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Chapter 12 : Hogwarts: Semester 2
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Edge of Light
Chapter 12: Hogwarts: Semester 2
Lily was quiet and reserved, studious Remus called her. James constantly made fun of the way she always traveled with the giggling girls. But, when Sirius looked at her, he saw something else. It was as if she had a bit of James in her – a touch of rebellion, a hint of abandon. And when she showed up in the common room late one night while the others were at the Quidditch field, he couldn’t help but be reminded of Cat.
“Lily?” Sirius glanced up from the magazine that was hidden within the pages of his Magical Theory textbook.
Although she smiled in greeting, he could tell it was forced. “Are you studying? I can come back.”
“Not really,” Sirius answered sheepishly and tossed her the magazine. “Everything all right?”
“Is it true you know how to get out of the castle?” She lowered her eyes as she spoke. “I mean secretly that is.”
Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “Why do you need to sneak out of the castle?”
She was going to lie to him, he could tell by the look in her eyes. Sirius immediately felt guilty for pressuring her and he hopped off the bed. “It’s none of my business. I’ll show you a passageway where you won’t get caught.” He searched her eyes for a moment. “You do realize you could get expelled for sneaking out?”
Lily nodded. “I just have to get away for awhile.”
“Okay, just as long as you know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t know anything anymore,” she whispered causing Sirius to draw closer. Although the soft glow of the candlelight had hidden it, he could now see her eyes were red and swollen, her normal fastidious hair ruffled and disarrayed. He wanted to reach to her, to offer her some sense of comfort, but something told him she was beyond compassion.
“Come,” Sirius took her hand gently, as if he was leading a child away. They traveled silently, Sirius watching closely for any teachers as he walked her through the maze of passageways below the main floors of Hogwarts. When they reached the outer door, he hesitated a moment before letting her go. Either that or she held on a bit too long, Sirius couldn’t really tell. “Lily?”
“Would you mind coming too? I mean, so I don’t get lost or anything,” she added quickly. “If you’re busy –”
Sirius smiled and stepped out ahead of her. “Nothing but time, Lil. Come on, I’ll show you the back way to the lake. James, Remus, Peter and I found it just a few nights ago. If we’re lucky, the merpeople will be putting on a show tonight.”
Lily nodded, following close behind Sirius as if afraid to lose her way. Sirius lay down on the bank, just behind the tree line to keep them from view. Lily sank down close to him, the soft touch of her arm against his causing Sirius to move a few inches away.
Sirius wasn’t sure how long they sat in the quiet and, unlike usual, he found the quiet to be relaxing. As if, for once, he didn’t need to be filing the void with jokes and quick witted remarks like when he was with the boys.
“You know people gossip about you?” Lily asked quietly, stirring Sirius from his unintended slumber.
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“They are either telling the truth or telling lies. I can’t change their mind either way.” Sirius shrugged. “People will believe what they want to believe. I learned that a long time ago.”
“They say you are supposed to be in Slytherin. Is that true?”
He eyed her curiously. “I only know where the sorting hat put me. Why?”
“Is it true your family is all Slytherin?”
“Yes.” His voice came out more curt than intended.
“I hear things, you know. About the Slytherins. A lot of them aren’t good people.”
“The majority if I had to hazard a guess,” he said bitterly.
“And you were one of them?”
“No.” Sirius struggled a moment, remembering the pile of Slytherin robes that lay unused back at Grimmauld. “My family though I would be a Slytherin, that’s all.”
“Oh.” Lily twisted her skirt uneasily, as if unsure how to respond.
“I can’t help what my family thinks, Lily. If that’s a problem then –”
“No, no.” She grabbed his hand tightly. “There’s just so much horrid gossip in this place. I wanted to hear it from you.” Lily pulled away from him quickly, her eyes drifting out across the lake. “They call me horrible things,” her voice was a whisper. “Dumbledore caught them once and stopped them but now they just do it when the professors aren’t around.”
