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Sarah couldn't believe she'd just been sorted into Slytherin. For several seconds, while the students with the green and silver emblem began to applaud, she remained on the stool. She was halfway convinced the hat was going to pronounce it was joking...but it didn't happen. Realising she'd make a scene if she didn't move soon and determined to not let anyone see how shook up she was, Sarah pulled off the hat and carefully plastered a smile on her face as walked towards the Slytherin table.
She was certain no one could tell it wasn't completely genuine: she'd always been a fabulous actress, something that would serve her well in her new house. Sarah's smile widened into a real grin when she saw Astoria move aside to give her a spot next to her. Though she hadn't gotten a chance to get to know the girl very well yet, Sarah felt the two could become good friends with time.
The hat had called her loyal and brave, clever and curious, and Sarah had been sure it must therefore be wavering between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, and possibly even Hufflepuff. And then, the hat continued to describe her as self-assured and strong-minded - the house of the cunning would serve her well and she it, whatever that meant - and before Sarah could react, let alone argue, she was suddenly a Slytherin.
The sorting continued, but Sarah only listened with half an ear, automatically applauding when she noticed the rest of her new housemates doing it. She supposed she wasn't exactly upset by the hat's decision - just very surprised. Ever since her parents told her about Hogwarts and its houses, and their tales of Gryffindor house in particular, Sarah had been set on that house. But now, she was a Slytherin instead, and suddenly forced to rearrange all the thoughts and expectations she'd had and try to put herself in a Slytherin mindset.
Though she didn't put any stock in prejudice, Sarah did worry about her new house's reputation and how the rest of the school might judge her just because she wore green and silver. Would Harry still want to be her friend? From the way he'd spoken about Draco Malfoy, and the way Ron had spoken about Slytherin in general during the ride on the train, it was obvious their feelings about her new house were cool at best, hostile at worst. And from what Sarah knew, it was clear the majority of the other three houses felt the same way.
But then again, Sarah thought, she'd never let people's opinion bother her before. She was proud of who she was, and if that now included Slytherin, well, then she'd be the best Slytherin she could be. And if she could change things around and create a little chaos in people's way of thinking at the same time, that was even better, wasn't it? Sarah did not mind a challenge and some pandemonium might even be fun...and Draco Malfoy and his like, fellow Slytherins or not, better watch out - Sarah did not suffer bullies.
"Are you alright?" Astoria whispered worriedly in her ear and Sarah threw her a startled look, only then realising she'd been unconsciously begun to smirk.
"Peachy keen," Sarah whispered back with a grin. The sorting had ended and Flitwick carried the hat and stool out of the Great Hall. Sarah perked up as Harry and Hermione entered, followed closely by a stern-looking professor: she hadn't realised they hadn't been by their table. A lot of people were staring at Harry, pointing at him - had the tale of Harry's reaction to the Dementor on the train spread already?
Harry and Hermione set off towards the Gryffindor table, and Sarah saw he must be looking for her, noticeably frowning when he didn't find her among the sea of Gryffindor students. After glancing over the students by the other three tables, his eyes widened as his eyes met hers, clearly shocked by her ending up in Slytherin, and he threw her a questionable glance. Sarah could only shrug in response and waved slightly.
This was it, she thought. Harry's reaction now would depend on whether they'd still be friends...to her relief, after a second's pause, Harry waved back with a sincere smile.
Happy that Harry was a true friend, Sarah turned back around, ignoring the astonished and scandalised looks she got from her fellow Slytherins for daring to 'fraternise with the enemy' in such a way. From the hushed whispers she heard coming from behind her, from the Gryffindor table, it was clear Harry was being met by the same reaction. "What?" she hissed.
"You're friends with Potter?" Draco Malfoy spat out.
"Is there a problem with that?" Sarah asked, raising an eyebrow in challenge.
"Yes, there is - " Malfoy began heatedly, but was interrupted before he could explain exactly why it was a problem by the Headmaster who stood up to begin his welcoming speech:
"Welcome! Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast..." Dumbledore cleared his throat before he continued. "As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the Dementors of Azkaban, who are here on some Ministry of Magic business." He paused for a moment.
"They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds, and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises — or even Invisibility Cloaks," he added blandly. Sarah sniggered silently, having a feeling that particular comment was directed at Harry: her parents had told her of the things they'd gotten up to under the cloak, and since it had belonged to James and Harry was James' son, surely he had the cloak now.
"It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the Dementors." Dumbledore paused again; he looked very seriously around the silent hall.
