Chapter 3 : Chapter 3: The Cloak
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“I envy you Remus,” sighed Sirius. “I can’t believe you finished it all two hours ago.”
“It’s utterly pointless,” complained James. “Everything I’m writing, I’ve been able to do in class. Why the hell do I need to know the theory?” he asked rhetorically. Both boys were swamped by masses of homework, which, naturally, they’d left until the last minute. Remus, organised as he was, had finished long ago, and while Peter had far less, probably due to the fact he’d done some work while James and Sirius had been stuck in detention, he was much slower than James and Sirius-James reckoned they’d probably all finish at the same time. So Remus was probably extremely bored, which was likely why he was staring absently out the window. “Remus?” James said lightly.
“Because the theory is part of your exam?” Remus suggested quietly. He didn’t look too good-maybe the others hadn’t noticed, but James was more observant when it came to his friends. Remus was slightly pale, his eyes had a hint of worry, or apprehension in them, and he looked totally distracted.
“Are you okay mate?” said James quietly. Remus seemed to snap out of his stupor instantly, panic flashing across his face, making him look far older than he really was.
“Now you mention it,” he muttered. “I do feel a little peaky…I’m gonna go see Madam Pomfrey.” He stood up abruptly, and before James could say another word he’d charged out the door.
“Wonder what his problem was,” said James curiously, staring at the portrait hole Remus had disappeared from.
“He told you,” Peter replied blankly. “He was sick.”
“Yes, but-” James began, but then he saw that Sirius had fallen into a sort of stupor as he scribbled, while Peter looked thoroughly cheerful, as though nothing strange had just happened. James knew better, however. There was something not quite right with Remus, and he was sure he wasn’t just feeling peaky.
His concerns were proven when Remus didn’t reappear until lunch on Monday, looking haggard and exhausted.
“You look terrible,” James commented as Remus sat next to him without a word of greeting. “Pumpkin pasty?” he offered.
“Thanks,” said Remus quietly. “Did I miss anything in defence?” he asked, and James noticed he was instantly getting away from his strange, albeit fairly brief, absence.
“We’re with the Slytherins,” Sirius said darkly. “Robards told Snivellus he knew far too many curses for an eleven year old.”
“Makes sense,” grunted James. “Clearly comes from a bad bunch,” he muttered, glaring across at Snape, who was in deep conversation with two other Slytherin first years James knew only as Mulciber and Avery. While not as bad as Snape, in James’s mind at least, they were both shady characters, and James had promised himself that once he learnt some good hexes, he wasn’t ever going to pass up an opportunity to make them suffer.
“According to Lily, he’s not actually that bad, although his parents are awful,” Remus said carefully.
“When did you talk to Evans?” James asked curiously, fighting to keep the jealously out of his voice.
“We have to work together in Herbology,” Remus replied. “Since professor Sprout won’t let Peter work with his friends after he knocked over the baby mandrakes and half the class fainted.”
“Peter’s faint was spectacular,” commented Sirius, grinning at the memory. “Didn’t you knock the same tooth out as the one on the train?”
“It’s lucky I know that charm,” James laughed. “God knows how many times I’ll have to use it on you Pete.”
“I don’t need protecting,” whined Peter. “You could teach me it?” he suggested.
“You think I was born yesterday?” grinned James. “That’d take all the fun out of it.”
“It was worth a try,” Peter replied, grinning meekly. “Hey James, isn’t that your owl?” he asked curiously. Indeed it was-the Potter family owl, an enormous barn owl that James had christened Toby when he was four. The name had stuck, much to his father’s amusement. Toby dropped a letter into James’s lap, before soaring away, squawking at a dozy looking screech owl that crossed his flight path.
“It’s from Dad,” James said curiously. He sliced the seal with his butter knife and pulled out the letter.
I’m afraid I have some rather bad news. Last night, while on a surveillance mission, your Uncle Jack was killed by Death Eaters. I know you know what they are, I’ve heard about Dumbledore’s speech. I’m so sorry Jimmy, your mother and I will arrive at three o clock today to collect you-the funeral is tomorrow.
All my love, Dad.
