The Road Not Taken Chapter Fourteen: Snatched, Snitches, and Sneaks
He went back to his common room uncertain of what to do, or even think. There was no sign of Alice anywhere, and for that, he was deeply grateful. He didn't have time to concentrate on her prattling when his mind was already overflowing.
As he sat down on his bed, Ron looked at him angrily and asked him "What's wrong this time?"
Harry didn't know how to tell him what he had just heard about his older brother. He wasn't even sure Ron would believe him. Or maybe Ron already knew. At that point Harry figured that anything was possible, so he said nothing, only that he was tired.
"Well, that owl's been waiting for you for quite some time. Impatient little bugger really," Ron commented.
As he said that, a simple brown barn owl swept down from its perch onto of Harry's bed and landed upon his shoulder. It was carrying a small note, which Harry took, uncertain who would be sending him mail at such an odd hour, opened it, and recognized his father's slanted handwriting.
I can't say much. The Daily Prophet will have the story tomorrow, but do know that it's not true and everyone here is working to sort it out. It'll be ok son. Destroy this after you have read it.
What could it possibly be now? What wasn't true? He understood that his father couldn't put much into a letter but the contents seemed so laughably short and without point that he might as well have written nothing at all. Reducing the piece of parchment to cinders with his wand as his father had instructed him to do, he put the letter in the back of his mind and went back to trying to finagle more into his essay.
The next morning when Harry woke up, he dressed lazily, halfway forgetting his father's note, and meandered his way down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Seamus Finnegan was sitting down, his head lolling side to side slightly, and he had a copy of the paper laying next to him on the table.
After asking him if he could read it, he gathered it up and didn't even have to read the headline of the front page to be seized with horrible shock at what he found there.
Sirius Black Arrested on Suspicions of Breaking and Entering
Auror Sirius Black was arrested yesterday evening when found attempting to enter the heavily guarded Department of Mysteries. Black refused any comment when asked by interrogators what business he had there, but Head of the Department, Perseus Brody, said that it was unlikely Black could have even gotten past the entryway, for the Department of Mysteries is guarded by many charms and spells to prevent such unauthorized entry.
Black is known to be in league with mad-man Albus Dumbledore, who just last week published a statement still maintaining the rebirth of Who-Know-Who, who is known to have died when he tried to kill Neville Longbottom.
No date for a trial has yet been set, but ...
Harry read the rest of the story in a daze, hardly believing it true. Sirius had been arrested and sent back to Azkaban. Well, he had never been to Azkaban in the first place, but the sunken and hollow look his godfather had once held was the result of that foul prison, and he was back there, back there waiting for his soul to diminish and die, back there to the company of dementors and painful memories.
He had been guarding the Department of Mysteries. The prophecy must still be there. But had he been forced to enter it, just as Bode had? He remembered quite clearly that Bode had fallen mysteriously ill when he had been ordered under the Imperius Curse to break in and steal the prophecy for Voldemort, and then had been murdered in his hospital bed by a potted Devil's Snare. Was Voldemort still attempting to reach Neville and send him to the Department of Mysteries? It was highly unlikely. If he had knowledge and memories of the life he had lived before, then wouldn’t the person who had offered to change it also?
If that was true, then the Order was on the wrong trail. He had sworn to himself to remain silent about what had happened, but this was serious. Sirius was in prison awaiting a trial, and Voldemort was up to something that the Order was probably not expecting.
He read the article again to make sure that Sirius hadn't been hospitalized or injured but it said nothing of that. He thought of his father's letter and he had said something like the story wasn't true and they were working to sort it out. It would be ok; he had faith in his father's word.
Just then Ron came up behind him and Alice a few paces behind, seemingly slowed up a bit while trying to put an obnoxiously large hooped earring through her ear.
Ron stopped short when he caught sight of the huge, bold headline and gave a short gasp.
"He's- he's- he's been arrested? What for?"
He allowed Ron to read the clip and when he was done, the paper fell from his hand and he looked as though he were in total shock. Harry was amazed that Ron had the capacity to show concern for the welfare of another human being. Ginny looked over at them, having successfully place the oversized and tacky piece of jewelry in her ear at last.
"Who's been arrested?" she asked lazily.
"Sirius," they both replied in stunned unison.
