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Falling Star by Lioness06
Chapter 15 : Lounges and Lists
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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Chapter 15: Lounges and Lists

There was no time to think.

Sirius dropped to the ground. He’d been standing right next to a small table that had four chairs crowded around it. He scooted closer so that he could hide under it. James dived toward the same table even though if he had dived in other direction he would have had better cover. There was a chair between them as they both ducked semi-underneath the table.  James’s hazel eyes mirrored Sirius’s; a mixture of both worry and excitement about the predicament they were in.

James began slowly taking out his Invisibility Cloak, but he quickly realized it was too late to use it.  The Professors were entering the room and any movement could possibly catch their attention. Sirius waited tensely, listening carefully. Adrenaline surged through his veins, and he was only jolted further by the recognition of the voices; Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout had just walked in. McGonagall would be livid to find them in the Teacher’s lounge; especially when she realized he had skipped detention. James would be in equal trouble since he had been the one to lie about the illness.

McGonagall and Sprout headed over to where the boys had seen the two steaming tea cups; their focus was forward and not to the left where Sirius and James were. The teacher’s lounge was one of the few areas in the castle that the professors could let their guard down, so it was this fact more than luck that they were not spotted.

With the Professors backs turned, James took the opportunity to unfold the cloak, and he inched around the chair so he was on the same side as Sirius. Together they draped the Cloak over them. The rustling of the fabric sounded especially loud to Sirius and he was convinced that any minute McGonagall or Sprout would spin around and spot them. Once they successfully covered themselves, Sirius spared a moment to think of Peter. Peter had been close enough to duck into the cupboard and he hoped that Peter had enough sense to shut the tunnel door. If the Professors discovered the existence of the tunnel not only would they not be able to use it, but the Professors might then do a careful search of the lounge. 

Eventually McGonagall and Sprout picked up their teacups and looked for a table to sit at. Of course of all the tables in the room, they headed straight for the one they were next to. Sirius made a silent gesture to James who nodded in agreement. Very slowly the boys backed away from the table on their hands and knees (it was too much of risk to stand up at this point). They were just far enough away when Sprout pulled the very chair they’d been next to out from under and table and took a seat.

Sirius shared a look of relief with James. They were both breathing heavily, but if the Professors heard, they must have decided the noise wasn’t coming from students hiding under an Invisibility Cloak. The conversation between Sprout and McGonagall was very mundane. They complained about the weather and tests they needed to grade, and they discovered that Sprout was looking for a gift for her sibling.

There was a flurry of noise and more teachers entered the room. Sirius was surprised by this. It had never occurred to him that the Professors might actually socialize with each other during the evening. He thought they just did teaching duties every night like patrolling the corridors and grading papers in their private offices.

Flitwick and Keenan were two of the several teachers that had entered, and James and Sirius were forced to move again from their spot when Flitwick and Keenan chose the table they were now hidden near. James tapped him on the shoulder and Sirius looked at him inquiringly. James made a motion towards the cupboard. It did make sense that while the teacher’s lounge was bustling with activity for them to make an attempt to reach the tunnel. Unfortunately it was still too risky for them to try standing up, so they had to crawl across the room, constantly pausing to make sure the cloak didn’t slip or get caught under one of their limbs. At one point Flitwick went to the cupboard to grab biscuits and almost tripped right over them.

Though it took them quite a long time they eventually reached the safety of the cupboard. Quickly they stood, keeping the Cloak half on them. Sirius pushed against the wall, slipped from under the Cloak and crawled through. James came next and he wasted not a second before latching the door shut.

They stared at each other in the darkness and then erupted into laughter from relief. Sirius lit his wand. He half expected Peter to be waiting for them here, but clearly he had left. 

“I thought for sure we’d be caught!”

“I didn’t know McGonagall and Sprout were friends!”

After they went through a few more exclamations and discussed how lucky they were, they made the decision to head back down the tunnel. They were slightly delayed by the slanted pathway that Sirius had tumbled down. It took a running start to get enough momentum to reach the flatter area. As they were both much more athletic than Peter, Sirius wondered how he had managed to get up it.

