The Heir and a Spare – 3/6 – SASundance

Title: The Heir and a Spare
Author: SASundance
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Relationship(s): Gen
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Cousin Incest, Discussion of canon related under-aged sex and pregnancies, Suicidality of a character, Insanity, Infertility issues, Linebreeding, Very dark themes, Rape and torture of victims, Child abuse, Bigotry and ignorance, War and cults, misogyny, dubcon, misunderstanding of genetics
Author Notes: If you are likely to be triggered, please take warnings seriously. There is a lot of dark content in this one. It is a story of war, hate and vengeance. Please see main story page or post 1 for additional information. Author uses British spelling.
Word Count: 177,000
Summary: It was clear to Lord Arcturus Black, Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black that the most powerful pureblood family in Britain faced the prospect of line extinction within the next few generation. Unless the decline in birth rates, fertility, magic, and longevity wasn’t arrested soon, it would be too late. He came up with a unique solution to his problem, never realising that it would make it possible for the House of Black to defeat an existential threat to the magical and muggle world. But that victory would come at considerable cost to the family, in particular to his heir and the spare.
Artist: librarycat9



Part Three: Blood Traitor

Chapter 17

January 19th, 1973.

Professors, McGonagall and Slughorn, Headmaster Dumbledore and Madam Pomphrey were standing beside a bed in the Hogwarts Infirmary, looking at the unconscious form of James Potter. Albus Dumbledore looked extremely concerned.

“Have you been able to determine what the potion was, Horace?” he asked of the Head of Slytherin and Professor of Potions.

Horace Slughorn, a rotund, somewhat fussy wizard was wringing his hands, his brow furrowed in distress. “I did, yes I did, Headmaster. It was a derivation of Doxycide, but its ingredients have been tweaked, particularly the hemlock and the addition of the sopophorous bean.”

“And why would someone do that?” Minerva McGonagall demanded sharply as she looked at her young lion cub, lying motionless and unresponsive in the hospital bed.  “Isn’t that an ingredient used in the Draught of the Living Dead?”

Horace beamed, “You are quite right Minnie, you should have considered a career in Potions my dear,” he praised her avuncularly before realising her mood was terribly tetchy when she scowled at him fiercely.

“Um yes well, normally the Doxycide shouldn’t work on wizards and witches so I think that the tweaking and adding of the sopophorous bean was intended to render the victim unconscious. I suspect that it was a prank, albeit a rather masterful one,” Slughorn informed his colleagues, unable to hide his wonder.

“And an antidote?” Minerva inquired brusquely.

“Brewing it as we speak. It should be ready to be decanted in 15 minutes and then Poppy can administer it,” he assured the other members of staff.

The mediwitch gave Horace her double-barrelled look. The one that said don’t try to mess with me because I can see through your crap, look.

“As you have already stated that you believe, without evidence to back up this opinion, I might add,” she said tartly, “That this was some harmless prank. May I ask, have any dangerous potions items missing, such as hemlock and sopophorous bean, Professor?”

He shot her a huffy look before responding testily. “Of course not, that was the first thing I checked as soon as I’d ascertained what the potion was. All my inventory is present and accounted for. I would suggest that rather than stealing potion items, the students no doubt obtained them when they were home for the Christmas break last month in anticipation of playing a rather elaborate prank.”

Minerva looked at Poppy before addressing the Potions professor. “Is there any way to determine when the potion was tweaked with, Horace?”

He considered her question briefly. “While most potion masters would not be able to determine that information, someone of my skills and vast experience can certainly figure out when the sopophorous bean was harvested. Plus, there are several tells related to the colour and smell of Doxycide that would allow me to make a fairly accurate estimate about when this was made.” He told them finishing off his statement with a slight bow at the waist.

Poppy looked at McGonagall. “What are you thinking, Minerva?”

“I’m wondering if the tweaking to the Doxycide was done in someone’s potions lab while they were at home over the holidays or if it was done more recently.”

The mediwitch caught on quickly. “Which begs the question, where was it made and when?”

Dumbledore also realised the implications. “Have any of your students been using the potions lab recently for private brewing?”

Looking scandalised Horace took out a silk handkerchief and wiped his brow. “Now look here… if you’re accusing one of my Slugs of creating this, I find that extremely offensive. They are all tremendously upstanding young wizards and witches from fine families.”

Dumbledore nodded gravely. “I’m sure, Horace. I take it by your response that members of your Slug Club do from time to time, use the potions lab for their private research?”

“Each member of the Slug Club is invited to join because they show exceptional talent in the art of potion-making. Naturally, I allow them and encourage them to brew in their own time to further develop their skills and knowledge. But to suggest that one of those upstanding young brewers would betray my trust in that way … well I am grossly offended.”

Dumbledore exchanged an enigmatic look at the two sceptical witches before nodding gravely. “Of course, Horace but we will need to verify what you have told us. Plus, if one of them was brewing in the lab they may have seen someone or something that would help us to find out who is responsible for this attack on Mr Potter.”

Slughorn appeared to have been mollified slightly and nodded. “Yes, perhaps Lucius may have seen something. He has been working on a special project since we returned. I’ll ask him when I fetch the antidote. I left him watching it for me.”

He started walking to the door when the headmaster said. “Perhaps Minerva can accompany you to the lab and retrieve the antidote and you can begin trying to figure out when the modified Doxycide was created,” he suggested mildly, even though everyone in the room was in no doubt that it wasn’t a suggestion, it was an order.

After Horace and Minerva had departed from the infirmary, Dumbledore turned to Poppy and said, “I trust that you will double-check the antidote before administering it to Mr Potter?”

“Surely you don’t suspect that Horace would try to harm Potter, Albus?” she exclaimed in dismay.

He patted her shoulder comfortingly. “What, of course not, my dear Poppy. But Horace has left the antidote unattended while he was here with us.”

“Not unattended, he left Mr Malfoy watching over it,” she argued. “Oh my! You suspect Lucius Malfoy? But why?”

Dumbledore stared across at the unresponsive figure in the bed. “At this point, I suspect everyone. Horace believes this to be a prank, but it feels too complicated to just be some practical joke. Given the concentrated dosage of hemlock and the difficulty in sourcing the sopophorous bean, I think we should consider the possibility that this was more like a poorly executed attempt to harm James Potter. So, can you indulge me on this, Poppy?”

Madame Pomphrey sounded chastened. “You’re right, Headmaster. I do forget that some of our students are no longer children but witches and wizards who have reached their majority. As such they’re young adults so keeping that in mind, I’ll triple-check everything and keep an awfully close watch on Mr Potter.”

There was a pause as they started to walk into her office. “Have you contacted Mr Potter’s parents yet, Albus?”

The patient lying in the bed next to James didn’t hear the rest of that conversation, but he frowned, knowing that the Mediwitch wouldn’t have suggested it if she didn’t view his situation as serious. He tried to rise and go over to his friend’s bed, but he ached all over. Remus didn’t think that the staff had realised that his pain potion had worn off, causing him to wake from the deep healing sleep that the potion always induced. Still, he couldn’t blame Madame Pomphrey for forgetting him – it sounded like she had her hands full.

What had been going on while he was away dealing with his furry little problem? He snorted, peeved. Sirius had first started calling his lycanthropy that and somehow the other Marauders had copied him. Gallingly, now he had Remus saying it too.

It was so ludicrous because yes it was furry, but it wasn’t a little problem – it was freaking enormous. And yet, he understood and appreciated that it was his friends’ way of telling him that it wasn’t important, that they didn’t care about him being a werewolf, they were still his friends.

He remembered when James and Sirius approached him about his lycanthropy and how terrified he was. He’d always known that being able to go to Hogwarts and be treated like a normal wizard was too much to hope for – that sooner or later his secret would come out and he would have to leave his friends and teachers. Yet he’d hoped to at least have a couple of years of being normal…well as normal as a werewolf could be, given his monthly transformations into a monster. At least for most of every month, he felt reasonably normal.

Yeah okay, living with the constant fear that someone would find out or one of the staff would let it slip, because obviously they all knew too, was exhausting. Yet he saw Headmaster Dumbledore’s point right away, it wasn’t fair for the staff to be kept in the dark. Should anything go wrong, the staff would have to defend the other students from his monstrous self. So far, he’d been grateful that most of them treated him like all the other students and the ones like Professor Slughorn who were nervous around him, well he understood. It made him respect them more because they were rightly scared of him but did their job and kept his secret despite their fears.

So, when James and Sirius had dragged him off to go flying last year he’d initially resisted. Remus wasn’t crazy about flying like James or Sirius, but he didn’t hate it like Peter. Pete said he preferred to keep his feet planted on the ground, so Lupin wasn’t surprised that the chubby blonde wizard turned down their offer of a flight. Later, he realised it had been a set up to talk to him alone.

Sirius had waved a packet of Honey Dukes Chocolate under his nose and he caved. They’d known he’d do anything for the velvety goodness of the treat – even fly with a pair of lunatics. He’d always loved chocolate, especially after a full moon shift, it elevated his mood and seemed to dull all the aches and pains. Truthfully, he could never get enough of it.

He snorted, thinking about all the teen witch romantic novels about werewolves and vampires. They made lycanthropy sound so romantic and heroic when it was nothing but pain and suffering. He knew that the heroine would in real life run screaming in the opposite direction if they encountered a vamp or a were who wanted to be their life mate. He reckoned the idiots who wrote that tripe should be forced to walk a mile in his shoes to try to make amends for writing such stupid bloody tosh, even though he wouldn’t truly wish his affliction on anyone. Not even his worst enemies.

When he’d hopped on a broom that the other boys had borrowed from Sirius’ distant cousins because first years weren’t allowed to have their own brooms or play on the quidditch team, he wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Still, he reckoned that it would be worth it to have some more of Sirius’ seemingly never-ending supply of chocolate. He was flying Frank Longbottom’s Cleansweep 5 while James and Sirius were riding Gideon and Fabian Prewitt’s Nimbus 1001’s and he was quite shocked when they flew for maybe five minutes before finding a secluded spot beside a brook and landed.

As promised Sirius produced the packet of Honeydukes chocolate and chucked it at the surprised Remus who caught it reflexively, fearful it might disappear into the water which would be a tragic end to a little piece of heaven. As he broke up some pieces and shared them around, he was surprised when James informed him that they had something important they wanted to talk about.

“We know about your secret, Remus, and we want to help you.”

He stared at James, fear leaping up into his throat. “I don’t know what you mean. I don’t have a secret.”

Sirius looked sad. “Okay you don’t have a secret that sees you getting sick every time the moon is full, but we want to tell you that even if you did have a secret Remus, it doesn’t make any difference to us. You are our friend, and we will make sure to feed your chocolate addiction.”

He realised that they knew and if they knew then others would. He should never have come to Hogwarts – Dumbledore said that no one would know but here they were, not even halfway into term two of his first year and the secret was out.

He felt despair. “I’m going to have to leave,” he admitted brokenly.

James looked alarmed. They didn’t want Remus to run off scared. “That’s why we wanted to talk to you, mate. Sirius has a plan.”

Feeling desperate and crushed that he was going to go home where his family both loved him and secretly loathed him for the life-changing effect his lycanthropy had on all their lives, he broke off a piece of milk chocolate and put it into his mouth trying not to cry. Honestly, they might be sincere about wanting to help but what could two first-year-old wizards possibly do that the headmaster of Hogwarts, the same wizard who defeated Grindelwald and was the self-professed leader of the light, failed to do?

His two friends proceeded to tell him about their plans to cause chaos and mayhem, to fake illness or injuries, get detentions and keep everyone in the castle in a constant state of alarm with their pranks so that no one paid any attention to Remus’ monthly disappearances. Which was brilliant and kind and funny and exciting, and he longed to be a part of it – it sounded like a dream come true for the lonely werewolf who had never had friends because his parents believed it was too risky for them all. And yet here were two pureblood wizards from rich, incredibly influential families wanting to befriend him and run a guerrilla campaign to protect Remus and his secret. He was so massively grateful to them he wanted to burst into tears.

If that had been all that they’d dreamed up, it would have been more than he’d ever dreamed of being offered – far more than he believed was his due. After all, he was an insignificant wizard with nothing to offer in return but loyalty and friendship, yet James and Sirius had given it a lot of thought and come up with two more strategies to protect him. He couldn’t quite believe his luck, which up to this point hadn’t been so great – getting attacked by Greyback Fenrir when he was only four years old had been the worst kind of luck. But it looked like it started to change after he attended Hogwarts – which his parents warned could end in disaster.

The crazy, caring plan to start up a business supplying first and second years with Honeydukes Chocolates was one he could get on board with since it meant he could feed his chocolate addition without people noticing and putting it together with his monthly illness and absences. Of course, it would take some galleons to be able to set up said business – a resource his parent didn’t have – they already struggled to feed his monthly chocolate addiction but if the business was successful, he could buy his own and relieve them of at least one burden of having a son with lycanthropy.

The last plan, the one to learn to transform into Animagi…well he wasn’t sure about that one because it was supposed to be an incredibly difficult feat, even for powerful wizards or witches to perform. They were only first-year Hogwarts students after all – even if, along with Severus and Lily, they were all the top students in the year. Each of his friends had their own strengths and weaknesses.

Still, while it seemed farfetched that they would be able to become Animagi, he was very touched that they would want to do something so hugely difficult and potentially risky for him. A part of Remus thrilled at the thought that for the first time in his life he might not have to be alone during his transformation into a monster. If he had them with him, it would make his life a little bit easier.

When he heard Professor McGonagall returning to the infirmary, he shoved aside the rest of the memory and listened in quite shamelessly. Since it involved his best friend James Potter, to who he owed a huge debt, he listened as Madame Pomphrey ran numerous magical scans on the antidote that had been brewed by Professor Slughorn. Finally, after several tense minutes waiting, she professed that it was safe and had not been tampered with.

Remus, like the adults, heaved a sigh of relief as she administered seven drops of liquid and waited. Ten minutes later James was yet to show any sign of rousing from his unconscious state, so she administered a second dose. She explained that they needed to use this antidote with great caution since the potion had not been studied and no one knew what side effects it may have.

Although James failed to wake up, Poppy reported that he showed definite signs of rousing. She waited another twenty minutes and gave him the third dose, saying that if he failed to respond, that they would need to send him to St Mungos to the specialist poisoning ward. Just as they were getting him ready to transport him to the hospital, James woke up fighting and yelling. After giving him a mild calming potion that he took only after being threatened with a sleeping draught, they allowed him to speak.

His first words sent an icy fear through Remus. “Where is Sirius? Is he okay?”

“Can you tell us who sprayed you with the refined Doxycide, Mr Potter?” Dumbledore asked.

“Didn’t Sirius tell you? Where is he?” James demanded sounding distraught.

Oh, this wasn’t good. Remus had wondered where Sirius was – he and James were practically joined at the hip sometimes. What in Merlin’s Ghost had been going on while he was transforming into a hideous beast?

“Calm yourself, Mr Potter.” That was Poppy, sounding very stern.

“How can I calm myself when you won’t tell me about my friend.”

“Mr Potter, as far as we know, Mr Black is fine. I’m sure the reports of him being missing are in fact nothing but exaggerated and ultimately misguided attempts to protect him from his foolish actions,” McGonagall’s Scottish brogue sounded strained.

Dumbledore interrupted. “Was it Mr Black who attacked you with the Doxycide, James? Was it a prank or some such lark that went wrong?”

Remus couldn’t believe McGonagall and the headmaster. How stupid were they?

Apparently, James couldn’t either because he yelled at them. “Are you stupid? Why would you think that Sirius attacked me?”

He glared at the headmaster and their head of house. “We were both attacked by three students – they were much taller than us. He went down first after being sprayed with that stuff by all three of them at once and hit his head on the stairs when he landed. When I tried to protect him, they turned on me.”

Dumbledore seemed dubious. “Several students reported that Mr Black was arguing with you and then he sprayed something on you and then you were found unconscious. They said that he ran off laughing. So naturally, we thought it was a prank gone wrong,” he said calmly. “Are you sure that Sirius wasn’t involved? He is quite the prankster.”

“No more than I am,” James shouted, beyond frustrated and sounding fit to kill someone. “The three students told me that if I didn’t resist them and walked away, that they wouldn’t hurt me. When I tried to stop them taking Sirius away, they sprayed me with some vile-smelling stuff and then I don’t remember anything after that.” James said angrily, sounding every inch the heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Potter that he was. Arrogant and really pissed off!

“You need to find Sirius right now or I will contact my father and tell him to report Sirius missing to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. If anything has happened to him, I’ll hold you responsible.”

McGonagall and Dumbledore departed rather swiftly after James threatened to inform the DMLE. Remus assumed that it was to organise a search for Sirius, and he felt intense fear wash over him.

How long had his friend been missing and was it an elaborate prank to get back at the Marauders?

Where was Peter?

Was Pettigrew, okay?

Why hadn’t he tried to do something to help Sirius?

As the questions mounted, he wondered why Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore had been so ready to believe that Sirius would want to hurt his best friend. They were prepared to give a werewolf the benefit of the doubt and treat him as a normal wizard, but it seemed that Sirius was always going to invite suspicious because of his family.

That wasn’t fair. He’d as good as denounced his family, refusing to become a Slytherin and yet the first time that he needed to be given the benefit of the doubt, they hadn’t even bothered to hunt him down and get his side of things before deciding he was guilty.

He’d always been more than just a bit jealous of Sirius -especially the fact that the Ancient and Noble House of Black was reputed to have the most impressive collection of books on magic, particularly related to the Dark Arts. Remus had a fantasy that if he could read every book in the Black collection that he would someday find a cure for lycanthropy. But he sometimes caught a shadow in his friend’s eyes that his inner wolf recognised as deep emotional pain that Remus never saw with James.

He suspected that Sirius had a far from happy life although he didn’t talk much about it, except to make a joke occasionally about his crazy mother and mock his parents for their pureblood beliefs.

Now he thought back to how the whole of Slytherin had reacted badly when the Sorting Hat had put him into Gryffindor with James, Pete, and himself. Remembered how Sirius was always getting pushed down the stairs or hexed or even spat on by the Snakes and how he received vile humiliating howlers from his mother every morning during breakfast for a whole term.

It had made him a laughingstock with the Slytherins and even some of the staff had seemed amused or at the least, did nothing to stop the abuse. It had taken Frank and Alice to approach the headmaster and insist that he do something to stop the howlers. Only then had he diverted them to some unused classroom and had them destroyed by the school elves.

He realised Madame Pomphrey was speaking to James and concentrated on what they were saying. “Did you recognise the three who attacked you on the stairs, Mr Potter?”

James told her, still sounding irate, “No because they were dressed in white robes, hoods and had freaky white masks on their faces. The only thing I can tell you is they were fairly tall and the two who spoke had fairly deep voices.”

“So, it’s a fair assumption that two of them are male, possibly all three if they were tall,” she said sensibly.

James huffed his agreement. “How long was I unconscious for?”

“Well… it happened while you were going to lunch at half-past twelve. It’s almost nine o’clock in the evening now, so a little over eight hours.”

