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Author's Note: Yes I'm a bad person! I'm sorry you guys had to wait so long for the next chapter. But the good news is - updates are once again regular! Between one-two weeks.




Chapter Thirty Nine
Lockdown

Halloween morning dawned with black, stormy skies. The treetops in the Forbidden Forest swayed dangerously; some trees were almost bent perpendicular because of the violent winds. The students had been warned to stay away from them, lest the trees fall. Rain was splattering noisily against the windows, making it impossible to see anything through the obscurity. In fact, it was only because a first year Hufflepuff had been foolish enough to open one of the giant double doors to see outside that anyone knew how much the trees were suffering. Needless to say, the Hufflepuff was instantly swept away and it took the combined efforts of Professor Kettleburn and Hagrid to retrieve her from the eye of the storm. Speaking of Professor Kettleburn, he was not deterred in the least by the inclement weather. He still insisted on holding class.

The fourth year Gryffindors and Slytherins rarely agreed on anything, let alone worked on anything together in harmony. Today, however, was a special day, one that temporarily changed this fact. They were wet, soaked completely through to the skin. Their hair was plastered unpleasantly to their heads. Their noses were dripping continuously. They were shivering unpleasantly. More or less, they were mad, uncomfortable, mad, saturated, and mad. They wanted revenge on their professor, and they wanted it badly. The only problem was that they didn’t know how to get it. It would be wrong to take it out on the Nifflers they were working with. The Nifflers hadn’t caused them anything problems (with the exception of one trying determinedly to snatch away Lily’s earrings).

Professor Kettleburn had excused himself inside Hagrid’s cabin for a moment, to deposit Lily’s earrings with Hagrid, well out of the reach of the magical creatures. The students doubted this was the true reason he went there, he just wanted to get out of the torrential downpour. The Gryffindors and Slytherins were huddled against the cabin walls, hoping that the outward jutting of the roof would shield them from the rain, if only slightly. They all grumbled mutinously, wondering how their professor could possibly let them work in this weather. The thunder was rumbling and lighting was striking almost every minute. This was nothing short of pure insanity.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say this is insane!” Sirius shouted over the thunderous winds. His statement was met with many raucous roars of consent.

“What is he thinking?” Frank Longbottom asked his classmates incredulously. No other professor would have done this. Professor Grines had cancelled all Herbology lessons for the day.

“Didn’t he see that Hufflepuff get picked up by the wind?” James said, his voice hoarse from the raised tones.

“Of course he did,” Remus groaned loudly. “He was one of the ones who had to go get her.”

“Does he enjoy being wet?” Alice Gordon questioned fiercely, rubbing her arms in a futile attempt to stay warm.

“If he does, he’s out of his mind,” Lily muttered, so low that no one heard her.

“For once, I’m agreeing with this lot,” Abrac Zabini admitted grudgingly, jerking a thumb towards the Gryffindors.

“That’s when you know it’s bad,” Peter shouted as the wind took up a roaring howl. “When Gryffindors and Slytherins agree.” There were some mumbles of consent.

Sirius shook his head. “The world is ending!”

“Figuratively or literally?” James asked, trying desperately to lighten the mood.

“Both.”

The group of students cringed, shut their eyes and tightened their holds on themselves when a fresh gust of wind brought forth a tremendous sheet of rain.

“That’s it!” Snape and James shouted simultaneously, only to stare at each other in amazement.

James stepped forward and turned so he was facing his fellow classmates. His eyes were glinting with a determination to get back inside the castle. “We are not staying out here anymore!”

“Hear, hear!” Remus cheered. It was a full moon that night and he was not benefiting his health by being out there in the rainstorm. He wanted to get into the warmth just as much as his classmates.

Obviously we’re not staying out here, Potter,” sneered Evan Rosier. As much as he agreed with James, he was not going to be nice about it. “But what are we going to do about it?”

“We only have a few minutes before Kettleburn comes back out here,” Sirius assumed through clattering teeth. “What can we do?”

“Run?” suggested a Slytherin girl by the name of Juliet Percival.

“We’re not going to get very far,” Remus told her dismally, gesturing towards the long distance they would have to run. “He’ll see us before we’re even up the slope.” The other Gryffindors and Slytherins muttered and nodded in assent.

