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Chapter 47 : The war finds Hogwarts
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“Sirius!” he beamed, completely ignoring me as usual. “It seems so long since we’ve had a proper chat. You haven’t been to any of my little suppers lately.” He paused as his eyes followed Sirius’ arm resting on my shoulders, and I saw what could only be described as shock registering on his face. Naturally he hadn’t noticed before, though – it had only been a couple of months, after all, and I wasn’t in the Slug Club so there was a good chance he couldn’t understand why Sirius had even noticed me. “I’m sure Miss Campbell would be happy to let you have one night out.”
“With all due respect, Professor,” Sirius said with exaggerated politeness, “that’s why I haven’t been coming.” Slughorn looked confused. “You’ve been teaching her for almost seven years and you still don’t know what her name is,” Sirius explained. “I think everyone deserves that little bit of respect.”
“Come tomorrow night,” Slughorn said, seemingly unfazed and ignoring me again. “Eight o’clock. We have some very special guests joining us for the gathering – your cousin Bellatrix and her husband. I thought you and Regulus would enjoy having a little reunion with her. Particularly you, since you see so little of her these days.”
Sirius’ face closed off abruptly and he turned towards the door. “Thanks, sir, but not this week.”
Professor Slughorn was looking disappointed as we left the dungeon, but Sirius was doing a very good job of ignoring him so I followed suit. Heading back upstairs, I gave him a friendly jab on the arm. “What, you don’t want to see Cousin Bellatrix?”
“Not particularly,” he said sourly. “Last time I saw her she almost killed me. And she married Rodolphus Lestrange, who I’m pretty sure is a Death Eater. Let’s just say that Slughorn has interesting taste in guests. I’m surprised Dumbledore is allowing it.”
“Worst case scenario I’m sure we could organise you a detention for tomorrow night,” I smiled, trying to improve his mood.
“That may not be a bad idea,” he agreed, smiling again, the bitterness thankfully dissipating. “Anyway, for a second I thought he might actually invite you to come along as well, to try to get me there. But no, he just wanted you to give me permission to go. Getting your name wrong in the process.”
I laughed. “Made a nice change, though. Campbell. I’ve gone from Irish to Scottish!”
As it turned out a detention wasn’t necessary, as Sirius simply ensured he was nowhere to be found when it was time for James, Lily and Charlotte to leave for Professor Slughorn’s office the following evening. That is, he was in a disused classroom with me making the most of a little privacy, an Imperturbable Charm on the door to minimise our chances of interruption, and we didn’t go back to Gryffindor Tower until it was well past eight o’clock.
This turned out to be a wise move on Sirius’ part. Lily and James came back to the tower well before the usual finishing time for Slughorn’s parties, both looking furious. They stormed over to where we were doing some homework with Peter, Remus and Martha by the fire.
“I cannot believe Slughorn allowed that,” Lily fumed.
“Allowed what?” asked Martha, putting down her Astronomy textbook.
“Bellatrix Lestrange,” glowered James, his glasses halfway down his nose. “And bloody Rodolphus. Sorry to speak badly of your family, Padfoot –”
Sirius looked surprised. “Don’t apologise, I know what she’s like,” he said shortly. “Black by name, black by nature. Just like the rest of them. Doesn’t matter if she’s married, she still counts.” He paused, his expression dark. “And don’t forget, I know first hand what she’s capable of.”
James nodded savagely. “Yeah, well, they just tried to recruit us,” he snarled, adjusting his glasses with a very ugly look on his face. “Death Eaters, trying to recruit us for Voldemort. Can you believe it?”
I was lost for words, and by the looks of things so were the others. Remus found his voice first. “They tried to recruit you?”
Lily just about had steam coming out of her ears. “Yes. Us! At Hogwarts, right under Dumbledore’s nose. The nerve of them!”
“They wanted you, too, Padfoot,” James told Sirius. “Asked for you specifically. But of course you weren’t there so they went for young Regulus instead.”
The ugly look on Sirius’ face now matched James’, and I was almost frightened of both of them. Certainly if I didn’t know them as well as I did I would have been. “Oh they did, did they,” he muttered viciously. “The old hag will be delighted. Did he sign up on the spot?”
