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Chapter 18 : Detention
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“Well,” she said, “a’ leas’ it’s nae doing th’ bedpans i’ th’ hospital wing.”
“Actually, it’s not bad,” I agreed with a smile. “I quite like gardening. And Greenhouse Three is always rather interesting – who knows, I might get bitten by a Venomous Tentacula after five minutes and have to go to said hospital wing. Where some other poor unfortunate soul might be cleaning out the bedpans.”
“Aye, ye ne’er know yer luck,” she said. “Shouldna be too ghastly i’ any case. An’ if it is, ye can always hae a whinge t’ us i’ th’ dorm afterwards.”
At ten to seven that night I dutifully left the common room and made my way down to Greenhouse Three. To my surprise I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one serving detention that night: also waiting outside were two girls wearing Hufflepuff colours who were in maybe fourth or fifth year, a burly Slytherin boy who by the size of him had to be in seventh year, and Sirius.
Shortly afterwards Professor Sprout emerged from the greenhouse and looked us over. “Good,” she said, “you’re all here. Come in, then.” We obediently followed her inside.
I had never been in the greenhouses after dark before and looked around with interest. Lanterns were suspended in mid-air about two feet from the ceiling, spaced so as to avoid contact with the huge umbrella-like flowers that were hanging there, and anything else that might have grown that high. The greenish-yellowish glow they emitted was scattered by the various thicknesses of foliage throughout the greenhouse, giving a speckled effect and making the overall result rather pretty though a little eerie.
“Gloves on, people,” said Sprout briskly, shattering the ghostly atmosphere with almost surprising speed. “We’ll be fertilising the pots tonight. We have recently procured a new supply of mooncalf dung, which is here,” she went on, indicating a large pile of manure near the door. “Buckets are here –” a flick of her wand produced a pile of red buckets – “get to it. Try not to disturb the soil too much around the Mandrakes. Oh, and mind the Fanged Geranium and the Venomous Tentacula, and try not to burst any of the Bubotubers!”
I smiled to myself as I tied my hair into a ponytail to stop it getting in the way. Once you got past the smell of the mooncalf dung, it wasn’t too bad a detention. As I had said to Mary, I quite liked gardening, and even fertilising could be good when you wanted to do something a bit mindless.
Not far from where I stood Sirius was surveying the other three students distastefully, and I realised suddenly that the two Hufflepuff girls were members of the Sirius Black fan club. And the only other person there was a Slytherin. For want of a better option for someone to talk to, he sidled over to where I was by the Mandrakes. I didn’t mind – yes he was a bit of a prat, but I was immune to his good looks and he never bothered to put on the charm for people like me, so it would be just like talking to anyone else. Besides, it was always nice to have company during a detention.
“I don’t normally see you in detention, Cauldwell,” he said lightly. “What are you here for?”
“The usual,” I said carelessly, pulling on my gloves. “Hexing Slytherins. Maggie Flint, to be precise,” I added with a grin, for some reason wanting him to be impressed. “Did you see her elephant trunk?”
He laughed. “That was you?” he asked, looking incredulous.
I heard giggling from the other side of the Mandrakes and, looking through the foliage, noticed the two Hufflepuff girls huddled among the Bubotubers, failing abysmally in their efforts to be subtle while they gazed adoringly at Sirius.
“Yeah, well, she’s an ignorant troll and she had it coming,” I said, deciding to ignore the girls and grabbing a handful of dung. “Only problem was that I got caught.”
“Do I take it that you do that sort of thing often and don’t get caught?” he asked, picking up his bucket and dropping its entire contents over a single plant. I had to admire how good he was at ignoring the whispering and giggling coming from the next row, but then again he’d had years of practice with that sort of thing.
“Sometimes,” I said noncommittally, taking care not to disturb the soil around my Mandrake. “But only if they deserve it.”
“And what did Maggie Flint do to deserve it?”
“She was having a go at Veronica Smethley in the toilets,” I said with a shrug. “For being Muggle-born and all that. Well, Veronica didn’t have her wand handy at the time and I did, so I jinxed her. Not much to it, really – except that McGonagall chose that moment to walk in to see who was making all the noise.”
He was grinning. “More to you than meets the eye, isn’t there, Cauldwell?”
