Professor Keenan was starting to believe that if his Hogwarts teaching career didn’t work out, he might have enough experience to be a detective or try his hand at criminal investigation. He didn’t know if it was like this every year, but there seemed to be constantly circumstances that required some sort of investigation. If he’d had an office job in the Ministry, instead of teaching, he would have never found himself piecing together bits of information to get to the truth or questioning students to try to glean motivation.
Currently he was looking into two things and they both centered on Sirius Black. The first had to with the cursed school bag that had injured Sirius. The investigation was still ongoing and unfortunately they were no closer to apprehending the perpetrator.
As required, Dumbledore had alerted the Ministry, but they seemed to believe it would be a waste of their valuable resources to send a Ministry Official over. Though traces of Dark Magic were found both on Sirius and his bag, by the time Professor Keenan had looked them over, the magic was at harmless levels. Keenan knew the Headmaster preferred to investigate on his own, but he wondered if Ministry’s apathy to the incident had to do with the fact the victim was Sirius Black.
The quick dissipation of the Dark Magic gave him some information about the castor. The witch or wizard was either a novice of Dark Magic and hadn’t the mental strength to put full power behind the spell; or the castor had purposely done this so the source of the spell would not be easily traced. It was unlikely they would catch the person, unless someone developed a conscience and either turned themselves in or came forward with information.
Right now Keenan had other things on his mind. He was trying to figure out who, wearing a cloak with the Black family crest, had destroyed the trophy room. He had originally thought this investigation would be easier than the other, but he wasn’t so sure.
The Black brothers stood before him, so alike in some ways and so unalike in others. The tension between the brothers could be cut with a blade, and they refused to look at each other. Of course, Keenan knew the tension had to do with what had happened over winter break, and not because they were standing before him.
Sirius acted the more guilty party. His defenses were up, and his dislike of Keenan evident. Regulus from the moment he had entered had spoken politely and respectfully. He had answered each of Keenan’s questions, even though he was lying. In truth, Keenan suspected both boys were lying. He just wasn’t sure what they were lying about. Were they lying about their own involvement or covering up for a friend? Or about something entirely different?
Regulus had known exactly the reasoning for his summoning. The Slytherin had entered with a story too well-rehearsed to be the truth about his cloak having been missing for a few days. He stated he hadn’t reported the missing item because he expected it would turn up. Regulus, however, had a stronger alibi than Sirius. He had been having tea with Professor Slughorn and other members of his ‘Slug Club’, as the students liked to refer to it.
Despite other signs pointing to Sirius, Keenan did not believe the boy was guilty. He had questioned the portraits himself, and they had all been adamant that the person wearing the Black family crest robe had been ‘tall’ (at least taller than thirteen year old Regulus). Sirius though since his punishment had been very well behaved in class and it seemed very careless of him to flirt with expulsion by ruining the trophy room. Sirius’s alibi might not be a Professor, but Remus Lupin was a prefect, well regarded by the staff, and trustworthy. The boys might have been friends, but taking into account what had transpired between them, it was unlikely Lupin would lie for his friend.
So Keenan continued to press Regulus for answers believing the truth lay with him. He was leaning towards the possibility of Regulus loaning his cloak to a housemate. It was up for debate whether Regulus had known it would be used to frame his brother or whether he had been kept in the dark. “Are you sure that your cloak is missing? Perhaps you forgot that you loaned it to a friend?”
Regulus appeared unconcerned about his line of question, answering politely, “I am sure, sir. I had my cloak last week. I don’t think I’d forget I loaned it over such a short amount of time.”
Through the interview Keenan had been trying to mask his impatience, but it was becoming more difficult. “Please explain to me then how someone wearing a cloak with your family crest on it was seen demolishing the trophy room if neither of you has done it?”
“I think it’s obvious,” Sirius declared. “Someone was trying to frame me.” He looked pointedly at his brother.
“Or maybe you were trying to frame me,” Regulus snapped back.
