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Chapter 52 : Passage
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More than a month after her office had been sealed, Umbridge still hadn’t gotten any closer to having it open again or getting her possessions back. That and the head’s office locking itself in protest against her had been more than enough to ruin the beginning of her reign. But it certainly wasn’t the end of her misery…
Soon, the wave of pranks started as a certain group of members of the DA led by the twins had taken upon themselves to make her life even more diffucult. Their first strike had been trashing and making all available rooms in the castle stink so badly that no living creature would be able to stay in them for more than a few seconds – all of that just so Umbridge wouldn’t be able to find another classroom or office anytime soon. Despite several attempts, Filch hadn’t been able to get rid of the stench caused by the twins’ new line of products, the Putrid Breeze Collection, only removable with their antidote. In the end, to her own horror, Umbridge had to move into a cramped supply closet in the Dungeons and teach her classes in one of the greenhouses.
Days later, after eating the most delicious-looking muffin she had ever seen for breakfast, Umbridge had ended up with her whole body covered with pustules that kept her in the Hospital Wing for several days, causing her to have all her food tasted by a house-elf from that moment on.
But Fred and George’s masterpiece had been their own escape from the school at the end of April. It had caused, in a word, chaos. They’d exploded half the glass in the school, hexed every single member of the Inquisitorial Squad, Filch and Mrs. Norris included, set fireworks that lasted half a day and, the cherry on top of the cake, turned the Great Hall into a gigantic swamp. Then, after dropping out of school, the two had happily flown away from it using two of the school brooms and leaving behind several inspired students that promised to continue with the havoc.
Meanwhile, at Grimmauld Place, Sirius and Mia could do nothing more that learning of what was going on from the sidelines, which really pissed them off. The only things that kept them from going mad were Alex, as it was hard to be angry around such a good-natured little boy, and the knowledge that, as long as they stuck together and raised some hell, the kids would be fine at school.
Harry, being Umbridge’s favourite target for bullying and random detentions, was who worried them the most. However, since Ginny had become his girlfriend, Umbridge didn’t seem to affect him as much, no matter how she tried. Ginny had been a huge mood-booster for him and, in Sirius and Mia’s opinion, probably the best thing that had happened to him all year – she would not only be there for Harry when he was out of detention but sometimes purposely get herself in detention too just so they could spend it together. With her around, they knew he was taken care of.
“Morning, Love,” Sirius greeted his wife in the first morning of June as he entered the room carrying their son. His eyes landed on a small red envelope that lay on top of the pile of mail that had arrived for them. Another howler – Umbridge had been sending them to him at least twice a week ever since they’d been fired. “Well, and here I was starting to think that she’d forgotten us already.”
“No such luck,” Mia replied with a chuckle, serving herself with some tea before sitting at the table. “Kreacher’s disabled it already.”
“Hum, seems like the little bastard serves for something, after all…”
She rolled her eyes. “Kreacher is a great and you know it. Besides, I know that deep down you like him.”
“Really deep down,” Sirius said just as Alex started to squirm in his arms, wanting to be put on the floor.
“Down!” the little boy asked, pointing to the floor. His father chuckled, ruffling his hair before granting his wish. The little boy supported himself on his small legs and toddled his way to his mother, putting his arms up when he reached her. “Mamma! Kiss!”
Mia smiled down at her little boy and scooped him up, sitting him on her lap and kissing his chubby cheek, making him giggle. Every day, she couldn’t help thinking that Alex became more and more like his father with his soft black hair, grey eyes and sparkling mood. He was a happy baby, despite everything that was happening in the world. The sun of their lives.
“Cookie,” he requested, pointing at the jar on the counter.
She laughed. “No cookies for breakfast, mister.”
He pouted and turned to his father. “Daddy, cookie.”
Sirius chuckled. “Smart kid. Sorry, mate, Mommy won’t let me have the cookies either.” He looked up at Mia. “She’s a bit if a witch.”
She smiled. “Proudly. But if I was an evil one, I wouldn’t say he could have a cookie after breakfast. And so can you.”
“Cookie,” Alex repeated looking at her hopefully.
