Chapter 20 : Into Trouble
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Sirius was first to wake up the next morning. He drew open one of the curtains to see the storm had passed. The grass was soaked, the grounds littered with branches and leaves. The Quidditch game would go on as scheduled. He hoped James was up to playing
Once the rest of the Marauders stirred awake, the four friends headed to breakfast. Sirius didn’t have much time to eat before having to report to Filch for detention. He forced himself to eat a full meal as he expected Filch would have manual labor planned. When the owls arrived to deliver the mail, James received the usual ‘good luck’ note from his parents.
James grinned as he read the note and Sirius felt an involuntary pang. “My Mum and Dad say hello to you all,” James relayed folding up the note. It was childish and unrealistic to still wish for a warm and fuzzy family like the Potters, but the longing crept up on him when he least expected. Sirius met Remus’s eyes briefly and for a moment he saw exactly what he was feeling mirrored in the werewolf’s eyes. The Lupins were normal and kind, but as a werewolf, Remus had nowhere near the happy childhood that James had.
Grabbing an apple for later, Sirius wished James and the rest of the team luck before heading out. He hadn’t been late to one detention yet, and this one would not be a good one to start. The excitement of the Quidditch game was palpable as Sirius strode through the halls. The halls grew quieter and darker (though that was probably just his imagination), as he reached Filch’s office. There was another person slouched with his back turned perusing the list of banned items – many of them Sirius was proud to admit was because of the Marauders.
As he approached the person, his identity became all too clear. “Snivellus.”
Snape twirled around, his black cape flying around him, his black eyes flashing. “Ah Black, suppose I should have expected you’d be here.”
Sirius gripped his wand glaring at his adversary, but before any other words could be exchanged Filch opened his doors. “Wands,” Filch said outstretching his calloused hand. Snape relinquished his wand first and Sirius rolled his eyes as he handed his wand off. Filch was never content with the students leaving their wands in their dormitory for detention. Since he was a Squib, students looked down upon the caretaker, so he took any opportunity to yield some power over them. Filch stepped back into his dingy office and placed the wands in the front drawer of his desk, behind it hung a set of manacles and chains. Filch noticed his gaze and he grinned toothily. “Polished them last night, got to have them ready when the School Governors approve my petition to bring these punishments back…Headmaster has gotten too soft and I have a special set picked out for you, Mr. Black.”
Sirius kept silent even though he wanted to lash out. He could feel Snape’s eyes on him and the smirk on his face.
“Right then,” Filch muttered and locked his door securely. “I better not have any problems with you two.” He took a moment to glare at each of them. “No talking. Follow me.”
Sirius and Severus followed Filch through the corridors and surprisingly out into the courtyard. Filch made a turn towards the greenhouses and he stopped at Greenhouse 3. Professor Sprout was bustling out the door. She looked up. “Oh good, you’re here. I was about to leave.” She motioned for the two teenagers to step into the greenhouse. “The damage is quite extensive.”
It turned out Sprout’s words were an understatement. Sirius’s eyes widened as he took in the damage around. The storm last night had blown several windows out scattering shards of glass everywhere. Then after the windows had been shattered, the wind and rain had done additional damage – bags of fertilizer were soaked, soil sacks torn, shattered ceramic pots, upturned planters. It was a mess.
“Your task today Mr. Black and Mr. Snape will to begin cleaning this mess up,” Sprout explained. “I need to leave, but Mr. Filch knows the location of the brooms, dust pans and anything you’ll need.”
“Are we expected to clean all this today?” Sirius voiced unable to keep quiet, knowing Snape was thinking the exact same thing. It seemed an impossible and even with the aid of magic it would be an arduous task.
“No, Mr. Black – but bear in mind that if you two do not made significant progress, then you can finish up in detention tomorrow.” Sprout cleared her throat. “I will be going then. I suggest you have them start on opposite sides of the room, Mr. Filch. And brawling in detention will get you another weeks’ worth, so keep that in mind.”
Filch waited until Sprout had left before issuing instructions and predictably Sirius received the worse job. Snape’s first task was to take inventory; put an ‘X’ on those items that were too damaged and a ‘check’ for those in good condition. Snape was then to throw out any unusable items and line up the others in an orderly fashion. Sirius had the honor of starting to actually clean the room.