“If I wanted to get back at you, I wouldn’t go about it in such a convoluted way. Everyone would know it was me,” Sirius voiced.
Regulus glared. “I told you my cloak is missing. If someone borrowed it and tried to frame you, I am not responsible.”
“Very convenient,” Sirius muttered.
“Look, I haven’t been involved in any of it,” Regulus said; there was a pleading to his tone.
Sirius stared at his brother and then scoffed. “I don’t believe that for a second.”
Regulus bit his lip looking upset. “I haven’t. Someone took my cloak and I wasn’t even in the library that day. I haven’t asked anyone to hex you. They’ve been doing it all on their own.”
“You haven’t tried to stop them either!”
The younger boy’s face hardened. “Why should I? You’re no more than a Gryffindor bloodtraitor to me!”
Sirius’s eyes flashed angrily. It appeared the brothers had forgotten they were standing in front of a teacher. They were both clutching their wands, and nervous a duel was about to erupt, Professor Keenan cleared this throat loudly.
Sirius and Regulus momentarily stopped scowling at each other and looked at him; Sirius unreadable and Regulus guiltily.
“I hope Regulus, if you have any information about the trophy room, your brother’s hexed school bag, or any other incident that you would come forward. I can assure you that your identity would be kept secret.”
“I’ve already told you all I know, sir,” Regulus insisted resolutely.
Keenan had left the trophy room in disarray. He had wanted the guilty party to help with the clean-up, even if most of it could only be repaired with magic. He only had enough evidence to put Sirius in detention and he didn’t see the point in it. Sirius was up to his neck in detentions already, and Keenan’s gut was still telling him he was innocent. He’d already surveyed the damage and it would be easy to put everything back together.
Keenan dismissed Regulus and instructed Sirius to finish his detention task. It had been his turn to oversee him. He decided he would inform the other Professors, particularly those Head of Houses, to keep an ear out for information. There was always the possibility that the guilty person believing he or she had gotten away with it would brag about it.
If not, it might very well remain unsolved. Keenan watched as Sirius squeezed the sponge he was using to wipe the blackboard. Black’s task today had been a general cleaning of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. He looked back at the large stack of seventh year exams he had yet to grade. He had wasted enough time, and he really should get back to his real teacher’s duties.
Sirius returned from detention, not grumbling about the task which hadn’t been that demanding, but the conversation with his brother. He didn’t remember how it had happened, but Keenan’s questions about the trophy room had rapidly delved into more personal matters.
It had been the first time he had spoken to Regulus since he had run away. Sirius hadn’t had hopes that their relationship would ever be mended, which was why he hadn’t expected his brother’s words that he was no more than a common ‘Gryffindor bloodtraitor’ to hurt. Regulus had always parroted their parents’ beliefs. If their parents didn’t acknowledge him as a member of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, then why would Regulus?
He let the portrait door close loudly behind him. Everyone in the common room looked his way and several students glared in annoyance. Sirius headed straight up to the dormitory when he didn’t spot James or Peter.
James and Peter were lying about in the dorm and they had a message for him from Remus. Remus wanted to talk. Borrowing James’s invisibility cloak so he wouldn’t be yelled at by the prefects for leaving the common room with curfew looming, Sirius headed to the spacious passage on the fourth floor behind the mirror.
He stood before the ornate mirror, the silver border glistening despite its old age, and squished the cloak into the inside pocket of his robe. He didn’t know what to expect from Remus. Would he be angry and furious? Or would he be cold and indifferent? There was only one way to find out. He took a deep breath and found the latch behind the mirror.
Remus was seated comfortably and sipping a butterbeer. The boys after finding this hidden room had stashed a bunch of old, but comfortable cushions and pillows. Remus had lit the cluster of candles in the middle of the room. It didn’t create an awful lot of light and the ominous shadows cast on the walls added to the building tension of the impending conversation.
