The Prank

"Mr. Black. A word with you, please, in my office," Professor McGonagall said. She looked as stern as always, but she seemed almost nervous.

Sirius Black exchanged a puzzled look with his best friend, James Potter, wondering what Professor McGonagall could want. She didn't look as if she were angry with him. He had been in trouble with her often enough to recognize the warning signs. None of the usual ones were present. Instead, she had an odd look in her eyes.

"Move along now, Potter," Professor McGonagall continued, a bit impatiently.

"Good luck," James whispered under his breath so that only Sirius could hear him. "See you at lunch," he said, a little louder.

Sirius waved, then followed the professor towards her office. He was nervous; Professor McGonagall looked even more serious than usual and considering she was generally a no-nonsense person, that was saying a lot. He wondered what he might have done to make her look that way. None of the pranks he had pulled recently should have been bad enough to warrant that expression. For a minute, Sirius panicked, thinking she must have found out he was an illegal Animagus. But then she would have summoned James and Peter, too, and possibly Remus, so that couldn't be it.

After they entered Professor McGonagall's office, but before she could say anything, Sirius blurted out, "Whatever it was you think I did, Professor, I assure you, it wasn't I. And if it was, there's a very good explanation." He gave her one of his most charming smiles and prepared to sweet-talk his way out of any punishment.

Professor McGonagall wasn't fazed. "Sit down, Mr. Black," she said. When Sirius made no move to do so, her expression softened and she said, "Please take a seat, Sirius."

Sirius complied, now more confused than before.

"I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," she said somberly.

Sirius felt his stomach drop. He had the feeling he would hate the news she was about to tell him. "Wha - what is it?" he asked, dreading the answer.

" There's no easy way to tell you this. We just received word … I mean to say," Professor McGonagall floundered around, looking for the right words. "I'm sorry Sirius. We just got an owl from your grandmother. You-Know-Who . . . he attacked your house last night. I'm sorry."

Sirius stared at her in disbelief. "No," he said, shaking his head. "It can't be. You're wrong."

"I'm sorry, Sirius," Professor McGonagall said helplessly.

"How?" Sirius asked, almost inaudibly.

"It was You-Know-Who," she told him. "It happened some time last night. The - they were discovered this morning."

Sirius didn't say anything, only stared at a picture on the wall without really seeing it.

"The funeral will be in two days," Professor McGonagall continued. "You will, of course, get time off of school to go to it. Your maternal grandmother, I believe, is on her way to Hogsmeade right now to pick you up. She thought it would be better to meet you there than here at Hogwarts," Professor McGonagall didn't sound like she was sure why Sirius' grandmother thought that way, but when Sirius offered no explanation, she went on. "You should probably go up to your dormitory and pack your belongings. You will leave as soon as you are ready." She paused before asking, "Would you like me to accompany you to Hogsmeade?"

Sirius didn't move. He was still entranced by the picture on the wall.

Professor McGonagall looked closely at him, concerned. "Sirius?" she asked gently.

Sirius snapped out of it. "Wha - No. I'll go by myself."

"Also," McGonagall continued, "Would you like me to tell your friends about what happened, or would you like to tell them yourself."

"No!" Sirius all but yelled. "I mean, I can tell them."

"Okay." McGonagall didn't look completely satisfied with his answer, but she didn't say anything about it. "You should probably get going now. Your grandmother will be in Hogsmeade in an hour. Meet her at the Three Broomsticks. Are you sure you don't want someone to go with you?"

"I'm sure," Sirius said. He left, running once he cleared the office back to the Gryffindor Tower. Fortunately, the common room was deserted. Everyone was probably still down in the Great Hall, eating. Sirius liked it better that way. It meant that there was no one around to bother him with stupid questions.

He packed quickly. Well, if you can call throwing a bunch of clothes and random articles hap-hazardly into a bag packing, he thought with a snort. How could his parents be - he shook his head and deliberately started to think about something else. He wondered where his toothbrush could be and spent five minutes searching for it before remembering he had already packed it.

Slinging the bag over his shoulder, he bounded back downstairs into the common room.

Lily was there. "Sirius," she said, "we missed you at lunch. Where were you?" She noticed the bag over his shoulder and caught his arm. "What's wrong? What happened?"

