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Chapter 2 : No Turning Back
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Severus Snape hated James Potter and Sirius Black. He detested, despised, and loathed them. Both were purebloods, rich, conceited, and thought everyone should worship the ground they walked on. And the worst was students did worship the ground they walked on. Everyone thought they were so bloody wonderful and bloody hilarious. Snape couldn’t understand it, but he was used to the unfairness of life. And if the way they picked on him wasn’t bad enough, this year Potter had taken a fancy to Lily Evans. Of all the witches in the school; Potter had to go after his friend. Of course that last four years Severus and Lily had spent plenty of time ragging on Potter and his gang, but that didn’t stop Snape from worrying. He was always carefully watching Lily to make sure that she didn’t fall under the same spell that made everyone else love Potter.
And now Snape was sure he was very close to uncovering one of their secrets. He’d dreamed of this day, dreamed of their downfall. All evening Blacks’ instructions rolled around in Snape’s head. He was a bit at a loss about what to do. Should he take the bait? Was the very information to get Potter and Black expelled really in front of him? It seemed too good to be true, but Black’s words made sense. The Whomping Willow clearly had something to do with it all. After all Snape had spotted Madam Pomfrey leading Lupin towards the tree last month during the full moon. The Whomping Willow played a part in this all; Snape was sure of that. Obviously there must be some way to freeze the tree. And Lupin was weak enough that Black and Potter would have been able to coerce the information about the Whomping Willow tree from their friend, even if Lupin had been instructed not to tell anyone.
Still why would Black tell him this information willingly? Was it a trap? Black had been very upset when Snape had come upon him. He hadn’t imagined it; Black had been close to crying. In such a state of mind and after all the jibes Severus had then said, did Black say more than he wanted to?
Severus was eighty percent sure he knew Lupin’s secret. Disappearing three months in a row during a full moon, always being sickly; there were not many afflictions that occurred because of a lunar cycle. Then there was the nickname, Moony. Lupin was hiding something, but Snape wanted to get his friends more than anything. And the way Black had reacted when he’d told them he knew they were up to something on full moon nights as well was the thing that had sent Black over the edge. If there was no connection between this all then he’d buy everyone at Hogwarts a butterbeer.
As the moon rose, Snape became more and more antsy. His body had known his decision before his mind. Anyway, there was only one choice in Snape’s mind. He had to do it. He had to follow Black’s instructions. Even if it was a trap, he’d lived through plenty humiliation from that quartet; he could deal with some more. He couldn’t bypass the chance to finally get them caught.
So Snape waited until the common room emptied out. It wasn’t strange for him to be the last one left. One of the Slytherin prefects was last to leave, and Snape could barely contain his impatience as the boy headed to his dormitory with barely an acknowledgement. He seized the moment and immediately slipped out of the common room. Of all the placement of the common rooms – in terms of sneaking out – Slytherins’ were the luckiest. Snape only had to ascend a flight of stairs, walk through the hallway outside the Great Hall and head to the exit that led to the grounds and the Quidditch pitch. It was quiet and dark, and Snape was easily able to slip outside.
The moon outside shone brightly and Snape headed determinedly towards the Whomping Willow. He’d made his choice and he wasn’t going to back out now.
Sirius groaned. There was a soft movement in his pocket. He felt disoriented and it took ten seconds before he realized he’d fallen asleep staring into the night sky in Astronomy Tower. It was the two-way mirror in his pocket that had woken him up. He’d felt it move before, but couldn’t face talking to James. He’d needed some time alone; though he hadn’t meant to doze off.
“Padfoot? Finally! I’ve been trying to contact you for a while now. Where are you?”
“Astronomy Tower…” Sirius said his words still muffled with sleep.
“Astronomy Tower? I was worried you’d gotten detention.”
“No. I – ah – Keenan invited my mother.”
“Your mother?” The disbelief was evident in his best friend’s voice.
“Yes. I needed to cool off so I headed here and I guess I fell asleep. Is it time to join Moony?”
