Remus looked distinctively uncomfortable. His feet were swinging nearly a foot above the ground; James’ legs mirrored his movement due to them sharing the large wooden seat - both fitting into the chair that only just fit Hagrid. But it wasn’t the height that was bothering Remus; it was the large boarhound resting its heavy head upon Remus’ knees, it’s large slobber dribbling down Remus’ trousers.
The giant man stood in a part of his hut in what I assumed to be his kitchen – there was a loud clanging and the heavy sound of rocks hitting a plate. “What do you think he’s going to do to us?’ Peter whispered to me anxiously.
“I don’t know.” I whispered back hastily. “If he was going to report us then we’d have gone back to the castle – not his house.”
Peter paused as he took this in and I saw him look round the room apprehensively. “You…you don’t reckon he’ll eat us, do you?”
“No,” I paused, “I don’t think so… I mean… the parents wouldn’t allow it.” Well, mine would. They’d probably applaud the gamekeeper and ask if he could visit occasionally to scare Regulus into behaving.
“Right.” Peter replied faintly. “But they could easily cover it – transfigure a rock to look like us or say we wandered off in the middle of the night and got killed by a pack of werewolves.”
“What?” Remus interrupted sharply. His eyes wide and breaking away from the conversation he was having with James.
“What?” I asked back curiously, my mind briefly racing over the conversation.
“You said werewolves?” Remus replied uncertainly, a faint blush starting to cover his cheeks.
“What?” I paused for a moment, my brows furrowed into a frown. “Oh!” I looked over to the giant man and was satisfied that he was still occupied with whatever unnerving thing he was doing on the kitchen counter. “If he eats us then we were figuring out what the school will tell our parents. I’m voting ‘eaten by werewolves’.”
James had been patting the large dog and using Remus’ distraction to encourage the dog to increase the amount of slobber over Remus’ legs, yet he now seemed to overhear part of the conversation and jerked into the conversation. “What? You- you think that he’s a werewolf?” James gestured towards Hagrid quietly.
“No, we’re saying he’d feed us to werewolves.” Peter sighed, before his eyes opened wide. “I mean, you don’t reckon he is one, do you? He can’t be. Can he?” Peter looked uncertain, glancing at us each in turn, whilst being careful to stay quiet.
“Well it would explain how big he is, wouldn’t it?” James whispered back, his eyes darting to the giant man.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Remus replied quickly.
“Well, all werewolves are massive in human form – it’s common knowledge, isn’t it?”
“Since when?” Remus frowned, his full focus on James.
I rolled my eyes. “Shh – he could be listening! Anyway – Dumbledore wouldn’t let a werewolf anywhere near the school – would he?”
“I don’t know,” Peter butt in, “why else would he have his own house right beside the forest? Even Filch has his own room in the castle. And I’ve never seen him do any magic, have you?”
We all shook our heads, except Remus who rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, werewolves can’t do magic.”
“Well obviously,” James said superiorly. “What would a werewolf do with magic?”
“Righ’,” the giant man growled, thudding heavily across the room. Our gazes locked on each other, eyes wide and terrified. I turned my head slowly, anticipating the dirt-ridden clothes and wild hair of the beastly man whose large shoes were slapping against his wooden floor. My mouth dropped. I couldn’t help but stare.
Hagrid had pulled off his floor-length coat and instead now wore a beige apron with pink and blue flowers embroidered across the large pocket. In one of his large hands he held five mugs that had a suspicious looking steam rising from the purple liquid, his other hand held a chipped green plate, which was the size of a dustbin lid and was filled to the edges with circular rocks and some kind of meat within slices of stale-looking bread.
I looked at Remus in alarm. Was he going to poison us? The gatekeeper’s face was hidden under his thick, feral beard, and his beetle-black eyes peeked out from beneath his heavy brows. The plate and mugs were placed on the wooden table and Hagrid stood upright, looking at each of us in turn in what I could only assume to be confusion, before turning and collapsing into the largest chair in the hut.
There was silence for a short pause, in which Hagrid sighed loudly – making Peter jump – whilst we all looked uncertainly. “Aren’t yeh goin’ ter dig in, then?” I swallowed loudly and looked at Peter, who shrugged and cautiously reached forward to one of the meat sandwiches. “They’re stou' sandwiches – yeh lucky – I jus’ caugh’ some this mornin’.” Hagrid continued, his creased eyes flicked towards James and managed to miss Peter retracting his hand. “Yeh don’ speak much, do yer?”
“No, we do speak.” James replied instinctively, used to answering back. “We were just wondering if you were going to kill us, is all.”
I winced; Peter gaped like a fish and Remus groaned. Hagrid looked at James blankly. “Kill yeh? Why woul’ I kill yeh?”
Hagrid looked around the gathering in confusion, his crinkled black eyes wide. “James was just joking.” Remus spoke quickly, attempting to push the slobbery dog away from his lap. “He’s got a weird sense of humour like that.”
James opened his mouth to retort and I resisted the urge to throw one of the rock cakes at his face. Remus used the disguise of pushing the dog away to elbow James in the stomach. Hagrid glanced at James for a moment.“Yer Charlus’ boy, righ’?”
The smirk slipped of James’ face and he scowled at the floor. “Yeah.” Hagrid nodded as if confirming an earlier suspicion. James clenched his jaw and slowly sighed. “I’m guessing you know him.”
“Sorta, he was a couple years above – one of the few who didn’ laugh when I came back as-” Hagrid’s eyes took on a glazed look before it twisted into a frown. “So why’d yer steal me Swarps nest?”
