Chapter 6 : The Invitation
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“His injuries aren’t that bad.”
“He’s just exhausted, I think.”
“Wouldn’t you be after the day he’s had?”
“Should we get Dumbledore?”
“Peter’s gone to fetch him.”
“Remus, what happened?”
Sirius struggled to hear but the voices had grown quiet. He tried to sit up but his body felt like a lead weight had been dropped on it. “Hey,” he whispered softly and could hear the footsteps moving closer. Lily, James and Remus slowly swam into view. “Where are we?”
“In the forbidden forest, just outside the Hogwarts grounds,” Lily whispered.
“Couldn’t send you to Hogsmeade Tavern? No, she has to end you to the Forbidden Forest.” James sank down beside him. “Well, you’re alive.”
“So it would seem.” Sirius took James’ hand as he struggled to sit up. “Why are we whispering?”
“We’re in the Forbidden Forest and we’re off grounds after curfew,” Lily answered.
Sirius’ laugh bellowed into the night air. “Curfew? Lily, please.” His voice was harsh but he couldn’t help it. “There are much worse things out there than that.”
“Indeed there are.” Dumbledore’s voice was loud behind them. “Did we get lost on our way back from Hogsmeade?” His eyes were twinkling even in the darkness. “That’s became quite the test of patience for us professors. You know, we do love our sleep.”
“No, Professor.” Lily broke in and Dumbledore turned his eyes to her. “I must say I’m surprised to see you here, Ms. Evans.”
“That’ my fault,” James interjected.
“Indeed?” Dumbledore looked as if he didn’t believe him and he turned a suspicious eye to Sirius. “So, Mr. Black, what emergency has called me to your side?”
“I’m just tired, Professor. Perhaps had too many drinks but since that is against school rules I will refrain from talking about it. I’d like to go to my room if that’s alright.” Sirius knew he was pushing his boundaries but, somehow, just couldn’t seem to calm himself as his anger at Voldemort came flooding back.
Dumbledore eyed Sirius intently waiting for a more suitable explanation. When Sirius provided none, he turned a penetrating gaze to Remus.
“He went home to see his father,” Remus supplied.
Sirius could see the change in Dumbledore’s demeanor instantly.
“Tonight? You were there tonight?”
“Yes, sir.” Sirius answered as Dumbledore kneeled down beside him. He placed a hand on Sirius’ shoulder.
“Sirius, are you alright? The rumors are true?”
Sirius wasn’t sure what shocked him more - Dumbledore calling him by his first name or that he somehow knew Voldemort had been there.
“Yes,” Sirius answered simply, feeling the gazes of the others settle on them.
“We need to get you to Hogwarts immediately. You’ll be safe there.” Dumbledore’s voice was strong.
Sirius knew better than to trust Dumbledore at his word. His parents had talked too much of Dumbledore’s need to control future events for Sirius to believe that his safety was any concern of the professor. A momentary ripple in whatever Dumbledore had planned perhaps, but not legitimate concern.
As they made their way back to the castle, Sirius leaned heavily on James. The day had exhausted him and the blows from Regulus had spent both his emotions and physical well being. The drifting moonlight filtering through the trees made him uneasy and a brief feeling of being watched overcame him. He glanced to James and was glad to see him scanning the area with a practiced eye. At least with James around, Sirius knew he was safe.
“Ms. Evans, will you please see Sirius to the infirmary?” Dumbledore asked as they entered the darkened hallways. “I’ll be there directly. First, though, I need a few words with these two.”
“Certainly, Professor,” Lily reached to take hold of Sirius but he pulled away.
“I can take myself.”
“I insist you not travel alone.” Dumbledore fixed Sirius with a penetrating gaze. “I wouldn’t want you to get side-tracked in your weakened condition. I’m sure you understand.”
“But of course.” Sirius exchanged a brief look of sarcasm with James before following behind Lily.
As they threaded through the corridors, Sirius’ temper continued to grow. With each step he made at Dumbledore’s orders, his rebel nature told him to run the other direction.
“You can’t run off,” Lily said as Sirius’ pace began to slow. “Besides, it would probably do you good to be checked over. Medically, I mean.”
“And since when do you know what’s good for me?”
“What?” Lily turned to face him. “Where did that come from?”
“I’m just curious,” Sirius’ voice was piercing. “When did you decide you know what’s best for me?”
“I’ve never said that.”
Sirius could see the quizzical look on her face, but he refused to be deterred. “I suppose that by kissing me you think you have gained some right to decide what I do and when I do it.”
Sirius moved away to avoid her touch. “Just so you know, I’ve kissed lots of people, Evans. You aren’t the first and definitely won’t be the last.”
Sirius began walking again, leaving Lily standing alone in the hallway. He walked slowly, giving her the opportunity to catch up but she didn’t seem to be moving. Even as angry as he was, Sirius refused to let her be put in danger. He wasn’t about to leave her standing along in the darkened hallways with only Dumbledore’s assurance that the school was safe. “Well, are you coming? You have to deliver your cargo, don’t you?”
“You know, you are one piece of work.” Lily’s normally charming voice was full of disgust. “You think that because you are a Black you have the right to treat people anyway you want.”
The comparison of him to the Black family name was more than Sirius could stand. His self control gone, he swept to her side, his body towering above her. “You’d be wise to hold your tongue.” Sirius’ eyes flashed dangerously. “I treat people however I so choose. It has nothing to do with being a Black. It has to do with not wasting my time on silly little girls like you who think they are much too clever for anyone to see their veiled innocence.”