Once out in the fifth floor corridor James insisted only Sirius wear the Cloak. There was still five minutes before curfew which James said would give them plenty of time to arrive to the common room. They made it through the corridors without a problem and as they neared the Portrait of the Fat Lady they noticed the floor littered with pamphlets. Sirius bent down to pick one up, careful to keep it under the Cloak. James had also grabbed one.

The front cover read: Truth About Mudbloods

There were slanted stripes across the first page in a muddy maroon color that was clearly meant to look like mud mixed with blood. Sirius stared at in disbelief before flipping through the pages. It didn’t take long to see it was filled with anti-Muggleborn propaganda. James was looking as appalled as he felt and before either of them could speak, Lily Evans stepped out.  

 “Potter?” She looked surprised to come face to face with James. Quickly her gaze travelled from James to the surrounding mess. “What did you do?!”

“Me?” James protested indignantly. “Have you looked at these?” James stepped closer to Evans thrusting a pamphlet at her. It didn’t take long for Evans to pale and look slightly sick.

“This is horrible,” she stated softly. She looked at James again. “Did you see who did this?”

James shook his head. “No. Sorry. It was like this when I got here.”

Lily sighed. “Help me pick them up. Then we’ll go find a Professor. Don’t want the younger students seeing these if we can help it.”

James agreed and he glanced behind him where Sirius stood. Evans had left the Portrait door open and Sirius understood that it was best he took this moment to slip up to the dorm. Peter was waiting nervously attempting to finish an essay. Sirius quickly filled him in on their discovery outside the Gryffindor Tower. James arrived back about twenty minutes later. He had found out that the pamphlets had been distributed outside each of the common rooms and by the Great Hall. The Professors had no leads and they were baffled how a student or groups of students had managed this feat without someone seeing them as this had all been done right before curfew of the fourth and fifth year students.

The pamphlets weight heavily on their minds to the point that Sirius forgot for an hour that it was a full moon night. Instead of strategizing about uses for the tunnel, the boys found themselves discussing the implication of the pamphlets. The mood in the dormitory stayed somber for the rest of the night and it took some time before Sirius was able to fall asleep.

***

Remus Lupin woke up alone in the isolation room of the Hospital Wing. It was nearing dusk; he’d been in and out of consciousness all morning and afternoon. His head throbbed and his throat felt like sandpaper. He drained the glass of water beside his bed. The small movement that it required set a ripple of pain through his body. He lay still waiting for it to pass and once it was gone he noticed a sharp pain in his upper thigh and a dull ache in the wrist and shoulder of his left arm.

He closed his eyes briefly only to snap them open when he heard the voices of his friends. Madam Pomfrey was with them and he overheard her sternly say, “I need to first check on him. Only if I feel he is strong enough for visitors may you then come in.”

Madam Pomfrey bustled in shutting the door firmly shut. Remus suspected if she had not his friends would have simply followed her in.

 “How are you feeling?” she asked gently. She laid a cool hand on his forehead.

“I’ve felt worse,” he managed.

“I have two potions for you to drink. It should help dull the pain.”

“How did I fair?” he asked as he took the first one.

“Nothing that won’t heal fully in time. There’s a large gash on your upper leg. You’ve sprained your wrist and injured your shoulder. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but your cheek is badly bruised and swollen. Besides some medication for inflammation that will have to go heal on its own. There are also the usual surface scratches.”

Remus nodded. He’d certainly had worse injuries after previous transformation. Madam Pomfrey waited patiently as he took small sips of the first and then second potion.

Handing her back the empty cups, he asked casually, “Are my friends out there?”

“Heard them, did you?”

“I told them they could visit.”

Madam Pomfrey frowned. “I want you to be honest. Are you really up for visitors?”

“Yes,” Remus responded immediately. He was tired and hurting, but he knew his friends would be anxious to see him.

Madam Pomfrey sighed. “No more than thirty minutes. You need still plenty of rest and I don’t want you overexcited.”

“Thank you.”

Madam Pomfrey opened the door to let James, Sirius, and Peter in. She told his friends the same thing she had just told him.

They entered the room all smiles and he saw them all falter at his appearance. James sat on the only chair in the room. Peter plopped on the corner of the bed. Sirius stayed standing, his body held stiffly and arms crossed.

“It looks worse than it is,” Remus insisted hoarsely.

