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Chapter 17 The Not So Secret Service Claire and Ande were shocked by what their friends told them that Sunday morning. In addition to the mysterious and rather dubious disappearance of their friend Amy, they also learned that fanatical werewolf hunters had been spotted flying near the schools. Due to the extensive protection put on to the boys’ and girls’ schools they hadn’t yet been spotted but nerves were being stretched thin. All of the werewolves were terrified that they would be discovered and the headmaster and the headmistress were discussing closing the two schools down. After talking for over an hour the twins wished their friends safety and said goodbye for the day. Both sisters were reluctant to see them go but their body guards insisted that they get some more bed rest and would not relent in pestering them until they complied. “Do you think that they’ll really close down the school?” Ande asked her sister nervously after a moment’s silence. “I don’t know,” Claire sighed, “With everything that has been happening recently I’m not really sure of anything anymore.” “Yeah, I know what you mean,” Ande said and her voice broke as a small sob escaped her mouth. The two sisters returned to their agitated silence. Neither Stewart or Manfred were in sight and Claire had a sneaking suspicion that they were hiding somewhere ridiculous again. She stared up at the ceiling and then turned to face Ande. Her sister was laying on her side with her eyes closed. Tears had dried on her pale, bruised face and a few strands of her strawberry blond hair had fallen over her eyes. Claire wasn’t tired herself but she didn’t want to wake her much more injured twin by talking. With a sigh she rolled onto her side to try to get to sleep herself. However, after what seemed like more than a half of an hour she still hadn’t gotten to sleep. She opened her hazel eyes again and decided to risk a few words to her sister. “Ande,” she whispered tentatively, “Ande are you awake?” Claire bit her lip and waited for a response. Ande’s eyelids fluttered open. She gazed curiously at her sister and said, “I’m awake... my brain is to full to get to sleep, especially in the middle of the day. What do you want?” “Well,” she started slowly, “Do you think that dad will be okay? He’s the one that I’m most worried about. I know that he thinks that we’re in more danger than him, and after what just happened I don’t entirely blame him... but I still think that he’s in more trouble than us.” “How so?” “He tries to do too much. He’s worrying about us all of the time, all the while he has to try to diffuse this whole werewolf thing and get on with his other duties as Minister of Magic. He didn’t even take a break from work when Mom died,” Claire explained. She felt her lip quiver at the mention of her mother’s death but she held back the tears. After a deep breath she continued. “I think that he tries to bury himself in is job so that he won’t have to face his emotions but that just puts more of a strain on him. You heard him yelling when he came earlier; I think the stress is really starting to catch up with him.” “But what else can he do? It’s not like he can quit or anything,” Ande replied. “No... I suppose he can’t.” Claire sighed and said, “I just wish everything would go back to the way it used to be.” Before Ande could respond she heard a nervous knock at the end of the hospital wing. The sisters looked over and saw the boys standing at the door. Claire waved them in and they all pulled up some chairs so that they could sit between the two beds. No one said anything at first. Peter was fidgeting nervously; news of Mark being jumped by Stewart had spread through Hogwarts and now he was afraid he would suffer the same fate. Remus didn’t seem to want to intrude so he also remained silent. There was a smile on Sirius’s face but it seemed very much forced. The only one who seemed at ease was James, despite his cousins’ pathetic condition. “I see you ate all of the food we brought you,” He said light-heartedly. “Madame Pomfrey didn’t want us to bring it in. You’d almost think she didn’t want to contaminate her pristine ward or something.” Claire smiled and replied, “It was delicious. Thank you guys for bringing it though I must admit Ande and I were interested in knowing how exactly you managed to procure it.” “That,” James said, “Is our little secret.” Silence once again crept into the room. Despite the brave face James had put on he still felt awkward. It was hard for him to see the girls like this. They were usually so tough he didn’t think he would ever see them so helpless. He could still remember seeing them both black-out and fearing that they were dead. Then to see the fury and sadness in his uncle’s eyes’ at seeing their condition, James thought it was all almost to much to bear for a single weekend. Remus decided it was better if they all continued speaking so he asked, “Are you two feeling any better?” “A little, I suppose,” Claire