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You Hate Me by Serena

Format: Novel
Chapters: 21
Word Count: 126,600

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Snape, James, Lily, Sirius, Pettigrew, OC
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily, Remus/OC

First Published: 03/30/2005
Last Chapter: 09/20/2013
Last Updated: 09/20/2013


Thanks to Moonys Aimee for the banner! Even if the line between Love and Hate was completely obliterated, Pipper Redden would probably still despise Sirius Black. They had always shared a hatred for each other, but now, in their sixth year, their feud could not be more pronounced. But through it all, they begin to see that they were never so different to begin with. Sirius/OC

Chapter 1: You Demand Respect, Though I Give You None
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Disclaimer: It all belongs to J.K. Rowling, except my Original Characters and the plot—which are mine.

You Hate Me
Chapter 1: You Demand Respect Though I Give You None

“Well, well, well, gents, it looks like we didn’t run Red out last year.”

Piper Redden cringed upon hearing the taunting drawl of Sirius Black behind her. She was never in the mood for Black and his haughtiness, nor did she like or appreciate it. But, since Piper was enjoying a splendidly dreadful day she had no intentions to allow this particular group of Gryffindors to make it worse, which, coincidentally, is what they had planned to do.
It had been too much to pray they would not find her. The first time she passed, Piper ducked under her seat and examined old, rotten gum for a quarter hour. The second time she heard their footsteps, Piper slid down so far in her seat she was on the floor. Now on their third round they were desperate, and Piper had been foolish to think sitting very still and trying her best to blend into the décor of the compartment would be enough to fool the Marauders.

Piper pulled her slim wand from her jeans pocket. Thankful that she had read ahead in her Charms textbook over the holidays, she mumbled, “Aguamenti.” A jet of water poured from the tip of her wand. It formed a small, slippery puddle at the closed compartment door and slowly seeped into the carpeted floor.
Her conscious began to hiss angrily, and Piper half expected to see a miniscule version of herself dressed in white robes and bearing a harp sitting on left shoulder while her right would have donned a horned and pitchforked version of herself. The harp strumming Piper said, “Don’t start, Piper, term hasn’t even started yet.” The horned Piper said, “Don’t you want to get them before they get you?”
Piper sided with the later.

Rain came down in hard bursts outside, pounding the window and rattling the train. The rain made the sky seem darker and swirling black clouds hid the almost full moon from view. The window had turned into a mirror against the dark contrast of the night, and through it Piper saw the four dubbed the Marauders in the corridor, swaying with the train. Piper exhaled into the window, fogging it up. She drew a design into the fog, while secretly surveying the four outside the door.
They smiled innocently when Piper turned in her seat to face the still closed door. She had grown sick of drawing on the window and wanted to get the encounter over with. Several tendrils of soft charcoal curls had escaped from the tight bun Piper kept them in and fell around her seemingly delicate face. On closer inspection one would see that her features were quite hard.
Her sharp and chiseled complexion was as emotionless as marble. She had learned quite early to void her visage of any feeling. Once, her face was soft and angelic but the daunting life as the only daughter of a prosperous pureblood family had stolen that complexion from her. And if any emotion did reveal itself on her stony countenance it was always anger, and her anger was caused by only the Marauders.

“Well you see, boys, I knew I would miss you too much if I left Hogwarts.” Piper paused, “I thought to myself, ‘What would I do without my four favorite people in the world?’”

One more step, Black, I dare you

Sirius opened the door. Instead of looking at the ground, where the puddle loomed dangerously at his feet, he kept his eyes trained on Piper. She was too quick with her wand to let their guard down even for a second. He recalled an incident the year previously when Piper wore a particularly revealing blouse. The moment Sirius looked at her cleavage Piper had her wand out and was setting his Transfiguration essay on fire before he could even get a good look. Not that Piper would be first in line in the cleavage department, but who was he to pass up free cleavage goggling?

Piper’s endearing words had been as false as her grandfather’s teeth. The Marauders were not her favorite people in the world (not that she had many favorites). In fact, she could not think of any more deserving of being pushed off a cliff. An ocean cliff. With sharks swarming in the water below. Blood thirsty sharks that had nothing better to do than wait for four annoying boys to fall to their demise.

Piper and the Marauders had never gotten along.
In their first year, Professor McGonagall needed only to say Piper’s last name to insure dislike.

Piper was a pureblood through and through, though her immediate family’s pureblood mania was only for show. Piper’s father, Heath, was a quiet supporter of Muggle rights—not too many rights, but certainly they deserved the opportunity not to be blown to bits by wizards. The Reddens were, as many had said before, the equivalent of the Wizarding mafia. After a long and quiet war, it was the Reddens who were victorious and ruled vice in the Wizarding world. No one ever acknowledged the strange disappearance of one who offended a Redden, and they closed their mouths tightly when the Minister listening to everything the Redden family had to say. Their blood being as pure as even the Malfoys only secured their authority.
The Reddens appreciated the Dark Arts and valued them as a unique portrayal of the soul other Magic could not compete with. It was the older men of the family who were most well known for their expertise in the Dark Arts, few other members actually learned them with the vigor of Julius Redden I, the head of the Redden family; Richard Redden III, his brother; and Cordelia Redden, their sister who had refused to change her surname. The terrible acts of these men and women overshadowed the generous acts of the rest of the family. It was therefore the reputation of the Reddens to dabble in Dark Magic and surely any daughter of witches and wizards as seemingly Dark as the Reddens would be trouble at Hogwarts, or so Sirius thought.

Sirius Black had been desperate to make it very clear that he would not tolerate any Dark Magic anywhere near him (as if Piper, as a first year, knew this kind of magic). He had never agreed with his family’s policies and rules (he never much liked being told what to do) and when he was sorted he had to plead the Sorting Hat to place him in Gryffindor. Sitting down at the crimson and gold table solidified his narcissism; he had taken the first step to break out of his parent’s ideals. If there was something they hated more than Mudbloods and half-bloods, it was Blacks who were Gryffindors.

Piper’s sorting was slightly different. She did not want to be a Slytherin, nor would she take kindly to being a Ravenclaw if they were such a studious bunch. She was hardly loyal, but she couldn’t even qualify as brave. Her brother, Rhett, attended Durmstrang, so asking him for advice had been terrifically unhelpful, while her father could hardly even remember being sorted he did mention something about being a Slytherin, but, as he had said, “That’s no place I want my little girl, but I don’t want you in Gryffindor either, they’re snobs. So are those Ravenclaws now that I think of it. What was that other House again?”

Piper deliberated for the sorting hat longer than anyone else that evening.

But I’m not brave She thought to it.
Yes, you are. The Hat contradicted.
No, I’m not.
Yes, you are.
Can’t you just make a new House just for me? There must’ve been some unknown Founder out there who was covered up.
There wasn’t.
What do you know, you’re just a hat?

The hat was as far as “GRYFF,” before Black spat out the water in his mouth.

Piper had no idea who this person was that was showing such outrage at her sorting. But as Piper got closer to the Gryffindor table she remembered something that Alexander McClure (also in Durmstrang) had said to her brother over the summer while recounting his tale of his attempted wooing of Bellatrix Black, “The Blacks all look the same: dark hair, grey eyes, they’re the perfect aristocrats with their looks. But the most distinguishing factor is their goddamn arrogance. Especially Bellatrix. God, I can’t believe she rejected me. Look at this scar she gave me.” Alexander, apparently, had as much contempt for the Blacks as Sirius had for Piper.

So Piper wasn’t all that ridiculous thinking Black would identify with her. They were in the same boat, weren’t they? Black had no intentions of carrying on the pureblood ideals and nor did Piper. They were both Gryffindors and purebloods. The first lesson her father taught her was that purebloods stick together no matter what.
For a few fleeting seconds Piper thought her and Sirius could be friends. He smiled and Piper felt instantly lighter. She had made a friend. Then Black’s hand moved and Piper felt pumpkin juice running down her robes.

“Go sit over there with the other purebloods.” Sirius had pointed to the Slytherin table. No one else had seen Black push the goblet down but Piper and three others: James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. With tears in her eyes, Piper found the least crowded area of the bench and ate in silence as Sirius explained why he had spilled the juice on Piper’s robes. “What’s that pureblood doing in Gryffindor anyway? Doesn’t she know where Dark witches belong in this school?” Sirius had said by way of clarification. Piper was deaf to the rest of the conversation, keeping her trembling body from breaking down was all that she concentrated on.

That night in her dormitory Piper ran to her bed as quickly as she could to avoid Sirius Black. She cried all night. How can anyone be so cruel? She thought. No real pureblood would have done that to her. She had seen pureblood manners at their best and worst and never, in all her life, had she been treated that rudely. Everyone Piper had ever met had been obsequious and kind to her, showing her the respect she had been taught she deserved. Her family name protected her. Piper easily could have written home to either her father or Rhett and the Blacks would have been planning a funeral, but she didn’t. If she did that, she would be as low as Black. No, she thought, wiping the tears away. I’ll handle this on my own. Piper’s naïveté fell away that night, as did her soft face. The mistreatment of Black had turned it hard.

Their fights started out subtle, hardly noticeable by the Professors or other students. Piper was thankful the boys had found Severus Snape to taunt a week into term. It gave her a break. She wished no real harm on Snape and loved it when he performed magic beyond his years to put the Marauders into their places.

The Marauders, as they named themselves a month into their first year, never would have tormented a girl, but Piper Redden was a different. Nor would they have hexed a housemate, but she deserved it—according to Sirius. But Piper always stood her ground, which was unnerving. She never told a Professor or her family, she never complained, but she always, always retaliated. The ongoing feud between Piper and the Marauders had lasted all of the last six years; Piper had been foolish to think they wouldn’t resume it again the moment the term began. It had been too much to hope the Marauders could finally mature enough to realize how petty their hatred of Piper was.

“I would probably drop down and die if I didn’t go on seeing our beautiful faces for a long time.” Sirius cut in, just as sarcastic. He propped himself up against the door way of the compartment, blocking the exit. “I have to admit that we were terribly frightened you wouldn’t be coming back this year.” Sirius bit his lip. In his pocket, his hand was clutched around his wand.

“Now what would give you that idea?” Piper said coldly. She rolled her eyes and pretended to think hard. “Oh,” she said, coming to a fake understanding, “Maybe you thought I would be too afraid to come back after being lit on fire. Or maybe you thought I would be afraid you would try to sabotage my O.W.L.’s again.”

Piper smiled knowingly. Despite their best efforts, Piper had managed to scrape at least an E in every subject except Divination and Herbology. She didn’t exactly have friends to distract her from studying. Everyone in the castle was wary of Piper; she wasn’t entirely amicable towards her peers. “Did you Neanderthals even get an O.W.L at all?”

“Come on, Red, we only lit you on fire because you cast a spell on Sirius to make him cry while giving that presentation on the goblin massacres.” James cut in, crossing his arms. He leaned against the other wall of the compartment. “Then you framed me and told Filch that I kicked his kitten.”

Piper rolled her eyes. Their positioning was more over rehearsed than the play Piper’s family had taken her to the week before; Black and Potter’s placement in the doorway blocked her out while Pettigrew and Lupin served as reinforcements. “You did, kick his kitten, idiot.” Piper snapped, standing in her seat. The reaction was instant; four wands were aimed at Piper before she even straightened her knees. She didn’t let the four wands pointed in her direction hinder her in the slightest. “Besides, I only told Filch you kicked his kitten because Pettigrew back there tried to feed me a love potion.” She pointed over Black’s head at Pettigrew.
Lupin and Pettigrew stood like badly carved statues, arms crossed and expressions displeased and in Lupin’s case: bored.

The chain of pranks and fights had going on for so long it was impossible to tell who had started it. It seemed never ending. One trick could be led back to another. Each party was certain the other had instigated it. Both were too stubborn to admit defeat. So, the pranks continued.

Piper held her hands in the air to show she wasn’t armed. She had slid her wand into her back pocket before she stood. “Anyway, from what I hear those goblin massacres were very, very sad.” She flashed Sirius a merciless, crooked smile, challenging him in the way only she could. Sirius made as if to move forward and give her a good punch, then stopped abruptly. Even if she deserved it, he couldn’t go around punching girls; he did have a reputation to uphold after all.
The quick step forward had been enough to propel him into the puddle of water.

With a great crash, Sirius Black fell to the floor. He threw his arms out to regain his balance, clutching Lupin and Potter. With a domino effect, Sirius took Potter and Lupin down, who fell back into Pettigrew.

Outside, lightening struck, illuminating the world outside the train compartment. The silhouette of the Hogwarts castle lay before them, growing closer every moment. She looked down at the pile of wet boys in the corridor and sighed once more, a disappointed look on her deceiving face.

“Bad news, boys, but I haven’t changed into my robes yet.” Piper raised her already curved brows. “Forgive me, but I take my leave.” With that, she slammed the compartment door. Even while being ruthless Piper could give off a polite, distinguished air; it was the first thing she was taught to do. Before she could walk and run properly Piper could curtsey and smile gracefully even when filled with rage.

Even with the door closed, Piper heard a voice say from the pile, “I wouldn’t mind staying to see that.” A second passed when she heard a punch land and the voice say, “Ouch!” They seemed to untangle themselves with some difficulty, leaving the corridor noisy for several minutes.

“I hate them.” Piper growled, clenching her fists. She shook her head angrily, prowling the small compartment to satiate some of her anger. With irritated hands Piper fastened her robes up to her neck, increased the severity of her bun by trapping the wisps of hair that had escaped, and placed her pointed black hat atop her head.
It was with a heavy heart Piper left the train and stepped onto the carriage that would carry her up the hill and to the castle where she would spend the next nine months being tormented for something she couldn’t even control.

* * * *

Piper was roused from her half sleep by the thundering applause as the Sorting Hat finished its song. She joined in with the clapping, getting in one or two very unenthusiastic claps before the noise died and Professor McGonagall unrolled a worn scroll and began to call the first years names in alphabetical order. Piper tuned the woman’s voice out and concentrated on not falling asleep. All she wanted was to go upstairs to her warm blanket and comfortable bed, close her eyes and—

“Oh, dear,” Piper reluctantly opened her eyes. She had never wanted to hex James Potter more, and he hadn’t even finished his sentence. “There’s no more empty seats. Don’t mind, do you, Red?”

Given the choice, Piper would have screamed, “YES I MIND!”

Unfortunately, James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus sat themselves strategically around Piper while she had been dozing. Piper may have only been half awake, but she did not it when the four exchanged smirks, saying, “Cleverly done, fellas, we’ve got her now!”
Piper furrowed her brows. Do they practice things like this? Piper privately laughed at her own joke. She could see the Marauders in her mind’s eye plotting how next to best her.

They hadn’t been lying. Almost every place setting was filled. Piper balled her small hands into fists. School hadn’t been in session for more than an hour, she couldn’t risk getting a detention yet, which would be her fate if she remained where she was. Before she boarded Platform 9 ¾ her mother reminded her that if she caused trouble she would be sent to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang where “they practiced real discipline.” It was this threat, and only this threat, that prevented Piper from casting the Jelly Legs Jinx on the Marauders where they stood.

Piper stole a quick glance at the other open spaces. The closest was directly next to Lily Evans. Piper weighed her options. Lily or the Marauders, Lily or the Marauders. It was a difficult decision. Lily’s group of friends hated Piper almost as much as the Marauders did, but the girls wouldn’t humiliate her—she hoped they wouldn’t humiliate her.

“Oh,” Piper looked up at James. She had to act fast before the spot was taken. “I don’t mind. Not at all.” Piper swung her legs over the bench and stood up. As it often did around Piper, Black’s jaw dropped. Her outrageous tactics were enough to make even the sturdiest of jaws fall to the ground.
Piper sat down next to Lily. The girls stopped giggling.

Piper had never bonded with the Gryffindors. It seemed odd that they had hardly spoken the past six years, but it wasn’t, given the circumstances. Piper was not looking for friendship or companions. She didn’t need a best friend or a boyfriend. Six years at Hogwarts as an outcast had diminished Piper into a shell of a thing. She wouldn’t know how to bond with a person, even if the opportunity arose. Piper rarely spoke. It was only when the Marauders were near that the cat released Piper’s tongue and she let loose. It was only to them that Piper had any sort of semblance of a bond and that bond was hatred.
Piper had spent her years at Hogwarts living in the shadows. She knew more dirt than Professor Sprout. The girls of Hogwarts held nothing in their jar of secrets compared to the gossip Piper harbored, but she very rarely spilt any. It wasn’t her business to tell. Piper was above every single person in the House of the great Godric Gryffindor. Living as a pureblood had taught her who she was superior to. Even in pureblood society outcasts were included in everything. Piper often thought the school needed a serious lesson in mannerisms from her mother. Within two hours she would have them either whipped into shape or bored to death. Either would be preferable to Piper, although she wouldn’t shed a tear if the Marauders were one of the ones to die.
Gryffindor House was a social hierarchy. On the bottom were first years, second years, third years, fourth years, and fifth years who divided into their own chain of command. Above them were the sixth years, Piper’s peers.

Firstly, there was Korey Kayhart, a snobbish Muggleborn who had made it her personal mission to undermine everything Piper did or said. She was Lily’s second in command and loved the position. Korey was an attractive girl with an ugly heart and mind.

Then there was Sanaa and Raine Horrows, twins with pale skin, pale eyes, and pale hair. They were both much prettier than Korey, but too shy to put their looks to good use. Raine and Sanaa were much more likeable than any other sixth years only because they never talked much. They could have easily been sorted into Ravenclaw they were so intelligent. They did everything together and so it came as no surprise that when Raine was sorted into Gryffindor Sanaa followed.

Lastly, there was Lily Evans. The queen of the Gryffindors. She was studious, beautiful, she got along well with everyone, head of the class, sickeningly witty, the only thing James Potter couldn’t have, and the only thing he wanted. Lily was the only person who even spoke to first and second years, and she was the only person who had tried to befriend Piper, and tried all the way through third year. It frustrated Lily to no end that Piper was seemingly impossible. She was the Muggle Born on the mission to prove everyone wrong.

The Marauders. They demanded respect, and if it was not received, the one who stood up to them suffered. Severus Snape was a fine example. All four of them knew that the school would bow down to them, and they loved it. It was hard not to like the Marauders. Each was handsome, clever, and got away with pranks that were previously unheard of. It was funny when one of them got a detention, or else heartbreaking when one broke up with a long term girlfriend. The Marauders were the heart of the Gryffindor’s pride, even if most of their jokes were more malicious than funny. They were more powerful than even the seventh years of the school. It was with their influence many girls became popular and by their will that reputations were destroyed. Any spiteful girl knew if she could woo a Marauder she could kill a person socially.

Piper didn’t fit in with any of these equations. Had she been a Muggle born, James and Sirius would have accepted her. Hell, she thought vindictively, I’d probably be dating one of them. And had she allowed the hat to sort her into Slytherin life would have been entirely different.
Piper looked at the Slytherin table and laughed to herself. She could imagine sitting next to Severus laughing merrily with him. She imagined herself in silver and green rather than red and gold. She saw herself being justly harassed by the Gryffindors. She saw herself fitting in at Hogwarts for the first time in her life. Her dream was so tangible she could almost feel David Detweiller’s arm around her shoulder and whispering in her ear.
No, she was a pureblood who was sorted into Gryffindor, which wasn’t as odd as the school made it. Somehow, Black, who was in the same predicament was swooned over and sought after. It made Piper sick.

Piper blushed and squirmed in her seat. She was only human. Black and Potter were still gaping at Piper with their mouths open. Lupin laughed into plate. Piper heard him mumble, “You two might think you’re clever but I think you’re the single dumbest dunderheads that ever walked the earth.” His voice drew Sirius’ and James’ stares away.

“Sorry,” Piper said, still trying to stop her blush from spreading too much. “I’m trying to get away from Sirius.” She faked a smile and focused all of her attention on the sorting. Fake, fake, fake, that was all Piper was.
It was the first words many of the Gryffindors surrounding them had ever heard Piper say. It was shocking.

“WHY!?” Sanaa and Rain shouted in unison.

“Maybe I’ll go take you’re place then, Piper.” Sanaa said. She frowned when a first year took the open seat and shrugged. She wouldn’t have gone anyway.

The first year was terrified. Piper figured him for a Muggleborn. Sirius, James, Remus, and Peter huddled near the boy, whispering to him.

“Oh yeah, the lessons are effing hard.”

“And there’s lots of rules to follow. Don’t worry though; I’m sure you will learn all of them in a few years. It only took me about two.”

“But you’re a fast learner, Sirius.” Peter added. “What I would be worried about is getting to the damn classes on time. I can’t begin to count the number of detentions I have gotten just because I was a few bloody seconds late.”

With each ridiculous affirmation the boy became more and more traumatized.

“They are ridiculous.” Lily muttered, shaking her mane of red hair.
Lily’s friends talked over her. “They are so funny!”
Piper braced herself against the table to keep from taking drastic measures. The knife in front of her was looking increasingly friendlier. She looked around for any metal; it was still lightening outside and Piper could spare herself by being struck. Dumbledore’s calming voice saved Piper from almost certain suicide.
“Welcome, first years, and welcome back second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh years. And welcome, welcome back Professors; or as I like to call them: Super Seventh Years.” The Professors bowed their heads at Dumbledore’s childishly loving words, hiding their faces from the students who would undoubtedly harass them for this nickname. “There will be time this year for me to aggravate you with speeches on discipline and banned objects,” he beamed meaningfully at the Marauders, who began to shift anxiously in their seats, “but that time is not now. Eat up!” Dumbledore clapped his hands twice.

The occupants of the Great Hall groaned in delight as Dumbledore finished his speech. Plates layered with food, beverages, and dishes Piper didn’t recognized appeared on the table, waiting to be eaten. Piper grabbed some of her favorites and ate them quickly, hoping that maybe, if she ate fast, the feast would go fast as well.

“So, Piper,” Lily said, “Good summer?”
Piper looked up from her plate and turned to the side. Lily smiled sheepishly, then tried to hide her eagerness by taking a long gulp out of her goblet. Piper sighed. Would she have to sit Lily down, shake her by the shoulders and say, ‘I don’t want to be your friend, Evans!”?

Piper shrugged. “Like usual.” No elaboration was enough in most social circles to call for no more prying. Maybe if Lily had offered her hand in friendship back when they were eleven and she was dripping with pumpkin juice things would have been different. That little eleven year old in Piper yearned for all her heart to be Lily’s friend. But no, on the first day of classes Lily disliked Piper instantly when Piper answered a question correctly that Lily had been wrong about. Piper’s father had told her to show off how intelligent she was and make the Reddens proud. Lily cornered Piper after their first Charm’s class after Piper had been the first to levitate a feather and told Piper to stop stealing her thunder. They were eleven and it was forgivable. Everyone does things that are heinous as adolescents but that encounter had scarred Piper. She nearly never participated in class and chose to sit quietly next to Snape or by herself. Lily had tried to make amends in second and third year but it did no use. Piper could not forgive someone who contributed to her alienation.

Piper had spent the summer in Egypt with her family and their close friends. It was enough to make Piper wish to be back at Hogwarts. She had grown so used to being shunned and ridiculed that being loved and adored felt foreign. While Piper was interested in the ancient curses placed on the tombs and the exotic creatures, Piper’s mother had interests in prospective husbands for her daughter. Piper was a Redden no matter how hard she tried to disguise it. Most of her hard exterior came from her not wanting to be asked about her family or home life. The Reddens valued privacy nearly as much as they valued the Dark arts. Piper’s cold attitude had kept friendship seekers at bay fairly well for as long as Piper could remember. That is, until she sat down next to damn Lily Evans.

“Oh.” Lily didn’t know what to say. She was always ending the conversation with awkward silences when she was with Piper. Piper was too different from Lily and each time Piper walked by, Lily went rigid with intimidation. Talking to her was worse. Lily had a hard time speaking when Piper was near; the girl’s stormy eyes dissected every word that came out of Lily’s mouth. Lily waited for Piper to ask how her summer was. The question never came. Again, Lily hid how keen she was to be talking to Piper by taking a energetic gulp from her goblet and scratching her head.

“Mine was the same.” Lily said, speaking with deliberate slowness, examining her nails to seem blasé, when, on the inside, she was closer to piddling than a stimulated puppy that wasn’t housebroken. Piper’s face didn’t change expressions. It never seemed to. Lily willed herself not to sound like a fool.

Piper’s eyes were the only part of her that moved. They flitted down the table. No one looked ready to leave, they were too engaged in their chatter about what they did during the summer, new clothes, new broomsticks, and in the case of Holly Whorton, a new nose (her father was a Muggle plastic surgeon).

Piper made herself yawn. The awkward situation heightened as she moved. Piper stretched her arms above her head. “I think,” she said, rolling her shoulders, “I’m going to go to bed, classes tomorrow and all.” As Piper got up she could feel the tension leave the air.

“Wait,” Lily stood up, “Won’t be able to get to sleep without the password.” Lily smiled, testing Piper’s limits as a socialite. “It’s kit kat kabootle,” Lily said.

Piper nodded as a ‘thank you’. As she left, she stared ahead of her without letting her eyes wander to the Marauders. However, she did not miss it when Peter stuck his leg into the aisle as a means to trip her. Piper jumped it nimbly, mouthed some well chosen swear words to Pettigrew and continued out the door. She did not turn around, but if she had, she would have noticed the Marauders huddled deep in conversation.
“If you don’t go Charm her pants to fly or something, Padfoot, I will.” Peter said.
Sirius considered levitating underpants for several seconds, but dismissed it. That joke had been played too often before.
Remus, not looking up from his chocolate mousse said thickly, “I’m at a loss.”
“Just use your imagination, Paddy.” James mockingly ruffled Sirius’ hair.
Sirius’ imagination was running wild. It was going a speed equivalent to a cheetah on the chase for some tasty gazelle. Twice already, before term even began, had Piper gotten the better of them. Stalking silently behind his quarry, Sirius thought. He decided it would be for the better to wait until Piper had made it to the common room to retaliate, then, he would only have Minnie to fear. Yes, Sirius would wait, for it was best to play it safe with Piper Redden.

He could see how it would go now:

“’Allo, Red!”

BANG! Red hexes him into a jillion pieces.

No, he would much rather play it safe.

“Kit kat kabootle.” Piper said to the portrait of the Fat Lady guarding the Gryffindor tower. The woman swung open revealing the gold and scarlet décor of the common room. The fire roared in the hearth. Piper’s feet brought her to the high back chair closest to the fire.

“Finally.” She breathed as she collapsed. It had been a long day. Well at least I only had one encounter with Black today. Trying her best to relax, Piper wrestled her long hair out of its prison and placed her hair elastic on the table next to the chair. It was comfortable to be back at the castle even if she hated its occupants so much. Piper shook out her mane of dark hair and worked on untangling its knots with her fingers.

“That was a good feast.” Sirius said from the portrait hole.

“Black, I swear I will throw you in the fire if you do not shut it.” Piper swung around. She was aware that Sirius had not done or said anything offensive…yet, at least. She pulled her long hair around one shoulder, stood up, and pulled out her wand.

“See, this is why people don’t like you, Red. Someone tries to have a mature conversation with you and you go off threatening them.” Sirius tutted and shook his finger, the picture of a disappointed parent. He had emphasized ‘mature’ saying it, “Ma Tuure.”

“You’re pretty hostile, Redden. Maybe I’ll make you a potion to cure that.” Sirius said, closing in.

“And maybe I’ll make you a potion to cause leprosy. I’m sure Filch would love to have you oozing around the castle.” Piper stepped forward as well, eliminating what little space there was between them. She had just enough reach to raise her wand if it came to that. “What are you doing here anyway, Black?” Piper lowered her shoulders and raised her arms. “You know what? Never mind, whatever prank you have to play on me, or whatever hex you’re going to do save it for tomorrow. I’m tired.”

“I wasn’t going to hex you!” Sirius slipped his wand back into his pocket. Piper had caught him; he probably was going to hex her.

“Yeah, sure.” Piper said, her face revealed traces of sarcasm. She shook her head. “It’s pretty pathetic that you have to hex a girl to get your thrills. Am I really that much of a threat to you, Black?” Piper had been halfway to the stairs when she turned. She faced Sirius with the perfect posture her mother had drilled into her brain; she squared her shoulders, and stuck her jaw like her father had taught her to do when arguing; and she narrowed her eyes in the same manner her brother had once told her was terrifying. “I’m about a foot shorter than you, probably fifty pounds lighter, I have no muscles, no coordination, but you still find it important to humiliate me every chance you get. You really are a charmer.”

“From what I hear you aren’t even a girl at all.” Sirius said. He was a big groggy also, it was the best he could come up with.

The jest on Piper’s sex did not come with the sting Sirius had intended.
“Oooh, nice one!” Piper laughed coldly. She held her hand up for a high-five, putting a mocking, congratulatory appearance on her countenance.
Instead of hitting his hand against Piper’s in the way best mates do, Sirius picked up Piper’s hair elastic dramatically and tossed it into the fire. The flames brightened where the object had landed.
“Oops.” Sirius said.
Piper pulled the arm of her robe upwards, revealing a wrist that had no less than three more hair elastics on it.

Sirius felt his face go hot. “We’re going to get you this year, Red.” He threatened. Sirius spoke more confidently than he felt. Piper’s words had seriously gotten to him. She was only a girl after all. Why did he hate her so much? He had first thought Piper would grow up to practice Dark magic, but he knew she didn’t. Dark wizards bear a mark Sirius knew too well with his family history. But he couldn’t hold out a white flag now. He was in too deep.

Piper felt her stomach drop. This year wasn’t going to be any different. It would be like all the same, a big blur of embarrassment and revenge. She bit her lip and her head clouded. She was worried. Part of her was established by her feud with Sirius and she waited for his jokes to come. But that other part, that eleven year old part of her, wanted to capitulate. She couldn’t give up now. She had dug herself into a hole and there was no getting out.

“You know where to find me,” she said. Narrow hips swinging, Piper strode up the stairs, loudly stamping each one to accentuate her ascent up the stairs.
Piper fell against the door of her dormitory once she was inside. She slid to the floor against it and exhaled for what felt like the first time in hours.

~ * ~

Well this chapter has been edited and edited again. I always take stuff out and put more stuff in, so if the odd name comes up I probably included them in this chapter but took them out. But anyway, what did you think? Let me know in a review : )


Chapter 2: Confrontations and Hypocrites
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Disclaimer: It’s all Jo’s except for the plot and my characters

You Hate Me
Chapter 2: Confrontations and Hypocrites
~ * ~

Piper could not sleep. The little sleep she did find was interrupted by a superimposed vision of Black’s smirking face. In frustration, Piper slapped her palm to her forehead. I should have jinxed that filthy weasel. She rolled over and concentrated on sleeping.

Her stomach hurt from eating too much food so quickly. Piper tossed in her sheets. They were just too white. No one should sleep in sheets that are comparable to a unicorn. She punched her pillow. It was too lumpy and was beginning to give her a crick in her neck. She hated cricks in her neck. Her throat was sore from arguing with her mother that morning. Worst of all, she couldn’t decide if she was hot or cold. With her comforter on she was hot and sweaty but without it she shivered. She hated being hot, but she hated being cold.

Piper poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher left by the house elves to sooth her throat but regretted it after she had to run to the bathroom ten minutes later.

She had only just found a comfortable position in her bed when Korey Kayhart’s dog whine of a voice penetrated the silence and carried into the room.

“Come on, Lily, you know you love him!”

Damn those vicious harpies!

Fuming at being dragged out of the almost sleep world, Piper wrenched the hangings of her four-poster open with a guttural growl for added effect. At the same moment Piper opened the curtains to her bed the rest of the Gryffindor sixths entered the dormitory. Lily, in the lead, stopped abruptly, causing a pile-up in the doorway.

Realizing what a dreadful sight she must have seemed dangling out of her bed clutching the hangings, Piper straightened up, sat Indian style, and compensated by glaring. For good measure, she flattened down her hair that had been teased up by tossing and turning against her too-white pillow.

An awkward silence fell in the dormitory. There was a tacit understanding between Piper and her dorm-mates: Piper pretended to sleep whenever they were in the room, or else looked busy doing something, and they left her alone. Piper allowed the mistreatment of the girls to continue, she didn’t mind being invisible and she certainly did not wish to be dragged into their conversations. Nor, as a matter of fact, did she care what the girls thought of her. Piper had the comfort of knowing that she had friends elsewhere.

“Oh no, we didn’t wake you, did we, Pipe?” Korey asked. She gestured to the girls behind her. Korey loved confronting Piper; she thought it was jealousy that caused Piper to dislike her, and flaunted her popularity in front of Piper every chance she had, not knowing Piper wouldn’t care if Korey was best friends with the centaurs in the forest.

“Yeah, you did, Kor.” Piper retorted huskily.

Korey tried to hide her flinch. It was the first time Piper had ever replied to Korey asking if they had woken her. Normally, Piper glowered, threw the hangings, and muttered incomprehensibly for twenty minutes.

“Sorry.” Korey said. She didn’t mean it.

“No you’re not.” Piper countered. “You don’t have to pretend to be nice, Korey. Trust me, you’re not fooling anyone.” Piper spoke the last sentence in a stage whisper and covered her mouth with a hand like a friend would do while murmuring a secret.

“And you’re not hiding how much you like Black very well either.” Korey said. She stuck her button nose in the air and raised her dyed blonde brows quickly. Though the room was dark save for the eerie glow coming from the candles Piper could see how flushed Korey’s face was.

Piper frowned. “What is it with people and terrible comebacks tonight?” She said to herself. To Korey, she said, “Yeah, you got me there, Korey.” Piper crossed her arms and stuck out one of her hips.

Between the volleying of insults Lily had stood apart from the group. Quietly, she put her night things on and brushed her hair. Her head was turned away from the girls, but her ear caught every word.

“So what is going on between you and Black and his group?”

It was Piper’s turn to flinch. She held herself back from shouting “NOTHING!” but very narrowly.

She had been asked this question numerous times. Piper stopped counting after twenty. The more naïve thought Piper and Sirius had been flirting badly if not mercilessly with each other for the past six years and felt they had to ask Piper’s permission to make their move on Sirius, “Piper, you don’t mind if I ask Sirius to Hogsmeade with me, do you?” (Not that much happened after these so-called moves since Sirius rarely dated). Piper was quick to set these girls straight. While the rest of the school, minus several wicked girls who hated Piper for the attention Sirius gave her and the few chivalrous boys who thought Piper needed rescuing from Sirius, laughed and rolled their eyes when Piper was humiliated by the Marauders. To them, it had become an everyday occasion, nothing to worry about. And it was nothing to worry about; Piper could handle the Marauders by herself.

“Oh,” Piper said dramatically, “You don’t know?” She beamed meaningfully at Korey and the other girls. Elated in her trickery, Piper slipped into bed once again. Piper assumed her response would make the damned fiends leave her be. She was wrong.

They were after Piper like a baby moose after its mother. For the second time of the night, Piper slapped her palm to her forehead.

“Jesus. Can’t you lot take a joke. Nothing is happening with me and Black, or Potter, or Lupin, or Pettigrew.” Piper began to count the rumors off on her fingers, “No, I don’t play strip Gobstones with Lupin.” She ticked off one finger, “No, I don’t snog Pettigrew in the kitchens.” She counted off another, “No, I don’t give Potter private flying lessons and paint my breasts to look like Golden Snitches.” She ticked off a third. “And I especially do not fuck Black in every broom cupboard, empty classroom, or available couch!” Piper’s voice raised an octave with each sentence.

Korey mouthed words for several moments though no sound came from them.

“You are a liar, Piper Redden,” Korey hissed.

Piper waited her to break out in her own rendition of “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” But she didn’t want to give Korey any ideas about setting anyone on fire.

“No wonder everyone hates you, you bring it on yourself. Comments like that. Guys are supposed to do the lying, not respectable women like us.” Korey uncrossed her arms and waved behind her.

This drew Piper to her last straw. With as much venom in her voice as she could muster, Piper said, “Guys are supposed to be the liars, Korey? Don’t stand there and lecture me on lying.” Heat rose to Piper’s face and her hands itched for her wand. Her voice shook with anger when she spoke again. “Oh, but I’ll bet that story is too raunchy for these delicate and respectable women.”

Korey laughed. “I already told them what happened with Dan, and it’s none of your business. What? Did you get a private peep show, Piper? I’ll bet you liked seeing the things you’ll never be able to have.”

Lily slowly pulled Sanaa and rain away from Korey and Piper, leaving the two rowing girls in the middle of the dormitory, center stage.

“Not that there was much to see that night…” Piper smirked. “What did you tell them, Kor? Wait, let me guess!” Arrogantly, Piper held up a hand, surprised at her own actions. She cleared her throat dramatically and spoke in an annoyingly high pitched voice that rang with ditziness, “Dan and me shagged and it was magical.”

Sanaa snickered; Piper was almost dead on in her take on the night.

“Now I think it’s time to own up, Korey.” Piper said, judge-like. “Did you have sex with Dan that night? Did you? Aw, Poor Korey Kayhart, you try to give it all up to Dan and he wants none of it. But that’s not what you told these guys, is it? You didn’t tell them how he rejected you, did you?”

Korey seemed to vibrate under the pressure. Words were trying to come out of her mouth, and she looked like she was nearing spontaneous combustion state when she shrieked, “No!”

Piper cringed; she never much liked shrieking, very loud and childish.

“No we didn’t shag. Dan broke up with me that night! Instead of him having sex with me he broke up with me. That’s why I never talked to him again. And you guys—you guys thought he had just gotten what he wanted and found somewhere else to get it from.” The tears began to fall as Korey spoke. Raine and Sanna embraced her.

The attention had turned away from Piper, and the argument was forgotten. However, Piper vindictively said, “See, I’m not the only one that lies.” Piper took the opportunity to creep into her bed, draw back the curtains and she was almost in dream-land when:

“How did you now that about Dan and Korey?”

Damn Lily Evans, damn her!

“Korey didn’t exactly go quietly.”

Lily cringed. “I can imagine,” she said. “Look, for the record, I know the things James and Sirius say about you is a load of bollocks. And I’m sorry for them,” she pointed with her head at Korey, Raine, and Sanna, still hugging. “They are all infatuated with Potter and his friends and believe what they say.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Piper said bluntly.

“I hear the things they say about you.” She shrugged,” Well, it’s not like they try to hide it. But I just feel terrible when I hear them spread nasty things about you.” Lily Evans began to look unsure.

“I don’t need you to feel bad for me.” Piper snarled. She felt badly enough about herself in her first three years at Hogwarts than anyone could have imagined. It was only when the Marauders set their sights on Severus Snape that the torment ceased to a degree. If anything, poor Snape’s torment was worse than what she had endured. And it was that torment, if anything that had formed their tentative friendship with one another.

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well maybe you should know what you mean before you start talking about things you can’t even begin to understand.”

Lily flushed at Piper’s hurtful words.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“You should be.” Piper said. She left Lily with one final glare before she drew the curtains shut around her in a blur of crimson.

* * * *

Sirius Black groaned as he examined his course schedule for the new term. Lessons started the following day and the students needed to prepare for the difficult classes ahead of them. His schedule was, of course, choc-full of the most ridiculously hard subjects Hogwarts offered: Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, and even the dreaded Herbology.

Sirius looked up as he heard a similar groan of anxiety coming from Piper Redden who was eating toast by herself several seats away.

Grin in place, Sirius slid over to the seat across from Piper. There was nothing better than early morning arguments with Piper; she was always at her most irritable at the break of dawn.

“Tough load this year, Red?” Sirius tore the slip of parchment that was her schedule from her hands. He blanched. “How are you taking these subjects?” Piper lunged for her schedule, but Sirius easily held onto it. “Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Advanced Potions—you’re crazy, Red,” he said, reading from the list.

“Don’t call me Red, Black!” After nearly crawling across the table, Piper managed to snatch back her schedule, but not before Sirius memorized it.

Paper back in hand, Piper stuck her jaw out stubbornly. She stuffed the schedule into her pocket and held a hand to her mouth in feigned surprise. “Oh look, here come your friends, Black. Don’t worry, I’ll go. Won’t want your fan club thinking you consort with the likes of me.” She lowered her hand from her lips and trudged from the Great Hall to find Snape. Surely he would know some sort of spell that could make Sirius bald or perhaps he could teach her how to Transfigure his hands into feet.

Sirius grinned as she took her leave. While he was hoping to harass her a bit longer that morning he did not dwell on it as he would see her soon enough. By the looks of it, Sirius had every class with Piper except Arithmancy and Ancient Runes.

Chuckling, Sirius greeted Peter, Remus, James, and Timothy Daley. Timothy was the only third year on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. He was a superb Keeper. They sat down and discussed the prospective Gryffindor players for the rest of the day. It was this Quidditch anxiety that kept Piper from Sirius’ brain.

* * * *

Lily Evans had done her research. She didn’t know what she was expecting to find, but the various articles, books, and personal accounts were not it. She spent all of September the second furiously sticking her nose in every book that could tell her anything, anything about the Redden family. This is what she found:

In Fantastic Purebloods and Where to find Them the entry on the Reddens was enormous.

“The Redden family has been a powerful, influential, and sometimes dangerous group of purebloods for generations. The oldest of the family that has been recorded in history, Largo de la Reed, was before the time of even the Four Founders of Hogwarts. It is speculated that Reed taught the sons and daughters of nobles the art of magic, though he did so quietly, as magic was greatly feared. These lessons brought Reed great wealth, as nobles paid well for their ‘unnatural’ children to be sent away. Since then, all Reddens have been great teachers of magic (and great learners). Though they are all the pictures of royalty, the Reddens prosper in the world of politics. The family contributes generously to many projects the Ministry of Magic undertakes. More Ministers of Magic have been Reddens or have been close to the Redden family than any other Wizarding family, pureblood or not. The Reddens have grown through the generations and are one of the largest pureblood families of all time, second only to the Bharats. One of the most noted Reddens is, of course, Heath Redden, husband of Carolyn, and father to Rhett and Piper…”

The article went on to speak of Heath’s achievements within the Ministry and the world. Lily thought it was a bit light and fluffy compared to the entries surrounding it, but she quickly found that the only families the author spoke ill of were deceased long ago. The author must have feared the Redden’s retribution if they were cast in a bad light.

There were countless Daily Prophet clippings that acknowledged the Reddens that Lily had found: drawn out obituaries, pictures of the Redden manners that scattered all of the continents, and there was an abundance of Ministry notices with the surname Redden dropped nearly every paragraph.

Far in the back of the stack of clippings was a grand article on the wedding of Ursula Bucher and Wesley Redden that Lily had disregarded until she saw that every member of the Redden family had come to celebrate the event. Fantastic Purebloods had not lied in saying that the Reddens were one of the largest pureblood families. So many were there that they pushed each other playfully in the picture to get a better spot, and only the close family was pictured.

Using the caption as a guide Lily found Ursula and Wesley in the center, Heath Redden was next to his brother, while Caroline was next to Ursula. An elegant yet old man and woman stood next to Carolyn, who Lily took to be Grandmother and Grandfather Redden. Piper, dressed as fine as Ursula, stood next to her father, beaming into the camera. Her brother, Rhett (whose picture Lily blushed at, as he was awfully handsome), had his arm around Piper and shared her wide mouthed smile.

Lily always tried to find the beauty in any person, but she always found Piper to be one without much to her. The girl was always sullen, with her dark hair kept up in a tie most of the time. Lily, herself, had seen Piper wrestling with her dark locks one morning before classes started. When Lily asked why Piper didn’t leave it down she received a glare and that was the end of the conversation.

The Piper in the picture and the Piper Lily knew were the biggest opposites imaginable. Lily’s eyes were drawn to Carolyn, Heath, Rhett, or Piper. The four people who formed the core of the Redden family were the most eye-catching beings Lily had ever seen. Piper was nearly undistinguishable. She was beautiful, yes, but her pose and the pose of her family members radiated power, generosity, mystery, and even a dark hint of danger. The languid air about them was enough to make any person long to be a Redden, to be included in this powerful family.

Piper had said not to speak of things she didn’t know anything about. Well, now that I know about them I’m just more confused, Lily thought.

Indeed, the only people in the picture who did not look happy were Wesley and Ursula. The article that accompanied the oversized photograph danced around the topic of the romantic meeting of Wesley and Ursula, mentioning only that the Buchers and Reddens had assumed their children would marry eventually.

Quickly, Lily gathered all that she had found, stored it in her bag, and ran at a full sprint to the common room. Either, she thought, I’m being very silly, or I am very right.

“You!” Lily yelled breathlessly upon arrival. She clutched the stitch in her side with one hand while she pointed, hands full of newspaper clippings, at Piper.

“Me?” said a second year sitting in the couch in front of Piper.

“Me?” said Peter Pettigrew hopefully from the fireplace.

“No not you—“

“Oh,” said Peter, “Oi, Robin, Lily wants a word!”


Conversations stopped. All eyes turned to Piper.

“Me?” she said.

“Yes, you,” said Lily. “We need to talk.”

* * * *

And so, they talked.

Their raised voices coming from the empty classroom startled many first years who thought they were the long-dead ghosts of teen girls past.

“You told me that I shouldn’t talk about things I knew nothing about, well,” Lily dropped the enormous books and pieces of parchment onto an empty desk and spread it out for Piper to see; “now I know.”

Lily had never seen Piper so angry. Not when, last winter, the Marauders pelted her with icy snow balls upon leaving the castle; nor when James Potter switched his abysmal potion for Piper’s perfect one and received top marks; nor did she even flinch when, just last night, the four Marauders somehow put thumbtacks outside of the girls’ dormitory. No, Lily had never seen Piper as infuriated as she was upon seeing the display of her personal life spread out before her. In the occasions where the Marauders performed a nasty trick on Piper she laughed it off, never showing anger or humiliation, but, it seemed, digging into the Redden family history was, for Piper, the ultimate taboo.

“You had no right to go searching for information about me.” Each word Piper spoke rang with fury. Keeping her temper in check took all of what little self control Piper had. Piper bit the inside of her cheeks to remain calm. She spent six years being unfriendly to keep inquiries about her family at bay and in less than twenty four hours Lily Evans had managed to ruin all of Piper’s privacy.

“I’m—I’m sorry.”

Lily never finished her sentence. Instead, Piper held up a hand, and, with a trembling chin, she searched the articles in front of her with her eyes. She had read many of them already.

“So what, you find a couple of family summaries, a few pictures of my houses, and a wedding announcement and you think you know me, Evans? Well let me tell you something: you don’t.”

Piper’s mouth barely moved to form the words she spoke and Lily had to strain her ears to hear them. Lily stood very still; afraid that even the slightest movement would cause Piper to attack. It was as if Piper was a wild animal who cornered a smaller, weaker animal that aggravated it.
Piper continued, “I love my family. I do. I might not love their ways or how they act, but I love my family and I know how fantastic they are so I do not need to prove it to anyone, especially not you.

“You see this?” Piper held up the Daily Prophet bearing the news of her uncle’s wedding. Lily cowered into the corner further in response to Piper’s sudden movement. “Look how, happy,” Piper’s voice trembled on the word, “they look. That’s going to be me the second I have to leave this Godforsaken castle, all because it is ‘expected’ of me. And so, I’m sorry that I am trying to enjoy what little freedom I have left. I don’t get to worry about careers and N.E.W.Ts because I don’t need them. My life is already planned out for me. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, and you probably wouldn’t care either because your world revolves around only you and no one else.”

“If I’m so selfish why did I use my ‘valuable’ time to read all about you?”

“Because you can’t stand mysteries.” Piper said matter-of-factly.

“I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you, and if I could apologize for everyone else, I would.”

Piper waved away the apology. “Don’t apologize for other people. You know, it’s funny that the people who treat me the worst in this whole castle are the Gryffindors—the people who are supposed to be my house-mates.” Piper licked her lips and flattened her hair, which always seemed to radiate electricity when she was angry.

“You’re like an honorary member of Slytherin.” Lily laughed, wholly glad that Piper’s anger had diminished somewhat. However, emotion was still quite palpable in the air and Lily kept her distance still.

“Tell me about it.” Piper sat down, as exhausted as if she had just tackled an ogre, and supported her chin with her palms. Lily took the chair opposite Piper. The papers between them acted as a sort of barrier. Both parties pretended not to notice how the smiling pictures of the Redden family drew an invisible line between them.

At the same time, the two girls came to a sort of telepathic consensus, and with two quick, sweeping motions, they scattered all of the papers onto the floor.

“So that must be it.” Lily said.

“What must me what?”

“The reason Black hates you. I figured it out.”

“Enlighten me.” Piper shrugged and looked up. Piper knew why Black hated her, and with a little bit of detective work Lily had found out as well.

“You love your family, he doesn’t, and he hates you for it. He doesn’t exactly hide his dislike for his family and you must serve as a reminder to it.”

Piper reclined in her seat and nodded. “Took you long enough to figure it out.”

* * * *

When Sirius arrived at Charms the next morning he was late—as was his first day back to school custom. Professor Flitwick rolled his eyes at his pupil and checked him down on the roll call. Sirius threw his bag down next to Peter, who was gaping at the two girls seated in front of them. It was obvious that one of the girls was Lily (her hair kind of gave it away), but the dark headed figure was a mystery until Flitwick finished the attendance.

“Redden, Piper,’ Flitwick said, nearing the end of the list.

“Here,” Called Piper, raising her hand from her seat next to Lily.

It was Sirius’ turn to gape, though he certainly wasn’t the only one. James was staring incredulously at the two girls, mouthing words that only he understood; Korey stared longingly at Lily’s back; she had sat with Lily every Charm’s class since first year. Sirius would later swear that he saw even Flitwick do a double-take.

Professor Flitwick cleared his throat. “I know that it is the first day back, but I trust you didn’t let all of the things I taught you wander off. So today we will start on Charms of Dust. They are rather simple charms that involve turning a small object to dust. First, let’s separate into pairs, and then I will write the instructions on the board.”

The class burst into pandemonium as each student leapt for their mates.

James ruffled his hair, gave Sirius the thumbs up, and stood in front of Lily’s table. “Why don’t you work with me today, Evans?” He asked nonchalantly.

“Alright, Potter, but no funny business.” Lily pointed at James and questioned him with her eyes until James promised he would actually do some of the work. Too often had one of the Marauders paired themselves with Lily only to achieve a good grade.

Sirius saw his opening. He was out of his seat and ready to work with Piper when Snape took the seat instead.

Peter beamed as Sirius slowly sunk into his chair.

Professor Flitwick gave up his attempts to hand-write the instructions; he was having trouble actually writing the directions since the tip of his hat barely reached the chalk tray. Mumbling darkly he flicked his wand at the board and the instructions appeared. With a second flick, Flitwick distributed small objects for the students to turn into dust.

A fight broke out between Lily and James minutes before the class was coming to a close. It had been going quite well between them until James mistakenly turned Lily’s favorite quill into nothing but a heap of fine powder. Lily’s face contorted in anger while she hit James repeatedly over the head with his own thick wand yelling, “Dustecorum!”

“Miss Evans! This charm is not mean to be used on people.” For such a short man, Flitwick had unusual gusto and was able to wrestle the wand out of Lily’s hand before she caused any permanent damage to James’ brain; although he was looking slightly dazed.

“I’m sorry, Professor. I was only trying to see how small of an object the charm would work on.”

“So you tried it on Potter’s head?”

“Not his head, Professor, I was trying it on his brain.”

“Five points from Gryffindor Miss. Evans!” Professor Flitwick said, then seeing the dozens of dust piles littering James’ side of the table he said, “Fine work, Mr. Potter, ten points to Gryffindor.”

Sirius gently pushed Peter and Remus below the table, preparing for the apocalypse, for the day when James received points that Lily did not surely meant the end was coming. In fact a homeless man had shouted the exact same prediction to Sirius on his way to Kings Cross not but two days ago.

To protect his best friend from Lily’s scorn, Sirius thought quickly of a diversion. And the very thing was sitting directly in the seat in front of him. Sirius gathered the small piles of dust that he and Peter had made and threw it onto the backs of Piper and Severus.

Both Piper and Severus felt the blow of the dust landing, though Piper turned around first.

“You are, without a doubt, the most childish person I have ever met in my life!” Piper shouted standing up and showering dust everywhere.

Still sitting, Sirius pointed to his right where Peter was sucking his thumb like a baby and said, “You really think so?” The last word of his sentence he choked on, since Piper had thrown her own piles of dust at Sirius’ face.

“No, not childish, just pathetic.” Piper growled. She gathered her things into her black school bag, and left the door, with Professor Flitwick shouting, “Ten points from Gryffindor” behind her.

Chapter 3: Red is Sirius' Favorite Color
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Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter but I do own everything you don’t recognize. So don’t steal it please. It would help me sleep at night. And I already have enough nightmares about rotten bananas, my crush, my arch nemesis, and my dogs eating my favorite pair of boots without having to worry about a tech savvy hacker stealing what takes me a lot of work to produce. Sorry, that was a rant. I’ll let you get on with your story now.

You Hate Me
Chapter 3: Red is Sirius’ Favorite Color


It wasn’t until the Halloween decorations had been adorning the Great Hall for a week that Piper even noticed it was October. The stress from lessons combined with a serious lack of attention contributed to the flying by of September. Piper had been extremely occupied with her homework—so occupied was she that she did not even notice she hadn’t seen the Marauders for quite some time. Indeed, she hadn’t seen even one pore of any of the Gryffindor sixth year blokes, and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team was equally invisible.

The momentary end of ridicule could only be blamed on Quidditch starting again. James had been made Captain and was taking it upon himself to make the team as excellent as he could by two-a-day practices and strict training rules. The team was up before dawn had even shown herself and did not return to the castle long after the stars had come out to play. Even in torrential downpours James had forced the team to weight train until even third year Timothy Daley could easily bench press James thirty times.

The prospects of the team were looking better than James could have ever expected. They had only lost one seventh year and the team chemistry had improved tenfold. Sirius and Leon Harwood, a seventh year, were strong and powerful Beaters who had harnessed the ability somewhere along their career to aim a Bludger in a fascinatingly accurate manner, which they displayed by often directing the belligerent balls at James when he wasn’t on his guard. Timothy Daley, the slight third year was a bit of an ‘oddball’ (as Peter put it) although he more than made up for it with his spectacular instincts, James swore the boy could read the Chaser’s minds. Keith Baker, a fifth year; Zane Zuev; a seventh year; and Brett Wilshin, a sixth year formed the Gryffindor team’s unstoppable force of Chasers. All in all, James had to admit he had a lot of talent under his belt—not that he stored six burly men under his trousers, it was just an expression, although he did see to it that their talents were harnessed by treacherous workouts—again, not that he harnessed his house mates in any form or manner. But it was these strenuous and exhausting practices that kept Piper far from the Marauder’s minds—not that they didn’t think about women while they were doing physical labor.

On Hallow’s Eve day, every face in the castle seemed to be grinning. Even the Professors were looking rather flamboyant: McGonagall was enjoying an article in the Daily Prophet on how to Transfigure a pumpkin into an intricate Jack O’ Lantern in a matter of seconds, Slughhorn was speaking loudly to anyone that would listen how he had just received a bottle of find scotch from the Australian Minister of Magic (“A former student of mine, you know”), even Professor Conner had stopped his paranoid searching for Dark tampering with his food and was chatting up Dumbledore merrily. Piper, however, was not grinning. She choked on a mouthful of pumpkin juice as she finished reading the letter her brother had sent by way of owl. Resisting the urge to throttle the owl that had no business dying over Piper’s temper and whispering ‘don’t kill the messenger’ Piper stormed from the Great Hall with a scowl on her face, not quite realizing it was almost sunset.

When her anger finally faded, Piper found herself on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. She developed a particularly painful stitch in her side from her angry tirade onto the grounds and was quite winded. She knew if she continued to walk no one would get hurt, so she continued her march while disgustedly re-read the letter in her hands. With every word, her ire flared more. Piper hoped there was no boy with a shotgun nearby—she must have been frothing at the mouth more than Old Yeller (she had watched the movie over the hols with Alexander in Egypt, not believing there was such thing as a ‘telaviser’ or ‘gun’).

Dear Piper,
I hope this letter finds you in good health, as I am sure it will. I imagine you are too stubborn to succumb to sickness. Sorry to disappoint, but your immunity to disease and other ailments aren’t why I’m writing (but I’m sure they will prove valuable to St. Mungo’s eventually).
A reliable source at Hogwarts informed me that you are fraternizing with a certain Mudblood named ‘Evans’. I know I told you to try to make friends this year, but I find it hard to believe that Hogwarts is so lacking in people that you have to consort with nasty filth such as that. Are you trying to give Mother a hernia before she reaches fifty? Even I thought your standards were higher. Look, I know none of those people are really your ‘type’ and quite frankly, no one in that school can compete with our lineage but that David Detweiller is nice, why don’t you try to befriend him? The Detweillers are a good family and from what I hear David is quite the charmer. Or that Grant Grey fellow? He’s nice. We met him at dinner once, remember?
Look, I don’t want to upset you, I want to help you. Even if your reputation doesn’t matter to you, at least have enough pride to uphold our
family’s status. Imagine the shame Mother and Father would have to bear if the news about your ‘friend’ reached them before me. Did you ever stop to think this girl would be playing you for the fool? She’s probably just taking the piss, Piper and I don’t want my baby sister at the butt of some joke. Or she could be some money grubbing whore. But either way, I am telling you now, Piper, stop playing with that dirt and act like a pureblood. For once.

Love, Rhett

Piper crumbled the piece of parchment in a fist. How dare Rhett—whom Piper normally got along with—command her to stop being Lily’s friend! It was ludicrous! Was there no Muggleborns at Durmstrang? Did Rhett think that Piper’s blood would become tainted for talking to Muggleborns? And who was this ‘informant’? Whoever it was, Piper would find them and inform them where to shove it. Piper was completely overloaded with information. Here she was, for the first time in her life, actually speaking to a girl her age at her school and she gets reprimanded for it. There had to be some flaw in the system there. Being a pureblood could not mean Piper had to neglect anyone who’s, Piper regarded the letter, ‘lineage’ did not match up to their own. If that was the case, Piper wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone save her own family. Where did Rhett come off telling Piper these things? He would be absolutely smitten with Lily if he ever saw her. He confessed to Piper just six months ago his softness for redheads. It could not be so serious a matter Piper couldn’t even talk to a Muggleborn. And as for Rhett’s suggestions for acquaintances well—Piper involuntarily gagged when she thought of Grant Grey and continued to retch until her thoughts were elsewhere and as far as David Detweiller was concerned his only ‘charm’ was his ability to charm a girl right out of her robes and knickers and turn her into a school slut overnight.

So was Lily playing a cruel trick on Piper? Was it all a clever plot Korey had begged Lily to employ? No, that couldn’t be it, that idea would actually have to mean Korey could entertain an intelligent thought for more than a millisecond—and Piper knew that would only happen in Bizarreo Land. Either way, Piper would show both of them. If Lily was a money grubbing whore, so be it. Piper would be friendly toward her all the same. And if she was really just after a good laugh, at least Piper knew about it before she really got hurt. Whatever intention Lily Evans had, it paled in comparison with Piper’s intentions to piss off her brother until he spontaneously combusted. So, it was decided, Piper wouldn’t snub Evans. If anything, she would be even more amicable. Take that, Big Brother.

“That asshole!” Piper ripped the letter to pieces and threw it into the air, allowing the wind to catch it and carry it far away. Piper hoped the scraps of parchment would land on Rhett’s bedside table in Bulgaria so he could see just how little Piper cared for his opinions.

Suddenly glad that she had stolen his Divination charts and ‘forgot’ to put them back in his trunk before the beginning of the school year, Piper smirked. What were little sisters for if they weren’t going to steal your homework and put their own name on it for top marks?

She threw a kick at a stray leaf and missed, stubbing her toe on a nearby rock instead, which only made her temper worse. Stupid rock. If you weren’t inanimate I would kill you, you goddamn boulder. Look at you; you’re not even a proper rock. You’re just a little pebble. How does that make you feel you inadequate little stone? Are you not allowed to speak to other rocks that aren’t your size? Oh what, are you too good for me, rock? Are you too good to speak to me? Yeah, well take that! Piper heaved the pebble the size of her big toe into the forest. It was, perhaps best she had not encountered a living creature during her strop, who knows what else she would have tossed into the dark depths of the woods? Taking her rage out on an object that was not technically alive was shockingly soothing. Piper vowed to invest in one of those anger balls that you squeeze really hard when you’re anger that she had seen her mother use countless times. Or, she could always carry around a pillow to release her temper on—although then she would probably be known as Piper Redden: Creep that Carries About a Pillow as Some Sort of Security Devise.

The sky began to darken but Piper took no notice. With the night, however, came a powerful breeze that chilled Piper down to her bone marrow. She carried no watch and thus did not know what time it was and since she was also not in the possession of a sun dial it seemed only proper Piper went back inside…even if she really, really, really, really did not want to. Although her feet did hurt quite a bit from walking so far and it was freezing and dark and she would probably get a detention for being out on the grounds so late. Piper inhaled deeply, bracing herself. She wiggled her whole body in a manner that would have been appropriate if she was an athlete shaking off a bad play.

“I can do this,” Piper said as she took the first step on the main staircase. “I can do this. I’m civilized enough to behave properly around people.” She darted behind a tapestry that served as a detour—hoping to trick her feet into prolonging their journey. “I can be polite. I can control my temper. I can do this.” Piper crept silently down corridor after corridor and up staircase after staircase. “I can do this.” Piper was nearly at the Fat Lady.

Piper stood before the violent pink clad, obese woman and straightened her spine. “I can do this.” The Fat Lady was entertaining Snipip the Head Shrinker and the two looked up at Piper as she approached.

“Ah, don’t you see Lavinia this is what I was just telling you about.” Snipip waved his hand in Piper’s direction, suddenly taking interest in her. Snipip was generally avoided by students and Professors alike—he was widely known for his free psychological screenings. Piper frowned and realized who he was talking to. Who knew the Fat Lady was really named Lavinia. Poor woman. Piper could relate—although she would much rather stick with ‘Piper’ than change her name to ‘Fat Lady’. Snipip continued despite the lack of attention, “Classic denial syndrome. It can be inferred the young lass suffers from some sort of inferiority complex from her posture. She probably has a rival with an older brother. Ah, look at how her jaw twitches as I mention a sibling. Oh, we are making good progress. Tell me, dear, what are you trying to prove to the world. How does it make you feel that no matter how hard you try to tell your self you can ‘do it’, you probably can’t?” Snipip pressed his oval face against the portrait and widened his eyes as if he was trying to X Ray Piper right through her robes.

“Gobble, Gobble,” said Piper.

“AHA! NOW SHE THINKS SHE IS A TURKEY! AN AILMENT I HAVEN’T YET SEEN! Please, let me have just one session with you! It only costs fifty Galleons an hour!”

“No, Snipip, ‘gobble, gobble’ is the password.” Lavinia A.K.A the Fat Lady said, imploring her friend to quiet down. “Go on in dear! Keep fighting the good fight!” She swung inward.

“I’m not crazy!” Piper hissed at both occupants of the frame in quite a lunatic manner.

“Again with that denial…” Snipip said dejectedly. “If only I could help her. Unfortunately I believe she is a lost case…”

“I’m NOT crazy!” Piper threw her hands in the air, nearly hitting them on the stone above her.

“Love, with all due respect you are arguing with a few people in a portrait.” The Fat Lady pointed out.

