The Swarp nest could have come from anywhere. Granted, I was the one to take it – but it was a dare! I couldn’t refuse!
“Potter!” A furious Amelia screamed, causing some of the older years to watch in surprise. Jack, Frank and Fabian were under a nearby tree and I distinctly saw Jack bury his face within his hands. Amelia approached at an alarming pace and Remus turned to me with an accusing expression on his face.
“What did you do?” His eyes darted between Amelia and me, noticing how Sirius seemed to be watching the ground guiltily. “James?”
I looked at my friend, noticing how much better he looked then when he returned a couple days previously. The dark rings around his eyes seemed to have become lighter, there was colour in his pasty cheeks and the scratches covering his arms had faded. As soon as he had reappeared from the hospital wing, we had obviously ambushed him with questions. But he had an answer for everything; it was his great-uncle and he’d just gotten confused, he’d been awake the entire night so was exhausted, it’d been a shock to see his Uncle Hopper in a Muggle hospital, his cat had gotten scared and clawed his arms when Remus attempted to pick it up, his parents didn’t want him to miss any more school and although all the answers seemed to add up… there was just something odd about it all.
Like that time my guinea-pig, Pogo, ‘ran away’. All the facts were there; a letter in his cage saying he was going abroad to New Guinea to hunt for his family, a photo of the two of us with the caption ‘Friends Forever’, an abandoned guinea-pig sized map by the backdoor with arrows pointing to New Guinea and his favourite green wellington boots left by the green inkpot, from which he wrote his letter, as he wouldn’t need them in his warmer climate.
The facts were all there; Pogo had run away. I was upset for a while – in a manly way, of course. But I moved on; Pogo was searching for his family – he needed this; I didn’t want him to be depressed. But I refused to lock the guinea-pig flap in the door, in case he returned home with his new siblings and couldn’t get in. Then Easter came. And with it came the traditional Easter Hunt.
It was one of the only Muggle celebrations that I had on a yearly basis; my dad had a Muggle friend when he was young and enjoyed it so much that he demanded I had the same experience every year. Though, my dad insisted that it have an element of magic so he would release a bag full of chocolate frogs into the garden and then I would have to catch them.
It was fun, but then a letter came and dad went inside to read it. I was crawling under the hedge to catch a particularly good jumping frog when I saw it; the edge of a box. Thinking my dad had gone one step further this year and had also buried chocolate underground, I immediately started digging. Yeah, I found Pogo – or at least his remains. Trouble was, I didn’t realise what it was at first; Pogo was in New Guinea after all, so there I was, holding the remains of my loved guinea pig and shaking it to see if any chocolate galleons would fall out. I was just about to take a bite when my mum stepped outside to see if I was doing okay. She screamed so loud that my dad came running. It took a lot of explaining that one did. I guess the signs were there; Pogo wrote me a letter in his favourite colour. Pogo just couldn’t do that! Guinea Pigs are colour-blind, obviously.
So it was like that; all the reasons and explanations added up that Remus’ great-uncle Hopper was seriously ill – but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was missing something important.
“Well, you know that plan we had, on the train?” I said quickly, but Remus’ face remained blank. “About the First Years?”
Remus’ expression cleared and he looked a cross between amused and exasperated. “The one about scaring the new Gryffindors? That I told you was a rubbish idea?”
“Er, yeah that one. Anyway, we decided to go ahead even through you weren’t there and it worked well, really well… a little too well. It turns out that they’re a gobby bunch this year and have told the… the other First Years that they’ll all be… er… punished if they don’t do what we say.” Remus raised his eyebrow in silence. “Well, we had to go through with it, didn’t we?”
“Through with what?” Remus asked curiously.
“Potter!” Amelia shrieked, her blonde hair pulled into a tight bun. “What the hell do you think you were doing? Swarps can be poisonous!”
“They’re not deadly!” Sirius butt in. “They only make you-”
“-break out in huge yellow lumps which explode with fire every couple minutes. Yeah, I got that when my little sister came running up to me with her face on fire, you idiots!”
“But it doesn’t hurt – the person can’t feel any of the fire! Your feet go numb-”
“-causing the victim to tumble over as they can no longer stand. Yeah, got that one to.” Amelia snarled.
“How did you cover her sister?” Remus asked, his eyes darting between us all.
“Oh no, not just my sister – the entire First Year!” Amelia’s blue eyes were narrowed, she looked furious. “The hospital wing is full, meaning there are terrified children having to wait in the hallway for their turn whilst their faces explode.”
Remus’ jaw hung open and Peter who had cleverly remained quiet throughout the situation spoke up quietly to fill Remus’ need to be informed. “We found the nest laying outside the Gamekeepers hut. So… we… took it and James rolled it down the fourth floor corridor when all the First Years were leaving Charms and Astronomy.”
“Do you have any id-” Amelia started before being interrupted by muffled yells from the castle.
“Ah.” I said quietly, “that’ll be the next stage,” I swapped guilty looks with Sirius. “Your lips grow to eight times their size.” I added sheepishly when Amelia glared for information.
“Oh for heaven’s sake!” Amelia growled, turning round and heading back to the castle. “I’ll deal with you later!” She yelled over her shoulder.
I took a deep breath, attempting to ignore Remus’ look which always made me feel slightly guilty. I was about to tell him that it was in fact a dare, and you can’t ignore a dare, when a large shadow stepped over us, blocking out the sun.
His hands were as large as a bludger. His hair was wild and unruly. He stood at three times my height, at least. It was the gamekeeper. Hagrid.
“Yeh stole me Swarps nes’,” he growled, his beetle-black eyes scanning over us.
Woah. An Update.
I'm so, so, so sorry for the ridiculously long wait for this update - it's been... a month?! Woah. There are so many reasons and excuses for this; exams, holiday, revision and a broken laptop. But the main one is I've had serious (I had to try so hard to avoid the pun there ;) ) writer's block!
I hope this make's up for it - an adolescent werewolf going through puberty wasn't exactly in my plan! But somethimes the characters just tend to write themselves! Then there was Sirius with his brother, Peter with Mary and James... with Pogo.
What did you think? I've spent the last week finalising some more of Peter's plot... and I'm so excited to write it! Alyssa asked me who I thought had the best storyline and I can confidently say Peter (for now). There are a few clues hidden in here - if you can find them, then why not try and give a guess on what might happen? xD
Anyway, this is a really long author's note... so I'm just going to go now. Oh! It was my birthday this week and my sister published this story for me! In a hard cover book - how awesome is that?!
Right... really going now... please review!
Remus looked distinctively uncomfortable. His feet were swinging nearly a foot above the ground; James’ legs mirrored his movement due to them sharing the large wooden seat - both fitting into the chair that only just fit Hagrid. But it wasn’t the height that was bothering Remus; it was the large boarhound resting its heavy head upon Remus’ knees, it’s large slobber dribbling down Remus’ trousers.
The giant man stood in a part of his hut in what I assumed to be his kitchen – there was a loud clanging and the heavy sound of rocks hitting a plate. “What do you think he’s going to do to us?’ Peter whispered to me anxiously.
“I don’t know.” I whispered back hastily. “If he was going to report us then we’d have gone back to the castle – not his house.”
Peter paused as he took this in and I saw him look round the room apprehensively. “You…you don’t reckon he’ll eat us, do you?”
“No,” I paused, “I don’t think so… I mean… the parents wouldn’t allow it.” Well, mine would. They’d probably applaud the gamekeeper and ask if he could visit occasionally to scare Regulus into behaving.
“Right.” Peter replied faintly. “But they could easily cover it – transfigure a rock to look like us or say we wandered off in the middle of the night and got killed by a pack of werewolves.”
“What?” Remus interrupted sharply. His eyes wide and breaking away from the conversation he was having with James.
“What?” I asked back curiously, my mind briefly racing over the conversation.
“You said werewolves?” Remus replied uncertainly, a faint blush starting to cover his cheeks.
“What?” I paused for a moment, my brows furrowed into a frown. “Oh!” I looked over to the giant man and was satisfied that he was still occupied with whatever unnerving thing he was doing on the kitchen counter. “If he eats us then we were figuring out what the school will tell our parents. I’m voting ‘eaten by werewolves’.”
James had been patting the large dog and using Remus’ distraction to encourage the dog to increase the amount of slobber over Remus’ legs, yet he now seemed to overhear part of the conversation and jerked into the conversation. “What? You- you think that he’s a werewolf?” James gestured towards Hagrid quietly.
“No, we’re saying he’d feed us to werewolves.” Peter sighed, before his eyes opened wide. “I mean, you don’t reckon he is one, do you? He can’t be. Can he?” Peter looked uncertain, glancing at us each in turn, whilst being careful to stay quiet.
“Well it would explain how big he is, wouldn’t it?” James whispered back, his eyes darting to the giant man.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Remus replied quickly.
“Well, all werewolves are massive in human form – it’s common knowledge, isn’t it?”
“Since when?” Remus frowned, his full focus on James.
I rolled my eyes. “Shh – he could be listening! Anyway – Dumbledore wouldn’t let a werewolf anywhere near the school – would he?”
“I don’t know,” Peter butt in, “why else would he have his own house right beside the forest? Even Filch has his own room in the castle. And I’ve never seen him do any magic, have you?”
We all shook our heads, except Remus who rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, werewolves can’t do magic.”
“Well obviously,” James said superiorly. “What would a werewolf do with magic?”
“Righ’,” the giant man growled, thudding heavily across the room. Our gazes locked on each other, eyes wide and terrified. I turned my head slowly, anticipating the dirt-ridden clothes and wild hair of the beastly man whose large shoes were slapping against his wooden floor. My mouth dropped. I couldn’t help but stare.
Hagrid had pulled off his floor-length coat and instead now wore a beige apron with pink and blue flowers embroidered across the large pocket. In one of his large hands he held five mugs that had a suspicious looking steam rising from the purple liquid, his other hand held a chipped green plate, which was the size of a dustbin lid and was filled to the edges with circular rocks and some kind of meat within slices of stale-looking bread.
I looked at Remus in alarm. Was he going to poison us? The gatekeeper’s face was hidden under his thick, feral beard, and his beetle-black eyes peeked out from beneath his heavy brows. The plate and mugs were placed on the wooden table and Hagrid stood upright, looking at each of us in turn in what I could only assume to be confusion, before turning and collapsing into the largest chair in the hut.
There was silence for a short pause, in which Hagrid sighed loudly – making Peter jump – whilst we all looked uncertainly. “Aren’t yeh goin’ ter dig in, then?” I swallowed loudly and looked at Peter, who shrugged and cautiously reached forward to one of the meat sandwiches. “They’re stou' sandwiches – yeh lucky – I jus’ caugh’ some this mornin’.” Hagrid continued, his creased eyes flicked towards James and managed to miss Peter retracting his hand. “Yeh don’ speak much, do yer?”
“No, we do speak.” James replied instinctively, used to answering back. “We were just wondering if you were going to kill us, is all.”
I winced; Peter gaped like a fish and Remus groaned. Hagrid looked at James blankly. “Kill yeh? Why woul’ I kill yeh?”
Hagrid looked around the gathering in confusion, his crinkled black eyes wide. “James was just joking.” Remus spoke quickly, attempting to push the slobbery dog away from his lap. “He’s got a weird sense of humour like that.”
James opened his mouth to retort and I resisted the urge to throw one of the rock cakes at his face. Remus used the disguise of pushing the dog away to elbow James in the stomach. Hagrid glanced at James for a moment.“Yer Charlus’ boy, righ’?”
The smirk slipped of James’ face and he scowled at the floor. “Yeah.” Hagrid nodded as if confirming an earlier suspicion. James clenched his jaw and slowly sighed. “I’m guessing you know him.”
“Sorta, he was a couple years above – one of the few who didn’ laugh when I came back as-” Hagrid’s eyes took on a glazed look before it twisted into a frown. “So why’d yer steal me Swarps nest?”
“Er,” I spoke up, very aware of how uncomfortable James suddenly appeared, “We didn’t know it was yours.” The giant man looked at me intently and I swallowed loudly. “I mean – we found it by the forest and we just – some of the Slytherins have been bullying Peter,” I gestured towards Peter, whose cheeks burned red, and Hagrid’s gaze followed before he returned to me with a deeper frown. “We just wanted to get them back, but it went wrong… and we got the First Years instead.” I added lamely; it wasn’t exactly true – but how could I explain it was simply a prank to keep up with appearances of an initiation, without getting in any more trouble?
Hagrid stared at me for a moment, then his gaze roamed over the others. “Yer the Black boy, aren’t yeh?” I nodded slowly and he nodded to himself; his eyes still suspicious but now mixed with something else. “Blimey,” he paused, “ne’er though’ I’d see the day when a Black wer a Gryffindor.” The corners of his mouth quirked slightly beneath his wild beard. “Guess ol’ Orion didn’t take it too well?”
I groaned internally; if James’ dad was one of the few that didn’t laugh at a school-aged Hagrid, then you could bet mine were leading the jeers. “Not brilliantly.” I answered simply, not wishing to delve into my family’s beliefs, but I smiled all the same at the giant man; grateful that he had decided to forgive us.
“For goodness sake,” Remus muttered quietly. I glanced across to where James and Remus were seated and struggled to retain a snort; the large boarhound had scrambled most of its weight onto Remus’ lap and was eagerly licking his face with large drops of saliva falling in heavy clumps onto his shirt.
James was laughing loudly and showed no inclination of helping Remus with his situation; I couldn’t help but snort as the floor began to shake with Hagrids loud chuckles. “Spike!” Hagrid called as he caught his breath. “Spike – com’ere girl.” The dog paid him no heed and continued to cover Remus in spit so that we could only see Remus’ long legs sticking out from beneath the large dog and hear his muttered curses as he attempted to push the dog away.
I’d always liked dogs; my mother had never let us have one, of course, but some of the other pureblood families had taken in the pet from time to time. When we would visit, the owners would encourage Regulus and I to take the dog outside so that my mother could speak to them. The Greengrass family had a black spaniel; he was my favourite. I’d throw stick after stick and the dog had endless energy; it was one of the rare times we were allowed to run free and just have fun without any prying eyes. Regulus would always stop when it began to rain or get a little muddy; he knew the consequences for getting our robes dirty. Yet I could never bring myself to care and would jump in large puddles after the bouncing spaniel. My mother soon ended that though; apparently dogs weren’t a suitable creature to live amongst purebloods, as she reminded the other families. The next time we would visit, those happy dogs were gone; in their place was a sleeping cat that scratched you if you got too near.
“Spike,” I spoke slowly, my voice still shaking with laughter. “Come on Spike,” I pushed myself off the chair and desperately ignored James’ amused eyes. Spike’s ears perked and his large head turned to face me; his tongue hung out of his mouth and drool dripped from his sagging cheeks. “Hey Remus,” I chuckled as the dog landed heavily on the wooden floor, “if you wanted a wash most people use a bath, but I guess a dog works too.”
Peter and James laughed loudly as a sodden Remus scowled in my direction, though the corners of his mouth turned upwards slightly. “Remus,” Hagrid repeated slowly, his small eyes looking at our friend intently, after a moment he whistled and Spike plodded closer to her owner. “Sorry ‘bout her – she ge’s a bit ‘cited sometimes. No’ norm’ly like tha’ though.” His loud chuckle echoed around the small room. “Animal magne'ism, I'd gues’.”
Remus small smile suddenly dropped and his eyes froze on Hagrid as if he had revealed something important. Why’s he looking like that? I looked at Peter and he seemed as confused as I felt. Hagrid didn’t say anything except-
A sharp knock interrupted us and we all turned to face the door as Hagrid scrambled to his feet and heavily plodded across the room. “Ah, Professor,” he muttered sheepishly.
“Hagrid,” a stern voice replied, its familiarity made each of us swap alarmed looks. “I’m looking for four Gryffindor Second Year students; Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew. I was told they had followed you in this direction.”
“Er…” Hagrid stalled, for some reason he seemed to be attempting to create an excuse, eventually he sighed and his large shoulders drooped. “Yer bette’ come in, Professor.”
McGonagall’s hair was pulled into her usual tight bun and her eyes were wide with undiluted fury behind her glassed frames. “Boys,” she spoke sharply, “this prank was one step too far. What on earth were you thinking?” Her gaze fell on each of us in turn and I felt shame fill my body for the first time. “You will come with me immediately.”
We hastily abandoned the plates and mugs on the table and made our way over to the door, our shoulders slumped in defeat and our eyes glued to the floor. We each muttered ‘thanks’ to Hagrid as we passed and the door closed behind us with a sharp pull.
She didn’t look at us, just shook her head and tutted. I didn’t blame her, not once. The professor’s lips were pulled into a tight line; her body was rigidly straight as she walked down the unfamiliar corridors and her eyes were cold and sharp. We followed in silence, only the echoes of our feet slapping against the stone floor was evidence of our presence in the empty corridor.
It was my fault, really. Hadn’t James told me his idea on the train? I’d been there as Sirius and Peter had eagerly agreed and started creating amusing situations. Yet I didn’t say anything. Sure, I’d mentioned that it was a stupid idea but I didn’t stop them, did I? I knew they would continue with the plan, I could have spoken up. But I didn’t, I was too focused on the on-coming transformation. I was thinking of the burning pain I was sure to feel. I was counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds. I should have spoken up, but I was too distracted. I was selfish. It’s my fault the majority of First Years were now receiving treatment in the hospital wing.