“Sirius has been missing for at least eight hours?” he demanded. “We need to get the Aurors looking for him.”

Madame Pomphrey tried to sound calm. “Look I know it seems alarming, but it could be an elaborate hoax. Sirius could even have been a part of it.”

By now Remus had managed to drag himself over to James’ bed. “Yes, you’re right, Madame Pomphrey,” he agreed with her, ignoring his friend’s cry of outrage. “Just like all those times Sirius gets pushed down the stairs and hexed by Slytherins for being a blood traitor and betraying his family.”

“If that’s true, why didn’t you tell someone he was being bullied?”

Remus wanted to scream!

Chapter 18

Remus and James exchanged looks of intense frustration at the attempt to shift the blame.

James said, “Because you would have told him to ignore the bullying and not fight back, or else you wouldn’t have believed him.”

“But what about all the pranks you Gryffindors pull all the time? Isn’t that bullying?”

Remus was so angry his inner wolf wanted to howl in rage, but he knew that would only scare Poppy and the last thing he could ever afford to do was to make her frightened of him because of who he was.

He settled for an almost growl instead as he said, “Why is it that people always resort to whataboutism when forced to defend what can’t, what shouldn’t be defended?”

The mediwitch looked confused. “I don’t know what whataboutism is, Mr Lupin,” she said quite sharply. “Perhaps you’d better explain what it is you’re accusing me of.”

“I can do that,” Remus nodded looking grim. “Whataboutism is when someone is faced with a belief or action which is so clearly wrong and it needs to be called out, but instead of doing the right thing, standing up and saying that you don’t agree, admitting it’s wrong, that we shouldn’t tolerate it, it’s used to avoid doing the right thing by ignoring the issue.  Instead, people say ‘well, what about such and such,’” he said angrily.

James, seeing how exhausted Remus still was from his recent transformation, decided to take on the heavy lifting for him. “What Remus is trying to say is that for example, when there are reports of purebloods torturing and killing innocent muggles (which by the way, seem to be on the increase if the Daily Prophet is to be believed) instead of people standing up and saying that killing them is evil and it’s wrong, too often people say, ‘Well what about all the innocent witches burnt at the stake?’  But killing muggles today has nothing to do with what happened back then. The only thing that they have in common is that killing anyone who’s done nothing to deserve it is immoral and we should all speak up about it.”

Remus nodded wearily. “People also use whataboutism to justify situations that aren’t actually comparable. When we told you that Sirius being hurt repeatedly since he came to Hogwarts because of the house he was sorted into, instead of being outraged that he has been hurt, you say, ‘well what about all the pranks you boys play?’ Like it is our fault he is being hurt. Since when have any of our pranks resulted in the Hogwarts students or staff getting hurt and needing to see a healer?”

James nodded emphatically. “Yep, it’s like trying to compare treacle tart with black pudding,” he said firmly. “You can’t do it and yet with whataboutism, people do it all the time. Hurting Sirius is wrong. If you think pranking is wrong, then say so but you can’t use it to say hurting him is okay. Hurting people should never okay.”

Remus nodded his agreement. Whataboutism was a subject close to his own heart as a werewolf. It was always used to justify killing werewolves, locking them up, torturing and subjecting them to horrific abuse. When supporters demanded that the people who attacked, killed, or treated them as vermin should be held accountable it was always well, what about how werewolves attack innocent children or adults, and Remus knew that was true, it was how he ended up with lycanthropy. He was that innocent victim who suffered enormously and would be hugely discriminated against for the rest of his life for being a werewolf – as would his family. Werewolves had a far shorter life expectancy than normal wizards and witches and not just because of the enormous strain their bodies went through with every transformation. It was because werewolves were forced to live in poverty, unable to legally get a job and lived in fear that they would be attacked and killed by muggles or magical folk who were scared of them.

Remus knew that most werewolves were responsible, not wanting to pass on their affliction to other innocent people, even when they treated them as vermin. It would be so easy to become bitter, having to live with all the fear, disgust, and hatred that normal witches and wizards heaped upon them. It would be easy to hurt other people who hurt them, to become the animal that people believed them to be and lash out and make other people suffer as they did. So very easy and yet most werewolves did everything in their power not to pass on their lycanthropy.

Remus was fed up with whataboutism, it was at the centre of his very existence.

Meanwhile, James tossed a dung bomb into the conversation, changing the topic as Madame Pomphrey considered what the two second-year wizards had said.

Looking at the pain-worn face of his friend he commented sadly, “Pity Sirius wouldn’t let us put a tracking charm on him, Remus.”

Remus jumped as if someone had just poked him with a sharp stick. “Oh Merlin, why didn’t I think of it before? What’s wrong with me?” he exclaimed in frustration.

James said, “Are you telling me that you did it anyway?”

Remus was holding his head due to the headache he often suffered post-transformation, as he said, “Actually, I put two tracking charms on Sirius just in case he noticed the first. I figured as suspicious as he is, he wouldn’t think to check for a second one. But why didn’t Pete say something? He knew about it because he caught me doing it.”

James gave him a relieved grin. “I don’t know, Mate but thank Merlin that you did. I could kiss you!”

Madame Pomphrey wasted no time alerting the headmaster about Remus’ handiwork. It was quite an impressive feat for a second-year wizard to have placed tracking charms on his friend. No wonder Albus wanted to give the young werewolf a chance to attend Hogwarts.

She sent her Patronus – a pure white horse to alert Dumbledore to check for a tracking charm or two on Sirius before scurrying into her office where her potions were stored in a locked cabinet.  She returned swiftly, forcing Remus to take the pain potion before performing several diagnostic spells on James to ensure that he wasn’t suffering any ill effects of the modified Doxycide potion.

She was thinking about the talk they’d had a little while ago about her attitude to Sirius Black and the fact that he was being attacked because he dared to deviate from the norm. Not only had the Slytherins reacted badly to his sorting into Gryffindor but the staff had reacted negatively too. They didn’t trust him – treating him as a spy – which was silly, he was still just a young boy. No one would be so cynical or sneaky as to put him in with light families to spy on them in what Albus had warned would be the coming war between the forces of dark and the light.

As they waited on word of the missing wizard, Poppy made them all some hot cocoa, noting that both boys were shivering a little. Casting a Heating Charm, she knew better than to suggest they return to bed and rest. As they sipped their hot drinks and spoke in undertones, she wondered if James knew about Remus’ lycanthropy based on something that he said about Remus not blaming himself because of the pain he was in. When she was about to ask some discreet questions to confirm her suspicions there was a flurry of activity as Albus appeared with several teachers, levitating Sirius Black on a stretcher into her infirmary.

She could see he was unconscious, just like James but unlike James, he appeared waxen, pale, and extremely cold. Also, she could see signs of frostbite on his extremities. Casting some diagnostics, it confirmed her suspicions. Mr Black was hypothermic. He needed to go to St Mungos immediately – his injuries were beyond her ability to treat here in the infirmary.

Bustling around, trying to get him stable enough to be transported, she demanded tersely, “Where did you find him, Headmaster?”

Professor McGonagall answered curtly. “He’d been stuffed behind a pillar – out of sight in the Astronomy tower, Poppy.”

Looking suitably sorrowful, Albus interjected. “An unfortunate prank gone wrong, I fear but fortunately, thanks to Mr Lupin’s admirable forethought, no harm has been done. Fifty points to Gryffindor for some excellent wand work, particularly for a second-year student,” he said, his eyes twinkling merrily.

Although Remus clearly looked like he wanted to yell at the foolish wizard for assuming that this was some stupid joke that had backfired, Poppy took the wind out of everyone’s sails by announcing sternly. “Firstly, I’m not convinced after listening to Mr Potter’s account of his attack that this was a harmless prank gone wrong. But more importantly, as to no harm being done, I fear that it a far too optimistic assessment, Headmaster. I am transferring Mr Black to St Mungos immediately.”

“Is that really necessary, Poppy,” Dumbledore protested. “Can’t you just treat him here?”

Not appreciating being questioned about her job, she snapped at him. “No, Albus, I can’t. He is hypothermic and showing signs of frostbite. He needs specialist healing in a hospital, not a school infirmary. Now excuse me while I alert them to expect us momentarily,” she told him tartly, ignoring the exclamations of horror and dismay from the other members of staff.

As she prepared to accompany her patient to St Mungos, she was vaguely aware that the Head Boy, Theodore Tonks from Ravenclaw, had entered the room to inform the Headmaster that Mr Potter’s parents had flooed into Hogwarts and were waiting for him in his office. Judging from the expression of dismay, she reckoned that he’d forgotten in all the uproar that he’d requested they come to see their son. That communication had been sent before they’d successfully administered the antidote brewed by Horace. Which reminded her to take the antidote with her – the healers at St Mungo’s would need it at some point.

As they headed off to St Mungos, Poppy wondered what Euphemia and Fleamont Potter would have to say about their precious son being attacked at Hogwarts which was supposedly the safest place in Great Britain. She was figuring that they weren’t going to be congratulating Dumbledore for how he’d handled the situation – especially after speaking to their son.

~o0o~

Arcturus Black swept past the waiting room of St Mungos Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries where Alphard and Cassiopeia Black were waiting impatiently along with Dorea and Charlus Potter, charging straight into the administrator’s office. It would be highly unseemly for a Lord of the most powerful Ancient and Noble house to remain in a public waiting room when his grandson was gravely ill. And he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought that the other members of the family who had come to find out his condition were expected to wait in a public area of the hospital – not when the Black’s financial largesse helped keep the hospital open.

Despite his concern at learning about Sirius’ condition he was faintly amused to see the puffed-up minor pureblood head of St Mungos initial fury at having someone barge in on him in his office without an appointment or even a request to enter. His arrogance had swiftly morphed into fear and obsequious bonhomie when he realised who’d had the temerity to disturb him. In short order, a private waiting room had been supplied for the exclusive use of the Black Family, which obviously extended to more distant members like Dorea and Charlus Potter.

The fact was that it had been Charlus who had alerted Arcturus, and presumably the others that Sirius had been admitted to St Mungos for what Potter was calling potentially life-threatening injuries. When Arcturus asked if Orion had already been notified, Charlus had told him that Orion had seemed unconcerned and said he was in the middle of an important business meeting but would be along when he could get away. Stunned, he’d told Charlus he’d be there immediately to make sure that everything possible was being done for Sirius. Good as his word, he’d had his steward reschedule everything on his calendar and arrived there within minutes.

It crossed his mind because he was a deeply cynical wizard, that some people may suspect that when his grandson had been sorted into Gryffindor that Arcturus might not be all that bothered if he failed to survive, but they would be wrong, dead wrong! He intended to disabuse anyone holding any such erroneous belief right away. Just because Sirius had eschewed his Slytherin ties, that didn’t mean that he wasn’t protected by the Ancient and Noble House of Black.

While he’d been bemused by the sorting calamity, Callisto Abbot had cautioned him not to interfere and he’d agreed. Although he wasn’t thrilled by Sirius being in Gryffindor what with their hero-worship of impetuousness and self-sacrificial bravery (they were after all the antithesis of all that was Slytherin) it was quite clear to Arcturus that maintaining the status quo wasn’t working either. The Sacred Twenty-Eight was in dire danger of line extinction if they hadn’t already succumbed, so clearly, there needed to be sweeping changes to their world if they were to survive and thrive.

Callisto believed very strongly that the game-changer was Sirius, and Arcturus prayed she was correct. He did acknowledge that it had taken a lot of courage for Sirius to turn his back on generations of tradition and refuse to follow what by now, was to all intents and purposes a family institution of being in Slytherin. The boy was tough and not just for withstanding the initially sorting but for standing up to the immense pressure that had been brought to bear on him since then.

Arcturus had watched at Christmas when most of the family had either given him the cold shoulder or openly berated him for becoming a Gryffindor. His parents and Regulus had yelled, screamed, and belittled him for his actions, and according to the house-elves, had endured more than one beating over the week he’d spent at home and yet he’d never wavered in his conviction. That took guts, not just the bravery when a wizard was fired up about something. It was the sort of courage to have everyone against you, telling you you’re wrong and still managing to stick to your principles and not give in.

It was the sort of conviction that Orion didn’t possess, he was a follower. His son had years seeking out and wanting to join the Knights of Walpurgis, speciously believing they were a chivalric order, akin to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, when they were in fact, a bunch of disgruntled vigilantes, common thugs, and murderers. Arcturus had come to the realisation that Orion didn’t have the mettle to replace him. Making tough decisions and sticking to them was an important part of being Lord Black and young Sirius was already showing more leadership potential than his 42-year-old father.

This was why Arcturus was willing to give him his head (despite the Gryffindor sorting farrago) to see what he could achieve with his freedom. It was becoming increasingly obvious that some of what he’d always viewed as positive qualities, the burning ambition for personal wealth and power, something he understood extremely well and used to his own advantage to manipulate his business colleagues and control politics, was not as important as he thought.  In fact, unless tempered by other more important qualities, it could quite easily become their downfall.

Tom Riddle who insisted on referring to himself as Lord Voldemort had clearly been studying pureblood politics and using it against the pureblood Slytherin faction of the Wizengamot. The pathetic little half-blood wanting to snatch power from the elites such as Arcturus was using his own techniques to court the wizarding families who favoured the Dark Arts to seize control. Arcturus knew that an all-out genocidal war on muggles and muggle-borns would never be tolerated by the muggle governments. His contacts in that world – mostly business contacts – had kept him abreast of the technological breakthroughs that had been achieved by muggles without magic and it was sobering. If pushed, the muggle military forces could annihilate the wizarding world very easily. They possessed weapons of mass destruction which gave him terrifying nightmares.

Riddle, although an undeniably clever tactician was rapidly gaining fanatical adherents amongst the pureblood Slytherin faction by feeding their prejudices and their fears. In essence he was raising his own army of zealots and extremists. For now, they were still mostly in the shadows, recruiting not only the purebloods but those half-bloods who felt like they had been sullied by muggles intermarrying with their families and causing them to lose status. While he could admire Riddle’s abilities on an intellectual level, the problem was that he was trying to convince those who favoured the dark side that he was immortal and unfortunately, largely succeeding.

There had been demagogues in the magical and muggle world before this, and Merlin willing, there would be again, because the power hungry never thought they could be defeated. The problem with Riddle was that he was not only insanely intelligent and powerful, but he was also batshit crazy. If not stopped, he would eventually lead the entire wizarding world into obliteration.

This was why Arcturus was pinning his hopes for the future on his heir. His son Orion and crazy daughter-in-law Walburga had already embraced Riddle and all his dangerous rhetoric. As had Pollux’s younger son, Cygnus, who was trying to arrange a marriage between Andromeda and Lucius Malfoy, who, like his father had become a follower of Riddle. The stupid fools had sworn allegiance to a half-blood bastard as he built up a violent and insanely loyal militia of what Arcturus believed to be ambitious but underachieving purebloods such as his son Orion, intermingled with the lowest of thugs and wannabes in the pureblood ranks.

Frankly, the potential for disaster scared the crap out of him. Ironic really, that Arcturus had helped Riddle gain a foothold by supporting him financially, if anonymously. He had been arrogant enough to think he could control him, and he’d been wrong!

Arcturus predicted that within a decade, their community would be facing a massive threat to their existence that these cretins couldn’t see coming. He had been taken in at first, thinking that Riddle would shake things up a bit, redress the balance against the muggle-borns but he had badly underestimated the level of hatred and irrationality of the lunatic who it turned out was, Merlin, help them all, the fucking Heir of Slytherin. Meanwhile, Riddle courted a bunch of coolly ambitious, ‘What’s in it for me,’ pureblood individuals in which narcissism was practically a religion, succeeding in seducing and suborning ambitiously powerful witches and wizards into swearing oaths of fealty to him.

Despite Arcturus’ initial impression fifteen years ago that Riddle could be a relatively useful tool before he outlived his usefulness, he’d soon realised that controlling him would be about as practical as trying to train a drunken dragon, as in it would be suicidal. He was dangerous; already Riddle was subtly undermining his authority within his own family. An outright confrontation was far too risky, Arcturus would have to take a long-term approach to defeat the bastard. For that, he would need help and he was betting that in time, Sirius would be his ace in the hole.

Having made it plain to the entire hospital staff that he expected his grandson to make a full recovery, no matter the cost, he proceeded to make sure Sirius had adequate protection while he was here where he was vulnerable to attack. Black set up security wards that only allowed approved medical staff (which he would personally employ) to enter his room. He limited all other individuals who were permitted to enter his room to a select few family and friends; anyone else would have to have Arcturus’ approval and an approved chaperone, if they were permitted to see him at all.

That included that silly old fool Albus Dumbledore. It had apparently taken hours after Sirius had been attacked for them to locate him. Charlus had informed him angrily that it had dramatically decreased his chances of survival. If Sirius died, he would ruin the Chief Warlock!

Having assured himself that Sirius was as safe as he could make him in St Mungos, he left his heir in his private room to go and speak with the rest of the Blacks who’d gathered there. He was hoping that someone could tell him precisely why his heir was lying in the hospital, struggling to live. Entering the private waiting room that he’d demanded they provide for the family, he nodded in approval to see that his house-elf Mipsy had taken it upon herself to provide food and refreshments. He also noted with surprise that Pegasus Potter and her brother Archer had also joined the throng of concerned family. It was a shock to see Pegasus, their paths didn’t cross all that often and he was usually prepared. She was growing into a beautiful girl.

However, it was an even bigger shock to see that Lord and Lady Potter had joined the other Black family members in the waiting room. Plus, a young wizard accompanied them who he rightly assumed was their son and heir. He had no idea what had brought them here, aside from the fact that Charlus and Fleamont were first cousins. Nodding respectfully to his fellow Lord and his Lady, he turned to Charlus, asking him to explain what was going on. While Charlus was a Potter and ascribed to the family values of muggle-born rights, despite remaining purebloods themselves, Arcturus had come to trust and respect him in the years since he’d married Dorea. In fact, he had made a significant contribution to the family’s long-term future and he owed him quite a large debt of gratitude.

“Please Charlus, tell me what you know.”

Charlus said, “I don’t know much more than what I told you before,” he said referring to the Patronus he’d sent alerting Arcturus. My cousin Fleamont and his wife Euphemia were up at Hogwarts speaking to the Headmaster because their son James was also attacked along with Sirius. They brought him down to have him checked over by a healer to make sure he hasn’t suffered any long or short-term effects and I was here at St Mungos consulting.”

He looked over at James who was trying to stay silent and grinned with typical gallows humour. “Although if I had to give my honest healer’s opinion, James here, conned his parents into bringing him to St Mungos so he could find out how Sirius is doing.”

James looked a little awkward before admitting, “Okay, maybe there’s some truth to it, but Sirius is our friend, and they wouldn’t tell us anything about him. Is he going to be alright, do you think, Uncle Charlus?”

Although Charlus was technically James second cousin, James’ parents were old fashion and didn’t like their son calling his elders by their first name, thus they called him Uncle Charlus. Dorea and Charlus’ two children reciprocated too.