“There’s times that it pays to be a nobody,” I replied unconcernedly, moving on to another Mandrake. “I don’t think Maggie even realised I was there. Then again, she doesn’t acknowledge half-bloods anyway, so that might not say much. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t think I had it in me.”
“Most people wouldn’t think you had it in you,” he said.
“Yeah, well,” I said, looking at him sternly, “what you people need to understand is that, with my sister, I know every jinx and hex she and her friends ever invented.”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he admitted, Summoning another bucketful of fertiliser and unceremoniously dumping it all on another Mandrake. “But I thought you didn’t want to be thought of as her sister?”
I shook my head, rather surprised that he’d remembered that. Maybe he paid more attention to other people than I’d previously given him credit for. “I can’t change that, so think what you like. What I don’t want is to be judged based on her behaviour, or treated as though I’m just like she is. Because I’m not.”
He paused as though considering what I’d said. “Yes, that’s fair,” he agreed eventually. “Right, I’ll try to remember that.”
More whispering and giggling came from among the Bubotubers and I threw the girls a filthy look. I could understand why Sirius found it so annoying – I’d experienced it for only five minutes and already I was ready to throttle them.
I indicated them with my thumb. “What would they be, fourth year? Do you think they’ve studied Bubotubers yet?” I asked quietly.
He caught my eye and grinned, probably guessing what I was thinking. “Not sure, it’d have to be touch and go.”
“Well then,” I said slowly, “one way to find out.” I glanced at the girls again, one of whom was looking curiously at the plant next to her. Going by the fact she hadn’t put her gloves on yet, I was guessing she didn’t know what they were. “Going back to my sister, Black,” I said more loudly, looking sideways at Sirius, “one thing that everyone did get right is that if I’m provoked enough, occasionally I can be just as petty as she can.” And I picked up a wad of mooncalf dung and flicked it at the Bubotubers in the girls’ midst, hitting one of the swellings square on. It burst and the yellow pus hit the other girl on the arm just above her glove, flooding the air with its strong petrol-like aroma. Screaming, she ran to where the patched hat and flyaway hair of Professor Sprout could just be seen behind the Puffapods.
“Oh dear, you’ll have to go to the hospital wing,” I could hear Sprout saying to the girl. “I told you to be careful.” I smiled in satisfaction as we listened to the poor girl protesting as she was led out of the greenhouse.
Sirius was clearly trying not to laugh. “Nice shot! With an aim like that, you should be on the Quidditch team.”
I snorted. “And who do you think should give up their spot for me?” I asked, noticing that the other Hufflepuff girl, deprived of her safety in numbers, had moved to a spot much further away but which still offered her a view of Sirius. “You think James would be happy to? Or maybe Clarrie Trimble?” Charlotte’s little brother was the find of the season so far, scoring two hundred and fifty points in just two games. “Or Anna Vector?” I went on, naming the team captain.
“Fair point,” he conceded. “But you should at least have tried out for it, you could be a reserve or something.”
“Nah, not my thing,” I said, Summoning another bucket of mooncalf dung and Banishing the empty one back to the pile. “I’m no good at Quidditch.”
Suddenly I heard another voice, almost muffled, saying, “Padfoot? Padfoot?” I looked up and saw Sirius pull off a glove and surreptitiously pull what looked like a square hand-mirror out of his pocket. He walked a short distance away from me and glanced quickly around the greenhouse, noting that Professor Sprout wasn’t back yet from the hospital wing, before looking into it.
“Prongs, mate, how are you?” he grinned. “And more to the point, where are you?”
“Cleaning up the third floor corridor for Filch,” came what sounded remarkably like James’ voice. Then again, I reasoned to myself, who else was known as ‘Prongs’? “Without magic,” James went on. “Seems he was getting sick of being followed around by Halley’s Comet all afternoon. How about you?”
“Fertilising plants in Greenhouse Three,” Sirius told the mirror, pulling off the other glove with his teeth and dropping it on the floor next to him. “I’m not alone, though, so I can’t really talk.”
“Lucky you,” James’ voice said dryly. “Anyone interesting there?”