"On a happier note," he continued, "I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year."
Sarah straightened up in her seat.
"First, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Sarah applauded wildly, and she saw Harry and his friends doing the same, but they were one of the few: the applause as a whole was rather scattered and unenthusiastic, the abilities - or lack thereof - of the previous Defence professors - working against Remus. Very few people expected someone competent on the post nowadays.
The Slytherins were giving her wide-eyed looks, realising their new professor must somehow be related to her.
"As to our second new appointment," Dumbledore continued as the lukewarm applause died down, "well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties."
This time, the applause was a lot louder, the claps from the Gryffindor table particularly thunderous.
"He made that oaf a professor?" Malfoy roared over the noise, sounding outraged. "Just wait until my father hears about this!"
Sarah rolled her eyes, something that did not go unnoticed by Astoria who let out an unladylike snort. "My sister says there's a running bet going on in Slytherin centred on how many times each term that particular sentence leaves Malfoy's mouth," she whispered silently in Sarah's ear and the first-year burst out laughing.
Professor Dumbledore started speaking again: "Well, I think that's everything of importance," said Dumbledore. "Let the feast begin!"
The golden plates and goblets before them filled suddenly with food and drink and all the first-years' eyes widened at the massive amount of dishes: beef, chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, pudding, rice and pasta, potatoes and various vegetables and gravy, jam and jelly, ketchup and mustard...
"I don't even know where to begin," Sarah said faintly.
"Try a little bit of each," an unfamiliar voice said and Sarah turned to look at the student who sat on Astoria's other side. From her appearance, Sarah felt sure this must be Astoria's older sister. "Astoria, aren't you going to introduce me to your new friend?"
"Oh, right!" Astoria said. "Daphne, this is Sarah Lupin - I met her by the boats. Sarah, this is Daphne, my sister. She's two years older than me. And next to her is Tracey, her best friend and our cousin."
The brunette next to Daphne waved.
"It's nice to meet you both," Sarah said, and then began to fill her plate with some things she knew she liked, and some things she'd never tried before.
"How are you related to our new professor?" Astoria wondered.
"Oh, he's my dad," Sarah said.
Opposite her, Draco Malfoy's eyes gleamed in sudden interest and he leaned forwards. "Really?" he said. "That's excellent. We'll win the House Cup this year for sure even if he's rubbish at teaching."
Sarah's eyes narrowed. "He's not. He's brilliant. But he's also fair. So if you think he's going to favour us just because I'm a Slytherin, think again. He'll treat everyone equally regardless of their house."
Draco snorted, clearly not believing her and from the rather dubious looks from some of the other students, it was clear they felt the same: from the way Malfoy had reacted, it was obvious most Slytherins rated the importance of things and people from how they could benefit them. Impartiality was apparently not something high on their list, and as such, not something they really believed in. It may not even be in their vocabulary.
"How do you know Harry Potter?" Tracey asked after awhile between bites, changing the subject, and everyone around them clearly perked up their ears to listen.
"I met him in Diagon Alley this summer," Sarah said. "My parents were friends with his parents. He's nice. We're friends."
"You should stay away from Potty if you know what's good for you," Malfoy sniffed from the other side of the table. "He's been our enemy since day one. You're new, so you may not yet be aware of all the rules, but true Slytherins sticks with their own house."
"Well, that seems rather stupid," Sarah sniffed and Draco froze.
"Well, I'm all for house loyalty - go Slytherin!" Sarah said, punching a fist into the air, "but to limit all our interaction to just our house seems rather narrow-minded. Slytherins are meant to be ambitious, right? So wouldn't it serve us better to forge connections and friendships everywhere? And no offence, but maybe one of the reasons we Slytherins are looked down upon by everyone else - and don't say we're not - is because they don't know anything about us? All they know is hearsay from ages ago and if we don't show them what we're really like, how can they change their minds?"
Sarah suddenly realised everyone within earshot - not just Draco - was staring at her, and she unconsciously raised her chin in a stubborn gesture to hide how unnerved she was. "Well, that's just what I think."
Some of the Slytherins looked at least somewhat thoughtful, but most seemed rather displeased and annoyed. Maybe they did not like to have things pointed out to them - especially not by a first-year. Sarah supposed they, like everyone else, were stuck in their way of thinking and did not see the need to suddenly start to act differently for the sake of the rest of the school, which she could somewhat understand. But in some cases, change was necessary, and in this, Sarah felt she was right.
