Chapter 2 : Chapter Two
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In which the Marauders begin reading, and make a terrible discovery
Even though they weren’t entirely sure what they needed, the Room of Requirement clearly knew. It somewhat resembled a common room; there was a pile of large squashy cushions and beanbags in one corner for them to sit on, large arched windows in the far wall with plenty of natural light spilling through and a fireplace in one wall, in which orange flames were crackling gently away, filling the small and cozy room with a pleasant warmth. It was a perfectly private nook for them to sit and read.
“I love this room,” Sirius sighed contentedly, flopping down on a cushion striped in the Gryffindor colours of red-and-gold.
“It is rather handy,” Remus agreed, settling himself down in one corner.
The Marauders had discovered the room the previous year, though they had been searching for it for a long time. Remus had come across references to the ‘Come and Go’ room in their fourth year, but none of them had thought much of it until their fifth year, when they had explored every nook and cranny of the castle to create their map. When they couldn’t initially find the room, James and Sirius had become obsessed. They had spent hours talking to every ghost in Hogwarts, while Remus poured over books in the library. It was easy enough to find out where the room was supposed to be - but getting in proved to be problematic. Finally, around Easter in their sixth year, they had worked out how to open the room, and ever since it had become a regular haunt of theirs; it was safe from both teachers and other students, preferable when they were discussing things that would get them into serious trouble if they were overheard.
Closing the door, James crossed the room to sit opposite his friends in a sort of triangle. He set the book down between them, meeting his friends’ eyes with uncharacteristic seriousness. They all knew it must have taken rare and powerful magic to bring the book twenty years into the past - if it was, indeed, genuinely from nineteen ninety seven - and it wasn’t something to be taken lightly. They had no idea what sort of information might be contained with its pages.
Taking a deep breath, James reached out to open the cover. He lifted it about a quarter inch when Remus’ hand darted out and hovered just over his. He paused, looking up at his friend.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” The familiar worry-line was etched into Remus’ forehead. “You might not like what you find out.”
James knew that Remus’ concern did not stem from a lack of curiosity on his part. If anything, he was certain that Remus would be burning up with the desire to know if in the next twenty years they discovered a cure for the werewolf curse. But shortly before the holidays they had been learning about time-turners, and the dangers that came with tampering with the past. Reading this book could well prove just as dangerous. But, James reminded himself, if he was right then reading this book would be changing the future and ... well, they did that all the time, just by making choices, didn’t they?
Merlin, that sounded frighteningly close to something Dumbledore might say.
“I know,” he said to Remus. “But I have to know. Don’t you?”
He held the werewolf’s gaze for a long moment, then slowly Remus drew his hand back in and nodded. James gave him a small, reassuring smile and looked back to the book. He took another deep breath -- and Sirius gave a loud groan of frustration.
“Oh, come on! Let’s just read the thing already!”
The outburst broke through the tension in the room as effectively as a sledgehammer breaking through a window, and both James and Remus found themselves chuckling. When he finished laughing, James grinned and put his hands up in defeat.
“Alright, alright. Reading the thing.” He quickly opened the book before there could be any more protests and flicked through the pages until he found the first chapter. “Okay, here we go. ‘Chapter One. The Boy Who Lived’ ....”
“The boy who lived?” Sirius repeated, raising an eyebrow and sounding thoroughly unimpressed. When his friends looked at him, he shrugged. “Well there’s not anything particularly unusual about living, is there?”
Remus gave a faint smile. “Maybe there is, in this case. Maybe we’ll find out, if you let James just ‘read the thing’.”
Sirius gave a disgruntled huff, but there was a sparkle of amusement in his eye as he slumped back on the cushions and gestured for James to continue. Grinning, James gave a mock bow of diffidence and started reading again. The first characters introduced were a Mr and Mrs Dursley - who, according the book, were ‘perfectly normal’ and proud of it.
“Interesting,” Remus murmured, despite his early admonishment to Sirius for interrupting. “They’re muggles, presumably?”
James scanned down the page, reading the description of the couple and their son. “Looks like, yeah.”
“This is stupid,” Sirius said flatly. “What’s this got to do with any of us? It --”
But James was waving at him to be quiet. He broke off, looking faintly irritated, and waited for his friend to explain.
“Here. Just listen.”
He read the next part eagerly. Mr and Mrs Dursley had a secret, it seemed. Something to do with a couple whose last name was Potter. Glancing up from the page, James was pleased to see that had caught the others’ attention. Both Sirius and Remus had sat up a little straighter, and were listening intently as James continued. Nothing specific was said about the Potters, unfortunately, other than that Mrs Potter was Mrs Dursley’s sister and that they were nothing like their in-laws.
