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Chapter 10 : The Subterfuge
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"And we're having dinner tonight, too!" Sirius told James, finishing his story of finding Clarissa. "I got a private parlor booked at the Leaky Cauldron. I want to show her around our world a bit so it doesn't come as such a shock when she meets Harry."
"Are you sure that's a good idea, Sirius?" Lily asked. She had not been happy when Sirius interrupted her 'special time' with James that night, and was quite eager to get her husband back upstairs, which resulted in her sitting in the kitchen with the two Marauders, wearing an emerald-green bathrobe and a scowl, offering points of doubt to every part of Sirius' encounter with Clarissa. "You don't know anything about this woman. What if she's remembering someone else? You can't have been the only tall and dark twenty-year-old who knocked up a woman he met while drinking. If you bring her to the Leaky Cauldron and she's not who you think she is, she'll have to have her memory wiped. And what about Harry? How devastated do you think he'll be in you write to him about finding his mother only to find out you made a mistake? Why don't you go think about this before jumping into it?"
"I haven't written to Harry," Sirius said. "I wrote to Dumbledore as soon as I left the pub, but I didn't want to say anything to Harry until I knew when he'd be able to leave school for a weekend to meet Clarissa. I can't bring a Muggle to Hogwarts, she'll just see ruins."
Lily opened her mouth, but James silenced her with a hand on her arm.
"Sirius knows what he's doing. Harry isn't going to get hurt from this, so don't worry."
"I hope you're right," Lily said. "I'm going back to bed. And you had best be headed up soon too, James."
Sirius waited until she left to apologize for cock-blocking his best mate.
"No worries, Padfoot," James said, smiling. Quietly, he added, "It's better when she's angry," and followed his wife upstairs.
Laughing, Sirius Flooed home.
Sirius nervously adjusted the collar of his shirt and tried to keep his hair in line as the wind knotted it while waiting for Clarissa outside of the Leaky Cauldron. He had decided to wear Muggle clothes until explaining to her about Wizards.
A cab pulled up and Clarissa stepped out. She was wearing a heavy coat, but still looked pretty cold as early October wind brushed her hair and flushed her cheeks. Her calves were covered only by nylon and she wore opened-toed, black high heels.
Sirius smiled and kissed her cheek. "I have a lot to tell you about. Let's get out of this wind."
With a hand on the small of her back, Sirius led her inside and straight to their private room.
"Cozy," she said, looking around. When Sirius took her coat, she gave him a giggle he was beginning to find adorable. "Such a gentleman," she said, sitting down in the chair Sirius offered her.
He smiled nervously and sat across from her.
Dinner was silent and awkward, and once it was over, Sirius asked Tom the innkeeper that they not be disturbed again.
" Clarissa, I need to tell you something about Harry." Better sooner than later.
"Shh." She snaked around the table and put a finger against Sirius' lips. "Let Harry tell me about Harry. You can tell me about you." She was in his lap now.
Sirius was about to stand when he noticed her shiny lip-gloss. There was no color in it, all the color came from Clarissa's lips. But it was so shiny. He was overcome with the sudden urge to taste it. So he did. Holding the back of her head, Sirius smashed his mouth to hers, harder than he intended, but Clarissa didn't seem to mind. He ran his tongue along her thick, bottom lip, and the taste made his head spin. When he heard her gasp he gently bit down and felt her giggle against him. Sirius welcomed the feeling as she moved her legs to straddle him. In one motion, Sirius pushed the dishes and uneaten food to the floor and threw Clarissa on the table. She giggled again. So arousing. He kissed her neck and licked her lips again. He tried to brush a strand of hair away from her face, but he couldn't lift his arm. As quickly as his desire for this woman overpowered him, it vanished, and Sirius knew he was in trouble. His legs were no longer able to hold him up, and his dead weight was all supported by Clarissa and the table. Until she pushed him to the floor. All Sirius could do was stare at her, as Clarissa's smug face melted into his cousin's. Bellatrix.
She laughed. How did he ever find a laugh coming from this bitch attractive? Bellatrix wiped her lips on a napkin. "Like it?" she asked, showing him the smear of lip-gloss on the cloth. "I wore it just for you. Don't worry, it won't kill you. The Dark Lord wants you alive, for now."
How could he have been so stupid? Was he that desperate to find Harry's mother that he completely missed Clarissa being Bellatrix? Did Voldemort have the real Clarissa, or did Clarissa never exist?