The end of the corridor neared and Professor McGonagall came to a halt in front of a rather ugly gargoyle. James and Peter swapped confused looks to my left whilst Sirius scowled at the gargoyle with the misshapen nose - one of its eyes was squinted and its mouth hung open; it looked like the creature had been turned into stone mid-sneeze.
Professor McGonagall turned around to face us, her eyes flashing with fury. “Never has one of my students acted so atrociously,” she spoke sharply, each word like a blade to the chest, “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. What on earth were you thinking?”
James partially lifted his hand and opened his mouth to reply, and McGonagall focused her full glare on him. “I don’t want to hear your excuses, Potter.” James' mouth opened once more before wisely deciding to lower his hand. “These students have been here a matter of days and I can assure you that letters to parents or guardians will be on their way at this very moment.” Peter shrunk away from the teacher and Sirius’ glare never left the stone floor. McGonagall shook her head with her lips pursed and turned to face the grotesque gargoyle. “Fudge Flies.”
Sirius’ head jerked upwards at the odd stamen and Peter’s mouth hung open. Fudge Flies? Before James could query the Professor, as was his nature, there was a loud bang like a stick against a hollow drum and the stone gargoyle awoke. It’s mouth shut and stretched into a sinister grin as its body leaped to the side onto another unseen pedestal. The simple wall behind its old perch cracked open into two doors that slid to the side and revealed an endless spiral staircase.
“Woah.” James whispered and Sirius nodded silently. Incredible. We never considered the statues as passages before. I could almost hear James’ brain whirling at this new information.
“Close your mouth, Mister Pettigrew, you are not a toad with the intention of catching flies.” Professor McGonagall said sharply; I glanced at Peter to see him hastily closing his gaping mouth. “Now, come along.”
We followed in silence; it was clear where we were going now – to see Dumbledore. I felt shame and guilt flood through my body; I’d betrayed his trust. He’d given me the benefit of doubt and trusted me, and now he was about to be told how I helped poison the First Years. Would my parents finally realise the monster they were raising?
I noticed Sirius had paled considerably so that his black hair created a stark contrast against his porcelain skin. Peter was visibly shaking, his eyes wide in horror and his hands twisted together as we started the climb up the stone staircase which twisted upwards at the same time. James seemed, typically, the least disturbed – much to Professor McGonagall’s displeasure.
“So does Professor Dumbledore live here? Or is it just his office?” James asked curiously, bounding up the stairs behind the stern head of house.
“That is not of your concern, Mister Potter.” McGonagall responded in a clipped tone.
“Do you think they’ll write home?” Peter whispered to me anxiously, biting his lip with fear.
“I reckon so.” Sirius whispered back, before swallowing loudly. “Mine’ll be fine until they hear some pure-bloods were also affected. Then I’m screwed.”
Peter looked up the stairs to see James was still trying to get information from McGonagall, and then he slowly whispered towards us. “Y-you don’t reckon they’ll make us pay, will they?”
I tilted my head to the side and observed Peter, was this what was making him panic? “Pay?” I echoed.
Peter nodded immediately. “Yeah – like pay towards the potions… or stuff. You don’t think they’ll ask our parents to pay, will they?”
I looked at Sirius and could tell the thought hadn’t crossed his mind either. My parents would pay, and just not give me pocket money until I made up the money – but that was nothing more than I deserved, yet Peter was shaking with panic. “Er, I don’t know, Peter.”
Peter bit his lip and continued the assent up the staircase whilst taking small quick breaths as if hoping it would disguise his heavy breaths.
“What if they don’t like it?” James continued ahead. “What if Dumbledore decided he liked the dungeons better? Would he be allowed to move?”
“Professor Dumbledore has not expressed any desire to move to the dungeons so we do not need to concern ourselves.” McGonagall answered with an air of finality.
“But lets say that he suddenly wanted to – could he?”
“Then, Mr Potter, we would be entering the realm of guesswork and therefore certainty is by no means definite.” Professor Dumbledore appeared at the doorway at the top of the spiral staircase. His blue eyes twinkled with amusement as James thought through the development. Dumbledore wore robes of deep purple that clashed against his chest-length grey beard, on his crooked nose he wore a pair of relatively new-looking half moon spectacles and in his hand was a long, elegant wand. “Mr Lupin, Black and Pettigrew,” the professor nodded at us each in turn, “I dare say I am adequately surprised that it has taken us this long to meet.” His lips pulled into a knowing smile and I had the odd suspicion that the headmaster could look into my soul.
“Sorry for the disturbance, Professor.” McGonagall interrupted firmly, her hand landing on James’ shoulder lightly as he looked down the small gap left by the circular staircase. “As I’m sure you’re aware-”
“Our first years have recently become fully acquainted with the hospital wing?” Dumbledore paused and looked at each over the top of his spectacles. “Yes, I am certainly aware, but may I suggest that we move this conversation into my office?” He gestured towards the oak door, a bronze griffin at its centre, politely. “This staircase has an uncanny ability to provide conversations for prying ears.”
McGonagall pursed her lips and nodded. We followed the Professors in silence.
The room was spacious, circular archways framed the each section and every table held a fascinating whirling machine. Heavy curtains with a silver shimmer hung at the side of the open windows which held an incredible view over the boundaries of Hogwarts; the curtains were heavily indented where the tugs held them open, giving the impression of them being rarely released.
James grinned at the headmaster, “I can see why you’d chose this over the dungeons.” Dumbledore smiled pleasantly as James dropped himself into one of the large red chairs opposite the headmaster’s desk, McGonagall muttered under her breath.
Peter was staring at the closest table where a red oval was surrounded by green rubber bands; every other second would create an orange beam to surround the solid oval. Sirius was staring out of the window, his gaze roaming over the forest to the Great Lake. I walked closer to the huge desk, parchment was layered into piles and a handsome scarlet quill rested beside a green ink pot, yet as I sat down on one of the large chairs, my eye caught movement on a perch nearby. It was a bird, at least I thought it was – I’d never seen one like it. Its size was similar to that of a swan, though instead of white feathers, they were deep red and bright gold. Its eyes were a shining black and it’s long tail hung low beneath its perch – it was stunning.
“Professor,” McGonagall pushed.
Dumbledore bowed his head towards our head of year and gestured towards his desk. “Please sit down – I fear that I have an appointment with the Minister and as far as I am aware, the Department of Mysteries hasn’t yet created a way to be in two places at once.” I noticed Dumbledore exchange an amused glance with McGonagall, and James sat up straighter in attention.
“Madam Pomfrey was kind enough to inform me that thirty-seven First Year students that have received treatment today.” Professor McGonagall told Dumbledore, who simply raised his brows towards us. “There are also witnesses claiming that these four,” she gestured in our direction, “had told Miss Bones that they were the cause of the incident.”
Dumbledore continued to look at us; I wasn’t the only one who bowed my head in shame. Now. Tell them, now. I looked up slowly so that I met the headmasters eyes; once again I felt the like my mind was being x-rayed. Tell him – tell him it’s your fault. You could have stopped them. They only went ahead because you didn’t stop them. I opened my mouth to speak and strangely the headmasters eyes seemed to dim; almost as if he was sad.
“It was me.” James ruffled his hair sheepishly, looking at the Professors carefully. “I planned the prank and stole the Swarps nest - I guess I didn’t really think it through.” He paused and ruffled his hair again before opening his mouth to continue.
“But,” Peter looked at James with his brows furrowed, “we helped to plan it on the train.”
“Yeah – and I dared you to steal the Swarps nest from Hagrid’s garden.” Sirius added with a frown.
“No you didn’t.” James looked at them firmly, not letting either take the blame. “I did it completely by myself.”
I sighed. “It’s my fault, Professor.” McGonagall’s brows disappeared into her hairline and Dumbledore looked at me with that sad look again. “I knew what was going to happen-” I coughed in embarrassment as my voice squeaked, “I didn’t stop it – or inform anyone.”
“Don’t be stupid, Remus.”
“Don’t be thick.”
“Where the hell did you get that idea from?”
“Language, Potter.” McGonagall snapped. They all spoke at once, looking at me strangely. What did I say wrong? I returned the looks from my friends, completely bewildered at their strange reactions - it was the truth, wasn’t it?
Dumbledore nodded to himself. “I would think that the majority of First Years deserve an apology from each of you – no matter how big or small your contribution.” Why did he look at me when he said ‘small’?
We all nodded immediately. “Is that it?” James asked eagerly; I had the strong impression that Sirius was desperately attempting to avoid hitting him.
“Three weeks of detention each, starting tomorrow.” McGonagall spoke up sharply, looking at Dumbledore meaningfully who nodded in response. “Mr Potter and Mr Pettigrew,” both Peter and James looked at the head of house apprehensively, “I’ll tell Madam Pomfrey to expect you both after dinner - you’ll be cleaning up the results of your ‘prank’,” James smiled at Peter, “without magic.” Professor McGonagall added.
“Mr Black,” Sirius turned to face the Professor grudgingly, “you’ll report to Professor Flitwick.” She turned to face me slowly. “And Mr Lupin,”
“But Professor,” Sirius interrupted, “Remus didn’t do anything.”
“Unfortunately, Mr Black, we only have your word for it – as admirable as it may be – and parents will be demanding evidence for why one of the suspected perpetrators was let off.” Dumbledore spoke softly, his fingers clasping together as he leaned forward on the desk. “Mr Lupin,” he addressed me, his x-ray blue eyes baring into mine once more, “I’m sure Hagrid will welcome some additional help over the coming weeks,” he paused, “and you will find that you can learn something important from any situation.”
I glanced at the others to see if they’d picked up on anything out of the ordinary – am I being paranoid? Why did I get the feeling that Dumbledore was trying to tell me something?
“Professor,” James asked slowly, his face becoming increasingly pale, “what about Quidditch try-outs?”
Sirius spluttered and leant forwards, his grey eyes flashing between the Professors. McGonagall’s eyes widened for a moment before regaining their usual steely look as she looked at Dumbledore. “Owning up to ones mistakes or sacrificing yourself for a friend in need takes a certain amount of courage and loyalty. I think, and I’m sure Professor McGonagall will agree with me, that on this occasion you may try for your house team, if you so wish.” His blue eyes seemed to glimmer as James and Sirius both grinned and high-fived across Peter.
“Come out, Piggy.”
Their voices echoed against the stone wall and I felt my stomach twist painfully. I suppose it was once a storage compartment, but now a moth-eaten tapestry covered the small alcove. I’d thought it was safe to go wandering by myself; it was Saturday and most of the school were sunbathing in the last rays of September whilst the majority of Slytherin had apparently gone to the Quidditch stalls to yell abuse at the Gryffindor try-outs.
It was the abuse we were banking on – even the teachers had overheard the Slytherin’s plans and were watching the try-outs for rival spells or inappropriate behaviour. James reckoned that we would never get a better chance, yet he and Sirius were determined to claim their places on the house team and couldn’t take advantage of the rare opportunity.
After finding the useful passage between the Gryffindor common room and the Potions corridor, we’d been able to sleep longer in the mornings. James reckoned that there must be loads of secret passageways and if we found them all, then pranking the First Years, or escaping the Slytherins in my case, would be much easier. Sirius said it was very likely, knowing his family, that there would be escape routes out of the castle as well.
“Come on, fat piggy. Haven’t you learnt to obey your betters?”
Remus was supposedly searching the higher floors whilst I searched near the Hogwarts laundry because, as Remus logically pointed out, they’d need to get the soap from somewhere.
“Or are you stuck, Piggy? Can’t you get out? Come on, Piggy – make a squeak.”
I’d tried, honestly I had. I’d jumped on every cracked stone in the floor. I’d tilted every book on the lone bookcase. I’d pulled on every limb of the old suits of armour. I’d lifted a strange cactus off some barrels; though the odd smell of vinegar sent me in the other direction – knowing my luck, I’d accidently pull a trigger to get covered. Yet there was nothing. No bangs, squeals, walls moving, floor sinking – nothing.
I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary until the loud claps echoed down the narrow corridor. I had turned slowly, fear building by the second to face Malfoy’s gloating face, Rosier to his left and a menacing Fourth Year to his right.
It had been my instincts that saved me from their torment, so far. My wand seemed to appear in my hand and within seconds it was pointed at one of the torches in a wall hanging; “Wingardium Leviosa,” my voice squeaked into the mocking silence, the torch rose and then promptly collapsed on the floor, hitting the foot of Rosier painfully. His groan of pain was enough for me to flee, it wasn’t long before heavy footsteps followed – but just enough time to dive into the small hidden alcove whose location wasn’t widely known.
“Come on, Piggy. It’s not like you can hide for long. You’re a little too big for that.” Mocking laughter followed this statement.
I leant heavily against the plain wall, it was a dark alcove – only lit by a small flickering candle that wouldn’t go out no matter how much Sirius blew on it. There was three empty wooden shelves in one corner, all covered in cobwebs, and a large empty trunk opposite the entrance that I was now sat on.
“You don’t reckon the house-elves mistook him for a pig?” More laughter. “Isn’t pork on the menu tonight?”
I knew they wouldn’t give up for a while and settled into my seat. A crackling in my pocket as my hips moved alerted me to the unopened letter from breakfast; it was too dangerous to open a letter in front of others and I hadn’t had time to myself since then.
The letter didn’t have an envelope; the piece of parchment had just been folded over many times and sealed with thin grey wax. A hasty scribble of ‘Pettigrew’ was sprawled above the wax in fading black ink.
“I’ve been fired from the Magical Maintenance Stop.” My father’s untidy writing was smudged and I felt my chest tighten with a fear that had little to do with the approaching bullies.
“The new wave of items that need fixing have Muggle properties. Henry claims that those of us with pure wizarding backgrounds are ‘ill-equipped’ to deal with the new equipment.” His writing got smaller and messier here, I could almost see his agitation and fury.
“We’ve all been replaced by bloody mudbloods – as if they’d know how to fix a bucking barrow or how to stop portraits of family trees from eating its members! But of course, I can’t say any bloody thing because then I’m prejudice and no effing better then those twerps in masks calling themselves ‘Death Eaters’.” There was a strong smell of the alcohol in the cupboard floating from the paper – almost like it had been drenched in the liquid before it had been sent.
“They’re asking all the pure-bloods to join them – I got a visit last week. Bloody cowards, told them to go to hell and take all the mudbloods with them. Remember this, boy: Pettigrews don’t bend for no one. You understand? We don’t back down for nothing.”
“Come on, Piggy. We just want to play.” Malfoy mocked in the corridor; my stomach coiled in panic and my hands shook with anger.
“So listen here, boy. I’ll give you two choices; I’ll pull you out of that damn school and you can look after your mother so I can cancel the help, or you’ll stay and I’ll not give you another knut, understand? If you’ve lost your books, your quill has snapped, your clothes ripped or whatever your latest excuse is – I don’t care. Find your own solution. They’re your choices; pick one because we’re not requesting help from the school fund – Pettigrew’s find their own way. Got it?”
There was no sign off, any sign of love or asking how my day was like James’ always got asked in his. It was with a vague sense of detachment that I realised he’d not even addressed me by my name. Was it fear I was supposed to feel? Contentment? Anger? In honesty, all my feelings were drowned out by one pure emotion; fury.
My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t read the scrawled words anymore. My cheeks were wet with tears I didn’t know had fallen. My breathing was coming out in heavy gasps and my chest felt tight and painful. I watched, detached, as my fingers swiftly tore the longest letter my father had ever written to me into bits. Again and again the paper ripped into smaller parts until I was left holding small squares of parchment
My feet were under me, my legs were straight; I was standing up; when did that happen? I was at the edge of the entrance, my hand was touching the fabric that covered my hiding place. The hanging was pushed to the side, I was in the hallway. My feet hit the ground at an increasing pace, yet my mind remained frozen on the squares of parchment that had presumably been dropped in my wake.
“Oi!” A voice called out behind me. “Piggy!”
I turned on instinct, still vaguely detached from the situation, it was the Fourth Year. I didn’t know his name, and I didn’t care. Did he know my name? Does he care that it took my mum months to persuade by father to call me it? Why would he? Even my dad choses to ignore it.
“Piggy, Piggy – are you gonna run?” The Fourth Year mocked.
He didn’t know me, yet he had chosen to follow the older bullies and torment me. Perhaps it was anger that pulsed through my body, or maybe it was fear, but my arm raised and a red shot of light sprouted from the end of my wand and hit the surprised student in the chest. He crumbled like a ragdoll and I walked away.
My heart beat savagely against my ribs. My lungs gasped for more air than my body could provide. Snot slid from my nose to my chin. My cheeks felt raw and chaffed, tears still dropped from my face but I could feel the solid trails left behind.
Everyone wanted something from me. Everyone expected me to be someone. Everyone, but my friends… and Sarah.
I stopped beside a painting of a fruit bowl. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, if anything the simple painting moulded into the wall and became lost in its vastness. There was an argument further down the hall; I could hear Malfoy’s voice mixed with the unmistakable voice of Bertie Harlow – a Hufflepuff Prefect. Idly I wondered why a Hufflepuff was down in the bottom tunnels; only the house elves really came here.