James held the letter in numb shock. His uncle, his father’s brother, the deputy head of the Auror department…gone? It couldn’t be real. Ignoring the questioning glances of the others, he tore from his seat all the way back to his dormitory, where he collapsed on his bed and allowed his body to be wracked by sobs, shuddering as he did. He didn’t know how long he’d been there, until a quiet voice interrupted the silence.
“I’m sorry for your loss, James.” He looked up, startled. Standing in the doorway was none other than Albus Dumbledore-his face looked older than usual, his eyes sad. In that instance, James knew the old man understood. “Jack Potter was a good Auror, and a better man. His loss will be felt throughout the community,” Dumbledore said, sitting down on Sirius’s bed and facing James. “Your parents will be here soon, I thought I should warn you,” he added.
“What do these people want, professor?” James asked quietly.
“Power,” said Dumbledore simply. “Although I suspect Lord Voldemort is after a far greater goal,” he mused, almost to himself. James’s curiosity won out over his grief for a moment.
“What’s that sir?” he asked. Dumbledore glanced at him over his half-moon spectacles, and James got the impression that those brilliant blue eyes were boring right through him, examining every inch of his very soul, as though making sure James was suitable for the information he’d asked for.
“Immortality,” Dumbledore said finally. “Although I’m reasonably sure it’s impossible, he is probably one of the few wizards capable of doing so.”
“Why do people have to die for it?” James asked quietly. “It seems so…wrong.”
“And yet, so right,” Dumbledore replied. “In a beautifully tragic way.”
“I don’t understand,” said James quietly.
“Nor would I expect you too,” said Dumbledore calmly. “You are too young for now. One day, perhaps, you will understand why sacrifice is necessary. Until then, I can only tell you that death is the greatest adventure undertaken by any of us. Your uncle died fighting for something he believed in-is there a greater cause?” With that, Dumbledore got to his feet, smiling fleetingly. “I shall see you at the funeral,” he added sadly, before disappearing out the room. And, James reflected, he was right. His Uncle Jack had given his life in service to their world-he shouldn’t mourn, he should be proud. And that was what James Potter decided to do.
The sky was black as Charlus Potter read out his older brother’s eulogy. He read it with gritted teeth-the Minister had forbidden him to reveal the true nature of his brother’s death-they didn’t want to send the public into panic. He’d told James this before the start of the service, and James shared his father’s fury. How could the public not know of his uncle’s sacrifice? How could they not know what he was fighting against? It was just…wrong. The fury coursed through him as he stood there, in the pouring rain, the droplets on his face disguising the tears that trickled down his cheeks, which to James was a good thing-he was determined not to show the pain in his heart.
His father finished his speech, and stepped down from the podium. The coffin began to lower into the ground. As it did, the weather seemed to change. There was windy, rain, hail and sleet all at once-it was like the elements themselves were in mourning. A fitting send off, James reasoned sadly, unlike the one the Ministry had allowed Charlus to make.
As James tried to mingle at the reception, as a child from such a revered and respectable family should, he noticed his father, Alastor Moody, the head of the Auror office, Elphias Dodge and Albus Dumbledore deep in conversation, looking concerned about something. Slinking over towards them, feigning interest in the buffet beside them, he managed to catch their conversation.
“We must start counteracting this threat,” Dumbledore was saying firmly.
“How?” growled Moody. “We don’t have the numbers.”
“We aren’t outnumbered yet,” Elphias replied. “But we will be if we do not act quickly.”
“We have conviction,” said Dumbledore firmly. “We must fight. We must form this Order.”
“I agree,” said Charlus quietly. “I’ll do anything to bring justice to the bastards that killed Jack.”
“Well said Charlus,” said Dumbledore sagely. “We can meet at your house. Gather up everyone you trust…” James, however, was prevented from hearing the rest of their conversation by his mother.
“Jamie?” she said sharply. “You’ve already eaten enough. Come over here and talk to Mrs Longbottom.” James groaned inwardly-Augusta Longbottom, Frank’s mother, was a scary old woman who was fiercely proud of her family, and would drill James for every achievement or misdemeanour he’d ever accomplished. She scared him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw his father glancing nervously at him, and he wondered whether or not he knew James had heard the conversation. Still, James didn’t have time to dwell on it-he was forced into polite conversation, and when he turned back, the little group had disappeared.
