Albus Dumbledore keeps a secret that may be the very downfall of the wizarding world. Will Voldemort learn of this secret, which Dumbledore values more than the prophecy? Or, will someone find ou...
Chapter 7: Seriously Speaking
Number twelve Grimmauld Place was just what the name implied, grim and old. It belonged to the Black family, who were practitioners of the Dark Arts, and supporters of You-Know-Who. It would have remained grim and old, if it were not for Sirius Black, who took possession of the house. Now, anyone who walked inside would think it belonged to an average, and happy wizarding family.
At the moment, the house was full of members of the Order of the Phoenix. Most of them were in the enlarged game room, watching six Hogwarts students trained. Some of the spectators yelled out advice. Some just clapped, and cheered, as the trainees made remarkable defense, or offense.
“Okay… That’s all for now,” Sirius shouted over the din. “Nice use of Summoning Charm, Luna… you too, Hermione. You all showed marked improvements. But, you still have a lot to learn…” Sirius quickly glanced at his watch. “…It’s almost lunch time. You can all go. Don’t forget to read the books I gave you.”
One by one the students headed toward the door. However, Madam Pomfrey accosted them, before they could walk out of the room.
“You’re very generous with your praise, Sirius,” a disgruntled Mad Eye observed. He watched the ruffled students, as they followed the school nurse, probably to another room.
“Take it easy, Mad Eye. They’re only students.” Sirius watched the last of the students exit the door, before facing his former instructor. “Haven’t you heard of positive reinforcement? Besides, it’ll be a long time, before they’ll actually fight Death Eaters.”
“Constant vigilance!” Mad Eye earnestly said. “Haven’t I kept reminding you of that one? We are in uncertain times. You have to instill in them the importance of this training.”
“Oh, I’m sure they know,” Sirius replied confidently. “Haven’t you seen them with your own eyes? You have to admit they improve a lot.”
“Yes, there is improvement, but not enough. The only one I see working truly hard is Longbottom. And, you know as well as I do the reason behind it. You have to push them harder.” Mad Eye saw Mrs. Weasley stood by the door, and called everybody to lunch. He gave Sirius a pointed look, before limping his way out the door.
Sirius was left in the middle of the room, considering Mad Eye’s words. Perhaps, it was time for a one to one instruction, Sirius thought. He would bring it up in the Order meeting, scheduled after lunch. He hoped he could get volunteers from the other members. Satisfied with his course of action, he joined the others in the kitchen.
After eating Mrs. Weasley’s delicious cooking, everyone was in a good mood. It was seldom, Order members enjoyed a brief moment of camaraderie. Mrs. Weasley, as always, immediately herded the loudly protesting Hogwarts students, out of the kitchen.
“You’re joking,” boomed Hagrid’s voice. His whole body was shaking with laughter. “The boy’s bum was the only thing he could remember.”
“Yeah, I know.” Mrs. Arabella Figg was amusedly shaking her head. “Sometimes, I wonder about that old oaf.”
“I wouldn’t,” Mundungus Fletcher put in his two knuts. The old bloke might be batting for the other team in his old age, Dung thought.
Across from them, Mrs Weasley was engaged in conversation with Auror Nymphadora Tonks. “I don’t know what to do with those two.” Mrs. Weasley carefully set a glass of cold water, near the head of the table, before sitting down. “To make matter worse, someone invested in their joke business. Now, I hardly see them at all. They are so irresponsible to be left on their own.”
Tonks nodded her head, and smiled in understanding. Mrs. Weasley might berate her twins. But, the truth was she was worried about them, especially now they moved out of the Burrow. “I’m sure they’ll be fine Mrs. Weasley. Didn’t you mention three days ago their business was attracting too much attention?” Tonks teasingly reminded the anxious mother. Mrs. Weasley gave the pink-haired Auror a stern look. But, after a few seconds, the redheaded mother’s face broke into a mischievous smile. Both, Tonks and Mrs. Weasley burst into gales of laughter.
Mad Eye was quiet. He was busy observing the witches and wizards around him, especially Snape who was softly talking with Professor McGonagall.