Remus offered the second un-opened bottle to Sirius. Sirius took it unsurely. It was a friendlier gesture than he expected.
“Sit, if you’d like,” Remus said.
Sirius quickly arranged a few of remaining cushions and took a seat. The loud snap of the bottle opening reverberated in the room and the silence after seemed emphasized as the boys sat sipping quietly.
Sirius wasn’t sure if he should say something or wait for Remus to begin when he was ready. Before he could decide, Remus cleared his throat. “The rock. Why was there a rock in your bag?”
Sirius stared blankly at Remus for a moment. Of all the things they needed to speak about Remus wanted to focus on the bloody rock?
Remus crossed his arms, sternly. He was more intimidating as prefect than he realized as James and Sirius did not get fazed by authority. “Don’t think I believed that tale you told Professor Keenan about a bet with James.”
“Oh – oh,” Sirius said, realization dawning. “You think I did it?”
“Didn’t you? The robes, the rock, and you were out of breath.”
“I was out of breath because I was running and I was running because I was late,” Sirius replied.
“Doesn’t explain the rock,” Remus argued.
Sirius studied the werewolf before him. He didn’t care so much about proving his innocence. There was only one big question on his mind. “Then why?”
“Why’d you cover for me then?” Sirius asked. “If you think I did it, why’d you cover for me?”
“I don’t know,” Remus replied softly. He was fiddling with the bottle in his hands and he took a long swig of butterbeer.
“It’s not really my style anyway,” Sirius continued. “Wrecking the trophy room for what cause? If anything I’d bewitch the trophies to dance or change the spellings of the prefects and headboys to funny words…”
“So why was there a rock in your bag?”
“Sent to me by owl. I thought it was suspicious and I should have gotten rid of it, but I didn’t. Professor Keenan seems to want to believe in my innocence as well. I’m sure your word helped, but even still he has enough evidence against me to at least put me in detention. He didn’t though.”
“Someone set you up,” Remus said and by his tone Sirius couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement.
“My brother’s identical cloak was missing… or so he says. Pretty much means anyone could have stolen it and used it to frame either one of us. Though I know it was me and not him they were framing. He wasn’t lugging a rock around the school all day.”
Remus looked puzzled by something. “Why were you wearing that cloak anyway? With the family’s crest?”
“What do you mean?”
“You have other cloaks. You were…disowned,” Remus began tentatively. “You ran away from them. Why wear their symbol?”
“We’re only allowed to wear black cloaks, you know that,” Sirius said. His tone was cold and he suddenly felt defensive. “And it’s my cloak; why shouldn’t I wear it?”
“Because you’ve always made a fuss before all this that the Black family crest was on everything you owned. You hated that.”
“I just wanted to,” Sirius replied crossly.
Remus had a valid point. The fact of the matter was he was having two opposing schools of thought. At times he wanted nothing to do with his family; he wanted to be known as just Sirius, no last name, no ties to any history, but his own. Then he found himself wanting everyone to know where he came from. He wanted to tell the world that yes he was a Black and a blood traitor, and then do things that would make his bigoted relatives role over in their graves.
Either way he’d show his parents that he could make a difference without them. His mother would screech and rage unable to do anything else but stare at the burnt hole where his name used to be on the family tapestry. His father would lock himself in his study and realize that his disowned son was really out of the reach of his dwindling political power.
Of course, he was far from any of that happening. At the moment he was nothing more than a troubled runaway from a powerful pureblood family. He stared unhappily at the dusty floor.
Remus had nothing more to say on the matter and a silence fell over them. It seemed neither wanted to delve into the subject of the prank. It was then Sirius noticed Remus was looking peaky; full moon peaky. Remus’s skin had taken on the usual paleness and there were bags under his blue eyes. Sirius supposed since he wasn’t the wronged party he should be the one to take the leap.
“How many more days?”
Remus knew immediately what he was asking and answered abruptly, “Four.”