I blinked. My gaze still on the dull painting; Sarah loved fruit. She hated peaches though, they’d always be left in the fruit bowl until they grew mouldy, after a while my parents stopped buying them. My fingers drifted towards the painting and I absent-mindedly stroked the peach. The following week Sarah decided that she hated grapes and the process repeated. In reality, I liked peaches, and I really liked grapes but I played along because Sarah though it was funny. My hand moved to touch the grapes. I missed my little sister so much that sometimes I felt like my chest was caving in and breathing became that little bit harder to do, in those times I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, ‘is this what she felt?’ Was my little sister scared when she died?
Apples were always my favourite. Mum always packed a bag of food for our trips to the meadow; dad would carry the broomsticks and I would carry the blanket whilst sulking that Sarah didn’t have to carry anything because she was ‘too small’. Mum would always laugh and ruffle my hair; secretly I never minded. Mum liked to bring an orange for herself, she would hand a bright green apple to me and a spotted banana to dad - Sarah always reached in last, her eyes widening with fear that mum had forgotten her favourite. Then she would grin and pull out her favourite fruit; a pear.
The tips of my fingers trailed across the uneven surface of the paintings and rested on the pear. To my surprise the pear reacted and squeaked as it shuffled away from my touch. I watched with my mouth wide as the pear twisted and turned into a green doorknob.
Had I really found a passageway? Had I found one? My excitement grew and all my anxiousness disappeared; I reached forwards and turned the knob. There were a couple stairs down into a room busy with activity. Somebody shrieked, yet before I could react a small figure that was very similar, if not the same, to those creatures in the Hogwarts Laundry room climbed the stairs. “Mister, welcome, mister,” the house-elf squeaked, bending into a deep bow, “can Warnie help, Mister?”
My mouth hung open; James would be in his element as soon as I tell him. “W-where am I?” I stuttered.
The house elf frowned. “Mister is in the Hogwarts Kitchen, can I’s help?”
“Oh.” I whispered, my gaze gliding over the countless heads that were busy preparing food. I’d found somewhere secret. For that single moment all thoughts of my father, the Slytherins, the letter, my mum, Sarah – everyone, disappeared. I’d found somewhere safe.
It was a strange feeling - my stomach felt like a goblin was trying to fight it’s way out and my throat was thick, making it hard to swallow. I don’t know why I felt like this; the oddness had just appeared as we made our way to the Quidditch Pitch. I didn’t feel sick, if anything I felt like I always did before my Dad told me off. But that was stupid – dad wasn’t anywhere near Hogwarts.
There was a reasonable size of students who had made their way to the pitch, ranging from Seventh Year to a couple in Third year – Sirius and I were the only Second Years around. It was when I’d realised this that the strange feeling had appeared, only to be increased by the large groups of Slytherins who were sat in the stands and had been jeering loudly whenever Jack attempted to speak.
There was around twenty students all contending for the two available spots – of course all the spots were open but it was rare that any of the old team were replaced my new members as they’d trained the previous year with their teammates and knew all the plays. Entwhistle and Moore graduated last year, leaving Chaser and Beater open.
Jack started to drone on about the rules of Quidditch - really? Why the hell would you try-out for the team if you didn’t know how to play it? - and I used the distraction to peek at the other hopefuls. There were only twelve of us left after Jack had made the group fly around the pitch three times; the first lap was to see how well we could fly and two Fourth Years were dismissed, for the second lap we had to dodge some bludgers that Jack had levitated to hit us, and one sixth year, two fifth years and a third year were sent away, and then for the final lap we were split into three groups and told to fly in sync with our group to show teamwork which ended up with a fourth and fifth year being yelled off the pitch after they started arguing that the other had messed up – much to the delight of the watching Slytherins.
“Right,” Jack yelled over the mutterings of the group and the Slytherin jeers, “split into the positions you want to try-out for. Beaters over here, Keepers to my right, Chasers over there and Seekers to my left.” There was a muffle of noise as everyone separated into his or her group and the odd moan at the spitting rain that had just began to fall.
Sirius looked as anxious as I felt as was surrounded by three students who I vaguely recognised as Fifth and Sixth Year students. My group was the largest, as expected, with four other students holding worn brooms that looked like they’d seen a lot of practice. Weirdly, a cocky looking Fifth Year was attempting to try out for seeker despite the captain having held the position since like, ever.
Gideon and Fabian swapped smirks and offered to release the snitch for the captain and Fifth Year. “Right,” Jack started, looking at the Fifth Year.
“Gebrosci.” The Fifth Year grunted, his tongue licking his lip as his eyes prowled over the arena.
Jack sighed. “Right, Gebrosci. We’ll go first as there’s only two of us, alright? On my count, Fab will release the snitch and then we’ll go after the count of ten, understand?” Gebrosci nodded but remained silent. Jack turned to face the rest of us, his eyes appraising each group. “Beaters – split into two groups of two and get some bats from the trunk. Gid, go get your keepers gloves on and give the kid the spare pair from the locker. Chasers – make sure your brooms are in order and get prepared. Everyone, remember – Quidditch is competitive and this year the Cup belongs to Gryffindor. We’ll only be taking to best – so make sure you bring it today.” Jack paused and we all nodded, looks of apprehension flicking across the large group’s expressions. “Release the Snitch.”
Fabian eagerly bent over the trunk where the balls were eagerly squealing to escape. With a flick of his finger the golden ball flew straight into the sky with grace, its wings fluttering in the morning breeze. “Ten.” Jack started counting, swinging his leg over the broomstick only to be mirrored by Gebrosci a moment later. “Six.” I roamed the sky for any sight of gold – for a moment I thought I saw a glint by the Slytherin jeerers, but it was gone before I could blink. “Three.” Both players bent their legs and prepared to jolt from the ground. “One.” I watched as Jack pushed his weight forwards so all the pressure was on his toes as his legs released into the sky.
Both Gebrosci and Jack were blurs of colour as they darted into the sky; Jack bent to the left as Gebrosci swerved to the right, their heads turned every moment as they scanned the pitch for a glint of gold. More muffled jeers were screamed across the pitch from the Slytherins who seemed to have grown in number, the ropes around my stomach tightened considerably.
It may have been minutes, or possibly longer, but I stood entranced by how Jack flew. It was clear that he was the more experienced flyer – though Gebrosci wasn’t far behind – and I was suddenly struck by how good Jack actually was. In most games, my gaze always flicked from player to player, but now there was no distraction now and it was clear how well he could instantly tell how the wind change would affect his broom and how easily he could deviate his broom. They both dived at the same times, streaks of colour falling towards the ground, hands outstretched, they were both at the same level yet just as they were nearing the ground Jack swopped out of the fall with the glittering ball clutched within his grasp.
Both players returned to the cheering group and Jack eagerly shook Gebrosci’s hand. “That was bloody good – you nearly had me!” Gebrosci shrugged but returned the handshake. “Look, will you be my reserve? You never know when you might not be able to play.” Gebrosci watched Jack for a moment before nodding slowly and leaving the pitch in silence. Slightly over-dramatic. Idiot.
After a few final adjustments, we split into two teams – three chasers each (one each from the original team), two beaters and a keeper. Sirius was in the other team to me and we swapped a nervous glance. Not for the first time I wished Remus or Peter were here – they always knew how to provide a distraction from our thoughts when needed – but it had made sense for them to explore whilst the majority of the older Slytherins were watching the try-outs and the rumours of a heavily supervised practice were too good an opportunity to miss.
Jack was flying around the edge of the pitch as the mini game started so that he could keep a closer eye on how we each performed. I felt a mixed surge or pride and fear as Sirius smacked an oncoming bludgers with the flat centre of his bat at one of my fellow teammates - Jack totally saw that! He looks impressed! Sirius might have a shot… but one of my teammates got hit… does that mean my team are loosing? I swerved to the left just in time to dodge another bludger heading my way from Ed Bones who had paired up with Sirius.
“Potter!” Sally Wright, a chaser from last year, yelled in my direction as she threw the quaffle towards me.
Come on, James. Catch it. Catch it. Catch it.
I felt the familiar leather weight of the quaffle as it skimmed by the tips of my fingers. That was close. Jack nodded in my direction. I threw the ball under my left arm and dove forwards on my broom towards the guarded hoops on the opposite side of the pitch. I was aware of a Fifth Year on the opposite trial team flying up to meet me. The side of his broom banged into mine forcefully as I tried to escape his shadow – yet I couldn’t rid myself of the Gryffindor, no matter how much I dived or swung to the left sharply, he just mirrored my actions.
My eyes skimmed to the right to see one of the students trying out of beater on my team preparing to hit a bludger in my direction so I would be free of the Fifth Year. She pulled her arm pack forcibly and clutched the bat tighter as the bludgers came shooting towards her, but even at my distance I knew she’d hesitated a moment too slowly and the bludgers hit the end of the bat instead.
I heard the roar of the bludgers as it zoomed towards it’s target, completely missing my Fifth Year shadow and instead hitting the tips of both of our brooms, causing me to lurch forwards in an attempt to regain control – but also meaning that the quaffle slipped from beneath my arm and fell to the pitch below.
I watch in open mouth horror as is propelled towards the ground, only aware of the wood between my fingers and the sounds of another bludger being hit. It wasn’t that surprising when someone in a purple top skimmed the pitch and caught the quaffle in her left hand – almost as if it had been aimed at her. Clark. She was also trying out for chaser and had scored a goal already. God.
I shook my head roughly to clear the distracting thoughts and threw myself forwards, eager to show what I could do. Clark jerked her broomstick upwards and rocketed towards the posts, only to be hit off course by a well aimed bludger coming suspiciously from Sirius’ direction. The quaffle flew out of her hands and it was almost too easy to scoop it out of the air before my shadow returned.
I leant closer to the broomstick, the wind roared against my flapping robes – isolating me from the rest of the pitch. The quaffle was tight under my arm and Gideon watched me approach as he hovered in front of the three posts.
I leant to the left and pulled the quaffle into my right hand as I neared the hoop, Gideon mirrored my actions and prepared to block – I knew immediately that I was going to miss.
”Dad,” I started, my voice tinged with curiosity. He was sitting behind his large oak desk and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Dark bruises framed his hazel eyes, yet small creases appeared as his lips lifted into a smile when he took in my appearance at his study door.
“James,” he chuckled quietly, “weren’t you sent to bed over an hour ago?”
“Er,” I stalled, my eyes roaming his office for inspiration until they landed on a faded black and white image of a Quidditch team. “I was just thinking about… Quidditch.”
“Quidditch?” Dad repeated with his brows raised, he put the quill beside the parchment and rested his chin on top of his large hands. “What about it?”
“Y-you were captain, right? Of the Gryffindor team – for like, ages.” Dad nodded slowly. “H-how did you get so good? Jack says that there’s a plaque at Hogwarts that says you’re the highest scoring chaser - in like - ever.”
Dad snorted and his smile widened as he shook his head. “Talent.” Dad teased gently.
“Dad,” I whined to his amusement. “Why did you decide to be an auror if you could have played Quidditch?”
He watched me for a moment and gestured for me to come closer. “I nearly didn’t.” I frowned at him. “I guess I made the decision the same way I scored those goals – I left to the last minute. In Quidditch, I was never predictable because I often never knew what I would do until the moment came, then the decision just came to me – it felt right. I was about to sign to become a reserve for the Tornadoes when I began to realise what was actually happening in the world. I knew the right choice.” Dad shrugged simply. “It’s never too late to change your actions, James.”
“So you’re the best Chaser at Hogwarts ever and one of the best Aurors in Britain… because you don’t know what you’re doing?”
Dad snorted and laughed loudly so it echoed off the bookshelves and around his cozy office. “Yes, I guess so.” He snorted again. “There’s that, also it helps that I’m the best.”
My arm surged forward with the quaffle gripped in my right hand. I was certain that it wasn’t shot, when Dad’s words seemed to float into my mind. It’s never too late to change your actions. The quaffle started to leave my hand when on a surge of instinct, I twisted my wrist to the right.
The quaffle sailed through the air, in the complete opposite direction to where Gideon had thrown himself, and a loud ding announced a goal. I scored!
A whistle sounded around the pitch; ending the trial game. The entire group flew to where Jack was stood and landed gracefully beside our teammates. “That was a bloody good game,” Jack grinned, “there’s clearly some work to do – but no one’s ever said Quidditch should be easy.” His eyes roamed over the team quickly. “You each have your strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve based my judgement purely on what I’ve seen today and my decision is final.”
There were nervous mutterings within the group and Sirius and I stepped closer together. His arm briefly touched mine and we nodded at each other, wishing good luck. “Gid, you’ll be taking back your spot as Keeper.” Gideon smirked and bowed towards the jeering Slytherins who’d increased their volume. “Fab, same for you – you’ll be playing Beater, along with our new team member…” A pin drop could be heard in the sudden terse silence; instinctively I reached out and briefly touched my friends’ arm. One of the older students started rubbing his hands together in what looked to be a nervous twitch whilst another shuffled his feet against the ground. “Sirius Black.”
His breath collapsed from his lungs with a loud gasp, and I watched as his jaw hung open whilst he looked at Jack with wide eyes; certain a mistake had been made. I grinned broadly as he laughed in disbelief and I pulled him into a quick manly hug. Slowly I began to become aware of the angry mutterings from some of the older students. “He hit more bludgers at his target than any of the rest.” Jack said plainly, his eyes glazing over the other three try-outs. “My decision is final – leave the pitch if you haven’t been chosen.” His eyes narrowed when they hesitated to move. “Now.” He added threateningly.
The players left the pitch slowly, muttering amongst themselves and sending glares at Sirius’back. Jack turned to face us. “Welcome to the team, Sirius. Look – you were good but if you want to stay on the team, you’re going to have to learn to control your temper, understood?”
Sirius nodded morosely and walked over to the Weasley twins. I watched him with a frown, what happened? What did I miss?“Don’t feel bad, Black.” Gideon started.
“It was bloody brilliant.” Fabian added.
“Those Slytherins had it coming – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that cousin of yours move so fast.” What?
“Chasers.” Jack said loudly attracting our attention from his friends with a frown. “As probably expected, Ed Bones and Sally Wright are taking back their positions.” The Weasley twins cheered in an exaggerated fashion and Ed rolled his eyes as they joined the chosen team. “The rest of you played brilliantly, but other than Ed and Sally – only two of you scored a goal.” Sirius grinned at me when he said this - I’m one of them! “So the decision comes down to you two.” Jack looked at me directly as he said this, his eyes mixed with some emotion I couldn’t place – all I was aware of was my heart thrashing against my ribcage and Jack’s voice. This is it. This is when it all started for Dad. “The new team member is…” My heart thrashed wilder and dad’s words echoed in my head, ‘it helps that I’m the best.’ Jack opened his mouth, his brown eyes fully focused on me. “Cathleen Clark.”
What? Cathleen Clark is Chaser? No!
Thoughts on this chapter? They're always much appreciated? It's nice to know there are people reading my story - not just 'Google' lurking through the page. ;)
I'm so grateful for all the support you've been giving me - over 100 reviews? What?! 60 favourites?! That's so crazy! Thank you everyone so much!
I don't update this story usually, unless I'm adding a new chapter - I know how annoying it is when you get all excited when one of your favourite stories gets updated.. only to find a word had been changed in Chapter 4. But I'm giving everyone warning, I've made a stupid time-error when I wrote my notes so I'll be fixing it immediately and re-writing certain parts to do with Andromeda Black. (As tempting as it is to write a fourteen year old with a baby Tonks. I feel it would have been mentioned at some point. :P) So, over the next week, this story will be updated again and I'll post at the top of the next chapter what parts have been changed if you want to go read them. Sorry for the inconvenience and I hope you forgive me! :D
Until next time, Keira :)
Chapter 11: Second Year: Unraveling of Revelations
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He was avoiding me. Not in an obvious way; we still went to breakfast together, we still teased Remus on his squeaking voice and we still plotted against the Slytherins. But that was the point; ‘we’. It was all four of us.
Obviously there was nothing wrong with us acting as a group of four, rather than two sets of two. But I missed James. If we were forced to split into tables of two, then James would immediately choose Peter or Remus to pair with. If we were searching for secret passageways, then he’d suggest I explore the top floors, whilst he examined the corridor under the Great Hall. If I went to bed early, then he’d wait in the common room for Remus or Peter to come upstairs. If he’d gone to bed early, and I went up shortly afterwards, then he’d roll over and pretend to sleep. He was with me all day, but not with me at all.
I gritted my teeth and prepared for the tension. My hair was stuck to my forehead and water dribbled down the side of my face in swirled patterns. I reached out to turn the doorknob, the dark red Quidditch robes sticking to my arm like a damp cloth.
They were laughing when I entered, which slowly died down to a quiet chuckle. I saw James glance at me for a moment before he dove under his bed in search of something. Peter looked between the two of us awkwardly and Remus simply grimaced.
“Here,” James reappeared holding a tatty piece of parchment. “Told you I hadn’t lost it.”
Remus rolled his eyes and turned towards me. “James reckons he’s found another passage.”
“Really?” I replied immediately, my eyes jumping towards James in excitement.
His hazel eyes were scanning the piece of parchment; he paused for a moment and looked up at me. He nodded, and then returned to the paper. I followed his gaze to what looked to be a list of place, several of which had been crossed out. “Where’s it go?” I tried again.
There was a beat of silence, before Peter jumped in to break the growing awkwardness. “He doesn’t know, yet.”