“How about we set the Nifflers free and have Kettleburn go running after them so we can escape?” Alice offered, shrugging her shoulders. They Nifflers wouldn’t get far, there was no danger in letting them go for a run.

Zabini quickly stamped on this idea. “He’ll expect us to run after them with him.”

Severus Snape’s eyes widened suddenly as he thought of something. “How many of us are wearing watches?”

All of the Slytherins and James, Sirius, Lily and Frank raised their hands, displaying the bands of their timepieces. Snape called them forward, asking them to hold their wrists out. He held his wand aloft and brought it down lightly on each of them. The hands spun around so they matched the time the class ended.

“Why didn’t we just wind them?” Peter asked the Slytherin.

“That would’ve taken too long,” Snape replied calmly. “Lupin, go inside and tell Kettleburn the class ended.”

Normally, Remus would have thought twice about taking orders from Severus Snape, but the situation was desperate. Unless he wanted to be locked up in the Hospital Wing for a week with no foreseeable leave, he would listen to what the Slytherin was telling him to do. He hurried into the cabin, only after snatching James’s watch, to confront Professor Kettleburn, who was in a deep conversation with Hagrid about breeding a new species.

“You know,” Sirius said as the group turned to try to peer through the windows. “He’s not the greatest of liars.”

James and Peter glanced at each other. They moved over to Sirius and spoke in hushed tones so the others couldn’t hear. “We believed him, all those times he lied to us about visiting his mum when he wasn’t,” James pointed out.

“Well, we’re just stupid.” Sirius laughed as James slapped him on the side of the head. He spun around and looked through the lowest window on the cabin walls. “Looks like Kettleburn’s a bit confused.”

The Slytherins and Gryffindors pushed their way over to the window to get a better look and, as a result, pushing James, Sirius and Peter out of the way. Remus and Kettleburn were going back and forth with each other. Kettleburn was pointing to his own wristwatch, which had the correct time, while Remus pointed to the one he had taken off of James before he went inside. No one outside could hear what they were saying, but it looked as if both the professor and the student were getting immeasurably frustrated. Kettleburn’s eyes were narrowing and Remus’s face was turning red.

“Come on, Lupin,” muttered Juliet Percival vehemently.

“I’m frightened, Sirius,” James said stepping back from the group. “A Slytherin is cheering on a Gryffindor.

Sirius nodded agreeably. “The world must be at an end.”

Peter stood on his toes to get a better look, only after shoving his way back to the front. He grinned triumphantly. “I think we may have success.”

Kettleburn was hanging his head in defeat, moving it slowly back and forth. Remus must have gotten through to him. He must have for Kettleburn to look like that. They couldn’t see the expression on Remus’s face, as it was obscured by something hanging off the ceiling. They couldn’t tell if he was a triumph or a miserable failure. The class backed away from the window when they saw Kettleburn making his way out of the cabin, Remus trailing at his heels. When the professor and student emerged into the stormy weather, the Slytherins and Gryffindors hurried to see if their mission had been worthwhile.

Professor Kettleburn cleared his throat loudly over the whistling wind. “If you wanted to end the class early because of the weather, you could have just asked me.” Every mouth of each of the students dropped open. “You didn’t have to think of this elaborate scheme to trick me! Class dismissed!”

For a moment, the fourth years were far too stunned to move and, as a result, got drenched by a sudden downpour of rain where they were standing. The rain pattering against their already freezing bodies, the Slytherins and Gryffindors trooped back up to the warmth and dryness of the castle. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter walked, huddled together, muttering mutinously about the class. Nice as Professor Kettleburn was, he was positively clueless about everything that wasn’t a magical creature. Did he honestly believe his students loved that class so much that they would be willing to brave torrential downpour? The only thing they did that for was Quidditch.

“Mental!” Sirius shouted for the fifth time since they had begun their trek back to the castle.

“Gee, Sirius, I don’t think we heard you the first four times. What is Kettleburn?” James inquired sardonically. Wet weather always made him sarcastic.

Sirius, however, did not detect the acerbic tones. “Mental! Bloody insane!”

“Oh, is that what he is? I was beginning to think his behaviour was perfectly normal.”