First he swept up the shards of glass, and then he moved to the stacks of fertilizer and regular soil bags. The bags had small tears in them, so he was to move the bags outside where several large barrels were set for storage. There were separate barrels for the regular soil and the fertilizer. He was given a small wheelbarrow to move the bags; something larger wouldn’t fit in the aisles of the greenhouse.
Filch didn’t stay long claiming he had other errands to do. Sirius doubted it, but he didn’t complain. He’d rather work without Filch breathing down his neck. Filch told them he would check up on them randomly and periodically - and if he caught them for even a moment taking a break, it would be an automatic week detention no questions asked.
The air in the Greenhouse smelled even more musty than usual. The chilly outside air flowed freely in through the damaged windows. Sirius rubbed his hands together trying to warm them as he approached the stack of soil and fertilizer bags wearily. He grabbed hold of the first and as he lifted it, the bag fully split open, drenching him in soil. The sacks were made of very thin material and it was impossible to tell the severity of the rips without lifting the bag first. Cursing, Sirius threw the now empty sack to the ground. Snape peeked his head out and when he saw the new mess, he smirked. “We are supposed to be cleaning up the place, Black – not making it worse.”
Sirius gave him a rude hand gesture. He swept the soil off his clothes with his hands, but it was wet and clung to him. Even once most of it was on the ground, he now looked as dirty as if he’d been rolling around in it.
Snape tutted. “Manners, Black. I’d like an apology, unless you want me to tell Filch you purposely causing the bags to split open.”
“You can tell him whatever you bloody want to,” Sirius spat. Sirius wanted to say more. He wanted to insult the Slytherin further. His hatred for the boy was still very strong, but having fully gained Remus’s trust, antagonizing the person who knew Remus’s secret would not be a smart choice. Sirius retrieved a broom and dustpan from the closet and upon return saw that Snape had skulked back into the storage room. Sirius couldn’t help feeling slightly satisfied that he’d avoided a huge altercation. He swept up the mess and chucked it into the wheel barrel. If the bags kept splitting like this it was going to be a very long process.
Detention was tiring and by lunch break Sirius’s arms, back and legs were all hurting. He was also sweaty and dirty. As he feared at least half the bags fell apart while he moved them. Snape having the easier job looked merely bored. More thirsty than hungry, Sirius gulped own two large glasses of water and picked at the sandwich. Filch scanned the room to make out their progress. He even walked over to where the pile of bags had been.
“Did you move all these already?” Filch demanded.
“Yes,” Sirius said and he glanced at Snape waiting for a comment.
Filch sniffed and that was as much as a compliment Sirius could hope for. Filch only gave them a twenty minute lunch break before setting them to work again. Eventually Snape joined him at the more laborious clean-up task, but as he was physically weaker than Sirius, he wasn’t much aid at the harder tasks. Surprisingly it was Professor Sprout who appeared to let them out of detention. She was full of praise of their hard work and handed back their wands. She must have stopped by Filch’s office to retrieve them.
Curious about the outcome of the Quidditch game, Sirius lingered. “Professor, is the Quidditch game over?”
“Yes, Mr. Black,” Sprout answered distractedly already busily attending one of her plants.
“Who won?” Sirius asked carefully.
Sprout glanced up. “Gryffindor.”
Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. At least that meant James had played at his usual caliber. Sirius noticed that Snape had not left yet and Sirius threw him an annoyed look. He then sped up hoping to create as much distance between them as possible. While Sirius knew they would be traveling along the same path for quite a bit of the journey he didn’t expect to find Snivellus following him so closely. By the large smirk on Snape’s face, Sirius knew he was doing it on purpose. Finally at a corridor near the Grand Staircase, Sirius had enough and whirled around to confront the Slytherin.
“Say what you want to say and let’s be done with it!”
Snape regarded him with a smug look of superiority. “Last time we were this close in a hallway, you sent me to my death.”
“Still on about that.”
“Forever and ever until you are fully punished –“
“I have been punished. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still serving detention.”
“Not that kind of punishment…more along the lines of retribution.”
Sirius couldn’t help rolling his eyes; Snape did have a flair for the dramatics. He could see Snape slowly grow angrier as he realized his threat hadn’t exactly done its job.
