Chapter 7 : Dangerous
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"You should have just turned left!"
"Black, if I had turned left that would have sent me flying straight into the stands." My patience was wearing thin. I promised the team I would try to keep my anger in check and tolerate Black's insufferable behavior, but it wasn't really working. The red color of my hair was proof of that.
"Well, at least it wouldn't have messed up my play," grumbled Black. We were making our way back from Quidditch practice; freezing, soaked and covered in mud, no one on the team was very happy. It was the middle of November and it had been sleeting outside everyday for the past week. I was excited for when the real snow would come.
"Letta!" I looked up and saw Lo waving at me outside the Great Hall, with Lily by her side. I went over to them and unfortunately, Black followed since Remus and Peter were there as well.
"Where's Potter?" Lily asked curiously. A bit too curiuosly, if you ask me.
"He got detention." I rolled my eyes. "We got in an argument with the Hufflepuff Quidditch captain on our way back to the castle. James told him to 'get his head out of his arse' because Gryffindor will be winning the next match. And then, well...he let out some more profanities just as Professor McGonagall passed by."
I heard Lily mutter something under her breath about arrogant fools. Just as she turned around to say something to Lo, someone bumped into her from behind.
"Watch where you're going, you filthy animal." It was the seventh year, Lucius Malfoy, and his Death Eater cronies: Bellatrix Black, Severus Snape, Antonin Dolohov, and Black's own brother, Regulus.
"You bumped into me!" Lily exclaimed, half indignant and half nervous.
"That's the problem with you stupid mudbloods," said Regulus. "You don't know your place."
Heat flooded my face and I could pratically feel my hair turning red, as if it were bursting into flames. Regulus turned towards his brother with a sneer on his face. They would look identical if it weren't for the fact that Regulus seemed to ooze evil from every pore of his body. However annoying and arrogant Sirius Black was, there was something good about him that was missing from his brother.
"It's good you've already been disowned. Mother wouldn't be too pleased with the company you keep."
"Yeah, well you can tell that old hag to shove it," growled Black. "I stopped caring about what she thinks a long time ago. You don't know what you're getting yourself into, little brother, but I can't bring myself to care about that either." By then, I was shaking with anger. There was something going on inside me, something that snapped when Regulus had used the term 'mudblood' against Lily. And, if I was being completely honest with myself, I didn't like how Regulus was talking to his brother, especially about his family.
Regulus just laughed, giving his brother and the rest of us a disdainful sneer. "Don't worry. Soon enough, you'll have bigger problems than your blood-traitor friends. And that's a promise, big brother." The Slytherins strode away and down the entrance to the dungeons, and before I knew what I was doing, I was running after them.
"Letta, what are you - " I heard Lo call after me, but I didn't stop. Anger was bubbling in my stomach and rushing through my veins. I knew if James was there, he would have jinxed those Slytherins so fast, they wouldn't even know what hit them. All for Lily. I really wished she'd realize what a good guy he was.
I raced away from my friends and into the cold, dark emptiness of the dungeons. I heard the Slytherins' footsteps down the corridor and their laughter richocheting off of the stone walls. My heart was pounding in my ears; it was so loud, I didn't hear the second set of footsteps behind me.
I raised my wand as Malfoy's large blonde head came into view. "Confringo!" I shouted, hitting him square in the back. Malfoy's robes burst into flames and he cried out in pain. Snape had to put out the fire with his wand.
The rest of the Slytherins turned on me, but another voice bellowed, "Waddiwasi!" and they were all thrown backwards, one by one, as Sirius Black's wand passed over each of them.
"What are you doing?" I hissed, knocking Bellatrix back down with a curse.
"Saving your life," Black replied as he blocked a hex from Regulus. But suddenly, he was hit by three curses coming from three different directions: Snape, Malfoy and Bellatrix had all cast their own hexes at the same time. Black was thrown to the floor and smacked his head so hard on the stone, I thought my dead mother herself would hear it from her grave.
Black looked dazed, but as I went to help him up, Dolohov grabbed my arms and twisted them behind my back, pushing me against the wall.
"What's the matter, big brother?" Regulus taunted, gazing down at Black on the ground. "Can't think straight?"
"I'm fine, thanks," said Black, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice that went undetected by the Slytherins. "Now, let her go."
Regulus turned to Malfoy, as if to ask permission for something. Of course, he was probably the one in charge of their dispicable group. He was the one with the most Death Eater experience out of the rest of them. Malfoy nodded his head in approval.