“They learned you were raised by muggles then?” Sirius leaned back on his elbows, things finally starting to make sense to him. Since their return from Christmas break, Lily hadn’t been acting like her self. She had withdrawn from most of the girls she had hung around with first term and seemed to prefer spending most of her time alone. Whenever he went to look for her she could usually be found in the Potions classroom or library…never in the school common areas where the students normally gathered. He had often wondered what had caused her to withdraw but since she still continued the late night sessions with him and Remus he hadn’t concerned himself too much. That he had failed to notice she was being mistreated caused an uneasy feeling to wash over Sirius… as if he had been too blasé and had come to take the protection of Hogwarts for granted. Silently, he reminded himself never to do that again.
“The moment I met you, but I didn’t tell a soul. You believe that don’t you?”
“I know who told them.” Lily nodded. “Severus heard me talking to Dumbledore.”
“Severus?” Sirius tried to put a face with a name but couldn’t. “Is he our year?”
“Yes and Slytherin at that.”
“You can’t let them get to you. It’s pointless.”
“You don’t understand! They call me filthy things! They say I don’t deserve to be at Hogwarts!” Lily’s voice carried into the darkness until she realized she was screaming. When she quieted, her tears began to fall. “I’ve always been different, Sirius. I though coming here would be where I could fit in; a place where I wouldn’t feel like the outsider anymore. I thought you would understand.”
“I do understand.” Sirius’ said angrily. “But I don’t sympathize. They are fools and you’re a fool for letting them get to you.”
“And just what am I supposed to do?” Lily countered. “I can’t very well beat the snot out of them!”
Sirius struggled to his feet, his anger growing with each tear he watched Lily shed. “No, but I can.”
Lily hurried to her feet and chased after him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to teach people some manners.”
“Sirius, no!” She grabbed his arm and jerked him back toward her. “I came to talk to you not have you rush off and get yourself expelled.”
“No,” Sirius glared at her, “You came to see if I was as bad as they are.”
“But I don’t need you to prove it by doing something stupid like this!” Her voice was desperate. “I saw you, remember? The way you stood up for Peter on the train? You’ve got nothing to prove.”
Sirius didn’t respond, he had already tuned her out. His mind whirled with where the Slytherins might be and then it dawned on him. They would be at the Quidditch field, jeering the Gryffindor team.
His mind focused, his eyes narrowed, Sirius didn’t even notice James and Remus calling to him as he stomped through the stands. He slugged the first Slytherin he came to, with no thought as to what year he might be or how strong he was. They were all the same to him…lowlife scrum intent on harassing those they deemed less able. It infuriated him even more when the boy didn’t fight back and Sirius began pummeling him. It only took moments before other Slytherins joined in the fray. He didn’t notice James, Remus or Peter joining in the fight or other Gryffindors stopping the game to come to his aid. Only when James and Remus grabbed his arm and began pulling him down the stands did he realize what he’d started.
“The professors are on the way, Sirius, we have to go!” Peter jerked Sirius back as he tried to rejoin the fight.
“You can’t afford to get expelled, Sirius,” James hissed in his ear. “Being sent home, that’s not what you want is it?”
Sirius cursed out loud as he hurried behind the trio. James was right and he knew it. The last thing he wanted was to be sent home, much less sent home for fighting with Slytherins.
“What were you thinking? Less than a week before school lets out?” Remus asked as Sirius sank onto his bed once they were safely back in the dormitory. “Even if no one gets expelled, Gryffindor will loose all their points because of that stunt you pulled!”
“It’s a bunch of damn rubies, Remus,” Sirius said flatly, but he knew Remus was right. He had probably done enough damage that Gryffindor could never recover. “I’m sorry. I just wasn’t thinking.”
“You never do.” Remus stomped out of the room angrily, grabbing a fuming Peter by the arm and dragging him along behind.
“What was that about?” James sank down on the edge of Sirius’ bed.
“I hate them. Every last one of them”
“Enough to be sent home?” James raised his eyebrows. “I’m all for beating up Slytherins, don’t get me wrong. But a little finesse is in order.”
“Stuff it, James.”
Sirius heard the door click as James decided it better to leave him be. The fragments in his mind swirled until he felt dizzy and he closed his eyes. In only moments, he was asleep.
“Sirius?” Remus tugged lightly on his sleeve. “Can we go for a walk?”