said. “I get some satisfaction knowing I took a chunk out of one of those Death Eaters.” “Well, I can’t quite say the same but it’s better having you guys here to talk to,” Ande added. “See Moony, I said that they’d be happy to see us,” James chided. “Of course we’re glad you’re here,” Ande said. “We’re happy to have any visitors that we can. In fact, if you guys had come a little earlier you would have seen some of our friends from America. There were nearly twenty of them piled up in that fireplace over there.” This information was enough to grab Sirius’s attention. “Wuh...” He said, sounding like he had just woken up. “Did someone just say that there were twenty girls piled on top of each other? In this very room? Geeze, I said that we should have come earlier.” Claire and Ande laughed happily. They felt much lighter now and hoped that the boys would stay until they fell asleep again. The sooner they were alone the sooner dark thoughts would creep back into their minds. Ande tried to prop herself onto her pillows so that she could talk to them more easily. “They were quite keen about talking to you Remus,” she said with a grin. “Why? You didn’t tell them that I’m a-” “Oh no. We didn’t mention you by name but they asked if we knew any cute- Ow! What was that for?” Claire had thrown one of her pillows at Ande and now had a finger pressed to her lips to tell her to be quiet. Ande looked at her sibling quizzically but complied anyway. The boys followed suit and waited to see what Claire was up to. Much to everyone’s surprise she suddenly yelled out, “Help! The Death Eaters are here to finish us off!” This odd action was explained when Stewart and Manfred jumped into view. Manfred had piled cloaks on top of himself so that he had looked like a coat rack and Stewart had hidden inside of a bedpan that he had bewitched to be larger inside. Both had their wands drawn and were looking around frantically for the attackers. When they saw none they stalked angrily over to the girls. “That is not a wise thing to do,” Stewart scolded Claire. The young girl just rolled her eyes. “I told you guys to stay outside. You can easily guard the door and not invade our privacy. So beat it,” she said. “Oh, and Stu, don’t hide in a bedpan... it’s just gross. Now go take a shower or something.” Stewart flushed red but knew better than to talk back. He and Manfred stalked out of the hospital wing and slammed the door behind them. Everyone burst into laughter at the ridiculous scene. Peter relaxed slightly now that he no longer had to fear a body-guard attack. Claire made absolutely sure that they had gone and smiled triumphantly. “I didn’t want them eavesdropping, especially if we’re going to be talking about the fact that Remus is a werewolf,” Claire said with tears still in her eyes from the memory of Stewart popping out of the bedpan. “It’s not that they have anything against werewolves, I just think that the less people who know, the better.” Ande cleared her throat, trying to hold back laughter. “Where was I... oh yeah. Well, at our friends’ insistence we told them that there was a cute werewolf attending school here and they seemed quite eager to meet you.” Remus blushed at being referred to as cute and Sirius elbowed him jokingly in the ribs. James’s face turned suddenly serious and everyone expected that he was going to say something about the attack the previous night. Instead, much to everybody’s surprise he said, “Claire, we need you at Quidditch practice.” Claire’s jaw dropped in surprise. She definitely hadn’t been expecting James to ask her to come back to practice in such condition. Apparently Sirius felt the same way. He slapped his best friend lightly in the back of the head, jarring his glasses. “James, you said you weren’t going to bring that up,” he growled. With a scowl, James rubbed the back of his head, obviously thinking he had been wronged. He straightened his glasses and ran his hands through his already ruffled hair. “But we really do need her there,” he protested. “As captain of the finest Quidditch team in Hogwarts history- no small thanks to yours truly- I will not allow my Chaser to be deprived of practice.” “You big git, no one’s ‘depriving’ her of practice,” Sirius said, “She’s held up in the hospital wing with serious injuries. She needs to rest.” “Oh that’s nonsense. She can walk it off,” James countered. “Walk it off?! How could walking ever help an injury? Does that ever work ?” “Of course it works. It’s a documented fact.” “Really? Then give me one example.” “Fine... I will. Er, in the 1934 Quidditch match between, um, France and, uh, Uganda, the Seeker on the French team... Jadore Fromage... he got decapitated by a Bludger and then walked that off.” “What?! That doesn’t even make... it’s not even... aaah! Do you even listen to yourself talk sometimes?” “Oh, don’t believe me huh? Then let’s go test it outside.” “QUIET!” Claire shouted. James and Sirius, who had both gotten out of their seats, looked sheepishly at Claire. Realizing how