James grimaced. “There will be no hiding that bruise on your face.” He suddenly grinned. “We’ll have to come up with some story about you single handedly defeated ten Death Eaters.”

Peter let out a laugh, but Sirius kept his expression guarded. Remus appreciated James’s attempt to lighten the mood.

 “How about trolls or giants?” Peter offered.

“I think I’ll just say that I clumsily fell down a flight of stairs,” Remus said smiling slightly.

“That’s boring,” Peter said.

“It needs to be heroic,” James agreed.  “Get the witches interested.”

Remus laughed. It caused a spasm of pain, but he didn’t care.

However Sirius noticed his grimace of pain. Quietly he asked, “Where else are you hurt?”

Remus rattled off to him the injuries as Madam Pomfrey had him. He watched Sirius’s reaction, but wasn’t sure what his friend was thinking.

“Not so bad,” James said.

“Sounds pretty bad to me,” Sirius mumbled.

“I’ll be healed in no time.” Remus didn’t want to dwell on his injuries. He wanted to talk about other things than the full moon. “So what did you do last night?”

He expected them all to moan and groan about how bored they’d been, but instead they exchanged glances. Remus knew something interesting had occurred. He looked inquiringly at James, but it was Peter who burst.

“We found a tunnel to the Teacher’s Lounge!”

“What?” Remus asked.

“When are you going to learn to tell a story properly? As in start from the beginning?” Sirius stated condescendingly.

Peter colored, but he didn’t hang his head as he might have a few years ago. “I thought you didn’t want Remus to know you skipped detention!”

Sirius scowled and Remus was sure he had just imagined the calculating gleam in Peter’s eyes.

Remus waited a moment, but when no one willingly stepped up to tell him more he spoke. “You skipped detention?”

“I was going to tell you,” Sirius responded defensively.

Remus looked from Sirius to James, and James to Sirius. Remus was filled with dread. How much trouble had Sirius gotten into? “Tell me you weren’t caught.”

“I wasn’t caught,” Sirius replied, and Remus couldn’t tell if he was lying or not.

“Truthfully?”

Sirius shrugged as it were little matter to him. “Appears I am in the clear. James told Professor Flitwick I was sick. He saw me this morning, asked me if I was better, and said I could make-up the detention on Monday.”

“He didn’t check to see if you were really ill? Ask for a note?”

“Professors had their hands full with other troublemakers,” Sirius answered.

Remus looked at Sirius curiously, but it was James who explained about the anti-Muggleborn pamphlets. They spent a few minutes on the topic, but Remus found himself wanting to know more about the tunnel they had discovered once he realized they really didn’t have any concrete information about source of the pamphlet distribution.

 Remus changed the topic back to the tunnel by stating, “So this exploring couldn’t wait for another night when Sirius didn’t have detention?”

James grinned. “We wanted a good story to tell you. And really what’s the harm? Sirius will still do the detention.”

Remus sighed. A lecture about following rules was on the tip of his tongue, but he knew it would be a waste of breath. James and Sirius didn’t view school rules the same way he did. They seemed to think the rules were there so that they could figure out ways to break them without being caught as entertainment. And he didn’t wish for Sirius to get into trouble, but he knew it would only verify in his friends’ minds that they were correct in their views.

“So what are you waiting for? Are you going to tell me the story or not?”

James laughed and began the story. He took turns with Sirius at parts, and Peter interjected here and there. Sirius visibly relaxed during the story telling and he drew closer to the bed. And as usual with their adventures it was a good story and it fully distracted Remus temporarily from his pain. 

Remus was rather surprised that there was a secret tunnel that led to the Teacher’s lounge, but Hogwarts was full of things like that. It rather had a mind like its own with doors that only opened certain days and trick steps that no one was able to fix for more than a few days. He wondered if it had been built for a specific purpose and then somehow in the passage of time the knowledge of it was forgotten. He knew the Marauders would make good use of this discovery and he found himself actually excited by the prospect. If they kept the prank clever and light hearted they might even impress the Professors more than anger them.