"Do us a favour, firstie, and don't think," Draco hissed. "I'm not making friends with Potter - "
" - And no one said you have to," Daphne cut in. "Calm down, Draco. Sarah has a point in that we tend to isolate ourselves too much in Slytherin, and the Gryffindor versus Slytherin mentality can get a little tiring - she didn't say anything about Potter, even though I feel rather aggravated by your assumption that everyone shares your animosity towards him."
"Don't listen to Draco - he's got an unhealthy crush on Potter and has been in the pigtail-pulling phase(1) ever since he met him." Tracey smirked, completely ignoring Draco's indignant spluttering.
As Remus slowly ate his dinner, he had to admit he felt slightly thrown by Sarah ending up in Slytherin. It was an unexpected development and when the hat announced its decision he'd felt stunned. He wasn't angry or disappointed, however, and was certain Buffy wouldn't mind Sarah's new house either.
He had worried how Sarah herself - would take it, however - she had had her heart set on Gryffindor - but as he glanced over at the Slytherin table he saw his daughter was laughing. She seemed to be caught up in an engaging conversation with Astoria Greengrass, the friend she'd entered the Great Hall with, and a couple of older students, and Remus smiled, certain now she'd be alright.
"Remus," professor McGonagall said - Minerva, Remus corrected himself mentally; she was his colleague now, "since I missed the sorting, would you mind pointing out your daughter to me? I've been looking all over the Gryffindor table but I simply can't figure out who she is."
Professor Sprout - Pomona - let out a little laugh. "Well, that would be because she's not a Gryffindor."
McGonagall spluttered. "Not a - not a Gryffindor?" She sighed resignedly. "Well, I suppose with your genes, Remus, it's not that unexpected that your daughter ended up in Ravenclaw."
Flitwick shook his head. "She's not a Ravenclaw either." He looked quite amused, and making no attempt to hide it.
Pomona smirked at McGonagall's wide-eyed look. "Well," the Transfiguration professor said, "I did not expect her to be a Hufflepuff, but - "
Beside her, Snape set his goblet down with a loud clang, interrupting whatever McGonagall was about to say. His thin, sallow face was twisted into an ugly scowl, his jaw clenched. McGonagall gawked as realisation slowly dawned. "You - you cannot mean to say," she stammered, aghast, "that your daughter is a - a - " She couldn't get the word out.
"It's lucky we didn't let Severus in on our bet," Sprout said cheerily.
"Remus!" McGonagall exclaimed, her expression betrayed, as if this was somehow his fault.
Remus raised his hands in surrender. "Don't look at me like that; it took me completely by surprise too."
"You must be beside yourself, Lupin, knowing that your daughter is in my house," Severus spat.
"Not at all," Remus said. "If the Sorting Hat believes Slytherin is where Sarah belongs, I'm sure it's correct. Sarah has always been quite devious, not to mention wilful. I'm sure she'll do your house proud."
Severus sneered. "I doubt it."
"I can't believe Sarah ended up in Slytherin," Ron said for the third time during the feast.
"We know, Ron," Hermione sighed.
"I'm just shocked! And I who thought she seemed alright."
"And now because she's a Slytherin, she's not?" Harry asked. "She hasn't changed as a person, Ron."
"But Slytherin, Harry! They're all...slimy and evil and stuff."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "She's eleven. I highly doubt she's secretly planning world domination."
"The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin, you know," Harry added conversationally. All conversation stopped around them and Harry shrugged, slightly nervous by all the attention - he'd never said what the hat told him to anyone before. "I'm just saying what house we end up in doesn't determine who we are for the rest of our lives. If I hadn't heard only bad things about Slytherin before the sorting and convinced the hat not to put me there, I would be in green and silver right now."
"Blimey, Harry," Ron exclaimed, his eyes round.
"Harry is right," Hermione said decisively. "The hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw but everything I'd read made it sound as if Gryffindor was by far the better house so I argued with it. I suppose in hindsight, the books were rather prejudiced..." She sniffed, looking very affronted, as though the books had committed some great betrayal. Harry suspected Hermione sometimes became so absorbed in her reading that she forgot books were written by people.
"The hat thought I'd make a good Hufflepuff," Neville admitted, "but my gran said she'd disown me if I ended up anywhere else but Gryffindor...I was so relieved when the hat put me here."
"Oh, Neville," Hermione exclaimed sympathetically. "I'm sure she didn't mean it."
