Chapter 4 : Rumblings
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Chapter Four – Rumblings
Outside in the corridor with Professor McGonagall, Sirius struggled to keep up his brave façade. He just needed to keep it up until he was in the dormitory. He’d been expecting weeks of detention, and the revocation of his privileges though unexpected was understandable. Sirius had no clue where Dumbledore had gotten the idea to send him home for Holiday break as part of his punishment. He wouldn’t have been more shocked if a Bludger had appeared out of nowhere and knocked him in the head.
There had not been a shred of sympathy for him even after he pleaded not to be sent home. Sirius had scoffed at Dumbledore’s question about his safety back home. He hadn’t told about his mother’s visit when he was alone with Dumbledore and he certainly wasn’t about to surrounded by all those people. He wasn’t really in danger, not at least in the physical sense. The fact of the matter was that his mother would make sure his stay was as unpleasant as possible (after the meeting with Keenan and now this…he didn’t even want to think about it), and telling the Headmaster would not change that.
Then to add to the humiliation Remus had forced him to apologize to Snape. Apologize to Snivellus who had never looked so smug. Remus usually looked the other way when James and he got into mischief even though he was now a prefect. The few times he did show his disapproval had always affected them more than any Professor’s disappointment. Sirius was sorry he’d involved Remus in this all, but he wasn’t sorry about showing Snape that there could be grave consequences for putting his large nose into things that were none of his concern. Sirius didn’t mean for Snape to be injured or killed, but maybe Snape had learned a lesson himself about messing in other peoples’ business.
At the entrance to the Gryffindor Common room Professor McGonagall stopped and instructed him to wait. She went in and came back with five of the six Gryffindor prefects; it was just Sirius’s luck that they were all there.
“Everything I am about to say is confidential,” McGonagall began. The prefects looked interested. They were all bound to have heard that Sirius had not sat with James or Peter in any of their classes today. Something as big as that would not go unnoticed and now being called out into the hallway – if McGonagall thought this would stop the rumors she didn’t understand the thrill of teenage gossip. “There’s been an altercation between Mr. Black, Mr. Snape in Slytherin…and the Whomping Willow.”
Lily Evan’s eyes widened at the mention of Snape.
“Mr. Black’s actions put Mr. Snape’s life in danger and we are taking it very seriously. Mr. Black is to go straight to his dormitory tonight and every night until fall term ends. Any breach of this is to immediately be reported to me.” McGonagall stopped a moment to glare severely at Sirius as if he’d already disobeyed. She went on to explain about the need of the prefects to escort him between classes and that they hoped not to involve prefects from other houses.
“Professor, how many points did we lose?” Jenna Morey, sixth year prefect, asked.
McGonagall frowned, her lips in a thin line. “One hundred,” McGonagall replied. There were grumbles from the prefects. “But we are only down fifty. Mr. Potter intervened and was awarded 50 points.”
“Can you tell us what exactly happened? 100 points is a lot,” Morey stated eying Sirius with distaste. Morey had told Sirius off more than once both last year and this year, so she wasn’t exactly a fan of his.
“I’ve told you all you need to know,” McGonagall said tersely. She apparently only trusted the prefects to a certain extent. Still Sirius didn’t see why she had to bring up James’s intervention at all. “Mr. Black, I will be by to pick you up at 7:15 am tomorrow morning. Do not be late or I’ll add another week to your detentions.” Sirius did not respond and she did not force him to. “The rest of you please meet me in my office before lunch. I’ll have a copy of everyone’s schedules.”
There were murmurs of agreement and McGonagall left. Sirius entered the common room first followed by the prefects. Silence greeted them, and everyone was staring at him.
“Wait a minute, Black,” Morey said. “I think you owe us an explanation.” Sirius glared at her. “Black’s lost us a hundred points!” she clarified for the crowd.
“Jenna!” Gideon Prewett interrupted. “We aren’t allowed to talk about this.”
“Everyone will see soon enough.”
“Come on, Black. I’m going up to bed as well,” Prewett stated. He motioned for Sirius to start walking up the stairs. Sirius stalked up the stairs. Prewett watched him enter the fifth year dorm wordlessly before he continued to the next level where he slept.