“We could still-”
“Come with me?” Remus asked. His voice was hollow and his eyes burned intensely. “That will never happen again.”
Sirius thought of the horrible transformations Remus had endured before this year. Remus had only a half a year of reprieve and he’d ruined it. “I’m sorry.” It jumped out of his mouth. He’d never said those words so easily, and his voice was slightly thick. “Remus, I’m so sorry.”
Remus was staring at him and he sighed loudly. “I want to forgive you. I miss – I miss our group. I miss our adventures…even the pranking…but-“
“But, I ruined it for us all,” Sirius finished wryly.
“It took me so long to trust anyone.”
“You didn’t though – trust us. We forced the truth out of you, if you remember. Would you have ever told us if we hadn’t figured it out?” Sirius thought back to the moment the truth had dawned on James and him; their monthly disappearing roommate was a werewolf.
“Does it matter? I trusted you after. I trusted you with my fears. I trusted you’d keep me away from humans during our adventures.” Remus shook his head. “How could you? You knew – you know – the one thing I was frightened of the most was biting someone.” Remus’s voice shook…though Sirius couldn’t tell if it was in repressed anger or in anguish.
Sirius swallowed. He wished he had an excuse to give Remus, but he didn’t. He felt ill. He felt horrible. “What do you want me to say?”
Remus let out a bitter sounding noise. “Are you serious? You want me to tell you what to say? If you don’t know then clearly this conversation is pointless.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I don’t think I can give you what you want to hear.”
“And what is it that I want to hear?” demanded Remus.
“You want me to tell you it was all a bad dream – that I never told Snape and that none of it ever happened.”
Remus tensed and shifted in his seat.
Sirius gave Remus a long and hard look. “And I can’t do that. I can’t go back in time. I can’t change what I said. If that’s what you are looking for then yes this conversation is pointless. ”
Remus had been staring at the floor while Sirius had spoken and he now lifted his head up. “I want – I want to know why…because I can’t understand it. One day you’re ripping the Daily Prophet into shreds because of an opinion editorial in favor of compulsory werewolf registration and – and the next day you tell Snape how to get to me while I’m transformed. How can you explain that?”
Sirius was at a loss for words. He scrambled to explain. “I just – it was – special circumstances.”
“Since when has reprimand by a teacher ever bothered you?” questioned Remus harshly.
“He called in my mother.”
“I know that, but so what?”
Sirius took a deep breath. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he knew what he needed to say. “Something happened during the meeting that I didn’t even tell James about.” Sirius paused. He never shared the darker parts of the Black family with Remus and Peter. They knew bits and pieces, but never the full extent of the disappointment he was to his family. “After Keenan told my mother how unruly my behavior had gotten, she gave him a strap. A strap to use to discipline me.”
There was an unreadable expression in Remus’s eyes. Sirius plunged on knowing if he didn’t continue he might not be able to. “I was so humiliated and very angry, but mostly humiliated. I knew the humiliation was only a taste of what my mother had in store for me when I returned home. I knew I’d pay dearly for Keenan calling her in.”
Remus had gripped the bottle in his hand tightly. “Your mother, she uses a strap often on you?” Remus’s voice was soft and pained.
“Never. She’s never used a strap.”
“She’s struck you before though?” He leaned forward.
“Yes, she, my father, my tutor…but not often. Nothing too awful…just a snap of a ruler on my hands for gazing outside instead of paying attention to home lessons – instances like that. It was more of a common form of discipline before Hogwarts…” He could feel his face reddening. It had never been easy for him to talk about that sort of thing.
“How did Professor Keenan react?”
“Like you, he wanted to know if she used it on me before. I told him to leave me alone and I ran. Then Snape appeared-”
Sirius stopped. He felt a bit short of breath. He glanced over at Remus, wondering how to continue. Speaking about the next part would not be any easier than it had been to speak about his mother’s visit.
