Chapter 4 : Chapter 4
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Lily was frantically trying to concentrate, she was sitting in the common room, her Transfiguration essay in front of her, but she could not. Martina Coatley’s voice was ringing in her ears.
“So James said that he thought I was the best looking girl in the whole school and that he would love to take me out sometime, for a little, you know, alone time,” she giggled.
Violet Prunella laughed at her, “Look, a lot of girls have spent time with James, Marty, you're not special,”
They had been talking about James for the past hour and half, giggling about his good looks and his talents, both on and off the Quidditch pitch.
Lily found this kind of gossip intolerable, as she usually did when James was the subject, she hated the way girls simply fawned over him and Sirius just because of, urgh, she would not admit it to herself: their good looks.
True, their relationship had changed since the incident with Sirius, but she still regarded Potter worship with abject distaste.
Lately she and Potter had been able to continue a conversation for more than 3 minutes, though he still acted the fool and she still considered him a bully most of the time, she found that her annoyance and frustration with him was now minimal compared to what it had been, and James, to his credit was not as bad as she had originally thought, she had seen another side to him that night, James Potter really cared about his friends, he would protect them no matter the cost, a side that she found intriguing and endearing. Though not completely cleansing, after all, he was still as content with practical joking than ever.
Sirius was now the main offender, he had recovered from his fight with Regulus with a kind of vindictive vengeance, determined to get back at the whole house of Slytherin for associating with his brother.
It had only been 3 weeks and already the effects of Sirius’ actions were quite severe: people from Slytherin House found themselves jinxed, cursed and hexed at most times, they were the victims of some of the most cruel practical jokes that Hogwart’s had ever seen and now most of the students seemed to be afraid of him, even though they found him funny, even though he was their beloved Sirius Black…the things he was doing scared many.
He reserved a special loathing just for Snape, teasing him and embarrassing him, just as Snape had done to him.
James did nothing to stop him, even involving himself in most of the attacks. Which he was still insisting were harmless, just Sirius way of venting his anger.
Lily disagreed, as much as she felt for his situation, she could not allow him to continue. She just hoped that with 3 weeks left of term and exams to keep him busy that nothing terrible would happen.
She had tried to talk to Remus about it, but he said that there wasn’t much chance of controlling him…he just told her to weather the storm out and hope that he came back at the start of next year a fully-grown, mature individual.
Lily had raised an eyebrow at the comment, to which Remus had replied with a wry smile, “Well, let’s just hope he’s over it, then,”
James had found that Lily was not going to be simply be won by one day of unification against a greater evil (a greater evil than himself that is), she was still quite severe with him, telling him off when he tried to show off, the day after the Sirius had recovered, she had told them off for hexing Snape, but, he noticed, she would sometimes turn away, the inklings of a smile at the edges of her mouth.
But he would not desist in his ‘harmless fun’, he an Sirius were still very fond of tormenting the Slytherins, James regarded it as a kind of therapy to work all of his frustration out, he didn’t see anything wrong with it, it was just as before, only now the ‘fun’ came hard and fast and more often, James didn’t care what Remus or Lily said, he could see life behind Sirius’ eyes and that’s all that mattered really…there was no harm in it anyway, they were only Slytherins and he was only Snivellus after all.
Snape had been trying to get back at them ever since James had decided it would be funny to curse away his clothes in front of the entire school last year: he had noticed that the four of them would often sneak out of their dorms and disappear into the Whomping Willow…Snape was very interested in where it was that they went…he knew that the teachers must know about it because he had seen Madam Pomfrey down there sometimes, taking Remus Lupin, but still…they were up to something and he wanted to find out what it was, he wanted them to suffer, he wanted them to pay for making his life a living hell for the past 6 years.
Sirius had not forgotten about seeing Snape hiding in the gardens the last time there had been a full moon, and he knew that Snape had been following them around lately, he knew he had to get him off the trail…plus get another one on old Snivellus. Tonight was the full moon, he needed to think of something…
They were sitting in the library during the afternoon, reading up on some extra curricular curses; Snape, as per usual, was buried in a Dark Arts book, his hooked nose almost scraping the page he was reading it so intently. None of his little Slytherin cronies were with him…they were all too afraid of the fact that Snape attracted a lot of revenge from Sirius and James.
Sirius sat lazily in a chair near a window, longs legs spread out in front of him, he had finished reading and was now quite bored, he scratched the back of his head absentmindedly, frowning he noticed Snape, he watched him for a few moments, his dark eyes glittering dangerously.
He had an idea. “Wormtail, come here for a sec,” he said, jumping to his feet. Peter looked bewildered, but followed him to behind a bookcase near where Snape was sitting.