Lily had calmed down somewhat. “Actually, I don’t think he did,” she said thoughtfully. “He did seem interested though.” She looked up at Sirius, who still looked furious. “I know you thought he’d turn out okay, but I’m not so sure.”
“Neither am I any more,” he admitted. “He and I had a bit of a row in the corridor at the start of term, didn’t we Laura?” I nodded and squeezed his hand comfortingly.
“Anyway, we went straight to Dumbledore and reported it,” said James, who also appeared calmer. “He was livid. Marched straight down to Sluggy’s office and physically ejected them from the room. Full body bind and then a Banishing Charm – they’re in his office now for the Hit Wizards to collect. Death Eaters, inside Hogwarts by invitation, trying to recruit his students. I’ve never seen him so angry.”
“What’s going to happen?” I asked.
“Well obviously Slughorn’s not going to be able to invite people like them back again,” said Lily. “If Dumbledore allows the parties to continue at all, that is.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the end of the Slug Club forever,” agreed James. “Slughorn will be devastated, but it’s his own stupid fault. Why he invited them in the first place …”
“He always liked Bella,” said Sirius. “Raved to me about her when I first started here. I think if I’d been in Slytherin I would have been invited to join the Club straight up, rather than after a couple of months like it was.”
“Besides,” Lily added, “Slughorn’s always tried not to take sides in the war, he likes to stay neutral and choose friends from both sides.”
Just then Charlotte climbed through the portrait hole with her brother Clarrie and a handful of Slug Club members from other years. “What happened?” she asked, looking at Lily and James. “I was being hassled by Barty Crouch and suddenly Dumbledore appeared and broke up the party.”
“Slughorn’s dear guests were trying to recruit students for Voldemort,” Sirius said icily. “Prongs and Lily got the once over, as did Regulus by the sounds of things.”
Charlotte sank into an empty armchair, shock etched across her face. “They what?”
“You heard,” Lily said archly. “So we went and found Dumbledore and told him what they were doing. Hence him getting them away from the students pronto.”
Charlotte’s brown eyes were wide behind her glasses. “I wondered what they were doing, all cloistered up in the corner like that,” she said, “but I never thought of that. How they’d have the nerve …”
“Bet you’d rather be hassled by young Barty,” James said wryly.
Charlotte nodded. “In comparison with what you were hearing, yes, I’d say that details of the several hundred brilliant things his father’s done at the Ministry is definitely a better option. Although I don’t know why he’s bothering with me at all – he’s a bit young for me.” Barty was a fifth-year who always tried to talk himself up thanks to a successful father, who was touted as a possible future Minister of Magic. “So, does this mean no more Slug Club?”
“Quite possibly,” said Lily. “We were just wondering about that.”
“Darn it,” Martha said with exaggerated disappointment. “Now we’ll never know what we were missing, will we?” And she grinned at me, Remus and Peter, those of us who had never received an invitation.
“It wasn’t much,” Sirius said dryly. “Just a stack of students feeling self-important and Sluggy plying them with food and alcohol in an attempt to make them like him just in case they end up being successful. Nice if you need your ego propping up, but otherwise a bore.”
James was nodding. “Yep, that pretty much sums it up,” he agreed.
Lily raised her eyebrows. “And of course you two never needed your egos stroked, the rest of the school was doing that anyway, weren’t they?”
Sirius grinned; he had clearly relaxed a bit. “Absolutely. Why rely on old Sluggy when you can have far more attractive people stroking your ego? Or other parts of you, if that’s what you prefer.” I pretended to hit him and he ducked, laughing. “What?” he asked innocently once he’d recovered himself. “Just telling it like it is.”
I just groaned. “You’re a nightmare, you know that?”
“Of course he does,” James said with a grin. “I’m only surprised that it’s taken you this long to notice.”
Despite the dramas of the soon-to-be-defunct Slug Club, the following morning our attention was diverted when the post owls arrived, as one swooped down on Lily and dropped a letter off. We all looked at her seriously as she opened it: owls had come to mean news about her mother, and we were hopeful that this time it was good. However, her face quickly dropped and James put a comforting arm around her.
“What happened?” Charlotte asked tentatively.
