- Chapter Nineteen -
As soon as the ex-headmaster had gone and Sirius had stopped glaring, Professor Dumbledore indicated the three boys to his desk, conjuring two extra chairs as he did so.
Sirius, Peter and Remus sat, all looking interestedly around at the rest of the office.
Peter gasped when a soft caw came from a perch in the corner and he wildly glanced over his shoulder, only to come face-to-face with a swan-sized, scarlet bird. "Oh!" he said, very surprised, and Dumbledore smiled.
"Fawkes is, I agree, rather a magnificent creature," he said, with a nod in Fawkes' direction.
The bird ruffled its plumage and cawed again.
Both Remus and Sirius looked around too.
"A phoenix," muttered Remus, glancing at Sirius.
Sirius nodded. He too had recognised the bird. There was a picture of it one of his school textbooks. Not, of course, that he'd bothered to read it properly.
Dumbledore smiled again and turned back to the boys. "You are quite right, Mr Lupin, Fawkes is a phoenix. And, incidentally, it is a pleasure to see you again. We met, of course, over the summer. I have to say, I have been diligently practising my Gobstones skills ever since our game in your living room. We must have a rematch sometime... "
Remus blushed and stared at the floor.
Peter and Sirius glanced at him in bewilderment, and the headmaster cleared his throat.
"Now, then. Let us slide into some slightly more serious waters. You were, I believe, caught causing a certain amount of damage to Professor Flitwick's classroom. May I ask why you wished to cause a distraction?"
Sirius wondered whether Dumbledore would punish them more if he told him the truth. Was exploring discouraged at Hogwarts? Would they get into trouble for trying to find secret passageways?
Before he could dwell any more on this, however, Remus had said it for him.
"We were trying to follow Filch so we could find some... er... passages," said Remus awkwardly, staring fixedly over Dumbledore's shoulder. To his surprise, however, when he finally dared to glance the headmaster's way, he saw that he did not look angry.
On the contrary, he looked... delighted.
"Ah, curiosity!" he said, shaking his head and steepling his fingers together. "A man's greatest weakness ...Or is that fear?"
"Erm..." Peter didn't know whether to laugh or not. Albus Dumbledore, while great, was clearly ever so slightly bonkers.
Recollecting himself, the headmaster continued. "Of course, it is only natural that you should wish to explore the castle. And I cannot punish you for doing so-"
Sirius grinned triumphantly to himself.
"-However..." Dumbledore held up a finger and Sirius' smile slipped a little. "I believe that partially destroying a classroom to reach that goal is going... shall we say, a little too far?"
The three boys all looked sheepishly at each other.
Dumbledore's right, thought Remus as he watched Fawkes shifting on his perch. They did go too far. They could've just dropped a dungbomb... Or threatened to jinx Mrs Norris. That would've been a better distraction...
"Sorry," said Remus quietly, accidentally catching Professor Dumbledore's eye. "We should've thought it through a bit more. In fact, we shouldn't have done it at all. I'm sorry."
But the headmaster shook his head. "Curiosity is not a sin," he said firmly. "And nor is it something to be ashamed of. I have brought you up here, on this fine Autumn day, not because I wish to lecture you - I am sure that Mr Filch is perfectly capable of doing that on his own - but because I wish to give you some advice. And my advice is: Take care when smashing up classrooms. And if in doubt, I would strongly advise you not to do it at all."
There was a very shocked and profound silence, while Remus, Sirius and Peter digested this.
Then there came a knock on the office door.
"Come in!" called Dumbledore and James' anxious face appeared in the doorway. "Good morning, Mr Potter. Did Professor McGonagall fetch you?"
James gave a curt nod, his eyes travelling over the portraits lining the room and the spindly silver instruments. He met Sirius' gaze and tried to ask what had happened, but Sirius wasn't going to give anything away.
There would be plenty of time for talking later.
"As you might've guessed, your friends were recently caught destroying the Charms classroom. I was just telling them that they should've been a little more cautious... Perhaps you would like to sit down?" Twirling his wand through the air, Professor Dumbledore conjured up another seat and let it fall into place on Peter's left.