"Oh, isn't that just awful. Well, anyway Harry, I was just going to ask you if you wouldn't mind wearing something in a dark blue on the Hogsmeade trip on Halloween because-"
Harrry couldn't believe her. She didn't even care! He came quickly from his state of shock and stared at her. She seemed to roll her eyes slightly, and then had the nerve to say "Ok, you can wear a dark green if you would like, I suppose that might go just as well-
"Don't you get it!" he roared at her. "There are things more important in this stupid world than clothes or ugly earrings! My godfather was arrested for something he didn't even do!"
She looked slightly taken aback and frowned a bit. Harry grabbed his things and stormed out of the Great Hall, angered even further when he distinctly heard her say to Ron "So he doesn't like my earrings?"
It took him quite some time to calm down. He felt instantly a tad bit better when he entered Lupin's classroom. Lupin would know something for sure that the Prophet hadn't told about. He thought the class dragged on for hours and every time he looked at the minute hand on his watch, he was sure time was going backwards. He just needed class to be over so he could talk to him.
The bell rang graciously an hour and a half later and students slowly filed out. Ron lingered a bit; it seemed that he had wanted to ask Lupin the same thing as Harry.
"Go. I need to talk to him privately, but I'll tell you what he tells me about Sirius." Harry said.
Ron looked a bit put off but nodded and left the room.For a fleeting second it was like having a best friend again. Lupin looked up at him in a way that told Harry he had been expecting such a talk to take place.
"I can't tell you much Harry," he whispered as Harry came close to his desk. "I can tell you that Sirius is safe, however safe Azkaban might be. I know it probably sounds strange to hear, but being in prison is likely more safe than being out."
"What was he doing in the Department of Mysteries? Was he guarding the prophecy?" Harry realized a fraction of a second too late his slip of the tongue.
Lupin's face fell and he seemed rather shocked. Harry probably wasn't supposed to know about the prophecy between Neville and Voldemort.
"How do you-" Remus began.
"I just, I heard that they keep records of prophecies made down there. I figured there must be something because I overheard you and dad talking about it once," he lied, praying that Lupin would buy it.
He seemed to relax at hearing that, and his doing so made Harry relax as well.
"He didn't try to break in as he's being accused of. He was merely right outside the door, leaning against it to read the paper and was seen by the wrong people. You know Sirius, he can be a bit cheeky, and he got himself arrested. It doesn't look good, Harry, but in all actuality they have no proof."
Harry felt his heart nearly skip a beat. Sirius would most likely be ok. He hadn't been forced to enter and hadn't been hurt in the process; he had only been rude and gotten smart with the wrong people. It took a second for that to sink in, and Lupin began saying something else.
"I'm still looking into a spell to change time too. I think I could be close; I found some books in the Restricted Section that have a lot to do with magical theories of time. In a way I'm kind of glad you asked because I've learned quite a few things on this search that I might never had thought of otherwise. "
Harry's heart skipped another beat. Lupin was going to help him. Things were going to be fine really.
“Have you written to your mum lately?” Lupin continued.
“Er, no, actually,” he replied, feeling slightly guilty. He hadn’t written to his mother, but in all fairness, she hadn’t written to him either. “I’m still waiting for her to answer my first letter.”
“Oh,” Lupin answered. “Well, she’s got a lot on her plate right now Harry.”
“I know, I don’t doubt that. I’ll send her another letter I suppose.”
He turned to leave the classroom as a group of sixth year Ravenclaws began to file into the room. What had happened to his life? Lupin was still on his side, and though things were bad, he had a sense that they would be ok.
* * *
The following Saturday Harry wanted to take back everything he had thought about things being ok. They were playing Ravenclaw in their first Quidditch match of the year, and from everything he had heard of Ravenclaw, they were quite the team to beat. He was not only plagued by that, but thoughts of his imprisoned godfather kept trickling into his mind, causing his train of thought to wander away from what he was doing, which was not at all a good thing in a highly dangerous sport.
Just before the match got underway he spied Cho Chang, flipping her hair around to allow it to catch the sunlight and he felt a bubbling of a weird emotion in his stomach. She hadn't changed much. The way she carried herself seemed to indicate to the world that she was better than them, above them in some way. It was extremely reminiscent of Alice. He recognized her hair tossing as just one more sign that she was too good for lesser mortals to have. She smiled at him and winked and in that instant he wanted to beat her and the Ravenclaw team into a shameful loss.
