Chapter 1 : An apology
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I’m putting them down in chronological order, not the order in which I wrote them (the first one I wrote is set in August 1995), and some of them are first person and some are third person, depending on how I thought it flowed best. (As an aside, if it’s first person then I’ll be putting who that person is in the chapter title. It’s only fair, I think.) And I should probably warn you that there won’t be anywhere near the sort of chapter length consistency that HTM had – I think they range from about 600 words to over 6000 – but hopefully that won’t matter too much. Anyway, here’s the first one; it's not fantastic, but it's okay and hopefully it's readable …
June 1976 – OWL exams
“Hey, Padfoot, what’s the definition of a Switching Spell again?” Peter’s voice cut through the quiet of the common room.
Not in the mood for helping Peter with his revision, Sirius ignored him instead, hoping his friend would look to someone else to lend a hand. He’d had a troubling day in some ways and wanted to be left alone.
James, of course, decided to state the obvious and exacerbate his discomfort. “Don’t talk to him,” he said, chuckling as he read a Quidditch magazine while Remus and Peter tried to study for the following day’s Transfiguration exam. “He still hasn’t gotten over being publically humiliated this morning by a Cauldwell.”
“Yeah, thanks for bringing that up, Prongs,” Sirius muttered sarcastically, not looking up from the sketch of a Muggle motorcycle he was working on. “I really wanted to relive that particular moment.”
“You can count yourself lucky, though,” Peter said thoughtfully, putting his quill down. “She never got her wand out. Just think what you might have looked like if she’d hexed you.”
James laughed. “Yeah, remember when the older one turned her roommate into a stoat? That was hilarious.”
“I can just see you as a stoat, Padfoot,” Peter said a little nervously, looking around at James for approval before continuing. James grinned and Peter went on, clearly encouraged. “You’d have to be stoat royalty, of course, but it could work.”
“Or she could have shrunk you, the older one did that to someone too at one point I think,” James added, winking at Peter. “You could get down to being a normal height, couldn’t he, Pete?”
Peter blushed, as he always did when his height was mentioned. They all knew that the fact that he hadn’t grown since third year was a bit of a sore point for him.
Sirius shuddered at the idea of being shrunk to Peter’s height, but then swore loudly as something suddenly occurred to him. Remus, who’d been noticeably silent during the conversation thus far, looked up. “What’s wrong?”
Sirius scowled. “She’s right.”
“Who is?” James asked curiously.
“Cauldwell, of course,” Sirius hissed. “She’s bloody right. Why didn’t I see it?”
“See what?” James pointed out, looking confused. “You said sorry, what else do you need to do?”
Sirius shook his head, feeling somewhat embarrassed that this hadn’t twigged before. “No, not that,” he said irritably. “Remember, she said that there aren’t three people in this school who still care that I’m a Black.”
“And that’s probably true,” agreed Remus.
“But we’re still treating her like a bloody Cauldwell, aren’t we,” Sirius snapped. “Like she’s some kind of Beatrice clone who just happens to be in Gryffindor. And be honest, have you EVER seen her behave like that? Even if she did have her wand out, do you really think I would have ended up a stoat?”
“I don’t know,” James said, frowning slightly. “She did give Scylla Pritchard a banana for a nose the other week.”
Sirius shook his head. “We’ve all done that,” he pointed out. “Slytherins don’t count. And you can’t say that you’ve seen her hex anyone else just for the hell of it. So yes, we’re doing just what she said.”
He could see the realisation dawning across James’ face. “Merlin’s beard,” James breathed. “You’re right, we are.”
Remus nodded, looking like he was trying not to smile. “Yes, I think you’re right there,” he agreed. “You two in particular. Even that Yule Ball thing was because of her sister rather than her.”
Sirius shook his head again in frustration. “Why didn’t I realise that this morning?” he fumed, furious with himself for being so blind. “She might as well have held up a big sign saying it, and I still missed it.”
Remus grinned. “Well, you can always make up for it now,” he said.
Sirius whirled around. “What do you mean?”
Remus indicated the portrait hole, which Cauldwell and Macdonald had just climbed through, their arms full of books. “She’s in here now. So just go apologise.”
Sirius started. While he was feeling a bit ashamed about his behaviour, he hadn’t intended to take it as far as actually apologising again, and it was with relief that he noticed the two girls in question going up the staircase towards their dorm.
“Damn, looks like I missed my chance,” he said with mock regret. “Maybe later, eh Moony?”
“Sure, if you say so,” Remus said placatingly, and Sirius knew that his friend understood that he had no intention of actually apologising again. Like Prongs had said, he’d apologised that morning, that should be enough.
“Right,” said James, breaking the ensuing silence. “It’s getting late, and hunks like us need our beauty sleep. Who’s coming upstairs with me?” Thankful for the distraction, Sirius smiled to himself – James would never go up to the dorm so early if Lily Evans was still in the common room. Sometimes his friend was just too predictable.
Peter, who didn’t seem to have made that connection (or wasn’t game to mention it if he did), immediately started packing his things away, but Sirius didn’t move. He was still feeling a little disquieted about this whole Laura Cauldwell thing, and barely even looked up when James and Peter made their exits. In fact, he was paying so little attention to what was around him that he was genuinely surprised when Remus spoke a minute or two later – he hadn’t realised he still had company at all.
