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Chapter Two: The Face in the Window

The weeks until his birthday crawled by as though on the back of a snail. James read through his textbooks, poring over each word and new spell that he learned with a concentration that he rarely afforded to anything. His family and the law forbade him to do any magic, so he tried to make up for it by reading about the things he could do if he, hypothetically, had been allowed to. His wand sat in a stand on his bedside table, and often during his reading James would gaze at it hopelessly, wishing that he could put it to good use transfiguring Katie into a Horklump.

But finally the day arrived. James half expected trumpets to sound with the rise of the sun, but no such pomp was awarded to the day. He awoke slowly to the smell of a rich breakfast being cooked downstairs. He lay in bed for a while, staring at the carved decorated ceiling above his four-poster. At last he heard Katie's high-pitched voice calling him down to eat. He bounded out of his bed, still in his pyjamas, and dashed down the carpeted stairway until he reached the kitchen.

His family stood cheerfully around the table in their annual fashion, even Katie forced a smile at the sight of James. The happy scene was brightly lit from the picture window across from the table. As per tradition, a gargantuan mound of scrambled eggs were piled high in the middle of the table, eleven candles burning brightly on top of them. He sat down at his place at the table and the rest of the family followed suit.

James looked to his father for confirmation, who smiled and nodded. James closed his eyes and leaned towards the pile of eggs, breathing deeply in the birthday-associated smell of melting wax. Then, with a melodramatic whoosh of air, James made his wish and blew out the candles. He kept his eyes closed for a moment, savouring the sounds of his family clapping and hooting for him.

He opened them and smiled. He looked out the window at the beautiful gardens planted there, lit by the generous sunlight of a summer morning. But James also noticed something else; in the lower right corner of the window was a small bit of fuzzy black hair, above a single barely visible eye that was gazing intently at the food on the table. James smiled and waved, causing the eye to widen and drawing Katie's attention to the window as well. Luckily, before she had the chance to respond, James dashed out of the dining room and outside, grinning broadly all the while.

Just as he had suspected, a small forlorn figure was sitting on the garden wall, absentmindedly plucking petals off of a flower.

"Sirius!" James called out. "Thought you'd surprise me for my birthday, did you!"

The small black-haired boy looked up and raised an eyebrow. "It's your birthday?" He brushed some petals off of his lap. "No, I just felt like seeing a friendly face. I haven't talked to you since the last party your parents hosted."

James frowned. "What's happened to your mirror, then?"

Sirius leaned over and rested his elbows on his knees. "What do you think? Confiscated, just like the other ones. It's hopeless, James. I just don't fit in with my family!" He stood up and scuffed his foot on the ground.

"Sirius, they're your family. You know how important family is!"

"Family, important? Don't try and feed me that bullocks, James. I don't care who my family is, I only care who I am."

James opened his mouth to say something else, but Sirius held a hand up to stop him. "Don't. I came over here for a friend, but it's quite obvious you're on their side." He brushed his hair out of his eyes and started to walk away.

James grabbed the back of his shirt. "Wait, don't go yet. Come inside and have some breakfast. My mum makes the best stuff for birthdays."

Sirius sighed, but it was apparent that the idea tempted him. "Yeah, all right."

* * * *

The Potters, used to by now the random appearances of the Black child, welcomed him with open arms and generous table. Katie seemed a bit miffed at the appearance of one of her brother's childish friends, but tolerated his presence only because it was James's birthday. The rest of the family was quite attentive to the child. Edward Potter in particular asked questions of Sirius, inquiring about his family and activities.

It was he who finally posed the question that had been at the forefront of all of their minds. "So, Sirius, what brings you over here this time?"

Sirius scowled. "It's, er, sort of a long story."

James prodded his friend with his elbow. "We've got time."

Even Katie leaned in with interest as Sirius began.

"Well, Regulus was annoying me, the little prat, as usual." The Potters nodded, they were familiar with the tension between the brothers. "My parents were hosting a small get-together for our family and the Malfoy family, along with their son, who finds himself to be perfection itself, not helped by the fact that he just graduated university. Although, everyone knows the only reason he made it was because his father bribed the teachers to pass him…"

James's mother coughed, "Go on with the story, dear."