Neville was quite a good player, but he wasn't flawless. Both teams were in a dead heat for goals and the playing was getting to be rather fierce. Harry was looking for the Snitch as much as his mind would allow him to search, but he kept wandering off at everything that reminded him of Sirius. No matter what Lupin had said, he just couldn't shake a horrible feeling from the pit of his stomach that something very wicked was about to come underway.
He rolled over in the air on his broomstick after nearly having been hit by a bludger.
"Oy! Keep an eye out!" said Ron gleefully, pummeling the offending bludger to the far corner of the pitch.
He had too much on his mind to play such a close game. He looked over at the scoreboard, and they were tied. Half a second later, Gryffindor was up, 110 to 100. He caught his eyes wandering over to the stands and saw Hermione there, for whatever reason, he couldn't explain. He just couldn't fathom her wanting to show up to a game that she hated in a crowd full of people that didn't like her.
"I wonder if she's watching me?" he found himself thinking.
Just then, a bludger grazed his shoulder. He had been hovering in the same spot for nearly ten minutes not paying any attention at all to the game around him. He swung violently, nearly falling from his broom, but managed to clutch it enough in spite of his reeling senses to stay on.
Had he been on his Firebolt, perhaps he might have been able to dive out of the hit in time. He hadn't noticed how very different the Nimbus and the Firebolt really were; not that the Nimbus was a bad broom in any sense, only that it was just not as precise or swift.
He looked over to the scoreboard and saw that it was now 130 to 140, in favor of Ravenclaw. This match needed to end soon, and almost as if it had heard his thoughts, the Snitch appeared to him about 20 feet below, circling around the center goalpost of the Ravenclaw Keeper. He dove, and so did Cho, but luckily he was closer to the goalpost than she. Perhaps is had paid off for him that he was doing his worst job of Seeking ever rather than flying about the expanse of the field looking for the Snitch.
With a triumphant swoop he caught the Snitch and the game was finally over, 280 to 140. Cho looked deeply upset. She landed and then stomped away in tears. He landed shortly after her and people were flocking out onto the field in congratulations. Someone caught him hard around the neck and pulled him into a rather gross display of public kissing. Alice. Of course it was Alice. Anywhere where people would pay attention Alice showed up to in the blink of an eye.
She made a great to do with huge, deep, passionate, wet kisses for all to see, but so many people were crowding around them that Harry couldn't push her away. People were starting to make catcalls and he knew that he was blushing furiously, but there was nothing he could do.
After a while, he found himself back in the common room where Ron was throwing a huge party in celebration of their narrow win. It was chaos. People everywhere were drinking and destroying things, laughing loudly and yelling. Alice wouldn't let him go; she had sat both of them down in a huge armchair and commenced to doing whatever she liked to him. She seemed to have stuck herself to Harry with a Permanent Sticking Charm, and nothing he could do would free him of her, despite growing discomfort at Alice's wandering hands.
At around midnight people began to slow down as the Firewhiskey set in. Alice had fallen asleep on his shoulder and he slowly pushed her away and got up to look around. A group of people was sitting in the corner, laughing hysterically at a set of Exploding Snap cards. They were completely drunk.
He needed a walk. He snuck out of the portrait hole, totally without direction or purpose. He couldn't stop thinking of Sirius in prison, Hermione in pain, the missing room at Grimmauld Place, the dreams he had been having, and Percy wandering about the school, probably aiding Lord Voldemort. Things were just too different for comfort. He thought of his parents and wondered what they were doing right at that moment. Did they think of him often?
He wandered about the halls for nearly an hour before it occurred to him what could happen if he was caught out of bounds so late in the night. Deciding he had already had one close enough call with Percy and Filch, he decided it would be wise to return back to the common room. Again, almost as if his mind was being read, Percy came whipping around a corner. He dodged into the nearest door to avoid being seen and almost laughed aloud at where he had just come into. It was Percy's office.
He rolled behind a huge armchair and prayed Percy would walk past his own office and go to bed, but he heard the door open and Percy walk in and approached the fireplace.
He heard rustling around and saw a fire being lit in the fireplace. He wanted to scream in horror when he noticed that the light from the fireplace cast his shadow behind the chair and he hoped against hope that Percy would not glance over to where he was hiding.
"Riddle House, Little Hangleton!" he heard Percy shout into the flames and saw a greenish haze come over the room.
That settled it. Percy was definitely working for Voldemort.
He wanted to scream and run from the room as quickly as possible. What would they do to him if they found that he had overheard a private conversation? The possibilities were endless.
Please leave a review.