By mid-January 1996, the school was sadly getting used to Dolores Umbridge’s reign of terror… These days, there were so many damn ministry decrees that they barely fit on the warning board in the castle’s entrance hall.
Though not officially, nearly all of the fifth year Slytherin class was what Sirius liked to refer as Umbridge’s ‘weasel troop’, though they called themselves the Inquisitorial Squad. That day, however, they were mostly busy getting ready for the Slytherin-Gryffindor game that would take place that afternoon.
“Hum, I have a class in ten minutes, Sirius,” Mia mumbled against her husband’s lips. He’d allegedly dropped by her office ‘just to say hi’ in her mid-morning break between classes. Sure he did, she thought sarcastically. Nobody locked a room just to say ‘hi’.
“Plenty of time,” he told her before he kissed her again, casually moving his hands down her sides as they lied on that blessed couch in her office. His lips moved down to her neck and he grinned as he felt its soft skin. How great was it that he could so that sort of thing during work breaks? It wasn’t part of the job description but it was certainly one of the best qualities of it.
Mia moaned. “Sirius, we’ve got to stop,” she whispered, not too eagerly. “We’re in a school, for Merlin’s sake.”
He dropped one last kiss on her neck and took a deep breath before pulling away and sitting up. “Being in a school – this school as a matter of fact – hasn’t kept us from going farther than snogging, love.”
She bit her inner lip. He had a bit of a point there… “We’re teachers now,” she said hopelessly.
Sirius grinned even wider. “Imagine that… the Quidditch coach and the History of Magic teacher snogging. In our time that would have been awfully disturbing.”
Mia roller her eyes. “You’re such a pervert.”
“Proudly.” He dropped a quick kiss on her lips. “You know, one of these days we should try out that bed in your official quarters. And the one in mine too.”
“Horndog. Don’t you have classes or something?” she asked before getting up and walking over to her desk.
He shook his head, his eyes following Mia. “I have a free period now.”
“Oh, right. I’d forgotten. Well, I still have students to teach,” she picked up a bunch of books on her desk and approached him to drop a kiss of goodbye on his cheek.
“Will you go to the game this afternoon?” he asked her.
She smiled. “Of course – Harry’s playing. I’ve already arranged things with Gabe so he’ll watch Alex. But I really have to go now. See you later, okay?”
“Okay,” he replied, seconds before she left the room.
He left too around a minute later and used the first half hour of his free time to check on some details for the game later that afternoon. Then, seeing as all seemed to be fine, he decided to take a little walk inside the castle just to pass time before his class – he still had another half hour, after all.
To his surprise, however, he ended up running into Izzy just as he reached the first floor hallway.
“Izzybel, what are you doing out of class?” Sirius asked his daughter with a grin, as she approached. He took a better look at her when she got closer: her face was pale, her nose was red and looked miserable. There was no doubt she was sick. “Merlin, you look dreadful.”
“I feel dreadful,” she said in a hoarse voice as he gave her a sympathetic smile and wrapped one arm around her for support. Izzy rested her head against her father’s shoulder. “I got a god-awful cold.”
“Have you gone to the hospital wing yet?”
She shook her head. “I was going now. Professor McGonagall dismissed me from her class after I sneezed in the middle of casting a spell and ended up turning my quill into a fish instead of a frog like she’d asked.”
He chuckled and rubbed her back gently. “Poor thing – it happens to the best. Come on, Honey, Daddy’s going to take you to Madam Pomfrey and she’ll fix you right up.”
On his way there, it crossed Sirius’s mind that he’d never seen his daughter sick before. Not that he’d wanted her to be sick, though. He just couldn’t help thinking that whenever she or Harry had had a fever or once they’d gotten Dragon Pox – that was, if they’d had it at all, which he had no idea – Mia had needed to deal with it without his help. Sure, she’d had Lulu but he wished he could have helped too. That was just one of the many things he’d missed out from her life thanks to bloody Wormtail…
He heard Izzy sneezing again by his side and glanced at her. “Stupid cold,” she mumbled just as she was about to turn left to the main staircase. However, he pulled her back and shook his head.