“These aren’t particularly pleasant people, are they?” Remus mused.
“‘UnDursleyish’,” Sirius scoffed at the description of the Potters, shaking his head. “That isn’t even a word. I’d much rather be a Potter than a Dursley.”
James, far from being upset by the insult in the book, was looking at both his friends with bright, eager eyes. “You see? This proves it. It has be from the future.” When the other two boys looked nonplussed, he sighed and elaborated. “My family’s pureblood. There aren’t any muggles anywhere on my family tree. This Mrs Potter is a muggleborn, right? So she has to be my wife.”
Remus looked less than convinced. “That doesn’t make it real, James ...”
The bespectacled boy looked to Sirius for support, but his best friend was eyeing him with a knowing smile. “Oh, I get it. You think this muggleborn wife of yours is Evans, don’t you? That’s why you’re so desperate to believe it.”
James flushed. It was true that the possibility that, if he did marry a muggleborn, it might be Lily had crossed his mind. Of course it would. But that wasn’t the reason for the solid, irrational, but unyielding belief in his stomach that the book in his hands was real. That it really was from the future, and about his son. Somehow, he just knew it was.
“I know Lily is a muggleborn, and has a sister, but someone could be playing on that,” Remus said, taking his silence as a yes. “Using it against you.”
“It’s not that,” James shook his head. “It’s just ... I just ... believe it. Okay?”
Sirius and Remus exchanged a worried look, but silently nodded and let James continue reading. If the Mr and Mrs Potter of the book were indeed James and his future wife, it seemed that their friend would eventually have a son of his own - a son that, of course, the Dursleys didn’t approve of (all three of them couldn’t help wondering at this point if there was anything the Dursleys did approve of).
Both Sirius’ and Remus’ lips thinned. They still weren’t sure what the book was, but they both thought that if it really was about James’ son then he would no doubt be a brilliant child.
Whoever had written the book was clearly setting the scene for something, and the mention of a owl flying unnoticed past the Dursleys’ kitchen window only seemed to confirm that it was something to do with the wizarding world. Glancing at the others, Remus questioningly raised his eyebrows. They met his gaze with slight nods, clearly also feeling the slightly ominous undertone.
Unfortunately, it seemed they were to be left in the dark for a while as they followed Mr Dursley through his day, beginning with his son throwing his breakfast at the walls without his parents minding. Sirius shook his head, making a noise of disgust in the back of his throat. He knew that children threw tantrums, but any parent worth their salt wouldn’t praise such a display of temper. Even his mother wouldn’t indulge Regulus that much, and as far as she was concerned Sirius’ little brother could do no wrong. Unlike her firstborn.
From the looks on James’ and Remus’ faces, they were similarly unimpressed by the Dursleys’ parenting skills.
Not liking the Dursleys very much - or, indeed, at all - Sirius was of a mind to suggest they ditch the book and do something fun, until his ears pricked up at the mention of a cat reading a map. The notion of such a thing was obviously not acceptable to Mr Dursley, nor was the idea that the cat would then check the road sign to make sure it was in the right place. From the sound of narrative, Mr Dursley was trying with dignity to talk himself into thinking that his eyes were deceiving him as he left for work.
Very slight smiles were curving the Marauders’ mouths by this point. They looked at each other, the same knowing gleam in all their eyes. Remus was the first to speak, amusement clear in his voice. “An animagus, do you think?”
“Most likely,” James nodded. “And there’s only one animagus I know of that becomes a tabby cat.”
Sirius’ face cracked into a wide grin. “Minnie.”
For all the head of their house was constantly disciplining them for their extra-curricular activities and bemoaning their lack of academic drive, the Marauders and Professor McGonagall held a strange sort of affection for one another. McGonagall was someone the boys couldn’t help but admire, even if they did wish she was a little less strict at times, and they suspected that even if she didn’t approve of everything they got up to that McGonagall did in fact like them. After all, they earned Gryffindor at least as many house points as they lost, James had helped Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup twice during his time at Hogwarts (McGonagall’s passion for the sport being another reason they just couldn’t dislike her) and he also had a particular affinity for Transfiguration, McGonagall’s own subject.
The initial pleasure at seeing McGongall in the book, however, was soon followed by puzzlement.
“What’s Minnie doing on a muggle street?” Sirius glanced at the others.
Remus’ brows drew together in a faint frown. “I don’t know ... it’s presumably something to do with the Dursleys, if they are connected to the Potters. But what?”
