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stranger things by blackballet

Format: Novel
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 26,889
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Horror/Dark, Young Adult
Characters: Dumbledore, Lupin, James, Lily, Sirius, Pettigrew, Regulus, OC
Pairings: James/Lily, Remus/OC, Sirius/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 07/08/2013
Last Chapter: 06/04/2017
Last Updated: 06/04/2017

Summary:
banner by me








A story about a teenage inferius. Stranger things have happened. 
 


Chapter 1: curious
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“There are several types of people in the world. In order to decipher the difference, you must apply a scenario. Say they come to a clearing in the woods, and there are three pathways that lead somewhere else. The first pathway seems to be a long, dark, winding road with no end. The person who chooses this pathway, is to be the most curious, maybe the bravest of the bunch. The second pathway clearly has a well-populated city at the end of it, and the person who chooses this is simply the most afraid of most everything. The last pathway shows an empty field, with only a tree in the far distance. The person who chooses this, is most comfortable with themselves, maybe the wisest of all.

“But dad?” I tugged on my father’s white polo shirt. My father looked down upon me.

“Yes dear?”

“What about the fourth pathway?” My father tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “What about the other one? What if you choose to stay exactly where you are?”

He smiled serenely, and laid a hand on my back gently.

“That is the question that you must keep on asking, my dearest. What about the other one?"

 

“Charlotte! Charlotte!” Mary McDonald nagged impatiently as I sat in the Charms classroom staring blankly into space. I turned to Mary inquisitively, wondering why she needed to get to lunch so badly.  

“We don’t need to rush for lunch, do we?” I asked scathingly, packing up my books at a relatively slow pace. Mary was bouncing.

“Come on, let’s go,” she urged again tugging at my sleeve. I looked down at my white polo shirt, and dragged my arm out of Mary’s hand.

“So what is this mad rush for lunch? House Elf strike?” I asked, snapping my satchel closed and swinging it over my shoulder. Mary gave me a scathing look that almost matched my apathy. Mary knew just how much I didn’t care about whatever she was about to say.

“No,” she said, extending her vowel pointedly, “…it’s Quidditch tryouts! Gryffindor has just lost three of their best players! This is my last and probably best chance to get on the team! Be a part of something!” I rolled my eyes at Mary’s enthusiasm.

“Mary I have never even seen you pick up a broom, never mind actually play Quidditch. They didn’t exactly supply us with brooms back home,” I said skeptically. Mary slapped her arm gently, and I understood

You made the team, and you never had a broom either, missy,” Mary rebuked, insulted by my insinuation. 

“I made the Ravenclaw team. The Gryffindor team is a whole different story, Mary, and you know it.”

Mary pushed open the doors to the Great Hall, only to prove my point. There was a massive crowd hovering around the end of the Gryffindor table, where students were scrambling to write their names down, while the Ravenclaw table boasted a massive ten students, all standing in a single-file line, waiting to write their names in.

Mary waved goodbye to me without another word, heading towards the intimidating crowd to join the wave of people vying for a spot on the team. I made my way to the sparse Ravenclaw table, and sat down alone. Even just twenty more feet away from the Gryffindor table, it was quieter, and I appreciated that.

A lot of people thought it was strange that Mary and I were friends. I mean, maybe a lot of people thought that; Mary McDonald and I were not the most popular people in Hogwarts. Mary was insanely happy and optimistic. Her positivity rivaled just about everyone, and so did her naivety. Opposite to Mary, I was mostly content with just about everything that happened.

“Oi, Charlotte!” I did not make a move, knowing that the fellow seventh year that was walking towards me would sit down whether welcomed or not. “How are you, Malkin?”

James Potter’s voice was incredibly alarming. If one wasn’t expecting it (and I rarely was) he could really startle you. Some found it charming, a booming, cheery, deep voice they (Mary) said. His voice made the hair on my arms stand on end.

“I am doing well, James. And yourself?”

“Dandy. Listen, are you going to need all day to hold tryouts on the coming Sunday?” I looked away from my plate of string beans and mashed potatoes to find James Potter tossing his hair back with his hand and bouncing his knee.

“No I will not. You can have the pitch until 11:00.” I went back to eating my lunch.

“Deal,” James said jovially, holding out a hand for me to take. I pursed my lips, put down my fork, and shook James’ hand quickly. “Thanks, Charlotte.”

I waved my hand at James’ retreating figure, and went back to my food.

I had forgotten about Quidditch tryouts. I couldn’t believe I forgot! After last year, I was promoted to Captain. And while it was quite an honor, I had a hard time wanting to spend that much time on the sport. Unfortunately, I knew I should dedicate that much time to the sport that looked so amazing on a Hogwarts transcript.

So I accepted the job, and did nothing more than that. So now tryouts snuck up on me, and I had no idea how a tryout would be run. Truthfully, I had not been to a tryout since fourth year, and did not recall the proceedings.

I poked at my food again, putting a couple of string beans in my mouth. The food tasted very bland, and was very unnecessary, but it did well to keep up appearances.

“Why was James Potter over here talking to you?” Mary asked, slightly out of breath after fighting her way through the sea of lions.

Mary frequently gushed over James Potter, and was not exactly silent in doing so. Mary and I had been caught several times in the Gryffindor common room talking about James’ beautiful eyes and the way his hair fell just the right way by the Marauders. Mary’s words. Not mine.

“He needed some extra time for tryouts on Sunday, so I gave him some of my time,” I said simply, taking a sip of my water.

“Did you mention me?” Mary asked, digging into the piece of bread the picked up from the large pile in the center of the table. I frowned.  

“No I didn’t. What would I have said about you, Mary?” Mary rolled her eyes dramatically, and let out a great sigh.

“I don’t know, that’s your job Charlotte. You’re the one who knows everything.”

“Mary, it is not possible to know everything. If one knew everything…that would be a dangerous world to live in.” Mary looked at me with disdain, and rolled her eyes once more before standing up.

“You know, Charlotte, it’s things like that that make me want to get new friends. See you in Potions,” Mary added, slapping her palm on the table sharply, making me smile and shake my head once again.

“Good luck with that, Mary!” I called across the Great Hall as Mary exited on her way to Muggle Studies.

I would never be able to understand them, these people that acted in these ways. Even Mary McDonald, my friend of ten years, I would never understand. James Potter, an acquaintance of six years, I would never understand. It wasn’t just teenage wizards that struck me as strange. It was more than them. It was more humans in general.

I stood up, leaving my half-emptied plate on the table and heading towards the library to study for Defense Against the Dark Arts.



Because no matter how hard I had tried, and no matter how many different paths I took, I always ended up stuck in the way I was: half inferius, half human.“There are several types of people in the world. In order to decipher the difference, you must apply a scenario. Say they come to a clearing in the woods, and there are three pathways that lead somewhere else. The first pathway seems to be a long, dark, winding road with no end. The person who chooses this pathway, is to be the most curious, maybe the bravest of the bunch. The second pathway clearly has a well-populated city at the end of it, and the person who chooses this is simply the most afraid of most everything. The last pathway shows an empty field, with only a tree in the far distance. The person who chooses this, is most comfortable with themselves, maybe the wisest of all.

“But dad?” I tugged on my father’s white polo shirt. My father looked down upon me.

“Yes dear?”

“What about the fourth pathway?” My father tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “What about the other one? What if you choose to stay exactly where you are?”

He smiled serenely, and laid a hand on my back gently.

“That is the question that you must keep on asking, my dearest. What about the other one?"

 

“Charlotte! Charlotte!” Mary McDonald nagged impatiently as I sat in the Charms classroom staring blankly into space. I turned to Mary inquisitively, wondering why she needed to get to lunch so badly.  

“We don’t need to rush for lunch, do we?” I asked scathingly, packing up my books at a relatively slow pace. Mary was bouncing.

“Come on, let’s go,” she urged again tugging at my sleeve. I looked down at my white polo shirt, and dragged my arm out of Mary’s hand.

“So what is this mad rush for lunch? House Elf strike?” I asked, snapping my satchel closed and swinging it over my shoulder. Mary gave me a scathing look that almost matched my apathy. Mary knew just how much I didn’t care about whatever she was about to say.

“No,” she said, extending her vowel pointedly, “…it’s Quidditch tryouts! Gryffindor has just lost three of their best players! This is my last and probably best chance to get on the team! Be a part of something!” I rolled my eyes at Mary’s enthusiasm.

“Mary I have never even seen you pick up a broom, never mind actually play Quidditch. They didn’t exactly supply us with brooms back home,” I said skeptically. Mary slapped her arm gently, and I understood

You made the team, and you never had a broom either, missy,” Mary rebuked, insulted by my insinuation.  

“I made the Ravenclaw team. The Gryffindor team is a whole different story, Mary, and you know it.”

Mary pushed open the doors to the Great Hall, only to prove my point. There was a massive crowd hovering around the end of the Gryffindor table, where students were scrambling to write their names down, while the Ravenclaw table boasted a massive ten students, all standing in a single-file line, waiting to write their names in.

Mary waved goodbye to me without another word, heading towards the intimidating crowd to join the wave of people vying for a spot on the team. I made my way to the sparse Ravenclaw table, and sat down alone. Even just twenty more feet away from the Gryffindor table, it was quieter, and I appreciated that.

A lot of people thought it was strange that Mary and I were friends. I mean, maybe a lot of people thought that; Mary McDonald and I were not the most popular people in Hogwarts. Mary was insanely happy and optimistic. Her positivity rivaled just about everyone, and so did her naivety. Opposite to Mary, I was mostly content with just about everything that happened.

“Oi, Charlotte!” I did not make a move, knowing that the fellow seventh year that was walking towards me would sit down whether welcomed or not. “How are you, Malkin?”

James Potter’s voice was incredibly alarming. If one wasn’t expecting it (and I rarely was) he could really startle you. Some found it charming, a booming, cheery, deep voice they (Mary) said. His voice made the hair on my arms stand on end.

“I am doing well, James. And yourself?”

“Dandy. Listen, are you going to need all day to hold tryouts on the coming Sunday?” I looked away from my plate of string beans and mashed potatoes to find James Potter tossing his hair back with his hand and bouncing his knee.

“No I will not. You can have the pitch until 11:00.” I went back to eating my lunch.

“Deal,” James said jovially, holding out a hand for me to take. I pursed my lips, put down my fork, and shook James’ hand quickly. “Thanks, Charlotte.”

I waved my hand at James’ retreating figure, and went back to her food.

I had forgotten about Quidditch tryouts. I couldn’t believe I forgot! After last year, O was promoted to Captain. And while it was quite an honor, I had a hard time wanting to spend that much time on the sport. Unfortunately, I knew I should dedicate that much time to the sport that looked so amazing on a Hogwarts transcript.

So I accepted the job, and did nothing more than that. So now tryouts snuck up on me, and O had no idea how a tryout would be run. Truthfully, I had not been to a tryout since fourth year, and did not recall the proceedings.

I poked at my food again, putting a couple of string beans in my mouth. The food tasted very bland, and was very unnecessary, but it did well to keep up appearances.

“Why was James Potter over here talking to you?” Mary asked, slightly out of breath after fighting her way through the sea of lions.

Mary frequently gushed over James Potter, and was not exactly silent in doing so. Mary and I had been caught several times in the Gryffindor common room talking about James’ beautiful eyes and the way his hair fell just the right way by the Marauders. Mary’s words. Not mine.

“He needed some extra time for tryouts on Sunday, so I gave him some of my time,” I said simply, taking a sip of my water.

“Did you mention me?” Mary asked, digging into the piece of bread the picked up from the large pile in the center of the table. I frowned.  

“No I didn’t. What would I have said about you, Mary?” Mary rolled her eyes dramatically, and let out a great sigh.

“I don’t know, that’s your job Charlotte. You’re the one who knows everything.”

“Mary, it is not possible to know everything. If one knew everything…that would be a dangerous world to live in.” Mary looked at me with disdain, and rolled her eyes once more before standing up.

“You know, Charlotte, it’s things like that that make me want to get new friends. See you in Potions,” Mary added, slapping her palm on the table sharply, making me smile and shake my head once again.

“Good luck with that, Mary!” I called across the Great Hall as Mary exited on her way to Muggle Studies.

I would never be able to understand them, these people that acted in these ways. Even Mary McDonald, my friend of ten years, I would never understand. James Potter, an acquaintance of six years, I would never understand. It wasn’t just teenage wizards that struck me as strange. It was more than them. It was more humans in general.

I stood up, leaving my half-emptied plate on the table and heading towards the library to study for Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Because no matter how hard I had tried, and no matter how many different paths I took, I always ended up stuck in the way I was: half inferius, half human.








 

A/N: Hello readers! I thought I would try and revamp this story, as its premise intrigued me, but my writing needed updating. I hope you enjoy this neew version, and if you're new to it, please let me know what you think in the review box below!

 

Thank you,

blackballet


Chapter 2: average
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I sat uncomfortably on the wooden bleachers of the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, and took out a notebook. The wind blew at my face harshly, which was not the most ideal, but I really did need help with how the tryouts would run. I watched James as he arranged the prospective team members up by position. “If you are here looking for a Seeker position or a Keeper position, you can leave now!” he bellowed out over the crowd. There was a collective groan, and around fifteen people left the field.

The amount of people on the field almost made me feel bad for James Potter. The Gryffindor team had to fill three spots, more than they had in the past few years. Ravenclaw only had to fill one spot, our Keeper, who graduated last year. Anyway, James Potter did tend to attract a lot of attention. It wasn’t just James Potter perhaps, but the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team. Although the Slytherin team also boasted a fair amount of wins, James Potter and Sirius Black brought the fanaticism to their team.

Another thing that I would never understand: the school’s obsession with the Marauders. The girls that swooned over them, the boys that swooned over them, it made no sense. And while their features are appealing, in different but somehow very equally attractive ways, and their attitudes are agreeable, in different but somehow very equally attractive ways, they were no more than average.

Of course, no one was anything more than average, because being average is being the mean of all the variables. In which case, one must only change the control group to change the average. Anyone could be the average of something. So if no one was anything more than average, how would there even be an average?

Besides that, I did feel a bit for James Potter, who had to deal with people who clearly did not want to or have the ability to play Quidditch for the Gryffindor team.

“Hey you!” I looked up from my notebook, and saw Sirius Black flying towards me. “What are you doing?” he asked indignantly, stopping his broom quite close to me.

Sirius Black had long, black hair that flew behind him in the wind. He had a certain complacency on his face even though his words implied otherwise. He had several birthmarks on his face, but no freckles. There was a scar that cut across his left eyebrow, and he became uncomfortable as I stared at it. Sirius Black clenched his jaw when people didn’t answer him right away.

“Hey!” he said again, hovering in the air across from me. I held up my notes.

“I am taking notes.” Sirius leaned forward and grabbed my notes without asking. I stayed quiet as he flipped through my notebook, tightening the scarf that protected my neck from the cold wind.

Sirius Black had cheeks that were very pale, except for the fact that they were very red from the wind.

“Can I have that back?” I asked, looking from Sirius to my watch. It was almost five o’ clock.

“No,” he said, turning his back to me and waving for James to come over. I rolled my eyes at the dramatics.

“Have you no manners?” I asked, holding out my hand for my property back. Sirius didn’t respond as James flew up next to him.

“This chick has been writing down our tactics!” he cried, handing my notes over to James. James glanced up at me.

“Hello, Charlotte,” he said politely, flicking through my notes. I crossed my arms.

“James,” I said shortly, holding out my hand for him to return my notebook. He handed it back to me, and I fought hard to restrain the smirk that grew on my face as Sirius’ jaw dropped open.

“Mate!” he exclaimed, hitting James on the shoulder. “Last year when I was with Hestia you made me break it off so our ‘secrets wouldn’t be compromised’,” he mocked, making James roll his eyes.