Sirius knew he should expect more students like Jenna demanding to know what had happened. The gossip was likely to only get worse. He had to hope Remus’s involvement in it all would go unnoticed.
Sirius barricaded himself in his bed, drawing the curtains tightly. He didn’t want to be disturbed. He figured James and Peter would leave him alone, but there was chance his other two roommates would not. Laying in bed he finally allowed himself to break down far from the prying eyes of the public. He felt shaky and terrible… and guilty. It was only because of pure exhaustion that Sirius fell asleep.
Sirius woke up the next morning early enough so he could shower. He was expected to be ready in the common room at 7:15 am. Professor McGonagall would be escorting him to a room where he was to have his first solitary meal.
The water streaming down on his body felt wonderful. Sirius stepped out wrapping a towel around his waist. James was standing at the doorway, his arms crossed.
“I want my invisibility cloak back.”
Sirius stared at James. “Give me a moment.”
James nodded, but he didn’t move from his spot. Sirius walked by him. He put his clothes on quickly. He’d completely forgotten that he still had James’s cloak. James had thrown it at him before he’d rushed after Snape. Sirius rummaged through his things, before finding it. James approached him and Sirius handed it to him. There were no words exchanged.
Sirius turned his back again on James. The seconds ticked on by, but Sirius didn’t turn to see if James was still watching him. Sirius knew he should say something. He needed to say something, and just as he was about to open his mouth and do that very thing, maybe even apologize –
“Maybe I should have listened to everyone.”
Still keeping his back to James, Sirius questioned, “About what?”
“What about me, James?” Sirius said turning around. James would have to say this to his face.
“Once a Black. Always a Black.”
Nothing that James could have done – not even the stab of a knife – could have hurt worse than those words.
“Is that right?” Sirius tried to keep the hurt out of his voice.
“Yes!” James said aggressively.
“You’ve always told me the opposite,” Sirius said quietly.
“I was wrong! Just look at what you did! It proved you aren’t so different from your family after all. I thought you were different. I thought because you were in Gryffindor – it was proof you weren’t like them! But you are!”
Sirius wanted to hit James. Sirius wanted to lash out at him. He knew James was angry, but this was taking it too far. “I thought you were a different person as well.”
“You know that you’re worse than your cousins…than your brother. At least Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Regulus have the excuse of being brainwashed – ”
“Go to hell, Potter!” Sirius yelled gripping his wand and a spell shot out erratically hitting one of the walls with a loud crash. Peter jumped straight out of bed. Their other two dorm-mates, Jack Connor and Derek Newell had opened their curtains looking concerned.
“I’m not going to fight you and get you expelled,” James stated.
That statement was almost enough to undo Sirius. He couldn’t handle James again acting as if he were suddenly the better, more mature person who had to save Sirius from himself. “Oh right! It is just so difficult to keep up with your ever changing moral code of conduct. Hexing first years is ok, but dueling me is not - how silly of me not to realize.”
“Is everything ok?” Connor asked.
“James –“ interjected Peter nervously. Predictably Peter had taken James’s side in this all. If Sirius didn’t have a million other things running through his mind, he might have been bitter about it.
“Should I get a prefect?” Newell asked getting out of bed.
“Everything is under control,” James replied his eyes never leaving Sirius. “Isn’t that right?”
Sirius slowed his breathing, his gaze traveling around the room to Newell, Connor, Peter, and finally back to James. There was a tense standstill. Sirius knew there was a chance Newell or Connor would report this to a prefect despite what James said.
“Right. Under control,” Sirius muttered. He wrenched his school bag up and bumped aggressively into James as he walked by. He leaned back on the dorm door that he’d slammed behind him. He tried to get his breathing under control. It wouldn’t do him any favors to have his temper out of control with McGonagall. He could hear his roommates from where he stood.
“What was all that about?” Connor continued.
“Yea, Black looked ready to rip you limb from limb,” Newell added. James and Sirius had fights before, both being hot-headed and proud, but it had never gotten to this extent.
“It really isn’t any of your business,” James answered coldly.