“Er,” I spoke up, very aware of how uncomfortable James suddenly appeared, “We didn’t know it was yours.” The giant man looked at me intently and I swallowed loudly. “I mean – we found it by the forest and we just – some of the Slytherins have been bullying Peter,” I gestured towards Peter, whose cheeks burned red, and Hagrid’s gaze followed before he returned to me with a deeper frown. “We just wanted to get them back, but it went wrong… and we got the First Years instead.” I added lamely; it wasn’t exactly true – but how could I explain it was simply a prank to keep up with appearances of an initiation, without getting in any more trouble?
Hagrid stared at me for a moment, then his gaze roamed over the others. “Yer the Black boy, aren’t yeh?” I nodded slowly and he nodded to himself; his eyes still suspicious but now mixed with something else. “Blimey,” he paused, “ne’er though’ I’d see the day when a Black wer a Gryffindor.” The corners of his mouth quirked slightly beneath his wild beard. “Guess ol’ Orion didn’t take it too well?”
I groaned internally; if James’ dad was one of the few that didn’t laugh at a school-aged Hagrid, then you could bet mine were leading the jeers. “Not brilliantly.” I answered simply, not wishing to delve into my family’s beliefs, but I smiled all the same at the giant man; grateful that he had decided to forgive us.
“For goodness sake,” Remus muttered quietly. I glanced across to where James and Remus were seated and struggled to retain a snort; the large boarhound had scrambled most of its weight onto Remus’ lap and was eagerly licking his face with large drops of saliva falling in heavy clumps onto his shirt.
James was laughing loudly and showed no inclination of helping Remus with his situation; I couldn’t help but snort as the floor began to shake with Hagrids loud chuckles. “Spike!” Hagrid called as he caught his breath. “Spike – com’ere girl.” The dog paid him no heed and continued to cover Remus in spit so that we could only see Remus’ long legs sticking out from beneath the large dog and hear his muttered curses as he attempted to push the dog away.
I’d always liked dogs; my mother had never let us have one, of course, but some of the other pureblood families had taken in the pet from time to time. When we would visit, the owners would encourage Regulus and I to take the dog outside so that my mother could speak to them. The Greengrass family had a black spaniel; he was my favourite. I’d throw stick after stick and the dog had endless energy; it was one of the rare times we were allowed to run free and just have fun without any prying eyes. Regulus would always stop when it began to rain or get a little muddy; he knew the consequences for getting our robes dirty. Yet I could never bring myself to care and would jump in large puddles after the bouncing spaniel. My mother soon ended that though; apparently dogs weren’t a suitable creature to live amongst purebloods, as she reminded the other families. The next time we would visit, those happy dogs were gone; in their place was a sleeping cat that scratched you if you got too near.
“Spike,” I spoke slowly, my voice still shaking with laughter. “Come on Spike,” I pushed myself off the chair and desperately ignored James’ amused eyes. Spike’s ears perked and his large head turned to face me; his tongue hung out of his mouth and drool dripped from his sagging cheeks. “Hey Remus,” I chuckled as the dog landed heavily on the wooden floor, “if you wanted a wash most people use a bath, but I guess a dog works too.”
Peter and James laughed loudly as a sodden Remus scowled in my direction, though the corners of his mouth turned upwards slightly. “Remus,” Hagrid repeated slowly, his small eyes looking at our friend intently, after a moment he whistled and Spike plodded closer to her owner. “Sorry ‘bout her – she ge’s a bit ‘cited sometimes. No’ norm’ly like tha’ though.” His loud chuckle echoed around the small room. “Animal magne'ism, I'd gues’.”
Remus small smile suddenly dropped and his eyes froze on Hagrid as if he had revealed something important. Why’s he looking like that? I looked at Peter and he seemed as confused as I felt. Hagrid didn’t say anything except-
A sharp knock interrupted us and we all turned to face the door as Hagrid scrambled to his feet and heavily plodded across the room. “Ah, Professor,” he muttered sheepishly.
“Hagrid,” a stern voice replied, its familiarity made each of us swap alarmed looks. “I’m looking for four Gryffindor Second Year students; Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew. I was told they had followed you in this direction.”
“Er…” Hagrid stalled, for some reason he seemed to be attempting to create an excuse, eventually he sighed and his large shoulders drooped. “Yer bette’ come in, Professor.”
McGonagall’s hair was pulled into her usual tight bun and her eyes were wide with undiluted fury behind her glassed frames. “Boys,” she spoke sharply, “this prank was one step too far. What on earth were you thinking?” Her gaze fell on each of us in turn and I felt shame fill my body for the first time. “You will come with me immediately.”
We hastily abandoned the plates and mugs on the table and made our way over to the door, our shoulders slumped in defeat and our eyes glued to the floor. We each muttered ‘thanks’ to Hagrid as we passed and the door closed behind us with a sharp pull.
She didn’t look at us, just shook her head and tutted. I didn’t blame her, not once. The professor’s lips were pulled into a tight line; her body was rigidly straight as she walked down the unfamiliar corridors and her eyes were cold and sharp. We followed in silence, only the echoes of our feet slapping against the stone floor was evidence of our presence in the empty corridor.
It was my fault, really. Hadn’t James told me his idea on the train? I’d been there as Sirius and Peter had eagerly agreed and started creating amusing situations. Yet I didn’t say anything. Sure, I’d mentioned that it was a stupid idea but I didn’t stop them, did I? I knew they would continue with the plan, I could have spoken up. But I didn’t, I was too focused on the on-coming transformation. I was thinking of the burning pain I was sure to feel. I was counting down the hours, the minutes, the seconds. I should have spoken up, but I was too distracted. I was selfish. It’s my fault the majority of First Years were now receiving treatment in the hospital wing.