“It’s Mum. She’s had another relapse,” Lily said, tears forming in her eyes. “Dad’s pretty worried, he wants me to go home this weekend in case she gets worse.”
“I’m sure we can arrange that,” James said authoritatively. “Let me have a word to Dumbledore, he’s pretty good with things like that.”
Lily looked up at him gratefully. “Oh, would you? That’d be fantastic, thank you. I don’t know that I’d be able to do it myself just now.”
She left that very afternoon on the Knight Bus, straight after Defence, which was her only class on Fridays. James, perhaps surprisingly, had stayed – though it was just for an illness, not for a death, so I suspected he saw this as more of a personal time for Lily’s family. In any case, however, it was a little strange seeing him around the castle without her that weekend. The James and Lily relationship was now so ingrained with us that it felt somewhat surreal seeing one continuously without the other.
We weren’t the only ones to notice this. I heard several whispered comments throughout the Great Hall at mealtimes on Saturday and Sunday, mostly just wondering where the Head Girl had gone, but some were less flattering. Charon Avery, for example, was very vocal in his thoughts about the whole thing as we wandered past him as a group in the courtyard on Saturday.
“Hey, Potty, where’s the Mudblood?”
James flinched and his eyes started flashing, but he appeared to be trying to keep his cool. “Ten points from Slytherin for language.”
Avery just laughed; his companions, Irving Mulciber, Scylla Pritchard and Alecto Carrow, joined him. “Aww, Potter, you’re not missing your Muggle whore, are you?” Avery went on. “Shame on you, I say. And while you’re here, how about you settle an argument between me and my friends here? How long does it take to disinfect yourself after you touch her? I say two hours, but Scylla thinks at least six, and Irving, well, he’s not sure you’d be able to do it properly at all.”
James’ face went very hard and his hand reached inside his robes for his wand. When he spoke, however, his voice had a forced lightness, like he was hoping it wouldn’t come to wands being drawn. “At least I’m getting a shag, Avery,” he said. “Whereas your poor right hand must be getting tired of all the hard work you’re putting it through.”
The insult shut Avery up for a while, and even his friends let out a chuckle or two at his expense.
“Charming, weren’t they,” I said as we moved away from them.
“I’ve got a mind to tell Dumbledore what they were saying,” James hissed, clearly still fuming at their treatment of Lily. “If people are saying that sort of thing out loud at school, then Merlin only knows what they’ll be doing once they get out of here.”
Sirius shrugged. “We all know they’re Death Eater wannabes,” he pointed out. “I doubt Dumbledore would be surprised. And let’s face it, having their recruiting staff on site during the week wouldn’t exactly have discouraged them.”
“It’s still not good enough,” James snarled. “We’re supposed to be stamping out this sort of behaviour, not just accepting it.”
“If you want them to be punished,” Remus said slowly, “I wouldn’t be telling Dumbledore, or any of the teachers for that matter.”
“Then who would you tell?” asked Peter, clearly confused. “No one else can do anything to them without getting into trouble.”
“If they get caught, of course,” James pointed out.
“I’d be telling Snape,” Remus went on, a smirk crossing his otherwise pleasant face. “They’d never say that about Lily in front of him, and if he finds out they’ve been saying it behind his back then – well, I wouldn’t want to be them, let’s put it that way.”
“Now there’s a thought,” James said slowly. “Even now, that would get him riled up. Though it couldn’t come from any of us, obviously … Any brilliant ideas as to how we tell him?”
“I’d offer to tell Reg,” said Sirius, “but as he’s now disowned me as his brother it might be tricky getting his attention.”
“Slip a note into his bag,” I suggested. “Lay it all out so if he confronts Avery he won’t be able to deny it.”
Sirius smiled. “And how would we get it into said bag?” he asked.
“Duh,” Peter said derisively. “Invisibility Cloak?”
James hesitated. “I’d really prefer it didn’t get any grease on it,” he said. “It’s not like we can just ask the house elves to put it in with the rest of the laundry. And getting it that close to Snivellus – well, it very nearly got stained last time.”
“Well, If someone wants to cause a diversion in Potions on Monday, James or I can throw it in,” I offered. “He normally leaves his bag open, it shouldn’t be too hard a shot.”