“I know a shortcut,” he told her, nodding at a statue of what seemed to be a winged boar that was against the wall at their right. “It will get us just a couple of corridors away from the infirmary.”
“Do you know all the secret passages in this castle by heart?”
Her father grinned. “Of course I do. One of the basic requirements for one to be a good prankster is to know our surroundings like the back of our hand. How else would we get away before anyone found us?”
She sighed. “I know a few of them only… Usually when I need secret passages, I get around with the map. I don’t think I have that good of a memory.”
He shook his head. “It’s not about memory, Izzybel, it’s about routine. If you use them regularly, with time those secret passages become normal ways to you. Believe me, they may be really handy from time to time – you can’t always count on having the map with you.” He reached for his wand in his pocket and lifted it to touch the boar’s left ear. Just as he did it, the statue started moving, showing an opening behind it. Then, Sirius turned back to his daughter. “Come along.”
He’d been right, Izzy thought. That secret passage had definitely saved them a lot of time, as they’d seen themselves three floors and several corridors away in a matter of two or three minutes.
However, when Umbridge stepped right in front of them just as they were about to turn around the corner, both Sirius and Izzy wished they’d taken some other way that didn’t involve seeing the DADA teacher’s face.
“Mr. Black,” the professor said in an all too pleasant voice before glancing at Izzy. “And Miss Black. I wasn’t expecting to see you out of class at this time of the day. May I ask why you are not there?”
“Professor McGonagall’s dismissed me from class,” Izzy told Umbridge. She might have thought of some less pleasant response but her head really was killing her and her throat felt awfully dry.
Umbridge frowned. “And why would Professor McGonagall do such a thing?”
Sirius went for irony. “Hum… maybe because Miss Black has a really bad cold and needs to get to the Hospital Wing? Which is where I’m taking her, by the way. Unless some new decree was posted and I didn’t notice it, I believe the school allows students to be dismissed from class when they need to go to the infirmary.”
For a single second, Umbridge didn’t even bother hiding her anger but then, as if nothing had happened, she returned to her usual fake-pleasant face. “Oh, well, a lot of students have been strangely taking ill, all of a sudden.”
He raised an eyebrow as, by his side, Izzy sneezed again. “It’s January, professor,” he said in an obvious tone. “Strange would be if nobody took ill, considering it’s freezing outside.”
The woman pursed her lips in frustration. “What I mean, Mr. Black, is that maybe it has to do with a certain type of sweets that makes the students ill so they can skive off their classes. Mr. Filch has apprehended a few boxes that someone has smuggled into the school.” She glanced down at Izzy again. “You wouldn’t have heard anything about that, would you, Miss Black?”
Of course she’d had. Any Gryffindor that usually spent time at the Common Room could see Fred and George testing their Fainting Fancies and Fever Fudge on the first years. There was just no way, though, she’d tell that to Umbridge. “Not that I recall,” Izzy told her before sneezing for the thousandth time that morning. “But in case you’re wondering, Professor, this is an actual cold.”
Umbridge sniffed. “Hum, I’ll have to take your word for it… Carry on, then.” And, to their relief, she walked away without another word. They just stood there for a few moments making sure she was really gone and out of earshot, before resuming making their way to the Hospital Wing.
“I see the twins are making success with their products,” Sirius said casually.
Izzy chuckled. “Success doesn’t cover it. I think they’ve made more profit last week than Zonko’s does in ten average Hogsmeade weekends. Practically everyone in the…” she paused in time before saying ‘DA’ – even though she knew her father was relatively aware the DA, walls had ears these days so saying anything about it outside of secured rooms was too much of a risk “… er, book club… yes, everyone in the book club has a stash of skiving sweets hidden somewhere.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Including you? You were telling the truth to Umbridge, weren’t you? That’s a real cold, right?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not that desperate to miss classes, Daddy. Much less transfiguration, which I actually like. Ah, we’re here,” she said just as they stopped in front of the Hospital Wing.
“Get in, then,” he told her before chuckling. “A wonderful-tasting potion awaits you.”
“It’s not funny. That thing tastes awful and ends up knocking you out for a few hours most of the time. What if I don’t make it to the game this afternoon? It’s Gryffindor vs. Slytherin – I can’t miss it!”