They all shared a look that they didn’t know, but wanted to find out.
Something, in fact, seemed to be causing the entire wizarding world to act unusually - at least assuming the large groups of people in cloaks that so enraged Mr Dursley were, in fact, wizards.
“I take it,” James broke into his own narrative, “that muggles don’t wear cloaks?”
Smiling, Remus shook his head. “Not generally, no. It’s odd, though. Usually when wizards are in muggle society they take more care with their clothing.”
“They were whispering about something,” Sirius pointed out. “Maybe whatever it is has them too distracted to think about anti-muggle security.”
That gave them pause for thought; there couldn’t be much that would be so momentous that large groups of wizards would be uncaring about anti-muggle security. But, perhaps they were jumping to conclusions. Mr Dursley had only seen a few people while he was sat in his car, after all.
It quickly came to seem however, that they were not. Mr Dursley remained blissfully oblivious to the scores of owls that could only be carrying messages across the country from wizard to wizard, but the narration made it very clear that it was sufficient to bemuse even muggles who weren’t likely to be naturally suspicious of such an unusual event.
“I think you must be right, Padfoot,” Remus said softly. “Something very big is happening.”
They looked at each other. All of them could only think of one thing that would having the wizarding world in such an uproar that they would forget the risk of muggles finding out about them. But none of them could bring themselves to say it out loud.
As Mr Dursley inadvertently overhead a group of wizards talking, the Marauders looked at each other uneasily. They all wondering the same thing: why were these wizards whispering about the Potters? Even had they not already been wary of the book, something about the way things were being set up was making them all feel nervous.
It was clear that Mr Dursley was also nervous, but again he tried to calm himself down - this time by convincing himself that his nephew was not, in fact, called Harry. The Marauders could all pretty much guarantee that this was not true, given the title of the book was Harry Potter and the Dursleys had to serve some function other that simply being dislikeable.
“That’s pretty disgusting, really,” James interrupted himself again, “Not knowing his own nephew’s name.”
He frowned down at the book as if it was Dursley himself, not noticing Remus’ faint headshake and only looking up when he spoke. “Is it really so surprising? It’s been made abundantly clear that the Dursleys hate the Potters ... you.” The last word was apologetic. “They’ve probably gone out of their way not to know anything about this child.”
James nodded slowly but he didn’t look satisfied. “Still ... to not know his name. Sirius’s parents have a tapestry with the whole family tree on it!”
Sirius snorted, looking towards them. The smile that curved his lips was darkly humorous, but also bitter. “Only the ones she approves of, remember? Ignoring the Potters is probably the Dursleys’ equivalent of my mum blasting disgraces to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black off that tapestry. Like me.”
There was a brief moment of awkward silence. Both James and Remus knew that despite his protestations of hatred for his family and their dark values, the fact that they had so completely disowned him had hurt him deeply. Neither of them could forget the look on his face when, on the train to Hogwarts at the beginning of their sixth year, after Sirius had, with James’ help, run away to the Potters’ during the summer, Regulus had quietly informed him that their mother had burned his name from the family tree and declared that he was dead to them. Much has he had disagreed with them, clashed with them and resented them, they had still been Sirius’ family.
“Besides,” Remus spoke softly, bringing them back to the present, “I would bet that Dursley, with his dislike of magic, is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t know his nephew’s name as much as anything.”
James gave a non committal murmur, but nonetheless started reading out Mr Dursley’s reflections on his wife’s relationship with her sister. Remus was frowning thoughtfully as he listened. He didn’t know much about Lily’s sister, but during one of their patrols together as prefects the previous year she had mentioned that the two of them did not get along. He remembered thinking that she sounded so wistfully sad, as if she wished there was some way to mend their relationship. He had to admit, it was sounding more and more as if James was right and that he did eventually get his shot with Lily.
And then, in the next two paragraphs, there it was. James almost fumbled the book as his eyes drifted ahead. “‘....You-Know-Who has gone at last!’”
There was a collective intake of breath from the three Marauders, and they looked at each other with wide eyes then back down at the book. They had wondered what it was all building up to. For a moment they sat in stunned disbelief and then - it wasn’t quite happiness that washed over them, more a sudden realisation, that one day, it would all be over, they would win this war, that left them feeling light headed. It was James that finally shook his head clear, looked up at his friends and said in a hushed, awed voice, “He’s gone. He goes. He really goes.”
“How?” Sirius said, kneeling up, all signs of lazy indifference now completely vanished. “Does it say how?”