“Oh.” I paused. “Well, where is it?”
Remus coughed uncertainly. “He hasn’t figured that out either.”
I frowned. “Well, how do you know there’s a passageway?”
James looked up again and glared at me angrily. “Because I do.” he snapped.
“Yeah, but I was just askin-“
“Yeah, well don’t. Alright?” James clamoured off his bed, grabbed the parchment and stormed out of the room; his arm barely touching mine as he passed.
I looked at Remus in confusion. “What the hell did I do?”
Remus’ mouth opened, and then closed. He was sitting cross-legged on the edge of his bed, a small Muggle ball was held within one of his hands – a sign they’d been playing catch before I ruined the game. “You didn’t do anything.” Remus said eventually. “He’s just… you know.”
“Yeah.” I grinded my teeth. “I do.” The floorboards creaked as I slowly padded over to the furthest bed; my drenched socks leaving wet footprints behind me. I pulled off my top robe, to find my clothes underneath as sodden as the top layer.
“Sirius,” Peter said quietly, “he’ll get over it. It’s James – you know what he’s like. He’s not used to being rejected.”
“Yeah, I do know.” I fumed: why was I in the wrong for him acting like a- “He’s just a spoilt brat.”
“Sirius.” Remus cut in sharply, climbing off his bed and taking a step closer to mine. “That’s out of order.”
“Why?” I spat, pulling off another layer. “Why am I always the one out of order? He’s just bloody stormed out like a three year old because I got on the Quidditch team, and he didn’t.”
“Don’t act like a brat, Sirius.” Remus spoke with the rare authority he occasionally showed. “It’s hard for him. You know how much he wanted to be on the team.”
“Yeah, and it’s not my bloody fault he didn’t get in.”
Remus sighed heavily. He turned towards the door and strode across the room. I threw the last layer on my bed, barely sparing a thought for the dry sheets now becoming damp under the mound of clothing. “Let me guess, you’re going to go find James.” I muttered, anger and some emotion I couldn’t detect, rushing around my body.
“No.” Remus said neutrally. “I’m going to find Lily; the Herbology homework is due tomorrow and she’s the best in our class.” He paused to look at the bed after mine. “You and James can sort yourselves out – it’s been a month. This is getting ridiculous.” He shook his head and reached out towards the doorknob. “You coming, Peter?”
Peter bit his lip and looked at me. For some reason, I could tell he thought I was in the right. And I suddenly felt slightly better; like someone believed I’d done well by joining the Quidditch team.
“It’s alright, Peter. I’m just going to get a shower – I’ll see you at dinner.”
Peter’s blonde hair flopped over his eyes as he nodded eagerly and hastened to follow Remus. I sighed as the door slammed shut and collapsed onto the edge of my bed.
Was it so wrong to want someone to be happy for me, for a change? I’d beaten all the older competitors. I was the only Second Year in school on the Quidditch team. And nobody cared.
I couldn’t celebrate with James; he disappeared after Clark was given Chaser. Jack had gone looking for him but had given up after a couple hours; I knew it was useless to search – James had his invisibility cloak. Remus and Peter had cheered and clapped me on the back, but turned solemn when they found out James hadn’t got in. Lily had made a snarky comment that James should learn to not get everything he wants, which drew Mary and Amelia into a discussion whether James really did get everything he wanted. It was all about James.
Regulus had smiled at me from the Slytherin table before being drawn into conversation with his new friends. Cissy had wasted no time in informing my family I was now a ‘Gryffindor Mascot’; she was still furious that I aimed a bludger at her during the trials.
In my defence, she deserved it. All I could hear whilst I watching James dive for the quaffle was her spiteful comments. That associating with Muggles made wizard blood weaker; that James was an example of this. That he was nothing but a diseased pureblood. I acted on instinct. The bludger was coming towards me, it was almost too easy to pull back my bat and hit it in her direction with all the force I could muster. Of course, Professor Flitwick and stopped it before the bludger could meet its target, but still late enough for her to scream and dive for cover – in front of her beloved Malfoy.
I’d gotten a howler from my mother the following day; I can only thank God that the owl was delayed in some way – only delivering the steaming red letter when I was by myself in our room. There were no congratulations within.
A week later, another parcel arrived. A long, thin one with a small note attached. Peter had eagerly helped me unravel the parcel to see a smooth black broomstick with curved bristles. It was the MoonLight 100. One of the best brooms on the market. My jaw had hung open and I was vaguely aware of the older students glancing towards me in interest. James had stood up and left the table.
The note was simple:
Your father has insisted that we give you a new broom. After all, any mudblood could have touched those pathetic brooms the school keeps. You are a pure blood and you would do us a dishonour to ride something suited for the poor. Try not to be a disgrace.
It wasn’t signed off, or addressed. But it was clear that it was my mother. If anything, I was surprised. She’d almost sounded… nice. She wrote in the note like she used to write in our birthday cards; I had pondered for a moment what my father thought. Was he proud? I’d hoped and looked for a letter since, to explain this unexpected gift. But, of course, none ever came.
“Sirius?” An unsure voice came from the doorway. It was one of the First Years; Caradoc Dearborn. He looked slightly surprised to see me perched on the edge of bed in a state of undress, in nothing but my underwear and a thin vest. “I-I can come back later.”
I sighed, “No, Dearborn.” I used my hands to push me away from the bed and strode towards the door. “What do you want?”
“Er – James said this arrived for you.” He handed me an envelope with a smudged Black insigne on the back. I felt a moment of shock and a shoot of warmth when I took the letter from the boy; had my parents written?
“Thanks, Dearborn. I owe you one.”
“No,” the boy shrugged. “It was on my way to my room and, um, Sirius-“
I looked at the First Year who was beginning to look slightly uncomfortable. “What’s up, Caradoc?”
He looked at me for a moment and opened his mouth, as if to say something of importance, before closing it and shaking his head. “Nothing.” He turned and left the room, before pausing and looking over his shoulder. “Well done on getting on the team, by the way.”
I nodded, and he was gone. Strange. I returned to my damp bed with my brows furrowed; what on earth was that about?
I shivered and started to become aware of how cold I was; there were goose bumps coating my arms and legs. Thankfully, the windows had been pulled shut so that the dark sky provided a dramatic background to the red leaves that were stamped across the outside of the glass, the heavy rain pounding against the frame.
I reached for the blanket underneath my clothes, to find it slightly muddy and wet. Shrugging, I walked to Peter’s bed and borrowed his; he wouldn’t mind too much. I pulled the thick material close, and my icy fingers started to tear into the envelope with little grace.
The writing was small and hastily written; I immediately noticed the hand didn’t belong to either of my parents; I couldn’t comprehend the heavy feeling in my stomach and the overwhelming emotion of… sadness at this understanding. It was written in blue ink and was very familiar.
I’m sorry I couldn’t see you much over the summer, but I had an idea of how the school holiday would go and thought it best to persuade Uncle Orion that you should spend some time with the Potters. Just so you know, you can thank me in chocolate and flowers.
I found your card shortly after we returned home. It was awful, Sirius. The LeStrange family are as creepy as they’ve always been and their son was as soft as a blanket – Bella was defiantly not impressed. Cissy spent the entire time drooling after that Malfoy boy, making herself appear more idiotic then she normally does. And the Rosier family. I’ve no idea which son they were trying to pair me off with, but none were an option.
I know I don’t normally speak to you like this; goodness, I spend most my time trying to get you to tone down your opinions! But, something has happened. I’m leaving - in the next couple days, and I can’t go back. I’m sorry I can’t help you out anymore Sirius, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. You’ve always been a fighter.
I can’t give any information, in case this letter somehow gets taken astray. But I’ll be in Hogsmeade next weekend before I move on, and I will be able to answer your letters much more quickly and speak more openly.
I’m sorry, Sirius.
Love your best cousin, Andromeda.
P.S. I was at Grimmauld Place when Cissy’s letter arrived. You made the Gryffindor team? Congratulations, Sirius. That’s an incredible achievement – you’re a great flier and it’s a good outlet to let off steam. I hope you liked the broom; your dad thought it was a very good idea after I suggested it. Once again, chocolate and flowers are appreciated, young man.
I sat for a moment; torn between worry and delight. It was likely that Andy might have sent the letter in the previous night; she could be leaving any moment. Andromeda was the most patient person I had ever known; if she was leaving then something must have happened. Something big.
But to run away, I knew well enough that my mother would never welcome her back into our home, and as an extension, neither would her parents. She was turning away from the world we’d always known and setting out. I was suddenly in awe of my cousin’s courage.
For a moment, I considered what life in Grimmauld Place would be like without my favourite cousin to make the days more bearable. It would be completely up to me to make Regulus listen. To stop him from becoming one of them.
My fingers were curled into my palm; it would be so easy for something to go wrong. For Kreacher to spot something out of place. Why was she leaving? The question rolled round my head, again and again. What happened?
My teeth grounded together as I dropped Peter’s blanket in the laundry, and then proceeded to gather my sodden robes and damp quilt to push them into the basket. I pulled off the rest of my clothes and walked towards the shower in the small bathroom.
For a moment, as I pulled the handle and let the hot water fall, Andy’s words echoed in my head. ’That’s an incredible achievement… you’re a great flier. I stepped into the water and felt the water scald against my icy skin.
I was suddenly overcome with the certainty that, somehow, I would meet her in Hogsmeade next weekend. I needed to see my cousin, to make sure she was okay. We’d found many passageways around the school; there had to be a way out. There had to be.
I was tired of it. James was constantly subdued from not getting on the team; he looked glum when he thought nobody was looking and then acted overly cheery when we were all together. He only showed any real emotion when Sirius was nearby.
I was tired of Sirius getting angry because we haven’t given him the attention he wanted. Didn’t he realise that it would be unfair on James if we went on and on about his success? We were just trying to be good friends.
I was tired of Peter borrowing James’ cloak in the middle of the night to take the majority of his clothes to the laundry. He acted like I didn’t know; it was made clear to never mention his nightly trips. Did he really think I wouldn’t notice him leaving with a bundle of clothes that had holes or burns in, and returning with them patched up? It was almost like he was ashamed that he needed to fix his clothes, rather than buying new ones.
And yet, at the same time I could understand it. We all had things to hide; I just wished I could help them. They didn’t have to befriend me, or put up with me lying to them every month. But they did. And now we all seemed to be on edge; everyone holding something back which was causing, however small, a crack in our friendship. And I hated it.
I was sick of everyone having their secrets; we were friends. Best friends. Yet nobody was completely honest with the other. But, of course, I couldn’t say anything. I was the biggest hypocrite. If I wanted them to share their secrets, then I would have to share mine. And then none of this would matter, because we wouldn’t be friends anymore. I would be forced to leave Hogwarts – and then who cares about a petty argument in the first place.
“You alright there, Remus?” Lily asked softly, looking uncertainly at where my quill was digging into the parchment.
I sighed and placed the quill on the table. “Yeah, fine.” I rubbed my eyes tiredly.
“Are you sure?” Lily asked carefully, her vivid green eyes watching me in concern. “You haven’t been yourself recently.”
“Ah, has my mass murdering, identical twin got loose again?” I said in an attempt at humour.
“He’s been spotted twice.” Lily replied dryly. I chuckled and rolled my eyes. “But seriously, Remus, I’m here if you want to talk.”
I smiled half-heartedly and went to return to my work. Yet no matter how hard I tried to focus on the uses of belladonna and which healing ingredients it worked best with - Lily’s words played on my mind. Would it hurt to tell her? Not the full truth, obviously. But… just get her opinion. It couldn’t do any harm, right?
I opened my mouth for a moment, struggling to form the words I wanted to say. My fingers tapped the edge of the quill absent-mindedly. “Remus?” Lily asked delicately.
“It’s- right- well- if you-” I sighed in annoyance. “It’s James, and Sirius, and Peter. They’re – look, we all have secrets. I’d think it strange if someone didn’t. But, I have a secret. A rather big secret. And I don’t think I can help them, or understand why they’re all acting the way they are, without having to ask what they’re hiding.” I rambled. “But that would be hypocritical, wouldn’t it? To ask them to confide in me, but keep my secret to myself. It would be wrong, right?”
Lily stared at me, slightly bemused. “Right, calm down and take a breath.” She placed the quill down on the table and rested her chin on her knuckles. “In my experience,” she started carefully, “if people have secrets then its because they’re ashamed, or embarrassed, or worried what their friends would think of them.” I nodded, I’d thought as much – after all, didn’t I share the same feelings? “But,” Lily continued, “I’ve also found that confiding in a close friend can make all the difference.”
I looked up and became frozen under her green gaze. “So,” I started, “it would help them if I got everybody to talk about things. But… then they’d expect me to talk about myself.”
“That might not be a bad thing.” Lily spoke softly. “As many bad things I could say about those boys, I can also say that they care for you. They’re good friends. Is your secret really that bad?”
“Yes.” I replied without hesitation. “If they knew… they wouldn’t want to be friends with me, at all.”
Lily frowned. “Remus, listen to me.” I looked at her reluctantly. “There is very little that would stop any of those boys wanting to be friends with you. I’m talking murder bad. Do you honestly think James Potter would want to stop being your friend because of a secret? It’s coming up to a full year after his comments on my birthday, and he’s still trying to ‘make it up’ to me.”
I smiled slightly. James constantly managed to mess up every time he attempted to help Lily – putting himself more and more in her debt. I opened my mouth to respond, but at that moment a small girl with curly, brown hair ran through the common room and up the girls’ staircase.
Lily sighed and started to gather her parchment and books. “I’m sorry, Remus.” She gestured to where the young girl had disappeared. “That’s Joyce; she’s having a few issues settling in so I offered to help her… but I could stay here, if you want?”
“No, no.” I replied immediately, waving off her offer with my hand. “Go help her, honestly. I’m nearly finished anyway.”
Lily bit her lip and nodded cautiously. “Okay, but I’ll find you tomorrow, alright?” I nodded and smiled in thanks. “Remus? I mean it.” I looked at her again; her voice had changed to sound much more authoritative than before. “There’s very little that you could say, which would make them stop wanting to be friends with you.”
I sat in the armchair, completely lost in my own thoughts, and only interrupted when Peter collapsed in the chair next to mine. “Where’d Lily go?” he asked, his eyes scanning the common room for her fiery red hair.
“She’s looking after one of the First Years.” I nodded towards the girls’ staircase.
“Oh.” Peter paused, slightly putout. “I haven’t finished this essay yet, do you reckon I can get her to help me later on?”
“No need.” I smiled, gesturing to my own parchment. “I’ve nearly finished, you can look at mine when I’m done.”
“Can’t I just copy?” Peter whined.
“No way.” I laughed, jokingly pulling my parchment away from Peter’s eyes. “How will you learn anything if you just copy off me?”
“Yeah yeah.” Peter rolled his eyes, “Just tell me when you start teaching, yeah?”
I shook my head slowly. “I couldn’t be a professor.”
“Why not?” Peter frowned. “You’re good at teaching us all the work we didn’t learn, and always make us do our homework – and you’re always trying to stop us doing anything too bad. You’re practically a professor already. Why wouldn’t you want to teach?”
Because they’d never let me. I shrugged. “Dunno, it’s just not for me.”
Peter rolled his eyes, as if I was being silly, and dug his hands into his deep pockets. “Here,” he passed me a small wrapped package, “they hadn’t cooked any treacle tart so I reckoned you’d prefer chocolate cake instead.”
“Cheers, Peter.” I replied, immediately opening the package to see a large chunk of chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing. “Looks good.”
We’d used the kitchens often since Peter’s discovery. It was easier to grab some breakfast from the kitchens when we’d slept in, rather than rushing down to the Great Hall and scraping the bowls for whatever was left. Or if we’d had a detention. Or if Sirius had missed dinner due to Qudditch. Or if we wanted a midnight snack. It had fast become one of our favourite spots, and since the majority of the older students were visiting Hogsmeade today, including the Slytherins, Peter volunteered to get some food whilst we were working.
We both ate our treat whilst writingg on our parchment. After a while, Peter looked up from his work, with ink smudged on his nose, and looked confused. “Remus?” Peter queried slowly. “It’s Saturday… weren’t you supposed to be completing your detentions with Hagrid today?”
My eyes grew wide, and my heartbeat seemed to beat increasingly louder. “Oh god!” I slammed my quill on the table. “I am – oh god I’m so late.” I started to gather my things in a rush; bundling everything into my arms.
“Remus,” Peter grabbed my arm. “It’s fine – I’ll get it. Just go.”
I smiled at my friend. “Thanks, Peter.” I pulled on my shoes, which I’d kicked off whilst studying. “I’ll see you at dinner, alright?”
I didn’t wait for his reply, and instead sped through the common room and scrambled out the portrait hole. The fat lady called out, but she was behind me before I could pause to make-out what she’d said.
I was sprinting through the hallways and leaping down the staircases, three steps at a time, and still seemed to be taking forever. I leant forward slightly and stretched my legs with each stride, feeling my joints burn with a familiar pain. If it wasn’t the day of a Hogsmeade trip, I wouldn’t dare risk running like this; faster than a normal person should be able to run and bent over in such an animalistic way. But Hagrid had been good to me, and Dumbledore had let me off easily with my detentions. I didn’t want to let either of them down. I didn’t want to be that late; I didn’t want it to look like I wasn’t grateful for everything they were doing. Even if I didn’t understand why they were bothering.