“I don’t know James. Perhaps Lord Black can tell us what the healer told him.”

Arcturus looked at Charlus and said, “All they’ve told me is that he is suffering from something called hypothermia and that it’s bad. They also said he had something called frostbite to his hands and feet, his ears and nose and that he is unconscious after being sprayed with some damned potion. Can you please explain what that all means?”

Charlus looked at Dorea, shrugged and said, “I’ll give it a go, Lord Black. Let’s start with hypothermia, this is a medical emergency that arises when your body loses body heat faster than it generates it which causes a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius. In hypothermia, your body temperature falls below 35 Celsius. When your core body temperature drops below a certain threshold, then your heart, nervous system and all your other organs can’t work normally.  If it’s not treated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart, your respiratory system and death,” he said gravely.

He looked around at the grave faces and continued.

“The primary treatment for hypothermia is to warm the body back to a normal temperature but it has to be done carefully and wizard healing isn’t necessarily the best option when dealing with such a severe case as this one. The healers who are treating Sirius asked for my help in reaching healer colleagues who also use muggle medicine. They are fetching some equipment and will get here soon but meanwhile; they’ve advised them on how to treat Sirius and what not to do.”

Arcturus nodded gratefully. If anyone expecting him to explode over the healers wanting to use muggle medicine, they would be in for a shock. He knew that a part of why his daughter Lucretia had three children and his sister had Phineas was because of muggle medicine, so he was hardly going to object to it being used in this life and death situation. Charlus was a part of the family and he trusted him.

“And frostbite?” he queried, turning to the second challenge facing his heir.

“Frostbite is an injury that is caused by freezing of the skin and tissues and in severe cases, underlying muscle and bones. Possible complications of severe frostbite include infection and nerve damage which can lead to gangrene and amputation,” Charlus told him gently.

“He could lose his fingers or his ear?” Arcturus asked, appalled.

“Gangrene is the worst-case scenario of severe frostbite. It is more likely he could lose sensation in his fingers for example,” he said calmly. “But I’ve been talking to Dorea and my cousin Fleamont, who as I’m sure you know, is a retired Potions Master. We were discussing some potions we may to able to create to promote healing based on burn and anti-scar creams and salves,” he said comfortingly.

Seeing that no one was particularly comforted he said. “In the worst comes to pass, if we did need to amputate, we do have Skele-Grow to fall back on and muggles have what are called skin grafts. But there is every chance that won’t be required.”

He sincerely hoped not!

 

Chapter 19

Seeing that Arcturus was looking rather pale after hearing the serious nature of his heir’s injuries, Charlus swiftly transfigured a squishy armchair and pushed him down in it carefully, much to the shock of the other members of the family. Charlus called for a restorative from Dorea who poured him a whiskey, Charlus grasped his hand and calmly took his pulse before handing him the glass and instructing him to sip it slowly. He then continued his explanation.

“As to Sirius being unconscious, I understand he and James were ambushed on their way to class and were sprayed with some variant of Doxycide that was revved up with extra hemlock and then one of the ingredients from the living draught potion was added, namely the sopophorous bean, which caused James and Sirius to become unconscious. As I understand from young James, Sirius hit his head quite hard on the stone steps as he fell down unconscious, so they are not ruling out that he might have suffered a concussion as well and will be monitoring him closely for any symptoms.”

“A concussion, is that something we should be concerned about?” Arcturus asked, feeling overwhelmed by his son’s…his grandson’s injury.

“Well, the term concussion refers to a type of traumatic brain injury where a blow to the head or the body results in the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth. The sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating changes in the brain and damaging brain cells.”

Arcturus sighed; he really didn’t want to think about Sirius damaging his brain. Perhaps it was best not to focus on what might be but concentrate on what had already happened. He frowned, “You said that Sirius was attacked, do we know what happened.”

Charlus beckoned his nephew over. “James was with Sirius when they were ambushed. I think that it’s best if he tells you what happened.”

Arcturus glanced at the young wizard and transfigured three wing-backed chairs, inviting James and his parents to sit down so they could talk. He saw the boy check with his parents before sitting in the chair directly opposite him while his rather elderly and clearly doting parents sat either side of him. Knowing his reputation was intimidating to the young Gryffindor, he said in a friendly manner.

“I would be most gratefully if you could tell me about what happened to yourself and my grandson. You said he was your friend and Charles mentioned that you tried to go to his assistance before you were attacked too. I am most grateful that you tried to help; are you alright, James?” he asked gently.

Looking nervous, James nodded. “Uncle Charlus checked me over and he said I’m all good, Lord Black.”

Charlus frowned and cleared his throat.

“Okay he said that I’m probably fine, but he wants to keep a close eye on me, but he’s just being a worrywart,” James said sheepishly.  “We have a match next weekend,” he said looking at Charlus pleadingly.

He shook his head and said, “We’ll have to wait and see, Jamie boy.”

The young wizard huffed his frustration. “That always means no,” he said cynically as everyone smothered their amusement.

Arcturus leaned forward, trying to put the young Gryffindor at ease. “What position do you play, James?”

“I’m one of the chasers on the Gryffindor team,” he said proudly. “Sirius is on the team too. He can play seeker, chaser or keep goals so he substitutes if anyone gets injured or can’t play.”

Arcturus was surprised. “I did not know he’d made the team. Congratulations, it isn’t common for second years to get onto the quidditch team. Your parents must be immensely proud of you,” he stated as they nodded fondly. He could see how they adored him but that was understandable. He was their only child and the heir to the House of Potter – a Noble and Ancient house that could trace its roots all the way back to the Peverells.

James looked pensive. “Thank you, Lord Black. I guess Sirius won’t be playing against Ravenclaw next week,” he observed mournfully.”

“Can you tell me what happened?” he probed the wizard gently.

James started to explain that they were leaving the Great Hall after breakfast and returning to their dormitory to collect their books and equipment when they were accosted by three older students on the staircase.

“Did you recognise them,” Arcturus asked.

James shook his head. “No, they were dressed in white robes and hoods. They had these creepy white masks on their faces so I couldn’t see who they were.”

Arcturus started when he heard that, shooting a look at the other wizards and witches in the room. He observed that they too looked very disturbed by that detail. Not that the whole ambush wasn’t troubling enough – it was. It was just that the attackers were dressed in garb that was highly reminiscent of the secretive cult that called themselves the Knights of Walpurgis.

There were reports about the group which had assembled to fight under Gellert Grindelwald’s banner of pureblood superiority in the 1940s before Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald. The Knights had gone to ground, for more than a decade, despite Orion being obsessed with trying to find them and join their ranks. The stupid oaf didn’t seem to understand that the House of Black followed no witch or wizard – they made their own way in the world. Recently, it seemed that the Knights of Walpurgis had re-emerged and hitched their fortunes to the self-appointed Lord Voldemort, pledging fealty to the charismatic great pretender.

Pushing aside his concerns about the Knights and Riddle, he told the young wizard, “That must have been scary.”

James looked uncomfortable. “It was when they sprayed some grey stuff at Sirius, and he fell down and cracked his head real loud on the stairs.

One of them told me if I didn’t fight them, I wouldn’t get hurt – that they just wanted Sirius.”

Arcturus smirked mentally. Telling a Gryffindor to walk away was like telling a Slytherin not to be sneaky, he suspected that the wizards who ambushed Sirius and James would be fully cognizant of that fact. Reading the expression on Fleamont and Charlus’ faces, he knew they’d reach the same conclusion. James was always going to be targeted too!

“But you didn’t leave my grandson!” He made it a statement because James had already said that he raced to Sirius’ aid, although even if he hadn’t said so previously, the fact he was here to check up on him spoke volumes. And he was a Potter and a Gryffindor!

“He’d do the same for me,” James said with simple conviction and Arcturus reckoned he probably would. Sirius had always been very protective of Regulus.

“Then you were sprayed? You’re lucky not to have smashed your skull, too,” he said wryly.

James looked embarrassed. “I was bending over Sirius to see if he was okay, so I didn’t have as far to fall, and I fell on him. Remus said I should have stayed put and used my wand, instead.”

Arcturus agreed with Remus – whoever he was but he didn’t voice his opinion because in this instance a 2nd-year student against three much older wizards (according to James’ description) was always going to end up with him unconscious. The only thing that might have changed was that he might have taken out one of the attackers, but it was unlikely.

“Outnumbered as you were, three to one, it is highly likely you could have been badly hurt, and I’m sure that Sirius would not want that,” he said as the Potters looked relieved that he had absolved James of blame. As a typical Gryffindor, likely the young wizard was feeling guilty he hadn’t been able to save his …grandson. Damn this deception had been much easier to carry off in the past.

Euphemia chimed in. “Thank you, Lord Black. We tried to tell him that, but he wouldn’t listen to us.”

Mentally smirking because of course, he wouldn’t. It was blatantly clear to him that the lad was a headstrong, loyal self-sacrificing Gryffindor to his core. He suddenly realised that if the dragonhide boot had been on the other foot, Sirius would no doubt have been equally foolish. Although he probably would have drawn his wand in defence and taken out one or more of the opposition, per his early training in defence against the dark arts, then felt guilty if he didn’t take out all three adversaries.

Eager to hear what had happened to them afterwards, he asked, “Do you know what happened after you were sprayed with the supercharged Doxycide, James?”

“Well, our friend Remus was in the infirmary because he was um… sick, so he told me what he overheard the Professors tell Madam Pomphrey had happened. According to a couple of Gryffindor first years, the three figures dressed in white left me on the stairs and levitated Sirius away. I was taken to the infirmary. Some Slytherin told the headmaster that Sirius had run off after a prank that went wrong because they said it was his idea, even though the first year Gryffs said that he’d been hurt too and was levitated away.” He took a sip of pumpkin juice that Mipsy had pushed into his hand.

“Remus said the teachers thought that the Gryffindors were trying to cover up for Sirius and they focused on trying to treat me. Hours after I was found, Professor Slughorn figured out that the potion I’d been hit with was a super potent variant of Doxycide with three times the usual amount of hemlock in it and the Professor said they’d added another ingredient called sopophorous bean.”

Dorea Potter who had remained mostly silent until this point, told Arcturus, “Sopophorus bean is a key ingredient in Draught of the Living Dead. And for the record, mixing potions like that is very risky; I can’t imagine that a potion master would be so irresponsible. I suspect that it is the work of some talented amateur prepared to risk poisoning the two boys.”

She sounded utterly furious, but Arcturus decided that people would assume it was because she was a Potions Master and was angered by the rash behaviour of the person who’d brewed up the potion. Only Charlus would know the real depth of her anger or why. Yes, Callisto Abbott did too, but she wasn’t here.

Arcturus wondered if she ever regretted the bargain that they’d struck between them to save the family? It was hard when something like this happened and they had to deny their true relationship to Sirius. He may be dying, and they had to pretend that they weren’t his biological parents and that was agonisingly difficult but at least he had a more legitimate reason to show concern.

Refocusing on the Potter boy because it was less painful, he said, “I’m assuming that Professor Slughorn was able to brew up an antidote once he knew what was in the potion?”

James nodded. “Yes, Lord Black, but it took quite a few hours before it was ready but then they gave it to me. Remus said that I needed four doses before I woke up, which took up a lot of precious time but when I did and found out that Sirius was missing and they weren’t even looking for him, I might have threatened to floo call my father and have him contact the DMLE and get Aurors to look for him,” he said sheepishly.

Arcturus smiled briefly at that, admiring the fact that the lad obviously had some Slytherin-like qualities in him. “And so, they did instigate a search, I take it?”

James shrugged. “Hours too late. Then Remus who was still ill with a terrible headache remembered that he’d put two tracking charms on Sirius in case the Slytherin’s hurt him, and we weren’t there to watch his back.”

Arcturus frowned. “Who is this Remus and why would he put tracking charms on my grandson?”

“Remus Lupin is in Gryffindor and he and Peter are friends of Sirius and me. The four of us share a dorm room with Edgar Brownley and Kronkus Woods. Remus put tracking charms on Sirius because after he was sorted into Gryffindor, the Slytherins try to hex him or hurt him; they’ve made him fall down the stairs. So, Pete, Remus, and me, plus Frank Longbottom and Alice Wellborn, two of the sixth form prefects plus the two sets of Prewitt twins, Aaron and Ares and Gideon and Fabian all try and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere alone. But Remus is sneaky. When he wanted to put tracking charms on Sirius and he said no… um well, Remus did it anyway.”

Fleamont asked, “But why two tracking charms – isn’t that a bit excessive?”

James grinned, despite the seriousness of the situation. “Remus said that Sirius is a walking talking enigma. He’s as suspicious as a Slytherin and yet he can be stupidly brave when he should be cautious. Plus, he has a habit of sneaking off sometimes to meet up with Panda and we don’t see him go. He’s normally real smart but when a friend needs him, he can be dumb about looking out for himself. Panda was having a hard time with some of the older Ravenclaw witches who say she’s weird because she sometimes has dreams.”

Arcturus frowned as he took in the information James had shared. What that Remus boy had said about Sirius was a bit spooky. It reminded him of Callisto’s prophecy when Sirius was born and looking over at Charlus and Dorea he guessed that they were probably thinking the same thing. Plus, he noted the fact that Pandora Abbott was having trouble fitting into Hogwarts; he would mention it to her mother.

Fleamont had obviously taken away something else from James’ account because he gave his son a knowing look. “Is Sirius able to sneak past everyone how I think he is, Son?”

“Well, I let Remus and Peter use it too, Dad.”

“I get it James, my friends and I used to use it a lot to sneak around at Hogwarts, even though it was a long time ago now,” he smiled at his son indulgently. “And by the way, your friend Remus sounds like a very clever lad.”

His mother nodded. “You must invite him home for a visit, along with Peter and Sirius too, Dear One.”

Arcturus wondered what they were talking about. Clearly, there was something the Potters were privy to but right now he wasn’t concerned about it and Charlus didn’t seem concerned either.

“So, it was thanks to your friend Remus surreptitiously placing the tracking charms on him that Sirius was found?” he asked James, wanting to get all the pertinent facts.

James nodded. “They’d left him at the top of the astronomy tower stuffed behind a column in a dark spot.”

Charlus looked at Arcturus and said, “Your friend saved Sirius’ life, James. I talked to Poppy Pomphrey and the healers who are looking after him and they told me that if it had taken even another hour before he was found, he would have died.”

Unspoken was the fact that he still might not survive. Right now, he was still alive and that’s what they needed to focus on. Rising, he looked at his wife, Dorea and Arcturus, telling them he was going to check in with Sirius’ condition.

Arcturus rose and wandered over to talk Alphard, concerned about something James had said. After a few minutes of polite chitchat because Blacks observed the social niceties even amongst themselves, his cousin gave him a knowing look and said, “Something on your mind, Cousin?”

He smiled briefly before acknowledging his cousin’s perceptiveness. “Young Potter said Sirius sneaks out of Gryffindor to meet up with Panda who I’m assuming is Pandora Abbott? Should I be concerned that we might have a situation developing like your mother and father, or Merlin Forbid, your brother Cygnus? They aren’t meeting in a broom cupboard, are they?”

Alphard chuckled, “Fear not Cousin. Pandora and Sirius are still innocent kids. They’re awfully close to each other, but it is just a friendship and it’s existed ever since Sirius and Regulus came back from Bulgaria. Plus, Pandora took pity on him and runs interference for Sirius with Pegasus, even though she’s her best friend.”

“Why does Sirius need Miss Abbott to run interference for him with Pegasus? What’s wrong with her? Are they fighting?” he asked curiously.

Alphard grinned and looked over at Pegasus who was talking quietly with her brother Archer and cousin James. “No, but Pip decided when she was five that she intended to marry Sirius and told him so in no uncertain manner. While he’s told her that he’s not going to marry his cousin, she won’t take no for an answer,” he said with amusement. “She said his mother and father are cousins, and they got married. Pandora took it on herself to distract her from chasing after him and hassling him.”

It was only his long years of Occlumency training that allowed him not to react violently at the news that his and Dorea’s biological daughter wanted to marry her brother. Somehow the thought of Sirius having an interest in Pandora Abbott seemed a rather minor concern by comparison. The thought of the four people who knew the truth about their relationship to each other not being around to prevent them from marrying each other when they were older made him feel ill. As did the consequences of them getting married and producing offspring. Perhaps he needed to set up a betrothal contract for one or both of his offspring. What a nightmare!

He’d always wondered who Pegasus had been sorted into Gryffindor. Two of his offspring not going to Slytherin seemed to be highly unlikely. Now he understood. Pegasus had followed him and again he remembered the prophecy about him inspiring others to follow him or journey on his path.

~o0o~

21st February 1973

After four weeks of being treated at St Mungos, Sirius was finally allowed to leave and return to Hogwarts. His healers suggested returning home to continue his recuperation before he went back to school, but he’d vetoed that suggestion immediately. Sirius wanted to avoid his parents, who hadn’t even bothered to come and visit him while he was in the hospital and he didn’t want to listen to Reg lecture him again on why Slytherin purebloods were right about every freaking thing.  He’d had enough of the ten-year-old hectoring him while he was in hospital. Sirius figured he’d recover much quicker if he were with the Marauders and his other friends at school.

He missed them; when he was first at St Mungos, he’d had James and Pegasus visit him a few times before they were sent back to school. Charlus had brought Archer to visit quite a bit and his Uncle Alphard had come by almost every day. Once or twice brought Regulus with him but his little brother had been such a snotty-nosed little prat that Sirius asked Alphard not to bring him again.

His cousin Andromeda dropped in to see him, she’d been working in Flourish and Botts bookstore in Diagon Alley ever since she left Hogwarts the year before he started. She’d often call by to see him on her lunch breaks. Andi surprised him by telling him that she admired his courage in getting sorted into Gryffindor and sticking to his guns, despite how much the family had bullied him. His cousin Andi confided that her father was trying to bully her into marrying that prat, Lucius Malfoy and when she tried asking her mum for help, her mother had shrugged and told her it was her duty to obey him.

Andi smiled at him, saying, “You inspired me to stand up for myself, Cousin. I utterly loathe that smug git and I can’t imagine being forced to have children with him.”

He pulled a face. “I hate him, Andi. He makes my skin crawl.” He didn’t tell her he suspected he’d been involved in the attack on him.

Andi nodded. Yeah, me too, Sirius. You made me realise, if a little kid could stand up for what he believed in, then I can too.  Thanks to you I decided that there’s no way was I’m going to marry a pureblood supremacist like Malfoy.” She leaned in and gave him a grateful kiss on the cheek – not a perfunctory peck that Black family members dutifully gave each other but a heartfelt kiss. He could tell the difference because it made him feel happy but at the same time uncomfortable too.