"And who's this? One of your many girlfriends?" Regulus turned to me, sneering nastily.
I couldn't help but snort in disgust, despite the bad situation.
"Ooh, not very friendly. Tell me, gorgeous, are you of clean blood?"
Clean blood? I thought furiously. I've never heard of something so ridiculous in my life. Regulus was already leaning towards me, so it wasn't hard to stick my neck out and spit in his face.
"Oh, no," I said mockingly, "I'm afraid I've contaminated you with my filthy blood-traitor germs."
Regulus cursed and raised his wand. "Cruc - "
He was suddenly blasted off his feet, accidentally dragging Dolohov down with him.
"Run!" Black yelled, jumping to his feet and pushing me towards the exit.
I wasn't going to leave him there alone, so I grabbed his hand and pulled him along, both of us running as fast as we could go. When we finally reached the entrance hall, we slowed down. The Slytherins weren't following us. They probably didn't want to attract too much attention to what they were doing, and the entrance hall was not somewhere they could get away with dark magic. I glanced around for our friends, but they had disappeared, probably to get McGonagall.
"McKinnon, you are the stupidest person alive," said Black angrily. "What the hell was that about?"
"They called Lily a...you-know-what," I muttered lamely. I was half angry and half ashamed. I'd gotten us into serious trouble back there. To be honest, it was kind of a rush, standing up to those future murderers. But one look at Black's face and the ashamed part of me won the battle taking place inside my head.
"That doesn't mean you had to run off and curse those - those Death Eaters in training!" he said.
"Well..." I was feeling really foolish now. How was he managing to make me feel like a child being scolded?
"I was mad too," Black said, still looking plenty mad to me. "But it's not your place to go punishing Slytherins."
"And I suppose that's your place?" I shot back.
"It's more my place than yours. In case you haven't noticed, that's my brother down there."
For once in his life, Black was making sense. I closed my eyes and sighed. When I opened them, I finally took a good look at him. There was blood dripping down his neck and onto the white collar of his shirt, from where he hit his head.
"You're bleeding," I told him. He ran a hand through his hair and winced. His hand came back completely red. "We better get you to the hospital wing." I took hold of his arm and led him through the entrance hall, turning down another corridor.
It amazed me how, even with his hair sticking up in all directions and matted with blood, Black still managed to look sexy. It really wasn't fair.
Madam Pomfrey made a fuss over Black's condition when we got to the hospital wing, and after I begged and pleaded, she let me stay. I don't know why I wanted to, but it just felt wrong to leave him there alone after I'd gotten him into this mess. Even Black looked surprised.
Eventually, Professor McGonagall came and we had to explain what happened. She disapproved of me going after the Slytherins, of course, but she didn't give me a detention or even take off any points from Gryffindor. I guess she understood why I did it.
Pretty soon it was just me and Black in the hopsital wing, with Madam Pomfrey shut up in her office. She had fixed up his head in no time; he didn’t even need bandages. But Pomfrey wouldn’t let him leave until he’d gotten some rest. I sat by his bed awkwardly, mulling over a question that had been bothering me since we were down in the dungeons.
"Why did you come after me?"
Black looked up. "I don't know. I guess I knew you'd get killed down there, or at least badly hurt. I didn't want that on my conscience, no matter how much I hate you."
I nodded. That made sense. I probably would have done the same thing. Okay, I might have let him suffer a bit, but I would have gone after him if the situation was reversed. Maybe.
"Well," I said, even more awkwardly, "thanks, Black."
"Yeah," he said, "no problem." He smiled at me. This amazed me. It wasn't one of his arrogant smirks or devilish grins. It wasn't even a sneer. It was a genuine smile, which wasn't normally directed at me. Especially by Black.
"Does your head hurt?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I can't even feel it. I thought you were kidding when you told me I was bleeding." There was a silence. I was debating whether or not I should leave and go get his friends. The rest of the Marauders would keep him company and I could go find Lily and Lo.
"So while you're here, McKinnon, talk to me," said Black.
"Anything. I just can't take the silence anymore."
I agreed. But what could I possibly say to my arch nemesis? "Um, I was thinking about getting a motorcycle. You know, for after Hogwarts." I don't know why I said that, but it was true. Motorcycles fascinated me, and I'd wanted one since I was twelve. I remembered Black talking about motorcycles in the common room last year; I figured it was the only thing we had in common.