I slowed to a normal pace as a group of girls rounded the corner, yet still sprinting at such a speed that I wasn’t able to decipher who the people were. The large doors in the Main Entrance were open and I bounded down the last of the stone steps.
It was still raining, and the wind was picking up. I absent-mindedly gave a thought to my warm coat lying over the trunk at the end of my bed. Instead, I pulled the cuffs of my long-sleeved top over my knuckles, and continued to sprint down the hill to Hagrid’s hut.
The grass was slippery and I skidded a few times; my trouser bottoms soon became caked under thick mud and my feet started to grow numb within my shoes. Spike was standing against the window; his wrinkled face visible through the glass. I knocked quickly against the wooden door and heard heavy footsteps approach from the other side.
“Remus,” the familiar rough voice greeted me, sweat and rain running down my cheek. “Wha’ yer done?”
“Done?” I gasped, my breath coming back much quicker then it would to most. “No – I just ran. I-I’m sorry I’m late.”
Hagrid moved to the side and gestured for me to enter. “Le’ me gues’ – James stole yer shoes, ‘gain?”
“No,” I rolled his eyes and accepted the rock cake being shoved into my hands, “he’s too busy moping that he didn’t get on the team.”
“Ah,” Hagrid nodded knowingly. The small hut had become a spot, other than the kitchen, that they had started to visit frequently. The hut was always warm; a welcome escape from the growing winterly breeze. And Hagrid always provided food, though that wasn’t always as welcome as the warmth. James saw it as a great benefit that they were allowed to talk about teachers and moan about work, and Hagrid would just pretend he hadn’t heard – and, on the odd occasion, he had even added his own comments about a particular teacher he disliked.
My detentions had been simple in comparison to my friends’. Hagrid had decided to share some of his knowledge about magical creatures and places that were relatively safe in the Forbidden Forest – though it had taken a while to eventually persuade Hagrid that he really didn’t need to show these places to my friends. Just the thought of James, Sirius or Peter exploring the forest on a full moon, brought shivers to my back and goosebumps to my arms.
What amazed me the most was Hagrid’s pride in every creature. Even the Slobberwugs and the Kicking Brews. Hagird talked of every creature with a certain pride; as if they were all magnificent.
The giant of a man left the corner where he’d set up a kitchen and started towards me. “James’ taken it alo’ harder then I thought.”
“Tell me about it,” I muttered. “I keep trying to speak to him about it, but he just clams up! How am I supposed to help him, if he won’t speak to any of us?”
“Ah,” Hagrid nodded, “well you migh’ jus’ have to wait ‘til he tells yeh.”
“Afte’ all, ever’one has secrets.” Hagrid continued, his black beetle eyes looking at me meaningfully. My hair fell into my eyes as I bowed my head, and my fingers fiddled with the edge of a rock cake. Hagrid endlessly confused me; he knew about my condition. And it was almost like he didn’t care. He seemed interested, but for the most part, just treated me like a normal student. I just couldn’t understand why. “Tha’ reminds me.”
Hagrid pulled himself up, and stomped across the wooden hut; causing the plates to chime against the wall and making Spike move from her comfy sitting position beside the fire. “Professor Dumbledore asked me t’ give yer this.”
It was an old book; the kind that sits on forgotten shelves and is primarily used to hold the others upright. The cover was slightly torn and it smelt of decaying paper. It appeared to be a deep green book, with faded gold lettering. ’Brothers by day.’ shone under the candlelight on Hagrid’s table; the author’s name wasn’t written.
“What is it?” I asked unsurely, not used to accepting gifts from people who knew of my lycanthropy.
“It’s an ol’ book.” Hagrid nodded, returning to his seat and pushing Spike out of it. “’Bout twin brothers; one of ‘em got bitten, see.” I looked up sharply, my heart suddenly beating oddly. “The one who din’t ge’ bitten wrote ‘bout growin’ up with his twin. Migh’ explain some things.”
I swallowed thickly, my fingers drifting gently over the title. “Like what?”
Hagrid coughed. “All things.” I looked at Hagrid with a brow raised, Hagrid sighed. “Yer got out the Shriekin’ Shack las’ time, din’t yer?”
I swallowed again, my fingers began to tap the cover nervously. I wasn’t used to talking about my affliction; and certainly not in such a calm, non-judging tone. “Yeah, I-I did, I think.”
I felt my cheeks warm. “I remember… a rabbit. But that’s all. I just woke up in the forest. And… the rabbit lived.” This fact still bemused me; on the rare occasion that an animal had strayed past my parents’ magically made cage at full moon, I’d awoken to blood.
Yet, Hagrid nodded in understanding. “If yer weren’t hungry, then yeh wouldn’t attack.” I tilted my head to the side in confusion. “Werewolves are lonely creatures; if they don’t need feedin’ then they’d be plenty fine with playin’. Humans are differen’, of course. Werewolves know their place in the hie’achy, but humans, they’re the only creatures that don’t fit. They’d be attacked on site.”
I noticed my jaw was hung open slightly; in this short moment I’d learnt more about the wolf inside me, then I’d ever learnt before. “Bu’ yer escaped. Tha’s in there, too. Yer’ve started to grow; the wolf grows at the same time. Dumbledore didn’t realise that wolves are ahead; there’s not many books, see. Bu’ he’s stren’thened the door now, yer won’t escape ‘gain.”
I stroked the book in my hand, suddenly feeling a lot lighter then I could ever remember feeling. It was like someone cared or at least understood; like I wasn’t alone anymore.
It was like watching a practice game, where the quaffle just got passed between two players, and you sat in the crowd, watching the ball move from one player to the other, in complete silence.
“I just do.” Sirius said for the countless time, kicking his trunk in agitation.
“You said that before, but why?” Remus replied with growing annoyance.
Sirius sighed and collapsed onto the edge of his bed, his hands rubbed his eyes tiredly. We’d all noticed a change in Sirius over the last couple days; he had gone from muttering and snarky comments, to moody and ready to lash out. In a way, it reminded me heavily of my father when he’d been fired from another job.
Remus and I had decided not to mention it, hoping that Sirius would eventually come clean. I was unsure when it started to happen, but there was a tenseness within the group that hadn’t been there before. James had thrown himself into pranking the First Years and older Slytherins, but no longer seemed to care for the consequences; I was sure he had detention for the rest of the year at this point.
Remus seemed as lost as I was, but instead of talking to me about it, he now threw himself into an old book that he had started carrying around with him. Reading it like it would provide some answers to this mess.
“It’s… personal.” Sirius said at last, pulling his hands away from his face and revealing the deep bruises under each eye; he hadn’t slept properly in several nights – making it much harder to sneak to the laundry room.
So far, no one had noticed. I could only thank my luck stars – which rarely made an appearance – that nobody had seen me sneaking out the room with a pile of robes. I always borrowed James’ cloak, sure that he wouldn’t mind.
My dad had been as true to his word as I’d expected. He hadn’t contacted me once in the last month, and I’d known better then to ask him for a couple knuts for a new quill. Rosier had thought it hilarious to levitate my bag in the hallway and then drop it with a crash. My inkpot had smashed, spraying blue ink all over my belongings, making my previously best quill a dried lumpy mess. But I still used it, nevertheless.
“For God’s sake, Sirius.” Remus snapped, slamming his book on the bed beside him. “You can’t just tell us to find you a way into Hogsmeade without telling us anything.”
“Urgent.” Remus sighed, grinding his teeth together. “Yeah, you already mentioned that.”
James, who had been lying in bed and badly pretending to be asleep, now muttered to himself. I felt my chest tighten as I caught a few of the words. No good could come of this, surely.
Sirius seemed to feel the same way, and his narrowed eyes focussed on James’ bad. “Want to say that a bit louder?”
“I said,” James pushed his covers to his hips as he sat up in bed; his unruly hair messier then usual, “that you probably just want to get some stuff for your precious broom.”
“Shut up, James.” Sirius snapped, digging his nails into the mattress below him. “I got into the Quidditch team. You didn’t. Get over it.”
I gasped, locking anxious glances with Remus. “Yeah?” James spat angrily, kicking off his sheets and clamouring out of his bed. “Well the only reason they chose you, was to piss off the Slytherins that a Black was on the Gryffindor team.”
Sirius physically recoiled, almost as if he had been hit. He became unnaturally still, just stared at James, stunned.
I’d had very little sympathy for James over the last month. He was behaving like Sirius had betrayed him, like being refused entry to the Quidditch team was the worst thing in the world. I knew that it wasn’t. But I’d stayed quiet; there was no point in upsetting the applecart. But now, I felt a sudden pang of loyalty towards Sirius; it was clear that he had a lot on his mind. “That was completely out of order.” I said softly to James.
James, in turn, looked shocked that I’d spoken up. “But-“ James began before trailing off, almost like his words were catching up with him. They probably were, I noticed that James had a tendency to speak without thinking in the slightest when he was riled. His eyes slowly grew wider, and his lips parted. Sirius was still motionless.
“Oh God, Sirius, I didn’t – I didn’t mean that.” James stuttered, walking over to Sirius cautiously. “I didn’t, honest. I spoke without thinking, I swear.”
There was a long silence, only interrupted by James calling Sirius’ name. Eventually, Sirius looked up from the edge of his bed, his eyes holding more fury than I’d ever seen before. “I’m not just a Black.” he spat. “Why does every thing I do, get measured against my fucking name?”
I winced as Sirius swore; I’d never heard him swear before. The older students, sure. But not him. Sirius stood up, so that he was eye level with James. “You have no bloody idea what you’re talking about, alright?” He chuckled humourlessly. “It’s a school team, why the hell does it matter that much? You can always try again next year – but instead you’ve been acting like a fucking prat all month. Why? What on earth could be worth it?”
James’ mouth gaped. I looked at Remus, stunned. He exchanged the same look. None of us had been expecting this reaction. Not for the first time, I began to think that perhaps my friends had as much a secret as I had.
“M-My Dad.” James stuttered, his cheeks growing red as he looked to the ground. After a short pause, he looked up at us self-consciously. “I-I know it’s stupid. B-but my Dad was the best at Quidditch in the school – he got offered to play in the leagues after Hogwarts. He was Head Boy, and top of his class in, like, everything. He went into the Auror program instead, and – and he became head of that too.” I noticed James spoke about his dad in both a prideful and resentful tone. He fiddled with the edge of Sirius’ bedcover. “I guess he’s just left pretty big boots to fill. It’s hard.” James looked at us desperately, willing us to understand. “I’m sorry. I’ve been acting like a prat. I know, like a six year old. I’m sorry. Sirius, I’m really sorry.” I swallowed thickly, watching for Sirius’ reaction. James didn’t often apologise. Sirius’ gaze seemed to soften somewhat, but otherwise he stayed silent. James looked at him helplessly. “I guess you wouldn’t understand, then.”
“Yeah I wouldn’t.” Sirius said quietly, his hand flexing into a fist and then stretching it out nervously. “Because my dad’s a pathetic drunk who doesn’t know what day of the week it is.”
Remus breathed in sharply. It was known that Sirius didn’t talk about his home life. It was a topic we’d all stayed clear of, yet James had said something to force Sirius to give us a certain amount of trust that he didn’t seem to have with anyone else.
“The only thing he’s capable of doing is proving that you’re worthless, or punishing you for not being the pure-blood prince they were all hoping for.” Sirius spat vehemently. “So no, I don’t know what it’s like to want to be like your dad.”
My mouth hung open. His father seemed to be similar to my own, but at least my dad was trying. And before the accident, I’d always wanted to be like my dad. Even now, I admired him for always looking for work, always fighting to continue. But, it was almost like Sirius had never had that. Like he’d grown up hating his own father.
“But,” James glanced in my direction, almost as if wanting to ask if it was acceptable to say, “your mum-”
“If you didn’t get enough of an impression of my mother at Kings Cross, then your welcome to try again at Christmas.” Sirius replied nastily, his fist still curling and un-curling with venom. “Pure-Blood maniacs – the lot of them. I was supposed to be in Slytherin. I’m the first one to not be. You don’t understand, they hate me.”
James opened his mouth, as if to say Sirius was over-reacting. I stayed silent; there was a truth in Sirius’ eyes that I didn’t want to question. “I’m the Black heir.” Sirius continued. “So they keep me away, locked in my room all holidays so I can’t ‘contaminate’ Regulus.” Sirius paused. “He’s their ‘heir’ now. And he shouldn’t be. Because he’s good, I swear. But he won’t speak to me, and he’s changing.” Sirius took a deep breath, becoming aware that he’d spoken fast, like he’d started and couldn’t stop himself from continuing. “I can see it.” Sirius added miserably.
“I need to get to Hogsmeade, because my cousin’s there. She’s run away, and she wouldn’t, unless something big happened. I don’t even know if she made it away safely.” Sirius looked lost.
“What do you mean ‘safely’?” Remus asked in concern. Sirius just looked at him.
“Andy is Bella’s sister.” Sirius paused, looking unsure. “Bella favours darker spells. If something has happened, then I’ve a feeling Bella wouldn’t have reacted nicely.”
“Andy’s different?” I questioned, recalling the Head Girl from last year in green-rimmed robes.
Sirius nodded, a small smile creeping along his lips. “She is. She’s always been my favourite. Andy’s the one who persuaded my parents to get me the broom.” He added softly.
James looked up sharply. “Your broom?”
Sirius nodded, biting his lip nervously. “I-It was my birthday a couple weeks ago. They don’t usually get me presents since I got sorted… but Andy convinced them that I should have one.”
The room was silent. “Y-your birthday?” James gasped. Remus looked appalled and I frantically pushed my mind back to last year. We’d had a small celebration at this time last year, hadn’t we? I bit my thumb nail nervously. How had we forgotten his birthday?
Sirius looked uncomfortable. “It’s not a big deal-”
“Of course it’s a big deal!” James said loudly, his face was the picture of alarm. “Sirius – God – I’m so sorry. I-“
James seemed at lost for words, a first. We all were. I recalled how Sirius had even remembered my birthday in summer, and had taken the time to send me a letter and a present. And I’d forgotten his.
At last, James spoke determinedly. “We’ll get you to Hogsmeade, I swear. And then, we’re going to celebrate your birthday.”
Sirius looked at James for a moment, as if he daren’t believe what he was saying, before stepping closer, and pausing. “I’m sorry.” James said quietly.
“Me too.” Sirius said even quieter.
They both looked at each other, and pulled the other into an embrace. Before parting quickly, and coughing uncomfortably.
“Has anyone any idea where to start?” I said after a moment.
The others shook their heads unsurely, except Remus. He just sat on his bed, looking at the book in his hands pensively. The gold lettering, ‘Brothers by Day’ shone in the candlelight.
Sirius and Peter were at breakfast. Remus was at Hagrid’s; he said he needed to ask him about something. I said I’d meet them in the Great Hall. I was late. And sat on my bed.
It wasn’t that I was avoiding them, really. It wasn’t them that needed avoiding. Especially today; Sirius’ cousin was supposed to be in Hogsmeade at this very moment, and we still hadn’t found a way out. I’d offered by cloak, but as Remus pointed out, the gates were magically locked. I also suggested we use our brooms to fly over, but then Peter had suggested that if there wasn’t at least a ward to stop brooms, there’d be one at least to inform the headmaster of students trying to escape. And that would get us nowhere.
Sirius had sent letters to his cousin, as she’d suggested, but had nothing in reply so far – making him more agitated and impatient to leave. I’d received three more detentions, starting Monday, when I’d taken the blame for his pranks that he’s done to distract himself. Sirius had major issue with this; I’d had to physically restrain him. But, as I’d pointed out, Sirius had Quidditch practice and needed to see his cousin. The only reason I hadn’t been given a weekend detention was because most teachers assumed I’d already have one. If Sirius claimed it was him, he would get detention over the weekend, and would miss Quidditch practice. Then I’d still get detention for lying. It was pointless, in my mind at least. Besides, I needed to make it up to him for acting like a prat.
So, really, there were two reasons I was sat on my bed rather than go to breakfast. The first, that if the teachers saw me then they’d realise I haven’t got a detention and would swap them from weekday to weekend detentions. And secondly, it was a Saturday, and over the last month Jack had deemed Saturday the perfect day for a ‘talk’. I’d managed to get away from him every week, so far.
A part of my brain, a very small part, rationalised that I would have to speak to him eventually. But, I just really didn’t want to listen to him explain why I didn’t get in the team. It was pathetic. I know. But at the same time, it mattered.
My mum seemed to have known that I didn’t get in, probably due to my lack of news. She sent me one of those mushy letters that you hide from your friends, and stuff to the bottom of your trunk – but keep nevertheless. Dad took longer, apparently he was busy at work, but it came by the end of the week.
I know he didn’t mean to sound patronising, but the more he said that there would be other times I could try-out, I became more and more aware that he hadn’t needed those chances. It was the final line that got me the most; ‘…next time tell me, we shouldn’t have had to wait for Jack to write.’
It had been Jack.
Now, I was sat on my bed, prolonging the time until I had to go downstairs with every second. Sirius probably thought I was ignoring him again, even though that was the last thing I wanted to do. My anger and embarrassment… and possibly a slight but of jealousy, was now fully directed at the Seventh Year who I’d often considered to be a brother.