The end of the corridor neared and Professor McGonagall came to a halt in front of a rather ugly gargoyle. James and Peter swapped confused looks to my left whilst Sirius scowled at the gargoyle with the misshapen nose - one of its eyes was squinted and its mouth hung open; it looked like the creature had been turned into stone mid-sneeze.
Professor McGonagall turned around to face us, her eyes flashing with fury. “Never has one of my students acted so atrociously,” she spoke sharply, each word like a blade to the chest, “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. What on earth were you thinking?”
James partially lifted his hand and opened his mouth to reply, and McGonagall focused her full glare on him. “I don’t want to hear your excuses, Potter.” James' mouth opened once more before wisely deciding to lower his hand. “These students have been here a matter of days and I can assure you that letters to parents or guardians will be on their way at this very moment.” Peter shrunk away from the teacher and Sirius’ glare never left the stone floor. McGonagall shook her head with her lips pursed and turned to face the grotesque gargoyle. “Fudge Flies.”
Sirius’ head jerked upwards at the odd stamen and Peter’s mouth hung open. Fudge Flies? Before James could query the Professor, as was his nature, there was a loud bang like a stick against a hollow drum and the stone gargoyle awoke. It’s mouth shut and stretched into a sinister grin as its body leaped to the side onto another unseen pedestal. The simple wall behind its old perch cracked open into two doors that slid to the side and revealed an endless spiral staircase.
“Woah.” James whispered and Sirius nodded silently. Incredible. We never considered the statues as passages before. I could almost hear James’ brain whirling at this new information.
“Close your mouth, Mister Pettigrew, you are not a toad with the intention of catching flies.” Professor McGonagall said sharply; I glanced at Peter to see him hastily closing his gaping mouth. “Now, come along.”
We followed in silence; it was clear where we were going now – to see Dumbledore. I felt shame and guilt flood through my body; I’d betrayed his trust. He’d given me the benefit of doubt and trusted me, and now he was about to be told how I helped poison the First Years. Would my parents finally realise the monster they were raising?
I noticed Sirius had paled considerably so that his black hair created a stark contrast against his porcelain skin. Peter was visibly shaking, his eyes wide in horror and his hands twisted together as we started the climb up the stone staircase which twisted upwards at the same time. James seemed, typically, the least disturbed – much to Professor McGonagall’s displeasure.
“So does Professor Dumbledore live here? Or is it just his office?” James asked curiously, bounding up the stairs behind the stern head of house.
“That is not of your concern, Mister Potter.” McGonagall responded in a clipped tone.
“Do you think they’ll write home?” Peter whispered to me anxiously, biting his lip with fear.
“I reckon so.” Sirius whispered back, before swallowing loudly. “Mine’ll be fine until they hear some pure-bloods were also affected. Then I’m screwed.”
Peter looked up the stairs to see James was still trying to get information from McGonagall, and then he slowly whispered towards us. “Y-you don’t reckon they’ll make us pay, will they?”
I tilted my head to the side and observed Peter, was this what was making him panic? “Pay?” I echoed.
Peter nodded immediately. “Yeah – like pay towards the potions… or stuff. You don’t think they’ll ask our parents to pay, will they?”
I looked at Sirius and could tell the thought hadn’t crossed his mind either. My parents would pay, and just not give me pocket money until I made up the money – but that was nothing more than I deserved, yet Peter was shaking with panic. “Er, I don’t know, Peter.”
Peter bit his lip and continued the assent up the staircase whilst taking small quick breaths as if hoping it would disguise his heavy breaths.
“What if they don’t like it?” James continued ahead. “What if Dumbledore decided he liked the dungeons better? Would he be allowed to move?”
“Professor Dumbledore has not expressed any desire to move to the dungeons so we do not need to concern ourselves.” McGonagall answered with an air of finality.
“But lets say that he suddenly wanted to – could he?”
“Then, Mr Potter, we would be entering the realm of guesswork and therefore certainty is by no means definite.” Professor Dumbledore appeared at the doorway at the top of the spiral staircase. His blue eyes twinkled with amusement as James thought through the development. Dumbledore wore robes of deep purple that clashed against his chest-length grey beard, on his crooked nose he wore a pair of relatively new-looking half moon spectacles and in his hand was a long, elegant wand. “Mr Lupin, Black and Pettigrew,” the professor nodded at us each in turn, “I dare say I am adequately surprised that it has taken us this long to meet.” His lips pulled into a knowing smile and I had the odd suspicion that the headmaster could look into my soul.
“Sorry for the disturbance, Professor.” McGonagall interrupted firmly, her hand landing on James’ shoulder lightly as he looked down the small gap left by the circular staircase. “As I’m sure you’re aware-”
“Our first years have recently become fully acquainted with the hospital wing?” Dumbledore paused and looked at each over the top of his spectacles. “Yes, I am certainly aware, but may I suggest that we move this conversation into my office?” He gestured towards the oak door, a bronze griffin at its centre, politely. “This staircase has an uncanny ability to provide conversations for prying ears.”
McGonagall pursed her lips and nodded. We followed the Professors in silence.
The room was spacious, circular archways framed the each section and every table held a fascinating whirling machine. Heavy curtains with a silver shimmer hung at the side of the open windows which held an incredible view over the boundaries of Hogwarts; the curtains were heavily indented where the tugs held them open, giving the impression of them being rarely released.
James grinned at the headmaster, “I can see why you’d chose this over the dungeons.” Dumbledore smiled pleasantly as James dropped himself into one of the large red chairs opposite the headmaster’s desk, McGonagall muttered under her breath.
