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Chapter 7 : Making Good, Breaking Bad
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“Fucking mudbloods,” Rosier muttered, digging his hands into his pockets.
Regulus looked over at the boy and nodded, glaring at the back of the girl’s head.
Up ahead, the crowd began to disperse as the path bled into the village’s main street. Rosier moved forward confidently, his tall stature and status as a seventh year causing him to tower over most of the other students. Mulciber and Avery moved along behind him, walking like wolves following the perimeter of the herd. Regulus kept his eyes on Rosier, with Wilkes filling the footsteps he left in his wake. Gradually, the group thinned around them as students filtered into The Three Broomsticks, and then Honeyduke’s, and then Zonko’s Joke Shop. Before he knew it, Regulus and his comrades had arrived at the nearly empty outskirts of town.
“Where are we going?” Wilkes asked.
He received no response. Rosier and his friends simply turned their steps toward a dingy-looking pub, which looked as if it had been tacked on to the end of the row of buildings with better upkeep that populated the main section of the village. As Rosier swung the wooden door open and entered, Regulus heard a creaking sound. He glanced up to see an aged sign bearing a pig’s head swaying in the wind.
The building inside was cramped, and darkness fled into the corners of the room from the solitary brass lantern hanging in the center of the ceiling. With the windows closed to the unpleasant air outside, the enclosed space was permeated with the faint scent of mildew. Only the sound of five glasses clinking together as the barman placed them before the boys interrupted the stark quiet of the pub. Rosier looked up into the man’s face, which was framed by a grizzly mane of salt and pepper hair, and simply said, “Ogden’s.” The bartender silently began to fill the glasses in response.
Regulus grimaced slightly. His parents had allowed him to have elf-made wine at dinner for two years now, but his mother had always found Firewhiskey distasteful. He knew this because the substance was the source of many arguments following his father’s visits with other patriarchs of high-ranking pureblood families. Besides, he was still too young for it. “Actually, I’ll just have a Butterbeer… if you’ve got it…”
“Butterbeer?” Mulciber stared at him, looking as if he might spit out the swig of drink he’d just taken. “I haven’t had Butterbeer since third year,” he laughed. “Just drink your Firewhiskey.” He nodded toward the bartender. “He won’t be trouble.”
Rosier looked down the line of Slytherins. “Where’s Snape?”
Avery clanked his glass down on the bartop. “You know, the usual trouble.”
“What does that mean?” Wilkes spoke up, curious. Regulus looked over at him and noticed that he had somehow already drained his glass. Hesitantly, Regulus took a small sip, but it still proved too large for him, and he had to stop himself from spitting it back out. Instead, he begrudgingly allowed the liquid to scorch the inside of his mouth. Wilkes’s expression suggested that the boy was fighting nausea.
“Well, Snape can never get his father to stop stumbling around drunk long enough to sign his permission form. So every year, he has to forge it. Unfortunately—” Avery paused to take another drink, apparently accustomed to the substance. “—he has that sort of suspicious look about him, so the professors always hassle him about it.”
Regulus swallowed, wincing as the alcohol burned down his throat and settled uncomfortably in his stomach. I’d rather drink the potion from Slughorn’s class.
Rosier frowned. “Is he coming or not?”
“Of course he is,” Mulciber snapped. “What else has he got to do?”
Regulus looked guiltily down at the remaining alcohol in his glass. Anything, I’ll bet.
The boys sat silently in the Hog’s Head for several minutes, during which time Regulus managed to choke down the last of his Firewhiskey. No other patrons entered the pub, and eventually the idle sighs and intermittent sniffles of autumn colds got the best of the fifth year. He looked over at Rosier, who rubbed his arm absently as he watched the bartender automatically refill his now-empty glass.
“Did it hurt?” he asked, causing all of the others to look up as one.
“Keep your bloody voice down, mate,” Wilkes hissed.
“It’s all right,” Rosier replied, turning to face Regulus. He nodded toward the bartender, who had moved to polish glasses in the corner. “He won’t be trouble.”
Mulciber and Avery trained their eyes on Rosier, appearing to be newly alert.
“It twinges a bit now and then,” Rosier continued. “Sometimes I feel like it’s on fire, you know, like when we were at the hospital, dueling left and right.” He sighed, taking another drink of Firewhiskey and grinning coldly. “Nothing feels as good as torturing that first Mudblood, though. I’d stake my damn inheritance on it.”