In one corner of the kitchen, Bill Weasley, Sirius, and Remus were huddled together talking quietly. “Are you telling me, someone made a withdrawal from the Potter Vault without Harry?” Sirius asked incredulously. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. As far as he knew, Harry was the only living Potter.
“How was that possible?” Remus asked in disbelief. “I thought only Harry, as Head of the Family, could enter the Potter Vault.”
The two marauders were quiet for a moment. They were surprised, and worried. “Did you ask the Goblins for the identity of the person, who made the withdrawal?” Sirius asked tensely.
Bill looked them in the eye. “Yes, I did.” The two marauders didn’t interrupt, tensely waiting for the rest of the answer. “They wouldn’t tell me. They said it was a business transaction that had nothing to do with me.”
“What!” Sirius exclaimed incredulously. Remus lightly touched his forearm. Sirius momentarily looked at Remus, and then, noticed the other Order members curiously staring at them. He ignored the others, and was about to ask another question, when the kitchen door opened.
Dumbledore entered, and purposely strode across the room. His face was all business like. “I’m sorry for keeping everyone waiting. Please, have a seat.” Dumbledore remained standing at the head of the table. When everyone found their seats, he sat down. “I just received disturbing information from Bill, concerning Mr. Potter’s family vault.” Everyone noticed the headmaster didn’t formally open the meeting. It could only mean they were going to discuss a very serious matter. “Naturally, I went to Gringotts to verify it, under the pretense of reviewing Mr. Potter’s account.” He momentarily paused, as if he was considering his next word. The Order members waited anxiously. “Someone has indeed gained access to Mr. Potter’s family vault. Ragnok refused to divulge the identity of the person. In fact, he had the gall to remind me of the wizarding statutes, which governed privacy of family vaults.” Uneasy silence settled inside the kitchen.
“It might be Harry, under some disguise,” Hestia Jones suggested tentatively.
“Impossible. Mr. Potter is a minor. He won’t gain access to his family vault, until he’s of age,” Professor McGonagall contradicted immediately.
“How could this happen?” Remus rhetorically asked. “I thought Goblins have safeguards against this kind of situation.”
“They have,” Bill answered gravely. “Whoever entered the Potter Vault somehow fooled the Goblins, and the security wards protecting the vault.”
“Preposterous!” Dung exclaimed, unconvinced. “Steal from a high security vault? Protected by dragons and Goblin magic? This is not some regular vault like four years ago… or was it five… Anyway, it’s impossible.” Nevertheless, Dung decided there and then, to keep his eyes and ears open. It could prove profitable.
Dumbledore let the other Order members discussed, or argue their theories as the case may be. He couldn’t help but think, Voldemort had something to do with it. When he spoke again, the hubbub reduced to a minimum. “Severus, do you have anything more to say about the ritual, Voldemort performed over two weeks ago?”
Everyone turned their attention to the Potions Master. “I have nothing more to report, headmaster.” Snape returned Dumbledore’s probing gaze, unperturbed.
“And the vial… is there anything left of its content?” Dumbledore asked interestedly.
“None, headmaster,” Snape answered cryptically, refusing to look away.
“Headmaster…” Mad Eye interrupted the two-way conversation. “…What is this ritual you are talking about?” There was a mild curiosity on his face.
Dumbledore suddenly became aware of the puzzled expressions of the other Order members. He didn’t want to discuss it, but he had no choice. In the light of what happened in Gringotts, he needed all the help he could get. The main problems were Sirius and Remus. He didn’t know how the two marauders would react.
“Two weeks ago, Severus brewed a potion for Voldemort, who used it in a black ritual.” Dumbledore momentarily stopped to clear his parched throat. He took a sip of cold water, Mrs. Weasley left, near his end of the table. “The ritual was designed to locate, and summon Mr. Potter from wherever he was hiding. I am pleased to inform you, the ritual failed.” Order members gave a collective sigh of relief. “However, Severus paid dearly for that failure.” A few half-heartedly acknowledged the Potions Master’s sacrifice. Dumbledore, himself, offered Snape an apologetic look.