Peter was staring at the closest table where a red oval was surrounded by green rubber bands; every other second would create an orange beam to surround the solid oval. Sirius was staring out of the window, his gaze roaming over the forest to the Great Lake. I walked closer to the huge desk, parchment was layered into piles and a handsome scarlet quill rested beside a green ink pot, yet as I sat down on one of the large chairs, my eye caught movement on a perch nearby. It was a bird, at least I thought it was – I’d never seen one like it. Its size was similar to that of a swan, though instead of white feathers, they were deep red and bright gold. Its eyes were a shining black and it’s long tail hung low beneath its perch – it was stunning.
“Professor,” McGonagall pushed.
Dumbledore bowed his head towards our head of year and gestured towards his desk. “Please sit down – I fear that I have an appointment with the Minister and as far as I am aware, the Department of Mysteries hasn’t yet created a way to be in two places at once.” I noticed Dumbledore exchange an amused glance with McGonagall, and James sat up straighter in attention.
“Madam Pomfrey was kind enough to inform me that thirty-seven First Year students that have received treatment today.” Professor McGonagall told Dumbledore, who simply raised his brows towards us. “There are also witnesses claiming that these four,” she gestured in our direction, “had told Miss Bones that they were the cause of the incident.”
Dumbledore continued to look at us; I wasn’t the only one who bowed my head in shame. Now. Tell them, now. I looked up slowly so that I met the headmasters eyes; once again I felt the like my mind was being x-rayed. Tell him – tell him it’s your fault. You could have stopped them. They only went ahead because you didn’t stop them. I opened my mouth to speak and strangely the headmasters eyes seemed to dim; almost as if he was sad.
“It was me.” James ruffled his hair sheepishly, looking at the Professors carefully. “I planned the prank and stole the Swarps nest - I guess I didn’t really think it through.” He paused and ruffled his hair again before opening his mouth to continue.
“But,” Peter looked at James with his brows furrowed, “we helped to plan it on the train.”
“Yeah – and I dared you to steal the Swarps nest from Hagrid’s garden.” Sirius added with a frown.
“No you didn’t.” James looked at them firmly, not letting either take the blame. “I did it completely by myself.”
I sighed. “It’s my fault, Professor.” McGonagall’s brows disappeared into her hairline and Dumbledore looked at me with that sad look again. “I knew what was going to happen-” I coughed in embarrassment as my voice squeaked, “I didn’t stop it – or inform anyone.”
“Don’t be stupid, Remus.”
“Don’t be thick.”
“Where the hell did you get that idea from?”
“Language, Potter.” McGonagall snapped. They all spoke at once, looking at me strangely. What did I say wrong? I returned the looks from my friends, completely bewildered at their strange reactions - it was the truth, wasn’t it?
Dumbledore nodded to himself. “I would think that the majority of First Years deserve an apology from each of you – no matter how big or small your contribution.” Why did he look at me when he said ‘small’?
We all nodded immediately. “Is that it?” James asked eagerly; I had the strong impression that Sirius was desperately attempting to avoid hitting him.
“Three weeks of detention each, starting tomorrow.” McGonagall spoke up sharply, looking at Dumbledore meaningfully who nodded in response. “Mr Potter and Mr Pettigrew,” both Peter and James looked at the head of house apprehensively, “I’ll tell Madam Pomfrey to expect you both after dinner - you’ll be cleaning up the results of your ‘prank’,” James smiled at Peter, “without magic.” Professor McGonagall added.
“Mr Black,” Sirius turned to face the Professor grudgingly, “you’ll report to Professor Flitwick.” She turned to face me slowly. “And Mr Lupin,”
“But Professor,” Sirius interrupted, “Remus didn’t do anything.”
“Unfortunately, Mr Black, we only have your word for it – as admirable as it may be – and parents will be demanding evidence for why one of the suspected perpetrators was let off.” Dumbledore spoke softly, his fingers clasping together as he leaned forward on the desk. “Mr Lupin,” he addressed me, his x-ray blue eyes baring into mine once more, “I’m sure Hagrid will welcome some additional help over the coming weeks,” he paused, “and you will find that you can learn something important from any situation.”
I glanced at the others to see if they’d picked up on anything out of the ordinary – am I being paranoid? Why did I get the feeling that Dumbledore was trying to tell me something?
“Professor,” James asked slowly, his face becoming increasingly pale, “what about Quidditch try-outs?”
Sirius spluttered and leant forwards, his grey eyes flashing between the Professors. McGonagall’s eyes widened for a moment before regaining their usual steely look as she looked at Dumbledore. “Owning up to ones mistakes or sacrificing yourself for a friend in need takes a certain amount of courage and loyalty. I think, and I’m sure Professor McGonagall will agree with me, that on this occasion you may try for your house team, if you so wish.” His blue eyes seemed to glimmer as James and Sirius both grinned and high-fived across Peter.
“Come out, Piggy.”
Their voices echoed against the stone wall and I felt my stomach twist painfully. I suppose it was once a storage compartment, but now a moth-eaten tapestry covered the small alcove. I’d thought it was safe to go wandering by myself; it was Saturday and most of the school were sunbathing in the last rays of September whilst the majority of Slytherin had apparently gone to the Quidditch stalls to yell abuse at the Gryffindor try-outs.
It was the abuse we were banking on – even the teachers had overheard the Slytherin’s plans and were watching the try-outs for rival spells or inappropriate behaviour. James reckoned that we would never get a better chance, yet he and Sirius were determined to claim their places on the house team and couldn’t take advantage of the rare opportunity.
