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Author's Note.

Sirius' and James' first detention is the subject of a forthcoming one-shot fic - bear with me!



CHAPTER 5: SETTLING IN (SORT OF)


     Sirius and James were both soaking wet and cold when they got back from their detention, and were neither of them particularly eager to repeat the episode. So for the next few days they kept their heads down and tried to get through the veritable mountains of homework all the first years were convinced they’d been set. Poor Peter Pettigrew moaned and groaned for hours every night. He would probably have failed everything were it not for Remus and Lily helping him out.

    As for Sirius and James, they had been inseparable from their first day onwards. They were good company for each other; they were equally intelligent, they had similar senses of humour, and they found they could make not only each other laugh, but everyone else as well. Soon enough, their classmates were laughing at things Sirius said too. Sirius felt settled, popular and appreciated.
    He couldn’t write home about it of course, his parents wouldn’t have wanted to know he was happy in Gryffindor, and he was sure Regulus wouldn’t care. But he did have occasion to write to somebody, after he received a letter at the end of the first week of term.

Dear Sirius (it read),
    I hope you’re settling in nicely and enjoying school. Congratulations on making Gryffindor, it is a fine house. I know many people in our family set a lot of store by being in Slytherin, but don’t take it to heart. The average wizard lives to be over seventy, and your time in one of the Hogwarts houses is seven years of your life. In other words, my dear nephew, houses are not everything. I don’t expect your mother and father would be very happy to read this letter, so let’s make it our little secret, eh? Write to me whenever you like, I would be interested to hear how you’re getting on.

    Your affectionate uncle,
        Alphard Black.


    Uncle Alphard was Sirius’ favourite relative. He was the clever one, the one who’d been in Ravenclaw. He always gave the best presents at Christmas and birthdays, and he was the only member of Sirius’ family who hadn’t inflicted some sort of physical pain on him at some point in his life. Sirius wrote back to him straight away.

Dear Uncle Alphie,
    Thank you for your letter. I’m settling in fine. The Gryffindors didn’t like me much at first because I’m a Black, but we’re all quite good friends now. The best friend I’ve made is called James Potter. He says he’s got some Black blood in him somewhere, but he doesn’t look anything like us except for his hair, and even that sticks up all over the place. Mother would have forty thousand fits if she saw him. She sent me a Howler when she heard I got into Gryffindor. You’re right, they’re not too happy. But I don’t mind that really. I’m getting good school marks so hopefully they’ll be pleased with me for that. The work’s really easy, but there’s a lot of it!

    Your nephew,
        Sirius.
    PS - I won’t tell Mother and Father about the letter.


    Sirius wasn’t lying; he was settling in fine. Until something happened to turn all the Gryffindors against him again. It was all Lucius Malfoy’s fault. Him and the rest of the Slytherins. Once the damage had been done, Sirius felt like kicking himself for not realising what they were up to ... but it had started off so simply.

    It was the third week of term, the day after Sirius and James had served a detention for sneaking into the Forbidden Forest after Herbology one afternoon. (Their resolve to behave themselves had lasted a grand total of nine days.) They’d been up until midnight on Sunday, chopping wood ‘since you seem to be so fond of it,’ said Professor McGonagall. On Monday morning Sirius was tired from the hard work, and not really concentrating on anything. So when Lucius Malfoy, a boy he’d known all his life, came up to him in the Great Hall after breakfast and greeted him, Sirius automatically said hello back.
   
    ‘So how’s it going?’ Lucius asked in a friendly, offhand way. ‘Sorry you didn’t make Slytherin. I’m sure you’d have made us proud.’
    ‘Don’t be so sure,’ said Sirius coldly.
    He expected to be jinxed, but Lucius just laughed loudly as if Sirius had made a hilarious joke. He slapped him on the back so hard that Sirius nearly overbalanced.
    ‘Ah, Sirius, you’ve always had us in stitches. Always ready with a good line! My dad always reckoned you’d be some sort of writer one day.’

    Lucius had walked away before Sirius could reply. If he hadn’t been so tired he would have been suspicious. He had never made many jokes before starting at Hogwarts - any ‘good lines,’ as Lucius called them, would have been called rudeness and earned him a beating at home.

    All that day and for the rest of the week, various Slytherins, including the first years, came up and chatted to Sirius. He felt quite pleased that his old friends hadn’t forsaken him. He’d been sure they would never speak to him again after he made Gryffindor, and for nearly a fortnight, they hadn’t. But they all came up, alone or in pairs, shook him by the hand or clapped him on the shoulder, and said things like: ‘Bad luck about that Howler mate,’ or ‘Never mind, eh, my mum can be a bit of a dragon too.’ Rodolphus Lestrange, with the confident swagger of the rich and very good looking, accompanied Sirius halfway around the school, talking animatedly and hardly seeming to notice when Sirius didn’t say much. All the times he’d bullied Sirius over the years, made him cower with fear at the sight of the angular face with its cruelly twisted smile that never touched his pale blue, icy eyes, might never have happened.

    By Friday, people were whispering that Sirius Black was exactly the sort of two-faced Slytherin scum they’d all thought he was. Even James seemed puzzled - ‘if you’re not their friends, as you say, then why are they all still speaking to you?’
    ‘I don’t know,’ Sirius had replied. ‘Believe me. I really don’t.’
    ‘Well - I guess,’ said James, but he still frowned, and if it wasn’t Sirius’ imagination he behaved a little coldly towards him that day.
    Then at dinner, Noah Bertram accosted Sirius as he was getting up from the Gryffindor table. There was a concerned look on his face. Sirius knew the word ‘sanctimonious’ from his mother’s History of Magic book, the word ‘pillock’ from everyday life, and he thought both of them.
       