"Er... Thank you, Professor," said James awkwardly, perching on the chair and staring at his knees. He didn't really know what to do. All Professor McGonagall had told him (with a very stern look on her face) was that he needed to go to Professor Dumbledore's office at once.
James had stuffed the invisibility cloak behind a suit of armour as he heard her approach and was very worried that someone might find it; the hiding place was not a good one. He wouldn't put it past someone like Filch to pick it up and confiscate it.
His father would kill him if he lost the cloak.
Dumbledore's eyes now strayed over the desk, where a stack of blank parchment sat beside an elegant-looking quill. He took a piece of parchment from the very top of the pile and pulled it towards him, glancing back up at the three boys as he did so.
"Now," he said, reaching for the quill and dipping it in an inkpot. "I am, I believe, going to have to give you all a detention. You will go to Professor McGonagall's office at six O'clock tonight and write lines for half an hour." He smiled gently at the horrified looks on Peter and Remus' faces, leaning forwards slightly to look at them more closely. "It is the most lenient punishment I can give you, I'm afraid. At Hogwarts, we cannot tolerate the smashing-up of teachers' classrooms. And, if I do not punish you, Mr Filch certainly will."
Neither Peter nor Remus looked very reassured.
"Detentions are very common at Hogwarts," continued the headmaster, correctly interpreting their thoughts as he scribbled down the date and time of the detention. "You do not need to worry about your reputation. As long as you prove yourselves to be brave, kind, individual souls, you will have nothing to fear from punishment. After all, we all stray a little off the beaten track at times. What's more important than sticking to it is that you learn to find your way back."
There was another silence.
None of the boys seemed to know what to say. They'd never been in a situation like this before; Professor Dumbledore was unlike any teacher they'd ever come across.
James felt rather, inexplicably fond of him and even more so when Dumbledore took a rather crumpled paper bag from the inside of his robes.
"Would you care for a Peppermint Toad?" he asked. "I visited Hogsmede last week and thought that I would buy some. They really are rather refreshing." He shook the bag lightly and offered it to them all in turn.
They all took one, awkwardly nibbling as they stared at the floor.
Dumbledore took one too and slid it whole into his mouth, sighing with satisfaction. "Ah, confectionary! A most delightful human invention!"
Sirius and James exchanged glances, barely managing to conceal their grins.
Possibly Dumbledore noticed this, for he twisted the bag shut and tucked it away again, standing up, with his purple-robed arms spread wide. "So, that brings us to the end of our little conversation. Minerva will see you at six... May I show you out of my office? It is a particularly pleasant day and it would be a pity to deprive you of the sunshine. Good day to you all."
Taking the cue to leave, the four boys stood up, Peter still shaking slightly at the knees. In single file, they moved to the door, chewing their Peppermint Toads as they did so.
Just when they'd reached the doorframe, however, Dumbledore held up his hand. "Remus," he said softly, looking at him meaningfully. "Good luck for Friday."
Remus went scarlet. "Um... Thank you, sir," he whispered, blindly groping for the doorknob, his fingers trembling.
Peter blinked, looking confused. He swallowed his mouthful of Toad as soon as they were out in the corridor. "What's happening on Friday?" he asked, noticing that James and Sirius wore interested expressions just like his.
Remus pretended not to hear him. "So, what shall we do now? We could try to follow Filch again and use the cloak. We've got our detention at six O'clock, though, so we might have to eat dinner early..." He strode off down the corridor, trying to ignore the blood pounding in his ears.
Sirius opened his mouth to say something, but James laid a hand on his arm. "Leave it," he said sensibly. "Just leave him be, for now." For it had just occurred to him that Friday might be the day Remus visited his mother.
And neither Sirius nor Peter knew about Remus' monthly visits.
At the end of the Charms corridor, they found the invisibility cloak tucked safely in its hiding place and put it on. After all, they might as well make use of it, even if their plan had failed.
They hunted around for Filch for an hour, without success, until Peter grumbled that his feet were hurting and they gave up to eat lunch.
"Why do our plans always fail?" Sirius asked, sighing as he poked at a potato. "I mean, there was that thing with Snivellus, which kind of backfired... And now there's this. Are we going to pull anything off this year?"