After finding the useful passage between the Gryffindor common room and the Potions corridor, we’d been able to sleep longer in the mornings. James reckoned that there must be loads of secret passageways and if we found them all, then pranking the First Years, or escaping the Slytherins in my case, would be much easier. Sirius said it was very likely, knowing his family, that there would be escape routes out of the castle as well.
“Come on, fat piggy. Haven’t you learnt to obey your betters?”
Remus was supposedly searching the higher floors whilst I searched near the Hogwarts laundry because, as Remus logically pointed out, they’d need to get the soap from somewhere.
“Or are you stuck, Piggy? Can’t you get out? Come on, Piggy – make a squeak.”
I’d tried, honestly I had. I’d jumped on every cracked stone in the floor. I’d tilted every book on the lone bookcase. I’d pulled on every limb of the old suits of armour. I’d lifted a strange cactus off some barrels; though the odd smell of vinegar sent me in the other direction – knowing my luck, I’d accidently pull a trigger to get covered. Yet there was nothing. No bangs, squeals, walls moving, floor sinking – nothing.
I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary until the loud claps echoed down the narrow corridor. I had turned slowly, fear building by the second to face Malfoy’s gloating face, Rosier to his left and a menacing Fourth Year to his right.
It had been my instincts that saved me from their torment, so far. My wand seemed to appear in my hand and within seconds it was pointed at one of the torches in a wall hanging; “Wingardium Leviosa,” my voice squeaked into the mocking silence, the torch rose and then promptly collapsed on the floor, hitting the foot of Rosier painfully. His groan of pain was enough for me to flee, it wasn’t long before heavy footsteps followed – but just enough time to dive into the small hidden alcove whose location wasn’t widely known.
“Come on, Piggy. It’s not like you can hide for long. You’re a little too big for that.” Mocking laughter followed this statement.
I leant heavily against the plain wall, it was a dark alcove – only lit by a small flickering candle that wouldn’t go out no matter how much Sirius blew on it. There was three empty wooden shelves in one corner, all covered in cobwebs, and a large empty trunk opposite the entrance that I was now sat on.
“You don’t reckon the house-elves mistook him for a pig?” More laughter. “Isn’t pork on the menu tonight?”
I knew they wouldn’t give up for a while and settled into my seat. A crackling in my pocket as my hips moved alerted me to the unopened letter from breakfast; it was too dangerous to open a letter in front of others and I hadn’t had time to myself since then.
The letter didn’t have an envelope; the piece of parchment had just been folded over many times and sealed with thin grey wax. A hasty scribble of ‘Pettigrew’ was sprawled above the wax in fading black ink.
“I’ve been fired from the Magical Maintenance Stop.” My father’s untidy writing was smudged and I felt my chest tighten with a fear that had little to do with the approaching bullies.
“The new wave of items that need fixing have Muggle properties. Henry claims that those of us with pure wizarding backgrounds are ‘ill-equipped’ to deal with the new equipment.” His writing got smaller and messier here, I could almost see his agitation and fury.
“We’ve all been replaced by bloody mudbloods – as if they’d know how to fix a bucking barrow or how to stop portraits of family trees from eating its members! But of course, I can’t say any bloody thing because then I’m prejudice and no effing better then those twerps in masks calling themselves ‘Death Eaters’.” There was a strong smell of the alcohol in the cupboard floating from the paper – almost like it had been drenched in the liquid before it had been sent.
“They’re asking all the pure-bloods to join them – I got a visit last week. Bloody cowards, told them to go to hell and take all the mudbloods with them. Remember this, boy: Pettigrews don’t bend for no one. You understand? We don’t back down for nothing.”
“Come on, Piggy. We just want to play.” Malfoy mocked in the corridor; my stomach coiled in panic and my hands shook with anger.
“So listen here, boy. I’ll give you two choices; I’ll pull you out of that damn school and you can look after your mother so I can cancel the help, or you’ll stay and I’ll not give you another knut, understand? If you’ve lost your books, your quill has snapped, your clothes ripped or whatever your latest excuse is – I don’t care. Find your own solution. They’re your choices; pick one because we’re not requesting help from the school fund – Pettigrew’s find their own way. Got it?”
There was no sign off, any sign of love or asking how my day was like James’ always got asked in his. It was with a vague sense of detachment that I realised he’d not even addressed me by my name. Was it fear I was supposed to feel? Contentment? Anger? In honesty, all my feelings were drowned out by one pure emotion; fury.
My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t read the scrawled words anymore. My cheeks were wet with tears I didn’t know had fallen. My breathing was coming out in heavy gasps and my chest felt tight and painful. I watched, detached, as my fingers swiftly tore the longest letter my father had ever written to me into bits. Again and again the paper ripped into smaller parts until I was left holding small squares of parchment
My feet were under me, my legs were straight; I was standing up; when did that happen? I was at the edge of the entrance, my hand was touching the fabric that covered my hiding place. The hanging was pushed to the side, I was in the hallway. My feet hit the ground at an increasing pace, yet my mind remained frozen on the squares of parchment that had presumably been dropped in my wake.
“Oi!” A voice called out behind me. “Piggy!”
I turned on instinct, still vaguely detached from the situation, it was the Fourth Year. I didn’t know his name, and I didn’t care. Did he know my name? Does he care that it took my mum months to persuade by father to call me it? Why would he? Even my dad choses to ignore it.
“Piggy, Piggy – are you gonna run?” The Fourth Year mocked.
He didn’t know me, yet he had chosen to follow the older bullies and torment me. Perhaps it was anger that pulsed through my body, or maybe it was fear, but my arm raised and a red shot of light sprouted from the end of my wand and hit the surprised student in the chest. He crumbled like a ragdoll and I walked away.
