A/N: First off, I apologize. I know the last few chapters have been filled with background information and, unfortunately, there’s a few more yet to come. I want to thank every one of you who is staying with me…this has been a learning experience for me and I love each and everyone of you for helping me along. This is the first chapter in which we have some time jumps (remember my “I’m terrible at writing Sirius at school” line?) But hopefully, I’ve pulled it off where it makes sense and I haven’t done anything that will lose you along the way.
Hogwarts: Semester One
Sirius spent the first few weeks of his academic career in the Hogwarts infirmary. His uncle paid him regular visits, but no matter how much Sirius begged, he still wouldn’t explain how he’d convinced his parents to allow him to return to Hogwarts. When Sirius learned of his room assignment, he couldn’t help but wonder if his uncle had pulled some strings in that regard as well.
Thankfully, James was rooming with him. It delighted Sirius to think of the trouble he and James would be able to get in and it eased the fact that Peter, the cowardly boy from the train, was also assigned to their room. Apparently Peter had grown on James the last few weeks, though, and James insisted he was going to be one of those kids you could convince to try anything at least once. Their other roommate, Remus Lupin, was more of a problem. Unable to describe him, James stopped by between classes and brought Remus by to meet him. While Peter wasn’t a choice roommate, he at least had a sense of humor. The Remus fellow seemed to be devoid of such and apparently believed the library was the most interesting place to visit on Hogwarts grounds. James had assured Sirius, though, that if you dared him Remus, too, was willing to try anything. He and James had wasted away countless hours imagining ways to corrupt poor Remus.
Lily came to visit often, too, and Sirius began to welcome the quiet conversations she provided. Where James only told glory stories, Lily would fill in amusing anecdotes about James’ mediocre skills during lessons. Occasionally she would be accompanied by a group of giggling girls, often ones older than her. He’d never quite understood their presence and he finally had to demand Lily either come alone or not come at all. He felt like he was missing out on an entire world while he was confined to the hospital wing, but Sirius knew complaining was useless. He took comfort in the fact that he was at least out of Grimmauld.
Any thoughts of Grimmauld automatically brought with them visions of Cat. He missed her terribly and only James seemed to understand him as well as she did. It didn’t help that he knew she was probably off getting into mischief without him and he couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous. Most of all, though, it was the look in Cat’s eyes as he’d left home that haunted him. He had finally resigned himself to the fact that he had somehow disappointed her. Disappointing people was, after all, the thing he was best at. Being so far away at school he was unable to fix it and each night as his eyes closed to sleep, visions of her disapproving glare would course through his memory.
Sirius straightened up as he heard James’ familiar voice. For some unknown reason, James had recently taken to sneaking into the hospital wing in the middle of the night. His first attempt had resulted in a detention and, since then, James had been overly careful about sneaking into the room. Although grateful for the company, Sirius couldn’t understand why James would risk detention just to sit with him for a few hours.
“Alone again?” James climbed up to sit on the edge of Sirius’ bed. “Brought some biscuits my mum made for you.”
Sirius took a few and popped them in his mouth. “You just missed Lily.”
“She’s a nutcase,” James said frowning. “Did she bring all those girls with her?”
Sirius had told him all about their visits and how much it bothered him. “No, thank goodness.”
“You’ve become quite the item it seems. What with your go ‘round with the sorting hat, the mysterious disappearance and then a midnight near death reappearance in the infirmary.”
“Jealous?” James huffed but Sirius could see him stiffen slightly and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“You’re not nearly as interesting as they think.”
“No, probably not,” Sirius conceded.
James shifted uneasily on the bed causing Sirius to look his way. James had become a talker while they were alone – he shared dreams, memories, fears, and anxieties. It had taken awhile for Sirius to be able to let his guard down with James and, even now, he sometimes was afraid to tell him the whole truth for fear of losing their new friendship. He wasn’t sure why, but something in James’ face told him he’d come here tonight for answers.
“Spit it out, James.”
“Everybody is talking about you, Sirius. Remus said the sorting hat is never wrong.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“But you thought it was wrong,” James countered, his inquisitive eyes turning to watch Sirius closely.
“No, James,” Sirius sighed. “I just hoped it was wrong.”