Sirius grinned wildly and he said in a very clear voice, “Nah, it’s a dead cinch, mate, all you’ve got to do to get the Whomping Willow to behave is poke the knot near the base of the tree, you know, that big malformed lumpy thing near the rock shaped like a snail,”
Peter looked up at him, utterly baffled, “Wha…” he started, but Sirius silenced him with a finger, he grabbed Peter’s arm and dragged him back over to where they were sitting, making sure that Snape didn’t see them, which wasn’t a problem, as Sirius could see that he had heard him. Snape’s eyes were unfocused and there was a nasty smile itching on his lips.
“Mission accomplished, Wormtail,” Sirius whispered and Peter finally understood, he grinned up at Sirius in devilish glee.
“Cool,” he whispered and Sirius looked very proud of himself.
Sirius looked at the clock on the wall, but Remus had already noticed the time and he and James were already standing up, ready to leave.
They walked from the room, the same routine they had undertake for the past year, but James was stopped at the door by one of his Quidditch team, who wanted to know the exact time of their next practice and when they were going to audition a new seeker, because Taber Stringfellow was in his final year.
Remus, Sirius and Peter stopped and waited for him, James sighed, “You guys go ahead, this could take awhile, I’ll see you later,”
Remus walked off as soon as they left to go out into the corridor, he always went first so as not raise any suspicions.
Doubling back to the Gryffindor Common Rooms they ran into a very terse looking Professor McGonagall, Peter literally slammed into her, he was so eager to get down to the Whomping Willow.
“Watch where you’re going, Pettigrew!” she snapped, as Sirius helped her up.
“Sorry Professor McGonagall, I didn’t see you!” Peter whimpered.
“Well that is obvious,” she said sharply, “I hope that you are rushing back to get some homework done you certainly need it, your marks have been simply atrocious of late, I would have thought that you might buckle down this year,” she lectured, Peter was growing more and more nervous, Sirius’ eyes kept darting out the window, he could see the sun setting: they were running out of time.
“I was going to do it now! Of course I was, Professor!” Peter was saying, a pleading tone in his voice.
“Look at the time, Peter!” Sirius said suddenly, drawing both McGonagall’s and Peter’s attention to him, “Well, I’d love to stick around and chat with you, but I’ve just remembered I left something in the library, tell James where I’ve gone, Peter, you know he worries,” he said theatrically, bounding off down the hall.
McGonagall shook her head and then continued reaming into Peter.
Sirius sprinted out of the school, very aware that the sun was almost gone, the night was very soon approaching and he was not going to miss out on his glorious revenge on Snivelly.
He quickly transformed into the big bear like dog and he hid himself in the undergrowth. He watched as Snape stepped forward tentatively, saw him levitate a stick towards the knot on the tree, making sure it was pressed, he observed Snape’s face as he looked at the tree dubiously, then his jubilation when he realised that it had worked, he witnessed Snape creep forward, wand out raised, a triumphant sneer on his face.
If only dogs could smile…
James had managed to sort the matter out and he now trudged up the stairs to the Fat Lady, he entered the room to find Peter sitting at the table, deep in concentration, tongue poking out of his lips.
The scene itself was curious, as James had never seen Peter look so devoted to his work.
“What are you doing?” James said loudly and he laughed when Peter jumped.
“Oh! James! You scared me!” he gasped, clutching his chest, “I was doing my essay for Professor McGonagall, Sirius and I ran into her on our way back here and she yelled and I don’t want her to go mad at me tomorrow so I’m doing it now.” He said quickly, but then his voice turned to a whine, “I wish I could be down there with Sirius though, I want to see Snivellus’ face when he finds him…”
“What?” James said distractedly, not really listening.
“Oh yeah, I’m supposed to tell you that Sirius is playing this awesome prank on Snape, he’ll get him good, James,” he said excitedly.
James suddenly became apprehensive, his eyes narrowed and he focused on Peter, who still had a wide and wistful grin on his face.
“Sirius told Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow.”
James paled, his eyes went wide, thoughts blasted through his head each making him more and more tense: he couldn’t have, could he? He’s not that stupid? Surely he’s not that careless
“How long ago was this?” James demanded so forcefully that Peter nearly fell off his chair.
“Um, he told him in the library, about 10 minutes ago maybe…”
James was running out the door, bolting out of there as fast as he could. He was still in disbelief but he needed to get down there.
How could Sirius have been so stupid? So foolish? Was he that vindictive? That obsessed with pay back? Maybe Lily and Remus had been right to be worried…this was too far!