"Nothing," Sirius said shortly. Then, "Family emergency."

"What happened?" Lily pressed.

Sirius gave her a sardonic smile. "My mother's sick," he said nastily, although he knew as the words left his mouth that Lily wouldn't get the reference. She wouldn't remember all the excuses Remus had given them when they first met him, trying to explain his absences at the full moon.

Something in his voice must have told her that he was lying, for she skeptically asked, "Really?"

"Tell Remus what I said. He'll know what it means," Sirius said. He left the common room, slamming the portrait of the Fat Lady behind him, and left quickly before Lily could come after him, ignoring the Fat Lady, who was yelling at him for slamming her.


His grandmother was waiting for him when he entered Hogsmeade. She looked pale and tired and she hadn't even tried to hide her red, puffy eyes.

"Sirius," she said when she saw him. She tried to give him a tight hug, but Sirius immediately jerked away. She either didn't notice or was too tired to care. The latter was probably the case. "Come on," she said, beckoning him.

They went by Knight Bus, neither of them willing to risk a more strenuous method of travel. One bumpy ride later, they arrived at Sirius' grandmother's house, a cozy little house close to Sirius' house - old house. She had moved there shortly after Sirius was born to be close to her family.

Neither Sirius nor his grandmother had said a word the entire trip, his grandmother was too tired and Sirius didn't care enough, but now, after Sirius had dropped his bag in his grandmother's front hall, he turned to her and said, "I'm going to the house."

His grandmother looked aghast. "No Sirius," she exclaimed. "You can't, you shouldn't."

Sirius was resolute. "I'm going," he said, his voice leaving no room for argument, not that his grandmother even tried. She just watched him leave, her expression a mixture of helplessness and pity.

There were two ways to his house from his grandmother's. The first went through the village. It was the one Sirius' parents always insisted he use, as it was safer. It was also longer, which was why Sirius never took it, not unless his parents were with him. He always took the shortcut through the forest. It was more of a woods than a forest and, in Sirius' opinion, it wasn't even that dangerous. There weren't that many wild beasts running about and Sirius had learned what plants to avoid when he was four. The forest route took about ten minutes off of the walk so in Sirius' mind, it justified the amount of trouble he got into with his parents whenever they found out he had gone that way.

The thought of his parents reminded Sirius of why he was there and not at Hogwarts. He forged on.

When he emerged from the woods it was easy to see where his house was. The Dark Mark still hung overhead, although it was fairly faint by that time. The sight of it made Sirius sick. However he steeled himself and, clenching his fists, walked inside.

It was, of course, deserted. Sirius knew that no one liked to be in a house marked by Voldemort; it was thought to be unlucky. The other villagers would have retrieved the bodies then left as quickly as possible.

Still, it was unnaturally quiet. Sirius thought he could hear his footsteps echoing through the hall. It seemed more like the house had been deserted for centuries, not empty for a few hours.

Sirius didn't know what he expected, what he thought he'd find. He made his way through the house slowly and carefully, making sure he didn't disturb anything. He didn't know why it felt so important to do that, but it did all the same.

The silence in the house was broken when Sirius tripped. Swearing, he held his hands out in front of him to break his fall. Still cursing, he got up again and looked to see what had tripped him.

It was a teddy bear. Sirius smiled wryly. His little sister's favourite stuffed animal, actually. He was surprised Mira had left it behind; she usually didn't leave the house without it. Sirius bent over and picked the toy up. He would return it to Mira when he went back to his grandmother's house.

His own room was next and there Sirius gathered up some of his more important stuff. What couldn't take to Hogwarts, his grandmother could hold onto it for safe keeping. Sirius headed back through the twilight forest, although it was twice as dangerous during the night.

Sirius' grandmother had moved his bag up to the spare room. Sirius went in and dumped the stuff he had gotten from his house onto the bed. Then, grabbing Mira's teddy bear, he went off to look for his younger sister.

Some of their neighbours had taken pity on the grieving family and brought over some dishes for their supper. Sirius found his grandmother in the kitchen, heating up one of them for their dinner.

"Grams," Sirius said, looking around. He was still carrying around Mira's teddy bear. "Where's Mira?" He perched on one of the chairs at the kitchen table.