And there was only silence. Sirius could imagine James running a hand aggressively through his hair – something James did when he was nervous, annoyed or trying to impress someone. He could imagine James kicking his trunk and then stomping to the bathroom to take a shower. These thoughts made a lump grow in his throat and he felt ill losing the little appetite he had when he had awoken.
Sirius took the stairs down the common room slowly. It was going to be a long week, and at the end of it – home sweet home.
Snape was fuming. He had just had a meeting with Dumbledore. At first Dumbledore had made it seem like the meeting was to assure Snape that no one was sweeping what had happened under the rug and that Black’s actions were being taken very seriously. It quickly turned to Professor Dumbledore protecting his precious Gryffindors – particularly the werewolf.
It became quite apparent that Dumbledore’s main goal of the discussion was to make sure Snape kept his mouth shut about Lupin. Snape could understand that Dumbledore had taken a huge risk in accepting Lupin into Hogwarts. Dumbledore took several minutes to explain all the precautions that had been put into place; mainly being a murderous tree. It was clear (without Dumbledore coming right out and saying it) that the Board of Governors were not aware of Lupin’s situation and if they were to be tipped off there was a very good chance Dumbledore would be fired from his position as Headmaster.
“We all do questionable things in our youth, do we not Mr. Snape?”
Snape had no answer for that.
“Over the years as student, Professor, and Headmaster I have seen many students get carried away with their own cleverness. Since the start of the year there have been a substantial number of students in the Hospital Wing because of darker magic. Your name has popped up quite often by both victims and perpetrators.”
“I’m not well liked, sir. Black and Potter have seen to that.”
“You have been caught using questionable magic since your first year.”
“Spells that I found in books, sir. Old books from my mother during a time when students were taught both dark and light magic.”
“Yes, but these spells are more than slightly dark and even during that time such magic was not allowed. I am not here to debate the difference between dark and light magic. Part of growing up is finding out that out for yourself. I have not pursued any of these accusations because they are just that. You have not been caught casting magic of that dark level.” Dumbledore paused to look deeply into Snape’s eyes. “But all this would certainly come up if Mr. Lupin’s secret came out. We would have a full hearing, and everything about your background and motivations would be out on the table. I would also like to point out that the Black’s regardless of their feelings toward their heir would not take kindly to the boy who brought this upon them.”
“I see, sir,” Snape answered coldly.
He could see the Headmaster had him in a bind. Whether Professor Dumbledore was bluffing or not, Snape could not take the chance. After all he was guilty of using and teaching other students darker magic. He supposed he would have to keep Lupin’s secret. The risk was too great even though he would have enjoyed it immensely; particularly Black’s reaction to having brought it upon his friend. That probably would have broken up the Gryffindor quartet for good. There was one perk in the situation. The Gryffindors did not know that Dumbledore had a way to keep him quiet. They still believed that even the slightest provocation could set Snape off, and he could use that to his advantage.
Snape certainly didn’t have to worry about any attacks from Potter and Black before Christmas break. First of all there wasn’t a ‘Potter and Black’ anymore. Only last week you rarely saw one without the other and now they were fighting. Snape didn’t have to worry about Potter going after him alone; without his best friend, Potter was quiet and subdued. It helped loads to see Black estranged from his friends. Of course it would have made him feel even better if Snape could fully rub the fact into Black’s face, but it was difficult with the teachers always hovering over the boy.
Snape listened carefully to all the rumors floating around. He wished they were less close to the truth regarding his part and more towards the truth regarding Lupin. Potter had pre-empted Lupin’s involvement by making sure all the students who mattered knew Lupin had been the hospital wing with the flu. No one thought this was the least bit suspicious as everyone knew Lupin tended to catch whatever was going around. It was unfortunate no one else had been admitted to the Infirmary at the time or their story would have fallen apart.
Everyone was aware that Sirius had ‘goaded’ Snape into messing with the Whomping Willow tree (no one seemed to think it was odd that Black knew how to silence the tree – apparently he was thought to be clever and brave enough to figure it out) and that Potter ‘saved’ Snape from whatever the tree was hiding. No one agreed about what the tree was protecting only that Snape would have ‘died’ had Potter not come to his rescue. His housemates had badgered him about what he had found underneath the tree. He’d been forced to lie. He’d told them he’d only gone a bit down the tunnel before Potter had knocked him out with an overenthusiastic disarming spell before he could truly see what was there. Snape certainly wished he’d come up with a better story after seeing their disappointment – wishing he had used their interest in him to a better social advantage. Dumbledore had placed wards around the Whomping Willow to ensure no students would try to further investigate, and anyone found trying to break the wards would be expelled – no exception.