“Point taken,” Piper heaved the door shut behind her, blocking out the babble of the incessant portraits behind her. “I can do this.” Piper whispered to herself. She could make out Snipip saying from behind the stone, “talking to yourself…bad sign.”

Piper stepped toward the girls’ staircase, saw the Marauders, Brett Wilshin, and Zane Zuev idly playing with miniature replicas of the Ballycastle Bats Quidditch team, said “I can’t do this,” and turned on her heels to face Snipip and the Fat Lady’s possible cures for dementia than endure the tutelage of four sevenths of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

“RED!” Sirius cried jovially while dropping his figurine of Finbar Quigley on the table. Sirius casually stood from his chair. Piper wondered if he had installed a spotlight for just this occasion. It wouldn’t surprise her. “It’s about time you showed up. We were taking bets on why you left in such a tizzy. James has a Galleon on your dog dying, but I have two on you having to leave and go to Durmstrang and Zane bets a daring five that you’re mother’s entered you in a beauty contest.” For his part, Zane blushed and mumbled something about only joking. “Don’t worry though, I told old Zaney that he was barking to think that, you’d never go to a beauty contest,” Sirius said with a smirk on his face. “Come to think of it,” Sirius stroked his chin in what he thought was a thoughtful manner, “You’re mother would have to be wacko as well if she thought you’d even stand a chance against the birds who are usually in those sort of competitions.”

James, Peter, Remus, Zane, and Brett simultaneously hid their faces with their hands and looked busy playing with their dolls. Brett coughed, his hacking sounded more like “Shut up, Sirius” than it did “cough, cough.” James even threw his figurine of Barny the Fruitbat at Sirius’ head—it bounced off with a satisfying thunk. Peter did his part by kicking Sirius none to gently nor none to subtly in the shins. Even by Sirius’ standards, his words had gone too far—even if they had been taking bets on what had angered Piper so much (it was usually only the Marauders that sent her in such a tizzy).

Piper glared menacingly. She turned her head ninety degrees and looked elsewhere, thinking. Sirius saw her swallow hard and wondered what saucy insult she would throw at him. She pursed her lips, turned her head back to Sirius and smiled out of the corner of her mouth. Never a good sign. Smiles out of corner of mouth = bad.

Sirius rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming. “What are you gonna do, Red, hex me?”

He was at ‘hex’ when Piper hit him with her best Pepper Breath spell she could accomplish. Sirius was blown backwards by the force of the spell. On his back, he puffed out several smoky breaths and began to sneeze violently. Piper trudged forward, stood over Sirius and with as much dignity as she could muster she said, “I don’t have a dog, my mother is not a loony, and don’t call me Red!

With that, she stomped up the spiral staircase to her dormitory, hoping that Sirius expelled peppery breath for a very long time. So long, in fact that not even Korey Kayhart would kiss him. That would be excellent.

Brett and Zane helped Sirius up from the floor, narrowly avoiding getting their best robes caught on fire. James and Peter clutched their sides they were laughing so hard. What were friends for if they weren’t going to go into hysterics when a highly ill tempered adolescent girl casts a Pepper Breath spell on you? “I reckon we’re growing on her.” Remus said slyly from behind ‘Hairy Snout, Human Heart

Halloween morning dawned and Piper wound her way up to the Owlery gripping an angry reply to her brother’s letter. Unfortunately, she was fresh out of Cursed paper and so, had to compensate for being especially strong worded. Piper wondered if ‘you are just a sad soul of a boy on a powertrip and have to take it out on your sister, you dickhead’ was going too far, decided it wasn’t, and continued to stomp her way up the spiral stairs of the Owlery.

As she stepped into the cold room she called down a school screech owl. This was a battle in itself: the bird wanted to sleep, Piper wanted to send a letter. However, using her astonishing hair pulling (or in this case feather pulling) talent, Piper was victorious and tied the letter to the owl’s leg (this isn’t to say the owl didn’t fight back. They aren’t called ‘screech owls’ for naught and the thing seemed to have nearly matched Piper’s hair pulling gift). She gripped the owl by its midsection, warned it what would happen if it dallied or flew around the castle until Piper was out of sight and then tossed the letter completely and when she was reassured the beast was now her minion she released it into the dull grey morning. She leaned on the windowless sill and flattened her hair. Who knew owls could be such preteen girls when it came to hair pulling? At the sound of footsteps, Piper whirled around and Sirius Black, James Potter, and Peter Pettigrew sauntered in.

“Red, you are such a delight to see on this dreary morning!” James said, opening his arms like a lover would do to another lover that had been abroad for some time. When Piper did not rush into his arms as Hufflepuff and Slytherin probably did, (James speculated the two Founders were secretly boning in the Chamber of Secrets) he dropped his arms and looked around.

“You know, it’s quite the coincidence, seeing you here, Red,” Sirius sneered. The ‘coincidence’ Sirius spoke of was no coincidence. But Piper didn’t need to know that.

Just as Sirius, James and Peter entered the common room shrouded by the Invisibility Cloak after their latest romp in the forest with Remus in their animagi forms Piper left the common room. James stopped Sirius from tripping Piper as she crossed the threshold but could not stop Sirius from following her. They were still high off their mischievous wrongdoings and weren’t quite ready for the exciting adventures to end. What better adventure was there than to stalk silently behind Piper Redden? Well, perhaps stalking the barkeep of the Three Broomsticks as a dog, stag, rat, and (kind of) tamed werewolf was a bit more exciting (and pervy) but that was only because the boys liked the vantage point they had from their animal forms (the barkeep wore very short skirts even when it was fall).

And how boring it was to only find Piper mailing a letter. Not mischievous at all.

“Who were you sending a letter to, Red?” Sirius nimbly hopped the piles of regurgitated remains of moles and mice and landed gracefully three feet from Piper. Her lips curled distastefully. “I didn’t realize people actually communicated with you.” Sirius looked out the window as if he could magically call the owl back to him so he could read the letter. It was intriguing, Piper never wrote letters—she never even received letters.

The pellets that served as obstacles for Sirius grew little dungy legs of their own and positively sprinted out of Piper’s way as she advanced on Sirius and his comrades. Sirius’ own legs took matters into their own hands (or feet) and considered something called self preservation, then they involuntarily carried him behind James and Peter until they realized he was using their combined bulk as a human shield, then their legs considered this self preservation thing and scrambled for cover.

“Sirius Black,” Piper stepped over a cowering James in the fetal position and side stepped a paralyzed Peter that had both hands covering his face as if this tactic would serve as a successful disguise and stopped inches away from a Sirius that was retreating blindly against the wall. “If you ever” Piper poked him hard in the shoulder with a pointed finger, “And I do mean ever call me Red again I will personally see to it that you will regret it,” she snarled. Having her fill of shoulder-poking, she whipped her head around; made sure her point had been taken seriously by the three of them, nodded and left the Owlery loudly.

“What’s she going to do if we call her Red?” James said defiantly, “Give us a talking to?”

Sirius dropped his head at James’ carelessness. James did not learn from mistakes like Sirius did.

“No, Potter, I’ll do this:” Piper had returned. She wasted no time in giving her wand a lofty swish and flick, directing the spell at the owl droppings.

It would not have surprised James, Peter or Sirius if the feces that had recently grown legs also grew lips and vocal chords and emitted falsetto shrieks even a toddler could not compete with. Having Piper Redden’s wand aimed at you is no laughing matter.

Nothing happened at first.

Then, one by one, the droppings levitated off the ground and hovered before James, Peter and Sirius ominously. Like a demented old broad sicking a rabid pack of dogs on trespassers, Piper gave the universal signal for ‘onward’ and forward the carcasses and bones of animals and pellets went. Repeatedly, the droppings hurled themselves at their robes, faces, shoes, and testis (there must have been female droppings, for some of the droppings relentlessly attacked their scrotums).

As James, Sirius and Peter fought for their lives and fertility, Piper gleefully rocked against the cold stone walls. She wiped the tears of her hilarity away and waved her wand to make her army of shit retreat. Piper had to admit; they had certainly made her day—which had started out so badly—much better. It was, perhaps, the first time the Marauders (well, three fourths of the Marauders, Piper wasn’t sure where Remus was, he had said something about a sick aunt the night before) had proved useful.

“See you in Potions, boys!” Piper called sweetly, bouncing down the stairs looking entirely pleased with her wittiness.

“See you in Potions, boy!” James said, mocking Piper’s words in a high pitched, voice that sounded more like “Mah mah mah mahmah, mah!” as he held up a hand and formed a mouth with his four fingers and thumb. Peter picked a particularly slimy bone off his robes and threw it after Piper. Sirius, on the other hand, only groaned as he noticed how completely destroyed his robes were, and rolled his eyes, not bothering to disguise his call of “bitch!”

Professor Slughorn was so immersed in conversation with Brett Wilshin (his father owned a popular Quidditch supply store and had just been enlisted to design the new uniforms for the Hollyhead Harpies) he barely noticed as James, Peter, and Sirius snuck into Potions nearly an half hour late freshly showered and changed. Brett pantomimed making a noose out of his monkshood and pulled upwards on the part of the plant above his head, all the while making choking and gagging sounds with his tongue hanging out and gargling ‘Help me! Help me’ to his friends while Slughorn bantered on about how he disagreed with his good friend Alasdair Maddock and thought women’s Quidditch was not a joke at all.

“So, what do you think the great Marauder Halloween Trick will be tonight?” Severus asked Piper vehemently. He had not taken his eyes off his potion, to which he was adding drops of black mamba venom with a steady hand.

The recipe for the Fire Protection Potion called only for two drops of venom, Severus added a considerably larger amount than that. Piper never called Severus out on his obscure skills at Potions, and, copying him, she added several more drops of venom to her own potion, which hissed and began to turn a nasty shade of rust.

Unblinking and unsmiling, Severus handed her a porcupine quill and the eye of a newt, which righted the potion once more once Piper dropped them in before her ridiculous mistake did any more damage.

“Whatever it is, I hope we aren’t the main focus of it.” Piper said. Severus was safe as far as Piper was concerned. After her stunt in the Owlery she would be surprised if the Marauders chose not to target her. They were ignoring her at the moment though, which was comforting. She understood Severus’ caution for she could remember only too well the Marauders bleaching Severus from head to foot the year previous and announcing that Slytherin had found a new ghost: The Smelly Snivellous.

Severus did not respond, that memory, too, seemed to weigh on his mind still. He gripped his wand white-knuckled, and Piper understood what he meant. If the Marauders tried to pull something on him, he would be ready.

They said no more the rest of the lesson, but it was not at all unusual. It was not uncommon for Severus to sit as still as a meditating monk and watch his potions simmer. Their attitude toward one another was tentative; both of them were individual creatures who relied only on themselves for protection, and who trusted only their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It wasn’t as though they met every Thursday at 7:00 to make I Hate Marauders T shirts and No More Marauders pins; they didn’t create posters and protest outside the Great Hall, they used their own wits and intelligence for protection. Who needs support systems when you have those?

Piper was wary upon leaving Potions—she had too many classes with Sirius, James and Peter, which meant too many chances for them to jinx her. Paranoia guided her through the day and it wasn’t until the James, Peter, Sirius, Brett, and Zane decided the one thousand live bats and streamers were not nearly enough decorations and were reprimanded harshly by Professor McGonagall when they turned a first year Slytherin into a pumpkin (“But Professor, I was aiming for Snape! The little first year just got in the way!”) that Piper breathed easily again. However, their confession for trying to hit Snape did nothing for their case and they were sentenced to a week’s worth of detention and ten points were taken from Gryffindor each.

The Great Hall was a sight of beauty that night. The house sized pumpkins, bats, and streamers added to the allure of the nearly full moon and bright stars. The feast itself matched the greatness of the ambiance. Those who normally would have eaten only a sandwich or slice of turkey were gorging themselves on the cornucopia of food laid out for them. The amount of food between Zane, Brett, and Sirius alone could have fed the entire population of a third world country for months.

James noticed Piper’s wrinkled nose and distasteful expression from where she sat discreetly between a first year and seventh year.

“Got a problem, Red?” He called, gesturing with a turkey’s leg which he had just taken a generous bite out of. While he was waiting for Piper to throw back an insult he washed the bird down with an amount of water that could have lasted Piper all the way across the Sahara desert.

“Apart from you going caveman on that leg, no, nothing,” Piper continued to watch James and his mates eat a revolting amount of food—it was like a broom accident, you just can’t turn away no matter how gruesome.

Brett pounded on his chest with his fists, a thigh of a chicken in one hand. “Me Brett. Me man. Me hungry!” He said in a stupidly baritone voice he must have associated with the cavemen. To accentuate his impersonation of a prehistoric human he puffed out his cheeks and furrowed his brows.

“Me Peter. Me want meat!” Peter said in the same unintelligent voice as he began to hit his pecs with his fists also, although he thankfully kept his meat on his plate.

“Me want food. Where chicken go?” Sirius hit both of his fists on the table, banging them so hard the silverware on Piper’s plate began to rattle. “You steal chicken!” He pointed at Peter who somehow managed to continue to play the part of a bewildered caveman.

“My chicken now. You get own chicken.” Peter puffed out his chest and guarded his meat protectively. Sirius took a particularly club-like piece leg of turkey and proceeded to beat Peter with it. James, Brett and Zane cheered loudly and hit their chests and the table with an impressive Neanderthal intensity.

Piper used the distraction as an opportunity to take her leave. Her worry of being humiliated was over and was now overshadowed by her fear of what her brother would say once he received her letter. If she knew her brother, and she liked to think she did, he would have a good laugh at his sister’s anger and think he got through to her and then put the subject in the back of his mind but if Piper underestimated the seriousness of the situation she would be on a train home within a week. God she hoped Rhett would understand. She didn’t know what she would do if she was sent to Durmstrang of Beauxbatons. Her French was phenomenally atrocious (“How are you?” often came out as “Go have sex with a hairy man”) and Rhett often complained of the arctic temperatures the Durmstrang castle often had (Piper absolutely detested cold weather and it would mean she would be under Rhett’s watchful eye and under Alexander McClure’s lascivious eyes). But Piper did not care to think about Alexander McClure. She had done perfectly well blocking out those memories and did not wish to have them brought to the surface again. Maybe she would write back to Rhett and say she was only having a laugh and was just seeing if he cared enough to protect his sister from ‘dirty Mudbloods.’ He’d fall for that.

Piper was so preoccupied she did not notice Sirius Black strolling silently behind her.

As Piper left, James looked brutishly about and said, “Where girl go?” while pointing to Piper’s vacant seat. “I find,” Sirius hit one fist against the center of his chest twice and jogged after Piper. Knowing what Sirius was up to, James, Zane, Brett, and Peter returned to their meals.

Sirius watched Piper quietly from behind her. He kept a good distance but still found the spy skills James had taught him over the summer from watching copious James Bond movies came in handy when Piper did a quick look over his shoulder and he had to tumble and roll stealthily behind suits of armor, and on one occasion, he had to jump underneath a particularly large tapestry to avoid detection.

“OI, RED!”

As Piper climbed a secret staircase that provided a shortcut to the Gryffindor common room, Sirius screamed her name loudly. His yell rang around the stairwell and effectively startled Piper. She jumped about ten feet in the air, stumbled, then threw her arms out for balance; though as she did this, Piper took a step forward and her foot sunk into a trick staircase like a deranged traveler falling into a pit of quick sand.

Sirius threw his head back and let loose several bark-like laughs as Piper attempted (fruitlessly) to pull her leg out of the stair. The stair made several loud, squelching noises as Piper gripped her thigh and yanked. Piper’s cheeks reddened with anger and her dark brows furrowed around her long lashes and stormy eyes.

“Looks like you’re in a bit of a spicy cucumber, Red.” Sirius danced up the stairs dramatically. His steps were punctuated by his laughs and Piper’s curses. Sirius stretched his arms out, putting one hand on one side of the wall and his left hand on the other.

Piper rotated her torso around to confront Sirius, though her leg stayed firmly sunk. “You mean pickle, idiot.” Piper leaned back and pulled hard on her leg which would not give. She knew turning her back to Sirius Black was not wise, but her leg was submerging deeper into the stair with every second. She was nearly reclined at 180 degrees when Sirius spoke.

“I don’t think you’re in any position to be calling names, Red. I might be the only person coming this way for a while. Not many people know about this staircase.” He sighed and rubbed his head with one hand thoughtfully, while leaning against a tapestry. “But… I guess you could always wait for Sevvy Wevvy to come along and rescue you, Red,” Sirius said in a in an innocent tone.

“Severus is a better man than you will ever be. And. Stop. Calling. Me. Red!” Piper pulled with all her strength on her thigh, hoping to pull her leg out of the trick step, while leaning back to provide extra leverage.

“Temper, temper. Well,” Sirius said breathlessly haughty, “I’m not going to stand around and be insulted.” Sirius hopped over the trick stair while Piper was distractedly yanking at her leg. He began to climb the stairs, whistling a jolly tune to accentuate his decision to leave Piper in quite a predicament.


Pier choked on the word. She gestured ‘Stop’ while running her tongue over her teeth. Piper realized that Sirius was probably right, and asking him for help would probably be less humiliating than someone finding her stuck in the staircase in the middle of the night. Probably. Piper frowned dejectedly. God, this isn’t going to go well.

“What’s this?” Sirius gasped and sidestepped down the stairs; it was more than he could have hoped for, he had expected Piper to get in an argument with Piper, maybe hex her, then be on his way, but the blessed staircase had provided a wonderful opportunity for more scorn and now she was asking him for help. It was too good. Piper was aware of the triumphing images going through Sirius’ mind; she waited for his gloating to start.

“Is Piper Redden-- the Piper Redden asking me for help? Well I’ll tell you what,” Sirius slowly descended the stairs, “I’ll help you out of your little pickle if you say,” he squinted, thinking of the appropriate words, “I know. Saaaaaaaay, ‘I want to fuck Snape.’”

Piper scowled. She would rather have a detention and some lost points than say that to Sirius Black. He raised his eyebrows. Piper’s leg was really beginning to hurt and it was no guarantee that she would be found. Piper clutched onto her thigh tighter, for it was all she could do to prevent herself from lunging forward and wringing Sirius around the neck. He had anticipated this, though, and stayed two steps above her.

“Aaaaarrrgggggg!” Piper shook her head angrily, giving into her frustration. She threw her hands in the air to make her capitulation more theatrical. “I want to shag Snape.” She said halfheartedly.

“What was that?” Sirius cupped his ear with his hand and smirked. Piper repeated herself stonily through gritted teeth (she prayed this incident wouldn’t lead her to dentures). She spoke just loud enough to satisfy Sirius but quiet enough to be able to deny it to her conscience later on.

“Great,” Sirius nodded in approval, “Well, see ya later, Red.” He took the stairs two at a time, fleeing out of Piper’s wand range.

It was not hard for Piper to understand. She frowned and wished she had levitated Sirius by his tie to hang by the chandeliers instead of submitting to his terms. God she had been stupid. She pelts the idiot with shit and then expects him to say, ‘Right, well, it was all in fun and games. She really meant no harm when she pelted me with shit. I forgive her.’ It would have been more likely for Black to saddle up a centaur and go fox hunting or ask McGonagall out on a date than actually pull Piper out of the stair.

“You’re an asshole, Black!” She screamed up the stairs.

“It means a lot coming from you, Red!” She heard Sirius call back from his shelter at the top of the staircase. He disappeared down the hallway, still whistling the annoyingly happy song.

Piper growled and pulled harder on her leg.

* * * *

Piper had never been closer to becoming an amputee in her life. Two hours of pulling, yanking, heaving, jerking, and wrenching had finally freed Piper from the stair that probably could have given a Venus Fly Trap a run for its money. By moving her leg that was not trapped onto the step above her and clutching the tapestries on the opposite wall for support, Piper was able to pull herself out. She had ripped both tapestries in half in the process, but she felt it was a fair trade. No one quite enjoyed walking down those stairs and seeing Guthrie Lochrin extracting slivers from his arse from an unfinished broomstick on one side and Chauncy Oldridge dying of dragon pox on the other.

It was well past curfew by the time Piper had relaxed enough to Disillusion herself properly. The last time she used magic when she was upset she seared off all of her arm hair. Chameleoned, she waited outside the portrait hole until a first year finally arrived and hurriedly gave the Fat Lady the password.

Seething still, Piper entered the common room with great caution. She allowed herself a smile when she saw all of the members of Gryffindor sixth year still lounging in the common room doing homework or catching up on their social lives. The whole of the Quidditch team plus Peter, Korey, Lily, Raine, and Sanaa were holding court around the fireplace. Peter and Sanaa were comparing Care of Magical Creatures notes, Korey and Lily chatted idly while Sirius and James flirted with them, while Leon, Tim, and Keith tried their hands at the Muggle board game Monopoly (they were having a very frustrating time with it since, as Keith put it, ‘the bloody figurines don’t even move at all and this paper stuff is just weird’).

Just as fortune had shone on Sirius, it returned the favor for Piper. No one saw her as she snuck across the common room and ascended the stairs to the boys’ dormitories. She opened the door with the label of Sixth Year silently, her wand at the ready. She was glad her wand illuminated the room only partially, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what materials she was stepping on. Choking on her gags (the room smelt disgusting), Piper sat down in a corner and waited.

She had nearly drowsed off when five out of the six occupants of the room entered. Piper sat motionless and nearly invisible in her secluded area. Her body responded by sitting more alertly and she went rigid. If her spell wore off at any time the doxy droppings would hit the fan. What would she do if her charm broke, say, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing here, hiding in a boy’s dormitory? Whoops, guess I just forgot which staircase led to my room!’? Teenage boys are dense, but not that dense.

“So, wait, where’s Remus?” Brett came in last and shut the door behind him.

“Sick aunt,” James said simply.

“That woman must be a right old hypochondriac. She gets sick like every month.” The Marauders laughed nervously. Brett continued to speak; he didn’t notice James fidgeting, Sirius’s shifty eyes, or Peter rummaging in his trunk for an emergency distraction (dung bombs always worked well). “Remus misses more school because of that old bat breaking her hip every other week and that mad rabbit getting loose and attacking people than anyone I know.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” James, Peter, and Sirius said. Peter held the dung bomb behind him discreetly, giving James and Sirius the Wink that said, ‘don’t worry; I’ve got it under control.’ Sirius, in return, gave Peter the Head Shake that said, ‘I’ve got a better idea.’

“Did you see Holly’s tits tonight?” Sirius said. Peter dropped his dung bomb sadly (he had been dying to use it), but he had to admit that Sirius’ distraction was better than his.

Sirius, James, Peter, and Brett were so accustomed to the layout of their room they did not pause to turn the lights on as they slunk to their beds, removed their robes and shirts, and kicked off their shoes (Piper had to duck out of Sirius’ loafers’ way). She heard the distinct tossing and turning of five boys finding a comfortable position in their beds. It was so dark in the room Piper could not roll her eyes at the speaker commenting on Holly’s generous bust.

“Nah, Holly’s got torpedo tits. She nearly poked my eye out when we fooled around in the equipment shed last winter.”

Again, Piper held back her revulsion.

Piper was used to the same discussions being held in her own dorm at night. ‘Did you see how Black’s muscles just rippled under that shirt he was wearing?’ ‘Forget Black, Zane beats all of them. He’s tall. He’s dark. He’s handsome. Plus, he’s well endowed…if you know what I mean.’ ‘Is it just me or do you think Peter is kind of cute in a chubby little boy way?’ ‘Remus Lupin really is a biter. I should’ve listened to Bailey.’

“If you’re looking for bazoongas, go look up Rory Coe. Remember her. She was that Slytherin with the long legs.” Piper recognized Sirius’ voice.

“You saw Rory Coe’s hooters?” Brett did not try to hide the disbelief in his tone.

“Nah, I’d never shag a Slytherin. She’s a slag—Dan, that Ravenclaw who dated Korey, told me all about her.”

“I’m waiting for the right pair of tits to come for me. My Mum always says that when I meet the right girl, I’ll know. The same’s prob’ly right for baps, yeah?”

Piper stopped listening after this.

She never quite knew how many terms there was for ‘breasts’ until she spent half her evening eavesdropping on five hormone driven fiends. She also never found out how the said hormone driven fiends could prattle about the said breasts for three…solid…hours.

Whether she was closer to death by way of torture or complete insanity did not matter when the whispers finally stopped and were replaced by steady breathing. Trying her best not to step on any creaky floorboards, Piper scooted out from under the bed. Her muscles ached and she felt as through she cricked her neck.

Lumos” A thin beam of light lit the room up partially.

Initially, Piper was just going to take all of Sirius’ clothes and throw them into the lake, but standing in a dormitory with five half naked boys can really bring the imagination out of a person. Piper pulled her wand out of her pocket, rolled up her sleeves, and grinned broadly.

Resisting the urge to giggle like a school girl, Piper giddily waved her wand.

* * * *

“Sirius…what happened to you?”

“Whaddyamean.” Sirius, still groggy from sleep, rubbed his eyes. He yawned, stretching his arms over his head. Sirius rolled over and buried his head in his pillow, desperate to sleep every second he could. All that talk about breasts really wore him out.

“Well…you’re looking a bit…peaky.”

Sirius felt fine. What was Brett going on about? Not only did he feel fine, but he felt excellent! He could hardly remember a time when he felt so healthy. He wasn’t about to break out in song and frolic in a meadow with a German dame, but his temperature seemed a healthy 98.6, his throat wasn’t sore or scratchy, and he was relatively sure he had all of his extremities. Sirius reached blindly for an object (his face was still facedown in his bed), found the stuffed dog James had jokingly given him last Christmas, and hucked it across the room in an expert lob that found Brett’s head.

“I’m serious, mate, you should head down to the infirmary.” Brett worriedly stroked the stuffed animal.

“I feel fiiiiiine—” Sirius’ sentence was lost as James and Peter woke, looked at his friend and screamed variations of, “BLOODY HELL, YOU’RE RED!”

Sirius only then observed his skin. James and Peter were right; he was indeed looking a bit red. Not just a bit red. His entire body, from his hair to his toes was bright crimson. And since he had not been dunked in a vat of tomatoes recently, Sirius was sure something was amiss. “AAAAAAARGGGH!!!” Sirius flew to the mirror in the corner and examined his skin, flabbergasted. Yes, something was wrong.

“Who’d want to dye Sirius scarlet?” Peter rubbed his eyes, just in case he was still sleeping and this was all part of some bizarre dream.

“Yeah, why would anyone turn you re—oh. Oh!” James snapped his fingers and bounced excitedly; laughing while Sirius scowled at himself in the mirror and ran to his trunk. James continued to shake with concentration as something in his mind started to click. James was close to unlocking the enigma that was Sirius’ skin color. There was some connection between the color red and a person. A person who was red? No, that wasn’t right. A person who had red hair? No, the only ‘ginger’ (as he lovingly called them) he knew was Lily and she couldn’t have anything to do with Sirius being colored.

In Sirius’ trunk everything had transformed into a delightful shade of cherry. His robes, his hat, even his cauldron and books were colored.

“Wait…” James tottered, a look of utmost concentration on his face. “Waiiiiit.” His eye twitched. “I’VE GOT IT! It was PIPER! She turned you RED! Get it? Because we call her ‘Red.’” Looking very pleased, James patted himself on the shoulder. “Well done, mate,” he said to himself. “Aw, it was nothing.”

Sirius understood. He pulled on a pair of his now red robes, sprinted out of the room and down the stairs into the common room where Piper Redden sat with her fingers pressed together in the chair closest to the staircases.

“YOU!” Sirius pointed a finger at Piper.

“Me?” Piper innocently pressed a hand against her chest and raised her brows.


It was relatively early in the morning and the common room was not by any standards full, but the few people who were idling about turned to look at the anomaly coming out of the boys’ staircases. Once they realized it was Sirius Black dyed red, they sniggered and looked on out of the corners of their eyes.

“Well,” Piper said wryly, “I only thought that since I like it when you called me Red so much I should show it.”

“And you thought that turning me into a bloody apple was the best way to show that?!” Sirius gestured to his bodice, looking extremely hysterical. Piper had done her work thoroughly. Only Sirius’ eyes were their regular grey color, since Piper didn’t think the spell would work on irises, the rest of his body was a brilliant shade of the brightest red imaginable.

Piper shrugged. “Don’t be so angry, Sirius. Besides, red is definitely your color.” She made a face that a football player would make to a rival player on an opposite team after scoring the winning goal, stepped around Sirius and exited the common room.

Outside, Piper did a victory dance.

“Oh, bloody hell, now she’s exhibiting signs of Mermaid Madness. Someone should get her to St. Mungo’s immediately.” Snipip said from a portrait on the wall.

Chapter 4: Late Night Rendezvous
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

You Hate Me
Chapter 4: Late Night Rendezvous

Piper was in the library. To convince herself to stay, she told herself she wasn’t hiding and that she really had Ancient Runes homework that had to be done and she wasn’t keeping herself in a crowded vicinity to protect herself from a red-free Sirius. If he wasn’t going to make her the subject of some practical joke because there were authority figures present, that was his problem.

“Care if I join you, Piper?” The silky voice of David Detweiller penetrated the library’s stillness.

All at once, four people said, “Shhhhhh,” two girls burst into giggles and a book fell to the floor. Piper, however, remained still.

David Detweiller was a seventh year, a Slytherin, and the Captain of the House team. He was incredibly handsome, incredibly charming, and incredibly womanizing. Last month alone he had three girlfriends, cheated on two of them with more than one woman, and tarnished the reputation of Gail Piermont after revealing she slept with him despite her strictly Catholic beliefs. David met Piper’s brother, Rhett while watching a Quidditch match at Ellis Moor two years ago and Rhett had been trying to convince Piper to befriend him ever since. However, like Piper told her brother, she would rather give birth to a chupacabra than befriend David Detweiller.

Without looking up from her Ancient Runes homework, Piper said, “Yes.”

“Yes you mind if I join you, or yes you’d love for me to sit down with you.” David angled his body toward the chair he was pulling out, inclining his body in a manner that said he was going to sit down with or without Piper’s approval.

“Yes I mind if you sit down,” Piper said emotionlessly, her voice bland and her face a sculpture.

David was not deterred.

“You know, I was just telling Perry during dinner that you get fitter every day.”

“That hardly seems possible. I’m sure when I’m eighty I’ll look like a hag, but if what you’re saying is true, I should look like Aphrodite.” Piper tried to feign indifference and scribbled a hasty translation on her parchment, but her façade was ruined when she snapped her quill into pieces she was gripping it so tightly.

“Some girls would kill to be on my mind.” David shifted his chair so he was closer to Piper. His shoulder bumped hers and his whisper became more pronounced. Piper could feel his breath on her neck. No doubt he was trying to be charming—and it was working. Piper shifted uncomfortably, turning away from David.

“I don’t condone murder,” Piper said.

David laughed musically and his mouth twitched. “We’d make a good pair, you and I.” His voice was so serious Piper would have believed him if she hadn’t seen him break girls’ hearts every other day since fourth year. She pitied any soul David Detweiller charmed, for it was truly hard not to fall under his spell. As his eyes bore into her neck, Piper concentrated on the pictograph of the Graphorn in front of her, wishing she could pull the creature out of the Rune she was deciphering and coerce it to impale David Detweiller with its sharp horns.

The Graphorn stayed resolutely in its picture form, leaving Piper no option but to gulp and concentrate on breathing as David stroked her bare arm. She didn’t have much experience with lecherous teen boys and the experience she did have, she blocked out of her mind, refusing to even acknowledge what had happened over the summer. As far as Piper was concerned, that particular incident never took place.

“I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.” Piper’s voice was oddly throaty.

“Only the good looking ones.” David smiled coyly, revealing his straight, white teeth. He brushed a strand of his curly blonde hair out of his eyes and slid closer to Piper still, looking at her through his dark lashes.

Since she was keeping her head down to further demonstrate her disinterest, Piper missed it when Sirius Black stood over her and only became aware of his presence when his shadow blocked out the light. She groaned upon seeing who her savior was. Not him, anyone but him!

“This wanker isn’t bothering you, is he?” Sirius had watched silently from behind a bookshelf as the conversation between David and Piper went downfall. Although he couldn’t hear the words he gathered the green tinge on Piper’s skin wasn’t caused by a wonderful chat. Coincidence—or perhaps it was fate—was on Sirius’ side, for he was moments away from checking out “Get a Shiny, Clean-Shaven Head with just One Spell!” when he saw Piper; and although it would have been nice to have all of her hair fall out of her head, he could do that any time he wanted (as a precaution he put the book on hold), h couldn’t, on the other hand, piss off both David Detweiller and Piper Redden in the same day.

“He is.” As an afterthought, Piper added, “And so are you.”

“Shove off, Black. Don’t you have a date with Potter?” David did not look away from Piper, who was shifting uncomfortably, but when he spoke to her he used a much quieter voice, meant only for her ears. Sirius yawned audibly and stretched; David glanced at Sirius then looked back at Piper.

“Shall we go somewhere…more…private?” David, still breathing on Piper’s neck, did not bother to hide the meaning of his words.

Piper felt dirty—extremely dirty and needed to close her eyes to keep from hurling all over Madame Pince’s valuable collection of Ancient Runes books. David Detweiller wanted to lure her away and shag her? Lower than low, Piper, she told herself as a shudder wove itself through her spine. Was she really so susceptible to a good looking guy she was willing to become a notch on Detweiller’s overflowing bedpost? Piper shook of her disgusted feeling, vowed to take a shower as soon as possible, and gathered her wits. Meanwhile, David calmly waited for the response he clearly thought was going to be a ‘yes.’

Piper shrugged away her shoulder , made a loud noise somewhere between a retch and a scream, and found herself dodging a well aimed Silencing Spell sent her way by Madame Pince.

“Looks like you were just shot down, mate,” Sirius said offhandedly. He casually leaned his back against a precarious bookcase, rubbing against it to scratch his back. The volumes on the shelf wobbled dangerously but Sirius continued to scratch the particularly stubborn itch.

“Looks like you should just mind your own business, Black.” David stood, and although he was at least four inches taller than Sirius, he was lanky and not very strong.

“Looks like I’m getting under your skin.” Sirius kept a wary eye on Madame Pince; although she was new, she was known for her obscure ways to keep quiet and order in her library.

“Looks like you’re nervous.” David’s wand was out. Annoyed by his continuous scratching, David made his way forward to teach Sirius a lesson. It was at this exact moment that the stacked tomes on the shelf Sirius was using as a back rub chose to topple over. The volumes had impeccable judgment and landed, one after the other, on David Detweiller’s head. Sirius cautiously lowered arms hands which he had used to protect his own head while the books were falling.

“Looks like you’re going to faint,” Sirius said gravely. David swayed slightly on the spot, blinked, and his knees crumpled beneath him, propelling him onto the hard library floor. If he was not knocked unconscious from the falling books, the floor made sure the job was taken care of.
He waited for Piper to say something scathing. Nothing came. Sirius looked up and in one second he gathered that, while David was playing macho man, Piper made her getaway. The evidence of Piper’s presence was a few Ancient Runes sheets, and the shutting of the library door.

He was on her heels within seconds. She wasn’t a very fast escapee and she lacked the stealth a Master Deserter should possess. And clearly, she was also an amateur Sirius-getter-away-from-er. Honestly, if she really didn’t want someone to find her she wouldn’t have taken a secret passageway to Gryffindor common room. Everyone uses those.

“I reckon that will go over well,” Sirius easily kept pace with Piper, “By tomorrow I’ll be a pansy who runs away from a fight…and…well…you’ll probably be a lesbian,” he said somberly. Out of the corner of his eye, he looked at her for the approval to laugh, surmised from Piper’s surly demeanor it would not be appropriate to chuckle, and remained quiet.

To keep her distance from Sirius, Piper swerved to the left side of the corridor, leaving Sirius to occupy the right. A comfortable five feet separated her from him, although she wouldn’t have objected to having ten or one hundred more units of length keeping them apart.

It was dusk, the darkness of the corridor hid Piper’s face from Sirius and his from hers. The roaring torches on the brackets illuminated them only partially, casting long, eerie shadows down the length of the hallway. The castle rang with a silence unknown to Sirius. It was peculiar to be walking down the deserted stairways and halls accompanied only by their clacking footsteps that were bringing them, unconsciously, to the Gryffindor common room. Even stranger was the hyperaware state Sirius was in; he was super responsive of Piper’s every movements, her every breath. It would be too easy for him to catch her unawares in a dimly lit, claustrophobic area.

“Trust me; everyone already knows you’re a pansy who runs away from fights.” The breaking of the silence startled Sirius, who jumped at Piper’s words. Although she hadn’t missed a beat in her response it seemed like her answer had taken an hour. He jumped at the opportunity to stay out of the silence Piper seemed so comfortable in.

“And everyone already thinks you’re a lesbian, so you’re safe too.” Again, out of the corner of his eyes, Sirius surveyed Piper. Her silhouetted profile did not reveal anything, but her stormy eyes flashed. She could have taught a statue lessons on how to remain stoic. He could see it now: Piper’s Statue Workshop. God knows, the statues in Hogwarts could have benefited from the seminars—they missed the memo that statues are supposed to stay stationary.

“I guess we have nothing to worry about then.”

“You mean I have nothing to worry about,” Sirius corrected. Out of his pocket he pulled Piper’s Ancient Runes essay and worksheet. He blew off some powder that had gathered on it while the parchment served time in Sirius’ pocket and waved the homework in front of Piper’s face. “What will Professor Xeno say when you don’t have your homework tomorrow?”

Piper coughed, some of the powder had landed on her face. She itched the areas where it had touched her skin absentmindedly, caring more about Sirius having her work in his possession than a bit of irritated skin. “You’re actually going to steal my homework?” Piper said seriously.

“No?” Sirius hadn’t meant for his reply to come out as a question. He had expected Piper to reach blindly for the paper and he was prepared to wave it out of her way. Her sudden change of demeanor had taken him by surprise. All traces of the impishness that usually characterized Piper were gone from her face; she wasn’t laughing, her eyes were not narrowed in anger, her arms weren’t crossed across her chest, nor was her mischievous crooked smile playing on her lips. Standing before him wasn’t a rival but a peer whose homework he had stolen. Piper’s eyes, so often flashing dangerously, were gazing calmly at Sirius for the first time.

He turned away from this new entity. Who was Piper if she wasn’t someone he could laugh at with his mates? There was a large assortment of misfits Sirius and his friends could make fun of, but they were too easy to ridicule. Of course, there was also the Slytherins, but they often took hexes the wrong way (didn’t they know knee-reversing hexes were just in fun and games?). If Sirius had been Goldilocks (and he wished he never had to become a little blonde girl in the woods) Piper would have been his little bear. Piper was just right. She was his equal and if any part of that image was lost making her the object of their jokes wouldn’t be fun anymore.

Suddenly Sirius felt childish. He tried not to show her he felt idiotic, but he couldn’t help but scuff his trainers against the floor. Just because Piper wasn’t acting like the hooligan Sirius knew she was didn’t mean he had to act like a first year.

“Obviously I wasn’t going to steal your homework. I’m not a first year, Redden.” Sirius said, voicing his thoughts.

Piper cocked her head to the side and raised her eyebrows slightly. “You never said anything about calling you ‘Redden,’ only ‘Red.’” Sirius gave Piper the sheet of parchment. Cautiously she inspected it and, after it passed her examination, she placed it carefully into her pocket to keep it safe from any other homework-hungry fiends. “And don’t roll your eyes at me.” Piper stopped her eyes mid-roll and went cross-eyed for a moment.

Simultaneously they began to walk at the same speed to the common room. Piper’s spring in her step was back, as was the devilish grin that said, ‘I know something you don’t know. Ha.’ Sirius hated that grin.

“So what did Davy want from you anyway?” The conversation between Piper and David had been very intriguing to Sirius. What did David Detweiller, the Slytherin pig, want with Piper? Sirius had only seen David with girls he wanted to shag and he had never seen David actually talking to a female unless sex was on his mind. Something in Sirius’ mind registered that Piper probably did have breasts, but he couldn’t picture her as a sexual being. Guys couldn’t actually want to do Piper. Could they? She wasn’t fit enough to shag. Was she? He would have to ask James. James would know. Or perhaps Remus. Not wanting to come off as pervy, Sirius quickly examined Piper’s torso. Well, she definitely had breasts.

“What are you looking at, Black?” Piper brushed off a nonexistent something from her robes, thinking that Sirius was eying crumbs from dinner or excessive lint on the fabric.

“Nothing,” Sirius said quickly. Having breasts didn’t mean anything. Guys didn’t want to have sex with a bird because she had nice breasts. Did they? It was all too confusing for Sirius. But he was certain Piper wasn’t feminine enough to warrant David Detweiller’s attention. And if she was…Well, it was far easier to take the piss out of her when Sirius viewed her as a testosterone filled man in a woman’s body. With breasts.

“I’ll bet he wasn’t asking for studying tips,” Sirius remarked after the question hung, unnoticed, in the air for a few more steps.


“Detweiller. I’ll bet he wasn’t asking you for help on his homework.”

Piper itched her face, stalling. She would not tell Sirius Black David Detweiller was hitting on her. She would never hear the end of it. She would go from being Black’s enemy to Detweiller’s slut in a matter of an hour if the proper people were told. “He was just…asking me…ifffffff,” Piper squeezed her eyes shut, hoping Sirius couldn’t see her strained face in the dim light, “I could set him up with Lily.”

“You did tell him no, right?” Piper breathed easier; Sirius believed her lie.

“I told him to go fuck himself and then I told him that if he wanted to get into Lily’s pants he could ask her himself.”

Sirius nodded, satisfied; but he surmised by the twitch of Piper’s mouth that there was more to the story. Resolving to find out what Piper was hiding, and determined to discover the common opinion of Piper’s attractiveness, Sirius stopped in front of the Fat Lady.

“Holy Hippogriff!” Sirius said to the Fat Lady, who smiled and swung inward in a half-sleep. In a bout of chivalry, Sirius gestured for Piper to go in before him.

“’Night, Redden,” Sirius said as they branched off to walk up their designated staircase.

“’Night, Black,” Piper said. While she walked up the stairs she continued to scratch her face, for it itched very badly and she didn’t know why.

Zane and Keith were in the dormitory when Sirius entered. That was good, for Sirius needed some diversity for the question he was going to ask.

“SIRIUS IS ON MY TEAM!” James pointed at Sirius and jumped feverishly off his bed to land loudly on the floor.

“On what team?” Sirius asked, sidetracked by James’ eagerness.

“We’re going to have a relay race across the lake. Losers have to do ten laps around the castle on the school brooms stark naked.” Keith answered while stripping into more lightweight clothes, just as excited as James.

“Er…I can’t swim.” Sirius said slowly. “Besides, I would give you guys an uneven number.”

“I thought you told me you were training to swim the English Channel.” Zane said, pulling off his trainers.

“Yeah, well first I have to learn to swim, don’t I?” Sirius said defensively. He had said he was going to swim the Channel, but that was only because he wanted to impress Katie Wilson, who was two years older than he.

“Well then you can be the judge.” James said, refusing to allow Sirius not to take part in what he thought was going to be a fun excursion.

“Wait. I have to ask you guys a question first.” Sirius put both hands up to tell his friends to stop. He needed them to be rational if the answers were going to be realistic.

James sat down first, he had only heard Sirius say he needed to ask a question rarely and it was only under grave circumstances. Keith sat down next, grumbling, “Get it over with, already.” Zane hit Keith on the top of his head with a fist. “Shut up,” the older said. Remus and Peter also found various forms of furniture to sit on in order to give Sirius their full attention.

“Right, well,” Sirius said, unsure how to phrase it. Best to be blunt, mate. “Right,” he repeated, “What do you guys think of Piper Redden? Would you shag her? You wouldn’t’ right?”

“Well, whaddya mean? Like is it a hypothetical situation? Is it like, would you rather shag Piper Redden or Gertrude Sheldon? Or, say, if Piper was lying naked on your bed would you have a go at her?” Keith said. He counted off the situations on his fingertips. He mulled his last image over in his mind with an open mouthed smile. “Definitely.”

“She’s not exactly a hag, mate,” James said reasonably.

“Or, is it like a choice between Piper and Korey?” Keith continued. “’Cause there I’m not so sure.”

“If you were, say, David Detweiller, would you hit on her?”

A chorus of “Probably’s,” “Sure’s,” “YES’s,” and one “You’re bloody right I would” rang around the room.

Sirius groaned.

“What’s wrong, Padfoot?” James said, patting his friend on the shoulder. “Yeah, what’s up?” Brett called. “Seriously, what’s with you, Padfoot?” Peter echoed.

“This is going to sound stupid but,”

“There are no stupid answers,” Peter said wisely. He smiled smugly, knowing his intelligence had cheered up his friend.

“It’s there are no stupid questions, Peter.” Remus said to Peter.

Zane laughed, “Dumbass,” To Sirius he prompted, “Go on.”

“Okay, well,” Sirius buried his face in his hands and twirled a strand of air around his finger idly. “Isn’t it easier to hate someone if you don’t view them as a person?” He began, testing out this newfound theory on the six of them.

“What, did you think she was a fucking cyborg or something?” Brett said incredulously, viewing Sirius with worried eyes. More reasonably he said, “I mean, she has got breasts.”

“Cyborgs could have breasts, though,” Remus said fairly.

“True,” Brett nodded in agreement, dropping the argument. “But even a complete wanker would know Piper Redden isn’t a robot.” He tapped his foot anxiously. The lake wasn’t going to wait all night. “No offense, Sirius,” he added.

“None taken,” Sirius said, defeated. He lifted himself onto the table; it wobbled under his and Zane’s combined weight, but held fast. “Okay, well let me put it this way. Isn’t it easier to be mean to a dog than a person? Since they’re not really people you don’t feel as bad for hating them.”

“She isn’t a dog though,” Peter said. The five others nodded, confused. Piper didn’t have a tail or whiskers and as far as they could tell she didn’t go to classes on all fours. Sirius’ friends had accepted his somewhat unreasonable hatred of Piper. They thought he would grow out of it; but when it was clear he wasn’t going to let go of his suspicion of Piper, they had given up and learned to live with his constant plots against the girl. Everyone had their ticks in the group: Zane snapped his fingers when he was concentrating; James ruffled his hair absentmindedly, Brett hummed “The Hippogriff’s Lament” under his breath, and Sirius plotted against Piper Redden. And if Sirius was going to put less time and energy into making Piper miserable it only meant he could put more time and energy into creating real mischief. It was relieving. James, Peter, and Remus had grown tired of wasting their clever ideas on some girl that was going to come back at them with a better, cleverer trick. Although the occasional joke played on her wouldn’t hurt anyone. Except perhaps them.

“Besides, my mum’s got a dog and she likes it more than me.” Zane said, pretending to be upset. He punched Sirius affectionately on the shoulder. “Just look at it this way, mate: maybe you’re growing up and finally realizing you don’t need to be a dick to certain people to feel good about yourself. And maybe you’re also realizing that Piper’s hot, even though she’s a bitch. Now, let’s go swimmin’!” Each boy jumped up enthusiastically, pumping their fists in the air.

Louder than a herd of buffalo, they swarmed out of the door. James paused on the first step. “You comin’ Paddy?”

“Nah, I’m just gonna sleep this one off.”

Sirius dozed off into a fitful sleep, determined to get all thoughts out of his mind of him disliking Piper any less. Besides, maybe it would be easier to dislike her if she was a human. German Shepherds can’t come up with feisty comebacks like Piper. Sirius didn’t miss James’, Keith’s, and Brett’s triumphant hollers of joy. Nor did he miss Remus’, Zane’s, and Peter’s cries as the cold wind hit their bare bodies.

* * * *

Sirius was halfway to the Great Hall with a large group of Gryffindors the next morning when someone or something grabbed him by the hood of his robes and rooted him from the spot, powerfully pulling him into a deserted classroom. The crowd he was walking with was so large no one noticed Sirius’ sudden disappearance.

The person who pulled Sirius into the classroom was unraveling a scarf from their face. Presently, Sirius decided this person wasn’t a person at all, but a thing. A boiled covered thing. He muffled a yell with his hands. The thing’s hands gripped both sides of Sirius’ collar tightly after throwing the scarf onto a table.

“You bloody well have an explanation for this, Black, because if you don’t I’ll…I’ll…I’ll do something really terrible.”

Sirius could recognize that voice anywhere. But what was Piper’s voice doing coming from a multi sized, red pustule covered thing? Maybe, he ventured, the monster ate Piper and she was furious at Sirius for allowing it to happen. But then, why did the ugly thing have Piper’s flashing blue grey eyes as well. No being could have Piper’s powerful eyes. Unless the monster stole those too…

“Piper?” Sirius said, peering at the thing’s stomach, wondering if Piper was in there.

“Yeah, it’s Piper, and if you don’t start explaining how I ended up looking like a member of Professor Plato’s Freak Show I’ll turn you into the Bearded Woman! Or maybe the Dog Boy. I don’t know which is more fitting.” Piper, for Sirius discerned the monster hadn’t eaten Piper but was Piper, tightened her hold on Sirius’ collar. She was practically nose to nose with Sirius—the closest they had ever been. Sirius was relieved to find he was nearly uncomfortable (Marauders are never uncomfortable around women, even Piper Redden) at their closeness, for it meant his subconscious still viewed her as a force to be reckoned with.

He laughed, which sent the wrong message to Piper. She had no idea just how profitable he would be to Professor Plato as the Dog Boy. “You think this is funny do you?” To avoid strangling Sirius, Piper grabbed his clumsily fastened tie and pulled his face closer to hers. He shook his head nervously, forgetting the rest of his body was perfectly capable of escaping.

“Bulbadox Powder,” Sirius choked out in a strangled tone. “Bulbadox Powder in pocket got on face.” Sirius used as little words as possible to save what little breath he had in his lungs on the chance Piper’s next step was complete asphyxiation. He had never gotten around to taking the Bulbadox Powder out of his pocket like James suggested a week ago. Somewhere along the line the odd accumulation of objects in Sirius’ pocket must have punctured a hole in the bag.

“Then why haven’t you got boils all of your bleedin’ face?” Piper rattled Sirius slightly.

“Immunity,” Sirius was not sure when Bulbadox Powder developed the side affect of superhuman strength; he was going to leave the classroom decapitated if Piper continued manhandling him. “Wait, you don’t think I did it on purpose, do you?” He suspected from Piper’s accusatory words she thought just that. She would not believe it was accidental, not with their history.

“Please,” she released him to fasten her scarf around her boily face, “You expect me to believe it was an accident?” Piper scoffed. She was much less terrifying a broomstick’s length away with a fluffy scarlet scarf around her visage. She laughed humorlessly when Sirius nodded. “Go shag yourself.” She made sure the scarf was secure and said, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a boil cure potion to make.”

Sirius rubbed his neck. Vanity, it seemed, was her weakness. But how could he take advantage of her wanting to look nice without treating her like a girl (for Sirius decided the night previously he would stick to tricks only blokes would do to blokes when Piper was on the receiving end)? He couldn’t. Piper really was a hard wired female, from her breasts to her cuticles and he needed to accept that. So then, he wondered that did that meant he was just screwing around with some girl’s mind? Half of the school must think I’m a sadist. He couldn’t go up to Piper and say, “Right, well, I’m sorry for everything. Want to be best friends?” either. Nor did he want to. Piper was, quite literally, the spawn of evil. She didn’t deserve to be at Hogwarts. She hardly deserved his attention.

There it was! He would ignore her and find inconspicuous ways to drive that family-loving idiot crazy. He had never tried not paying attention to her. It was a perfect idea. Others would see him as more mature for not picking on a girl and she would spend every second wondering if Sirius was going to hex her behind her back. As long as his lack of attention didn’t make her even angrier and as long as her next stunt didn’t warrant his attention, the plan was fool proof. And since Sirius was pretty sure he was a fool, he thought it was a good idea to have a plan that was infallible.

Chapter 5: What's My Name Again?
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You Hate Me
Chapter 5: What’s my Name Again?

Sirius wasted no time in finding James, Peter and Remus and telling him about accidentally blowing Bulbadox Powder over Piper’s face and describing her rage induced interrogation of Sirius. He whispered bits of the story out of the corner of his mouth during lessons, but it wasn’t until they were walking back to the common room after dinner that they had a chance to discuss the fiasco in depth. James thought the whole stunt was brilliant. It was even more amusing to the Marauders because the entire prank had been entirely accidental. “The funniest thing you’ve ever done to Redden and it wasn’t even intentional! I’d like to see her with boils all over her face.” Sirius then illustrated how terrifying Piper was with abscesses all over her face and that shut them up. He didn’t reveal his newfound idea of ignoring Piper to seem more mature—that would defeat the point of the plan in the first place.

James stopped abruptly, holding up his hands to indicate his fellow Marauders should stop also. Sirius swore he saw James’ nostrils flare. James closed his eyes and waited, listening keenly like Sirius had seen Chimaera hunters do in Greece. Moments after James halted, Lily rounded the corner.

“Oh, hello,” Lily said pleasantly, huffing slightly from the weight she was carrying on her shoulder. “I only just got Piper’s homework from Professor Flitwick. She must be very ill; she wouldn’t even come out of the bathroom this morning. I just hope she doesn’t fall behind in our classes.” Sirius tried not to look guilty. “Anyway,” Lily turned to the Fat Lady, “Rutilus.”

The Fat Lady did not move. Lily repeated herself but the Fat Lady remained shut. “Do any of you know the password?” Lily asked, still breathing heavily.

James, who had been staring dreamily at Lily with a goofy open mouthed smile, jumped back into reality. Sirius counted down from three in his head. James to the rescue in three….two…one. Remus and Peter both began to say the password obligingly but James covered their mouths with his hands, gruffly smothering out their words. James frowned; didn’t they know this was his chance?

“Now Lily, one would say you are in quite a predicament.” He thought of a metaphor. “Passwords are a bit like keys, wouldn’t you say? Now, I’ll give you this key,” he pointed his finger at Lily, who looked rather disgusted, “if you give me,” James changed the direction of his finger and pointed at himself, “the key to your heart. Huh? Huh?” James nodded arrogantly and winked.

Peter pulled his shirt up over his eyes to block out the vision in front of him. Remus was already grimacing and Sirius mumbled, “Bad move, mate.”

“Well James,” Lily’s lashes fluttered prettily. “Of course I’ll give you the key. Why didn’t you just ask earlier?”

Sirius took a step behind James incase he decided to faint.

James clapped his hands together. “Well then. CHERRY TARTS!” The Fat Lady opened silently behind Lily. “So Lily, I was thinking we could go to Hogsmeade and go to the Three Broomsticks and then we could walk to Honeydukes and then—” James began all in one breath, voicing the first date he had planned for him and Lily since third year. He continued to babble about what they would do in Hogsmeade, leaving out the planned topics they would talk about so he wouldn’t scare her off.

Lily made a pained expression. She had moved into the doorway as James spoke. “Er… actually, James.” James stopped talking, if Lily had something to add to their date it would only make the day better. “I just visited the locksmith and changed the lock so that key really isn’t any good. Sorry.”

James huffed grumpily as Lily closed the portrait hole. He stood motionless and with an expression of downright surprise on his face. “Damnit!” James snapped his finger angrily, but his friends breathed easier, they thought he was brain dead from rejection. “I really thought I had her that time!”

“You almost did, Prongsy. You almost did,” Sirius said comfortingly. Sirius himself thought Lily finally snapped and accepted James’ proposal for a millisecond.

They walked into the common room cautiously, expecting Piper to jump out nowhere cackling maniacally and casting spell after spell at them. After a brief investigation the Marauders found she wasn’t in the common room at all. She wasn’t hiding behind the first years, she hadn’t crawled under the couches or tables, nor was she lurking behind the curtains. The common room was completely Piper-free. Just as a precaution, Sirius used an eager second year as a human shield as he walked to the staircases. He urged the same second year to go into their dormitory first to check for any foul play. The boy came out unscathed except for a broken ankle, but that was only because he slipped on Remus’ chocolate wrappers.

November brought darker days and colder nights. First years were drafting Christmas lists to send home to their families and fifth years were planning an epic snowball attack on the Slytherins; but the Antarctic climate outside persuaded even the most enthusiastic of the bunch to stay inside rather than scout out the prime location for the battle. The common rooms were the warmest parts in the castle, which often meant Gryffindor tower was overflowing with people. Sirius decided Piper must be in her room, for everywhere else in the castle was drafty. As a precaution, the Marauders waited until Brett came inside for the night and locked and barricaded the door. It was a risky move because Piper could have been hiding in one of their trunks of wardrobes and they were essentially locking themselves in and making her job much easier, but they were willing to take the chance.

Friday morning, after a thorough investigation of their skin, hair, homework, manhood, wands, broomsticks, and clothes, the occupants of the Gryffindor sixth deemed it safe to venture out (Brett also thought the Bulbadox Powder was brilliant but he did not want to feel Piper’s wrath upon him). The meticulous nature of the checking and double checking of their safety made all of the Marauders late for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Sirius was an additional ten minutes late. Victoria wanted Sirius to walk her to Muggle Studies and although Sirius wanted to use their stroll as a chance to tell Victoria he wasn’t serious about her, she wanted to talk about shoes.

Vivid images of stilettos and pumps dancing in his brain, Sirius went to his seat without explanation to Professor Connor. He even managed not to smirk at Piper or whisper something cheeky. James saved Sirius his usual seat directly behind Piper. It had been their seat of choice because it meant they could toss crumpled bits of parchment at Piper’s head and when she would turn around they could whistle innocently and stare at the ceiling. This act was very amusing but Sirius was glad for the seat behind Piper for a different reason today—he wouldn’t have to catch her eye all class if he played his cards right, and that would be smashing.

Professor Connor, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, called order to the class. He was ignored and began class without his student’s attention in a monotone. After the first class of the year the students of Hogwarts discerned Professor Connor was not a hard arse like McGonagall and they found they could get away with essentially anything in the class. Korey was already looking at the new Shirtless Quidditch Players of the Year Calendar under her desk with Lily and Sanaa (Mr. November was particularly “chiseled”).

“Today we will be learning about Dementors. Who can tell me about Dementors? Anyone? No. Well Dementors guard the Wizarding prison Azkaban. Which you should all know of course. When was Azkaban founded? By whom? Does anyone know? Well it was founded by none other than…” The entire back row was already asleep. “Now you may think my lessons are boring but I suggest you pay attention because the work I received from all of you on your last assignment was complete and utter CRAPPOLA!” Professor Connor threw down a startled Hufflepuff’s graded homework assignment on his table. Everyone jumped. He had their attention now. “I will not hesitate to give each and every one of you zeroes at the end of the year!”

Professor Connor was an eccentric man with a thick accent and an even thicker moustache who was prone to mood swings. Last Monday he nearly bored the class to death about vampires and then burst into a speech about the unfairness of life. However startling his tangents were at first, the longer they went on the more comical they became. It was no wonder that every student was burying their heads in their hands or disguising their sniggers. Connor muttered something about insubordinate students and gave the class a reading assignment. Connor took the opportune silence to down an impressive amount of his “medicinal” tea.

Piper chose that moment to spin her head around as far as possible without actually moving her body and glare at Sirius. She did nothing more than glare, but in Sirius’ eyes, the glare was just as effective as pantomiming his untimely death would have been. So much for not catching her eye.

“Wait, she doesn’t think we have something to do with her face, does she?” Peter poked Sirius hard in the back of the head as Piper faced forward. He just noticed Piper’s Evil Eye and was unsure whether it was intended for all Marauders or just one. He hoped it was just meant for Sirius, he hated the Evil Eye. She was too good at it.

“I don’t think so.” Sirius wondered the same thing. They hadn’t really cleared that up when Piper was mauling him.

“Well let’s find out.” James whispered roguishly, listening to their conversation. “Pssssssst, Piper! Piiiiiiiiper!” Piper turned fully to acknowledge James’ ridiculously loud whispers. “You look hot today!” James waved his face with his hand to emphasize his feigned belief of Piper’s hotness. He winked devilishly at her.

Piper gave James the finger, holding it for a full twenty seconds and giving him the full power of her glower. “Shove off!” She hissed back at him and faced the board again. “Wankers,” She said angrily under her breath. It carried back to the Marauders.

“Well,” James said, satisfied, “if she didn’t think we were involved before she does now.”

“Whyyyyyyyyy?” Peter cried, making the one syllable word into a remarkable ten.

“Marauders stick together,” James, Remus, and Sirius said.

“Do we have to?” Peter knew the answer.


The one-sided staring contest between Piper and Sirius continued throughout the day. The Marauders knew Piper would find a way to retaliate, and the sly grins and fierce looks she gave them were scary. It was a question of when she would act and who her victim would be. James and Sirius were the most likely targets and acted accordingly. At breakfast they were cautious, by lunch James and Sirius were nervous, but by the time supper rolled around, they were completely paranoid.

James had become accustomed to carrying around his Invisibility Cloak, while Sirius continuously consulted the Marauder’s Map for Piper’s whereabouts. They did not stop these shenanigans until Remus pointed out that they were acting with less valor than the group of Hufflepuff first years passing by them.

A week passed and Piper still didn’t retaliate. The silence she was giving them was worse than outright anger. But when the days continued to dwindle by the Marauders thought that, at last, Piper had given up. Why else had she not confronted them? What other explanation was there for her sudden disappearance t to the public eye? Sirius was so exuberant. He knew his plan would work, but even he didn’t know it would be so effective that quickly. Underneath his delight in Piper’s supposed surrender was a hint of melancholy, and underneath his sadness was the smallest bit of him that was uneasy. He couldn’t trust Piper and since he had only seen her in lessons he couldn’t tell if her desire to diffuse their rivalry was sincere. Even worse, Sirius did not know if it was possible for him to be civil to her; if Piper wasn’t his arch nemesis, who was she?

“Looks like we—well you—finally beat Piper Redden.” James said during Potions the next Wednesday.

Piper was working feverishly several tables away with her head bowed and she did not hear her name mentioned. Severus Snape, who was working next to her, did. He turned his head slightly to listen more carefully. If those tossers were plotting against Piper it was his duty to tell her and offer bury them in the high banks of snow that had manifested on the grounds.

“I’m not sure. Don’t you think she is trying to lull us into a sort of…false sense of security?” Sirius voiced his unease to see if James, Peter, and Remus felt similarly.

“I’m telling you, she’s done. She won’t even look at us anymore.” James tossed several porcupine quills into his potion and Peter, who was watching out of the corner of his eye, followed suit and did the same. “Besides, what would she do to hurt us? Sexual torture? I wouldn’t mind to tell you the truth.” James elbowed Sirius suggestively in the ribs, but the sudden gesture made Sirius drop an entire fire crab’s heart into his potion instead of just a teaspoon and the liquid solidified before Sirius’ eyes. “That can be fixed,” James said offhandedly.

“Sexual torture. How inspired,” Remus said dryly, not taking his eyes off of his sparking potion.

“I’ve heard she is quite promiscuous,” Peter piped in.

