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Chapter 23 : Everybody Knows
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“Nice to see you’re working so hard.” Aubrey commented, approaching the table and taking in the blank scroll of paper in front of Sirius.
“Hey Aubrey.” Sirius greeted, rocking his chair back onto all four legs. “I’m just waiting for some inspiration to hit me. What are you up to? Want to join us?”
“No, I…” She held a letter up in front of her, looking from Sirius to the other members of the table who were watching the whole exchange. “ I need a favor.”
“Not that bugger Silvers again.” Sirius said, taking in the fact that this letter had been opened.
“No.” Aubrey scoffed, shaking her head. “It’s my dad actually. I need to go into Hogsmeade and call him on the phone.”
“The phone.” He repeated.
Her lips twitched in a smile. “Yes, the phone. You know, the device that Muggles use to talk to each other. There’s one in Hogsmeade. My dad asked me to call him right away. He’s not much of a letter writer.”
“I know you’re all about breaking the rules now, Aubrey, but it’s not a Hogsmeade weekend. They aren’t going to let us go.” Sirius said slowly.
Aubrey looked around quickly before lowering her voice. “And I know that you know how to get into Hogsmeade without permission. You’ve done it before. And I’m asking if you will take me.”
Sirius looked at her face for a minute before getting to his feet. “Okay, but if this goes badly and we end up in detention again, you know what you have to do.”
“I’ll be the one standing on the Gryffindor table announcing that you are not the giant prat we all thought, but that you are a Prince and I am but your lowly servant.” She replied, rolling her eyes, but smiling.
“Exactly.” Sirius agreed, gathering up his books. “And maybe you could put something in there about how devilishly handsome I am.”
James shook his head. “The two of you are odd.”
“For the love of Merlin, please don’t get caught.” Remus said, digging in his school bag. “We’ll never hear the end of it. Here, you might need this.” He produced a folded square of paper.
“The cloak is in the trunk at the foot of my bed.” James offered, looking back down at his essay.
“See you later.” Sirius remarked, grinning at his friends. Aubrey waved to them as they headed out of the library, Madam Pince watching them with narrowed eyes.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Aubrey asked as they climbed the staircase towards the Gryffindor tower to grab their coats and presumably James’ cloak.
“Not in the slightest.” Sirius assured her. “You should know by now that sneaking out of the castle is in my top ten favorite activities.”
She rolled her eyes. “Along with making snarky comments, chasing girls, and folding your handkerchiefs.” She guessed.
Sirius patted his pocket. “I packed an extra in case you start to feel weepy.”
“Prat.” She muttered, but she couldn’t help the grin.
“So where in Hogsmeade is this telephone?” He asked, pulling out his map and tapping it with his wand.
“On the far side of the village, almost to the Shrieking Shack.” She replied. “Magic interferes with it so it has to be as far from the school as possible.”
Sirius looked up in surprise, but she was too busy stuffing her coat in her school bag to notice his surprise. “Okay, then we need to take the passage in the dungeons. Once we are in the tunnels, we can put our coats on, but otherwise it’ll draw too much attention. The passage will bring us out on the edge of Hogsmeade and we will have to walk from there.”
“Okay.” She agreed easily. “Thanks again for doing this, I really appreciate it.”
“It’s no problem.” He muttered, looking away from her grateful gaze. “You can thank me later tonight when we get back without getting caught.”
They chatted about the upcoming Potions test on the way through the castle towards the dungeons. Sirius bent, pretending to tie his shoe as they waited for the hallway to clear. Once they were alone, he tapped the grate with his wand and it slid open. He motioned for Aubrey to crawl in first and scooted in behind her.
Once the grate slid shut, she got to her feet. “Lumos.” She said quickly, her wand lighting up the dim tunnel. She looked around in amazement, the tunnel seemed almost like an extension of the dungeons, tiled in the same dark stone. It stretched out into the darkness for what looked like miles. She shivered, the tunnel had a damp, chill feel to it.
Sirius touched his wand to the sconce in the wall, which set off a chain reaction own the tunnel, lighting up the torches all the way down farther than she could see.
“Ready?” He asked, shrugging into his black wool coat. “It’s going to be a bit of a walk.”
“Oh. Yes.” She pulled her own coat out of her bag and pushed her arms into it. Once she was attired, they headed off down the tunnel.
They didn’t talk much as they headed down the tunnel, partly because Aubrey didn’t like the way their voices echoed in the eerily quiet passageway. Eventually, their path twisted and became more narrow so that she they had to walk single file. Sirius took the lead, which was fine with her. She walked close behind him, resisting the urge to hold onto the back of his coat, instead watching the way the torch light glinted off his dark hair.
Finally, the tunnel came to a stop with an iron set of stairs leading upward to a circular grate. “Okay.” Sirius said, pulling the rather unfortunate cloak that he had retrieved from James’ trunk out of his bag. “I’ll go up in the Invisibility Cloak and when it’s clear you can come up and get under the cloak with me.”