My heart beat savagely against my ribs. My lungs gasped for more air than my body could provide. Snot slid from my nose to my chin. My cheeks felt raw and chaffed, tears still dropped from my face but I could feel the solid trails left behind.
Everyone wanted something from me. Everyone expected me to be someone. Everyone, but my friends… and Sarah.
I stopped beside a painting of a fruit bowl. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, if anything the simple painting moulded into the wall and became lost in its vastness. There was an argument further down the hall; I could hear Malfoy’s voice mixed with the unmistakable voice of Bertie Harlow – a Hufflepuff Prefect. Idly I wondered why a Hufflepuff was down in the bottom tunnels; only the house elves really came here.
I blinked. My gaze still on the dull painting; Sarah loved fruit. She hated peaches though, they’d always be left in the fruit bowl until they grew mouldy, after a while my parents stopped buying them. My fingers drifted towards the painting and I absent-mindedly stroked the peach. The following week Sarah decided that she hated grapes and the process repeated. In reality, I liked peaches, and I really liked grapes but I played along because Sarah though it was funny. My hand moved to touch the grapes. I missed my little sister so much that sometimes I felt like my chest was caving in and breathing became that little bit harder to do, in those times I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, ‘is this what she felt?’ Was my little sister scared when she died?
Apples were always my favourite. Mum always packed a bag of food for our trips to the meadow; dad would carry the broomsticks and I would carry the blanket whilst sulking that Sarah didn’t have to carry anything because she was ‘too small’. Mum would always laugh and ruffle my hair; secretly I never minded. Mum liked to bring an orange for herself, she would hand a bright green apple to me and a spotted banana to dad - Sarah always reached in last, her eyes widening with fear that mum had forgotten her favourite. Then she would grin and pull out her favourite fruit; a pear.
The tips of my fingers trailed across the uneven surface of the paintings and rested on the pear. To my surprise the pear reacted and squeaked as it shuffled away from my touch. I watched with my mouth wide as the pear twisted and turned into a green doorknob.
Had I really found a passageway? Had I found one? My excitement grew and all my anxiousness disappeared; I reached forwards and turned the knob. There were a couple stairs down into a room busy with activity. Somebody shrieked, yet before I could react a small figure that was very similar, if not the same, to those creatures in the Hogwarts Laundry room climbed the stairs. “Mister, welcome, mister,” the house-elf squeaked, bending into a deep bow, “can Warnie help, Mister?”
My mouth hung open; James would be in his element as soon as I tell him. “W-where am I?” I stuttered.
The house elf frowned. “Mister is in the Hogwarts Kitchen, can I’s help?”
“Oh.” I whispered, my gaze gliding over the countless heads that were busy preparing food. I’d found somewhere secret. For that single moment all thoughts of my father, the Slytherins, the letter, my mum, Sarah – everyone, disappeared. I’d found somewhere safe.
It was a strange feeling - my stomach felt like a goblin was trying to fight it’s way out and my throat was thick, making it hard to swallow. I don’t know why I felt like this; the oddness had just appeared as we made our way to the Quidditch Pitch. I didn’t feel sick, if anything I felt like I always did before my Dad told me off. But that was stupid – dad wasn’t anywhere near Hogwarts.
There was a reasonable size of students who had made their way to the pitch, ranging from Seventh Year to a couple in Third year – Sirius and I were the only Second Years around. It was when I’d realised this that the strange feeling had appeared, only to be increased by the large groups of Slytherins who were sat in the stands and had been jeering loudly whenever Jack attempted to speak.
There was around twenty students all contending for the two available spots – of course all the spots were open but it was rare that any of the old team were replaced my new members as they’d trained the previous year with their teammates and knew all the plays. Entwhistle and Moore graduated last year, leaving Chaser and Beater open.
Jack started to drone on about the rules of Quidditch - really? Why the hell would you try-out for the team if you didn’t know how to play it? - and I used the distraction to peek at the other hopefuls. There were only twelve of us left after Jack had made the group fly around the pitch three times; the first lap was to see how well we could fly and two Fourth Years were dismissed, for the second lap we had to dodge some bludgers that Jack had levitated to hit us, and one sixth year, two fifth years and a third year were sent away, and then for the final lap we were split into three groups and told to fly in sync with our group to show teamwork which ended up with a fourth and fifth year being yelled off the pitch after they started arguing that the other had messed up – much to the delight of the watching Slytherins.
“Right,” Jack yelled over the mutterings of the group and the Slytherin jeers, “split into the positions you want to try-out for. Beaters over here, Keepers to my right, Chasers over there and Seekers to my left.” There was a muffle of noise as everyone separated into his or her group and the odd moan at the spitting rain that had just began to fall.
Sirius looked as anxious as I felt as was surrounded by three students who I vaguely recognised as Fifth and Sixth Year students. My group was the largest, as expected, with four other students holding worn brooms that looked like they’d seen a lot of practice. Weirdly, a cocky looking Fifth Year was attempting to try out for seeker despite the captain having held the position since like, ever.
Gideon and Fabian swapped smirks and offered to release the snitch for the captain and Fifth Year. “Right,” Jack started, looking at the Fifth Year.
“Gebrosci.” The Fifth Year grunted, his tongue licking his lip as his eyes prowled over the arena.