“You shouldn’t use words you can’t spell, Wormtail,” Sirius snapped. Stress was weighing Sirius, making him more irritable. He had never met a more confusing female than Piper. Nor had his feelings been more confused about another person. Sirius categorized things into black and white. Either he enjoyed someone’s company or he disliked it. For example, Sirius liked his Quidditch team but he disliked his family; Sirius enjoyed Defense Against the Dark Arts while he found Divination quite loathsome. He hated Piper, yet he loved making her angry, she was interesting to be around if only for the entertainment she provided, Piper proved an equal, and she sparked feelings that Sirius didn’t know existed. They didn’t have names, even. At the same time he would find himself wanting to laugh at her and punch her but found he could not because she was a girl. Sirius would think he knew exactly what Piper was thinking one second and then have her surprise him the next. He did not like it that Piper did not fit in with his carefully crafted categorizations of people. Not one bit.

Peter, who was trying to spell out promiscuous in his head hurried to fix his potion, which was slowly evaporating. When his potion was righted, he asked, “Do you really think she gave up then?”

James, Remus, and Sirius rolled their eyes. “Look, I’m telling you,” James continued, “She’s given up, we’ve won.”

Sirius nodded, but he was still unsure if he believed it. Until she confronted him, Sirius would not pay Piper any attention.

Professor Slughorn wandered around the class and shook his finger at the boys, who hurried to pretend like they were creating their potion. “Now gather round, gather round.” He called as he neared Piper and Snape’s table; the class obeyed. “I have a class full of brilliant potion makers! I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them went on to work with potions professionally,” Slughorn beamed at Piper, Lily, and Snape in turn. Piper’s lip curled. “I’ll bet you wouldn’t mind working as Potions Master at Hogwarts one day, eh, Severus,” Slughorn squeezed Snape’s shoulder. Snape looked murderous, but he held back his grimace. “Now, notice the subtle differences between these three potions.” He shook the phials filled with yellow liquid, “Severus’ produces a stronger aroma, while Lily’s is a bit denser, and Piper’s is so potent I just feel like SINGING!” At the class’ raised eyebrows, Slughorn explained exasperatedly, “The Elixir to Induce Euphoria often has a side-effect of excessive singing.” Duh.

“Ooooh, of course Snivellus has the best potion in the class.” James said in a singsong voice, going up into a falsetto that nearly broke the glass on the phials.

“Yesss, James, smell the arooooma!” Sirius sang as well, though in a deeper voice.

“Now really, boys!” Professor Slughorn frowned, yet a smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. He looked about ready to add in his own chorus but was interrupted by the loud, ringing, bell. “We’ll have to finish our opera another time. Don’t forget to pick your essays and homework on the way out!” Slughorn called out, barley hearable over the din the students were making.

Either Sirius was imagining it or Piper was packing up as quickly as possible and positively sprinting out of the dungeon and into the corridor. The dungeon was drafty and he himself was keen to leave. She wasn’t even glaring at Sirius anymore, maybe she was feverish. Sirius did not have much time to ponder Piper running away, the moment he ascended the stairs a piercing cry echoed through the corridor. All color drained from Sirius’ face.

“Oh God.” Sirius’ voice shook, his eyes widened.

“SIRI?” The sound of clacking heels followed the voice. “Hide me!” Sirius lunged for sanctuary behind Peter, Remus and James; he pressed them together and crouched behind the bulk they provided. “SIRI WEARY?” Sirius’ efforts to hide behind his friends doubled.

“Quick, Disillusion me!” Sirius choked hoarsely. His request was met with laughter. “I’m not joking, fucking hide me!” Sirius reached adequate cover just in time by barging through Peter and Remus and hiding crouching behind the wall their builds provided; perfectly concealed, he watched as she advanced, heels clacking louder than ever.

“Hey, Victoria,” Remus acknowledged to a breathless Victoria; she was quite winded from all that running.

“Hey you guys haven’t seen Sirius, have you? I could’ve sworn he was just right here!” Victoria tried to look in between the combined shoulders of James, Peter and Remus but they wouldn’t budge.

If the high, loud, and squeaky soprano voice of Victoria Janx did not ensure dislike, one only had to look at her more closely. Victoria was a seventh year Hufflepuff; she was highly unintelligent despite her best efforts to hide it by acting lovably clueless, she had achieved a super skinny state by a diet of minimal food, and her dyed platinum blond hair was a salonist’s marvel—it managed to stay insanely straight, soft, and long while refusing to fall out (indeed, her salonist Raphael warned her that any further dying sessions would probably leave her bald). Fortunately, Victoria’s mind was so full of mindless knowledge and she was so preoccupied with shopping and learning cosmetic spells she had little time, energy, and wits to be cruel to others. She had closely set hazel eyes shaped like lopsided almonds which she offset with mass amounts of mascara and eyeliner; her bottom lip was full and her top lip was nearly nonexistent which she disguised by applying lip gloss and lip liner every ten minutes; she was pale yet freckles dotted her nose when a thick layer of foundation did not hide them; her jaw was full, her mind was empty, and she was completely smitten with Sirius Black.

“Come on, you guys, where is he?” Victoria playfully patted Remus on the chest. “I mean he can’t just disappear!” She giggled. Sirius wondered if she could communicate with bats at that frequency. She placed her hands on her narrow hips and beamed. “Are you playing a trick on me?” James, Peter, and Remus shuffled slightly to hide Sirius as Victoria skipped forward. “YOU ARE!” Again, she giggled. Remus, Peter, and James smiled nervously. “It’s like hide and seek! Where are you Siri?”

Just as Victoria turned to find Sirius Professor McGonagall came up behind the cluster of boys positively clogging up the corridors. She knew there must be a source for the slow pace and here it was: Black on his hams behind Potter, Lupin, and Pettigrew, who were shoulder to shoulder and legs together, serving as a sort of wall. “Mr. Black, what on earth are you doing down there on the ground?”

“He’s not technically on the ground, Professor, he’s squatting,” Peter pointed out.

James acted out flipping through pages in a dictionary until he came across his quarry. “Ah, yes, the squat: not quite standing, not quite sitting.”

“Well squat or stand or sit you boys are clogging up the corridor. Stand up this instant, Mr. Black!” Sirius shook his head vigorously, put his finger vertically to his mouth and mouthed “shhhhhhhhh.” “Don’t you ‘shhhhhh’ me, Black. Up you get, come on now, before I dock points.”

“From her own House…” Sirius muttered for Remus to hear and, grimacing, he stood. The response was instant. Victoria spotted him and, as if a Red Rover professional, she broke through his human wall and embraced Sirius round the neck.

“Oh, Siri, I found you!” If Sirius was uncomfortable it was nothing compared to the heat that was rising to Professor McGonagall’s cheeks. She loudly cleared her throat but her attempts at ending the embarrassing displays of affection were drowned out by Victoria’s voice. “Oh Sirius were you on the floor this whole time? What were you doing down there, silly?”

“I…uh…I dropped a Galleon,” said Sirius, trying to untangle his neck from Victoria’s hands. He winked at McGonagall; she rolled her eyes and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like “teenagers.” Although they had disbanded from their wall, those moving to classes continued to shove angrily past. Professor McGonagall quickly went into Reprimand Mode and rushed after those that had rudely pushed by her, forgetting about the points she was going to dock from Sirius.

In this confusion Victoria latched onto Sirius even tighter. Her voice went an octave lower and slightly more seductive as she whispered into Sirius’ ear. “I’ve just come from the library—it’s empty.” With a giggle, Victoria wove her fingers through Sirius’ and guided him through the packed corridors into the nearly empty library.

The library was dimly lit. Students without a lesson studied with lanterns at scattered tables. Stifling her giggles, Victoria led Sirius through the tables into the very back of the library where the obscure sections were. These particular crannies were used by couples who found broom cupboards uncomfortable and since the cold winter was in full gear the niches were becoming more popular. Victoria favored the biography section because there were fewer books and the carpet was softer, but Sirius always felt strange snogging with Newt Scamander looking down on him.

Sirius was about to voice his discomfort when the selfsame book fell atop his head. The sharp edge of the book had hit Sirius on the crown of his head and he was sure Newt had purposefully hurt him to punish Sirius for desecrating the sacred area that was the library. He held back a groan while Victoria stifled her giggles. She kicked the tome aside, pushed Sirius against the shelves, and pressed her lips against his.

“Vic, stop. St—Stop.” It was extremely difficult for Sirius to speak with Victoria’s lips mashed against his. With a ravenous look on her face, Victoria broke away from Sirius to pull off her heavy robe. Sirius didn’t know how she could stand there in only a jumper and jeans; he was freezing with three layers on. He took advantage of his momentary freedom nonetheless. “Look, Victoria, I—I don’t think we can do this anymore. I mean, I think we should stop seeing each other.”

Victoria stopped kissing Sirius’ neck. She searched Sirius’ face for any trace of a joke. “Oh, Siri, you’re so funny!” Undeterred, Victoria launched herself at Sirius and ruffled his hair with her hands while leaving trails of kisses along his jaw.

Sirius pushed Victoria off, which required a surprising amount of strength. He held her at his arm’s length. Victoria held an expression similar to a lion that had been put off its lunch. Stay strong, man! Sirius lowered his lashes and gazed deep into Victoria’s strangely close eyes. If Victoria had been a Legilimens she would have been hearing thoughts that were not nearly as sensitive as the words pouring from Sirius’ mouth. “Look, Vic, you’re leaving in a few months and I think if we keep seeing each other it will only make it harder for us to be apart. Besides, you’re going to have to start studying for N.E.W.T.s soon and we’ll have less and less time to be with each other. You’re better off without me anyway. I’ll only break your heart, or you’ll break mine. It’s just easier if we end it now, don’t you agree?” The sincerity in his voice was heart wrenching.

“Oh, Sirius, you’re so sweet.” Victoria had plans to ensnare Sirius in a goodbye kiss that would be so passionate it would keep him longing for her until he left Hogwarts, but just as she put her hands around the back of his head Madame Pince came down the narrow hallway and saw her favorite biography of Newt Scamander on the floor with a dent in one of the corners and a dirty shoe mark on the side; she then saw the culprits.

Sirius, ever the gentleman, gave Victoria a swift kiss on the cheek, said, “It’s over,” and then he ran for his life, Madame Pince’s books following him.


Piper did not have a lesson at the end of the day on Wednesdays and after a brisk walk to the Owlery to send a letter to her father, Piper found herself jogging back into the castle with plans to study in the common room. It was terribly cold outside, the temperature was the lowest Piper had ever felt it. It was so cold it couldn’t even snow, which was as relief; it had been snowing non stop for the past week, the constant fluttering of sticky snowflakes resulted in giant snow drifts. The shining sun against the white snow nearly blinded Piper and her she was wet up to her knees. Thoughts of a warm shower suddenly seemed much more invigorating than studying.

The sudden warmth of the castle hit Piper hard and thawed out her numb toes. The corridors were deserted, sounds of lectures carried out from under the cracks in the doors lining the hall and it wasn’t comforting to Piper when she realized she couldn’t remember half of what the Professors were talking about. Studying suddenly took a higher place on her list than the shower.

Shortly after Piper climbed the main staircase she felt a sudden pulling on her arm and robes. She was pulled, stumbling and struggling, into a side cranny. Her scream was muffled by a gentle hand over her mouth and the smooth whispering of “sh”. Piper possessed quite good reflexes when it came to grabbing a wand or dodging spells and she prided herself on that, but she was definitely lacking in any physical prowess. So it came as no surprise that when David Detweiller slammed her against the stone wall she was quite trapped.

“Have you heard the rumors, Piper, it seems like we’re a couple now. We should at least give people a show so they can have some justifiable gossip.” David slid Piper’s arms up over her head and held them there by the wrists. He pressed his body against hers.

Piper’s skin rippled with goose bumps underneath her heavy robes. “There aren’t any people here to put a show on for,” Piper pointed out coolly. David “mmm”ed in agreement while Piper squirmed uncomfortably. Her voice was lost as David tried to catch her mouth with his. By turning her head to the side Piper escaped with David’s lips brushing her cheek.

“David,” Piper warned. Her body was rigid save for her trembling legs.


“Either let me go this instant or I will report that you have attacked me to Professor Dumbledore.” Piper continued to invert her head downwards to make it harder to David to catch her lips.

David threw back his head and laughed. It echoed loudly, startling Piper. “Attack? I’m not attacking you. I’m showing my girlfriend affection.” At this moment, Piper had fleeting thoughts of head butting David, but as he towered over her she would only be ramming her head against his chest; and she wasn’t quite sure if that would be effective. His legs locked hers against the wall and she willed them to stop shaking. “C’mon, Piper. Let’s go to my room. We don’t have to do anything, we can just talk. Get to know each other. Wouldn’t you like that?” David let go of Piper’s arms though they did not fall, he placed them on either side of Piper’s face and pulled her toward him, his eyes gleaming wolfishly. Their lips touched for a fraction of a second; he took her unresponsiveness as permission to continue and pulled at her robes. It was then that Piper to came to her senses. Just as David inclined his head again for more Piper’s knee met with his groin. His eyes grew large and he fell sideways onto the cold ground.

Piper straightened her robes and breathed angrily. She was on fire inside, her rage was building. She had never been spoken to like that. Piper did not care that she may have caused David to become infertile and she thought it was perhaps best—his genes did not need to be carried on. “Do you remember how I said I would go to Dumbledore, David,” Piper asked, her voice ringing with malice. David groaned in pain. “Well, I just decided that I won’t stop there if you ever touch me again. Rest assured I will go straight to my family and tell them everything. You don’t’ want my family as your enemy, Detweiller. Now, if you have any sense of what’s good for you you’ll leave me the fuck alone!”

It was the first time Piper had ever used her family as a threat and she felt disgusted with herself. She had thought she was above petty things such as that. When Rhett told her that his professors at Durmstrang often rounded his grades up because of his lineage, Piper was sickened. Yet here she was, doing the same thing to protect herself. What disgusted Piper most was the fact that it was true. If the Reddens found out that Piper had been taken advantage of they would not hesitate to ruin that person’s life; they would never have a job, wife, or house. The Reddens had excellent connections.

Yet deep in her gut, Piper was seething with Rage. Not because she had mentioned her family name and given David some insight about her family, because she vowed that that would never happen again. Not after McClure.

Piper ran, desperate to escape the memory. She had blocked it out so well only to have the barrier come crumbling down from an encounter with one sleazy bastard. Air was escaping her; it was as if a vacuum had sucked all the oxygen out of the corridor. Piper’s head spun, her knees shook, and her heart beat out of control. Still, she couldn’t breath. Piper was exhausted, she did not know how far she had run and she did not know where she was. Piper collapsed onto the ground, using the wall to support her. The memories flooded her mind, overpowering her with their force.

Egypt began to lose its allure as the summer dwindled onward. The crypts were more comical than terrifying, the ancient spells became more obsolete than interesting, and the hot sun that had once felt refreshing was unbearable. Piper wished more than ever to be back at Hogwarts where everything was simple and exciting.

The McClures were the Reddens closest friends. Their constant company was tiring, for when they were near Piper was forced by her mother to be impressive. The entire sojourn was a ploy to plant seeds of romance between Piper and one of the McClure sons; either Alexander the elder or Eric were to court her . Neither Piper nor the sons knew of this, but Piper caught the attention of Alexander nonetheless.

Their romance started more awkwardly than most. Alexander was Piper’s brother’s best friend and Rhett would not appreciate his best mate and roommate at school snogging his little sister. They first discovered their mutual attraction when Rhett jokingly locked the two of them in accursed tomb to scare them. The situation was strange. After shouting very rude things after Rhett, Piper and Alexander stared stonily at one another for the next half hour. They had never spoken before. Alexander was Rhett’s best friend and if Piper tagged along with them Alexander addressed Rhett. In the enclosed and obviously magical room, Piper and Alexander had a difficult time not catching each other’s eyes and accidentally brushing bodies when they shifted positions.

A large sarcophagus took up a huge portion of the room, making it even more difficult for Piper and Alexander to navigate around each other. Piper found that by heaving herself onto the sarcophagus she avoided most contact with him—until he sat down next to her. Restlessly, Piper had begun to jiggle her leg up and down and up and down and up and down; when she grew tired of that she swung her legs like metronomes, allowing them to hit each other; and when she grew tired of that, she crossed her ankles and swung them in and out, hitting the sarcophagus with a dullthump each time. It didn’t take long for Alexander to grow annoyed with her. “Will you stop that?” He had asked her icily.

“No,” Piper said simply. There was so much authority in her voice. It was as if Alexander had asked Piper to stop breathing. Alexander had the sneaking suspicion Piper was going to stop tapping her heels against the casket eventually but since he asked she was going to do it for as long as possible to prove her resolve. Alexander thought her childish for being so unyielding. Nevertheless, the swinging, thudding, and jiggling continued. To add salt to his wound Piper drummed her fingers on the hard metal of the casket. She only hoped the Egyptian inside didn’t mind her incessant noise.

Five minutes later Alexander decided to put an end to it himself. His hand flew out and rested itself on Piper’s jiggling leg directly above her knee, the other grabbed hold of her hand. “Stop. It.” He didn’t realize that his touch made Piper’s heart flutter. And flutter it did until Alexander thought his hold on her leg had served its purpose; he slowly took his hands away, ready to snap his hands back if Piper showed any sign of movement.

Piper tapped one finger on the superimposed image of some Egyptian’s arm. She did it once. Tap. Alexander’s head turned slightly and he watched her out of the corner of his eyes and saw an impish smile playing on her lips. Again. Tap. Piper had to suck her lower lip into her mouth to keep from grinning ear to ear. For she was watching Alexander out of the corner of her eye as well and saw the irritation on his face grow. Tap, tap. If Alexander hadn’t seen her fingers moving he wouldn’t have been able to tell Piper was the one causing the noise; she looked completely guiltless. Tap, tap, tap. On the last tap he smothered her hand with his.

“You are truly irritating.”

“So I’ve been told,” said Piper dryly.

“Well maybe you should be told that more often.”

“Maybe,” Piper said sarcastically as she hopped off the sarcophagus and proceeded to hit the chamber door harder than ever, calling after her brother. She didn’t notice Alexander next to her until she gave up the knocking and leaned her back against the wall, putting her shoulder to shoulder with Alexander. At the same time their heads fell to the side and they gazed at each other.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re lovely?” Alexander asked. She thought he was joking. “Not recently,” Piper answered. Alexander reached across his body to cup Piper’s face in his soft hand; when she didn’t object Alexander drew her closer to him. Their lips were nearly touched when a laughing Rhett opened the door and they toppled onto him.

After that, their romance became invigorating and exciting. They shared quick and impassioned kisses when they were alone and they exchanged secret glances if there were others nearby. It was so wonderful to Piper to be with him; she thought he truly cared for her and that was the most she could ask for. He made her breath catch every time he looked at her.

But it was tiring. Alexander refused to tell Rhett and forced Piper to lie to him. They started to share impassioned arguments more than loving words. Piper felt horrible for lying to her brother when he treated Piper better than most older brothers. Worse, the thrill was wearing off .When Alexander was once tender and made Piper laugh he soon took to interrogating Piper about her beliefs on half bloods, purebloods and Muggles and attacking her every response.

On their last evening in Egypt, Piper and Alexander were stationed alone in the villa. Rhett and Eric were playing Quidditch with a retired professional and their parents were at the Egyptian Minister’s house for dinner. It was the perfect opportunity for Piper to talk to Alexander, for she had decided she needed to end her relationship with him. He had other plans.

Instead of listening to her reasons why they couldn’t see each other any more, he began to kiss her passionately, playing with the straps of her dress and leading her into his bedroom. Piper went stiff with fear. She pushed Alexander’s hands away in what he thought was a playful manner. If Piper had known Alexander had wanted sex from her Piper would have never gotten involved with him. She wasn’t ready for that sort of thing, not with someone so experienced, not with someone who had seen her bawling over a Magical Madeline doll when she was eight, not with someone who she wasn’t even sure she liked.

Piper was paralyzed as he slid off her dress and laid her down. It proved impossible to speak or object; even so, he took no notice of her discomfort. His lips captured hers again as they heard the door to the villa open and close. Alexander jumped off Piper, threw her dress at her, and examined his reflection in the mirror before going out to meet Rhett.

That night, Alexander visited Piper in her room. He told her that he was glad Rhett unintentionally interrupted them because he wouldn’t want to consummate their relationship before they were married. Still seething with anger at him Piper responded that she would never marry him. It was then that he slapped her hard on the cheek. Piper had never been hit before in her life apart from her father spanking her when she was three for biting Rhett on the arm, but that hardly counted. “I will marry you,” he said. And Piper hadn’t seen him since.

Piper was sweating with the effort she exerted to keep from crying. She uncurled her legs from where they where pressed against her chest and stretched them far out in front of her. Her breathing returned to normal, and her mind was no longer reeling. Piper bottled up everything from her feelings to her opinions to her thoughts and over time she had made enough space in her heart to keep it all in, but the memories of the summer weighed heavier on her than anything else. Experiencing pureblood life at its fullest made Piper aware of just how weary her life would be. She appreciated Hogwarts for the precious years she was given to be normal. With this newfound attitude, she despised Black less and loathed McClure more. He was the embodiment of all things Piper hated. Alexander McClure was far more dangerous than Sirius Black would ever be to Piper. Sirius was a pesky fly bothering a giant and that giant was McClure. Piper could cope with annoying boys for seven years but she was not sure she could spend a lifetime with a highly irritable hog of a man.

Piper did not hear Sirius come sprinting down the corridor huffing noisily and Sirius did not see Piper sitting against the wall with her legs stretched out with what looked like tears in her eyes. This lack of observance from both parties resulted in Sirius tripping grandly over Piper’s legs. Sirius had never been airborne for so long without the use of magic; he flew past tapestries and thought he had sprouted wings, he was soaring. Suddenly it was over, one moment he was flying in slow motion through the air and the next he as landing painfully on the cold ground, sliding a full five feet before coming to a complete stop. Someone nearby, most likely the cause of Sirius’ flight, was swearing loudly, employing words even Sirius didn’t know. He scrambled to stand and face the girl with the impressive vocabulary that rivaled Piper Redden’s.

“YOU!” Both Sirius and Piper stood at the same time and, as if they were each other’s reflection, both pointed accusing at the other. Piper broke the stance first to wince and bend down to massage an ankle that was swelling steadily; she supported her left shoulder on the wall to relieve some pressure from her right foot. When she lost her balance Piper rotated so her entire back was against the wall and slid down slowly, which proved difficult without putting too much weight on her feet.

“I think you broke my leg,” Piper said. And it wasn’t her usual voice. Sirius had never heard Piper speak without anger and impishness laced in with her creamy voice. It was the tone she would have used when speaking to a brother or to a friend and Sirius wasn’t sure if Piper had either. “Why the hell are you running around the halls like a bloomin’ prat anyway!” And the voice Sirius was used to was back.

“Well if you weren’t sitting in the middle of the corridor I wouldn’t’ve had to’ve tripped over you and ‘break your leg,’” Sirius said, his voice rising. It was the first time he and Piper had spoken to each other since the Bulbadox Powder incident. Come to think of it, it was the first time Piper had even made eye contact with Sirius since then. Maybe this was all part of her plan, maybe she had planned on Sirius coming down this exact hallway at a break neck speed and tripping over her legs, maybe she had planned on Sirius actually breaking his neck. But he had outsmarted her, she was the one in pain, all he had was a stinging floor rash on his chest.

Piper inhaled sharply and winced while she heaved herself up without the use of her right leg. Using the wall like a cane, Piper hobbled down the corridor, away from Sirius, toward the Hospital Wing. Sirius followed, close behind, not offering his shoulder as a support like his conscience told him to do.

“In case you didn’t notice, I’m leaving because I don’t want to be near you, Black.” Piper stumbled slightly as the suit of armor she had leaned on toppled over, the metal clanging loudly, and its occupant protesting. She hopped awkwardly over the beaver with a certain quality of grace that reminded Sirius of a figure skater, only without the small, sparkly one-piece.

“You know what?” Piper rounded on Sirius, making his wish that he had not followed her. Indeed, he did not know what impulse had made him trail behind her. Maybe it was because part of him always felt safer when Piper was in his sight, she was too unpredictable to be left to her own devices. “I’ve had enough!” Piper said, continuing her thought. “I’ve had enough of you and your little pranks. I’m just tired of this whole—this whole--” Piper threw her hands up, searching for the word “—this whole thing! I haven’t done anything to deserve being treated like this!” Piper looked more formidable than usual balancing on one leg. “I can’t believe I put up with it for so long.” She scoffed, but the tears in her eyes betrayed her sarcastic voice. “I should have done this six years ago! I’m done, okay. I surrender! That’s what you want, isn’t it?” There was a note of pleading in Piper’s voice that outweighed the malice. She began to hobble away but a last remark stopped her. “God, you’re sixteen years old, grow up!

Sirius Black was speechless. Piper’s words rang in his ears. Sirius had never seen Piper cry, he didn’t even think she was capable of it. Yet here she was, tears brimming in her stormy eyes, making him increasingly uncomfortable. Far from making him angry, Piper’s outburst made Sirius feel ashamed and he had nothing to say to her. His embarrassment shone on his face and he shuffled his feet.

“I’m sorry.” He tried to hold her gaze but failed, it was too hard to look at her face. Each time he looked at her he wanted to comfort her and yell at her at the same time.

“I could have used that apology six years ago.” Piper spoke haltingly, as she tried to control her quavering voice. Her self control faltered and several tears slid down her cheeks reddened with anger. Piper hopped away, making a show of not wanting Sirius to see her cry. Once she was around the corner and far enough away from Sirius, Piper put weight experimentally on her leg; it didn’t hurt as badly as she had made Sirius believe, but a trip to the Hospital Wing wouldn’t hurt.

All thoughts of McClure were wiped away thanks to Sirius. Piper smiled widely, not believing her fortune. She had originally planned on Sirius seeing her in Hogsmeade, but this had worked just as well. Piper praised her skills as an actress; she had always been able to make herself cry, but hadn’t used the skill in a long while. It had always worked when she was younger and wanted a second cookie or a new kitten but she had no idea that it worked just as well on Sirius Black. Still smiling, Piper entered the Hospital Wing.

* * * *

The Gryffindor sixth years were oddly cordial towards one another as the next week began. Even Piper and Peter exchanged kind words to a certain degree. No one was sure what had caused the sudden lack of electricity between Sirius and Piper (besides them of course). Some were blatantly angry about it, who else was going to provide entertainment for their delight? Even Lily and James had stopped arguing so profusely. In short, the Gryffindor’s were seriously lacking gossip.

“Is it just me, or is Minnie glaring more than usual?” Sirius asked James in Transfiguration Monday morning. Sirius was sure that Professor McGonagall was being viciously cold towards him, it couldn’t possibly be imagination.

James observed Professor McGonagall for several moments in which she walked right past Sirius who was holding his hand up. “Yup. Definitely snubbing you for something.”

Sirius was at a loss for what he could have done. He soon found out when he received his homework back.

Mr. Black–
Though I am not exactly up to par with what the youth are calling each other today, I am fairly certain that being called a Black-Head is not a good thing. This really is not funny, and I expect you to write your name as it appears on your birth certificate. It may have a secret meaning that I do not know, but I think that a detention this Saturday will serve as a reminder to use your proper name. Also, five points will be taken from Gryffindor for your rudeness.

–Professor Minerva McGonagall

Sirius thought for several moments that his dear Minnie was going insane, until he saw his name. In his handwriting were scrawled the words: Siriusly Bad Black-Head. Now, Sirius may have been an prick sometimes, but calling someone acne was just plain rude.

There was only one person who would have been able to pull off a prank such as this, and that person was sitting directly in front of Sirius: Piper Redden.

James was looking at his paper in a similarly bewildered way. Sirius nearly laughed out loud at what Piper did to James’ parchment. Inside hearts and in bubble letters were the words ‘Piper Redden’. The corner even housed a rather bad picture of Piper holding a flower. Sirius pointed to it, “Horrible likeness if you ask me.”

James laughed, relieved that Piper hadn’t humiliated them outright, she had only caused them to lose House points and a detention. Sirius felt similarly but he was outraged that Piper had made him feel so terribly and then did this! It was like she had never ‘surrendered,’ it was like she had never ‘cried’ in front of him.

Leaning forward, he tapped Piper on the shoulder while Professor McGonagall was writing on the board, reviewing Vanishing spells. Piper angled her head slightly to show she was listening while giving off the appearance of being attentive to the lesson.

“So what? Was everything you said to a lie? Or did you decide that you hated being on good terms with me?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Black,” Piper whispered. Sirius was sure that if he could see her entire face she would have been housing her trademark crooked smile.

“So you don’t know anything about this?” Sirius waved his and James’ blemished essays so Piper could see them.

“I’ve never seen that before in my life,” Piper said, giving away nothing in her voice. Sirius was sure she could have lied under Veritaserum.

“Did you just want to make me feel like an asshole? Is that why you said all that shit to me?” Sirius whispered even quietly as McGonagall whipped around and surveyed the class; she could hear better than Big Eared Earl, a third year that was one of Korey’s best friends because he eavesdropped so well.

“It’s amazing how powerful a woman’s tears are, Black,” Piper sighed, ending the conversation.

In no mood to even look at Piper after the lesson, Sirius left as quickly as possible. He was blocked by an angry Krissy Livingston. She had nothing to be angry about, Sirius thought. He had taken her to Hogsmeade last weekend, he bought her two butterbeers. What was she in a strop about?

A searing pain erupted in Sirius’ nose as Krissy punched him. “I heard about you and Victoria, you ass! I hate you, Sirius Black! You’ll never see these,” she held a hand up to her breasts, “again!” Behind him, James was laughing, though his laughter stopped short as well and he fell to the floor next to Sirius, holding his Nether Region. “Piper Redden? It used to be my name that you wrote all over your parchment!”

Sirius and James had been wrong, Piper had caused them outright pain and humiliation; she had just employed a minion to do her dirty work for her. James and Sirius were in pain but the other Gryffindors were elated, for they now had some thing to gossip about.

Chapter 6: Piper Golda Tatiana Bonamy Hoang Redden
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Disclaimer: Nope...still not mine

A/N: My wonderful and loyal reviewers, thank you!! Alright, I’m going to forewarn you that this is a LONG chapter. So bare with me. Also, I just returned from walking home in freezing cold weather (license in three days, baby!) and my fingers decided not to function. SO forgive me if my spell check missed some things. Also, bold in this chappie is the character's thoughts. Other than that, enjoy!

You Hate Me
Chapter 6: Piper Golda Tatiana Bonamy Hoang Redden

Sirius angrily spat several feathers out of his mouth, “James Potter I swear on Agrippa if you hit me with that pillow one more time I will—“ James never found out what Sirius would do, and shut him up with a powerful blow to the face with his faithful pillow.

Sirius was trapped in an ocean of pillows and feathers. He had never seen their dormitory so impermeable—not even when they had stolen the Slytherin sixth year’s beds and hid them in their room.

“I have never seen two fully grown men act so girlishly.” Remus remarked dryly. Easy for him to say, he was sitting safely on his bed while war broke out before him, and that war was anything but girly. This was no girls’ pillow fight where there was giggling and prancing—James was balling the feathers in one end of the pillow then swinging away, hard.

Peter had been lost in the midst of the pillows for some time now; every so often he would surface for air then get sucked under the mass of down once again.

“You know, Prongs,” Sirius drawled, a hint of a challenge in his voice. James ceased fire. “I think Mooney feels left out.” As one, James and Sirius attacked Remus, ignoring his muffled cries and complaints. Peter could be heard struggling on the floor, attempting to be released from his feathery prison.

Eventually, Remus managed to push his friends off him, but it took quite a lot of force. Wolfishly, Remus raised his hackles, and then an idea struck him. “LOOK OVER THERE!” He pointed to one of the narrow windows and James and Sirius’ heads turned. Sniggering at their stupidity, Remus tore from the room.

“Oi! Sirius said, “You can’t leave the room Mooney, that’s cheating!”

“Get the cheater!” Peter had emerged at last and came out slightly disheveled, brandishing a pillow like it was a sword.

“GET THE CHEATER!” Sirius and James echoed, hot on Remus’ trail.

“HA! Gotcha!” James threw his arm around the neck of a boy sitting by the fire and put him into a half-nelson. Sirius and Peter had thought for several moments that James had indeed caught Remus but reality dawned on them when they heard the boy cry out.

“Stop fighting Mooney, you know you can never beat the infallible James Potter! Come on, give up Mooney! Say Merlin, say Merlin!” Sirius opened his mouth and Peter’s eyes grew wide, but before they could intervene someone else did.

“Let go of him, Potter!”

Lily’s voice brought some sense into James and he released the boy like he was on fire. “Sorry…thought you were someone else.” James blushed and threw his hand up to his hair. The boy scowled at James, but dared not to stand up to a sixth year.

“That boy was a first year, and you nearly killed him!” Lily Evans, alight with fury, rounded on James now that the boy was safe. Her carrying voice attracted the stares of everyone in the common room. Piper, who had been hiding Remus in a corner at his request, rose from her chair and prepared to act if needed.

“C’mon Evans, we were just having some fun. You should try it, I promise it won’t hurt.” James rolled his hazel eyes and smiled charmingly. Several second years swooned, but Lily stood indifferently. The room collectively held its breath and held on for dear life, ready for the explosion. Then it came.

The sixth years were so used to Lily and James arguing they ignored the scene and went back to their piles of homework that was becoming increasingly difficult. Sirius pulled out his leather money bag and reached inside.

“Okay,” he whispered to Remus, “I have two Galleons annnnd four Sickles that James takes the cake this time.” Betting on the outcomes of Lily and James’ rows had become tradition for Remus and Sirius. Sirius always placed his gold on James…and he always lost. Needless to say James was not proving to be a good investment.

“Sirius you are a nutter.” Peter said, “James will never win a row with Lily A)because he is thick enough to egg on the fight so that even if he was winning he will bring up a point that causes him to lose. B) Lily always wins.”

“Fair points, mate.” Sirius slapped Peter on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, “but the way I see it, James is bound to win sometimes and when that time comes I will win back all the Galleons Remus so rudely stole from me.”

Remus scoffed, “If by steal you mean win because you are so stupid.”

“You’ve got a fair point, Remus.” A familiar voice rang next to Remus. Piper crossed her arms. “But I’ve got ten Galleons that says Lily ends the fight by slapping Potter across the face.”

Her speculation was met with awe. Remus gladly accepted it. Anyone daft enough to think that Lily Evans would succumb to violence was mad and Remus felt no remorse stealing gold from daft people.

Sirius had been yearning for a chance to talk to Piper, whom he had not spoken to since she changed his name on his paper. His retaliation had not come only because he couldn’t think of anything to do, and part of him didn’t want to do anything. She had outsmarted him, and anyone who could do that deserved a bit of his respect…a bit.

Alright Sirius thought. Get her attention now. Just say something. Stop looking at me like that, Remus. That’s right, look away you furry man! No, not you, Red. Wait, I will use my telepathic powers, looook at me. Loook at me. Why is she looking at me like that? Sirius, who had been pursing his lips and squinting his eyes in mad concentration was receiving concerned looks from Piper. Just say something, Sirius. Say something--


Lily’s hard hit reverberated around the expanse. Now this was something new. Lily’s heavy breathing punctuated the shocked silence. “PIPER, let’s go!”

Smugly, Piper sighed. “I’ll have my money by tomorrow, boys.” Swinging her narrow hips, Piper followed Lily out of the common room.

After the unprecedented events that had just occurred the room dispersed into their dormitories. The Gryffindors were nearly exploding with gossip and were bursting to spread their own rumors. James, however, did not move. The only change in James’ manner was the thick smile plastered on his face.

“I thin she gave him brain damage.” Remus’ brain was already filled with titles of various books that would help him assess the damage. Remus stretched out a rough hand and poked James in the cheek.

“Evans—“ James said in a trance-like state. He put his hand to his face, astonished.

“Now James, before you go and curse her, remember that Lily is a girl. We only curse Snivelers.” Peter said sternly.

“Evans…Evans…touched me.” James whispered. “EVANS TOUCHED ME! WHOO HOO!” James’ sudden reanimation startled his friends. He vaulted into the air and clacked his heels together with his fist raised. When he came down his cool demeanor was back in place, “Knew it was only a matter of time before she wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off me.”

Chuckling, the Marauders snuck off to the kitchens, nicked some food, and then returned to their pillow infested dormitory.

* * * *

Piper checked her watch, it read 9:01. She really needed to calm Lily down and return to the common room before a Professor caught them. Lily wasn’t even trying to be quiet; her heels rang down every corridor like the closing of a door repeatedly. The last thing Piper wanted was another detention.

“Oh, Merlin. I hit Potter.” Lily finally stopped and clutched a tapestry for support. “I can’t believe I actually hit him. I’ve never hit anyone. He must hate me now! Do you think he hates me? I need an inhaler. A-a paper bag. I am going to die! I saw my sister have an asthma attack once, it wasn’t pretty. I’m dying.” She sucked in several gulping breaths dramatically.

“Lily—Lily! You’re not dying! Now calm down. Potter doesn’t hate you.”


“Yeah, I promise.”

* * * *

“Jupiter is at it’s brightest this week, Saturday in particular. Soon it will be in alignment with the Moon. Your assignment is to—in a pair—observe Jupiter and record your findings. I want you to observe Jupiter Friday night as well as Saturday and possibly Sunday.” Students began to make eye contact with one another and silently agree to be partners. Professor Sinistra noticed and said, “I will be choosing your partners according to skill at Astronomy. Wouldn’t want one of the two to be doing all the work.” Several students looked dubious; they would like nothing better than to let their partner do the work.

“Professor.” Peter called from his seat.

“Yes, Mr. Pettigrew?” Professor Sinistra said, ruffling through papers.

“What about curfew. Surely we will get detention for being out so late.”

“Thank you for reminding me. I have spoken to the teachers and informed them that the sixth years in Advanced Astronomy have special permission to be out in the grounds as long as they are doing their work. Be warned, if I hear of any of you using this time to go gallivanting around the castle you will be very sorry indeed.” Professor Sinistra’s threat didn’t worry the students, who were already making their gallivanting plans. “Well,” she found the roll call and began to look down it, “let me set up the pairs.”

Professor Sinistra coupled them together quickly, but there were still several people left. “Susan and Korey. Remus you will work with Sanaa.” Remus shrugged at Piper, he was hoping they could work together. Remus didn’t particularly like Sanaa; she was always hinting that she wanted him to take her to Hogsmeade.

One Marauder down Piper thought. As long as I’m not with Sirius I don’t care who I’m with.

“Peter you can work with Kathryn.” Piper bit her thumb to keep from laughing. What a match! Kathryn was nearly as dim as Peter, but ten times as clumsy. Peter had quite a bit of grace to him, but Kathryn managed to break even an unbreakable-solar system model. Kathryn was rather pretty, but her dim-wittedness more than shadowed her beauty.

Not Sirius

Lily and Piper shared concern. They were the only girls left, and Professor Sinistra would definitely not be pairing them together.

Not Sirius. Please put me with James. I can handle James. Not Sirius. Not Sirius

“Lily you can be with…” Piper. Put her with Piper. “James.”

Lily would have liked nothing better than to have screamed, “NOOOOOOOOO.” But she managed to hold it in. James, on the other hand, was having a hard time harnessing his emotions. From the moment his name was said he began grinning madly. Sirius slapped his friend on the back, pleased with his good fortune.

Piper closed her eyes and waited for the impeding doom that was going to come. “Well that just leaves Piper with Sirius. Class dismissed!” Definitely impending doom. Piper resigned herself to the gallows and collapsed onto the table.

Piper’s day had been going excellently. No one had mentioned David Detweiller to her, her father had sent her a large basket of Chocolate Frogs (her favorite), she even managed to scrape an O on her last Transfiguration essay. Then, one thing had ruined it. That thing was named Professor Sinistra, the ugly, stupid, old hag!

“So Evans, tomorrow night, you, me, a brightly lit sky…” James leaned seductively against the table. Sirius pulled him back; he couldn’t forget the last time James had gotten too close to Lily’s personal space.

“Fine, Potter! But keep in mind; I’m not above taking a zero for this assignment if you try anything! And just because we’re working together doesn’t mean I have to talk to you!”

“Great!” James said animatedly, pleased with Lily’s acceptance. “It’s a date!”

“It’s not a date!” Lily growled.

“Suuuure.” Peter teased. Laughing, the Marauders departed for their next classes.

“It’s not a date.” Lily repeated. Piper put her hands up defensively and shrugged.

* * * *

Sirius was floored. First Lily slaps James, and then she agrees to work with him on a project. He scribbled on a note to Peter that read: James had better tie Lily’s hands while they are working or she will kill him with a telescope. Sirius was happy for his friend though. Lily Evans had caused him too much pain over the years. Sure, every time she rejected him, he bounced back. “Only playing hard-to-get.” Or “Evan loves me more and more every day.” But sometimes Sirius saw the little bulb of faith flicker, only to be illuminated again when she walked by him. Sirius swore Lily was going to break his friend.

“Piper!” Sirius ran up to Piper, pulling her off to the side. “I know you don’t want to work with me, and I don’t really want to work with you, but we can’t afford to get zeros on this project. So let’s go to the West Tower, not many people will think of going there and every other spot will be taken.”

“Whatever, Sirius. Sure. What time?” She’s edgy today Sirius thought.

“Midnight.” Sirius tipped an imaginary hat and bowed. “Good day, ladies.”

Sirius caught up to his friends and stepped between James and Remus. “I was thinking, gents. This full moon why not explore the forest a bit .We could…look for buried treasure or something. What d’ya say, Mooney?”

“Well I think that’s a grand idea, Sirius, I really do. I could use my teeth and claws, James will use his antlers…we’ll just dig the night away.”

Sirius ignored his sarcasm. “Excellent.” James and Peter sniggered. “Bad luck getting paired with Sanaa though, Moons. She’s certainly not the brightest bottle of ink on the shelf.”

“Didn’t stop you from snogging her in the West Tower.” James laughed.

Sirius gasped and put his hand to his chest. “I NEVER!”

“But Wormtail,” James started, a disgusted look on his face, “bad luck getting stuck with Kathryn. Dimmer than that Korey girl.”

“I don’t know.” Peter shrugged. “I rather like her. She’s nice.” Peter blushed.

“Well good for you, Petes. I say go for her, she’s pretty good looking.” Sirius sat down at the Gryffindor table and piled his plate with food. “Sure she doesn’t know right from left, but she’s sweet.”

“Wait a mo’. Sirius you don’t know right form left either.” Peter said in-between bites.

It was true. The only way he could tell was when he put up his hands and saw which one spelt the L. Underneath the table, Sirius did so with his hands. “Yes I do! Look,” he pointed to the right, “right.” He pointed to the left, “left.”

“Anyway, last month, when I was in the hospital wing Kathryn came in and she was moaning and howling.” Remus paused his story to allow his laughing. “She had Transfigured one of her hands into a porcupine, and the other into a pincushion. She had been—been trying to Transfigure her porcupine into a pincushion!” The group burst into raucous laughter, even Peter.

James put his hand up to silence his friends, and contorted his face into the picture of seriousness. “Was the porcupine okay?” He asked, very concerned.

“’Fraid not.” Remus fought with his face to keep it straight. “Lost most of its quills—never quite recovered.”

By the time Friday rolled around everyone was in good spirits and ready for evening to come. Mooney grumbled most of the day and played with the idea of pretending to be sick so he didn’t have to deal with Sanaa for several hours.

“Well I for one cannot wait for tonight!” James had become accustomed to rant about the possible things he should do when he and Lily when star gazing. “I had an idea yesterday though. We could have a picnic! It’s romantic and sensual. She’ll love it!” He thought for a moment, “Do you think candles will be too much?”

“YES!” the remaining Marauders shouted in unison.

* * * *

Piper and Sirius had been looking at the same planet for over half an hour in complete silence. When Sirius had tried to help her set up her telescope she wouldn’t let him, nor would she take his hand when he tried to help her up the stairs to the tower. Sirius assumed it was probably her time of the month, he was used to it, Mooney was ridiculously sensitive during his time of the month.

“Done.” Piper slammed the book she was writing observations in shut. Wasting no time, she quickly dismantled her telescope.

“Should we…compare notes or something?” Sirius asked, not believing her icy attitude towards him. He had been polite all week. It seemed like every week they were flip flopping their attitudes toward each other and they couldn’t get on the same cycle.

“I don’t see why there would be any need.” Piper was completely packed. “Same time tomorrow, okay?” With a flap of her cloak she was gone, leaving Sirius alone with Jupiter.

Then he saw something flickering in the Astronomy tower. It looked like…candles. Oh, no, Prongs, you moron.

James had never suffered so much humiliated than when he returned to his dormitory and his friends were waiting for him. “Candles?” Remus begged James to say that he didn’t have candles up there.

“Actually, I think Evans liked it quite a bit. Sure she disapproved for a little while and I thought she was going to slap me again, but in the end she saw it my way.” James paused, then said, “I think she almost kissed me.” Before James could finish his sentence the group was laughing. Tears filled Sirius eyes and his sides hurt before he could stifle his guffaws.

“James, you kill me.” Sirius said when he could become coherent again.

“No, she really did!” More laughs followed. Even in the dark, Sirius could tell James was being haughty. “Fine, I guess I will shun ye of little faith and go to bed. Perhaps the people in my dreams will be more sympathetic.” With that, James rolled over and began to snore dramatically.

“Right Shakespeare, he is.” Wormtail said pointing. James couldn’t help it, he laughed along with Remus, Sirius and Peter.

* * * *

Piper was enjoying a well deserved dream. Piper had just begun to relax and all thoughts of Sirius had drifted out of her mind when a certain red-head came barging into the dormitory.

“Piper!” Lily hissed, nearly shaking Piper to death. Piper grumbled and tried to toss Lily off. Lily knew Piper needed her sleep. Piper mumbled incoherently about red-heads and being woken up, then tried to doze off. “Piper!” Lily hissed again.

“Whaaaat?” Piper grumbled. Piper only woke to make sure Lily was quite alright, if her problem was anything James or grade related Piper was going straight back to dream land.

“I almost kissed him!” Lily did not need to elaborate; Piper knew exactly what and who she was talking about.

Piper groped for her wand on the bedside table. With some quick spellwork, Piper put the Imperturbable Charm around her bed so her nosy dorm-mates would not hear. “Okay, so first you slap him, and then you kiss him?” Piper was groggy with sleep and sore about being woken up.

“I almost kissed him.” Lily corrected me. “But yes.” She cried. Lily threw herself down on Piper’s mattress and groaned.

Piper was not quite sure what to do. It wasn’t like she had much experience in the subject. Before this year the only person she ever consoled was Moaning Myrtle, but she only ended up making Myrtle go shooting down the U-Bend when she suggested that Myrtle get a new pair of glasses. Besides, it’s not like anyone would have wanted Piper cheering them up anyway. No, Piper was judged from the moment she stepped into Hogwarts. If it was anyone’s fault she ended up the way she was it was theirs.

“Why don’t you tell me what happened?” Piper asked. She rubbed her throbbing temples. Between Black and Lily Piper had a tumultuous headache and all she wanted to do was sleep.

“We were in the Astronomy tower and I walked in and James—Potter had these candles all set up all around and he had some food. He took my telescope and we just started watching Jupiter and he wasn’t being an egotistical jerk…he was being nice. It was all very romantic. His head was kind of tilted and he was looking at the stars. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but he looked so handsome, so I kind of moved closer, then he turned around and I was like, ‘WHAT AM I DOING?!”

“Lily! I’m not that good at Imperturbable Charms! God…So, Potter a good snog?” Lily took a pillow from underneath Piper and hit her sound in the face with it.

“No!” She cried indignantly.

“Oh, so you know then?” Piper said. She waved her wand and lifted the spell so Lily couldn’t respond loudly. “You really are a harlot, you know that? Now get off my bed and let me go to sleep.” Piper needed all the sleep she could get…she had yet another evening with Black tomorrow.

* * * *

Sirius looked at his watch. Well, it wasn’t really his watch. Really, he stole it from Remus just to watch him get angry. Last Christmas Remus even bought Sirius a new watch, but wearing a watch of his own just wasn’t as fun as getting Remus all hot and bothered. The clock read noon. Sirius stomach agreed. Noon: that meant twelve hours until he had to meet Piper again. Sirius had it all figured out, if Piper was going to be a hag to him, he would be one right back.

Sirius decided to exact revenge and woke James up in the same cruel manner he had woken him up several mornings before. He picked up his pillow and threw it forcibly at James. James woke and searched for the cause of his pain. When he found the pillow he glared at Sirius.

“Prongs, I swear—in all seriousness—it fell out of my hands.” Sirius said solemnly.

“Padfoot,” James threw off his comforter, “you are a right ass.”

Sirius reached into his wardrobe and threw on the clothes he grabbed. “Hurry up, I’m starving!”

James was slowly getting dressed. Very slowly. Remus and Peter were already downstairs probably stuffing their faces, which was exactly what Sirius wanted to be doing, but he couldn’t leave James alone to get dressed, he usually couldn’t even put his socks on without causing disaster.

James stretched and plastered his trade-mark idiotic grin on his face. He leaned out of the window, “What a beautiful day, sun is shining, birds are chirping…Evans loves me…”he trailed off. Sirius scoffed and took matters into his own hands. He threw James some clothes and tackled him. Once James’ clothes were finally on, Sirius left for some much-needed food.

Sirius was quite enjoying his lunch, in fact he was enjoying it a bit too much. Remus was no gentleman at the table, but liked to use his utensils, something his friends did not.

“Eh emus hu ju luke dat? Oops!” Several bits of bread fell out of Sirius’ mouth as he spoke.

Remus had become quite adept at deciphering Sirius speak while food was in his mouth. “I’m looking at the disgusting display of table manners sitting across from me. There are forks there for a reason, you know.”

“C’mon, Mooney,” James said after swallowing a large quantity of chicken. “Give it a try, just once. You’ll enjoy it, it makes you feel free.” James lifted his hands into the air and inhaled deeply, the picture of free.

“So would running stark naked through the woods, but I don’t do that.”

“What are you talking about, Mooney? You’re always telling me all about your naked tromps through the woods!” Peter said loudly.

“Do you know what else makes a person feel free?” Sirius said. After the perfect anxious pause, Sirius put a several peas on his spoon and catapulted them at Remus’ face. “That.”

Remus liked to act like he was the height of perfect. Good grades, prefect, smart, but Sirius knew better. Remus Lupin was not a Marauder for nothing.

Grinning wolfishly, Remus picked up his plate and dumped the contents on Sirius’ lap. “You’re right, Siri--“ Sirius cringed remembering Victoria’s ridiculous nickname— “I do feel free. I can feel the wind running through my hair. Ahh.” Remus tilted his head back and opened his mouth. Sirius seized the opportunity to shove some food down his gob. Choking, Remus picked up a goblet and poured the entire thing on Sirius’ head.

Soon, all of the Marauders were reaching for any type of food they could reach and mashing it onto any body part nearby. Their actions did not go unnoticed. Minerva “Hawk Eye” McGonagall (as Peter liked to call her) was soon at the scene.

“What do you think you are doing?” She shouted. “I have never been so humiliated by my house—“

“Not even when we painted ourselves crimson and gold and—“Peter started, but James cut him off with a jab to the side.

“Twenty points from Gryffindor, and detention! Now go back up to your dormitories and change!” She grabbed the Marauders one by one by the ear and lifted them off the wooden bench. “Go!” She began mumbling about how despicable and savage-like the boys were. Her ranting did not drain the boys happiness, Robes ruined and spirits high, they trudged back to their dormitory.

“Great, I’m still hungry. Thanks, Mooney!” Sirius said. It really was all Remus’ fault, stupid werewolf.

“Shut up, Sirius.” Remus laughed heartily. “If you’re really that hungry I’m sure you could scrounge up a five course meal off our robes.”

“I wouldn’t if I were you, Black. Eating off Mudblood robes is not wise.” Wand out and determined, Snivellus tried to hex Peter. James was quicker. At Snape’s first word, James had dropped his bag and pulled out his wand. A brilliant flash of blue light sent Snape flying backwards, hitting the wall.

He was out cold.

“If I weren’t in such a good mood, Snivelly, I would pick you up and slam you against the wall, but since I’m feeling good…” James swished and flicked his wand, “Wingardium Leviosa!” Snevillus’ bag flew up into the air and turned upside down. Its contents spilled everywhere and shattered. “Oops…” Sirius personally thought James should have done the charm on Snape and bashed him against the wall…but…

“Gotta make the job complete, James.” Copying James, Sirius swished and flicked his wand and pointed it at Severus’ bag. Guided by Sirius’ wand, the bag began to throw itself against the stone wall with impeccable force. Sirius was only satisfied when he was sure everything in the zipped pockets was destroyed.

“Well, let’s go change. I’ve got another date with Lily tonight. I’m sure she’s gonna kiss me this time. I knew my boyish charm wouldn’t fail me.”

“Whatever you say, James.”

The Marauders had barely left the scene of their crime when the only voice that could control James Potter screeched, “POTTER!”

“I think she’s stalking you now, James.” Peter mumbled darkly.

“Hullo, Evans!” James whirled around, spattering the floor with bits of food.

“Severus Snape is out in the corridor back there, knocked out. I assume you don’t have anything to do with it.” Lily said smartly, knowing that they had everything to do with it.

“We forgot to put in a cupboard.” Remus said out of the corner of his mouth.

Lily heard him and practically spit venom at him. Sirius had quite the time restraining himself, he nearly ran away.

James, who was standing in front of his friends, raked his mind ferociously. “Er…well you see, Evans.” James shuffled his feet. “IT WAS REMUS!”

Lily set her jaw. “Remus?” She repeated.

“Yeah, he is a madman!” James grew more confident with his story with each syllable. Remus nodded along. “Couldn’t stop him…you should have seen his face. I tell you, couldn’t do a thing. I was afraid to go near him, let alone stop him. He was just—just—just wild!”

“WILD!” Remus cried maniacally.

Evans scoffed and walked away to where Piper was waiting for her. The two girls were gone in a flurry of red and black hair. Sirius could not believe Piper was being so rude. Sure he was a complete ass last year…and the year before that…and the year before that. But he had been kind for the past week, surely that made up for his past actions. Okay, so he did make fun of her and torment her, but that gave her no right to be mean to him! Really all Sirius did was make her last year at Hogwarts unbearable. But it wasn’t like she was an angel; she had done the same to him, James and Peter…sometimes Remus. Sirius didn’t really care about the Remus part, he could handle himself, he is wild you know.

* * * *

Piper couldn’t concentrate at dinner long enough to actually enjoy it. Black and his cronies were being thoroughly obnoxious.

“Hey, Evans.” James noticed that Lily was sitting nearby. Piper couldn’t believe that he had the nerve to speak to her after their fighting match at lunch. “I wanted to talk to you about our date tonight.” Apparently the fact that Lily had almost kissed him gave James newfound confidence.

“It’s not a date, Potter!” Lily snarled from her soup bowl.

“Whatever.” James said with a motion of his hand as if pushing the topic away. “Same time, same place.” He didn’t say it as a question.

James took Lily’s venomous glare as a ‘yes’. “Great! See you there, Evans! It’s a date!” Piper had to grab Lily’s hand so she wouldn’t throw her knife at James’ turned back.

Piper pushed away her dinner plate, suddenly not hungry any longer. She left, debating what she would do that night. Another night with Sirius was bound to not end well. Her wandering led her back to the common room where she stayed for several hours. Her brain was betraying her, and was not giving her any good excuses not to go study Jupiter.


Startled by Lily’s voice, Piper ran down the stairs to find distraught Lily holding bundles of clothes in both hands. “Piper Golda Tatiana Bonamy Hoang Redden, eh?” Piper asked, eyebrows raised. “Those aren’t my middle names Lily.”

“Well I didn’t know your middle name. “ Lily said offhandedly. “But we have more important issues at hand. I can’t find any of my ugly clothes!”

“It’s Ebony.” Piper said. She still didn’t understand what Lily was having a cow over.

“Well that‘s rather pretty. But PIPER! My ugly clothes! Where are they!?” She buried her face in her hands, leaving Piper positively clueless. She really didn’t understand Lily Evans.

“Er—and why do you need your ugly clothes?” Piper ventured.

“Because if Potter sees me in ugly clothes he won’t like me. Then, he won’t try to seduce me. Then, I won’t want to kiss him.”

Piper kept her opinion on the matter to herself and sighed. “Alright, come on. I’ll give you some of my clothes.”

Half hour later, Lily was (as she thought) ugly. Piper assured Lily that she looked absolutely dreadful, and she fell for it. Piper had made sure Lily looked like the belle of the ball, but she told Lily quite differently. “Oh yeah, your eyes look like celery.” Piper nodded vigorously.

“You think?” Lily asked, examining herself in the mirror. “Okay, I think I’m ready.” She took a deep breath. “Wish me luck.”

“Lily, if anyone needs luck, it’s me.”

* * * *

Sirius was having a very difficult time concentrating with Piper sitting so close to him. In his mind he was constantly telling himself to hate her, but it wasn’t working.

“I can’t see anything.” Sirius repeated for the umpteenth time. Like lightening, an idea struck him. He grabbed her arm and pulled her up. She recoiled at his touch and pulled away.

“What are you playing at, Black?”

“C’mon.” Sirius said. His eyes were alight and Piper found herself wary of this brilliant idea he was having.

“Black I’m sure the clouds will move. But if you want to go I’m not going to stop you. And when the clouds finally move I will lock you out.”

“Fine, but when the clouds don’t move and you’re stuck explaining to Professor Sinistra why you don’t have any observations for tonight except for what certain clouds resembled and I get top marks don’t you dare try to copy me.” Sirius knew that his threat would work. “Besides, I do better on my own anyway.” If his threat about her grade didn’t persuade her, his last comment definitely did. Not waiting for her, Sirius skipped down the stairs. He was sure she would follow him, but when he was on the last step and she still hadn’t followed he was beginning to worry.

Sirius was ready to turn around and go get her when she came tearing down the stairs. “You prat, could you have waited?” She was mad and disgruntled, but Sirius didn’t care, he had gotten her.

“Great, c’mon.”

* * * *

“Oh, I can see Jupiter great from the Quidditch pitch!” Piper cried to no one in particular. Her voice echoed loudly around the deserted grounds. Sirius had strayed off and told Piper to wait in the middle of the field. He had been gone for quite some time, leaving Piper to complain.

“Back.” Sirius’ bulky silhouette was a welcome sight to Piper. The grounds were eerie this late at night. The sight of what was held over his shoulder however, could not have been more frightening to Piper.

“No.” Piper said simply, warding Sirius away with her hands. “No, no, no, no.”

“S’matter?” Sirius mounted his trusty old broom and waited for Piper to do likewise. “Just get on and we will be able to find the best view of Mars.” Sirius said exasperatedly. Why was she being so hesitant?

“We’re studying Jupiter, and I am not getting on that broom.” Sirius noted the hint of terror in her voice.

“Why are you scared?” Sirius couldn’t believe the Piper Redden was frightened by a broomstick. It was laughable.

Piper stuck out her chin stubbornly. She made up her mind and mounted the broom. She would rather confront one of her biggest fears than have Sirius Black laugh at her. “I am not afraid, Black. I just don’t want to have to sit behind you.”

As Sirius took off Piper threw her arms around Sirius’ chest involuntarily. She would rather clutch onto Black than fall off the piece of wood fifty feet in the air.

Sirius tried to soar around the grounds and find a good view of Jupiter, but there were clouds everywhere, it was bitterly cold, and he couldn’t concentrate with Piper mumbling incoherently behind him.

“Are you alright?” Sirius turned over his shoulder to see Piper shaking her head vigorously. Jokingly, Sirius turned sharply. Piper made a high pitched noise in the back of her throat and held on tighter. “Afraid, Redden?” Sirius accelerated and Piper held on for dear life.

“When we get off this broom I am going to kill you, Black!” Piper choked. She was looking a bit green. Sirius decided—for the sake of his robes—to stop torturing her.

He stopped over the opaque lake. “That’s pre-meditation, that is.” Sirius said. “What’s wrong anyway?”

“I—don’t—like—flying.” Piper said through gritted teeth. She released Sirius now that they were hovering safely.

“So you wouldn’t like it if I did this—“ Sirius jerked his broom upright. He had only meant to give Piper a bit of a scare but it went horribly wrong. Sirius only saw one glance at Piper’s terrified face before she fell into the Black Lake.

Piper vanished under the lake’s black surface. When she re-appeared, she was splashing like crazy and shouting. Sirius didn’t know why she was making such a fuss; it wasn’t like she was too far away from the bank.

“Sirius,” she choked before submerging again. “Sirius, I can’t,” for a third time, Piper disappeared beneath the water. Gasping for air and sputtering, Piper yelled, “I CAN’T SWIM!” Then she was gone.

Sirius didn’t think. If he had, he would have thought about how it was November and the lake was freezing, or he would have remembered all of the terrible creatures hiding in the lake’s depths. No, Sirius didn’t think. Instead, he dove into the lake after Piper.

He found it hard to ignore the icy stabs of pain under the water, and he couldn’t see a thing. Without a bit of light the only way he was going to find Piper was if he bumped into her. “Lumos” Sirius said, catching his breath before diving down.

With a bit more light, Sirius could swim deeper, but there was no sigh of Piper. How long had she been down there? How long could she hold her breath? There! Sirius swam towards a floating shape in the water. It was Piper.

Struggling, Sirius pulled her to the bank, which was a difficult feat with water-logged robes. Piper’s eyes were closed and she certainly didn’t appear to be breathing.

Sirius was sure he had killed her. “Azkaban here I come.” He muttered, searching his brain wildly for a spell to use. The only thing Sirius could think to do was shake her. Grabbing her by the hood of her robes, Sirius shook Piper violently. Then he remembered something Muggles did to save drowning victims. First they kiss them, and then fondle them a bit, and they wake right up! Sirius took a deep breath and lowered his mouth to Piper’s. Before he could make contact, Piper’s eyes opened.

“Sirius Black, you’re my hero.” Piper said breathlessly. “I wasn’t sure you were going to save me for a second there. Took you long enough by the way.”

“So you just—“ Piper nodded. “Oh you son of a—you—you—I’m gonna—Oh you son of a bitch.” For the second time in less than a month Piper had bested Sirius and he was not going to stand for it. It was time for some retribution.

“Let’s go back t o West Tower. I’m freezing.” All thoughts of revenge left Sirius head for the moment as Piper led the way back to the castle. The two left a steady trail of water and mud for Filch to clean, but they didn’t mind. The clouds had gone on their way leaving Jupiter in clear sight. For the remainder of the night Piper and Sirius studied the heavens in silence while trying to dry out.

* * * *

“The Extropholus Charm is very powerful. If it were up to me sixth years wouldn’t learn it but…”Professor Flitwick trailed off. “Completing the Charm successfully will cause sheer ecstasy to pour out of your wand, causing those hit by it to experience nirvana. So you see why it is so powerful, if a person does the charm correctly one could implode from their happiness or else delve into a deep irreversible depression. By the end of your seventh year here those of you skilled enough will be able to successfully cast it.” Flitwick trailed his eyes on Peter. “Now, it has to be learned in steps. First I will judge your ability to perform Cheering Charms as most of the concepts are the same. Let me partner you up.”

This time around, Piper opted not to wish to not be paired with Sirius. Fate, however, proved to be against her. She was paired with Peter.

At the table in front of Piper, Sirius sat with Lily, who had chosen to have the Charm placed on her first (“Good,” James said, “Maybe I’ll ask her out since she will be in a good mood.”). Just as Sirius raised his wand Piper catapulted out of her sit and flew past Sirius, missing him narrowly. She hit the blackboard head on. Peter, the culprit, stared in disbelief at his wand. The entire room thought Piper was either dead or unconscious, but she began to laugh hysterically.