But Harry wasn't so sure. He knew that being related by blood didn't mean automatic affection - just look at the Dursleys. He suddenly remembered the story Neville had told in his first year, how his Great-uncle Algie threw him off a pier to try and make him do magic, and later accidentally dropped him out of a window...if Neville hadn't bounced, he might be dead right now. At the same time, he didn't want to automatically think all of Neville's relatives were bad just because the Dursleys were.
Neville smiled weakly.
"My point is it doesn't matter if Sarah is in Slytherin," Harry said, sensing Neville felt uncomfortable with the situation, "I'll still be her friend. I'm not going to let Slytherins like Malfoy ruin my view of an entire house," he added.
"That's very sensible of you, Harry," Hermione nodded decisively. "And I agree wholeheartedly."
"Besides, I promised myself I'd look after her. Her parents were best friends with my parents," Harry said, feeling ever so grateful he'd met the Lupins.
"Hang on," Ginny interrupted, "does that mean you know the new professor?"
"Not very well," Harry said. "I only met him on the train, but I spent lots of time with his wife and daughter - Sarah - in Diagon Alley. But he was nice. And he did make the Dementor on the train go away, so I think he knows his stuff."
"Unlike Lockhart," Ron sniggered, glancing at Hermione, who flushed, remembering her unfortunate crush on their last professor.
Harry grinned widely.
After the feast, the Slytherin Prefects lead the first-years down the entrance to the dungeons and deeper and deeper under the school through winding passages, until they came to a stop in front of a stretch of a bare, damp stone wall. "Monkshood,"(2) one of the Prefects said and a door concealed in the wall slid open, revealing a passageway.
As Sarah stepped through it and into the Slytherin common room, she and the other first-years looked around curiously. Sarah had to admit she was pleasantly surprised: she had expected something far gloomier. Though the walls were made of rough stone, a fire crackled merrily under an elaborately carved mantelpiece, giving the room a cosy, yet grand, atmosphere. But she had to admit the skulls around the room gave it a rather creepy touch, though it did appeal to the more theatrical side of her.
Round greenish lamps hung from the ceiling, which, alongside the light coming from outside the windows, gave the room a greenish tinge: it seemed the Slytherin common room lied so deep under the castle that it extended partway under the lake, with a view out into its depths. Sarah's eyes widened in delight as she saw something rather large swoosh by outside, and judged by the large tentacles, it was the giant squid.(3)
"Welcome to Slytherin House," the male Prefect who had also spoken the password to the common room said to the first-years. "I'm Prefect Adrian Pucey(4) and feel free to come to me or the other Slytherin Prefects if you have any questions: we Slytherins look after our own. From now on, we trust you will help uphold the honour and traditions of our house. You've become Slytherins for a reason, and that is because you've got the potential to be great. I'm sure you've heard a lot of things about Slytherin, some of them bad. We're not all into the Dark Arts. I'm not denying that we've produced our share of Dark wizards, but so have the other three houses – they just don't like to admit it. And yes, traditionally, Slytherins are pureblood, but we have quite a few students with muggles in their lineage."
Sarah felt slightly comforted knowing that she was not the only half-blood in Slytherin, though she also had no plans to advertise it. She was smarter than that: while half-bloods may not be looked down upon by all Slytherins, she also knew there was likely a large amount of them who would love to hold it over her head.
"Slytherins are respected by our fellow students, and sometimes, even somewhat feared because of our Dark reputation," Pucey continued. "Don't be afraid to take advantage of that: our emblem is the serpent, the wisest and most cunning of all creatures, for a reason. It can be fun, having a reputation for walking on the wild side, but that does not mean we are bad people. Wear the Slytherin crest and colours with pride and don't let anyone look down on you, whether they're Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, or Ravenclaws."
Sarah smirked. She had never let anyone look down on her and she wasn't about to start now. As for walking on the wild side...well, that's where she liked it best.
"I have two more things to say before I let you go to your dormitories," Pucey said, "firstly, our house ghost is the Blood Baron, and if you get on his good side, he'll sometimes agree to frighten people for you. But don't ask him about the bloodstains - he's rather touchy about that."
There were some nervous giggles from the other first-years, while Sarah cocked her head, already planning to befriend the ghost. Even if she thought using the Baron to frighten people sounded a bit asinine, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have him on her side. One never knew when that might come in handy.
"Secondly, the password to the common room changes every fortnight. The new passwords are posted on the noticeboard, along with other messages that may be important for you to know. Don't let anyone from another house into our common room or tell them our password. We pride ourselves on the fact that no one who is not a Slytherin has entered it for more than seven centuries."(5)
Sarah barely held back a laugh. From what her parents had told her, she knew the Marauders had been into the Slytherin common room several times, often leaving havoc in their wake.