“And there will be worse things in store for your pet werewolf –“
“Werewolf?” called a voice around the corner. Lestrange appeared several seconds later along with several other Slytherins. They were dressed in heavy cloaks obviously having come back from the game. Lestrange’s eyes raked over both fifth years. “Black’s friends with a werewolf? And here I thought you couldn’t sink any further.”
Time stopped for Sirius. He froze, unable to breath, unable to even protest Lestrange’s words. Here was Snape’s chance. Here was his chance to tell the Slytherins Remus’s secret. And there was nothing Sirius could do about it. He couldn’t mask his horror. He couldn’t mask his dread. The Slytherins would see the truth on his face.
“Of course not,” Snape snapped. “Even a werewolf would find it not politically advantageous to befriend a disinherited Black.”
The Slytherins laughed appreciatively, but Sirius was still frozen. He stared at Snape in disbelief. He wanted to ask Snape why he hadn’t told. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Why hadn’t he acted?
“You had such a bright future,” Lestrange murmured and Sirius, still shaken by what could have happened, focused his attention away from Snape. It was only then he became aware of the precarious situation he was in. Remus’s secret was still safe, but Sirius was trapped; his back against the wall, Snape to his right and the Slytherins to his left. He did not immediately grab for his wand forcing himself to first think about his options. At best he could hope to disarm two, maybe three Slytherins if he took them by surprise. He was outnumbered with his wand, and if they managed to disarm him (which was likely), he would be completely at their mercy.
He was a Gryffidnor for a reason and they had always been hailed for their foolish bravery. If he put up a fight perhaps it would be over quicker. His hand was barely around his wand when Snape sent a hex crashing into the wall right above his shoulder. Sirius flinched and in that moment another curse originating from group behind Lestrange hit his upper thigh. The searing pain washed over him moments later; he gritted his teeth and had to use his left hand to keep himself righted. His wand was still gripped in his other hand, but the pain was making it difficult to think. He looked up to see only Lestrange was not pointing his wand at him. They all were sneering and smirking making it impossible to figure out who had sent the curse.
“Patience, boys,” Lestrange admonished. “Let’s not be hasty. Give Black a moment to catch his breath.”
“My breath?” Sirius spat. “Why don’t you fight me one on one? Or are you only brave enough to face me eight against one?”
Lestrange laughed. “I could take you one on one, but this isn’t a duel, Black.”
“Maybe we should move into a classroom,” Snape stated looking worriedly behind him. The corridor was moderately used, so there was a good chance someone would come along eventually. Though if everyone was returning from the pitch it was unlikely they would take this route. With a dark calculating look Snape added, “Then we could take our time…and I’ve been practicing Oblivate. I believe I can manage it. Black won’t remember a thing.”
Snape’s suggestion to erase his memories was spoken so casually that Sirius felt icy wave of fear wash over him. The suggestion had scared him more than any of Snape’s threats previously. He couldn’t allow them to take him behind closed doors. It turned out he didn’t have to worry.
“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it, Snape,” Lestrange retorted coldly. Sirius’s head whipped back to Lestrange. Sirius expected Snape to make another remark, but he deferred to older Slytherin. “It won’t be necessary to take this behind closed doors.”
Lestrange wanted the assault out in the open? Did this make the situation better or worse?
“As I was saying this isn’t a duel. This will be an example for all bloodtraitors, both those who have already betrayed us and those thinking of doing so. This is what will happen to them if they don’t crawl into a dark hole and never show their faces again.”
Sirius let go of the wall and took a step toward the Slytherins. The movement caused such fresh stab of pain that he had to bend down slightly to get his breath even again. Lestrange was amused by his bravery. “See boys, it is because of this Black is the perfect example. Has he asked for leniency? Has he begged for forgiveness? No. Because he isn’t sorry for his choice…but he will be. I will ensure it.” Lestrange paused letting the words sink in. “It is a pity though. I don’t wish to do this. I should be handing you a personal invitation from the Dark Lord himself to join his ranks. I shouldn’t have to waste my time doing this…teaching you your place. Did you know my father sat me down before third year and instructed me to become acquainted with you? That even though you’d only be a first year, I wasn’t to treat you like one. This was before you disgraced your family and got sorted into Gryffindor. There was so much anticipation about your arrival at Hogwarts in Slytherin and among the purebloods.”