Worst of all, Snape had found out that his best friend, Lily Evans, believed the rumors. Their conversation began on a topic that was becoming all too frequent – his choice in friends. Lily had gone on about how much she detested Avery and Mulciber once again. She couldn’t understand how hard it was for him in Slytherin house as a half-blood. His low social standings meant he couldn’t be choosy in friends. Then she’d brought up the incident with Mary MacDonald - which had been funny –even if technically it was Dark Magic. Severus had never understood other wizards and witches aversion to powerful magic just because some old out-of-touch wizards labeled it dark.
Angry at the fact that she was always on about his friends when her housemates weren’t any better, Snape demanded, “What about the stuff Potter and his mates get up to?” His color rose again as he said it; his resentment shining through.
“What’s Potter go to do with anything?” said Lily.
Potter had everything to do with it, Snape thought grimly. He didn’t say that of course. “They sneak out at night. There’s something weird about that Lupin. Where does he keep going?”
“He’s ill,” said Lily. “They say he’s ill --- “
“Every month at the full moon?” said Snape.
“I know your theory,” said Lily, and she sounded cold. Lily had been the only person Snape had ever hinted his theory about Lupin being a werewolf to. Since he’d already spoken to her about it, he didn’t see it as breaching the code of silence he’d promised Dumbledore. Unfortunately she had not reacted kindly to it and things hadn’t changed. “Why are you so obsessed with them anyway? Why do you care what they’re doing at night?”
“I’m just trying to show you they’re not as wonderful as everyone seems to think they are.”
The intensity of his gaze made her blush.
“They don’t use Dark Magic, though.” She dropped her voice. “And you’re being really ungrateful. I heard what happened the other night. You went sneaking down that tunnel by the Whomping Willow, and James Potter saved you from whatever’s down there-“
Snape’s whole face contorted and he spluttered, “Saved? Saved? You think he was playing hero? He was saving his neck and his friends’ too! You’re not going to – I won’t let you -“
“Let me? Let me?”
Lily’s bright green eyes were slits. Snape backtracked at once.
“I didn’t mean – I just don’t want to see you made a fool of – He fancies you, James Potter fancies you! And he’s not…everyone thinks…big Quidditch hero-“
Snape had trouble staying coherent. He couldn’t live with the thought Lily might see Potter as a hero when he’d sent him to his death!
“I know James Potter’s an arrogant toerag,” she said cutting him off.
Those words were music to his ears. He didn’t know what he’d do if he ever lost her favor. She was not aware of the power she held over him. Clever, beautiful, perfect; she should have made him seem inadequate in comparison. Instead, her brightness was strong enough to cast even him in a better light
This was why he kept his darker side from her. There was no reason for her to see it. She did not know he’d begun seeking information about the Dark Lord. It was all for academic purposes for now, but the ideas excited him. Power is what he sought. And when he’d have it, he could protect her no matter her blood and she’d be thankful. She’d see that the ends justified the means. Muggles would fear them and blood traitors like Black and Potter would be brought to their knees begging for mercy.
For now Lily tipped the balance of the dark and light inside of him into the light. It would stay that way as long as he had her friendship, as long as he had her and Potter did not.
Remus felt tired all the time. A few days had not healed the hurt from Sirius’s betrayal. It didn’t seem to make a difference that he rarely saw Sirius; his friend was often enough on his mind. And when he did see Sirius in class, he still got a terrible sickly feeling in his stomach. Since the dormitory was the only place where Remus was likely to encounter his friend on his own, Remus had taken to going to bed as late as possible to ensure that Sirius would be asleep. Remus was unaware that he did not need to go through the trouble. Sirius’s detentions were heavy on manual labor and Sirius was asleep in moments most nights from exhaustion.