Sirius sighed and continued, "And, anyway, as I said, Regulus was annoying me, and I felt it only proper to repay him as I saw fit," he smirked as if laughing at his own genius. "So I strategically placed a partially-filled water balloon on the chair that he was meant to sit…" he coughed, as if to illustrate a climactic pause. "But the guests arrived and the chair was borrowed without permission by Lucius."

"With disastrous results, I assume?" asked Mother.

Sirius sighed at the failure of his prank. "My mum didn't even ask whether or not it was me before punishing me for ruining their dinner." He laid his head on the table, narrowly missing a plate of half-eaten eggs.

James struggled to contain his giggles, but his father's disapproving stare was enough to freeze the sounds in his throat. He whispered something in Sirius's ear. Sirius sat up and breathed a quick, "Thanks for the breakfast, Mrs Potter!" before dashing up the staircase behind James.

Katie snorted. "Boys."

* * * *

James half-dragged his best friend up the stairway to his room, eager to show off his new books and wand.

Sirius, however, acted unimpressed. "We got all my stuff weeks ago. It's been sitting in my drawer, gathering dust."

James gave him a baffled look. "You aren’t the least bit excited about going to Hogwarts?"

Sirius scoffed. "Excited? Oh, yes, so excited to be contained in the same building, possibly even the same house, as my awful cousins and their insufferable…"

"Yeah, yeah. I get the point." James interrupted. He sighed. Then, in typical pre-adolescent boy fashion, he shifted his attention to a couple of dangerous-looking chunks of wood. "Up for a game?"

Sirius grinned and grabbed the largest one. "I think the question is, are you?" He ducked as James swung his weapon around, narrowly missing Sirius's head.

They raced out to the back garden, oblivious to anything but their mock-fighting.

However, the Potters hardly noticed the "battle" screams and demolition of the yard. James's parents and sister were clustered around the wireless, listening intently to the Wizard's News Network.

An authoritative voice boomed out of the speakers, filling the room despite the device's small size. "Hello, wizarding community! I greet you today from Diagon Alley Square as your newly elected Minister for Magic. I assure you that my reign, er, my term as Minister will be one full of jubilation for our listening witches and wizards!" A deafening roar of cheering was heard in the background of the speech. The Minister continued. "First of all, I plan to reinstate important legislation that will ensure the longevity of the wizarding population! Traditions will be strengthened, and new traditions will be created. As Minister of Magic, I plan to take my job seriously! I will raise up those who do great deeds in creating a strong magical community, and condemn those who threaten our livelihoods! I will not let Muggles and their kin intrude upon our world or contemplate us as slaves!" The roar grew so loud that even the Minister's booming voice was lost for a short time. "…forever! For a wizarding world that's safe and clean, you have Gerald MacLean!"

Edward endured some static before turning the knob to the off position. He turned to his wife. "What do you think he could mean by 'Muggles and their kin'?"

Roerva looked a bit unnerved. "As in a Mu --" Roerva caught her breath as she noticed that her thirteen-year-old daughter was right next to her. "…the opposite of what he considers a 'true' wizard, a pureblood."

Katie grinned. "Like we are, of course."

Edward nodded. "Yes, we are pureblood, and proud of it. But this Minister…" he shook his head. "He speaks of 'condemning' them."

Katie looked confused. "We don't associate with Mudbloods, why should we care about them?"

Roerva opened her eyes wide, aghast at her daughter's language. "Dear, we don't use such words in this household."

Edward stepped in to answer his daughter. "We care because they have no less magical ability than you or I and comprise most of our working force. However, we can wait and see where this is headed." Edward's voice wavered a bit. "It sounds as though he's just boasting for the press, nothing to fret about."

"At any rate, our family and all those we care about are safe," Roerva said comfortingly, draping an arm around her daughter and bringing her in with a motherly hug.

Edward didn't echo this statement. He stared at the silent wireless, his eyes glazing over in distracted thought.

A loud crash sounded from the backyard. Roerva started. "Katie, dear, would you tell your brother to please stop destroying the garden?"

Katie grumbled an affirmative and trudged to the door.

Roerva moved closer to her husband, who was still deep in thought. She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Edward?"

Edward shook his head softly, snapping out of his musing. He managed a small smile. "At least the Potters will always be safe."

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