“Fine,” James agreed, waving Sirius off. “I can’t really have you sitting in on our tryouts anyway, Charlotte. I’m sorry.” I plastered a quick smile on my face, and tucked my notebook into my satchel.

“That’s alright James, I understand,” I said amicably. I stood up from my seat. I really did have go, anyway.  

James nodded, and flew back down to the pitch to attend to his tryouts, but Sirius stayed hovering in the air as I collected my bag.

“What do you care about our Quidditch tactics, anyway?” he asked without provocation, peering over my shoulder as I turned away from him.

“I don’t,” I said truthfully, walking across the top of the bleachers to the stairs.

“Well then why were you here?” he posited, flying slowly next to me.

“Sirius, it really doesn’t seem to be any of your business!” I said in exasperation, checking my watch again in what I hoped was a discreet manner.

“Well, well, well, little underclassman’s got a tongue on her,” he provoked in a completely incorrect way. I took a beat for Sirius to compose himself, and turned to face him.

“I am a seventh year Ravenclaw, Sirius. Are you really that self-involved?” Sirius opened his mouth to interrupt, but I had not stopped talking. I had only just begun my rant. “I mean, not only have we been in classes together since first year, but we have both been on Quidditch teams since fourth year! I am the team captain, for Merlin’s sake!”

“I joined third year,” he volunteered, all too happy to correct me. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Sirius Black was exasperating.

“I have to go,” I said with an exhalation, turning my back to Sirius.

 




 

“Hello, Madame Pomfrey,” I greeted, sitting down on the bed nearest to her desk. She stood up from her chair without a greeting, bustled over, and closed the curtain around my bed. She let out a short huff, and then turned to face me.

“Here we go,” she prompted, holding out a hand for me to take. I did not take it. She canned her wand down my body as I lay there, stiff as a board. “All set.”

I sat up to look at the examination that appeared on the white sheet hanging across from me. My bones, a glowing white, were normal as ever. My tendons, a slightly less opaque white, my organs even less so, my skin a sealant around the photo of my cross-sectioned body. Then a sliver of silver, just a hint, edging around my brain. Another hint of silver, emanating from where my bellybutton might be. I looked up to Madame Pomfrey for clarification. She looked down, frowning.

“What is it? You can tell me,” I assured her, letting her imagine that I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out on my own. The Inferius was spreading.

“Your, your affliction,” she emphasized, “has taken over more of your body.” I nodded, and sat up straighter on the bed.

“Well, is there anything wrong with me?” Madame Pomfrey frowned again.

“Charlotte, I don’t think you understand the situation. You are part inferius,” she whispered, even though no one had walked into the hospital wing. “You are somehow made up of the unintelligent monster that can be controlled by its creator.”

“When I start having violent tendencies, I’ll let you know,” I appeased her, perhaps a bit too casually.

“Charlotte, this is no joke. If Headmaster Dumbledore’s predictions are true, you could end up in the hands of some of the most dangerous wizards in history. You haven’t seemed at all different? Heard any voices? Had any new urges?”

At this, I opened my mouth just to close it again. I had not heard any voices, I had not, seemed different. Or had I? I had a recurring dream, but it didn’t seem dangerous. Or did it?

“Charlotte,” Madame Pomfrey prompted me, shaking my arm slightly.

“No,” I decided, there on the spot. “No I have not felt any different.”

 




 

“Bloody Madame Pomfrey and her bloody examinations,” I muttered, rubbing the bend of my right elbow where she took a blood sample. “Can I just get one good night’s sleep without thinking about my little affliction, as she so calls it?”

Walking back to the Ravenclaw tower on Saturday night was always a nice break from the constant bickering in my room, the incessant talking from Mary, or the annoying interruptions from anyone else who happened to be nearby. It was exceptionally quiet, and the quiet was nice because it left more room to ponder.

I mean, it didn’t really matter if I could get a good night’s sleep anyway. I didn’t need to sleep, not really. I went to bed when I was done with my homework; I’ve always done it, and I never really felt too tired. And then, there’s the other thing that’s a bit odd. I could go days without eating, if I was ever in a situation that called for that. I’ve never actually tried it, but one tends to notice that while everyone else is hungry, you aren’t I keep up my appearances, though: I go to bed, silencing the curtains to accommodate my human roommates, and I go to lunch with Mary, even if I don’t actually eat that much. It’s easy enough to cover up if you try hard enough.

More to the matter is that I wanted a good night’s sleep. Although it is very useful to have such an active, uncluttered brain, it is also very difficult to grab a moment of peace. Even when alone, I tend to bother myself with my own ramblings. And even if I tried to stop thinking about everything, about anything, I am quite certain I would think about actively not thinking, and what that says about myself.

Maybe that’s why I was bumped around innumerable foster homes until I finally figured out how to disguise my innate habits. Okay, not innumerable, I think it was number ten. I finally figured out that I was a little different than most of the other children, and I stopped talking about it. When I met Mary, a small, ridiculous child that our foster parents adored, she told me that she was magical; it was then I realized that being a bit different would be fine.

When I found out that I, too was magical, it was a fond surprise, but my reaction was nothing compared to Mary’s. And so when I didn’t react in the way a supposedly normal eleven-year-old would, I was put under a much more careful watch by Headmaster Dumbledore, a lover of all things slightly out of the ordinary, including himself.

“Oh Charlotte, there you are!” Mary said as she turned the corner. I turned to see her as she rushed over to me, hooking her arm in mine and continuing me on my way to the tower. “I just came back from tryouts, and guess what?” she asked excitedly, skipping and slightly dragging me along.

“Did you make the team?” I guessed absently, still a little stuck in my own thoughts.

“Well, no. But I did get picked to come to the second tryouts tomorrow!” Typical Mary, never without a positive spin. “But anyway, that’s not the most important part!” she squealed. I removed my arm from hers, and Mary did not protest, well knowing my aversion to contact.

“Sorry, Char,” she said, leaving my arm alone, “but guess again!” I let out a small sigh.

“Did James Potter kiss you?” I dared aimlessly, hoping that if I pushed just the right buttons she would tell me or leave me alone.

“Well, no, Char,” she groaned. “You really are bad at this.” She paused waiting for me to guess again. I would not give her the satisfaction.

“Ugh, fine.” We started heading up the final set of stairs towards the tower. “Well after tryouts we were all walking back to the lockers, and I was walking with Dorcas, who is pretty good friends with Marlene who is really good friends with James, and she said that she was talking with Marlene and James, and apparently Marlene thought that Sirius had a thing for you.”

At this I rolled my eyes, but let Mary continue her elaborate story.

“But then James said ‘Well even if he did, he couldn’t do anything about it because someone else has got a thing for her’ or something like that! Isn’t that crazy? A marauder has a thing for you!” Mary exclaimed, whispering as we approached the portrait for the Ravenclaw tower.

“Yes, Mary I do think it’s crazy because I really couldn’t give a shit who had a thing for me and who didn’t,” I said, a bit grumbly in responding to such a cheerful person. Mary’s face fell, and I instantly felt terrible. “I do apologize Mary, but I just don’t care.” I placed a hand on her shoulder. “But congratulations on getting asked back for tryouts tomorrow.”




A/N: Please let me know what you think about the story! Thanks for reading

blackballet





 


Chapter 3: clarity (inconvenience)
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 “Now what is the most important variable when making any potion?” Professor Slughorn asked, scribbling on the chalkboard at the head of the classroom.


“Time management,” the class grumbled together. I tuned out as he continued lecturing. The problem with Professor Slughorn was that he forgot that he was teaching the N.E.W.T Potions course, and that we already knew most of the basics that he droned on and on about.

“Yes, that’s it,” he said cheerfully. “And how do we start with that, Miss Evans?” Most of the class took to rolling their eyes at this: Lily Evans was Slughorn’s prized pupil.

“Creating a timetable for your potion. You should map out every direction and follow accordingly,” she answered brightly, ignoring the snickers of the students who poked fun at her straight-laced nature.

Although Lily Evans and I had never formally met, I never had any reason to dislike her. She was relatively quiet, excepting her small outbursts towards Severus Snape and her tittering laugh that really did sound like nails on a chalkboard.

“And you may begin,” Slughorn said, sitting back behind his desk and opening a recent issue of Potions Weekly. My eyes widened slightly, as I realized I had not been paying any sort of attention. I squinted to see what was on the board, but couldn’t make out what was written.

“I can grab the ingredients,” Remus Lupin offered, standing up and grabbing the ingredients that we would need for our potion.

Remus Lupin had light brown eyes and light brown hair that made him so much less than James Potter or Sirius Black. Not less in a bad way, just less. He was less imposing, less boastful, less intimidating, and less irritating. Remus Lupin also had a small, lilting voice that reminded me of Mary on a sick day, or rather, on one of her pretend sick days.

“Here we are,” he said (lightly), dropping the ingredients on our shared desk. I looked at Remus' hands.They were delicate, careful. They were also strong and calloused, with just a bit of a nail on each finger from what seemed like an awful lot of biting. I looked at his palms. They were massive, and the lines ran deep, as if his hands were wiser than his age. He flicked on the burner under our cauldron.

“So how do you want to start?” he asked, grabbing my attention away from his striking hands.

“We should probably start with the first ingredient,” I said, in no way making an attempt at a joke. Remus chuckled anyway, and picked up a vial of the pomegranate juice. He poured it in.

“Would you put in the fluxweed?” he asked, pointing to a stack of some herbs while concentrating on monitoring the color of the potion.

“Would you put in the fluxweed, my love?” Sirius said, leaning over James dramatically in front of us. I noticed Remus’ face turn slightly red, but did as he did and ignored it. His two friends sat in front of us, clearly enjoying the partnership more than either of us.

“Of course, dear,” James said, passing their fluxweed to Sirius and leaning across his arm as he did so. A thought occurred to me: perhaps Remus is the boy that Mary was talking about.

“Tossers,” he muttered, stirring more furiously than necessary. I then had the thought that Remus was exactly the boy she was talking about.

Isn’t it funny how something can become so apparent once someone else has pointed it out? For the first three weeks of seventh year, Remus and I had been partners and I went the entire time without so much as an inkling that he might fancy me. On the one day after Mary has told me that someone, a friend of James and Sirius, may fancy me I found him only twenty minutes into the first class of the day.

“I’m sorry,” Remus apologized under his breath, smashing the dung beetle with his pestle.

“What for?” I asked, taking a turn stirring the cauldron. I checked back to my textbook, ensuring that our color and viscosity were correct. Remus shrugged and his cheeks turned slightly red.

“For those two,” he said, nodding his chin towards James and Sirius who had taken to tossing small bits of the potion ingredients at the back of Severus Snape’s head. “They’re…a handful.” I nodded tightly at Remus, and continued stirring silently.

And although Remus Lupin did have striking hands and unimposing eyes, I did not want to date Remus Lupin. As I’d said to Mary many times before, and as I’m sure I will say many times more, I do not want a boyfriend; in all honesty, I didn’t really want friends either. Every time that thought crosses my mind, I feel worse about myself, because I am very aware that the thought is incredibly unfair to Mary, who puts up with more than her fair share of nonsense from me.

I just don’t see the necessity for it all; the fleeting friendships, the even more fleeting relationships that make everyone angrier and bitterer than when they started.  And then after that, you’re unable to work with that person ever again. Case in point, Remus Lupin.

“So Charlotte,” Remus started again, tapping the edge of his quill against the desk. I waited for him to continue, but he did not. I continued stirring the cauldron, eyeing the burner as it rose around the sides. “What do you think about Hogsmeade?”

“Hogsmeade is very useful. I don’t know what we would do without access to some shopping all year,” I said, rambling slightly.

The problem with Remus Lupin: his politeness was overwhelming. Something I didn’t understand: his supposed infatuation with me. I am one of the least polite people in Hogwarts, and Remus one of the most. We were civil in Potions the beginning of this year, and have shared classes in the past, but we were never anywhere close to being friends.

“What do you think?” he asked, tilting his head towards me. I lifted my head up off my chin, and looked into Remus’ unimposing eyes.

“Sorry?”

Remus leaned back in his seat, and ran a hand through his hair.

“Do you want to go to Hogsmeade this weekend?” he asked again quickly, grabbing some rose water and flicking a few drops in. My head turned slowly to Remus, but his eyes were completely focused on the cauldron in front of him.

“You know, I actually have Quidditch this weekend. We’re playing the first game of the year, so,” I said to his ear, lowering my voice slightly, as his friends had stopped joking and started listening in to our conversation. I saw Sirius look at James and snort into his hand.

And then for some reason, of which its origin I do not know (and will forever blame on the human part of me), I said, “But yes, I can go with you Saturday afternoon.”

Remus smiled, and I grimaced, turning my head away from him. James and Sirius stopped laughing.

 






“I cannot believe that you said yes to a date with Remus Lupin,” Mary said quite seriously, flipping through all the garments I had available. “The Remus Lupin, the one that is best friends with James bloody Potter,” she squealed in a failed attempt to quell her excitement.

“Me either,” I grumbled. “Tell me, Mary, what is it like to make a fool of yourself?” I asked, looking at the hem of my skirt and rolling my eyes at the tumbling thread.

“Very funny,” she said flatly, throwing a shirt and pair of trousers my way. “I don’t know what you could possibly mean.”

“Hand me my sewing kit, will you?” I asked, holding out my hand. Mary tossed me the kit, and continued rifling through my clothes.

“Merlin, it’s like you’ve never heard of color,” she said with a bit of disgust, holding up two of my more bland sweaters. I shrugged and looked back to my hem, taking out a bobbin and threading the needle.

Sewing was a fantastic habit of mine. It was so…certain. There wasn’t room for deviation. Once you set out to make a pattern, you made it. And then it was either right, or it was wrong. Sewing a hem: it was either a straight line or it wasn’t. The clarity was satisfying.

“Don’t you care at all, Charlotte?” Mary asked exasperatedly, throwing another sweater at me in frustration. I looked up at her once more and raised an eyebrow. “Okay, so I know you don’t care,” Mary agreed, coming to sit next to me. She shoved me over to the side of my bed with a jolt of her hip. “But doesn’t it bother you that you don’t care? I mean even just a teensy bit?” she asked, demonstrating with her fingers how little I cared.

“Mary, although I would love to pretend I don’t care at all, there must be some part of me that does,” I admitted begrudgingly, tying the knot at the end of my hem neatly. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have said yes.” I snipped off the end of my thread with a pair of scissors, and held up my skirt to examine it.

“So you do fancy him?” she asked tentatively, peeking over my shoulder at the skirt. I flopped it down on my lap and took a deep breath.

“Well, Mary, that’s never happened to me before, so I guess I wouldn’t know,” I snapped at her. Unintentionally. I did not like admitting I didn’t know something.

“You would know,” Mary said, laying back on my bed, swooning. “It’s like this: every time you think of something, you think of him instead. It’s lovely.”

I looked at Mary, laying back on my bed, her brown eyes closed, and her blonde eyelashes fluttering slightly. I couldn’t help but think that that sounded incredibly inconvenient. .  

 






The castle at night was eerie. I was difficult to frighten, but I often felt a sense of wariness when wandering the castle alone at night. The duties of a prefect were quite simple: monitor you peers. And while that seemed all fine and dandy, it also tended to cause a bit of controversy. Example: James Potter broke more rules than most people do in their entire lives and he was given Head Boy. Not that James isn’t sincere, it’s just, he is not a rule-abiding student.

So walking around the castle for an hour a week really wasn’t that big of an inconvenience, except for when your fellow prefect (Emma Vanity, a fair but relaxed peer) fails to show up to patrol on her designated night. Then, all of a sudden, I find myself questioning whether or not it is actually worth it to be a prefect.

My feet clapping against the marble floor were suddenly joined by another noise, and I stopped in my tracks.