"Maybe we just need some practice?" suggested Remus. "Maybe we'll get better at doing things if we do them more often..."
James laughed. "Are you honestly saying you want to smash up more classrooms?" he asked, nudging Remus in the ribs.
"No," said Remus seriously, chewing as he spoke. "I meant that, in theory, practice makes perfect. I'm not saying we should smash up more classrooms. I'm just saying that, even though it's not necessarily the best idea, it's still a solution."
Peter swallowed. "So what do we do?"
"No idea," said Sirius, shrugging. "Let's just wait and see. I'm more interested in finding something to do for the rest of the day, to be honest. Especially as we've now failed to follow Filch twice."
"Yeah, who knew a caretaker could be so evasive?" said James, laying down his cutlery, his lips twitching. "C'mon. Let's go back to the common room. Then we can think of something to do. I need to put the cloak back in my trunk, anyway." He indicated the bulge of fabric below his robes, where the invisibility cloak was hidden.
They stood up, passing Severus Snape and a group of his Slytherin friends as they left the Great Hall.
"All right, Potter?" sneered Snape, glancing over his shoulder at the four boys.
James instantly stiffened.
So did Sirius.
"Just keep walking!" hissed Remus, prodding James in the back. "We've already got in trouble today; let's not start a fight."
But James ignored him and turned around, his fist clenching over the handle of his wand. "I was fine until you turned up," he retorted, glaring at Snape. And he was satisfied to see that Snape glowered.
"I was only asking, Potter. There's no need to be rude."
Sirius snorted and stepped forwards. "Well, we don't need your questions, thanks, Snivellus," he said, while Peter looked eagerly from him and James to Snape. "Goodbye."
He made to turn away, dragging Peter and Remus with him, but the Slytherins began to jeer.
"What, going already?" called a boy with a sadistic smirk, sliding forwards to stand at Snape's shoulder. "You don't strike me as the type to ignore a fight, Black. What's the matter? Do you think you'll lose if you duel us?"
Sirius opened his mouth, but James had already spoken.
"No," he said sharply, his own voice ringing in his ears, his heart pounding. "We think it's the other way round, actually. You're more likely to lose than we are."
"Yeah, right, Potter," said Snape, his lip curling. "Do you want to test that theory?"
Sirius laughed "We'd love to," he said. He took another step forwards, raising his wand, but-
"No!" whispered, Remus, grabbing Sirius' sleeve to stop him from attacking. "No, don't bother. They're just immature and looking for trouble. Just-"
"Get off me!" Sirius snapped, slightly more harshly than he'd meant to, and Remus let go of him, looking hurt. A twinge of guilt flickered in Sirius' stomach, but he pushed it aside; there would be time to apologise later.
Beside Sirius, James was advancing slowly.
So were Snape and Mulciber.
Peter was watching the scene, his eyes wide, apparently transfixed. His small, watery nose was twitching with eager anticipation.
Remus turned and began to stride away. It was no good trying to stop them. They'd just do it anyway...
He hadn't even reached the marble staircase when Snape called after him: "What're you doing, Lupin? Going to snitch on us for being naughty?"
Remus didn't even turn around. "No," he said calmly. "I'm just leaving. That's not a crime, is it?"
Snape sneered. "Your very existence is a crime. And you can't even take a fight without running off to hide. Talk about pathetic."
"Leave him alone." James' wand was pointing at Severus' heart.
Snape eyed it apprehensively. "And what're you going to do if I don't?"
"Nothing," said Remus firmly, marching back to stand beside James. "You're not going to do anything, are you, James? Because that would just provoke them to do something else and it'll all escalate."
James snorted and stared at him. "What? You want me to stand here and let the little toerag insult people, do you?"
"Language, Potter!" laughed Mulciber, over the din coming from his fellow Slytherins.
"You're one to talk," said Sirius loudly. "I heard you calling a third-year 'Mudblood' the other day."
Mulciber ignored him and turned back to James.
Remus had resumed his attempt to drag him away. "James, listen to me. Don't attack them. Just walk away and tell McGonagall. You don't have to descend to their level, they're just-"
"Oh," said Snape suddenly, raising an eyebrow. "So you are going to tell on us, Lupin?"