“Just about. Stay there. I’ll have Wormtail transform and come under the cloak.” The cloak James was referring to was an Invisibility Cloak; a family heirloom that James’s father had bestowed on his son’s twelfth birthday, during his first year at Hogwarts. It had been a great aide in their mischief making, though the four of them could no longer all fit under it at one time.
“That’s completely out of the way. Let’s just meet at our usual spot.”
James sighed. “All right, but be careful.”
“Yea?” It was on the tip of his tongue to tell him about his altercation with Snape. “Never mind.”
Sirius sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He stood up stretching his legs and arms. He silently began descending when he heard love-struck voices heading in his direction. He ducked behind a cabinet and peeked around. Just great – it was the Head Girl and her boyfriend, and they were snogging like they’d expire on the spot. He waited patiently, but the couple instead of cooling it, was getting more intense by the second. Without the cloak, Sirius was trapped. Sirius fished out the mirror and whispered James’s name. After relaying he was trapped until the couple left, James said he’d come with the cloak leaving Peter in the spot they were originally going to meet.
It felt like an eternity before Sirius felt a tap on his shoulder, a swish of fabric, and his best friend’s face looking a bit peeved. “Knew I should have just come here first,” James whispered.
“Let’s just go. And thanks, Prongs.”
“Ugh – those noises are really revolting,” James mumbled as they slipped past the entwined couple. They could both just barely fit under the invisibility cloak.
Outside the castle the boys wrenched off the cloak. Wind whipped around them as they hurried along.
“I’m surprised Snivellus hasn’t been lurking around,” James said conversationally. “I was worried that he’d think we were sneaking out tonight after hearing us outside the Great Hall. He never gives up a chance to get us expelled.”
“Er…I took care of that.”
“I think Snape figured out about Moony. Well at least where Moony goes to transform…so I told him how to get past the Willow.”
“Are you thick?”
Sirius was startled by James’s tone. “What’s got your wand in a knot? Snape’s too much of a coward-”
“And if he’s not?”
“He goes down the tunnel-“
“Straight into a full grown werewolf!”
Sirius opened his mouth and for the first time that evening he felt the slightest bit of concern for Snape’s life.
James ran a hand through his hair. “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you!”
“You’re overreacting. Chances of Snape listening to me are low and chances that he got close enough to Moony before-“
“James! Sirius! James! Sirius!” A frantic, panting Peter, white as a ghost, lumbered down upon them.
“Wormtail, what’s wrong?” James asked.
Sirius’s blood turned to ice. Snape couldn’t – Snape wouldn’t –
“Where is he?” James demanded, clenching Peter by the shoulders.
“I saw him! Snape! Going into the Willow! He knew how to freeze it and everything.”
“No!” Sirius choked.
James swore. “You bloody idiot!” James yelled, throwing his invisibility cloak to Sirius and then dashed down the path Peter had come.
In shock Sirius could only watch until his brain came to focus. “James! James! You can’t go after him!” he yelled uselessly and he turned to a gaping Peter.
“How’d Snape know?” Peter asked; his voice wobbly.
“Use your brain, Wormtail,” Sirius snapped.
“You told him,” Peter accused.
“Not you too! I have to stop James from playing hero – and –“ Sirius didn’t finish his thought, he just began running toward the Whomping Willow. James was already inside the tree – after Snape – and he’d activated the Willow’s branches inside, and there was no branch lying around…and by the time he found a branch it would be too late…if Peter could transform- but Peter had not run after him.
Sirius stared at the tree. All he could do now was wait and hope.
James sat numbly in Professor Dumbledore’s office; Sirius to his left and Snape to his right. Peter had fetched Professor McGonagall after he’d seen James go in after Snape. It had been the right thing to do; especially since Snape was ready to blab the story around the entire school the moment they had appeared alive from the Whomping Willow.
James’s head hurt and every time he closed his eyes the night’s images flashed through his mind.
Snape sneering at him, his dark hair limp around him. Having not yet sensed he was in danger, Snape had looked triumphant when James had caught up with him in the tunnel. “You’ll be expelled by morning!” he had bellowed.
Gasping for air, he’d never run faster, and his heart hammering, the damp smell of the earth invading his senses, he’d attempted to reason with the Slytherin. “Sirius – Sirius was playing a trick on you! There’s nothing down there.”