Sirius sat up and glanced around the room hazily. James and Peter were snoring loudly in their beds which told him it had to be well after midnight. “It’s late Remus. You’ll get caught breaking curfew.”
“I’ve a few things to say to you, Sirius, otherwise I wouldn’t even suggest it,” he answered flatly.
“I can kick your ass, Remus, let’s not waste the energy because of something I can’t take back now.” His voice was toneless, exhausted more than condescending.
“I want to apologize you stupid git. Get up.”
Remus’ demanding tone caught him off guard and Sirius obeyed. When they reached the empty common room, Remus sank onto the sofa.
“Figure risking curfew isn’t worth it after all?” Sirius chuckled as he dropped down beside him.
“Sometimes you make it impossible for people to be nice to you. Do you know that?” he grumbled. “Look, I was wrong. I thought that brilliant temper of yours had just gotten the better of you.”
“No,” Remus shook his head. “I talked to Lily, Sirius. She was worried about you and told me everything.” Sirius shifted uncomfortably. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Lily? This was about Lily?” James’ sleepy voice cut into the conversation as he and Peter appeared on the stairwell. “You’re risking expulsion for her?”
Sirius raised his eyebrows to Remus who smiled understandingly.
“Ah, now I see.”
“What’s going on?” Peter sank down across from them. “Are we planning another adventure? Splendid.”
“Still picking up pieces from the last one, it sounds like.” James huffed and sank down on the edge of the sofa. “What’s the red-haired brat got to do with anything?”
“The Slytherins have been after her for being muggle born.”
“What?” Peter’s eyes widened. “She’s a mudblood?”
“Where’ve you been?” James snapped.
“It’s been happening all year but she never said a word,” Sirius explained quietly, “until tonight.”
“How’d they find out anyway?” Peter interjected.
“Severus Snape.” Sirius shrugged. “Whoever that is.”
“Snivellus?” James hissed. “You’ve got to be kidding. That greasy git?”
“That’s him?” Sirius’ blood began to boil again. The boy had become the object of many of the group’s jokes. He was self-righteous and always took the opportunity to rub their failed scholastic attempts in their face. Sirius had never even bothered to learn his name.
“Everybody calm down,” Remus said quietly as the tension began to seep through them all. “The point isn’t who told, it’s that it was happening anyway. And, of course, that the boy hero here stepped in to save the day.”
“Screw you, Remus.”
“I meant it with the utmost respect, my friend,” Remus chuckled. “The question is, what do we do about it?”
“This isn’t your fight.”
“It’s not yours either!” James countered angrily. “You can’t get sent home, Sirius, especially not over some silly girl.”
James’ words silenced the group and Remus’ intelligent eyes turned on Sirius. “Why can’t you get sent home?” he asked quietly.
“Nevermind that,” James said quickly. “It doesn’t matter. He just can’t.”
“We’ve got seven years ahead of us here, James. Might as well tell the truth now don’t you think?” Remus argued.
“The way you talk about the sick mum you go to visit each month?” Sirius asked, his voice low and accusatory. “We all have our secrets, Remus.”
Remus recoiled and a silent stalemate fell over the group. The tension grew heavier and even Peter, who was normally oblivious to all emotional outbursts, seemed uncomfortable as the embers of the fire began to dim.
Moving up from his perch on the arm, James climbed over the back of the sofa, draping his arms around Remus and Sirius as he sank onto the cushions. “I don’t know about you two but I could use a drink,” he said jovially. “What’s say we raid the kitchen and see what they’ve got to nick?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Sirius jumped out of his seat, glad for the movement. “Care to join us, Remus?”
“Yes, I could use a drink myself.” Remus nodded, meeting Sirius’ challenging gaze.
“I thought you might,” Sirius laughed and wrapped an arm around Peter as he pulled him out of the chair. “What’s the matter, Peter, you tired? You look a bit confused.”
Peter nodded as he followed the group out the door and into the darkened hallways. “I was just thinking I’m not going to get much sleep the next seven years if you three don’t learn to get along pretty soon.”
“Now, honestly, Peter,” James stretched his arm across Remus’ shoulders, “where’s the fun in that?”