James’ feet were pelting the ground so hard that the sound echoed in the corridors, he could hear snatches of chastisement from the paintings, adrenaline pumping in his veins.
The sun had just set, Remus would be transforming now, he didn’t want to think of what would happen if he didn’t make it in time.
He sprinted out to the Whomping Willow now standing eerily still, he didn’t hesitate to breathe or look for Sirius whom he knew was watching from somewhere close by, immediately throwing himself down into the burrow.
He crawled on his belly for a few feet before finally pulling himself up and scrambling along the dark tunnel. His glasses had slipped from his nose, and he couldn’t help but feel a sinking feeling when he heard a distinct crunch under one his feet.
He wanted to call out Snape’s name and for a moment he struggled to think of his real name.
“Severus!” he called out, squinting in the darkness, cursing his poor eyesight.
He could here the faint sounds of someone scrambling eagerly away from him.
“Severus!” he repeated, “Stay where you are, don’t…don’t move,” he warned,
A high pitched laugh carried down the length of the tunnel, “I’ve got you now, Potter! You and your friends will be gone by tomorrow!” he screeched.
James stifled the urge to call him an idiot and just leave him there; he scampered quickly through the familiar twists and turns of the passageway.
“Severus, you don’t understand…” he called out desperately, “you don’t know what’s at the end…where this leads to…”
“I know that you don’t want me to get there!” he cackled madly.
James could make a blurry shape 10 feet away from him. Snape had raised his wand, muttering ‘Alohamora’, James dived forward, but it was too late: the door had opened, James and Sirius could hear a low growl emit from somewhere very close by.
James pulled Snape back by the end of his robes and he pushed him to the ground. Snape could see in the dim light that James looked frightened but extremely alert.
“You have to get out of here,” he whispered urgently.
Snape was in shock, he had seen…he thought he had seen…but that would mean…his thoughts came a shuddering halt and he realised what he had seen: Remus Lupin was a werewolf!
“Get away from me!” Snape hissed, standing up and backing away.
James grabbed around the waist and pulled him back towards the exit, he could hear Remus sniffing around the door and he knew that the werewolf knew that they were there…he kept glancing back towards the door, Snape struggling in his arms, but James held on tighter, he could hear the sounds of something large in the tunnel with them now, he forced Snape though the exit, immediately the Whomping Willow whipped around a branch and sent them flying backwards, far away from the Whomping Willow.
James lay on the grass panting, face pale and glistening with sweat, he could hear Snape nearby taking deep, ragged breaths.
James pushed himself up on to his elbows and looked around, but without his glasses he hadn’t much hope of seeing his hand in front of his face, let alone a dark figure in a pitch black and slightly misty night.
“Severus?” he whispered, and he heard Snape’s breathing hitch. He stumbled up onto his feet, feeling the beginnings of a nasty bruise across his chest where the Whomping Willow had smacked into him, “Where are you?”
There was no reply, and James exhaled, getting frustrated now, “Look, I can’t see a damn thing, I broke my glasses, just tell me where the hell you are?”
He looked down at the ground hopefully, with no reply yet again, he thought that maybe Snape had passed out. Clutching his wand he sent up a distress signal, hoping that one of the teachers or maybe Hagrid would see it and come help.
He took a couple of cautious steps when he heard a twig snap behind him, he stopped, not daring to take another breath, but within a few moments it became quite clear that it wasn’t Remus or else he would be dead by now.
Suddenly James felt livid, “Get out of here, Padfoot,” he hissed, seething with anger.
Sirius could see him well enough even in the dim light, he could see that James was almost shaking, his face had gone white and his mouth was taut, Sirius noticed that his hand was clenched firmly around his wand, his hand twitching as though he’d quite like to use it.
Sirius made another step towards him.
“Get out of here,” he repeated darkly and Sirius could sense that James was losing patience: he had now gone rigid.
Sirius turned back into a dog and ran back to the castle, once inside he changed back and made his way hurriedly back to the Gryffindor common rooms, careful, as always, not to arouse suspicions.
Once inside he went up to his dorm, ignoring all comments towards him, he sat on his bed, his heart racing at a thousand miles an hour, he could only speculate on what had made James so infuriated: He had gone too far.
But, he reasoned, he never went too far, no, Snape had it coming, he shouldn’t have been nosing around there, it was Snape’s fault.
Sirius couldn’t stand the waiting, he got up and paced angrily around the room, finally tiring of being alone when James hadn’t returned after half an hour he went back down to the Common Room.
Peter had gone, as with most of the Gryffindors, down to dinner in the Great Hall, he knew he had an hour or so before anyone would be coming back.