“Hello? I’m on rounds,” I announced, trying to add a bit of depth to my admittedly squeaky voice.

“Hello,” a voice responded, answering my question. I spun around on my heel, brandishing my wand and tilting my chin up. The light from the large windows only cast upon the foreground, and so I stepped forward, moving closer into the darkness.

“Who’s there? It’s past curfew,” I recited, recalling on the prefect handbook. I took another breath and stepped towards the darkened hallway.

“Come here,” the voice whispered again. I shook my head and tightened my grip on my wand.

“Lumos,” I said decidedly, pointing my wand into the abyss. The whoosh of a curtain caught my attention, and I directed my wand to the large drapes that hung next to the window.

I rolled my eyes upon realizing the culprit. Stalking forward, I lowered my wand and stuck back in my pocket.

I whipped open the curtain, saying once more, “It’s past curfew.” My mouth dropped ever so slightly at the sight of Sirius Black's bare chest and Marlene McKinnon’s, well, bare chest.

“Like what you see?” Sirius asked, smirking at me in what I felt carried an undertone of mockery.

I dropped the curtain and turned my back to the pair, hearing Marlene scuffle for what I hoped would be a shirt, or at least a bra. I crossed my arms as I heard a clear giggle coming from the curtain. They were clearly not focused on coming out any time soon. Marlene yelped again, and so I cleared my throat too loudly to be natural.

It took another minute of me tapping my foot, but Marlene eventually appeared from behind the curtain followed by Sirius, who had still failed to find a shirt to put on.

“Alright then,” I said with an exhale, standing in front of the two. “That’ll be ten points from Gryffindor.” I kept my chin up high, trying to match both of their heights and garner some respect.

“Whatever, Malkin,” Marlene muttered turning her back and walking back towards the Gryffindor tower. I nodded tightly at Sirius, and kept on in the other direction.

“Wait, Charlotte,” Sirius called, jogging to catch up with me.

“Sirius, if you do not find a shirt and head back to the Gryffindor tower I will dock more points,” I warned, folding my hands behind my back and taking a brisker pace. It did not seem to do much, as, previously mentioned, Sirius was much taller than I was.

“So, Charlotte and Remus,” he mused. “How about that?” he asked provocatively, poking my arm.

“I don’t need to explain myself to you,” I responded, attempting an end to the conversation.

“Well you do if you plan on hurting my friend,” he said quickly, running forward and taking my shoulder in his hand to cut off my path. “Don’t go if you’re just going to poke fun at him, got it Malkin?”

I slowed down, and so did Sirius. He walked backwards, a hand on my shoulder, and I walked forwards, both hands tucked at the base of my spine. He stopped walking and then so did I.

“I am not going to make fun of him, Black,” I spat back. Insulted, although mostly just upset that I was so transparent. Was it so easy to see that I didn’t care either way?

Sirius Black was taller than it was normal to be. And so with his hand on my shoulder, I felt very short because we had a lot of space between us and that emphasized it. I thought about all the other things that were different about the two of us, as we stood there, moonlight spilling on my back and his face.

Sirius Black also sported a look of mischief at all times, and it was especially vibrant when inappropriate. I did not know what type of look I sported at all times, but I’m sure it wasn’t that. His severe eyes were very clear in the moonlight; the type of clarity that reminded me of a sewing kit. And then my eyes were clear, too, but in a different way. My eyes were clear in the way that air was clear: it was there, but you didn’t really notice it.

“Okay, Malkin,” Sirius said, believing me easily. He turned around and kept walking, just slightly ahead of me. It took me a minute to realize that Sirius still was not heading to the Gryffindor tower.

“Sirius, you still need to go back to your tower,” I implored, now jogging to catch up with him.

“I’m taking the long way,” he explained to me vaguely.

“Sirius, the castle is not in a circle,” I argued, jogging again to keep up with him. Sirius Black had long strides that seemed effortless.

“I think you’ll find that at some times at night…it is.” Sirius looked down at me as he said that, and I found myself intently listening even though I really didn’t believe him.

I stopped walking, and let Sirius continue; because what was I really to do? Hex him right there?

“Twenty points from Gryffindor,” I called down the hall in a last ditch effort to keep control of the situation. I heard a deep chuckle from the end of the hall, and it echoed back to me. It echoed for what seemed a strange amount of time, and so I stood there until I saw Sirius disappear around the corner. 

 






A/N: I really enjoyed this chapter! I hope you did, too. Please let me know down below!

blackballet


Chapter 4: noticing
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The more that Remus Lupin stood outside my room in the Ravenclaw common room the more unnecessarily nervous I became. It wasn’t his striking hands (already discussed) or his towering stature (although that did not assist). It was more something to do with the prospect of a date.

And of course I didn’t know what he was expecting. I didn’t want this to lead to anything; I didn’t even want this to happen. But then, it was happening and so I would have to deal with it anyway.

“Charlotte, get downstairs,” Emmeline said urgently, leaning her head against the wooden door of our dorm as if she could actually hear anything that was going on in the common room from that position.

“I am not going to rush, Emmeline,” I said, staring myself down in the full length mirror that my room shared. My head tilted to the side in the reflection as I assessed my appearance for the day. “If Remus meant 12:50, he should have said 12:50,” I claimed, pointing to the clock in my reflection. Emmeline turned her head to look at the time and scoffed.

“I heard them in the common room!” she urged, tapping her foot impatiently. I did not answer Emmeline this time, knowing she would lose interest if I stopped feeding her obsession.

I looked again at my reflection, this time noticing myself in the reflection rather than the reflection as someone else. Myself staring back at me was not imposing, was not important, or striking in the least. Many things about myself were just so. The part of my hair was just to the left of my left eyebrow. The color of my hair was just light enough to not be dark brown. The hem of my sweater just barely reached the belt loops of my skirt.

“Char-lotte,” Emmeline hissed, stomping on the floor again.

I nodded my head at myself, satisfied with my appearance, and stepped back from the mirror.

“Alright, let’s go,” a disgruntled Elizabeth Meckel said, sitting up in her bed and yawning. “You two are being too bloody loud.”

“It’s only one o’ clock,” I argued as she stood up and stepped into a pair of slippers.  

“Yeah, I only got to bed at 4:00 a.m., so it’s enough,” she argued back, pushing me by the shoulders towards the door.

Elizabeth Meckel was a girl who mostly minded her own business. Unless it had to do with her, she kept her small, rounded nose out of your affairs. She didn’t care who, what, when, where, or why. So, for me, she was the ideal roommate. Except for when she was woken up.

“Elizabeth, I don’t have…”
“Accio wand,” she said, pointing her wand at the open door now behind us. My wand flew into Elizabeth’s hand, and she pushed it into mine. “Now you are going on that date,” she whispered, as we approached the Common Room. “I didn’t get woken up by a screeching Emmeline for nothing.”

Elizabeth shoved me the final way down the stairs, and we stumbled upon Remus, Sirius, Peter, and James standing, scattered about the Ravenclaw Common Room.

The four boys were nothing more than curious if you asked me. They were like woodpeckers; ever interested in getting inside something. They all looked around the foreign Common Room in a state of awe. James, questioning the portraits, Sirius, rapping his knuckles against a marble column, Peter, peering around my shoulder to get a look at the staircase behind me, and Remus, letting his eyes stray to a game of Wizard’s Chess.

“Good morning, Charlotte!” James said brightly, turning away from the bored portrait.

“Did you need an escort?” Sirius asked, looking at Elizabeth and then back to me. I rolled my eyes.

“Should you really be talking?” I motioned to the three boys that had accompanied Remus.

Remus tucked his head into his chest, and I realized that I had embarrassed him. Sirius rolled his eyes back at me.

“We’re all going to Hogsmeade too, if that’s alright with your highness,” he spat bitterly, bowing to me facetiously. I did not know what to say. Sirius Black was infuriating and intriguing at the same time, so I got distracted.

“We should just get going,” Remus said nervously, stepping in front of the three boys and closer towards me.

“That sounds good,” I responded, turning my attention away from the rest of them. “Have you eaten yet?” Remus shook his head, and I began walking out of the Common Room. “We can go to the Three Broomsticks, if that works for you,” I decided, ducking out of the Common Room and holding open the portrait for Remus to follow.

“I like the Three Broomsticks,” he said, volunteering very little information. I waited for a moment, wanting to see if he would add anything else. And when he didn’t, I just kept walking.

“Good.”

The word slipped out of me, and I didn’t know why.

 








The Three Broomsticks was very, very crowded. I had a distant memory of someone telling me not to use the word very to describe something. But it was truly very crowded, so much of Remus and I’s conversation consisted of ‘what’ and ‘Can you say that again’.

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear,” Remus apologized, leaning closer to me over the table. My eyes flickered down to look at the space between our hands: there wasn’t much. I also leaned closer, and took my hand off the table.

“I said, I don’t have any siblings, either. Unless you count Mary.” Remus nodded, his eyes leaving my lips and coming back to my eyes.

“Why would I count Mary?” he yelled back, tucking his chin down and bringing a butterbeer to his mouth. The roaring behind me died down a bit, so I sat back in the booth we shared.

“Mary and I grew up together.” Remus nodded knowingly and put down his drink.

“Ah. That makes sense.” He chuckled to himself, and his shoulders shook as he did. I tilted my head to the side.

“Do you say that because Mary’s my only friend?” Remus raised his right eyebrow and chuckled again with a hint of a scoff.

“Yes I do. You’re quite blunt, Charlotte,” he said, leaning his elbows on the table.

“That is a good word for me, Remus.” Remus smiled at me with just the edges of his mouth and my mouth suddenly became dry. I took a sip of my butterbeer, and it went down my throat chunkily.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked, standing up before I had a chance to answer. I looked over my shoulder at the door behind me: Sirius, James, and Peter had decided to make an appearance. I nodded at Remus and stood up with him. We each left a sickle on the table, and he started walking quickly around the room to the exit.

“So how bad is it?” I yelled over the crowd to his back. “Your friends, I mean,” I clarified. Remus shook his head, and yelled back.

“They aren’t bad, they’re just…”

He had either stopped talking, or his last word was drowned out by the offending subjects, as they collectively shouted, “Moony!”

Remus pursed his lips, and I squeezed his hand; this was exactly the moment I realized we were holding hands.

“Hello,” he said reluctantly. I pulled my hand out of his for no reason I can fathom to wave hello to the boys. “We were just headed out,” he explained rather weightily.

“Oh, okay,” James said suggestively, an involuntary smirk raising on the right side of his face. “We’ll see you later, then.”

He stood back from the doorway, and let us pass. My eyes travelled across Peter’s uninvolved face, and then Sirius’. And Sirius was more involved in this situation than I’d ever seen him be. Whatever that means, he was not complacent, or imposing, or striking; he was involved.

“So, the boys,” Remus sighed as the door swung shut behind us. “They’re just…really good friends,” he said, chuckling again. He smiled again with just the corners of his mouth, and I decided I’d found a habit of Remus’.

“They seem rather obsessed with you, if you don’t mind me saying.” Every time I talked about them, Remus smiled.

“It’s because they care, they say,” he reminisced, seeming to quote someone. “I am the ‘pet’ of the group,” he explained unnecessarily. With irrelevance. I looked down to my left and saw that our hands were swinging quite close to each other, and in time. “They like intervening. It’s a pastime of ours.”

“They switched to ours,” I noticed, tucking my hair behind my ear as the wind blew it forward.

“What?”

“You said, ‘They like intervening. It’s a pastime of ours’. You changed it.” Remus didn’t say anything, but didn’t seem phased one way or another. “Just something I noticed.”

“You notice a lot of things, Charlotte. I wouldn’t accuse you of being oblivious.”

The wind blew at us again, in a strong gust. Remus scrunched up his face, and his dusty, floppy hair flew forward around it. My hair rose up and tangled itself in my face. I used the wind as a reason to stay quiet and Remus used the wind as an excuse for our knuckles to brush.

“Let’s go over there.” My arm moved of its own volition. I followed its track as Remus did and found myself pointing towards the Shrieking Shack. I looked up at Remus, whose demeanor had instantly changed. His cheeks became just slightly red, but I only really noticed because I was looking.

“We don’t have to,” I amended. The wind died down again. “I should be getting back to Hogwarts anyway,” I offered, looking at my watch. Remus dragged his gaze away from the house and back to me. “I really do have Quidditch practice.”

Remus looked down at me again and nodded.

 








The whistle that hung around my neck shone in the bright sun of late September. The rest of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team were flying up in the air, and so I took off to join them. The rush of the air against my face was refreshing, and made me forget about Remus’ strange reaction to the Shrieking Shack at least a little bit.

“Let’s work on drills!” I shouted across the field, hovering in the center. “Beaters, head over to those hoops, we’ll work on aim. Chasers, same over there!” I shouted, pointing to the other hoops. “Emma, we’ll work on speed trials together, okay?”

No one seemed to have any objections to my agenda, and so the players went off to their respective sides. Emma Vanity flew to meet me in the middle. Emma was the third of four roommates I had. She was an infectious personality with most everyone except for me. She and Mary were similar, but Emma was slightly less noble, slightly less endearing, and slightly less peppy.

Emma flew up at me quickly and stopped shortly.

“Where are we starting?” she asked, toying with the inactive Snitch. I leaned forward and snatched the Snitch as it was passing between her hands in the air.

“You are finding the Snitch today.” I brought my arm back and threw the Snitch as far as I could, watching its wings unfold before I looked back to Emma. I picked up the stopwatch that hung around my neck, and clicked it to start. “Go.”

Emma took off with a blast, leaving my hair in a mess once again.

 








I took another shot at the center hoop and my bludger bounced off the edge, heading straight back at me. The sweat coming from my forehead finally dripped into my mouth, and as the bludger approached, I slammed it aimlessly into the distance to give my arm a rest.

There were two reasons I liked to stay after practice and work by myself. One: I didn’t actually get to work on my skills as a Beater during practice unless we were having relays. Two: the sun was finally coming down on the pitch, and I liked the way the sun set over the lake.

I sat back on my broom as the bludger headed back to me. It cut through the orange, red, pink, yellow, purple, and broke me out of a trance. I backed up, and set my arm to hit the bludger through the goal post. Just one time, and I could justify putting away the bludger and heading inside.

I slammed the bludger with all my force, and watched as it flew to the goal post. Closer, closer, and then ding! Just off the side of the hoop and circling back towards me already. I took in a deep breath and wiped my sweat out of my eye with the crook of my arm. I watched as it came at me, let out another deep breath, and grunted as I swung again.

It was so perfect. It had to go through the hoop that time, I pleaded in my mind. “Bloody hell!” I exclaimed as it hit the other side of the hoop, again just slightly off center. I sped down to the ground to beat the bludger, and turned around just in time to whip out my wand.

“Arresto momentum,” I said, calming my voice for the spell. The bludger stopped about a foot away from my face, and I let out another breath, shorter. I threw down my bat. I stepped forward, keeping my wand trained on it, and grabbed it from the air. The spell dropped, and I wrestled with the magical force the bloody bludgers had.

“Rough practice?” a voice asked from behind me. I finished wrestling the bludger back into its case.

“What?” I asked, admittedly physically exhausted. I turned around, saw an empty pitch, a disappearing sun, and someone I did not know. 

 


Chapter 5: uncomfortable
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The person standing in front of me was very tall. He had black, black hair and blue, blue eyes. He had an even stance, weight in the middle, and was very reserved. He seemed to have no intentions and know exactly what he was looking for at the same time. I tilted my head to the side, and he didn’t.

“Who are you?” I blurted, picking my Beater’s bat up from the ground. The boy leaned into his left hip, and I glanced at his chest, spotting a Slytherin insignia.