“Well go on,” Remus said leaning his back against the wall again. There was a different look in his eyes now and Sirius hoped it wasn’t pity. He didn’t want to be forgiven if it meant Remus pitied his situation. Still Sirius continued telling Remus about the confrontation; his fear that Snape had known Remus was a werewolf, Snape believing they snuck out to meet Remus on full moon nights and the resulting words.
Remus listened carefully and didn’t interject until the end. “Snape actually said he could find me near the Whomping Willow?”
Remus looked as shaken as Sirius had remembered feeling. “H-how could he possibly know that?”
“I suppose we weren’t as careful as we thought,” Sirius said
“If what you say is true – if Snape was that close to knowing about it all then – then why give him the very information he was seeking? How would telling him how to immobilize the Whomping Willow in any way hinder his pursuit?”
It was similar to what James had asked him during their ‘talk’, and he still didn’t have a proper answer. “First I didn’t know he’d take the bait. I thought telling him something might be enough to get him to think we weren’t hiding anything. And if he did, I thought if he heard the howling-“
“Yes, if he heard your howling it would frighten him enough that he’d realize there would be a price to pay with meddling in our lives. I felt it would be poetic justice, even, that it would be the sounds of your transformation – one of the things he wanted to verify – that would be the thing to frighten him.”
“I could have killed him! Or worse I could have bitten him…turned him into-“ Remus raked his hand roughly through his light brown hair unable to say the word werewolf. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
“I know. I know. I wasn’t thinking.” Sirius ran a hand through his own hair. His voice had a pleading note to it. “I was trying to protect you. I know it doesn’t sound like it…but it was because I didn’t think through the consequences. It terrified me to think Snape even had the slightest hint about the truth of your disappearances. Do you know the sort of people Snape hangs around? If he told any one of them…”
“Your plan couldn’t have failed any more spectacularly. Snape knows what I am. He knows where I transform. I almost attacked him and he could be telling the very same people you were afraid he’d tell about me this very moment.”
“The thing is he hasn’t told anyone, has he? I thought it was strange. I suspect Dumbledore has something on him. He wouldn’t keep his word just for the sake of it.”
“Or he’s waiting for the most opportune moment. Waiting to tell when we least expect it.” Remus shook his head. “I have to live with that possibility. I have to live with the fear he could shout it out at any moment, and when he does, I’ll be forced to leave.”
A lump was forming in Sirius’s throat. He could see how upset Remus was and it was his fault. He knew he could be a bit of selfish berk, but for years his friends had been more of a family to him than his own blood. He’d never meant to hurt Remus like this. To make himself feel better as much as Remus, he asserted, “Dumbledore wouldn’t allow it.”
“Dumbledore wouldn’t be able to stop it. Not with all the letters from the parents about a Dark Creature attending classes with their precious children-“ Sirius was about to open his mouth to protest. “And don’t- don’t say I’m not a Dark Creature. Because I am. It’s a part of me.”
“A part of you, but it doesn’t define you.”
“It has and will continue to affect every aspect of my life. Saying it doesn’t or wishing it doesn’t will not change the truth.” By the end of the sentence Remus was breathing heavily, have worked himself to an agitated state.
Sirius never knew exactly what to say when Remus got like this. He always tried to argue that it didn’t matter, but he knew better than anyone that it did matter. The wizarding world was full of prejudices and the rise of Voldemort was giving these prejudices a legal stepping stone.
Sirius sighed heavily. “I wish there was some way to alter Snape’s memory of your secret. Even if it meant in exchange, he’d know something awful about me. I’d tell him about the strap. I’d let him tell the whole school; if only he’d be unable to speak the truth about you.”
“What happened to you believing Dumbledore had something on Snape?” Remus asked wryly, having now brought his breathing under control.
“I just hope that’s the case. If you get kicked out of school because of me… I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably drop out too.”
“A right pair we’d make. A werewolf and a bloodtraitor. No OWLs. No NEWTs. Ten sickles between us.”