“Not particularly,” Sirius replied, sounding like he was a little disappointed by that fact. Let’s face it, he could have been talking to someone much more interesting than I was. “Cauldwell’s here, she gave Flint that elephant’s trunk last week. Rosier from Slytherin. And a couple of gigglers, though one’s had to go to the hospital wing already.” Hmmm, they obviously referred to the fan club as ‘gigglers’. Not a bad nickname.
James laughed. “What did you do to her?”
“Wasn’t me, mate,” said Sirius, pretending to be shocked by the very suggestion. “That Cauldwell, we’ll have to keep an eye on her. She did a great look-away pass with a handful of mooncalf dung and burst open a Bubotuber right next to the giggler so that it splattered her. You couldn’t have aimed better yourself.” He looked up over the mirror and grinned at me.
“We’ll have to remember that one,” said James’ voice, chuckling appreciatively. “Oh, rats, it’s Filch, I’d better go. Catch you later, eh, Padfoot?”
Sirius nodded and put the mirror away, just in time as Sprout came bustling back in. She headed towards us. “Less talking, more fertilising,” she said briskly, then noticed Sirius’ bare hands. “Put your gloves back on, Mr Black, you could lose a finger if you’re not careful,” she added, looking pointedly at the Chinese Chomping Cabbages next to him before moving to a spot a couple of aisles away where Rosier was wrestling with a Fanged Geranium.
I looked at him curiously. “Was that a two-way mirror?” I asked quietly, trying to make sure we weren’t overheard. I’d heard about the mirrors, which allowed conversation over long distances, but hadn’t actually seen one before.
“Maybe.” He looked a bit shifty as he put his gloves back on. “Viridian thought it would be a good idea to separate James and I on our detentions tonight.”
I nodded, moving down the aisle to the Chomping Cabbages. “This is for the model solar system you guys set up on the third floor today?”
“Yep. For some reason he thought we might egg each other on to do something else if we were in detention together. Can’t think why.” He moved around to my other side and selected a cabbage of his own to work on.
“No,” I deadpanned, “that sounds completely out of character.”
“Well, yes, we’re both such good boys,” he said, also straight-faced. “After all, you’re clearly the troublemaker here. I wasn’t the one throwing mooncalf dung around and dumping Bubotuber pus on other students.”
“I didn’t do that,” I protested. “That was completely accidental. I knocked my elbow as I was trying to get my arm around the other side of the Mandrake. Where the dung landed was pure chance.” It made a good story, if nothing else, and was what I had planned to tell Professor Sprout if she asked me about it.
“Surely you can do better than that,” he said, a grin starting to form on his face. “How about, a Venomous Tentacula nipped you right at the critical moment and, as a reflex action, your arm shot back and you let go of it.”
“I got surprised by a leaping toadstool and everything I was holding went everywhere,” I countered.
“You slipped on a pile of fertiliser I had dropped and were just trying to get your balance back,” he suggested.
“I was tripped by an errant Screechsnap,” I invented, grinning as I Summoned another bucket.
“A Snargaluff bit you on the leg, you tripped and your bucket went everywhere,” he offered, his grey eyes sparkling. It was like playing Swivenhodge with excuses, hitting them back and forth, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
The rest of the detention passed in similarly pleasant fashion, and when Professor Sprout called an end to it at nine o’clock I was surprised by how quickly the time had gone. She walked the four of us back to the castle, and Sirius and I headed upstairs after the Slytherin and Hufflepuff students took their leave of us on the ground floor.
“Ah, the delightful smell of mooncalf excrement,” I sighed, smelling my hands as we climbed the many staircases to Gryffindor Tower. The smell was so pervasive it had even got through the thick dragon-hide gloves we’d been wearing. “They really should bottle it, you know.”
“Yep,” he agreed, making a face. “They could call it ‘perfume for Slytherins’.”
“‘Essence of Mulciber’,” I said dryly, pulling my hair out of its ponytail and stowing the elastic in my pocket. “Scylla Pritchard would love it.”
“How about ‘Eau de Snape’?” he suggested. “Though really it would have to be ‘Eau de Snivellus’.”
“Now with bonus extra grease,” I added, imitating a bad wireless advertisement. “Or maybe ‘Avery’s Unction, the thickest you’ll find’.” We turned automatically on the second floor to slip behind a tapestry, taking a well-known short-cut to the fourth floor.
“‘Flint’s Fragrance’,” he offered, taking a large step over the trick stair partway up.