“I am Regulus,” he said flatly, extending his free hand. I squinted with the familiarity of the name, and then shook his hand. We both stood there silently, each observing the other. And for some reason, Regulus seemed more comfortable in the silence.

“I didn’t know you had the pitch reserved so late, Regulus. I was just finishing up here.” I stopped looking at him and crouched down to latch the Quidditch case.

“I don’t.”

I furrowed my brow at his immediate response. His strange mechanic demeanor was alarming at the very least.

“Okay then, Regulus.” I stood up with my bat in one hand and my crate in the other. I was consciously uncomfortable that I couldn’t also hold my wand in my hand. Because while Regulus seemed relatively harmless, I didn’t know what use the bat would be against his wand.

“Do you need any help?” he asked in a way that made me believe he didn’t really want to help.

“No,” I said, shaking my hair back out of my face. “I am just going to head to the castle.” I started walking, and the mysterious Regulus began following me.

“Would you be able to help me out?” he asked flatly, floating along with his lengthy strides next to me.

“What do you need help with?” I asked warily. I turned my head slightly to the side to look at Regulus, but he was staring straight ahead. I examined the side of his face carefully. He had a hard jawline that made me imagine the rest of his face would be just as hard; but his face was young. His skin was nearly flawless, only a mole or two creeping up the side of his neck.

“I need to ask you a few questions,” he said, again flatly. His mouth was very vertical when he spoke, too. He didn’t open it all the way: just enough to squeeze his sentences out.

“What do you need to know?” I hiked the crate up in my hand which was still sweaty from practice. Regulus took a yellow pad out of his back pocket with some unintelligible scribbles on it.

“Where were you born?” he began with, reading intently off the lined paper.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know or you don’t remember?” He asked me this condescendingly. As if I didn’t know the difference.

“I don’t know,” I repeated, struggling to keep the displeasure out of my voice. Something appeared on the page next to the first line of scribbles, and I did my best not to peek over at it.

“Do you have any siblings?”

“Not biologically,” I gave up, tightening my grip on the crate. Regulus stopped in his tracks, and for some reason I felt the need to as well.

“Do you care to elaborate?” he asked slowly, turning towards me and raising an eyebrow at my vague answer. In the rising moonlight, Regulus had eyes that were a piercing sort of blue; a mix between azure and aquamarine.

“Not biologically,” I repeated, beginning to walk abruptly. Regulus caught up in no time at all.

“Then surely, emotionally,” he pressed without urgency in his voice. I fought not to scoff at this. To be emotional. It was not something I was used to. But perhaps yes, emotionally.

“Surely.” He did not push me further on the subject of family.

“When did you start showing signs of magic?” At this, I was startled. Why was this boy so interested in me?

“It must have been around ten. But I really couldn’t be sure.”

“Interesting,” he mused. The notepad wrote to itself again. “And what was your first encounter with the supernatural?”

And at this I became uncomfortable. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of being a half-blood; it’s that I was confused by myself and afraid what would happen if people found out. And so when this stranger came up to me, asking questions that are answered on a notepad that writes to itself, I didn’t really feel comfortable.

“What are you asking all of this for?” I asked, a poorly veiled attempt at deflection.

“I am in a muggle studies class,” he answered, shortly and practiced.

“I don’t know if I believe that. And if you are, how could you be sure I was muggle born?” Regulus stopped again at the foot of the stairs to the entrance of the castle.

“That is not a requirement of the assignment. Watch your presumptions, Charlotte.” The way he said my name, aristocratically. That was a detail I noticed.

“You know my name.” Wind blew my hair forward, but I didn’t move to touch it. At this point I noticed that Regulus’ note pad had disappeared back into a satchel that hung over his left shoulder and on his right hip. Regulus then fought to not let a smile appear on his face, and I wondered if that’s how I looked when I was fighting something.

“And now you know mine.” The moonlight had shifted to my face, and I saw Regulus watching it. “I’ll see you at the next match, Charlotte.”

Regulus turned back around and walked somewhere behind me that I forced myself not to watch. I kept walking into the castle, the sky now dark, and curfew was looming. Were I not Charlotte Malkin, and if I knew this Regulus, then his questions may not have been so strange. But because I am who I am and he is whoever he is, I was confused with what had just occurred.

I am not afraid of answering questions, but I am afraid of people who try to use my answers against me. And I still do not understand Regulus’ motives. And I still don’t believe that he is enrolled in muggle studies. And I am not afraid of tall boys with dark hair; but I was afraid of Regulus.

 

“How are you feeling, Charlotte?” Mary asked laying on her stomach on my bed. I sat at the end of my bed, freshly showered and in my pajamas.

“I am fine, Mary.” I sighed and looked down at the essay in front of me. It seemed finished, but it also seemed too easy. Schoolwork was boring. I looked back up at Mary, and she was looking at me with solemn eyes.

“How are you, Mary?” I asked in return, giving into her pleading looks.

“I’m fine,” she grumbled, pulling a pillow into her lap and playing with the fringe. “I just found out that James Potter and Lily Evans are officially dating. And I didn’t make the Gryffindor team. Which is just…well it makes sense but I am still upset.”

“To be fair, Mary, in six years of going to school together I have never seen you have a conversation with James,” I reasoned, trying to help her understand. Mary threw the pillow at me and rolled her eyes.

“Sometimes I don’t need you to tell me I’m wrong Charlotte. I already know I never really had a chance,” she said dejectedly. “It has just been a long week.”

I sat in silence as Mary continued contemplating her issues. I did have issues to voice to Mary, but they didn’t amount to anything more than a bad feeling. A bad taste in my mouth. They were small things, like my meeting with Madame Pomfrey, my interaction with Sirius Black, my date with Remus, and my meeting of Regulus. I was uncomfortable with interaction of any sort really, and I was dealing with a lot of it.

“Are you listening?” Mary asked, throwing my second pillow at me. I stared at her blankly by accident. “Of course not,” she griped, throwing her legs over the edge of the bed and standing up.

“I’m sorry, Mary, I didn’t mean it,” I apologized weakly.

“I know you didn’t,” she said, sighing and putting a hand on her hip. She looked around the room, and seeing that no one was in there, leaned in closer to me. “Is this about your…thing?”

“What?” I defended immediately. “Of course it isn’t, Mary. It’s never been a problem before.”

“You are awfully defensive tonight, Charlotte Malkin.”

“It’s just been a long week, Mary. I don’t have time to bother about every little thing.”

“Well I’m sorry my life is such a bother to you,” Mary retorted, grabbing her satchel bag from the floor. “I’ll see you on Monday, when maybe you’ll be in a better mood.”

“That sounds good, Mary.” I rolled my eyes as she stomped out of the room audibly.   


Chapter 6: fine
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 “Go James!” I heard Mary yell from her position in the stands from my position on the pitch.

The stands were filled with people from all houses, but the red and blue of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw dominated the stadium. The first match of the season was always crowded. I felt my mouth tighten as Mary screamed for her house. It was some form of betrayal, I’m sure. Mary always used to root for me. The pettiness of the teenage girl escapes me.

“And just twenty minutes in Vanity has already spotted the Snitch!” Matthew Jameson, the Hufflepuff from the United States said in his foreign accent. The long a’s were the oddest part of his inflection.

But at this I took my eyes off the bludger to sneak a peek at Emma’s progress. Emma Vanity was a bit of a hit or miss player, but we’d never gotten so close to a win against Gryffindor. In fact, since James Potter had joined the team, we hadn’t ever won against Gryffindor.

I dived suddenly as I heard the familiar swoosh of a bludger heading towards me. Taking my eyes away from the chase between Emma Vanity and the Gryffindor seeker, I found the bludger trailing me at an unnervingly close distance. I leaned forward onto my broom and took a 90 degree turn upwards to confuse the bludger. The farther I went, the further I got away from the bludger, until I could slow down and take aim to it.

The bludger approached just as fast as it had before, and I took a wild swing as it collided with my bat. The bludger headed off crazily into the direction of a pair of Gryffindor chasers, battling with our chasers for the Quaffle. I took a breath and searched again for Emma. I spotted her circling the bottom of the pitch; she must have lost the Snitch.

It was then that I noticed the Gryffindor seeker was hovering in the air just above me, squinting into the distance. I searched for a bludger, watching the players dodge them.

I watched Sirius Black chase after one bludger, leaning into his broom furiously. How he flew with his hair loose like that I will never understand. I pressed down into my broom again as the free bludger flew dangerously close to our keeper.

“How are you, Anders?” I asked as the out of breath player hovered in front of the center goal post.

“And the score is now 70 to 0, Gryffindor!” Jameson said enthusiastically, his voice booming. Anders gave me a scathing look, and I nodded in recognition. The Gryffindor team was a powerhouse, and we relied on Emma.

I nailed the bludger headed towards us back towards James Potter who was incidentally about to score. He dove forward, holding on tightly to the Quaffle as the crowd jeered at me. Another difficulty of playing Gryffindor: almost everyone wanted to see them win.

“Thanks,” Zachary Anders said quickly, focusing back on James who was still in possession of the Quaffle. I flew away speedily as I saw Black setting up to hit the bludger towards Emma. As he hit the bludger, I dove in its pathway and slammed my bat back against it. The impact sent reverberations up my arm, but I’d done my job.

Sirius swerved to the side as the bludger came flying back at him, but it nicked him on the shoulder. It flew off into the distance, and Sirius watched to make sure it wasn’t coming back.

“The fuck, Malkin!” I saw him scream across the pitch. I almost rolled my eyes. Gryffindors. So emotional.

“You’re fine, Black!” I yelled back, zooming forward and past Black as the bludger swooped around and headed back for the arena.

“And we finally have a score on the Ravenclaw board thanks to rookie Adrian Brentwood!” The cheers came for the Ravenclaw team as well, and I felt a small reprieve form the slaughter the Gryffindor team usually served. “And veteran keeper Allen is getting berated by Captain James Potter!”

The entire stadium turned to spectate the argument, and I took the opportunity to fly next to Emma and check in on her progress. I looked up, knowing that I’d often find her flying above the rest of the field. I saw her hovering in the air where I thought I would find her, and headed up speedily, not wanting to miss my opportunity.

The problem with having a beater as captain: we never could really get a break during the games. Emma, a seeker, had to be faster than everyone on the team. Anders, he had to be just as fast and ten times stronger. Beaters and Chasers had the most difficult time when it came to endurance: the action never stopped. As we hit the first half hour of the game, a sweat began to break out on my forehead. My half-blooded nature made my endurance stronger, but I still felt the effects. I couldn’t imagine the kind of shape that everyone else was in.

“How is it going, Emma?” I asked her as she scouted out the field expertly. Emma Vanity had black bangs that fell perfectly right at the beginning of her eyebrows. The rest of her hair spent most of its time tightly braided back to accommodate Quidditch.

“I had it in the beginning, but I haven’t spotted it since,” she gritted out with frustration. “Damn Wickers and his bludgers. Can you help me out with that?” she asked, referencing the other Gryffindor beater. I checked out Sirius’ counterpart, and it was true: he was again teeing up to hit the bludger Emma’s way even as she sat in the air, basically out of play.

“Don’t move,” I warned, grabbing Emma’s shoulder as I saw her hitch her feet in the hooks of her broom. “We’ll lose the bludger,” I said, watching Wickers out of the corner of my eye. Wickers slammed the bludger in our direction.

“Get ready,” I said, hooking my feet in my broom. Emma followed suit as the bludger approached us. “Okay, dive!” I directed, dropping from my position in the air and hoping Emma was close behind me.

The wind pushed against my cheekbones in a satisfying rush, and I felt the lag of the wind as I came to a short stop. I turned back to look for Emma, and she was safely away from the bludger on the other side of the stadium. Wickers was bewildered as the bludger came circling back towards him, and I could not help cracking a smile.

At this thought, the stadium erupted in a cacophony of cheering. Emma looked over at me, and shrugged. That kind of deafening, explosive cheering meant only one thing. I swiveled around, my eyes finally landing on the Gryffindor seeker with his hand wrapped around the golden ball.

 

The raucous laughter that kept coming in spurts from behind me at the Gryffindor table was hard to bear. Even being myself, being uncaring about most things, Quidditch was different. I was not used to losing, and I didn’t usually do things that I wasn’t excellent at. And then, letting people down was also something I was not used to.

And I know in my mind that the Gryffindor team is especially exceptional, and I should not expect my miscellany of recreational players to be as good, but I found myself wondering why we couldn’t be that excellent. Another burst of laughter came out, and a thread of annoyance ran down my spine.

Attempting to tune out that which annoyed me so, I took a look to the Slytherin table. A sparingly rowdy bunch, the Slytherin table was, as normal, quiet today. I would be lying to myself if I said I wasn’t scanning the table discreetly for the mysterious Regulus. Unlike he had promised, I did not see him at the match. And like he seemed to silently promise, I had not seen him since the strange encounter on the pitch that night.  

I found it odd that I had never seen him before then, either. Even though he was in a different house, he wasn’t that young. He might have even been a Seventh Year; but either way, I truly didn’t recognize him.

Regulus surprised me in the way that he did not seem to care either way about anything. And although we had only spoken once, I felt that I knew a lot about him. His polished uniform gave an air of aristocracy. His polished language, the timber of his voice: it was all trained out of him. He seemed spoiled, but conscious of his favoritism, and rather tired of it. And more than anything, Regulus was doing whatever he was doing simply because it was something to do.

“I’m sorry, Charlotte,” Mary said timidly, taking a seat next to me at the Ravenclaw table. She put her tray down, and I noticed the streaks of red and gold she had attempted to wipe off her face.

“For what, Mary?” I asked, knowing full well what she meant. She didn’t need to be sorry.

“I was just being a little ridiculous about your comment about James the other day.” She sighed. “I really have given up, I swear.” She put her chin into her hand, and pursed her lips.

“You are always a little ridiculous, Mary,” I said lovingly, “…but I should apologize. I don’t mean to trivialize your feelings.”

“And then I was cheering for the Gryffindor team out of spite, really,” she admitted, tilting her chin down and rolling her eyes to herself. “They didn’t need it,” she said frankly.

“It’s really okay, Mary.” I placed a hand on her forearm. “I will get over it,” I reassured her.

A small, but mischievous smile broke out on Mary’s face. I recognized that small smile.

“In that case, would you do me a small favor?” she asked, her voice shaking with false nonchalance. I continued turning the food on my plate around, but did not object to Mary. “Would you go to the Gryffindor party with me after dinner?” she finished quickly. My mouth dropped open slightly, and then I clenched my jaw.

It was not the case that I did not enjoy a good time. I did not want to have a good time with people I did not like; especially with Remus Lupin, a boy who liked me who I did not like. I did not want to see people who had just beaten me in my only departure from academia.

“Well?” she pushed again, leaning over in front of my blank stare. “I don’t really have anyone else to go with, and it’s a better bet if you’re with me.”  

“Why would it be a better bet with me?” I decided upon, considering I had a multitude of answers sitting on my tongue that would be much ruder.

“Well, you know, the whole thing with Remus.” I am sure my face turned sour at this. I had not spoked with Remus since the event outside of Potions, and we had not discussed our date since.

“The whole thing with Remus is no longer a thing,” I said vaguely, taking a sip of tea.

“Oh, Charlotte what did you do to the poor boy?”

“Me?” I asked, taken aback. “I’ve never done anything to him. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m just not that fond of the concept of dating.”

Mary sighed complacently, and shrugged.

“It could still help,” she pleaded. “From what I’ve heard, Remus still likes you and I want to go to a party.”

“So you want me to use this poor boy and his feelings so you can go to a party?” Mary sat there silently for a moment, looking up at me with her big brown eyes. Mary’s morals were just as questionable as mine sometimes.

“You owe me,” she quipped, poking my arm as I sat deep in thought.

“Alright, fine,” I snapped, knowing that the night would in no way turn out fine. 