“Dumbledore,” Remus hissed, shrugging away from James. They stopped in their tracks, allowing the Headmaster to come to them.
“Lovely night, isn’t it, gentlemen?” He peered at them over his glasses, tightening his robe as he walked.
“Yes, sir, it is.” Sirius nodded. He knew he was already in trouble…there was no point in putting off the inevitable. “What brings you out at this hour?”
“I might ask you the same thing, Mr. Black, although I sincerely doubt I’d want to hear the answer.” He glanced over the group. “As it seems, you have saved me several steps toward my goal. I was on my way to see you.”
“I had a nasty feeling you were going to say that, sir.” Sirius moved away from the others.
“No, I do mean all of you.”
“Sir, if this is about today, please, they had nothing to do with it.” Sirius could feel Remus’ penetrating glare but ignored it. “It was entirely my fault.”
“I suppose you are referring to the incident at Quidditch practice. Yes, I did hear about that. Punishments have already been handed out, Mr. Pettigrew, you need not look so frightened. I am rather curious as to what started the fight, though. I had hoped you four might be able to enlighten me.”
Their eyes flickered toward Sirius but quickly glanced away. It wasn’t quick enough, however, and Dumbledore took a step towards him. “It seems you have been elected to share the story with me, Mr. Black. Shall we go to my office, then?”
Sirius nodded and took a step forward but Remus grabbed his arm. “It really was nothing, sir. We just got a little carried away with the competition. Slytherins and Gryffindors, you know, we can’t seem to get along for anything.”
“Overheated competition?” Dumbledore’s eyes bore into Remus. “Even I find that a bit difficult to believe. Surely you can come up with something more plausible than that.”
“I assure you, sir, had you given us more time we would’ve had something much more creative prepared.”
“Then I trust it will be no problem to have four feet of creativity done no later than breakfast? Unless, of course, one of you –"
“No,” Remus answered, gripping Sirius’ arm to keep him quiet, “a foot a piece is more than generous, sir.”
“Indeed.” Dumbledore’s eyes traveled over the group before finally settling on Sirius. “Mr. Black, might I have a moment of your time?” He laughed heartily as he saw the others stiffen. “I assure you it is a personal matter and has nothing to do with the events of today.”
“Certainly, sir.” Sirius stepped to the side, exchanging a nervous glance with James.
“Mr. Black, have you heard from your uncle recently?” Dumbledore’s voice was so low Sirius had to draw closer in order to hear.
“Not since last month.” A nervous twitter grew in the pit of his stomach. “Is something wrong?”
“I expected to hear from him by now,” he answered distractedly. He must have noticed the confused look on Sirius’ face for he quickly added, “he checks in on your regularly. I also have not heard from him in some time. I would contact your parents, but –"
Sirius nodded. “I understand, sir. I’ll let you know should I hear anything.”
“Thank you, Sirius.” Dumbledore stepped away. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”
They all stood silently for a moment before heading back into the common room. All but Sirius sank onto the sofa. He paced near the fireplace uneasily.
“Remus, that wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t have let you take the blame for that. I take responsibility for my actions.”
“I know,” Remus answered easily. “That’s why I wasn’t going to let you. Sirius,” he moved to stand beside him, his voice quiet over Sirius’ shoulder. “We do all have our secrets and whatever yours are, I’m willing to guard them. Stop acting like we’re the enemy, alright?”
Sirius nodded without comment and Remus touched his shoulder reassuringly. “Trust me, one day I may require the same from you. In the meantime,” Remus’ raised his voice, “Peter, James, get off to the kitchen without being caught this time. We’re going to need some food to write this essay for Dumbledore.”
They nodded but hesitated as Sirius pulled out his wand and began shooting sparks up the girls’ stairwell. Although they ricocheted off several doors, they made no noise until they hit their target. A small popping ding went off with each spark, almost like the tinkle of a muggle alarm clock.
They all tilted their heads in confusion but Peter was the first to speak. “What the heck are you doing?”
“I don’t care if you like her or not, James. Lily’s the smartest witch in class and this is all her fault. I’ll be damned if we’re going to write this thing alone.”
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