stupid they had been acting, they sat back in their chairs. Claire huffed moodily and with crossed arms said, “Now, as the Chaser in question I think I should have a word in all of this. I thought about it while you two were making fools of yourselves and I have decided that I will come back to practice.” James let out a whoop of triumph but was quickly silenced when Claire held up a finger to show that she had more. “But I’m not coming today. I’ll be there on Tuesday for our next practice.” James looked slightly put-out but still seemed pleased. Ande, however, looked rather unhappy. “I didn’t even think about Quidditch,” she said. “There’s no way I can make it to practice any time soon. I’d be too sore.” “Don’t worry about it,” Remus said. “The match this next weekend is Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff. You’ll be fine by the time Ravenclaw has its first game.” Ande smiled and blinked her eyes wearily. Her eyes itched and she realized that the six of them had been talking for some time. Claire noticed that her sister was getting tired so she told the boys that they should probably leave for the day. They agreed and put the chairs they had taken back into their places. “I hope we see you at breakfast tomorrow,” Peter said then jumped into the air with a squeak when he bumped into Manfred outside the door. He scurried passed and the others boys laughed as they followed after him. After they left, James and the others were feeling well enough to attend the evening meal instead of in their dormitories and departed to join their classmates where they knew they were going to be bombarded with unpleasant questions. As they walked together down to the Great Hall, a girl appeared around a corner and she wore a bright smile when she saw them. It was Lily. She ran over, and stopped in front of Remus. “Oh my gosh, you guys, are you all right? Dumbledore told us at breakfast what had happened and I couldn’t believe it! Are you sure you’re okay?” “We’ll live,” said Sirius with a smirk, “But really, Lily, you didn’t have to come all this way just to see me.” She actually smiled at his snide remark and then turned her attention to James. “I came to see all of you but I was wondering if I could speak with James for a moment?” His friends nodded but continued to stare at each other for a few moments until Remus finally got the hint, “Oh, privately you mean. Well chaps, we best... er... head down to dinner then.” Sirius slugged James in the arm before departing and gave him a wink. They walked to the end of the hall and turned a corner, although they huddled behind the wall, eager to hear every word. Lily looked at James sympathetically and took in his battered features. He still had a black eye and the right side of he face was raw from being ground into the rocks. She reached out to touch his face and asked, “What did they do to you?” He jerked away from her hand, a scowl etched on his face. “Nothing, I’m fine,” he responded coldly. Lily’s hand returned to her side. She asked, “And your cousins? How are they fairing?” “They’re fine too,” he snapped. Lily finally lost her temper and yelled, “James, what the hell is your problem?!” “My problem?! What were you thinking when you came up here?” “I-” “You came up here just to see me bloody in the hospital wing so you could ridicule me and say, ‘I told you so, James. I told you you were irresponsible and arrogant.’” “That’s not what I-” “Then what?! You don’t care about anyone but yourself and came up here just to boost your ego!” Off down the hallway, Sirius cringed. “What is that nutter doing?” he asked quietly, “He’s blowing his big chance!” Lily gaped in shock and her temper raged to a new level. “Look who’s talking Mr. I’m So Perfect Because I’m The Best Seeker In The School! Mr. I Get The Best Grades So No One’s Worthy Of Me! Don’t talk to me about ego! I see you ridiculing Peter every day about how he struggles in the same classes that you find easy. I see how you trample all over Samantha in front of her friends about how she’s not as good as you in Quidditch. It makes me sick to think that not a single shred of compassion for another human being can penetrate that thick skull of yours!!” He frowned at her, “Is this what you came up here to say? Because I swear, fighting Death Eaters is easier than trying to listen to your shrieking!” He turned away from her and began walking in the opposite direction, set on never talking to her again. She screamed after him, “Do you know why I came up here?” He kept walking. “I came to say I’m sorry!!!” James froze. All rage that was once clouding his mind melted away. Could he have possibly heard her correctly? His heart began to thump madly in his chest as he heard her slowly approach him from behind. “I’m sorry,” she said again, “When I heard about the attack, I thought the worst, so did everybody. I thought I would never see you again and all I could think about was how I have been so rude to you all these years. And if I wasn’t able to atone for