Black whipped his head around so fast, I heard his neck crack. He winced in pain, but just kept staring at me. "What?"
"A motorcycle. They're these muggle contraptions. They're kind of like bicycles except with an engine and - "
"I know what they are," he interrupted. "I just...didn't know you were into them."
"Yeah," I said. "Are you?"
"I love motorcycles," Black admitted. "I was thinking about getting one after Hogwarts, too. Especially since it would piss off my hag of a mother."
I laughed. "Sounds like a good plan. Wouldn't it be great if there were flying motorcycles?"
"Yeah..." Black said thoughtfully. "That would be great. I'm sure there's some kind of charm to do that. It'd have to be a strong one, though."
I thought about that for a minute. "You could use a hover charm, but that might be too weak. What about a levitation spell?"
"Or both," said Black. "And you could add extra devices, like a defense system."
"Are you planning on being chased, Black?" I asked, amused. What in the world would he need a defense system installed into a flying motorbike for?
"You never know, McKinnon," he grinned.
I thought for a second. "That 'defense system' of yours...you could have a few buttons charmed to the exhaust pipe. So when you press it, whatever 'tool' you use at the time comes out at your attacker."
"Yeah, like...a brick wall!" he said excitedly.
I snorted. "A brick wall? That's stupid."
"How is that stupid?" said Black indignantly. "If a brick wall comes out of the exhaust pipe without warning, I'm pretty sure that the person chasing you would fly right into it."
"Yeah," I said sarcastically, "and while you're at it, install a button that releases a net into the air. They'll definitely get stuck in that."
"That's not a bad idea," said Black earnestly.
"I was thinking of something more along the lines of...dragon fire." I gave him a sly grin. "I like to go fast."
Black laughed. "I like the way you think, McKinnon."
"So do I," I said brightly.
Just then, the Marauders, plus Lily and Lo, came into the hospital wing.
"Padfoot!" said James, coming to stand beside his friend's bed. "Are you alright, mate?"
"Yeah," said Black grinning, "it's just a scratch."
"What about you, Letta?" Lily demanded, looking me over. "Are you okay?" When I nodded, she sighed frustratedly. "Why did you go after them? I don't care what they call me, and neither should you! You know they were only trying to get a rise out of us. You could have been hurt!"
"Sorry?" I shrugged which got a laugh out of my friends. Although James was still muttering about how he wished he had been there.
"Excuse me," said a voice from the doorway. Professor McGonagall entered the room. "Professor Dumledore would like a word with the two of you." She pointed at me and then at Black. "Are you feeling up to it, Mr. Black?"
I looked at him, my eyebrows furrowed. He looked just as confused. "Yeah," he said, sitting up. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, swaying a little. Remus reached out to steady him, but I beat him to it. I surprised even myself when I took hold of Black's arm.
"Uh, right," I said, clearing my throat and dropping his arm. "Let’s go."
We followed McGonagall out of the infirmary and into the corridor. Since we were already on the first floor, she led us past many tapestries and suits of armor before we reached a statue of a large stone gargoyle.
"Cockroach Clusters," said McGonagall. I thought she’d gone loopy before I realized that this was the password. The statue revealed a staircase that was behind it, escalading slowly upward. We all hopped on a step and rode to the top. I had never been to Dumbledore’s office before, but Black most likely had.
Professor McGonagall rapped on the wide oak doors with a brass knocker in the shape of some kind of bird.
"Enter," said a voice from within.
The doors opened and I gazed curiously around Professor Dumbledore’s office as I stepped inside.
There were many whirring instruments around the room, as well as a spacious desk with parchment on it and a large cabinet that was halfway open. There was a Pensieve inside it, due to the silver-blue glow that the object was giving off. I only knew what a Pensieve was because my mother’s friend got her one after my dad died, since my mother had ‘such difficult thoughts and memories.’ There was also a large bird sitting on a perch next to the desk. It had beautiful red and gold feathers and it was whistling an angelic song.
"Ah, good afternoon Miss McKinnon, and you, Mr. Black." Professor Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk, with his glasses perched on his rather large nose. He looked over at us with those piercing blue eyes. Professor McGonagall left the room and closed the doors behind her with a heavy thud.
"Hello, Professor," Black grinned. He was obviously comfortable here, but also very respectful towards the brilliant headmaster.
"Hello, sir," I said.