His grandmother gave him a look on immense pity. "Oh, Sirius," she said helplessly, sinking into the chair beside him. "I thought you knew."

"Knew what?" Sirius asked. His fingers were digging into the teddy bear so harshly that if Mira had seen it, she would have yelled at her older brother for hurting her bear. Sirius had the feeling that he wouldn't like what his grandmother was about to tell him.

"Mira was home at the time. And You-Know-Who, well, he doesn't leave anyone alive. She's dead, Sirius."

Sirius was horrified. "She's six. She's only six. She's just a little kid."

His grandmother's eyes filled with tears. I know, Sirius. It's terrible. He's terrible."

She made a move to comfort him, but Sirius wouldn't let her. He violently shoved himself away from the table and fled upstairs to his room. Sirius' grandmother tried to follow him, but Sirius wouldn't let her in his room. Not sure if he was strong enough yet to overpower his grandmother's magic, Sirius decided to stick with the simplest method: he physically barred to door so she couldn't get in. He plugged his ears as he sat on the floor, back to the door, so he didn't have to listen to what his grandmother was yelling at him from the other side of the door. She gave up after about ten minutes and left Sirius alone with his thoughts.

Mira was dead. His little sister was dead. It wasn't fair. She was just a little kid. She had, or should have had, her whole life ahead of her.

Sirius could remember the first time he had seen his sister. It was hardly surprising; Sirius had been ten at the time and convinced he would always remain an only child. It wasn't as if his parents hadn't tried to have other children, but there had been complications during Sirius' birth that had the doctors convinced his mother would never bring another child to term. After she had had Sirius, she had several miscarriages before becoming pregnant with Mira. His parents hadn't even told Sirius he was going to become an older brother until, at five and a half months, Sirius' mother couldn't hide her burgeoning belly anymore.

It could have been because of the great difference in their ages, or perhaps because Sirius had left to go to Hogwarts before it became an issue, but Sirius had never felt anything remotely resembling sibling rivalry towards his little sister. He adored Mira, and she adored him too.

He had heard all the stories about Voldemort. He had read the newspaper articles about the attacks. He had seen the pictures of Voldemort's victims. Some of them were infants. He shouldn't have been surprised to hear of Mira's death. But even after finding out about his parents' death, Sirius hadn't even considered the possibility that Mira could have died with them.

Sirius hadn't bothered to turn any lights on when he had entered his room. What little light that had lingered on after the sun had set was now completely gone, leaving Sirius in darkness. Still he didn't move. Eventually he fell into a fitful sleep that left him sore when he woke up the next morning.

The next two days were a blur. There were hours that he had no recollection of, even days later, and some minutes that were imprinted into his memory forever. He didn't remember the wake, for example, except for the corpses. According to their will, Sirius' parents had wanted an open-casket wake. Sirius never forgot the horrified looks on their otherwise unblemished bodies. It was an image the haunted him.

He did, however, remember the actual funeral. He remembered listening to how the minister had droned on about how they were now in a better place and trying to ignore the false sobs of neighbours and acquaintances of the Blacks. Sirius hated that. They didn't know his parents or his sister, but they were wailing as if they had been the best of friends. It sickened Sirius. His had been the only pair of dry eyes in the church.

The day after the funeral Sirius decided it was time to return to Hogwarts. His grandmother wanted him to stay home for a while longer. Sirius didn't even notice the irony in the fact that he was arguing to return to his classes sooner rather than later for once.

His grandmother gave in finally, though more to save face than anything else. She didn't have any real control over Sirius, and they both knew it. He would return to Hogwarts with or without her permission.


Everyone was in the Great Hall for supper when Sirius returned. He didn't feel much like eating - the thought of food made him feel queasy - so he went straight up to the Gryffindor Tower. He had just finished unpacking when James entered.

"Sirius!" James exclaimed, surprised. "You're back! What happened?"

"Hey Prongs," Sirius said, putting on a façade of cheerfulness. He stood up and dusted his robes off. "Where's Remus and Peter?" He looked around for his other roommates.

"Peter's still eating and Remus - well, it's a full moon tonight."

Sirius looked out the window. "So it is," he said. "I'd lost track of the days."