“I want one,” Wilkes said softly. “How’d you get in with them?”
“You don’t just walk in the front door.” Rosier’s smile faded, an impatient frown taking its place. “He has to want you. You have to have something to offer him.”
“What have you got, then?”
“I’m not telling you,” Rosier retorted. “I wouldn’t want you trying to replace me.”
Regulus smirked. He looked up to see the bartender standing in front of him, poised to refill his glass as well. However, reading Regulus’s now-hesitant expression, the old man placed the half-filled bottle back on the bartop.
“What are you laughing for, Black?” Avery said. “You’ll feel the same way when you’ve got a place.”
“Yeah,” Rosier agreed. “I’ll bet he’s had his eye on you for a while.”
“Me?” Regulus said, surprised at how quietly his voice left his lips.
“I’d try to figure out what your contribution will be, if I were you. You know, just to show what you can do when the time comes. Being a Black only gets you so far.”
“When do you think that’ll be?” Wilkes said, asking the question Regulus could not.
“No way to know for sure,” Rosier replied, finishing off the last of his second round as if it were water. “These two gits are likely getting theirs next summer, though, so you might want to keep an eye out.” With that, he stood up, digging some coins out of his pocket and placing them on the bartop beside his empty glass. “Let’s go.”
“What about Snape?” Mulciber protested.
“We’ll find him,” Rosier replied. “Teach him to show up when he’s asked to.”
The boys stood up, and Regulus turned to step back out into the chilly breeze. Suddenly, he heard a gruff voice behind him. “Your payment, boy.”
When he turned, Rosier was smirking at him. “I only buy drinks for girls, mate.”
The autumn wind whipped Lily’s hair into tousled waves almost as soon as she stepped outside the massive main doors of Hogwarts Castle. She sputtered in surprise, wrapping her arms around herself in lieu of the jacket she’d forgotten, and shoved her feet toward the open courtyard. Her mind was dominated by the thought that if only she’d gotten out of bed at the proper time, then perhaps she would have remembered her jacket, or at least an autumn-weight jumper. She was in the midst of ruefully thinking about just how many of her jumpers might have matched the outfit she’d chosen in haste when she realized that she was not alone.
“I’m sorry, but I really cannot allow you to go without a signed permission form.”
Lily glanced up to see Professor Flitwick standing there, a favorite professor of hers. Unfortunately for her, the person with whom he was conversing was Severus Snape.
“But Professor, it is signed… look…” Severus pointed to the flimsy bit of parchment.
His voice sounded quiet, even timid. He could almost be her childhood friend again, speaking softly to her beneath the shade of an ancient willow tree. Lily bit her lip.
“Mr. Snape, I can see perfectly well, but I have been warned that you have attempted to forge a parental signature before,” Flitwick replied, putting on a stern expression. “As good an attempt as this replica may be…”
“Professor, please,” Severus said. “My friends are waiting for me.”
Flitwick almost looked a bit surprised to hear the word ‘friend’ escape the boy’s lips. He remained silent for a moment, and then he took the form from Severus’s fingers. “All right. Next year, Mr. Snape, please try to remember to get a genuine signature.”
Severus nodded. “I will, sir. Thank you.”
Flitwick gestured to the leaf-strewn path. “You know the way, I trust,” he stated, careful not to phrase it as a question, one that would require further complicities. As he turned to re-enter the castle, his eyes fell upon Lily, and his expression lifted.
“Hello, Professor,” Lily said, sounding a bit shy.
Severus paused to look at her, but when he saw Flitwick move to engage her in conversation, he turned onto the path. Lily shifted her gaze from the approaching professor to Severus’s retreating back. It was now or never, or so it seemed.
“Have you been practicing your Charms work?” Flitwick asked jovially.
“Of course, sir, but I’ve taken a bit of time off today,” she said, handing him her form.
Flitwick tucked it away, barely glancing at it. “Class should be good this term…”
“I’m sorry, Professor, but I’m afraid I slept in a bit late this morning, and I’m certain that Celestine and Ellery are wondering where I’ve gotten to,” Lily said hurriedly, giving Flitwick an embarrassed smile. “Perhaps we can talk about this after class?”
“All right,” Flitwick said, smiling warmly. “Have a good time, Miss Evans.”