Sirius was ecstatic that his cousin had decided not to marry Malfoy. He was almost sure he’d recognised the three white-clad students who’d attacked him and James, although he had no proof. He recognised their voices as Amycus Carrow and Lucius Malfoy. Plus, where one Carrow twin went, the other one wasn’t far behind, which meant that Alecto was probably the third attacker. As to why Malfoy had come after him, one explanation was that his Pater, Lord Malfoy was behind it. Abraxas was said to be unhappy that the Blacks were harbouring a Gryffindor in their midst when he was trying to arrange a marriage between his own house and the most powerful Blacks. No doubt Abraxas believed that as the son of the heir, Sirius was dragging down the status of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.

James’ theory was that Lucius had designs on the Lordship for the House of Black and planning to wipe out his father, Reg and Sirius and install his own male heir as head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.  Okay, it was a bit of a crazy theory, but he wouldn’t put it past him, either. After all, as every good son of the house of Black knew of the genealogy of the Noble and Ancient houses and Armand Malfoy arrived in Britain in 1066 as part of William the Conqueror’s army. Armand was given a piece of land in Wiltshire as a reward for his services to King William I and the British seat of power. Over the centuries, muggle history abounded with tales of ambitious aspiring rulers overthrowing the former king or queen and wiping out entire lines so that they could assume the throne. Sirius was sure that over the years since Armand settled in England that successive Malfoys were keenly observing and taking notes on what the muggle royals and their minions were up to.

Meanwhile, to his astonishment, his Uncle Alphard had revealed that his grandfather, Lord Black had decreed that before he could return to Hogwarts, he needed to be taught to perform a disillusionment charm perfectly, so he wasn’t a target to whoever had attacked him. Of course, James had his invisibility cloak that Sirius often used in moving around the castle, but the cloak was a Potter family secret. Sirius wasn’t even sure if Charlus knew about it, since James said it was always passed to the oldest offspring. Yes, so James had told the Marauders, but they had all sworn an oath not to tell, so of course, he hadn’t mentioned.

This meant that Uncle Alphard had laboured with him while he was in the hospital trying to teach him a charm that although not usually taught to second-year students was normally well within his capabilities. Unfortunately, Sirius had lost the tips of his four fingers of his wand hand to frostbite and although thanks to Skele-Grow and what Charlus said Muggle medicine called skin grafts, which had been taken from his bum and thigh, which had given him back his fingertips they were still numb. That numbness made it difficult to grasp the wand and perform delicate movements.

Charlus said that the nerve regeneration potions invented specially for him by Pip’s mum who was a potions master, would eventually give him full feeling back in his hand. In the meantime, he was still quite clumsy. He kept dropping things, including his wand. Finally, Alphard had suggested Sirius use his left hand which at first was nearly as clumsy as the right hand because it wasn’t his dominant one.

Fortunately, his left hand had been trapped underneath his body and so had only suffered superficial frostbite which had healed relatively quickly. Although he was grateful that his Great Aunt Dora had come up with a brand-new potion to regrow nerves, he wished it weren’t such a slow process. He’d been told by the healers at St Mungos that he couldn’t fly for the rest of the school year which meant he was off the Gryffindor quidditch team. That was a blow, but hopefully, he’d be back next year when he could properly grasp his broomstick again.  So, he focused on learning to use his left hand for spell casting and was finally able to cast the disillusionment spell to his uncle’s satisfaction. Then it was only a matter of waiting until the healers gave him the all-clear to return to school.

Due to his failure to return home, one of his condition of release was that he had strict instructions to return regularly to Madame Pomphrey’s domain for her to supervise the application of the nerve regeneration potion and salves and the anti-scarring creams. He accepted all the medical stipulations with as much good grace as any typical 12-year-old wizard would since it was better than the alternative.

Going back to Hogwarts was an important step in his physical and mental recovery. The rest of the Gryffindors made sure that he always had multiple students to accompany him everywhere he went. A times it felt like he was being smothered. The only times he wasn’t shadowed everywhere was when he was in the Gryffindor common room, the boys’ dormitory, or when he needed a bit of breathing space and borrowed James’ cloak to get away from Pip who insisted on fussing around him even though he was fine.

Over the Easter break, he’d been invited home with James and much to his surprise his parents didn’t raise any objects. He was able to relax at Potter manor in a way that he never could at Grimmauld Place. James’ parents spoilt their only son rotten, and they tried to do the same with Sirius. To be honest, he found it uncomfortable to be hugged and cossetted even though James seemed to lap up. Of course, he had been raised as a son of the House of Black to have impeccable social manners, so he wasn’t boorish when they overwhelmed him with kindness and caring, but it made him feel all tight and uncomfortable inside.

Plus, Pip and Archer came over to visit their aunt and uncle nearly every day of the holidays. He loved Archer, he was a great kid, but Pip was a bit too much for him to cope with, particularly after his dramatic kidnapping. She fussed around him like a broody mother hen guarding her unhatched chick, especially when he was suffering another one of the post-concussion syndrome headaches that made him throw up and want to lie in the dark. The headaches made it difficult for him to concentrate, he was sometimes short-tempered and often had trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it was a side-effect of the injury his brain had suffered when he’d whacked his head and it went on for months. The healers predicted that he still would not be completely healed when the school year ended in June.

Meanwhile, now he’d returned to school, the year passed by far too quickly for him. Between their Honeydukes Chocolate selling where the demand for the sweet was growing steadily and the Marauders continued their pranking efforts to keep everyone’s attention away from full moons and Remus’ furry little problem, time flew by a lot quicker than being in hospital had. Left with free time now that he didn’t have quidditch practises, Sirius did a lot of thinking and researching about how to avoid being so vulnerable ever again. He started spending his free time in the library doing a heap of research. He couldn’t change the fact he was a Gryffindor, nor did he wish to, but he could use the sneaky Black traits he possessed to make sure he wasn’t a sitting duck.

Time was not his friend!

Chapter 20

12 September 1973. (Marauders’ 3rd Year)

The Marauders were all pleased to return to Hogwarts for another year, especially Sirius who’d had a particularly grim summer holiday. The last few months of the last school year he’d reached some decisions about what he needed to do to make sure that he didn’t fall foul to the pureblood supremacists attending Hogwarts.

He’d discovered that the Knights of Walpurgis – the cult-like group his father was so all-fired crazy to join was in fact a militia. Some historians suspected it could be traced all the way back to when Salazar Slytherin became estranged from the three other founders of Hogwarts – Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Godric Gryffindor. Their falling-out had been massive; it was all about admitting muggle-born wizards and witches into the school they had all built. What wasn’t clear was if Salazar had actively recruited the Knights to fight for pure-blood supremacy in the wizarding world or if they had been motivated off their own beaters’ bat to form a militia before flocking to his cause. But whatever the truth, the Knights could certainly be traced at least that far back as a fighting force; what wasn’t known was if their roots were much older.

Historians had observed a pattern that whenever a dark wizard would arise in history, the Knights would be there, fighting alongside the pureblood supremacist – because it was never a half-blood avowing to exterminate purebloods. Then at the end of the war or conflict, the militia who superficially modelled themselves on the chivalric Knights of King Arthur or even the Knights Templar, would simply disappear back into the background again, mostly without being captured or incarcerated. Over time, they gained a fearsome reputation verging on the supernatural; warriors who emerged in times of violent conflict to dispense vicious retribution to the wizarding world.

The last recorded upsurge in this militia was during the time of Grindelwald’s reign of terror. In more modern times, instead of wearing suits of armour, they’d eschewed them for wizarding robes, hoods and masks which were all white – to symbolise purity. In other words, the Knights of Walpurgis believed in purebloods being superior wizards and witches.

Ironically, historians believed that this adoption of all white robes, hoods, and masks (which were aimed at protecting their identities) suggested they were individuals who had a high profile in the wizarding world and would be easily recognised. It was thought that they had modelled their uniform on a group of white supremacist muggles across the pond, determined to make sure that only white-skinned muggles controlled the world’s wealth, resources and power and went by the name, the Ku Klux Klan or KKK for short.

Sirius had been shaken when he realised that the three students who had ambushed himself and James, had been dressed in the garb of the Knights of Walpurgis. How ironic that it was the very same group his own father was desperate to join, and it amused him that their robes were modelled upon a group of pathetic white supremacist MUGGLES!

It was of great concern to him that if you read newspapers like Wizarding World News and Wizards’ Daily Mail that they were reporting that the Knights of Walpurgis were on the move again, burning down homes of muggle-born wizards and witches. Even more serious, there’d been mass killings too, especially of muggle-born individuals who’d married half-blood or pureblood spouses.

This activity coincided with the rise of the self-styled Lord Voldemort who hated muggles and like Salazar Slytherin, wanted to eliminate them. Of course, the Ministry of Magic’s tame newspaper, The Daily Prophet was suspiciously silent on Lord Voldemort or the Knights of Walpurgis, but the two other papers were European owned and printed in France. Sirius reckoned they were probably a whole heap more reliable too.

Having seen some of the Knights or at least the younger generation waiting to come of age when they tried to eliminate him, they were scary. Sirius realised that he couldn’t relax or think that lightning wouldn’t strike twice. He knew that he would remain a target because of how he was viewed by the purebloods, shunning Slytherin supremacist views. It made him a scapegoat even more than someone like James was, since the Potter family had always supported an egalitarian stance on muggle wizards and witches. What scared him the most was that he knew that James and Remus and Peter would become targets and not just because they hung out with him but also because they could be used as targets to get at him.

If he’d just done what was accepted of him and gone into Slytherin, he wouldn’t have put them in danger. He felt a familiar sense of guilt engulfing him until he remembered Andi and how she had a job and planned to NOT marry Lucius Malfoy. His cousin was planning on marrying a Hufflepuff who was a muggle studying to become a healer at St Mungos and had been the Head Boy at Hogwarts last year.  Maybe something good had come of his rebellion after all even if it was a small victory.

However, that didn’t mean that he and his friends weren’t in danger from the Knights of Walpurgis and from studying their history, he knew they weren’t going to go away any time soon. Dumbledore had defeated Grindelwald but now they had this new figurehead to rally around. Sirius felt sure that it was going to take a monumental effort from someone (Dumbledore perhaps) to defeat them and drive them underground again. Which meant that he needed to be careful and ready to defend himself and other Gryffindors who tried to protect him. He didn’t want them getting hurt because of him – he was only glad that James had suffered no ill effect from that damn Doxycide potion.

That was why Sirius was determined to learn as much as possible about the enemy. He wasn’t going to be so vulnerable the next time they came for him and he was sure there would be a next time. The Slytherins who attacked him were never caught and even though he’d voiced his suspicions to the headmaster about the identities of the white hooded figures, nothing ever came of it. Quite the opposite in fact. Lucius Malfoy along with Sirius’ cousin, Narcissa Black was announced as the head boy and girl of Hogwarts. Not that he believed that Narcissa had been involved in the ambush, she seemed genuinely appalled and concerned about him when he’d returned from St Mungos but his eldest cousin, Bella was another matter.

Over the summer holidays, she had come to Grimmauld Place to visit his mother and told him, “I was sorry to hear about your injuries, Sirius. I had hoped you were dead. You’d better watch your back, stupid little lion cub because next time you won’t be so lucky.”

Sirius wasn’t shocked by her comments and threats, they were quite polite in comparison to the ones his insane mother had spewed at him about his survival, but it made him think that Bella either was a part of the Knights or she knew this Lord Voldemort character. He spent his time back in London trying to pump people, to learn as much as he could to learn about his enemies. He suspected that his Uncle Cygnus might have been recruited and possibly his own father. Uncle Alphard wasn’t, nor had either of his grandfathers, Pollux, and Arcturus or any of the older Blacks.

Since his father had been obsessed with the Knights for a long time now, he’d accumulated a lot of books and historical journals about them which Sirius nicked so he could study them. It didn’t tell him who or where they were now, which was disappointing, but at least studying what they had done in the past was still better than nothing. His Uncle often said, ‘know thine enemy.’  Okay, that was when they talked pranking wars, but Sirius figured it applied to a terrorist militia as well.

Partly as a distraction from being around his parents and Reg all summer, and partly from a desire to be able to defend himself against the Knights or the likes of Malfoy and his minions he started trying to learn how to perform wandless magic. Although he’d also practised drawing his wand every day since the attack, focusing on speed and accurate casting of first his left hand and then both hands as his right hand healed, he knew that wandless spellcasting would give him a huge tactical advantage.

Fortunately, Orion seemed to have abandoned his plan (or have forgotten about it) to give Sirius a prostitute to make a man out of him. Perhaps he’d decided that Sirius wasn’t worth his time or concern any longer, which he had to say was a huge relief. And yet as his father’s interest in his welfare waned to the point of neglect, his grandfather’s interest in him seemed to grow. It made him more than a little paranoid that he was being spied upon.

About a week after he pilfered a book on wandless magic and he was struggling to try to teach himself, Arcturus arranged for his Uncle Alphard to take him to a private tutor for lessons in casting without a wand. When he picked up a book from the library about Occlumency because he didn’t want his father or mother to know what he was up to, a master of Occlumency was engaged to tutor him twice a week. Arcturus also hired the head of the Hit Wizard squad to work with him on accelerating his skills in Defence Against the Dark Arts up to OWL standard, which wasn’t as unrealistic as it sounded. The witches and wizarding children in the House of Black started learning DADA lessons long before they went off to Hogwarts.

So, the holidays flew by and when he wasn’t studying, trying to be ready for the next time he and Malfoy clashed, Uncle Alphard was duelling with him or taking him and Reg to visit his cousins which often meant he got to see James too. It had been productive even if the abuse from his mother had only gotten worse.

Now that he was back at school, he was continuing with his Occlumency training. He’d conned the other Marauders into learning too since they were hassling him and wanting to know what he was up to. Of course, not wanting to reveal just how dysfunctional his home life was, he came up with a typical Sirius excuse that Occlumency would aid in their pranking because Dumbledore wouldn’t be able to tell that they were up to no good. The others fell for it and started practising diligently. Well, all except Peter who whined about how difficult it was and he’d rather be doing something fun.

Sirius was finding it harder and harder to keep his temper with Pettigrew; he’d turned into a real whinger – or perhaps he always had been. He sometimes wished Pete weren’t a part of the Marauders, but James and Remus loved and trusted him. They reckoned he was just a bit timid, but he was loyal and trustworthy. Sirius hadn’t been as trusting but he knew on some level that because of his mother and probably his father, his distrust of people wasn’t normal, so he’d bowed to their judgement.

The real trouble was that he was still furious that Peter had let them down. He knew that Peter wasn’t particularly brave, but Pete had known that James and Sirius had been attacked and Sirius was missing. He knew that it was an attack, not a prank and that Remus was in the infirmary recovering from his transformation. He was the only one who could speak up to make Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore take seriously that he was missing. Instead of having his back when he heard about the attack, Peter had hidden in their dorm room in his bed with the curtains on the four-poster drawn because he said he was afraid that if he said anything that they would come and get him next.

Remus had told Sirius, “When he’d found him, he was a quivering, snivelling pile of snot and tears and although my wolf wanted to rip out his throat for being a miserable little chickenshit, I couldn’t attack someone so pathetic.”

Peter had apologised profusely to them all, again and again, but Sirius was having a lot of trouble letting go of his grudge. After all, if Peter had spoken up, chances were high that he wouldn’t have lost four fingertips or had to endure Skele-Grow to replace them and all the painful skin grafts. And he would have still been able to play on the quidditch team.

Yep, he was still mad and more than a little distrustful, so he didn’t have any sympathy for Peter’s complaining about Occlumency being hard and boring although he tried to keep his feelings to himself. It might not be a whole lot of fun, but it was infinitely better than having to grow fingertips.

Eventually, he’d lost his temper, snapping at Peter. “Well Pettigrew, no one is forcing you to it. You can leave whenever you want.”

Then Sirius was forced to put up with his wounded eyes and wronged attitude for several days before James and Remus conned him into apologising for the harmony of everyone in the dorm. He did it but he remained distrustful and angry with Peter.

To be honest, though, he had other things to distract him; he was finding it difficult coping with having his brother at Hogwarts this year. It went without saying that Reg was sorted into Slytherin, the manky old piece of enchanted fabric aka the Sorting Hat barely touched his brother’s head before it shouted out, “Oh he’s for Slytherin of course,” and Regulus leapt off the stool, handing the Sorting Hat to Professor McGonagall with a perfect pureblood air of disdain for the Gryffindor Head of House. His baby brother glided over to the Slytherin table to be treated like a rock star by the Snakes who cheered him as they shot withering looks in his direction.

Sirius’ friends had closed ranks around him, knowing he was suffering but they truly didn’t understand how bad his relationship was with his brother and how close they had been, once upon a time. They sat with him at meals which was the chief time that he came into close contact with Regulus. The Slytherins used mealtimes to really ham it up and he tried hard to ignore them, knowing that eventually if he didn’t react that they would get tired of baiting him and move on…hopefully.

But until then it was hurtful the way that Reg was happy to humiliate him – it was clear to Sirius that Reg despised him, that he hated him. Which wounded the Gryffindor badly, since he had tried to do everything in his power to protect his baby brother from the time he was born until Sirius had gone off to Hogwarts. He would still do anything for him and to see the utter contempt that Regulus held him in… it cut him to the core.

Pandora was a good friend, and she knew how much pain he was in, even if she had no idea about how much physical abuse he had to deal with. She was the only one of the Ankle Biters who wasn’t part of the House of Black, but she saw how rude Reg had been ever since Sirius left to go to Hogwarts and was sorted into Gryffindor. Joining him at the Gryffindor table along with some of the other Ankle Biters aka Aron, Ares, and Pip along with the Marauders, she gave her friend a comforting hug and loaded his plate up roast beef sandwiches.

“I know it’s easy to say but try to ignore him, Siri. You knew he was going to be sorted into Slytherin. At least he has Phin to keep an eye on him, she said, referring to one of the other Ankle Biters, Phineas Greengrass who was a bit of a prat but still wasn’t a serial killer or anything.

Yeah, I know, Panda,” he smiled at her affectionately. There were times when he wondered if she knew more than she said about what life was like for him at Grimmauld Place. She was the daughter of a seer, but she never said anything about it and Sirius was relieved. It was better that way because there wasn’t anything she could do. No one could.

“But Phineas says that Reg doesn’t want to hang out with him. He’s chummed up with Rabastan Lestrange,” he said looking troubled.

Pandora nodded, “Well they are in the same house and year and even the same dorm room. It can’t be all that surprising that he would prefer to hang out with him?”

Sirius shook his head. “No, I guess not but Phin’s cousin, Magmus Greengrass is a first year, too and according to Phineas he’s a good kid, but Regulus hasn’t befriended him.”

Pandora watched him nibble on his sandwich, feeling Regulus and the other Slytherin first year whispering and staring at her friend. She had to admit that it wasn’t a comfortable feeling but still they were smug obnoxious first year Slytherins – they were reasonably harmless after all.

“Do you have any objection to Rabastan?” she asked curiously, even though she didn’t like the looks he was shooting in Sirius direction.

“Other than the fact that he’s Rodolphus Lestrange’s little brother and Rodolphus is practically joined at the hip with our esteemed head boy? No nothing at all,” he assured her calmly although Pandora wasn’t fooled.

