Author: fixingahole PM
AU October, 1975: Sirius Black has been expelled for reasons unknown. Severus is vindictive. Remus is confused. Pettigrew is worried. Potter is moody. And Lily? Lily is alarmed by the whole affair. In the end, Dumbledore may regret snapping Sirius Black's wand…Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Suspense - Sirius B. & James P. - Words: 3,270 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 7 - Published: 08-20-12 - id: 8450870
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AU October, 1975: Sirius Black has been expelled for reasons unknown. Severus is vindictive. Remus is confused. Pettigrew is worried. Potter is moody. And Lily? Lily is alarmed by the whole affair. In the end, Dumbledore may regret snapping Sirius Black's wand…
A/N: So, this idea had been bouncing around in my head for a while, and then I thought about it and it became really complicated... Finally I decided - screw it, I'll write it. So I did. Hope you enjoy :)
A letter, written in the early hours of the 14th of October 1975, from Sirius Black to Andromeda Tonks:
It's been a while since I wrote, hasn't it? I'm sorry. I know I promised to write more often, but life is like that. At Grimmauld Place Mother reads all of my mail, and there's no point trying to send something only to have it tossed into the fireplace. And I'd make an excuse for not writing at school, but I don't have one: I just forgot. I'm sorry.
I did something really stupid, Andy. It almost got two of my best mates and another kid killed. And Dumbledore isn't going to give me a second chance. They're expelling me. They've snapped my wand in two, and now I'm waiting for Mother and/or Father to come collect me. I don't know if any of my friends will ever speak to me again, and I don't know what I'm going to do.
What I'm trying to say is that [here several words have been hastily scratched out] I'm being dragged into some things I really don't want to get into, and without school, there's nothing to stop Bellatrix from getting to me. I want you to know you've always been my favourite cousin, and how much I respect you from escaping that madhouse. Ted's a good guy – he'll take care of you. You probably shouldn't write back. Give Dora a hug for me.
– CHAPTER ONE –
No one told Remus what had happened.
It had been a bad month, one of the worst he'd ever had at Hogwarts. He'd known that as soon as he'd woken up lucid enough to look at the calendar in the hospital wing, and had found that a full three days had passed since the full moon. Three whole days, and Remus still felt as though he'd had another tangle with Fenrir Greyback, or maybe picked a fight with the Whomping Willow. And evidently, Remus thought as he gingerly examined the bandages wrapped around his chest and arms, lost.
It was strangely quiet in the hospital wing. It was a Sunday, and usually if James didn't have Quidditch practice, Remus would open his eyes to his roommates laughing and scribbling essays and trading Chocolate Frog cards over his bed, all three of them waiting with unusual patience for him to wake up. If it was a weekday, sometimes he'd awaken alone, but often even if James did have Quidditch, one or both of the others would be there, Sirius lounging back reading a book, or Peter labouring diligently but not very effectively over an essay for Transfiguration.
It was lonely, and he couldn't help but feel a bit hurt in a way that had nothing to do with the bandages around his torso.
Of course, Madam Pomfrey had hurried over when she'd seen he was awake, but it wasn't the same as his friends being there. Not pitying him, or fussing to make sure he was comfortable, but treating him as though he was normal, lending him their notes and making his aching ribs throb from laughing.
She didn't let him go until after dinner that evening. Seven hours, and not one of his friends had visited. The hurt from earlier had ebbed away mostly, and once Remus had his insecurities under control, the fear that they'd finally realised him to be the monster he didn't entirely believe he was (not anymore, as they had spent the last three-and-a-bit odd years trying to convince him), Remus could only feel concern. Maybe something had happened in the three days he was unconscious, and they couldn't be here. It was possible they were in nearby beds, close to – but no. His imagination was running away with him. More likely they were in a full day detention together. He should be thankful he wasn't there to get a share of the punishment…
But both James and Peter were in the Gryffindor common room when he climbed through the portrait hole gingerly, mindful of his tender ribs. Remus's stomach plummeted. James was staring at the fire roaring in the grate as though it was responsible for the murder of his entire extended family. Sirius's absence had never been so blatant.
