Chapter 18 : Brotherhood
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As soon as he came down the boys’ staircase into the main area of the common room, Celestine had practically assaulted him, frantically asking what was going on between him and some mysterious other woman. When he didn’t provide a satisfactory answer, she became more specific, asking if there were other women involved. As he continued to sputter and make denials, Celestine’s eyes grew moist with tears, and eventually she stopped interrogating him and ran back upstairs. He had been waiting for her in the Great Hall, watching the door to see when she entered to have breakfast so that he could attempt to speak with her rationally.
It was ten minutes until nine, and she still hadn’t come down.
Suddenly, Sirius saw someone approach the door, walking through with a bag slung over her shoulder. He tried not to let his expression droop too much when he saw that it was only Lily. Her hair was un-brushed and her makeup looked smudged. Perhaps her morning routine had been interrupted by a hysterical roommate.
“Good morning,” she said softly, sitting across from him at the table.
“Morning,” he replied, deliberately leaving the ‘good’ out of it.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said, wishing that James was here to act as a buffer between them. Unfortunately, his best friend had come down with a bit of a cold over the weekend, and he was still debating whether he wanted to try to go to class when Sirius left their room to go down to breakfast. Remus and Peter had gone down to Slughorn’s class early to ask him for help with an essay he’d assigned that was about to be due.
“What was that all about?”
“How should I know? Ask her.”
“I tried. She didn’t feel like actually talking to anyone.” Lily took a piece of toast from the center of the table and scooped some baked beans onto her plate. She considered the black pudding for a moment but decided against it. “She’s really upset, you know. She wanted to skip class, but I told her she shouldn’t because the material will probably be on our N.E.W.T. exams, or at least final exams.”
“I know she’s upset, but I don’t know why. Things are fine between us.”
“Things were fine,” Lily said, frowning slightly at him. “She kept rambling about you seeing other girls behind her back, but none of it made any sense. Do you have any idea who she could have heard that stuff from? I mean—is any of it true?”
“No, of course not.” Sirius glared at her.
“Look, I don’t know you all that well. She’s obviously not the only girl who—”
“Just stop, Lily, please?” He sighed. “It’s not true, and there’s no point in talking about it. I tried to apologize to her, but evidently she’s not in the mood for that, and there’s nothing I can do until she comes to her senses.”
Lily’s expression faded. She had never seen Sirius get upset about anything, not a poor grade on an exam or getting detention for hexing Severus or even the one time in third year when he and James got into a fight over Quidditch and didn’t speak for two days. She had certainly never expected him to get emotional over a girl, especially one whom he hadn’t even seemed to like that much, but he plainly looked as if he’d lost all interest in breakfast or anything that would follow it later that day. As she sipped her pumpkin juice, she found herself wishing she could offer him a cup of tea, the one small measure of comfort upon which she could always rely. Perhaps it was moments like these that Regulus missed sharing with his brother.
“I’ll let you know if she says anything else, okay?” she said softly.
Sirius glanced up at her. “Yeah,” he murmured, giving her a faint smile.
At that moment, James entered the Great Hall with a handkerchief, Peter and Remus trailing behind him. Peter and Remus sat on either side of Sirius, and Peter immediately reached for a bit of bacon. James sank down on the seat next to Lily.
“Have you been to see Madam Pomfrey?” Remus was saying to James.
“Yeah, this is all she gave me. Apparently she’s running low on Pepperup Potion after the flu outbreak in the fall. I’m going to be miserable today,” James replied.
“Remus, could you pass the eggs?” Peter asked.
Just as Remus reached for the bowl, however, an envelope fell into it. The five Gryffindors looked up to see a stream of owls gliding along the ceiling, which bore a strong resemblance to a cloudy blue sky. Four more letters fell in quick succession, the final one directly into Lily’s hands. She looked down. “James, this is for you.”
He reached for it, putting a different envelope in her hand. It had her name on it.
Remus passed the bowl to Peter, noting that the letter within it was addressed to him, and picked up his own letter. He glanced over at Sirius, who had an envelope laying face down in front of him. “What’s that on the back, mate? The seal?”
Sirius frowned a little more deeply, perplexed. He never got mail, though the other students around them opened their letters and newspapers like it was just an ordinary day. He saw no other seals on any of the envelopes, though. Finally, he glanced down. The seal was a bird emblazoned in gold ink—an eagle, perhaps?—no.
“A phoenix,” James said. He turned his letter over. All five of them had the same seal.
Without saying anything, the five students carefully and quietly tore into the letters. None of them bore an identifying header, and all contained the same short message.
Further instructions will follow shortly.
Destroy this notice upon receipt and reveal its contents to no one.
“They’re all the same?” Sirius looked over at Lily, lowering his voice. “You, too?”
“I didn’t know you were trying out,” Remus said, giving her an approving smile.
“Yeah,” she murmured softly. “James helped me practice.”
James looked down into his breakfast, his face turning slightly red.
“What’s wrong, Peter?” Sirius cut in. He looked over at the boy curiously, and the others followed suit. Peter had put his letter down on the table and was staring at it with a bewildered expression on his face. “Cut it out, or people will be suspicious.”