"I will if you don't shut your mouth."
"Oooh! Feisty!" The Slytherins laughed louder than ever.
James took another step forwards.
So did Sirius.
Peter's eyes were almost bulging out of his head.
"What's up with you, anyway?" asked Avery, a tall boy at the very back of the group. He pointed at Remus. "Who scarred your face, weirdo?"
Sirius turned his wand on Avery instead of Snape.
Remus paled slightly but didn't flinch. "I don't think that's any of your business," he said cooly.
"'Course it's my business. I want to send them chocolates. Maybe even a thank-you card-"
"PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" The words were out of Sirius' mouth before he could stop them. There was a loud crack and Avery was suddenly prostrate on the floor, unable to move a muscle.
They'd learnt the full-body-bind in Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Peter and James cheered.
Sirius grinned as the Slytherins cursed and muttered under their breath. He glanced at Snape. "D'you want to join him? You'll be there all day if I use this hex on you. We'll see who's laughing then."
Snape glared at Avery's rigid body. "You think you're so clever, Black," he began. "But you and your friends are losers."
James smirked. "Whatever. Come on, boys." He turned to Sirius, Remus and Peter, then led the way up the staircase. "Well, that was fun," he said, glancing back at the Slytherins, who were now huddled around Avery, trying fruitlessly to revive him.
"Yeah," said Peter enthusiastically. "You and Sirius were awesome."
"Cheers, Pete," Sirius grinned.
Remus said nothing. He still seemed to be in a state of shock.
"What's up, Rems?" asked James, as they came to a halt outside the Fat Lady.
Remus blinked. "Oh, nothing," he said. "I just think you should've left them. They're bound to try and get their revenge now, especially Snape."
"I just wish Evans was there to see what an idiot Snivellus is," said James vehemently, once Peter had said the password and the portrait hole was open. "She'd like him a lot less then."
"Oh, well," said Sirius, sinking down into an armchair in the Gryffindor common room. "There's no point crying over spilt potion. She'll stop being friends with him eventually, just you wait and see."
"I hope it's soon," said James. He stared glumly at the floor.
Sirius nudged him. "Cheer up, mate! We've got flying lessons on Monday. And detention will be exciting - we can pass notes when McGonagall's not looking."
But it turned out that detention was very boring indeed.
"Good evening, boys," said Professor McGonagall curtly, when they entered her office at six O'clock. "Your parchment and quills are waiting. I would like you to sit down and write 'I must not become a wild animal and smash up my learning environment'." She glanced, slightly disapprovingly, at the piece of parchment Dumbledore had sent her. "I will tell you when it is time to stop."
Exchanging gloomy glances, the four boys settled themselves around the professor's desk, directly under McGonagall's nose. They knew that it would be no good trying to communicate; their notes would certainly be intercepted.
The half-an-hour was, instead, spent in dull silence, scratching away at their parchment and chancing glances at the clock whenever Professor McGonagall wasn't looking.
Eventually, however, Professor McGonagall stood up and peered at them over the rim of her square spectacles. "Very well, you may go. I shall tell the headmaster that you have completed your detention... I hope you have learned your lesson."
Knowing deep down that they had not learned their lesson at all, McGonagall let the four boys go, sighing as she imagined the seven years of mayhem that were sure to come.
She could see the mischief etched in every line of their youthful faces. And she didn't know how she was going to deal with them.
Hello, thanks for reading! I'm sorry I missed the Saturday update; I was outside for most of the day, with no Internet connection.
I had some trouble with this chapter and feel like there might be some flaws in it - please point them out if you can see anything that needs improving :)
Also, I was wondering: what are your thoughts on Wolfstar? Obviously, I won't be explicitly putting it in this story (J.K. Rowling hasn't confirmed it as canon, so I couldn't, even if I wanted to), but I've been wondering whether you wanted me to make hints occasionally so that any shippers can ship it and any non-shippers can... well, rip it.
I'm willing to do whatever you think's best, so don't be shy about dropping me your opinion <3
Thanks for all your support - this book has reached 50+ reviews!
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