He leaned against the wall by the fireplace and scanned the room, noting the students that had stayed behind and there, enjoying a sandwich and a cup of tea, was the unmistakable Lily Evans.
Her red hair was today restrained in a high ponytail, she was listening to a younger student describe his woes.
“No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get the hang of it,” he said sadly, demonstrating what it was that he couldn’t get the hang of.
Lily took another gulp of tea and set the cup down on the table, leaning over to closer look at the parchment on the table.
“Don’t worry Nick, it’s a very common mistake, everybody makes it,” she said kindly, “What you’re doing is forgetting to add the salamander eyes [I]after[/I] waiting several minutes for the grendelwart to fully absorb, you’ve been waiting too long, Nick, there’s your problem,” she took out her quill and made c ouple of adjustments to what he'd written, "There, that should help you remember it better,"
The boy looked thoroughly relieved to say the least, “Oh! I thought I was going to fail this years exams for sure! Thanks Lily!”
Sirius had forgotten about exams, but it didn’t worry him anyway: he knew it all.
She smiled broadly, patting him on the back, “Don’t worry about it, you have all of this stuff in your head anyway, sometimes we are looking so hard that we miss the answer when it’s right there in front of us!” she said kindly and the boy, Nick, laughed along with her.
“Hey Sirius!” said Daniel Rodgers, sitting with a couple of Quidditch team members, Iphigenia Joon and Gregory Pratchett.
Sirius noticed that Lily’s head snapped around and she eyed him inquiringly.
“Hey,” Sirius smiled, sliding over to sit with the group, “Why aren’t you guys down at dinner?”
“We grabbed some food earlier, last minute studying and now we’re enjoying a well deserved break. Why aren’t you down shovelling food into your face?”
“I do not shovel!” Sirius cried, his grin wide.
“I’ve seen you eat, you could be part of one of those muggle travelling freak shows, mate,” Daniel replied teasingly.
Sirius laughed, “I just didn’t feel hungry,” he shrugged.
Daniel, Iphigenia and Gregory just raised an eyebrow at him, as if to say, ‘Yeah right,’ but Sirius continued to smile impassively.
“So, what are you getting up to these holidays, mate?” Gregory asked, breaking the silence.
“ ’Spect, I’ll be going to France with James and his parents…otherwise I thought I might drop in on Andromeda and her husband, see how they’re going, catch up with little Nymphadora” he said lazily, though the mention of James had reminded him just why he was sitting here, his stomach gave an uneasy flip and he squirmed in his chair, “And what about you lot?” he said, shifting the focus.
“Nothing much,” Daniel replied, “Just hoping to relax before next year,” and the others agreed with a groan, “I can’t believe we’ll be 7th years next year!”
Iphigenia giggled, “I know, I feel as immature and childish as the day I walked in here! And God help us all, we’re setting Sirius Black on the world!”
Sirius barked out his usual laugh, feeling a lot more at ease, he began to launch into his plans to wreak havoc as an adult when the door slammed open.
Everyone’s heads turned to see a fuming James Potter standing in the doorway, hand firmly gripped around his wand.
People barely had time to register their shock at seeing him so angry when he launched himself at Sirius, who had stood up by way of going over to ask what had happened.
James slammed him into the wall, his hands trembling with barely contained rage, “What were you thinking?!” he roared and Sirius recoiled from the intensity of James’ accusation, “Were you thinking at all?”
People were standing back, watching with a kind of grim fascination as James repeatedly slammed Sirius into the wall, hurling insults and looking generally murderous.
No one had ever seen the two of them fight in the entire time at Hogwarts, I fact, they doubted if James and Sirius had actually ever fought, the two of them were so close and always saw eye to eye on things: brothers, kindred spirits, best friends…whatever, everything that indicated that that were the two most unlikely people to be the position they were in now: James screaming at the top of his lungs at a thoroughly shocked looking Sirius.
“You son of a bitch,” James muttered, his face drained of all colour, “You could have got him killed! Or was that your plan?” he sneered, “I never thought you’d take the same toad as your family, but you’ve proved tonight that you really do belong in the noble house of Black,” he said cruelly, and this was what shook Sirius from his shock.
“How dare you!” Sirius spat, pushing James back so that the two now stood facing one another, ready for a fight, “It was just a stupid prank James! He deserved…”
“Oh? He deserved to die?” James said dangerously, “You don’t mind being a murderer then? Quite happy with that term?”
The colour drained from Sirius’ face only to rise again to a brilliant red, “Don’t make this out to be anything other than what it is! And what it was is just a harmless…”
“Harmless practical joke, right?” James said quietly, his jaw rigid, “I should have seen this, should have listened to Remus and Lily…” he said, looking at the floor, talking to himself.