As his friends continued to speak – their easy banter and laughter caused a sudden pang. It wasn’t until Madam Pomfrey shooed them away that he realized it was jealousy that he had been feeling. They hadn’t had that sort of camaraderie since the Whomping Willow incident, and Remus had now missed the first opportunity for them to feel like a group again.  It was his fault. If he had let James, Sirius, and Peter accompany him last night, they would have waited for another night to scout out the tunnel. If he had let them come they would have been speaking to him about their night with the werewolf and he would have been part of the conversation, even if he could only remember snatches of the night. Without the Animagi as company, he remembered nothing.

He closed his eyes emptying his mind as best he could; he was still physically exhausted so despite his troubled mind he was easily able to succumb to sleep.  

***

Remus was released from the Hospital Wing Sunday morning. Sirius was the only one in the dormitory when he arrived.  James and Peter were at the Quidditch pitch; James to practice, Peter to watch.

Sirius was frantically getting ready at the moment Remus walked in. He was running late for a group meeting for a Charms Assignment. It only took a quick glance for Sirius to notice that Remus’s black eye and bruised cheek looked worse despite the fact Remus had regained his color. The boys exchanged pleasantries, but the conversation did not get any further than that before Sirius excused himself. In a rush down the dormitory steps, Sirius almost crashed into Connor, who was coming up the other way.

Connor batted away Sirius’s attempt at apology, stating authoritatively that Professor McGonagall was down in the common room, looking for him, and was quite unhappy. Sirius frowned, not exactly thrilled to hear this. His first thought is that McGonagall had found out about his skipped detention. If the Professors all spent time together in the teacher’s lounge it was possible that Flitwick and Pomfrey had spoken and the truth had surfaced.

Connor had been right in his assessment of McGonagall’s mood. She looked very grim, but Sirius couldn’t help feeling that her unhappiness was not directed at him. Everyone in the common room was looking at him with interest. It had been almost a week he supposed since he’d offered them a source of gossip. McGonagall ushered him out into the hallway so quickly that it took Sirius several minutes of silently walking beside her to realize he had no knowledge of their destination.   

“Where are we going, Professor?” He had to take long strides to keep up with her pace.

 “The Great Hall,” McGonagall answered. “You have a visitor.”

Sirius gaped at her. “A visitor?”

She did not pause to answer him. “Yes. Your visitor was quite adamant that you would be fetched as quickly as possible.”

“Who is it, Professor?” Sirius questioned.

She continued walking as if she hoped he would forget about his question if they kept moving.

“Professor? Who is it?” Sirius repeated his tone slightly more demanding.

“Your cousin. Bellatrix Lestrange.”

“Bellatrix?” he asked horrified. “Bellatrix wants to see me?” Even before he was disowned the idea of Bellatrix visiting him would have been frightening. She lacked a moral compass and enjoyed bestowing cruelty.

Professor McGonagall kept her features stiff. “Yes, she has requested to speak with you. She is waiting by the Great Hall.”

Sirius clenched his fists. “No. No I won’t speak to her.”

“I’m afraid you have no choice.” She held her hand up when Sirius opened his mouth to protest. “This is a legal matter. She has brought a lawyer with her. Things will get messy if you refuse to speak with her.”

Legal matter? Sirius couldn’t think of anything that Bellatrix could possible want from him. He couldn’t think of any reason she would want to even associate with him. She’d completely abandoned her sister when Andromeda had married the Muggleborn wizard and they’d been much closer than Sirius had ever been with her.

“I know this won’t be pleasant,” Professor McGonagall said her tone uncharacteristically soft. “However, I advise you speak to her.”

Sirius nodded, a lump was forming in his throat. He walked beside McGonagall reluctantly. Before he knew it they reached the Great Hall. Bellatrix was dressed in formal, elegant robes and her hair was pinned up. She stood poised and proper, though it did not prevent the hair on Sirius’s arms to rise as she smiled at him. Bellatrix had a haunting beauty about her; stunning yet frightening.

Bellatrix strode toward him and engulfed in him in a hug.  “My dear Sirius!”

The gesture put him more on edge than if she had hexed him for being blood-traitor. He didn’t know who Bellatrix was putting a show on for. Professor McGonagall had taught her for several years and knew she was not an affectionate, warm person. If she meant to play with his head, she had certainly succeeded.