“‘Spirit of Slughorn’,” I shot back, “‘with the goodness of slugs’.”
“‘Scylla’s Elixir’,” he countered.
“Nice one,” I admitted, thinking that could actually be the name of a legitimate perfume. Provided Scylla Pritchard’s face wasn’t part of the marketing campaign, that is. “All right, how about ‘Baddock’s Bouquet, now with added Bulbadox’?” I grinned as we reached the top of the staircase and emerged onto the fourth floor.
Sirius was laughing. “Have you always been this funny?” he asked, looking at me sideways with a bit of an odd expression on his face.
I shrugged. “Well, you know what they say. You have to watch the quiet ones.”
He muttered something under his breath that sounded like “Clearly.”
I didn’t reply. Even though we’d been talking easily all evening, I still hadn’t forgotten who I was talking to and knew it would stop the minute we reached the common room where there were more interesting people around. Sure enough, once through the portrait hole, Sirius smiled briefly at me and headed straight to the fireside where his dorm-mates were waiting, James clearly back from his own detention.
I went upstairs to put my gloves away and wash my hands, then grabbed my bag and went back to the common room to join Mary, Lily and Charlotte. The absent Martha, I guessed, was probably off in a broom cupboard somewhere with Al.
“Hoo wa’ detention?” asked Mary, her Charms notes on the table in front of her.
“Fertilising the plants,” I said, also pulling out my Charms homework. “Which should explain why I went upstairs to wash my hands, rather than joining you lot straight away. Mooncalf dung doesn’t smell very nice.”
Charlotte looked a little confused. “Sirius was there too?” She had obviously seen us come in.
“Uh huh. Apparently Viridian thought he and James should serve their detentions separately. Beats me why,” I said, grinning.
“So it was just you two?” Charlotte prodded.
“Now, now, Charlotte, don’t get any ideas,” I said, flattening a roll of parchment on the table so I could start my essay. “There were a couple of Hufflepuffs and a Slytherin there too. Just as well, too, otherwise we’d still be there. The Chomping Cabbages were in fine form.”
“Slytherin?” Mary asked sharply. “It wasna Avery, was it?”
I shook my head. “Some seventh-year. Sirius knew who he was but I forget the name.”
“Richt.” Mary looked rather solemn. “’Cause I hear’ Avery’s go’ anither detention – apparen’ly it wa’ him who replaced th’ everlastin’ candles i’ th’ suits of armour on th’ fifth floor wi’ poisonous ones.” Christmas trimmings had just gone up, only for Dumbledore to discover rather promptly that the fifth floor wasn’t safe for that very reason. Needless to say the candles had been removed immediately.
“He is a charmer, isn’t he,” I mused. “Just the type you’d take home to meet Mother. I almost wish he was there, I could have drenched him in mooncalf dung.” I grinned. “That sort of thing is always good for stress relief.”
Lily leaned over and sniffed me delicately. “Well, it looks like you managed to get it all off okay,” she said. “I’m not sure I’d want to be sitting next to you if you hadn’t.” She smiled. “Looks like the boys have no such qualms though.”
By the fireside, James and Peter were taking turns smelling Sirius’ hands and making farting noises, guffawing loudly while Remus rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything. After a spell, clearly annoyed, Sirius cast a Scouring Charm on his hands to shut them up. Chastised, they set to work on whatever they had been doing before we got back.
The prevalent sound in the common room for a while was the scratching of quills on parchment and the turning of pages, most of the younger students unwilling to make much noise if the boys from our year weren’t doing so as well. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Sirius glance at our table several times throughout the evening, each time looking as though something was bothering him.
If I’d thought that was the end of it, I learned otherwise at breakfast the next morning. As I walked between the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables towards my seat I suddenly noticed that my school bag had been turned into a toadstool. Shaking my head, I turned around and saw the two fourth-year girls from the previous night’s detention looking daggers at me.
“Come on, girls, you don’t honestly think I’m a threat, do you?” I asked them, pulling my wand out of my robes and changing the bag back without fanfare.
“He spent all last night talking to you,” the girl who had stayed in detention for the full two hours said accusingly. “There must be something going on.”
I rolled my eyes. “You really think that? Look, we’re in the same House, the same year, and most of the same classes. He knows me. That’s all.”