“I—I didn’t think I’d make it,” he admitted, barely audible. “I got hit with a Stinging Hex even though I tried to dodge it, and then it took me ten minutes to even feel brave enough to deal with the Dementor. And I only got the Quaffle at the end because the Bludgers hit the tree in a weak spot and knocked it down for me.”
“The tree?” James said, smirking.
“No, the ball, of course,” Peter said. He wasn’t smiling.
“Well, maybe they took other things into consideration,” Sirius suggested.
“James and I ran into Moody in Hogsmeade the weekend after the practice trial. He asked us about you, and we told him that you were a good friend of ours. That’s all.”
Peter looked down at the letter again. He couldn’t believe that Moody had actually asked James and Sirius about their opinion of him. Clearly his abilities couldn’t speak for themselves. I must be the only one to ever get into the Order on a pity vote.
“Anyway, we should celebrate,” Remus said. “Just, you know—in a very quiet way.”
“Yeah,” Lily agreed. “Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks this weekend. We can get a table in the corner and try to figure out what they’ll make us do for initiation.”
“Wrestle a Hippogriff!” James exclaimed, struggling to keep his voice down.
“Win a game of Gobstones against McGonagall!” Remus added.
Peter stared down at the table. He didn’t want to think about the initiation ceremony—all he wanted now was something a bit stronger than Butterbeer.
Regulus was preparing to eat lunch when his brother spoke to him for the last time.
Severus had decided to skip lunch, having wanted to work further on a potential improvement to the recipe for the Draught of Living Death in his Potions textbook. Rosier, Mulciber, and Avery had all been given detention for bullying first years. Thus, Regulus was left alone. He hoped Pettigrew wouldn’t try to talk to him again.
He sat down at the Slytherin table, filling up his glass with pumpkin juice and reaching for one of the sandwiches in the center of the table. Suddenly, he noticed a couple of girls looking at him. He smiled awkwardly, not used to this sort of attention. Then, his older brother sat down directly in front of him.
Regulus quickly realized that he hadn’t been the subject of the girls’ gawking.
“This isn’t your table,” he murmured, annoyed.
“What are you, a Ravenclaw? I know that,” Sirius replied. “I need to talk to you.”
“Well, if you want me to tell Mum and Dad hello for you…”
“Shut up, Regulus.”
The younger boy looked up from his meal, intrigued. Sirius had never exactly been kind to him, but he’d never known the boy to sound as determined as he did now. “What’s wrong?” He wondered if the note of worry in his voice was audible to Sirius.
“Did you hear about what happened with my girlfriend?”
Of course I did, Regulus thought. The whole school could practically hear her screaming at you. He was surprised to hear Sirius refer to the girl as his “girlfriend,” though. Perhaps she meant more to him than it seemed from the outside looking in. “Yeah.” He took a bite of his sandwich. “Surprised that she found fault with you?”
I’m serious, the other boy wanted to say, but he ignored that impulse. “The stuff she’s saying isn’t true, and I’m trying to figure out who’s been spreading lies about me. It would have to be a friend of mine, someone whose opinion she would have trusted.”
“Why are you asking me? Last I checked, you don’t have friends in Slytherin.”
“Well, it obviously wasn’t James, and Remus doesn’t have an evil bone in his body. But I’ve seen Peter stealing glances over at your table at meals a lot lately, and last week he offered to pair up with Snape once in Potions when no one else would.”
“So? Maybe he’s just a nicer person than you are.”
“Doubtful.” Sirius sighed. Several other Slytherins were starting to arrive, attracting more negative attention to his presence at the table. “Look, don’t say anything about all of this. Just—have you heard anything weird about Peter? Anything suspicious?”
Regulus looked at him. He realized that he and his brother hadn’t made eye contact for a long time, because it felt strange, the sort of pressure that made him restless. He wondered what it would be like to just tell Sirius everything in this moment of fleeting trust between them. What if he just took off with Sirius, just ran away from Voldemort and Snape and his new friends and abandoned his inheritance, too? It was an insane notion, not even worth considering, and yet it sounded sort of fun.
If he thought about this too much longer, he was going to cry. How undignified.
“No, nothing. He’s a Gryffindor. No one here would ever associate with him.” Regulus steeled himself and looked at Sirius, the invitation to leave not needing to be spoken.
“Fine,” Sirius stood up, taking it. He turned and went over to the Gryffindor table, rejoining his friends, Peter included. No farewell was said between him and Regulus.
Regulus caught Lily raising her eyebrows and glancing at him from her place next to James. He stood up, no longer interested in his lunch. In fact, he wasn’t interested in much of anything that would be going on for the rest of the day or into the evening.
As he left, he realized that for the first time in a long time, he felt no sense of regret.
Hi again! This is a bit of a short chapter, but we are winding down to the end!
Hope you’re still enjoying the story. I’m going to try to tie everything up in the next two chapters, and then I have to face the difficult task of saying goodbye to this story. It’s been a tough and interesting journey for me, but I’ve been working on it a long time now and I’ll be glad to have a sense of resolution.
As always, thank you for your wonderful support :)
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