Sirius then noticed a tall, thin man with beady eyes, a large nose and a shrewd expression, standing to the side near the four hourglasses with House total points. Sirius recognized him as their family lawyer; however he had never spoken with the man. As the man had been working over ten years for the Blacks, Sirius knew his sense of morals would be as skewed as anyone in his family. He’d have quit by now if that wasn’t the case.

Sirius attempted to extract himself from Bellatrix’s grasp, but she kept a strong grip on his shoulder and smile on her face. “Professor McGonagall, if I may speak to my cousin in private?”

“You may use the Great Hall,” McGonagall said sharply, clearly not being taken in by Bellatrix’s politeness.

“Thank you ever so much.” Bella smiled, though her eyes had a dangerous glint to them. “Frank, wait out here please.”

Sirius was shuffled inside the Great Hall. The empty large room only served to make him feel more alone in facing his cousin. He still did not know if this was a personal visit or a visit on behalf of the Black Family. Unfortunately neither was something he wanted.

 “Let’s sit on the house table of our ancestors,” Bellatrix commanded.

It was an order, not a suggestion, and Sirius decided not to argue. He didn’t want to waste his breath on such a small matter when he had no idea what the impending conversation would bring. If felt very strange being on the other side of the room. This side of the room stood for so much that he opposed; the enemy the moment the Sorting Hat had shouted Gryffindor. Bella took a seat opposite him. To think if he had been a different person, someone more like his brother or cousins, this would have been his table.  

“How are you, Sirius?” Bellatrix asked her eyes watching Sirius’s every movement and every breath.

“Fantastic. What do you want?” Sirius snapped.

“We’ll get to that,” she said with a hand wave. “You look well enough.”

“Disappointed?”

Bellatrix chuckled. “I wanted to see you for myself. See how you are holding up. After all I missed all the fun. I was out of touch with most of the family during my trip abroad for the Dark Lord. Imagine my surprise when I found Regulus was the new heir.”

Sirius stared straight at her, but his courage was faltering and his mouth felt dry. He didn’t want to talk about his brother.  He didn’t want to think about his choice to leave his family.  Bellatrix reached out and grabbed his hand as if to comfort him. The hard squeeze she gave was more threatening than her words.

“You would have made a great addition to the Dark Lord’s forces. You have the right mixture of courage, cleverness, passion…and most importantly purity of blood, he seeks. You could have risen to the top…been a leader among his followers. Pity that your choices have led us here.”

Sirius jerked his hand away. “If you are here to get me to change my mind, save your breath.”

Bellatrix looked scandalized. “Heavens, no! You have lost your place in our family for good. Turns out you were not irreplaceable. Should have disowned you the moment you were sorted into Gryffindor.”

They both knew why the Black family had held on for so long in hopes of reforming Sirius. While Regulus would never rebel, he would also not advance the Black family in the same way Sirius could have. Regulus would keep the Black’s in the sidelines and out of the Daily Prophet, but that necessarily wasn’t a good thing in the Black’s minds. As Sirius’s family always believed being a Black meant you were practically royalty, they expected to be in the spotlight. Still they quickly had found out that it was sometimes better to be unremarkable as Sirius had recently brought them only negative attention among the pureblood elite.

 “You are no longer important to the family,” Bellatrix added studying him.

“Really?” Sirius asked, hiding his uneasiness by turning the tables and putting Bellatrix on the defense. “I’m not important? Yet here you are. You travelled all the way to Hogwarts just to see me. You paid a lawyer to come with you, and I’m sure it took some convincing on your part to get Dumbledore’s permission to allow you back in the castle.”

Bellatrix smiled, though her eyes stayed dark. She appeared unruffled by his words. “You’re important like a thorn in my side.”

Sirius’s heart was beating quickly and took a large breath before continuing to speak. “My parents ordered you here, didn’t they?”

Bellatrix was not amused. “I’m an adult. I hardly take orders from your parents.”

“So, why are you here?”

Bellatrix reached inside her robes and on instinct Sirius made a grab for his wand. His quick reflex amused her. She did not take out her wand, but a sheet of thick folded paper. She slid it over to him.

 Sirius snapped the paper up and unfolded it. There was a list of items.

Chess set, marbled stone

Cufflinks, silver with a snake

Quill box, gold-plated

Large trunk (black with silver trim)

Sirius recognized the items on the list for they were all in his possession. He looked at Bellatrix confused. “What’s this?”