Flitwick recovered from this bout of uncharacteristic-ness first. He climbed off his mountain of books to assist Piper, who had begun to snigger. “Dear girl, dear girl, are you alright!?” Flitwick hovered over Piper. She covered her mouth, but it did little to stifle her laughs.

“You hit her with a very powerful Cheering Charm.” (Piper sniggered, “tee hee, cheering.”) “I’m afraid she will emit the behavior of an intoxicated person, but I see it as no reason for her to miss her lessons.” Flitwick rapped Piper on the head with his stout wand. He had meant to stop her laughter, but tears welled up in her eyes and she kicked Flitwick in the shin. “She may also act very childish.” (“ha, child.” Piper said.) “Not much I can do but let it wear off. I expect she won’t remember much.”

Peter heaved a sigh of relief. The wrath of Piper Redden was not a bright sign in anyone’s future.

Piper hopped up from the floor, staggering a bit. “I’m okay!” She put her hands in the air to maintain her balance. “I’m good. Really, I’m just—I’m happy. Wait…wait. It’s time for…POTIONS!” Piper ran from the room, leaving a stunned silence in her wake. Not a millisecond had passed before she ran in, grabbed Lily and left again.

Sirius shook his head. Today was really starting to look promising.

* * * *

“Redden what has gotten into you. Have you become daft in the head girl? Or maybe you just got into a bit of Fire Whiskey?” Professor Slughorn was a tolerant man. He, himself enjoyed a bit of chaos every now and then, but not when it involved his favorite velvet tailcoat, which Piper had just destroyed spectacularly.

“Please, sir, she has been hit by a Cheering Charm. It’s not her fault!” Lily piped up.

Piper thought it would be wonderfully funny if she added all of her ingredients in her cauldron…at the same time. The result was not a good one. The dungeon nearly exploded, and probably would have if Slughorn hadn’t performed some very quick magic. His tailcoat, however, would bear the signs of that day for the rest of its years.

“Cheering Charm, eh?” Slughorn rested his arms on his portly belly. “Never in all my years of teaching…Evans why didn’t you restrain her?”

“With all due respect, sir,” James butted in, “didn’t you see the four of us trying to hold her back for the past ten minutes?”

Sirius was surprised Piper was strong enough to fight off three boys and Lily, (Peter hadn’t made it to Advanced Potions and went instead to Advanced Care of Magical Creatures) but she bit, pinched and kicked her way out of their hold. Sirius was wishing he had left Lily to her own devices, his hair hurt from Piper pulling it.

“You silly girl! Cheering Charm or not I am giving you deten—“ Slughorn never finished his sentence. Piper fell to the ground and began to sob.

“Mean man give me detention” She cried, childishly pounding her heels on the floor.

“Well, I suppose I could let it slide…” Slughorn blushed, never had he been called ‘mean man.’ “Evans, why don’t you take her to her next class?”

“Yeah, take me to my next class.” Piper pouted, still sitting on the dusty dungeon floor. “Wait!” She hopped up. “Wait…it’s time for MAAATH!” As she had done previously, Piper ran from the room, Lily in tow.

* * * *

“Lily, Lily look! Lily! Lily—Lily look! Look, Lily! It’s snowing. Lily, it’s snowwwwing. Let’s go out in the snow. Please, Lily let’s go in the snow. Please. I don’t want anymore soup, I want to play!” At lunch, the Cheering Charm still had not worn off. If anything, it had become increasingly worse.

“What? Piper, no!” But Evans couldn’t stop her. Red ran off with Lily trailing her.

“Some one had better invent a cure to a Cheering Charm quickly before I drown that girl in her soup.” Sanaa frowned and rubbed her temples. The entire population of Hogwarts had heard about it by now, and most were quite annoyed. At the sight of Piper running from the Great Hall the population relaxed, they had been expecting a food fight to break out at any time.

“Fancy going outside mates?” James stretched his arms over his head. “I know I could do with some fresh air.”

When they exited the Entrance Hall they found Piper spinning in circles, arms stretched at her sides.

“Piper can we please go back inside? You don’t even have a cloak on! C’mon, Piper!” Evans ran after Piper. Piper resembled a startled deer for a moment, and let Evans get close enough to make a grab for her. With a loud cackle, Piper hobbled away, laughing manically. The force of her lunge had made Lily fall to the ground. She would not be deterred for long, Lily was back up in no time and chasing after Piper.

The spectacle had made all of Sirius’ days at Hogwarts worthwhile. It was possibly the funniest thing he had ever seen.

“Lily, I’m happy! Leave me alone. I’m happy. I’m happy! Lily I’m happy. NO!” Piper jumped from side to side, dodging Lily’s mad snatches.

“Really, Evans!” Sirius called from the steps, “Leave her be, she’s just happy.”

Piper rounded her attention on Sirius. Scarier than a bull, she charged at him. Sirius was quite she was going to die. Instead of killing him, Piper wrapped her arms around his neck and leapt into his arms.

“See? See I’m happy.” She laughed hysterically. “You’re my friend.” She said to Sirius. “And I’m happy! See? He understands I’m happy! Are you happy?”

“I think we should get her to the hospital wing.” Lily said.

Getting Piper to the hospital wing was harder than restraining her in Potions. The trip was made worse by two trick stair cases, Peeves, three torn tapestries, and one malfunctioning wand. In the end, the Marauders and Lily (with all of their combined strength) forced Piper into a bed to sleep it off.

Piper woke with a heinous headache. Never had she had one that compared. She knew that she was in the hospital wing, but how had she gotten there? The last thing Piper remembered was Peter raising his wand at her…then nothing. When her vision cleared she saw Lily and the Marauders surrounding her bed.

Madame Pomfrey rushed over and forced some potion down Piper’s throat. She felt warmer instantly, but her brain still felt as thought it would escape from her head at any moment.

“Lily, what happened?” Piper asked, squinting around the bright room.

“Nothing,” Black answered for Lily. “you were just really happy.”

Chapter 7: Lady Luck Plays Favorites
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Disclaimer: With the exception of the characters I invented, I don’t own it.
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You Hate Me
Chapter 7: Lady Luck Plays Favorites
“You know Piper; if I didn’t know any better I would say that you are a violent little girl in need of help.”

Piper hadn’t realized that anyone had been watching her cause a scene. She felt a blush creeping towards her cheeks until she saw that it was only Remus and he was smiling. Piper had been trying to keep a low profile since her Cheering Charm escapades, which she had been informed of by various peers. She really didn’t need any more attention this year.

“Well luckily you know better, Remus.” Piper said. Remus waved an imaginary white flag. “Besides, I didn’t scare those first years that badly.” Piper crossed her arms for extra emphasis.

“Oh really?” Remus asked skeptically. “So I suppose throwing your books at their heads, missing, then levitating them up and making sure you don’t miss doesn’t count as scaring?” As an afterthought, he added, “If I’m not mistaken, you hexed one’s buttocks off.”

Piper scowled, he was acting like it was rude to throw heavy volumes at first years. They needed to be taught a lesson sometimes.

“Well they shouldn’t have been sitting on them.” Piper raised her straight nose into the air. Remus cocked his head to the side. “Okay, ok, sitting near them. But they looked dodgey and I was just protecting my books.” Piper rose herself up to her full height and dared Remus to challenge her.

“Whatever you say, Lily.” Remus lifted his own buttocks off the couch and looked underneath him. He wiped his forehead free of imaginary sweat. “Excellent, no books here. My ass is safe for another day.”

“Sod off, Remus. Anyway, you would be a little frantic about first years sitting on your books too if your mother sends word to you the night before Christmas vacation to tell you that you have to change your plans and come home for the holidays so their snotty new pure-blood friends can admire their ‘darling daughter.’ Like they care what I’m doing the other three hundred eighty-five other days of the year…”

Piper was finally glad to have someone to rant about her problems to. Lily didn’t understand, when Piper explained, how trying it was to be a Redden. ‘Piper, my sister isn’t an angel to me over the summer holidays, but I know that family is family and she really loves me deep down.’ When Piper snorted loudly Lily refused to talk to Piper for hours.

Remus thought for a moment. “Three hundred eighty-five?” He choked on his laughter. “Wow…” Remus’ dark hair fell across his eyes and he brushed it away. Piper thought it was a shame, he looked handsome that way.

“What?” Her question made Remus’ snorts deepen. His chuckles were infectious. “Never mind.” He said, battling his humor. “So you’re going home for the holidays, then?”

“Unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll forget about me after I’ve made an appearance at this party. Maybe I’ll even be lucky and be able to come back here afterwards.” Her hope was feeble.

“Have you asked your parents if you could stay here?” Piper shook her head. “Well just ask them. And if they say no, you could tell them that you have to stay because you’re…you’re…deathly sick! Yes, that’s right. You kept the whole damn Gryffindor Tower up with your coughs last night!”

Piper grinned wickedly. She did feel a bit feverish.

* * * *

Eight hours, and an extremely rude letter (even for Piper’s mother) later, found Piper riding the scarlet steam engine back to London at the unholy hour of eight o’ clock in the morning.

Fortunately for her, Lady Luck was on Piper’s side. Caerin and her Ravenclaw boyfriend Dougie were in her compartment. The ride wasn’t terrible. The riveting conversation with the two of them filled Piper with a joy she couldn’t explain! They held her attention the WHOLE way. She couldn’t get over how time flew with their talking filling the compartment. She was completely prepared for her family after that. She felt like everything was okay because of the grand old time she had on the train with her two good buds, Caerin and Dougie…Not.

The only word Piper could find to describe the train ride wasn’t even a real word: SNOGFEST! If they were indeed taking to her, Piper didn’t know, as their mouths were busy elsewhere. Really, the only noises were several grunts. All the while Piper sat, hands in her lap, staring in disgust.

The only interesting thing that had happened was that Piper found out how long Caerin could hold her breath. Oh, and a certain idiotic Marauder.

* * * *

Sirius always thought that the best way to get a girl to love him was when you left just as they started to love you most. It was Rule Number 139, if he wasn’t mistaken. Sirius didn’t particularly want Victoria to love him more, it just worked that way. Frankly, the girl was quite ridiculous and wouldn’t let Sirius be. The jist of the conversation between Sirius and Victoria was as follows:

Sirius: I’m going home for vacation.

Yes, Sirius was quite the popular man.

There were rules that the Marauders followed. The four of them created them back in their first year, starting with infamous ROL number One, and adding on ever since: The Marauder’s Rules of Love. ROL, for short. Sirius thought it was a pretty catchy title. He thought they should get published. When he proposed this idea to James, he biffed him across the head and asked if he was thick. James was quite rude about it, but he was right. The Marauder’s couldn’t have just any tosser walking about acting upon the ROL as if they were to be taken lightly. Besides, they wouldn’t be the most eligible bachelors with the most eligible charm if they didn’t have the ROL.

‘Twas then he saw her. Sirius knew she was on the Express somewhere. He wondered briefly if he should enter her compartment—No, it was ROL Number 313: Give her enough mystery for a good fix, like showing up out of nowhere, staying for a while, and then disappearing because you have something better to do.

Sirius settled on 313 and swaggered past her compartment, he didn’t try to walk into it and converse with her. That’s right, make her think that he’s done with her, then it’s like POW, har har you thought you were rid of me, but now I’m back and more mysterious than ever!

As Sirius suavely walked past Piper’s compartment he found that he couldn’t help but gaze at her seat and check if she was watching him. She was. Her brows were cocked in an unsure way, and a smile twitched at her lips that was just as mysterious as Sirius was attempting to be.

Sirius decided then that the person who said men could not multitask had never seen Sirius in action. Sirius was finding it very easy to keep one eye on Piper and walk mysteriously all at the same time. Once he was nearly past the glass window Sirius looked over his shoulder in a way that was supposed to insinuate: Don’t-you-wish-you-were-as-mysterious-as-me-and-don’t-you-also-wish-I-actually-like-you-well-guess-what-I-don’t.

If Sirius had finished his look-giving one second sooner he would have seen the witch with the food trolley. Unfortunately, he used that pivotal second to grant Piper the joy of seeing his middle finger exposed to her. And his feet sent him into the trolley and plump witch.


Both the witch and Sirius hit the trolley at the shins and waist. The force of their combined blast toppled the cart over. Sirius felt Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes exploding under his back as his fell with the trolley. The Chocolate Frogs became animate. They became a sort of Frog Army and took it upon themselves to destroy the boy who disturbed their slumber. They hopped and ribbited over Sirius’ chest and face. A tipped over pitcher of pumpkin juice soaked both Sirius and the Frogs, which only seemed to aggravate them more. It wasn’t until the Licorice Wands began to revolt and whip the Frogs away that any sort of peace was reinstated. The witch that pushed the cart had run after the frogs, brandishing a Licorice Wand, saying, “I hate it when they act like this.”

Sirius lay on the metal trolley, thoroughly shocked and sore. He placed a tender hand on his face and pulled away a huge gob of blue gum. Sirius picked himself up off the floor where he had fallen, brushing himself off stealthily. He ran his fingers through his hair, making sure that anyone watching knew he was very cool and he was brushing his fingers through his hair because he really ran into that trolley on purpose and thought it was terribly funny.

Piper did not seem to believe his movements. Haughtily, he stalked back the way he had come. Sirius kicked the trolley. Maybe he would try to woo Lady Luck. Then she would always be on his side. Again, he ran his hands through his dark hair.

So, Lady Luck, come here often?

Lady Luck, it seemed, was not impressed by boys covered from head to foot in chocolate and dripping with juice.

* * * *

When the steam engine came to a screeching halt Piper wearily left Caerin and Dougie to go to a worse fate: her mother. Carolyn Redden was a force to be reckoned with; even Piper lost her nerve around the woman.

“Finally, that ridiculous hair of yours is gone.” Carolyn reached a slender hand out to Piper’s long locks that hadn’t been cut at all. “We have enough time for chit-chat latter. Come along now.” She flicked her bejeweled wand at Piper’s trunks. As they walked, the trunks rolled along behind them of their own accord.

“Mother, we are surrounded by Muggles, and yet you still use magic?” Piper asked. The tight smile around her lips fell faster from her face.

“Oh pish posh. Worrying is un-befitting. Perhaps we should have sent you to a finishing school instead of this Hoggywarts after all.” Piper knew her mother’s threat was empty. Her father, Heath Redden would never allow an uneducated witch to be his daughter.

“Do not slouch so, Piper. A straight spine is the key to respect. Keep up, now.” Piper found it hard to keep up with her mother’s impossible pace. Somehow through the years her mother had perfected walking with a perfectly straight spine. Piper found she needed more practice.

“There you go, dear. Lovely.” Carolyn began to prattle on about affairs Piper cared not about. She certainly didn’t care what Mrs. McClure was going to wear to the party, nor did she care what her mother was wearing, and she certainly didn’t care what she, was going to wear. “...just ordered material for your dress from Paris. It should be quite lovely. I simply cannot wait for you to meet our new friends. It is so hard to come by noble pure-bloods these days.” She spat out the word pure. Piper blocked her words from her mind. Some days, she wished she could slice open her veins and crawl in the muck to dirty her blood.

“Ah, here’s the car. Come now Piper, don’t look so solemn. Come now, can’t you add a bit of mystery to your countenance?”

Piper couldn’t hold herself back. She screwed up her face. “How’s this?” She asked.

Carolyn would have slapped her. Luckily for her daughter, there were people about. Muggles, that don’t notice much, might have taken alarm to a brawl in the lobby of the station. “If you dare act that way at this party you will see the lengths at which my control goes. There are always opening at the best finishing schools for those families with money.”

And that’s what Piper got for her sense of humor.

Piper straightened her spine and climbed into the sleek black car with her mother, but only because for her father, Heath Redden. He was an aristocratic man with political good looks. Half of the wizarding world thought of him as a possible candidate for Minister of Magic, the other half were frightened into thinking he was a possible candidate for Minister of Magic. Piper saw none of these things when she looked at her father. She only saw one of the only men who had ever loved her unconditionally.

“Father!” She rushed into his arms. His tight embrace surrounded her and she forgot just how much she missed him.

“My dear.” Heath was a tall man, and he towered over his daughter. “I do declare you have shrunk.” The stubble on his chin tickled Piper’s cheek (she was standing on tip toe). Heath held Piper at arms length, “Yes, most definitely shrunk.”

“You are mistaken, it was a stray spell. I’m afraid I will keep shrinking for the rest of my days. It’s terrible. No cure, you know.” Piper said solemnly.

“How did I ever raise such a liar? Go, begone with you!” Heath gave Piper a small push and sent her out of the room. Carolyn watched icily from the corner.

It was Heath who stood up to Carolyn when she insisted that Piper be sent to a proper school in London for the training of fine young ladies. It was Heath would allow Piper to pretend to be ill when a ball or party was held at their manor. It was always Heath who was Piper’s friend and companion. Piper only wished that Heath’s power would always win over Carolyn’s.

* * * *

“Piper, if you don’t come out I will be forced to come in.” Carolyn said from the opposite side of the heavy velvet curtain.

“I would as soon as come out than…” Piper thought of something Carolyn would disapprove of…”than marry a Muggle-born.” Piper flung her hands in the air, though she knew her mother could not see her. The sudden jerking motion had caused the house elf working on her dress to poke her sharply in the side. “OW!” Piper cried.

“If you would stand still, miss, I will not have to poke you.” The elf said, unabashed for her behavior.

And if Mother wasn’t an irritating snob I wouldn’t have to stand on a stool and get fitted for dresses all day. Piper thought.

The curtain swung open revealing a frustrated Carolyn. She shooed the house elves away and walked around Piper in circles, criticizing. “No, this green does nothing for you.” She turned to the elf who had worked painstakingly to make the dress fit Piper’s curve-less figure. “Do you want my daughter to sport a tent to this party?”

The elf adopted a stupid façade. “I is sorry, ma’am. I did what you asks of me.”

“Did I tell you to make my daughter into a one woman circus!? The material is all wrong, the color is far too dark. I didn’t say to turn her into a living Christmas tree. Soon she will smell of pine. I told you to make her look like this.” Carolyn threw a magazine at the elf. The elf put her hands up in self defense, and sent the magazine flying, littering the dressing room with various pages.

The picture Carolyn had pointed to was lying face up. The dress did indeed look like the one Piper was wearing, but Piper would keep that to herself. Carolyn prided herself on finding flaws, even when there was none. Her motto was, “nothing less than perfect.”

“—I wanted the latest fashions from Pairs, not the ghetto.” Carolyn continued, shaking her fist at the cowering elf.

Honestly Mother, make up your Godforsaken mind. Am I a tent, circus, or blasted Christmas tree? I think I would rather be a Christmas Tree out of the three. Maybe a Christmas Tree in a tent…

“Get her out of it.” Carolyn lowered her lids and looked down at the elf. Electricity cracked throughout the room. The elf hesitated, knowing her precious work was about to be ruined.

“Miss, I is sure I could fix it if you give me more time…” The elf began.

“NOW!” The glass on the full length mirror nearly shattered with the force of Carolyn’s voice.

The elf hurriedly obeyed. She stripped Piper of the delicate grown, destroying her well-done refitting of the material.

“Excellent.” Carolyn was always happiest when her orders were being followed. “I think this material will suit my daughter nicely.” Carolyn held up a silky burgundy.

Piper groaned. It was sure to be a long day.

Each dress Piper tried on was meticulously fitted to her form, only to be shot down Carolyn. “It’s too long.” “Is my daughter a nun?” “In that they will think she stands on street corners.”

Piper noticed a glint sticking out between the reds and browns. She stepped off the stool and pulled it out with a flourish. “Mother, I think this material will be just lovely.” She said in her best impression of Carolyn’s imperious tone.

Carolyn Redden was known for arguing with Piper for the sake of it. She simply didn’t trust her daughter’s ability to make decisions. But when she saw the fabric Piper held in her hands, she snatched it at once.

“This will do nicely.” Carolyn said as if it were her idea all the while.

* * * *

Piper gasped as the breath was pulled from her body. “Miss, the gown won’t fit properly if you don’t let me put this on!” Piper’s house elf said, pulling the strings of her corset tighter.

“Dear, if you sit up straight it won’t hurt as much.” Carolyn said, smirking at her daughter’s pain. She, Carolyn, had been wearing corsets since the age of twelve, and never once did she complain. Piper was lucky she was not forced to wear one of the dratted things at Hogwarts, but she did have to wear the thing during the summer holidays. Ever day she was forced to stand straight as a board while her elf tortured her by putting the wretched thing on.

Piper grumbled, but sat straighter nonetheless. She was already in a foul mood. If she had known that Carolyn was going to turn such a beautiful piece of fabric into…that, well she would have left the material untouched.

“Mother,” Piper plead for the dozenth time of the day, “I am a bit uncomfortable in this dress.” Sixteen years of life with Carolyn had taught Piper certain tricks. “I know it’s the latest fashion in Paris, but honestly Mother, we live in London.”

Carolyn lifts her chin and draws herself up. “I don’t care if we live in Timbuk-Too, you are wearing that blasted gown and you are going to put a smile on your face every moment of it. And if you don’t, Timbuk-Too is exactly where you will be sent!”

Piper stopped complaining. Timbuk-Too is a long way away.

“All done, Miss!” Piper’s elf cried jovially. Piper shuddered inwardly at her reflection. How would she face the world looking like that?

Piper and Carolyn stepped out of the parlor. “Now, we will have to tone up your dreadful manners, Piper. Along with other things. You have been out of practice of Latin for ages now. And I doubt you even know how to say ‘my name is’ in French.” Carolyn laughed succinctly, short and ladylike.

Piper was led into their large public dining room. It was larger than the family dining room, which was rather useless. Nearly every night a consort of Carolyn’s or Heath’s came over to dine with the Redden’s and spend the day at their estate. For the first time since she arrived home, no one had stopped by. Carolyn sat her daughter down and occupied herself with sitting at the large high backed chair.

“I will not tolerate any misbehavior at this party, Piper. You will be the gem there, understand? Though you refuse to show it, you are more beautiful than any of those cows that will be attending. Maybe if you show a bit of charm you can wrangle up a betrothal.” The glow of Carolyn’s compliments vanished as she came to the topic of betrothal.

Since the day Piper was born Carolyn began to scout out every pureblood family with marriageable sons. Every one had visited their estate at least once. Piper did her best to keep most of her suitors at bay by wreaking havoc at her suitor’s visits. Hence the reason she was being lectured on manners.

“Let’s start, shall we?” Piper didn’t respond. “Keep your spine straight.” Piper continued to slouch. “Straighter, Piper. To sit tall means to demand respect…” Piper found it amazing that one woman could go on for hours on posture alone.

The dreadful lesson went on for what seemed like forever. Posture, how to eat enough to get your fill but not too much so as to seem like you have a large appetite, the proper utensils to use while eating, and small talk.

“That is an adorable gown, Ms. Redden.” Carolyn said, impersonating a part-goer.

Piper looks down in exaggerated modesty. “Why thank you, the latest from Paris, you know?” Carolyn waited for her daughter to continue. She puffed her chest out. “Oh, that is a lovely dress yourself.” Piper hoped she said the correct thing. The sun was shining too brightly to be stuck inside.

“No, no, no!” Carolyn snapped her fingers. Tea was brought in. Piper groaned, tea meant more lessons.

* * * *

Carolyn would not allow her or Piper to leave the estate without one final fitting. As expected, their gowns fit perfectly. Piper’s swished around her feet like secrets. Carolyn was beside herself when she saw her daughter. She hoped that her daughter would finally be respected and proposed to.

Piper thought that her mother almost looked like a compassionate human being in the gown made for her months in advance. The cloth was a dark, hazy purple—nearly black—that illuminated her violet eyes. The gown dipped low enough in the front for a shadow of cleavage. Jewel incrusted designs brought the thing to life, and made Carolyn look unnaturally beautiful.

Piper stood next to her in the mirror. Carolyn wrapped an arm around Piper’s waist. The two looked astonishingly alike. Carolyn’s violet eyes and Heath’s sapphire ones mixed to create Piper’s stormy irises. Their cheek bones were exactly the same, sculpted to perfection. Carolyn and Piper shared different noses, where Carolyn’s was hawked and slightly crooked, Piper’s was straight. Their skin tones were different, Piper being the tanner. Both shared the same stubborn chin, jaw, and full lips, which they used to get their own way. Carolyn sported deep chestnut hair with copper highlights that looked strange next to Piper’s soft raven curls that framed the oval face the two shared. They could have been sisters if Carolyn had not begun to age with deep lines and crows feet around her eyes.

Carolyn sighed. “It will have to do.” Carolyn, like always, found a flaw. That flaw was Piper.

Piper didn’t fool herself into thinking her mother loved her. Next to her brother, Rhett, Piper was a candle next to the sun. Rhett would always be the better, more loved child. Piper was a tool to Carolyn, and not a good one at that. She wasn’t like a wand that was invaluable, or a broomstick, Piper was more of a nose-biting teacup, or even a fake wand that, upon first inspection was seemingly important, only to have it become a rubber chicken.

Carolyn’s family originated in Holland, and were the wealthiest Wizarding family there. The Lansings, were a small family but ruthless and well connected. Carolyn and Heath were betrothed at the tender age of twenty before they had ever met. They married at twenty four. Carolyn was disappointed to say the least about Heath’s careless attitude toward Muggles. Heath often told Piper, “If they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them. Look at them, Piper; it would be like a wizard attacking a herd of sheep. No point to it.” Carolyn once told Piper, “Look at them. Every last one should be blasted from this soil. None of them have deserved a place on it. They’re less than the ground we walk on, girl.”

Piper was the mistake to Carolyn. After having produced the smart, shining, son, Carolyn thought she could beat fate twice and have a daughter equally dutiful. She ended up with Piper. Carolyn never forgave her daughter for many things: she wasn’t charming, she didn’t have manners, Piper couldn’t hold a conversation to save her life, but chief among the reasons for Carolyn’s disdain for her own daughter was the love Heath reserved for her. Carolyn was jealous that Heath had a soft spot for any area where Piper was concerned, yet he ignored her for the greater part of the day.

This knowledge used to choke Piper. She cried when Carolyn was not near to hear her sobs. At night, Piper used to think a heavy boulder rested on her chest, its pressure building with every act of neglect her mother showed.

The night of September 1, 1969 Piper pushed that boulder off. She couldn’t take the mistreatment of Sirius Black along with that of her mother’s.

* * * *

Heath and Carolyn stood next to their daughter in all their finery. It was five days until Christmas. Piper couldn’t get Hogwarts out of her mind. The castle was intensely beautiful during the winter season. She never thoroughly enjoyed herself at Hogwarts during vacation, but she found herself missing it.

Piper imagined herself sitting by the fire with Remus with a mug of hot chocolate. Remus? Where had that come from? No, she would be sitting with Lily. Two friends having a good night by the fire.

Remus Lupin.

Days ago Piper was telling herself to get Black out of her mind and when he finally retreated from her thoughts Remus came strolling along to invade.

Carolyn pulled a dash of Floo Powder out of a velvet sack hanging by the crackling fireplace. “They were kind enough to take their spell off the fireplace for us, as Piper has not passed her Apparition tests.” Carolyn says, throwing a pinch in.

How sweet of them. It wasn’t Piper’s fault she hadn’t passed her tests yet, she just turned sixteen! She would, of course, be taking her Apparition class when she returned to Hogwarts.

“Let’s get going then, shall we.” Heath extended his arm to Piper, who took it.

Carolyn entered the hearth first. She spoke loudly and clearly. “Number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London!”

* * * *

Sirius straightened his robes for the hundredth time of the night. The old hag who gave birth to him (also know as Walburga Black) had told him that there would be a girl coming tonight that he didn’t know. Sirius prayed that it wasn’t the Goodrich’s daughters. All the women in that family were worse than Moaning Myrtle. The mystery woman was the only reason Sirius agreed to dress up for the blasted winter party.

He found himself wishing he had taken James up on his offer.

The day before he left for the Hogwarts Express James had cornered Sirius and told Sirius to move in with him. The moment Sirius’ mother had told him about the party he had half a mind to run screaming to the Potters’. He had been home for naught but three days and he found himself giving serious thought to his friend’s offer.

His thoughts were interrupted by his brother’s cold drawl. “Mother says to come down, the guests are arriving.”

Despite the hatred Regulus felt for his brother, Sirius cared deeply for him. He couldn’t let his younger brother play the role Sirius was meant to play. All thoughts of running to James’ vanished at the sight of Regulus in his doorway. Sirius couldn’t bring himself to abandon the condescending tosser. He was his brother, after all.

Sirius stepped out of his room and walked to the landing on the freshly polished stairs. The party was beginning to start, a small gathering of people filled the entrance hall. Most the guests were Blacks. Sirius braced himself against the railing disdainfully. The Blacks had gathered in ‘Sirius’ honor’. It was odd how they chose this year to celebrate his birthday so splendidly. He hadn’t even seen one gift yet. Hopefully James got him something good.

The house was alight with lanterns and color, but the mood was sourly darkened by the people present. Sirius didn’t have to be amongst the crowd to know what they were talking about. Blacks spoke of three things: Muggles, politics, and the weather.

Regulus, the little worm, mingled instantly. It was the perfect opportunity to make his name remembered by high ranking Blacks. Sirius smacked his lips and contemplated throwing him in a dark closet with Kreacher. Growing tired of the revolting display of pure-bloods, and very angry at the lack of presents, Sirius returned to his room. No one would miss him much anyway.

* * * *

Piper flew out of the grate. She nearly broke her ankle between the dreadfully ridiculous shoes Carolyn forced her to wear and the dreary looking house elf that waited for them with a soot brush. Heads turned as the Reddens arrived. Carolyn fitted right in with these people. Piper recognized several, but their names escaped her. The only thing she knew for sure about those people was that each one of them hated Muggles with a strange fierceness that was foreign to Piper.

A woman slithered through the crowd, her head held high. She was tall and gaunt with protruding cheek bones that made her eyes look more sunken than they were. Piper wondered if she had ever seen the sun, she looked more like a vampire than a respectable woman. She took Carolyn’s hands in her own.

“I am delighted that you came to honor my son on his day of birth.” She said in a raspy voice as if she had a sore thought from screaming too loudly.

Poor sod, his birthday’s the same as Sirius’. The date had been drilled into Piper’s brain by Korey, who, in the months prior, had talked of nothing else but what kind of gift she should get him.

“The honor is mine.” Carolyn said flatteringly. Carolyn beckoned to her daughter and pulled her by the arm until they were side by side. The woman eyed Piper critically for a moment. Piper was unfazed; no one’s judgment was harsher than Carolyn’s.

“Mrs. Black, may I introduce my daughter, Piper?”

Piper was too shocked to be polite and answer with a cordial, ‘How do you do?’ Instead, her jaw dropped very un-ladylike.

Black? No. Surely there was more than one family of Black in all of London. The gaunt woman could not be Sirius’ mother. Piper couldn’t be at Sirius’ house! Oh, God, Sirius was going to see her in a dress. She would never hear the end of it.

Carolyn stamped on Piper’s foot, bringing her back to reality. Still wide-eyed, Piper smiled tightly. “I am delighted to meet you, Mrs. Black.” Piper reached out her hand, which Mrs. Black took in her palm by the fingertips.

“You go to Hogwarts, I assume.” She half-asked. Piper had not yet passed her judgment.

Carolyn answered for her daughter. “I had wished otherwise, of course. I was going to send her away to a refinery school here in London and teach her magic at home. However,” Carolyn broke off with a sigh. “Heath overruled me and said that Piper had to go to a school where qualified Professors taught her magic.” Carolyn said, pretending her daughter was a mute. “I tried to convince Heath to let her go to a decent magic school. I had hoped she would attend Durmstrang with Rhett. Unfortunately, Heath insisted on Hogwarts, so…”

“Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” Mrs. Black went on to tell Piper and Carolyn how she had wished for her boys to go to Durmstrang but Orion had insisted on Hogwarts. All the while, Piper stood tall next to her mother, the picture of obedience.

Mrs. Black scanned the crowd for someone.

“Where is that boy of mine? He is probably hiding upstairs again. He is quite modest.”

Piper closed her eyes, relief filled. Modesty? This couldn’t be Sirius she was speaking of. He was anything but modest.

“Regulus!” Mrs. Black called. Piper had heard that name before, but she couldn’t place it. Regulus was certainly not a common name. Where had she heard it? “Regulus, go find your brother, will you?” Mrs. Black whispered throatily when a familiar face trotted up to her.

“Oh, nonsense!” Carolyn said to Regulus. “Dear, you should enjoy the party. Let Piper go and find him.”

“Splendid idea! I’m sure he is in his bedroom. Go up the stairs, his room is on the third floor, and it is the second door to the right.” Mrs. Black dared Piper to argue.

Piper found she was frightened of the diabolical gleam the two women shared in their eyes. Whatever happened to parents dropping dead before letting their teenage daughters go searching for teenage boys in their bedrooms? All of that pure-blood incest must have made them crazy.

Piper opened her mouth to argue when she saw him. Piper almost vomited. She was certain that he had noticed her; why else would there be such a hunger in his eyes? “I would be delighted.” Piper said, beginning to serpentine her way through the now dense crowd. She rushed up the stairs and breathed only when she was certain she had avoided Eric McClure.

* * * *

Sirius took his time writing letters to his friends happily staying at Hogwarts and demanding for presents immediately. He even sent one to Lily. Sirius started one to Piper, but decided against it, lest she send him a cursed return owl.

Sirius shook out several jitters. The time had come, the next time he saw Victoria he would make it very clear that they were over. Hopefully, he would be able to get it through her head without resorting to Obliviating her. Sirius knew he would have to follow the Marauder’s Steps to Breaking Up very carefully on this one.

One: Look sincere.

Sirius stared into the depths of his mirror and contorted his face until he thought he appeared sympathetic.

Two: Always maintain eye contact.

Sirius imagined Victoria’s face and held imaginary eye contact with her while remaining sincere.

Three: Explain that the ‘feeling is gone.’

“The feeling’s gone, Vicky. I don’t know what happened, it died away slowly, but it’s not here anymore.” Sirius said to himself somberly.

The mirror shifted uncomfortably.

Four: tell her that she’s beautiful.

Sirius cleared his throat. “You’re beautiful.” No, that was rubbish. Victoria was a tricky to pronounce beauty to. Sure she was beautiful on the outside, but her inside was hideous. Sirius tried again. “You’re beautiful. You can do better than me.” No, don’t say that. “You are a beautiful woman, Victoria.” Sirius wrung his hands, frustrated. Why couldn’t he get it right? He tried again.

* * * *

Piper was winded by the time she reached the third floor. She wretched as she passed plaques bearing beheaded house-elves. Each glared at her as if she was doing something wrong. Piper wished there wasn’t as many people downstairs. She thought about hiding up with this mysterious son, but jumping out of an ajar window did have its appeal.

A voice resounded through the corridor. Piper had a task to do, and she followed the voice. It couldn’t be Sirius’ house she was in. Piper knew for a fact that Sirius was staying home for the holidays, she had heard Raine telling Korey that she planned on tricking him to go under the mistletoe with her.

Piper stepped lightly down the hallway; she didn’t want to startle this mysterious person into hexing her. Piper couldn’t decipher what the man was saying through the partly ajar door.

As she snuck closer the voice became clearer. “You’re beautiful.” Piper tried to look through the sliver. The voice was declaring a person’s beauty over and over. Piper was intrigued; she pushed the door open, wanting to see more. All she saw was a bulky back and an obscured face. Who was it?

* * * *

Sirius saw the reflection of an angel in the reflection behind her. Her beauty was astonishing. She leaned on the sill, grinning slyly. Involuntarily, Sirius whispered, “You’re beautiful.”

* * * *

The girls in the Gryffindor sixth had received a nasty shock when they realized Sirius was not indeed at Hogwarts for the Christmas holiday. Piper was sure of it, because Sirius Black was standing in the mirror before her.

She held her composure for as long as she could. The initial shock she had had when she saw Sirius was overcome by the words he was speaking.

“Black,” Piper said, “what—are---you--doing” With each word laughter escaped Piper’s tight mouth.

Sirius blushed. “I was taking to myself, not that it’s any of your business. But may I ask why the hell you’re in my house, let alone my room!?” Sirius frantically looked for anything embarrassing. Various boxers were strewn about the room, along with Chocolate Frog wrappers, love letters from first years (he didn’t have the heart to throw them away), his broomstick, and his dirty laundry.

Piper was afraid she would lose it at any time. “You tell yourself that you’re pretty?” She scoffed.

“For your information, I do! It helps with my confidence.”

“I like your room.” Piper said, changing the subject. She wondered how many girls had seen this dark chamber. In one quick scan Piper thought the answer to be no. Korey would not be happy with Piper if she ever caught wind of Piper going to Sirius’ house, let alone his room. Piper reminded herself to use that as ammunition the next time Korey decided to be a bitch. Although, Piper rebutted, that would just lead to more rumours of her and Black canoodling. She stepped into the room and pointed at two women scantily clad in bikinis. “They’re pretty.”

Sirius picked out the sarcasm laced into her words and glared.

“I am going to ignore that little comment and ask again. What are you doing in my house!?” Sirius was experiencing two emotions he hated: outrage and embarrassment.

“Believe me, it’s not my choice to be here!”

“Then leave!” Sirius said, gathering up his boxers with the pink hearts on them.

“Fine!” Piper furiously wrenched open the door. She was nearly out of the room when Sirius grabbed her by the wrist.

“No wait, I was just kidding!” Sirius said frantically. His boxers were still balled up in his fist.

Piper growled. Why, out of all the pure-bloods in the world did her mother have to meet the Black family? It was a sick and twisted ploy of some greater power. Piper shook her head. She wondered if that greater power was related to Korey Kayhart.

Lady Luck, you are a bitch.

* * * *

A/N: So, I am SORRY! But that is enough of my excuses for a while. At least this chapter is up. It was meant to go on for a LOT longer, but it is already longer than I expected and I wouldn’t want to exhaust you. The next chapter will be all about the party then, I suppose.

So, if you want to humor me, you can scroll down to that little box, and tell me how happy you are that I updated and how angry you are at me for not updating for ages...and if you would like, you can tell me that this was a good chapter...
: ) ...maybe?

Chapter 8: ROL #1224:No swimming in food while the wooee is in your presence.
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You Hate Me
Chapter 8: ROL 1224: No Swimming in Food While the Wooee is in Your Presence

Here was the dilemma: Piper could either go downstairs and possibly be met by Eric McClure who would likely say something insulting and then leave her alone for the rest of the night, or she could stay upstairs in Sirius Black’s bedroom with Sirius Black who would definitely say something insulting and would likely follow her around for the rest of the night. Piper weighed these options. Neither was appealing.

Piper cleared her throat which made Sirius, who was trying to look more mysterious by moving his hair in front of his eyes, jump.

Sirius sensed Piper’s judgmental look and he promptly changed the subject. “What are you doing here anyway, Redden? I don’t remember sending you an invitation.” Just for a second, Sirius’ eyes traveled down to Piper’s plunging neckline. Sirius choked after he realized what he had just done. He just checked out Piper Redden. He missed Piper’s reply he was so dumbfounded. He hadn’t meant to do it. It just happened. Sirius shook his head as if it would dislodge all of the thoughts he was thinking about Piper. Just as he collected himself, Sirius locked eyes with Piper and then his eyes flitted downward for a second time.

This time, Piper caught on. She crossed her arms over her boson. “Cut it out, pervert!”

“I’m not doing anything,” Sirius lied.

“If you look at my chest one more time, Black,” Piper began but her threat was stopped short as Sirius, yet again, looked at her chest. Piper’s mouth fell open angrily but she only remained angry for several seconds before becoming extremely uncomfortable.

To prevent any further glances at Piper’s cleavage, Sirius had turned away from her completely so that the only thing he could see was down the gloomy hallway, which was completely breast-free.

She wished her mother had listened to her when she begged to have the dress altered. It was made out of the lightest material of grayish blue that matched her eyes. It was almost entirely backless, the front was low cut enough to draw even Black’s eye to her chest, and the bottom swished the ground with every step. It was tight to her figure and very uncomfortable. Her glossy black hair was piled on top of her head with several wild tendrils falling down, framing her face.

“What are you doing?” Piper snapped. Sirius remained rigid where he was. “Are you listening to me, Black?” Sirius felt Piper behind him; he closed his eyes tightly. “What are you doing?” Now Piper was in front of Sirius, ruining the breast-free environment of his end of the hallway. Sirius shook his head and kept his eyes tightly shut. “Open up your eyes, Black,” Piper said in her most commanding of tones.

Tentatively, Sirius opened his right eye only slightly. He told himself to man up and opened his right eye fully. Then his left eye followed suit. He looked at the ceiling.

“You are so strange,” Piper whispered angrily.

At the sound of her voice, Sirius lost all of his self control and he looked at her chest for a third time.

“Oy, my face is up here, Black.”

But Sirius didn’t hear Piper. His eyes were closed again, his fingers were in his ears, and he was humming to himself to block out her voice.

It was difficult for Piper to refrain from slapping him, but she was trying to be less violent so instead she stomped angrily down the hallway, heading for the stairs and leaving Sirius where he was with his fingers in his ears and his eyes shut.

Sirius was suspicious. The hallway was unusually quiet. He eased up a bit on his eyelids, allowing a sliver of light to get through. Seeing no Piper, Sirius opened his eyes completely and, seeing no Piper behind him either, he raced down the hall, determined to keep his eyes off her. It was difficult though, Sirius had never seen Piper in anything other than her rather shapeless robes or the occasional pair of jeans. Never in a skirt and most certainly never in a revealing dress. She had once worn a low cut shirt so she could distract the Marauders while she was executing some sort of trick against them, but that was a just a shirt, not a shapely dress.

Sirius felt superficial and shallow for thinking it, but she looked amazing. He couldn’t believe that this was the same Piper who wore a permanent scowl at school. She certainly wasn’t acting bubbly with excitement—quite the opposite, for Piper managed to keep her lethargically sarcastic demeanor in the dress—but there was quite a notable difference. It was like Sirius was invading on some sort of personal secret; if Piper could look like that and act—dare he think it?--decent, why didn’t she? Yes, this was a part of the girl Sirius had never seen before. And he liked it.

Piper was halfway down the stairs when Sirius caught up with her; she didn’t notice he was behind her, so when she saw the only person who could make her want to be with Sirius Black and made to run back up the stairs, she collided with Sirius’ chest.

“Oof.” Piper held her forehead and nearly tumbled down the remaining flight of stairs. Sirius caught her by the elbow and steadied her.

“Who’s the pervert now? At least I only looked at yours, Red. I could inform the authorities that you’re sexually harassing me…” Sirius would have continued but Piper was standing inhumanly stiff in his arms. Her eyes were shut as tightly as Sirius’ had been; it reminded him of a child hiding from a monster with the mentality that if you can’t see the monster the monster can’t see you. Her mouth was formed into a grimace. He had never looked at her mouth so closely before. Sirius wondered if they were naturally that red or if it was lipstick.

“Piper, what—”

“Shhhhhhhh,” Piper’s grimace widened. She was obviously trying to hide her face from someone in the crowd below them by keeping it pressed against Sirius. After several seconds she whispered, “You wouldn’t happen to know of somewhere to hide, would you?”

“There’s always the attic. But if you think I’m a perv you should meet the ghoul who lives up there. Not to mention Kreacher. He would definitely feel you up.”

Piper hunched her shoulders now and let her head fall even lower. She didn’t know how long she would have to wait. Surely he had left by now. It had been at least a minute—more. It had been more than a minute. He was never one to stay in the same place for a long time. And he couldn’t have been looking for her. He wasn’t by the stairs anymore. But better safe than sorry.

“I’ll give you a hundred Galleons if you’ll hide me,” she said, barely moving her lips. Sirius strained his ears to hear her.

“Make it two,” Sirius offered jokingly.

“Deal.” Piper didn’t try to shake Black’s hand. Any movement on her part would not be good.

“What?” Sirius continued to hold Piper where she was. He was rather concerned now. Not only was she not recoiling from his touch, but she was enlisting his help. She wasn’t insulting him or humiliating him. She was acting like the person or thing she was hiding from was worse than him.

“Piper, is that you?”

Piper cringed and became, if possible, more rigid. Sirius continued to look down at Piper with a puzzled expression on his face. “Never mind, you ponce,” she said, preparing herself for an encounter she did not want to have. There could be no more hiding. Piper finally gave up her charade, scowled at Sirius, and faced the person who said her name.

It was not who she had feared it was. But it was exactly who Sirius feared it was.

Eric McClure sauntered up the stairs, a smirk on his pale face. Eric McClure and Piper had a history with each other; he was the same age Piper so their parents naturally wished them to marry or at the very least be acquaintances. Piper and Eric, however, shared a mutual dislike of each other and bantered like siblings.

The history between Eric McClure and Sirius was rather different. They did not share a dislike for each other, they loathed each other. When forced to be in one another’s presence a fight inevitably ensued. Sirius was not afraid of McClure as a person, but he was afraid of what he would do if McClure agitated him. He thought of taking Piper up on her offer and hiding, but they had been spotted and it was too late to hide. Sirius’s fists clenched.

“Hello, Eric,” Piper said imperiously, pretending to notice Eric for the first time. “Sirius and I were just talking about how well Sirius played in the last Quidditch game we had at school.” Piper wrapped her arm around Sirius’ and smiled sweetly.

“We were?” Sirius said.

“He is so modest,” Piper said to Eric. “I mean he practically scored all the goals!” Piper’s laugh was soft and melodic. And then it made sense to Sirius. She was only trying to make Eric mad—and it was working. Every word she spoke dripped with her poisonous sarcasm and her smiles were obviously mocking. Sirius knew the effect those smiles had, for he was often on the receiving end of them. But Sirius was far too dumbfounded by the change of her personality to play along.

“What were you two doing there?” Eric said suspiciously. He straightened out his dark blue robes as a ploy to seem uninterested. His tone gave him away. He was not so subtly accusing them of sneaking away from the party to have sex.

Piper giggled and, like the actress that she was, she did nothing to disprove this suspicion. “We have to get going. It’s nearly time for dinner, right, Sirius?” She said. Sirius nodded dumbly. Piper sidestepped Eric and pulled Sirius along, holding him by the fingertips. Eric cut off Sirius as he tried to pass so that Eric was blocking Sirius from going down the stairs and blocking Piper from going up them. He stared Sirius down until the air around them was thick with tension. Then Eric turned sideways and Sirius was able to catch up with Piper on the fifth stair from the bottom.

Piper looked to Sirius to explain why Eric was acting so strangely toward him, but as Sirius shook his head Eric’s voice drawled down the stairs.

“You’re always running away, Black. Shit, if I were you I would’ve hexed me a long time ago. I’ll give you a free shot right now if you want.” Sirius’ knuckles were the only part of him that moved. He wanted to leap around and throw Eric down the stairs, but Piper’s nearly sincerely worried countenance held him back. Piper and Sirius took half a step in unison down the remaining stairs, but when Eric spoke again, Sirius stopped in mid-step.

“No. I didn’t think you’d hit me. You’re just too fucking pathetic.”

“I’ll kill you,” Sirius growled.

Several things happened in succession. Sirius drew back his arm. Piper shouted something. Eric braced himself and took a step backwards. Piper tried to hold Sirius back. Sirius leaned forward. And then a voice cut through the air that made both Piper and Eric freeze. Their reaction to the voice alone made Sirius stop.

“Gentlemen, may I suggest that you discontinue acting like behemoths in the presence of this fine lady.”

A dark haired man stood at the foot of the overcrowded stairwell wearing an expression that was both amused and haughty. His silky yet cold voice matched perfectly with his smooth, perfectly shaped face. His eyes were a smoldering dark brown that were locked on Piper. His mouth was a smirk.

Sirius and Eric scowled in unison, angry at being told off like they were children. Who was this arrogant bastard and why was he at Sirius’—Sirius—birthday party?

“I’m sure my sister has seen more than one brawl in her lifetime, Alexander. She’s generally the cause of them.” A second dark haired man came up behind the first. He had Piper’s long, chiseled face, but his features were somehow softer and full of boyish charms. He was tall with his dark hair cut short; his mouth was wide and upturned.

“Rhett?” Piper gasped. Slowly, her mouth spread into a huge grin. Her brother’s grin similarly grew. Her heels clacked loudly as she sprinted down the stairs, pushed past the one who had spoken, and uncharacteristically embraced the more joyous looking of the two. “I thought we agreed we were never going to talk about that again.” She said, still hugging him.

“Apologies,” Rhett—Piper’s brother—said.

The other—Alexander—coughed loudly. Piper and Rhett broke apart.

“Alexander,” Piper coldly acknowledged. Sirius didn’t miss the shiver that ran through Piper.

“Miss Redden.” Alexander reached for Piper’s hand and kissed it, his eyes glimmering wolfishly. Piper’s hand twitched. Suddenly the stairwell was very silent.

So this was Alexander McClure. Sirius had never met Eric’s older brother; his parents assumed that since he and Eric were the same age they could be playmates, but they were wrong. Alexander was always either at school or at an exclusive party. But there were stories, including the story of when Alexander attempted to woo Sirius’ older cousin Bellatrix and failed miserably. Alexander was clearly the more dangerous of the two sons.

Piper forcefully pried her hand away from a reluctant Alexander. “Mother made no indication you would be coming home for the holidays,” Piper said to Rhett, pureblood code for: “Why the hell are you here when you could’ve stayed at school, you dumb arse!”

“I heard you were being uprooted and I figured it was my brotherly duty to keep you company. Couldn’t let you sit about the entire holiday sulking and glaring into the fireplace, could I?” Rhett playfully pushed Piper on the shoulder.

“And what are you doing here?” Eric snapped. While Rhett, Piper, and Alexander were having their strange reunion, Eric and Sirius had come down the stairs.

“How much fun would I have at Durmstrang by myself?” Alexander quickly answered. It was a lie, Sirius knew it. He just didn’t know what the truth was.

Eric’s reply was interrupted by Kreacher, the Black’s house elf, limping into the middle of the large crowd and ringing the bell the signified dinner time.

“I’m starving!” Sirius said, desperate to run away from the increasingly awkward group. It was a measure of just how strange the night was becoming, for Sirius never ran away.

“Me too,” Piper said, and ran away in Sirius’ wake.

Piper hated surprises. Christmas was always a nightmare for her when she was younger, always wondering what presents she would get. This night was worse than Christmas. First, she ends up in Sirius Black’s house. Then she actually asked Sirius to help her. Then Alexander McClure shows up.

It was too much.

She was dizzy, she was going to faint, she was terrified. How could Alexander McClure have the nerve to follow her brother home for the holidays? She wanted to cry, but breaking down in front of all of these purebloods was not an option. Piper tried to ignore the painful prickling behind her nose and eyes that was a warning bell. No, no, no, no, no. Don’t cry.

She jumped and emitted a squeak when a hand nudged her in the side. It was only Rhett.

“What’s wrong?” Rhett elbowed her in the side.

Piper vowed if that someone asked her that again she would kick whoever asked it in the shins. “Why did you have to bring him with you? You know I can’t stand him. You know.”

Rhett shook his head.

“Rhett.” Her older brother simply shook his head again. “I can’t believe this. You don’t see me inviting Stalker Stacey over to our house. I don’t surprise you by coming home with Grant Grey or Yoric Valley, do you?”

“Oh come off it, Piper. Alexander’s my best friend and you don’t have to like him. I’m allowed to bring him to parties that he’s been invited to. I’m allowed to have him over to our house. I’m sorry that you feel that way about him, but Xander’s always been like a brother to me, so learn to ignore him.” Rhett had never spoken to Piper in such a manner before.

Sobered, Piper hung her head. “I don’t see why you need a brother when you have me…” She pulled away from him and disappeared between two disgruntled witches she didn’t know. Piper swiped haphazardly at her eyes, from which rebellious tears were trying to escape. She inhaled deeply, trying to calm herself. How she wished the Godforsaken affair would come to an end quickly so she could crawl into her bed and sleep for the rest of the break.

“So, tell me, why do you hate the McClures so much? I mean, you must really hate them if you’re willing to offer me two hundred Galleons to hide you from them.”

“You have the annoying habit to just appear out of nowhere, you know that?” Piper said to Sirius, who had found her leaning against one of the walls in the corridor.

Sirius shrugged. “I’m just saying. I mean Eric broke my toy broomstick when I was three so that’s reason enough to hate him for the rest of my life, but Alexander doesn’t seem too bad. Definitely not the broomstick-breaking sort.”

Piper choked on her scoff. “Trust me,” Sirius raised his brows; Piper asking Sirius to trust her was like fire asking a dry forest to trust it. “Or don’t trust me. Whatever. And he would break your broomstick, but only if it benefited him in the long run. He is not a good sort.” Piper pushed off the wall.

“What did he ever do to you?” Sirius said, following.

Piper laughed derisively. “It’s time for dinner,” she said.

* * * * *

On top of the table was a feast. Each place setting had a goblet filled with wine in front of it. Dishes of lamb, potatoes, duck, and vibrant colored vegetables crowded the table. Piper chose to sit at the far end of the table, as far away from her mother as possible. Sirius sat next to Piper. Eric, Rhett, and Alexander sat across from them. The greedy expression Sirius was giving the food was the same expression Alexander was giving Piper. But Sirius was too busy planning out his meal to notice. Sirius had to resist the temptation to dive onto the table and swim in the food. If Piper weren’t there, he probably would have. ROL number 1224: no swimming in food while the wooee is in your presence. Peter had made it up jokingly several years ago, but it had come in handy many times since its creation.

Alexander waited until Rhett and Eric were talking about Quidditch before he leaned across the table. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Piper dropped her fork.

“You know, I prefer handsome, but beautiful works too,” Sirius said.

Alexander’s eyes flitted to Sirius for only a second. In that second, Alexander sized Sirius up; he must have decided that Sirius wasn’t worth his trouble and was hardly a threat. “Did you hear me, Piper?”

“Hmm?” Piper didn’t fool Alexander in pretending not to have heard him.

“Why are you being so difficult?” Alexander leaned even farther across the table.

Sirius had seen many lovers’ quarrels, he considered himself an expert in the territory and this was following classic lovers’ quarrel criteria.

“You haven’t seen me be ‘difficult’ yet, McClure,” Piper said, her voice hardened in a threat. Beneath the table, Piper clenched the sides of her chair with white knuckles to keep from leaping across the table and strangling Alexander. Sirius moved her knife out of her reach. He thought he saw a bolt of lightning flash in her stormy eyes. Sirius had never been on the receiving end of one of those looks before. Not with that amount of hatred.

“I think I have,” Alexander challenged.

Piper’s chair squeaked harshly as she pushed herself out of her seat. She gripped her goblet by the stem and threw the wine in it at Alexander’s face.

The noise at the table came to a halt, save for Alexander’s spluttering.

“Alexander was just showing me how to do a proper shield spell. I guess his didn’t work.” Piper shrugged; with a sigh of her dress, she was gone.

* * * *

Sirius found Piper in the kitchen.

She was facing the sink. Her shoulders were shaking. There was nearly no light in the grim room. The pots and pans were washing themselves and then flying to their places in the shelves.

“If you ask me what’s wrong I’m going to kick you in the shins,” Piper warned.

Sirius held up his hands, signaling a truce. “We’ll never get the wine out of that tablecloth,” Sirius shook his head sadly. “But the look on his face was worth it.”

Piper meant to laugh, but a sob came out of her mouth instead of laughter. The tears she had been holding in for a long time—too long a time—came pouring out. She fell to the floor, her dress spilling out beneath her in a pool of blue. The harder Piper tried to quench her tears the harder and faster they came. She tried to explain. In between sobs, she said, “It’s that damn McClure’s fault,” before she broke down again.

Sirius shut the door to the kitchen so he would have something other to do than watch awkwardly. Crying women was Remus’ forte. What as the ROL for a tearful lady? Sirius couldn’t remember. It had something to do with chocolate or puppies. Sirius kneeled next to Piper, leaving a good amount of space in case she made good on her promise to kick him in the shins.

“So—er—did you date him or something? McClure I mean.” Sirius didn’t add that they acted like they went through some sort of nasty breakup or something. But Piper didn’t date. She was Piper. But Piper also didn’t cry, and here she was, crying in his kitchen.

Piper cried harder in response. Her small shoulders shook violently; every several seconds a choking sob escaped from her lips. Sirius didn’t push the matter. She had never looked so frail before.

And then Piper’s body fell to the side until she was leaning on Sirius for support. Her head landed on his shoulder, her body pressed against his side. Sirius held her there. Neither measured how long they stayed in that position. It may have been hours or seconds. It was a fitting end to a night of epic strangeness. A night when Piper inadvertently showed Sirius another side of her. A night when Sirius caught a glimpse of how much Piper disliked purebloods and their ideals. A night when the mystery that was Piper Redden deepened. A night when Sirius and Piper were allies for one another.

Piper’s mother would likely send her to some sort of finishing school after what she had done, but Piper didn’t care. Rhett was going to yell at her, but it didn’t matter. Dinner was going to end soon and she would have to go home. Then vacation would end and she would have to go back to school. That worried her. Would Sirius act differently towards her? Oh God, would he tell the entire school she had a mental breakdown in front of him?

A wet tear fell out of Piper’s eye and landed on the floor. “This doesn’t mean I don’t still hate you, Black,” she said, without much conviction.

Sirius ran his hand down her smooth arm. “I hate you too.”

Chapter 9: Moment in Time
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You Hate Me
Chapter 9: A Moment in Time

As Piper predicted, Rhett berated her within seconds of their return to the Redden manor. Directly after that, her mother shouted at the top of her lungs for nearly an hour, covering every subject from shame to the family to who would marry Piper now. The only person in the family beside Piper who didn’t see anything wrong with throwing a goblet of wine at Alexander McClure was Piper’s father, who winked at her behind her mother’s back. Piper listened to the words of her mother and brother, more to shut them up than anything. At the end of their lectures, both thought Piper had turned over a new leaf.

She hadn’t.

Rhett picked up on this and waited until the next morning to continue yelling at his sister. “I’ll never be able to look him in the face again.”

“You’re not missing out on anything,” Piper said.

Rhett scowled. “Be as sarcastic as you’d like, Piper, but just so you know, I’ve invited Alexander over for dinner tonight so you can apologize to him face to face.” Rhett’s scowl turned into a smug smile. Now he was sure that his sister had taken his words full-heartedly.

She hadn’t.

Piper jumped to her feet. “I will not apologize to Alexander McClure.” Piper hadn’t meant for the situation to escalate like this. Honestly, you throw a goblet of wine at a person’s face and everyone starts acting like you’ve done something wrong. It had been her plan to spend the remaining five days of the holiday locked in her room with her armoire acting as a barricade, worrying about what Black was going to say to his friends at the castle. Apologizing to Alexander McClure was not on the agenda.

“Yes, you are.” Rhett ambled to his feet also, though less gracefully than his sister. “Mother and Father think it’s a great idea to have the McClures over.” Piper blanched; more than one McClure was going to be making an appearance? “Besides, you heard Mom, if you don’t apologize to him she’ll have you shipped off to France and we both know your French is dreadful.”

His threat worked.

Piper had no desire to be carted off to France. But she also had no desire to ask McClure for forgiveness. She supposed Beauxbaton wouldn’t be too horrible—not having to fret about what Black was going to say about her was a plus. Apologizing to McClure—it was out of the question. She wouldn’t do it. They couldn’t make her do it.

“I wish the lot of you would just leave me the hell alone!” Piper bellowed, her mouth curved into a snarl. She slammed the door shut behind her.

Piper’s next hour was filled with running back and forth to her parents, whining, complaining, debating, and arguing. First, she ran to find her father. Surely he would call off the dinner if she asked. Heath was in his favorite armchair by one of the many fireplaces in their home when Piper found him. He was writing an important looking letter while a man dressed shadily waited in the corner.

“Dad!” She cried.

Heath dropped his quill. His daughter never yelled like that. The man in the corner lowered the brimmed hat he was wearing over his face even further. He was likely a Ministry official plotting some dirty deed. Piper rolled her eyes; she was quite used to illegal exchanges between her father and these well-disguised officials.

“Please tell me the McClures are not coming over tonight.”

Heath made a pained face. “They are.” Piper groaned. “I know, dear, I know. They aren’t my favorite people, exactly, but we must be polite. Especially after,” Heath mimed Piper holding the goblet and throwing the liquid in Alexander’s face.

“Isn’t there something you could—”

“I’m sorry, dear. There’s nothing I can do. And don’t bother faking sick either. You’re mother will have my head if I let you stay in bed all evening,” Heath said.

Piper had just been about to cough dramatically. She stopped halfway, causing her to choke on her own saliva.

“Then I’ll just reason with Mother.”

“Good luck!” Heath called after his daughter. Personally, he would have rather taunted a Dementor. He shrugged at the man in the corner, who was really the Minister of Magic. “Kids,” he said and continued to write a letter that would have Douglas Smith relieved of his position as an ambassador to the Brazilian Minister of Magic. Douglas was the Minister’s only competition.

Heath didn’t understand what was troubling Piper. No one did. It wasn’t merely that Alexander was an evil creature that made Piper despise him. Alexander made it no mystery that he still wanted to marry her. It would be a convenient betrothal that would benefit both families. Rhett would understand.

That is what made it difficult. She couldn’t tell Rhett that Alexander was fully willing to take advantage of her. They had been best friends since Piper was a toddler. As Piper aged, Alexander regarded her as an annoyance, a tag along. Then he considered her almost a younger sister of his own that he could frighten and put bugs on. She became more of a companion to him last summer, someone to talk to and be with. Soon after that, she became a future wife to him. If he got his way—and it was almost inevitable that he would—Piper would be his wife. It would not be a loving relationship. He didn’t love her. The rest of her life would be lived out in silence and subordination.

That life, the life her mother lived, was the scariest future Piper could fathom.

Carolyn’s only influence was over Piper. She held no real power; Heath could easily overrule her, but he often did not out of love for her. That would not be the way Alexander would treat Piper.

Piper’s reasoning with her mother was fruitless. Even her best whining skills could not compete with her mother’s stubborn attitude. Carolyn insisted the McClures could not be uninvited; her resolve stayed the same even after Piper drew dark spots over her arms and chest, claiming she had contracted dragon pox and it was highly contagious to anyone whose last name started with an M.

“Fine then.” Piper was ready to accept her fate, but she had one last card to play. It was a bad idea. It wouldn’t work. It was stupid. But if he was there maybe McClure would leave her alone. It had worked with Eric. She could make Alexander see that she was not interested in him. She had already exposed herself to him; she couldn’t make the damage worse. There couldn’t be any real harm in inviting him. Could there? She had to do it. She had to do everything she could to keep McClure as far away from her as possible.

“If I can’t stop the McClures from coming, could I at least invite someone. It’s not fair if Rhett gets guests and I don’t.”

“Who would you invite, Piper?” Carolyn said skeptically. Piper had never made it a secret that she was unimpressed by all of the many pureblood families the Reddens knew.

“Can I” it pained Piper to complete her sentence. Fingers balled into fists and eyes squeezed tightly, she said, “invite Sirius Black?”

* * * *

As the stars came out to play, Piper grew more and more anxious. The twinkling stars were mocking her, each one saying the same thing: “Ha, look at us up here int eh sky having fun while you’re down there suffering!” Piper tore the blinds shut.