that, I probably wouldn’t be able to live with myself.” James soaked in every word and he was finding it more and more difficult to breath. He could feel sweat trickle down his face and wondered if someone had turned up the heat. “When I heard that you were all right, I had to come and see you. I just had to.” James turned to her then, a blank stare meeting her gaze. He saw a look of sincerity in her gaze and couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from her emerald green ones. She wasn’t blubbering or in a fit of tears. She wasn’t stumbling over her words and she wasn’t fidgeting while she spoke. Lily just continued to stare him down, even if she was shorter, and that impressed him. He could finally tell that she wasn’t just some pretty girl who swooned over every boy that passed her by. He could feel her fiercely-strong will, and could see why the Sorting Hat had placed her in Gryffindor their first year. He cleared his throat and after saying the words over and over again in his mind, he said the little phrase that he thought would never escape his lips. “I’m sorry too.” Sirius turned to the others and said, “Did we just hear him correctly? Maybe those Death Eaters possessed him.” “To make him nice?” criticized Remus. Sirius continued to listen intently. “You never know how Death Eater minds work Moony.” Lily gaped at him for a second and then said, “What?” James ran a trembling hand through his hair and looked at the floor. “Er... well, yeah, thanks for dropping by. I... I have to go.” He rushed passed her quickly, eager to get out of the awkward situation. He broke into a fast trot and she yelled after him, “I’ll see you at dinner then?” “Yeah!” he called back and disappeared around a corner, only to run into all of his friends. They hastily leaned up against the wall casually and tried to appear as if it were coincidence they were there; James knew otherwise and crossed his arms angrily. Sirius formed his hand a mouth with his thumb and forefinger and said in a high pitched voice, “Oh James, I love you. I can’t get enough of your hot bod.” He then deepened his voice to be James and said, “I love you too baby.” Next he pretended to make out with his hand, making absurd smacking noises. While Remus and Peter found the impression hilarious, James was not quite so amused. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at Sirius’ hand. Sirius was a bit too occupied to notice this so continued on with his little joke, unaware that it was about to turn against him. James sent some small pink sparks flying into his best friend’s hand and it suddenly got a mind of its own. Once Sirius noticed that his hand was kissing back, he screamed in horror and attempted to hold it at bay with his opposite arm. But by depriving the magical hand from finding a pair of lips, it swung to the right and tried to plant itself on Peter’s. The portly boy dodged out of the way in the nick of time so Sirius’ hand smacked straight into the wall behind. Just then Nearly-Headless Nick came floating out of the wall in that exact spot. “Young man, I’m sure that there are plenty of young ladies that would happily take the place of that hand or maybe you would better profit from a cold shower,” the ghost advised. As he glided by Sirius muttered to James, “You better sleep with one eye open tonight, Jimmy boy.” After that memorable weekend, things continued to be odd for the twins. Everywhere they went, Stewart and Manfred followed afterward. They crowded in on the girls from both sides, plowing passed people in the corridors and not apologizing for knocking their books to the floor. Claire and Ande blushed profusely as they went to each class, feeling remarkably stupid about having two big oafs lumbering around them at all hours of the day. Insults were ceaselessly muttered at them by the Slytherins and most people seemed to think that they were just trying to show off by having bodyguards. If either of the adult wizards heard these insults and accusations they would brandish their wands at them and threaten to turn them into dried-up blowfish. Claire and Ande could only laugh awkwardly whenever this happened and hurry away, insisting that the two men were only kidding (which of course they were not). During Transfiguration class on Monday, Manfred and Stu insisted on doing all of the transfiguration work for the girls. Ordinarily the sisters would have found not doing their transfiguration an extreme relief, but under those circumstances they would have much rather have done it themselves then be gawked at by their classmates. Professor McGonagall told them off as soon as she noticed. The twins insisted that they had told their bodyguards not to do their work for them but she seemed leery about believing them due to their previous history in the class. “You will never get any better at this class if you don’t start applying yourselves,” the angry Professor said. “Now I must insist that these men leave my class room.” Claire and Ande were happy to oblige but their