“Okay.” She agreed, eying the cloak with more respect.
“I wish you were always this agreeable.” Sirius teased as he disappeared right in front of her. She rolled her eyes. “I may be invisible, but I can still see. You know, if you roll your eyes too much, they can get stuck that way. “ He voice said.
She purposely rolled her eyes again at where she thought he was standing. It was weird to be able to hear his voice like he was right in front of her but not see him. She was tempted to reach her hand out into the air and see if she could make contact with him.
She heard the sound of shoes against the metal rungs of the ladder and caught a glimpse of his ankle as he climbed up. He must have done something with his wand at the porthole because it lifted slightly. A moment later it moved all the way off and pale moonlight drifted down into the tunnel. Night had come during their walk underground.
“It’s clear.” His voice called down.
She climbed the ladder as quickly as she could, taking his waiting hand to pull her through at the top. He quickly through the cloak over her head and shoved the porthole back over the hole. It went back into place with a grinding sound. Not a moment later, a surly woman crashed the door open of the house on the corner across from them, stomping down the stairs and down the block.
“C’mon.” Sirius hissed in her ear. “Stay close, the cloak isn’t that big, unfortunately.” She could see his grin.
“You lead.” She whispered back, wrapping her hands around his arm. He looked down at her for a moment, and she realized how close they were already standing under the Invisibility Cloak. He was close enough that she could feel his warm breath stirring her hair. “Sirius?” She whispered.
He cleared his throat, snapping himself out of it. He tugged at her hand, starting towards the road that twisted up through the trees. The tunnel had let them out right at the outskirts of the small town of Hogsmeade, right by a lamppost that shed weak light onto a row of small, dingy houses. The road away from town curved up through a dark patch of trees towards the Shrieking Shack.
It didn’t take long to reach the top of the hill where a lonely phone booth sat under the light of another small lamp post. From there, a person could look and see the lights of Hogsmeade and in the opposite direction, the haunted house known as the Shrieking Shack. Aubrey looked at the dark grey house with it’s peeked roof and peeling paint. The windows were all boarded shut and the way the wind whipped around the house made the loose shingles clap ominously.
Sirius pulled the cloak out, exposing them to the nearly full moon. “I’ll keep watch.” He told her.
She nodded, stepping in to the phone booth. She stared at the phone for a moment where presumably students had scrawled messages. She frowned, someone (most likely a Slytherin) had written a rather nasty word related to Muggle-borns next to the phone. She looked away from it and dug in her purse for change. She glanced up at Sirius, who was standing with his back to his wand raised before pushing the quarters into the machine. Something about the sight of his straight back and broad shoulders made her stomach flip.
The phone rang three times before her father answered. “Hi Dad.” She said, quietly.
Sirius surveyed the dark night in front of him, his eyes sharp for any signs of life. It wasn’t likely that there would be anyone out and about at this time of night this close to the Shrieking Shack, but he didn’t feel entirely comfortable. He could hear Aubrey talking in a low voice but couldn’t make out what she was saying. He looked to the familiar house to the left of the phone booth, taking in the size of the moon that was hanging ironically above it in the sky.
He heard the phone clink and Aubrey stepped away from it to come and stand next to him. She too, looked towards the dilapidated house in the distance. “Do you think it’s really haunted?” She asked.
He shrugged. “That’s what all the stories say, isn’t it?”
“Yes but how do those stories start? I mean, someone actually lived there once.” She shivered in the night. “I know I shouldn’t be scared, but those kind of things give me the creeps.”
“I don’t believe in ghost stories.” He told her, taking the chance to throw the Invisibility cloak back over her head and stepping closer to her. “Everything okay with your dad?”
As they walked down the hill and away from the Shrieking Shack, she found herself telling him about how her dad hadn’t been quite the same since her mom left this summer. She wasn’t sure what to talk to him about anymore. Their little family was broken now. Consequently, she had left several of his owls unanswered. His latest letter, the one she had shown him in the library, had ordered her to call him at once or he would be at school to take her home.
She talked almost the entire way back. Sirius was tapping the gate in the dungeons before she knew it. He consulted the map and they crept through the now quiet castle back towards the Gryffindor Tower. Twice, they had to duck out of Filch’s path and they had to take the long way around to avoid Peeves, the school poltergeist, who was turning all the portraits in the main hall upside, much to the displeasure of their occupants.
“Thanks.” Aubrey said gratefully as they stepped into their own common room safe and sound. “I really appreciate you helping me. And I’m sure my dad does too.”
“Anytime.” He replied mildly. “You know I’m always up for a rule breaking excursion.”
She grinned. “Of course. Well, I’ll see you at breakfast tomorrow?”
She leaned up and pecked a kiss onto his cheek. “Good night, Sirius.” She chirped, before heading up the small staircase towards the girls rooms.
He stood there, watching her ascend the staircase. “Good night.” He said when he could breath again.
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