Snape had laughed. He could plainly see that James was willing to do anything to make him turn around. And James could tell he wasn’t about to be persuaded to back down. So James had changed tactics quickly – for with each step forward they were inching closer to a werewolf.
“Stop Snape! Stop. You have no idea what you’re walking into. Please, we need to leave now.”
Snape answered by sending a hex right at him. The spell caused James to stumble backwards, shoulder banging against the hard rock wall. Before James knew it another spell sent rock crumbling down upon him, almost trapping his leg! The idiot. After extracting himself from the pile of stone, James had to sprint to catch up again.
This time James ran literally into Snape, who had come to an abrupt halt; his eyes glued at the opening of the tunnel ahead. He heard the menacing snarl, saw the yellow eyes – and they were much too close. James, who ran monthly with a werewolf, felt his courage drain – the werewolf had clearly caught their human scent. In their Animagus form, Moony turned almost playful, but staring them down was a monster that wanted to rip them limb from limb.
Instinct took over. James shot two spells – one that hit the werewolf (a howl of pain) and the other that slammed the trap door shut. James tried to snap Snape out of his stupor; the boy wouldn’t budge and the clawing and scraping was getting more frantic. The werewolf had been denied human prey for so long that his sheer determination would break him through.
Unable to move on his own, James began to half-drag Snape. Cursing under his breath, James could hear the werewolf howling and crashing through the door. James unclasped his over-cloak throwing it down on the ground – it had been a hindrance – and it might just stall the werewolf; even if it was just for seconds.
At this point, Snape finally snapped out of his trance, and had begun racing up ahead. At one point Snape tripped on a rock, falling flat on his face. James had to haul him to his feet; blood was dripping from the gash on Snape’s nose, and he pushed Snape forward. How they both reached the Whomping Willow opening before the werewolf caught them, James would never know. He remembered the feel of the grass on his face and the icy cold air kissing his skin. And Sirius – looking pale, but relieved – was helping him to his feet.
Before either boy could exchange words, Snape having picked himself of the ground, started screaming about ‘werewolves’ and ‘murder’, over and over again. Sirius had given him pleading look, but James had purposely turned his back on him – and turned to their mutual enemy – who was still bleeding all over the place.
The word had rung through the night air. Before there was a chance for them to handle it on their own, Peter and Professor McGonagall turned up. She had looked from boy to boy to boy, her face going from alarm to shock to anger. She was forced to silence Snape with a spell as she herded them straight to Professor Dumbledore’s office.
James opened his eyes back up and met the piercing blue eyes of the headmaster. He had never seen Dumbledore so furious before, and he could see why other witches and wizard considered him such a formidable opponent. James had already had his chance to speak; though his involvement had only come in at the end. Now Dumbledore was questioning both Sirius and Snape…but it didn’t seem to be working too well. They both kept cutting each other off; arguing about details and intentions.
It appeared that Dumbledore was watching their body movements with as much scrutiny as the words they were saying: Sirius crossing his arms defiant and defensive; Snape’s face splotched with righteous anger; and James unable to look at his best friend only an arm length away.
Perhaps Dumbledore did know what he was doing because slowly a story emerged – both boys unintentionally giving more information in anger. It certainly didn’t make Snape look as innocent as he’d painted in the beginning; then again it didn’t make Sirius appear a saint either. For a boy who’d been so shocked he couldn’t move, Snape’s calculating mind had quickly concluded they’d all – Remus and Peter included – plotted his murder for weeks; and he became quite enraged when Dumbledore glossed over his conclusion. Snape did not want to face any culpability at all. It was apparent Snape had gone looking for trouble and knowing how to push Sirius’s buttons more than any other Marauder had gotten the information he’d been fishing for all year. Snape had known like every student that nearing the Whomping Willow was forbidden under the threat of expulsion and yet he’d approached the tree anyway. Eventually Dumbledore seemed to get Snape to understand, if only on the surface that having not been forced or under duress – it had been his own actions that had placed him in the deadly situation, and if he had used a bit of common sense the fact he’d seen Remus approach the Willow in accompaniment of staff meant that Lupin had been there for a reason and with permission. Snape did stop frothing at the mouth; though none of these facts excused Sirius’s actions.