“James,” said a voice, barely above a whisper, from the trees. James, careful not to draw attention to himself, slowly turned round. His father was beckoning him. “Come here,” he muttered. “I have something for you.”
“What is it?” said James curiously, joining his father in the shadows.
“This,” said Charlus, handing him a silvery, almost liquid like cloak. “It’s Jack and mine’s invisibility cloak,” he explained. “It’s been in our family for generations, since the Peverells in fact.” James let the cloak slide through his hands-it was unbelievable quality; one of the most beautiful things James had ever seen.
“It’s mine?” he said quietly.
“We both agreed, before Jack’s death, that you would find far more uses for it,” Charlus replied, smiling lightly. “I have faith you’ll use it well.” And with that, he was gone, leaving James standing in the shadows, clutching the priceless gift.
Over the next few weeks, Dumbledore’s words replayed over and over again in James’s mind. “Gather up everyone you trust…” James considered it. He didn’t trust many people, but if there was anybody, it was his parents and his three best friends. He reckoned that they’d sooner wear Slytherin colours than sell him out.
“I learnt a good hex while you were away,” said Sirius cheerfully as the two of them trotted down a corridor-Remus and Peter had blown up their cauldron in potions and Professor Slughorn was forcing them to clean the entire classroom for their trouble. “It gives people antlers.”
“That’s useful,” commented James, chuckling.
“Very,” replied, Sirius, grinning. “You know, I reckon you’d look good with antlers,” he said slowly, twiddling his wand.
“Try it,” threatened James, laughing. “Wait,” he muttered. “Listen.” There were voices floating down the corridor…one of them was Dumbledore, and the other was McGonagall. Sirius glanced around.
“I’m sure we’re not supposed to be here,” he muttered. He was right-they were on the corridor just a floor below the astronomy tower-out of bounds except during lessons, for no reason James had seen. They were trapped-any second now, Dumbledore and McGonagall were going to come around that corner and walk straight into them. Unless…
“Here,” whispered James, grabbing Sirius and pulling close, despite his muffled protests. Ignoring him, James threw the invisibility cloak over them.
“You must be joking,” Sirius hissed in amazement, fingering the soft fabric. “Where did you-”
“SHUSH,” James growled. The cloak didn’t make them silent. Dumbledore and McGonagall came around the corner; Dumbledore looked his usual, serene self, while McGonagall looked stressed.
“How can you be sure anything is wrong in the first place, Albus?” McGonagall asked.
“Minerva my dear,” he sighed. “Please do not insult your own intelligence as well as mine by pretending you haven’t noticed something gone amiss?” She sighed.
“No,” she admitted. “Although I wish I could.”
“Pretending a problem doesn’t exist does not help it,” said Dumbledore quietly as the two teachers passed where James and Sirius were pressed up against a wall. “We must take action,” he insisted.
“We should follow them,” muttered James, and Sirius nodded his agreement. They followed the two teachers for a while, although they did not converse. James was about to suggest they give up and head back to the common room when McGonagall spoke.
“Why would you want me?” she said reluctantly. “I’m no fighter.”
“Ah,” said Dumbledore quietly. “That is where you are wrong. Consider my offer. The Order of the Phoenix needs people to fight.” And with that, he was gone, barely a swish of his robes visible. McGonagall stood there, looking slightly confused, before walking off herself.
“What’s the Order of the Phoenix?” Sirius asked quietly, once they’d made sure the coast was clear.
“I’m not sure,” said James slowly. “But, I reckon it’s possible that it’s a force Dumbledore, Moody and my Dad are trying to put together to fight Voldemort.”
“What makes you think that?” Sirius asked as they took the cloak off.
“Heard it through the grapevine,” said James, shrugging and avoiding the question. Sirius didn’t press the matter-he was too busy looking around the corridor they were in.
“James?” he said slowly. “Where the bloody hell are we?” James joined Sirius in looking around-he had to admit, he had no idea-they’d definitely not been here before, he’d have recognised the enormous painting of a fruit bowl they were standing next too. “Nice painting,” Sirius muttered, noticing James staring at it. “What do we do?”
“Dunno,” said James. “We could try retracing our steps?” he suggested, as he ran his hands along the painting. As he brushed over the pear, it giggled. James leapt back in surprise, colliding with Sirius and leaving them both flat on the floor.