It was a wonder Remus was able to interject any humor into his tone, and Sirius wasn’t sure how to react to it. Joke back or stay serious?
“I have some gold. I’d give it all to you,” Sirius offered, going for serious.
“Let’s hope Snape is a more honorable person than we think,” Remus said softly. “Let’s hope your first instinct is correct.”
Sirius sat still again wishing he knew what Remus was thinking. He had nothing else to say. He took a few quick sips of his butterbeer that he hadn’t touched since they’d begun speaking.
“I still need some time to think things over.”
Remus glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late. Past curfew even.”
“James gave me the cloak,” Sirius said and he produced it. “It will be a tight fit, but-”
“If I’m ever with James and Peter, you don’t have to go off by yourself. You can join us.”
“Ok,’ Sirius murmured smiling slightly. It was more than he had hoped for in the beginning of the conversation. It was probably more than he deserved.
“I suppose I have been acting cowardly. Avoiding you, and leaving the room when you were in it,” Remus admitted.
“I understand why you did. Don’t worry about it,” Sirius said.
Remus looked at him strangely. “James was right,” he mused.
Sirius looked up in confusion.
“I’ve never seen you so - I suppose ashamed – of something you’ve done. It’s odd.”
“I’ve never done something this awful before.”
“Both James and you have done plenty of questionable things,” Remus remarked. “Honestly at first I didn’t believe you were sorry about what you did at all. Half expected you to even today tell me Snape is a greasy git who deserved what he got.”
Sirius couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “I still think Snape is a greasy git.”
There was a flicker of laughter in Remus’s eyes. “Suppose I can’t expect miracles.”
“I didn’t want him killed. And I didn’t want him bitten,” Sirius reaffirmed.
Remus nodded. “I know.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I think that’s enough for today. I really am exhausted…with the full moon so close.”
Sirius nodded and also stood. Remus snuffed the candles, and Sirius slid the mirror open after ensuring the hallway was clear. Out in the corridor Sirius threw the cloak over them. The years of practice of sneaking in pairs under the cloak had not been lost because of their fight, and the two Gryffindors quickly and easily, in tune with each other’s pace, weaved their way back to the Gryffindor Tower without a hitch.
They were forced to show themselves at the Tower entrance to give the Fat Lady the password. She scolded them for being out of bed, but let them in once they stated the password.
Sirius expected an empty or at least a prefect-free common room (they’d passed the Gryffindor six year prefects patrolling on the staircase between the fourth and fifth floor), only to hear –
“Black!” It was Lily Evans. She had her hands on her hips and Sirius was sure she was about to go on a tirade about being out after curfew when she saw Remus. “Lupin?”
“Hey, Evans,” Remus said with a small smile.
“It’s past curfew!” Lily admonished. As Remus wasn’t patrolling he could get in just as much trouble as any regular student for being out and about.
“I know,” Remus said giving Sirius a look to keep quiet. “It’s just…Sirius and I needed to talk.”
Sirius was amazed to see Evans’ gaze soften slightly.
“The common room is no place for that. And even the dorm doesn’t guarantee absolute privacy.”
“So you’ve made up then?” she asked eyeing the two boys before her.
Remus looked at Sirius and back at Lily. “Not quite, but we’re heading in that direction.”
“All right then,” Lily said. “I won’t write you up this time.”
“Thanks Evans. Good night.”
“Good night, Lupin.” She sighed heavily as if the next thing she was about to do was a particularly difficult task. “Good night, Black.”
“Night, Evans,” Sirius said unable to hide a grin. He followed Remus up to the dorm, and when he looked back he could see Lily smiling as well.
Author’s note: Yay! Remus and Sirius talked. Surprisingly it wasn’t as hard to write as James and Sirius talk. You’ll note the absence of any talk about Sirius running away besides when the cloak was mentioned. It will come later; I thought it would be too much to add for the moment. I’d love to know what you thought about the chapter! Please leave a review. Each one makes my day brighter!