Sirius didn’t seem to see the seriousness of the situation. His excuses laid flat.
Snape had been following them around!
Snape didn’t leave them alone!
Snape was looking for trouble!
All true, James loathed Snape as much as Sirius- but to feed him to a werewolf? Sirius was blaming all fault on Snape and Snape’s stupidity.
“What exactly did you expect to happen to Mr. Snape once he reached the end of the tunnel?”
Sirius throughout the discussion always appeared to lose his voice the moment a question was thrown at him directly. “Mr. Black, I need an answer.”
“Wet his pants?” Sirius said, phrasing the answer in the form of the question. He’d even turned toward James to see if he could get a smile. Sirius was so focused on James not sharing the humor in the situation like they usually did – that he did not see the way Dumbledore’s eyes flashed dangerously.
“I fail to see the humor in any of this Mr. Black.”
Sirius’s eyes snapped back to the Headmaster and he paled under the headmaster’s unrelenting gaze.
“You knew Remus Lupin was a werewolf?”
“Yes,” Sirius answered.
“You knew tonight was a full moon?”
“Yes.” Despite the trouble he was in, James could detect an edge to Sirius’s tone, and he hoped that Dumbledore would not notice, but the way he was gazing at Sirius did not look very promising.
“Werewolves have been covered in your Defense Against the Dark Arts class?”
“Yes,” Sirius answered and then carefully added, “Though it was all rubbish what we were taught.”
Dumbledore sat back looking puzzled. “In what respect?”
“Werewolves aren’t dangerous. Remus isn’t dangerous.”
“I would agree, except on a full moon, Mr. Black. I doubt that part was not covered in class nor do I doubt Mr. Lupin failed to explain to you that he cannot be allowed to roam freely. A transformed werewolf would murder their best friend if given the chance. Mr. Lupin would have killed Mr. Snape. Do you understand that?”
Sirius looked away, cheeks flushed. Perhaps Dumbledore was finally getting through.
Out of nowhere, Sirius suddenly said, “Snape knew though.”
“What was that?”
“Snape knew Remus was a werewolf.” The accusation rang through the room. Many of the portraits of past Headmasters shifted within their frame; they’d all been silent so far, even Phineas Nigellus Black, great-great-grandfather to Sirius.
“I did not!” Snape said loudly, but there was something calculating in his expression. James wouldn’t doubt that Snape was lying, but it really didn’t change things. It only proved that Snape was as much of an idiot as Sirius. The truth did not dawn on James in that moment. He did not see that Snape cared more about their expulsion than about the presence of werewolf at Hogwarts. And seeing the hot water Sirius was in, Snape certainly wasn’t going to admit to something that would take any of the responsibility off one of his enemies.
“You said you knew what he was,” Sirius insisted.
“I didn’t mean I knew knew,” Snape said. “I knew Lupin disappeared often, Professor Dumbledore that is all.”
A silence fell over the room. Professor Dumbledore stood up. “I think it is getting late. I would still like to speak privately to Mr. Black. Mr. Potter, you may leave-”
“What? You’re letting Potter go!” Snape snarled.
“If my memory serves me, Mr. Potter saved your life at great risk to his own.” James felt his own face color. He didn’t feel like much of a hero.
“Saved?” Snape spluttered. “He was in on it! So was the werewolf! Potter just got cold feet-”
“Remus had nothing to do with it,” protested Sirius. “Nor did James or Peter. I came up with it all on my own. It was my fault.”
“Sir, you don’t believe that?” Snaped said incredulously.
“I do.” Snape made a derisive noise. “I have more than one way of knowing when students are being truthful. Please stop in the Hospital Wing where Madam Pomfrey will administer a Calming Drought, so you can get a full night’s rest. I will no doubt contact both of you in the morning.”
Snape rose up looking lived. Sirius was staring moodily at his shoes.