Pandora nodded understandingly. She was one of the few people Sirius had confided in about his suspicions that Lucius Malfoy and the Carrow twins had been the ones responsible for the attack on him last year when he’d come close to dying. She hadn’t been at St Mungos where he’d been taken but Pip and James had been there, and they said it was a real close thing. No wonder he wasn’t happy about the friends Reg was making.

The pretty blonde Ravenclaw slipped her hand into Sirius’ under the table and gave it a comforting squeeze before letting it go quickly. As his close friend she had learnt that he wasn’t comfortable when people touched him. He tolerated it from her when she hugged him if it was quick, and she was careful not to do it too often. She’d noticed that Regulus loved being touched and hugged – she’d wondered why two brothers could grow up in the same household and be so different. Sometimes she was tempted to ask him, but she never did – something told her that it would make him uncomfortable, so she didn’t. So, it caught her by surprise when her hand was recaptured by him and the squeeze was reciprocated.

Smiling in surprise, she leant forward to say softly so that only he could hear, “I could talk to him if you like? Find out how he is settling in…that kind of stuff,” she suggested tentatively.

He smiled at her sadly. “I’d do it if he would talk to me. Thanks, Panda, what would I do without you?”

She chuckled but as she was about to leave the Gryffindor table to head off to class, she suddenly felt a wave of foreboding wash over her. Staring intently into her friend’s eyes she said, “You haven’t stopped using the disillusion charm that your uncle taught you, Sirius? You must take care not to let your guard down. Promise?”

Seeing his friend was verging on panicking he gave her his I’m invincible smile and James who had been shamelessly eavesdropping on the conversation, patted her on the shoulder to comfort her. “Don’t worry, Pandora, we’ve got it covered and we will make sure he’s invisible if he’s not in Gryffindor, in class or at meals. They won’t catch us out a second time.”

Somehow James reassurance should have calmed her fears, but it only made her feel worse. Standing up from the table, she said to Sirius, “I’ll talk to him and then I’ll let you know what he says.”

~o0o~

Madame Pomphrey stared at the sandy-haired wizard lying in the bed in the infirmary recovering from his monthly tortuous transformation from wizard to werewolf and back ago. It was such a tragic situation and one that the poor lad endured at least twelve full moons per year and had done ever since he was four years old. Unless someone came up with a cure for lycanthropy, it was a ritual he must endure for the rest of his life, which for a werewolf was often a short-lived one due to poverty and prejudice. He was such a nice boy, it saddened her that through no fault of his own he would have a life filled with unhappiness and pain.

She hoped that his friends who called themselves the Marauders would prove to be a constant in his life, she’d seen the changes in him since he started in first year when he was nervous and depressed. Now he was laughing and up to mischief with the other Marauders, playing pranks and engaged in a business selling Honeydukes chocolate to the first and second years as they weren’t permitted to go on Hogsmeade’s weekends. The enterprising wizards were soon selling to students from years 1 to 7 and the staff often bought a ton of stock too.

Coincidentally, the three remaining members of the Marauders entered her domain to visit with Remus and ply him with Honeydukes chocolate. Once again, she had a strong feeling that the Marauders knew about Lupin’s lycanthropy, although she had no proof. Yet the fact that they never asked awkward questions about his monthly illness and turned up like clockwork to cheer him up and hand over chocolate made her strongly suspect that they knew.

Plus, once she suspected that the Marauders knew about Remus, she’d started paying more attention to their nonsense which always seemed to reach a crescendo right before the full moon. It waned directly following the full moon, almost as if they were providing a distraction of sorts. The more she thought about it, the more her theory made sense. If they knew who Remus was, they wouldn’t want other students, especially the pureblood supremacists to figure out his secret, hence the distraction and mayhem they created.

And yet, Poppy would never ask them directly or discuss her suspicions with any of the staff since Dumbledore had allowed him to enrol at Hogwarts with the proviso that he never revealed his medical condition to any of the students. The Mediwitch knew that he’d gone out on a limb for Remus, but she also knew that asking a young boy who already carried so much baggage around with him to remain silent was not realistic. He must have found it impossible to keep such a terrible secret all to himself, which was why she deliberately never tried to confirm her suspicions. It was called plausible deniability and she would pursue it most diligently.

What Poppy don’t know can’t hurt them!

Chapter 21

Albus Dumbledore was reading reports by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement about the increasing rate of crimes being committed against muggle-born witches and wizards. It was highly disturbing, to say the least. Looking at one case file, a family of four children and their mother and father – both muggle-born – had been burnt alive in their home. Aurors reported that wards had been erected and they were left to burn to death. The eyewitness had seen four figures dressed in white robes, hood, and masks at the scene before they’d apparated away. Bystanders tried to save the family but were unable to break through the wards and were forced to listen to the family’s screams as they burnt to death. Eyewitnesses claimed that the horror they suffered would haunt them for the rest of their days.

The second case file contained another muggle-born family with two children both boys. The father, mother and children had been tortured to death by hundreds of slash marks which had been made by more than one wand. The victims had bled out over an extended time frame. They were found by their muggle relatives when they failed to show up for a regular family event. The children were young, two and almost four years – still too young to know if they had magical abilities.

The next case was an elderly muggle man on his way home from a night at the pub with friends who ended up with multiple broken bones. He claimed that hooded figures wearing masks and flying on broomsticks had attacked him. Since he was drinking, the muggles at the hospital had put it down to a case of being robbed by unidentified assailants and everyone assumed that the broomstick flying was just a delusion, or the man was demented. Of course, the DMLE knew otherwise and investigated the incident when alerted by the police liaison in the muggle police department (a squib policeman) but the Aurors had failed to identify who was responsible.

Dumbledore looked at the pile of cases that he’d been sent as the Chief Wizard of the Wizengamot. He knew that if the crime rate kept climbing at its current rate, the International Federation of Wizards would soon be demanding an explanation from him as the Supreme Mugwump. That would be a problem as he didn’t have one. He picked up the next file but let it drop listlessly from his hand as he contemplated what it meant that anonymous white hooded, masked wizards and possibly witches were popping up, committing crimes against muggles and muggle-borns and disappearing again. Isolated incidents could be brushed off as coincidence, but this was far from the odd crime. It was happening with increasing frequency. To all intents and purposes, it appeared to be a coordinated campaign that could no longer be swept under the carpet. Even the Daily Prophet, a rag if ever he’d seen one was no longer content to accept the government’s assurances that everything was under control.

The truth seemed clear to Dumbledore. The Knights of Walpurgis were back, and the trouble was that they couldn’t conceal that from the general public because there were too many folks who remembered the militia’s last reign of terror a mere generation before. It wouldn’t take a great deal of hysterical publicity by the media to whip the magical population up into a frenzy. If they were facing a new war against the pureblood supremacists (and it certainly seemed to be the case) then the Knights had already won half the battle by pandering to the masses and recruiting new followers. Therefore, he believed for the greater good, ordinary witches and wizards didn’t need to be alarmed at this early point in what Dumbledore reluctantly admitted was a new war against extremism.

What was deeply concerning him was that the Knights of Walpurgis was a secretive militia that had existed for centuries but always emerged to rally behind a figurehead who would become their commander. The leader didn’t typically come from within their sect, usually, it was a lone figure who was adept at the practice of the dark arts and Dumbledore was worried about who the Knights might be following this time. When the whispers of the Knights emerging from their hibernating had reached his ears, he had contacted Nurmengard prison where Gellert had been serving a life sentence since 1945 to make certain he hadn’t escaped. Which begged the question, who had the Knights decided to follow now?

If he was being honest with himself, Albus had a sinking feeling that he knew precisely who was behind this current resurgence of the Knights. He remembered back to the end of July 1967 when one of the most brilliant of Hogwarts students in living memory had come to Hogwarts to plead to be appointed as the defence against the dark arts professor. He’d already applied for the job straight out of school when the long-serving and extraordinarily successful Professor Merrythought retired after a career of fifty years of teaching DADA in 1945. The then headmaster, Armando Dippet had rightly turned him down at the time saying that at eighteen, he was far too young and needed life experience before being hired for what many people saw as the most prestigious job at Hogwarts, baring that of the headmaster.

Yet when Thomas Riddle (who had begun calling himself Lord Voldemort even while an upper-year Slytherin) certainly had the necessary life experience when he applied for the DADA job in his late thirties, Dumbledore hadn’t hesitated to turn him down a second time. Albus thought about the man who, as a Hogwarts student had been considered quite handsome amongst students of both sexes, but that was not the case anymore.  At the interview, he was deathly pale, and his face had a weird waxiness about it as if he were ill. It was also oddly distorted, while the whites of his dark almost black eyes were now a blood-red appearance which was alarming.

Not that he turned him down for reasons of aesthetics, however, he did admit that he found his appearance rather disturbing, and no doubt students would too. Of course, it was possible Albus was so disturbed because he knew what Tom had looked like when he was younger. Still, it wasn’t why he’d turn him down for the job. Right from the first time he’d met Tom, there was something deeply disturbing about the eleven-year-old orphan, a feeling that Albus felt ashamed of. After all, he genuinely believed that no one was born evil. He thought that events and choices created evil and therefore everyone was capable of redemption if they chose to pursue it.

Not surprising that he believed it so fervently since he had not been inherently evil but had made bad choices when he was young. Albus had sought salvation by defeating Gellert and devoting himself to a lifetime of service to others. Therefore. it was hypocritical to not offer the same opportunity for redemption to the eleven-year-old orphaned Tom Riddle too.

He would never forget Tom’s reaction when he went to the orphanage to inform the young boy that he was a wizard who was being offered a place at Hogwarts. It had been chilling.

He’d said, “I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to.”

He also had a whole heap of items in his cupboard he’d stolen from other children and held onto as some sort of prized trophies. There was the equally disquieting news shared by the muggles in charge of the orphanage where he’d lived his entire life. They reported that he was frequently suspected of transgressions and bullying the other children by staff and his peers but frustratingly, they’d never been able to catch him in the act.

Dumbledore had been greatly distressed to learn that during an outing to the coast, Tom had lured two of the other orphans into a sea cave and they returned, terrorised. According to the director, the two children were never the same afterwards. When she’d questioned him about the incident Tom replied that they had gone exploring but it was clear to even the muggles something terrible happened. He figured that it was most likely that Tom had threatened them. Albus knew he was capable of far worse – Tom had admitted as much to him that day.

Mrs Coles, the director of the orphanage had also disclosed that Tom was also suspected of killing another orphaned lad’s pet rabbit. According to Mrs Cole, the day after Tom and Billy Stubbs had been arguing, one of the staff had found Billy’s pet rabbit hanging from the rafters. With no witnesses and Tom denying involvement they couldn’t prove it, but Dumbledore agreed with the director that they were right to be concerned.

He hoped that attending Hogwarts, learning that his magic was not some freakish thing, that many others were magical too, Tom would embrace the wonder of who he was and let go of his anger. Which he was willing to admit now with the benefit of hindsight had been perhaps a tad naïve of him, but Albus had his deeply personal reasons for wanting others to be given a second chance. Tom had had a sad life – growing up without the benefit of a loving set of parents and Albus had foolishly hoped that Hogwarts could correct a lot of the deficiencies he’d experienced during the seven years he’d be attending the best magical school in Europe and the UK. Albus truly regarded it as a magical place for children.

At first, it looked as if Dumbledore’s initial fears about young Tom were without foundation. He was sorted into Slytherin which didn’t surprise the then transfiguration professor one bit as the young boy settled in and set about learning as much as he could about magic. And he was a gifted student too, always top of his year – no one could match him, not in intellect or abilities. So, it was probably no surprise that he became a prefect.

Then a muggle-born student was killed in the girls’ bathroom on the second floor, in the last weeks of the school year in 1943 during Riddle’s fifth year. Albus had caught the Slytherin prefect out after curfew when Myrtle Warren’s body was being removed from the school. Something about his demeanour had struck the professor as not right and his excuse for being there had made Albus leery. He found himself remembering Mrs Coles words about their apprehension and he knew that Tom had something to do with the third year Ravenclaw’s death. He just knew!

From that point onwards, Albus didn’t trust him and made it his business to keep a close eye on the Slytherin wizard. Headmaster Dippet dismissed his suspicion, so he decided to let Riddle know he was watching him, which in hindsight probably got Rubeus Hagrid framed for the death of poor Myrtle. Hagrid was a good lad but an average wizard and not half as smart as Riddle, so he was easy enough to set up by the now sixth-year prefect to take the fall for Myrtle’s death.  The headmaster was more than ready to take the word of the sixth-year prefect who Dippet was also planning on appointing head boy next year over poor Rubeus. After Hagrid had been tried and found guilty of opening the Chamber of Secrets and releasing the basilisk, based purely on the flimsy evidence that he was secretly raising a giant Acromantula in the school’s basement, his wand was snapped, and he was expelled from the school.

Partly out of concern that he’d provoked Tom into framing the orphaned half-giant and a firm conviction that Hagrid as a half-giant, a third year at that (who was of only average abilities) would simply never have been capable of opening Salazar Slytherin’s secret chamber, but Tom would, Albus went out on a limb. Dumbledore had arranged for Hagrid to stay on at Hogwarts as gamekeeper, and he made it his business to take care of him like a son. As the years passed, Albus had become even more convinced of his innocence – he was more than happy to place his life in the gentle half giant’s life, but he remained increasingly distrustful of Riddle – with good reason.

When Dumbledore refused to hire Tom as Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, there was a rumour (which the headmaster believed that Riddle started) that the former head boy cursed the job. The curse according to the story was that no one else could hold the position beyond one year. So far, every year he had been forced to find a new Professor for DADA following a scandal, a death or ill-health of the professor and he was thoroughly peeved about it, although not enough to second guess his decision not to hire Tom Riddle.

As he looked at the pile of files that the DMLE had sent him to review per his request, he wondered if he should stop for a cup of cocoa before trying to finish reviewing them, when there was a knock on the door and his transfiguration professor stormed in. Sighing, he motioned her to sit down although the way she was seething, he figured she wanted to pace like the angry feline she was right now.

“And what can I do for you this evening, Minerva?” he asked politely.

“You can explain to my satisfaction, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore why you decided it was a wise course of action to appoint Lucius Malfoy as Head Boy, please? Especially since I advised you against it when you deigned to ask my opinion.”

Albus sighed. He and Minerva had spent many a long and unpleasant hour arguing about his choice of the pureblood Slytherin for the coveted role of Head Boy.

“Surely we do not have to go over the reasons again,” he told her long-sufferingly, although by the expression on her face (the I’m ready-to-explode look, combined with an I’m-spoiling-for-a-good-old-fashion-fight look) he figured that was exactly what she wanted. Why couldn’t she trust that he knew best?

Minerva stopped her furious pacing and just stared at him, giving him a lethal glare, and doing that annoyingly effective one eyebrow lift. Oh, Merlin, he hated her for being able to do that. Try as he might, and he had spent far too many wasted hours in front of a mirror trying and failing to perfect that impressive gesture, he resented her mightily for being able to do it naturally.

Sighing for a second time, in a much put-upon expression crossed with sad puppy eyes he capitulated. “Fine, but can I at least know what Mr Malfoy has done to invoke your considerable ire, Minnie,” he said hoping to soothe her fury.

It didn’t have the desired effect though. “I’ve told you before, don’t call me Minnie,” she snapped at him, “And Hogwarts’ Head Boy stood by and did nothing while his crony, Antonin Dolohov called one of my Gryffindor cubs, Lily Evans a mudblood. To add to his crimes, Dolohov hexed her with a series of stinging hexes. I deducted fifty points from Slytherin for Mr Dolohov’s disgusting transgressions, plus I gave him two weeks of detentions with Fulcher and Mrs Norris.”

“Well, that is harsh…” he started to say before catching sight of Minerva’s frosty expression and he hastened to add, “but what I was going to say was that it was also fair, Minerva. Sometimes, it is necessary to be ruthless in order to make an unequivocal point.”

Momentarily the transfiguration professor preened like an incredibly smug kneazle who had swallowed the canary before a sharp predatory look came over her features. “I’m relieved that you feel that way, Albus because I also took a further 50 points off Slytherin due to Mr Malfoy’s ghastly failure in his duty to discipline a student for using a highly offensive slur against a fellow student. Not to mention not stopping Dolohov from physically attacking her,” she told him sternly.

Dumbledore looked dismayed. “I do wish that you had chosen to disciple Mr Malfoy more discreetly, Minerva. That is a highly public and therefore very humiliating chastisement to hand out to a Head Boy.”

“What happened to you saying that sometimes it’s necessary to be ruthless in order to make an unequivocal point? Are you saying that it isn’t acceptable to call a student a mudblood unless you are influential or a Head Boy? Is it acceptable for a 7th-year student to attack and hex a much student multiple times? Is it acceptable for Hogwarts’ Head Boy to turn a blind eye to such egregious behaviour? He’s supposed to protect his fellow students, to set an example by his behaviour and attitudes, stand up for what is right and proper and discipline those who transgress.”

Albus felt trapped by her spirited rhetoric and impeccable logic but he was also a pragmatist.

“Of course, you’re right, but sometimes my dear Minerva, the greater good must take precedent over the outrageous behaviour towards your muggle-born witch. You asked me to justify why I decided to make Lucius Malfoy Head Boy? I was hoping to divert him from the pureblood supremacist path he seems intent on travelling. I believe that the Knights of Walpurgis have stirred and are on the march once more. I’m hoping to give Lucius a chance to redeem himself. I believe that every witch or wizard should have that chance and I passionately believe that we can save him.”

Minerva looked at him incredulously. “For Lucius to redeem himself, Albus, he would need to acknowledge that pureblood philosophy is a crime against magic and that’s never going to happen. By making him the Head Boy, you have only rewarded his position and sacrificed muggle students like Miss Evans but every other Hogwarts students too. All for a wizard, who in all probability was one of the students who almost certainly instrumental in trying to kill Sirius Black.”

She was silent as she regarded him cynically. “I believe that there are some individuals – muggles or magical who can never be redeemed because they are without a conscience. They know the difference between right and wrong, but they just don’t care. Evil is a force, just like love, Albus. Feed it in any way, by turning a blind eye to it or by offering up the hope of redemption to it and it will overwhelm the world without regret.”

“So, what do you suggest, Minerva? We should snuff them out of existence?”

She looked at him pityingly. “That would be my preferred option with those animals who erected wards around that muggle family and set their house alight. Anyone who could listen to the screams of agony of those poor parents and their wee bairns and do what they did, deserves to never take another breath, in my opinion,” she said emphatically. “And I don’t give a fig what kind of terrible life they’ve had, nothing excuses that depths of depravity.”

Albus looked troubled. “Of course, that was terrible, awful but to take life – doesn’t that make us just as bad? Surely, we must hold out the possibility of change and growth?”

“These are not naughty little children Albus, who made a mistake in judgement. These are monsters who need to be held accountable for their actions. But if it helps you sleep at night, then, incarcerate them for the rest of their natural life but don’t keep offering them second chances.”