"Who died?" he joked, and regretted it immediately. There were dark lines under James' eyes – it looked like he hadn't slept for days.
James stood, and without a word, strode past Remus and up the stairs to the boys' dormitories. From the common room – which was almost entirely empty, thanks to it being dinner time – Remus and Peter heard the door slam.
Remus looked at Peter. Peter looked at Remus. He seemed distressed, but gave Remus a drawn smile.
"Madam Pomfrey finally let you go, I see, Remus," said Peter. "I'm sorry I didn't visit more—"
"That's alright," Remus interrupted. Peter had a not entirely irrational fear of hospitals, stemming from his ill mother, and would rarely visit without one of the others with him. "I understand."
"No, I would have been there, but…" his eyes flickered to the stairs, "I thought James might do something dangerous."
"That would hardly be anything new," said Remus dryly, but Peter didn't look at all relieved. The nagging thought crossed his mind again. Where was Sirius? "What did I miss?" he asked instead.
Peter's stomach gurgled comically, and Remus hid a grin as the shorter boy flushed. "How about we get some dinner first?" he suggested.
"Please. We didn't have lunch. But let's go to kitchens," said Peter, glancing one more time at the stairs. "I don't think you want other people to hear what I have to say."
All the mirth rushed from him immediately. The wrongness of the situation was palpable.
"What's the matter with James?" asked Remus, dread settling into cold iron in his stomach. "Where's Sirius?"
"Not here," Peter said quickly, even as he pushed the portrait of the Fat Lady open. "In the kitchens. Come on…"
Down in the kitchens, Peter looked around nervously, though there was no one but house-elves around. "He's gone home," he said, picking at his chicken. This alarmed Remus more than anything. If Peter wasn't eating, something was really wrong.
"What?" said Remus in surprise. "Sirius? Why?"
Peter bit his lip, squashing his baked potato with his fork. "I don't know, but all of his stuff's gone and I saw the Black carriage arrive, so I think he must have been suspended or something. James hasn't said anything."
Remus' mind whirled. Suspended? Sirius? Surely not. Alright, sometimes Sirius didn't know where to draw the line, but… but he wasn't innately cruel. Was it a prank gone too far? Or had Sirius got himself into real trouble? He'd been somewhat distant all year, just a little on edge, but Remus had just thought he'd been having problems with his family…
"When did this happen?" he asked quickly.
"Thursday morning." The morning after the full moon. Remus found he'd suddenly lost his appetite, and set down his knife and fork. Peter's potato was starting to resemble mash. "But he and James had a fight that night, they were really screaming at each other, and…"
"Start from the beginning," said Remus quickly. They'd been getting along fine on Wednesday before he'd gone to the Shrieking Shack to transform. So what had happened afterwards?
"Well, after you left, Sirius went for one of his walks, you know…" Remus did know. Sirius was a sociable person – he liked people, and usually, he was fairly easy to get along with. But sometimes, he had very dark moods, and became prone to snapping at everyone except James. These moods had become very frequent over the last month and a half since their fifth year had begun, and Sirius had started distancing himself from people when they happened. Remus had an inkling that Sirius hated himself for his nastiness, and deliberately tried to avoid putting himself into a situation where it could happen. Often, he'd just walk out of the common room and disappear for hours at a time. Sometimes James followed him, but would never say where Sirius went.
"And after he came back, James started on him – you know he'd already been in one of his moods, and I think James had just gotten fed up with him keeping mum about it. Anyway, eventually Sirius just snapped, and snarled something at James, and stormed out." Peter took a mouthful of potato slop. "After a bit, James started getting antsy, and finally, he just said he was going to look for Sirius, and left."
"And after that?" Remus pressed, having completely forgotten about the steak and kidney pie in front of him.