"Girls, come with me, please," a female Prefect said and began to lead Sarah, Astoria, and the two other girls who had been sorted into Slytherin towards the girls' dormitory. "My name is Gemma Farley; I'm a seventh-year Prefect.(6) Like Adrian said earlier, like him, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have, especially questions that may be awkward to ask a boy." She winked, and the two first-year girls behind Sarah and Astoria tittered.
Gemma opened the door to the first-year dormitory and then clapped her hands together. "I'll leave you to it - your trunks should already be in place, put there by Hogwarts' house-elves. The first class always begins at nine and you will get your full schedules at breakfast which is served from half past seven. Make sure you get plenty of sleep - the first few days of classes are always rather hectic for first-years because the castle is large, so count on being forced to do a lot of traipsing up and down various staircases and getting lost at least twice." On that uplifting note, the dark-haired Prefect left, closing the door gently behind her.
The four first-year girls were left staring at each other somewhat awkwardly.
"I'm Sarah Lupin," Sarah said, finally breaking the silence.
"We know," one of the first-years, who had black hair, said. "We overheard you at dinner. I'm Karen Mercer."
"Astoria Greengrass," Astoria said.
"Chloe Crane," the last of the first-year girls, a blonde like Astoria, said. "Should we choose our beds? Do you have any preferences?"
As one, the four girls shook their heads, and turned to look around the dormitory. There was one bed for each of them, ancient four-posters with green silk hangings and bedspreads embroidered with silver thread. Silver lanterns hung from the ceiling, casting light onto the medieval tapestries hung from the walls.(7)
"I'll take this one," Sarah decided, moving over to the bed furthest to the left. Astoria quickly claimed the one beside her, and Chloe and Karen took the last two. They undressed in silence, the event-filled day catching up to them, and climbed into bed.
Once she was beneath the covers, Sarah stared up at the roof of her four-poster, the hangings shut tightly around it so no light could slip through. In the silence, Sarah could hear the sound of the water from the lake lapping against the windows. Before she knew it, her eyes began to slip closed and she drifted off to sleep, lulled by the sound of the soothing water.
"Argus," Remus greeted, knocking on the caretaker's door and trying not to let it show how uncomfortable he felt using Filch's first name. "Do you have a moment?"
On top of Filch's desk, Mrs Norris rested, the scrawny cat following Remus' every move with her lamp-like yellow eyes.
Filch let out a grunt. "I suppose," he muttered and stopped polishing the manacles hanging from his ceiling. "You know the end is surely coming when the Headmaster decides to make a troublemaker like you a professor." He peered at Remus through narrowed eyes. "Oh, I know I never managed to catch you in the act as much as I did with your little friends, but I just knew you got up to just as much trouble." He gave him an evil little smile. "I used to dream about stringing you all up by your ankles in my chains and giving you a good whipping."
Remus cleared his throat awkwardly, deliberately not looking at the chains in question. "Yes, well, that was years ago," he said, scratching the back of his neck. "Anyway, I'm afraid I need to inspect your cabinets. You've confiscated a lot of things throughout the years and one of those objects used to belong to me and my friends. I wouldn't ask for it back, except that it could help us locate Sirius Black."
Filch grinned nastily. "And he's the perfect proof that your entire little group of Marauders," he spat out the name, "were nothing but bad eggs. But I suppose Black was completely rotten." He jerked his head towards the filing cabinets. "I keep all confiscated property over there."
"Thank you," Remus said graciously and walked over to the cabinet, going through the drawers one by one, while Filch returned to polishing the shackles in the office. Slowly, a frown began to form on Remus' face as he realised he couldn't find the Marauder's Map anywhere. "Argus, are you sure you keep everything here? I can't find what I'm looking for... it would appear to be a normal, blank piece of parchment to you. You confiscated it during my seventh year."
"It's in the drawer marked Confiscated and Highly Dangerous," Filch grunted after a slight pause.
"I've already looked there, you must be mistaken."
"My memory is like an elephant's - I never forget anything," Filch spat out, throwing down his cloth and walked over to the cabinet. Slowly, the caretaker's face began to purple as he too looked through the drawer for dangerous objects and came up with nothing. "It must have been stolen!" he hissed, beating his fist against the cabinet in anger. "I bet it were the Weasley twins..." he began to mutter angrily to himself while Remus' shoulders slumped. So much for using the Map to locate Sirius.