bodyguards were less compliant. “We can not leave their sides,” Manfred said. “They would be put into a compromised position if we did so.” “What danger could they possibly be in while they are in my classroom?” “We have noticed, ma’am, that you are quite irritable. You may threaten our charges if they are left on their own,” Stewart responded. “Excuse me?!” she bellowed. “Fine, if you’re glued to my students, perhaps you can explain to their father why I will continue to throw them out of my class to be rid of you.” A moment later, the girls and their bodyguards found themselves looking at the outside of the classroom door. “Thanks a lot, Manwhich,” growled Ande. “Why couldn’t you just leave like she asked?” “I cannot compromise your life by leaving you in the care of an unstable woman such as that,” he responded. Ande frowned and started, “Compromise this-” She was about to throw him a rude gesture but Claire managed to calm her down and lead her away. That night at dinner the girls had no more luck convincing their hired muscle to leave them in peace. While they were eating at the Gryffindor table Sirius made the mistake of trying to fling some mashed potatoes at Claire only to have the food blasted out of the air by Stewart. Then he was tackled to the ground and he had his arm pinned behind his back until the bodyguard wrenched the spoon out of his hand. Once the utensil was in custody it was melted down to a smoldering heap. Sirius warily retook his seat and quickly ate the rest of his meal without even glancing at the girls. Sirius wasn’t the only one to halt conversation with the twins. All the friends the girls had made at Hogwarts quickly held their tongues around them for fear one slip might unleash the American men upon them. Claire and Ande no longer received humorous notes in the middle of class because Stu and Manny would make sure to confiscate them. The only place the girls had managed to keep their guards out of was the girls’ bathroom, and even that took ten minutes of deliberation before anyone complied. When night time finally came around, the girls sadly parted ways with each other. Now they only had their respective bodyguards to keep them company and that was definitely not a reassuring thought. Ande resolved to lose Manfred before she got into the Ravenclaw common room so that she would at least have a chance of talking to her friends before morning came and she was plagued with his presence again. As she neared the entrance she quickened her pace. Soon she was running at full speed and momentarily lost sight of Manny. She quickly gave the statue the password and was admitted inside just in time to wave to her guard as the entranceway closed behind her. While she caught her breath, she heard the wizard bellowing angrily outside and was surprised to hear him try to break his way in. This futile attempt was soon followed by his shrieks as the statue tried to fight him off. Ande hugged her side, aching from her sprint, and made her way up to her room, eager for one night of peace at last. Back in the Gryffindor common room, Claire had less luck. She had been unable to evade Stewart at the portrait of the fat lady and was now trying to convince him of the fact that he could not possibly go up to the girls’ dormitories with her. “Fine then,” Claire said, “Just try and catch me.” She bolted up the stairway soon followed by Stu. She reached her room just as the stairs turned into a slide and sent the man tumbling back down into the common room. He was not going to be deterred by such an obstacle, however. He braced his arms and legs against the walls and attempted to climb his way up. He hadn’t gotten very far, though, before girls in the other rooms started hurling combs and stuffed animals at him. To top things off, Elsa leapt at his face with her claws bared. Stewart tried to block the attack but subsequently lost his grip and fell on his face. The stairway once again turned into a slide, sending him tumbling down once more. At the foot of the stairs, Stewart turned to the boys who were sitting before the fire, chuckling to themselves. He walked over to them and they cringed in fear, expecting some sort of retaliation. To their surprise he had actually come for advice. “You there, Potter, you’ve been attending this institution for a number of years, so tell me, how do you get up those stairs?” James began to laugh even harder and replied, “Hey, if I knew the answer to that, do you think I’d be sitting here?” Stewart growled and stomped away. He settled for standing guard at the bottom of the stairs, glaring at everyone who passed him. Authors' notes: Yeah, we couldn't really find a purpose for this chapter, but perhaps it did provide some comic relief. That Manfred and Stuart, we just can't get enough of them! Hahahaha! You think they're scary now though; wait until they find out that you didn't review us... You'd better do it now before they turn you into dried up blowfish!

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