“I’m sure it was a great sacrifice on his part, professor,” Sirius rudely interrupted with a hint of sarcasm. “But, is this ritual has anything to do with the Potter Vault?”
“Indeed it may have, Sirius,” Dumbledore answered gravely. “You have to understand. In order to protect Severus’ cover as a spy, I have to give certain information…mostly trivial information. But, in this case…” The headmaster’s grave look deepened. “I gave Severus a vial of Harry Potter’s blood.” Eerie silence greeted Dumbledore’s revelation. Except for the headmaster and Snape, everyone had one expression on their faces…shock.
Suddenly, the kitchen exploded with shouts of protest, accusations, and denials. But, none was as vocal as Sirius. Chairs fell on the floor with a loud crash. Remus powerfully wrapped his arms around the struggling Sirius, to stop him from manhandling Dumbledore.
“Sirius, will you calm down! Will you please let the headmaster explain himself?” It took most of Remus’ werewolf strength to hold on to his friend.
“CALM DOWN? CALM DOWN?” Sirius yelled in rage. “That old prat is playing with Harry’s life! He has no right to do that! He has no right!” Realizing he couldn’t break Remus’ hold, he decided to reach for his wand.
Sirius felt his body suddenly went rigid. He was a little grateful, that Remus was holding him. Otherwise, he would have fallen flat on his face. He couldn’t move. But, that didn’t stop him from glaring angrily at Dumbledore. The room grew quiet. Everyone was tensely watching the interplay.
“Mr. Black, you are not talking to one of your students. You will show respect,” Professor McGonagall said sternly. Remus shifted Sirius’ frozen body a little bit, so that he was facing Professor McGonagall. Tonks snorted, as the move reminded her of a puppet show. She’s not the only one either.
“He’ll be good, Minerva. You’ll be good, won’t you?” Remus tipped Sirius body twice in rapid succession. Tonks snorted again. “See, he agrees.”
Professor McGonagall pressed her lips tight. She was not amused. Nevertheless, she reluctantly released Sirius from the Body Bind Curse. But, she kept her wand pointed at the pissed off marauder, just in case.
“You can let go now, Remus,” Sirius said in a strained voice. He slowly turned around, and frowned at his friend. Remus contritely shrugged. “You can put away your wand, Minerva. I promise not to attack the headmaster… yet.” Sirius angrily glared at Dumbledore for a moment, before straightening his chair to sit down. Remus hesitantly followed suit. “So, let’s hear your excuse, headmaster,” Sirius said coldly.
Dumbledore sadly sighed. At that moment, he looked his one hundred fifty one years of age. “It was not my intention to put Mr. Potter in harm’s way…” He somberly looked round the table. “…What I did was a calculated risk. I have made every precaution to ensure his safety. He was never in danger.”
“What if the ritual worked? What then?” Sirius asked harshly.
“I have provided Mr. Potter a portkey, as a means of escape. And, he constantly wears an amulet, that has a Tracking Charm,” Dumbledore effortlessly answered.
“You know, as well as I do, those things can be easily overcome. Voldemort is too clever not to have considered those countermeasures. It was irresponsible of you to take that risk.” Sirius stared hard at the headmaster. He could see Professor McGonagall giving him disapproving look, but he didn’t care. “What I want is your word never to do anything so stupid, as to endanger Harry’s life.”
For a moment, the two wizards coldly held each other’s gaze. “You have my word, Sirius.” The tense atmosphere relaxed a bit, after the headmaster’s pronouncement.
“Headmaster, I take it you are concerned, Lord Voldemort used some of Potter’s blood, to open the vault?” Mad Eye asked gruffly. It was more of a statement, than a question.
“Indeed I am, Alastor.” Dumbledore, once more, gave Snape a searching look. “If Voldemort, or any of his Death Eaters, didn’t do it, then who could it be?” he asked almost to himself.
“Maybe you should ask Harry, professor,” Hestia suggested again, firmly this time. She immediately noticed Professor McGonagall’s irate look. “I know, I know, he is a minor. But, still, it won’t hurt to ask. The Goblins just probably allowed him access as a favor.”