“You honestly believe that – as an educator?”

Minerva considered her boss before making several abortive attempts to speak.

Sighing because Dumbledore figured whatever she had to say, he wouldn’t like, he decided to get it over and done with. “What is it that you are trying not to say, Minerva?”

She smirked just the tiniest bit before saying, “Instead of this crusade you’re on trying to save evil wizards and witches who can’t be saved and don’t want to be because they don’t think there is anything wrong with them, focus on individuals who can be saved. As educators, occasionally we see students who if given a chance before they go off the rails irrevocably will seize it. To me, that truly would be redemptive and life-changing.”

Albus frowned. “I take it you aren’t just speaking figuratively?”

Minerva snorted in a rather unladylike fashion. “I rarely speak figuratively, Headmaster. I’ll leave that to the politicians and the Unspeakables, thank you very much.

Albus’ eyes twinkled brightly. It was true, Minnie would never have had a successful career in the Ministry of Magic or the Wizengamot – her brusque Scottish demeanour did not suffer fools gladly and that was an integral part of politics, as he knew only too well.

“Quite so! Well then, Professor McGonagall, who would you have me save before they leap over the cliff into monster-hood?”

This time it was Minerva’s turn to sigh in exasperation. “Please stop being dense, Albus. You know to whom I am referring because I know that Poppy has already spoken to you about him every year since he started. Severus Snape is clearly an abused child – with that chip on his shoulder it is almost inevitable that he will be a target of evil monsters wishing to recruit him. Factor in his extraordinary potion abilities – even in a year that contains some outstanding talents like, Lily Evans and Sirius Black and he would be an obvious target for the likes of the Knights of Walpurgis and whoever they have decided is their current leader.”

Albus wasn’t surprised, he’d had similar conversations with Poppy about how Mr Snape had come to Hogwarts with a slew of unexplained injuries after he returned from the holiday, ordered to her infirmary by Horace Slughorn, the Head of Slytherin House. Poppy decided that the injuries were due to the physical abuse of his father who was a muggle. Frankly, he’d brushed them aside because he had grown up with a muggle parent and knew that muggles did things differently to others and he felt that there was much prejudice born out of misunderstanding muggles. Also, Albus had reasoned that Madame Snape was a pureblood witch – if there was anything untoward with her husband, she would never tolerate it for a minute. It was more likely that Severus was a wilful and unruly child who required a firm hand.

Granted he was a terribly sullen lad but that could hardly be laid at the feet of his father. His own brother Aberforth was hardly the most congenial of individuals and he was able to get by and earn an honest living – he hadn’t gone off and joined a bunch of thugs in a vicious militia. Lots of children had a strict upbringing and they turned out fine. Still, he now had Poppy and Minerva, both wanting him to act, plus the old fusspot from the Department of Abuse and Neglect of Magical Children who’d contacted him as headmaster stating they had received a report that Severus Snape was living in an abusive home. He’d put her off, of course, saying that he would personally investigate the situation, but he’d ignored it since he felt it was totally unfounded. Perhaps he might have been a mite hasty.

He looked at Hogwarts Transfiguration professor and his successor – she’d taken over from him teaching Transfiguration when he became headmaster following Armando Dippet’s retirement. She’d also assumed his role as the head of Gryffindor and so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that they had a warm collegial relationship. It was conceivable that she was right – about a lot of things.

“Very well, Minerva, we’ll try a zero-tolerance approach and see how harsh consequences and public shaming make Mr Malfoy more attentive to his duties and responsibilities as Head Boy. And I will consider what you’ve said regarding Mr Snape, although I do think that it could all be a case of wizards and witches who misunderstand muggle child-rearing practices.”

Ignoring the spluttering noises coming from a clearly very irate professor, he said, “As I’ve said, I will consider everything most carefully.”

Leaving the office in what could only be described as high dudgeon, she reminded him as she left, “You aren’t the only one to have a muggle parent, Headmaster!”

After her departure, the headmaster pondered her words. Was she right about evil? He suspected when it came to Tom Riddle and his alter ego Lord Voldemort she was. What if he had done something like spoken to the relevant authorities about him when he’d interviewed him at the orphanage. What if he’d prevented the youngster from attending Hogwarts? Myrtle Warren would still be alive.

Did he arrogantly assume that Tom Riddle was the way he was because of bumbling muggles not knowing how to raise a wizard? Would he have turned out the same if he had been raised by witches and wizards?

The perennial nature versus nurture debate!

Chapter 22

Saturday 5th May 1974

The last term of the Marauder’s third year saw the Gryffindor team in the final of the Quidditch Cup up against Slytherin in the final. In their prior game, the Snakes had narrowly beaten the Lions with some questionable tactics which included knocking the chasers out of the play whenever someone looked like passing them the quaffle. With both teams making it into the final it was going to be an epic match; Gryffindor was out for vengeance for what they saw as Slytherin’s by playing dirty. The Slytherins were desperate to repeat the drubbing they’d inflicted on their fiercest rivals and if there was blood spilt – Gryffindor blood – then that would truly be the icing on their cake.

The final of the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup was often a bittersweet occasion for any of the players who were in their final year of school. Their teammates were sad that this would be the last game that the seventh years would ever play at Hogwarts, so it was only natural that they wanted to win the game for them. Obviously, only one team could win which meant that someone would leave the field bitterly disappointed. This year, Slytherin had Lucius Malfoy, Rodolphus Lestrange and Roger Hopgood who were leaving at the end of June and naturally wanted to win the cup. Equally, Gryffindor was determined to secure one last glorious win for their captain and keeper, Frank Longbottom, and their beloved team member, Alice Wellborn who was a highly competent member of their chaser team.

The rest of the team, Gideon and Fabian Prewitt, James Potter, Hope Woods a quidditch obsessed 6th year and Sirius Black were confident that they were the best team in the competition, having easily beaten Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff and then Hufflepuff again in the semi-final. The only team they’d lost to all season was Slytherin, who’d stooped so low by trying to knock their opponents off their brooms; not exactly the sign of a team who thought they could win on their merits. Aside from their customary rivalry, it was another reason the Gryffs wanted to beat the pants off the Snakes.

Sirius and James had another reason for desperately wanting to crush the Slytherins and pummel them into the dust. Lucius Malfoy was their captain and beater and their other beater, 7th-year Rodolphus Lestrange had used the previous quidditch match to sledge Sirius and James about the attack on the two Gryffindors last year. They also mocked Sirius, saying he was ‘scared of his own shadow,’ never daring to leave his common room unless he had a quidditch team of protectors.

Sirius hated the smug prats but at least Gryffindor’s head of house Professor McGonagall had knocked Lucy down a peg or two recently. She’d handed him detention and docked fifty points off him for not disciplining his crony, Antonin Dolohov who’d been abusive to Lily. It was the first time in Hogwarts history that a head boy had been punished and Malfoy wasn’t happy at his loss of face. Sirius loved that McGonagall had stood up for Lily like that and even though she had never fully trusted him because of his family, Sirius Orion Black could have kissed the stern professor when he heard about Lucius’ historic precedent.

Of course, James would like nothing better than to make sure that Malfoy left the quidditch pitch for the last time with his tail between his legs or on a stretcher, he didn’t much mind which one. He emphatically agreed with Sirius that one of their attackers last year had been Lucius but, equally, as the unrequited admirer of Lily Evans, he’d been furious that she’d been subjected to the abuse of a pureblood supremacist. When he’d heard of Professor McGonagall’s staunch support of her lion cub, James presented her with a huge box of Honeydukes chocolate and an over-enthusiastic hug that has embarrassed her greatly.

So, a lot was riding on today’s match, plus Sirius desperately wanted to thank Alice and Frank for treating him like any other Gryffindor rather than some spy trying to infiltrate the house to destroy it. Even now, he didn’t feel after three years proudly wearing the Gryffindor colours that Professor McGonagall trusted him fully – not like she did James and Remus or even Peter. Yet right from the first time he’d met Frank and Alice they had been decent to him – even before he was sorted into Gryffindor. He was going to miss those two and he wasn’t the only one.

He knew that Lily had been close to Alice despite the difference in their ages.

Wellborn had taken the muggle-born witch under her wing and helped her get used to a whole different world and done it discreetly. Alice was all class, keeping her cool even when Lucy kept knocking her off her broom in their earlier match this year. She had decided to become an Auror when she left Hogwarts, as had Frank, and Sirius was sure they do an awesome job, both were kind and keen to help people but were tough too, and calm under pressure. That calmness under pressure also made them great quidditch players too.

Frank was also quite sneaky for a Gryff. Before they took to Hogwarts quidditch pitch for one last time as a team, he informed them that he’d decided to swap some of them round. Hope Wood who was normally their seeker, would replace Sirius as a chaser to mess up Slytherin’s strategy as her flying was fast and dynamic and they would be caught off guard. Sirius had played as their seeker before and done well when Hope wasn’t available, but he didn’t think that it was smart to put a substitute such as himself in to replace the specialist player though.

It had been Pip Potter who’d said something to Frank in the Gryffindor common room one night as they were watching him practice casting charms without a wand which ultimately had given him the brilliant idea for the last -minute swap around.

She said proudly, “You have to admire Sirius. When he sets his mind to doing something, he’s focused, like a dog with a great big juicy bone.”

Frank had laughed, although he was impressed that a third-year student could perform spells without a wand, even basic ones. He was planning on becoming an Auror and ultimately if he was good enough, a hit wizard; wandless magic was a requirement, plus being able to cast nonverbal magic.

Sirius had replied flippantly, “Well, I like dogs and I was named after the dog star,” without losing his focus.

Deciding at the last minute to switch Hope Woods and Sirius, it was with Pip’s observation uppermost in his mind about his focus. But he also figured that it was the last time Malfoy and Sirius would meet on the quidditch pitch and there was a lot of bad feeling between them. He wasn’t totally clear on why apart from the fact that the pureblood Slytherins considered the future Lord Black a blood traitor but then, they also saw James as a blood traitor and their enmity wasn’t anywhere near as fierce.  Sending Sirius to the seeker position, as well as messing with their tactics, hopefully, would also keep that smug snaky git, Lucius far away from the third year Gryffindor.

When he gathered the six other members of the team for what they’d probably thought was his last team pep talk, they were suitably shocked by the Captain’s announcement. Sirius and Hope weren’t too keen on the switch and he pointed out that if the Gryffindor team were caught by surprise, the Slytherins would be too, having already worked out a strategy based on Hope being seeker and Sirius as one of the chasers. Changing one of the chasers would change their whole dynamic but it was also something that they practised, often swapping around positions in training, so their team was prepared. He sweetened the change to the team positions by announcing that his parents had bought everyone on the team a Nimbus 1500, the newest model of their racing broom for having made the final against Slytherin.

Alice, who already knew of the Longbottom family’s most generous gesture, understood immediately where Frank was going with the change-up of the team. It was a courageous ploy since Hope was a better seeker than Sirius, but Frank wanted to rock their opposition. Having Malfoy and Lestrange focused on knocking Alice off her broom was not her idea of fun and the Prewitt twins intended to turn up the heat and play dirty too. Add in the mix the swapping around of seeker and chaser and it would hopefully unbalance them. She thought it was a brave move, but then they needed to do something different to make sure that the Slytherins didn’t win this time.

She said with her usual calmness and loyalty, “Well I think that it is a brilliant idea, Captain. If it doesn’t work, we can always revert to Hope as the seeker, but I reckon it will work if Sirius stays focused like we know he can. Especially when Gideon and Fabian start using the Slytherins pathetic tactics against them.”

Gideon was clutching his new Nimbus with a besotted expression on his face. “Ha, with this little beauty…”

“… they won’t know what hit them,” Fabian finished his twin and fellow beater’s sentence as the pair was wont to do as he lovingly inspected his own updated model racing broom with the fervour of a true Nimbus aficionado.

“Just as long as you hit them with the bludger and not the bat, boys,” Sirius quipped, trying to be a good sport about the swap. Why was it he felt like he was the mutt who’d been banished out of the house into the yard when the visitors arrived so he wouldn’t bite them. Well maybe Frank wanted to keep him away from Malfoy, but it didn’t mean that he couldn’t try to distract the Slytherins with some crazy flying. He knew that the main thing was that Gryffindor beat the Slytherins, not that he got to take a piece out of Lucius.

As the team prepared to make their way onto the field together for the last time, they crowded together for a group huddle before mounting their brand-new Nimbus 1500 brooms and flying out to the outer perimeter of the stadium. By mutual agreement they held back, letting Frank as their captain, take the lead with Alice right on his tail doing a lap of honour before the rest of the team fell in behind them on their second lap around the pitch while the crowd roared their appreciation. It didn’t take long for the crowd to realise the whole seven players were mounted on brand new identical brooms. Although they were flying so fast it took several minutes before one sharp-eyed quidditch-tragic figured out they were the latest model of the Nimbus Racing Broom Company’s series 1500s, said to be the fastest most manoeuvrable brooms on the market.

Once the word spread around about their brooms, another roar, this time in uproarious approval went racing around the stadium, all save for the Slytherin spectators who looked furious. It was clear that most of the spectators would be barracking for the red and gold lions, not the silver and green snakes which was hardly surprising. Slytherins had a reputation, one that they’d earned honestly, as a team would go to any lengths to win, even if it meant playing dirty by taking out their opponents. It wasn’t uncommon for multiple members of the teams they played, to end up requiring Poppy’s attention, some even needed to stay overnight or longer in the infirmary. So, it wasn’t surprising that the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws didn’t want to see Slytherin win the Quidditch Cup any more than the Gryffindors did. When the Slytherins flew out, led by their captain Lucius, Roger Hopgood and Rodolphus Lestrange the applause was muted in comparison.

The four remaining Slytherins didn’t hang back to give their year seven players a solo lap of honour. Sirius reckoned they were all too fond of blowing their own quidditch whistles to let someone else bask in the limelight. In a display of showmanship designed to intimidate the opposing team about how in sync the team was, they did a fast lap high above the pitch in a tight V formation with Malfoy at the apex, ending with the team completing a group loop de loop. Again, apart from the Slytherin fans, the applause was half-hearted at best. Three-quarters of the school hoped that they’d end up humiliated, just like McGonagall had done to Malfoy earlier in the year.

When the Gryffindor team took their respective places on the pitch, the Slytherins were given an unpleasant surprise. Two of their players had swapped positions and that messed up their plans. With two of the three chasers being witches there was a lot less machismo and a more creative, almost serpentine thinking. Plus, Hope, normally a seeker was more than happy to use stunts to distract the opposing team. Finding someone appear in front of you unexpectedly making you think you were going to slam into them was not conducive to maintaining your focus, especially when you also had a pair of beaters who were normally a lot more solicitous about not trying to kill you. So, it was no surprise that after two hours of play, the Gryffindors lead by 17 goals.

Meanwhile, Sirius was bored silly. Although he was handy and could, if the team were in a crisis, turn his hand to covering any position, he preferred to be in the thick of it. But he recognised it wasn’t about him, it was about the team giving Frank and Alice a win to ensure that they took out the Cup. So, he remained focused on helping his team, confining himself to some creative methods of influencing play by choosing critical moments in the game when the Slytherins were in danger of seizing back control. Once when Lestrange and Malfoy were tag-teaming Alice, determined to knock her off her new Nimbus, he pretended to have spied the snitch which was proving to be frustratingly elusive. The roar from the crowd distracted the Slytherins and allowed Alice to give them the slip, passing the quaffle to James who fired it at the goal, scoring another goal for Gryffindor.

He also kept himself amused by keeping up a running commentary of the game, annoying the Slytherin keeper and seeker, especially when he started to sledge the Snakes when they missed scoring goals. Mostly he kept the insults to them being clumsy and dumb or so bad at the game that they needed to cheat by hurting the opposing side to even up the odds. When they tried to sledge back, they found that the Gryffindor was able to bat the insult back and laugh in their face while they became increasingly furious. Sirius had a quick brain and glib tongue, so he was perfectly equipped to drive people crazy in this verbal war. He gloried in his captive audience since the keeper was stuck protecting the goal and the Slytherin seeker was intent on being his shadow. It wasn’t as much fun as sledging Malfoy would have been, but he knew how to be a team player.

One hundred and forty-eight minutes after taking to the field, Sirius saw an imperceptible flutter in his peripheral line of sight. The snitch was making an appearance finally. He glanced at Todd Nott the exasperated Slytherin seeker who was fed up with Sirius stream of commentary and noted he was yet to see the snitch. Keeping up his constant stream of verbal diarrhoea, Gryffindor’s fill-in seeker timed it to the millisecond, waiting until the last moment before setting off to chase after the snitch with Todd hot on his tail. The Nimbus 1500 was living up to its glowing reviews, giving him valuable seconds as he chased down the erratic winged object.  As he reached out to grasp the snitch, he heard the crowd booing and looked down to see Malfoy who had decided to use the end of the game (and with everyone’s attention on the seekers tousling over the snitch) to knock Alice violently off her broom with his body.

She was falling and everyone seemed frozen in shock as she started plummeting towards the pitch. Sirius didn’t consciously decide to do it, it was pure reflex but as Sirius’ gloved hand closed smartly around the snitch, effectively ending the game with a substantive win for the Gryffindor Lions, he Apparated, along with his broom and the snitch. He reappeared beside the panicked witch, swiftly shoving the snitch inside his quidditch jersey, and grabbing hold of Alice, halting her free fall. Although initially continuing to panic, the future Auror quickly realised what was happening and managed to wrestle her emotions under control so she didn’t end up killing them both. Once she stopped fighting him, she managed to clamber onto the racing broom and Sirius was able to land them gracefully on the pitch without a scratch on either of them.

In the riotous applause that erupted in the stands, plus the five other members of Team Gryffindor descending upon the pair in a mixture of triumph and relief that Alice was fine, Sirius was mentally kicking himself. He knew he was going to have a lot of explaining to do and that would mean sharing secrets he had no intention of telling anyone. He wondered if his Occlumency skills were up to the task of hiding the fact that he was capable of purposeful Apparating. Would he be thrown out of school or worse, sent to Azkaban Prison for Apparating without a licence?  He would never regret saving Alice – he owed her so much. It was the right thing to do but he just hoped it didn’t cost him everything.

At least Lucius was ropable about losing the Quidditch Cup to the Gryffindors but also his pay-back to Alice had been thwarted too. Although he knew Malfoy was a nasty prick, Sirius wondered why he’d chosen to be so openly vindictive to Alice of all people – he could understand if he’d tried to take him out since he was a target to the blood purists for his Gryffindor sorting, but Alice? As they waited for the presentation of the cup as Dumbledore, Slughorn and McGonagall were making their way to the centre of the pitch, Alice who hadn’t let go of his hand since they landed had whispered in his ear that Malfoy had propositioned her during the game. He’d invited her to ride his broomstick in a broom closet when they were doing nightly prefect rounds. She’d laughed at him and told him to do all witches a favour and go ride his own broomstick.

Sirius hoped that McGonagall took a heap of points off him for his malicious stunt. It would serve him right if it cost Slytherin the house cup, too.