“These items have been reported stolen to the Ministry.”

“Stolen? I didn’t steal any of these.” He paused, the realization of Bellatrix’s angle hitting him. “These were all given to me and you know that.”

“Given to the Black heir, which you no longer are.”

“You only had to ask, I would have given them back without all this fuss.”

“Aunt Walburga did. She’s sent you three letters. You haven’t responded to any of them.”

“I never received any letters.”

“Who do you think the Ministry will believe?”

Sirius stared at Bellatrix. “What is it you want?”

“Just the items back. Once they are in my possession I will owl the Ministry immediately that it was just a misunderstanding.”

Sirius narrowed his eyes. It seemed too simple of an order. Yes, his parents were showing him an example of their influence. Proving that Hogwarts could only shield him so far, but it seemed more trouble than the message that was delivered to him was worth. Sirius looked over the list again. He didn’t have any problem handling over most of the items.  It was only his trunk that in any way was a necessity. Though he knew it was also an heirloom. It had been forged by goblins and belonged to the original Sirius Black.

“That’s all you want? These items back?” Sirius asked just to be sure there wasn’t another stipulation.

“That’s all.”

“Fine,” Sirius said. It seemed pointless to fight this. He would be glad to get rid of any reminders of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He convinced himself that it wasn’t as if his parents really had any control over him any longer. He stood, stuffing the sheet of paper into his pocket.

 “Excellent. Seeing some sense finally,” Bellatrix commented. She also stood and took a moment to smooth out her robes, which was a strange, ladylike gesture for her. “I also have a message from your mother to pass on to you.”

Sirius who had been ready to make a beeline for the door paused warily.

“She is pleased your marks have improved this week. Though she believes you can still do better in Potions.”

Sirius stared at Bellatrix. It took a few seconds for the words to sink in and when they did he felt a growing chill. Bellatrix continued, “All the Professors seem pleased with your behavior as of late. They wrote that you are more attentive in class and put more effort into your assignments.” Bellatrix watched the disbelief wash over his face. She chuckled. “Why do you look so shocked, cousin?”

It took a second for Sirius to find his voice. “I was disinherited.”

 “So you thought that meant your parents wouldn’t have access to your marks and behavior at Hogwarts?” Bellatrix, of course, knew this was exactly what he thought.

“Yes! Why should they?”

“Silly boy. That deals with titles and possessions. Not your parents’ access to your records at Hogwarts. You are still underage.”

“That’s – that’s not fair.”

“Dumbledore agrees with you…he tried to stop it, but luckily Board of Governors stepped in. They agreed since you ran away it should not affect your parents’ rights.”

“I didn’t just run away.”

“Didn’t you? That’s what the Daily Prophet said and since I wasn’t there, I can only assume as the Board of Governors have that you are just a troubled young man who ran away from an affable home.”

“Maybe I’ll go to the Prophet and tell them the truth!”

“You could,” Bellatrix admitted, but she didn’t look worried. “It’s doubtful the truth would ever be published.”

“You’ve paid them off?”

Bellatrix walked around the Slytherin table closer to Sirius. “There’s no point in fighting it Sirius. There is nothing you can do. This is how it will be. Your parents will receive weekly reports on your behavior; individual reports from each of your teachers. Then every two weeks they will also receive a report about your marks. This will occur until your seventeenth birthday. ” Sirius stayed rooted to his spot as Bellatrix walked closer toward him. “Should your behavior be vulgar and out of control or should your marks drop, your parents might investigate other parental rights they still have, including your living arrangements in the summer.”

“My parents would never allow me back in the house over the summer.” He hated the fact that his voice wobbled slightly betraying his distress.

“Did I say they would? But they could make sure you had to live with someone unpleasant and not the Potters.”

“I’d just run away again!” Sirius shouted.

Bellatrix shook her head with a sad smile as if she felt sorry for him; as if he were a young child that didn’t yet understand the way the real world worked. The gesture was too much and he abruptly turned away for his cousin, furious. He barged out the Great Hall startling McGonagall and Frank who were standing several feet from each other. He wanted to hit something, but the fact there was an audience stopped him.

 “Is everything all right, Mr. Black?” McGonagall questioned sensing his anger.