Sirius hadn’t known at the time. He’d been sheltered and sequestered by his parents before Hogwarts. Regulus had asked him only last summer why he’d chosen Gryffindor. Regulus, having gone through his own sorting, knew that whether the Sorting Hat thought he really belonged in Slytherin, it would have put Sirius in there if he’d only asked.
“You barely knew Potter at the time. You may have been frustrated with Mother’s and Father’s strictness, but you still loved them. You weren’t against the purity movement yet. For Merlin’s sake Sirius, you still referred to Muggleborns as mudbloods then. So why?” Regulus had demanded.
It had been hard for Sirius to articulate his answer. He still remembered his sorting as if it were yesterday. The train ride full of laugher and jokes with James and several other boys fresh on his mind. Along with the other first years, he’d been bustled into the Great Hall, which was more magnificent than any words could describe. He’d looked around feeling a fluttery feeling in his stomach as they were marched down between the tables of older students. His name was called before the reality of finally being at Hogwarts settled in. He remembered the way James’s eyes had widened with the realization of his surname. He’d told the boy his family was all in Slytherin, but that was all. James had not asked and Sirius had not offered his last name. Sirius had thrown him an apologetic look as he made his way to the stool. Then he straightened up, composure perfect, he’d been trained to hide his emotions from a young age.
The Sorting Hat had been placed on his head.
‘Ah the Black heir at last…Slytherin I believe would be – wait, hmm interesting.’
‘Interesting?’ Sirius had answered in his head.
‘I’ve been around a very long time, young Mr. Black. There’s been very few in your family tree that Slytherin wasn’t the best fit. And of those few none of them were brave enough to take that chance. They all begged me to sort them in Slytherin.’
Sirius remembered sitting there confused and afraid. It was the first time in his life he’d been given a choice other than Slytherin. It was not a question; Blacks were Slytherins just as water was wet. He hadn’t really been serious when he had told James he might ‘break tradition’. It had just been an off-comment; he’d been trying to be clever. He’d never dreamed the Sorting Hat would give him the opportunity to do that very thing. For all the trouble he’d caused at home even his parents hadn’t thought about this possibility. The warnings hadn’t been about getting sorted into Slytherin. No all the warnings had been about acceptable behavior once he was in Slytherin.
Sirius had closed his eyes; he’d taken a deep breath. “Not Slytherin.” The first Black in history to utter those two words.
It might have been a second later or a full minute. The exact time didn’t matter because it was already too late…too late to rethink the decision.
Instead of trying to explain any of this to Regulus, he had looked directly at his brother. “I have done things I regret, Regulus – but getting sorted into Gryffindor was not one of them.”
Regulus had shaken his head, disappointed in Sirius’s answer. He hadn’t understood then, and perhaps he never would.
Lestrange walked slowly up and down in front of Sirius, the movement bringing Sirius back to the present. Lestrange was in control and he was letting Sirius know it. “I am disgusted just to look at you. You’ve become a shadow of the boy you should have been.” Lestrange turned slightly to address the Slytherins. “Remember, friends, this is for our Cause. This is for the Dark Lord.” Without warning Lestrange, in one swift motion, he sent a curse straight at Sirius.
The hex rebounded harmlessly toward the floor. Sirius was saved by his quick reflexes.
Lestrange smiled. “Very good!” he praised Sirius, and the praise only alarmed Sirius. He didn’t want to play into their hands, but what choice did he have besides defend himself? “Keenan would have been most impressed!”
“Indeed,” a voice broke in. So intent on what was happening, no one had seen Professor Keenan coming from behind the Slytherins. All the Slytherins, including Snape moved quickly to the side, pocketing their wands. Lestrange eyed them distastefully and stood his ground.
“This is disgraceful behavior,” Keenan stated, his voice commanding. He was wearing a red and gold scarf and a Ravenclaw pin, showing his support for both Quidditch teams. “Ten points each off Slytherin.”
None of the Slytherins argued, instead they looked down and away.
“And detention tomorrow night.”
“Worthy repercussions for putting a blood-traitor in its place,” Lestrange muttered. His wand was still out and it was pointing in Professor Keenan’s direction. Sirius wasn’t the only one to wonder if it was intentionally aimed at the Professor.
“Put your wand away, Mr. Lestrange. And since I saw you cast a spell, let’s add an additional two nights detention for you.”
Lestrange smirked. “Don’t think I’m not aware you’re a mudblood.”