“But that’s Monday,” James pointed out, his brow furrowed. “Two whole days away. I’d rather strike while the iron’s hot, if you know what I mean.”
“I could drop it in at lunch time or something,” Peter suggested. “He’d never notice a” His voice cut off suddenly, his eyes on me. “He’d never notice me,” he went on, clearly correcting himself from whatever he’d been about to say.
“Nice one, Wormtail,” said James, a broad smile crossing his face. “Think I’ll take you up on that offer. I knew there was a reason we kept you around.”
I didn’t see Peter leaving the note, despite keeping an eye on Snape during lunch, but it didn’t take long for us to find out it had been delivered and Severus had read it. We weren’t expecting anything too much, seeing that he and Lily hadn’t really spoken for the best part of two years, but it was clear that he still fancied her so we were banking on that overriding any friendly loyalties and at least one hex being cast.
This was putting it mildly, as it turned out. The meal was barely over when we witnessed Charon Avery rising upside-down from the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, clearly Levicorpused, before being levitated a good twenty or thirty feet and then dropped to the stone floor below. He landed with an almighty crash so loud that we wondered if there were any bones in his body left unbroken.
“Oh, Avery, I am sorry,” we could hear Severus saying silkily through the stunned silence that enveloped the Hall. “My wand slipped. Shall we take you to the hospital wing?”
In no time at all Professor McGonagall had conjured a stretcher and the hapless Avery was being taken upstairs to Madam Pomfrey’s care.
“Do you think he’ll be all right?” Charlotte asked in a hushed whisper as the doors of the Great Hall closed behind him.
“Who cares?” asked Peter. “It’s Avery. He was just going to become a Death Eater anyway.”
“No, Charlotte’s got a point,” Remus said gravely, and Charlotte smiled to herself. “If he was seriously injured then that’s on our hands,” Remus went on. “Maybe we should have thought this through a bit better.”
“Bit rich coming from you, Moony,” Sirius pointed out. “It was your idea in the first place, telling Snivellus what Avery had said.”
“Yes, I know.” Remus looked troubled. “I’ve got no love for Avery, I admit that, but still …”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” James said placatingly. “Besides, he did bring it upon himself. If we didn’t tell old Snivellus what he’d been saying, someone else was bound to at some point.”
“We just brought it forward a bit,” Sirius went on. “But yes, the reaction was perhaps a little more extreme than I’d thought.”
“Anyway, Moony,” James said, his face brightening a little, “you should know better than anyone what Madam Pomfrey can fix. If she can deal with what you get up to, then she can deal with this.”
Martha, Charlotte and I looked confusedly at each other – Remus wasn’t exactly one to get up to high jinks severe enough to need that sort of attention from the school Matron – but he seemed to concur with James’ statement. And on this mystifying note, the boys turned their attention to the desserts on the table, the conversation very obviously over.
By Monday, Lily had returned from Surrey, a little teary but holding up remarkably well, and bringing the news that her mother, while ill, hadn’t deteriorated too much. Avery was also back in classes, I noticed, so Madam Pomfrey must indeed have been able to weave her magic on his injuries. In any case, I was able to push it – and the war – to the back of my mind and concentrate on other things, like homework and, well, Sirius. And, for a bit of a change, Quidditch.
On Wednesday morning the general hum of conversation at breakfast suddenly halted after the post owls had arrived. It soon became clear that the cause of the distraction was the Daily Prophet, so James took it upon himself to find a copy.
“Of course,” he said as he sat down and flicked through it. “Quidditch World Cup. They’ve announced the draw.”
That very quickly got our attention – if nothing else, it was lovely to have something to talk about that wasn’t related to school, the war or Lily’s mum. The World Cup was being held in North America that summer (probably fortuitous due to the lack of, well, Death Eaters across the pond) and, while England were one of the favourites, it really was a mystery as to who would carry off the cup, as more than half a dozen countries were real contenders.
“Right, let’s have a look,” James was saying, scanning the lists quickly. “Ah, here we go. England’s in the same pool as Hungary, Uruguay and … uh oh.” He looked at me. “Wales.”
“Really?” I leaned across the table trying to read upside down. “England and Wales are in the same pool? Gee, I guess it really is drawn randomly then.”