~o0o~

Tuesday 8th May

The Marauders were all crowded around Remus who was still recovering from his transformation. Like every month since they had figured out in their first year that Remus was cursed with Lycanthropy and had sworn to keep his secret, they made it their mission in life to be there for him as much as they could. They were still working on their Animagus transformations but had really made little progress apart from getting bloody good at meditating. At least they could all help make him feel better after the full moon. They had come to the infirmary armed with their copious supply of Honeydukes Chocolate, Marauder hijinks and laughter.

This year the matron, Poppy Pomphrey allowed all of them to come in and spent hours cheering up Remus, who it was easy to see she felt genuine sympathy for. Although it was hardly surprising to James, Peter, or Sirius that she had a soft spot for the third year Gryffindor. Remus was a gentle wizard, polite and smart – of course, she would see how tragic it was that he’d been afflicted by such a terrible curse. But her laissez-faire attitude to them being there with him in the infirmary certainly made life easier now that they didn’t have to make up elaborate excuses to see him. They repaid her tolerance of them hanging out by replenishing her personal and medicinal supplies of Honeydukes Chocolate which she graciously accepted.

As Peter lounged on the end of Remus’ bed munching away on chocolate, he giggled as the other three looked at him inquisitively.

James gave him a lazy kick on the skins to capture his attention. “What’s so funny, Pete?”

“It just occurred to me that every time a Slytherin buys a box of our Honeydukes chocolate they are helping us to keep Remus supplied with chocolate every month. They think they are so much better than us, but can you imagine their faces if they ever found out?” he asked gleefully.

Seeing that Remus didn’t see the funny side, Sirius jumped in. “Yeah, I get the irony that they’ve given us cover because everyone is buying and eating our chocolate, so they don’t get suspicious about Remus’ furry little problem and connect it with his consumption of chocolate. Malfoy and Lestrange and their cronies would probably choke on the Honeydukes if they were ever to find but you can’t tell then, Peter.”

James was frowning, clearly concerned too. “Yeah, remember we all took a wizard’s oath not to reveal Remus’ furry little problem, Pete.”

Pettigrew looked offended. “Yep, I know that guys. Geez, I wouldn’t say anything but every time one of those smug stupid Slytherins gives us galleons for their chocolate I’m going smile and think about how they would flip out if they knew they were helping a dangerous creature.”

Remus was pissed off and hurt at Peter’s tactless remark. He was always a bit short-tempered following a transformation, still feeling poorly for several days afterwards.

Sensing his hurt feelings, Sirius jumped in before Remus snapped. “Remus isn’t a dangerous creature, Peter. He’s a wizard and a Gryffindor and a Marauder and he’s more of a brother to me than Regulus.”

“Sirius is right, Remus is like a brother to me too,” James told the blonde chubby wizard firmly as Sirius wondered again if they had done the right thing trusting Peter with Remus’ secret.

“Yeah, and obviously I don’t think that, but you can’t deny that the Slytherins think anyone with a furry little problem is a dangerous creature,” he argued, leaving Sirius questioning again if they’d done the right thing by trusting him.

Pleased by the loyal support that James and Sirius had shown him, Remus searched for something else to talk about which wasn’t so volatile. Alighting on the thrilling end to the quidditch final, he asked Sirius, “What did Professor Dumbledore say about your accidental magic?”

Peter snorted. “What could he say, Remus. Alice might be dead if he hadn’t apparated.”

Sirius shrugged, “Actually he said that one of the professors would have cast a cushioning charm to make sure she wasn’t killed.”

“Yeah, but falling from that height, she would still have had broken bones,” Peter argued.

Remus nodded. “True and besides, it isn’t as if you consciously decided to Apparate, then try to get Alice to climb onto your broom, which was a crazy, dangerous stunt, just in case there is any doubt in your mind,” he told his friend bluntly. “You could have been killed too, you great prat!”

Sirius thought about the interview he’d had with the headmaster yesterday in his office which was filled with arcane books, gimcracks and clutter collected over a lifetime of wizarding. He was relieved that he’d had some time to prepare for their discussion. Sirius knew that he wasn’t that great at Occlumency yet, although he was getting better. He just hoped he could withstand a concerted interrogation by Dumbledore, who was reputed to be an excellent Legilimens, so he used his sneaky Slytherin heritage to try to circumvent him. He collected all his memories about his intentional Apparating and most of his accidental ones too because they would cause too many questions to be asked. Accidental magic usually only occurred in young witches or wizards when they were angry or fearful so he picked three or four times that he figured would be seen as normal examples of being angry or afraid. All the other times when he Apparated he shut those memories inside a strong metal box which he locked with a key before wrapping a chain around the box and securing it with a padlock. Then he wrapped it in fire-resistant, spell impervious fabric before sewing it shut and dropped it into a deep lake that would freeze anyone’s flesh should they try to penetrate it to retrieve the box.

When he told the headmaster that he acted instinctively when he saw Malfoy knock Alice off her broom when everyone was watching him capture the snitch, it was the truth. He didn’t consciously decide to Apparate, although it was just lucky, he had, or things could have been nasty. But the point was he was as surprised as anyone when it happened. He concentrated on keeping that memory at the forefront of his mind – focusing on the horror at seeing his good friend falling and his fear that she could die, plus his shock when he found himself suddenly bedside her and relief that they were both okay.

He wasn’t surprised after listening to Sirius’ verbal account of what had happened that the headmaster probed his memories. He felt a slight fluttering in his head, just as the books had described the feeling of having your thought probed so he concentrated hard on what happened at the match, plus the few times he’d decided were benign memories of him accidentally Apparating and tried not to feel resentment. The last thing he wanted was for Dumbledore to know that he knew what he was doing. While he might not be shocked that he was familiar with Occlumency it would certainly increase the headmaster distrust of him even more.

The fact Dumbledore was reading his thoughts already spoke volumes about his lack of trust in Sirius – mainly because he was a Black but, ironically because he was a blood traitor. If he were a Slytherin, he would probably be more inclined to believe him which was just plain crazy, or he’d try to save him. That Sirius had saved himself already apparently made him suspect in Dumbledore’s eyes, which just wasn’t fair.

Peter nudged him with his foot. “I said, you aren’t in trouble for Apparating without a licence, are you?”

He smiled reassuringly. “Nope, the headmaster said I can’t be blamed for a bout of accidental magic but if it happened again, I might be banned from playing quidditch,” he told the other Marauders, shrugging.

Hearing the expressions of horror for Remus and Peter, James reassured everyone. “Well, that’s not going to happen, Malfoy is leaving, and he’s played his last game. Sirius has never done it before and there’s no reason to assume that he’s going to again,” he said with confidence in him which Sirius appreciated.

He hoped that James was right, He knew that Professor Dumbledore was suspicious of him and no doubt this stunt hadn’t helped engender Professor McGonagall’s trust in him either.

No good deed goes unpunished!

Chapter 23

Pandora approached Sirius as he was leaving the Great Hall after an uneventful lunch. The school had completed exams in the first week of June and Remus had endured his monthly transformation mid-way through exams although obviously, some needed to be rescheduled. Now it was the second week of June and everyone was relieved that the exams were over but on edge, waiting for the results to come out. She smiled at her friend, knowing he would do well in the exams, not due to her prophetic abilities but because he was always at the top of his year along with Lily, James, Remus, and Severus.

“Hey Sirius, can we talk sometime today?”

“Of course, anything wrong, Panda?” he said immediately.

“No, but I just had an interesting talk with Regulus before breakfast and I wanted to fill you in,” she said.

Pandora had promised to keep an eye on his brother for him because their relationship was non-existent. As a Ravenclaw who was from a long line of seers and wandmakers, who always ended up in Ravenclaw she was accepted, unlike Sirius who was treated with suspicion not only by the Slytherins for his rebellion but by a fair percentage of the rest of the school too, including some of the staff. It seemed that he was an aberration and aberrations made people uncomfortable.

Still, there was no point in getting mad about it – he needed to be reminded that he had a group of Gryffindor friends and family. He had witches like Pandora who believed in him and he needed to keep that in mind and move on.

He tried not to feel hurt that Regulus would confide in Pandora but scorned him, refusing to acknowledge his existence. After all, Panda was doing him the favour by checking up on his little brother. It wasn’t her fault that Regulus despised him.

Maybe one day Regulus would come to his senses but until that day Sirius needed to let him go – it was just that it was hard to switch off his emotions like that. He was naturally loyal and protective just like he found it hard to back down when challenged. Hiding away from the Slytherins went against his nature of not backing down from a threat.

As much as he hated it, he also recognised how hard it had been on everyone who cared about him, including Pip and Pandora when he’d almost died. That was why he was still submitting to the hassle of travelling with a pack of Gryffindors or what everyone (apart from the Marauders) believed to be disillusionment charms when he wanted some solitude.

Knowing that they should have their conversation somewhere private and that it was likely to take more than a minute or two he told her, “Let’s do it after the last class but before dinner in the old duelling classroom.”

The little blonde witch smiled at him. “Okay, I’ll be there. Promise that you’ll borrow James’ invisibility cloak?” she said, lowering her voice to almost a whisper.

Sirius rolled his eyes; his friends were always making sure he wasn’t vulnerable to being attacked and while he appreciated their concern, sometimes he just wanted to say, damn it and not have a bunch of bodyguards for protection. Since he preferred to have these chats about his brother in private (due to everyone telling him to forget about Reg – it was his brother’s loss) he usually met up with Panda without a well-meaning entourage.

He would go through the rigmarole of pretending that he’d used a disillusionment charm but most of the time it was just easier if he borrowed the invisibility cloak. Hang on, that was a Marauder’s secret, how did she find out about it? He wasn’t even sure if Pip or Archer knew of its existence.

Looking innocent since the Marauders had perfected that art soon after they started marauding, he said casually, “James’ invisibility cloak? What’s that?”

Panda chuckled, “Oh you are good, Siri but you can’t fool a seer. No need to freak out – we have a special Seers Code of Conduct, so I won’t tell anyone,” she said sweetly before slipping away and up the stairs to class.

Just to be contrary, he didn’t borrow James’ cloak; he cast the disillusionment charm instead, slipping into the unused classroom where Pandora was waiting for him. He made a show of cancelling the charm and his Ravenclaw friend chuckled.

“Nice charm work, Sirius. But I meant what I said. I won’t tell anyone about James’ cloak.”

Giving her his best, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about expression, he transfigured a comfy pair of armchairs for them to sit down on before producing a box with some petit fours that he knew were her favourites and wouldn’t spoil her dinner. She smiled in appreciation before taking one and eating it with gusto.

He waited until she finished eating, and as she made herself comfortable, tucking one of her legs underneath her.

Unable to wait any longer he said, “So what did he have to say?”

She leaned forward and told him, “Quite a lot, actually. And just for the record, he came to me. Usually, I seek him out but this time he slipped a note into my dinner last night, asking if we could meet down by Black Lake before breakfast.”

She paused for breath and too impatient to wait, he said, “Why did he want to talk to you?”

“Regulus hinted that he’s getting a hard time from some of the Slytherins.”

Sirius jumped to his feet. “What? Who’s giving him a hard time? How long has this been going on for?” he demanded, feeling instantly protective of the brother he’d spent more than eleven years defending before Reg rebuffed him because he’d rejected the pureblood propaganda of his family.

Pandora looked apologetic. “He wouldn’t say who it was, apart from it having something to do with Slytherin losing the Quidditch Cup to Gryffindor.”

Sirius nodded; he could believe that the Slytherins would be pissed off about it; they were always poor losers after all. Historically, the snakes tended to win finals because they were willing to stoop to questionable and often outright illegal tactics. They would do almost anything to win.

It was a classic example of the ends justified the means, if you could get away with it, which in the case of Slytherins, seemed to be most of the time. Teachers frequently seemed to turn a blind eye to their antics, and Sirius had jokingly referred to it as Slytherin-blindness, a genuine malady akin to colour-blindness, myopia, or night blindness. It appeared to outsiders that since people considered it the house of ambition and deviousness, that gave Slytherins carte blanche to do whatever the hell they felt like to win and because they were so blatant about it, they usual got away with it.

“He talked about you, said that they were planning payback for the match.”

Sirius shrugged; that was hardly earth-shattering news to him. Honestly, after the amount of sledging he’d done during the match, he’d be more surprised if they didn’t try something to even the score. He was only surprised they hadn’t tried it already but then everyone had been focused on the end of year exams, especially the fifth years with their OWLs and the seventh years with their NEWTs. Now that exams were over and done with, he expected that Slytherin thoughts would turn to retribution.

What did surprise him was that Reg had seen fit to warn him about the fact that Slytherins wanted to get even. Ever since Sirius had climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express three years before, Regulus had lost his protection over his mother’s influence. While he had always been close to his mother, she’d had total control over him. During the first two years of him attending Hogwarts Sirius wasn’t around to counter her pureblood indoctrination. Reg had always been a follower and he simply wasn’t strong enough to stand up to her. Maybe being away from her this year had been a game-changer.

The truth was that Sirius desperately wanted his brother back again!

Pandora looked like she was debating whether to say something or not and Sirius realised he’d been wool-gathering. He said, “What aren’t you saying, Panda?”

“Reg says he wants to talk to you, Siri.”

~o0o~

James had exploded when Sirius revealed he was considering meeting his brother down at the Black Lake long after curfew.

“You can’t seriously be thinking of such a bloody stupid stunt, Mate,” he said incredulously.

Sirius had shaken his head, “He wants to talk to me privately. This might be my only chance to connect with him. He’s reaching out to me for the first time in three years. How can I not meet with him?”

James looked at the others, the Marauders plus Pip and Pandora – Sirius’ closest friends and family for support. Remus rose to the challenge. “But why does it have to be down at the lake at midnight? Why not a classroom somewhere in the castle? He asked reasonably.

Sirius looked at Pandora who shrugged. “He said that he was scared about the Slytherins finding out that he was talking to Sirius.”

Remus looked at her searchingly. “Do you believe that?”

The little blonde witch looked over at her good friend, looking distraught. “Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think he was being completely honest but I’m not positive,” she said, trying to tell her friend that she wasn’t able to foretell the outcome this time.

Few people knew she was a seer – Sirius did, as did Pip but her mother had advised her that most people would treat her differently if they knew about her gifts, so she didn’t advertise it. Sirius stared into her green eyes and nodded, understanding what she was trying to say.

Pip said, “Well we’ll come too. It will be fun.”

Sirius shook his head. “Reg told Panda that he would only talk to me. That he didn’t trust anyone else because he was afraid of someone in Slytherin. That’s why I made you promise not to tell anyone about what Reg told Panda.

Remus shook his head. “You’ve asked our opinion; I say don’t go. It’s too risky.”

Peter nodded. “I don’t think you should go, either.”

Pip wrapped her arm around him. “I agree if we can’t go with you, then you shouldn’t go on your own. I don’t want anything to happen to you, Siri. When you nearly died it was horrible. Please don’t do it.”

He looked at the blonde Ravenclaw, “And what do you say, Pandemonium?”

She twittered nervously at his joke before turning grave. “I know you want to believe that Reg is really reaching out for help, I do too but I don’t feel good about you going out there on your own at night. But we’re your friends and I’ll support your decision because you know him better than we do, Siri.”

Sirius nodded, looking at James. I don’t need to ask. You don’t trust him either. I don’t blame you for being sceptical – I am too – kind of. But what you all must understand is that Regulus is my baby brother. I love him, even if he’s been acting like a stupid jerk ever since I went to Hogwarts. And it’s been killing me.”

He looked over at Pip. “Imagine if it was Archer. Wouldn’t you want to give him a chance, especially if he said someone was threatening him? Could you turn your back on him and just ignore that someone might hurt him?”

She started crying as she thought about what Sirius had said before practically bowling him over as she threw herself at him, enveloping him in a bone-crushing embrace. “Okay, I get it, Siri but you have to promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t want to be your widow before we get a chance to be married.”

He patted her back awkwardly. “I promise I’ll be careful, but for the millionth time, we are not getting married, Pegasus. You’re like a sister to me.”

She laughed at him, “Give it time, Siri, give it time. You’ll change your tune when my boobies have finished growing,” she promised teasingly.

Even though he got that Pip had been trying to lighten the atmosphere, she was still intent on her mission to marry him, despite his refusal to entertain the notion, even as a joke.  Sometimes she could drive him insane!

Maybe he should get a girlfriend to discourage her once and for all. The problem with that plan was that a lot of girls would only be interested in him because he was Orion’s heir (the heir to the heir) to the Ancient and Noble and House of Black – a pureblood family so pureblood that his mother and father were third cousins.

Most purebloods (and a lot of half-bloods for that matter) only focused on the superficial facts that the Black family were insanely rich and powerful. Then he suspected there’d be those who’d go out with him because they saw him as a rebel. Call him crazy but he wanted someone who liked him for who he was, not some romanticised notion of who they thought he was or wanted him to be.

“Not even then, little Sis,” he told her sternly.

Pip stomped off, in a huff and the group broke up rapidly before Sirius had the forethought to extract a promise from the group not to follow him. Remus went to the library to check something out and Peter went to fill some chocolate orders. Pettigrew was keen to sell as much of their stock as possible before the end of term; excited that he had some significant spending money for the holidays as his family were headed to Portsea Island for a vacation.

James confronted his cousin as she came back to sit with Pandora, speaking softly and looking rather pleased with herself. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you Pip?”

She looked at him innocently. “Did what, Jamie?”

“You deliberately made Sirius mad, so he forgot to make us promise not to follow him, tonight.”

She giggled. “And it worked. Now we get to have his back,” she said smugly.

James and Panda nodded before Pip asked, “Who can cast a disillusionment charm since I can’t do it yet?”

Pandora nodded, “Me too.”

James considered for a few seconds. “I can but Remus is better. We’ll get him to do it. Pretty sneaky, Pegasus. Are you sure you aren’t a Slytherin?” he teased her.

She stuck out her tongue at him. “There’s no need to crude and offensive, James Henry Potter. And for your information, Cousin, I still intend to marry him one day. Pegasus Iola Black has such a nice ring to it, I think!”

~o0o~

Sirius had borrowed James’ invisibility cloak to slip out of the school and make his way down to the Black Lake. The rest of the gang, Peter, Remus, James, and Pip congregated in the Gryffindor common room before silently meeting up with Pandora at the top of the stairs leading into the Great Hall. Remus had already cast the disillusionment charm on Peter and Pip before they left Gryffindor. Now he cast the charm on Panda, James and finally himself.

They crept down the stairs trying not to make a sound and when they managed to make it outside the school they paused as Remus and James handed out the brooms to the rest. Remus and James had devised a Marauder plan that would hopefully see them reach the lake before Sirius did. He reminded them not to speak, asked Pandora if her Owl, Edwina, a beautiful Long Eared Owl was on standby? She showed them the note she’d prepared in case they needed it and then they set off for Black Lake.