    ‘Look here, Black,’ said Noah. ‘You told my brother you don’t hate Muggle-borns, and all that, right?’
    ‘Yeah, so?’ said Sirius, feeling harrassed.
    ‘Well look - I know it’s none of my business, but you’re hardly going to improve your reputation by staying friends with all those Slytherins you grew up with. You stood up to them the other day, why the change of heart?’
    Sirius opened his mouth to explain that it was them talking to him, not the other way round - that he’d been glad to have been Sorted into Gryffindor and he didn’t care if he never saw or spoke to any of them again. But pride stopped him. He wasn’t going to be told what to do by the likes of Noah Bertram.
   
    ‘You’re right,’ he answered instead. ‘It is none of your business.’
    ‘Then it looks like we were wrong about you,’ said Noah, sounding very sad about it.
    ‘Oh yeah - we!’ exploded Sirius. ‘Always we. Do you two only have one brain between you or what?’
    ‘Don’t get like that,’ began Noah, pleadingly.
    ‘Shut up,’ snapped Sirius. All his feelings about his own family came rushing out in a jealous rage.    
    ‘You think you’re so perfect, don’t you, you neat little Ravenclaw brothers with your wonderful school marks and your lovely pious little family. I bet you’ve never had a row in your lives, have you? You just get on so well all the time, don’t you, and your parents are so proud of their little darlings, aren’t they? You just skip through life like a pair of fluffy rabbits, you don’t realise that everyone around wants to vomit every time they look at you.’
   
    Noah raised his eyebrows.
    ‘If you want a fight, Black, I think you’ll find I’m a match for you.’   
    ‘Huh! Don’t tempt me,’ scoffed Sirius.
    He turned away, but Noah grabbed his shoulder angrily.
    ‘Don’t turn your back on me after insulting my family like that! Do you think you can just walk away, you Slytherin scum?’
   
    Think of Sirius’ resolve as a length of rope that has been half chewed through by rats. Then someone starts pulling at it, not knowing that it’s close to breaking. Slowly but surely the frayed fibres tense and snap, until there’s just one small piece left intact. At the words ‘Slytherin scum,’ that small piece broke in two.

Something in Sirius’ brain flashed red.

    The next thing he knew his knuckles were hurting, and Noah Bertram was sprawled on the floor in front of him, blood pouring from his nose.

*




    On Saturday morning, Sirius woke up in the hospital wing with a bad headache. Slowly it all began to drift back to him. He’d punched Noah Bertram on the nose - well, he asked for it, thought Sirius angrily. Then Carl Bertram had jumped him, sending them both flying over the Gryffindor table and covering several people in bits of roasted vegetables. Sirius had been caught by surprise and Carl had got the upper hand quickly.
    Well, Sirius admitted awkwardly to himself, I suppose I asked for it, really.
    He couldn’t remember what happened next.

    ‘I’ll say this for you,’ said a familiar voice beside him. ‘There can’t be many first years who’ve got up to that much in their first three weeks.’
    Sirius turned his head to see James sitting beside his bed - James, who he thought might have abandoned him! Sirius couldn’t help grinning.
    ‘What happened to you?’ he asked, trying to sit up. James was sporting a black eye under his glasses, but looked otherwise unharmed.
    ‘I pulled Carl off you. You were knocked out - hit your head on the table I think. I got Carl on the ground, got a couple of punches in. Then he hit me. Then McGonagall and Slughorn broke it up, packed us all off to the hospital wing. We’ve all got detention except Noah. I lost thirty points, so did Carl. You lost fifty because you started it. Noah lost ten points for provoking you. But everyone except the Slytherins thinks the Bertrams are heroes. They’re saying awful things about you, and no one’s said a word to me. Oh, I tell a lie, that Lestrange bloke came up to me and said: ‘Come and join us. You and Sirius were obviously sorted into the wrong house.’
    ‘What did you say?’ Sirius asked weakly. His head was fuzzy and he could hardly think straight.
    ‘I told him to get knotted of course,’ James said savagely. ‘You realise it’s their fault, don’t you? The Slytherins? I’ve figured it out. They were pretending to be friendly to turn everyone back against you. And it’s worked, too.’

    ‘You believe me, then? That I wasn’t being friendly with them?’
    ‘I thought back over it,’ said James. ‘I never saw you look pleased to see them.’ Not quite meeting Sirius’ eyes, he added: ‘Sorry I doubted you before.’
    ‘It’s OK,’ Sirius said quickly. ‘No hard feelings. Thanks for sticking up for me and everything.’
    ‘No problem,’ said James, ‘what are friends for? Now listen. We’ve got to get Madam Pomfrey over here to check you over, say you can get up. It’s Quidditch trials this afternoon!’
   
    ‘Oh - oh no, I forgot,’ groaned Sirius. He put a hand to his head. ‘I don’t think I can manage it, James. You go without me.’
    ‘No way! You’re coming and that’s that,’ said James. ‘Like I said before, nothing wins people over like Quidditch. Soon get you back in their good books.’
    ‘What if I don’t want to be? What if I don’t care?’
    James put his head on one side and looked shrewdly at Sirius.
    ‘But you do, don’t you?’
    Sirius didn’t say anything.

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