"Come in and sit down," Dumbledore said, gesturing at – well, nothing. "Oh, I’m terribly sorry. One moment, please." He took out his wand and conjured up two squashy red chairs in front of his desk. "Now you may sit down," he smiled.
I walked over and sat down next to Black. There was a silence. "Professor, I swear we weren’t dueling," I blurted out. "We weren’t fighting at all!"
Dumbledore chuckled, and Black joined in. I shot him a dirty look. "Miss McKinnon, don’t worry. You are not in trouble. I would just like to speak to you both about a serious matter." We waited for him to go on. "Have you heard about what has been going on with students in different Houses?" he asked.
"No, sir," said Black. I shook my head.
"There have been strange disappearances of many students, most of them muggle-born. They always turn up a few days later in fortuitous places around the castle. Just this morning a young second year, Harriett Wilson, was found unconscious atop the Astronomy Tower. She has no memory of how she got there." Dumbledore paused and pressed his fingertips together. "You know that these are dangerous times. I am not pointing out anyone in particular, but there are certain Slytherins at Hogwarts that wish to cause harm to other students, as you both found out today." He gestured towards Black’s head.
Black and I nodded, trying to focus on what Dumbledore was getting at.
"It is up to you, of course," he said, "but I'd like it if you two would patrol the corridor near the dungeons three times a week. I have informed the Prefects of the situation and they are on the lookout for strange behavior. Of course, they are needed on the upper floors to make sure no one is out of bed. If students are roaming the corridors after curfew, they are making themselves highly vulnerable to the harmful Slytherins. The Prefects are tremendously helpful, but I would prefer if there were people guarding the dungeons so it wouldn't get that far.
"It would look suspicious if you were seen there too often, so the days will be chosen at random. Sometimes you might have to keep watch over the enrance to the dungeons, and sometimes you will be positioned outside the Slytherin common room. Some nights you will have to be invisible or concealed in some other way, but other nights you will not."
I stared at the Professor, my brain working in overdrive. Why? Why did he want us to do this? Why me? Why Black?
"If you choose to accept this task, I trust you know that these students can be dangerous. But I believe you can do it, if you wish." He stopped talking and looked at us expectantly. Waiting for our answers.
"I’ll do it," said Black immediately. Professor Dumbledore nodded, as if he knew what Black’s answer would be before he said it out loud. Then he turned to me. I felt Black’s eyes on me as well.
"Yes," I said, "I’ll do it." It would be fun to meet some Slytherins in the dead of the night and not get in trouble for hexing them.
"Alright," said Dumbledore. "Thank you both. I will send someone with a message of when your patrol nights will take place. That is all."
Black and I got up from our chairs and headed towards the door. I stopped in the middle of the office, causing Black to bump into be from behind. When I turned around, he gave me a look, but I ignored him and concentrated on Professor Dumbledore.
"Professor," I said hesitantly, waiting for him to look up. "Why did you pick us? You could have asked anyone else in the school. Why us?"
Dumbledore smiled kindly at me. "You are two of the bravest Gryffindors I have seen in a long time. And, despite your differences, I know you both are able to deal with these problems Hogwarts is facing with clear minds and strong hearts."
"Thank you, sir," I said, and left the office with Black at my side.
When Letta and Sirus left Dumbledore’s office, Professor McGonagall stepped back in and faced the headmaster.
"Well?" she asked. "What did they say?"
"They said they would do it," said Dumbledore with a twinkle in his eye.
"Good," McGonagall said in her clear, crisp voice. "They can handle this. But honestly, Albus, I think it is a mistake to have those two spending even more time together. They simply cannot stop fighting."
"They will overcome their differences, you’ll see," Dumbledore assured her.
"I find that hard to believe," McGonagall huffed. "All they ever do is argue."
"And that is the beauty of their relationship, Minerva," said Dumbledore. He chuckled at her confused expression. "They are different from each other, but at the same time, they are quite similar. The time will come when they realize that. And when it does, hopefully they can learn to love and forgive each other. And hopefully Miss McKinnon will learn to forgive herself."
McGonagall nodded. The man was wise as well as brilliant. "Well," she said smoothly, "if people loved as much as Black and McKinnon argue, the world would be a lot less disturbing. Although, probably a little more insane."
"Exactly, Minerva. Exactly."
Okay, so I know the motorcycle thing was a little random; and I also know that Mr. Weasley was the one who installed all those defense systems on the new motorbike in Deathly Hallows. But for the sake of their conversation, let's just pretend it was Sirius and Letta who thought of it.
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