It hadn’t taken until Sirius’ wake-up call, to realise that he’d done nothing wrong. He wasn’t bringing his broom everywhere to gloat, well, not all the time at least. And when he walked into our room wearing his Qudditch robes, he wasn’t doing it to rub in my face that I didn’t own any, he just hadn’t had the opportunity to change yet – even though there were some perfectly fine changing rooms beside the Quidditch pitch. And when he talked to the older years about upcoming plays, and changes to practice time, it wasn’t to boast that he was on talking terms with older students, it was essential information – though he could have waited until I’d left, rather than talking over me at mealtimes, just saying.
But it was fine. Great, in fact.
Sirius needed the team more than I did, and that was the truth of it. I felt guilty when I thought about how I’d treated him over the last month; I was pathetic. I acted like a child. And children don’t get on Quidditch teams.
Sirius had mentioned his relationship with his family a couple times since the start of First Year, but I’d always just shrugged it off – assumed he was overreacting. Then, this week, he’d suddenly decided to share what his home life was really like. And in comparison, not getting on the Quidditch team really wasn’t important.
But as Sirius was speaking, the others were watching him. It seemed that none of them were conscious of their own actions. Remus kept looking at the book in his hand and Peter watched Sirius so intently; it was like he also understood what Sirius had gone through. All of them were hiding something. I knew it with a certainty that I sometimes got.
I’d been aware for some time that Remus had a secret for a while; Sirius and I had often discussed his ‘tragic family’ that meant he’d had to leave the school. Peter often pointed out that it was a monthly thing; someone always got injured in his family once a month. At first, we’d thought of the possibility that he was just sneaking off – perhaps he knew a way into Hogsmeade? Perhaps he had a girlfriend?
The thought made my nose scrunch, and made Sirius chuckle nervously. Peter had gone bright red. Who’d want a girlfriend? My mind unconsciously scanned over the girls’ in our house; Mary, with her fits of giggles and strange taste in music. Amelia, with her blonde plaits and strict demeanour. And Lily, with her angry green eyes and her snappy comments. Why would anyone want to date them? Or date them, but then have to spend time with them? No, thanks.
This idea had been dismissed pretty quickly, though. After all, both Madam Pomfrey, who Peter so had a crush on, and Professor McGonagall, we were still looking, both seemed to know of his secret. They wouldn’t have let him sneak out to see his girlfriend, surely.
And, Peter. Did he really think I didn’t notice that my invisibility cloak was in a slightly different place to where I’d left it the night before?
I kicked one of the bedposts in agitation and leaped off the bed. It wasn’t that I minded, though it would have been nice to be asked. It was that Peter also felt the need to keep things hidden; I had no secrets, at least no important ones, from them, but they all had secrets from me. Was it trust? Did they not trust me?
I looked around the room, to check that I was alone. I was. Peter’s trunk opened easily; the lock was old and very weak – it just took a small shove for the thing to spring open. Inside was a jumble, of too big clothes, of clothes with patches and some with just holes. Some had ink smears, whilst others had missing buttons.
We weren’t stupid; it was obvious that Peter’s family wasn’t the wealthiest in the wizarding world. From his too small pyjamas, to his too large shoes. His fourth or fifth hand school robes to his ripped school bag. How he stayed silent when we discussed new items that we planned to buy, or how he looked at me when I wore my thick, winter robes that my parents sent via owl post. It wasn’t until I noticed he was still using the sticky quill, covered in ink, that I began to realise just how little he had.
A quill was a couple of knuts. That was nothing. Surely, his parents would buy him a new one. They couldn’t be that poor. I mean, look at the size of him – if they stopped spending on extra food, then they’d be able to buy him proper clothes, right?
I closed the lid quickly at the sound of feet on the stairs outside; I just made it back to my bed when the door opened.
Remus paused, his eyes scanning the room before coming to a stop on me. “Come on.”
I stood up cautiously. “Where?”
“Just come on.” Remus spoke determinedly, his hands holding the faded green book tightly, so that his white knuckles stood out against his pale skin.
I frowned, but stooped to pull on my shoes. “But, where are we going?”
“James.” Remus snapped.
“Alright, alright.” I tied the last knot in my laces and went to grab a thicker robe. Remus sighed impatiently behind me. “What? It’s cold.”
“Just hurry up.” Remus said through gritted teeth. “And bring your cloak.”
I stood up, completely confused. Remus had always had a slight issue with my invisibility cloak; both for stealing it off my dad, and also because when we used it, it was often to create mischief. If Remus was suggesting to bring it, then there was something seriously wrong.
“James,” Remus sighed heavily, “please, hurry up. I might- I won’t – just hurry.”
He spoke as if convincing himself out of something; never a good sign. “I’m ready.” I spoke quickly, grabbing the cloak out of my trunk and walking towards the door. “I best wear it if we’re going near teachers; I don’t want them to think I’ve got free time.”
Remus just rolled his eyes and strode out the door. “Well,” I muttered, pulling the cloak over my body and following him from the room.
It was always an odd experience, albeit fun, to walk through the common room invisible. With hindsight, I probably should have waited until I’d gone through the common room before slipping on the cloak. That way, I wouldn’t have had to jump on a sofa when a group of fourth year girls stormed towards me, and then I wouldn’t have accidently hit a Fifth Year in the head, and then he wouldn’t have started arguing with his friend. And I wouldn’t have had to crawl the rest of the way when some First Years were practising their aim with purple splats of paint against one of the walls that I was passing. And Remus could just walk straight through. I could see his smirk. Git.
After what felt like hours of dodging people in corridors, jumping over sinking steps – they were always trying to trap me whilst under my cloak – all whilst attempting to keep up with Remus, who was becoming paler by the second. On more than one occasion, he stopped in the hallway and began to turn back around – like he’d changed his mind – before closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and continuing on his path.
Sirius and Peter were beside the main doors. The sculpted patterns within the oak door framed their heads like halos, as they waited for us to arrive. Peter looked completely confused, and Sirius looked agitated and impatient – how he always looked when he was about to distract himself. Remus seemed to notice.
“Sirius, Peter,” Remus called, making our two friends turn in our direction.
“Where’s James?” Peter asked curiously, his eyes searching in the empty space around Remus.
Remus gestured towards me with a jerk of his head, and continued towards the door. “He’s in detention, remember Peter?” Sirius raised his eyebrow and Peter played along.
“Oh yeah,” he paused, watching as Remus continued through the door. “We’re going outside?”
“Looks like it,” Sirius muttered, his brows completely furrowed as he noticed how pale Remus had become, and how tense his shoulders were. “Remus? You alright?”
“Hm?” Remus looked up, pausing from biting his lip. “Yeah, fine. Come on.”
Sirius and Peter exchanged a look, but followed nevertheless. I went afterwards at a slower pace, very aware that the Professors were likely to be lurking at breakfast time. As soon as the wind hit, I was extremely glad for grabbing my warmer robes. Sirius had goosebumps coating his arms, and Peter began to shiver. Remus, though he was wearing considerably less than the rest of us, showed no outward reaction to the late autumnal, and early winter breeze. He just continued walking, muttering to himself quietly.
It looked like we were heading in the direction of Hagrid’s hut; the ground started to slope downwards and the giant man’s hut could clearly be seen under a cloud of thick smoke pumping from his tall, stone chimney. After a minute, or two, I decided I was a safe enough distance from the castle to remove my cloak; I didn’t want it getting spotted with flecks of mud and mildew from the long grass. I hadn’t the slightest idea how to clean it, and it would be pretty hard to explain to the house elves why the cloak kept disappearing every time they attempted to scrub it.
“Remus,” I called loudly, over the wailing wind, “where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” he shouted back, continuing to march downwards. Sirius looked at me and shrugged, Peter grumbled about the mud stains over the bottom of his robes.
I was starting to look forward to Hagrid’s hut; even if it meant a drooling dog and suspicious sandwiches. To my surprise, though, Remus started to turn to the right.
“Er, Remus?” Peter questioned. “Are you sure this is the right wa-?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Remus interrupted. “We’re nearly there.”
We rarely came to this part of the grounds; Remus said it was boggy and except for the moving tree, which grew inches by the day, there was nothing out here. We didn’t mind though, there was too much to find in the castle to be bothered by a bog land.
However, the further we walked, the more I came aware of the solid ground beneath our feet. We were getting closer and closer to the tree. “Remus?” Sirius asked curiously.
He sighed, and came to a stop several metres from the tree. The teachers referred to it as the ‘willow’; apparently it had only been planted the summer before we started, and it had an extremely vicious nature.
“There.” Remus pointed at the tree hesitantly.
“What?” I asked, looking for something worth the trek in the cold.
Remus swallowed thickly. “Sirius, you need to see your cousin, right?”
Sirius’ eyes immediately glued on Remus’ face. “Yeah, of course.” he said eagerly, before hesitating, “but we haven’t found a way yet – even if there is a way and-?”
“That,” Remus pointed again at the whirling tree. I felt my stomach go tight and my heartbeat quicken, as my mind registered with what he was saying, “is the pathway to Hogsmeade.”
My mouth opened as I searched for something to say. Peter gasped beside me and shuffled slightly closer in excitement. Sirius remained still, his eyes focused on the tree that was fighting the wind’s breeze for it’s last few leaves. “But- I mean, how? Where did you find out?” Sirius spat out at last.
Remus opened his mouth, and then closed it just as quickly. His eyes wandered over the three of us that stood before him and seemed to struggle for an answer. “I-I-” he stuttered, his teeth immediately biting his lip and his fingers fiddled with the round buttons on his coat nervously. “I overheard Madam Pomfrey talking about it to McGonagall.” He eventually said, his shoulders relaxing slightly and his eyes on the floor. I knew that look; it was the same one he gave when we asked how his Uncle was recovering.
I was about to question it, but Sirius shook his head in my direction. ’Later.’ he mouthed. “Remus?” Sirius asked quietly. “How do we get in?”
I eyed the swinging branches nervously and took a step back. Peter seemed to also come aware of how close he’d gotten and immediately scurried closer to us. Remus grimaced. “That’s the easy bit.” He paused, his eyes flicking to the castle nervously, looking the picture of regret and confusion. “Follow me.”
A/N: I swear these chapters are getting longer and longer! But, on the bright side, the updates are getting quicker and quicker! :D
Well, what did you think? Secrets are starting to unravel! I would really appreciate it if you were to leave me a review in the box below. I'll always reply :)
Until next time, Keira :)
P.S. The First Year Sorting has been edited slightly to adjust for Andromeda, and I'm editing the Christmas chapter now. The beginning chapters have also been given a slight touch-up, if anyone wanted to re-read extracts to make sense of Andromeda now having left Hogwarts. :)
P.P.S. Also, I'd be extremely grateful if you'd take a look at my newest story, 'Into the Wilderness'. It follows Charlie and Rolf as they fight to help their loved ones after the final battle. :)
Chapter 12: Second Year: Unearthing Hogsmeade
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The tunnel was the colour of early evenings in winter; dark and gloomy, yet a slight glow of light was still present that illuminated our surroundings. The floor was uneven in places, and I heard Peter trip over several of the roots. James was at the back of the group, moaning about the mud and clutching his cloak tighter to his chest. My hands were coated in a slath of dirt and my knees were soggy from moments when crawling was necessary. Remus led the group, bending below the sticking out roots and peculiarly placed mini waterfalls; almost like he’d been here before.
I’d known Remus was lying about his ailing family for some time; it was heavy suspicion for quite a long time until he covered for Peter in Charms class during the week. The look he gave the Professor was the same one he gave us monthly; eyes down and fingers fidgeting with the nearest object. It was also the same look he gave within the previous hour when he claimed he’d overheard about the passage from the Professors. Lies.
It had been the perfect time to ask him. To get the answer to his frustrating riddle. But… he said the passage led to Hogsmeade. Andromeda was in Hogsmeade. I felt a wave of guilt when I gestured for James to remain silent, though I could see the reflection of the same burning questions within his hazel eyes.
“How much… further?” Peter yelled from behind, his breathing laboured and his robes sweeping over the damp pebbled ground.
“Not far now.” Remus called back instinctively. I paused for a moment and looked to his outline with my brow raised. Remus’ breathing also cut short. “I mean, if you think how long the carriages took in September, and how long the Hogsmeade visits are… we must be nearly there.”
I pursed my lips, but said nothing. I just started walking again, determined to think of nothing but finding my cousin. That letter had been one of those things that just plays on your mind, slowly raising your anxiety and deepest fears until it was the only thing I could think of. Over the last week I had become obsessive, I knew that. But I just couldn’t stop myself.
Andy hadn’t answered any of my letters; I know she would immediately if she could. What if they found out she was leaving? What if they stopped her by physical means? She’s of age now; any small limit they had would have been washed away. What if they caught her escaping? Was it mother? Or worse, Bella? Is she in pain? Is she locked up? Is she even alive?
Why did she need to leave?
“Up here,” Remus spoke ahead, offering his hand towards me. “I think.” He added, pulling his back for a fraction of a second.
Once again, I refused to say anything and sensed the others were taking my lead. I raised my left arm and felt Remus’ hand grasp around my elbow. “One, two,” I tensed my knees, ready to jump, “three.”
Remus sharply tugged on my arm as I jumped from the floor, so that I landed easily on the ledge that was previously at chest height. I nodded my appreciation towards our tallest friend and turned with Remus to help Peter up behind.
I bent over and braced myself for the weight. Remus took Peter’s left arm whilst I took his right. “One, two, three.” Remus repeated before yanking Peter upwards. I felt the breath rush out of my chest and desperately attempted to keep my gasp within; Peter was bullied constantly for his weight – as his friend, I urged myself to not bring notice to it. Though I noticed, with a feeling of pity, that his cheeks glowed red in the growingly lit tunnel.
I turned again, to help pull up James, but Remus shook his head. “I’ve got him. You and Peter should go ahead – check its all clear and all that.” I noticed that his eyes never met mine, but once again, I stayed silent.
“Sure.” I smiled slightly tightly. “Come on, Peter.”
“’kay.” Peter gasped, wiping his hands on his already dirty trousers. The ledge started to widen so that Peter and I could comfortably walk alongside each other, the tunnel lightening with every step we took so that the air was now a dull grey rather than a misty black. “Where’d you reckon?” Peter whispered, looking around the slope for an exit.
I joined him in the search for where the light was starting to come from. It appeared to be coming from the top right. “Another climb, I think.” I muttered to Peter, who sighed dramatically.
“Fantastic.” Peter muttered back, completely deadpan. He glared at the corner in annoyance. “Right, we better get on with it.”
Peter strode forwards and I felt a rush of appreciation for my friends. They were doing this for me. Because I’d asked them to. Even though we might get suspended if caught. They were still doing it.
I followed Peter and heard James and Peter rushing to catch up with us. James’ moans about his cloak echoed around the tunnel. “I’ll solve it when we arrive.” Remus sighed.
“Really?” James asked dubiously, looking at Remus in suspicion, before shrugging. “Okay.” I stifled a grin at my friend’s easy-going manner. When he wasn’t acting like a spoilt brat, it was nearly impossible not to like him.
There was a grunt ahead and I saw Peter clutching onto another ledge, his legs dangling precariously below; just a couple inches off the ground. His nails grated against the rough floor as he desperately attempted to pull himself up. I was about to rush forward and help him by pushing his legs up, when my eyes skimmed to the side.
“Er, Peter?” I said carefully, walking closer to my friend.
“Yeah?” Peter gasped, his grip relaxing for a moment but enough to force his hands to slide off the ledge so that he landed in a knotted mess on the floor.
I coughed, and bent over to help him up. “Er, there’s some steps over there.” I gestured towards a couple of odd placed stone ledges that formed a few steps onto the final ledge.
Peter stared at them for a long moment. “Brilliant.” he said, despair evident in his voice.
James started to chuckle, which in turn made me grin and start to join in. Peter looked at me, completely dumbstruck, before his lips twisted upwards and he joined in the laughter. Remus shook his head, but couldn’t withhold his snort.
I placed my hand on Peter’s forearm and he did the same, both of us still laughing, and I took a step back to pull Peter back to his feet. “Come on.” I laughed.
It wasn’t until we were all stood on the final ledge that the laughter died down; I wasn’t fully sure what was so funny, only that the laughter felt right in that moment. Remus stepped forward, as if the journey was old hat, and placed his hands on a square above us that seemed to be outlined by an eerie glow.
“Ready?” Remus whispered, though I had the distinct impression he was also talking to himself. I exchanged a look with Peter before a loud thud echoed down the tunnel as Remus shoved upwards.
I squinted painfully in the sudden surge of light and was aware that Peter took a step backwards as if recoiling from the light. My eyes slowly adjusted though large black spots spoiled my vision. I blinked several times and shapes began to take place. Remus was ahead of me, climbing upwards on a small wooden ladder – as if her hadn’t needed to adjust at all. I shook off the thought and stepped forwards, squinting even more as the light seemed to intensify.
Remus reached the top and placed his hands on either side of the square, lifting himself into the room above. The wind that blew down the gap, making my hair fan away from my face and a chill creep down my spine, wasn’t as cold as I’d expect in late November so I assumed the end of the passageway was sheltered in some way.
“Coming?” I twisted my head to that I was looking over my shoulder. James was grabbing Peter’s arm after he’d obviously recoiled too far and nearly fell from the platform.