For a moment, Dumbledore looked like he was considering Hestia’s suggestion. Then, he sighed deeply. “I shall ask Mr. Potter. Now then, is there anymore issue, or problem, we need to address?”
“Professor…” Dumbledore calmly acknowledged Sirius, who appeared to be trying, to be civil. “…I have been informed that the training of the students is progressing slowly. I would like to ask, if some of the Order members could give their free time, to help with the training.”
“We need every available hand, out in the field, Sirius. I am sorry, but you just have to do the best you can,” Dumbledore replied almost dismissively. He, then, turned his attention to the other members. “Are there anymore concerns that we need to address?” Dumbledore waited patiently. No one spoke. “Voldemort and his Death Eaters are getting active. I advise each and every one of you to be constantly vigilant. Until our next meeting, I bid you all good day.”
Sirius was sitting on his bed, when Remus entered his bedroom. He didn’t look up. His eyes were focused inside a small, unadorned, crimson box in his hands. The box contained a signet ring, carved with the Potter Crest. He heard, rather than saw, his friend pull up a chair, and sat down opposite him. They didn’t talk. They just silently kept each other company.
“Do you ever get the feeling Dumbledore doesn’t like me?” Sirius asked softly, his attention still focused on the signet ring. He saw a palm held out in front of his face. He carefully laid the small box on his friend’s open hand.
Remus curiously studied the signet ring inside the box, for a moment. Then, he returned it to his friend. “I’m not entirely sure. But, I do know he is intentionally keeping you away from Harry. Why? I have no idea.” There was a brief moment of silence. “Are you going to give that ring to Harry?”
“Yes…” Sirius slowly closed the lid of the box. “…I promised James I would.”
“One more year, and you can personally hand it to him.” Remus shifted uneasily. He had no reason to believe Dumbledore would honor his promise.
As if reading his thought, Sirius asked, “Do you think Dumbledore will introduce me to Harry like he promised?” He looked at Remus, sadness clearly showing on his face. After a brief moment, he dropped his gaze to the crimson box. “I think back on all the past years, and all I see are missed opportunities. He could have become our best friend. We could have inducted him as a new marauder. Of course, he has to be an illegal Animagus first. And then, teach him everything we know in pranking. James would have loved that. I ’m not sure if Lily would, though.” Sirius lapsed into poignant silence.
Remus didn’t know what to say. He was a close friend to both Sirius and James. But, Sirius and James’ friendship was different. They shared a bond…a bond of brotherhood. Sometimes, he envied them for that. But mostly, he was just grateful to be considered their friend, in spite of his condition. “Look, why don’t we go to Diagon Alley, and buy Harry a present. It’ll be his birthday in five days.”
“Yeah, I forgot about his birthday. Thanks for reminding me, Remus. I shouldn’t be sitting here wallowing in self pity. I should be out there looking for a perfect gift for Harry.” Sirius put the ring box in the bedside table drawer, and stood up energetically. “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go then.”
Remus just shook his head in amusement, as he stood up. They walked toward the door. Remus reached for the door handle, and swung it open. There, in front of him, stood Tonks, who was in the act of knocking.
“Oh. Hello Remus. Have you seen Sirius?” Tonks asked a little breathless. She saw Sirius moved at Remus’ side. She cheekily smiled, which made Remus’ face grew warm. “Hello Sirius. Do you want to talk to me now? Or, shall I leave you two alone?”
Sirius scowled, and Remus blustered. “We’re not like that. We like women only,” Remus exclaimed heatedly.
“Don’t listen to her. She's just ruffling your fur.” Sirius patted his friend’s shoulder. “You... stop teasing Remus, and get inside.” He pulled Tonks none too gently inside his room. Before he closed the door, he scanned the hallway for prying eyes.
Sirius led Tonks to a table and chairs near a window. Once they were seated, he asked everything Harry did while at the Ministry. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement had a standing order from the minister, to keep Sirius away from Harry, whenever he visited the Ministry. He could only watch Harry from afar, but not talked to him. Unfortunately, he’d be lucky just to know Harry was in the same building he was. He tried to circumvent the order many times, just to get a chance to meet Harry. Consequences, be damned. But, it was useless. He couldn’t even get a glimpse of Harry’s shadow. It was as if Fate was conspiring against him. If it wasn’t for his deep concern for Harry, he would have left the Magical Law Enforcement a long time ago.