Bellatrix answered for him. “He’s fine. You know how high-strung and emotional teenage boys can be.”

Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows, but didn’t press the truth from Sirius when he didn’t make a comment.  Sirius was trying his best to calm himself down. After all he’d been through; he couldn’t believe that his family had found a way to still monitor his behavior. He felt trapped and unable to breath. Several students were walking by the Great Hall glanced at them curiously. At least it was early enough in the morning that most students hadn’t ventured out since going back to their common room after breakfast.

“I’m ready to get the items,” Sirius announced more loudly than he meant to. The sooner it could be done the better.

 “I presume Frank filled you in, Professor?” Bellatrix asked.

McGonagall nodded curtly. “Though I am afraid Mr. Frank’s insistence that he accompany Sirius to his dormitory is not possible. Only Professors and current Gryffindor students are allowed in the common room and dormitory.” Sirius had a distinct impression that McGonagall enjoyed denying Bellatrix her request.

Frank cleared his throat. “And I tried to explain that this would only benefit young Mr. Black. My presence would prevent any accusations later that Mr. Black attempted to hide any of these items.”

“I already told Bella that I have them,” Sirius responded. “I’m not going to bloody hide any of them.”

Frank smiled at him indulgently. “I’m afraid I must insist that an adult be present in the dormitory with Mr. Black. Let us not forget these items have been reported stolen. We could have easily sent the Ministry here instead of coming ourselves.”

McGonagall frowned, though relented their request. “I suppose I can find a male Professor that is not busy at the moment. If you could please wait in the Great Hall while I bring Mr. Black upstairs.”

McGonagall waited until the door to the Great Hall shut before ushering Sirius along.  “We’ll stop by Professor Keenan’s office. He’ll go up to the dormitory with you.”

“Professor Keenan?”

“Professor Flitwick is out for the day and I thought you would rather him than Professor Slughorn.”

McGonagall was correct, but he still didn’t like the idea of Keenan being involved.  He supposed though of all the Professors, Keenan would be the least surprised by this since he already knew first-hand how awful his family was.

Inside Keenan’s office, Sirius stood uncomfortably in the spotlight as McGonagall explained to Keenan the situation at hand. Within moments Sirius found himself walking slightly behind the two Professors up the seventh floor. The Fat Lady was flustered by Keenan’s presence, fluffing her hair and blushing slightly. Professor McGonagall handed Keenan a copy of the list before the two of them entered. She told them once items were collected to head back to the Great Hall. She was already walking back and Sirius assumed it was to keep an eye on the visitors.  

The common room was now even more crowded and silence fell over the room again. A group of first years looked at Professor Keenan with wide eyes and opened mouths. A seventh year couple that had been snogging on one of the couches turned bright red and hastily moved apart. It was very rare for a teacher besides the Head of House to enter a House common room. As far as Sirius could remember this was the first time for it to happen since he’d entered Hogwarts. Professor Keenan smiled mildly at the Gryffindors and acted as if were perfectly normal for him to be strolling through their common room.

Keenan followed Sirius up the stairs. Remus looked surprised to see him when he opened the door. “Sirius - Connor told me –“ Remus faltered as Professor Keenan entered.

Professor Keenan smiled pleasantly at Remus. “Hello, Mr. Lupin.”

“Good morning, Professor Keenan.” Remus looked back and forth between Sirius and Professor Keenan; his face was creased with worry. “Should I leave?”

Professor Keenan looked at Sirius inquiringly. Sirius shrugged. As much as he didn’t want Remus to see this, it would make Remus only more curious to know the truth.

Keenan studied the list in his hand and then suggested that they start by empting his trunk. Sirius agreed quickly and opened the lid. Remus watched this quietly and as Sirius began taking his items, he blurted, “Are you expelled?”

“No,” Sirius replied curtly. He continued to methodically place his things on his bed.

“Suspended?” Remus asked next.

“No,” Sirius answered not bothering to look up.

“Do you want help?”

Sirius paused for his work to glance at Keenan unsure if it would be allowed.

“Don’t see the harm,” Keenan said.