Lily moved past him, trying to keep her steps even and steady as she gradually advanced up the path toward Severus. Up ahead of her, he turned the corner, moving slowly and bracing his body against the cool breeze. She picked up her pace slightly, walking a little more quickly until she found herself up alongside him.
“Nice of Flitwick to let you pass, wasn’t it?” she said, sounding a bit too cheery.
Severus did not look at her. “What do you want?” he murmured.
“Nothing,” Lily replied. After a beat, she tried again. “It’s probably because you’ve always done so well in Charms. I mean, I haven’t been watching this year, but…”
“Not as good as you,” he said, staring holes into the dirt as he walked.
“Well,” Lily attempted flatly, not knowing what to follow it with.
“What do you want?” he repeated, daring to look at her for a fraction of a second before staring back down at the ground, his steps moving methodically forward.
“Why are you angry with me?” Lily said, fearing the many answers to her query.
“I’m not,” Severus muttered, as if the idea were ridiculous. “You’re angry with me.”
“I’m talking to you now, aren’t I?” Lily tried.
“Yes, that’s why I’m asking. I want to know why,” he said.
“I—I don’t know,” she admitted, shivering and tucking a strand of hair behind one ear. For a moment, she wildly considered asking to borrow his thin black cloak. “I guess because you’re here, and I’m here, and I didn’t feel like walking by myself.”
He paused, and Lily noticed that they were a few feet from the village’s entrance. “Really?” Severus said. “You wanted to walk with me?”
Lily put her hands in her jeans pockets. “That’s not really what I said,” she responded nervously. The way his eyes bore into her had sparked a sense of regret, chilling her more deeply than the wind while simultaneously quickening her pulse.
“Lily, I apologized… truly… didn’t you get my messages?” he whispered.
“Yes,” she said, forcing herself to look at him. “That’s not good enough, though, Sev. You never said that you were sorry to me, in person. Not once after it happened.”
“I tried!” he said. “You were never alone, and I thought you wouldn’t listen.”
Lily shifted her weight from one foot to the other, watching a small group of fourth years up ahead duck out of Honeyduke’s and into the comfort of the Three Broomsticks. “Well, you should have tried harder. You could try it right now, even.”
Severus frowned. “I knew it,” he said coldly. “You’ve been spending time with him.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded.
“You’re not my Lily. You were always nice. You never talked to me that way.”
“I’m not anyone’s Lily!” she exclaimed, causing a few students sitting around the outskirts of the village to look up at her. “Are you listening to yourself, Severus?”
“Well, aren’t you Miss High and Mighty?” he said, ignoring the gawking observers.
“How dare you!” Lily cried, blushing furiously. “You called me a Mudblood.”
The word itself seemed to propel him forward, and several younger students barely got out of his way in time to avoid being trampled by his angry footsteps. Lily gritted her teeth, chasing after him. She knew she looked foolish, but she deserved answers.
“Don’t be a coward,” she said firmly. “Just apologize.” The thought occurred to her that she had deviated from her original agreement at this point. I’m sorry, Sirius.
However, Snape did not storm off this time, nor did he shoot hexes at her. He put his shaking hands in his pockets, averting his gaze, and said nothing. Lily was surprised.
After a moment, the silence grew too heavy, and she sighed. She had done her part, hadn’t she? Regulus could not accuse her of never at least trying to talk to Severus. She had done all that she could, or at least all she was willing to do. She took a step backward, away from where he was moving, wondering where to find her friends.
“Lily, wait. Please.”
She glanced at him, and it was his turn to look shocked.
“What?” she said.
“I—“ he began, seemingly lost for words.
“I cleaned you up after that fight you had with Sirius and James,” Lily blurted out. “I just wanted you to know that. I moved you out of the way. Well, Regulus and I…”
“Aren’t you going to say thank you?”
He did not speak, but Lily watched as the corner of his lip twitched nervously. It was almost as if he had forgotten how to smile and was now making a new attempt at it. However, his eyes darted up ahead, and the movement escaped like a frightened sparrow. Lily looked up to see that they had traversed the length of the small village.
A group of five boys had just emerged from a rickety-looking tavern at the edge of Hogsmeade. A tall boy with brutish features was leading them, laughing with a couple of sixth year Slytherins that Lily recognized as Severus’s friends, Avery and Mulciber. She frowned, noticing Severus move away from her nervously, though he kept his dark eyes trained watchfully on her. Finally, he tore his gaze away from her, moving forward to greet the others. It was as if their conversation was nonexistent. She could not tell if her imagination had made up the quiet “goodbye” on the breeze.