"Well, I'd fallen asleep," Peter said sheepishly, "but Sirius woke me up when he came back in." Peter shivered very slightly. "I've never seen him look like that. He looked like he'd seen a ghost – well, not a ghost –" Sirius was known to be often seen chatting with Nearly Headless Nick or the Fat Friar, or even occasionally the Bloody Baron or Grey Lady, and even sharing mischief making tips with Peeves, "– but… um…"
"A grim?" Remus suggested.
Peter turned a funny colour, but quickly agreed. "Yeah, a grim. He was acting like he'd been confunded, and sort of wandered around dizzily, and sat down on his bed and put his head in his hands. I thought he was crying, until he started laughing." Peter shuddered. "And then McGonagall came, and made him go with her – I think they were going to see Dumbledore – and James came back next, then Sirius, and he wasn't laughing anymore, but then they got in a fight – I mean, James punched him, and Sirius didn't really fight back, and James left this time, and Sirius just told me he was leaving, and he didn't try to heal himself at all, and…" Peter looked pained. "Well, in the morning, Sirius and all his stuff was gone, and James has barely said a word since. I don't think he's sleeping properly, either."
"Does Remus Lupin or Peter Pettigrew want some hot chocolate?" asked a house-elf called Mindy, big green eyes eager.
"Yes please," said Peter.
"No, thank-you," said Remus. From what Peter had said, Sirius had done something so out of line even James had known it, and gotten suspended for it. Of course, he could have done pretty much anything. But for James to attack him… "Some tea would be lovely, though," he added.
"Do you remember what they said, when they fought?" Remus asked.
"Something about Snape, and killing someone. Might have been killing Snape. I'm not sure. But I'm worried about James. And Sirius, too. But mostly James."
Snape? Had Sirius actually killed someone? Had Snape just goaded Sirius at the worst possible moment, and taken the brunt of Sirius' temper? No. If Sirius had actually killed Snape, he'd have been expelled. But… "Have you seen Snape recently?" Remus didn't even want to know the answer.
"Yeah, why wouldn't I have?" Peter gave Remus an odd look as they left the kitchen, favoured beverages in hand. "Just as greasy as always. He's been glaring an awful lot, though."
Remus released the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding in a rush of air. "No reason," he said. There were gaping holes in the story everywhere, and it didn't fit. What had James and Sirius argued about? What was bothering Sirius so much? Why was James acting so… well, so much like Sirius in one of his moods? It didn't add up. "Have you asked James?"
Peter squeaked and shook his head. "I didn't dare. You haven't been around – not that that's your fault, or anything," Peter added quickly, "but you haven't seen him. He's gone spare. He hasn't been eating, I don't think he's getting much sleep – he barely talks or anything. Even Evans was worried about him, but James didn't even glance at her, and when she pushed, he snapped at her! You ask him – I don't want to get my head bitten off, thank-you-very-much."
The situation was getting odder and odder. James was one of the most easy-going people Remus had ever met. Remus could count on one had the times he'd seen his friend lose his temper. Could this just be because Sirius was gone? Remus knew they were close, but it wasn't as though Sirius had left permanently. So what was wrong with James?
As they got to the Entrance hall, Peter made a noise between a yelp and a groan. Remus looked at him, but Peter was staring up at the staircase. There, descending, was the oddest friendship in the whole school – that between Severus Snape and Lily Evans. "Oh no, not now," Peter was muttering, even as Lily spotted them.
"Remus!" she said, approaching them. It surprised Remus – although he had to work with Lily frequently as both of the fifth year Gryffindor prefects, they were hardly friends. "How are you? Is your mother well?" At this, she gave Snape a sharp look. Remus suddenly wished he was anywhere else.
"She's much better now, thank-you," Remus lied. His mother's nonexistent illness was among his friends – Sirius, Peter, James – a euphemism for his condition. Unfortunately, not all the students took this explanation for his disappearances at face value. At the vanguard of these nonbelievers was Snape, who had long attempted to discover his secret.