“He is mental,” Remus conceded wholeheartedly. “For a moment, I had him believing that it really was time to leave and that our watches hadn’t been changed.”

“Speaking of which, can I have my watch back?” James requested, holding out his hand.

“Oh, yeah.” Remus undid the snaps on the band and dropped the timepiece into James’s hand as Sirius pushed open the doorway into the castle. The warmness of the castle and the smell of pumpkins coming from the Great Hall was a welcome relief from the bitterness of the outside. The boys drifted in the direction of the dining hall and peered inside to see what it looked like. The professors who did not have a class were busy decorating the hall with floating pumpkins and bats. The boys knew the House Elves must have been hard at work in the kitchens.

“Shame you can’t go tonight,” Peter told Remus sympathetically.

Remus shrugged his shoulders, feigning indifference. “There’s always next year, isn’t there?” He shook off the annoyance he felt at the full moon for having to fall on Halloween night. Rubbing his stomach, which had suddenly taken to doing a few flips, he turned to his friends. “Anyway, I think I should go to the Hospital Wing. I’m starting to feel a bit sick.”

“See you tomorrow, mate,” James said quietly as Remus quickened his step up the marble staircase. James, Sirius and Peter veered off to their left and descended into the cool dungeons. None of them was looking forward to Potions today. They did not find it much fun concocting poisons. The only consolation was that it was probable Slughorn was not going to get it into his head to test them out on the students. That was only the work of a crazy, vindictive, Crane-like professor. The boys shuddered as they tried to imagine what it would have been like if Professor Crane was teaching Potions. They had no doubt in their minds that he would test the poisons out on them.

They entered the classroom with the Slytherins and saw their cauldrons bubbling at their seats. The potions had to simmer between their lessons before they could continue and it seemed that Slughorn had been keeping the poisons well-prepared for them. The boys took their seats behind their cauldrons and looked inside them; they had turned more or less the right shade of green, not too dark and not too light. Professor Slughorn emerged from his office and simply instructed them to begin working where they had left off.

“What are the odds that Professor Kettleburn will do that to us again?” James asked, uncorking a vial of caterpillars.

“You mean leave us outside in the middle of a storm?” Sirius questioned as he tipped a container of porcupine quills into his cauldron. “I’d say the odds are very good.”

“The man is out of his mind,” Peter marveled, shaking his head.

When Potions let out, the boys joined the throng of students flocking into the Entrance Hall, all intent on making their way to the Great Hall to see it decorated for the Halloween Feast later that night. They forced their way through a gang of third year girls who were shrieking excitedly and discovered that the hall was in shambles. The house tables and the staff table were overturned, pumpkins were smashed and the bats were huddled in a corner in the very back of the hall, flying fearfully. The boys exchanged shocked looks – this was bad, even for Peeves.

“What’s going on?” Lily Evans, Alice Gordon and Frank Longbottom had appeared beside the boys, wondering what was causing the crowd.

“Take a look.” James stepped aside, giving Lily, Alice and Frank a clear view of the disaster area.

“Merlin,” Lily whispered astonished, her eyes wide. “Who did that?”

“We were just wondering that,” Sirius told her gravely. “I don’t think Peeves was behind it this time.”

“Attention.” The crowd of students spun around to see Professor Dumbledore. His eyes, which were usually twinkling brightly, were serious and his mouth was set in a stern frown. “Would you all please enter the Great Hall?” The students stared at him; the Great Hall was in pieces. Why would the Headmaster tell them to go inside? Dumbledore seemed to realise this and so he rectified the problem. “Ah, yes.” He waved his wand and the room was repaired. “Now, may you enter? You will be spending the remainder of the day and the night in here.” Immediately, worried chatter exploded amongst everyone. “Please, do as I say.”

Once the doors to the Great Hall were locked securely, students began shouting out reasons why they suspected they were under lockdown. Every student, young and old, knew that someone inside the castle was dangerous, but they could not understand who the source was. Who was it? What was it? Was the intruder an outsider or someone they had thought belonged inside? What could this intruder possibly have been looking for? The boys sat down at the Gryffindor table, which had been supplied with their dinner.

“Is it just me or is today stranger than usual?” Peter asked as he put some chicken on his plate.