"Sirius," James said again. "What happened? Lily mentioned something about your mother. Is she okay?"

"As well as she can be," Sirius said, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible.

James didn't seem to be satisfied with that answer. He pursed his lips and pestered Sirius with questions. "What happened? Why did you go off so quickly? What was so important that you couldn't even stick around long enough to tell us you were going? I asked McGonagall, but she was no help. She refused to tell me anything."

"Does it really matter?" Sirius mumbled.

"Yes," James said. "It does."

He caught Sirius' eye and looked at him sternly. Sirius tried to stare back insolently, but had to turn away first.

"Sirius," James said softly. "We're friends. Whatever it is, you can tell us."

Sirius opened his mouth and was just about to tell James everything when Peter stumbled into the room. One look was all it took to tell James and Sirius that he had been cursed. Big, painful boils were bubbling up on every inch of free skin. Peter whimpered.

"What happened to you?" James asked.

Peter only managed to get one word out. "Snape," he said.

"That slimy bastard," Sirius said angrily.

James glanced at him. For some reason, he seemed to be concerned, not just for Peter, which was understandable, but for Sirius as well. Sirius didn't know why.

"Come on," James said to Peter. "Let's get you down to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey will fix you up."

Peter nodded and the three of them went down to the hospital wing. Sirius waited until they were all occupied before slipping out. No one noticed him leave. Now was his chance to find Snape.

It took Sirius almost half an hour to find Snape. The other boy wasn't in any of his usual haunts nor was he with his friends. Sirius had bullied one of the Slytherin second years only to find out he wasn't up in the Slytherin Tower, either.

Sirius eventually located Snape outside by the Whomping Willow. The Slytherin boy was cautiously poking around and he seemed to be searching for something. The tree came to life and Snape jumped back just in time to avoid being hit by one of its branches.

"Snape," Sirius said, his voice dripping with hatred for the boy standing in front of him.

Snape whirled around, his wand in his hand, ready to attack. "Black," he said, just as coldly. "You're back. Pity. I suppose you're mad about what happened to the wimp."

"Going to curse me with that?" Sirius asked, noting the wand. "Deciding to actually go against someone more your speed? Or do you only go against people weaker than yourself. I could get you suspended for that." Sirius also had his wand in his hand.

"You've no proof I cursed the coward. It's his word against mine. Everyone knows your little gang hates me and will do anything to get me in trouble. No one will ever believe him.

"Besides," Snape sneered, "you're one for talking about rule breaking. First Lupin, now you. I know you're up to something."

Sirius fought back a surge of fear. He saw Remus? Did he know? No, he couldn't know, but still . . .

Seeing the look on Sirius' face, Snape sneered again. "That's right, I saw your friend sneaking out here. I will find out what you and he are up to and I'll get you expelled for it."

Sirius smiled maliciously at Snape. "Poor wittle Snapey," he mocked. "Doesn't even know how to tame the wild Whomping Willow. All you have to do is get a stick and poke that knob. It'll freeze and you can go down the hole. But you won't find Remus there." Not in any form you'd recognize, he added to himself.

Snape flushed. Sirius deliberately turned his back on him and started to walk away. He heard the Willow stop flailing and knew Snape was going down. He turned around and called back, "Good luck finding something that'll get us expelled."

With his hands in his pockets and whistling cheerfully, Sirius headed back to the castle, feeling much better than he had for awhile. There was nothing like Snape-bating to make his day. He heard someone calling his name and turned around.

"There you are, Sirius." It was James. "Where'd you go? I've been looking all over for you." He looked at his friend suspiciously. "Why do you look like the cat who got the canary?"

"Snape just got what he deserves," Sirius said. "Got him back for Peter and for Remus."

"Remus?" James asked, confused.

"The ugly git saw Remus sneaking off tonight. Trying to get him expelled. So I told him how to stop the Willow and get into the tunnel."

James turned completely white. "Sirius! You what?" he asked, horrified.

"What?" Sirius shrugged uncomfortably. "I gave him what he wanted - a look at Remus."

"You didn't!"

"It's nothing more than he deserves, sticking his long nose where it doesn't belong . . . Hey! Where're you going?" he asked, for James was racing off.