Piper’s bedroom was far too big for her. When she first went to Hogwarts, the dormitory she shared with four other girls was crowded and uncomfortable, but now her room was the living space that was uncomfortable. She had grown so used to the circular room that her own extravagant bedchamber was too much. Cavernous ceilings, tall narrow windows, an embellished full-length mirror, a cluttered vanity, and a bed big enough for four people to comfortably sleep on decorated the room that was adorned in whites and silvers. She had the best view in the house; her room overlooked the hilly grounds that were covered in a powdery white layer of snow. In the summer and spring, the lawns were decorated in lavish flower gardens and swaying trees. Piper’s room was a suite, one door led to Piper’s private bathroom while the other led to a closet the size of some people’s bedrooms filled with clothes, shoes, and accessories Piper never wore, and the other led to the corridor. On the stone wall above the fireplace was a portrait of Piper, Heath, Rhett, and Carolyn and, although the picture was magical, the occupants remained quite still in their decorous stances though Piper’s picture fidgeted every so often.

There was another picture in Piper’s room, though it was lying at the bottom of Piper’s trash bin and was no longer in plain view to the casual observer. In the plain silver frame was a small picture of Piper, Rhett, and Alexander that had been taken in Egypt by a Muggle street vendor. Piper was squashed in between the two older men; Alexander’s arm was slinked around her waist and Rhett’s arm was draped over her shoulder. Piper remembered Alexander putting his arm around her at the last minute when Rhett wasn’t paying attention. In the photograph, Piper was grinning broadly, while trying to escape from the grip of Alexander.

Throwing the picture away was the first thing Piper had done when she walked into her room. One look at those happy faces made her heart contract. It reminded her of how trapped she was. Trapped between her inevitable fate of pureblood views and fancy dinner parties and submission. Piper was struggling in the photograph, putting up a fight, but she was not winning, nor did she feel like she was winning in real life.

Piper was still fuming about the stars when a quiet knock on her door disturbed her thoughts. Assuming it was Heath or Carolyn, Piper opened the door to its full extent. Instead of her mother or father standing behind the door, it was Alexander McClure. Piper frowned and shut the door firmly. He had no business knocking on her door. It was a good idea essentially, but Piper’s door had no lock on it so all Alexander had to do to open the door again was turn the knob. And he did.

“Being difficult again?” He confidently strode into her room, closing the door behind him.

“Hardly,” Piper called. She searched for her wand, not recalling where she put it last.

“Well I see no wine around, so I guess I’m safe.”

“There are plenty of other things I could throw at you. Like that vase.” Piper gestured to the antique vase her great aunt had given her as a birthday present. It was given to her on the premise that it had magical properties, but Piper found soon after becoming its owner that its only magical prowess was its ability to kill any flower put in it instantaneously. Who gives vases as birthday presents anyway?

“You wouldn’t throw a vase at me.” Alexander said, calling her bluff.

Piper backed away until she was pressed against the stone of the wall. The scene unfolding was strangely reminiscent of when David Detweiller had been the one to trap her against a stone wall. Piper could handle David Detweiller; Alexander McClure was an entirely different sort of beast. Trapped, a void in the back of her mind whispered. Piper’s breath caught in her throat, her knees began to quiver.

Alexander leaned over Piper, he rested his hands above both side of Piper’s shoulders on the stone. He bent down his head in order to make full eye contact with Piper. Last summer they often met like this with Alexander locking Piper between his arms and body; it had been a joke that Piper couldn’t escape from him when he held her like that. The joke was no longer funny.

Alexander let his arms bend so that their bodies were touching. “Are you going to apologize or not, Piper?” He whispered into her ear.

“You should have to apologize to me,” she choked out with much less strength in her voice than was usual.

Alexander rolled his eyes. “Please,” he laughed. “I hope you’ll get over that before we get married.”

“I’ll never marry you,” Piper said so quickly it was as if it was a reflex.

“We’ll see,” Alexander said. He took his hand off the wall and cupped Piper’s chin with it, pulling her gently toward him. He brought her lips to his, kissing her softly. It felt so wonderfully familiar that Piper nearly let him, but at the same time she was revolted by his touch. She was ready to grip the candelabra next to her and attack Alexander with it when Alexander broke away from Piper; he wiped his mouth with the heel of his palm, wiping away all traces that Piper’s lips had ever been there.

“I’ll see you at supper,” Alexander daringly planted his lips on Piper’s forehead, leaving a lingering kiss there; he closed his eyes as if that position, with Piper pressed against his body and his arms resting on the small of her back, was blissful for him. And then he was gone.

Piper’s legs finally gave out. She collapsed but managed to make her way over to the vanity and accompanying chair before falling. Piper let her shoulders slump and she dropped her head onto the flat surface of the table. Her head was slightly sideways so only the right side of her forehead was resting on the cool glass. She lifted her head up an inch off the glass only to let it fall back down with a satisfying thump. She repeated this process until her forehead began to throb.

”We’ll see.” The words unnerved her. Surely Alexander wasn’t that determined to have Piper as his wife. One lousy summer in Egypt couldn’t have made that much of an impression on him. Was it the type of reverse psychology where he only wanted her because she didn’t want him? Well that logic was rubbish; Piper had seen him with more beautiful, rich, foreign witches than she could count. Each one glamorous and polite. Surely not all of them wanted to marry him. Alexander wasn’t betrothed yet, but there was a large pool for his family to choose from when the time came. Piper wasn’t in that pool. Why would he want to be stuck with Piper for the rest of his life? It made no sense. Piper hated it when things made no sense.

Eventually, she was able to pull herself up enough to see her reflection in the mirror. She looked utterly distressed. Piper tried to smile to see if that made her appear happier, but her mouth could only stretch into a sort of grimace and it did nothing to soften her appearance.

Piper stood up, and shook her entire body around for several seconds to release some of the negative energy she was filled with. She looked like some sort of exotic dancer, but it worked and she felt much better. She continued doing this high energy shaky dance, peppering her routine with some occasional hip swaying and shoulder shaking as she searched for her wand. By the time she had found it between her pillows, Piper was feeling nearly stress-free.

She had mostly forgotten about Alexander when, on her way out the door, she tripped over her wastebasket and its contents came spilling out. The picture she now detested so much slid across the room to land directly in front of Piper. Her stress came back immediately.

Oh God, she thought as she made her way down to the dining room as slowly as possible, I’m going to have to marry him, aren’t I? He’s going to ask my parents tonight. No, he wouldn’t do that. Would he? No. He wouldn’t. Yes he would.

There they were: Heath and Carolyn sitting comfortably at the heads of the table, Alexander reclining stiffly in his seat next to a confused Rhett, and, next to the seat Piper would occupy, was Sirius Black, who happened to be glaring at Piper with an angry bewilderment in his eyes.

Piper coughed.

Sirius had actually come. He was at her house. She didn’t think he would come. Why had she invited him to come in the first place? She looked at Alexander, ah yes, that was why. She was planning on using Sirius as somewhat of a decoy; when the invitation had spilled out of her mouth she hoped Sirius would come and his presence would make Alexander think twice before saying or doing something stupid.

It was bad logic.

At the Black party, Alexander had taken little notice of Sirius and his presence hadn’t stopped him from commenting on how “beautiful” Piper was. He regarded him with the interest one may have of a worm. Unless of course the one regarding the worm is a fisherman or an especially hungry bird. Not only that, but she was allowing Sirius to see even deeper into her life—that was not something she wanted to do. She wondered if it would be unreasonable to tell Sirius to leave.

Sirius’ jaw hung open unattractively while Piper took her seat. He had been to this house once before when faking a terminal illness hadn’t worked, but Piper hadn’t been there. They must have avoided each other all these years by hiding in their bedrooms or attics while their parents hosted parties.

Flashes of Piper on the floor ran through Sirius’ memory. When he received an invitation via owl post to attend dinner with the Reddens that morning his parents were quite ecstatic. They thought that finally a pureblood family was crazy enough to take an interest in having him as their son-in-law. Well they were wrong, because Sirius was quite sure the Reddens weren’t in the market for son-in-laws. Unless they were planning to marry off Piper. Shit, they are going to marry off Piper! Sirius was such an idiot. No wonder Piper was so miserable and cold all the time. Her parents were going to auction her off to the wealthiest pureblood family as soon as she finished Hogwarts. No. No. That weasel Alexander couldn’t be one of her—Sirius didn’t even want to think the archaic word—suitors. Could he? He was. Now Sirius understood why she hated him so much.

Dinner was a painful affair. Sirius was interrogated by Piper’s parents on issues ranging from what his wand was made out of to what his opinion of Muggles was. His wand was made out of Oak. His opinion on Muggles was “They kind of like ‘Howarts: A History.’ See, I’ve never actually read that book, but it’s around. I generally just ignore it. Some clever information comes out of it and I’m sure it’s nice, but I’d rather read ‘Quidditch Through the Ages.’”

Piper groaned.

After this answer, Heath’s opinion of Sirius softened quite a bit; he had a similar opinion of Muggles. To Heath Muggles were like cute, innocent, little animals who needing looking after. Carolyn’s opinion of Sirius, however, hardened. She was not a fan of Muggles.

The interrogation continued. Sirius handled each question with a slightly alarming amount of poise and wit that Piper didn’t know he was capable of. She prayed he would continue to talk, though. If the painful dinner continued to drag on and on and on, Alexander would have less and less and less opportunities to speak to Piper privately. But Sirius’ well of information was eventually sucked dry and her parents (namely, her mother) moved on to drill Alexander with pointless questions about Durmstrang and what he was planning to do after completing his education there. When she apologized for Piper’s actions at the party, Alexander laughed charmingly and said, “It was my fault. I didn’t realize your daughter had such good reflexes; she caught me off guard before I could complete the spell.” Here he winked at Piper; only Piper and Sirius saw it, confirming Sirius’ suspicions that Alexander’s banter with Piper was not entirely innocent.

Then the conversation nearly died completely; even the practiced Carolyn had a difficult time finding anything to say. Dinner was drawing to a close. Piper dreaded this part. After they were finished the group would retire to the drawing room where Heath would pour the brandy and would read from one of his favorite pieces; they would make Piper play on the piano or harp. Even though it was an exhausting, medieval practice, Heath and Carolyn insisted on tradition. Then, when no one was paying attention, Alexander would find a way to sneak off and bring Piper with him. They did it many times in Egypt and had perfected the art. Piper wouldn’t be able to make a scene. If she told anyone that she was frightened of Alexander or if she revealed what happened in Egypt last summer, Alexander would only have to deny it and then Piper would be made out to be an attention starved girl making up a story. They would believe him over her.

Piper was soon the only person still eating. Her stomach was full to bursting; Rhett, Alexander, Heath, and Sirius were staring at Piper’s plate in awe at the amount of food she had eaten. When her stomach could take no more, Piper simply made it look like she was eating. She ate bites impossibly small with long minutes of duration between bites; while chewing, Piper counted to thirty before swallowing. After Piper spent ten minutes on one piece of broccoli, Carolyn Redden had had enough.

Just as Piper reached for another leg of chicken, her plate was taken away from her by a house elf. They were then ushered to the drawing room where the brandy and tea was prepared.

Carolyn reached for the tea to pour herself and Piper a cup when a sleek owl tapped on the window. On its leg was a lovely piece of creamy white parchment addressed to Carolyn. She read it so fast her purple-blue eyes became a blur. When she finished, she gulped. “Perhaps the children shouldn’t sit with us tonight,” she said to Heath, much of the control in her voice gone.

“Piper, why don’t you show Sirius our Quidditch pitch?” Carolyn said sweetly. It was not an invitation.

Piper longed to know what was in the letter. She wanted to stay and was hurt that she wasn’t privy to the information her mother was about to disclose. But on the other hand…she was free from McClure. She could have jumped up in the air and clacked her heels together she was so happy, or perhaps she would do another dance.

Alexander’s eyes searched Piper’s body greedily. Piper shuddered. She was relieved she wouldn’t have to sit through those stares. But what made Carolyn react like that? Was that letter about the group of people calling themselves Death Eaters? Was it about the feverish support this man—was he a man?—Voldemort was getting? Piper wanted to stay. Her parents were goldmines of information if she stayed long enough to dig it out.

Piper wanted to say something scathing like, “I hate Quidditch,” or “Mother, my piano playing isn’t that atrocious,” but before she could, Carolyn said, “Now,” and Piper and Sirius scuffled out of the room.

“What d’you reckon was in that letter?” Sirius said. They were the first words he had spoken to Piper all evening and they startled her out of her emotions.

“I dunno. But I’d like to.”

“Nah. It’s obviously just pureblood craziness.” Sirius itched his ear. “Sooooo you’ve got a Quidditch pitch?”

Piper frowned, thinking about what she was missing in the drawing room.

“I don’t get you.” Sirius overtook Piper. He blocked her way.

Piper tried to say, “What d’you mean?” but Sirius continued without her prodding.

“You hate me for the better part of six years for basically no reason at all, but then you suddenly change and start being nice and you’re all, ‘oooh, Sirius, you’re my best friend,’” Piper didn’t think she sounded like that at all, “I just thought you were feverish, but you kept being strange. It was a good change; I’ll give you that, but then you change again. All of a sudden—BAM—” Sirius flew his arms out, narrowly missing Piper’s face, “—you’re back to having the temperament of a grindylow. I—I—”

“Don’t get it?” Piper offered.

“Yeah! But that’s not all.” Sirius started to walk; Piper hurried to keep p with him. “I always thought the only person you’d even spoken to was Snape. Then you and Lily randomly hit it off out of the blue. That was freaky enough, but I guess I was wrong, because it looks to me like your Miss Popular here.

“And that’s another thing. What the hell was that at my house? You never once cried, not when you had Bulbadox Powder all over your face, not when we tried to sabotage your O.W.L’s. But one word from that McClure twit and you’re on the ground with bleedin’ waterfalls comin’ out of your eyes.

“And I always thought that you loved being a pureblood, that you would turn out like the lot of them, that you would be some Dark witch. But you’re not. You hate this life. You hate these parties. You hate that you’re going to have to marry some prick like McClure. Now I’m not even sure what to think anymore and—AAARGH!” Sirius clenched his fists once and then ran his strong hands through his hands. He 360ed on the spot.

When his rotation was complete he was closer to Piper than he had intended. A piece of parchment would have had a tight fit between their bodies. His lips were nearly touching her forehead in the exact spot McClure’s had been hours before. His rant led them to the entrance hall of the manor. His chest rose and fell from the power of his words, words he had been holding in for a long time. Words that he had built up since first year.

“You’re a mystery to me, Piper,” Sirius whispered. Sirius put his hands on Piper’s narrow hips. Piper averted her eyes and allowed her dark lashes to hide them. Sirius grinned. “Look up,” he said. His mouth nearly touched her forehead.

Piper craned her neck to look up. As she did so, Sirius lowered his until his lips brushed ever so slightly against hers. Piper’s eyes fluttered shut. His touch was ever so light, Piper was sure it was accidental. But his mouth came against hers again, harder this time. He moved one of his hands to Piper’s face; it wandered through her hair. His mouth opened slightly so his tongue could brush against her bottom lip.

That was definitely no accident.

With a mighty shove Hercules would have been proud of, Piper pushed Sirius off. “What are you DOING?” She screamed, resisting the urge to touch her mouth where Sirius’ lips had just been.

Sirius pointed upwards. A bundle of holly hung above them. “Mistletoe,” he said, smirking. “It’s the rules. Stand below mistletoe with someone and you have to kiss them.”

“That,” Piper pointed to the bundle, speaking deliberately slow and trying to sound as angry as possible. “Is. Not. Mistletoe.”

“Well what is it then?” Sirius said. He didn’t even sound embarrassed.

“Holly, you prat!” Piper bellowed.

“Doesn’t effort count for anything?” Sirius called. Piper pretended not to hear him; she was already out the door. Her face burned a fierce red and she hoped the night would cover it.

The ever so evil stars played yet another trick on Piper. As if their taunting wasn’t enough, they provided a perfectly adequate amount of light to see in the dark.

“You should have kept kissing me, ‘cause now you’ve gotta answer my questions.” Sirius overtook Piper once again, forcing her to face him. His lips were slightly parted. Those lips were on hers only seconds ago.

“You,” Piper poked Sirius in the chest, “kissed me.” She poked herself in the chest.

“You weren’t complaining.”

Piper made several indignant noises that sounded more like gurgling than anything else. She shoved her hands in her pockets to keep from strangling Sirius. “Fine. You want answers?”

The sudden change in her tone made Sirius want to take back his questions.

“You think that when we first met I hated you, but it wasn’t that way at all. I thought we could be friends, Sirius. Ridiculous, right? Us, friends. I thought that you out of anyone would understand me, but that turned out to be a foolish idea. You made it impossible for me to like you, Sirius. You hated me ‘cause I was this constant reminder to you of your home life. It was quite clear that you weren’t looking for a friendship with me when you spilt pumpkin juice on me that first night. Do you know how much that hurt me? I cried all night long.”

Sirius never knew that. He could hardly even remember purposefully spilling juice on her.

Piper began to trudge through the snow; she periodically looked over her shoulder to be sure Sirius was listening. “I can’t believe you think I’ve changed. I haven’t changed. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you just grew up? We aren’t eleven anymore.

“And apparently I’m the one who’s confusing?” Piper scoffed. “Sometimes you would be sickly nice. Sometimes you’d be a rotten prat. Sometimes you’d ignore me completely? We were just never on the same page. When you felt like being friendly to me, I was usually pissed at you. Or if you weren’t being a complete imbecile and I was nice to you, you were stroppy with me for some reason.

“As for all of this,” Piper gestured back towards her shrinking home, “they don’t actually like me. I’m only considered, what was it, ‘Miss Popular’ because they all think I have so much to offer. Rhett uses me as a bad example, my mum thinks I’m some sort of property that she can sell off at the highest price, and Alexander thinks I’m some sort of future wife, and you.” Piper stopped. “You used me for a bit of fun. All these years you thought I was so strong. I’m not. Not at all. I’m just really good at pretending.”

“I’m sorry.” Sirius ignored the snow soaking through his boots and continued to follow Piper. She had led them into a sort of clearing. Trees surrounded them on all sides; the snow was less dense here. “I always assumed you hated me. I mean, you did kinda glare when you first saw me. C’mon, I was a stupid eleven year old. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“Yes you did.”

“Alright, I did,” Sirius admitted. Then he frowned. “Then why am I here tonight if you hate me so much?”

“I don’t hate you.” Piper said, avoiding the question that even she didn’t know the answer to. Sirius didn’t drop the question. How could Piper answer him? How could she describe her release in anxiety when he sat next to her? How could she answer him when doing so would mean she had to tell him all about McClure?

“At your house,” Piper began. Her voice hurt from yelling; she continued in a soft voice. “At your house, we—I mean it seemed like we actually understood each other. And then Rhett said that Alexander was going to come over for dinner and I really didn’t want to deal with that so I asked if you could come over because then my mother would think that I liked you and then maybe McClure would leave me alone and, well, it didn’t really work.”

“Huh?” Sirius said.

“I’m not making much sense, am I?”

Sirius shook his head.

Piper tried to be as simple as possible. “He wants to marry me. I don’t want to marry him. That makes him angry.”

Sirius shrugged. “Still don’t get it. Why does he frighten you so much, anyway? Why not just put a baby dragon in his sock drawer or something?”

Piper cracked her knuckles nervously. Sirius said her name. She looked away. Sirius said her name again; his hand was on her arm. “What did he do to you?” Sirius murmured; he imagined a thousand different evil things McClure could have done to her.

“He didn’t do anything,” Piper said at length. “Forget I said anything.”

“No,” Sirius said forcefully.

“Piper’s right, Black. Forget she said anything. Women always exaggerate stories.” Alexander McClure stepped into the clearing. He outstretched his hand to Piper, meaning for her to grab it and follow him inside.

Sirius reacted first. “Keep your ruddy hands away from her.”

Sirius Black had never thrown a genuine punch before.

Alexander McClure proved to be an excellent practice dummy.

Sirius put his entire weight behind his swing. Piper thought she felt the wind from his arm as it swung through the air. His closed fist landed squarely on Alexander’s jaw. Alexander teetered for one second. He raised one arm and Piper thought he was going to hit Sirius back, but his arm was raised as a balancing devise. It didn’t help. His legs buckled and he fell to the side, making the powdery snow flurry up prettily around him.

“You punched him. You just punched him. For me.” Piper hurried to Sirius’ side. He was nursing his knuckles.

“Where’s the nearest town?” Sirius said. His shoulders were hunched, his back was rigid.


“TOWN!” Sirius shouted. “Where’s the nearest town? I’m leaving. I’m getting away from this.”

“What’s a town got to do with any of this? Muggle fireplaces aren’t connected to the Floo network.”

“Right.” Sirius looked utterly insane. He pointed at Piper, thinking. “The Knight Bus,” he said suddenly. “It’ll take me to my hou—my parents’ house. I’ll get my things. Then I’ll take it to Hogsmeade. Then I’ll live with James.”

“The Knight Bus doesn’t come through here. Enchantments,” she said as an explanation. “And if you’re running off I’m coming with you. We’ve got a car that my dad keeps in case of an emergency. I can drive.” This was a lie. Piper was banned from going near the old car Heath kept in the barn after she nearly blew it up when he tried to teach her how to drive.

“Don’t joke.”

“I’m not. I’ll Summon my things right now.” Piper held her wand aloft and was about to call her things when Sirius put his hand on hers.

“And where will you go?” He asked skeptically. Piper was really ruining his plans.

“I’ve plenty of Galleons in my Gringotts account, thanks.”

Sirius waved her on impatiently. “Fine. Can you get to London from here?”

“It can’t be that far.”

Piper was wrong.

By the time Piper’s things had zoomed through the Redden house and she had figured out how to actually start the vehicle, they had wasted precious time. She explained that her mother and father wouldn’t actually care that they were running away and stealing the car. They would however, be murderous when they found Alexander McClure lying facedown in the snow. Sirius said that he would wake up soon enough.

Sirius home wasn’t actually very far from Piper’s, but by the time they reached Grimmauld Place, many hours had passed. Piper stalled the car almost every other minute. She nearly hit eight other cars that were on the road. She drove off the road more than she drove on the road. They were lost most of the trip and only found Sirius’ home by accident. It was a tense drive with no talking on either part; both were too frightened of what would happen if Piper was distracted from driving even for a second.

The Blacks still were not home when they arrived. Sirius rushed inside and grabbed his trunk. He too had been packed for days. Before Piper even knew what was happening, they were on the Knight Bus and sitting opposite each other on the ever-moving beds. Sirius’ head was in his hands. Piper joined him on his bed. She leaned on his shoulder. She was terrible at making people feel better.

“I guess we’re delinquents now,” she muttered.

“I guess so.”

Piper felt absolutely horrendous. Why did she have to invite Sirius to her house? Why did she tell him about McClure? If she had just dealt with it all on her own, Sirius would still be at his house sulking the holiday away. There would be no kiss. No runaway. He wouldn’t be looking at her like she was a frail Christmas ornament.


Sirius grunted.

“I’m sorry.”

Piper’s voice was drowned out by the conductor yelling, “NEXT STOP HOGSMEADE!” And she doubted that he heard her.



“You didn’t do anything to be sorry for.”

The bus jolted to a stop. Piper lunged forward. Sirius clutched her for balance as the bus leveled out. The conductor threw their luggage on the street. Piper didn’t care how late it was; there was no need to be so uncouth.

Piper had never appreciated how hard the carriage had to work to cart the students to the castle. By the time they reached the gargoyles, Sirius and Piper were sweating. The cold air made it difficult to breathe and the snow made their trek even harder. Thankfully, Sirius was wise enough to perform an Obliteration Charm to blast the snow away.

“Take my cloak,” Sirius said gruffly. They had entered the entrance hall and Piper was shivering violently. He shrugged off his cloak and handed it to Piper, who was looking a bit pneumonia prone at the moment.

Piper stood on her tip toes. Even doing this, her head still barely tickled Sirius’ chin. He compensated by lowering his head slightly. Piper pulled his head down and kissed him. They were reluctant to stop. But Piper pulled away.

“What was that for?” Sirius said, bewildered.


Hips swaggering, Piper left Sirius where he was, trying not to think of the repercussions her actions would undoubtedly have. In less than twenty four hours she had run away from home, kissed Sirius Black—twice, and she had finally come to terms with Alexander McClure—who was hopefully still lying face down in the snow. Sirius, meanwhile, laughed once and watched Piper go; as she slinked up the grand stairs, he tried very hard not to touch his mouth where her lips had just been.

Chapter 10: Public Displays of Rejection
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You Hate Me.
Chapter 10: Public Displays of Rejection

The return of Piper and Sirius caused absolute bedlam. Madness. Mayhem even. The commotion was worse than when James Potter turned all of the utensils in the great hall invisible.

At Hogwarts, it was quite a familiar occurrence for students to turn up in the middle of the night by way of the Knight bus or other means, but one thing that the walls of the castle had never seen was Piper Redden and Sirius Black popping up at twilight…together. If one thing riled up the rumour mills at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy it was one sixth year girl and one sixth year boy who despised each other emerging at breakfast—together—when they certainly were not supposed to be there. And if that didn’t cause the mill to whir, the fact that the said sixth year boy and the said sixth year girl sat next to each other did the trick.

A week of Christmas break remained. The absence of lessons was taken advantage of by the female population of Hogwarts; they used their ample free time coming up with obscene and ridiculous gossip and spreading it to anyone who would listen.

Piper tried to remain impervious to the stares and catty comments, but it grew harder as her nerves shortened. She had never understood the term “wits end” fully until then. Madness was only inches away…madness or murder.

“C’mon, Lily, let me at her!” Piper grunted, tangling herself in her own black robes as she dove for her wand. Lily’s tactic of holding onto Piper’s hem was an ingenious one, and soon Piper was tripping over her heels as if someone had tied her trainer’s laces together. Once Lily was sure the seventh year that had tripped Piper was completely safe, Piper was released.

“Just ignore it, Piper. Trust me, they’ll get bored eventually. A new story will catch their attention soon enough,” Lily said. As an afterthought she added, “Although, it probably won’t be too soon. You have to admit, it is a good story. A midnight runaway. A lovers’ quarrel. Star crossed lovers.”

“There was no running, no quarreling, and no loving of any kind,” Piper snarled, but Lily was too emerged in her fantasy and continued to mumble.

“But in the end, love conquered all,” the redhead said dreamily.

“There was no conquering!” Piper shouted, causing all those around her to stop and stare. Lily sighed contentedly and Piper grumbled, “Why don’t you write a book about it?” Piper massaged her temples, feeling like she was about to have an aneurism or some other medical emergency.

The ability to nail a story on the head was a special talent of the Hogwarts girls. Weaved into the complicated tangle of lies was a string of the truth. How the tale even surfaced was a mystery—until the Howler came, then the whole school knew the story without the lacking of any of the details. However, even before Carolyn Redden’s cries filled the Great Hall nearly every soul roaming the halls of Hogwarts knew of the flight of Sirius and Piper. Piper tried to convince Lily that Mabel, the biggest gossip in the sixth year class, had recording devices hidden in all of the broom cupboards. According to Lily, that was a preposterous theory. Piper’s second theory about Mabel bribing the House Elves with dirty clothes for information didn’t even warrant a sarcastic remark. It was more ‘logical’ (to Lily, at least) that Korey had been written to by her cousin who happened to know the entire story because her best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s father’s nephew’s best friend was Regulus Black, who had heard his mother shouting about Sirius the very same night.

Lily was right. As the vacation neared an end, the rumors lost their spunk (and originality). But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Even Peeves lost his creativity. The best he came up with was, “Piper and Sirius kissing in a tree…” The others were less “Gone with the Wind” esque.

“--They eloped and their parents found out and—“
“—A spell backfired and Piper fell in love with Sirius—“
“--She has been in love with him for years now—“
“—She is obviously just paying him—“

Sirius took the rumors better than Piper. While she ignored anyone but Lily, Sirius invited the attention. He could be seen at meals or during free blocks encouraging the gossip about them.

“Well you see, we have been madly in love since first year, but we had to keep it a secret. You see, our parents are members of rival gangs, and our love was forbidden. But we finally decided we could not harness our love! And now we can truly express it and I’ll never let her leave my side!”

Coincidentally, Piper was indeed by Sirius’ side. His hand found the hood of Piper’s robes. With a forceful yank, he pulled her closer. “Come ‘ere, love!” Several surrounding people snickered.

“Get off.” Piper whispered in her best I’ll-bloody-kill-you-if-you-don’t-stop-pronouncing-our-love death voice.

Sirius gestured to the dispersing crowd. “You sure know how to ruin a guy’s fun. I haven’t gone so many days consecutively without getting asked out—now I know how Moony feels— and I’ll tell you, it great! And it’s all because of you.” He did not say it in anger, but in awe.

Mable poked her curly head out from behind a pillar where she was unsuccessfully spying on Sirius and Piper. Sirius noted this. He lowered his head. “Here, give us a kiss.”

“NO!” It was perfect was it that Sirius was the one getting all of the perks. While he was living a jolly old life, Piper was being slandered at every corner. “This may be the best time of your life what with the lack of imbeciles fawning over you, but me?” Piper placed a hand on her chest. She could feel her hair already frizzing with anger. “I’ve never been so ridiculed in my life! Last night, someone put a snake in my bed, this morning, my fork turned into a flubberworm, and look at this!” Piper dug a piece of paper out of her pocket. She nearly tore the crinkled parchment in two she was so flustered. She forced it into Sirius’ hand. “Go on, read it!” Piper’s eyes were in danger of popping out of her head they were opened so wide.

Sirius complied, for Piper’s sanity, and read aloud. “’Piper Redden, you are a bitch.’ Well I could have told you that.” To save himself from any broken bones, Sirius continued to read. “’I have always tolerated you, but I never liked you. There was always something about you that made me anxious. Now I know what it is, you are a bitch. You’re a snake, skank, slut…’ Wow, nice alliteration. ‘I cannot imagine a painful enough death for you to endure—but I’m sure one will come to me. Sirius Black was going to be my boyfriend until you stole him away. You ruined my life and now I will ruin yours. Whore.’” Sirius folded the paper in half. “Well that was a little extreme. I wasn’t close to being anyone’s boyfriend.”

“And the death threat, that wasn’t extreme at all?”

“You know what? It sounds like you need a sense of humor.” Sirius crossed his arms. Seriously, that death threat wasn’t that bad. He had had thousands of assassination attempts done on him, and he wasn’t complaining. “Besides, you weren’t complaining when I let you jump me.”

Piper’s face darkened. How was he acting like nothing had happened between them? Piper’s denial skills were not so grand that she could block out such an amazing event as running away from home with her most hated rival. Even the strong, protective movements he had been making that night had ceased. It was as if being back at Hogwarts had clouded his vision. Piper had thought that was what she wanted—what she prayed for. She told Sirius what she had told no one else. How could he betray that act of trust by ignoring it?

For a person so small, she managed to tower over Sirius. Leading with a pointed finger, Piper advanced on Sirius, cornering him into the brick wall. The Adams Apple in Sirius’ throat protruded more than usual. He gulped.

“You want a sense of humor, Sirius Black? I’ll show you a sense of humor.”

* * * *

“So let me get this straight,” Lily’s brows were knit together in frustration, forming one long red line across her forehead as she attempted to curl her hair. Her locks were putting up quite the battle, and this war demanded most of Lily’s attention. “You kissed him.”


“So he kissed you?”

“No.” Even though Piper knew she sounded like a fool she couldn’t justify what had happened with a yes-no answer.

“Well Piper,” Lily’s hair was a dreadful sight of half-defeated curls that hung lifelessly around her head. “There was definitely some kissing going on.”

“Then it was both.” Piper kicked her bedpost, and prayed the beast wouldn’t retaliate. “But he started it.” Piper pointed her finger threateningly at Lily.

Lily saw right through Piper’s three year old logic. “Right. Well, however good your intentions may have been, they seem to be backfiring.”

“No shit.” One kiss could only cause so much drama in a castle filled with teens. “And Black won’t leave me alone now. It’s like I’m his bodyguard to protect him from trollops seeking a date. And what are you getting all dressed up for anyway?” Piper desperately sought any change in the subject. She couldn’t explain the fact that she had—God she hated the word—connected with Sirius. Ew. Connected? That wasn’t the right word. Bonded? No. She would have to create a new word to describe what had happened while she went home for the winter holidays.

Lily tried to hide both the new blouse she had put on and a large grin at the same time. She failed miserably. “I actually have a bit of a…erm…unsupervised meeting between myself and one of my peers that I have to be present at around six o’ clock in the evening.”

“Don’t try your word games on me, Evans,” Piper threatened. “You’re going on a date!”

“No it’s not a date! It’s a meeting!”

“And is this meeting with a member of the opposite sex?” Lily’s new blouse was answer enough, but Piper wanted to hear the words. The redhead nodded. “So it’s a date.”

Lily shook her head violently. “No, no, no, no, no. It’s just a casual get together with me and someone else where there will be no talk of dating.”

“Oh yeah, and what are you guys going to talk about, trolls? Gobstones? Meetings are for cults, societies, and clubs, Lils, not l teens. Who’s the guy anyway?” Piper placed her hand under her chin. There was no one in the Hogwarts body that Piper had not heard of. Living in the shadows seemed to have the bonus of knowing everything that happened at Hogwarts. Piper knew more gossip than Moaning Myrtle. She didn’t enjoy the knowledge she had, nor did she spread rumors she just…knew.

Piper had to repeat “Pardon?” four times before Lily would pronounce the name with a bit of coherency.
The name caused Piper’s jaw to nearly unhinge. A cobra would have been jealous of the gaping hole that was Piper’s mouth.


“Keep your voice down, Pip—“


“I don’t think that’s his middle name, Piper.”

Piper shrugged. After the initial shock wore down somewhat, Piper was able to rebuke Lily with a hint of sanity. “Lily he will talk your ears off. Seriously, they’ll fall right off, just plunk right on the table. Bye ears! You’ll want to kill yourself by the end of the night. I can’t allow you to go. As a friend I must intervene. He is a another bastard who thinks that he is hot shit because his great-great-great grandfather’s brother’s cousin invented Exploding Snap or something.”

Grant Grey was a Ravenclaw Piper had met only once. Grant was a seventh year whose father had something to do with the Ministry, so of course their family was invited to the Redden’s for dinner. Piper had never come closer to actually jumping out of a window than when she was with Grant Grey. The Grey’s all had severe acne issues, and the curse had befallen Grant more than any before. The pimples were held at bay only by copious amounts of Bubotuber Pus and other crafty spellwork. Other than the acne, Grant was still not an attractive person. His nose was too long and crooked, nearly reaching his round, protruding chin. He did have nice eyes and pleasant, full lips, but neither matched his mousy brown hair and obnoxious personality. Piper could not see what Lily wanted with this boy.

“He’s very kind. He is always at the library with me and always offering to help me with my homework.” Lily began to fall into her defense stance. It was a very alarming pose including crossed arms, bent knees, jutted out hips, and narrowed emerald eyes.

“Well he is probably only in the library because, oh yeah, HE’S A GOD DAMN RAVENCLAW! Besides, I doubt homework was the only thing he wanted to help you with. And I’ll bet he asked you out and you were too polite to reject him.”

Any person in the castle with a Y chromosome over fifteen and under twenty had outstanding odds to reign in Lily Evans. Just because she was, as Piper put it, too polite. The one exception to this was James Potter. Since he went about asking her out in a rude way to begin with, Lily felt no remorse rejecting the piss out of him. Mind you, any normal girl would have done the same if James had gathered eighteen of his closest mates to lay out in the court yard to spell “GO OUT WITH ME EVANS?” (two were needed for the question-mark) while Lily had Transfiguration, which looked out over the courtyard, as James jumped up and down in the air, making it clear who had asked the question in second year. Most learned from James’ repeated mistakes and went about asking Lily for dates in quieter ways.

“I know, I don’t really want to go on this…meeting,” Lily was still adamant about using that word, “but I know I will hurt his feelings and he’s a really good friend. I’ve never known a guy so…wholesome. Just give me some advice, I need guidance.”

“Well the best advice I can give you is move all sharp utensils out of the way when Grant starts talking, but I doubt that’s what you’re looking for.” Lily’s glare confirmed that quite nicely. “I don’t know. Just make him see you’re not girlfriend material.”

“You really give the worst advice ever.” Lily turned away, huffing and puffing all the way to the door. “How do I look?” Lily’s hair looked a bit like someone had draped orange seaweed over her head, her blouse was buttoned wrong (Lily had mistaken the first hole for the second), and she had a bit of celery stuck in her teeth.

How Lily had managed to accomplish this flustered look so well was far beyond Piper’s knowledge, but she certainly wasn’t about to mention it. With a Witch Weekly award winning smile, Piper sent Lily to damnation. “You look simply dazzling.”

While Piper’s advice for Lily may have been the worst advice ever, it had given Piper a terrific idea.

* * * *

James Potter was a Mafia movie lover. He tended to travel in a posse when he had serious business to do.

Piper did not know this.

So it came as no surprise that when James Potter cornered her in a dark corridor with his crossed-armed thugs behind him, including Remus, Peter, and Sirius, she was sure she was about to be mugged. James had other things on his mind.

“You let Lily go on a date with Grant Grey?” He accused. “She won’t come back sane!” James held his broomstick in his hand and let it fall into his other hand threateningly. It appeared as though James had enlisted the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team to help him (minus Remus and Peter).

“Yeah, that was sort of my reaction too.” Piper mumbled, frowning. “But I wouldn’t worry, Potter, I’m sure they’ll keep it appropriate.” She said with a wink. Throwing a deadly stiff arm, which Rhett had conveniently taught her, Piper made her way from between the brawny boys.

“Nuh uh! You march down to Hogsmeade and rescue her this instant!” James stamped his foot then toppled over his comrades to block Piper’s way. The rest of the Quidditch team had seen enough. Hot showers were much more inviting than watching Piper Redden beat up James Potter. Only Remus, Peter, and Sirius stayed loyal to their stupid friend.

“There will be no marching, Potter.” Piper took a stab at imitating Lily’s defense stance, but only managed stumbling a bit. “You go get her if you’re so damn worried. She is a big girl, Potter. Trust me; she doesn’t need you looking out for her.”

“C’mon, love, be a doll and go rescue Lily.” Sirius stepped forward. James backed off and let his wingman handle the situation. If anyone could tame a wild beast it was Sirius. Sirius approached Piper warily; he was close enough to put his arm around her shoulder. As his arm slid around Piper’s slim shoulders, her own arm flew upwards and twisted his off.

No words were needed; the guttural growl coming from Piper was enough of a warning. The four boys scampered.

I really need to do something about this…

Piper was at a loss. The only “boyfriend” she had ever had was in first year, and that hardly counted; the closest contact they had was holding hands, and they had probably only spoken thirty words the whole nine days they were dating. Technically, they were still dating, since neither one of them had the courage to dump the other.

This whole situation is ridiculous. No less than a thousand ideas were formulating themselves. Piper had always been a natural plotter. But none of them ended well. That’s it! And ending. I need to end it. Oh sweet Circe, I need to break up with Sirius Black.

Piper told her plan in it’s entirety to Lily when she came back from her “meeting” looking worse for wear (which was saying something, considering the state she left in). While Lily disapproved, she was a bit too distracted to voice her complaints. Lily was in a complete daze, given another hour; Grant would have talked the poor girl to death.

If Piper had been a crueler woman, she would have told Lily about James’ (ahem) request to have Piper go save her. No good would have came from it, and she was going to play the perfect Marauder girlfriend for plan Break up with Sirius to work.

“So why do you need my help?” Lily asked after a much needed cold shower.

“Because no one knows how to turn down a Marauder better than you, Lils.”

* * * *

When Piper sat next to Sirius the next day at breakfast the female population of Hogwarts choked into their goblets, or else gagged on the sausages in their mouths. To add salt to the wound, Piper reached for Sirius’ hand, which was previously content on Sirius’ lap, and brought it up into clear view with her own fingers laced between his. One fourth year darted from the Hall in tears. But no one choked more than the Marauders themselves. They knew Piper Redden and her games, how could they have forgotten the last time she lulled them into a false sense of security before striking like the lioness she was?

Sirius was dumbfounded, mystified, bemused, but he wasn’t about to take his hand back, either. Remus, James, and Peter seemed to be having a difficult time recovering also.

“I’m really sorry I wouldn’t help you yesterday,” she said to Sirius as sweetly as possible. “I’ll see you in Potions, ‘kay?” Piper gave Sirius a lingering kiss on the cheek and then slid out from between him and Peter.

It wasn’t until Piper was out of the hall entirely that one of the Marauders found their voice.

“What the fuck just happened?”

* * * *

The perplexing actions of Piper continued all day. She sat next to Sirius in classes, at meals, and even in the common room. She held Sirius’ hand the whole time.

Sirius learned three things about Piper during the day he was going to dub, “Most Awkward Twenty-Four Hours of My Life”:

Firstly, she was a great hand-holder. She had a firm grip, but yet it was loose enough for Sirius to let go if he had wanted to (which he really didn’t). Nor did her palms get sweaty like his sometimes did. Her arm did not shake annoyingly like other girls’, but sat, inexhaustible, on the table. Once, she even took her thumb and caressed Sirius’ with it. The gesture was a pleasant surprise.

Secondly, she had beautiful hands. A more intelligent man would have used different synonyms like “stubby,” or “big-knuckled.” Her round nails were filed short; they barely showed white at the tips. No polished marred her nails, but they were still well kept. No hangnails dared show themselves. Her skin was soft and lotioned, which more than made up for their subbiness.

Thirdly, she smelled the way only a woman could: warm, exotic, and clean.

These interesting facts were lost on Peter, Remus, and James, who were too busy trying to figure out what was going on, and what Piper was after.

“I say Sirius turns into Padfoot and gives her a good bite in the leg.” Peter said. He added another idea to a list entitled, “What Redden’s after” So far, the list included:

1. Sirius’ hot body
2. James’ hot body
3. Peter’s hot body
4. Remus’ hot body
5. Peter’s Y-fronts
6. James’ lingerie
7. Remus’ diary
8. Sirius’ pants
9. Sirius’ money (“She’ll be sorry if that’s the one, Mum’s probably already disowned me.”)
9. Our dignity.

James was in charge of manning the list. “What’s Going On?” His ideas ranged from, “Piper’s finally become sane and has come to terms with her love of Sirius,” to “Piper’s slowly poisoning Sirius from toxins she hides in her hands.”

The Marauders designed a full reconnaissance (James watched a lot of spy movies also), including snooping through Piper’s drawers (they found only lacy pants they wouldn’t expect Piper to wear and a picture of Piper surrounded by a bunch of good-looking blokes), Peter stalking her in his Animagi form, Remus continually asking her for help with his homework, and Sirius wearing gloves at all times. As the investigation progressed, numbers were crossed off both of the lists until none were left except for the conclusion that Piper was just a normal girl who was keen to date Sirius Black. Though a seed of doubt was still planted.

* * * *

“What are you doing?” Sirius said. Piper had entered the Great Hall for breakfast, and was hovering beside Sirius, waiting for him to clear a spot for her.

“I just want to sit next to my boyfriend.” Piper took matters into her own hands and squeezed herself in the narrow passage between Remus and Sirius. By angling in her shoulders, Piper managed to fit somewhat comfortably.

“So what, no malicious prank? None of this pretend to have surrendered business?” His broad shoulder hit Piper in the jaw as he turned to face her. Sirius pretended not to have noticed.

“I’ll be honest with you, I had plenty of things I was going to do to you, but I decided that the worst thing that I could possibly do was actually be your girlfriend. Or act like it, at least. I mean how long can you last without snogging some fifth year? Besides, I’m a terrible girlfriend. The worst, actually.” She paused for dramatic effect. “I’m going to make you wish that you never hit puberty, Black.”

“Well, fortunately enough, I never have. Ha!” Sirius said, thinking himself wise.

“Right.” Piper un-lodged her shoulder and reached for a piece of toast. Finding a suitable slice, she bit into it, scattering crumbs over her own robes as well as Sirius’. “I just have one more question. Which pet-name do you prefer: Sweetie Pumpkin Pookums, Hunny Wunny Cakes, or Snookie Wookum Weetie Bunny Bo?”

“Oh, I see your game, Redden. Well you just wait, because I just so happen to be the World’s Worst Boyfriend Ever.”

“Right.” Piper said again, then she whispered into his ear, “I’ll save you a seat in Charms, Siri Weary Bunny Bear.”

And thus, the War of the Relationship began.

* * * *

“I have never been more humiliated in my life.” Piper subtly moved one of Lily’s giant stacks of books to fully hide her crimson face. She was dismally losing the Relationship War—which was planned, of course—but Sirius was taking the term “public displays of affection” to a new level. Sirius had conjured a cherub to float behind Piper, shouting love ballads at the top of its lungs, he had written ‘PIPER REDDEN IS FOXY’ in red roses during Herbology, and had become accustomed to taking photographs of Piper every time he saw her, saying it was for a scrapbook he was putting together because he wanted to document their love.

“Think again.” Lily said. She collected her books in one large swoop (ruining Piper’s hiding spot), and stumbled over to an adjacent table. The library was a sanctuary to Lily, and she wouldn’t have Sirius Black destroying it, nor would she ruin her timid relationship with the new librarian, Madame Irma Pince, to protect Piper’s dignity. Some friend.

Sirius was no less than exultant with his newest expression of ‘love.’ It was a shirt. But it wasn’t just any shirt. It was a white shirt with a picture and words on it. Now, the normal formula for a shirt is ‘a picture and words,’ but the words on this particular shirt were well chosen, and the picture was especially important.

Similar to Muggle shirts of its kind, Sirius had somehow managed to superimpose a portrait of Piper on the very center of the crisp, white shirt. The picture had been cut into an atrocious heart shape (which pointed out its male doing). Across the back in bolded letters were the words, “PIPER + SIRIUS = LOVE”

Vomiting almost certainly would have blown Piper’s cover.

“Prongs,” Sirius announced, loud enough for the library’s occupants to hear.

“Yes, Padfoot.”

“Do you think Piper believes in love at first sight?”

“Probably not.”

“I guess I’ll just have to walk by again, then.” True to his words, Sirius cat-walked backwards and walked by Piper a second time.

“Oi, Piper, is your father a baker?”

“What are you talking about, Bla—“

“BECAUSE YOU HAVE GREAT BUNS! AH HA HA!” A knee slap accompanied the laughter radiating from the two boys.

Most often, librarians are mild, timid creatures. The Dewey Decimal System is their only friend. This stereotype is not the same for Hogwarts librarians. One out of line student and library hell is unleashed. So when Madame Pince saw Sirius Black and James Potter making a mockery of her books, she saw it quite reasonable to levitate her heaviest volume at their heads.

“But Irma,” Sirius said, dodging the tome wildly, “I was just escorting my girlfriend to class.” His antics resulted in hitting his shin against a nearby chair. For an instant, he reached down to examine his wound, but an instant was enough. The book hit its target. Like a proud dog, the volume floated back to its owner, waiting for praise.

Madame Pince pointed to the door. Her book flapped angrily.

“Fine! I’ll wait for you outside, Pumpkin.”

“It was just Karma.” Piper said smugly over her shoulder ten minutes later in Transfiguration (Sirius was still moaning about his head).

The Marauders conferenced behind Piper’s back. Using ostentatious gesticulation, head nodding, and torso waggling, they came to a consensus. Sirius loudly tore a piece of parchment from a notebook. The long tear lasted for nearly thirty seconds. He unscrewed his ink bottle just as loudly and rummaged in his bag for a quill. Professor McGonagall took notice to these actions but ignored the boy, she was getting her hopes up, but she prayed he was going to take notes…for once.

Sirius had similar plans, but lesson notes weren’t exactly what he was scribbling (shooting droplets of ink on the floor). He took an enormous breath, filling his lungs much more than was necessary, and exhaled on the parchment to dry the ink. More than half of the class had turned to see what Sirius was making such a fuss about. Three quarters of the class followed Sirius as he crinkled the note into the shape of a paper football and took aim straight at Piper’s head. His shot was excellent.

“OI!” The sharp end of the paper nicked Piper’s ear. Her cry was enough to draw the attention of Professor McGonagall.

“Miss Redden, if you cannot control you’re outbursts you will have to leave this class!” McGonagall’s narrowed eyes fell to the football on her desk. Her unnaturally thin mouth spoke what she was thinking. What is this, Miss Redden?

Piper flopped forward onto her desk and clung to the opposite end of it, enfolding the note between layers of wood, wool, and skin. She won’t make me move, she won’t make me move, she won’t make me move, ouch, unless she grabs my ear! The ear grabbing move was an art Minerva McGonagall had perfected. Every student feared the dreaded ear grab from that woman. Piper knew why after that day.

“Well let’s see what we have here.” McGonagall unfolded the note with cruel hesitation. Piper had a feeling about what was coming. Had her legs been working properly, she would have bolted, unfortunately embarrassment kept them glued to the floor. The only thing she could do was close her eyes and lower her glowing face to her desk. The lack of sight seemed to heighten her other senses. McGonagall’s words were as clear as the Pyramids of Giza.

“Ahem. Piper, here is a poem I have written for you. I had planned to wait until our date tonight, but your beauty inspired me.

When I feel a bit yellow
I remember that I am a fellow
With a wonderful girlfriend named Piper.

When I start to feel lonely
I imagine that I’m a pony
And my rider is my girlfriend named Piper.

She cheers me up when I’m blue
And she has a great body too
That’s right; I’m talking about my girlfriend named Piper.

Love, Sirius.

* * * *

“Lily, I can’t take it anymore. I’m breaking up with him tomorrow.” Piper was cramped between two suits of armor on the fourth floor where people seldom stopped by. The armored knights had been previously unaware of Piper’s sanctuary between them. When she spoke, their rusted heads bent down.

“Ain’t you that that girl who that boy wrote that poem about? ‘When I feel a bit yellow…’ How’s it go again, Gideon?”

’I remember that I am a fellow’”

“Finish it and die, knight,” Piper threatened.

The second knight was offended. “No appreciation. In my day, when a lover poured his heart and soul into a work of art, the subject of his affection at least acted like she liked it. The boy had such passion.”

“And rhythm.”

“And meter.”

“I didn’t know Hogwarts was home to the Dynamic Duo of Poetry.” Piper piped in, purposely banging the knights as she wedged her way out of the two.

“Piper you have to wait until you’ve been going out for at least a week for it to be really believable.” Lily said.

“Lily, I’ll be dead by day seven. I’m dumping him tomorrow.”

“Suit yourself but you know I really that that what you’re doing is really, really wrong. It’s so childish, Piper. Besides, I think that it’s painfully obvious that you and Sirius aren’t even dating. You’re not fooling any—OH HI GRANT!”

Grant Grey was not the type of person one enjoys running into in a corridor, definitively because his mouth never shut for long enough to make it to class in time. Piper needn’t have worried. It wasn’t she who’s ear Grant was about to talk off, it was Lily’s. Piper’s rejection was still sore for Grey, but like his mother had said, he was too good for her anyway.

“Hello, Lily.” Grant said. His sonorous voice made Piper’s jaw twitch.

“’Ello, Grey. We’d love to stop and chat, but Lily and I’ve got to get to class.” Piper said. She allowed her face to fall into an apologetic countenance.

Grant rolled his eyes.

“Actually, I have a free break.” Lily skipped past her friend and slide her arm through Grant’s before Piper could stop her.

Now this was bad, very bad. Piper was 120 percent positive that Lily did have a class. What in the name of Cliodna was she doing!? James had been on rather good behavior considering his own standards; Lily couldn’t possibly be skiving off class for retribution.

This was not good.

“Shit.” Piper snapped her fingers and allowed her feet to carry her to her next lesson, which Black thankfully wasn’t in. Piper had some serious thinking to do.

* * * *

“Look what Grant bought me!” Lily was positively glowing when she found Piper in the least likely of all places: the Quidditch Pitch. It was (or had been) the perfect hiding spot. Not only was it in a location none would ever think of, it was also outside, and while the Scottish winter chilled Piper to the bone, the fresh air cleared her mind. Piper found that by Summoning blankets she was able to create a sort of nest in the bleachers. She could have spent the night there if it wasn’t for damn Lily Evans finding her.

“He got me a friendship bracelet!” She brandished her wrist, fully adorned with a silver bracelet. “Look, mine says ‘Friends’ and Grant’s says ‘Forever.’ Isn’t it cute?”

“Yeah, so cute I could hurl.” Piper was distracted enough without Lily bragging about her love affair with Grey.

“You know I’ve never really been friends with a guy, and I really like it!” Lily sighed helplessly. “He really just likes me for me.”

“I wouldn’t know.” Piper said from her cocoon.

“So you’re still breaking up with Sirius tomorrow?” Lily jangled her bracelet and examined it from different positions.

“Why wouldn’t I? Not all of us can find such good guy friends. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t exactly call Black ‘wholesome.’” Piper stood. Her blankets fell to the ground, turning back into stones. “I should get back to the castle. Big day tomorrow.”

Piper dug her way through the snowy ground. Her breath manifested itself in crystallized puffs. She retreated back to the dark castle, leaving Lily alone with her bracelet.

* * * *

The worst week of Piper’s life was the average week in numbers. There was seven days, but those seven days were filled with embarrassment. One hundred sixty-eight hours of harassment. One thousand eighty minutes of snog attempts. Six hundred four thousand eight hundred seconds of sheer pain.

Piper bit her fingernail viciously. She gave up on the dratted nail and began to work on her knuckles, cracking them absentmindedly. Part of her gained a vindictive pleasure, knowing cracking them made her knuckles grow. She’d love to see what her mother would say. Piper shook herself. She had to stay focused if she wanted this to look believable.

Air filled her lungs but trapped itself there, too afraid to come out. Her fidgeting became more and more pronounced as Defense Against the Dark Arts came to an end. Her hand shook so violently when she was dissecting her vampire heart that the entire organ slipped to the stone floor.

Severus waved his wand to clear up the mess Piper had made. He pushed his own heart closer to Piper so the two of them could share.

“So, you and Black?” he said conversationally.

Piper cringed. She needed no reminder of she and Black being ‘an item’. In response, she said, “Mmmmm.”

“I thought that you hated him with, what was it, ‘a burning passion that should be powerful enough to set him on fire.’”

“Feelings change sometimes.” Piper said unconvincingly.

“What is this, some sort of game between the two of you? It’s perverse.” Severus did little to hide his disappointment in Piper. “I don’t know how you can be so swayed in your beliefs. One minute you hate him the next you’re dating him.”

“I never said I hated him.” Piper said offhandedly. “And there’s a lot of things you don’t know about him,” Piper stopped, remembering how quickly Sirius forgot about what had happened between them. Why was she defending him when he would not do the same for her? She would bet her wand Sirius had already had his fun telling the other Marauders all about the things Piper had told him.

Severus was still waiting for her to continue when the bell rang. Students filtered through the door into the hallway. Piper was one of them, as was Sirius.

She closed her eyes and counted to three. “How hard can this be?” She muttered to herself. Piper wove her way through the black clad students, throwing the occasional elbow and ducking the odd bag or two. “Sirius,” She said in a stage whisper. “We need to talk.”

“About what?” Sirius reached into his bag with one hand and held up a finger with the other. He must have had some object or another to give to Piper. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to be in control.

“About us.”


“Look,” Piper now had four people in the least hanging on every word she said. When she touched Sirius’ elbow to get his attention more people turned. Instinctively the crowd formed a circle around the two as mobs often do when they smell a fight coming.

“We just aren’t working out.” She waited for Sirius to reply. He didn’t. He must be playing stupid. Piper spoke her next words with deliberate slowness, “We need to stop dating.”


“Okay!” Piper shouted, frustrated. This wasn’t going as planned. She needed to start over. “We are going out right?”

“Yeah.” Sirius said; glad to finally be able to answer one of Piper’s questions.

“And I want to stop going out with you.”

“Ohhhh. But wh—“

“No, don’t speak.” Piper rushed forward, the picture child for distressed girlfriend, and held a finger to Sirius’ lips. She turned her head away from his. “Please, let me go quietly, Sirius. I loved you once so madly, and I still do. But the passion, the passion is gone for me. You have to let me go, Sirius, I’m like a bird, I need to be free.” Somehow, Piper had managed to lock her wrists in Sirius’ hands. It was like a scene from one of the shows Alexander had made her watch over the summer—the kind with bad actors and even worse plot lines that were only shown during the daytime when no one watches them.

Guys and gals alike were pushing to get to the front of the throng of people. The Marauders were three of these people. The sight of James made something click in Sirius’ brain. This seemed way too familiar. He saw a bit of orange hair. Why, this was just like something Lily would do to James. Now that’s funny, Lily and Piper are mates. Then he got it. She was fake-fake dating him! He was quadruple crossed! He was dating her as a joke because she convinced him that it was a joke, forcing him to do a slew of crazy, needy boyfriend things, only so she could break up with him publicly in order to humiliate him and make it seem like they had really been dating after all. After this unnerving insight all Sirius could do was gape dumbfoundedly. No, he was the one fake-dating Piper, not the other way around. The whole gig had been fun and games for he, Sirius, but for Piper it was for revenge.

But what had he done? He didn’t know. Sure, he had been blatantly ignoring the fact that they had kissed each other, run away together, and shared several intimate moments, but that was nothing to get touchy about. Was it?

“Sirius, I thought it would be a good idea to make our relationship public since we’ve been in love so long, but you’re just, you’re just…too needy.”

“I’m the needy one, am I? Well I happen to remember you…er…you held my hand too much.” So that’s why she never retaliated when Sirius showed his false affections. “And you always walked with me in the corridors. I think I need the space, dear.”

“Sirius please don’t turn this on me. I know this is hard for you to hear, but you have to accept it. I know the wound is fresh now and you’ll be upset for a long time but I promise it will heal with time. It might be hard to see me every day, but we can still be friends, right? I’d love it if we could stay close, but it just won’t work to be lovers. You need me too much. Accept it, we’re over.”

Piper had found her calling as an actress. She licked her lips and pursed them as fake tears pooled in her stormy eyes. She entangled her hands behind Sirius’ neck. On her tip-toes she let her lips find his smooth cheek.

“Goodbye, Sirius.”

* * * *

When Piper woke the next morning and sat down at breakfast she had prepared to be the object of more judgment. She wasn’t, which was a pleasant surprise. She scratched her head slowly as she looked for Lily. Piper hadn’t seen her friend since Sunday.

Piper wasn’t a lover of attention, but really, she hadn’t broken up with Sirius to be ignored further. Oh, people were certainly talking, but it wasn’t about Piper. You see, the breakup of Piper and Sirius was overshadowed by another event. To the students of Hogwarts, the Piper-Sirius dating fiasco had only been a strange—very strange—moment in Hogwarts history. It was almost forgotten entirely in the grand scale of things, especially since the new gossip was fresh, juicy, and scandalous.

“Wot’s everyone freaking out about?” Piper said to a fourth year Gryffindor sitting near her.

“You haven’t heard?” The girl giggled. “Grant Grey asked Lily Evens to go steady with him.”

Piper began to choke. "She said no right?"

“No, she accepted.”

Chapter 11: Like Glue
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So I know I am about a hundred years behind in answering my reviews, and I’m really sorry. I’m going to have to devote a day to just responding. But to compensate for my lack of response to my reviewers, I have written up a nice, spiffy, new chapter. Enjoy!

You Hate Me
Chapter 11: Like Glue

There are few better cures than that of a bath. Wars had been fought over the Gryffindor sixth’s bathtub, which is convenient, since baths can relieve even the worst battle wound. Baths heal all sorts of pains: heartbreak, sore muscles, headaches, cramps, congestion, guilty consciences, and fights with a best friend. The perfect bath can even hold fear at bay.

Piper skipped the Hogsmeade trip to take advantage of the empty bathroom (and she wasn’t keen on going since January brought such cold weather). She sunk into the porcelain tub filled with scalding hot water, bubbles, candles, and a yellow rubber duck. For good measure she barricaded the door.

The row Piper and Lily engaged in the night before had been monumental. Piper splashed the water angrily. She submerged herself completely, hoping the water would somehow be able to wash the fight away.

Piper wasn’t going to deny that she started it.

“Lily I don’t mean to sound like my mother, but you could do so much better than Grey.” Piper had said to Lily while they were walking to Charms.

“And you could do better than Sirius Black.” Lily said.

Piper frowned but quickly turned it into a smile. “Yeah but that was a joke, Lils.”

“It didn’t look like it to me.”

“What do you mean by that?” Piper stopped cold, instinctively putting her hands on her hips and gaping.

“You didn’t exactly try to hide how much you like him, Piper.” Lily explained in a teacher-like manner.

“Don’t try to turn this conversation onto me, Lily.” Piper pointed her finger and advanced on her friend. “This may come as a shock to you, but I do not like Sirius Black.” Piper paused, still pointing. “But even if I did he would be a much better pick than,” Piper adopted a mocking sonorous pitch to her voice, “Grant Grey. You try to act so perfect, Lily Evans, but even I can see that this whole Grant thing is just one of your little maneuvers to make everything go your way. You should probably let Grey know he’s just a pawn in your game.”

Piper was fully ready to yell at Lily more, but Lily took advantage of Piper’s second pause and decided it was her turn to shout.

“Don’t you dare lecture me on games, Piper Redden.” Lily held her hand up in a point.

A passerby would have thought the two girls were mock fencing with their fingers.

“Your whole life has been a game and you just hope no one catches on.” Lily put her hand down, ending the epic battle. She inhaled and exhaled slowly. “Jesus, sometimes I feel so bad for you. You’re so screwed up. I’m going to be late for Charms.”

Piper was suffering in all kinds of ways. She was angry with Lily, at Sirius, at Grant Grey, but mostly, she was angry with herself. However cliché it may have been, it was completely true. What was wrong with her? Piper was ready to commit herself to St. Mungo’s for tests. She was nuts. A sane person wouldn’t have kissed Sirius Black—even jokingly. One in their right mind wouldn’t have run away from home. Nor would the said sane person pick a fight with a friend. Piper was mad. She had to be. It was the only explanation. Or Lily was right, and she was just completely screwed up.

Her heart hurt, her brain pounded, her hands trembled, and her breath shook. I am completely fucked up. Her newfound position in the school was too much pressure for a sixteen year old to bear.

The reason Piper went without friend was because they only caused problems. She had seen what friends had done to each other in Hogwarts. Companions are loose cannons. They can hold too much ammunition against you for comfort. A close friend can be more dangerous than an arch nemesis. Piper shouldn’t have thought Lily Evans would be any different than any other girl. And she shouldn’t have thought she could intrude on the close knit social hierarchy.

Piper inhaled the highly perfumed air and pondered.

Exactly one year ago she wasn’t what someone would have called happy, but nor was she depressed and aching for a change. She had long ago accepted that things weren’t going to change for her, which is why she never wasted her precious energy to change herself. The path of Piper’s life was already laid down; no friends, lovers, grades, or detentions were going to change it.

But then what happened?

Lily Evans talking to her didn’t change everything. Sirius Black kissing her didn’t mean she wasn’t a Redden. She was a teenager for God’s sake, things were not supposed to be this confusing.

Reflecting upon that thought Piper sunk lower into the hot water. “There isn’t much I can change now. “ She said.