"Well, thank you anyway, Argus," Remus said, deciding a strategic retreat was the wisest course as the man began to rant, spittle flying from his mouth: the list of things the caretaker would like to do to the Weasley twins was slightly too graphic for Remus' comfort.
Remus had just finished inspecting the Defence Against the Dark Arts office and was about to leave for his quarters when there was a knock on the door, and Poppy Pomfrey peeked inside. "May I have a minute?"
"Hello, Poppy," Remus said with a wide smile and immediately headed over to give her a hug. The school matron had been a big support to him from his first day as a student, both as a Healer and as a listener and confidante, and Remus considered her a friend. "It's so nice to see you - and it looks like you've barely aged a day," Remus said, and it was mostly true: apart from a few more grey hairs and wrinkles, she looked just the same.
"Oh, stop it!" Poppy laughed and then hooked an arm through his, and they slowly began to walk down the corridor. "I was so happy when Dumbledore told the staff he had hired you," the matron said. "It's about time we get a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor who knows what he's doing." She tutted lightly. "That Lockhart last year...a right disaster."
Remus chuckled. "Yes, I heard."
Poppy gave him a more serious look. "How are you doing, Remus? With Sirius Black's escape from prison, you must feel distraught."
"I'm not sure what I feel," Remus admitted. "I don't think I've wrapped my head around it. I don't think I've even reconciled the Sirius I knew with Sirius the Death Eater. It's always felt so unreal to both me and Buffy."
Poppy nodded. "I understand. Well," she added in a lighter tone of voice, "at least you look fairly healthy, so I'm assuming your wife keeps you well fed."
"Hah!" Remus exclaimed. "Buffy can't cook to save her life. I'm the cook in our family. And Sarah helps sometimes. Buffy's not allowed to do much except chop vegetables. She's good at chopping, though she prefers to chop off heads."
Poppy laughed. "Knowing she's the Slayer, I am not surprised. Who would ever have thought a Slayer and a werewolf would end up together?"
"Not me," Remus said with a smile. "But I thank Merlin everyday that we did."
The fireplace in the living room flared up, and Buffy, who had been waiting on the sofa for Remus to floo, got to her feet after letting go of her ballpoint pen - some habits die hard, and even after years in the wizarding world, Buffy still favoured normal writing equipment in front of quills - dropping it beside the half-finished letter to Sarah she'd been writing while waiting.
"Finally!" Buffy exclaimed, sinking down in front of the fireplace and staring into the flames. "I've been waiting for hours! I thought you were going to floo directly after the welcoming feast?"
"I planned to, but Poppy interrupted," Remus said sheepishly. "Is everything alright over there?"
"Why on Earth wouldn't it be?" Buffy asked with a roll of her eyes.
Remus smiled at her faintly. "Sorry. I suppose after everything we've been through, I can't help but be slightly paranoid. I'm afraid that if I turn my back, you'll be gone."
Buffy sobered. Those years when she'd been stuck in Sunnydale, while Remus had been stuck here, had been difficult for all of them. They were together now, and had been for years, but Buffy understood Remus' fear, despite the Fates' assurances that she belonged in the wizarding world. After all, they had promised her that before. "Well, as you can see I'm here," she said, deliberately keeping her tone light. "And don't worry - I have not burnt down the kitchen. Has Sarah gotten settled in Gryffindor?"
"Uhh...well, I think she's gotten settled," Remus said with a slight wince. "But not in Gryffindor. You don't mind green and silver clothing, do you?"
"Sarah is a Slytherin?" Buffy blurted out in shock.
"I know, it surprised me too," Remus said ruefully.
"Huh." Buffy blinked. "I'll admit I did not see that coming."
Remus snorted. "Me neither. I thought Snape - Severus, damn it, I've got to remember to call him Severus, now - was going to have a heart attack when the Sorting Hat shouted out its decision."
Buffy giggled. "I bet. How did Sarah take it? Is she alright? I know she had her heart set on Gryffindor..."
"I think she's fine," Remus said. "She was shocked, at first - she sort of a froze on the stool for awhile, but when I checked on her later during dinner, she was laughing and talking, so I don't think we have to be worried."
"Good," Buffy said. "Though I shouldn't be surprised. Our daughter always manages to land on her feet, doesn't she?" She sighed wistfully. "I miss her already. You will send her my love, won't you?"
"Of course," Remus assured her. "But don't you miss me too?" He fluttered his eyelids theatrically.
Buffy snorted. "You know I do, but at least we can talk like this and you can visit on weekends. Sarah can't."