It helped that Remus had James and Peter at his side through it all. In all honesty Remus had expected James and Sirius to have made-up by now, but James’s anger at his best friend was still going strong. Remus had underestimated the betrayal James himself felt. Sirius had not sought Remus out. Nor did Sirius seek out James. It bothered Remus more than he cared to admit. It was not like Sirius to avoid confrontation.
Remus expected at any moment for Snape to tell all of Hogwarts his secret, but so far it had not happened. Dumbledore had told him that Snape had given him his word, but Remus didn’t believe for a second that it meant anything. Remus was on edge when Snape was nearby, but all Snape did was stare at him in revulsion and when James wasn’t around snarled comments about half-breeds.
Remus was sitting alone in the common room late one evening. Five days had passed since the incident and only three more days until Holiday break (not that he was counting). He was looking forward to going home where he hoped to forget what had happened for a bit. It was late enough that everyone had already gone to bed. Remus had always been the type of person that needed time each week for solitude and reflection, so he was enjoying the emptiness of the common room.
Something had been bothering him all day. He had a strange feeling that he’d forgotten something important, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. He had double and tripled checked his planner thinking he hadn’t completed an assignment or studied for a quiz, but that was not the case.
The feeling was still there even this late in the day, but Remus was doing his best to ignore it as he tried reading ahead for Transfiguration. Remus frowned when he heard what sounded like someone bounding down the steps of the boys’ dormitory and looked up to see who it was. He hoped whoever it was had simply forgotten a book or sweater, so he wouldn’t be forced to make small talk.
Sirius was the last person he expected to see.
“You shouldn’t be down here,” Remus said.
Sirius widened his eyes; evidently as surprised as Remus to find anyone down at this time of night. “Going to snitch on me?” Sirius said it so casually as if they were back to being friends.
Remus turned away. He felt sick to his stomach as usual, but in addition, he could feel his blood begin to boil and anger begin to overtake his other emotions. He closed his eyes to calm his breathing; he needed to stay in control. It was bad enough one night a month he had no control over himself. Lashing out would only give him a moment of pleasure.
Remus opened up his eyes to see Sirius holding up a book. “I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to wake any of you up.”
Remus made a noncommittal noise. Sirius took that as permission to take a seat, choosing a chair a bit closer to Remus than he would have liked. Sirius remained silent. He opened up the book and for all intents and purpose appeared to be reading.
Despite the silence and try as he might, Remus could not concentrate. He sighed heavily hoping Sirius got the message that he was a large nuisance. He snapped his book shut, rustled his papers obnoxiously as he put them away, and rose to his feet.
Since his back had been turned away from Sirius; Remus had not realize that Sirius had been watching. “So is this it? Just going to ignore me until graduation?”
Remus wasn’t about to dignify that with a response. He headed toward the dormitory stairs. “You really don’t have anything you want to say to me,” Sirius stated standing up.
Remus clenched his fists. Ignore him, he thought to himself.
“Won’t you say anything,” Sirius demanded.
Remus forced himself to continue walking.
“Never understood how passive aggressive a werewolf could be!”
Remus was suddenly in Sirius’s face. He drew his wand and jabbed it right under Sirius’s throat. “Well you know what? Dumbledore didn’t come up with sending you home for the Holiday. It was my idea.”
Sirius stepped away from him. There was shock and betrayal, and for a moment Remus felt superior. For a moment Remus felt incredibly good making Sirius feel even a little bit of what he felt.
As the words sunk in Remus expected Sirius to call his bluff. Remus would have not argued. Only none of that happened. Sirius just backed away, picked up his book and moved over to the corner without a word.
Still stuck to his spot, Remus felt horrible. He shouldn’t have said that. This wasn’t like him at all. He couldn’t believe Sirius thought he was telling the truth? What had happened to their friendship that they could believe such terrible things about each other?
Knowing he should say something, but unable to summon the courage to do anything Remus trudged back up to the dorm. As he jerked his curtains around his bed and dumped his body onto the bed, he suddenly remembered what he had forgotten – a birthday.
And not just anyone’s birthday.
Today had been Sirius’s sixteenth birthday.
Author’s note: Direct quotes taken from “Prince’s Tale” in American Edition of Deathly Hallows are not mine. Thanks for reading. Review, please!
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