Tonks told the two marauders what Harry did, from the time he arrived, to the time he departed. She was always picked as one of the guards, because of her unique ability. This helped her make a report to Dumbledore and Sirius. She knew how much Sirius cared about Harry. So, she was more than happy to supply the information. If Dumbledore wasn’t a well respected wizard, she would have given him a piece of her mind.
“Is that all? I mean, Harry can do a lot more. After all, he is The-Boy-Who-Lived.” Remus couldn’t believe at what he just heard.
“Yeah. Basically, Minister Scrimgeour and Harry just talk to the press most of the time. They seldom leave the Ministry,” Tonks answered nonchalantly. She turned to Sirius. Usually, he was full of questions about Harry, after her every report. But now, he was quiet. “Sirius, are you alright?”
“How can Professor Dumbledore do this to Harry? Can’t he see the Ministry only wants Harry as some sort of a propaganda figure? They’re not interested in battling Voldemort, or protecting the wizarding communities.” Sirius stood up, and agitatedly paced the floor. “If I can only talk to Harry, maybe I can convince him to…to…I don’t know…maybe suggest a different course of action.”
“Sirius…maybe it’s not my place to say this…but…I don’t think he will listen to you.” Sirius stopped, and faced her. Tonk nearly flinched, when Sirius’ intense gaze bore into her. She pressed her dry lips together, before continuing. “Harry…He’s a little bit full of himself. Sure, he’s intelligent. But, he seems to lack the qualities that most people find endearing.” Sirius gave her a lopsided grin.
“Don’t worry. His dad’s the same. James was an arrogant, egotistical, son of a witch, when I first met him. But, we sure had lots of fun, hadn’t we Remus?” The werewolf marauder interestedly looked everywhere, but Sirius’ direction. The dog animagus scowled at him. “He just needs a few more years to mature.” Tonks looked unconvinced, but she kept her mouth shut. Sirius seemed sure of his assessment. “So, got something more to tell us about Harry?”
“There is one other thing…” Tonks hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t sure, if she should report something unfounded. “There seems to be a rumor, floating around among senior Aurors, about Harry.” Sirius questioningly looked at her. Tonks just perplexedly shrugged her shoulders in response. “I don’t know. Nobody wants to tell me, what it is. Not surprising, though. I’m just a lowly Auror.”
For a moment, Sirius looked a bit puzzled himself. He never got a wind of any rumor about Harry. Perhaps, being known as Harry Potter’s godfather got something to do with. “I’ll look into it.” Sirius smiled gratefully at Tonks. “I don’t know what I’ll do without your help, Tonks. If you need something, I’m here, okay?”
“Well, now that you mentioned it. You can buy me a beautiful dress at Madam Malkin, and tell your friend here to take me out to dinner. I think that will do.” Tonks smiled teasingly at the two marauders.
Sirius laughed hard, while Remus blushed furiously. After a few light conversations, Tonks said her goodbye, and sneaked out of the room. A few more minutes later, the marauders also walked out of the bedroom, and out of the house, with Sirius constantly teasing Remus.
In no time, they were walking the cobblestone street of Diagon Alley. They first entered the Quidditch shop. Sirius wanted to buy a Firebolt for Harry. Remus, however, cautioned him, because they really had no idea what Harry liked.
“I’m telling you, Remus. Harry will like the Firebolt.” Sirius was busy admiring the broom’s streamline form to pay attention to Remus.
Remus just looked at his friend with amusement. It was hard to talk to Sirius, when he’s like an excited little boy. “I suggest a little more practical than extravagant. Remember all the expensive gifts you gave Harry in the past years? Dumbledore didn’t even tell us what happened to them.”
“I know.” Sirius lost his enthusiasm. Sadness welled up inside him. His gifts were his way of establishing a connection with his godson. If he received just one thank you note from Harry, he knew he accomplished it. But, as his friend reminded him, it was an act of futility.