The audacity of his remarked was mirrored in all their faces. Keenan looked furious. He disarmed Lestrange with a quick flick. “The Headmasters office – NOW!”
Lestrange shrugged. “Think I care about Hogwarts! It’s the Dark Lord that matters! Not points or detentions.” Lestrange looked straight at Sirius for a moment before finally leaving.
Keenan took a deep breath clearly trying to control his own temper. The other Slytherins hadn’t moved, perhaps still in shock at the quick turn in events. “Professor Slughorn or I will be in contact about the detentions. Now off you go. Straight to the common room and if I hear otherwise, I’ll be doubling the punishment.”
Dismissed, the Slytherins hurried away. Sirius stumbled backwards to the wall and leaned against it. Adrenaline was still coursing through his body. His heart still beat rapidly, palms sweating; his body trying to catch up on the fact that he was no longer in danger.
“Mr. Black, are you hurt?” Professor Keenan asked, striding over.
Sirius wanted to tell Keenan to leave him alone, but the pain in his leg was only intensifying. He looked down and saw the curse had burnt straight through his outercloak, robe, and the pants he wore underneath. The skin was red, raw, blistering…he saw something white, but it hurt too much to even think about what that could be. “My leg,” he managed to croak out.
Keenan bent down to inspect the wound better. “I’m going to move your heavy cloak away from the wound,” Keenan warned.
Sirius nodded and even that slight movement caused such jabs of pain that it left him breathless in agony. Keenan lifted the cloth carefully, but some of the blood had already dried and as the fabric pulled away from the skin, Sirius could not stop himself from crying out. The hallway began to swim in front of him and he felt his knees begin to buckle.
“Mr. Black! Mr. Black, stay with me –“
James lay almost flat on his broom, coaxing it to fly faster. The Quaffle was clutched to his right side. He’d made a break away after intercepting a pass from the other team. As the hoops loomed closer, he saw the panic in the Ravenclaw’s keeper. The Keeper yelled frantically for the Beaters, but they were too far away to deter James. He barreled forward, feigned to the right and slammed the Quaffle straight through the left hope. He looped around as the cheers erupted in the stands.
“Potter scores again!”
James scanned the area, ready to get the Quaffle back in Gryffindor’s possession. He felt good. He felt alive.
“Ravenclaw has the Quaffle now. Morey looks to be in good position to score. And – wow- impressive save by Gallagher! That looked sure to go in!”
Gallagher threw the Quaffle to Roberts, shouting, “Phoenix!” It was one of their plays. James and Roberts were already in position, and Gray joined in flying swiftly from below into the formation.
“Roberts tosses it to Potter. Potter to Gray, and then back to Potter. Roberts again – and wait the Snitch, ladies and gentlemen, has been sighted!”
The Gryffindor Chasers continued down the pitch, but the announcer and the crowd was focused on the Seekers racing side by side. As they had practiced the play ended with Roberts in the optimal position to score and he sent the Quaffle flying – just barely passed the Keeper’s outstretched hands, through the hoop.
“- Green is pulling ahead and yes, she’s caught the Snitch! Wait was that another goal for Gryffindor? Ah who cares! Gryffindor wins!”
The Gryffindors in the stands went wild, the sound was deafening. The game had been competitive, thrilling and exciting. Gryffindor had only pulled ahead at the end. Roberts and Gray circled around James, pumping their first in the air in celebration. James grinning high-fived Gray, and Roberts clapped him on the back. The rest of the team had surrounded Green, who was beaming, her hand still clutching the Snitch. The Chasers headed towards the ground and that’s when James started feeling strange. The world lurched and everything looked out of focus. James blinked eyes several times hoping it would help, but the fuzziness around him only grew. His head was pounding loudly and the noise around him sounded distorted. Gray and Roberts were flying still close enough that they noticed something was wrong. James could see their lips moving and they kept coming in and out of focus. The thumping in his head was getting worse; the ground was getting closer and closer. They were forty feet in the air, thirty, then twenty, and just as James thought he could hold on until his feet were on the ground, the world went black.
Author’s note: I’m not quite sure how this chapter happened. I had no intention to hospitalize either Marauder, and well here we are. Sorry to end the chapter this way, but I thought it was a good place to stop with what I have written next. I would love to hear what you think about the chapter, so please review. And thanks as always for continuing to read my story, even with the long time between updates.
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