“Laura’s back,” said Remus quietly.
Sirius looked up. “What’s what?”
“Laura’s back,” Remus repeated. “So if you want to be comfortable about this whole thing then you’d better get that apology done.”
Sirius eyed his friend shrewdly – Remus had hit the nail on the head. He wasn’t sure if he always liked how cluey Moony could be because sometimes it felt like he had no secrets left, and a Black with no secrets was a pitiable thing.
“But I’ve already apologised,” was what he said, reluctant to actually go over and say sorry. “I don’t need to do it again.”
Remus just looked at him. “Don’t you?”
“Ah, Evans is with them, it’s a bad time.” Sirius spoke a little triumphantly. He could potentially do it with just Macdonald there, but Evans was another matter entirely. If nothing else, he’d never hear the end of it from James. And speaking of James … “Prongs’ll be disappointed that he missed her, and in her dressing gown, no less,” he went on, a wicked grin on his face. “Shall we go and tell him she’s down here wearing that and nothing else?”
“But she’s not, not any more,” Remus pointed out, grinning. He then looked pointedly at Sirius. “Which means that Laura’s free.”
He looked over again, and Lily Evans had indeed left the two girls at their table and was going up the girls’ staircase. He started to get up, but hesitated.
“Come on,” Remus said encouragingly. “If you don’t do this now you’ll never get to sleep, it’ll be bugging you all night.”
Recognising there was more than a grain of truth in this statement, Sirius stood up reluctantly. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to say, but he knew that he had to say it. Remus also stood up and walked with him a bit of the way across the common room, but held back when Sirius approached the table.
Once the girls looked up and saw him, he pointed to an empty chair. “Is it okay if I sit down?”
Macdonald scowled. “It’s a free country. Dae wha’ ye lik’.”
Sirius frowned a little. He tended to have trouble understanding the thick Scottish accent but from what he could work out this wasn’t a good start. Oh well, he thought, I’m here now, I might as well carry on with the thing. “Uh, Cauldwell, I’ve, er, come to apologise,” he muttered, too uncomfortable in this unfamiliar situation to actually look directly at the girl in question.
She seemed confused. “Apologise? What for?”
“For this morning,” he explained, getting up the nerve to look at her. She still looked confused, so he clarified. “Before the exam.”
Her face cleared. “Oh, that,” she said. “I thought you’d already apologised.”
Which was exactly what James had said, Sirius thought ruefully. He’d have to explain himself a bit better. “That was for what I said,” he clarified. “This is for what I didn’t say.”
Macdonald spoke. “Wha’ are ye talkin’ aboot, Black?”
He looked at her a little resentfully – after all, this had nothing to do with her – and then turned to Cauldwell again. “You said … you said that I’d succeeded, that there weren’t three people in the school who still cared that I’m a Black.”
She nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“And by extension, I think,” he went on, “you meant that there are a lot of people who still care that you’re a Cauldwell. That is, they treat you like they’d treat your sister.”
Understanding moved across her face and she looked rather impressed. “Well, yes."
Sirius felt encouraged. “And we do that, don’t we,” he said quietly. “We treat you like ‘her sister’, rather than like you.”
“Yeah. You do,” Cauldwell replied. Her tone had softened too, which he took to mean that she bore him no ill will. “But then so do a ton of other people. I didn’t mean to have a go at you for that.”
He sighed. “But that’s not fair. Particularly from me. I’ve been a total hypocrite for the past five years, and you’ve just taken it without ever saying anything.”
She shook her head, seeming to fire up a little. “I ‘just take’ a lot of things, Black. Life’s all about ‘just taking’ things. I just wanted you to realise that it’s not all about you, that other people have problems a lot like yours and they deal with them. So hopefully you would stop making such a fuss about it, because I know what it’s like and it’s not that important.”
Sirius nodded. This was going rather well, and he already felt like a load had been lifted from him. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “We’ll make more of an effort to treat you like Laura from now on, not like Beatrice’s sister.”
Cauldwell smiled. He was right, he thought, she really was nothing like her sister, which meant that this whole thing wasn’t a waste of time after all. “Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate that.”
He nodded again and rose from the table, feeling remarkably relieved and liberated. Remus had been right, it was something he’d needed to say. He was even smiling as he wandered back to his friend, who grinned broadly and slapped him on the back as they made their way up the boys’ stairs.
James looked up as the door into the dorm opened. “What took you so long?” he asked, a confused look on his face. “We’ve been up here for ages.”
Sirius just shrugged, not feeling the need to go into any detail of the conversation he’d just had. “Well, Prongs, you came up early so you could get your beauty sleep. We just figured that we didn’t need to worry about that – we’re handsome enough already. Right, Moony?”
A quick look of understanding flashed across Remus’ face, and he smiled and nodded. “Right. Let’s face it, you two have an awful lot of catching up to do in that department.”
"But that wasn't what I meant," James began to protest, then laughed as he saw the joke.
Laughing along with the rest of them, Sirius started to get ready for bed, feeling remarkably at peace with the world.