 




 

A/N: Hello lovely readers! I hope you are still enjoying this story. I am just ending university, so I will be back on break in about a week. That means more chapters! Please let me know how you're getting along with the tale, and leave me your feedback down below. Thank you so much!

 

blackballet


Chapter 7: surprise
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 “What in Merlin’s beard…” I trailed off as we entered the circus named the Gryffindor Common room. How all of the Prefects got on board with this was beyond me. I found the answer to my question as my eyes fell upon the Head Boy and Girl (James and Lily Evans) snogging in a cushioned armchair. “How is it even possible that no one finds out about this?” I asked Mary as she greeted Peter at the portrait entrance.

“Hi, Peter,” she said, batting her lashes obnoxiously. “I brought Charlotte, I hope that’s okay,” she emphasized, leaning on the table to her right.

“That’s fine with us as long as she doesn’t rat us out, right Pete?” Sirius interjected brashly, swinging an arm around Peter’s neck and smirking at me wildly.

“Shut up,” he whispered over his shoulder, shoving a visibly tipsy Sirius off of him. “You’re fine, Mary. And Charlotte,” he added speedily, stepping aside and letting us through into the carnival.

Students, mostly Fourth Year and up, were stuffed into the red and gold Common Room. The fire blazed as high as it could, and Mary had already removed her sweater. Many couples (mostly just pairs of people who may or may not be in a relationship) were making their personal displays of affection very public and very sloppy. Drinks were in hands, but I could not find a source for their drinks. There was so much noise, but I couldn’t really tell from where or from whom.

“See, isn’t this fun?” Mary asked, yelling into my ear. I stepped away from her a bit, bumping into a familiar Gryffindor; a face to which I could not place a name.

“Oi! What are you doing ‘ere?” the boy asked me, shoving my shoulder slightly. “No Ravenclaws invited!” he shouted, raising his drink to the sky. A few cups raised in the air, following his chant.

“Everyone’s invited, Wickers,” Remus Lupin said calmly, taking Wickers’ drink out of his hand and replacing it with another one. “Just have fun, right?” Wickers stood there blankly for a moment, and I wasn’t quite sure whether he would punch Remus or not.

“Whatever, Lupin,” he said, letting out a huff and turning back to his group of dancing bodies.

“Sorry,” Remus said, turning around to face the two of us. “All the Quidditch players, they get kind of…”

“Rude?” Mary offered, smiling at Remus who was clearly embarrassed.

“Yeah,” he said shyly, scratching the back of his head. We stood in our small circle for a bit until it got very awkward. Remus just kept his hand on the back of his head in thought, and Mary was bouncing along to the music. “Do you want a drink?” Remus asked, leaning in towards me.

“What?” Mary yelled, turning back to the two of us after losing her way in the dancing. Remus turned slightly red, and turned to Mary.

“I said, do you want a drink?”

“Sure!” Mary responded emphatically. Remus turned to me, and I shook my head.

“Cheers,” he said, turning his back on us and going to find Mary a drink.

Mary continued thrashing her body around with her fellow Gryffindors. I didn’t understand how she would hold a drink like that. I looked around and saw that James and Lily had begun making rounds about the room, leaning over people and telling them how happy they were that they could make it.

“I’m going to go sit down!” I yelled to Mary, who nodded back at me in time with the music. I did not want to take part in the James and Lily fest that was making its way through the sea of people.

I took a seat at the table next to the window, and the Wizard’s Chess pieces started moving around, waiting to be played. I sat back in my chair, and the pieces settled again. The window was all fogged up, and I took my finger to it, dragging a line through the condensation.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Sirius Black asked, sitting in the chair across from me. He reached over and grabbed my arm, pushing it away from the mirror. I tugged my arm out of his grip, and he released me.

“I didn’t know you took such an issue with condensation,” I apologized lamely.

“Very funny,” he deadpanned. “It’s magical, you see?” He took out his wand, whispered an incantation, and the fog came back up to fully cover the window.

“Why?” I asked, after a beat. I could not come up with a strong enough reason.

Sirius clicked his tongue, but leaned over the table to explain. “You see that window over there?” he asked, pointing to a window in a distant tower.

“You mean that tiny one?” I asked skeptically, pointing to the very same window.

“Yes. That tiny one belongs to Professor Flitwick, your Head of House!” he added, as if I didn’t know. “And he does not like it when we party,” Sirius said, chortling gently as if recalling a memory.

“You don’t mean to tell me that Professor Flitwick has actually stopped a party because he saw it from his quarter-meter wide window.” Again, skeptical.

“I can neither confirm nor deny anything,” he said succinctly. Sirius took his hand off the window, and reached out towards my face. He went to tuck a piece of hair behind my ear, but I grabbed his wrist.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Sirius didn’t try and wiggle free of my grasp. He just sat there. Staring at my face like he was trying to figure something out. With the moonlight shining in between the two of us, his forearm was illuminated; and I couldn’t help but to stop and look at his soft skin marred with cigar burns. My eyes travelled back up to Sirius’ face, and I found myself looking curiously at the scar carved into his left eyebrow again. He finally broke out of his trance, and took his arm out of my hand.

“Do you want to help me with something?”

 




 

“Calm down, no one will see us,” Sirius whispered, holding open the portrait for me to head out first.

“Sirius unless someone is blind, they will most definitely see us,” I hissed, peeking around the corner before stepping out into the long corridor. Sirius followed me out, and I made sure I stuck to the wall even if Sirius was fine with lollygagging around after curfew.

“Why are you so uptight, Char?” he asked, too casually for my liking.

“Please do not refer to me as Char,” I said, spitting out the hated nickname. “And I am uptight because I have six full years without so much as a point off of Ravenclaw house and I am not going to start now.”

“Well you are not going to get a point taken away from your precious house that never wins the House Cup anyway, Charlotte Marie Malkin.” I walked next to him silently, considering my next words very carefully.

“I am not going to ask how you know my full name, because you do not deserve the satisfaction of my awe. I will, however, ask you once again how you know we will not be seen?”

Sirius didn’t answer, but as I looked up at his face it looked like he was trying very hard to conceal a laugh.

“In fact, there are students patrolling right now who are very likely to see us!” I exclaimed, attempting to keep my voice in a lower register but failing miserably. “And unless you know how to do a Disillusionment Charm, which I highly doubt considering you are not even in NEWT Charms, I don’t see what you mean when you say…” A large hand clamped down over my mouth and pulled me under a blanket of sorts.

“Shush,” Sirius whispered into my ear. For once in my seventeen year existence, I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.

“What is...”

“Don’t speak,” Sirius whispered more insistently. There are times that one just listens to a voice, regardless of who it is and what they are saying. There is a certain tone that is difficult to recreate in a situation that was not as dire as this one. And when Sirius’ voice changed so drastically in that same way, I just listened.     

I heard the murmurs of two voices walking down the corridor next to us, as we crouched down together under this cloak that must have somehow made us blend in with the surroundings. I took a beat, and then repeated that sentence again in my mind. A cloak that must have somehow made us blend in with the surroundings. If Sirius Black was in the possession of an Invisibility Cloak, I might just lose my marbles.

We waited at least a minute longer, Sirius’ hand still clasped over my mouth, as if I wasn’t able to keep my mouth shut myself. The heat of his body against my back was warming me up: warming me up a lot. I felt my cheeks grow warm at the thought of Sirius Black pressed against my body, and I realized that this strange reaction was probably something chemical and physical. I suddenly felt very embarrassed, as if Sirius Black could somehow know what I was thinking and feeling. If he was a Legilimens I would also absolutely lose my marbles. I shuffled to the side a bit, but that only made it worse as Sirius tightened his grip around my waist.

“It sounds clear now,” he whispered into my ear, making my spine shiver. “Let’s go.” He stood up, and the cloak that was covering us suddenly disappeared all over again. He kept walking as if nothing had just happened.

“Excuse me,” I whispered after him. It echoed down the long hallway anyway. “What was that display there? Do you mean to imply that you own an Invisibility Cloak?”

“I don’t mean to imply anything. And I don’t own an Invisibility Cloak, if that’s your question,” he dismissed easily, still taking me on an unknown journey. “James does.”

“Of course he does,” I muttered, somewhat bitterly. “I really must catch up on my Pureblood history,” I reprimanded myself.

“If I were you I would stay as far away from Pureblood history as possible,” Sirius said warningly. “They don’t take too kindly to, you know, non-Purebloods.” Sirius was awkwardly honest when he was tipsy.

“What do you mean?” I asked cautiously, afraid that Sirius knew too much. The logical part of me knew that he could not know. But the nagging part of me knew it could potentially happen, and that of course it would be Sirius Black to find out.

“Just, half-bloods and muggle-born wizards and witches. They don’t take too kindly to them,” he repeated. My intention was not to make Sirius uncomfortable, but I seemed to manage it all the time anyway.

“Where are we going?” I changed the subject abruptly and because I wanted to. Sirius took a pause before answering me.

“We are going to get more butterbeer for the party,” he said as we turned the corner. He motioned to a portrait with a still life painted on it.

“Where on earth are we going to get more butterbeer?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. Sirius smirked at me, and looked back to the portrait again.

“Come on,” he said, walking towards the portrait. I kept my place against the wall of the hallway, and Sirius reached up towards the painting.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I whispered, almost forgetting we were out after curfew.

“Tickling the pear,” he said sensibly, as if I was the one tickling the image of a fruit.

“You can’t possibly…” I said, my sentence cut off as the portrait opened for Sirius and an expansive kitchen was revealed.

“This is the Hogwarts kitchen.” Sirius stood back, and I walked forward in awe. The kitchen was empty excepting a few House Elves, washing dishes in a back room. I looked up to the ceiling, and there was no ceiling. The pristine white of the walls faded into nothingness.

“How do you know about this?” I asked, turning back to Sirius accusingly. He was sitting at a table, waving a House Elf over to him. “Black!” I exclaimed. He spoke to the House Elf, about the butterbeer most likely, and the House Elf went back on his way.

“What is it, Malkin?” he asked, tired of my questions.

“How?” I asked again. “Do you ever go to classes?” Sirius smiled his crooked smile, and got up from the table.

“You should know that, Malkin. We’ve got Potions together, haven’t we?” he said cockily, leaning against the counter I stood next to. “We just like exploring.”

“Exploring,” I murmured, pondering his meaning, if he had one. “I don’t know how you find time for all of this.”

“Me either,” he said truthfully, turning away from me as the House Elf came back, a train of butterbeer floating behind him.

“Thank you, Trickway,” Sirius said, giving him the same crooked smile. “I really owe you.”

“No need, Master Black,” Trickway squeaked back. I watched Sirius’ throat constrict ass Trickway said this. “I will see you next weekend? For Master Lupin?”

“Yes,” Sirius said quickly, cutting Trickway off. “Thanks, Trickway.” The little House Elf nodded his large head forward, and dropped the crates of butterbeer behind him.

“Alright, c’mon Malkin,” he said to me, nodding his head towards the crates as he began stacking them.

“What do you mean?” I asked taking out my wand to levitate the drinks.

“It won’t work,” he interjected. I lowered my wand and looked back at him for further explanation. “The food is charmed so only House Elves can move them magically.”

I scoffed. “Well, why?” Sirius put on his fullest smirk.

“So kids don’t steal food from the kitchens for parties.”  I rolled my eyes, but walked over to help Sirius make another stack of crates. “Why did you agree to help me, Charlotte?”

“I don’t know. I did not want to be in that party any longer. That’s one thing I know.” Sirius looked overly-offended.

“Didn’t want to be at the party?” he asked, placing his hand on his chest.

“I am not a person for parties, Sirius,” I said, almost sounding rehearsed. The amount of times I’d given that answer to Mary I did not care to count. I squatted down and hiked up three crates of the butterbeer on my hip. “Not a reflection on your party throwing abilities, I assure your fragile masculinity,” I said as he opened the portrait before picking up his crates.

“Mr. Black,” an icy, frigid voice interrupted. “Miss Malkin,” McGonagall added upon peering around the threshold and finding me, standing with the incriminating alcohol. I dropped my crates in surprise, and amber liquid flowed everywhere. 

 




 

A/N: Thank you for the wonderful comments everyone! I can't wait to continue this now. If you have any more ideas or criticism, please let me know down below.

blackballet


Chapter 8: listening
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 Someone shoved me to the side as I stood in the middle of the room. The fire was burning brightly, but it was not contained in the fireplace anymore. I looked down at my feet, and the flames licked at them but I could not move. I couldn’t move my feet. A faceless figure was burning up at the other end of the room. I felt slippery all of a sudden, like I wasn’t really there at all.

“Charlotte why are you doing this?” Remus Lupin asked me from somewhere all around me. His voice was clear and alive, but floating and omniscient.

“I don’t know what you are referring to.” I felt oddly concerned with whatever Remus was talking about.

“The Quidditch match!” he urged further, as if I should know exactly what he meant. “Why would you do that?”

“I like having a violin lull me to sleep,” I said, matter-of-factly, as if Remus should know exactly what I was talking about.

I looked down again, and the fire was climbing. It hit my calves now, and I began to feel the burn. I watched my legs turn from their light beige to a dark, crispy, black. I could still stand, but I still felt stable, upright.

“No one is playing a violin,” Remus’ voice countered, coming from farther away this time.

“I could learn to play the violin,” I reasoned.

“But what about the other?” someone unrecognizable asked, shoving me off my balance again. My legs were gone now, but I was still standing up.

 

I shot up out of bed. I threw the covers off my lap, and saw my legs, letting out a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what a dream was, I’d just never experienced one so vivid. I let my hands fall to my legs, untrusting of my eyes alone. The drapes around my bed weren’t closed, and I looked over to see Emma and Elizabeth asleep in their beds. At least I hadn’t woken them up.

The sky was just coming out of its sleep as well. The sun was peeking up on the horizon. I stepped out of bed, wiggling my toes as my feet hit the floor. Emma turned over in her bed, and I stood up, walking over to the window. I climbed into the windowsill and unlatched the window, sneaking through it silently to sit on the roof. A shiver ran through my body as a gust of wind blew past on the Ravenclaw Tower. October had brought a chill with it, and I was beginning to feel the effects.

This was perhaps something I should mention to Dumbledore. Ever since I came to Hogwarts, he has been hovering. Even before Hogwarts, I suppose, he hovered. Going through the amount of foster homes I went through was almost astonishing; he must have had a hand in that. And then there is the part about how I became half-Inferius.

There are no sealed hospital records, no tall tales, no secrets. Not that I know about anyway. My mother was pregnant with me when she was turned into an Inferius, and then I showed up at a hospital. From then on, I was just a little girl who threw up her formula a lot. This is the story given to me by Dumbledore. So again, no secrets that I know about.

The strange part: I remembered a father. No, I would never tell anyone about this. I don’t know if the memory is something I created to fill a hole, or something much darker, but it is there. So maybe I would tell Dumbledore about the dream, and maybe I wouldn’t. There is nothing that special about me besides my condition. Plenty of people have strange dreams.

And in another way, I know that this is probably the sort of thing that Madame Pomfrey was talking about when she’d asked if anything strange was going on. But my meeting with Dumbledore today was about the trouble that Sirius Black had gotten me into last night. So I would keep the focus on that.

Sirius Black and I were caught stealing Butterbeer from the Hogwarts kitchens. What Butterbeer was doing in a school kitchen was beyond me, but I digress. Sirius Black and I; quite the pairing. I do not know what possessed me to leave the party with him, logically knowing that wherever we were going alone could not have been better than the party.

It was just something about Sirius Black that made you want to listen to him. And it was infuriating. Because inside my head there was a voice telling me that he was a bad influence, and would ruin my school record at the drop of a hat. But with every fiber of my being, and every nerve of my nervous system, I ignored that voice in my head and I went with Sirius Black anyway. My bones chilled again as a second wind blew past.