“Oh!” Sirius exploded, “Let’s bring darling Lily into this! You’re pathetic James! Stop trying to impress her, she doesn’t want you!” Sirius snapped.
“This isn’t about Lily,” James said hotly, the only sign that he had even registered any emotion at hearing her name was a slight pinkish tinge to his ears, “ this is about you! But she was right and I should have seen it! Tell me, did you fancy yourself a cell in Azkaban? Do you even have a soul to suck out?”
“That’s enough!” Lily said, she had been watching the unpleasant scene in shock, only awakening when her name had been mentioned.
James and Sirius let go of one another and looked around the room, for the first time James noticed that they were not alone and was slightly embarrassed people were staring at them as though someone had died: too shocked to do anything, Lily was the only thing moving in the room.
James swallowed angrily and grabbed Sirius by the arm, pulling him upstairs, Sirius struggled for a bit, but James had already had to deal with an angry Snape and he was in an extremely foul mood.
James pushed Sirius into the room and rounded on him menacingly.
“What’s your problem?” Sirius said angrily, rubbing his wrist where James had held him.
James laughed dismally and shook his head, “You don’t get it do you? You don’t even understand what you…what you did tonight,” he said softly.
“I don’t understand why you’re carrying on like this!” Sirius erupted.
“Carrying on like this?!” James repeated, his voice rising, he sighed, muttered a silencing charm and then turned back to Sirius, his eyes (still lacking glasses) burning, “You don’t realise what you could have done?” he asked dubiously.
“It was…I just wanted to get Snape back,” Sirius explained.
“And it would be okay if he died in the process?” James said quietly.
“What? No! I just wanted to scare him a bit!”
But James was shaking his head and clenching his fists, “What did you think was going to happen?!” he demanded furiously, “You let Snape go into that tunnel, without any knowledge of the danger he was in, facing a fully grown werewolf and you didn’t think that he might die?!” James bellowed, utterly mystified that Sirius could be that thick.
Sirius swallowed, “Yeah, I guess I thought about it…but I didn’t really think it would happen,” he said nervously.
James growled impatiently, “You’re an idiot,” he muttered.
“I still don’t see why you’re making such a huge deal out of…”
“Just think for a moment, Sirius, use your head for just one second and think what could have happened,” James snapped, pacing angrily, “Think, just think if Snape had been killed then there would have been an inquest, you’d be expelled, probably on your way to Azkaban right now, Peter too and Remus…” James looked like he might burst into flame, “Did you even think what might happen to Remus if he’d killed him?! You don’t think that maybe Remus would have to live with that everyday, knowing that he’d killed someone?! If he was even allowed to live, you do know what they do to werewolves that have killed people, right?!” James shook his head, “Remus is terrified of hurting people…tonight you treated him as a monster, just so you could get back at Snape,” he said softly.
Sirius heart stopped, blood drained from his face as he realised. “Oh,” he said softly.
James nodded, “That’s right, Oh, you could have handed him a death sentence, nice to know that if you don’t at least care about Snape’s life you don’t even consider your best friends’” he yelled at the cringing Sirius.
Sirius sank into a chair, suddenly quite unable to move. James sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his shaking hands, he looked up at Sirius who was pale and rigid, not daring to move…James didn’t even think he was blinking…but then again he thought angrily, I wouldn’t know, I can’t see damn thing without my glasses.
James wiped a hand down his face, resting it over his mouth contemplatively; after Sirius had left he had stumbled around in the dark for a couple of minutes before tripping over Snape, he had picked him up, and heaved him back to the castle…getting back to the door from memory. Being somewhat distracted he had run straight into Dumbledore, who had then taken over, James had followed anxiously, people looking at Snape and whispering, James didn’t notice, he was far too scared to think of anything else but the task at hand…Snape had even less colour in his pallid face: he looked dead.
“Snape is okay, just a couple of bruises from the Whomping Willow,” he said feeling a twinge from his own bruise, he stared straight ahead, not daring to look at Sirius, “he saw Remus…he knows what he is…Dumbledore is trying to sort it out now,” he sighed, rubbing his face again, “I’ve got to get back now.” He stood up, Sirius did the same but James glared at him, “You’re not coming,” he told him and Sirius looked at him confusedly, “You’ll incriminate yourself further if you come and…”he paused, but he never looked away from Sirius’s eyes, “I don’t want to be in the same room as you right now,” he said coldly, turning from the room and leaving Sirius standing by himself, James looked at him one last time as he stepped out of the door, Sirius forced himself to look back, but in seeing the disappointment, disgust and the…the fear, he turned away, ashamed.
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