Peter and Remus didn’t like flying so they were going to pick a spot on the ground. Pandora’s role was to raise the alarm if necessary. She was going to be hidden on the ground to send Edwina for help if they needed it, so the trio landed silently crouching down behind some vegetation while Pip and James remained disillusioned in the air on their brooms.

When Sirius appeared, having stuck James’ cloak into his packet on his way down to the lake, Regulus was nowhere in sight. He waited for several minutes before softly calling out his brother’s name.

Malfoy appeared from behind a tree. “Ah, the blood traitor came. Such a good little Gryffindor.”

“What have you done to Regulus? If you’ve hurt him…”

Malfoy chuckled unpleasantly before shooting a Petrificus Totalus body bind at Sirius who didn’t resist because he thought that Malfoy had his brother hostage.

“Spare me the melodramatic Gryffindorish threats, you pathetically vile disgrace to purebloods.” Malfoy told him condescendingly. “But before I deal with you, I just wanted you to know that your younger brother is perfectly fine. In fact, he helped me set you up since he…well I’ll let him tell you.”

Regulus suddenly appeared alongside Rabastan and Rodolphus Lestrange, all three wizards were looking oh so smug and pleased with themselves.

He looked at his brother contemptuously. “You really are incredibly stupid if you thought I’d come to you for help, big brother, he scoffed. “You who betrayed our family and destroyed our mother and father.”

He sneered at Sirius, an impressive feat in one so young but then the Blacks always made sure that their pureblood heritage was obvious to the inferiors. Sneering was almost a prerequisite of being considered a Black, usually accomplished before potty training.

“They wished you’d die last year and so do I. You’ve dishonoured the Ancient and Noble House of Black,” Regulus said hatefully, positively glorying in the pain he saw on his brother’s face.

Malfoy chuckled, “Oh brotherly love! So, touching,” he said with fake emotion, pretending to wipe an errant faux tear from his eye with his knuckle before his voice turned to iron.

“Rabastan and Regulus, go back to Slytherin. Rodolphus will stay and assist me,” he ordered them and watched until they obediently started back up the path towards the school.

Waiting until they were out of sight, he turned back and smirked at the immobilised Gryffindor. “Oh, this is going to be so much fun.”

He cast a spell that he’d come across in his family library, it was a precursor to the Cruciatus Curse some three hundred years ago. It was in a handwritten journal from one of his ancestors who’d called it the Douleur Curse as a nod to their French heritage. Lucius had chosen to use it because strictly speaking, it wasn’t an Unforgivable Curse, unlike the Cruciatus Curse, just in case he should be unlike enough to get caught.

The pain was bad but unlike the Cruciatus, it would never send the victim mad, but that was okay, he didn’t need it to. Lucius just wanted to inflict some intense pain. He had other plans for Sirius Orion Black. Reversing the Douleur curse, but not the Petrificus Totalus spell, he laughed knowing that Black couldn’t even scream. But he could listen.

“Now that Regulus is gone, I thought you might like to know what I have planned for you since you survived our first encounter last year. I’m not sure if you know this but there is a giant squid that lives in the lake. Earlier tonight I cast an Imperious Curse so that he will attack and kill any wizard who enters the lake. If you’re lucky, he’ll kill you swiftly as I understand that drowning is quite an unpleasant way to die.”

Malfoy’s thoughtfulness was rather touching!

Chapter 24

Just after Hogwarts Head Boy, Lucius Malfoy announced his intention to cast Sirius into the dark waters of the Black Lake so that the giant squid could kill him, Lucius got an extremely unpleasant shock when a diminutive figure stepped out of the shadows and cancelled his Disillusionment Charm.

“That’s not happening, Mr Malfoy,” Filius Flitwick, Hogwarts Professor of Charms and the Head of Ravenclaw announced sternly, his squeaky voice still managing to convey just how much trouble the Head Boy and his seventh form Slytherin prefect were in.

Swiftly he cast a Petrificus Totalus charm on Lucius and for good measure he bound him in rope. If the ropes were just a little bit tighter than was purely necessary, well it was hard for anyone to prove it might have been intentional, even if he held a Mastery in Charm work. In what he thought was perfect synchronicity, the Gryffindor seventh form prefects also disillusioned themselves. Frank Longbottom cast a perfect Petrificus Totalus on Rodolphus Lestrange while Alice Wellborn, Gryffindor’s other seventh-form prefect reversed the body binding spell on Sirius.

“Lovely charm work, Longbottom and Wellborn. Twenty-five points apiece for that assist,” he squeaked approvingly, as with a casual flick of his wrist, Lestrange was bound in rope too that was quite tight in case they could cast non-verbal wandless magic which unlikely, was not impossible. Professor Flitwick wouldn’t put it past either of those two Slytherin students – their families were known to more than just dabble in the dark arts.  So, he wasn’t going to be taking any chances. As a former duelling champion, he knew not to assume anything or give your opponent the smallest break.

James and Pip landed, reversing their disillusionment charm as Frank gave them the evil eye. “What are you two Potters doing out of your dorm rooms, breaking curfew, as if I have to ask?”

Looking a little sheepish, James admitted, “Probably not. We were trying to look out for Sirius,” he said, looking at his friend who was standing as if still frozen. He was far too pale, silent, and looked as if he wanted to throw up.

Alice rolled her eyes. “Okay, so where are the rest of you?”

James and Pip tried to look innocent as if they didn’t know what she was talking about, but Remus gave the game away by appearing with Peter who looked terrified and Pandora who had her magnificent Long Eared Owl, Edwina on her arm. As soon as she saw Sirius, Edwina flew over to him and landed on his shoulder, grooming his hair with her beak, which seemed to finally rouse him enough to stroke her gently.

~o0o~

Sirius was uncharacteristically quiet on the long journey home from school aboard the Hogwarts Express, but he’d also been quiet ever since the scene at the lake. Not that anyone but the Marauders or the Ankle Biters noticed since the school had been in an uproar. Professor Flitwick was baying for blood and wanted Lestrange, and Malfoy expelled, even if it was just days before they were due to graduate from Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall had concurred. Frank and Alice wanted the whole lot charged by the DMLE and Sirius requested that since Regulus and Rabastan were only in their first year and obviously underage, that any punishment take that into account.

Then there was the less serious matter of James, Pip, Remus, Pandora, and Peter being out of the school after curfew. Professor Flitwick had taken ten points apiece off the group and one hundred points each off Regulus and Rabastan for luring Sirius down to the lake at the behest of Lucius Malfoy. Since he was Head Boy and Rodolphus was a prefect and had asked the first years to take part, Regulus and Rabastan were spared expulsion, just barely. Both boys swore that they didn’t know that Malfoy was planning to kill him, although based on what he’d said to Sirius about wanting him dead, James was far from convinced they’d told the truth.

In the end, after Dumbledore contacted the head of the DMLE off the books. Barty Crouch said that because Malfoy had only threatened to kill Black but didn’t carry it out, any charges would be minor, and it was likely he’d get off with a suspended sentence if he was even found guilty at all. Dumbledore took that as an oblique reference to Abraxas Malfoy having lots of influence and the ability to bribe members of the Ministry and the Wizengamot which was certainly the case.

That was why he decided to handle it internally rather than involve the DMLE, a decision which had invoked a lot of anger amongst his fellow staff members. In return for not expelling Lucius, which would be a huge scandal considering he was the Head Boy, Dumbledore effectively suggested a huge donation would be appreciated. The Headmaster figured if Abraxas was going to put an exceedingly large number of galleons into anyone’s vaults it should be Hogwarts. They at least could use it to improve classrooms, build a new potions lab or a new herbology greenhouse.

Professor Flitwick had argued that he’d attacked Sirius Black with a variation of an Unforgivable. The head of the DMLE Barty Crouch informed them that should Lucius Malfoy be charged and be brought to trial, in all probability, he would be let off on a technicality as the curse he used on Black wasn’t the Cruciate Curse. Even though it was closely related to it, technically it wasn’t an Unforgiveable curse, the wand work was significantly different, and the incantation wasn’t in Latin – it was old French. A jury would in all probability take a lot of convincing of its close relationship to the Cruciate Curse. Filius had gotten quite fired up over the matter but there appeared to be little to be done.

Meanwhile, even though everyone was outraged that Lucius was going to get away with hurting Sirius, he remained quite withdrawn, barely talking. His friends were surprised he’d gone to Frank and Alice for help, but he’d shrugged and said he suspected it was a trap but if it wasn’t and Regulus was in danger, he figured the two prefects who were entering the Auror Program would be the best option to help him.

The staff though were bemused as to while Sirius, Frank and Alice hadn’t come to the Headmaster, their own Head of House or even the Head of Slytherin rather than the diminutive Charms Professor. Was it because he was a former duelling champion?

They had been unprepared for the answer. Frank said, “We went to Professor Flitwick because Sirius thought his Charms teacher would listen to him and not immediately suspect that it was some attempt for him to spy on you. You think he doesn’t know that you distrust him? Think again”

As the Hogwarts Express neared its destination, the traumatised and depressed wizard wondered how he was going to make it through the summer. It was going to be a long two months at Grimmauld with Regulus, his crazy mother, and his cult loving father.

Sirius reckoned the only good thing about any of this crap was that Slytherin had not only lost the Quidditch Cup to Gryffindor, but that Professor Flitwick had taken five hundred points each off Malfoy and Lestrange. Slytherin’s total number of house points at the end of the competition was minus six hundred and fifty-seven. They ended up coming last in the house cup and thanks to the fifty points that Alice had been awarded for spell work, and fifty more points Professor Flitwick had given Sirius, Alice, and Frank for coming to a member of staff for help, Gryffindor was awarded the House Cup as well as the Quidditch Cup too.

The Slytherins were all enraged with Lucius and Rodolphus for losing the House Cup when they’d been way ahead of the other Houses. There was a lot of talk about drawing and quartering them. Other suggestions involved stringing the pair upside down and hanging them off the astronomy tower or vanishing all their clothes when they arrived at Kings Cross Station.

Quite frankly, Sirius would give a heap of his Honeydukes Chocolate galleons to see the two purebloods racing across Platform nine and three quarters in their birthday suits. Seeing Malfoy’s vampire-white skin in all its glory would probably cause many a pureblood old biddy meeting their grandchildren off the Express to pitch a fit or go blind and Lestrange and Malfoy would be bloody humiliated.

It was just a shame that the Slytherins were all talk though, because two naked Slytherins would sure make up just a little the devastating betrayal of his baby brother and for them practically getting off scot-free.

~o0o~

Filius Flitwick waited patiently on the platform at Kings Cross Station for the Hogwarts Express to arrive from Hogsmeade station. He’d slipped away from Hogwarts after telling everyone he had some family matters to attend to at Gringotts. He’d been here for almost 30 minutes, disillusioned as he tended to stand out since like Rubeus Hagrid, he was a half-breed, and he had no intention of anyone learning of his role in this prank.

He supposed that it was a tad unseemly for Hogwarts professor to be engaging in a rather childish form of retribution, but he was highly incensed. Lucius Malfoy and Rodolphus Lestrange had essentially got away with attempting to murder a third-year student, all because he stopped them before they had a chance to carry out their vile plan. That and the fact that Abraxas Malfoy used his money and influence to make sure his son wouldn’t face any consequences.

Filius decided that outcome was unacceptable, and he set out to remedy the situation, along with his co-conspirators. Some might say that his intentions were far from ethical. As a Professor at Hogwarts, they would assert that he should refrain from petty retribution and pranks against students – that he was better than that. And Flitwick would agree with that declaration, but when Lucius Malfoy and Rodolphus Lestrange crossed the threshold of Hogwarts today and left the grounds to travel to Hogsmeade Station and climbed on board the express, they ceased to be students.  Now they were former students and adults to boot, so he had no qualms whatsoever about causing those two to suffer what should amount to a severe loss of face.

Humiliation compared with their intention to murder a Hogwarts student in 3rd year was nowhere near meting out justice in his book, but then his goblin blood screamed out for retribution for the victim. Unfortunately, this was the best he could manage without stepping way outside of his moral boundaries.

As the train approached, he could feel the collective excitement of those families waiting to greet their young wizards and witches, coming home for the summer holidays. He also noted happily that Abraxas Malfoy was not on the platform. No doubt he was still furious that Lucius had cost him a whole lot of Galleons, paying the fine that Dumbledore had imposed on the head boy for attempting to kill Sirius Black. Well, good. Malfoy’s absence boded well for the prank.

It was ironic that it was Lucius’ fellow Slytherin’s who’d given them the idea in the first place. It had prompted a long-forgotten memory of an assignment that had been set for him during his Mastery in Charms by his mentor Juniper Jones. She had been explaining how certain famous muggle fairy tales were frequently rooted in truth and were just an attempt to explain away the use of magic.

She explained that Sleeping Beauty was based on the potion, The Draught of Living Death, which was so powerful that when a witch ingested it, she fell into a deep sleep. In the story, she was placed in a glass coffin by seven dwarves who were really goblin healers who’d placed her into stasis until the antidote known as the Wiggenweld Potion could be brewed. It was delivered to her by her betrothed wizard via a kiss on the lips and after she was revived, they were married. Likewise, Little Red Riding Hood was a fairy tale about a little girl who was attacked by a member of her family member who was a werewolf, and the Wild Swans was really a story about Animagi who’d been cursed by their stepmother so that they couldn’t transform at will so that her son would become heir to the family fortune.

Juniper had then assigned him the task of using a fairy tale of his choosing as inspiration for creating his own charm. Having read many of the tales by Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers in the last couple of weeks, he knew instantly which story he would choose.  His life was not an easy one growing up as a half breed. Half goblin, half-human, Filius had faced mistrust, fear and loathing from both his goblin and human family and it had been tough. He liked to think this was why he was one of the few staff members at Hogwarts who didn’t immediately suspect that Sirius Black was a spy.

Filius knew that Minerva and Albus were deeply upset that Sirius had chosen to come to him for assistance rather than the Headmaster or the head of their house (who also just happened to be the deputy headmistress) but honestly, Flitwick couldn’t for the life of him see why they would expect him to. It wasn’t as if they done anything by deed or word that might encourage Black to think that they would believe him, since both were deeply uncomfortable having someone from the House of Black sorted into Gryffindor.

It was as if neither were able to see that they’d prejudged him right from the start, based upon his blood. Yet as half-bloods wasn’t this exactly what they accused the purebloods of doing?  By distrusting his presence in their House of the brave, they were all but admitting that the Sorting Hat had made a mistake or was complicit in the conspiracy. Either scenario had had massive implications which Filius was certain neither one had bothered to properly examine otherwise they wouldn’t continue such asinine thinking.

Plus, their spy theory totally ignored the fact that Sirius had been genuinely shocked when the Sorting House had placed him in Gryffindor. It was as clear as crystal to anyone with a set of eyes, he had not intended to get sent there. No big conspiracy theories there!

His observations had indeed been confirmed after he’d had a chat with Miss Abbott one day. Pandora confided that he had asked the Sorting Hat to not put him into Slytherin because he hated pureblood supremacy, but he thought that he would end up in Ravenclaw. Judging by his outstanding academic scores, Filius could totally see him fitting into his house too. Given that he’d aspired to go into Ravenclaw, and Pandora Abbott was there, plus Sirius was smart enough to realise that Filius would have faced suspicion his whole life, it shouldn’t have been surprising that he’d come to him for assistance when he thought his little brother was in trouble.

Anyway, having been subject to a lot of arrogant berks who didn’t half of the brains and ability that he did, Filius been greatly amused by the fairy tale when he read it.  Once he’d created the Vestimenta Imperatoris Novum Charm (and Juniper snorted in amusement and awarded him an Outstanding) he’d forgotten all about it until the Slytherins inadvertently reminded him of it. Pity he couldn’t award them points as a reward!

As the Hogwarts Express chuffed its way into Platform nine and three quarters, he was finally going to get a chance to see exactly how well it worked in real life. As the students burst out of the carriages, excited to be reunited with their families for the summer holidays, he kept his eyes peeled until he spied the pair of former students stalking haughtily down the platform, purebloods to their core. Behind them, he noted his two co-conspirators, also former students, as he transfigured a pigeon out of a scrap of parchment to let them know he was about to unleash the charm so they could cast a Confundus Charm on the pair of snakes. As soon as they cast the nonverbal wandless charm, which became apparent when Malfoy and Lestrange got the slightly vacant look typical of being confunded, he cast his Vestimenta Imperatoris Novum Charm at each of the wizards.

It didn’t take long for people all up and down the platform to notice that Lucius Malfoy, the Heir to the Noble and Ancient House of Malfoy and Rodolphus Lestrange Jr, heir to the House of Lestrange were both stark naked. The pair were strutting down the platform as if they had no shame. Of course, due to the Confundus Charm they were completely unaware that they were sans clothes and robes. The prats were under the mistaken impression that people were pointing at them because of their important stations in life. Ironically, it caused Malfoy to preen like a peacock, leaving most people with the impression that he was a narcissistic exhibitionist. It was a serendipitous but an unexpected outcome; Filius had suggested the Confundus Charm merely to stop them commandeering someone else’s robes to cover their naked state.

He could see a few of the pureblood families were debating if they should say something to him about his behaviour, although he guessed that his father’s powerful position ultimately caused their inertia. Just like in the fairy tale! Meanwhile, most of the Hogwarts students were laughing fit to burst. Narcissa Black was one of the few who wasn’t amused and Severus Snape, Regulus Black and Rabastan Lestrange all looked as if they couldn’t figure out what was going on, although Severus was eyeing off the Marauders suspiciously.

One or two elderly witches looked greatly scandalised and ready to pass out and not surprisingly, most of their former Slytherin peers also looked mighty pleased they were being humiliated, even if the pair weren’t aware of it yet due to the Confundus Charm. As Lucius and Rodolphus reached the exit and were readying themselves to depart the station, Filius cancelled the Vestimenta Imperatoris Novum Charm, also known as the Emperor Has No Clothes Charm at roughly the same time that Alice Wellborn and Frank Longbottom cancelled the Confundus Charm and the two former Slytherin students disappeared through the stone pillar none-the-wiser for their departure from the Express. That situation would change rather rapidly if he was any judge.

Filius would wait until the platform was deserted before making his way to Diagon Alley.  He wondered if Abraxas would demand that the ministry investigate, or would he hope that if they ignored it, then it would all just go away. What a pity that Which Witch Weekly’s roving reporter, Persephone Pounds had been on the platform watching the whole short performance as she was collecting her Hufflepuff daughter from her first year at Hogwarts. Whipping out her ever-present camera from her bag, she took several dozen pictures of the naked Slytherins, hardly believing her luck.

She sold her story of Hogwarts Head Boy’s leaving prank to the Daily Prophet where the photos and story took pride of place on the front page of the newspaper next morning. She was going to be able to vacation in France this summer with her family with the money she was paid by the Prophet. In addition, she wrote a large feature article for the next issue of Which Witch Weekly magazine.

You reap what you sow!


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SASundance

Writer and reader from down under, obsessive filler of pot-holes um plot holes. You can find me at A03 and fanfic.net under my pen name SASundance

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