The clock in the Astronomy Tower began tolling, and caught my ear. The bell rang out two times, signifying 7:30 AM. I sighed, and leaned my head back for one more second. Our meeting was scheduled for 8:00 AM in Dumbledore’s office. I tucked back into the room, closing the window lightly behind me.

 




 

Professor Dumbledore’s office was stuffy, in my humble opinion. Sirius Black sat next to me in the Headmaster’s office, leaning back in his chair and sucking on a lemon candy. He seemed oddly comfortable in the circular space. I felt as if it was closing in on me and expanding to accommodate all of the trinkets all at the same time.

“Good morning, Sirius, Charlotte,” Professor Dumbledore said mildly, descending from his tower that leads to Merlin knows what above his office. “I hope that the rest of the night allowed for some restful sleep after last night’s events. I kept my face flat as a twinkle rose in Dumbledore’s right eye. “I see you have already helped yourself to the offerings, Sirius. Please, Charlotte, feel free to my candy. It is not set out for my benefit,” he said, an internal chuckle raising to his eyes as well. I do not believe Dumbledore understood the properties of an inside joke.

“No thank you Headmaster.” He paused for a second after I said that, and Sirius stopped sucking on his foully-scented candy as Dumbledore’s piercing gaze tore into me. If Sirius wasn’t a Legilimens, Dumbledore certainly was.

“Charlotte is right,” Dumbledore said, breaking his concentration and finally sitting across from us at his desk. “We should get started with our discussion before time slips away from me again. Sirius, would you like to tell me why Professor McGonagall found you lurking in the kitchens once again?”

Sirius opened his mouth, but Dumbledore held up a finger.

“Might I add that Professor McGonagall has already informed me that Butterbeer was involved.” Sirius’ face was crestfallen, and I swear Dumbledore smirked. “Go on,” he said, after a beat. Sirius seemed to have been shot down, so I decided to get it over with.

“Sirius and I went to the kitchens to find more Butterbeer for an after party that was held in the Gryffindor common room.” I said swiftly. Sirius scoffed, and I felt him glaring at the side of my head. I refused to turn and look to him, because his eyes were just as piercing as Dumbledore’s.

“Mr. Black, you recall how this must go,” he said, rather dejectedly. It seemed as though Dumbledore would have preferred not to know exactly what had happened. Something about this made me realize how Sirius Black got away with as much as he did. “I am afraid I must assign the both of you detention. Three detentions over the next six weeks until Holiday Break seems fair,” he reasoned, seeming to talk to someone else invisible to everyone else.

“I have Quidditch Monday through Thursday,” Sirius offered before Dumbledore even had a second to breathe. He had clearly done this before.

“Does Friday work for you Miss Malkin?” I cringed at the opportunistic alliteration of my name. I cleared my throat.

“Friday does work for me. After 4:30.” I felt Sirius roll his eyes at me. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make the schedule for NEWT Charms.

“I think we have it settled, then! Detention will be held Fridays at 5:00 with Mr. Filch,” Dumbledore said brightly. “Is there anything else I should know?” he asked, turning his gaze to me once again. I didn’t say anything; I just stared right back at him.

“No,” Sirius said nonchalantly, standing up and taking a great yawn, stretching his arms up.

“Me either,” I said, finally taking a break from Dumbledore and glancing over to Sirius, who had released his arms and had walked out from behind his chair.

“Thank you for your time,” I said to Professor Dumbledore, standing up and refusing to make eye contact with him again.

“We shall see each other soon enough,” he said to our retreating backs. Sirius got to the door first, and held it open for me as I snuck through. I stepped forward onto the stone platform outside his office, and began my way down the stairs.

“Wait, Malkin,” Sirius called after me, skipping over a few steps to walk next to me. “I figure we’re about even now, eh?” he asked, nudging my elbow with his. I involuntarily shuddered as he touched my elbow.

“How on earth do you think that we are even? Not that I really care to get even, or to be in the same room with you, but thanks to you it appears we have no choice,” I rambled fluidly. “Let’s call the situation…bearable.”

“Well, for this!” he exclaimed irritably, rolling up the sleeve of his T-shirt and showing me a nasty bruise on his shoulder that clearly ran further along his chest.

I shrugged and just kept walking, recalling a particularly vicious hit I aimed at Sirius during the match.

“I’m sure Madame Pomfrey can fix that up in a jiffy,” I said flatly, clearing my throat and speeding up my pace ever so slightly. “Unfortunately there is no cure for detention,” I said bitterly, almost biting my tongue at the snide comment. Calm down I internally berated myself.

“Are you really that upset?” Sirius asked in disbelief, clicking his tongue behind his teeth. “What’s a few hours with me and old Filchy really going to do to you?”

In all honesty, the detention wouldn’t be all that bothersome. I didn’t need to sleep, cutting into my dinnertime was not a problem, and my homework would get done in the time I didn’t use for sleep. The most bothersome thing running through my head right now was the fact that I wanted Sirius to think that it would be a bother to me.

“I have a schedule, Sirius, and I like to keep to it,” I answered vaguely, hoping he would probe no further.

“What’s your bloody schedule then?”

Another trait of Gryffindor house: they were impossibly, unendingly, nosy.

“I don’t need to share anything else with you, Black,” I said snidely, almost spitting out his name.

“Alright, then, Malkin,” he rebuked, matching my tone. My eyes snuck towards Sirius out of their own volition. His jaw was tight, but his smirk was still visible. He looked down at me, probably feeling my eyes on the side of his neck, and our eyes met for a second- just a second.

I turned away from him, and kept my head straight on as we made our way towards the Great Hall. More than anything I wanted to rip that smarmy smirk off of Sirius Black’s face. Not because it made him unattractive, but because the smirk meant that Sirius Black was flirting with me, and I would not stand for it.

 




 

“I cannot believe you left the Gryffindor party with Sirius Black,” Mary hissed at me across the table at the library. “Do you know what this means?” Mary asked unnecessarily. She knew I would not know what that meant.

“Hush, Mary,” I whispered, flipping the page over on my History of Magic textbook. This passage on an Italian philosopher was especially captivating.

“You are two beaters from opposing teams, both Seventh Years,” Mary mulled to herself in a voice that I could hear. “The sexual tension!” she finally squeaked out grabbing my wrist across the table. I took a small breath before daring to respond to Mary.

“So how was your night, Mary? I went for your sake, after all,” I grumbled, going back to my reading.

“Do not try and deflect, Charlotte. Do not do it to me,” Mary warned, the excitement in her voice all too clear. She squeezed my wrist one more time before releasing it. “You know all the Gryffindors will be talking about it. You two would have beautiful, vicious, dark haired, babies!” she spilt out, sitting back in her chair before I had a chance to retaliate.

“Mary, you know I can’t have children,” I said, bored. I saw Mary’s face crumble out of the corner of my eye, and I felt guilty for a second. I really had no desire to have children, but Mary did. And it pained Mary to know that I would never have the opportunity; I knew that it pained her. “Really, how was your night?” I asked, submitting to her wills and closing my textbook.    

“It was actually really fun, Char,” she said, letting out a breath. “Thanks so much for coming along.”

“Of course,” I muttered, almost rolling my eyes.

Mary and I fell into a comfortable silence, and I decided I was safe to open up my textbook. I couldn’t concentrate on the words in front of me as Mary hummed to herself and began translating some runes.

“So did mum write you, too?” Mary asked timidly, keeping her quill to her parchment. She had a trained sort of casualty that I recognized.

“Mum did not write me, no,” I said touchily. Mary had always been the favorite child. It wasn’t difficult to see why. “What did she have to say?”

“Well, Thomas moved out,” Mary said tentatively, seeing the darkness cloud over my face. “He just turned eighteen a week ago.”

“Lucky, Thomas,” I muttered.

“Charlotte, Annie has been nothing but kind to us,” Mary argued, unconsciously touching her deaf ear.

Mary lost all hearing in her left ear because her biological father beat her until she finally got put into the foster system. Our stories were quite different.

“We really got lucky, considering…”

Mary did not often leave much to the imagination, but when she did it was because the topic was too uncomfortable for her.

“Considering what? How Angela, and David, and Tabitha ended up?” I saw Mary look around nervously as my voice rose slowly. I took it down a notch as I noticed several other students peeking their heads out from behind the shelves of books.

“I really am sorry, Mar,” I apologized. “I’m just a bit on edge.” Mary looked at me with sympathy, and placed her hand over mine again. I don’t know how she stood the cold grip of my hand without cringing.

“When is the last time you ate?” she asked. Mary would make an excellent mother, now that I think on it.

“Must have been before the match,” I muttered. Mary gave me a look of disapproval. Sometimes I forgot to keep up my eating habits.

“Let’s grab lunch before you go full on you-know-what,” Mary said, whispering over the table. I cracked a brief smile: joking about my infliction was the only way to lighten things up.

“Alright,” I said, packing my textbook in my bag.

Mary stuffed her parchment and quill in her satchel, and headed out of the library with me on her heels. I walked past a table with Remus Lupin on the way out, and his table of tutoring students quieted rather coincidentally as I passed.  

I looked away, pretending I didn’t see him. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I was afraid of what he would say to me or if it was because I was afraid of what he had heard. 


Chapter 9: paranoia
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I had difficulty keeping my eyes trained on Professor Slughorn as Remus Lupin stared down the back of my neck. After our uncomfortable encounter in Hogsmeade, Remus switched partners with some random Gryffindor who could not keep up with anything. I had asked her once before how she made it into the class. She seemed insulted, and I haven’t asked her anything since.

I am pretty sure that Remus knew something was up with me. Ever since last Sunday in the library he kept cropping up everywhere. Sitting across from me at dinner, waiting behind at the end of classes, and even sometimes taking a stroll around the Quidditch pitch during Ravenclaw practices. It might just be a coincidence, and I might be becoming more paranoid, but it seemed that Remus was straight up following me.

“Class dismissed,” Professor Slughorn said, clapping his great, meaty hands together. I blinked quickly, and shook my head slightly. My new Potions partner was finishing cleaning up our station, and I began packing up my bag. We had created a system where I did the actual potion making and she cleaned up after me.

I headed out of the classroom hurriedly. And I am sure that Remus Lupin had not actually spent the entirety of Potions staring at the back of my neck. I would like to think I was that important. But it was something about the way Remus looked at me: as if he knew more than he did. I paused in the hallway, contemplating his gaze, as someone pushed past me on their way somewhere apparently important. I shook my head, and continued out into the Transfiguration Courtyard on my way to the docks.

“Charlotte,” I heard a subtle and familiar voice call from the other side of the courtyard. I looked over my shoulder, stopping in my tracks again. Regulus was sitting on a bench, alone. I turned further over my shoulder, looking (for some unknown reason) to see if there was anyone else in the courtyard.

The two of us stood opposite each other, and for some reason, neither of us would take the first step forward. I had trouble locking eyes with people, but with Regulus, it was simpler. He still wasn’t curious, and was comfortable in the silence. A pair of students finally entered the courtyard, and Regulus stood up hastily. I blinked, and he was striding over towards me easily.

“Regulus,” I finally said back as he approached me. I kept walking on my way to the docks. If Regulus had the inclination to follow me, I wouldn’t stop him. Regulus stayed silent as we walked down the stone pathway, past a small hut, and made the bend to the docks. I watched a cloud of my breath leave my mouth in the cold air, and I realized that I was letting out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

“How did your Muggle Studies project turn out?” I asked, curious and still wary of Regulus. Regulus took in a small breath through his nose and his eyes flitted up to the sky.

So I was correct. He was lying.

“I did not have a Muggle Studies project, Charlotte,” he admitted, crossing his hands behind his back and looking down at me for a reaction. I denied him the satisfaction of a reaction and kept my face still.

“Oh?” I questioned. “You like asking perfect strangers for intimate information?” Regulus pondered on this only for a second.

“You like to give information out to perfect strangers,” he said, not asking me, telling me. “Some people just like talking about themselves,” he quipped, biting his bottom lip as soon as his sentence came out.

I was slightly taken aback by Regulus’ comment. I liked talking to myself. Did I really enjoy talking about myself that much? Maybe compared to Regulus, but I thought I fell perfectly normal on the narcissism spectrum.

“So why did you ask me those questions?” I was managing to keep the panic and paranoia out of my voice.

Regulus kicked a small pebble off the path, and I saw the left side of his mouth perk up. He shook his head gently, and then uncrossed his hands from behind his back, stuffing them in his pockets.

“There you go again, asking more questions about yourself,” he said pointedly, skipping every other step as we finally made our way into the boathouse.

“Fine,” I said, frustrated that he dodged my question. “Where were you born?” I asked, throwing his own odd question back at him from that night. Regulus leaned up against a wooden post and wrapped his hand around it.

“London,” he said definitively.

“Okay,” I said automatically, having nothing else really to say back. I tucked the hair that had flown out of my plait back behind my ear. I took my usual seat, a rickety chair left behind from a time in which the boathouse was visited more often. Regulus was still hanging off the weight-bearing pole, watching me as I took out my book.

I sat back in the chair, opening Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man to the page I left off on. The text was rich with theories about original, natural magic. Although most of it was debunked in modern times, I felt a special connection to his theories, being an inherently magical being myself.

“Why don’t we take out a boat?” he asked casually, breaking my train of thought. I blinked in surprise at the bold request from the still perfect stranger.

“I am sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, Regulus,” I said, taken aback. “I am not here looking to chat idly with an idyllic stranger. I am here to read,” I said indignantly, motioning to my book.

“Idyllic?” he said, raising both of his jet black eyebrows. I couldn’t tell if he was insulted or content with my description. “Oddly fitting,” he mused to himself, pushing himself off the pole and stepped off the dock and into a boat.

This made me shut my book and take a second look at Regulus. He was far less reserved than the last time we met: still quiet yet engaging, but louder in some way. It was then I realized that Regulus had no books with him. He had no bag, no parchment, no quill. I didn’t even know if he had his wand.

“Where were you coming from, Regulus? When you were in the courtyard.” Regulus looked up at me from the boat, a hand extended. I stood up from my chair and dropped my book into my bag.

“I was coming from my dormitory,” he said, still holding his right hand out for me to take it. I looked down at his hand: calloused only in between the pointer and middle finger. Probably from extensive writing and wand-wielding. His fingernails were neatly kept, and he wore a large, gaudy ring on his ring finger. I took another step forward and something about Regulus’ extended hand and gazing eyes made me want to take his offer.

“Why should I trust that?” I asked warily. The feeling in my chest, the wanting to spend time with him, was foreign to me. And I didn’t know him, and I wanted to. I wanted, needed to be careful. I didn’t extend my hand yet.

“I don’t know if you should.” Regulus’ eyes came up to my face, and I was suddenly aware of every infinitesimal movement I made. “Was he waiting for me in the courtyard?” a lingering voice asked in my head.

“I should get going,” I finally managed. It felt like a balloon was deflating in my chest. Pressure released. Regulus dropped his hand, but his eyes did not leave my face.

“Maybe you should, Charlotte,” he said dully, sitting back in the boat and returning to his aloof personality. I stepped backwards, almost stumbling over my feet. Regulus still had not broken eye contact with me, and I didn’t want to be the one to do it. His icy eyes made me shiver.

“O-okay,” I stuttered, frustrated with myself as I ducked my head down to pick up my bag and run back to my room for no good reason. Regulus reached over the side of the boat and unhooked the rope from a post on the dock. He pressed off from the dock, and the boat began floating out onto the Great Lake.

I watched Regulus sit complacently, his hands folded across his lap, leaning back into the bow of the boat. I picked up my bag and shook my head to clear it. I slung it over my shoulder, took one last look out at the lake, and then began jogging up the stairs back towards the castle.