“Bad news for you two, though,” Remus said with a grin, his eyes on me and Sirius. “I can see another break-up coming, if it’s anything but a draw.”
I looked at Sirius. “You know, there could be something in that,” I admitted. “I really don’t want to lose to England. Our national pride is at stake.”
He just laughed. “Ah, but England’s got a much better team,” he pointed out. “You’re going to be hard pressed to find a better front three than Boothby, Sykes and Montgomery.”
“Williams and Griffiths can give them more than a run for their money,” I shot back. “Those two can hit a Bludger like no one else.”
“Enough, you two,” James said loudly, interrupting us. “You’ll find out on July seventeenth. And until then, how about you try to keep the hostilities to a minimum, okay?”
We both grinned and Sirius squeezed my hand underneath the table. “I guess this is what I get for going out with an Englishman,” I muttered.
James and Remus both laughed. “Because there are so many Welsh boys here for you to choose from,” Remus pointed out.
I acknowledged his point. “Yes, fair enough. So, who else is in the Cup?” I asked, changing the subject. “What about Scotland, who did they draw?”
James looked at the newspaper again. “Uh – Australia, Lichtenstein and Tanzania. Tough pool. I’d say they’ll probably get through, along with Tanzania, but Australia is going to be the dark horse there.”
I turned to look for Mary at the Ravenclaw table. “Yeah, I think she’s seen it,” I said. “She’s not looking happy. They could have trouble getting to the next round with that lot.”
Remus nodded. “Yes, Australia beat Latvia in a friendly last month,” he pointed out. “They’re starting to get a reputation for big games. I hope Lorraine Maddock’s Snitch-seeking sense is turned on when Scotland play them.”
“What about Ireland?” Lily asked. “Did they even make it this year?”
“Of course they did,” Peter scoffed. “You try telling Sean O’Hare that he can’t play in the World Cup, there’d be a riot.”
Lily smiled. “Well, yes, but then they did lose to Nepal just before Christmas, so you can’t say they’re in form.”
Remus grinned. “I didn’t know you were a Quidditch fan, Lily!”
She just shrugged. “You forget how much time I spend with James. Do you really think I had a choice?” She smiled again and looked at me. “Though now I kind of get why you love it so much, Laura.”
I smiled back. “Yes, Quidditch can be addictive. Just wait till the summer, Lily, you’ll adore the World Cup. I just wish it was in Europe so we could go again.” I looked sideways at Sirius and grinned mischievously. “And watch Wales bring home the silverware.”
That evening our preparations for bed – punctuated by regular musings on who would actually win the World Cup (which, if I was honest with myself, was more likely to be England than Wales) – were interrupted when Mary came into the dorm between half past eleven and midnight. Martha immediately got up to greet her.
“And you must be Mary,” she said dramatically, a wide grin forming on her face. “Pleased to meet you and welcome to our dorm! I’m Martha, and this is Charlotte …” Her voice was drowned out by our laughter.
Mary grinned as she threw her bag on her bed. “Aye, I ge’ th’ point,” she said. “I havna bin aroond much lately, hae I?”
“It does happen when you’re going out with a Ravenclaw,” Charlotte said fairly. “I discovered that when I was seeing Hector. They’re very cliquey, those boys.”
Lily shook her head. “No, I can’t relate to that at all,” she deadpanned. “I don’t know anyone else who fits that description.” Her green eyes sparkled and she grinned mischievously.
“No, I bet Laura doesn’t either,” Martha said dryly. She turned to me. “How are you enjoying your new position as the most hated girl in Hogwarts?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said innocently. “No one hates me, do they?” I grinned despite myself. “I certainly can’t think of any tall blonde Ravenclaws who might have it in for me.”
“Or short blonde Ravenclaws,” Lily added. “Don’t discount Greta – if she put her mind to it she could do you some serious damage.” She smiled again. “Or Sirius damage, if you prefer.”
I groaned dramatically while Mary started nodding, her eyes going from Lily to me. “She an’ Elvira hae bin tryin’ t’ get dirt on ye,” she said. “They’ve bin askin’ me aboot ye in th’ Ravenclaw common room. Ye know, wha’ music ye lik’, wha’ books ye read, wha’ ye lik’ t’ dae i’ yer spare time. Aside from snoggin’ Sirius, tha’ is.” She grinned again. “I think they’re tryin’ t’ ge’ a profile of ye so they can plan a major attack.”