“After breakfast, baby,” she promised, kissing her son’s temple just as Kreacher appeared by her side and placed the plate of Alex’s food in front of her.
Meanwhile Sirius opened the little red envelope of the Howler and read the message Umbridge had written in it, intending to have it yelled instead of read.
“What does it say this time?” Mia asked.
“More of the same. Let me see… open my office… blah, blah, blah… you’ll be sorry… more blah, blah… disgrace to the wizarding community… should still be rotting in Azkaban…well, it’s like hearing my mother’s sweet words all over again,” Sirius said, his tone bored as he placed the message back in the red envelope and ripped it in several pieces. “Bloody frog-faced woman.”
“Bwoody!” Alex repeated happily, making his father freeze and Mia shoot him a chilling look. “Bwoody!”
Sirius gulped. “He’ll probably forget it in a minute.”
“You’d better hope he does,” she said through her teeth threateningly as her son kept repeating it. She looked down at the little tyke. “Don’t say that, honey, it’s a bad word. Only for silly grownups to say.”
“Gowups,” the toddler giggled.
“See? He’ll repeat anything one of us says,” Sirius said victoriously, seeing that as being off the hook. “Well, we’d better hurry up with breakfast – don’t want to miss another chance to annoy our most detested former boss by showing up in Hogsmeade during a student’s visiting weekend.”
Mia smiled. “Of course, we wouldn’t want to miss that. I’m not so sure about us taking Alex, though… it may turn messy.”
“The ministry hates us, Mia,” he replied. “It may turn messy anywhere we go as long as there are magical folks there. The kid needs to get out of the house and go to places other than Lulu’s house and the playground down the street. Besides, Izzy would give us an earful if we didn’t take him.”
“Alright, alright,” she agreed. “I guess we can deal with a messy scene well enough to spare the baby.” She glanced down at her son, now feeding himself using a spoon instead of his hands like he had until a few months ago. “He’s so big already. More like a little boy than a baby these days. Feels like it was just yesterday that we’ve held him for the first time, remember?”
“How could I ever forget it?” Sirius asked with a grin, looking at Alex too. “Tiny wrinkled thing, he was. Now he’s all big and handsome like his Dad.”
Mia sighed. “Yeah, he is.”
The little boy placed his spoon down, finished with his food, and looked up at Mia. “Cookie, Mamma.”
She kissed his brow. “Alright, baby, let’s get you a cookie.” She got up, holding him close to her chest. He might be bigger but it would be a few years before they have to let go of him in anyway. And she hoped they’d be able to enjoy every moment of that time.
It wasn’t the first time they’d come to Hogsmeade after being fired but the effect was still pretty much the same – they always kept looking around themselves, expecting Umbridge to jump out of nowhere and start yelling at them. And, deep down, they looked forward to it just so they could respond to her in the same fashion.
But, after ten minutes walking around the village with their son toddling holding his father’s hands, there was no sign of Umbridge or of any student or teacher for that matter. It wasn’t until Sirius felt the two-way mirror in his pocket heating up, signalling an incoming communication, that he understood why.
“She cancelled the visit!” Izzy said, furious from the other side of the mirror. “Everyone was getting ready to leave and then she just showed up, smiled and said that there would be no Hogsmeade visits until the – I quote – ‘culprits that have been disturbing the life and studies in this school came forward and are punished’. Can you believe it?!”
Mia sighed. “Sadly, yes, we can.”
“At some point, we simply stopped thinking there are limits to what that woman can do,” Sirius explained.
“Kitty!” Alex said from the floor, pulling his mother’s robes and pointing at a cat that was passing nearby. “Pweety,” he said with a giggle.
“Is that Alex? Oh, I wanted to see him!”
“We know – that’s why we brought him,” Mia said with a sigh. “But, well, you’re coming back home for the Summer in three weeks, aren’t you? You can be with him all the time then.”
Izzy huffed. “Yeah, I suppose. But this is so much worse without you guys here… She’s gotten Harry in detention for a whole week. Again! It’s like a prison.”