“No,” James glanced down the page and shook his head. “Not yet.”
Remus sat back, lost for words. “We win ... it’s ... over” He trailed off. Then a faint frown flitted over his face. “I know they’re celebrating, but that wizard should still be cautious. Calling him a muggle to his face ....”
A sudden, barking laugh made them glance at Sirius. “I wonder if that was Flitwick? Small, squeaky voice. And he has a thing for violet.”
The three boys looked at each other, then all at once started laughing helplessly. They couldn’t rejoice, not exactly, not knowing that in their time Voldemort was still out there and gaining in power. But a strange release came with knowing that they would be free of him in the future. When they had finally collected themselves, James continued reading. They all grinned when Mr Dursley came across the cat once more, and especially when it gave him a ‘stern look’.
“Definitely Minnie,” Sirius chuckled appreciatively. “I bet she’d like to tell him just where to get off.”
He knew exactly the stern look that Mr Dursley was receiving, albeit in cat form - all three of them did. Professor McGongall turned it on them often enough whenever they were hauled up to her office for reprimanding on whatever the latest trick was that had ended them in detention. Lips thinned, nostrils flared, and her eyes flashed with the sort of disapproval that would make a plant wither in its pot.
Very few people could deliver a stern look like Minnie McGonagall.
James grinned and nodded.
Reading on, it became clear that it was not just Mr Dursley that had noticed something amiss. The muggle news reported various strange sightings that could have raised some very awkward questions.
“Really,” Remus shook his head, “It’s very irresponsible. Shooting stars, that many owls ... of course it’s going to attract attention. You’d think they would try to consider that.”
Lowering the book for a moment, James considered his friend thoughtfully. “Can you blame them? If You-Know-Who really has gone, then whatever the muggles are thinking is going to be the last thing on their minds right now. Besides, they’re already coming up with explanations for it.”
That was true, Remus had to admit. One of the few things they had learned from History of Magic was that muggles had a remarkable capacity for explaining away magical happenings - Mr Dursley was proof enough of that. And though the Ministry clearing wasn’t curbing a little celebration, they would make sure there was no real chance of the wizarding world being discovered.
“I suppose,” he said, smiling suddenly, “that breaking the rules every now and then isn’t so harmful ...”
“Exactly. It’s the Marauder way of life,” Sirius grinned. “Shooting stars does sound good though. Maybe we can fix something like that for when the exams are over?”
“If we ever finish this book, you mean?” James laughed, picking up where he had left off.
When the name ‘Potter’ cropped up again in the text, with a reminder of the wizards’ gossip, Remus put a hand up to pause him for a moment. “That is something. How exactly does your family fit in with You-Know-Who’s downfall, Prongs?”
James shrugged, looking down the page as if might contain answers. There was nothing yet, but maybe later on. Instead they were introduced a little further to Mrs Dursley, whose given name was Petunia. Though he didn’t say anything, James couldn’t help but wonder if this was more proof that this was actually Lily’s sister. He was sure she’d mentioned that her sister was named after a flower, too ...
If this really was Lily’s sister, Remus was thinking, then it was no wonder the two didn’t get along. Such a shrewish, unpleasant woman as Mrs Dursley seemed to be couldn’t be more different to Lily’s kind, warm nature. Glancing at James, he could see his friend wasn’t looking too pleased at the idea of having this woman as his sister-in-law.
As the Dursleys’ day drew to a close, the Marauders wondered if this chapter would give them any of the answers they wanted. When it mentioned the cat - whom they were all sure was McGonagall - was still sitting outside, they hoped that meant it would.
“Why is she there?” Sirius asked again, frowning. “What could be so important that she would sit as a cat in a muggle street all day?”
Remus shook his head, though he was beginning to get a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was beginning to occur to him that the Dursleys were being introduced in awful detail for a couple that had such a seemingly arbitrary connection to the Potters - and to Harry, whom the book was named after. “I have no idea.”
Following in his turn, James shrugged. “We’ll find out soon, I’d guess.”
Whatever what happening, the narrative made it clear, in a most ominous tone, that the Dursleys would be involved.
Judging from the expressions on James’ and Sirius’ faces, they, too, were beginning to realise something wasn’t quite adding up As for Remus, his stomach seemed to be tying itself in knots, and he couldn’t quite shake the irrational feeling of dread that crept quietly over him.
And then, finally, someone they knew. Long silver hair, half-moon glasses, robes. James was smiling as he read, “‘This man’s name was ...’”
“Albus Dumbledore?” Sirius finished.