"I'm sure we can figure out a way for you to see her more often than what is strictly allowed," Remus said, his eyes glittering.
"I like how you think, Mr Marauder," Buffy grinned. "Are you sure Sarah is alright in Slytherin? You know what she's like - she lets her mouth run away with her, and I have a feeling that might not be appreciated among certain members of that house."
"She's fine. I saw her talking - not arguing - with a couple of older Slytherins at the fest, and I think she's made friends with a Greengrass," Remus said.
"Really?" Buffy asked. "Any relation to Belinda, you think?"
"Well, I think Belinda has an older brother, so it's a probability at least," Remus answered. "Either way, as long as she's a good friend to Sarah, I don't care who she's related to. Of course, if she is related to Belinda, maybe we can find out how she and Lucan are doing. I don't even know if they're back in the country."
"Oh, they are," Buffy said. "Have been for years, actually. And they have a daughter who is in Harry's year, remember? I think her name is Tricia or Tory..."
"Tracey," Remus corrected her, for once not smiling at Buffy's usual forgetfulness when it came to names. Instead, he frowned. "You didn't tell me they were back. How did you know?"
"I ran into Lucan at St Mungo's a couple of years ago," Buffy shrugged. "And to be honest, it must have slipped my mind."
"Yes, it seems a lot does," Remus muttered.
Buffy looked away for a moment, feeling ashamed. For years, she had kept the prophecy from Remus. It was only on the tenth anniversary of Lily and James' deaths that she had finally broken down and clued him in, the burden of knowing the real reason they had been targeted finally becoming too much to carry on her own. Buffy had rationalised her keeping it a secret - it had been Lily and James' secret to tell, not hers. Remus hadn't even been angry so much as disappointed, more at himself than at Buffy. "Why is it that the people who are supposed to be my closest friends doesn't feel they can trust me? Do I appear so untrustworthy?" he'd asked self-deprecatingly, obviously having a flashback to when Sirius had accused him of being an agent of Voldemort's, way back then. (And wasn't that ironic?) Buffy had assured him that wasn't the case, and that had been that. Or so Buffy had thought.
Apparently, Remus carried some resentment towards her despite what she'd said. She could feel it now, through the bond, when she was actively searching for it - a sting of emotional pain coupled with a brief twinge of irritation. However, it quickly disappeared, and Buffy narrowed her eyes at her husband, knowing he must have blocked it: it couldn't have disappeared that quickly on its own.
Remus sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I know what you're thinking, but I'm not angry. I know the prophecy was not your secret to tell - I'm being petty and ridiculous, and that's not usually how I am. You know that. Please, let's not fight," he begged. "I'm going to see a lot less of you this year than I'd like and I'm already high-strung from this mess with Sirius."
"We all are," Buffy sighed.
"I assume Sirius knows about the prophecy as well?" Remus asked.
"Unfortunately," Buffy said.
"Great," Remus muttered, rubbing his forehead tiredly. "Like he needed another reason to take Harry to Voldemort."
"What I can't understand," Buffy said slowly, "is if Sirius told Voldemort the prophecy, why did he attack Harry as a baby? If he knew there was the slightest chance he might accidentally 'mark him as his equal,' one would think he'd want to stay as far away as possible and send one of his followers to do the dirty deed."
Remus frowned. "That's a good point. Maybe Sirius didn't have time?"
"He must have," Buffy scoffed. "I'm fairly sure James told him about the prophecy weeks before I did."
"Maybe he didn't know the exact wording. It may not have been obvious to people who didn't know him well, but James did get a bit more paranoid towards...the end." He bit his lip. "Before he and Lily underwent the Fidelius, I mean."
"Maybe," Buffy said, but she was still frowning. "I just can't see James not telling him. Actually, I can, I just can't believe Sirius wouldn't have demanded to hear the whole thing, and that's even if I take the fact he was working for Voldemort out of the equation. He would still have wanted to know exactly what Lily, James and Harry had gotten themselves into. And if not then, he would have insisted on full disclosure under the pretence he had to know before he could agree to being the Secret Keeper. So if he didn't before, he would have had plenty to tell Voldemort the night he betrayed them."
"Well, maybe Sirius was double-crossing both sides?" Remus suggested, though he seemed hesitant. "Maybe he didn't care who won as long as he was alive at the end of it, and decided to take a wait-and-see approach to the whole prophecy thing?"
"Even you don't believe that!" Buffy exclaimed. "Say what you want about Sirius, but once he committed to something, he did so fully. Double-crossing both sides is not something he would do, and wait-and-see has never been his style."