“Of course, you will tell no one Mr. Lupin’s secret,” Dumbeldore called out, like he was commenting on the weather. Snape turned around sharply. “Do I have your word?”
“Yes,” Snape muttered.
“You are going to take his word?” Sirius protested looking suddenly up.
“Can’t you Oblivate his memory or something,” James added. He couldn’t think of a single thing that would prevent Snape from babbling this all over school.
“I try not to tamper with my students memories if I can help it.”
Sirius blurted, “This isn’t fair to Remus. He’d tell the school just to get back at me.”
“I have full faith in Mr. Snape.” Snape looked awkward standing there; suddenly being seen as someone worthy of trust. “Let us not forget, Mr. Black, if you hadn’t been so careless with a fellow student’s secret, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.”
Sirius opened his mouth but closed it abruptly. James could see the words had cut deeply. Snape exited the office with the door shutting loudly behind him. James stood up; he could feel both Dumbledore and Sirius gazing at him. James knew that if he nodded or gave Sirius reassuring look that it would translate to Dumbledore that James didn’t think any of this was a big deal. But it was and his emotions were all over the place. Angry at Sirius, furious at Snape and then feeling like a terrible friend at the same time. This time Sirius would have to stand alone. He left not saying word to either of them, not looking at anyone.
Sirius shifted in his seat as he heard the door click behind James. He didn’t know what to think of James blatantly ignoring of him. Now was not the time to think too much of it because he knew he was in for a heated lecture. He was now completely alone with the Headmaster; not even Snivellus around to deflect the blame.
The lecture didn’t come as Sirius expected. Dumbledore continued to prod Sirius about his motivations in the whole incident. The non-existent motivations, since it had all been in the heat of the moment. The details of the conversation with Snape were not even clear in his own head. He’d been so angry at Keenan and humiliated by his mother; he had not been thinking properly.
Snape had been driving them all off the wall last eight weeks. Despite the fact that Snape usually came off worse in most of their altercations, he continued to tail them and bother them, as if he was asking to be hexed. Dumbledore did not know of his mother’s visit, and even when Sirius was given the chance he couldn’t bring himself to tell the Headmaster. Even if it explained his feelings at the moment and that Snape had purposely riled him when he was near breaking point; he was too proud.
Dumbledore did look disappointed by what he’d said so far and Sirius was beginning to fear Dumbledore believed he was capable of murder, which was ridiculous, except if you looked at his family. Why was it when he was in trouble did his surname haunt him? It hadn’t even been his intention to injure Snape severely – only to humiliate him.
“You are traveling down a very dark path, Mr. Black.” Dumbledore’s voice was quiet, but firm and this was worse than any other time he’d been shouted out. “It is up for me to decide whether you meant for harm to come to Mr. Snape.” Sirius looked sullenly to the ground. “If there is anything else you’d like to add in your defense?”
“No, sir,” Sirius mumbled.
“I see,” Dumbledore said sadly.
Realizing a second too late that he should say something, he began rambling, “I really didn’t mean – I didn’t intend for Snape to be hurt – at all- not physically. I thought he’d be embarrassed – hear Moony – err – Remus howling and be scared out of his mind.” Sirius didn’t know what else to say. If he wasn’t going to be candid about his mother visiting; this was the best he could come up with.
“You felt Mr. Snape deserved to be frightened?”
Sirius faltered, wondering if that was a trick question. “I don’t know. I guess.”
Dumbledore regard Sirius pensively. “You are fortunate no one was physically harmed. This would have been a very different conversation had Mr. Potter not stepped in. You acted thoughtlessly with no regard to the dire consequences they could lead to. I am afraid if you do not learn to control your temper soon, next time you will not be so lucky.”
“Yes, sir,” Sirius muttered. His stomach was in knots; he wanted to hear his punishment and leave the room as soon as possible.
“There are a lot of important life lessons to be learned from this situation, and you’ll be given plenty of time to think about your actions. I would like to carefully deliberate your punishment and I will take both Professor McGonagall’s and Professor Slughorn’s inputs. I suppose I should have realized your mutual animosity would escalate to something along these lines. Maybe I could have done more to force you boys to get along. But I digress. First things first, I want you to be the one to tell Mr. Lupin what has transpired tonight.”