 




 

“Happy Halloween to me,” Sirius Black grumbled, balancing on a chair in the back of the library, trying to put back about five textbooks at a time. I kept separating the seemingly unending stack of books that we had at our disposal. Students kept coming and tossing their used books on my stack, making my job even harder.

Mr. Filch had sent us to the library for our first detention. We were here until 8:30, putting back all the books that students used throughout the day.

“Oi!” Sirius exclaimed, grasping towards the bookshelf before falling back out of his chair. He landed on the edge of the table. It shook, and my piles all melded back into one big heap. Sirius looked up at me apologetically from the floor, and I merely rolled my eyes, offering a hand to help him up.

“I can’t believe they took our wands,” he said angrily. “Don’t they want the work to get bloody done?” He dusted off his trousers, and shook back his black hair.

“It’s a punishment, Black,” I argued uselessly, beginning my sorting again. “And it isn’t even that bad,” I muttered to myself. I had become increasingly irritable over the past week; over the past two months, really.

“It is Halloween, Malkin, and we are sitting here sorting books out the muggle way.” I didn’t turn to look at Sirius. I heard him climb back onto his chair.

“And what is so wrong about the muggle way?” I asked, not meaning to sound defensive but managing to do so all the same.

“Nothing,” he said automatically. “It’s just…harder,” he grunted as he shoved another book on the highest shelf.

“Freaking entitled Pureblood.”

I said it just under my breath. But I think that Sirius has exceptional hearing.

“You do not want to go there, Malkin. You don’t know a thing about my childhood,” said testily. I kept my mouth shut after that. He was right. I didn’t know a thing about his childhood.

“So how was your childhood?” he asked, the anger still tangible in his voice. “Mum and dad proud that their pretty, smart, athletic daughter was also magical?” he asked, now slamming the books into their places.

“Not really,” I said discreetly, leaning further into my pile of books.

“Of course, you probably had to hide your magic from the family for a bit,” he pondered aloud. “How terrible that must have been,” he mocked, jumping down from his chair. I felt Sirius place his hands on the table, his arms hovering next to each of my ears. “At least they didn’t torture the magic out of you,” Sirius whispered. I couldn’t help but let my eyes linger to his left forearm, which I knew was littered with burn marks.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, pitting how bad our childhoods were against one another.”

It slipped out. I knew it would aggravate the situation, but I said it anyway. Sirius quieted down for a second.

“I’m sorry, Malkin,” he apologized suddenly, backing off of me. “I didn’t realize that you were also beaten to rid you of your beliefs!” I closed my eyes as his voice rose, realizing his sarcasm.

“I’m not doing this,” I said quietly, standing up and collecting my belongings quickly.

“You’re just a crybaby, Malkin, admit it,” he jeered, leaning over me as I tried to collect my things as fast as I could. “Go on, go run to your mum.”

I turned on Sirius at this. I didn’t like when people poked fun at my mum. And it wasn’t his fault. Sirius probably had very Sirius Black-like things going on in his life. I didn’t tell people about my life, so how could I expect them to know my mother was a re-animated puppet of the darkest wizard of our time? But anyway, it bothered me.

“My mum is dead,” I said, taking advantage of his stunned state to push past him and duck out of detention early. I sealed my tongue to the roof of my mouth to avoid saying and so am I


Chapter 10: stupefied
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“Hello, Charlotte,” Madame Pomfrey said as I walked into the hospital wing. She bustled out from behind a curtain where I spotted a figure lying still on the bed.

“Madame Pomfrey,” I greeted her, dragging my eyes away from the shadowed body.

“Come in here,” she said, motioning to her office. “I have a patient,” she whispered, not wanting to arouse suspicion. I walked into her office, and sat down in a comfortable chair across from her desk. Madame Pomfrey closed the door behind me, and began digging through some files.

“How have you been lately? You missed our meeting last week,” she reprimanded. She pulled out a file that I am sure had my name on it.  

“I apologize, I have been busy with Quidditch.” I lied this away easily. I had missed our meeting last week while I sat with Regulus on the docks.

“Hmm,” she grumbled skeptically, taking out her wand and scanning it over my body slowly. “Stay still,” she said unnecessarily, as I had been through this many times before. My skeleton appeared as an X-ray on the wall in front of me.

“It’s grown,” I said squarely, scanning the image of my inferius layer. My brain was now fully encased in the plasmid.

“Yes. And now you see why I was so worried about any change in behavior. Have you noticed any changes in your behavior since our last meeting?”

“The only thing different…” I muttered, wanting to tell Madame Pomfrey but being afraid all the same. “I have had a recurring dream,” I admitted. Madame Pomfrey sat down across from me, and folded her hands together on the desk.

“Tell me about it.” I cleared my throat and shifted slightly in my chair.

“Well, it starts with me standing in the middle of a room. And I don’t recognize the room, but I am also not scared.” Madame Pomfrey nodded for me to continue, and took my file back out. “And I am on fire, but I am still not scared. And then I hear…” I stop at this, not knowing if I should mention that Remus was in my dream or not.

“Go on,” she encouraged, scribbling on her chart.

“I hear a voice,” I decided, “…a voice I don’t recognize. And it asks me why I’m doing this.” Madame Pomfrey stayed silent, so I continued. “And I don’t know what it is referring to, and then I ask a question about a violin,” I said slowly, finally deciding to attempt to analyze my dream. “I don’t know why, though.” Madame Pomfrey continued writing down notes about my dream, and then closed her folder.

“Is that all you remember?” I nodded and she let out a sigh.

“Well, Charlotte I will take this to Professor Dumbledore, and perhaps he can talk with our Divination professor about its meaning. For now, just keep me updated with your dreams and any other –,”

Madame Pomfrey stopped talking at a knock at her office door. She stood up from her desk and flicked her wand at the wall, the image of my skeleton disappearing. She picked up my folder, and stuffed it back into her filing cabinet.

“Come in!” she said cheerfully, giving me a quick glance as the door swung open.

“Sorry, Madame Pomfrey I’ve started bleeding through my bandages again…” Remus Lupin said, standing in the threshold with a large bandage wrapped around his left thigh. I tried to keep my focus on Madame Pomfrey, but Remus would not let me.

“Charlotte?” I peered around the door, and looked up curtly at Remus. It was almost too coincidental that he was here.

“Hello Remus.” I waved to him with a shake of my hand, and he nodded his head at me, unable to move his hands as they were bearing all his weight as he leaned against the doorframe.

Madame Pomfrey looked between the two of us nervously, and then seemed to suddenly remember that Remus was bleeding out in her doorway.

“Oh yes, Remus!” she exclaimed. “Go sit, sit, I’ll fix you up. Charlotte,” she said addressing me, “we can continue our discussion of your apprenticeship at another time.” Remus glanced at me one last time before heading back out to his bed with Madame Pomfrey on his heels. I squinted my eyes as Remus put an arm around her shoulder and they limped back to his bed.

I collected my belongings and headed out, letting my eyes linger on the closed curtain. I saw Madame Pomfrey stripping bandages off Remus’ leg. I pushed open the door to the Hospital Wing and began my way to Defense Against the Dark Arts. One thing that I would give Remus Lupin: he was not daft enough to believe I was setting up an apprenticeship with Madame Pomfrey.

 




 

“Impedimenta,” James Potter bellowed at me, swishing his wand grandly. I deflected his spell, and James smiled at me through my shield.

“Expelliarmus,” I said back, flicking my wand tightly. James put up a similar deflective shield, and his smile widened.

“Remus was in the hospital today,” I said as casually as possible, twisting my wand and making James almost hit the floor to dodge my spell.

“What?” James asked, sending my own spell back towards me. “Since when do you care where Remus was?”

“I don’t,” I said defensively, not used to handling manipulating people. “I just thought you might like to know.”

“I really don’t think you care what I might like to know,” James muttered. “Stupefy!” he shouted. I dodged again.

“You aren’t wrong,” I said after a moment. Arguing with James Potter would solve nothing. James and I continued sparring for a few moments, neither of us getting the better of the other. He was an exceptional dueler, and I enjoyed working with him as long as he kept his mouth shut.

“Are you ready for the match with Slytherin?” I asked without missing a beat. “I heard they’ve really been improving their new Seeker,” I deadpanned. James looked, fittingly, stupefied by my comment. “Cantis!” I said suddenly, slicing my wand through the air horizontally.

James immediately opened his mouth and began singing (more like wailing) a song that I did not recognize. I let it go on only for a moment.

“Expelliarmus!” I called again, rejoicing internally as James’ wand came flying into my hand. James mouth hung open slightly, and I walked over to hand his wand back to him.

“Excellent! Excellent, Charlotte,” Professor Magnolia cried, walking over hastily to James and me and placing her hands on her hips. “I’d say ten points to Ravenclaw!”

Professor Magnolia turned to the rest of class, each pair having stopped their duels as a bell rang out, signaling the end of class.

“You can all take a page out of Miss Malkin’s book!” she called as I packed up my book and wand. “Fancy wand work and advanced spells are all well and good, but distracting your opponent is the only thing that can, without a doubt, stop them from completing their spells!”

The rest of the class was filing out, and I followed as our Professor continued shouting out the door at us. “And we will be reviewing the properties of Inferi next week, so please remember your textbooks!”

I felt my face drain of color. 

 




 

“Come on, Charlotte, or we won’t get good seats!” Mary urged, pulling me along the wooden bleachers of the Quidditch Pitch.

“We are already here, Mary, we’ll have good enough seats,” I said, deciding to settle in the third row back from the front. Slytherin and Gryffindor students were crowded against the front railing, and tensions were soaring.

“Fine.” She sat down dejectedly beside me, and pulled a red and gold scarf out of her bag. I pulled a textbook out of my bag, and opened to where I left off.

“You can go battle at the front with the rest of your clan if you want,” I offered as Mary looked longingly down to the predominantly Gryffindor section.

“No, it’s alright,” she said dismissively, waving her hand. “It can get pretty volatile at the Slytherin games sometimes.”

I made a noise to show Mary that I was listening. Something about Gryffindor: they all cared so damn much. Mary would not be happy sitting here with me for the entire game, listening to the commentator dully. But she would sit with me anyway, and keep me company while I silently analyzed my History of Magic textbook. The only thing I might get out of the game is knowing who I would be playing in the upcoming weeks.

“Oh, they’re lining up,” Mary said squeakily, pulling out a set of binoculars and peering through them

And of course it wouldn’t really help that I was preoccupied with the whole Remus situation. Should I bring it up to Dumbledore? Remus was very bright, and I’m willing to bet he was listening at the door the other day in the hospital wing. I don’t know that Remus would tell anyone, but it would definitely be an inconvenience.

“Ten points to Gryffindor!” announced Bertha Jorkins, a younger girl I did not know personally. I looked towards the Slytherin goal posts, and James Potter was already speeding back away from the goal posts as a Slytherin beater was sending a bludger his way. The crowd was a mix of booing and cheering.

I looked over at Mary, who had put down her binoculars and was now standing, cheering for the goal. Mary knew about me. Of course, that was more out of convenience and necessity than out of her figuring it out. But if Mary could handle it, then surely Remus could. But then, the more important question: why was Remus trying to figure it out?

“Black has spotted the snitch!” Bertha said again. The crowd all looked up, and my head snapped up, too. I must have heard that wrong. I shook my head, and searched for the snitch myself, but could not spot it. I looked back down to my textbook. “Oh, and it’s gone again as Dearborn whips a bludger towards Black!”

That could not be right. Why would Caradoc Dearborn, a Gryffindor beater, be aiming a bludger towards Sirius Black, a Gryffindor beater?

“Give me those,” I muttered quickly, grabbing the binoculars out of Mary’s lap. I put them to my eyes, and automatically zoomed in on Marlene McKinnon, who was in possession of the Quaffle. I followed her to the goal post, and it snuck past the keeper into the goal.

“McKinnon’s made a goal!” she exclaimed. I scanned the back end of the field to find Caradoc Dearborn. He was zooming low on the pitch across from Sirius, working on some play I did not recognize, and a bludger approached his bat.

“And Black has spotted the snitch again! He’s getting closer, closer,” she said with anticipation. “But brother Sirius Black has managed to hit the end of Regulus Black’s broom with a bludger.” I lowered the binoculars and my mouth fell open.

Black hair. Bright, bright eyes.

“Mary does Sirius Black have a brother?” I asked cautiously.

“Yes, of course,” she said hastily. “He’s the Slytherin seeker, just there,” she pointed, out of my line of sight.

Tall and athletic. Annoyingly aristocratic.

I picked the binoculars back up and found Sirius, who was chasing after the Slytherin seeker, who I now recognized to be Regulus. He ducked to the side, came in line with a bludger veering off in another direction, and slammed it at Regulus’ back.

The crowd gasped, and so did I, as Regulus fell forward off his broom. I turned my attention back to Sirius, and he pumped a fist in the air triumphantly before speeding away. I put the binoculars down slowly.

Regulus was Sirius Black’s brother. And they weren’t happy about it. 


Chapter 11: worrying
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 There were too many things for a seventeen year old inferius to worry about. I do wish that I could shut off the part of my brain that cared whether I would survive or not. There is my problem: I have realized that I don’t want to be human. And the more I tire of my human side, the more I realize that the Inferius part of me is taking over my brain.

I looked over the Inferi section of my D.A.D.A textbook and sighed. Inferius are naturally fearless, as there is no known way to kill them. Humans, on the other hand, are intrinsically self-preserving. I myself was a conflict of interest.

“Can you get moving?” Sirius asked irritably, from behind a bookcase. “I have to get back to the common room,” he said, coming around the corner and spotting me leaning over my textbook. “Are you really studying right now?” he asked. I slammed the book shut and shoved it into his hands.

“Just take this to the back,” I mumbled, starting a new pile of returned books. Sirius turned around without a word, raising his eyebrows at my quick temper.

Sirius and I had been silent for most of our second detention together. He had been silent all week after last weekend’s loss to Slytherin to be quite frank.

I plopped another book down in front of me, and the title caught my eye. The Genealogy of Purebloods was a relatively new book. I turned it on its side, and the binding was well-worn already. I checked the copyright: 1965. I looked back over my shoulder again, and Sirius was still lost in the shelves.

I let out a deep breath, and opened the book to the Page of Contents. Scanning it, I found the name Black fairly quickly, and turned to page 7. I saw Sirius’ name next to a fitting portrait of him; his tie was askew, and he was making faces at his relatives. Just next to Sirius was Regulus, and he was looking forward with a steely expression. He caught my eye suddenly, and I slammed this book shut as well.

“What are you banging about?” Sirius asked, coming back to my table.

“Oh, nothing,” I said, taking a breath and lightening my voice. “Say, Sirius what was your family life like?”

“Are you trying to provoke me?” he asked nastily, grabbing the book out of my hand and looking at the title. “Nice, Malkin.” He tossed the book back on the table and wandered back into the library. I peeked over the pile of books, and saw that Madame Pince had her crooked nose poked into a book herself, and was not watching us. I stood up too and followed him back into the withered towers of books.

“I’m sorry, Sirius,” I apologized grittily, clearing my throat.

“What do you care about my family anyway?” he asked sitting on the floor against a bookcase, a cigarette in his hand.

“Sirius, you have to put that out,” I said, eyeing his muggle lighter warily.

“Why?” he asked through his teeth as the cigarette hung from his lips.

“I’m a prefect.”

“You weren’t a prefect that night you snuck out after hours with me,” he fought back, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and putting it back in an almost empty pack.

“Don’t say it like that,” I said with disgust. He kept flicking his thumb against his lighter, and the fire appeared only for a moment before burning out again.

“Like what? Like how it was?” Sirius asked, nudging my arm with his elbow. I shied away from Sirius, folding my arms over my knees.