The only person who did not hate Piper with a fiery passion was Sirius bloody Black.

“How’s that for irony?” Piper laughed.

“How’s what for irony?”

Piper emitted a scream so loud the dogs in Hogsmeade were driven to several moments of hysteria. She screamed a second time when she saw the torturously familiar feet, ankles, shins, thighs, torso, hands, arms, neck, and finally head of Sirius drop from the vent in the ceiling.

Piper spluttered, choking on the bubbly bath water she inhaled. “Sirius get out!”

“I thought you needed to see a friendly face.” Sirius took in the girls’ bathroom with slight awe while Piper pumped more bubbles into the suddenly translucent water.

“Sirius, I’m naked!”

“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Besides, we did date that one time. I’ve been meaning to tell you that breakup thing was brilliant! Apparently, the girls decided to give me some recovery time before I date again. God, I could kiss you!”

“Don’t!” Piper crossed her arms over her chest. She felt very vulnerable in the tub that scarcely covered her body. “Turn around, will you? I’m not gunna have a conversation with you naked.”

“You’re the one that’s naked. But if you would like I could—“

“No,” Piper said, knowing that Sirius was going to offer that he get naked as well.

As much as Sirius would have enjoyed a bare conversation with Piper, he turned around nonetheless. He gave her a full twenty seconds to get toweled up.

“How did you even get in here?” More confident with a thick towel covering her bodice, Piper reverted back to her normal confidence.

“Turns out Mr. Godric Gryffindor was one of those blokes Minnie is always going on about who can’t be trusted and all that shit. The ceiling vent in our dorm leads right to the one above my head. I’m glad we finally found out where it leads so I can put it on the map…”

“What map?”

“Er…wocher, your towel’s slippipng.”

Piper hastily tightened her towel firmly around her body. A blush crept its way onto her face. She wasn’t exactly sure she liked that only a white towel separated her nakedness from Sirius.

Suddenly solemn Sirius said, “I’m sorry this all had to happen. I mean I’m sorry that I was—er—insensitive and all that shit. It’s just so weird being back here now, after seeing you as that pampered princess and then you seeing me as the embarrassment of a son. I guess that’s all. I’m sorry. I know how hard it must be for you to live with…well everything you live with.” Sirius concluded awkwardly.

Startled that he had voice her own previous thoughts Piper frowned, yet found herself agreeing.

“So you just dropped in to say sorry?”


Sirius’ apology couldn’t have come at a worse time. “What would you’ve done if it had been Korey or Raine or Lily in here?” She said suddenly.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Sirius laughed. His broad grin was so bright and suffering-free that it actually made Piper feel a smidgen better. “Oh! I forgot to give you this when we were, you know, ‘dating.’” Sirius reached into his pocket and pulled out two purple plastic rings. “Matching promise rings,” he said with a nudge.

“Did you get those out of a Choco Choco Chimaera box?”

“I’ll have you know it took twelve proofs of purchases to get these rings.” Sirius said, his face breaking into the same, warm grin that made Piper want to grin as well. Damn him. Damn Sirius and his rings and his grins. He gave her the ring. “Just so we’re clear, I’m a jackass and I’m sorry.”

Piper agreed with his first confession. “So what happens now?” Piper asked. If a kiss had changed the feelings between her and Sirius so dramatically she wasn’t sure how an apology would affect them.

“Breakup sex?”

Piper punched Sirius hard in the arm, tore through the barricade blocking the door, and slammed it shut behind her.

* * * *

“How’d it go with Piper?” James asked later that night.

“Not so good. My arm is killing me.” Sirius winced and showed his three best mates the black and blue battle wound.

“Yesh,” the Marauders said in unison. For a girl, Piper really could throw a punch.

“But will she help us or not?” said Remus.

“We didn’t exactly get that far in the conversation.” Sirius shrugged off his robe and threw it on to his bed. “But,” he said, keeping his friends calm, “I’ll be able to get her to come around. Did you guys get the equipment?”

Grinning, Peter unearthed a large cloth bag from under his bed. His grin was contagious. The Marauders laughs were soon comparable to hyenas.

James sobered long enough to say, “You really think you’ll get her to help us?”

Sirius wiped a tear from his eye. “When have I not been able to woo Piper Redden?’

Remus, Peter, and James frowned. The three broke into variations of, “Only every time you talk to her.”

Taking a leaf out of Piper’s book, Sirius punched all of his friends hard in their arms, threw back the hangings on his bed, climbed in, and went to sleep.

* * * *

For the second time in a twenty four hour period, Piper found herself screaming at the sight of Sirius Black seemingly popping out of nowhere. And for the second time in a twenty four hour period, she found herself being confronted by him in the girls’ toilet.

“We need your help.” Sirius said. He took her by the arm and slowly dragged her away from the door.

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Who do you think?” Sirius said.

He kicked open a stall, revealing James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin battling for more space on the top of the toilet seat while clutching each other for support at the same time.

“WE CAN EXPLAIN!” The three shouted, nearly collapsing from their careful glob. Seeing Piper and Sirius, they bashfully hopped down, hoping to save what dignity they had left.

Piper leaned against the sink for support, letting her forehead hit the mirror. She slowly massaged her temples with two fingers and wished she could force the Marauders away with willpower alone. Rhythmically, she picked her head off the mirror and let it fall back down again, all the while saying, “Why me?” under her breath.

While Piper wallowed in her own misery, James took a dab of powder out of a cloth sack and blew it on the door. He pulled the handle after letting the dust settle and found it securely locked shut. Even when he put all of his strength behind his pull the door did not give way.

“What could you possibly need my help with?” Piper asked, grudgingly coming out of her stupor.

The Marauders bit their lips and frowned. Each wanted the other to reveal the plan.

“We have a plan.” James stepped forward.

“A brilliant plan.” said Peter.

“An excellent plan,” said Remus.

“An ingenious plan,” said Sirius.

“So, you have a good plan…?” Piper said slowly.

“Right, that’s what we’re saying,” said James. “But before we tell you, we have to know if you’re in or if you’re out.”

“How can I know if I’m in or out if I don’t even know the plan?”

The Marauders swore. They hadn’t thought of that.

Nevertheless, Piper was intrigued. Never before had she actually worked with the Marauders while they planned something. It would be interesting to see. And, thought Piper, it would be interesting to not be the object of the plan.

“Never mind,” said Piper, “I’m in.”

“That’s the spirit, love.” Sirius wrapped his arm around Piper’s shoulders. He led her to the bathroom door. “Now, go give that lovely door a good pull, Muscles.” He pushed her to the door.

Piper rolled her eyes. Some plan they had. Feeling more ridiculous than she ever had before, she tried to open the door. It was stuck. Piper put more strength into her pull, but the door remained resolutely shut as if twenty first years were on the opposite side holding it shut. Getting more frustrated, and forgetting the Marauders were watching her; Piper rattled the door handle until it was on the verge of falling off.

“What are you boys playing at?” Her hair had fallen out of her carefully placed braid and fell around her face, giving her a slightly crazed appearance.

“This is the basis of the Plan,” said Peter.

Piper had thousands of questions on her mind, the frontrunner being why are you in the girls’ bathroom, but she put a pin in that question and asked another. “Is anyone going to tell me what this goddamn plan is or what?”

“Ah, the million dollar question,” said Remus.

“Our Intelligence has informed us that on Friday all of the Professors have planned on surprise tests.” James began.

“The bastards,” Remus, Sirius, and Peter said under their breath.

“Anyway, they have all planned on giving us tests, right. That means that we have to take tests in some of the hardest subjects, Friday being our most difficult day and all. Just think: Arithmancy test, then Herbology test, then Potions test, then Transfiguration test, it’s just too much. Plus, I happen to know you’re absolute shit at Herbology, Redden, so you better be glad we’re including you.”

“And I happen to know you’re shit at Arithmancy, Potter, so get on with this stupid plan.” Piper spat.

“Alright, well, think of this: Friday morning when everyone gets up and expects to go to all of their classes they find that they can’t get into any of the classrooms because all of the doors are glued shut. And I mean all of the doors. Library, Greenhouse, even the ones that lead to the Great Hall. It’s brilliant. And with the help of this dust,” he pulled the cloth sack from his bag, “it will be even easier. All you do is blow a bit onto a door and it stays shut depending on the amount of dust you put on. But we need your help. See, there are four of us, and as far as we can tell there are at least one thousand two hundred eighty doors. Doors that need to be glued shut. But one thousand two hundred eighty doors isn’t divisible by four, but it is divisible by five, so we need five people for this to work.”

Piper did some quick math. “But…one thousand two hundred eighty is divisible by four,” she said.

The four Marauders also did some quick calculating. Sirius counted off numbers on his fingers. Remus bit his lips. Peter frowned in concentration. James whipped out a quill. “Shit, she’s right,” Remus finally said.

“Well it’s too late. Now she knows of the plan and either she agrees to help us or we will have to silence her.”

“God Potter, you don’t have to murder me. Look, I won’t tell anyone your master plan. And if you still want me I’m in.”

James grimaced jokingly. “I guess we could use another set of hands…” Then he was back to business. “Thursday night at midnight the five of us split up and glue shut all of the doors in the sections that we will later map out. Sounds good, yeah?”

Piper’s immediate thought was: No it doesn’t sound good, you git! But as she thought about it, it was a good plan. With all of the doors locked, lessons would have to be called off for the day, giving them an extra week to prepare for the tests. Then the glamour began to fade. The suspicions would immediately be on the Marauders, and they would take Piper down with them.

And there was one more issue:

“Thursday is tomorrow.”

“Minor detail,” Peter said.

“Minor—minor detail. How do you expect to pull this off with,” Piper checked her watch, “Thirty six hours notice?”

“Dear, if you don’t think we can do this,” Sirius wrapped his arm around Piper’s waist, James took the other side, “you don’t know the Marauders.”

* * * *

Thursday, Piper found herself smuggled into the boys’ dormitory for a debriefing, as James called it.

She would have rather they trapped her in the bathroom to decide how the prank would be executed. Their dormitory was disgusting. The first time Piper had snuck into the boys’ living rooms was at night time and she didn’t have much time to look around. Piper wished the candles would blow out and stop illuminating the pigsty. She was frightened to step anywhere over the threshold.

“Is there a floor here anywhere?” She asked. Pursing her lips, she tiptoed over to the five armchairs arranged in a circle. Piper tried to fan the smell of dirty socks out of her nostrils, but it was hopeless. The only solution was to breath as little as possible.

“Watch it, we picked up for you!” Peter cried.

Nonetheless, the floor was still covered with clothes, playing cards, books, cloaks, ribbons, wands, pictures, dishes, medals, broomstick twigs, hair, chocolate, candy wrappers, cheese, one piggy bank, shredded parchment, lotion, nine slippers, and a piece of parchment with writing all over it laid carefully down in the middle of the five chairs.

“This,” Remus said, picking up the parchment, “is the Map.”

Piper stepped closer to read the minute writing, ignoring the rubber chicken she stepped on in the process.

It was, indeed, a map. It was a complete and detailed map of Hogwarts. Tiny dots littered the parchment, zooming about. On closer inspection, Piper realized that the dots had names attached to them. There, in the western side, were five little dots labeled Piper Redden, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter.

“Where—where did you find this?” Piper stammered.

“Find? We didn’t find it! We made it.” Peter snatched the map out of Remus’ hand. “Isn’t it cool?”

“Lay it back down, Wormtail, we gotta plan.” Sirius took the map out of Peter’s unsuspecting hands. He laid it back down and let James take over the talking.

“At exactly 0000 we rendezvous back at the entrance hall. Sirius works on sector 1, I take sector 2, Piper has sector 3, Peter has sector 4, and Mooney you take sector 5.”

James’ spy speech was a bit too much for the less James Bond savvy group.

He reiterated. “At midnight we meet at the entrance hall, and I take sector 2, Sirius takes sector 1, Piper takes sector 3, oh bloody hell,” James unfurled the map, and drew a large circle over each of the carefully planned divisions he had made on the map. He wrote the initials of the designated mischief maker inside each of the circles. “Got it?”

“Ohhhhh.” The four other said, nodding.

“I’m not sure I am quite keen on this plan. You do realize we’ll get caught.” Piper said.

“Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But look at the brilliance in this plan: even if we get caught, meaning us four, they will never suspect that you helped us with it, and how could four boys possibly cover the entire school in the span of a few hours? They’ll never know.” James said.

“Just a quick question though…” Piper said.


“Why is the Ravenclaw common room the only one that we’re gluing shut?”

James blushed. Piper had a vague suspicion she knew exactly why James planned to lock the Ravenclaws out for a day, and his name was Grant Grey.

“I don’t like him either mate.” Piper elbowed James in the shoulder.

All questions and complaints out of the way, James put his hand out in the middle, Sirius followed, putting his on top of James’, then Peter and finally Remus. They looked expectantly at Piper. She realized that she was to follow suit. Her hand went on top of Remus’ and without warning they lifted the bunch of hands up, saying, “READY, BREAK!”

* * * *

“I can’t believe I’m doing this. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Why am I doing this?” Piper was pacing the entrance hall. Sneaking down to the rendezvous point seemed like the hard part of the task at hand, until she arrived at the entrance hall and fully realized how hard it was going to be to not get caught.

“Keep your voice down, will you?” Remus rounded the corner, followed by the rest of the Marauders. “Here, take this,” he handed her a cloth sack similar to the one James had in the bathroom the day before.

“Now it’s very important that you use exactly a teaspoon on every door. That will keep it locked for a full day.” James handed out teaspoon measurements to the five of them.

“Everyone know where they’re going?” Sirius asked.

They nodded.

“Alright, Piper you take these.” James handed her the Map and a silvery cloak that nearly slipped from Piper’s hands. “You need them more than we do. The map is so you can see if anyone’s coming, and so you don’t forget a door, and the cloak is to make you invisible.”

“This is an Invisibility Cloak?” Piper stammered. “How did you—how did you get one of these? Even my brother had a hard time finding one and—“

“I’ll tell you later, it’s a very heroic story with lust and adventure. But for now, keep your mind on your task, and your task on your mind.”

“But how will you lot stay out of trouble?”

The Marauders exchanged secretive glances.

“We have our ways,” they said.

Piper began to wonder if the Marauders rehearsed moments such as this. She held the cloak warily in her hands; she didn’t want the Marauders to think they needed to keep her out of trouble. She didn’t need their help. She was Piper Redden. She could do anything she wanted. But before she could protest, the Marauders had taken off and she was left alone in the dark entrance hall with no choice but to wear the fucking cloak.

“Piss, piss, piss, piss, piss!” she scuffed her foot on the ground, sulked for a minute, and then put on the cloak, took out the map, and began to glue shut the doors of Hogwarts.

* * * *

The next morning, Piper woke not to the announcement of Professor Dumbledore calling off the lessons for the day, but to Lily Evans positively seething over her bed.

“Where were you last night?”

Faced with a question she did not know the answer to, Piper was forced to lie. “I dunno, I was here, I guess.”
Playing stupid was always a good idea. Maybe, if I slur my words enough she’ll leave me alone.


Uh-oh, Head Girl rearing her head.

“I wasa sleepin on the cooucha.” Piper said, yawning. Really, she had been furiously blowing powder on every door she passed, but Lily didn’t have to know that. Nor did she need to know that Piper had been in the boys’ dormitories returning the Map and the Invisibility Cloak until well into the evening, being quiet not to disturb the other occupants of the boys sixth.

“You had something to do with this!”

Their argument had drawn a crowd. Raine, Sanaa, and Korey, who were getting dressed for the lesson-free day, peeked out from behind the bathroom door (which was thankfully unglued).

“Nah I would neva glue the dors together.” Piper pretended to rub the sleep from her eyes.

“Then it was Potter.” Rage settled into Lily’s face.

“You know, I did hear that Slytherin bloke…what’s his name…Perry! Perry was talking about how he wasn’t prepared for the surprise tests the Professors had planned for today.” No longer pretending to be in sleep withdrawal, Piper reverted back to good old fashioned lying.

“Perry.” Lily said absolutely venomously. She geared up for the hunt and ran from the common room.

Piper wiped the sweat from her brow. She couldn’t believe it had worked. They had actually done it…and without incident! Well, except for Piper almost stepping on a rat and nearly fainting. Now she had a whole day to rest, and while the day would have been more fun with Lily around, Piper would find something to do.

* * * *

“And then Piper almost stepped on me!” Peter finished his story of their midnight activities with a flourish, sending his friends into choruses of laughter.

“Where are you off to so fast, Padfoot?” Remus asked.

“I’d tell you but…no, I wouldn’t tell you. Er—I’m not telling. But…how do I look?”

“Great,” said James. He adjusted his glasses. When Sirius neared the door he said, “Tell Piper I said hi!” Sirius threw an askew slipper at his friend, hitting him square in the jugular.

Piper was exactly where Sirius knew she would be, especially since he had already checked the common room, lake, forest, halls, and great hall. Although the Quidditch pitch was the last place on earth he thought he would find Piper Redden of all people, he was glad he had found her at last. His mad search was growing boring.

His attempt to sneak up on her failed miserably. She heard him when he was still twenty paces away.

“Been running somewhere?”

Sirius shook his head.

“What are you doing?”

Sirius shrugged, but the twinkle in his eyes revealed that he was indeed up to something.

“Sirius what are you—“

Piper coughed violently as she inhaled the powder Sirius had just blown at her; it landed, glowing, on her hands, chest, and arms. “If that is Bulbadox Powder I will—“ She was never able to finish her threat, for Sirius had covered the space between them so quickly she hadn’t been able to come up with a suitable one. She put out her hand to push him away but found she couldn’t pull it back. Sirius smiled as she tried to unglue her hand from his. While she glared at him, Sirius wrapped his free arm around Piper’s waist, pulling her close to him. They were stuck together at every opportune body part.

Piper stopped struggling to take her hand back and fell still. Sirius advanced half an inch more, closing what little gap was left between them. Not knowing, and not caring, who was watching them, Sirius pushed his lips against Piper’s. She inhaled sharply, but fell against Sirius, comfortably configuring her body to his. He was deliciously warm and tender with her. Sirius’ mouth covered Piper’s completely, and with a moan of submission, she willingly let someone else be in control for the first time in her life.

* * * *

Grant Gideon Grey looked out of the window in his dormitory. Since he was locked in, there wasn’t much else he could do but look out the window and hope someone would find out how to undo the spell soon. Grant had been amused by a bird catching a worm, owls taking flight, and cats chasing mice, but he was even more amused by Piper Redden and Sirius Black snogging.

After watching the spectacle long enough, he dug through his trunk and found a very important address that he had long forgotten.

Rhett Redden would love to know about the types of people his little sister was dating, and Grant planned to tell him just that.


Cliffy: noun. Melodramatic adventure in which an installment ends in suspense in order to interest the reader or viewer in the next installment.

Gotta love ‘em.

More to come soon!

Chapter 12: The Two Headed Freak of Hogwarts
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Disclaimer: As I have said, I don’t own Harry Potter, but in this chapter I also have to add that I don’t own Annie. Drat.

A/N: This chapter is kind of a filler one, and hence, is shorter than you have become accustomed to. However, this chapter was needed because I couldn’t just leave Piper and Sirius hanging. Enjoy.

You Hate Me
Chapter 12: The Two Headed Freak of Hogwarts

The Forbidden Forest had always, quite frankly, scared the bejeezus out of Piper. She point blank refused to enter it without a proper escort.

Sirius Black was not a proper escort.

Two hours had passed since Sirius had kissed her and they were still glued together. They hadn’t noticed this, of course, until they broke away from each other only to find that they couldn’t break away from each other at all. Her hand was locked firmly in his, their chests mashed together in an uncomfortable position, and Sirius’s arm around Piper’s lower back was beginning to tire. Besides, their lips were swollen and sore as well. Thankfully, their lips somehow escaped the power of the glue. Their awkward positioning made it nearly impossible to mosey out of the public’s eye; but, luckily enough, Sirius was a three legged race champion, and they bunny hopped into the dark forest. Indeed, Piper was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable around Sirius and she could only think that this mishap happened at exactly the least opportune time. After all, if he had kissed her without the blasted adhesive she would have been able to run away.

On the way there, they fell down forty times, stepped on each other’s feet one hundred and nine times, head butted one another eight times, Sirius poked Piper in the eye with his nose, Piper stubbed her toe, and Piper’s breasts hurt from being mashed against Sirius’s chest for two long hours.

Yes, Piper hated the Forbidden Forest; but she hated it exponentially more with an unreliable escort (who she happened to be glued to), a headache (from falling down so many times), and with a toe that was possibly going to have to be amputated. All she needed was for a vampire or werewolf to come and abduct her or do whatever it is that werewolves and vampires do and her life would be all set.

“How—much—of—that—powder—did—you—use?” Piper gritted her teeth. She leaned as far away from Sirius as she could, she wasn’t about to have her head stuck on his chest or neck or something.

Sirius mimicked Piper’s idea. With his luck her hair would get stuck to his chin and he would have a beard for the rest of his life—and she would be bald. “I didn’t use that much, I swear. Maybe it just affects humans differently than doors.”

“Maybe it just—maybe it just,” Piper repeated, “Oh my God. I’m going to be stuck like this for the rest of my life. I’m going to be stuck with you for the rest of my life. Oh my God. Piss. Shit. Oh my God.”

“Cheer up sweetheart. Look,” Sirius cleared his throat and began to sing.

”’The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Sirius emphasized with jazz fingers, or as jazzy as he could accomplish considering his hands were glued around Piper’s back and hands.

Piper was unimpressed.

’”Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!’”

He wasn’t singing, per se, he was more speaking the words in a slow and obnoxious tune, stressing the words that rhymed such as ‘sun’ and ‘none’, completely ruining the song for any true Annie fans that happened to be listening. Imagining an Annie loving vampire did not comfort Piper in the least.

“Come on, Piper, you know the words!” Sirius was starting to sing louder and higher pitched.

”’When I'm stuck with a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin”

He stuck up his chin.

”And Grin,”

He grinned.

And Say,

Just as he was about to hit the climax of his performance Piper put an end to it. “Stop, stop, stop.” She stopped from putting her hands over her ears just in time; they surely would have been glued there had she forgotten. “Okay, let’s think this through logically. What happens if we don’t get unstuck?”

“We could join one of those Muggle freak shows. Just think. We could be Mean Girl and Cute Boy: The Two Headed Freak.” Sirius nodded vigorously.

He was lucky Piper’s hand was stuck elsewhere or she would have slapped him.

“If we don’t find a way to undo this we’ll have to go to the Hospital Wing. If we go to the Hospital Wing we’ll have to say how we got stuck this way. If we say how we got stuck this way it will mean mentioning the glue powder stuff. If we mention the glue powder stuff they will know that we glued the doors shut. If they know we glued the doors shut they’ll—“

“Okay, there are way too many if-then sentences in that little soliloquy. You have to learn how to calm down, and live in the moment, you know,” Sirius searched his memory for the correct words, “veni vidi vici, seize the day.”

Veni vidi vici means I came, I saw, I conquered, idiot.”

“Okay, Ms. I-Know-Everything-About-Latin.”

“That’s right; I do know everything about Latin. Any more proverbs for me, Proverb Boy?” Piper poked Sirius hard in shoulder with her one free hand. She regretted it when she couldn’t pull her finger back.

“I’ve got plenty: A friend in need is a friend indeed. A hungry man is an angry man. Faint heart never won fairy lady. Barking dogs seldom bite. Oh, and bros before hos.”

“You’re ridiculous,” said Piper.

“You’re ridiculous,” said Sirius.

“Am not,” said Piper.

“Are too,” said Sirius.

“Am not,” said Piper.

“Oh, look, the spell wore off!”


“Nah, I was just pulling your chain.”

The thick woods around them seemed to come to life and laugh. It was growing darker and colder every moment. If the spell didn’t ware off soon they would either freeze to death or be eaten by a Runespoor or some other beastly creature.

“What was that?” Piper jumped. Something was definitely crashing through the trees. As the darkness cast eerie shadows on everything from leaves to boulders the forest became more menacing. They were only ten feet into the woods, but ten feet for their mutant form was equivalent to one hundred feet. Piper hoped that if anything tried to attack their freakishness would ward it off.

“What was what?” Sirius hadn’t heard anything. “Afraid of the dark too, Piper?” He laughed at his own joke but stopped abruptly. That was, without a doubt, the sound of a breaking stick. And it was close. Sirius jerked his head to right. Piper understood what he meant and they slowly began to inch out of the forest. Whatever was coming at them was faster; it had to be five feet from Piper’s back.

Sirius could have punched himself. His wand was there, securely tucked into his pocket, but as his hands were elsewhere, it was unattainable. Maybe, since it was so close to him a spell would work. Or, he thought dryly, he and Piper could work together and get one of their wands. He voiced the idea. Piper nodded, and with their double-hand, they somehow managed to battle Piper’s wand out of her pant pocket.

The thing was closer now. Only three feet away in the dark brush. Sirius was ready to Stupefy whatever it was when it got any closer. Then, it crashed through the clearing. Sirius raised the wand high, almost breaking Piper’s arm in the process, and almost cursed the thing when he realized what—who it was.

“Students aren’ allowed in the fores’.” Hagrid, the gamekeeper, barked. “Now get yer hands off each other and git back up to th’ castle. Oy, is that you, Black? ‘Ow many times do I have to tell ya that yer not to bring yer dates down ‘ere, huh?” Hagrid muttered incomprehensible words while shaking his head.

“No, no, I’m not his date.” Piper said.

Hagrid glared at Sirius, his small, black, eyes penetrating the student. He looked from their swollen lips to their flushed cheeks and laughed gutturally, shaking his heavy, fur lined coat. “Tha’s what they all say. Wha’s yer name, anyways?”


“Pie? Yer name’s Pie?”

“No, no,” Piper said, slightly shaken. She had never met the gamekeeper before. She had seen him on the grounds whistling merrily or else drinking merrily, but had never had any contact with him. Secretly, she would have rather a gargoyle had crashed through the trees than the huge, wild-looking man. “My name’s Piper Redden.”

A dark cloud crossed Hagrid’s face for a fraction of a second.

“See, Hagrid, we’re in a bit of a fix. We’re kind of…uh…glued together.” Sirius said.

“Yeah, I can see that, you ruddy rule breaker.”

“No, we are literally glued together.” He demonstrated by pulling himself as far away from Piper as he could. Consequently, it wasn’t far, since they were, as had previously been stated, glued together. Sirius contemplated for a moment and grinned. “And since you do owe me for not telling anyone about that little mermaid incident I think the least you can do is help us.”

Hagrid swore loudly and went off into a tangent about teenagers who think they know everything. “All righ’, all righ’, I’ll help you.” He held up a finger, “But only ‘cus I owe you one. Come on, we’ll go to my hut, its close.”

Hagrid’s hut was flooded with warmth. Piper and Sirius needed the heat; too, they had fallen down ten more times into the snow on the way to Hagrid’s. A black boarhound puppy ran to Hagrid the moment he walked in the door. It scratched Hagrid’s leg, begging to be petted.

“Still haven’ named ‘im yet.” Hagrid mumbled. “Fancy a cuppa tea?”

Sirius shook his head wildly when Piper opened her mouth to say ‘yes’. “No thanks, Hagrid.” Sirius said. “Why not name him Sirius. That’s a great name for such a cute puppy.”

“Funny, Black. Now, why don’ you tell me how you got yerself glued together. I’d ask you ter sit down…but…well…I don’ see that workin’”

Sirius told him everything, but, thankfully, he left out their kiss.

“Shoulda known that it was you and yer friends that glued those doors shut.” Hagrid said. “Lot o’ trouble to go through for just one day off.”

“Yeah, well, can you help us or not, Hagrid?” Sirius asked.

“I’d’ usually say that it’d be best ta let it wear off. But who knows how that powder reacts ter humans. Lemme see if I can’t find sommat.” He dropped his big, bulky coat on his bed and began to rummage through his cupboards.

“Here we go, here we go—down boy—this mi’ work.” Hagrid held a long, clumsily shaped bottle in his hands; though with some difficulty as the puppy was still eager to have some attention. “I use it ter unstick the flubberworms after they’re done matin’. It’s dead useful.”

Sirius and Piper were less than keen to try the solution. Their curled noses and disgusted expressions tipped Hagrid off to their unwilling attitude.

“Wha’, they get real sticky then start to flail aroun’ an’ make a really ruddy mess abou’ it. Now, do you wanta try it or don’t ya? Remember, you asked me for help.”

Perhaps it was the prospect of having Sirius slather flubberworm mating detacher all over his body that made Hagrid much more cheerful.

“Now you,” Hagrid pointed to Piper, “I don’ wanta hear anything else abou’ you running amok with this here trouble maker.”

“No, no, I won’t.” Piper said. If it was possible, she clung even tighter to Sirius at Hagrid’s words. The man was just…giant. She knew he was probably kind behind that large—very large—body, but he would take some getting used to.

“Now,” Hagrid placed a large gob of the creamy, milk white cream on their hands and rubbed it in very well. He progressed to pour it down their middle, on Piper’s back, and on the finger Piper had embedded into Sirius’ shoulder. “Let that soak in for a mo’.”

Slowly—Very, very, painfully, achingly, slow they began to detach.

“I’ll hose ya down if you wan’.” Hagrid offered. He was spectacularly joyous at the sight of the teens covered in the disgusting substance. He hoped they accepted—his hose had cold water.

“No thanks, Hagrid.” Sirius shook his arms and legs to rid himself of the slop infesting his robes. “We’d best be getting back up to the school. Oh, and er…we’d appreciate it if you kept this, you know, quiet.”

Hagrid glowered. On one hand, he owed it to Professor Dumbledore to tell him who had caused the commotion at the school and simultaneously get Black in trouble (which he damn well deserved in Hagrid’s opinion). But, on the other hand, Black had kept the mermaid incident under wraps, and, Hagrid had to give it to him; he knew how to pull off a practical joke. Besides, Hagrid didn’t want to get the nice looking girl in trouble also. She seemed nice enough—even if Hagrid knew all about her family and their ways. If there was one thing Hagrid knew about, it was being judged by your family. He shook his giant, bearded head. “Nah, Black, I won’ tell on ya.”

“Excellent,” Sirius brightened up exponentially. “We’ll be seeing you around Hagrid!” Sirius was halfway out of the door by the end of his sentence.

Piper, forgetting herself even then, held out her hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hagrid.” Her manners always got the best of her when she was put in a gauche position.

Hagrid took one look at her clumpy, gooey, hand, and made an unsure face. Then, he enfolded her small hand in his giant one and shook it hard. “Good ta meet you as well. And I mean what I said,” he pointed to Sirius behind his hand, “that one’s trouble.”

“Tell me about it.” Piper said before walking out of the door.

* * * *

The remainder of the day had been taken up by Piper and Sirius’ desperate bid to unglue themselves from one another. Point in fact; the day had been quite uneventful—unless one counted Piper and Sirius kissing (for the third time), Lily giving Chris Perry a black eye, and Piper and Sirius being covered from head to toe with flubberworm unsticker.

Now weighing several pounds more due to their robes dripping with goo, Piper and Sirius trudged their way through the snow and up the cobblestone to the castle. Laughing slightly about their current state and longing over a hot shower the two slowly made their way up to the Gryffindor common room.

“So what was the mermaid incident?” Piper asked out of curiosity.

“Can’t tell you,” Sirius said, elbowing Piper playfully in the ribs. “I’m sworn to secrecy.”

Piper was still feeling dreadfully awkward about the situation. She wasn’t exactly the type of girl to know what to do in a kissing sort of situation—especially a kissing situation with Sirius. Sure, she had made the mistake of nearly shagging Alexander, but he was different in too many ways. Her thoughts were interrupted just as she was thinking of ways to handle Sirius. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she slightly liked his kisses even if she still didn’t like him.

“STOP RIGHT THERE!” A voice rang out through the stoned corridor.

Piper and Sirius halted immediately. They knew that voice all too well. It was only perfect that their robes were still leaking with the creamy liquid Hagrid had used, it was thirty seconds until curfew, and they looked (quite frankly) guilty.

Filch was foaming at the jowls by the time he reached Piper and Sirius. He was still new at his job and his hate for students was just beginning. However, this hate had begun with James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. “Cleaned—floors—all—day—ruined—kill—dirty—punishment—detention—dirty—cleaned—floors—students—respect—none—hang—by—wrists—you—will!”

Though his woods made no sense stringed together, Piper and Sirius understood the moral. They were in trouble.

“You’ll pay you will,” Filch had calmed down some. It seemed his cat, Mrs. Norris, had been stomped on in his tirade and had clawed him for it. He nursed his leg and continued in his oily voice. “You’ll come with me now and serve your detention. Clean the whole Great Hall with a toothbrush you will.” He led them away by their ears. Filch seemed to have forgotten that the house-elves cleaned the Great Hall every evening.

Piper was in a daze from pure exhaustion, confusion, and the fumes from her robes were beginning to make her sick. She barely noticed when Filch stopped a store cupboard filled to the brim with toothbrushes, took out the two most haggard looking, and finished dragging them to the Great Hall. “Get to it then!” Filch slammed the door shut behind him (the Marauders and Piper had decided the day before that they would leave this door unglued since, as Peter put it, “People have to eat.”).

Piper got on her hand and knees and swore. She would pass out before this punishment was done. But, as Filch left, there was nothing stopping them from using magic. She had her wand out of her pocket and was about to clean the area with a sweep of her wand when she heard Sirius behind her.

He was singing.

“It’s the hard-knock life for us!”

* * * *

Being as cold as he was when he entered the room he shared with Alexander, Rhett Redden became even colder when he saw the owl waiting for him.

“Grey sent another one. Wonder what your sister’s up to this time.” Alexander drawled slowly from his bed. “Befriending more Mudbloods, perhaps?”

“Why do you care, Xander?” Rhett said breathlessly. He was tearing open the letter before Alexander could respond. “Besides,” he said after reading the first line, “I thought you’d be less keen on her after she knocked you out.”

Black knocked me out. And he’ll pay for it too.” Alexander said. He stood from his bed, tossing the book he had been reading aside. “What does it say?” For Rhett had been reading the letter furiously.

Rhett read aloud, “’I was looking out of my window this morning when I saw the most curious sight: it appears your sister has more regard for Black than you cared to acknowledge. To put it bluntly, I saw them snogging like deprived, hormone driven fiends in the Quidditch pitch. Hope this letter finds you well, Grant G. Grey.’”

Rhett had looked over his sister’s crazed disappearance over the Christmas holiday—most Redden’s went through some sort of mental crisis at one point or another. Rhett thought it best she got it out of her system during her school years rather than acting like a lunatic when she grew older and really demolished the Redden name, he related this to his parents, and they agreed. Carolyn had refused to not send a Howeler, though. But kissing Black? That was one line too far. He was beyond angry at his younger sister. She could have found no less than two hundred pure-bloods to snog, but she had to settle for the one out of the lot that was a ruddy blood traitor. Rhett had liked Sirius to a degree when he had met him at his family’s house in Grimmauld place, but, honestly, the boy was going nowhere fast, and he would drag down his sister in the process.

Alexander coughed violently behind him. He was having a quiet moment with himself as well. He wasn’t good enough for Piper but Black was? That wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t. Everyone wanted him. He would make Piper want him. Even if it took making sure she was disowned. When she was poor, penniless, and neglected she would want him. He was sure of it.

“You might want to write to your mum and dad and tell them what Piper’s doing.” Alexander suggested.

But Rhett was already writing.

Like I said, it’s short, but I wanted to get a chapter out quickly because it will be a while before I can update again. I have like a billion camps and my boss is overloading me with work. I promise that every time I have a spare moment I will try to write.

Happy Holidays!


Chapter 13: Back to the Beginning
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A/N: I’m writing this halfway through the chapter and I have to say this is shaping up to be one of my favorites so far. I had the opportunity to write from inside Sirius’ head, the chance I nearly never have with this story. I truly enjoyed writing this, even though it makes me a little sad…but I’m getting ahead of my self.

You Hate Me
Chapter 13: Back to the Beginning

Sirius could not find Piper.

He assured himself at breakfast she was only avoiding him out of embarrassment. She had snogged him, after all. But Sirius was not used to evasion and he found he did not like it one bit. He would have to give her time, Sirius concluded as he spooned the last of his morning’s breakfast into his mouth.

Potions brought no sign of her. The stool to the right of Severus Snape usually occupied by her was unusually vacant. Even Snivellous suffered from Piper’s unprecedented disappearance; Slughorn only exclaimed twice how precise his potion was compared to the eight or nine he usually received.

Sirius composed a list of Piper’s possible whereabouts in his mind while distractedly reaching for any ingredients within his arm’s length. She wouldn’t be outside, her ears would freeze off…along with other valuable body parts. A gust of wintery wind blew through the dungeon, confirming Sirius’ first veto off the list. No, she wouldn’t be outside. She hates nature and cold weather. Nor would she be in a bathroom stall; that particular hiding spot is far too melodramatic for Piper Redden. She could barely tear up in front of let, let alone the nosy bathroom prowlers.

Mable raised her hand, the leader of the bathroom prowlers. She asked to be excused because she had a feminine issue to attend to. The males of the room covered their faces to hide their blush and the females rolled their eyes. The girls knew Mable was off to see who was resolving a personal issue in the toilets.

Is she in Gryffindor Tower them? Or perhaps the Hospital Wing? Did she have a reaction to the flubber worm goop? Or is she just skiving off lessons? If she is I’ll kill her for putting me through this.

The mystery behind her disappearance quickly became an obsession with Sirius. Fourteen hours had elapsed since Sirius had last seen her.

Lily was less than helpful in Sirius’ campaign.

“I haven’t seen her since this morning. She looked upset when I left for breakfast, but ask me if I care.”

Obliging, Sirius said, “Do you care?”

“No,” Lily said and walked away, hand in hand with Grant Grey. Fingers laced and all.

Without even needing to turn, Sirius pointed his wand behind him. “Petrificus Totalus.”

James had been on the brink of pulling his bangs clean out of his skull from the sight of Lily and Grey; and while it would have been a clever ploy to win their next match against Ravenclaw, and while Sirius commended his friend for his self restraint, Sirius could not let his friend suffer the humiliation of being a sixteen year old with what looked to be a receding hairline.

There are better ways to control anger anyway. I must get James that book Orion bought Walburga. It seemed to help her a lot.

“Are you going to keep pulling your hair out if we let you up? Blink once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’.” Remus scolded teacher-like above the motionless James.

James blinked twice in an exaggerated manner.

“And will you tackle Grey and or curse Grey if we let you up?” Peter inquired, standing over James opposite Remus.

James pondered and decided his enemy was too far away already to curse or tackle, he would be much more comfortable without the full body bind on him, and he would have other, less public, opportunities at retribution. James could settle his feud with Grey on the Quidditch field. They did have a game coming up. He blinked twice.

“And it’s pronounced TOE-MAY-TOE, right, not TOE-MOT-TOE? Right?” Remus said, using James’ incapacitated state to settle a long standing argument between them. It could not be pronounced both ways, they had decided.

James grudgingly blinked once and Remus beamed facetiously.

“I reckon he’s learned his lesson, Paddy. Let the spell off.”

No sooner had Sirius waved his wand than James was on his feet, hollering in a carrying voice, “NOT!” He turned on his hell, crying out, “TOE-MOT-TOE! TOE-MOT-TOE!” Every few seconds.

Remus and Peter chased the bellowing fool, screaming, “TOE-MAY-TOE,” and “CARE-A-MEL not CAR-MEL!”

Sirius later learned the three received detentions from six different professors for disturbing the peace.

Without James, Peter, and Remus to distract him, Sirius’ thoughts turned to Piper once more. Korey would be less helpful than Lily (if that was possible, which Sirius deemed it was not); Raine and Sanaa left the dormitories at six o’ clock to study in the library when it was at its quietest; and, though he would never ask him, Snape didn’t appear to have seen hide nor hair of Sirius’ prey.

What he really needed was a way of knowing everyone’s whereabouts in the school. A living blueprint, if you will. Some sort of magical parchment that, when activated, became the perfect means of finding or avoiding someone. It would show the whole school, secret passages and everything, and the people could be represented by small dots bearing their names on it.

But where would he find something like that?

The bell rang. Sirius weighed Transfiguration and Piper and, though it was a close battle, the former won and Sirius sat though yet another Piperless class.

It had occurred to Sirius that, perhaps, on some level, he had been insensitive since Christmas. Piper was no novice when it came to handling Sirius’ insensitivity. She had been the object of it for six years. Things between them could not change in the span of a week during vacation. People didn’t change, if Sirius was sure of one thing, it was that. He couldn’t become Mr. I-Love-This-World-and-Lets-All-be-Nice-to-Each-Other overnight. Piper couldn’t expect that out of him. So what if he made nothing out of her gloriously wonderful kisses? Sirius had snogged more than one girl who was more than willing to put the experience out of her mind when she knew it would result in no relationship. There was no guilt trip. No disappearances to drive him mad. If it wasn’t embarrassment of the kiss it was anger that drove Piper into hiding. Was it really so unforgivable to neglect her after she so willingly bared her emotions to him? Cry fests weren’t really Sirius’ forte. He didn’t know she could be so emotional. She was hiding to punish him, Sirius concluded. But if he was so uncaring, why did he need to see her so badly?

I just needed to see how well she kissed. If I just get her out of my system I’ll be okay. Piper Rehab. Remus will help me, I’m sure. They’ll have an intervention. After I find her I’ll make sure things go back to normal. It’s how things are supposed to be between us. I hate her. She hates me. People don’t change.

For someone Sirius claimed to know so well, Sirius found Piper infuriatingly hard to find. The castle did not accommodate him. Sirius trekked in a circle on the fourth floor nine times until he realized the suits of armor were moving about to trick him. The staircases and doors were in on Piper’s game. They twisted, turned, disappeared, and reappeared more than Sirius had ever seen. And why, for the love of God, why, was the castle so humongous? Ten thousand Pipers could have easily hidden in its depths and Sirius would be none the wiser.

Don’t think that. One Piper is enough crazy for me to deal with in a lifetime. Ten thousand of them would band together and attack me. She’s going to disembowel me with or without an army of clones, though.

Sirius was a master in the art of controlling his thoughts and emotions. He learned it easily living with his mother and father. It was simple to turn Piper in to an enemy again. He let his anger grow with every step he took. The longer he looked, the more his temper surged. Why was she avoiding him? He should be the one avoiding her! I hate her, I hate her, I hate her. Sirius muttered, mantra-like.

He grunted, remembering Piper’s trickery, returning her to her rightful place as arch nemesis in his mind.

She colored his entire body red.

“Don’t be so angry, Sirius. Besides, red is definitely your color.”

She feigned surrender to throw him off his guard.

“I should have done this six years ago! I’m done, okay. I surrender! That’s what you want, isn’t it? God, you’re sixteen years old, grow up!”

She pretended to drown.

”Sirius Black, you’re my hero.”

She wept her heart’s content in his kitchen over Christmas.

”I hate you, Sirius Black.”
“I hate you too.”

The Kiss. The Kiss ruined everything.

”It wasn’t mistletoe, you prat! It’s holly!”

They ran away together.

”Sirius? I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for.”

She fooled him into believing she truly liked him, only to dump him in front of the half the school. Who does that?

”Goodbye, Sirius.”

Was she really just after destroying his reputation after all?

She’s such a rotten bitch. The memories threw Sirius into a fit of rage. I should have a bitch competition. I’ll put her, Victoria, Korey, and Walburga into a ring and whichever one comes out alive will be the winner. Piper will probably win. The lunatic. She’d win against this Voldemort bloke. If she doesn’t become one of his followers first. She probably will. Look at her family. She was a Dark witch all this time probably. Cozening all of us. I hate her.

Three bodies collided consecutively into Sirius. He was knocked onto the floor by the combined force of the unknown people. A large egg was already forming on Sirius’ seriously overworked brain, contributing to the migraine he was battling down. He crossed the brink of his anger and he screamed.

“Watch where you are fucking running you fucking dipshits!”

“Good to see you too, Pads, but we’ve got a problem.”

Remus, James, and Peter lay like contortionists on the hard stone of the ground. Their limbs twisted in uncomfortable and impossible angles from the crash. Peter was the last to be untangled from the agglomeration. His arms were tied around his back and his leg nearly bent straight back to his head.

Not knowing (or caring) how they flecked into those positions from a pileup, Sirius commented dryly, “You could make a fortune teaching Yoga, Worm.”

“It was a good stretch, but I dunno how I ever got my body to do that.” He lifted his right leg, assisting it with his hands, trying to bend it up again. He shook his head with a pained expression and rubbed his thigh. “But if I fail all my N.E.W.T.s I could always become Master Peter: Yoga Extraordinaire.”

The Marauders were used to Sirius’ short temper when he was frustrated. They had seen him at his best and worst and knew how to slake his anger. IT had been the first time in months Sirius had let his anger get the best of him—his fuse could only be so long. And like a flame, Piper had ignited it and he exploded.

“So what’s your problem?” Sirius asked by way of apology.

“James wants to spy on Grey and Lily, we told him ‘no’, he ran to find you, we followed.” Remus held onto James’ hood, who was nodding.

“And you thought I would want to spy too?” His voice was still laced with dryness; his anger was not mollified completely. Lily reminded him of Piper. “Sorry Prongs, you’re a good mate, but I’m no Peeping Tom.”

“No, I came to find you because you had the Map last.”


“Yeah, you know, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’ Have you been confounded or something?” James put a hand to Sirius’ forehead. “Are you feverish? Are you even Padfoot!?” Eyebrows raised, James surveyed Sirius for any abnormalities only an alien would produce.

Sirius gritted his teeth. Here he was prancing about the castle searching for a girl who didn’t want to see him anyway when the answer was in his back pocket all along. He clenched his hands into fists, digging his short nails into his palms. Piper made him forget things. She was a siren to him; and just as the sailors in mythology forgot they were in rocky and perilous areas, Sirius forgot how precarious Piper could be. He would sail willingly into any trap Piper set for him, overlooking any information that could be important to him.

Trance-like, Sirius tapped the map. James waved his hand in front of Sirius’ eyes. “Are you in there, Padfoot?” Sirius disregarded Peter, James and Remus standing next to him. He was searching for one thing, one person. Magnetically, his eyes were drawn to her name.

“Gotcha,” he whispered. “Lily and Grey are in the Trophy Room.” Sirius shoved the map at James and ran around the corner. His quarry was cornered.

She was on the sixth floor in one of the more obscure corridors where the was only a few broom cupboards and unused classrooms. So eerie the corridor was even the most promiscuous of couples traveled there to consummate their relationships. The Marauders had all agreed ROL Number 4: Don’t take dates up to the sixth floor creepy corridor was one of the most important ROLs they had created. Girls were spooked by the collapsing tables, cracked blackboards, and torn apart books. Peeves floated past the doors without even looking inside; he knew there would be no one in there. The Marauders and Piper passed over these doors when executing their prank, knowing it would be a waste of the valuable powder. No one would bother using the classroom to teach in.

Slightly winded, Sirius tapped his wand on the knob of the last door in the hallway. The corridor was dimly lit. Fear and anticipation rose in his chest. She was behind this door. He would finally set things right.

He opened the door.

She didn’t flinch or make any indication she had even recognized Sirius’ presence. She blended in with the dark room lit only by a solitary candle stub. With a perfectly straight spine, she sat on the sturdiest table of the bunch; her feet dangled off. If Sirius couldn’t see her eyes he would have thought she was reading the pages of parchment in her hands, but she was not reading. She stared, unblinking, ahead of her. Only her trembling jaw moved, shaking with an unknown, repressed emotion.

It must have been ten minutes before Piper acknowledged Sirius. Her head turned less than fifteen degrees; she spoke more to herself than to Sirius. “My mother sent me this letter this morning,” She flourished the pages slightly. Piper choked on her words. Tears did not fill her eyes, but it could have only been because she had run out of tears to shed. Her eyes were red and puffy, by the nearly nonexistent light of the candle; Sirius could see the long streaks where the tears had fallen on her cheeks. “It explains how I am a disgrace to the Redden name and how she’s had me…disowned. You’re in here too, you’re mother just had you disowned. I guess my mother took a page out of her book. She’ll take me back if I renounce all of you and then marry one of the McClures. Someone told her that we were ‘involved’ as she puts it, and she’s afraid we’ll make little bastard children.”

“What do you mean?” There it was: her siren call taunting Sirius, making him oblivious as to why he was so angry with her. How could he hate such a frail and delicate creature? He felt the urge to console her, protect her from the obscenities of the world. And he had inadvertently caused her this suffering? Sirius blinked. He had seen Piper’s father’s affectionate smiles at his daughter, he did not miss her mother salivating over what a prize she would be to any man, and he remembered well the giddy reception Piper’s brother gave her. They disowned her?

“Someone saw us together, I don’t know when, but they did and they wrote to my mother, who wrote to me how shameful it is to consort with blood traitors. She says she was going to overlook my ‘crisis’ and forgive me but I’ve,” she read from the parchment, “’gone too far over the edge and are passed forgiveness unless you follow the conditions as follows: cut off all ties you have made, including the courtship of Sirius Black, the disgrace to the Black name, complete the remainder of the next two years with nothing less than the grades a Redden is expected to have, and you enter into matrimony with Alexander McClure after seventh year—he made the offer to your father and I two nights ago and we have accepted.’”

“Oh shit. Piper, this is all my fault.” All he had to do to prevent this disaster would have been as simple as keeping Piper and enemy. He made her a companion and destroyed her future. He was disowned, but it came as no shock, it was going to come eventually (Sirius had been tempted, on occasion, to blast his own name off the tapestry). Now he was a blood traitor and by practicing little discretion he had turned Piper into one as well.

“Don’t say that. How can I blame someone for this when it’s all just my mother being a delusional cow? I’ve always wanted a way out of that life and here it is. Only, I never thought it would involve disownment. But I won’t crawl back to them. I won’t. I’ve suffered so much mistreatment from them they’re kidding themselves if they think I’ll marry McClure.”

“But you love them,” said Sirius simply.

“They, obviously, don’t love me. If they did, they would do it unconditionally and love me no matter what I do. I mean, God, have you ever heard of a family disowning their child for snogging a ‘blood traitor’?”

“You have read ‘Romeo and Juliet’, right?” His joke was lost on Piper. “Look, are you okay with this?”

“No, I’m not okay!” Piper sprung lightly off the table. She stepped toward Sirius, pulling one hand through her unkempt and tangled hair and holding the other over her heart on her heaving chest. “This morning when I got this sodding thing I was worrying about being disowned while Korey fretted what you would think if she wore black and brown in the same ensemble. We live in a different world, Sirius, and it’s all I know and I’m terrified of knowing anything else. I’ve either been here at school being treated like shit or at home being treated like a freaking queen, I don’t know any middle. Sirius, I’m not strong enough to do this. I can’t do this.”

Piper’s face burned red with the effort she made to prevent a fit of tears. “Sirius,” she said his name in a whisper and fell into his body. Her arms wrapped around his back, caressing his shoulder blades and his own performed likewise. She breathed into his neck in soft, shallow gasps. He felt her hair that she rarely wore down and appreciated every strand. His own body became tense, his breathing as ragged as Piper’s.

She released his body from her grasp and a second later she was kissing Sirius with an urgency foreign to him. She needed to feel every part of him against hers. Her mouth on his, his tongue massaging hers. If Sirius had ever been kissed passionately, it paled in comparison to the swell of emotion he felt. She was the moon and every other woman were stars failing to grasp the moon’s beauty. Her taste was addictive. He needed more.

Their robes only intruded on their need to touch, to feel the other. He glided her shirt of, over her head and intricately traced patterns on her chest, neck, and mouth with his lips and tongue. His hands guided her to the table, their mouths never disconnecting on the shirt trip. He hoisted her up and stepped easily into the gap between her legs, which she wrapped around Sirius’ waist. Her hands slipped under his shirt and rested on his strong back and chest. They leaned into each other as if competing for the same space.

It was delicious ecstasy to expel her emotion on Sirius. Her grief propelled her to kiss him with a ferocity she had never encountered. The ghost of his touch brought his name to her lips; the flicker of his tongue encouraged a shudder in her spine and a gasping intake of breath. His touch voided her mind of thoughts better than fire whiskey ever could.

His name brought Sirius back. He recoiled from Piper fluidly. “This isn’t right,” he spluttered. The spirit of a speech he had prepared floated just outside Sirius’ reach. He thought hard.

Piper grazed her lips where Sirius’ mouth had been seconds ago with her fingertips. They were swollen and red. She swallowed the scathing reply her heart was dying to utter and groped for her shirt instead, self conscious, now, of Sirius seeing her in only a bra and unbuttoned jeans.

“You should write to your mum. Tell her you’ve come to your senses and want nothing to do with me. Finish school, marry Alexander, it’ll be better that way.” He donned his cloak as he spoke. “I dunno what kind of life you were hoping for, but I’m not part of the equation.”

“I thought you would understand what I’m going through, Sirius.”

“Well I don’t. I don’t care about you. I never have. You’re just one big laugh to me; this has all been a joke. Boo hoo, you’re parents disowned you, I don’t give a shit. You were just another girl I wanted to see if I could get and,” he picked Piper’s shirt off the ground and threw it to her, “I guess I can.” Sirius’ words burned his vocal chords as he said them. He needed to set things right, and here it was, his opportunity to instill hate into their relationship again.

“I can’t believe you’re rejecting me.” She crossed her arms over her slightly revealed chest, glaring.

“Well if I shagged every desperate whore who threw herself at me I wouldn’t be much of a legend, now, would I?”

A knot of hatred untangled itself in Piper’s mind. It had been dormant too long. “Get out,” a deadly whisper she did not recognize as her own voice penetrated the air. “Get away from me. Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!” Now shrieking, Piper pointed to the door. She glided off the table, led by the hatred in her mind. She pushed Sirius, punched him, and shoved him until he was in the doorway, out of sight.

She slammed the door in his face.

* * * *

The sunny and oddly warm winter day did not suit Piper. If she controlled the weather, a blizzard would be roaring outside, and with any luck, it would sweep away the Quidditch team coming in from practice.

The Gryffindor team entered with roars of jubilation. The upcoming game against Ravenclaw had sparked intensity within the team. They practiced longer, ate more, and spent the remainder of their time resting.

Piper had been hurt by Sirius. She had been injured in a way she never imagined. Her heart ached from the words he spat out. He didn’t care about her. She was foolish to have ever thought he did. Piper suspected the last month was an elaborate ploy to prompt Piper’s disownment, he had probably written to Piper’s mother when running away didn’t get the job done. Her blood boiled at the sight of him, flushed from the cold outside, laughing with his mates. She gripped the bench, preventing any rash moves such as launching herself at the prat, knife in hand.

She could not sit through dinner at the same table as him. Her anger had been so palpable the night before even Korey kept her distance. Reconciliation in mind, Lily even prompted Piper to get what was bothering her off her chest. Piper had thrown her hangings shut with vigor and cried herself to sleep—something she had sworn never to do again after Sirius Black had made her cry the first time.

Their paths crossed as Piper exited the hall and Sirius entered, broomstick in hand. Piper desired nothing more than to wrench the broom from his hands and beat him to death with it. However, murder is frowned upon at Hogwarts, and she refrained.

“Still mad at me, Red?”

His carrying voice attracted the attention of the Slytherins. Severus, relieved at Piper’s emergence, moved his hand to his wand, just in case she needed some backup.

She was not looking for confrontation. Her emotions were haywire. And after eating twelve Chocolate Frogs and a pound of Honeydukes fudge, her emotions were no less contained than a tiger would be in a wicker basket. Afraid she was going to burst into tears or strange him, Piper did not stall in her gait.

“Yup, still mad. Oh well, she was a bad snog anyway.” Sirius waited.

Piper rounded on Sirius. The Quidditch team retreated; they wanted none of this new, psychotic looking Piper. They wished she would pull her hair back into its normal bun or ponytail, it only added to her crazed visage. “I am not a bad snog, Black.”

Professor McGonagall saw the advance of Piper Redden and the recoiling of the team. She saw Sirius Black stand his ground and she saw Severus Snape stand in his seat, wand in hand. While she would applaud Piper for attacking Black, she couldn’t have Sprout, Flitwick, or Slughorn remembering her house as the one with the crazy girl who assaulted the star Beater. Not on her watch would that happen.

“Is there a problem here, Black, Redden?”

“Nothing, Professor, Sirius here was just giving the Hall a clinic on how to be an asshole.”

“MISS. REDDEN! Twenty points from Gryffindor for that foul language. From my own house no less.”

“And Piper here was going to sign up for my other class I teach today. It’s called ‘Lean how to be less of a bitch in just four sessions’”

“MR. BLACK! Twenty points from Gryffindor. Stop this right now! What is going on between you two!?” McGonagall searched each face for any trace of an answer.

“Nothing, Professor,” Piper said again.

Professor McGonagall surrendered her search of their countenances. She walked backwards up to the staff table, eyes fixed on her two students.

“So I guess things are back to normal between us, eh, Red?”

“Absolutely,” Piper said with a malice in her eyes Sirius did not like one bit.

Chapter 14: Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw
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You Hate Me
Chapter 14:

“I don’t get it,” Peter said for the fourth time, “I just don’t get it.”

Remus put a hand on Peter’s shoulder and shook his head. Remus could only assume Peter’s confusion would blacken Sirius’ mood and throw James into more of a strop. Remus himself had naught to say to Sirius and let James have the floor. It was one of the few times in his life Remus could say he was disgusted with Sirius’ behavior; the others involved buckets of ice, eighty jalapeño peppers, and two pushup bras and Remus preferred not to think about them. James and Peter seemed to feel similarly, for the second James closed to door to the dormitory he stared sternly at Sirius.

“What the fuck was that, Padfoot? I thought you and Piper were on good terms now? Why are you being a frickin’ prick!?” James locked the door to their dormitory and waved his wand to make sure they would not be interrupted, he had too much to holler at Sirius for and not much time to do it.

“I couldn’t tell you, Prongs.” Sirius doffed his Quidditch robes, throwing them haphazardly on the floor, adding onto the already teetering tower of clothes that looked remarkably similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Sirius had caused Piper enough pain without spilling all of her secrets. He could do her one last service by not revealing that she was disowned.

“Well then you better start trying! That went too far earlier.” James pointed down the stairs, indicating the incident in the Great Hall. James had grown quite particular to Piper in the past weeks. She was not his mate by any standards but public humiliation seemed ungrateful after she ceased hostilities towards them. Sirius was choking on his words, at a loss for what to say. James, in a mock baby voice angrily said, “Come on, Sirius, use words like a big boy, I know you can.”

“I decided I didn’t want to be on good terms with her anymore.” Stubbornly nonchalant, Sirius lounged on his bed, twiddling his wand between his fingers. If James wanted to be pissy Sirius wasn’t going to fuel his fire. James didn’t need to know what happened between Sirius and Piper. Sirius himself didn’t’ want to think about it. He reclined as one who did not have a care in the world would recline. An onlooker would have found Sirius the epitome of relaxation. He could have been a poster child for a calming spa vacation package. On the inside he was teeming with anger; anger with himself, with Piper, with the Reddens, with the Blacks, with his friends.

“Well that was just about the stupidest thing you could’ve ever done, Sirius. You really want to be turned red again, huh?” James attacked Sirius verbally to compensate for attacking him physically. He took one long stride to Sirius’ bedside and berated him. “You really don’t care about her? That’s bull shit. I know you Sirius, and I’ve seen you look at her when no one else is watching. Why don’t you just accept that you care about someone for once? I don’t know what changed between you two in the last twenty four hours, but whatever it is it isn’t worth it. I know you have a hard time opening up to people, Paddy, but Piper was good for you.” James said, using his final argument. It had taken him years to convince Sirius to express to some degree his loathing for his family. It did not make him jealous that Sirius had somehow related with Piper in a period of a few months, on the contrary, he was relieved someone understood Sirius for once.

Piper was good for you Sirius had said just the opposite to Piper only hours ago. He was not good for her and she wasn’t good for him. James didn’t understand that, Piper didn’t understand that, and Sirius definitely did not understand that. “You don’t know shit, Prongs.”

“Oh really? Because I see a big piece of it right in front of me.” James rolled his head back and laughed at the high ceiling forcibly. “And besides, you’re seriously deluded if you think I don’t know anything about you and Piper, because I’ve seen her look at you too, Sirius.”

Sirius hurled his legs over his bed and landed solidly on the wood floor. Sirius did feel like a piece of shit. A big, smelly piece of shit that was freshly out of some enormous animal’s asshole.

When Sirius was five he had convinced his father to buy him a puppy and at the pound. The puppy was an adorable but clearly mistreated dog. It had aggression issues toward everyone but Sirius brought the dog home and adopted it nevertheless. It was going to be put to sleep if no one took it home. Sirius eventually tired of the dog and sent it away. He never knew what happened to the animal, but could only assume his father had had it put to sleep, the very fate Sirius had tried to save it from.

Sirius compared this pitiable anecdote to the relationship he and Piper had been establishing. And just as he had done with the puppy whose hopes he had brought up, Sirius grew bored and smashed them. But it wasn’t out of boredom Sirius cut all ties with Piper; he was protecting her. He effectively destroyed her life by romanticizing her. Sirius knew he was right to have slandered Piper, he was only being chivalrous. And even if his idea of chivalry was seriously distorted, Sirius still had her best interests at heart and hearing her name dropped carelessly by his best mate was infuriating.

“Don’t talk to me about her anymore. Say her name again and I swear I’ll knock you out, James.”

James cocked his head. He turned around, giving Sirius the impression of full fledged capitulation in the row. It was only when he took a great intake of breath and turned around that Sirius knew his friend had not surrendered at all. With a terrible, trouble making smirk on his face, James yelled, “PIPER! PIPER! PIIIIIIIIIIIIIPER!”

Whether the Gryffindor common room thought it was odd James Potter was shouting Piper’s name over and over again was odd, James never found out. As he was on his fourth chorus of her name he tasted blood in his mouth and the entire right side of his face ached with a force that may as well of come from James running side long into a stone wall. It was not, however, an unprecedented flight into a wall that caused James his pain; it had been Sirius’ fist.

James felt a loose tooth with his tongue and exhaled deeply through his nostrils. He lowered his head as if he was wishing to sprout horns and charge at his friend like a bull attacking a particularly finicky matador. James launched himself at Sirius, uppercutting him so hard in the stomach Sirius gasped for breath. They fought, bloodying their knuckles and breaking fingers until Remus and Peter were lulled out of their trance like state. James and Sirius fought over Peter’s and Remus’ arms that were acting as barricades. They managed to break through Remus and Peter and grappled, each trying to get a better hold of the other, until they were so worn out it was easy for Remus and Peter to pull them apart. Neither Remus nor Peter had ever seen Sirius and James fight—especially over a girl. It was ROL Number 868 after all; ‘Never row with a mate over a bird—they’re not worth it.’ Peter held Sirius and Remus James. All four glared as if they were brandishing swords instead of wands.

And then, at the same time, James and Sirius fainted, exhausted from their fight.

* * * *

Piper had drawn herself the hottest bath the tub could handle. She was surprised the metal of the tap did not melt from the heat rising from the water steadily. Piper sunk into it, her wand trained on the vent almost directly above her just in case Sirius dared to make a showing. If he did, Piper decided she would merely splash him with the boiling water—and then, perhaps she could throw him out of the window.