She turned to see Peter walking towards her, his arms laden with Zonko products. “Are you all right?” he asked, brow furrowed, glancing from her to the Slytherins.
“Yes,” she said. “I hope those aren’t to be shared with James and Sirius.”
“Well,” Peter said, pausing. He knew he was caught, though, and that there would be no sense in lying. “I promise, we’ll only use them on second years and above, and only on weekends.” He smiled timidly. “Well, mostly. Definitely during exam time.”
Lily’s expression softened slightly. She had trouble being tough on Peter, though she suspected that he usually helped plan each round of Severus’s torture. “So, how did you get elected to buy the supplies for this term?”
Term? We’ll be lucky if these last a month! Peter thought, but he shifted his load a bit and shrugged. “Sirius took your friend up on her offer.”
Lily smirked. “And James?”
“He’s gone with Remus to visit his mother.” Peter said evenly.
“Is she ill again?” Lily said, a pitiful note in her voice. “What is it this time?”
“They don’t know,” he replied. “It’s probably just that her system is so weak.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s nice of James to help him, so he doesn’t have to go alone.”
Peter shivered slightly in the cold. “So, what were you doing with them?”
Lily broke eye contact with him. “What do you mean?”
“Them,” he repeated, gesturing to the Slytherins with his free hand. Lily followed his movement with her eyes, brushing a passing leaf out of her hair, and saw the Slytherins talking to Severus a few feet away.
“I wasn’t doing anything,” she said. “I didn’t even talk to them.”
“You talked to him,” Peter corrected. “I didn’t think you two were friends anymore.”
“We’re not,” Lily responded quietly. “I was just asking him about Charms.”
Peter raised an eyebrow at her.
“Please don’t tell James and Sirius. They’d tease me for ages.”
“Yeah, I’ll say!” Peter chuckled, and there was a hint of coldness within it.
“Please? Not even Remus.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell them,” he sighed, shaking his head.
“Thanks,” Lily replied softly. “You’re a great friend, Peter.”
“Yeah, I know, you can trust me,” he smiled. “See you around, Lily.”
“Go on, deliver your stock before I give you a detention,” Lily joked, watching him go.
“So, if you weren’t talking to the Mudblood, what kept you?” Rosier said, kicking a loose cobblestone as the group began to trudge back toward the warmth of the castle. Regulus walked next to him, watching as Snape flinched at the reference to Lily. Sometimes, particularly during his third year, Regulus had dreaded to see the sun begin to creep slowly down toward the horizon. The close of daylight, after all, signaled the time for the students to return to the familiar halls of Hogwarts. Today, though, Regulus felt somewhat glad to be putting the events of the visit behind him.
“Nothing,” Snape said, almost under his breath. “Just Flitwick, and my form again.”
“I reminded them about it, mate,” Avery said, elbowing Snape gently.
“Yeah, but Rosier here was in too big a hurry,” Mulciber added.
“Shut it,” Rosier replied.
“Hey, Regulus, isn’t that your brother?” Wilkes piped up, pointing ahead of them.
Regulus glanced up. Sure enough, Sirius had just popped out onto the path from Madam Puddifoot’s tea shop, looking as if he were being dragged by a buxom Gryffindor girl with dark hair. His hair looked like it had been sprinkled with glitter, and the lipstick on his cheek matched that of the smear underneath the girl’s nose. Before he could stop himself, Regulus let out a laugh, and Wilkes joined in with him.
Sirius stopped, letting go of the girl’s hand and glaring directly at his brother.
Rosier smirked. “Snape, get a look at him!” He looked around. “Snape?”
Regulus, however, was completely transfixed by Sirius’s cold gray eyes. He didn’t look about for Snape like the others, nor did he notice the girl in the red dress playfully tugging at Sirius’s wrist. There was only a hopelessly resentful expression, only the sense that he’d gotten into something much bigger than he’d expected.
Hello, and welcome to the end of another chapter of Post Scriptum!
I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and please consider leaving me a review to share your thoughts. One small note for those of you who are not fans of the popular American television show – “breaking bad” is a slang term that refers to someone turning from the path of good and entering a criminal lifestyle.
Thank you to all of my faithful readers. You are a huge inspiration to me.
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