“Well, there’s no way your mother and I will let you go to the game if you’re still sick, so you’re only hope it to take the potion and sleep it off before the game starts,” he told her firmly. “Be a brave little soldier, Izzybel. I’ll get you a box full of sweets, the normal kind, if you’re a good girl.”
Izzy narrowed her eyes. “’m not four,” she said before taking a deep breath and hugging him. “But thanks for bringing me here.”
He chuckled, rubbing her back. “I’m sure you’d find the way on your own. You’re not four.”
She let out a small laugh. “Yeah, but it felt better with you bringing me,” she said, smiling up at her father as she pulled away. “You’re pretty good at this Dad job.”
Sirius grinned – hearing her saying that sounded like music to his ears. “Well, thanks. Now go get yourself fixed up. I’ll wait for you out here.”
The game had almost – almost – occurred without problems.
There were no mad bludgers, floating Dementors or people being kicked off their broomsticks. The foul play had even been reduced to a minimum, with Sirius’s interventions as the referee. That, in Mia’s book, was a drastic improvement – that time she actually believed she wouldn’t be picking her godson up from the Hospital Wing after the game.
However, it was after all the players had hit the ground – Gryffindor having won – that the problems started. Mia wasn’t quite sure what had been said but she’d witnessed from the teacher’s stands a rather heated argument between Harry and Malfoy, which was later joined by the twins, growing from a simple exchange of insults into a full muggle brawl, with Harry and George punching the blond Slytherin at the end of it. Next thing she knew, Sirius was casting a shield charm between them to break them up and McGonagall was showing up, dragging the two of them to her office.
By the time Mia reached the office, Sirius was already in it, watching McGonagall scolding the two boys.
“But instead of leaving it to Sirius to sort out, you two decided to give an exhibition of Muggle duelling, did you?” McGonagall was shouting.
“What happened?” Mia asked her husband in a whisper. “How did that start?!”
“Malfoy insulted the Weasleys and Lily,” Sirius snarled under his breath.
He nodded. “Can you believe the little prick? Called her Harry’s ‘filthy mudblood of a mother’. At least he could insult people who can defend themselves.”
Mia shook her head, still in disbelief.
In the meanwhile, McGonagall kept shouting. “This is completely unacceptable! Have you any idea what you’ve…?”
Everyone in the room wheeled round, facing the door to see Umbridge was standing in the doorway an, for the second time in that day, as much as he abhorred the idea of hitting a woman, he just felt like throwing a chair at her.
“May I help, Professor McGonagall?” she asked in an all-too-sweet voice.
“Help?” McGonagall repeated, in a constricted, obviously annoyed voice. “What do you mean ‘help’?”
“I thought you might be grateful for a little extra authority.”
“There’s three staff member here already, Dolores. I believe that’s authority enough,” she said, turning her back on Umbridge and resuming the scolding. “Now, you two’d better listen closely. I do not care what provocation Malfoy offered you, your behavior was wrong and I am giving each of you a week’s worth of detentions!”
Sirius and Mia turned their faces towards Umbridge again, as McGonagall glared. Now, the deputy headmaster also looked like she wanted to choke the woman with her bare hands. “Yes?”
“I think they deserve rather more than detentions,” said Umbridge, smiling more broadly.
“What, then? A good old whipping?” Sirius asked sarcastically. “Being hung by the toes like Filch is always suggesting, maybe.”
Harry and George glance at him with wide eyes and he winked, letting them know he was joking.
“That’s just what I was wondering,” McGonagall agreed, glaring. “Unfortunately, it is what I think that counts, as they are in my House, Dolores.”
“Well, actually, Minerva,” Umbridge replied with a sigh before starting rummaging in her handbag and removing a rolled up piece or parchment, “I think you’ll find that what I think does count. ‘Educational Decree Number Twenty-five’.”
“Not another one!” Mia said. Would there ever be an end to it?