Bellatrix crouched next to him. "You played right into my hands, cousin. And if that paralyzer hadn't worked so quickly, you're hands would have played right into me." She laughed.
Sirius felt sick, knowing she was right. He was almost grateful to be lying helpless on the floor.
"Not all of that was the potion," she added, squeezing between his legs and grinning.
Almost. Sirius didn't know if he wanted to glare and curse or hold a wand more. Throwing up was a good choice, too.
Bellatrix jumped back and shot a curse at the wizard in the doorway.
Sirius heard more people running to the room.
"You can't defeat me, Potter!"
"Death Eater!" More voices joined James' side, shouting curses.
"Sirius! Are you all right?"
James' face was above him now, but Sirius still couldn't move.
"Hold on, mate. I'll get you help." James levitated Sirius and brought him to St. Mungo's, the wizarding hospital.
Once there, Healers stuffed a potion down his throat, and Sirius was able to move again.
"You will have to wait a day or two for complete mobility to be restored, but no lasting damage has been done to your system," the Healer told him. After making a note on Sirius' chart, the Healer left Sirius alone with James.
"I guess that means no more dating Death Eaters, eh, Padfoot?"
"Shut up. If my muscles had been working, I would have vomited everything I just ate. That time Harry threw his shit-filled diaper in my face was less disgusting."
James started to laugh, but stopped once Sirius asked why he had been there to stop Bellatrix.
"I wasn't sure what time you were meeting her, so I went to your place to ask you about something. Something stupid, I don't even remember. You weren't there, but this was." James handed Sirius a piece of parchment that had, judging by the crinkled state of it, been stuffed into a pocket. "It's from Dumbledore. I headed for London as soon as I read it."
DO NOT MEET CLARISSA STEVENSON! She is not who she claims to be. She is dangerous.
"How could he have known?"
"I don't know, but thank Merlin he was at the Ministry," James said. "I never would have gotten that reply in time if he hadn't been."
"Yeah… But he doesn't know anymore about Harry's mother than I do, how'd he know it wasn't her?" At least Voldemort having the real Clarissa was no longer a worry.
"Professor McGonagall." Percy Weasley strode into the Transfiguration classroom with an air of importance about him.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see Harry Black in his office immediately, ma'am."
Harry's stomach turned as he watched McGonagall scribble something on a scrap piece of parchment. Did Dumbledore find out about what he'd done last night?
"Black, go with Weasley to the Headmaster's office." She handed him the parchment.
Harry's classmates whispered wildly. The last a student had been pulled from class to see Dumbledore, their family had been killed. But Harry thought it was much more likely that Dumbledore found out about his little adventure last night than that something happened to Sirius. Harry could live with Dumbledore putting him in detention every night for the rest of the term. His being summoned by the Headmaster meant he was in trouble, and the only trouble his father was in would be the trouble of finding a suitable punishment for him.
Harry didn't pay attention as he followed Percy to Dumbledore's office, clutching the strap of his bag. He'd find his way back to class or the Gryffindor Tower eventually. After Percy told him to wait in front of two stone gargoyles and left, Harry looked at the parchment McGonagall had given him.
"Er, lemon drops?" Harry said, deciding it must be a password, or else McGonagall had lost her mind.
The stone gargoyles jumped aside and revealed a spinning staircase.
Harry started up the stairs until he reached the door to Dumbledore's office. He knocked and pushed the door open. When he saw that no one was in there, he slipped in and closed the door behind him. Hadn't his father said more than once that he wished he could have had the chance to look around Dumbledore's office without the Headmaster present? For all the help that his father's Marauder's Map was, it never said when Dumbledore locked his door beyond a password. Harry would just have to take a look around now.
A beautiful scarlet and gold bird was sleeping on a perch next to the desk. Harry had never seen a bird like it, but he recognized it from a magical animals picture book he had when he was younger. This was a phoenix. Didn't his father belong to something called the Order of the Phoenix? All his father had ever told him about the Order of the Phoenix was that his godparents and uncles were in it too, and it meant they were fighting Voldemort to keep him and the rest of the world safe. Voldemort. Sirius had always taught him to say the name, even though most witches and wizards feared it. Sirius told him he should be afraid of Voldemort, and respect the dark wizard's powers, but he shouldn't be scared so stupid that he couldn't say a name. Besides, could Voldemort really be any more terrifying than Bellatrix Lestrange, who almost captured him on the train?