"Then I don't know!" Remus threw his hands up. "And I suspect we never will. Sirius motivations, to this day, even after twelve years of dwelling on it, will never make any sense to me."
"More and more of this whole mess makes less sense the more I think about it," Buffy muttered with a sigh. "I don't know either, Re. The closest I can come to a...rational explanation is that some tiny part of Sirius still felt a piece of loyalty for James, at least, and that maybe, by not disclosing the whole prophecy to Voldemort, that part felt he had done his part in paying him back for all their years of friendship. Or something like that. Maybe he just couldn't. He adored Harry. At least I thought he did. And Sirius was practically James' brother.
"Which makes the whole thing so much worse," Remus sighed. "Can we change the subject, please? If we continue to talk about this, I fear I'll have to cut this conversation short to go to my bed and cry or something."
"Seconded," Buffy sighed. She took a deep breath. "Did you see your sister during the feast?" she asked, making an attempt to look more upbeat.
Remus breathed in and out deeply a few times, visibly collecting himself. "Yes," he finally said. "And on the train."
"On the train?" Buffy exclaimed in genuine surprise. "Did you share a compartment?"
Remus shook his head, inwardly preparing himself for telling Buffy what had happened on the Hogwarts Express, as well as her reaction to it. "No. You won't believe what happened - "
Sirius' tongue lolled out of his mouth and he panted heavily, his tail hanging low. His entire body hurt, his paws must of all, from walking for so long. And he had been forced to take a lot more stops than he'd planned to, to take cover from bad weather for days at a time, break into various Muggle homes to steal food in addition to the raw meat from the animals he had captured in the wild as Padfoot, since he was unable to cook anything, and simply rest. He really wasn't in a very good shape at all. But finally he had made it.
Before him was Hogsmeade, the lights coming from the streetlamps and inside the buildings of the village beckoning him forwards. Slowly, Sirius trotted down the main street in his Animagus form. His stomach growled as he passed the Three Broomsticks when the smell of Rosmerta's cooking reached his sensitive nose, but he did not stop.
Instead, he headed down the smaller alley that was located almost opposite the inn, walking towards the Shrieking Shack. Once inside, Sirius transformed back and sank to his knees as memories of years long gone began to overwhelm him.
Sirius emaciated form trembled as he remembered the times the Marauders had helped Remus through the full moon, but no tears came. He was still too numb, too desensitised from the long Dementor exposure to cry.
Slowly, Sirius got to his feet and sunk down onto the four-poster bed in the room, the only piece of furniture that was not broken, though its hangings were covered in dust. No one had been here in years, but Sirius still knew he could not stay in the Shrieking Shack. It would not be safe. It was too well known, and his old friends - Remus and Buffy - knew he spent time here as a student and they might already have tipped of the Aurors. But just for tonight, he would take the risk and sleep on a real bed. Tomorrow, he would head out again.
Sirius' eyes drooped closed, and sleep took him.
Published: 22/08- 13
(1). Harassing someone because you are secretly attracted to them, like a school boy pulling the pigtails of a girl he has a crush on.
(2). The password is another name for aconite, or wolfsbane - the main ingredient in the Wolfsbane potion.
(3). The description of how to get to the Slytherin common room and what it looks like has been deduced from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Pottermore.
(4). At Pottermore, when you get sorted into Gryffindor, Percy Weasley holds a welcoming speech for the new first years. As the Pottermore timeline seems to follow Harry's, this means he was a fifth-year Prefect at this point. From this, I deduced that all welcoming speeches are made by fifth-year Prefects. In the HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban video game, it is implied that one of the dungeon corridor Slytherin Prefects was also on the Quidditch team, so I narrowed down the Prefects to Quidditch members. Of the known Slytherin Quidditch members who would have been in fifth year during Prisoner of Azkaban (Miles Bletchley, Adrian Pucey, Graham Montague, C. Warrington) , I named Adrian Pucey as the Prefect, as, going by book canon, he seems to be the one with the least questionable morals.
(5). The Prefect's speech is greatly inspired by/construed from the speech given to new Slytherin students at Pottermore.
(6). Gemma Farley is the Slytherin Prefect who gives the welcoming speech to new first years at Pottermore. Since the Pottermore timeline follows Harry's, this means she is now a seventh-year, but not Head Girl, since that's Penelope Clearwater at this point in time.
(7). Once again, the description of the Slytherin dormitories are from the welcoming speech for Slytherin students at Pottermore.