“Well, yes,” said Umbridge, still smiling before she read. “‘High Inquisitor will have supreme authority over all punishments and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments and removals of privileges as may have been ordered by other staff members. Signed, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, etc., etc.’” She smiled even wider. “So… I really think I will have to ban these two from playing Quidditch ever again.”
“What?!” Sirius and Mia chorused in shock.
“Ban us?” Harry said in a distant voice.
“Forever?” George added.
“You can’t do that!” Sirius said.
“Oh, yes, I can, Mr. Black,” Umbridge countered. “I think a lifelong ban ought to do the trick. You, Mr. Weasley here and I think, to be safe, this young man’s twin ought to be stopped, too – if his teammates had not restrained him, I feel sure he would have attacked young Mr. Malfoy as well.”
“And Malfoy?” Mia asked.
“What about him?” Umbridge asked.
Mia narrowed her eyes. “He’s provoked them – insulted their parents! I’d say if they’re banned from the bloody team, he should be too or, at the very least, given a detention.”
“Mr. Malfoy was assaulted by them – of course he won’t be banned!” Umbridge replied angrily. “As for detention, that is up to Professor Snape.”
Mia pursed her lips. “I’ll see about that, then.”
She turned to Sirius and smiled again. “I will want their broomsticks confiscated, of course; I shall keep them safely in my office, to make sure there is no infringement of my ban.”
“Actually, you can’t,” McGonagall told her, recovered from the shock of before. “The school rules say that a student’s personal property can only be confiscated in case they are either in the list of banned items or directly used in a serious violation of the school rules themselves. As Potter and the Weasleys didn’t assault Malfoy with their broomsticks, you have no authority to confiscate them.” She turned to Sirius, then. “I’ll ask you, however, to take their broomsticks home to avoid temptation.”
Sirius curled his lips in triumph. “Of course.” Umbridge’s shocked face was so worth the trouble. At least that way Harry and the twins knew their brooms were safe and could use them when they were back home for easter break.
“Very well, let it be,” Umbridge spat minutes later, just as she made her out the door
Mia moved to follow seconds later.
“Wait, where are you going?” Sirius asked her.
“To take care of Malfoy,” she replied, before glancing at Harry’s long face. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he doesn’t go without a punishment too.”
He gave her a faint nod before she walked through the door, Sirius following her.
“Snivelus will never give him detention for provoking Harry,” he told her just as the two stood outside of McGonagall’s office.
“Maybe not for provoking Harry,” Mia told him. “But he won’t let him get away with calling Lily a ‘filthy mudblood’.” The way he’d begged for forgiveness in their fifth year after calling it to Lily… She knew he abhorred the word now – he’d even given detention to Malfoy back in Harry’s second year just for using it at all. “Go back inside, Sirius. Harry and George are miserable now – you need to talk to them.”
“That bitch had to take Quidditch away from him… if I’d been faster and stopped them.”
“She’d have found another excuse,” Mia told him, placing a hand on his shoulder for comfort. “You know what they say about DADA teachers – never last more than a year. Let’s hope this year is not an exception.”
Mia had been right about Snape. Though their conversation was short and tense, as soon as she’d told him what Malfoy had called Lily, the Slytherin’s head had promised to ‘take care of it’. Later, McGonagall had been pleased to tell Sirius about how Malfoy had been given a full whole week of detention to be served with her.
Harry and the twins’ expulsion from the Quidditch team had shocked and angered a great number of Gryffindor who, even those who tended to label Harry a lunatic, stuck by their side.
The following day, a Saturday, Sirius and Mia had planned to spend a lazy day at home as Harry had told them not to ruin their weekend over what had happened in the game. But they didn’t need that to ruin the weekend – no, the morning news were more than enough.
The breakfast was going rather calmly that Morning. Mia was brewing some tea while Alex sat on his high chair as Kreacher placed a plate of baby food in front of him. Immediately, to the house elf’s frustration, instead of using the spoon he’d been given, the little boy chucked his tiny fist into the plate with a giggle.
“No. Young master eat with spoon, not with hand,” Sirius heard Kreacher telling the baby in the background. “Bad young master.”
In the moment Sirius opened the newspaper left by Kreacher on the kitchen table, however, he felt sick when being greeted by the picture of his far most hated cousin, among other Death Eaters.