“It’s not fair,” muttered the other girl, glaring at me with obvious jealousy, and I noticed without a trace of guilt that she still had bandages on her arm where the Bubotuber pus had splattered her the previous evening.
I laughed. This was too ridiculous for words. “Just get over it,” I said. “You can’t start jinxing every single girl he talks to. And besides, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but he already has a girlfriend and it’s definitely not me.”
Moving on, I found the other girls from my dorm further down the Gryffindor table and sat down. Lily looked at me curiously. “A toadstool? What was that about?”
“They were in our detention last night,” I explained. “Them, me, Sirius and some bloke from Slytherin. And now they’re jealous of me because Sirius chose my company over theirs.”
Lily nodded, satisfied. “Funny about that, if they were the alternative.” She smiled and turned back to her porridge, stirring a dollop of honey into it.
Sirius, sitting with the boys across the table and down a bit, looked at me quizzically, plainly not having heard what I’d told Lily. “What was that all about, Cauldwell?”
“Apparently you and I are having some sort of raging affair,” I explained, grabbing a plate and helping myself to some toast and marmalade. The idea was so ludicrous I didn’t feel the least bit awkward discussing it as a concept. “They felt the need to put me in my place.”
Martha and Lily started laughing; Mary and Charlotte, both with a mouthful of food, just smiled. Obviously my opinion of the likelihood of what I had just said was a common one.
Sirius was laughing too. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Yes, I can’t work out how they found out about us,” I deadpanned, feeling surprisingly chipper for someone who hadn’t had her morning coffee yet. “We were being so careful!”
His face assumed its most serious expression. “You’re right, that’s terrible,” he agreed, ignoring James, who was struggling to keep a straight face, next to him. “Do you think it might have been that night up the Astronomy Tower that they saw us?”
I pretended to consider it. “It could’ve been,” I said. “Whatever should we do?”
“This isn’t good,” he said, still with a straight face, though the corners of his mouth were twitching slightly. “They might tell Clio, and then where would we be?”
“We’ll have to end it,” I said, my mouth also twitching as I struggled not to laugh. To hide my expression and recompose myself I poured myself a coffee. “I can’t have the whole school thinking of me as the ‘other woman’. My reputation may never recover.” Considering that as far as I was aware I didn’t have a reputation to begin with, aside from ‘Bea’s sister’, I didn’t have much to lose.
Sirius’ self-control had evaporated and he was laughing again, joining pretty much everyone else from our year. I joined in as soon as I’d swallowed my coffee.
James soon managed to calm down a little. “I think they’ve told Clio,” he said to Sirius. “She doesn’t seem too worried.”
I turned around to look at the Hufflepuff table, where sure enough the two fourth-years had found Clio and were talking to her, pointing extensively at me. Clio’s eyebrows were raised but she was obviously trying to suppress a giggle, with limited success. James was right, she didn’t look at all worried.
“They prob’ly though’ she’d dump ye o’ th’ spo’,” said Mary, looking at Sirius. “Which woul’ make ye single again, which woul’ mean they’d be i’ wi’ a chance.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, of course they would,” he said wearily, pouring tomato sauce onto his scrambled eggs and turning them over listlessly with his fork. “For some reason they all seem to think that.”
“Loosen up, Padfoot,” said Peter. “Some of us would love to have your problem.”
“Help yourself,” said Sirius, still sounding rather weary. “Please. Be my guest.”
Peter’s eyes darted over his shoulder to the Hufflepuff girls, a rather unpleasant smile on his face.
“Give it up, Wormtail,” Remus said evenly. “You don’t want Sirius’ castoffs.”
The rest of the boys’ discussion was lost among the general commotion of the hall, but I noticed Peter still watching the fourth-year girls with what could only be described as a greedy look. Frankly it made me a bit uncomfortable, so I busied myself with finishing breakfast and concentrating on the girls’ conversation next to me.
Author’s note: Hopefully this will, for the time being at least, satisfy everyone who’s been asking for more Sirius - bet you weren’t expecting a whole chapter! :) This is another of the very first scenes I wrote for this story. It’s had a few adjustments since then but in essentials it’s the same as it was the first time I put pen to paper when the idea came to my head.
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