"To get Snape," James called back.

Sirius chased after him. "What? Are you crazy? You could get killed!"

"So could he!" James shot back.

"He deserves it! Are you going to risk your life for him?"

"Of course I am!"

"If the roles were reversed, he would never do the same for you."

They had reached the Whomping Willow. James wasted no time in snatching a stick and poking the knob. "Then it's a good thing the roles aren't reversed," he said grimly, leaping into the hole.

"You're crazy," Sirius said, shaking his head.

"Probably," James replied as he disappeared into the tunnel. Sirius strained to hear James' grim parting words. "If I don't come back, get Dumbledore."



An eternity seemed to pass before James and Snape re-emerged. Sirius scrambled to his feet as two very pale faces came out of the tunnel. Sirius was sure his face mirrored theirs.

"What happened?" he demanded. "Are you all right?"

He had directed the questions at James, but it was Snape who answered. "What's it to you? You sent me down there in the first place."

Sirius' eyes flashed dangerously. "I wasn't talking to you, Snape."

"Oh, so it was Potter who got cold feet. I should have known. You may both be capable of cold-blooded murder, but at least Potter isn't stupid enough to do it right under Dumbledore's nose."

James intervened. "Stop it, both of you," he ordered. "This is neither the time nor the place. It's late. Let's just go to bed."

"Do you really think I'm going to sit by idly and do nothing? You two almost killed me tonight. You may get away with a lot, but you aren't going to weasel your way out of this one."

"Oh, I'm sure the teachers are going to be thrilled to be woken up in the middle of the night just so you can snitch on me," Sirius said.

Snape narrowed his eyes. "There's a werewolf running loose on the grounds, Black. It's my duty as a prefect to let the teachers know. Potter may have forgotten in his attempt to cover for that freak of nature he has the audacity to call a friend, but I know that freak for what he really is: a monster."

James reached for his wand while Sirius grabbed Snape by the collar and pulled him so close that their noses were almost touching. "Take that back," he growled. "If you even think of telling anyone about Remus, I swear, they'll be hard pressed to find the pieces of you. He's more human than you could ever dream of being."

"Sirius," James warned laying a hand on his friend's arm to calm him down. Sirius shook James off, but otherwise paid the prefect no attention. Snape ignored him completely.

"Now, now," Snape said drawled, even though Sirius was almost choking him. "I thought you'd already exercised your homicidal tendencies for the evening. What would your parents say? That brat of a sister of yours would be heartbroken to find out her murderous brother finally got what was coming to him and got expelled. That is," Snape finished nastily, "if she still have a heart left beating that could be broken. It's a shame she died so quickly."

Something in Sirius snapped. He kneed Snape in the groin and started to pummel him. Snape was ready for him and replied in turn. Before anyone knew it, an all-out brawl was in progress.

Sirius never knew quite how long he and Snape had been fighting before someone hurled a spell at Snape, stunning him. He probably would have finished him then and there if it weren't for James. Before Sirius could reach Snape, he found himself struggling uselessly against an invisible force that was keeping him from moving.

Later, James told him that he hadn't wanted to curse either of them, for fear that if one of them had gained the advantage, he would have killed the other. Luckily, Professor McGonagall had shown up. When neither of the brawling boys had heeded her orders to stop, she had stunned Snape, while James had been ready with a full body binding.

"What is going on here?" Professor McGonagall demanded. Snape had recovered and James had released Sirius, but neither dared attack the other because James and Professor McGonagall was standing between them.

James was reluctant to answer. "Sirius - er - told Snape how to follow Remus."

Professor McGonagall paled considerably. "What?" she gasped.

"He tried to kill me, that's what he did," Snape said angrily.

"The git was sticking his nose where it didn't belong," Sirius retorted. "Now, I know how hard it is not to, considering how long it is - "

"Sirius!" James said warningly, cutting his friend off before he could get himself into further trouble.

"I can't believe it, Black! He could have been killed, or worse! And you, Potter," she said, turning to James, "What is your involvement in this?"

"He saved the bloody git's life," Sirius said. "He went after him when he found out Snape went after Remus."

Professor McGonagall turned her gaze to Snape. "Is this true?" she asked.