Sirius’ enraged laughter bellowed through the hallway. “Oh, yes. It would probably be best that I came to you, wouldn’t it? That would fit nicely with your innocent act.” Sirius leaned to her, his voice growling in her ear. “Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell a soul that it was you who sought out my touch. I won’t tell anyone that even, right now, as angry as you are, you can’t help but think of who’s bed I may run to tonight.”
“You egotistical, self righteous…” Lily’s hand tightened into a fist but Sirius caught it in mid-air.
“Save the dramatics for someone who hasn’t seen his brother under the control of Voldemort, Evans. There’s nothing that can faze me anymore.”
“What? Regulus?” Lily’s temper had seemingly disappeared instantaneously and she tried to shift closer to him.
Sirius dropped her arm and turned from her. “I have an appointment with the nurse.”
“Sirius!” Lily rushed to follow behind him.
Knowing she would follow him now, Sirius’ pace sped back up. He had to get this over and done with. He couldn’t take a risk at telling her anymore. He could feel her gaze on him and Sirius cursed himself for allowing her even a bit of sentimentality. He needed her to remain angry at him…to hate him with the same abhorrent passion Sirius felt for Voldemort. He should have realized that mentioning Regulus would soften her. Why could he never think ahead when she was around?
“Sirius?” Dumbledore’s voice filtered through the hallway. “I expected you sooner.”
“Got a bit distracted on the way, Professor. I do apologize.”
“Professor McGonagall, please see Ms. Evans back to her common room.”
Sirius refused to watch as they left. He would not give her the satisfaction of knowing he wanted her to stay.
“Sirius?” Dumbledore’s voice made Sirius turn. “May we talk honestly for a moment? I think it’s a long time passed due for us.”
“Of course, Professor. You have my full attention.” Sirius followed Dumbledore into an inner office, his steps tentative as his body began to protest his continued movement.
“There is a healing potion in the cup.” Dumbledore motioned to a small wooden table as they sat down in the two milky white chairs in the room. “It should help ease the ache from the injuries. I’m sorry I can’t offer you something to help the pain but I do prefer you have complete recollection of this conversation.”
“That sounds quite ominous. Surely, I’m not being expelled the last week of school for returning home without permission?” Sirius met Dumbledore’s eyes and his sarcasm immediately receded. “No, I didn’t think so. How can I be of help to you, Professor?”
“I, of course, have people tell me things that go on outside the walls of this school, Sirius. One such person told me of an induction ceremony that was to take place at the Black household this evening.” Dumbledore hesitated, waiting for Sirius to interrupt, but Sirius remained quiet. “I must admit, I was rather afraid it was yours.”
“No, Professor. I can’t say I entirely agree with my family’s beliefs.”
“That’s become quite obvious with the company you keep here at school, Sirius. I was just concerned that perhaps your family had finally weakened your resolve.”
“That’s not a concern you should have. Tonight, especially, has done nothing but strengthen it.” Sirius said quietly, his brother’s image once again floating through his mind.
“Then young Regulus has joined in support of Voldemort?”
“He took the mark this evening.” Sirius nodded.
“And you?” Dumbledore peered at Sirius over his wide rimmed glasses. “What have you decided, Sirius?”
“I actually have chosen not to decide.” Sirius answered simply. “I think I prefer to see who the winner is before picking sides.”
“Spoken like a true Marauder.” Dumbledore smiled faintly. “That assumes, of course, that there is a side in opposition to Voldemort.”
“If there’s not, then the wizarding world is in for a war like they’ve never dreamed possible.” Sirius tried to withhold the yawn he felt coming on. “And, by your silence, I would guess you are involved in the opposition. Or am I wrong?”
“That’s very astute of you. It seems you manage to surprise me at every turn this evening, Sirius.”
“Yes, I suppose my grades don’t lend much credence to the idea that I do have intelligence.” Sirius’ voice was bitter.
“On the contrary, your grades seem to show that you have more important things to dwell on than your school work. And yet,” Dumbledore looked at him questioningly, “you still seem to come back every year.”
“Rather puzzling, isn’t it?”
“Your loyalty to your friends is immense.” Dumbledore eyed him searchingly.
Sirius felt as if Dumbledore was looking for something in him, and Sirius had sincere doubts as to him finding whatever qualities he was looking for.
“The Order of the Phoenix, of which I am a member, is joining to help in the fight against Voldemort. Certainly, underage wizards are not allowed, but as you are almost of age, I felt the need to approach you myself.”
Sirius’ sat up, his exhaustion now forgotten. “To fight him?”
“And to get the word out of how dangerous he is. His supporters are growing in number every day; we will need all the help we can get.”
“Professor, his powers…” Sirius trailed off and Dumbledore nodded.
“I know, Sirius. I can only imagine what you’ve been through this evening. It’s not something I would have wished for any of my students. You, of any though, are the only one that could have handled it as well as you did. Your actions were commendable and your loyalty unquestionable. For that, you have earned my respect.”
Sirius nodded as the feelings of the night tore into his soul.
“Please think over the invitation to join us. I know it’s not something you would ever enter in to lightly.”
“I think now, it’s time you get some rest. On to your room and I will check on you in the morning.”
Sirius nodded, unable to even verbalize the emotional tide that had overcome him. In a daze, his somehow drifted into bedroom. Ignoring the questions and pleas from his fellow marauders, Sirius slipped under the covers in utter exhaustion
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