“You wanted to be in Slytherin?” James choked on his biscuit, causing it to spew all over the bed sheets.
“Not exactly.” Sirius had shared some of his family’s idiosyncrasies with James and, of course, James remembered the night of the Carnivale. Even in failing to witness the most gruesome act of that night, the other images were burned into James’ memory. He hadn’t told James about Cat…she was something he just wasn’t comfortable sharing but he had told of the tragic night following his sorting. With the telling of that single night, James had developed his own loathing for the Black family and their obsessive pureblood values.
“It was your family then, huh? To prove something to them?”
Sirius shrugged. “Maybe, I don’t know. I guess I knew being in Slytherin was the easiest and yeah, I wanted the easy way.”
“I guess I can’t blame you for that.” James took a handful of the biscuits he’d brought for Sirius. “Your family has a pretty colorful history.”
“That’s one way to put it,” Sirius said grimacing snatching the tin of food back. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to know about the Black family but Remus had been kind enough to inform him that an entire book on his family’s history was located in the restricted section of the library. Remus had obviously shared that information with James as well. Since first years weren’t allowed to visit the restricted section, Sirius could only assume that Remus had sought the Headmaster’s permission to be there. Either that or he and James had been going on adventures of their own, the thought of which made Sirius’ stomach churn with jealousy.
“That must be hard on you.” James’ voice was quiet and he busied himself wiping crumbs off the bed sheets.
“If you’re looking for some deep insight here, James, you’re talking to the wrong guy. That’s more Remus’ territory.”
“I only meant –"
“I know what you meant,” he snapped. “And I’m sick and tired of people treating me like some damn freakish token. Half the Gryffindors think I’m a low down sneak and the Slytherins think I’m a traitor. To hell with all of ‘em.”
James tilted his head slightly, a mocking grin on his face. “You’re one dark minded git, you know that? Most of us have better things on our mind than worrying about you.”
“Oh, yeah? Then what the hell are you doing here in the middle of the night asking me stupid questions?”
“’Cause I’m not just anybody, I’m your friend. And besides, all I was trying to do was provide a solution for you.”
Sirius’ breath caught at James’ pronouncement of being his friend but he quickly regained his composure. “I’ve heard from Remus all about your solutions, James. They usually end up putting someone in detention. And that’s if they’re lucky.”
“Afraid of a little detention, are you?” he challenged.
“Not hardly,” Sirius sighed. “What’s this plan of yours anyway?”
James’ voice quieted. “I just got to thinking about how hard all this must be on you…being pulled two different directions all the time. I figured maybe we could fix that. You only have to act like a Slytherin when you’re at home, right? They can’t control the way you act when you’re here at school. So why don’t we make a deal that during the term you are one of us and then when you go home you can be whatever it is they expect you to be.”
“That’s no better than being a traitor, James.” Sirius closed up the tin of biscuits and pushed them toward James. “What I need is everyone to just stop talking about my family so I can just be me. I don’t mean you or Remus or Peter but…” he trailed off. “I just need to be left alone by the masses. I just want to be a normal student.”
“Okay,” he answered simply.
“I’ll take care of that.” James hopped off the bed. “Get some sleep; the nurse says only two more days if you behave yourself.”
Sirius nodded as he watched James leave. True to his prediction, Sirius was released on an unsuspecting Hogwarts two days later. He wasn’t sure what James had done but the gossip did seem to have died down considerably. Most of the Gryffindors treated him as one of their own and the few that didn’t just stayed out of his way. The others houses, most notably the Slytherins, gave him a wide berth whenever he passed. One greasy little git from Slytherin had taken to issuing them sarcastic and sneering comments during lessons but since he seemed to take pride in annoying anyone, Sirius gave it little thought. The giggling girls were still around but they at least had the courtesy to speak in whispers.
It wasn’t until Christmas break began closing in that Sirius finally learned what James had done. Desperate to help Sirius be “normal”, he had apparently told everyone that Sirius had the ability to turn people to stone with a single look. It was an old wizarding ability, one not recognized today because of the dark magic it took to invoke such a thing. Remus, for all his bloody reading, had followed suit, assuring the students that they could read all about it in the restricted section once they were old enough. Eventually, of course, someone called James on it but, by that time, Sirius’ notoriety had died down enough that people left him alone anyway.