“Debimatly,” Sirius said through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

“You’re disgusting,” James commented, wrinkling his nose.

Sirius swallowed with great difficulty. “You’re no better.”

“At least I swallow before I talk.”

“I just thought of something,” Peter said, halting the impending arguement that was about to ensue. “What about the kids in the Hospital Wing?”

James and Sirius knew Peter was only talking about one person in particular. They hadn’t thought about that. Would they smuggle Remus out of the castle earlier than was normal? It would make sense… every student was in the Great Hall and would remain there for the rest of the night. Now was as good a time as any, unless, of course, the intruder had not left the premises yet. Madam Pomfrey may not want to move him just yet, but they didn’t know how long it would take before they declared the castle safe.

“Hopefully they’re making sure they’re safe,” James replied carefully. He had no doubt someone was listening in.




November first dawned with all of the students waking up in their puffy, purple sleeping bags. They were strewn across the floor of the Great Hall, all having fallen asleep still talking about the unknown trespasser. Professor McGonagall had appeared in the dining hall late the previous night, announcing that they would not be required to attend class that day, but that the castle was safe. The intruder had escaped, but, thankfully, no one had been harmed. With this news, the students were able to sleep easier.

“You think they brought him back yet?” Sirius asked as he, James and Peter left the Great Hall, intending to drop their belongings off in the dormitory.

“Probably,” James replied, adjusting the strap on his bag. “Want to head up there now?”

Sirius and Peter nodded eagerly and they veered off their set path. It wasn’t early by any means, they had taken advantage of the fact that classes were cancelled for the day and had slept late. Remus would definitely be back. The only question was whether or not Madam Pomfrey would permit them entry. If she was hassled enough, she would shoo them away before they even opened their mouths, already knowing what question was on their minds. Sometimes the nurse was completely unreasonable. It wasn’t as if they were going to be roughhousing with Remus, they knew better than that.

Unfortunately, when they finally arrived at the infirmary, the nurse acted just as they had predicted. “No,” she barked firmly, ready to slam the door in their faces. “He had a terrible night; I won’t let you disturb him.”

“When have we ever disturbed him?” Sirius asked disbelievingly. They never disturbed Remus when he was recovering. They would talk to him and he would talk back. They would leave when they saw that he was tired and wanted to sleep. That was hardly what they would call disturbing him. Peter jabbed Sirius in the ribs; they were never going to have their way if Sirius took up an attitude with the nurse. Sirius, however, took this with the wrong intentions. “Ow!” he shouted, causing James, Peter and Madam Pomfrey to jump back in shock. “Peter, I think you broke my ribs!”

The nurse rolled her eyes. “Mr. Black, will you please lower your voice?”

“But Peter broke my ribs!”

“I did not, you idiot,” Peter hissed angrily. He wasn’t about to let his attempt for Sirius to calm down be mistaken as a way to trick the nurse.

“Excuse us, Madam Pomfrey,” James said loudly, grabbing both Sirius and Peter by their shoulders. “We’ll be going now, sorry to have bothered you.” With unusual force, James yanked the two backwards, spun them around and pushed them forward.

“What was that for?” Sirius shouted when they were well out of hearing range of the Hospital Wing.

“You’re a moron,” James told him exasperatedly. “If you really want to get in there, go trip down some stairs and really break your legs.”

“Who stuck a broomstick up your-”

“I just think maybe we shouldn’t go in there. He had a bad night.”

“That’s never stopped you before,” Peter pointed out.

“He’s had to go through this twice this month, let him rest and you can annoy him when he’s better.”

Sirius huffed, folding his arms across his chest. “I resent that.” Dropping his arms to his sides, he cocked his head sideways at James. “But, really, James, what’s on your mind?”

James shook his head. “Nothing… We should just go back to the common room.” He started on his way back towards Gryffindor Tower. Sirius and Peter let him go, deciding that it was best to leave James to his thoughts for the time being. Instead, they went down to the Great Hall to see what they could scrounge up for lunch. James was acting oddly; he had never before refused the chance to see Remus after a full moon. He had also never before refused to tell them what he was thinking. He was always open about whatever thoughts were on his mind. Why the sudden change?