Piper entertained the idea as she splashed feebly about. Enjoying vivid images of Sirius free falling or at least breaking his back from the fall and living the rest of his days as Quasimodo ringing the bells at some obscure chapel made Piper’s mood exponentially brighter.

She had just begun to hope Sirius would plop down into the bathroom so she could drown him and the last thing he would ever see would be what he could have had when a knock at the locked bathroom door echoed around the room.

“Piper,” It was Lily speaking hesitantly from the dormitory, “what are you doing in there?”

“Trying to drown myself.” Piper said in her satirical voice.

“And how’s that going for you?”

Piper could almost envision Lily shifting her weight from one foot to the other with a look on her face contorted with the effort it took for her to exert any form of her nonexistent sense of humor.

“Badly. These towels don’t bloomin’ weigh me down enough. I need a bloody rock or something,” Piper commented while examining her finger nails. With any luck, Lily would give up, take the hint, and leave Piper alone.

“Suicide is nothing to joke about,” said Lily.

“Who’s joking?”

Piper’s dry tone produced the desired response.

“You are being immature, Piper.”

“And you’re being a nosy pain in the ass, but you don’t see me complaining about it.” Piper slunk lower into the hot water and submerged until she heard the definite sound of footsteps and a door slamming. As long as Lily was not going to a Professor or Dumbledore himself to report a suicide in the process, Piper didn’t care. She wanted only to be alone and immerse herself with macabre scenarios she could potentially put Sirius in that would lead to his untimely (or completely timely, depending on how you look at it) death.

She even managed to coerce one of the younger house elves to trade a bottle of wine for the promise of providing plenty of dirty laundry; and as she drained the bottle her thoughts grew even more melancholy. Before she knew it, Piper was completely piss drunk and was damning every person she knew to hell, including the bloke who drove the Knight Bus that dropped Piper and Sirius off at Hogsmeade, he shouldn’t have given them a ride to Hogsmeade, they were delinquents. After damning Sirius to Hell for the umpteenth time Piper grew tired of hearing his name and in her drunken stupor she vowed to only refer to him as Stupid Ugly Francis Overly Large Gob Arrogant Misogynistic Mean Man. That name seemed to take care of all of his personality flaws and the name ‘Francis’ prevented her from actually thinking about him—she knew no Francises and could thus not connect the name to him in any way.

Piper was still at a loss about the matters concerning her family. She was unyielding in her opinion that no family should disown their daughter for the simple misdeed of snogging an unwise bloke. And since being disowned freed her from any matrimonial obligations such as marrying Alexander McClure (who, in her state Piper decided to rename Rather Attractive Git That Ruined my Life and is no Longer Attractive for it) it couldn’t be so bad, could it? Besides, Piper had not missed it when her mother’s note failed to mention Heath’s role in the matters. Her father would somehow over power Carolyn in the long run, Piper was sure of it. Her father had never let her down.

Comforted by this thought, Piper downed the dregs of the bottle of wine and stumbled back into the dormitory, found her bed by some means unbeknownst to her and fell asleep without even bothering to change into pajamas. She had a big day tomorrow, after all. Stupid Ugly Francis Overly Large Gob Arrogant Misogynistic Mean Man was in for it.

* * * *

It did not take long for the school to learn that the two star players on the Gryffindor Quidditch team were laying in the Hospital Wing with what Korey called ‘severe concussions’ and had been there all night. Aside from being on the threshold of forming a lynch mob to show Sirius and James how displeased they were for their behavior, the Gryffindors were worried. It was only when Zane pointed out that it would hardly be beneficial to Sirius’ and James’ health to lynch them that the mob disbanded and decided to allow Madame Pomfrey to do her work with her undivided attention. Sirius and James needed to be in tip top shape—soon.

The Ravenclaws had been particularly arrogant about their team. They had flattened Hufflepuff with an outrageous score of 20 to 560. The slaughter had lasted eight hours due to the dysfunctional Keepers on both sides. Their side was a collection of bad talent and rudimentary skills. Their Beaters, Chuck Crane and Lawrence O’Neil were more apt to mistake the opposing team’s heads for Bludgers than actually make contact with the brown balls. Ian Snow, the Keeper actually brought his homework up in the air to do while the ball was not at his end of the pitch. If not for the mediocre talents of Daniel Tailor, Jack Smith, and Collin Johanson the team would have never scored. Their Seeker was new and his skills had only been tested once. However, Hogwarts was sure James Potter would persevere over Grant Grey.

The known rivalry between James and Grant had sparked an interest in the school since the feud was so recent. If Grant could beat Potter he could only be deserving of Lily Evans. The general opinion of Grant Grey was so distasteful many Slytherins and Hufflepuffs donned crimson colors to show their support in Potter’s quest. For if James failed, it would be up to little Regulus Black—who nearly no one had seen in action—to defeat the pompous prat that was Grant Grey. Sirius said that if it came to that he wasn’t sure whose side he would take since he loathed each both of them.

In the Hospital Wing, James and Sirius were still in an incapacitated state. Madame Pomfrey had set them right with a wave of her wand but upon being resuscitated, James and Sirius continued their unfinished fight. They made a right mess of things: tipping over shelves of potions and flattening one of the beds completely until Madame Pomfrey Stunned them. She had kept them in a severely tranquilized state after that; feeding them large doses of Calming Droughts every fifteen minutes through a funnel and following it with an even larger quantity of the Elixir of Bed Rest.

“Mmm Pomfrrrrr pleee letd usd ooooooo,” James gurgled from his bed, still trying to fend Sirius off with one rubbery hand. He valiantly rose and dropped his arm in a desperate attempt to hit Sirius before Sirius could hit him. Their beds, however, were separated by no less than five feet of distance, and his efforts were thwarted.

James’ pleas were ignored by their caretaker.

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaame,” Sirius bellowed. Sentences were too tricky to form with his magically swollen tongue, immobile body and cloudy mind. However, he hoped he got his point across.

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaame,” James echoed.

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaame,” their said in unison and continued to say in harmony until their cries became more like whale calls than teenage pleading. United by their goal, James and Sirius tacitly agreed to take a rain check on the fight and used their renewed energy to beg to be set right.

“Oh, shut up!” Madame Pomfrey came flying from her office; hands covering her ears, which themselves were covered with fluffy pink ear muffs that must have been a present from Professor Sprout. “How the Professors deal with them I don’t know!” She grumbled more to herself than to Sirius and James. She huffed and looked contemptuously out of the window where she saw the most eager of the students were collecting near the pitch, testing the conditions and quarreling over who would be victorious; the knowledge that a Quidditch match would soon commence did not ease her temper. Knowing she would need to clear the bed space before the match was over, Madame Pomfrey eyed James and Sirius suspiciously. “If you two promise me—and I mean promise —not to harm one another I will release you,” she said warily.

James’ and Sirius’ heads flopped downwards once (they were incapable of lifting their heads back up since they lacked the neck strength). “Pwwomis.” “Yaa, pwwwomiss.”

Eyes still narrowed in suspicion, Madame Pomfrey waved her wand and Summoned a bottle from the highest shelf. She measured a hefty amount in two glasses and, using the funnels on their nightstands, poured it down James’ and Sirius’ throats. She then performed some very complicated movements with her wand (most of which where for show) and aimed it at the beds on which rested the two most troublesome boys she had ever met.

Almost instantly, they were righted. Their vocal chords unclenched, their legs felt less like liquid, they had control over their limbs, and their minds unclouded. Their anger was also back in full force but it was overshadowed by their desire to play Quidditch. After scrambling to collect their wands, James and Sirius tripped over each other to leave the Hospital Wing with as much haste as possible.

“And stay out!” Madame Pomfrey yelled as the door shut behind her. She walked to the window and leaned on the sill, watching and waiting for the accident that would undoubtedly occur. She hated Quidditch.

* * * *

Piper woke the next morning and was vaguely aware that it was a game day—Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw. Excellent. She rolled over but stopped halfway when she felt judgmental eyes on her. She wasn’t even fully awake and already she was causing a stir in the dormitory. Sure enough, as soon as she had wiped the grogginess from her eyes she was aware of Korey staring distastefully at her pajamas-less form. As Piper sat up the revulsion on Korey’s face grew as she viewed Piper’s matted hair, baggy eyes, and wrinkled clothes.

“Oh, Piper, you should get back to bed,” Korey winced, showering the dormitory with her snotty, nasally voice. “You really need to catch up on your beauty sleep. You need all the time you can get.” She went back to brushing her hair at her vanity, gauging Piper’s reaction through the mirror.

“So that’s the secret then? Sleeping. God and here I was thinking the key to beauty was layers of makeup and making yourself hurl after every meal. Fuck, I was misinformed.” Piper said, managing to speak with her usual élan even though she was suffering from a massive headache.

“Ha, ha, very funny,” Korey gave her hair one last sweeping brush and slid a scarlet and gold head band on the very top of her head to display her House-spirit. “I assume you’re not going to the game.” Korey pulled on her tight fitting robes to complete her look.

“When you assume you make an ass out of yourself,” Piper quoted, she knew the expression went something like that.

Korey growled under her breath. Piper was as challenging as a two year old who knew a lot of curse words. And Korey knew many terrible toddlers—she babysat. With one last appraisal of her appearance Korey swept from the room, she wasn’t going to let Piper’s attitude dampen her spirits—Korey glowed less when her spirits were dampened.

Piper chortled. It was too easy to vex Korey. Piper was down to a flat fifty seconds to harass Korey out of a room. Next time she would try for forty. Refreshed by rudeness, Piper was able to go about her morning routine feeling completely rejuvenated. Teeth brushed, face washed, legs shaved, and hair combed, Piper dressed for the day. She instantly regretted completing this routine so quickly; without a bottle of wine, Korey, or mindless tasks to distract her, Piper’s wrath bubbled up in full force. If she had cared to see her reflection in a mirror, Piper was sure flames would have taken the place of her pupils. She was sure of three things: one, she hated Sirius Black; two, she was going to make Sirius Black suffer, and three, she would somehow find a way to make it all work out.

Firstly, she quickly penned a letter which she copied over and sent to her father and to Rhett to inquire if they knew what the bloomin’ hell was going on.

Secondly, she formulated a way to destroy Sirius. The Quidditch match was a half hour off, which meant Sirius was on the pitch scrutinizing the conditions and warming up; that was no good, Piper couldn’t exactly do bodily harm to him in front of the whole school. But that didn’t mean she had to hurt Black directly…

If she was going to ruin Black’s life, Piper decided, she was going to look good doing it. Piper moved quickly, she tore the entire contents of her wardrobe apart until every article of clothing she owned was strewn about the floor. In the very depths of her trunk she found the diamond stud earrings that were a birthday present from her grandfather two years ago, a book that had changed Carolyn’s life about magical makeup application, and a pair of shoes she had vowed never to wear. She changed in record speed, exchanging her baggy jeans and roomy blouse for a brown wool skirt, a tight fitting, low cut, white jumper, and a cashmere sapphire blue cardigan. Ignoring the excruciating pain, she squished her feet into the too high brown heels. The spells in the leather-bound book of Carolyn’s came with detailed instructions that were easy to follow thanks to generations of Redden women adding their cosmetic secrets to it. Piper scrutinized her reflection; ten minutes were left until the game, she had to hurry. She was missing something but she did not know what. The heels made her legs look long and slim, the blue of the cardigan made her eyes sparkle, the jumper hugged her body and gave the illusion of curves, and her makeup was flawless, it hid even the most stubborn of the bags under her eyes. She smiled when she realized what the missing factor was. With a flourish, she pulled her hair free of its band and allowed it to creep wildly down to frame her face.

Her progress down the stairs was slow. With each step her heels clacked loudly and echoed down the staircase. Gradually, he came into sight. He was exactly where she knew he would be: on the couch closest to the fire leaned over a pile of papers spread out on the mahogany table he had dragged over from the corner, trying to get in a few more minutes of homework before he had to face the frigid February weather for as long as it took James to catch the Snitch. He was alone in this attitude of placing homework above Quidditch but he also found that the castle was at its quietest ten minutes before a match. He completed on last sentence and was about to collect his things and trek to the pitch when a strange clacking noise filled the common room. Intrigued, he waited for the source of the noise to appear.

“Hello, Remus,” Piper, wobbling as if she were descending in stilts rather than pumps, came into view and Remus smiled. He had never seen her without her black robe on and he never thought he would ever see her in heels. “I have to break them in before Easter,” she explained, displaying her skills as a face reader. “My mum said she’d give me a week without Latin lessons if I wear them. And I thought I’d try them on when no one could see me but it looks like that’s not gonna happen so…” she trailed off. “I didn’t realize anyone would be here,” Piper said, lying through her teeth. She knew he’d be here because she never went to the Quidditch games and she always saw Remus packing up his last minute homework with just enough time to make it to the pitch.

“’Sokay. I’m leaving anyway.” Remus was at the portrait hole when he looked at Piper, confused. “Aren’t you going to the game?”

“Nah, I have loads to do.”

“Like break in shoes?”

“Exactly.” Piper smiled sweetly, the exact smile she had learned encouraged people to continue conversations with her. She was out of practice but she thought that it would get the job done. Piper made a show of each step she took, grimacing dramatically every so often to show Remus just how difficult breaking in shoes properly can be.


She had him now. Piper did not need to look to know Remus had moved from the portrait hole. Her smile grew.


“Well it’s just, if you don’t mind me asking,” Remus was closer to Piper now and farther away from the portrait hole. “What the fuck is going on between you and Sirius?”

Piper could have laughed. The last time she had been asked that question it had been Korey asking her at the beginning of term. Then the answer was simple: Nothing is going on between Black and I because we despise each other and only want to see each other spend their days in misery. But it had changed, that wasn’t the answer anymore. Sure enough what Piper was about to do would make Black miserable, but for the first time Piper truly felt like he deserved her mistreatment. When Sirius had made her the object of some cruel joke Piper had only retaliated because she had her honor to uphold, that, and Sirius needed to be taught a lesson. In her heart Piper had been able to forgive Sirius for his stupid stunts like breaking her quills and charming her cheeks to glow red every time someone said the word “penis”, but he had wounded Piper too deeply this time and she was finally going to get it through his thick skull that she was not the type of person that should not be screwed with. And if that meant destroying a couple of friendships that was his fault.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you, Remus,” Piper sat on the couch where Remus had been minutes before; the seat was still warm. “I mean one second he’s all, ‘can’t we be friends?’ and the next he’s calling me out in front of the whole school! He doesn’t make any sense! I don’t know how you deal with him because I’ve almost strangled him more times the past month than I’ve ever wanted to before.”

“The ability to resist strangulation is an important quality to have when you’re friends with Sirius,” Remus said. He was next to Piper on the couch now although he kept his distance still.

“I’m not friends with him.”

“So there was nothing going on between the two of you when you were ‘dating’?” Remus made mocking air quotations; Sirius had told the Marauders how Piper was only pretending to go out with him so she could break up with him and humiliate him.


“Okay, okay, just wondering. Can’t blame a guy for being curious.” Remus moved to stand but reconsidered. “Speaking of being curious: what’s the real reason you’re not going to the Quidditch game? I mean it’s your own House for God’s sake.”

Piper kicked off her heels and removed her cardigan; as she pulled the blue fabric over her shoulders she purposely stuck her chest out and made a soft sighing noise. “You want the real reason?”

“Yes.” Again, Piper’s smile drew Remus into her; they were closer now so that Remus could smell her spicy amber perfume faintly.

“Because I hate it.” Piper spoke slowly and playfully.

Remus gasped, jokingly affronted; he had never met a witch who hated Quidditch. But he had also never met someone like Piper. Being so close to her, speaking words to her was toxic. Every inch of Remus was screaming out to actually reach out and touch her skin, to feel what Sirius felt. Sirius. No, he couldn’t be feeling this way. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, Sirius and Piper were connected in some obscure way and Remus couldn’t interfere like that. But her smell…No.

“I,” Remus fought off the voices in his head, yelling, ordering him to stay. “I should get going. If I don’t leave now I’ll never get a seat.” Nervously, he chuckled.

“Remus, I really appreciate you listening to me. It feels nice to have someone to talk to, you know?” Her voice pulled Remus back in; he was a fish trying to escape the urge to latch onto a particularly good looking piece of bait, not necessarily knowing that there was a hungry fisherman waiting to reel the fish in. “Thank you so much.” Piper met Remus in mid-stand and laced her arms under his and around his back, pressing her face onto his chest. His whole body felt so different from Sirius’ Piper nearly let go from the shock. Remus reacted to her touch by cautiously wrapping his own arms around Piper’s waist.

“I always thought you were the best Marauder,” Piper mumbled into Remus’ shoulder.

“You’re not too bad yourself.” Remus chuckled his warm-hearted chuckle. His good hearted nature only made Piper feel even more terrible. Though no matter how wretched she felt, her anger at Sirius was still the dominant emotion coursing through her veins.

Piper broke apart from Remus slightly, enough to allow her face to move closer to his. Enough for her to see the conflict in his eyes. Her hands moved to his hair and she felt her lips open slightly. Remus’ own lips lost their tightness, but she felt a shuddering gasp run through him. Piper cocked her head to the side, frightened that Remus would reject her, but also fearing that he wouldn’t. She didn’t want to do this to Sirius; she didn’t want to cause him pain, even though he had no problem hurting Piper. Remus’ own movements mirrored Piper’s feelings of not wanting to cause Sirius pain. Their lips were nearly touching. Nearly.

Right on cue, Korey Kayhart, having forgotten her warmest pair of gloves and her cutest earmuffs, opened the portrait hole. Piper and Remus snapped apart, but quick enough for Korey not to have seen them.

“Oh, sorry…” Korey said uncertainly, not really sorry at all; it wasn’t uncommon to walk in on couples taking advantage of an empty common room. It was only when Korey realized that the couple she had intruded on was Remus and Piper that interest sparked in her eyes. At first glance she hadn’t recognized the glossy haired, slim figured, sharp faced girl as Piper. Korey looked from Piper to Remus, trying to read their faces for any hint of what had just happened between them, for she had never seen Piper like this and, for a moment, Korey was glad that Piper chose not to look like this every day or she, Korey, would have competition.

“I just forgot my gloves,” Korey said at the same time that Remus said, “I’m probably missing the match,” while Piper chose to have a coughing fit to ease the awkward situation she had purposefully put herself into. She knew Korey had forgotten her gloves and earmuffs and, judging by the thick snow falling, Piper had guesstimated just how long it would take Korey to realize that her winter necessities were not with her. With any luck Korey would have the whole school knowing that Piper Redden and Remus Lupin were in love by tomorrow afternoon. Midnight tonight if she worked quickly.

Remus and Korey disbanded and once they had both fled from the scene of the crime Piper smiled, delighted over the chaos she had just created. Just call me Eris, Piper thought.

* * * *

Lily was shaking her head, for she could not comprehend what exactly Korey was saying, nor could she fully believe what Korey was saying.

“I’m telling you, it was really, really, really, really, freaking weird.” Korey shuddered, visibly affected by what had happened. Her reaction was enough to sway Lily; when Korey was lying or exaggeration she nodded, blinked, and licked her lips compulsively.

“Did you actually see them kissing?” Lily’s eyes were on Remus and his eyes were on Sirius flying fifty feet above the ground swinging his club to and fro.

“No, but,” Korey made sure there were no eavesdroppers listening in, “her cardigan was off!

“Oh my God!”


But Lily was not exclaiming over Korey’s evidence that Piper and Remus were about to engage in naughty activities, Sirius had just hit Grant Grey with all of his strength from only a short distance away. The Gryffindor section cheered more raucously as more blood poured from Grey’s nose, the Ravenclaw section groaned, the Slytherins heckled the Ravenclaws, the Hufflepuffs laughed, and Lily tugged at her blue and bronze pin that was a gift from Grant and her scarlet and gold scarf, torn between the two. In the air, James high-fived Sirius and the Ravenclaws surrounded Grant to stop the bleeding.

Grant waved off his team-mates dizzily, steadied himself, and examined his surroundings again to ensure his momentary pause did not affect the game.

James, after high-fiving Sirius had plummeted toward the ground, a look of determination in his eyes that was only associated with catching the Snitch or asking Lily out. And since the later was in the stands biting her nails nervously, the crowd knew James had seen the Snitch. Grant noticed James’ dive toward the ground, he lowered himself onto his broom and began to plummet as well. James had too much of a lead off of Grant and the crowd knew that he would be victorious. But in a move of stupidity, James slowed his broom down and allowed Grant to catch up to him, he wouldn’t let anyone say that James Potter only beat Grant Grey because Grey had broken his nose. Neck and neck, James and Grant dove even closer to the ground, but the Snitch had torn upward, forcing its hunters to stop their dive at the last moment and follow after it. Now in an upward climb, James and Grant were still tied. Grant rammed James with his shoulder, but James did not take his eye off of the Snitch. Now the ball was only an arm’s length away. James climbed farther up his broom, and with one final thrust, he felt the golden ball close around his fingers. He held the same hand aloft in victory.

The Gryffindors stormed the field, cheering victoriously and congratulating the members of their team. They had performed spectacularly and many were already making bets that their team would be in the finals. Lily also stormed the field, only less raucously and she did not do it to cheer on her House; Grant collapsed against her and she patted him awkwardly. His face was rather bloody and Lily was afraid it was going to stain her robes. James witnessed this and squeezed the Snitch in his hand tighter until he was close to crushing it. Lily didn’t even congratulate him. She always congratulated him when they won. And they always won so Lily always congratulated him. What was she doing hugging Grant Grey, the loser? Remus was also on the pitch, and he met Sirius.

“Good hit,” Remus said. He hoped Sirius could not read the guilt on his face. Remus did not know what would have happened if he had stayed in that room with Piper, but it didn’t matter. He had nearly done something with the girl that so clearly had an untouchable bond with Sirius, whether the two wanted to admit it or not.

“Thanks,” Sirius was eyeing the stands and the crowd on the pitch. Sirius had never seen Piper in the stands, nor did she ever rush the field after a game, but Sirius also never looked for her. He hadn’t expected her to come and see him, not after the way that he had treated her, but a small part of him hoped that she wanted to see him. “Piper wasn’t up there, was she?” Sirius gestured to the stands with a nod of his head.

Remus coughed violently. He knew! Sirius knew that he had been with Piper. Oh God. Damn. Damn. Damn. Sirius would never talk to Remus again. Okay, he had to play it cool. Remus needed to settle down. “Er, I think she was, er, in the, er, common room, maybe. I dunno, I didn’t see her or anything. I mean, I might have seen her. I mean we didn’t talk or anything.” Remus always excelled at acting nonchalant.

Sirius did not pick up on Remus’ clearly worried tone. She hadn’t come, that was all he needed to know. She really did not want to see him. She hadn’t forgiven him and she wouldn’t forgive him. She would marry McClure and stay a Redden forever. If she didn’t want to see Sirius it meant that they weren’t…weren’t what? Together? They were never dating. They were never in love. They were never in a relationship. None of those terms could possibly cover the uncontrollable rollercoaster that were the feelings that Piper and Sirius felt for each other. They didn’t even enjoy each other’s company half the time. They couldn’t speak civilly for more than two minutes. Sirius had hated her and Piper had hated Sirius, and after what had happened between them, she clearly hated Sirius again. And who wouldn’t hate him after he toyed with her emotions and abandoned her? Her feelings towards him were well deserved. Sirius knew that the best thing for both of them was to put as much distance as possible between them. He was the entirely wrong person for her to be attached to and she was the wrong person for him. That was all there was to it. But she was addictive and Sirius needed more of her, even though he knew how bad she was for him and vice versa. They were never meant to be happy; they were not bred to be happy, for they were born purebloods and, as Piper had said, she was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder when the time came. She had accepted that until Sirius came prancing into her well designed life. A whisper in the back of his mind had pointed out that marriage Alexander McClure was slightly more dangerous than a life with Sirius in it, but at least if Piper was with McClure Sirius could be happy. He hoped he could be happy. He wanted to be happy. He wanted her to be happy.

* * * *

The crowd of Gryffindors, on top of which were floating the Gryffindor Quidditch team, charged into the common room, instantly filling it out and making the limited space tight and adding several degrees onto the temperature. Piper was not here either, but Sirius doubted that if she hadn’t bothered to watch the game she would hardly want to congratulate the team on their victory. Sirius also noticed the lack of a certain redhead; it seemed that Lily had preferred to congratulate Grant on a job well tried than her own House. Peter had made a pre-game run to Hogsmeade via the Hunchbacked Witch so there was ample butterbeer and Cauldron Cakes.

Sirius’ eyes were on the stairwell to the girls’ dormitories. Was Piper up there? No, he didn’t want to find her. He didn’t want to see her. Sirius shook his head as if he could get Piper out of his mind like a swimmer getting water out of their ears. It was a simple task, forgetting about Piper. All Sirius had to do was replace her. He heard that worked from dog-lovers. Sirius weighed the options. There was always Korey; she was usually up for a snog. Or maybe Raine. Krissy Livingston hadn’t yet forgiven Sirius for Victoria and Victoria had a boyfriend now. But none of these girls had Piper’s mystery. They didn’t have her wit. No. She was replaceable.

Sirius found Remus contemplating whatever it is Remus enjoyed thinking about after nearly betraying his dearest friend. They sat in silence for some minutes until their silence was broken by a group of gaggling fifth years that had migrated behind the sofa.

“And then she walked in on them…and they were snogging!

Remus stiffened.

“And, I heard that her cardigan was on the floor!”

Remus shifted uncomfortably.

“Please, I heard that Piper’s a prude!”

Now Sirius was sitting, alert. If he had been in his dog form, his ears would have been perked.

“Apparently Remus Lupin knows how to bring out the slut in her!”

The group broke down into fits of screaming giggles the way scandalous gossip often made them do. But no laughter marked Sirius’ face; his visage was instead permeated with loathing. Sirius was thinking about several things: firstly, he reminded himself that it was probably useless gossip and his friend was entirely guiltless; secondly, he noted that all gossip has some grounds, some evidence, to back it; thirdly, he thought back to his friend’s odd nervousness that Sirius had associated with the upcoming full moon; fourthly, Sirius came to terms with how betrayed he felt; and lastly, he discovered that a friend that was blameless would have denied it immediately and would not have let his betrayed friend stew in his emotions for so long, an innocent friend would not have put himself into a situation that could have even manifested vicious gossip.

Sirius had already been in a fight with one of his best friends this day. He stood up sharply, his hands balled into tight fists that hung rigidly at his side.

“Padfoot, wait!” Remus called feebly at Sirius. But Sirius was already gone. He was in the corridors and he was going to track Piper down and clear this up.

But he would not find Piper in the castle.

She was outside of the Three Broomsticks, her body protected against the harsh wind with a letter from Alexander McClure clutched in her small fist that read: ”Piper, I would be honored if you would join me in the Three Broomsticks this evening. I’m sure you know a way out of the castle. I look forward to seeing you. Alexander.

Piper re-read the letter, and prepared exactly what she would say to McClure in her head for the tenth time since she had first received it after Remus and Korey had fled from the common room. Piper did want to see Sirius’ reaction to hearing the rumor Korey undoubtedly started, but having an opportunity to squeeze the life from Alexander McClure was much more appealing. And, if she was thwarted in her attempts of strangulation, she could at least make Alexander tell her why he was so determined to ruin her life.

Piper took a deep breath and opened the door.

He was sitting on a stool by the bar waiting for her.

Chapter 15: Kiss Me, I'm Calico
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You Hate Me
Chapter 15: Kiss Me, I’m Calico

Piper valued the art of rehearsing. Before she was about to engage in any serious conversation or debate she would plan out exactly what she was going to say and organize her thoughts. As a nine year old, Piper had clearly explained to her grandfather that there was no possible way she could have broken his prized dragon skull, for she wasn’t strong enough to even pick it up—Rhett, on the other hand, was. When she was twelve, Piper assured Professor Dumbledore that The Marauders had been the ones to change all of the Professor’s hair snowy white, for Piper didn’t have enough time to brew a Hair Changing Potion, her course load kept her far too busy, whereas the Marauders had skipped Defense Against the Dark Arts on the very day the incident occurred. On rare occurrences Piper had even been able to reason with her mother, a feat which required her best persuasive skills. This often practiced talent made Piper quicker on her feet and much wittier; it also enabled her to appear calm in the midst of a heated argument. Piper thought handling McClure would be a piece of cake compared to other rows she had been in. But despite how well rehearsed Piper’s argument was, as she turned the handle to the Three Broomsticks and saw Alexander McClure her calm reasoning flew away with a gust of February wind.

Two scenarios flew through Piper’s head: in the first, Piper would rationalize with Alexander and he would see things her way, he would apologize for mistreating her and ask for her forgiveness, and then he would go on his way after promising never to bother Piper again; in the second, Piper would be unable to convince the stubborn Alexander McClure and he would not see things her way, he would insist on their marriage and probably Summon a preacher then and there, and then he would most likely abduct Piper and keep her locked up until she promised to behave like a proper wife. Or, if neither scenario proved likely, their imminent conversation would land somewhere in the middle of the two.

No matter how hard Piper tried to forget it (and she was taking every pain except employing the help of a professional Obliterator), she could not forget the Alexander that had won her over. Seeing him sitting anxiously at the barstool made Piper remember the charming, breath-taking, amazing Alexander she had once known. But she could not forget his actions; she wouldn’t allow herself to forget his actions. Alexander had asked for her parents’ permission to marry her when he knew she had no intentions of marrying him! He lied to his best friend, Piper’s brother. He hit Piper. Piper felt her hand move to her cheek.

Piper had not moved from the entrance way. The door opened behind her and a group of Vampire Hunters came bursting through loudly just as a particularly large crowd of hags were attempting to leave. Piper found herself stuck in the middle of the two groups, causing even more of a stir in the small hall. If Piper had moved in a timely fashion the Hunters and hags would have been able to file through the doorway without causing the mix-up, but since she had stood in the direct middle of the entrance way for no less than twenty seconds the hysteria commenced. She was jabbed with stakes as the Hunters pushed past her and the hags, frogs fell from the hags pockets as they were shoved about by the Hunters. Piper was pushed to and fro, never staying in one position for long, which reminded her of children playing Hot Cauldron. A flask of Holy Water broke open and the hags shrieked and hissed to show their distaste for the Hunters. Piper was squished between perhaps the most hideous of the two groups (the Hunter bore a long scar down the entire vertical of his face and many miniscule, circular puncture wounds over all of his skin; while the hag’s own visage was covered with warts, giving Piper insight on what she must have looked like under the influence of Bulbadox Powder) and she struggled to break free. Just as one of the hags sniffed out Piper’s scent and turned her sight on her, Piper felt a hand that was not calloused or scarred grip her gently around the arm and pull her out of the mob. The hag hissed as her dinner was taken away but shuffled out of the doorway nonetheless to find a younger child to eat.

“You certainly know how to get yourself into trouble, don’t you?” Alexander breathed into Piper’s ear; his movement made their cheeks brush and his lips tickled her skin.

“And you always seem to be nearby to get me out of it,” Piper remarked. Alexander smiled; he did not miss Piper’s hidden meaning. His hand was laced around Piper’s and he guided her to a secluded table in a corner; his hand warmed Piper’s, which was freezing due to the temperature outside. Instinctively, Piper wrestled her hand out of Alexander’s and sat down without waiting for Alexander to pull out her chair for her.

The Three Broomsticks was crowded. Each time the door was opened a flurry of snow accompanied the customer on their way inside. A fire was roaring in a hearth, even though body heat would have warmed up the pub just as well. The customers were rowdy and Madame Rosmerta worked busily to take orders and keep her patrons happy. So busy was Madame Rosmerta that she did not notice that she was serving a student from Hogwarts, a student that clearly did not belong out of the castle at that time of night. Madame Rosmerta clunked a flagon of butterbeer down in front of Piper even though she had not ordered it. Piper stared at it stoically; she needed to stare at something to regain her thoughts.

Piper cracked her knuckles unconsciously, something that irked Alexander to no end. He winced visibly with each crack; Piper was on her fifth knuckle when she noted the effect it had on Alexander. She prolonged the process longer while willing her knuckles to crack louder. Her knuckles finished, Piper started on her back. By keeping her feet on the floor in front of her and rotating her torso so she could grab the back of the chair with her arms she cracked her back loudly. Just as she turned to the other side Alexander implored her to stop. Her cracking had bought her enough time to remember exactly why she had made the treacherous trip down to Hogsmeade. She wouldn’t allow herself to go off track again. She would get straight to the point.

“Why did you ask for my parents’ permission to marry me?” Piper lowered her voice that had begun as a scream as the clientele took notice of her and Madame Rosmerta glared.

Alexander scoffed as if Piper had asked the simplest question in the world. “Because I want to marry you.” Alexander brushed his dark hair away from his eyes; his hair was getting too long, he needed it trimmed. With his locks brushed away from his face Piper could fully see his honey brown eyes; she had forgotten how much power those eyes had over her.

Piper banged both fists on the table; the butterbeer wobbled dangerously and frothed over the sides of the glass onto the table. “No you don’t!” Piper leaned forward as she spoke.

“I don’t?” Alexander put a hand to his chest, making a show out of his sarcasm.

“Why would you, Alexander? Why would you possibly want to marry me when I so blatantly don’t want to marry you? I would rather be disowned than have to live the rest of my life with the likes of you.”

Alexander feigned offense but dropped his show as Piper pushed back her chair to leave.

“Rhett told me about your parents’ decision and I wanted to help, love. I couldn’t stand to see you piss your life away. But I don’t see how you could prefer to live penniless with riffraff like Sirius Black, the Disowned Wonder, than with me.”

Hearing his name made Piper’s heart stop beating. For a moment she thought she was having a heart attack; and she wouldn’t blame her heart for giving out after all that had happened. His name made Piper stop breathing; and she wouldn’t blame her lungs if they collapsed. Her entire chest ached with a severe pain after hearing his name come out of the mouth of the man who had been instrumental in her own disownment. If Piper hadn’t been such a floozy in Egypt Alexander wouldn’t want to marry her now. If Alexander didn’t want to marry her he wouldn’t have slapped her. If he hadn’t slapped her Piper would not have had to tell Sirius about it. If she hadn’t told Sirius about what happened Sirius would not have attacked Alexander. If he hadn’t attacked Alexander they wouldn’t have run away. If…

“It really isn’t as complicated as you’re making it out to be. You really think I would even want to look at you after what happened? After you hit me?”

“Piper,” Alexander took both of Piper’s hands in his, “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you and I let my temper get the best of me but I promise to never even think about touching you in a hurtful way ever again.” The sincerity in his eyes would have convinced Piper if she wasn’t immune to corrupt purebloods adept at acting. “Why are you so determined to ruin your life? Surely marrying me would be better than being cast out of your family’s life forever. You would live like a queen with me, Piper. With Black you’d live like a pauper; neither of you would have a respectable career—Walburga and Carolyn have already seen to that, no one would rent out a flat to you. Besides, Piper, you wouldn’t survive without your family, you love them too much.”

“I’ll decide who I love, thanks,” Piper said. Alexander was right—about everything. Carolyn would not make this easy for Piper; of course she had warned all respectable enterprises not to hire her. But Piper wasn’t quite certain if Alexander was right about Piper’s survival. She could survive without her family, without their ‘love.’ How could Carolyn deserve Piper’s love when she was willing to dispose of her so easily? With Black you’d live like a pauper… Well he was wrong there too: Piper wouldn’t be living with Sirius, poor or rich…or anywhere in between.

“And who do you love, Piper?” He read her face when no response came. “Black?” A fraction of the pain she was in must have shown on Piper’s face because Alexander seemed to know exactly what had happened. “Maybe it’s Black that you give your love to, but I’m guessing from the look on your face that he doesn’t feel the same way.”

“I don’t love Black, Alexander,” Piper chimed in quickly. It was not denial; she did not love Sirius, she didn’t even know what love was, but the emotions Piper was feeling definitely did not come close to resembling love. Piper didn’t even know if she liked Sirius as a person, she didn’t know if she liked herself as a person. “Nor do I love you, your family, or my family. The lot of you can rot in Hell for all I care.”

“Good to see you still have your spunk, Pipe, I like that quality in a wife.” Alexander’s eyebrows rose suggestively while a playful smile stretched his lips. Piper had loved that smile once but the sight of it now made what little patience she had wear thin.

“Stop saying that!” Now aggravated, Piper forgot about keeping her voice down. Heads turned again, including the head of the hag who had just returned from her child hunt who was eating a large portion of raw meat angrily. “You’re basing a lot off of the assumption that I would actually wed you when that’s something I would never do,” Piper said in a quieter voice that displayed her anger nonetheless. The heads turned away, thinking it was only a quarreling couple on holiday.

A headache like Piper had never endured was pounding in her head. It was all too much for her to handle; marriage, disownment, Sirius, Alexander, homework, Remus, Rhett, the punishment she would pay for sneaking out, it all added to her stress until Piper’s entire body was suffering from the weight of it all. Piper doubted Atlas, the ill-fated Titan destined to carry the world on his shoulders, would have been able to cope with her burdens. Not only was Piper in a highly depressed state she was marked by her anger. Her mind ached with a terrible sadness but at the same time she was unable to register the seriousness of her situation, she didn’t want to register the seriousness of her situation. Piper didn’t want to be here in the Three Broomsticks, she wanted to be alone, she wanted to feel the solitude that had felt so agonizing to her once but now felt comfortable, she wanted to rid herself of the cancer that was pureblood society, she wanted so many things. She wanted Sirius.

“You’re not very good at playing hard to get. Just for future reference, you’re supposed to lead the guy on and then sleep with him, not the other way around,” Alexander said scathingly.

“We did not sleep together.” Piper was more thankful now than ever that she had not slept with Alexander in Egypt. But maybe if they had had sex they wouldn’t be having this conversation now.


“Is that all you want, Alexander? Jesus if I put out right now and shagged your brains out would you just leave me alone?” Unintentionally, Piper spoke louder than she had meant to; an elderly woman overheard Piper and spat out her sherry, highly offended.

Alexander laughed lightly but it was not his true, hearty chuckle that Piper had come to know, it was a different, colder laugh. “Piper, I highly doubt you’re capable of shagging anyone’s brains out. But if the offer stands I have a room upstairs.” The elderly woman, who had just recovered from her previous fit, took a large gulp of sherry but the liquid quickly found itself back on the table as she heard Alexander’s words.

“I’m leaving.” For the second time, Piper attempted to leave and for a second time, Alexander’s words reeled her back in.

“Don’t go. At least, not until you’ve given me a final answer.”

“A final answer about what?”

”About if you accept my proposal.” A sight that Piper thought only happened in nightmares manifested before her eyes. Only this was worse than a nightmare. Alexander reached into his pocket; his hand, which had been empty upon going into his pocket, came out with a black velvet covered ring box. The box was on the table now, but it was being opened by Alexander. Since Piper wasn’t dreaming she willed herself to go to sleep and immerse herself in some nightmare more terrifying than this; only she doubted whatever entity invented nightmares would be up to the challenge of designing one more horrifying. Alexander was reaching for Piper’s left hand; she hoped futilely that perhaps some of James’ magical powder had stayed on her hand and it was now glued to the table. It wasn’t and Alexander was able to pull her hand toward him. And then the dreaded thing was sliding onto her finger, the one next to her pinky and middle. It was a perfect fit; the damned thing didn’t even have a challenging time sliding past Piper’s overly large knuckles. “Will you marry me?”

Piper took her hand back and examined the thing that represented so many things. This thing, this ring, would be the end of her. It meant she surrendered to her family, it meant she would never see Sirius again, it meant she would marry McClure, it meant they had won. Piper recognized the ring; it was well documented in the list of pureblood heirlooms Piper’s mother wanted to get a hold of. Carolyn would have never expected that Alexander could have gotten the ring so easily; she always told Piper it would go to one of his cousins, who were older and more established in society. It was a mark of just how persuasive Alexander was that he managed to convince his great grandmother Elnora Landau to give it to him; Piper ventured he did not inform Elnora that his fiancé was a pureblood disgrace. The engagement ring was made from twenty-two karat Welsh gold mined and crafted by the goblins. The diamond itself was bigger than Piper had ever seen—bigger than even Carolyn knew—and was shaped into a square cut. It was flanked on its plateau by three smaller diamonds on either side, although these ‘smaller’ diamonds were the size of an average main diamond. The light sparkled off of the diamonds, nearly blinding Piper. This monster of a ring must have added ten pounds onto Piper physically, but emotionally it added exponentially more than that.

“I see you recognize it. That ring dates all the way back to 1823 when my mother’s family had it forged,” Alexander said, quoting information Piper already knew. “I imagine you could inspire some envy at that school of yours by wearing it.”

Piper hadn’t taken her eyes off of the rock. It was lovely and she could make several enemies just by wearing it. Piper could see Korey in her mind’s eye jealously sneaking into Piper’s imaginary jewelry box and sliding the ring onto her spindly fingers.

“You thought a ring would make me want to marry you more? I’m really not that shallow, Alexander.”

“It was worth a try.” Alexander shrugged. “But there would be many more tokens of my affection in it for you if you chose to be my wife.”

It was Piper’s eyebrows’ turn to rise. She echoed her last sentence with her expression.

“It’s more than Black could give you,” Alexander remarked, his honeyed voice now laced with anger. He had been brought up to believe that money bought everything: it bought brooms and sad people never rode around on broomsticks, it bought maids and its rude to frown while being waited upon, it bought wives and Alexander’s mother always seemed happy with her possessions. But here it was: all of Alexander’s money couldn’t buy him the only woman he wanted. It only made him want her more. Apparently, she did know how to play hard to get.

“I’m leaving.” This time, Piper was able to run all the way out of the Three Broomsticks before Alexander caught up to her. The hag had been waiting for Piper to leave to follow her and have a real dinner but thought better of it when Alexander left to follow her.

The weather was colder now; Piper didn’t know how it was possible. A frigid gust of wind hit her hard as she trudged to the High Street. Alexander was being her; he was calling out something that the sound of the wind blocked out. The street lamps were lit, casting long shadows along the snow. Piper was halfway through putting her mittens on when she realized what was causing her slow pace—the ring was still on her finger. Piper turned around and walked back to Alexander, who wasn’t far behind.

“Here’s your ring.” She pressed the beautifully crafted band into his hands.

“You should keep it because it’s not going to anyone but you.” Alexander was too close to her. He wrapped both of his hands around Piper’s left and drew her small frame closer to his powerful one.

“You say that now but when some beautiful, well mannered daughter of some aristocrat comes along with a huge dowry you’ll forget all about me,” Piper said.

“I think you should marry me.”

“I think you should go back to Bulgaria.”

Alexander laughed and now it was the laugh that Piper knew. The laugh that made her smile—and she did feel a grin pulling at her lips.

“Just to clarify, you do realize that by rejecting me you are ruining your entire future. You’re cutting off all ties with your family, with Rhett, with me; to do God knows what with Sirius Black. It’s so much simpler to just marry me, Piper. Don’t you understand? We would be happy together. You won’t survive by yourself. You don’t belong by yourself.”

“Don’t talk about him, Alexander.” Already, Sirius’ name had been said too many times this evening. Piper couldn’t have her mind occupied with Sirius while she was trying to cope with Alexander.

“God Piper, it looks like Black has hurt you more than I could ever do with a harmless strike.” He was right…again. “We belong together. Come on…” Alexander and Piper were pressed against each other now. He put his hands under her chin and tilted her head upwards; he held her head steady in his palms while he bent down and captured her lips in his full, soft ones.

His kiss felt excruciatingly familiar. The way his fingers tangled in her hair, the way he breathed her name, the way his full lips felt so soft and warm against Piper’s. The nostalgia was overwhelming and Piper found that she couldn’t stop; she remembered better times, times when Alexander would kiss her playfully when no one was looking. Piper reacted to his touch without thinking; it felt so natural to hold his face in her hands and match his passion. But it didn’t feel as natural as it had with Sirius.


No she couldn’t think about him. They weren’t meant to be together, as he had said. But then who did Piper belong with? Alexander? Did they belong together? Piper’s first instinct was, of course, no. Of course they didn’t belong together. If Piper had embraced her pureblood nature rather than rejected it they would have been the perfect match. But she hadn’t neglected that cutthroat instinct that ran in her blood. Hadn’t she planned on ruining a treasured friendship only several hours ago to satisfy her own revenge? It was a move she would be praised for by Alexander. She was as treacherous as any other pureblood. She was no different than any of them.

But marrying Alexander McClure…

He made promises now, promises of love and happiness, but he was no prophet. How did he know they would love each other and be happy ten years from now? Piper had fallen for that trap once, but as soon as she voiced her opinions Alexander grew angry and exasperated with her. Alexander would only be happy with Piper if she behaved and acted like a respectable wife in public and reserved her ‘spunk’ for private. Piper would only be happy if…she didn’t know what would make her happy. Was happiness beyond her now? Did she even deserve to be happy after the pain she had caused everyone she knew?

Piper did not know the answer to these questions but she did know that Alexander McClure was kissing her passionately in the middle of Hogsmeade and she was wearing his engagement ring. Her body moved with little conscious thought from Piper’s brain. Piper’s powerful slap landed satisfyingly on Alexander’s cheek; Piper flexed her hand to sooth the stinging pain that was worse because of the cold air. He backed up several paces, surprised and livid at being hit.

“I will not marry you, Alexander McClure!” Piper wrenched the engagement band that Alexander had slid back onto her finger while he was kissing her. It proved startlingly hard to coax off her finger and for a fleeting moment Piper thought that the ring’s reluctance was some sort of sign that she was making a grave mistake. But then it came off and Piper was throwing it at Alexander as hard as she could (she was fairly sure she hit him in the eye) and was running toward the castle with as much dignity as she could muster.

“Then you seal your fate, Piper Redden!” Alexander called after her. He rubbed his eye and his cheek alternately while Summoning the ring. Piper wouldn’t last very long on her own—Alexander would see to that. And when she came crawling back to the purebloods penniless and broken, he would be waiting.

* * * *

It was Valentine’s Day, but love was running short in Hogwarts, especially in the Gryffindor House. Sirius had been sleeping in the seventh year’s dorm with Zane, Lily and James were barely speaking with each other (they weren’t even arguing), Korey’s boyfriend of two days had already cheated on her and she had sworn of men for good, Brett had been rejected by four would-be Valentines, Remus had taken up hiding in the library, James had enforced stricter training rules and began to coaching grueling practices, and Piper’s…well, no one had seen Piper outside of lessons for the past two days. She came into the common room late at night and left it early in the morning.

If Piper and Sirius were feeling wretched on the inside it was nothing compared to how they looked. Piper’s lost expression had prevented many from interfering with her. She could have been the newest addition to the Hogwarts collection of ghosts for all of the vivaciousness on her countenance. Sirius’ expressions, if possible, showed even less liveliness, for he was just as lost as Piper. Both only stared at their food at meal times, though they did not notice this shared hunger strike because they were sitting as far away from each other as possible. Their hair was unkempt, their eyes dull and clouded from a lack of sleep, their lips were chapped, their skin was pale, and they seemed to have lost their vocal chords all together. They were avoided by all; teachers did not ask them surprise questions when they were not paying attention, the gossip hounds did not hunt them down, even their closest comrades kept their distance.

Piper was sitting with the heels of her palms resting on her temples and her fingers woven into her very messy bun; she held herself up by her elbows, which were placed rudely on the table. She looked down at her dinner of potatoes and chicken, unblinking. Her stomach rumbled deceptively but Piper knew the consequences that eating the tempting chicken would have. It had been two days since she had seen McClure, two days since she effectively ruined Sirius’ and Remus’ friendship and each time during that two day span that Piper had put food into her stomach she vomited it back up almost instantly. Her guilt would not let her eat. The headache that had attacked Piper was now a constant companion that followed her everywhere she went. Recapping what had happened over the last week only made her migraine worse but she did it anyway: she had been disowned only the basis that she was a rotting branch on the Redden family tree, she could remedy the situation by marrying Alexander McClure; Sirius had comforted her and they had nearly had sex but at the last moment Sirius had broken away and told her to marry McClure; Piper had flaunted herself to Remus Lupin in front of Korey Kayhart, insuring that the rumor mills would begin to whir and the school would believe Piper had moved on to the next Marauder; this deed had poisoned Sirius and Remus’ friendship and Piper found that she gained no pleasure from this fact; and just two nights ago Piper had spoken with Alexander McClure and made it quite clear to him that she was not interested in his offer.

Owls swooped down to find their charges in order to pass to them the parcels wrapped in sickeningly pink paper that they carried. No such owl landed in front of Piper and the absence of the traditional Chocolate Frog basket from her father and the Bulgarian chocolate from Rhett only made Piper’s headache worse. As dinner wore on Piper knew no tidings would come for her; Carolyn hadn’t been bluffing, nor had she been trying to play Piper for the fool, the ties between Piper and her family had been severed. Was Heath, Piper’s father, as unforgiving as Carolyn? Was he, too, willing to give up his only daughter for the sake of his reputation? The answer spoke loudly enough for Piper. He was.

Sirius felt just as rotten as Piper. Sitting alone at the far end of the Gryffindor table Sirius watched James, Remus, and Peter exchange in a whispered conversation with concerned looks on their faces. Sirius and his closest friends had never been in such a big argument and the rows that they did have were never over a girl. This was the power of Piper, the girl who had put Sirius in this whole mess.

Sirius had been able to block out his emotions by exerting himself during the Quidditch match, but after the post-match ecstasy had worn off Sirius had been unable to keep his feelings at bay. Sirius thought he had been noble in protecting Piper from him—he couldn’t bear to see her suffer from disownment because of him—but then she threw his chivalry back into his face! Firstly by trying to seduce Remus and secondly from not going back to her family. Sirius had been betrayed by everyone: Piper, Remus, James, his mother. Sirius’ mood had never been blacker and the package that had just been dropped in front of him did not sooth his temper.

It was a box. A little brown box that was quite unremarkable in all respects, except perhaps the words “TAP HERE” written in bold block letters. Sirius’ box was far outshined by the sparkling pink ones surrounding him. His even had holes in it! Nor was there a card or tag that accompanied his box. How strange. Sirius knew of no one that would send him a Valentine, his appearance and temperament of the last week had lost him many admirers who had chosen to send their Valentine’s to more appreciative boys. Sirius did not know what to expect, his only thought was that it was a cursed parcel from his estranged relatives. Again, Sirius pondered over how strange this box was. Even stranger still, the box began to shake. Sirius jumped backwards, his anger momentarily slaked by curiosity. Loud noises were emanating from the box now; Sirius could not tell what they were exactly because the cardboard muffled them. Sirius pulled his wand from his pocket and expertly tapped the top of the box.

If Sirius had looked only six seats to his left he would have seen James, Peter, and Remus watching him interestedly…a little bit too interestedly. Sirius, however, was too enthralled with his parcel and did not take his eyes from it as its four walls collapsed outwards to reveal what was inside.

A calico kitten with a purple bejeweled collar around its neck was purring idly in the box, licking a paw nonchalantly. The kitten saw its new owner and mewed happily, springing from its place on the table onto Sirius’ shoulder. Sirius grabbed the thing and held it underneath the pit in its front legs to examine it more thoroughly, a look of sheer disgust on his face. From the kitten’s collar, a silver tag dangled with the name “Pumpkin” engraved on it in curling calligraphy. Sirius had never seen anything that looked less like a pumpkin. The thing was covered in patches of long haired white, black, and red, its ears were pointed up in little triangles, and its eyes were green and slightly cross eyed. Now that the kitten—Pumpkin—had sprung from the box Sirius could see a note that had been underneath its hind quarters.

He picked up the sheet of parchment and read:
Dear Paddy!
You’ve been looking a bit gloomy lately so we thought of something that would cheer you up. Since you don’t want to be around us we bought you Pumpkin to keep you company. Wouldn’t want you to be too lonely. And, since it’s Valentines Day we thought you could use a little lovin’. Also, consider the burying of the hatchet. Water under the bridge, if you will. We’re all real sorry for… well for everything. There’s way too much to apologize for and my hand is cramping up. So accept our token of affection, Valentine. Love, your secret admirers: Moony, Wormtail, and Prongs.

Despite himself, Sirius smiled. Leave it to his friends to apologize by buying him a cat. A cat. Sirius, the person who could transform into a dog, now had a feline companion. As if Pumpkin had read Sirius’ thoughts, it buried itself into the space between Sirius’ neck and shoulders and curled up, purring loudly. But Sirius wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to forgive and forget quite yet.

Peter, Remus, and James performed a three way high five as they watched their plan work out successfully. Now all they had to do was apologize in person, even though they maintained that they hadn’t done anything wrong at all, but James agreed that if Remus said he was sorry for giving off the impression of liking Piper he would apologize for taking Piper’s side when he should have been supporting Sirius.

Remus saw his chance to perform the said apology when Sirius left the Great Hall, his new kitten curled in his arms.

“Sirius…can I talk to you?”

There was no combination of words that Sirius hated hearing more than the ones coming from Remus. Even “Avada Kedavra” would have been preferable to “can I talk to you?” God he hated being asked to “talk.” Sirius doubted whether there was one incident in the history of the world when the words “we need to talk” or “can I talk to you?” hadn’t ended in catastrophe.

“Yeah, sure,” Sirius replied. “Out in the courtyard though, just so we aren’t overheard.” Pumpkin leaped off Sirius’ shoulder but landed in a sprawled out position on the floor instead of agilely on all fours, disproving the age old myth. The kitten bounced back with startling vigor and mewed suspiciously at the wall, eyeing it cross eyed, and Sirius ventured that his new pet was not the most intelligent of the feline variety; he wouldn’t be entering it in to Witch Weekly’s Magical Cat of the Year competition any time soon.

After he scooped Pumpkin up and placed the small kitten on his shoulder again Sirius and Remus faced each other in the courtyard. “So you wanted to talk?” Sirius said; there was hardly any light and Remus could not see Sirius wince as he said the words.

“I wanted to tell you that nothing happened between Piper and me, Sirius. I thought if I ignored the rumors they would go away and I figured that you needed time to cool off…” Despite the Antarctic temperature and the dim lighting Remus could see that Sirius looked less than ‘cool’ and he quickly continued, “But I guess I was wrong. I should have followed you that night and told you that the tales were bollocks straight away. I’m sorry, mate. I mean, I would never—I could never hurt you like that, Sirs. You know that, right?”

“Is it a boy or a girl?” Sirius said tonelessly.


“Pumpkin. Is it a boy or girl?”

“Boy why—?”

Sirius shrugged.

“So…are we good, Padfoot? Are we okay?”

Well Sirius was neither “good” nor “okay” and he wasn’t sure if he was mentally capable of being around his friends at the moment. He felt crazed and uncontrolled like he was going to cry or break something or do both at the same time. He wanted to scream and weep and tear his hair out, he wanted to hug Remus and push him, he wanted Piper; she understood these feelings. No, he didn’t want Piper; she caused all of this trouble. He caused all of this trouble.

“If you didn’t have anything to hide you should have said so instead of acting like the fucking condemned.” Sirius was surprised his voice was so controlled and level. Sirius thought he heard something on the other side of the courtyard but put it out of his mind to study Remus’ reaction.

“But at the time I felt guilty, Sirius. I thought I’d done something wrong. You don’t understand what was going on in my mind. It was like,” Remus made a quick survey of the courtyard to make sure no one could hear him, “when I’m transforming. I don’t want to become the wolf but I can’t control it. She just kept getting closer to me and I was so torn, Sirs, I couldn’t do that to you. But before I could diffuse the situation Korey came in and it looked like we were about to shag. Even though we weren’t!” He added quickly.

So Piper had been the one to come onto his friend and Remus really was blameless. Sirius evaluated Remus’ story. In all of the tales the fact that Piper’s cardigan was thrown aimlessly on the floor had been the key factor; it surely indicated that she and Remus were about to shag. But Piper never wore cardigans. She hated them. Sirius had never seen Piper wear one so why had she chosen to don one? She had planned it. It was all one of Piper’s elaborate plots; she had counted on Korey barging into the common room, seeing her and Remus, and making assumptions. Piper had never wanted to snog Remus, she only wanted the school to think she had. And she wanted Sirius to think she had. She wanted all of this to happen; she designed this to ruin Sirius’ friendships. Since her life was over as she had known it Piper wanted to drag Sirius down with her. Worse, Sirius couldn’t even retaliate because there wasn’t much he could do to make Piper’s life more miserable; she was already disowned and essentially friendless. But Sirius found the truth; Remus hadn’t betrayed him, Remus would never betray him.

“Yeah, we’re good. I’m so sorry, Moony.” It only took Sirius two strides to reach Remus and pull him into an embrace so strong Remus’ back cracked. Gone was Sirius’ anger for Remus; that particular brand of ire was now reserved for Piper.

“I’m sorry too, Paddy. In fact, I believe that if you go to the common room you’ll receive a similar apology from James.”

“Let’s go then, I love it when James asks for forgiveness. It’s hysterical.” Sirius slung his arm over Remus’ shoulder; he had forgotten how comforting his friends were. Neglecting them during his time of need was possibly the worst mistake Sirius had made and he vowed not to do that again. They were too valuable to lose over Piper Redden.

“Shhh, do you hear something?” Remus, with his ever sensitive ears, could have sworn he heard someone talking. Sirius nodded, he heard it too. “You don’t think they heard us, do you?”

“Only one way to find out…” Experts in stealth (except Pumpkin, whose mouth Sirius had to keep a firm hand over to keep him quiet), Sirius and Remus crept up on the unsuspecting couple on the stone bench on the other side of the courtyard, getting close enough to only hear what they were saying.

* * * *

Piper hated this courtyard, even in the spring when it was warm. She always felt like someone was spying on her here. This sneaking suspicion was even more prevalent since she was with Severus Snape, who always made her feel uncomfortable with his piercing black eyes.

“So how did you find out?” Piper asked him. When Snape had followed Piper into the quad after supper she highly doubted it was ask her to be his Valentine. Even though that conversation probably would have been easily than discussing her disownment.

“Regulus Black was talking about it last night and he heard it from his mother who is friends with your mother…or something.”

Piper let her chin fall down onto her chest and she shielded her head with her arms. So much for secrecy. If Regulus knew then so did the offspring of all the purebloods Carolyn was acquainted with. And if Regulus was talking about it with his friends…well the entire story would be out within the week. And then the pity would come. Everyone would feel so sorry for poor Piper, the girl whose family didn’t love her. She couldn’t allow that to happen. She wouldn’t allow that to happen. Maybe she could talk to little Regulus Black, the boy she had never spoken to and had only caught glimpses of since he entered Hogwarts. But that wouldn’t work; the Kings were some of Carolyn’s dearest friends and they would have told their son Perry, as would the Crostfords and the Bilton-Rhens, and the Whitneys. But they couldn’t know the whole story.

“Did he say why I’ve been dis—“ Piper couldn’t finish her sentence but Snape could figure the rest of it out on his own.

“Something about you being a disgrace…”

So then they didn’t know about Alexander McClure and the marriage that her mother tried to force her into. Piper was relieved slightly, how could she explain why she wouldn’t marry him? It was much easily to have the school believe she was disowned because she wasn’t worthy of the Redden name—it was much more believable too.

Snape saw the relief on Piper’s face. “But I don’t think that’s the reason. Sure you’re in Gryffindor and sure you’ve been drooling over Black all year and sure you are a bit…unorthodox in your beliefs but you’re no disgrace.”

Piper disregard Snape’s quip on Sirius and stayed quiet.

Her silence enraged Snape, who wanted nothing more than to be considered of pure blood. Here was this girl gifted with everything he wanted and she was throwing it away without even a qualm. “You’re so ungrateful and so stubborn! Whatever you’ve done can be fixed! Why are you giving up your life to save your pride? We all know that you’re inflexible, Piper, we get it, but this is your life we’re talking about!” Sirius heard a rustling on the other side of the courtyard and quieted his voice. “I’m trying to look out for you; it’s what we’ve always done, right?” He nudged Piper in the ribs, trying to get her to smile. He was not an expert in that territory, though, and Piper’s head remained buried underneath her arms.

“I’m just so confused.” Came Piper’s muffled voice. She finally picked her head back up and Snape could see the distress on her face and the tears in her eyes. He had never seen her in so much agony and suddenly Snape was feeling very uncomfortable. If he was rubbish at making women smile it was nothing compared to his inability to console them.

“I’m sure it will all work out,” Snape said, he experimentally put his one of his long arms around Piper’s lower back; he had seen people do that before. He recoiled slightly as Piper fell into him and that marked just how miserable Piper was; if she was not truly in dire straights she would never have allowed Snape to treat her like this, like a friend.

But Piper was not so sure that it would “work out.” How could it? She was alone; she had no family and her only companion was a Slytherin that was only showing her mercy. Piper had her two options: marry Alexander, stay a Redden, and live a life full of submission and lies; or she could stay disowned, make her own life and future, stay friendless and family-less, and live a life full of …she wasn’t sure what it would be full of. Regret? Loneliness? Freedom? On a scale the two options would perhaps even each other out, but Piper knew what she had to do. She knew what she couldn’t do.

Sirius, lurking in the shadows, also knew what he had to do. He was wrong when he had thought Piper friendless and alone. He hated that Snape was touching her, he hated that Piper was touching Snape. He hated that Piper was being consoled by Snape and though Snape was giving Piper the same advice that Sirius had given her, the words seemed so different coming from him. Sirius wasn’t jealous of Piper and Snape, he knew what it felt like to be jealous and this emotion wasn’t it.

Remus was tapping Sirius on the shoulder, relieved that this couple on the bench hadn’t heard his mentioning of transforming into a wolf. But Remus hadn’t recognized their voices as easily as Sirius had. Remus had no idea the two bodies on the stone bench were Piper and Snape and he had stopped listening after their conversation didn’t concern werewolves. Sirius wanted to hurt Snape more than he had ever wanted to before.

As Remus led him away, Sirius’ mental instability was back in full force and the anger he had been reserving for Piper flared.

Chapter 16: Lots of Lepers
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You Hate Me
Chapter 16: Lots of Lepers

Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore had been witness to the destruction purebloods caused many times during his long life. He had seen students consumed by their families’ beliefs, he had seen the purity of ones blood ruin friendships, and he had seen students taunted and called names for their blood status, but he had never seen this before. Dumbledore kept tabs on all of his pupils, he watched them very carefully, and Piper Redden had always been an area of interest for him. He praised her for her strength; the professor could not name another adolescent girl who could have showed the Marauders their places. And as Professor Dumbledore watched Piper Redden’s downward spiral into what he guessed was mild insanity he had to praise her strength once more. Again the girl was holding up better than he could have expected—or so it would seem. Because as Professor Dumbledore looked across his desk into the once fierce eyes of Piper Redden he could see the torment she was hiding and he suspected that she wasn’t really holding up at all.

Piper shifted in her seat; she didn’t quite like the way Dumbledore was gazing at her as though he could see right through her, but she was seasoned in the experience thanks to Snape’s piercing eyes and she always found that averting eye contact often eased her anxiety.

“I recently heard some disturbing news, Ms. Redden and I would be most appreciative if you would assist me in, as you teens say, clearing things up.” Professor Dumbledore needed to only observe his charge to find his answers. Her every movement exerted her as if it was taxing to even brush her dark hair out of her eyes. Her ragged breathing filled the room. And those eyes…those eyes spoke loudly enough and Professor Dumbledore had no doubt that this poor child had been disowned.