Jack sighed. “Right, Gebrosci. We’ll go first as there’s only two of us, alright? On my count, Fab will release the snitch and then we’ll go after the count of ten, understand?” Gebrosci nodded but remained silent. Jack turned to face the rest of us, his eyes appraising each group. “Beaters – split into two groups of two and get some bats from the trunk. Gid, go get your keepers gloves on and give the kid the spare pair from the locker. Chasers – make sure your brooms are in order and get prepared. Everyone, remember – Quidditch is competitive and this year the Cup belongs to Gryffindor. We’ll only be taking to best – so make sure you bring it today.” Jack paused and we all nodded, looks of apprehension flicking across the large group’s expressions. “Release the Snitch.”
Fabian eagerly bent over the trunk where the balls were eagerly squealing to escape. With a flick of his finger the golden ball flew straight into the sky with grace, its wings fluttering in the morning breeze. “Ten.” Jack started counting, swinging his leg over the broomstick only to be mirrored by Gebrosci a moment later. “Six.” I roamed the sky for any sight of gold – for a moment I thought I saw a glint by the Slytherin jeerers, but it was gone before I could blink. “Three.” Both players bent their legs and prepared to jolt from the ground. “One.” I watched as Jack pushed his weight forwards so all the pressure was on his toes as his legs released into the sky.
Both Gebrosci and Jack were blurs of colour as they darted into the sky; Jack bent to the left as Gebrosci swerved to the right, their heads turned every moment as they scanned the pitch for a glint of gold. More muffled jeers were screamed across the pitch from the Slytherins who seemed to have grown in number, the ropes around my stomach tightened considerably.
It may have been minutes, or possibly longer, but I stood entranced by how Jack flew. It was clear that he was the more experienced flyer – though Gebrosci wasn’t far behind – and I was suddenly struck by how good Jack actually was. In most games, my gaze always flicked from player to player, but now there was no distraction now and it was clear how well he could instantly tell how the wind change would affect his broom and how easily he could deviate his broom. They both dived at the same times, streaks of colour falling towards the ground, hands outstretched, they were both at the same level yet just as they were nearing the ground Jack swopped out of the fall with the glittering ball clutched within his grasp.
Both players returned to the cheering group and Jack eagerly shook Gebrosci’s hand. “That was bloody good – you nearly had me!” Gebrosci shrugged but returned the handshake. “Look, will you be my reserve? You never know when you might not be able to play.” Gebrosci watched Jack for a moment before nodding slowly and leaving the pitch in silence. Slightly over-dramatic. Idiot.
After a few final adjustments, we split into two teams – three chasers each (one each from the original team), two beaters and a keeper. Sirius was in the other team to me and we swapped a nervous glance. Not for the first time I wished Remus or Peter were here – they always knew how to provide a distraction from our thoughts when needed – but it had made sense for them to explore whilst the majority of the older Slytherins were watching the try-outs and the rumours of a heavily supervised practice were too good an opportunity to miss.
Jack was flying around the edge of the pitch as the mini game started so that he could keep a closer eye on how we each performed. I felt a mixed surge or pride and fear as Sirius smacked an oncoming bludgers with the flat centre of his bat at one of my fellow teammates - Jack totally saw that! He looks impressed! Sirius might have a shot… but one of my teammates got hit… does that mean my team are loosing? I swerved to the left just in time to dodge another bludger heading my way from Ed Bones who had paired up with Sirius.
“Potter!” Sally Wright, a chaser from last year, yelled in my direction as she threw the quaffle towards me.
Come on, James. Catch it. Catch it. Catch it.
I felt the familiar leather weight of the quaffle as it skimmed by the tips of my fingers. That was close. Jack nodded in my direction. I threw the ball under my left arm and dove forwards on my broom towards the guarded hoops on the opposite side of the pitch. I was aware of a Fifth Year on the opposite trial team flying up to meet me. The side of his broom banged into mine forcefully as I tried to escape his shadow – yet I couldn’t rid myself of the Gryffindor, no matter how much I dived or swung to the left sharply, he just mirrored my actions.
My eyes skimmed to the right to see one of the students trying out of beater on my team preparing to hit a bludger in my direction so I would be free of the Fifth Year. She pulled her arm pack forcibly and clutched the bat tighter as the bludgers came shooting towards her, but even at my distance I knew she’d hesitated a moment too slowly and the bludgers hit the end of the bat instead.
I heard the roar of the bludgers as it zoomed towards it’s target, completely missing my Fifth Year shadow and instead hitting the tips of both of our brooms, causing me to lurch forwards in an attempt to regain control – but also meaning that the quaffle slipped from beneath my arm and fell to the pitch below.
I watch in open mouth horror as is propelled towards the ground, only aware of the wood between my fingers and the sounds of another bludger being hit. It wasn’t that surprising when someone in a purple top skimmed the pitch and caught the quaffle in her left hand – almost as if it had been aimed at her. Clark. She was also trying out for chaser and had scored a goal already. God.
I shook my head roughly to clear the distracting thoughts and threw myself forwards, eager to show what I could do. Clark jerked her broomstick upwards and rocketed towards the posts, only to be hit off course by a well aimed bludger coming suspiciously from Sirius’ direction. The quaffle flew out of her hands and it was almost too easy to scoop it out of the air before my shadow returned.
I leant closer to the broomstick, the wind roared against my flapping robes – isolating me from the rest of the pitch. The quaffle was tight under my arm and Gideon watched me approach as he hovered in front of the three posts.
I leant to the left and pulled the quaffle into my right hand as I neared the hoop, Gideon mirrored my actions and prepared to block – I knew immediately that I was going to miss.
”Dad,” I started, my voice tinged with curiosity. He was sitting behind his large oak desk and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Dark bruises framed his hazel eyes, yet small creases appeared as his lips lifted into a smile when he took in my appearance at his study door.
“James,” he chuckled quietly, “weren’t you sent to bed over an hour ago?”