They didn’t find the answer to this out that day, as when they returned to the common room James was leaving for Quidditch practise. Biggs was taking advantage of the fact that classes were cancelled and was using it to put it some extra sessions before their first match. James must have been pleased with that – Biggs was beginning to show the obsessive signs that Cory had exhibited numerous times. James hurriedly told them that he wouldn’t be back until that night. Sirius and Peter were at a loss as to what to do. They had witnessed far too many Quidditch practises than was natural and they didn’t want to work on the potion without James. Sirius was a sufficient potions maker, but he was nothing without James helping him.

There was always going back to the Hospital Wing to see if Madam Pomfrey had lightened up at all and would let them in. They severely doubted this, but it was worth a try. She was usually feeling less harassed by the evening, when Remus was in less pain and resting comfortably. She would take this opportunity to give herself a break. Sure enough, when they reached the infirmary, the nurse let them in. She did, however, remind them that on other occasions such as this, they would do well to remember that she did not appreciate them trying to get in so early in the morning. Sirius and Peter had to resist the urge to tell her different; this was hardly going to stop them.

Madam Pomfrey disappeared into her office, leaving the boys to themselves. Sirius and Peter spotted Remus lying on one of the beds in the back of the ward. His eyes were shut, but they knew he was not sleeping, as there was an absence of snoring in the air. The bulk of his injuries had clearly been mended sometime during the day, but he still looked ill. His face was that all too familiar shade of white and his arm was bound up in a sling, preventing movement. His eyes fluttered open when he heard the sound of footsteps.

“Hey,” he said tiredly, pushing himself further up his bed with his good arm, wincing slightly.

Sirius and Peter took their seats at the foot of the bed. “So,” Sirius said brightly. “Splendid night, I see.”

“Yes, it was quite lovely.” Remus flinched and lightly placed a hand on his side. He felt like there was something wedged in his side. For all he knew, there very well might have been before he had awoken. It was then that he noticed someone was missing from their group. “Where’s James?”

“Qudditch,” Peter answered simply.

“He was acting a bit… strange today, actually,” Sirius went on, knowing that Remus may have some ideas as to why James was acting the way he was.

Remus cocked an eyebrow. “How do you mean?”

“For one thing, he actually listened when Madam Pomfrey told us we couldn’t come in here this morning.”

Remus considered this. Anyone who didn’t know James at all would say that he was simply respecting this wishes of the nurse and doing what was best for his friend. They, however, did know James and were able to see that this was unlike him in every way. James knew that Remus would rather be woken up in the early hours of the morning after a full moon to be with his friends, rather than have to sleep all day without them visiting.

“What else?” Remus asked intently.

“He wouldn’t tell us what’s bothering him,” Peter explained concernedly. “James is an open potions book, he tells us everything.”

“What d’you guys think is wrong?”

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong.”

Remus, Sirius and Peter looked up to see James standing in the doorway, his face almost as white as Remus’s. His hair was drenched and his Quidditch robes were splattered with mud. Practise couldn’t have concluded; Biggs would make them play through every weather condition. So what was James doing there? “Who else would want to break into the castle? Who else has already done it?”

Sirius, Remus and Peter glanced at each other with wide eyes. The pieces had not been put together earlier; they hadn’t been concerned about the whom before. Now that James brought it up, only one person came to mind. How had they not realised it before? There was only one person… and he was hardly a person at all.

“You don’t mean…” Sirius murmured, gaping at James.

“Fenrir Greyback.”




Excerpt from Chapter Forty: Frigid Fights

“We really have to get moving on this,” James stated as he stirred the flies around the liquid.

“Well, is it our fault that someone has Quidditch practise every second of his life?”

“Blame Biggs for that, not me.”

Sirius snorted. “Of course. I’ll just walk right up to him and say, ‘hey, lighten up on the Quidditch practises, would you? James has got to be brewing an illegal potion!’ That would really benefit us.”

James rolled his eyes, but instead of retorting, he turned to Peter. “What time is it, Pete?”

Peter, who was tackling some homework at the table, not taking in a word of the conversation until that point, checked his watch. “Quarter to eight.”

Sirius frowned, annoyed. “Time to start packing up.”

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