Remus noticed Sirius was staring hard at the Firebolt. But, he got a feeling his friend wasn’t closely studying it. Now, he felt bad. He wished he never opened his big mouth. “Sirius, why don’t we leave the Firebolt for now, and look at some other things? Harry is going to be sixteen soon. So, I’m sure a racing broom will be the last thing on his mind.” Remus hoped he could distract his friend from his depressing thoughts.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Sirius agreed glumly.
They stepped onto the busy street, and wandered from shop to shop. Without thinking, they entered another shop, and felt a puff of mist. The two marauders questioningly looked at each other. They noticed other patrons of the shop laughing at them. They looked at themselves, and saw their cloaks turned neon pink, with flowers of different bright colors.
Remus and Sirius laughed appreciatively. It had been a long time, since somebody found the guts to prank them. They approached the counter. They looked around, and saw the Weasley twins busy with other customers. It appeared they entered the twins’ joke shop. They interestedly studied the various items in the glass counter, while they waited to be attended.
“Professor Lupin, Auror Black, I’m surprised to see you here,” George happily greeted them. Then, suddenly, his face turned suspicious. “Did my mother send you here? Because, if she did, you can go back, and tell her…”
Remus laughingly cut him off, mid-rant. “No. No. Your mother didn’t send us. We’re shopping for a birthday gift, and we happen to stumble upon your shop.”
“Oh. Alright then,” George said, embarrassed. “Sorry about going off like that.”
“It’s quite alright,” Remus lightly reassured.
“This is brilliant, Fred,” Sirius enthused admiringly. “I'm really impressed. You and your brother accomplished so much, in so short a time.”
“George,” George supplied helpfully, grinning from ear to ear.
“Excuse me?” Sirius asked, puzzled. He took his eyes off the fake wands he was curiously studying, and looked at George.
“I’m not Fred. I’m George,” George repeated. He saw Sirius smiled apologetically. “And, thank you by the way. So, what can I do for you gents?”
“As Remus said, we’re looking for a birthday gift, but we don’t know what to get.” Sirius’ brows knitted in concentration. “He’s going to be sixteen by the end of this month.”
“You’re in luck. I have just the gift for you.” He picked up a thick, funnel tube, and shouted through it. “Harry! I need the Party Pooper package, pronto!”
They heard a ding. George opened a small door in the wall behind him, and brought out a brown, shoe-size box. “There you go, one Weasley Party Pooper. It will liven up a dead boring birthday party. It comes complete with party hat, balloons, confetti, birthday song, birthday banner, and, of course, the exploding birthday cake.” The two marauders briefly glanced at each other with amusement.
“Ah, George, we’re looking for a gift to give, not prank the birthday celebrant,” Sirius said with a smile.
“That’s the beauty of the Weasley Party Pooper. You get to prank the birthday boy as well as give him your gift.” George beamed widely. Remus scratched his head, and Sirius just gaped. Seeing their lack of understanding, George opened the box to demonstrate. “See, you wrap the real gift with this brown paper, and put it inside the box. Don’t touch the other stuff in there. Once you close and tie the box with this red ribbon, the gift is ready. The surprise will activate, when the ribbon is removed.”
“How big a gift can it hold?” Sirius asked in amazement. He couldn’t believe at the creativity of the twins.
“No bigger than a broom,” George replied casually.
“We’ll take two.” Sirius pulled out his gold pouch. “How much are they?”
“Five galleons and seven sickles…” George rung up the sale, put the boxes in a paper bag, and handed it to Sirius.
“Just out of curiosity… Why did you name it, party pooper?” Remus asked as he watched Sirius shrinked the paper bag.
“Well, in a way, the surprise kills the mood of the birthday celebrant. Unless, he’s sporting enough to take it,” George explained lightly. “Is there anything more I can interest you of buying? Dung Bombs… Fake Wands… Canary Creams…” Both Remus and Sirius just thanked him. As they headed out the door, George called out after them, “Don’t hesitate to come back! Oh, and don’t forget to tell your friends!”