Snape muttered under his breath, sending Remus a look filled with such dark loathing Remus was taken aback. He'd never gotten along with Snape – with the company Remus kept that would have been impossible – but this was new. This wasn't one of the looks dark, hungry interest he'd been subject to. No. This was pure, unadulterated hatred.
Lily elbowed Snape, and hissed something back Remus couldn't quite pick up on. Contrary to popular belief, that fact that he turned into a bloodthirsty monster once a month did not give him heightened senses the rest of the time. Lily shot him an irritated look, before whipping her head back to him, red hair flying. "Do you know where Black has been? I haven't seen him around lately, and Potter has been in such a huff." Remus frowned. He hated it when she insulted his friends.
"I'm afraid I don't know much what's been going on lately at all," he said mildly. "I've been at home. But I believe Sirius has been suspended."
"He hasn't been suspended," a voice rang out from the top of the marble staircase. Remus looked up.
It was James.
His hair was even more disorderly than it was normally. Away from the fire, he looked very pale. He leant against the railing, staring down with a face like stone.
"Then where is he?!" demanded Lily. "I haven't seen him since Wednesday, and you—"
James cut her off. And the words he said made Remus's grip on his teacup falter, so it fell to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. But what did it matter, he wondered. The cup could be fixed with a flick of his wand … but this – this, no magic could fix.
"He's been expelled."
The backhand caught Sirius off guard, though it probably shouldn't have. He'd been on the receiving end of a handful of blows from his mother when he'd pushed her too far before, but it was the first time he'd been hit without actively baiting her.
Then again, he'd never quite screwed up this badly before.
Sirius observed, with a detached sort of surprise, that he'd been knocked to the floor. He pressed his tongue against the inside of his lip, and tasted copper – it must have torn open on one of his teeth.
His chest shuddered, and he clenched his admittedly sore jaw.
"Expelled, Sirius, I never in all my years! I always knew you would be a difficult child, but never did I expect I could bear such an abomination. Shame of my flesh! I would have you were never born!"
Sirius' ears were ringing, but he wasn't certain how much was owed to his mother's shouting. Along with Walburga Black's tirade, the portraits of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place had awoken and evidently discerned what had happened, as their insults mingled and made it very difficult to concentrate.
"Why, back in my day—"
"You have succeeded in disgrace us all, in all my generations, never, never has there been a blacker mark upon our house—"
Sirius' chest shuddered again, and he bit back a grin that would earn him another backhand. His ears were ringing, not only with his mothers' shrieks but Dumbledore's quiet words.
And suddenly, the noise stopped. Ice formed in his chest.
His father was home.
Sirius breathed slowly as he watched his father's expensive, dragon hide shoes step closer.
"Stand up, Sirius."
Sirius didn't move.
"Stand up, Sirius," his father repeated, softly. "You are a Black. You do not grovel on the ground like a muggle. Stand up."
Breathing heavily, Sirius pushed himself unsteadily to his feet. The room swam; his father's face faded in and out of focus, blank, devoid of anger or emotion.
"You will go to your room while your mother and I discuss what is to be done. Leave."
Sirius rather thought he ought to say something – some token of rebellion, as if he ever did as he was told – but the blank buzzing had enfolding his mind. The flight response won, and Sirius unsteadily made his way up the stairs to his bedroom. He could hear his mother's hushed rage and father's blank indifference until he shut the door behind him.
Safe in the scarce comfort of his red and gold adorned bedroom, Sirius sunk down against the door, bracing his elbows on his knees and resting his forehead against his forearms. His chest shook again with pent up emotion.
Merlin damn it, but Snape deserved everything he'd got and more. The slimeball deserved it.
Sirius lifted his head to thump back against the door, and started to laugh.
For all his lies and tricks and pranks, why was the worst trouble he landed in always because he'd told the truth?
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