“Right behind you.” James called as I turned to face the rickety ladder. It was a fairly easy few steps; much easier then the climbing from before. I copied Remus’ actions and placed my hands either side of the square, and began to pull myself up. A hand reached down and grabbed the back of my robes; Remus attempting to pull me up safely.
“Cheers,” I muttered, finding myself kneeling on dirty, wooden panels. After taking a moment to adjust to more light and regain a little strength, I turned back towards the hole in the ground to help Peter up as we had done before.
My arms strained and I grit my teeth as Peter familiar weight pulled against my arm. Remus was also reaching down, grabbing his collar, and pulling him upwards. Peter choked, and heaved, as we pulled. His fingers dug into the wooden panels, making a loud screech as they dragged along the floor. Finally, he landed with a heavy thump at my feet, gasping for breath and his cheeks a bright red.
“You alright?” I muttered.
“Great” he gasped back, shuffling forwards to James could come up. I scratched the back of my neck and looked up towards Remus who nodded in response, and walked over to where Peter had crawled. The glance up had reminded me to look around, a simple task that had simply flitted from my mind.
There were remains of ripped paintings spread across the floor. The door stood on only one hinge and every window seemed to be boarded up. In the far corner was a small bed, beside it was an odd assortment of old toys; most were shredded or chewed – like a dog had been led loose.
“Where are w-?“
I was interrupted by James calling from below. “A little help?”
I shook my head and immediately bent over to grab James’ flailing arm. “Sorry, mate.” I heaved with all my strength and James appeared from the small trapdoor.
“Bloody hell.” He muttered, dusting off the dirt from his robes and checking his cloak was still intact. I smiled, but otherwise returned to my inspection of the room. The walls and floor seemed to sway in tune, and the wind roared around the feeble walls like we were slightly high up. The place seemed to match a description from Andromeda, from the previous year. “Is this the Shrieking Shack?” I asked in confusion.
Remus said nothing, but approached me with his wand held high.
I watched as they explored the shack; my prison once a month. Sirius was bent over the pile of abandoned childhood toys – Madam Pomfrey had thought of the idea that a chew toy would distract the wolf from harming myself and would occupy the wolf until the full moon was over and dawn rose. Professor McGonagall, however, had rightly guessed that leaving a chew toy in the room whilst I transformed would be humiliating and make me feel more animalistic than I already felt, and instead searched through the lost property for suitable replacements.
Some of the toys were decades old, some possibly older. There were wooden objects that I had no use for, other than to destroy. There were painted dolls, which always ended in shredded pieces by the time the sun rose. And there were stuffed animals; strangely the only ones to often survive the night.
“Do you reckon this is a junk house?” Sirius asked, picking up a smashed doll by the remains of its curly blonde hair.
“I don’t know,” James was frowning, his eyes focused on the unmade bed. It hadn’t been re-made from the previous month. “It looks like someone lives here.”
I’d never slept in the bed; the night was the time for the wolf to play. But, sometimes, when the fear of the glowing moon and the night ahead just got too much to handle, I’d hide beneath the covers like a child hides from the monsters under his bed, in the small glimmer of hope that the moon wouldn’t see me – that, this time, it’s glow would glide over the place where I hid and allow me another night as a human rather than a beast.
Of course, it never worked. But a small child within me still hoped every full moon.
Peter’s brows furrowed even deeper at James’ comment. “But why would anyone treat their stuff like this?” He pointed towards the wardrobe, the ancient robes within were shredded and the door hung off his hook.
None of them had noticed the bloody wolf print behind the screeching door, or the large scratches along the bedpost; too large for a human of any kind.
“Sirius,” I started, deliberately not responding to any of their questions, “if we don’t hurry then we might miss your cousin – we need to get back to Hogwarts before anyone notices we’re not there.”
I felt immediate guilt at using my friend’s weak point to distract them all from my secret. Even more so when it worked. Sirius’ intrigued and curious face fell into one of instant fear and confusion. The shack had provided him with a few minutes of distraction, as the toys often gave the wolf, and I took it away for my own selfish means.
“Right.” Sirius said quietly, rising from the floor with his eyes distant. “We better find a way out, then.”
James shot me a look, his hazel eyes narrowed. I turned away from him, pretending I never saw his condemning look. “There’s bound to be a door somewhere, right?” Peter queried.
None of the wards were up that kept me in. It wasn’t full moon and Dumbledore had said that people would get suspicious if the shack suddenly became impenetrable all year round, so the wards only went up the night of full moon. However, the door had always been magically locked to deter curious students from exploring on Hogsmeade weekends; there was no way of using the door unless we smashed through it and Hagrid had said Dumbledore strengthened the door after last time. The door, sadly, wasn’t an option.
“I don’t reckon McGonagall would have made it that easy when everyone goes to Hogsmeade, do you?” Sirius scratched his nose and circled the room.
“We could,” James ran a hand through his messy hair, “try to windows?”
“The windows?” Sirius raised a brow, “the Shrieking Shack is supposed to be amongst the path to the mountains – it’s gonna be pretty high.”
“Yeah, maybe.” James lips were starting to pull into a grin as it always did when he sought an adventure. “Peter, come here.” Peter walked to James apprehensively. “Grab that corner and pull.”
“Are we ripping it off?” Peter asked, slightly alarmed.
“Yeah.” James grabbed the other side of one of the panels of wood that was boarding up the window. “On the count of three. One. Two.” James peeked a look at Peter who’d taken his place at the other side of the panel. “Three.”
Their backs immediately went tense; Peter’s breathing came out in laboured gasps as he pulled with all his might and James’ let out a series of grunts. Slowly, creakingly, the wooden panel started to part from the wall, the nails making loud popping noises as they were pulled.
Both of my friends fell backwards with speed when the panel snapped away from its base. Sirius and I both rushed forward to grab them before they hit the floor, but were a moment too slow.
“Er, guys?” Sirius coughed, looking down at James and Peter under a wooden plank and attempting not to laugh. “You know we’re wizards, right?”
Peter and James both looked at each, shell-shocked, before bursting out laughing. I snorted, and bent down to pull the plank off them, Sirius grabbed the other end and we threw it towards the bed where it landed with a heavy thud.
“Can we do magic here?” Peter asked standing up and dusting off his robes.
“Well, Remus cleaned the mud off our robes and we haven’t been arrested yet.” James said blaisely.
Sirius looked at me in alarm, and I returned the same gaze. “Damn. You did.” It had been instinctive to clean their robes; after all they were only muddy because of me. It was my fault. I hadn’t even paused to think about performing magic outside Hogwarts. “I didn’t even think. Wait,” Sirius turned towards James suspiciously, “you didn’t say anything.”
James shrugged. “I wanted to see what would happen.” I turned to face James with my brow raised, as Sirius and Peter both sighed loudly. “The older students can use magic in Hogsmeade,” James said defensively, running his hand through his hair again. “I assumed it was the same – besides I would have taken the blame if they came.”
My slight annoyance came to a halt at the last line. “W-Why would you take the blame, for me?”
James shrugged, turning to face the window again, a slight blush creeping up his neck. “You’re one of my best mates, why wouldn’t I?” He raised his wand and muttered ‘accio’ so that another plank of wood came fling from the window; only missing James by inches when Peter managed to push him out the way.
Peter rolled his eyes and James chuckled on the floor. I was still frozen, shocked. “B-but that doesn’t mean you should c-“
“Leave it, Remus.” James sighed, pulling himself back into a standing position and walking backwards so that he was a safer distance from the flying panels. He raised his wand to try again, but saw the look on all of our faces. He grinded his teeth, and looked at the floor in embarrassment. “My dad’s head of the auror department after all, and the Magical Law Enforcement seniors are all friends of my parents – I could play it off easy. It’s fine.”
I opened my mouth to retort, but Sirius just shook his head at me, before returning to watch James. His brow was furrowed, his eyes blank with surprise, but a small, grateful smile played on the edge of Sirius’ lips.
We made short work of the window and were surprised to find that we were only about eight foot off the ground. “We can jump that, easy.” James stated. Peter looked a lot less certain as he peered out the window.
“But how will we get back in?” Peter wondered, looking between the drop and us all.
“The sheets.” I said quietly, the others looked at me. “I’ve heard some Muggles use them to climb back in to their homes, sometimes.”
James nodded eagerly and Peter helped him start tying knots whilst Sirius and I looked out the window, planning where to go. It was Sirius who spotted the long overgrown path, running behind some large boulders and huge trees.
‘I’ll bring my old broom next time.” James muttered as he and Peter dragged over a thick rope of sheets.
“Next time?” I queried, uncertainty starting to flood over my body.
“’Course.” James said simply, throwing the end of the sheets out the window. “Oh, don’t panic.” James rolled his eyes when he caught by horror struck suspicion. “We won’t come often, I have detention most the time anyway – but sometimes, you know, when we want a break, why not?”
“Hm.” I nodded, but refrained from commenting – I was pretty sure that I could guilt James into promising they’ll only come when all four of us were present.
Sirius jumped out first, landing with and heavy thud. He spun back round and gestured for me to follow. I stepped onto the moulding ledge, looked back at James and Peter in a moment of doubt, before swinging my weight forwards and flying through the air. I seemed to have used too much strength, however, and landed several feet away from where Sirius had landed.
James and Peter both popped their heads out the window, jaws open, whilst Sirius ran over to me. “How did you get so far?” Sirius demanded, his eyes jumping between the window and me.
I shrugged, rubbing my neck self-consciously. What was I thinking? “Long legs, I guess.” I said lamely. There was a pause of silence and then-
“My turn!” James shouted. “I bet I can beat you!”
We turned to James, a smile appearing on both of our faces. My shoulders visibly relaxed. I needed to be more careful. But, for some reason, it was harder to pretend around my friends. I felt like I could be myself. Even if the thought was ridiculous.
We’d been to places like it before. But I’d only ever been to Hogsmeade once. It was for my sixth birthday; mum and dad had both taken the day off work and Sarah was wearing a new summer robe; an orange one that was covered in dancing unicorns, something that her four-year old self had highly objected to.
It looked the same as I remembered, though much colder. Gladrags Wizardwear was painted a deep purple, the shop front full of luxurious dresses. Dad had treated Mum to a new green robe for her birthday, which always followed the week after mine, that she had caught sight of as soon as the shop had first come into sight.
A couple thatched houses down was the ‘Post Office’, it’s writing faded and a shiny poster in the window reading ‘Owl Office’ instead. It had been Sarah’s favourite place in the entire office; Sarah had always loved owls and we’d had to drag an hysterical four year old away from the building after a long half an hour of her gazing open mouthed at the hundreds of different types.
We’d gotten a couple curious glances since entering the small village; it wasn’t a Hogsmeade weekend and the villagers weren’t accustomed to seeing teenagers amongst the shops on other days. But, thankfully, the witches and wizards had turned away, distracted by items in shop windows and pushing the curious thought away from their minds. It helped that there was only two of us; Sirius and James were both under the invisibility cloak.
Remus had pointed out that if someone were to report us, then the moment the Professors heard of four boys in Hogsmeade, we would be suspected instantly. Really, only two of us could fit under the cloak comfortably, and so I elected James and Sirius, pointing out that if, once again, we were reported than two dark haired boys running around Hogsmeade would be instantly directed towards James and Sirius. Out of the four of us, Remus and I were the least likely to have escaped.
I also thought, but didn’t share, that Remus’ and my clothes were much more worn than the other two. It would be easier to persuade people that we were home-schooled rather than James or Sirius who were obviously able to afford Hogwarts.
We walked past Zonko’s Joke Shop, my eyes instantly zooming onto the colourful products on display, and my mouth gaping at the various types of displays. “Not now, James.” Remus muttered, almost like he could sense James shuffling under the cloak. “Later, if we have time.” There was a loud sigh, and we continued walking, Remus barely stifled a smile.
“Alright, Dad.” A girl, looking to be of Seventh Year age, called over her shoulder into one of the thatched houses. Over the door hung a square sign reading, ‘The Three Broomsticks’. She was very pretty and had large green eyes, which she was currently rolling as she walked away from the inn, holding a bucket.
“Shall we ask her?” I whispered, gesturing to the girl who was now talking to a group of older witches, handing one of them the bucket.
“What if she’s at Hogwarts?” Remus muttered. “She’ll tell on us.”
I had no answer, but instead saw James and Sirius appear from one of the alleys between the houses, evidently just taken the cloak off. “What are you doing?” I asked, alarmed. “If there’s four of us then they’re much more likely to report us!”
James shrugged. “It’ll be fine. Besides, we hit more people whilst invisible, it’ll be less suspicious if we were visibly.” Sirius shrugged as well, both seemingly bored of being hidden for the moment. “So, what’s the plan?”
Remus scratched his nose. “We don’t know where Andy’s staying, right?” Remus looked at Sirius who shook his head morosely. “So we’re going to have to ask someone.”
“I reckoned her.” I gestured to the dark haired girl that was now walking back towards the inn.
“But she might be from Hogwarts, it’s not worth the risk.” Remus sighed.
James and Sirius both seemed to be glued on the girl. “I haven’t seen her around Hogwarts, have you, Sirius?”
“Sounds like we should introduce ourselves then, right?”
“James!” Remus hissed. “Sirius!”
But they’d already got out of reaching distance and were bounding over to the girl; I looked at Remus uncertainly before following. I was sure that no good could come of this.
By the time we’d caught up, they’d already gotten the girl’s attention. The girl was looking at James and Sirius questionably. “Aren’t you a little too young to be wandering round Hogsmeade by yourselves?
“Aren’t you a little too young to be acting like our mothers?” James replied cockily, flashing a cheeky grin.
The girl rolled her eyes, but couldn’t stop a small smile creeping on her lips. “Fair enough. How’d you escape out of Hogwarts then?”
“How do you know we’re from Hogwarts?” I asked, scanning over the four of us to check none of us were wearing any revealing clothing.
The girl grinned. “I didn’t.” James and Sirius both groaned, sending me annoyed looks whilst Remus fiddled with his buttons as he always did when he was nervous. “So?”
“So, what?” James smiled.
The girl laughed. “How did you manage to escape? It’s not a Hogsmeade weekend, and there aren’t often people your age here anyway.”
Sirius flashed her his most convincing grin, though failed miserably at hiding the mirth in his eyes. “Ask us no questions, and we’ll tell you no lies.”
“Rosmerta!” A man’s voice shouted loudly, from the direction of the Three Broomsticks.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Uhuh.” She grinned again, her whole face lighting up in the act. “Right, well I’ve got to go – good luck with running away and all that.” She nodded and started to move away from our huddle.
“Wait!” Sirius called, his hand reaching out to grab Rosmerta’s arm. She sighed and turned to face us, her hand resting on her right hip. “We’re looking for a girl.”
Rosmerta cocked her right eyebrow. “Really?” She said, her voice thick with amusement. “You’re looking for a girl? Aren’t you, like, 11?”
“No, we’re-!” Remus retorted, but was immediately interrupted by James.
“We’re old enough.” James winked, and I struggled to retain a snort.
Rosmerta laughed, a pleasant sound that seemed to echo. “Right.”
“No, no seriously.” Sirius pleaded, sending James an annoyed look. “She’s around your age. Andromeda Black. She has long dark hair and-?”
“Black?” Rosmerta frowned. “I know of her – she was a Slytherin in the year below. One of the better ones.” Rosmerta frowned, taking a small, discrete step back. “Who’s asking?”
Sirius looked around for nearby passer-bys before looking at us for our nod of approval. “I’m… Sirius Black. Her cousin.”
“Black?” She paused, her eyes scanning over us all. “No offence, lads, but you don’t exactly look like the usual type of Slytherins.”
“That’s cause we’re not.” Sirius said simply, putting his hands in his pockets, obviously counting this as a dead end. “We’re Gryffindors.”
“You’re a Gryffindor?”
“Yeah. Look, have you seen her? It’s urgent.” Sirius pleaded.
Rosmerta said nothing; just watch Sirius for a moment before, eventually, her resolve flattened. “She came knocking yesterday. We didn’t have room and besides – no offence – but with the current climate we didn’t need a Black staying…”
“Current climate?” James asked in confusion.
“Shh.” Sirius silenced James. “Do you know where she went?”
Rosmerta nodded, frowning in James’ direction. “I told her that there might be room in the Hog’s Head. She went off in that direction, at least.”
Sirius grinned. “Thank you.”
We turned to leave and Rosmerta called behind us. “No worries – and lads?” We looked back. “Buy the Daily Prophet at some point, yeah? You seem to be a bit uninformed.”
I’d never been to the Hog’s Head, and neither, it seemed, had any of the rest. After asking for directions, we were pointed towards the end of the village; we passed Scrivenshaft’s Quill shop, where I’d received the first quill of my very own, and Dervish and Bangs, that was emitting some loud bangs, before we reached the fence at the end.
I could see the station in the distance, a couple miles away - at the other side of Hogwarts. Otherwise, the landscape was barren, all held within the surrounding mountains. Remus pointed out a small run-down looking building at the bottom of a muddy path, and we grudgingly marched on, Sirius looking slightly guilty whenever he caught sight of us beside him.
By the time we reached the rotting door, the sky was starting to darken in the infuriating way it often does in winter. “What time is it?” I asked uncertainty.
“Er,” James reached into his pocket and pulled out a handsome bronze watch. “Three o’clock.”