“What did you do?” hissed Sirius as the pear stopped giggling.
“I don’t-Look!” James shouted. The portrait had opened, revealing a small passageway.
“Brilliant,” said Sirius, shaking his head. “You tickled a bloody pear and found a secret passageway.”
“I bet nobody’s ever said that before in human history,” chuckled James. “Well, let’s go through?”
“Shouldn’t we get Peter and Remus first?” Sirius replied.
“We’d never find this place again,” James pointed out. “Let’s go.” He stepped through the doorway, and Sirius followed him through. They quickly came to an enormous, high ceilinged room that strongly resembled the great hall, although without the enchanted ceiling. Even the four large house tables were there, although that was where the similarities ended. The room was jam packed with house elves, who bustled around furiously, cleaning and cooking.
“James,” said Sirius, awestruck. “You’ve only gone and found the school kitchens!” James grinned-he was right, and by the looks of it, the elves were busy preparing the dinner they’d soon be serving. “We must be right below the Great Hall,” Sirius added. “There must be some kind of charm that sends it up from those tables.”
“You sound like Remus,” James laughed.
“Remus reads it. I, on the other hand, guess,” Sirius replied, winking. “Wonder if they’d give us some food…” he muttered.
“Probably,” James replied. “But it’s nearly dinner time,” he reminded him.
“So?” Sirius shrugged. “We can have a stash of food in the dormitory. Plus, Remus and Peter will never believe us if we don’t bring something back,” he reasoned.
“Fine,” James replied. “Ask one of them.”
“Okay…Hey, you?!” Sirius shouted, and the closest elf looked up at them, before bumbling over, and bowing low.
“Greetings Masters,” he croaked. “How can Dippy serve you today?”
“You don’t need to bow, I don’t own you,” James said nervously. At home, his house elf Berry was treated like one of the family, although he still frequently bowed to James’s mother. “Could you possibly give us some spare food? We want to prove to our friends we’ve found this place, and we’ll never find our way back.”
“Of course sirs!” squeaked Dippy. “And Dippy will help sirs get back to the Great Hall,” he added. “If that’s what sirs want?”
“Call me James,” James said kindly. “And this is Sirius,” he added quickly. “That’d be great, thanks.”
Ten minutes later, James and Sirius, their bags stuffed full of cakes and chocolate, reached the entrance to the Great Hall, led by Dippy. Before James could thank him, however, the little elf had disappeared.
“Funny things aren’t they?” said Sirius, looking at the space where the elf had been. “It’s still a while before dinner, we could go stash this stuff in the dormitory and come back down after?” he suggested.
“Good idea,” James replied. “I don’t want to squash my sponge cake.”
“You don’t know how weird that sounds, coming from you,” laughed Sirius as they headed towards Gryffindor tower. “So, we’ve discovered a pretty cool secret today,” Sirius commented. “I hope we can find it again some time.”
“We should’ve marked our way somehow,” sighed James, as they slipped through a shortcut Fabian had showed them. Sirius stopped dead, and James nearly ran into the back of him.
“That’s it,” he said quietly.
“What’s it?” said James blankly.
“Remember our first transfiguration lesson?” Sirius asked, striding forward, his excitement growing.
“The one we were incredibly late too and McGonagall was a cat?” James replied, growing more confused by the second.
“Yeah, but we were late because we got lost!” Sirius exclaimed, turning to James, waiting for him to latch on to the idea.
“Sirius, if you don’t get to the bloody point soon I’m going to turn your ears into cabbages,” James grumbled. “What’re you talking about?”
“We need to make a map!” Sirius exclaimed. “Draw out every corridor, room, passageway we can find and label it all up. We’ll never get lost again!”
“That’s what you got so excited for?” sighed James. “Making a bloody map?”
“But with all the secret little ways we’ve found,” Sirius explained patiently. “It’d be brilliant!”
“We haven’t found any, Sirius,” James reminded him. “We’ve been shown them by the twins and Avery.”
“Still, I bet they haven’t bothered to map it out,” Sirius insisted. “I bet Remus and Peter will agree with me,” he added, pouting slightly.
“Fine,” sighed James. “We’ll make your bloody map. Though Merlin knows how much use it’ll ever be.”
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