Looking up from the page, James grinned and nodded. “How’d you guess?”
Remus gave a quiet chuckle. “Even if you hadn’t been grinning away from the moment you spotted his name, the description makes it quite clear who it is.”
Suddenly all three of them were a lot more alert. The appearance of people they knew was admittedly a lot more interesting that learning about the magic hating Dursleys, but it was more than that; somehow, they all sensed they were about to get the answers they were waiting for.
Despite feeling an explanation was near, Sirius was not above being distracted by the mention of Dumbledore’ Put-Outer.
“Now that sounds useful,” he remarked, looking impressed. “We could have used that going round Hogwarts at night. I mean, I know we have your cloak, Prongs, but even so.”
A mischievous light twinkled in James’ eyes. “Oh, yeah. Imagine Filch’s face if we put his lamp out with that.”
The two darker boys snickered, picturing just that. Across from them Remus shook his head. A smile was playing about his lips, but he couldn’t help thinking that, clever as the device obviously was, using it on Filch would only make it obvious when they were out of bed during the night. The invisibility cloak did, at least, make them inconspicuous.
When Dumbledore addressed the cat, the three boys smiled to find themselves proven right; it was, indeed, their Head of House.
And, to their relief, she immediately struck up a conversation about the war - the subject they were anxious to know about. When Dumbledore mentioned the length of the war James paused in his reading, to work out when that set the events of the book.
“Eleven years ...” Remus repeated in a disbelieving tone, leaning back against the wall.
“You-Know-Who’s already been around for seven years,” Sirius added, “That means this ... this happens in another four.”
They looked at each other, eyes wide. The publishing date at the beginning of the book had caused them to believe the events of the book were set twenty years into the future, or thereabouts - but of course, it made sense for them to be sooner. If Harry was only a baby at this point, presumably some years more had to pass before the main events of the books. And at least some time had to passed after Voldemort’s downfall before someone would write about it.
But Dumbledore’s exact words made Remus’ eyes narrow slightly. It seemed Voldemort was gone?
A shudder seemed to run through the room when James said You-Know-Who’s name aloud for the first time. Although all three of them knew that it was silly to be frightened of a name, the darkness surrounding that name made it seem so much more than that. And it was used so rarely, it just made it worse ... if any of the boys ever said it in the Gryffindor common room there would probably be several screams.
“He’s right, you know,” Remus said, referring to Dumbledore. “We should use the name.”
It wasn’t as simple as that, though. It was as if he was gone or powerless as they were reading this. They knew he was out there, alive and powerful. They knew what he was doing. Named or not, he was terrifying.
“Let’s just ... carry on,” James suggested, continuing to read the dialogue between Dumbledore and McGonagall. A puzzled frown flitted over his face as Dumbledore announced that he was blushing.
A strange sound, somewhere between disbelief and choking, came from the back of Sirius’ throat.
“No!” he said, “They’re not - are they - flirting? They can’t be! Minnie and Dumbledore?”
“That’s ... interesting ...” James ventured uncertainly, suddenly holding the book out at arm’s length. He looked towards Remus, who was shaking his head and chuckling at his friends’ reactions.
“No, no, I don’t think they are. It would be implying that Dumbledore’s been flirting with Madam Pomfrey, too. I think it’s just him.”
The other two looked less than convinced, but were willing to move on from speculating about Dumbledore’s possible love life. It was not a subject they particularly wanted to dwell on.
James rushed through the next few lines, having scanned briefly ahead and seeing that McGongall was finally getting to the point they were all waiting for: just how, exactly, Voldemort had been defeated, and what it had to do with the Potters.
All three Marauders were on the edge of their cushions, listening intently, as anxious for answers as the McGonagall in the book. When she mentioned Voldemort going after the Potters, there was a sharp intake of breath from Sirius and Remus. James’ voice had begun trembling, his hands shaking as they held the book, but he tried to press valiantly on.
“‘The rumour is that Lily and James Potter -’”
“No way!” Sirius exclaimed, momentarily distracted. “It does not say that. You just made that up!”
He snatched the book from James’ unprotesting hands, completely missing the way his friend suddenly blanched, his voice faltering, or the way Remus’ eyes were fixed on him with concerned dread. It didn’t occur to Sirius, either, that it was completely uncharacteristic for James not to be celebrating what may well be proof that he would finally win Evans - for there it was in black and white, Lily and James Potter.
Then he read the next four words.
“‘...are - that they’re - dead.’”
The only sound in the room was a quiet thunk as the book tumbled out of Sirius’ hands to the floor.
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