“Son of bitch,” he said under his breath as he read the headline.
MASS BREAKOUT FROM AZKABAN
If that was bad on itself, the article that followed was even worse…
The Ministry of Magic announced late last night that there has been a mass breakout from Azkaban.
Speaking to reporters in his private office, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, confirmed that ten high-security prisoners escaped in the early hours of yesterday evening and that he has already informed the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangerous nature of these individuals.
“We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in a very difficult position at the moment,” said Fudge last night. “We are, however, doing all we can to round up the criminals.”
Two and a half years ago, Sirius Black was the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, only to be proven later that the fugitive had been innocently incarcerated for over a decade, paying for a crime committed by one of his supposed victims, Peter Pettigrew. Black was later given a full pardon and became, along with his wife, guardian of the already known mentally unstable Harry Potter. Though the method Black used in order to escape was never revealed to the public, the ministry has assured no dark magic was used.
“We do not think the two breakouts are related,” Minister Fudge affirms. “An escape of this magnitude, however, suggests outside help and we remind you all that Peter Pettigrew, a known murderer and Death Eater ever since Black was proven innocent, is still at large, despite our efforts. We think it likely that these individuals have rallied around Pettigrew as their accomplice in the escape.”
Among the fugitives are some of the most dangerous and unstable Death Eaters ever known, such as the Lestranges – Rodolphus, Rabastan and Bellatrix (née Black) – and Antonin Dolohov. Fudge’s advice is for the magical community to remain alert and cautious. “On no account should any of these individuals be approached if sighted.”
He just stared at the article frozen for several minutes. How the hell was that possible? Sure, he’d escaped but he was just one person, after all. One person that could turn into an animal. How on earth could the Dementors miss ten people? The answer came easily: they hadn’t, they’d actually let them go. Their loyalties had shifted to Voldemort.
“What is it?” Mia asked him as she sat by the table, placing two cups of tea on it, one in front of him, other in front of herself.
“Ten death Eaters escaped Azkaban,” he told her gravelly. “Bellatrix is one of them.”
She opened her mouth to say something but closed it again, speechless. It took her several seconds to get her voice back. “H… how?”
“The only way I can think of is the Dementors being in You-Know-Who’s hands,” Sirius told her gravelly. “And Fudge is blaming it on Wormtail… like he’s smart enough to plan a full-blown escape. He probably sat in a corner while the big boys did all the work. How can people be so dumb and still believe Voldemort’s not back?”
Mia sighed. “People don’t want to believe it. They don’t want the terror to be back again.”
“But it will be back. Sooner or later it will – especially with all these sick bastards out of Azkaban. Merlin, Bella is probably the worst of them all. You know what she did to the Longbottoms.”
She nodded quietly. “Maybe they’ll get them.”
“No, they won’t,” Sirius said. “They never got me.”
“They didn’t know you’re animagus,” Mia countered.
“And Voldemort is protecting them,” he finished, looking down. “Just when we think things can’t get worse than a war, they become a war with nearly every Death Eater that was already locked away.”
Mia sighed. “They’ll get even worse before they get close to get better, won’t they?”
Sirius nodded silently.
“Sirius,” she whispered, worried about his lack of words.
He took a deep breath. No, he couldn’t let himself be defeated before the fight had even started. He glanced at his son, to see him struggling with the spoon in his hand to figure out how it was used and then looked up at Mia. He had a duty to his family and to himself. “But those bastards can get their arses ready because we’ll make it worse for them too. Bella’s will wish she’s never left that hell of a prison.”
“That’s the Sirius I know and love,” she said with a smile.
A/N2: Well, I felt generous today and ended up updating three days earlier (unfortunately, I can't do it often). Consider it a New Year's welcoming and a personal celebration about my future Easter holidays at Paris. I hope you liked the chapter... I rather liked to write this one. You may have noticed that I changed dates a bit but nothing major. Next chapter is in progress and will come at the usual rate. Send some feedback. Review!
Disclaimer: Some dialogue in this chapter was quoted from JK Rowlings's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (chapter 19 - The Lion and the Serpent- last pages of the chapter)