“You’re making them sound like an army,” I said with a giggle. “I wouldn’t have thought they could have gotten themselves that organised.”
“Well, they hae,” Mary said seriously. “Ye’ve forced them int’ action. Even they can see hoo Sirius is wi’ ye.”
“Brilliant,” I said grimly. “Just what I wanted.” Then I realised what she’d said and looked back at her. “What do you mean, how he is with me?”
There was the unmistakable sound of suppressed giggling from each of the other beds. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed,” Charlotte said. “He goes all doey-eyed when he looks at you. It’s hilarious. Kind of sweet, but hilarious.”
“And he won’t let go of you,” Martha added. “You’re joined at the hip. And you can’t tell me he was like that with me or Clio or Dione.”
“I guess,” I said hesitantly. “Anyway,” I went on more bracingly, changing the subject, “what sort of thing are they planning, Mary?”
She shrugged. “Goo’ question. I dinna know, an’ they’re nae exactly likely t’ tell me, are they?”
“But you could ask Sebastian to keep an ear out, couldn’t you?” I asked.
Mary made a face. “Tha’s more complicated,” she said. “’Cause Seb’s friends wi’ Bernie, ye know, an’ he’s still nae too happy ye an’ Sirius are back t’gether, so Seb’s nae goin’ t’ stop anythin’ tha’ coul’ break ye up. ’Cause he wants Bernie t’ be happy.” She paused. “We’ve had more than one – discussion – aboot this.”
I shook my head. “But I thought that was done with now. I mean, Bernie’s a nice enough boy, but I good as told him it’s just not going to happen. Not so long as Sirius is around, you know?”
“I think even Bernie knows tha’,” Mary admitted. “Bu’ he’s still hopeful I think.”
Lily was shaking her head too. “That’s not fair on Laura though,” she said sternly. “If he really liked her, that is really, then he’d want her to be happy. And breaking her and Sirius up isn’t going to make her happy, that was proven over the holidays.” She looked at Mary. “It’s not fair on you, either,” she went on . “Sebastian’s not making you choose between your friends and his, is he?”
Mary shook her head. “Nae, he’s nae tha’ bad. He jus’ wanted Bernie t’ ge’ th’ girl. An’ I can understand tha’.”
“We need to find someone else to set him up with,” Martha said. “That should do it. Distract him and get him over her.”
“He shouldn’t need to get over me though,” I pointed out. “It’s not like we ever actually got together, is it? So there was nothing there to start with.”
Mary gave me a look. “Aye, ‘cause tha’ makes all th’ difference, whether ye actually go’ t’gether,” she said . “So if ye an’ Sirius ne’er go’ t’gether, ye’re sayin’ tha’ ye wouldna hae needed t’ ge’ over him?”
“Oh.” I had to admit, she had a point. “But really, though? He never liked me that much.”
“Find him another girl,” Martha said again. “Do you think Gertie Cresswell would do the trick?”
“You’d be better off with Veronica Smethley from Hufflepuff,” Lily said thoughtfully. “She’s more like Laura than Gertie is.”
Charlotte shook her head. “No, she’s going out with Cadmus Branstone,” she said. “I heard her crying her eyes out in the toilets when his dad was killed.”
“Thalia Strout?” Mary suggested. “I saw them dancin’ t’gether a’ the Yule Ball.”
“I guess that’s possible,” Lily said doubtfully.
“No, I’ve got it.” Martha looked triumphant. “Set him up with Elvira. That way they can both whinge about Laura and Sirius to their hearts’ content.”
Mary burst into laughter. “Oh, I love it,” she said with a broad smile. “I’ll drop a word int’ both their ears an’ see wha’ I can dae, shall I?”
Author’s note: I’m not thrilled with this chapter – it feels a little too disjointed and filler-ish for my liking – but I haven’t been able to get it to a point that satisfies me yet. It’s possible that inspiration will strike in the future, though, so if you notice the odd tweak here and there to improve the flow that would be why. In any case, thanks for persevering!
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