“Yeah, we’ve heard,” Sirius said dryly – McGonagall had written to them about it. She always wrote to them, under fake names obviously, whenever Umbridge pulled something on either Harry or Izzy. “Is he there, by the way? We thought we might have a word with him…”
She shook her head. “He’s with Ginny in the Room of Requirement – at least they didn’t have their dating plans ruined like everyone else since Harry was banned from Hogsmeade months ago.”
Sirius didn’t reply, just pursing his lips – he knew that by ‘everyone else’ Izzy meant herself. Mia had mentioned she had a date set up with Terry Boot for that Hogsmeade visit and he’d been making an effort to stay out of that matter. Not that he liked at all the fact that his little girl had taken a liking for the ‘art of dating’. But he’d swallow the frog and be supportive because he knew he had to accept she was growing up and getting a life… and because he didn’t want her to resent him in the future for being too protective of her. He was lucky enough she’d accepted him so easily after twelve years of absence in her life. “Well, hum, tell them ‘hi’ for us, would you?” he changes the subject. “And I guess we’ll only see you in person three weeks from now.”
She sighed. “Yeah, I guess. I’m sorry you had to come all the way there for nothing, though.”
Mia shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, honey. We use the opportunity to stay out for a bit, take a walk with your brother or something.”
“He walks all over the place these days – falls down a lot too. Anyway, Moony’s probably here already. He was supposed to be patrolling the village today. I suppose we can catch up with him too.”
Izzy nodded. “Alright. Well, we’ll talk later, then. Love you, Mom and Dad. And the shorty there with you.”
“Love you two, honey,” Sirius said before his daughter’s face disappeared from the mirror on his hand. “Ah, well, want to go grab a butterbeer?”
“Guess so,” Mia agreed, looking down at her son and frowning when she saw him happily sitting on the ground, playing with some dirt. “Alex Black, what are you doing?” she asked, picking him up. “There isn’t a clean spot on you!”
The little boy giggled before throwing a handful of dirt he’d brought up with him to the floor. “Funny!”
“No, honey. Dirt is… dirty, not funny,” she told the little boy.
Sirius chuckled and ruffled his son’s hair. “Mia, he’s one year old – It’s nearly impossible to teach him to resist a mess at this age.” His arm circled her waist. “Come on, let’s take him to the pub – we can clean him up there.”
She huffed. “Well, he must take this messy habit after you.”
He snorted. “I’ll take your word for it, as I’ve never seen you playing with dirt.” And then, he placed a kiss on his wife’s cheek just as they were about to enter the Three Broomsticks. However, they literally ran into Fred and George, to their own surprise.
“Ooch, I’m sorry,” Mia apologized before noticing who it was and raising an eyebrow. “What are you two doing here? I’d assumed that after that escape you’ve pulled you’d want to stay as far from the school as you could.”
“It’s not the school we want to stay away from – it’s more that… help me out here with a word to describe Umbridge, Georgie.”
“Exactly. It’s more that munter of a headmistress we want to stay away from,” Fred finished. “And what better way to do it then escaping the way we did?”
“It was like a gigantic ‘go to hell’ right on her face,” George added, proud of himself. “Merlin, we’ll be telling this story to our grandkids decades from today. Ginny mentioned in her last letter that our swamp is still covering the Great Hall.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that too,” Sirius said with chuckle, although he was pretty sure Flitwick would have been able to get rid of it in ten minutes tops if he really wanted to – apparently, he and Mia hadn’t been the only members of the staff against the new headmistress.
Mia let out a sigh as her son kept fidgeting in her arms but this time she didn’t put him down, knowing he’d likely launch himself at the dirt again. “Molly had better never hear what I’m about to say but… well done, boys. You should probably get the Order of Merlin prize for it.”
Sirius nodded in agreement. “I don’t think I’ve had the chance to tell you this before but you two could give us Marauders a run for our money.”
Two equally proud grins covered the twins’ faces. “Well, that’s an honour to hear, really. You blokes have been our heroes ever since we found your map,” Fred said. “And speaking of money, the two of us have an announcement to make.”
“Should we make some build up?” George asked.
“Nah, let’s just say it straight away.”
They looked at Sirius and Mia and then chorused. “We’re opening our own joke shop in Diagon Alley.”