“Goodbye, George!” The two marauders just casually waved at him, without looking back. Nevertheless, they could be heard chuckling on their way out.
Once more, the two marauders were back out on the street. Out of habit, Sirius quickly scanned his surroundings. He noticed the street was not so crowded, anymore. He briefly glanced at his watch. He was surprised to see it was already five o’clock in the afternoon.
“Where to now?” Remus casually asked beside him.
Sirius thought for a minute. He couldn’t go back to the Ministry. It was already quitting time. Still, he got to sign out. He sighed wearily. “I’m going back to the Ministry. Got some more work to do.”
Remus nodded in understanding. “Meet you at the house later, then.”
After Sirius disapparated, the werewolf marauder thought about his friend. Sirius was becoming depressingly moody as Harry’s birthday drew near. It was going to be another year of fruitless search for Harry. Perhaps, it was time to cheer him up a bit. Remus turned around, and went back inside the Weasley twins’ joke shop. Sirius was getting cocky with his practical jokes, anyway. Pulling him down a peg or two would do him a world of good. Remus wickedly grinned at the thought.
Sirius casually stepped out of a fireplace, lining the huge corridor inside the Ministry. He saw a few witches and wizards, here and there, but none of the mad dash home of most Ministry employees. The normally busy corridor was almost empty. A person got to be constantly alert, so as not to accidentally bump on other people. He was glad he avoided that bedlam.
“Auror Black!” Sirius curiously looked over his shoulder, and saw a blond witch, wearing a long, green dress. He softly muttered a suffering groan. It was Rita Skeeter, and her faithful photographer, Bozo. He would have kept walking, but then, he realized the nasty reporter might know something about Harry. He stopped, and let the witch catch up to him. Once Rita and Sirius were closed enough to each other, Bozo immediately took a few pictures of them.
Sirius angrily glared at the photographer. “If you don’t stop doing that, I’ll smash that camera over your head.” Wide-eye, Bozo gulped in fear, and hastily backed away from Sirius.
“Temper, temper, Auror Black… You don’t want me to report you for Auror brutality, do you?” Sirius noticed the Quick-Quotes Quill, floating slightly behind Rita Skeeter, immediately started transcribing. He coldly regarded the infamous Daily Prophet reporter. If he wasn’t an Auror, he would have slapped the stupid, smug smile off her face.
“What do you want, Skeeter?” he asked coldly. For a moment, he wondered who she was trying to ruin with her nasty lies now. He guessed the poor bastard must be a Ministry official.
Rita’s face suddenly lost its smug and teasing expression. “Care to comment on Harry Potter’s recent bullying on poor, defenseless, muggles?” The Quick-Quotes Quill was transcribing like mad.
Sirius was shocked, and worried. But, none of those feelings showed on his face. “What do you mean recent bullying? Harry never bullied anyone.” He frowned coldly at Rita Skeeter. He knew the witch reporter was fond of unfairly twisting the truth. But, that grain of truth was what worried him.
“Can I quote you on that?” There was a gleam of malice in Skeeter’s eyes.
Sirius heard and read a lot of things about Harry. Bullying was not one of them. But, he knew the moment he defended Harry; everything he said would only be twisted against his godson. “Find someone else to quote. I have no time for your sick joke.” Sirius, then, turned around, and started walking toward the lift.
“Oh, this is not a sick joke, Auror Black.” Skeeter’s mocking voice made Sirius pause in mid-stride. “And, I already found someone to quote.” After that, he heard footsteps, unhurriedly walking away. He uneasily turned around. He saw Rita Skeeter and her photographer stopped in front of the nearest fireplace. The photographer quickly jumped into the fire, first. The Daily Prophet reporter smirked at him one last time, before stepping inside the fireplace.
For a moment, Sirius stood undecided in the corridor. He didn’t believe Harry bullied anyone. He was sure Skeeter was only making it up. But, the look on Skeeter’s face told him otherwise. Quickly, he walked toward the same fireplace Skeeter used. As much as he hated to ask for Dumbledore’s help, the headmaster was the only one, who could stop Skeeter’s lies.