“Like I’m some girl that was so easily swayed by your so-called charms,” I said frankly, turning my head to look Sirius in the eye.

“Weren’t you?” Sirius asked vulnerably, tilting his head to the side.

“Not really,” I said vaguely.

“Not really?” Sirius chuckled to himself. “What does that mean?”

“It means maybe you aren’t as charming as you would believe. And maybe, even if you are charming, it doesn’t work on everyone.”

Sirius looked back at me, and I keep my gaze even and unapologetic. He clicked his lighter again, and the flame flickered. I shrugged slightly, and that seemed to make Sirius laugh.

“You’re probably right,” Sirius admitted, leaning his head against the bookcase. “So that means you don’t find me charming?” he asked quietly, his head lolling over to look at me again.

“I don’t know what that really means,” I said carefully, looking Sirius up and down, “but I do know we have to get back to work so when Filch comes to collect us we don’t get another week of detention for slacking off.” I stood up and extended a hand towards Sirius. “Come on.”

 




 

“Mum said that we could visit their graves when we get home for break,” Mary whispered to me as Professor McGonagall wrote on the board in the front of the classroom.

“I don’t want to visit their graves.” I looked up at the board and copied down her notes. “And mum should visit their graves, it’s her fault.”

“She did tell them not to go out there,” Mary debated, giving our foster mother the benefit of the doubt.

“She told them to get out of the house. Of course they would go hang out with the rest of the stoners,” I scoffed, pressing the tip of my quill harder into the parchment.

“Well, I’ll be going,” Mary said defiantly. “Whether it was her fault or not, they still deserve our respect.” Mary knew too well how to press my buttons.

“You’re right,” I mumbled. “We’ll go.”

“I know,” Mary said happily, smiling with satisfaction at being right.

Our foster mother was no monster. She was a very understanding woman, in fact. When Dumbledore came to say that Mary and I were magical, she understood. I was just never able to get on board with her. And I don’t know if it was because I was already so independent or if it because she was so controlling, but I could never fully accept her as my mother.

Mary was different. Mary came from a place that she remembered, a place where she was treated like complete shit. I came from a place of hope. I came from a place that I could just barely remember, a place that I didn’t even know was real.

“But dad?” I tugged on my father’s white polo shirt. My father looked down upon me.

“Yes dear?”

“What about the fourth pathway?” My father tilted his head and furrowed his brow. “What about the other one? What if you choose to stay exactly where you are?”

He smiled serenely, and laid a hand on my back gently.

“That is the question that you must keep on asking, my dearest. What about the other one?"

I shook my head, and goosebumps rose on my arms. That memory…it must have been a figment of my imagination, but it was there. And I remember it word for word.

So Mary and I had different opinions on our foster home. But it was a home, and I was safe there. And I was almost out anyway. As soon as the year was over, I would be taking my small amount of gold and moving out and not worrying about anything anymore. I wouldn’t have to worry about Mary, or Sirius, or Regulus, or Remus, or even Madame Pomfrey and her nagging caring.

Just six and a half more months, and I would be free to do whatever I wanted.  

 




 

Regulus and I sat next to each other in the boathouse, our legs swinging over the iced-over water. My feet didn’t nearly reach the surface, and Regulus’ toes rested on the top of the lake.

“So you and Sirius are brothers,” I opened with. Regulus had taken to already being at the boathouse whenever I arrived, and I went with it. It was difficult to get a straight answer out of him, so I didn’t bother asking why.

“Sirius is my older brother,” he confirmed.

My mouth dried at Regulus’ recognition that Sirius was his brother.

“So how come you hate each other?” I asked. Our ankles collided, and I quickly pulled back my leg.

“Sirius does not agree with our family’s views on the Wizarding World,” he said cryptically.

“Which are?” I asked, probing. Regulus sat up a little bit straighter at this.

“I’d rather not discuss that, Charlotte,” he dictated. When Regulus emphasized the t in my name, I felt like I was being reprimanded. I  

“Okay,” I said warily.

So what were his family’s views on the Wizarding World? I mean, I knew Sirius had an incredibly progressive mindset for being a Pureblood, so how far off from his family was he? And if Regulus agreed with his family, what was he doing talking to me?

“So why did you agree to go on that date with Lupin?” Regulus asked, ducking his head down and refusing to make eye contact with me. I could not fathom why Regulus would care about that. Or how he would know about that.

“I don’t exactly know myself,” I answered honestly. Regulus did not respond. I know he wanted more of an answer than that. “There are some days that I care about what is happening to someone else. And Sirius and James were poking fun at him,” I finally admitted aloud.

“Poking fun,” Regulus murmured, smirking slightly. His musings made me roll my eyes.

“So you and Sirius really hate each other?” I finally got out.

“Yes,” he said after a second, as though he had think about it. I thought it was time to depart from the Sirius questions. “Are you muggleborn?”

This question struck me as quite odd. We had just discussed how Regulus didn’t want to talk about his family’s views. And now he’s bringing up my magical lineage.

“I don’t know,” I decided upon. “I don’t know my parents.”

“You never even met your father?” Regulus asked again, pushing me further. I clammed up at this question.

“Why are you asking me these things, Regulus?” I finally found the courage to ask.

“I want to know more about you,” Regulus said, placing his hand on the deck in between us.

“That doesn’t seem true,” I said skeptically. I cleared my throat and crossed my hands in my lap.

“Well, you can’t prove my intentions, Charlotte.” The word intentions made me tense up.

“That’s exactly the problem.” Regulus smiled his tiny smile into his lap and tapped his pointer finger on the wooden dock.

I’d realized that Regulus was more mature than his age. He seemed to already be an adult somehow. I peeked over at him; his hair was short, clipped up behind his ears, but it still flew about silkily in the wind. His back was like an iron rod and his eyes were alert but far away from here.

Regulus placed a hand on top of mine and turned it over so my palm faced up. I glanced at him, and his eyes were still cast down on his lap. He laced his fingers into mine and squeezed my palm gently. My fingers curled onto the back of his hand and my heart beat out of my chest. 

 




A/N: Hello everyone! Thank you for reading this far into the story, and I hope you are enjoying it's progression. Let me know how it's going down in the review box below. 

Thanks again!

blackballet


Chapter 12: dizzying
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 My dream came again last night. After studying Inferi for class, I realized that fire was more significant to my life than I had previously thought. I have never been outright afraid of fire, of course. I had never really been outright afraid of anything. But my nightmares, the unease I felt at the Gryffindor party, the fright I got from Sirius’ muggle lighter, it made sense. Inferius are only stopped by fire. This was proof: my inferius side was taking over.

I let myself float back up to the surface of the bath in the Prefect Lavatory, and whipped my hair back out of my face. The steam rose high in the room, and the windows fogged up. The heat was therapeutic on my body after a rough Quidditch practice.

The dream was the most quizzical. What was it about Remus’ voice? Why was he in my head? And the violin thing; well I had never picked up a violin in my life so I don’t know where that came from. It was…puzzling. And I did not like to be stumped.

“Charlotte,” a voice said from behind me. I turned around, wrapping an arm around my chest and looking for the origination. “I am here,” it said again. I didn’t see anyone, and the steam wasn’t that thick.

“Charlotte Malkin,” it said again, curiously. Lily Evans stepped forward out of the steam with a towel wrapped around her. I blinked twice, the water clinging onto my lashes, just to make sure it was really Lily. “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize anyone was in here,” she apologized, backing up and heading towards the door.

“Wait, Lily,” I called, making her pause. “Did you hear that?” She turned back to face me, a confused look on her face.

“I said your name,” she offered, shrugging. “But I didn’t hear anything else.”

“Okay thank you,” I said breathlessly, taking in another deep breath. Lily waved goodbye, and then went into a stall to change back into her clothes. I swam over to the opposite edge of the huge bath and checked my watch. It was already 10 o’ clock. I should be getting back to the dorms.

I pushed myself up out of the bath and pulled my towel off a rack, wrapping around myself. I turned off the faucet and opened the drain, letting the water pour out of the tub. That definitely wasn’t Lily talking to me. So I’m hearing voices now? Just one more thing that I have to worry about. I started pulling on my robes behind the large fountain of faucets.

But the fire: why wasn’t I scared in my dream? Why did I let it burn me, and why didn’t it hurt? I collected my belongings and headed back towards the Ravenclaw Tower. My steps were loud in the emptiness of the wide corridor, and my hair dripped with water that smacked against the marble floor. The Prefect Lavatory was not exactly convenient, but it was a nice amenity.

“This does not bode well, Headmaster,” a voice whispered, echoing from around the corner. “The darkness outside the castle is seeping in,” the voice whispered. I glued myself to the wall, stopping as two long shadows stretched across the floor in the moonlight, and held my breath. I recognized the voice to be that of Professor McNamara, the Divination professor. What were they thinking, discussing such dark matters in the corridors?

“You are right, Professor McNamara,” he agreed, seemingly mystified. “Unfortunately for our students, it cannot be helped. They will all be exposed to the darkness of our world soon enough.” He paused, and I saw their shadows retreating down the hallway towards the Divination Tower. “Some of them already have been.” I dashed down the hallway to my dormitory.

 

When I got back to my dorm, my hair dry after a simple charm, Emmeline was sobbing on the floor. I stepped around her and over to my bed, and Emma glared up at me.

“What?” I mouthed at her. She looked pointedly at Emmeline, and mouthed back, “Come here.” I rolled my eyes, dropped my bag and towel on the bed, and went to comfort Emmeline.

“What happened, Emmeline?” I asked, sitting on her other side and patting her on the back.

“M-mum and d-dad we-we-were killed!” she finally managed, throwing her head into her hands and shaking profusely. My eyes widened and my hand stopped moving on her back. Emmeline’s parents were in the Auror Department.

“I’m sorry, Emmeline,” I said blandly. My mind was running faster than I could think. Is that what Dumbledore was doing out so late? Giving the news to Emmeline? And how was I going to tell him now that I was hearing voices? He would just think I was in on it, think I had somehow gotten access to them from Emmeline. And as much as it scared me to say, I might have.

The worry has always been that Voldemort could somehow get into my head. Now that I was hearing voices, having dreams, it only made sense that he was controlling me. The next step would be me losing control over my actions. And I don’t even know how I would know if someone was taking over my brain. What if it was happening right now?

“I just got correspondence, from my m-mum,” she said shakily, holding tight onto a letter now soaked in tears. “She couldn’t tell me where they were, but they were out on a mission. Where will I go for holidays?” she asked weepily. Emma and I shared a glance, and Emma shrugged.

That’s settled. I wasn’t murdering people while I slept, or anything of that sort. I wouldn’t even have known where Emmeline’s parents were.

“Come on, let’s get you in bed,” Emma said softly, picking up Emmeline gently by the armpits, taking some of her weight as she limped towards her bed. Emmeline sniffed again, but Emma got her into bed with relative ease. “I’m right there if you need me,” Emma whispered, pointing at her bed next to Emmeline’s.

I unbuttoned my robes and slipped them off, turning to my trunk to pull out some pajamas.

“It’s really starting now,” Emma whispered to me, sitting on the end of my bed.

“I know,” I said quietly to Emma, stepping into my pajama pants and then sliding into bed.

“What do you think we should do about Emmeline?” she asked in hushed tones, her eyes falling to her lap.

“I don’t know. She should be fine after a bit,” I said, glancing over to Emmeline, who was still shaking but turned away from us on her side.

“Well you lost your parents. How do you cope?” I gave Emma my most frightening glare.

“I didn’t lose my parents, Emma, they aren’t like a pair of your favorite trousers,” I said bitterly. “I never had any parents.”

“Okay fine.” She took my semantic correction and swallowed it. “Can you at least try and help her a bit?” She lowered her voice even further, leaning in for me to hear. “Otherwise we’ll be stuck with a crying roommate for the next couple of weeks.” Emma knew exactly how to deal with me. It was disconcerting.

“I’ll try,” I said, appeasing Emma. She could be incredibly relentless.

“Alright, I should get to bed, too,” Emma said quietly. She hopped off my bed and stood in between Emmeline and I, who must have drifted off to sleep. “Try not to wake Emmeline up when you run off at 5 a.m., okay?” I nodded, biting my bottom lip and my tongue.

 

“Inferi fear only one thing,” Professor Magnolia “Fire.” The class sat lazily in front of Professor Magnolia, but I was extremely alert. My eyes roamed the classroom, falling the backs of Remus, James, Sirius, and Peter.

“We do not know why, as up until recent years they have been sparse creatures. But if you ever cross an Inferius, all you need to do is set a fire, and they will be kept at bay for at least the time being.” My eyes widened as Remus raised a hand.

“But Professor,” he wondered as Professor Magnolia pointed at him, “how are Inferius killed?” he asked. I could have sworn that Sirius glanced back at me. I shook my head, and focused back on Professor Magnolia.

“As far as we know, the monsters cannot be killed until their caster is.” Professor Magnolia’s answer echoed, bounced around in my mind. The monsters cannot be killed. Cannot be killed. I heard students’ quills scratching against the parchment.

“Professor Magnolia,” said a quiet but commanding voice from the doorway. The entire class turned to see the eccentric Headmaster standing in the small threshold. His hat crumpled at the top of the doorframe. “May I see Charlotte Malkin?”

“Certainly,” Professor Magnolia said, tipping her head towards the Headmaster. “Charlotte, you are free to go.” I turned my chin up as most of the class turned to look at me. I collected my things, stumbling on my way out the door. That was the thing about Hogwarts: everyone saw everything.

 

“Headmaster,” I greeted Professor Dumbledore as I sat in my usual chair across from his desk.

“Hello again, Charlotte. I am glad you came to chat with me.”

“Well it’s not as if I had a choice,” I grumbled, crossing my arms. Dumbledore gave me a look of disapproval. But, actually, I have to talk to you about something,” I said hastily, not wanting for Dumbledore to have a chance to interrupt as he did.

“Madame Pomfrey has informed me of your dreams, and I have consulted Professor McNamara. We both agree that this may simply be a common nightmare. Surely nothing to-,”

“That’s not what this is about,” I said suddenly, cutting him off. Dumbledore raised his white brows at me, and I suddenly felt guilty for something. “I’m sorry. It’s just…this is not easy to say.”

“No, I apologize my dear. I should let you speak.” My nose crinkled as Dumbledore called me ‘my dear’.

“Okay, well, it’s been getting worse, I fear.” Dumbledore keep silent, and I tried to open my mouth, but nothing would come out. “I have heard voices…in my head. And I don’t know if I am imagining it or not, but I thought you should know. After the dreams, and Emmeline’s parents, and the memories,” I trailed off, realizing far too late that I had not yet told Dumbledore about my father.

“What memories?” he asked calmly, far too calmly for me. My mouth trembled slightly and I clenched my jaw. “Charlotte, we need to-,”

“I know!” I barked. “I know, I just, I just don’t even know if this is real or not.” A weight lifted off my chest as I said it out loud. Dumbledore waited again silently for me. I ran my hands back through my hair and leaned my head into my hands.

I stood up from my chair, unable to sit still any longer. Dumbledore let me pace back and forth in front of his desk without bothering me; for once I appreciated Dumbledore’s silent presence. I was stupid for thinking that I could handle this all by myself. I wanted to think I knew everything, but Dumbledore knew so much more and had access to so many more resources than I did. So why had it taken me so long to trust him? And why didn’t I trust him to know about my father?

“Charlotte,” Dumbledore said suddenly, worry growing on his wrinkled face.

“What?” I snapped back. It sounded like my voice was under water. “What?” I garbled again, more urgently, turning on my heel to face Dumbledore, but wobbling on my feet. Dumbledore’s face began melting.

“Charlotte!” he growled, standing up from behind his desk and rushing over to me. Dumbledore got progressively taller than me, and then he was leaning over me. And that is the last image I had before everything went dark.

 


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