Sirius snorted. “You’re joking.”
“In a regular basis, yes,” George said. “But not about this. We’re really opening a joke shop.”
“Oh, Merlin, help us all,” was all Mia could say. She could picture the hell that would be raised with their various products spreading around the Hogwarts population. And considering Umbridge would be the one to deal with it, it was just perfect.
“That’s bloody brilliant!” Sirius said with a wide grin.
“Bwoody!” Alex said with a giggle.
“Sirius! Not again!” Mia shouted.
“Sorry, sorry,” he apologized before looking at his son. “Do Daddy a favour and don’t repeat anything he says, okay, mate?”
The little boy giggled. “Bwoody!”
Fred elbowed his twin. “See the impertinence already?”
“Yeah. I see troublemaker potential all over that one,” George agreed with a grin before looking at Mia. “You wouldn’t mind if we borrowed him after he’s potty-trained, would you?”
Mia rolled her eyes. “I think I’m going in before you start coaching him on a hundred and one ways of pranking without getting caught.”
“Sorry about the cursing,” Sirius apologized before Mia made her way into the pub with Alex in her arms.
Then, he turned back to the twins again. “Where were we? Ah, right, you’ve got to show me that place of yours. And to Moony. You know, as a little prankster courtesy.”
“Actually, we pretty much only came here to Hogsmeade to see Moony,” Fred pointed out. “He’s in the pub, by the way.”
“Mom told us he was stationed here for the order today,” George explained. “So, we he figured we’d just come here and hire him on the spot.”
“Wait… hire him?” he asked, surprised. “As in giving him a job?”
“Yep. Let’s just say this whole store thing was a wee bit more complicated than we’d expected,” he explained.
“Licenses, accounting, patents…” Fred let out a long sigh. “They take all the fun out of anything. And as our business is all about fun, we reckoned we couldn’t afford having it killed off by all that legal rubbish…”
“… which led us to the conclusion that we might as well hire someone to take care of that stuff and, well, to keep us from turning into mad inventors and from blowing ourselves up one of these days. Who’d be better for that than the well-behaved Marauder?”
“Again, I say brilliant,” Sirius said. “So, did he accept or do I have to go in there and a have a little fist-to-face conversation with him until he takes the job?”
George snorted. “Oh, we didn’t really give him a chance to say ‘no’. He rambled on and on about those anti-werewolf laws and extra taxes that we’ll have to pay for hiring him.”
“With the profit we’ve been making with those owl orders from Hogwarts, we carry that amount as change in our pockets,” Fred added. “Anyway, it took a lot of sweat and blood, not to mention a certain amount of slickness.”
“The point is that we won the final round and Remus Lupin is now our first official employee,” George concluded. “He’ll be reporting to work tomorrow morning, after he deals with the angry Metamorphagus that happened to be sitting with us.”
“Tonks?” Sirius asked, an eyebrow rose. “What was she angry about?”
Fred shrugged. “No idea. Women stuff – get all worked up about anything, don’t they? Angie does – Merlin knows she can be worse than Mom sometimes. Part of their charm, I suppose.”
Sirius had a vague idea of what Tonks’ annoyance might be related to but didn’t let it out, simply nodding. “Must be. Well, I should go in and join Mia. It was nice to see you guys. Good luck with a shop… and, oh, nice move in hiring Moony. If you need some more help setting up things, just floo.”
“We will,” they assured him before parting ways.
He entered the Three Broomsticks and spotted Remus and Tonks, whose hair strangely had a mousy brown colour that day, immediately, clearly having a row at a table by the corner. And Mia, he noticed, had picked the table right by theirs that happened to be placed right behind a large plant. Smart, he thought. Close enough to get a wind of what was happening, covered enough for the others not to notice her there. Alex, however, wasn’t with her.
“Where’s the little bugger?” he asked Mia in a whisper as he joined her by the table, unnoticed by Remus and Tonks.
“Hagrid’s watching him,” she stated, nodding at a table at the opposite side of the room, by which their half-giant friend was sitting with Alex on his lap, making him even bigger than he was, as he spoke with some other bloke.