"Yes," he said reluctantly.

"I see. Come with me, all of you. We're going to the Headmaster."

She led them not to the familiar office, but to Professor Dumbledore's sleeping quarters.

Dumbledore answered the door wearing brilliant purple pajamas. He frowned, stifling a yawn, when he saw who was there, a rare expression on his usually merry face.

"What is it, Minerva?" he asked.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Albus, but I think this needs your immediate attention."

"Of course. We should go to my office." Dumbledore didn't bother to get dressed, he just went as he was.

"So, what seems to be the problem?" he asked Professor McGonagall after they had reached his office.

"Black here seemed to have found it . . . amusing to tell Snape how to follow young Lupin. Potter found out and stopped him before anyone got hurt. Then Black and Snape got into a fistfight. That was when I found them."

"I see," Professor Dumbledore said blandly. "I would like to talk to each of you individually, starting with Severus. James, Sirius, if you wouldn't mind waiting outside."

It wasn't a request, really, but James answered anyway. "Of course not, Headmaster," he said quietly.

"Excellent. Minerva, you can go to bed."

Professor McGonagall nodded curtly. She escorted James and Sirius out while Snape sat down in a chair opposite Dumbledore's desk. He looked so smug it was only James' restraining hand that kept Sirius from attacking him then and there, Dumbledore's office or not.

James and Sirius waited patiently outside of Dumbledore's office, waiting for their turn. It was several minutes before Snape come out again. He was looking considerably less smug than before.

Sirius and James were on their feet instantly. James discreetly moved between Sirius and Snape while holding onto Sirius' wrist to keep him from going for his wand.

"You're next, Potter," he said shortly.

James nodded, but otherwise didn't move. Not letting his eyes leave Snape for even a second, he waited until the other boy had left before he let go of Sirius and went upstairs to Dumbledore's office. He trusted neither Snape nor Sirius and hadn't wanted to take any chances.

Sirius was alone. He sat down on the floor, blankly staring at the wall, wishing James would hurry up.

He got his wish soon enough. Barely five minutes had passed before James reappeared.

"He's ready to see you now," James said quietly.

Sirius nodded numbly. As he ascended the staircase, dread settled in the pit of his stomach. Never before had he felt so nervous going into a meeting with Dumbledore. With each step he took, the feeling grew until last he had reached the top.

Dumbledore, unnaturally solemn, asked him to take a seat.

"Sirius," he began, "you told Mr. Snape how to get by the Whomping Willow and down the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack."

Dumbledore paused and although it wasn't a question, Sirius felt compelled to answer. "Yes," he mumbled.

"You were well aware of what he would meet at the other end, were you not?"

Sirius silently nodded, unable to look Dumbledore in the eye. He settled for examining the purple pajamas the headmaster was wearing. On anyone else they would look ridiculous, but Dumbledore didn't even look less respectable for them.

"Where exactly does Mr. Potter fit into this? Was he aware of what you were planning?"

Sirius was quick to deny this. "No!" he said vehemently. "James had no idea. I told him after Snape had already entered the tunnel. He went after him."

"Ah," Dumbledore said, seeming to be satisfied. "He probably saved Mr. Snape's life. And at great risk to his own safety," he added sharply.

Sirius looked down and didn't say anything. Dumbledore continued, "They both could have been killed. I'm surprised and disappointed in you, Mr. Black. As reckless as you can be, never before have you deliberately endangered someone else's life. However, in view of what has happened to you . . . I understand you are in pain right now, but that cannot justify what you did tonight. You are banned from all Hogsmeade visits for the rest of the school year and have an additional week's detention. Two hundred points from Gryffindor."

"Yes sir," Sirius said. He started to leave, but Dumbledore stopped him.

"One more thing, please. There is also the matter of the fight you and Mr. Snape got into afterwards. Now, according to Mr. Potter, you were provoked. Considering the circumstances, I think we can pass over it just this once. But a reminder, there is to be no fighting at Hogwarts. Do you understand?"

Sirius nodded and got up again.

"And Sirius?" Sirius turned around and looked at the headmaster expectantly. "You shouldn't keep what happened to yourself. Your friends are worried about you. You could use their support. You are not the only one who has lost a family member before, and certainly not the only one to lose one to Dumbledore. You shouldn't bottle up your feelings so tightly. I'd suggest you talk with your friends about this - you will feel much better."