“Me? I don’t think he’ll be too happy to hear it, sir.”
“I believe in time Mr. Lupin will appreciate that the news came from you; that you admitted to your wrongdoing. It will also help you understand how severe the consequences could have been.” Dumbledore paused as if he expected Sirius to say something. When Sirius stayed silent, he continued, “I expect to hear from Madam Pomfrey that you spoke to Mr. Lupin before your first class. You are to attend all your classes tomorrow – if I hear you were late or caused any disturbances, I may change my mind about expulsion.”
The word hung in the room. How many times had the teachers threatened James and him about expulsion, neither of them ever taking it seriously? This was the first time Sirius believed he really was in danger of this and he felt sick to his stomach.
“We will meet again tomorrow. I believe I will have my decision of your punishment as well as if any other parties involved will receive any. I will let know the time. Do you understand?”
“Go straight to your dormitory. I hope I do not need to find you an escort?”
“No, sir,” Sirius stated. He could not help but note that Professor Dumbledore did not offer him a Calming Draught.
Leaving the office, Sirius did not expect to find James waiting and for a moment he thought maybe James had been putting up a front for the Headmaster. Upon closer inspection his best friend was unrecognizable. His hazel eyes cold and his face uncaring. “Well?” James snapped.
Sirius stepped back from the venom in his tone. He knew James did not agree with what he’d done, but his anger seemed over the top. James disliked Snape as much as he did.
“Well what?” Sirius asked back. There was an unspoken challenge in his voice.
“Were you expelled?”
“No. Not yet.”
“You’ve done some stupid things, Sirius – but – this – THIS!”
“It was only Snape,” Sirius snapped back. He’d come to regret his anger over the next few days. After the lecture and questioning with Dumbedore, Sirius couldn’t stand being looked down by a friend who was as much a troublemaker as he was. If only he’d looked sorry and let James rant and rave at him... but Sirius had never taken to be yelled at well.
“Only Snape? Do you hear yourself? Snape could have been killed!”
“Come off your high horse! When have you ever cared about Snape? You bloody well started the whole feud with him to begin with! You hate him was much as I do!” It was true. Snape’s personality had clashed head on with James’s the first time they had met. It was James and Snape who had fought and argued those first few months. It wasn’t until the end of first year that Sirius had gotten more involved in altercations after he’d grown closer to James.
“Doesn’t mean I think he deserves to be mauled.”
“You think I did?” Sirius shook his head. How could James look him in the eye and believe he was capable of murder?
“What am I supposed to think? The entire time we were in Dumbledore’s office, did you show even the slightest hint of remorse?”
“I took responsibility for it! Isn’t that enough?”
“I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t run after Snape? I saved your sorry-”
“Oh. Right. Oh thank Merlin, Perfect James Potter was there to save the day!”
James looked shocked by his words. “You really don’t understand, do you? Did you stop to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone in there after Snape?”
“We’ve been through that already.”
“Forget about Snape! What about Moony? What about Remus?” James had worked himself up and he grabbed Sirius’s arm with the last sentence. They’d both forgotten they were still outside the Headmasters office, but if Dumbledore heard any of it, he did not step in. “He’s our friend. He was your friend! You know he can’t control himself in his transformed state. If he’d bitten Snape – or worse – he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself! And all because of you! His life would have been ruined. Expelled, at the least and probably thrown into Azkaban or executed!”
Sirius felt his rage at James suddenly leak out. “I – I – didn’t think.”
“That is obvious enough!” James yelled breathing heavily.
“Professor Dumbledore told me – ordered me – to be the one to tell Remus.”
“Good! Maybe it will sink into your big fat head when you see his face!”
“Maybe it will,” Sirius said back evenly.
“Don’t come up to the room for a while – I need time – I – just stay away.”
“Fine,” Sirius said curtly. James’s words had hurt him. If James didn’t want him up in the dorm; he’d camp out all night in the common room. Sirius wasn’t about to beg to be let into his own dorm.
Author’s note: Thanks for reading. A review would be so awesome and put a smile on my face!
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