Sirius looked away from them and turned his attentions to Remus and Tonks’s fight. “Figured what it is all about?” he asked her.
“Fred and George hired Remus for the shop.”
“They told me. But why are they fighting about it?”
She shrugged. “Just listen.”
And he did. The voices were muffled but clear enough for them to understand what was being said.
“… and now you’ve got a job. That’s one less excuse for you!” Tonks clearly said.
“The job was only part of the problem, Dora! You know what I am, what I can do! You know I am too old for you!”
“Let me decide who’s too old for me and who isn’t!”
“It doesn’t change the other part of the problem.”
“No, it doesn’t. But it is all rubbish. I’ve told you a million times that I don’t care if you’re a werewolf! It doesn’t matter to me!”
“No, it shouldn’t,” Tonks said firmly before letting out a frustrated breath. “But do you know what really bothers me about you? Being so bloody stubborn! Sometimes, this one included, I just want to grab your head and bang it against a wall until you stop being such a stubborn prat and accept that you have a right to live! One thing you can be sure of: I’m not giving up on you so easily, you dolt, so get used to it!” They heard a chair being pushed away from the table. “I need to get some air. Think of what I’ve just said while I do it, would you?” Next thing they knew, Tonks was storming out of the pub, cursing him under her breath.
“Damn me if they aren’t a match made in heaven,” Sirius said with a grin – he was actually proud of being her cousin.
“He certainly needs a woman that won’t take any of his nonsense,” Mia agreed, smiling too.
“Come on, let’s have our own chat with Moony, shall we?”
She nodded, getting up and following Sirius. Remus seemed to be brooding when they first laid eyes on him and didn’t move until they sat right in front of him at the table, nearly making him jump in surprise. “Where did you two come from?”
“The table right by this one,” Sirius replied naturally. “Blimey, Moony, she told you off good, didn’t she?”
The werewolf rolled his eyes. “Figures you’d be listening,” he mumbled under his breath. “She doesn’t get it, okay?”
“It seems to me that she does better than you, actually,” Mia corrected him. “Tonks doesn’t really care about what you are, Remus. Do you have any idea how lucky that makes you?”
“Too lucky,” he said, looking down.
Sirius huffed and leaved against the back of his chair. “He’s sulking now – someone put on a dramatic background song.”
“You shut up,” Sirius replied.
“Both of you shut up,” Mia demanded before looking at Remus again. “Alright, what happened between you and Tonks? And don’t bother saying ‘nothing’, Remus, because I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be giving you that lecture if she didn’t know you had feelings for her too. So, either you told her or you showed her. What was it?”
“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Remus mumbled, looking away.
Sirius stared at his friend for a moment – over two decades of knowing each were more than enough to teach Sirius how to read between his lines. “Hum, so you two hooked up.”
“I didn’t say that!”
“You didn’t need to. It’s all over your face, mate,” Sirius replied. “Let me guess, you’ve done it and when she said she wanted more – a decent relationship, maybe – you blew her off with that bunch of excuses you carry around.”
“I’m dangerous to her,” Remus replied.
“No, you’re not,” Mia said. “And even if you were, she’s an auror and a big girl. Tonks can take care of herself, don’t you think? She does it for a living!”
“I won’t put her through it. If something goes wrong…”
“Tell her that, why don’t you?” Sirius interrupted him, nodding at the door through which the woman in question had just walked. “He’s all yours for round two,” he told the metamorphagus when she reached them.
Tonks shook her head. “No, it’s not that. Kingsley’s just sent me a Patronus – he and Dedalus Diggle were patrolling the village’s boundaries.”
“What happened?” Remus asked straight away.
“Looks like they caught one of the Lestranges.”
A/N: Well, I have a Geography exam tomorrow and here I am posting a 4k word chapter. Typical me. It's pathological, really. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter - it was certainly fun to write (since I've been covered with Geography books all week and this was what I did during my breaks). That last sentence marked the beginning of the final... let's call it arc, of this volume, which ends more or less with the DoM battle. Cross your fingers, people. The end is already written, though. Feedback is very welcome! Review!
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