Green flames erupted in the fireplace and Harry jumped back. "Professor." Harry knew guilt was all over his face.
"Mr. Black, you are not in trouble," Dumbledore said.
Harry wondered if he looked that guilty or if Dumbledore could just read minds.
"But it is very important that you are honest with me. Has a woman calling herself Clarissa Stevenson tried to contact you?"
"No." Harry had never heard that name before in his life. He shifted as Dumbledore gazed down at him over the top of his half-moon spectacles.
"If she does, you must alert myself or Professor McGonagall immediately, do you understand, Harry?"
"Yes, sir. But why would someone I don't know be trying to talk to me?"
"Your father met Clarissa Stevenson at a Muggle pub, where she convinced him that she was your mother. She is Bellatrix Lestrange."
Images of Bellatrix's sneering face and icy fingers raced through Harry's mind. "My dad? What happened to him?"
"Sirius was taken to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries after meeting with Bellatrix last night. The Healers assure me he will make a full recovery by tomorrow. I apologize for not telling you this sooner, Harry, but I had business I needed to look after in London until now."
Harry nodded. "Can I see him?"
Dumbledore sat behind his desk and brought his long fingers together beneath his nose. "Sirius has already accepted my invitation to stay at Hogwarts this weekend. But he agrees with me that because Bellatrix Lestrange, and possibly Lord Voldemort himself, has taken an interest in you and Sirius, that you should stay in the castle or on the grounds until the holidays."
"Thank you, sir. Yes, I will."
"Is there anything you wish to talk to me about, Harry? Anything at all?"
Was he talking about what Harry had done last night? Harry thought he'd better not risk it, in case he only got Ron and Hermione into trouble too. "No, sir."
Dumbledore looked him over. "Very well. I believe class is about to end, so if you would like to accompany me to the Great Hall for an early start at lunch, you may."
Harry nodded and followed Dumbledore out of his office. They had been walking for about a minute before the bell rang.
"Just on time," Dumbledore said, pleasantly.
When they arrived in the Great Hall, Dumbledore left Harry at the Gryffindor table, where Ron and Hermione were waiting.
"Does he know about last night?" Ron asked, just as Hermione said, "Is you dad all right?"
"It was about my dad. He's okay though."
Hermione looked relieved.
"You weren't expelled?"
"Don't be daft, Ron! If Dumbledore was going to expel Harry, he would have wanted to see all of us, and he certainly wouldn't have walked him to lunch. What happened with your dad, Harry? Dumbledore wouldn't have called you to his office just to say he was okay."
"Bellatrix Lestrange was disguised as a Muggle. My dad thought she was my mum. He's in St. Mungo's, but Dumbledore says he'll be okay by tomorrow. Dumbledore wanted to make sure she wasn't posing as my mum to me too."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione had tears in her eyes.
"Yeah, Hermione," Ron said, with his mouth full. "Harry's fine, his dad's fine, and we aren't in detention."
"Honestly, Ron, is not getting in detention all you care about? Harry's father could have died—"
"Well you seemed pretty keen on staying out of detention last night."
"I'm going to see Hedwig," Harry said, and left his friends to bicker.
In the Owlry, Hedwig immediately flew down to Harry. Smiling, Harry pet her white feathers. He loved Ron and Hermione, but since the second week of term, it seemed like they would get into a new fight every other day.
"Sorry, girl, no letter today."
She nipped the finger closest to her, but stayed on Harry's arm.
Harry wanted to send a letter to his dad, to find out how his father could have believed that horrible cow was his mother, but with the weekend two days away, he figured it would quicker just to wait and talk to Sirius when he got to the school.
Looking out the window, Harry saw smoke rising from Hagrid's chimney. Hagrid had given him Hedwig. Hagrid's cabin was on school grounds.
"Want to visit Hagrid, Hedwig?"
Hedwig nipped Harry's finger again, this time gently.
"Okay, let's go."
Visiting with Hargid had been fun, but short, since Harry had afternoon classes. Talking with the groundskeeper also helped settle some fears Harry hadn't realized he'd had.
Sirius was a brilliant and talented wizard, Hagrid had told him, he had been one of the best Aurors in the field. (Harry knew the only reason his father wasn't still an Auror was because he thought raising Harry was more important, but Sirius had hinted that he might return to his old job once Harry started school.) Hagrid had Harry convinced that his father wouldn't be fooled twice by Bellatrix, no matter who she was pretending to be. And thought kept him calmer that he had been as he raced to History of Magic.
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