Sirius left without another word. Behind him, Professor Dumbledore sighed.


"Well?" James asked expectantly.

"A week worth's of detention and two hundred points from Gryffindor," Sirius reported.

"That's it?" James asked, his eyebrows raised. He seemed to be surprised that Sirius had gotten off so easily. Not that it was any wonder; Sirius himself was surprised he hadn't been expelled.

"That's it," he confirmed.

They started to walk back to Gryffindor Tower. Neither of them said a word, but James kept on sneaking looks at Sirius. Usually this would have bothered him, but he had too much on his mind to worry about something that trivial.

No one was in their room and Sirius looked around, puzzled, until James, noticing Sirius' confusion, explained, "Peter's still in the hospital wing." He turned to Sirius. "So, are you going to explain?"

"Explain what?" Sirius asked, flopping down on his bed.

"What that was about?"

"What's to explain? Snape's an idiot. I don't get along with him, he doesn't get along with us, sometimes things like this happen."

"Things like this don't just 'sometimes happen,' " James said, anger in his voice. "You usually have a bit more self-control. What made you cross the line tonight? He could've been killed. I could've been killed."

"Only because you insisted on going after him," Sirius said, sitting up and glaring at his friend.

James exploded. "What's wrong with you tonight?" he demanded. "You act as if you don't care that you nearly caused someone to die, that you nearly got yourself and Remus expelled. I know you, Sirius. You aren't normally like this. Sure, you bend the rules, but never to this extent! Now where were you for the last couple of days? What happened to you? What was it that Snape said that made you so angry?"

" Nothing's wrong! I'm fine," Sirius yelled.

"You are not! Something obviously happened while you were away to make you this way. What was it?"

"Something didn't obviously happen," retorted Sirius.

James calmed down. "Sirius, I'm your friend, your best friend. You can tell me."

Sirius said nothing, so James tried again. "Snape said something about your sister. Is Mira okay?"

Sirius gave a funny little half-snort, half-sob. "As well as you could expect, considering."

"Considering what?" James demanded. "Don't clam up on me now."

"She's dead, James," Sirius said, finally defeated. "They're all dead."

James looked horrified. "What?"

"Voldemort," Sirius spit out the name. "It was the middle of the night. They were sleeping. They didn't have a chance. He killed them all. Oh, God, James," Sirius said, devastated. "He killed them all."

"Your parents too?"

Sirius nodded. For the first time since he had heard the news, he felt tears welling up in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," James murmured.

Sirius didn't listen. "Why?" he wanted to know, his voice cracking. "Why them? My parents weren't anyone special. They didn't even work for the Ministry. Why them? And Mira? She's six goddamned years old!" He was sobbing by this point. "What threat could she be? Why'd he have to kill her? Why James, why?" He looked up at his friend, almost pleading for an answer.

"He doesn't need a reason," James said softly. "He just does it to create fear."

It was a while before Sirius was able to collect himself enough to answer. "Yeah, I know that," he said, trying furiously to wipe the tears that were streaming from his eyes. He didn't even care that he was crying in front of James. "I know that. But it doesn't help. It doesn't make it better."

"Of course not," James said. "Nothing makes it better." He sat down on the bed beside Sirius.

Sirius laughed humorlessly. "That doesn't help."

"No," James agreed. "It doesn't. It's not supposed to."

"I wish it would. I just want to pain to go away."

"I know. And it will, in time."

"You know," Sirius complained, wiping the remainder of his tears away, "you sure know how to cheer a guy up."

"Hey," said James with a wry grin. "What're friends for?"

Sirius didn't feel like changing, so he just crawled under the covers in this school robes. In the next bed, James did the same. His friend took his glasses off and muttered a spell that turned the lights out.

A couple of minutes of silence passed before he continued. "Are you going to be okay?"

Sirius thought about it before answering. "I think so. Eventually."

The End
Sunday, February 4, 2001

Okay, this was started a long, long time ago, but I never actually got around to finished the revisions until now.  Special thanks go to my beta-readers who put up with a lot more crap from me than they should have.