It took the entire group - Remus, Peter, James and Lily - to catch Sirius up in his studies. The practical magic lessons were simple…consisting of charms and spells he’d mastered as a toddler. The rudimentary classes made Sirius wonder if his parents might have been right about Hogwarts although James’ struggling efforts kept him silent. The more academic subjects, though, left Sirius studying long into the night after everyone else had gone to bed. Remus and Lily would stay up with him on occasion, determined he would learn the rhetoric. For some reason, they believed his skill with a wand and non-verbal magic were a sign of a top student and both found it rather comical that he couldn’t remember something as mundane as the twelve uses of dragon’s blood.
On the last night available for studying before the winter break, Lily had dozed off in the Gryffindor common room while Sirius and Remus waited patiently for James and Peter to come downstairs so they could begin their nightly adventure exploring the halls of Hogwarts. Lily had shifted uncomfortably on the sofa, causing both the boys to glance her direction.
“Do you ever wonder what they’re thinking?”
“Who?” Sirius dropped his book onto the table and stretched his legs out on the coffee table. “Girls or Lily?”
“Lily,” Remus answered softly.
“No. Lily’s an open book.”
“Oh, really?” Remus grinned mischievously as he nudged Lily. “Lily, did you hear that?”
“Of course, I’m resting not deaf.” Lily rolled over and pulled her legs up so she could eye the two better. “So, are all girls an open book or just me?”
Sirius’ mind flashed for a moment, a vision of Cat tugging at him. “Most girls but, you, you definitely are an easy read.”
“You are so arrogant. It’s a wonder no one’s kicked your ass yet,” Lily huffed.
“Give me time,” Remus grinned.
Sirius bristled with irritation as the two made fun of him. He leaned forwarding, glancing at Lily. “For instance, right now you wish Remus wasn’t here.”
“In your dreams, Black,” Lily began to pick up her books but Sirius stopped her.
“No, you have to let me finish,” he grabbed her arm. “You wish he wasn’t here because you’d like nothing better to turn around and slug me as hard as you could. But, you are afraid you’ll embarrass either me or yourself and wouldn’t dare risk it since Remus is one of the few people in this school that you seem to value his opinion. You wouldn’t dare do something to lose his respect.”
Sirius sank back as Lily’s eyes bore into him. She wouldn’t deny it…he knew she wouldn’t. He felt Remus shift beside him and he turned to watch him.
“I have to go,” he murmured his eyes never lifting off the ground.
“See? I knew he was going to say that too.” Sirius nodded and sent a cocky grin Lily’s direction as Remus scooted up the stairs as quickly as possible.
“Why did you do that?” Lily hissed. “Can’t you tell how uncomfortable you made him?”
“He makes himself feel uncomfortable, Lily. He doesn’t need me for that. He likes you.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
Sirius leaned back in his chair, watching her carefully. “Why else would he ask what you were thinking?”
“Because he doesn’t understand girls and thinks for some stupid reason that you do. So he was asking your opinion.”
Sirius cringed. He’d never been given the impression that Remus valued anything he had to say…that he might have been trying to start a civilized conversation with him had never crossed Sirius’ mind. He immediately felt guilty and was determined to make tonight’s last adventure before the Christmas break go well for Remus.
“So how did you do that anyway?” Lily stopped putting her books away. “How did you know that’s what I was thinking?”
“You’re an emotional girl,” He held a hand up as he saw her ruffle. “I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s just who you are. It makes it easy to know what you’re thinking.”
“No legilimency then?” Sirius’ darkened gaze caused Lily to look away. “I only meant-"
“I know exactly what you meant,” he stood up and headed for the stairwell. “Have a good Christmas.”
But Sirius wasn’t listening. He couldn’t. It was if her words had caused a thick liquid to fill his throat. He knew it shouldn’t matter what any of them thought but somehow, Sirius couldn’t help but think that for the rest of his time at Hogwarts there would always be someone second guessing his motives or abilities. Determined to put it out of his mind, Sirius tromped to the boys’ wing, desperate to find the others to begin their last adventure before the train would take them back to the real world…back to home.
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