“Right. So if we don’t find Andromeda in the next couple hours,” Remus said hesitantly, “then we might have to try again tomorrow?”
“The professors will get suspicious if we disappear again.” Sirius said miserably. “Hopefully she’s here.”
I nodded and went to push the door open, but my hand barely touched the surface when it was suddenly opened and a person walked out. She was fiddling with a bag on her shoulder, her eyes were down – she didn’t see us.
“Andy?” Sirius said immediately, his tone rising in excitement.
Andromeda looked up in surprise, her hand immediately flicking to her wand and her mouth open for an incantation. “Sirius?” She asked in disbelief after a moment. “What the hell are you doing here?” Her dark eyes flickered to the rest of us. “With friends?”
Sirius grinned and, after a moment, Andromeda responded with an almost identical smile. “We escaped – you didn’t answer my letter!”
“You escaped?” Andromeda repeated, her face clearly dumbfounded. “Wha- How? I-I was just about to drop your letter off in the owl office.” She pulled a thick envelope from her dark brown bag. “I only got here last night.”
Andromeda looked similar to when I’d last seen her. Her hair was a dark brown, almost black, as were her eyes – so characteristic of the Black family trait. She was wearing midnight blue robes with silver patterns, which pleated along her waist. I vaguely recalled the slim girl from several months previously; her waist was certainly bigger now. Sirius also seemed to notice as his eyes hovered over her larger stomach for a moment longer than necessary. Andromeda moved her bag over her front self-consciously.
“Do you want to come in?” Andromeda smiled pleasantly, though she looked at the rest of us slightly unsurely.
“Erm, we’ll wait for you in the village, Sirius.” Remus said slowly. “We don’t want to intrude.”
Andromeda frowned. “Nonsense. I’m not having a group of twelve year olds – yes, Sirius, I’m aware you’re thirteen – wandering around Hogsmeade in the current… times. And you,” Andromeda pointed at her cousin in a motherly manner, “young man, are not to be wandering around by yourself. Is this clear?”
Sirius rolled his eyes, but nodded meekly – fighting to hide a smile. I decided that I liked Andromeda Black – she reminded me, in a small indistinguishable way, of my mother. We followed the older girl into the dirtiest pub I’d ever seen. The floor seemed to have inches of dust, and the windows were so dirty that they now appeared opaque rather than transparent. There were unpleasant stains over both the bar and the tables, and the barman, an older wizard with a long grey beard, watched us with distain as we walked across his pub and up the stairs.
The room was small, and much cleaner than downstairs. “It took me nearly two hours to get rid of the dust.” Andromeda muttered. “Never had so much practice with cleaning spells in my life.”
It was a basic room; a double bed, a table, a mirror, which seemed to have been recently repaired, and a couple of chairs. “Take a seat,” Andromeda gestured to the armchairs, “I’m sure I can find us a late lunch from somewhere.”
“No offence, Andy.” Sirius muttered, a grin he rarely showed people other than us, stretching over his face cheekily. He gestured to her stomach. “But it looks like you’ve eaten enough.”
James clapped his hand over his mouth to prevent a sound, Remus’ brows raised into his hairline and I gasped aloud. But instead of the horrified retort I was expecting, Andromeda Black just laughed.
“Don’t be rude, you cheeky bugger.” She swotted Sirius over the head, still chuckling. “I’m… er… well,” Andromeda looked around carefully, lowering her voice as she unconsciously played with the strap on her bag, “I’m pregnant, Sirius.”
Sirius’ jaw dropped – he looked stunned. His grey eyes moved between Andromeda’s stomach and her face; ready for someone to jump out and shout ‘surprise!’. “Y-You’re p-p-pregnant?” Sirius stuttered.
I looked at Remus and James uncomfortably; sure that we should have used Remus’ offer. Instead, Remus picked up a couple old copies of the ‘Daily Prophet’ and handed them to each of us. A distraction from the conversation. “B-but when did you get married?” Sirius continued, his eyes landing on Andromeda’s hand which was burrowed under her bag.
Andromeda coughed uncertainty, a blush coating her cheeks. “I- er… I didn’t.”
“You-? Oh.” Realisation hit Sirius’ face and he looked at the floor in embarrassment, before he looked up angrily. “He hasn’t left you to it, has he? Who is he? I’ll find him and-!”
“No, no.” Andromeda smiled, ruffling Sirius hair lovingly. “We’re planning to get married after the baby, I just don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to the pregnancy until-“
“Until you can hide from our family.” Sirius finished slowly. “You’re going into hiding, aren’t you?”
Andromeda sighed, retracting her hand slowly. “Yes. We’ve only stopped in Hogsmeade so that Ted can say goodbye to an old friend.” She smiled at Sirius uncertainly. “It’s not just because of our family – having a baby out of wedlock would be reason enough for them – but, you see… Ted is a muggleborn.”
Sirius’ jaw dropped open once more. “Shit.”
Andromeda hit him over the head sharply. “Don’t swear.”
“Sorry,” Sirius replied meekly.
James coughed beside me, running his hand through his hair. Sirius and Andromeda both looked up, as if remembering we were still in the room. “Sorry,” James said sheepishly, “but why would that be any more of an issue?”
Andromeda frowned at James, and then at Sirius. Her confusion began to clear and she looked at us uncertainly. “How much do you know about You-Know-Who?”
“Voldemort?” I asked uncertainly; too many facts weren’t adding up. The paper in my hand was titled ‘You-Know-Who Strikes Again, yet the text within referred to the same act, but this time the culprit was referred to as ‘Voldemort’. I noticed that Andomeda flinched slightly as I said the name, and her hand gently slid past her stomach.
“Shh.” Andromeda said quietly.
“Why?” Sirius frowned, watching his older cousin cautiously.
Andromeda sighed. “This is up to your parents to explain.” She paused to look at Sirius. “Look, you must have heard about…”
“Voldemort.” Sirius prompted, shuffling closer and taking a seat next to where his cousin sat on the edge of the double bed.
Andromeda closed her eyes momentarily. “Yes.” She rubbed her arm uncomfortably, before taking a breath – seeming to decide on something. “I guess you best know the facts - so you don’t go misunderstanding or even joining the wrong side.”
“The wrong side?” Remus questioned, also abandoning his rubbish attempt at giving Sirius some privacy.
Andromeda sighed, gesturing for us to creep closer. “Asuio Regnete.” She muttered, pointing her wand in the direction of the door. “It’ll tell me if someone is approaching,” she explained, “because this is a highly sensitive topic. I don’t want to hear that any of you have been preaching in class, is that understood?”
We all nodded. “Right,” Andromeda started, “You-Know-Who has been in the news for a couple years now; at first it was assumed he was just another pure-blood maniac taking things a step too far.” She exchanged a knowledgeable glance with Sirius. “But soon things were starting to happen; two Muggle-borns disappeared within one month alone. Muggle baiting started to increase. My delightful sister put forward a petition to make Muggle hunting legal, it had been tried before of course, but this time there were nearly double the amount of signatures. Something, or someone, was riling up all the pure-bloods.”
Remus’ hands gradually closed into fists, and his shoulders tightened considerably. I suddenly realised that Remus’ mother was a Muggle. Is that what his secret was about?
“The Ministry said they were dealing with it. But more disappearances were starting to appear, and more Muggles died in unexplainable deaths. Apparently every time the Ministry got close to catching the culprits, all that was left was a piece of parchment declaring his wishes and signed…”
“Voldemort.” Peter squeaked, his hand against his chest and his small eyes fully focused on Andromeda.
Andromeda nodded, her lips thin and her eyes on the floor. “Bella used to laugh when it appeared in the papers. She’d take them over to your mother,” she nodded as Sirius, “and they’d talk about it over dinner – about the new policies, his campaigns” her voice turned bitter, “about the renewal of blood purity.”
I looked at Sirius, who was evidently avoiding our gaze. I… I hadn’t even considered that these things still happened. When people spoke of blood purity, I thought of the images in old books… not that my best friends grew up with a family still preaching.
“After a while, the bodies stopped being signed by… him, but instead with the line; ‘You-Know-Who’. The issue was that we did know. We all did. The name was used to spread fear – the majority refused to use this new name. But whenever his real name was published in an article, or spoken in a prominent speech, the witch or wizard who wrote it in the first place would all but disappear. In some cases, their bodies were returned. But not all.”
Andromeda looked up, her eyes starting to become glassy as she glanced at her younger cousin. “Three newly married couples; one Pure-blood and one Muggle-born in each, have disappeared within the last two months. It’s why we’re hiding.” Andromeda looked at Sirius. “I’m a Black. And I’m pregnant with a Muggle-born’s child. We’re not even married. We can’t risk that we’ll go unnoticed; they’ll kill us all.” Andromeda swallowed thickly whilst Sirius shook his head frantically. “As far as I’m aware, they’re still a relatively small group. But he’s powerful. And… I think Bella has joined.”
“But surely the Ministry will catch them?” I asked, my eyes wide in shock and my mouth ajar. “The Magical Law Enforcement… the Aurors – it’s what they’re there for!”
Andromeda shook her head sadly. “They’ve been trying. The trouble is that people don’t have physical marks that represent their beliefs – who’s to say that the Minister himself isn’t a supporter?”
She smiled at my look of disbelief. “It’s seems pretty unbelievable, doesn’t it? A part of me wonders whether it’s just the media creating a moral panic, like they did with the sneezing cauldrons, but the death toll seems to speak for itself.”
There was silence for a pause; Andromeda patted Sirius’ hand softly, which had reached out beside her own. “What about the others?” Remus asked quietly. “The magical creatures? The goblins? The elves? The…werewolves?”
Andromeda shrugged. “I honestly don’t know – I’d guess it’s too early to tell.”
“Too early?” Peter frowned.
Andromeda pursed her lips, a small line appearing between her eyes. “It would be my guess that this is going to get worse before it can get better. Hopefully it’ll be sorted within the next year, then we can re-join wizarding society and announce our news.” Andromeda smiled slightly as she gently patted her stomach. She frowned again, looking at each of us sharply – lingering on Sirius. “But, I’m not telling you this so you can give yourself some adventure or scare younger years, is that understood?”
I frowned. “Although they might have refused to share it, some of those pupils will have already lost family members to You-Know-Who, and some Muggle-borns may already be receiving threats.” My thoughts absent-mindedly drifted to Lily, who still used a Muggle pen to write in a diary and stuck photos that didn’t move to the back of her books. “They don’t need any of you bragging about how much you know, or coming up with obscure plans or how your connections will keep you safe. Is that understood?” Andromeda repeated, her eyes glinting with a passion that sometimes appeared in Sirius’ eyes when people mentioned his surname.
The idea of bragging about how much I knew to a room full of Lilys’ made me feel strangely sick. “Because it’s very likely that others will know far more than you do. I only got my information from understanding Bella’s obscure hints and reading the Daily Prophet. There’s a reason your parents have decided to keep a lot of the information back, but I don’t see that I had another choice if you’re all sneaking out of Hogwarts in god-knows-how ways. You can’t trust that everyone has your best interests at heart. Understand?”
We all nodded, deep within our own thoughts. Part of me was relieved; glad that someone had finally told us the truth rather than keeping us in the dark like infants. Another part of me was fearful; dad used to be the Head of the Auror department, and they’d always encouraged me to mix with people of all bloodlines – what if we were next? But the majority of my emotion was anger; who did Voldemort think he was? Why did he think he’d be able to make people fear him? All he did was hide behind a name and killed anyone who opposed him. He was a bully, hiding behind his friends and his powers. He reminded me of the Malfoy Prefect.
“Where did he come from?” Sirius asked, his hands wrestling with each other. “Which pureblood family?”
Andromeda shrugged. “Noone knows. He came from nowhere, and has easily gained an incredible amount of support – it’s part of what makes him so terrifying.”
“Is that why they sent me away in summer?” Sirius looked at Andromeda. “So I wouldn’t give away information?”
Andromeda nodded sadly. “There were more pure-bloods at Grimmauld Place than I can remember – just slightly more than there were for your initiation.”
Initiation? I looked at Sirius, and found Remus and Peter doing the same. Sirius looked up at the right moment and caught us all looking at him in curiosity. He scratched his ear uncomfortably, looking at Andromeda uncertainty. She looked at each shrewdly, before nodding at him.
“In – er – in my family… I was the first male to be born in this generation.” Sirius said sheepishly.
I looked at him blankly; I was clearly missing something here.
“The first male heir.” Andromeda added helpfully, before a small smile stretched across her cheeks. “Bella was furious.”
Well that cleared everything up. Thanks for that.
“Yeah, I don’t get it.” I shrugged. Peter nodded in support behind me, whilst Remus tilted his head curiously.
Sirius sighed. “The Black blood is the oldest and most pure Wizarding family around. You must have been told about the Christmas Ball, James.” Sirius gestured to me. “I’m the one who would inherit everything my ancestors had stored; I was supposed to be the hope for the renewal.” His voice had turned bitter, a grimace flashing across his face.
My parents had never let me go to the Christmas Ball; they always left me with Dondie. And no matter how much I plagued them, they never told me a thing. Just that Sirius was unlikely to have gone.
“On my tenth birthday… it was my initiation.” Sirius sighed, scratching his arm. “They all came – every pureblood family you could think of. They came to see me perform magic. To prove I was good enough.”
“But you were ten.” I said, my mind barely making sense of what Sirius was telling me. “You wouldn’t have known much magic.”
Sirius smiled, almost as if pitying my ignorance. “We had tuition for as long as we could speak. Regulus always struggled a bit more though, I tried to protect him as much as I could. I always took his punishments.”
“His punishments?” Remus repeated. Andromeda was looking the floor furiously.
Sirius looked ashamed. He instantly withdrew into himself. “Nothing too bad. I just – Regulus is just a kid.”
“So were you.” Remus stated.
Sirius just shrugged. “He’s my little brother.” Sirius looked at his cousin. “He won’t speak to me much now. Cissy takes him away most times.”
Andromeda patted him on the shoulders in a moment of affection. “I guessed as much. He’ll figure it out, eventually. He’s a good person.” Sirius nodded. Really? Regulus? No offence, but he seemed like a prat to me. “Just make sure you’re there when he needs you.”
“You’re really going then?”
Andromeda smiled sadly. “Yeah. It won’t be long though – as soon as it’s safe enough, I’ll be back.”
“I can still owl you though, right?”
Andromeda opened her mouth, before closing it. Remus coughed and put an arm on both of Peter and my arms’; dragging us away to the other side of the room. I looked back in time to see Andromeda’s expression falter and her eyes became glassy. “No, Sirius. Owls can be traced. They’ll be watching you. When Bella finds out… I’ve cut all ties, Sirius.” She stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. It was clear from how stiff he suddenly became, that this kind of attention wasn’t normal to him.
“I’ll find a way, Sirius. Just watch for me – I’ll make sure to find a way.” She pulled away and ruffled his hair affectionally. I turned to face the wall; suddenly very intrigued by the wallpaper patterns, but I couldn’t block the sound of Sirius sniffling from my ears. My stomach tensed.
“Right.” Andromeda said loudly, her voice full of a bravado that wasn’t there a moment before. “You lot. Get back to Hogwarts. Now. Before I call Dumbledore myself, understood?”
We smiled, and thanked her in turn. The three of us waited on the stairs, whilst Sirius said goodbye. He came out with his nose sniffling. “Dust.” He stated when he caught my eye. I nodded, but said nothing – something told me this wasn’t a moment for jokes.
We walked back down the many stairs and across the dirt-ridden pub. It was empty, but for one man in bandages, a woman with a shawl covering her face and a tall man in deep conversation with the barman. It was cold outside; the wind had picked up and it was starting to rain.
“I don’t think we’ll have time to celebrate your birthday.” I moaned, guilt flooding me. Sirius had helped give me the best birthday I could possibly have in April, and I’d forgotten his. It wasn’t fair.
Sirius chuckled drily. “James, forget it. Honestly.” He added as we turned to look at him in disbelief. “It’s just a birthday. Besides, you all pretty much just risked expulsion so that I could see my cousin. Do you honestly think that counts for nothing?”
Well, when he put it like that… I shook the thought away. “That was nothing. We’re your friends – it’s what we should do.” Remus smiled, and Peter made noises of agreement. “We’ll make it up to you.”
The wind howled as we started back up the pathway, clutching our robes closer to our chests. Sirius said it quietly; he thought no one had heard. But I did. “You already have.” The wind howled louder.
A/N: Well, hello there. And how are you this fine December? I hope you're well, because I am well... and I completed NaNoWriMo :O
I'll stop speaking odd... now. So, how did you find this chapter? Which Marauder caught your attention the most? Are secrets unravelling... or just getting better at being hidden?
Hogsmeade? (Let's face it, they were never going to wait for Third Year... and James didn't seem to sincere when he gave Remus that promise. ;) ) Andromeda? (For those who missed the A/N in the last chapter and have been reading from the beginning, Andromeda is now an eighteen year old witch. I originally copied the dates down wrong, and the earlier chapters have since been rectified (with a few extra details). I'm re-writing the Christmas chapter for First Year now... and am tempted to just do them all. How could my writing have changed to drastically over one year?!)
Anyway, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this chapter, suspicions for the future... or general thoughts over the entire story. :D Call it a Christmas present! :D
I'm not sure if I'll have time to publish the next chapter before the queue closes, so if not, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year) and I'll see you in the New Year. Keira :)