“Er,” I stalled, my eyes roaming his office for inspiration until they landed on a faded black and white image of a Quidditch team. “I was just thinking about… Quidditch.”
“Quidditch?” Dad repeated with his brows raised, he put the quill beside the parchment and rested his chin on top of his large hands. “What about it?”
“Y-you were captain, right? Of the Gryffindor team – for like, ages.” Dad nodded slowly. “H-how did you get so good? Jack says that there’s a plaque at Hogwarts that says you’re the highest scoring chaser - in like - ever.”
Dad snorted and his smile widened as he shook his head. “Talent.” Dad teased gently.
“Dad,” I whined to his amusement. “Why did you decide to be an auror if you could have played Quidditch?”
He watched me for a moment and gestured for me to come closer. “I nearly didn’t.” I frowned at him. “I guess I made the decision the same way I scored those goals – I left to the last minute. In Quidditch, I was never predictable because I often never knew what I would do until the moment came, then the decision just came to me – it felt right. I was about to sign to become a reserve for the Tornadoes when I began to realise what was actually happening in the world. I knew the right choice.” Dad shrugged simply. “It’s never too late to change your actions, James.”
“So you’re the best Chaser at Hogwarts ever and one of the best Aurors in Britain… because you don’t know what you’re doing?”
Dad snorted and laughed loudly so it echoed off the bookshelves and around his cozy office. “Yes, I guess so.” He snorted again. “There’s that, also it helps that I’m the best.”
My arm surged forward with the quaffle gripped in my right hand. I was certain that it wasn’t shot, when Dad’s words seemed to float into my mind. It’s never too late to change your actions. The quaffle started to leave my hand when on a surge of instinct, I twisted my wrist to the right.
The quaffle sailed through the air, in the complete opposite direction to where Gideon had thrown himself, and a loud ding announced a goal. I scored!
A whistle sounded around the pitch; ending the trial game. The entire group flew to where Jack was stood and landed gracefully beside our teammates. “That was a bloody good game,” Jack grinned, “there’s clearly some work to do – but no one’s ever said Quidditch should be easy.” His eyes roamed over the team quickly. “You each have your strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve based my judgement purely on what I’ve seen today and my decision is final.”
There were nervous mutterings within the group and Sirius and I stepped closer together. His arm briefly touched mine and we nodded at each other, wishing good luck. “Gid, you’ll be taking back your spot as Keeper.” Gideon smirked and bowed towards the jeering Slytherins who’d increased their volume. “Fab, same for you – you’ll be playing Beater, along with our new team member…” A pin drop could be heard in the sudden terse silence; instinctively I reached out and briefly touched my friends’ arm. One of the older students started rubbing his hands together in what looked to be a nervous twitch whilst another shuffled his feet against the ground. “Sirius Black.”
His breath collapsed from his lungs with a loud gasp, and I watched as his jaw hung open whilst he looked at Jack with wide eyes; certain a mistake had been made. I grinned broadly as he laughed in disbelief and I pulled him into a quick manly hug. Slowly I began to become aware of the angry mutterings from some of the older students. “He hit more bludgers at his target than any of the rest.” Jack said plainly, his eyes glazing over the other three try-outs. “My decision is final – leave the pitch if you haven’t been chosen.” His eyes narrowed when they hesitated to move. “Now.” He added threateningly.
The players left the pitch slowly, muttering amongst themselves and sending glares at Sirius’back. Jack turned to face us. “Welcome to the team, Sirius. Look – you were good but if you want to stay on the team, you’re going to have to learn to control your temper, understood?”
Sirius nodded morosely and walked over to the Weasley twins. I watched him with a frown, what happened? What did I miss?“Don’t feel bad, Black.” Gideon started.
“It was bloody brilliant.” Fabian added.
“Those Slytherins had it coming – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that cousin of yours move so fast.” What?
“Chasers.” Jack said loudly attracting our attention from his friends with a frown. “As probably expected, Ed Bones and Sally Wright are taking back their positions.” The Weasley twins cheered in an exaggerated fashion and Ed rolled his eyes as they joined the chosen team. “The rest of you played brilliantly, but other than Ed and Sally – only two of you scored a goal.” Sirius grinned at me when he said this - I’m one of them! “So the decision comes down to you two.” Jack looked at me directly as he said this, his eyes mixed with some emotion I couldn’t place – all I was aware of was my heart thrashing against my ribcage and Jack’s voice. This is it. This is when it all started for Dad. “The new team member is…” My heart thrashed wilder and dad’s words echoed in my head, ‘it helps that I’m the best.’ Jack opened his mouth, his brown eyes fully focused on me. “Cathleen Clark.”
What? Cathleen Clark is Chaser? No!
Thoughts on this chapter? They're always much appreciated? It's nice to know there are people reading my story - not just 'Google' lurking through the page. ;)
I'm so grateful for all the support you've been giving me - over 100 reviews? What?! 60 favourites?! That's so crazy! Thank you everyone so much!
I don't update this story usually, unless I'm adding a new chapter - I know how annoying it is when you get all excited when one of your favourite stories gets updated.. only to find a word had been changed in Chapter 4. But I'm giving everyone warning, I've made a stupid time-error when I wrote my notes so I'll be fixing it immediately and re-writing certain parts to do with Andromeda Black. (As tempting as it is to write a fourteen year old with a baby Tonks. I feel it would have been mentioned at some point. :P) So, over the next week, this story will be updated again and I'll post at the top of the next chapter what parts have been changed if you want to go read them. Sorry for the inconvenience and I hope you forgive me! :D
Until next time, Keira :)
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