So with Remus’s help his trunk was emptied out onto his bed more quickly; a jumble of clothes, books, and other things. Keenan checked off each item as Sirius placed it back in the trunk. Sirius had stored most of the items at the bottom of his trunk except for the chess set on Peter’s desk and the cufflinks in a velvet pouch in the first drawer of his desk.

Keenan levitated the trunk and moved to exit the dormitory.

“Are you lending your trunk to someone?” Remus asked.

“Something like that,” Sirius muttered. He picked his head up and was surprised how worried Remus looked. “I’ll explain later,” he added hoping to allay some of Remus’s concern.  He then followed Keenan back down to the common room. It was worse than before to walk back through. Sirius knew they all must think that he was either suspended or expelled. Hopefully word wouldn’t reach James and Peter until he had a chance to speak to them.

Sirius and Professor Keenan descended down to the Great Hall in silence. It wasn’t until they had almost reached the landing on the first floor that Professor Keenan spoke.

“Do you have anything to store your things in?”

“Who doesn’t have a spare trunk in their back pocket?” Sirius answered sarcastically.

Professor Keenan looked at him. “There is no need for rudeness. I am on your side, Mr. Black.”

Sirius stared straight ahead without answering. He thought about the pile of things sitting on his bed. He wondered if his friends had any room in their trunks or drawers.

“I’ll have house-elves bring up some boxes so you can store your items in their temporarily until we can figure out another solution.”

Sirius nodded, but he could not bring himself to thank Keenan.

In the Great Hall the lawyer verified that all the items were there. He took each and every item out, turned them over to inspect them. Frank snapped the trunk back closed and nodded at Bellatrix.

“Is that all you require?” Professor McGonagall asked.

“Yes. That is all.”

“I shall see you out.” McGonagall moved toward the door. He knew McGonagall was anxious to get Bellatrix out of the castle as soon as possible.

“If you think it necessary,” Bellatrix answered. “Goodbye, Sirius. I hope today has been…educational for you.” Her eyes glittered as Sirius stiffened.

“Goodbye, Bella,” Sirius answered choosing the nickname her sisters used.

Professor McGonagall held the door open as Bellatrix and Frank exited the Great Hall leaving Sirius alone with Professor Keenan. He was glad McGonagall was busy seeing his cousin out because that meant she wouldn’t have a chance to try to speak to him about what had all happened. Of course Keenan might not afford him the same courtesy.

“If you need a few minutes, Mr. Black, you are welcome to stay here. Make sure the doors are shut tightly on your way out. It’ll lock behind you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sirius answered surprised that Keenan was leaving it at that. He waited until Keenan left before collapsing onto a bench on the Gryffindor table. His thoughts were whirling around in his head.

He knew now that the whole visit with Bellatrix had been carefully planned out by his family. He had almost begun to believe that they had decided to leave him alone, but clearly that was not the case. For some reason they had chosen until now to begin to flaunt their influence. And it appeared they knew his weaknesses better than he thought. Somehow they had known how bothered he would be by the simple fact that they had privy to his behavior and grades at Hogwarts. He knew he should not let it bother him so much because really what harm could come out of them knowing if he had the highest mark in Charms or that he’d lost ten points in potions?

Despite his attempts to convince himself that such knowledge was harmless, it still troubled him. The very idea that he had done such a radical thing as run away to only find out that he wasn’t really free of his parents’ grasp was what upset him the most.

Sirius’s thoughts tumbled around in his mind for several minutes. Eventually he grew sick of thinking and decided he was ready to head back to Gryffindor Tower. He was in no mood to meet with this Charms group anymore, but he knew he owed Remus some sort of explanation about what had occurred. It was then an idea popped into his mind. His family expected him to take this all quietly; the humiliation and powerlessness. They expected him to grumble about it to his friends and spend sleepless nights tossing and turning about it. Maybe then the best way to get his family back was to do the exact opposite. A common room full of Gryffindors had seen Keenan take his trunk and there was bound to be questions. Maybe instead of ignoring their questions, he’d tell them the truth. Instead of being ashamed about it, he’d joke out it and put a positive spin on it.

The idea, whether he would actually go through with it or not, immediately made him feel better and with a steady stride, he pushed opened the door out of the Great Hall.

***

Author’s note: Thanks for reading. Now in the spirit of the Holiday Season, send the gift that just keeps on giving: a review!


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