“What kind of news would that be, Professor?” Piper said obligingly but her eyes pleaded for him not to pester her with questions.

“Your father was a student of mine, Ms. Redden. Has he ever told you that? He was most adept at Transfiguration, perhaps he still is…” The old professor wove his long fingers through his thick white beard, stroking it.

“That is your news, sir, that my father is talented in Transfiguration?”

Dumbledore’s stroking ceased at Piper’s biting words. He was avoiding his pressing question and he was doing an awful job at fooling Piper. Professor Dumbledore’s smiling eyes narrowed and his face fell. “No, Piper that is not why I have called you into my office.” Dumbledore sighed. She was not making this easy for him. “Will you be needing any aid? Hogwarts has a scholarship fund, as I am sure you are aware of, and I would be happy to draw gold out of it for you.”

“What would I be needing scholarship money for, Headmaster?” Piper said, more rudely than she had intended. Here it was: the first act of pity. The thought of it made Piper sick.

Professor Dumbledore was taken aback. A ghost of the ferocity Piper once possessed passed over her countenance and Dumbledore knew he had offended her. Just like he would have been offended if the money was offered to him by a headmaster. Dumbledore related to Piper more in this moment than he had with many students. He, too, had been thrust out on his own due to terrible events. Dumbledore knew how she felt, having no mother and no father, but he could not tell her that. He never told anyone that.

Dumbledore smiled at the defiant creature before him. “You’ve been renounced,” Dumbledore said, stating it to Piper instead of asking her.

“Professor, if I haven’t done anything wrong and if you don’t want to speak with me about my education, may I leave?” This was not a conversation Piper wanted to have with her Headmaster, the man who seemed to know everything about everyone.

“Piper, you are an extremely talented witch and you are very intelligent when it comes to magic, but in this matter I am afraid you are very clueless. Denial will not help you here, it will only harm you. You must accept what has happened or I am afraid it will consume you. Even the best of us have been prisoners of our own grief. Please, I am begging you to talk about it to a sympathetic ear. My own door is always open, even though my ears aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be. Like I said, you are a talented witch, Piper, and I look forward to working with you in the future.”

“Professor, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Then you may go.” Dumbledore nodded. Piper was halfway out the door when he called as an after thought, “My offer to you stands if you are ever in a financial crisis.” Either she had not heard him or she didn’t wish to acknowledge the offer, but it was still frustrating nonetheless. The portraits on the wall, whose bad acts of feigned sleeping ceased once Piper left the room, agreed with Dumbledore’s thoughts. They thought Piper was an insubordinate delinquent. But Dumbledore knew better than to label her that. He sighed again and pulled out a well polished hand mirror, said several complicated chains of an ancient language few understand and gazed into the glass. He did not like what he saw there. Tom Riddle, the student whose pride was so similar to Piper’s, was rising to power quickly.

Too quickly.

* * * *

Feeling thoroughly harassed, Piper started on her way to the library (she had nearly ten pounds of Transfiguration homework to complete before tomorrow). She hadn’t been lying to Professor Dumbledore when she said she didn’t understand what he was talking about. What was that last bit about them working together in the future supposed to mean? And all of that sympathetic ear business? Had Dumbledore been blind the past five years? When had she ever had a friend to cry to? Never. Piper had managed well enough by herself since she enrolled in Hogwarts and she wasn’t going to stop that now.

As she shuffled past the stragglers only just coming out of the Great Hall, Piper heard the whispers. In only three days the story of Piper’s disownment was school-wide knowledge, thanks in part to Regulus Black. The buzz around Piper was loud and annoying, like a mosquito’s pestering. The ones doing the whispering feed off of Piper’s anguish like a mosquito feeds off blood.

“I heard her parents withdrew all of the money in her Gringotts account”

“I heard she’s been black-listed at the Ministry.”
“Yeah, I heard that too, no one will hire her.”

“I heard they want her to change her last name.”

“I heard that they disowned her because she wouldn’t sacrifice a Muggle at one of those pureblood rituals.”

“No they didn’t. They disowned her because she wouldn’t marry Alexander 
McCluggggggggggh” Grant Grey never finished the name of the hopeful bachelor because at the exact moment he was saying the name Piper Redden fixed her wild stare on him and Grant was sure that if he finished the name she would do nothing short of castrating him.

“Alexander Mc who?” Penelope Morris and Eli Spalding said at once. They blushed uncontrollably when they saw why Grant hadn’t completed the name. The blush disappeared promptly and Penelope and Eli turned pale at the sight of Piper Redden advancing toward them. Terrified, the group of three tightened up the space between their bodies.

“Yes, Grant, Alexander Mc who? Piper said, feigning interest, after she was close enough to the group to inspire even more horror. She dared Grant to say his name.

He mumbled something that sounded like, “ignogignoginog.”

How did Grant Grey know about Alexander McClure when even Perry King, Piper’s mother’s best friend’s son, didn’t? Sure he was a Ravenclaw and believed he was endowed with the ability to know everything, but he couldn’t know about Alexander! It made no sense. Even if one of the purebloods in the school did find out about Alexander, Grant Grey would be the last person on their list to tell. She would have heard his name dropped before if anyone else knew. Rhett had met Grant Grey when Grant was invited over to dinner, but Rhett found Grant as distasteful as Piper did. Besides, Rhett didn’t know about Alexander…or did he? Had Alexander gone behind Rhett’s back when he asked Piper’s parent’s blessing? Or had he asked Rhett for his permission first? Piper felt like she was in a fog and that everyone else around her was on some raised plateau and could see everything clearly while she wandered around, confused. Something wasn’t right here.

“How do you know about him?” Piper’s voice turned rock hard; all traces of its normal creaminess were gone. Her eyes narrowed and she spoke soft enough for only Grant to hear, which was more effective than even shouting would have been.

Again, Grant’s tongue suffered from a terror induced paralysis. “Ih rigitt heritanminpatigah gup.”

Penelope and Eli inched away from Grant; if Piper only wanted to punch Grant for talking behind her back they weren’t going to stick around and watch the fireworks on the chance that she wouldn’t turn on them afterwards. It only took them several well placed steps to put enough space between themselves and Grant to run away without him grabbing onto them. The only traces that Grant had ever had friends present were the footsteps they had left behind.

Piper’s wand was out. “You better start talking fast, Grey!”

“Okay! Okay!” Piper lowered her wand slightly and Grant breathed easier. “Okay. Alexander McClure wrote to me a few months ago and asked me to…to…” Grant wondered how to phrase Alexander’s request without sounding like a stalker or give away anything incriminating. “He asked me to…keep an eye on you, so to speak.”

“Oh?” The rage in Piper’s eyes was not missed by Grey, who quickly gathered that ‘I have been keeping an eye on you all year and detailing your actions in letters to your brother and his friend’ was not what Piper wanted to hear. This news only made the balloon of insanity within Piper burst. “And I assume my brother was in on this?” Piper was deathly calm, but this air of cool tranquility only made her crazed appearance more terrifying.

“Y-Yes,” Grant stammered, his indifferent demeanor lost at the sight of the enraged, insane, hormonal, distraught, and possibly homicidal Piper brandishing her wand at his face. “A-And-duh I j-j-j-just pieced it together wh-wh-wh-whe-when I heard about…about…about…” Grant crouched down into a defensive position that would protect most of his body if Piper tried to Curse him or otherwise induce bodily harm onto him; he covered his large head with both arms, protecting his forehead with the inside of his elbow.

“About?” Piper prompted.

“The disownment. Alexander wrote me last month to ask if I thought anything serious was between you and Black, plus he didn’t make it too much of a secret in his letters that he didn’t want anyone else to ha-ha-ha-haa-have you,” Grant said quickly, giving Piper as much information that she wanted in order to save himself. That’s the trouble with informants, you see, they are always quick to become traitors. Luckily for Piper, Grant Grey cared much more for his testicles, limbs, extremities, and overall health than he did for McClure’s scheme.

“What right do you have,” all semblance of cool placidity was gone as Piper leaned closer to Grey and spoke in her most frightening whisper yet, “to run around this school and spy on me and tell other people things that do not concern you?” So close was Piper that Grant could see the blood rushing through her veins, fueling her insanity; a large vein in her neck twitched and Grant thought that she was going to explode—literally. “You will not tell anyone else about McClure, you will no longer even contribute to conversations about me. In fact, you won’t even think about me. When I’m the subject of conversation I want you to leave the room, Grey. And you most certainly will not write about me anymore! Actually, no, write one last letter, Grey, and tell Rhett and Alexander that they can both go shag themselves!” She put her wand back into her pocket as though she were sheathing a sword; Piper straightened out her robes and flattened her hair. Piper turned to leave, thought better of it, then turned about on Grey, pulled out her wand and said, "Petrificus totalus."

She smiled as Grey's body went rigid.  

And then she was off at top speed to find someone—as sympathetic ear, as Dumbledore put it—that would want to listen to her story.

* * * *

It was late, far past curfew; but it was also the quietest, most serene time at the Hogwarts castle and Sirius Black desperately needed some silence. The whole year had been chaotic, as if Pandora had forgotten all about what happened when she opened the box the first time and decided to peek inside once again. The first five months of Sirius’ sixth year had seemed more like one long, crazy blur of lies, tricks, pranks, fights, and confusion. Lots and lots of confusion. Everything had been so perfect! The past five years had been perfect! Sirius was going to move out of his family’s house, he was going to have a great year with James, Peter, and Remus, he was going to have as much fun at Piper’s expense as possible—it was supposed to be a great year! But then Piper had to mess everything up! Then he had to mess everything up.

Sirius prided himself with being a master of wandering the castle late at night; he had little problem avoiding the caretaker Filch and whatever other professors had been assigned to patrol the corridors.

Sirius was falling apart. He hadn’t developed leprosy by any means; his limbs weren’t falling off left and right and he was relatively sure his skin was free from lesions, but rather he had contracted emotional leprosy. The symptoms included: the constant pounding of his brain, the urge to rip all of his thick locks out of his head, unintelligible mumbling about women, and a sort of delirium which resulted in Sirius tripping over everything from tables to first years. His brain was slowly deteriorating, dragging Sirius even deeper into insanity.

Worse than his emotional leprosy was the social leprosy. Sirius never though he would see the day he was a social leper. For the way his peers were treating him, Sirius may as well of been walking down the corridors shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!” like they forced those unfortunate lepers to do centuries ago. Sirius sympathized with those lepers, for he knew now how they felt. Crowds parted for Sirius when he walked down the halls to his various classes, when he sat down for meals anyone within a four seat radius of him quickly cleared out, but worst of all were the ones who examined Sirius like he was a specimen, like his distress was something to observe and take notes on. All of them, James, Remus, and Peter included, treated Sirius like he was some sort of leper time bomb who could explode at any moment and contaminate them with his problems.


Sirius was so angry with Piper; and he realized that this was the first time his anger at Piper was actually justified. She hadn’t really done anything to him in years one through five except simply being a Redden; year six was different. How many things had she done to cause this wrath? Freshest of all her actions was her attempt to seduce Remus simply to cause Sirius pain. He understood why she had done it and couldn’t necessarily blame Piper for reacting to Sirius’ awful treatment of her. Sirius could blame her for seeking comfort with Snape. Why hadn’t she come to him, Sirius, if she was feeling so awful?

Because you’re the one who made her feel so awful, idiot, Sirius reminded himself.

Yes, there was that.

But he wanted to apologize, he truly did. He would have liked nothing better than to whisper an apology in Piper’s ear and wrap his arm around her, shielding her from all of her problems. But half of her problems were Sirius’ fault and she was far better off without him. He was far better off without her.

Sirius had been so absorbed in his contemplation and leprosy the past few days he had hardly noticed Piper’s haggard appearance and he had just as equally not noticed the rumors that followed Piper at every corner. He was still quite confident Piper would heed his advice, leave him alone, and marry Alexander.

Then he heard two people talking; her voice alone was enough to make him convulse slightly. He could recognize her creamy tones anywhere. He heard it in his sleep, in his memories, in his every thought, and now he was hearing it when he was least expecting it. Sirius would have believed he was imagining Piper’s voice, but she was obviously speaking to another person. He should have known she would be here—well not here exactly, but Piper was the one who introduced Sirius to the silence of the castle at night; he should have known she would be utilizing it as well. He did not recognize, however, the man she was speaking to. Though the man sounded nothing like Severus, Sirius felt the primal urge to find Snape and inflict some sort of bodily harm onto him for even touching Piper.

Sirius followed the voices as stealthily as he could. As he went down the corridor, the voices grew louder and louder until Sirius could finally see Piper.

She was sitting on the ground, legs stretched out straight in front of her with her back against the stone wall. She was beneath a small window; the bright, nearly full moon cast an eerie silver glow on Piper’s already pale complexion and illuminated a sliver of the hallway. It would have been possible to mistake Piper for some sort of moon goddess at the moment with her dark glossy hair (though it was still very bedraggled as if she hadn’t had the heart to brush it) and shining, pale skin. Nowhere to be seen was the mystery man whom Piper was talking to, though. Piper was alone in the nearly dark corridor save for several portraits (and Sirius of course, but Piper didn’t know that).

Could she have been talking to a ghost? No, even the undead were treating Sirius and Piper like they were carrying some sort of infectious disease that would infect even those who had passed from this life. It must have been Snape, Sirius reasoned; his anger flared again. Where did that slimy git come off?

Sirius snuck closer to Piper. This scene of eavesdropping on Piper was becoming strangely familiar to Sirius. He would have to start calling himself Sirius the Stalking Leper. It had a nice ring to it. Every step Sirius took, every small movement seemed louder than usual. His footfalls were more like explosions, his breathing so loud it sounded like he had just run a marathon, even the swishing of his robes sounded like hurricane force winds were making them swirl. But Piper took no notice of him and continued to talk to—well, to whoever she was talking to. Maybe she made up an imaginary friend, Sirius thought. An imaginary friend you can hear too? Okay, maybe not an imaginary friend. But who else would talk to her?

“I heard a similar story once about a dragon named Bartholomew. I treated him myself. A most troublesome case,” a reedy voice said; Sirius was sure it was neither Snape nor an imaginary friend. He recognized the person from somewhere, but Sirius still could not see far enough down the corridor to see this man. It was quite possible the shadows were hiding the man.

“Oh really, was Bartholomew disowned, forced to marry another dragon he hated, then rejected by another dragon Bartholomew happened to hate but was recently rethinking those feelings? Was Bartholomew a pureblood dragon who had to uphold pureblood dragon codes of honor? Was Bartholomew paraded around in front of other dragons because he was a bargaining chip in dragon society? Was Bartholomew treated like shit by in dragon school especially by one particular dragon who coincidentally was the very same dragon that rejected Bartholomew for getting disowned. Did that dragon tell Bart to marry the very same dragon Bart was getting disowned for not marrying? Did all of the other dragons look at Bart like he was some sort of…dragon leper!?”

So Sirius wasn’t the only one feeling like a leper.

“No actually, Bartholomew thought he was a whale. He was also quite fond of stilettos.”

“Great, I’m being compared to a tranny dragon with an identity crisis,” Piper said dryly. She was talking to the wall. Indeed, the man’s voice did sound like it was coming from a wall…

From a portrait on the wall.

Sirius knew where he was now and he knew who Piper was talking to. This was Snipip the Head Shrinker’s domain. When Snipip was not drinking with the Fat Lady, he was harassing students on this, the fifth floor. Sirius could not walk to Charms without Snipip diagnosing him with some catastrophic emotional problem. Worse was when a drunken Snipip and a giggling Fat Lady would not allow him entrance to the common room unless he admitted that he had family issues.

“Yes. I cured good old Bartholomew. Except after he realized that he was indeed not a whale he became incensed and went on mad killing spree. Burned nearly three whole villages before the Ministry caught up to him. Those Chinese Fireballs are quite dangerous, you know,” Snipip said.

“And were you one of Bartholomew’s victims?” Piper asked, hardly seeming interested.

“No, no, it was Drib the Distressed Dementor who ended me. Actually, you remind me of good old Drib. He had similar problems.”

“You are the worst therapist I have ever met.” With that, Piper pushed herself off the floor. If she stayed with Snipip any longer it was probable that she would take a page out of Bartholomew the dragon’s book and go on a mad rampage through the school. Then she would surely be expelled and sent to Azkaban. Well, at least in the most dreaded of wizard prisons, Piper would be free from Sirius Black. Perhaps she would even meet this Drib there and they could sympathize with one another for having been subjected to Snipip’s therapy.

“I could cure you if you only gave me enough time!” Snipip called from his frame. He tried to leap to the next portrait on the wall, one of two monks reading a scroll, but the occupants of the frame pushed Snipip back into his own frame containing a simple picture of a comfortable looking leather armchair.

“I’ll pass.”

Sirius desperately tried to will his feet, which had conveniently decided to attach concrete slabs on themselves, to move. Piper was going to walk right past Sirius—but if he could get his feet to move that would not happen. It was like he had suddenly become paralyzed from the waist down.


He was caught.

“What are you doing here?” Piper crossed her arms over her chest; her eyes narrowed at Sirius.

They had not looked at each other face to face since their row in the Great Hall. Generally, their avoidance of one another had allowed them only to catch glimpses of the other in passing. How they mirrored one another. Even in the dark gloom of the castle corridors late at night they could see the turmoil they had caused each other. And while both felt like they did not deserve this crash and burn of their sanity, they could not deny that they were both to blame—equally. They had messed up the natural order of things and now Mother Nature was putting things right; Sirius and Piper were being punished for knowing each other. For that was what their bond was. It was not love, nor hatred, nor friendship, nor was it kinship, or even simply enjoying each other’s company. Piper better understood Sirius than even James, she could relate to him on a level that was terrifying to him. As could Sirius tell what was happening to Piper; he understood her pain because he too was forced to choose between his family and his real beliefs.

But they were too unalike that it made their bond irrelevant. Piper was unable to take advice while Sirius was too often giving it. Sirius thought he understood what was best for everyone while Piper did not even know what was best for her. And those things that they had in common: a stubborn nature, pride, and the façade they kept up to mask their true emotions only poisoned their relationship more.

“Sorry, do you own this corridor?” Sirius’ normally warm voice was laced with venom and animosity. It would have made even the most steadfast of persons take a step backward. Piper stood where she was. “You might be a pureblood princess, but you don’t own everything you touch. But I’m sure your fiancé will buy you whatever you wish for once you’re married. When is the special day?”

For the second time in under a week, Piper’s hand was flying of its own accord and, for the second time in under a week, her seemingly delicate hand was connecting solidly with an idiot’s cheek. Piper was not sure if it was more satisfying to hit McClure or Sirius. Both felt deliciously good.

She had intentions of leaving then, but Sirius, instead of nursing his stinging cheek, reached out and grabbed Piper by the wrist before she had even moved an inch. He held her arm out to the side, pulling her closer. His expression was one of so much hatred Piper was sure he was going to strike her back—and she would have deserved it if he had. Sirius made no move, however, only glowered at her with those haunting grey eyes.

He dropped her wrist as suddenly as he had grabbed it.

“I take it I’m not invited then,” Sirius said, wincing as he put a hand to his cheek—God Piper packed a punch!

“No,” Piper said. No one was invited, for there was no wedding to be invited to.

Sirius mistook her meaning; he still thought her engaged to Alexander, though a quick gander at her left hand would have been evidence enough that she was not affianced.

“And what about Snape. It would be a shame not to invite your best friend.”

Piper was finally in control of her hands and managed not to hit Sirius again—though she felt an urge in her legs to kick in hard in the shins. “Are you actually so self-absorbed that you haven’t noticed anything that’s happened in the past week?”

“I’ve noticed enough about you in the past week to last me a lifetime.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Piper rounded on Sirius; she matched his fury. When Sirius did not answer her anger multiplied tenfold. Her palm met with his chest; it hardly hurt him but her action was more to get his attention. “What the fucking hell was that supposed to mean?” Again, her hand collided with his chest.

“Will you shut up? You’re going to get both of us detention.” Sirius had never been taught that the most effective way of making a woman shout louder was telling her to shut up.

“You think that matters to me? You actually think I care about detentions and House points? Good, let them take a hundred points from Gryffindor for breaking curfew. I think I have more pressing problems than that.”

“Oh, that’s right. You must be busy with seating arrangements and flower choices.”

“Are you actually that idiotic?” Piper growled; she was practically screaming now, her voice echoing in the deserted corridor. She could not believe that Sirius would think she would actually take his awful advice and marry Alexander McClure.

Sirius shrugged. In his anger he hardly registered what Piper was talking about.

They never were on the same page.

“Yeah, you know, and I convinced Alexander to make Snape the best man since he’s my best friend and all,” Piper remarked dryly.

Sirius did not get the joke. He clenched his fists.

“Well I better go. Need my beauty sleep for the big day and all.” Piper’s sarcasm was lost on Sirius again, who was taking her words quite literally. But by now she was too far away to recognize the maniacal expression on Sirius’ face.

Sirius turned about violently; his balled up hand connected solidly with the hard stone of the wall. He felt his knuckles break, but he hardly noticed the pain. He shook the feeling off, though he was shaking. Sirius thought of punching the wall again, but the pain was beginning to catch up to him. He groaned suddenly and his feet took him to the Hospital Wing before his brain could protest. Sirius wanted to punch every wall he saw now—he wanted to hit everything he saw now—for on every object, animate or not, he saw the visage of Severus Snape.

* * * *

How long had he waited to find out just where Remus Lupin went every month? How many times had he watched Madame Pomfrey escort him across the grounds to that violent tree? How many hours had he spent thinking of theories for Lupin’s disappearances? And now he had the answer and he, Severus Snape could not be happier or more satisfied. All he had to do was press the knot on the tree’s trunk with a long, study stick and he would have his answers. Of course, he had his theory, but now he would have proof and he could finally out Lupin for the monstrosity he was. Best of all, in doing so, Severus would make Black suffer. How strange was it that Black was the one who let slip the way into the tree? Severus shook that suspicion off; Black had been truly angry with himself when he had accidentally told Snape the way into the tunnel and he had threatened Snape quite thoroughly with gruesome Curses if he ever tried to enter the tunnel.

That's exactly where Snape was heading. He was halfway across the grounds now, his black robes trailing behind him like a cape. He was running now to calm his nerves.

So excited Snape was that he never second guessed Sirius’ ‘accidental’ slip of tongue. So excited was Snape that he did not even think of any sort of escape route if his suspicion of Lupin’s lycanthropy was accurate. So excited was Snape that he did not see the smile that had spread on Sirius’ face when Snape promised unconvincingly that he would not go after Lupin. So excited was Snape that he never realized that he had been set up for his own death.


Chapter 17: The Reluctant Rescuers
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You Hate Me
Chapter 17: The Reluctant Rescuers

The stitch in James’ side was so incapacitating he thought his kidneys or some other vital organ was on the brink of explosion. He pressed on nonetheless. It had been ages since James had run in a full out sprint for this long; his glasses were askew, his robes were tangling in between his legs, the soles of his trainers were worn so thin every pebble impaled his heel. He pressed on.

Somewhere behind James, Peter was also running as fast as his stubby legs could carry him—which was not fast, but at least he was making an effort. In the dark illuminated only by the full moon—that full moon was a constant reminder to them to keep going—Peter tripped over every rock and root. He was less able to right himself after these tumbles than the sprightly James, but Peter pressed on. Somewhere in the back of Peter’s mind a voice was telling him he would be much faster—and much less inclined to trip over every obstacle—if he was in his other form. It took him only moments to stop, extract his wand, and transform.

Wormtail could not overtake James but he made up enough time to not slow their flight any longer. Nimbly in his rat state, Wormtail was able to dodge the violent blows of the Whomping Willow and press a single paw against the knot he had pressed so many times. But what a different purpose he had tonight! As arranged, he waited, darting the occasional branch, as James dove under into the tunnel below them.

Even in the dark and dangerous tunnel, James ran with all his speed. His wand aloft to light the area somewhat, James charged far ahead. All the while, James Potter, though not very religious, prayed. He prayed that Snape was not hurt. He prayed that Remus’ secret was intact. He prayed he would be there in time. If only he could go faster!

A final leap would have taken James into the Shrieking Shack but a small figure was blocking the entrance. And that figure was howling with surprise.

If James had seconds to spare he may have paused and reflected on just how doomed he was. But seconds were a valuable commodity in this particular rescue attempt and the lanky teen did not stop for even a moment to consider the trouble he—not just he, James reminded himself, but he, Peter, Remus, and Sirius—was in.

Snape, for James was able to surmise from the greasy head of hair that the small figure was indeed Snape, had seen Remus—a changed Remus. And now James was faced with a far larger problem than just keeping Remus’ secret intact; the question of whether James and Snape would leave the house with their lives was now on the table. The werewolf—and thanks to Defense Against the Dark Arts James could indeed confirm that it was a werewolf not just a stray regular wolf—took its eyes from Snape to watch the newcomer. All traces of Remus were completely gone; no recognition shone in the werewolf’s eyes.

Since James couldn’t transform to mollify the werewolf he instead grabbed Snape roughly, turned heel, and ran through the precarious tunnel. Snape was in shock and proved to be quite the sack of potatoes to carry along but Severus was aware enough to remember that there was a snipping, growling werewolf behind them. James looked over his shoulder and, though he wasn’t sure it would do them any good, he tried to Stupefy the wolf. He hoped Remus wouldn’t remember that later.

Remus—the werewolf—yelped. The spell had scared him more than hurt him, but he did not pursue the fleeting students, preferring to mutilate large books and furniture like he had been doing every nearly every month for the past six years. Though Remus’ wolf instincts were screaming at him to follow the humans, the wolf had no intentions to be hit with that stinging red bolt again and it merely bounded up the stairs to gnaw on the foot of one of the beds.

Severus and James did not pause to reflect on their good fortune that Remus was a well behaved werewolf that would rather gnaw on wood than on humans.

Wormtail heard the two coming at a fast pace; he promptly pressed his paw against the knot of the Whomping Willow, freezing the boughs, and waited for Snape and James to emerge. Snape never mentioned if he thought it was odd that a waiting rat had obligingly pressed the knot on the tree to allow them to escape. James pulled the still shocked Snape out of the tunnel and out of the tree’s grasp. James deposited Snape on the cold ground roughly; Snape grimaced in pain and nursed his ankle, which he must have caught on a root sometime during their escape.

Serves him right, James thought; he enjoyed seeing Severus Snape, his arch enemy, in pain as much as the next person (as long as the next person in line was also inclined to dislike him), but James felt somewhat responsible for Sirius luring Snape to Remus; if only he and Peter hadn’t gotten a last minute detention with Professor Flitwick, they would have been in the tunnel with Remus and would have been able to keep Snape away. So, putting all differences aside, James reached down to help Severus up, only to have his arm pushed away. James scoffed, unbelieving that Snape would rebuke him in that way.

“Yeah, you’ll be laughing when I have you, Black, and the werewolf expelled,” Snape said.

James stiffened. “I just saved your life, Snivellous. Now, you will keep your ugly mug shut about what just happened. Or I’ll shut it for you. You hear me?”

“Oh, I hear you.” Snape’s wand was out before James could move to react. James was blown backwards by Snape’s spell; he fell on the frosted ground, nearly flattening Peter. He righted himself in time to see the dark shape that was Snape sprinting towards the castle.

“Peter run ahead to the castle!” James hollered, falling over himself in the desperate bid to catch Snape.

Tired and sore as he was, James chased after Snape. Everything was at risk here. Sirius would be expelled for suggesting Snape go take a peek in the tunnel, and the filthy prat would likely find a way to wind James into the story so as to drive James from Hogwarts as well. Peter would be safe, for James was sure Snape didn’t know the identity of the rat milling about around them, but Peter couldn’t survive without his three best friends. And Remus, Remus would be driven from the school by parents who couldn’t understand that Remus wasn’t an evil person, he was just a bloke with an unfortunate disease.

Why did Sirius do this?

It was a measure of just how much turmoil Sirius was in that he sent Snape into the Whomping Willow this evening. He used Remus, his best friend, to hurt and possibly kill Snape. How did Sirius have that much hatred in his heart to be able to sit back and let Snape walk into his death?

Snape’s spindly legs didn’t get him very far; James was able to catch up and promptly tackle Snape from behind, sending both sprawling into the dark night, tumbling and grappling with each other. Snape was persistent; he pushed off slightly snow-covered ground and continued his frantic run towards the castle. Peter joined in on the chase; he was flanking Snape and would likely beat him to the hopefully locked door of the castle. Snape sent an absentminded spell over his shoulder at James, which he dodged but lost valuable seconds in doing so.

In a last second burst of speed, Snape passed Peter and, still running, pointed his wand at the castle doors, which opened long enough for Snape to slip through but closed once Snape was fully inside.

James swore. He fumbled with his wand, dropping it twice before his nerves and exhaustion allowed him to unlock the door. He could hear Snape running in the corridor ahead of him, sprinting to the Headmaster’s office. All was lost.

But then there was a loud thunk an even louder “Ooof” and a louder still thwump. The footsteps stopped.

When James arrived at the scene he saw a grim-looking Sirius standing over Snape’s semi-unconscious body. Sirius was rubbing his unshaven jaw when he noticed he had company. Sirius shrugged. “Thought you might want some help,” he mumbled. He flourished the Marauder’s Map, indicating that he had been watching the entire evening and that he had decided to come to his friends’ assistance once he saw that Snape was clearly escaping. James and Peter had found Sirius in their dormitory upon finishing their detention with Flitwick and when they asked why Sirius wasn’t in the Shrieking Shack with Remus, Sirius’ slightly maniacal laughter had told them that he’d done something terribly, terribly wrong. When they finally got the story out of him, it was almost too late. Sirius had refused to join them on their rescue mission.

“Did he see Moony?” Sirius looked embarrassed and sorry, at least.

James and Peter nodded gravely.

“Shit.” The gravity of what he had done caught up to him in the dormitory once James and Peter had left. He’d spent the last hour pouring over the Marauders’ Map, making sure that his friends were safe. His body was in such turmoil he had barely been able to leave Gryffindor Tower to stop Snape once he’d seen that Snape was evading James and Peter. “Shit. I am so sorry,” Sirius began. He didn’t care that he would be in trouble, but what he had done to Remus was unacceptable. He was falling apart, a piece of his ever-waning sanity fell away every second and he didn’t understand why. Because of Piper? No, she didn’t have that sort of control over him. He was highly disturbed and all he wanted to do was show his remorse; he would have done anything at that moment to make everything better. He would have left Hogwarts if it meant Moony and Prongs and Wormtail—his best friends—would be safe. He would have given up magic forever to make things right. But, as of late, a disconcerting pattern was emerging where, every time Sirius tried to make things right, things inevitably became shittier.

“Save it, Padfoot.” James did appreciate the respite the knocking out of Snape provided. But having Sirius there, right in front of him, the cause of his problems, was like pouring a shaker of salt onto a fresh wound. James could see that Sirius was a mess, but he had no time for pity. “We have bigger problems right now, Padfoot. Like worrying about what’ll happen once Snape tells Professor Dumbledore that you tried to murder him—“

“I didn’t try to murder anyone—“

“— and that he knows Remus is a…” James didn’t want to further endanger Remus by saying his secret in the corridors where anyone, even at that hour, could be behind one of the closed doors. Given their luck, Peeves would wander by at any moment and float down the hallways screaming that Snape was lying dead in the corridors.

Their fortune, however, was far worse than Peeves coming across them. A nightgown wearing, candle bearing Minerva McGonagall had been woken up by the spell triggered alarm that went off in her office whenever the main door to the castle was opened after hours. She expected to find an oblivious couple coming in from a late night romp when she descended the stairs, or else a gang of Death Eaters on a suicide mission, but she did not expect to find three out of the four Marauders—two of whom were badly scraped and bruised—standing around an equally battered unconscious form of Severus Snape.

“What is the meaning of this?” Nightgown sweeping, Professor McGonagall franticly searched the guilty faces of Sirius, James, and Peter with her experienced eyes.

Each broke into their own story simultaneously.

“Well you see, Professor, Snape is the victim of a gruesome disease the Muggles call asthma. It’s quite terrible really and he wants us to keep it a secret. An incurable disease, you know, it makes poor Snape pass out if he breathes too hard.”

“Snape here was really upset. His girlfriend broke up with him earlier. He just went insane and started breaking everything in sight. We were finished cheering our buddy here up when he tripped—you know how clumsy he is—and fell down those darn stairs. Those things are just an accident waiting to happen. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t bring the school to trial.”

“Snape was demonstrating his river dancing skills when a yeti came through the front doors—you know how much yetis hate river dancing—and attacked Snape before we could fend it off.”

McGonagall’s neck clenched, her mouth thinned, her eyes narrowed. “Let’s hear what Mr. Snape has to say about this. Yetis, honestly. Rennervate.” McGonagall’s wand was suddenly in her hand, though none of the Marauders knew where exactly she could have been keeping it in that nightgown, and Snape instantly began moving again.

“Professor, I have to see Dumbledore. It’s about Lupin. Remus Lupin, he’s a—” Snape rolled around on the floor like a man on his death bed with an urgent secret.

“Great friend,” Peter completed, nodding.

“He’s a—”

“Very attractive young man,” James said, talking over Snape’s mumbling completely.

“He’ll bite everyone…” Snape groaned; McGonagall helped him up.

Sirius winked. “Remus sure is a ladies’ man, I always tell him that not every girl likes being bitten, but it’s kind of his thing.” When McGonagall turned to glare at Sirius, James kicked the groaning Snape in the side. When she turned back at the unmistakable sound of a blow landing, James smiled innocently as if he had done nothing at all.

McGonagall shuddered disgustedly. “I don’t know what you boys have been up to this evening, but be sure that you are in more trouble than just losing House points. Yes, Mr. Pettigrew, you will all be losing House points, and detentions to boot.” Professor McGonagall began to calculate just how many points they lost and detentions the boys earned: No Hogsmeade visits for the rest of the year, one hundred points each for being outside the castle at such a late hour, another hundred each for fighting, and Saturday detentions with Filch for the rest of the year, ought to cover it. She was about to hand out this punishment when—

“Weeeeerwooooooooooolf!” Snape moaned, elongating the word so it sounded more like ten syllables than its usual two.

McGonagall’s mouth opened in surprise. She and the rest of the faculty knew about poor Remus Lupin’s affliction and the secrecy around it. The professor pieced together most of the story from the facts she had already witnessed: Snape asking to go to the headmaster, James, Peter, and Sirius talking over Snape every time he said Remus’ name, the fact that it was a full moon, the fact that Snape had been unconscious when she arrived. Snape knew.

“I’m taking you to the headmaster’s office,” McGonagall said. “No more talking until we get there. I said no more talking, Mr. Snape. You’ll wake the whole castle. Probably already have. You don’t want me to Silence you, Mr. Snape.” Professor McGonagall had never before threatened to use magic on a student before—she wasn’t sure if it was her exhaustion or the frustrating boys which had driven her to the threat, or a combination of the two. She thought she would have to resort to pulling the four of them along by the ears, which would have been difficult with her only having two hands and all, but they followed along quietly behind her. “Honestly, I’m not leading you to the gallows,” she said in reference to their melancholy trudging.

But that was exactly where she was leading them.

“Butterscotch brownies,” the disgruntled woman said to the two gargoyle sentries outside of Professor Dumbledore’s office. The surprisingly Muggle password irked the already vexed McGonagall. Professor Dumbledore explained that he was a fan of alliteration when Professor McGonagall asked about this particular password.

“What ‘cho waking us up for at this hour, Min?” One of the gargoyles said, apparently coming out of a deep sleep.

“Yeah, you know how we need our beau’y sleep,” the other added. “Come back in the mornin’.”

Professor McGonagall gave the two gargoyles a state that she usually reserved for James and Sirius when they were being fresh. If they had been able to, the gargoyles would have blushed. Snubbed, the gargoyles opened up.

Professor McGonagall went first and, upon reaching the top of the moving staircase, she instructed the group to stay there while she went inside and woke Dumbledore. It did not take long for McGonagall to go into the office and wake Dumbledore and tell him what she knew, she then went back out into the stairwell and pointed a finger into the office, telling James, Snape, Peter, and Sirius to go inside and face what would inevitably be their expulsion and, in the case of Sirius, his likely imprisonment.

Professor Dumbledore, clad in minty green robes decorated with what looked like miniscule, flying dragons and a matching, pointy hat, was humming a joyful tune from behind his desk when the bleeding James, bruised Severus, panting Peter, and fidgeting Sirius knocked on the door, feeling thoroughly underdressed for the occasion upon seeing the Professor in their torn jeans and ragged robes. The headmaster started and dropped the silver apparatus he was toying with. It wasn’t every day he received visitors at this hour. It was all so very exciting. Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as if he secretly loved the sorts of hijinks his students got up to at all hours of the night. It made him feel young again, perhaps.

“Professor McGonagall has already told me what she believes happened this evening, but forgive me, for I wish to hear the story from one of you.” The headmaster said once the four boys had settled themselves in a line in front of his desk. Dumbledore suspected that they were too anxious to sit, so he did not bother to draw up any chairs.

He was not kept waiting long, for before Peter, James, and Sirius could attack him to shut him up, Snape shouted, “Remus Lupin’s a werewolf!”

There was a surprising lack of surprise after this bold proclamation, for Sirius, James, Dumbledore, and Peter all already knew this fact.

Somewhat rebuffed, Snape continued with the same inappropriate vigor, “He put me up to going down in the tunnel to see where Lupin went every month!” Snape pointed an accusing finger at Sirius. “Then he, trying to save his friend’s skin, tried to pull me out of that tunnel in time to save me and to save that werewolf, but I saw him, I saw Lupin turn.” He pointed his finger from Sirius to James. “And I suspect he was their lookout.” His finger travelled from James to Peter. Snape tried to make his last statement as dramatic as possible. “They were trying to murder me.”

Dumbledore handled this murder accusation surprisingly well, despite Snape’s flare for the dramatics.

“Is this true?” Dumbledore asked, speaking to James, Peter, and Sirius.

“What if I had been bitten? Ahh, that must have been the plan, to make me turn into one of those—those things,” Snape continued. “I suspect the werewolf was in on it too, must have been expecting me. Luckily I was able to scare the werewolf off.”

“The werewolf,” Sirius began, unable to hold himself back, “has a name.” There was the crippling anger sneaking up again.

Silence followed, which was a relief, for Sirius had planned on following up his growling threat by punching Snape.

Every word Snape spoke, every syllable that came out of his mouth was another blow dealt to Sirius. He’d meant to silence that voice forever by sending Snape down that tunnel, but that planned had failed, just like everything Sirius did failed.

Sirius didn’t know why he had done it; at the time, it had seemed like a terrific idea. He would hurt Snape, he would hurt Piper, and, by hurting them, he would feel better. His logic was faulted, but his rage had taken over and he couldn’t help himself when he saw Snape looking out the window, watching Remus cross the grounds. He’d told Snape not to follow Remus to the tree, knowing that, of course, Snape would follow him. There was no thought involved. No emotion except the anger flowing through his veins, his lungs, his heart. He saw now how stupid—no, he needed a stronger word than stupid—he had been. Unthinking, irrational, life-ruining, foolhardy—they all described him better than ‘stupid.’

Then he felt it. As soon as James and Peter had run out of the dormitory to save Snape, Sirius felt the remorse slowly creeping up, starting in the pit of his stomach, consuming the anger there, and then seeping outwards until the remorse infected his entire body. This new emotion froze his heart and his blood. He’d nearly killed a man and felt nothing. He’d nearly destroyed one of his best friends and hadn’t cared. But now he felt and he cared.

“Mr. Potter, you were the one to rescue Severus? You pulled him back at the last second?” Dumbledore, finally daring to speak after Sirius’ deadly outburst, said. His green robes and cheerful demeanor felt highly inappropriate for the meeting; black robes decorated with silver shackles would have been more fitting.

“Yes, sir,” James said, looking embarrassed.

“Then you owe him with your life, Severus,” Dumbledore said. Snape stiffened. “Do you understand?” Snape nodded, he had read countless books describing life debts. Snape would have rather been in a life debt to Peeves than be in one to James Potter. “Then you may go, Mr. Potter, but please find Professor McGonagall before you go back to Gryffindor Tower. I believe she has some sort of punishment in store.”

James did not move. Sirius nudged him, “Go.”

James felt like he was abandoning Sirius and Peter by leaving them. What if Sirius were expelled? Sirius needed someone to stay and fight for him—even though he’d been a tosser. He thought of pleading with the Professor to stay. “Mr. Potter I assure you I will not harm you friends without you being here. If I decide to resort to torture, I assure you that I will call you back,” Dumbledore said; Sirius and Peter hoped he was joking. Still feeling a bit uneasy, James began to leave. “Oh, and Mr. Potter?”

James halted.

“It goes without saying that the subject we are discussing will remain confidential, correct?”

“Yes, Professor.” James thought about standing outside of the door with his ear pressed against it, but decided not to. Dumbledore always seemed to know when someone was listening who wasn’t supposed to be.

“Then you may go,” Dumbledore waited until the door closed and he was sure James wasn’t listening at the door before he continued. “Mr. Pettigrew?”

“Yes, Professor?”

“What part did you play in tonight’s adventure?”

“I—I went with James to get Snape before it was too late, but James is faster than me so he got there first and I—I just waited outside of the Whomping Willow. Um, then, after they came out of the tunnel—James and Snape, I mean—and after Snape punched Pron—James, I, er, I chased Snape back to the castle…” Peter’s legs shook. Dumbledore’s interrogation method of sitting in the high-backed chair behind his desk with his hands steepled and his eyes gazing ahead brightly was working well.

“And how did you know about the tunnel underneath the tree?” Dumbledore’s perceptiveness was almost frightening.

“Remus—Remus told us about it in second year. We’re his best friends, of course we noticed him going missing three days out of the month. We never—we never followed him down there, of course,” Peter laughed nervously, “but he told us how he got down there every month.” Peter was not convincing, but Dumbledore seemed to believe most of what he said.

“You are not guilty, but nor are you innocent. You broke many school rules tonight, Mr. Pettigrew, but I will leave your punishment in the hands of your head of House, for I would hate to deny her that privilege,” Dumbledore continued to sit placidly at his study desk, viewing the three boys in front of him over the clutter. Peter nodded along. “You may go, but first, your word that our words tonight remain secret.”

Sirius, Peter, and Sirius were all shocked that Dumbledore was treating this matter so cavalierly. They could have been talking about their punishment for attempting to ride the giant squid for the amount of graveness on Dumbledore’s face.

“Yes, of course.” Like James, Peter hesitated at the door. He wondered if this would be the last time he would see Sirius. What if Sirius was expelled? Peter wanted to rush forward and give Sirius a hug—a manly hug, of course—but he didn’t think Sirius would appreciate it. Sirius, sensing that a man-hug was coming, nodded for Peter to go, hoping that he was conveying some sort of confidence to his friend. Peter gave Sirius a half-smile and walked out the door.

Down to two.

“I’m positive that the two of you understand how serious this situation is,” Dumbledore said. Snape and Sirius almost felt relieved that he was finally acting like they had done something wrong. “You, Mr. Black, knowingly endangered Mr. Snape and Remus Lupin. He could have been killed by your foolishness.” Dumbledore let that settle in. “Sirius, this is an unforgivable act.” Dumbledore’s disappointment nearly killed Sirius. He never meant to hurt anyone.

“I understand, Professor.” Sirius could feel Snape smiling smugly to his right. Sirius pulled his wand out of his robes and placed it hesitantly on one of the less cluttered parts of Dumbledore’s desk. “I’ll go pack my things then.” Sirius couldn’t believe that it had come down to this. He was being expelled. It was well deserved, though, and he couldn’t blame Dumbledore in the slightest. He could blame Snape for being a nosy git, but he couldn’t blame Dumbledore.

“Are you packing for the Easter holidays already, Sirius?” Dumbledore’s twinkling voice, though so soft, was loud enough to carry across the large office. Sirius’ wand remained where it was on the desk; Dumbledore hadn’t snapped it in half.

“Well I’ve been expelled haven’t I?” Sirius said bitterly. “Or were you planning on sending me to Azkaban?” Even in jest, the name of the wizarding prison chilled Sirius. He hadn’t thought that he could possibly go to Azkaban for what he’d done. What if he went to Azkaban for what he’d done?

“That’s where you belong, Black! Rotting in a cell in Azkaba—”

“Severus, please,” Dumbledore interjected. “No, Sirius you are free to stay. Unless you would like to leave, of course.” Dumbledore waved his hand, inviting Sirius to leave.

“What?” Sirius and Snape said—in Snape’s case shouted.

“Professor, he tried to kill me!” Snape cried as indignantly as he could muster. Snape had meant to step forward menacingly, but he tripped over the torn leg of his worn jeans and tripped instead, ruining his planned dramatics once again.

“We have yet to determine that, Severus, and I request that you would kindly keep your voice down. There is no need to shout.” Only Dumbledore’s calming voice could have stopped Snape’s shouting. “Please, sit and we shall discuss this civilly.” Dumbledore gestured to the two comfortable armchairs in front of his desk. Grudgingly, the angry Snape and the shocked Sirius sat down. Snape sat on the edge of his seat, ready to jump up at the next moment he felt indignant.

“Now, Severus, I am curious as to why you were so interested in Remus Lupin’s whereabouts this evening?” At Dumbledore’s words, Snape nearly stood up and began shouting again, but a wry smile from Dumbledore kept him in his seat.

“Because I knew that the four of them were up to something!” Snape exclaimed with an accusing finger pointing at Sirius; he nearly pushed himself off the crimson armchair, but he restrained himself, and huffed resentfully instead. “They’re always sneaking around,” Snape continued, brushing his black hair out of his face, “and I just wanted to find out what Lupin was hiding.”

“And get the four of us expelled in the process,” Sirius interjected snidely.

Dumbledore smoothed out his long, graying beard. “Severus, it is not wise to investigate a secret that is not meant for your ears. Your fascination with Remus Lupin’s secret forced you to fall prey to Sirius’ ploy. Had you been more cautious, you would have understood that Sirius would never betray his friend’s secret and was clearly leading you into some sort of trap. The blame here is equal. You, Sirius, were out of line in sending Severus to see Remus, while you, Severus, were wrong to be so obsessed with what Remus was hiding.”

Snape was outraged. He was being berated? Him? Sirius had been the one to almost lead him to his death, and he, Snape, was in trouble for being curious? He couldn’t believe it.

“Severus, word of this this—of Remus Lupin’s lycanthropy—goes public his life at school will be ruined. By divulging his secret you will destroy the final school years of an innocent peer. I must forbid you, like I have forbidden the others, from speaking of it to anyone. You must never mention it. Give me your word, Severus, that you will keep what happened this evening a secret. What happened tonight was a terrible act of both betrayal—” Sirius hung his head, “—and gullibility.” Dumbledore’s eyes pierced Snape’s. “Now, I must speak with Sirius alone.”

Snape feared that if he refused to give Dumbledore his word, the punishment would be more severe. Why was Dumbledore favoring the werewolf Remus Lupin? Why did he care if a werewolf was driven from the school? It incensed him, but he would bottle his anger like he always did. He planned on living a long life; he would get that werewolf back eventually. “I won’t tell anyone, Professor.”

“Thank you.” What looked like relief flooded Dumbledore’s face. “You are excused, but I must send you to Professor McGonagall as well. You, like Mr. Potter and Mr. Pettigrew, were out of the castle at an inexcusable hour, and I’m afraid that you will have to, as they say, face the music like the others. But truly appreciate your compliance.”

Snape couldn’t recognize the appreciation in Dumbledore’s voice and he sulked further. Dumbledore wasn’t even going to veto McGonagall’s punishment after he promised not to wreck Lupin’s life? There was some sort of flaw in the system. Snape had had a trying evening. He’d nearly been eaten by a werewolf, he’d been saved—yes Snape admitted if James hadn’t shown up he likely wouldn’t have come to his senses—by the person Snape loathed more than anyone else in the entire world, he’d been punished for being interested in what grisly secret Lupin was hiding, and, to top it all off, he’d been forbidden from even telling anyone about it—not that he had anyone apart from Piper to tell…

Down to one.

Sirius had been in Dumbledore’s office a total of three times before now. The first time had been for commandeering the first year boats with James, Peter, and Remus and having an epic pirate battle on the lake complete with peg legs and eye patches in first year (Remus had won the battle, but not the war). The second time had been for stealing all of the furniture out of the Slytherin sixths’ dormitory with James, Peter, and Remus and hiding it in their own for the three days it took the faculty to find the culprits in fourth year. The third time had been for trying to sabotage Piper Redden’s O.W.L.s in fifth year with James, Peter, and Remus. All of Sirius and the Marauders’ other acts of mischief—and there were plenty of them—were punished by Professor McGonagall.

In the three times Sirius had been in Dumbledore’s office, he had never been there alone: Remus, James, and Peter were always next to him. He wasn’t sure how long he would last under Dumbledore’s piercing, diamond blue eyes on his own. Similarly, Sirius had never been in Dumbledore’s seemingly cheery, circular office when it had been so quiet. The portraits of the school’s previous headmasters were always chatting with Sirius, Dumbledore’s contraptions were always whirring or beeping or buzzing or clacking or spinning, but, that early morning, they were dead still. Sirius’ previous visits here had been because of jokes, pranks. This time, he wasn’t here to laugh, he wasn’t here because of some silly pirate battle or furniture heist, he was here because of something evil he’d done.

“Why did you do this, Sirius?”

There it was: the only question Sirius didn’t know how to answer. That question had been haunting him all evening and all he could say was, “I don’t know, Professor.”

That answer did not satisfy Professor Dumbledore. Sirius saw this and tried to explain.

“There is no excuse for what I did, Professor. It’s just—okay, I’m sure you know by now that Piper Redden’s getting married. You didn’t know?” Dumbledore’s frown said that no, he did not know. “She’s marrying Alexander McClure and I met her in the corridor the other day and she started saying all of this stuff about Snape being the best man and it just started driving me crazy. And then I saw Snape watching Remus cross the grounds and something inside of me kind of came to life and took over and told me to send Snape after Remus. I think I wanted to scare Snape off, I wanted him to get scared and leave me alone.” Sirius rubbed his head with both of his hands. He, also, had had a long and trying night. “He’s always trying to get us in trouble and bragging about how smart he is. I wanted him to learn a lesson.”

The beginnings of dawn were beginning to creep through the huge windows in the office, making the candles, fireplace, and torches insignificant. The bright yellows, oranges, and reds made the scene less ominous than the blacks of early morning. Remus would be changing back now, with no recollection of what Sirius had done.

“I don’t know what to say, Professor. I mean, ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t really cover it.” Sirius bent at the waist and let his head fall into his hands. He didn’t want to cry in front of the headmaster, but the weight of his actions had finally finished settling in, and tears were the only reaction that seemed to fit. “I can’t believe I did that.” Sirius looked off towards the window; the steady sunrise illuminated the grounds of Hogwarts. “Why did I do that?” Sirius changed his position again: he slid down in the chair, tilted his head back, and covered his face with his hands.

“I was so angry! All I could think was, ‘God, it’d be great to get Snape back for all of the shit—sorry, Professor—he’s given us over these years. And then, all I could think after that was that after Piper and that idiot are married, I’ll never see her again, and Snape will get to see her all the time and maybe, if I scared him off, he’d leave her alone,” Sirius said, speaking from where he was, slouched over in the chair with his face covered. He could not see that Dumbledore’s expression was softening dramatically.

“Sirius, I do hope that I am not putting my foot in my mouth, so to speak, but it would seem to me that you would be happy not to ever see Piper Redden ever again. You have never hidden your dislike of her, unless setting her on fire was a gesture of romance, that is. ” Dumbledore wanted Sirius to admit that he had grown past hating Piper Redden, he wanted him to admit how he felt. Damn that old man and his feelings.

“People change.” Sirius statement contradicted everything that he believed. He was a firm believer that no one, no matter what the situation, changed.

“No they don’t, Sirius,” Dumbledore said, causing Sirius to look up, wet tears in his eyes. Dumbledore was leaning far over in his chair, as if preparing to tell Sirius a secret. Sirius always thought Dumbledore was one of those optimist, forgiving types who believed that people changed and that anyone could be trusted. “People do not change, Sirius,” Sirius dropped his head, “—but sometimes, sometimes, a person can grow and a person can learn. They can grow past childish hatred. They can learn how to find the good in someone, in anyone. And that is what you have done. You have looked past your initial dislike of Piper and you have seen her, you have really seen her, and, well, sometimes that sort of bond can make you do things you regret.” Dumbledore’s eyes glazed over, perhaps in remembrance of some sort of crazy escapade he had done in his earlier days. “I understand what you are going through, Sirius, but do you understand what Piper is going through?”

Sirius never thought of it that way.

“Put yourself in her shoes, dear boy, and you will understand what this babbling fool is talking about.”

Sirius sat up, his grey eyes softened, “I miss her.” There. He’d said it. It was out in the open. He missed Piper.

“Tell her that, Sirius. Do not live like this any longer, with this anger and this jealousy and this angst—they are all dark things which will eat you alive like they nearly did tonight. Now, the sun is nearly up, and I was having a wonderful dream about a pixie and a centaur that I wish to resume, however, I feel like Mr. Snape will go into cardiac arrest if I do not give you some sort of additional punishment. I think assisting Hagrid with his game-keeping duties for a month ought to appease both him and Professor McGonagall (even though I wouldn’t mind helping Hagrid, myself).”

Sirius couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t expelled. Snape wasn’t dead. He didn’t feel like his body was slowly falling apart anymore. James and Peter didn’t look as angry as they were earlier. Life was good. Or as good as it could get under the circumstances.

“But Professor—not that I’m complaining—but why aren’t you expelling me? Snape could have been killed.” Sirius stopped at the door. He would have to rename Dumbledore’s office door the Door of Hesitation.

“Ah, but he was not.” Dumbledore raised a finger in thought. “Your friends risked their lives to save Severus and to save you.” In a side-note he added, “You might want to thank them for that.”

“But why—”

“Sirius, I can see that you feel remorse for what you have done. You said yourself that you would be willing to do anything to take this back. That is why you are not expelled.”

Dumbledore’s simplistic explanation did not fully quench Sirius’ thirst for answers, but he’d take it.

“Oh and Sirius.” Dumbledore came out from around his desk and put a soft hand on Sirius’ shoulder. His eyes penetrated into Sirius’ and his face held no hint of its usual twinkle. “Understand that if you ever do something like this again, I will be forced to take drastic measures.”

“I understand, sir.”

The twinkle was immediately back. “Good, then off to bed with you. But first, to Professor McGonagall’s with you, we mustn’t forget about her punishment.”

No, wouldn’t want to do that, Sirius thought.

Sirius received for his wrongdoings: the loss of 200 points from Gryffindor, banishment from Hogsmeade for the rest of the year, mandatory tutoring of first years for the rest of the year, a month’s worth of detentions, cleaning duty with Filch, and he was put on probation for a month, meaning that if he caused trouble during that time he would be suspended. All in addition to the game-keeping duties he would be forced to help Hagrid with and Sirius was sure that the giant man would take every advantage of making Sirius his packhorse.

But he wasn’t expelled. He wasn’t going to Azkaban.

Sending Snape into the tunnel had been a nasty trick, and though Sirius would have liked to have seen Snape eaten alive by a vicious wolf, he could understand that murder wasn’t the answer to his problems. Though if an angry wolf did come across a helpless Snape, Sirius wouldn’t exert himself in trying to save him. Sirius would have to fix his problems without trying to have a werewolf that was coincidentally one of his best friends eat them. Sirius continued to feel the numbing sorrow flow through his veins, but he felt better than he had in a long while.

Sirius walked past the giant hourglasses in the Great Hall; Gryffindor was in the negative numbers. Sirius shrugged. Not even Piper Redden and Alexander McClure snogging in front of him could make him feel hateful—that was a lie, that sight would likely drive him crazy—but the point was that Sirius felt better than he had since Christmas.

He wasn’t expelled. He wasn’t going to Azkaban.

Life was going well for Sirius Black.

Chapter 18: The Ill-Fitting Shoes of Piper Redden
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AN: As always, thank you readers!
This chapter was already so long that I didn’t include a scene with Peter, James, and Remus that I had planned on. Don’t fret though, they haven’t forgiven him completely about the Great Send Snape to his Death Debacle.
Also. I put this chapter up so much quicker than I normally do and buckled down and finished it because my St. Bernard had puppies yesterday!! Now, I named her first litter (naturally) after Harry Potter characters, so this time they are all Grey’s Anatomy doctors. Yay. However, they might monopolize a lot of my time from now on (you’d be surprised at how much time puppies take up), but I will try my hardest to update in a timely fashion. Until then, enjoy yourselves with this chapter!

You Hate Me
Chapter 18: The Ill-Fitting Shoes of Piper Redden

Life was going badly for Sirius Black.

The initial happiness he felt upon learning that he was not going to be expelled and sent to Azkaban was quickly wearing off and he was fading back to miserable.

The disappearance of his happiness began with his return to his dormitory after his conversation with Dumbledore. It was morning now, Sirius arrived in Gryffindor Tower just as Sanaa and Raine departed to do some before breakfast studying. They greeted him gaily, assuming he had been out all night doing something mischievous that they would learn about later. As he slowly made his way up the narrow staircase that would bring him to his room, he could envision James and Peter sitting on the foots of their beds waiting for him to arrive so they could shout at him. Remus would not be back until tomorrow morning.

Sure enough, when Sirius pushed open the door that once said Sixth Years, he was greeted by James and Peter, who both looked as if they had been rescuing an ungrateful bastard from a werewolf all evening or something.

Sirius expected that James would say something infuriating like, “We want an explanation, Sirius,” then Peter would say something like, “Yeah, you better start telling us what made you do that, Padfoot,” then Sirius would say something like, “Look, just leave it alone, guys,” then they would engage in some sort of argument and feel like smothering each other with their pillows.

Sirius did not expect the welcome James and Peter gave him.

Both of them rushed forward off the edges of their beds; at first, Sirius thought they were rushing forward to attack him for putting them through such an ordeal. He tensed and held up his fists, ready to fight back, but he realized, due to the lack of pain he was receiving, that James and Peter weren’t attacking him. They were hugging him—man hugging, of course.

Even Pumpkin, who had been dangling off the drapes, slid down and joined in the celebration by biting Sirius’ legs, mewing happily. It was only after James trod on Pumpkin’s tail, causing the kitten to go insane and start scratching the three Marauders that the three of them broke apart, somewhat embarrassed by this unusual display of emotion. All three cleared their throats simultaneously; they puffed out their chests in a bid to feel more manly and after clearing their throats for a fourth time, James and Peter both gave Sirius a rough handshake and a clap on the back.

Peter broke the silence first. “We knew you wouldn’t be expelled. I said to James as soon as McGonagall had finished yelling at us, I said, ‘Dumbledore’d never expel Sirius.’ Wait. You haven’t been expelled, have you? You look like you’ve been expelled. James, doesn’t he look like he’s been expelled? Oh God! You’ve been expelled! How could Dumbledore expel you?! Well at least you aren’t going to Azkaban.” A pause. “Oh no! They’re sending you to Azkaban!? Quick James, get Padfoot the Cloak! The Dementors will be here any second to get him! We’ll hide you, Sirius! Don’t worry.” Peter was talking so quickly that he couldn’t hear Sirius assuring his friends that he hadn’t been expelled and sentenced to Azkaban. “Aruba. Hide in Aruba. No one will look for you there.”

“Wormtail!” Sirius’ shout brought Peter back to his senses just in the nick of time. Peter paused just above James’ trunk where he was about to extract the Invisibility Cloak in order to smuggle Sirius out of the castle. Peter looked around embarrassedly and gathered from James’ and Sirius’ calm demeanors that Sirius was not going to need to go into hiding any time soon. “I’ve not been expelled and I’m not going to Azkaban.” Peter felt his nerves untangle dramatically. “I’m off the hook. Well, apart from all the House points I’ve lost, the detentions, the tutoring, the cleaning, the probation, the banishment from Hogsmeade, and the game-keeping.”

James and Peter both winced. “We only got the points, the detentions, the cleaning and Hogsmeade,” James said. “I guess she thought up some more punishments by the time you reached her.”

“I got extra because I was the mastermind.” Sirius was exhausted. He would have enjoyed prying off his robes, getting into his pajamas, and sleeping for about a week, but since he was on probation he couldn’t skive off lessons or he would be suspended. His stomach growled loudly, signaling his need for food as well as his need for sleep. Maybe he would eat a quick breakfast and then Conjure a pillow and sleep on the table. He hadn’t slept for exactly twenty-four hours and he doubted that he could make it through the day his exhaustion was so extreme. On the Marauders’ monthly excursions with Remus, they skipped lessons the next day to sleep, that luxury was no longer an option for Sirius. Peter and James were equally as tired; both were stifling yawns and their eyelids drooped for increasingly long intervals at a time.

“Look Padfoot, we understand why you wanted to hurt Snape, but if you’d come to us we could have helped you come up with a—no offence—much cleverer way to do it,” James said. Sirius didn’t have time to defend himself before James continued. “I know, ‘you weren’t thinking,’” James said, which was exactly what Sirius was going to say, “Sir, we all have Gunther Johnson moments from time to time,” In the Marauders’ first year, Gunther Johnson, then a seventh year, went berserk and tried to sell himself to his N.E.W.T. inspector for a better score; after being rejected, Gunther attempted to set the Great Hall on fire, and, when that failed, he ran, stark naked, into the Forbidden Forest and hadn’t been heard from since, though the Marauders swore that, on one of their full moon journeys into the Forest, they saw Gunther running through the woods with a herd of centaurs with a bow and arrow on his naked back. Since his disappearance, when someone went crazy in Hogwarts they were said to be a ‘Gunther Johnson’ and were asked to refrain from running through the school in the nude. Sirius wasn’t sure he liked being compared to him. “But Sirius, we’re your friends. You like us, remember? We’ll always help you, even when you’re doing something incredibly dimwitted.”

“Yeah,” Peter added.

If James and Peter could have done one thing to make Sirius feel worse, it was being understanding. He wished they would yell and scream at him and make him feel like the pond scum on the giant squid’s tentacles, not tell him that everything’s okay. Everything wasn’t okay.

James’ sentimental speech was interrupted by Zane sticking his head in through the doorway. Realizing he was intruding on a personal moment between the three of them, he awkwardly averted his eyes. “Er, just checking to see if you were coming down to breakfast.” Zane grimaced, knowing he was making the scene more uncomfortable. “Um, never mind. Carry on.” Zane was in the stairwell when he came back into the Gryffindor Sixth’s dormitory. He grabbed Sirius, James, and Peter, and pulled them all into an extremely tight group-hug (James’ Quidditch regime had made even lanky Zane muscular). “Good to see you guys made up,” Zane said, smiling widely. “See ya at practice.”

Zane’s energetic appearance brought a bit of life into Peter, Sirius, and James, who were all smiling now—except for Sirius.

“Thanks guys,” Sirius said, acting as if being cheerful was suddenly illegal. “You guys really saved my ass last night…this morning?...Whatever. If you hadn’t—” Man up, Sirius told himself. “—if you hadn’t saved Snape I’d be on my way to Azkaban right now. And I appreciate you understanding why I did it, but I would feel much better if you guys would yell at me and tell me that I’m an idiot who deserves to be expelled.”

James and Peter exchanged an unsure glance. They had both agreed not to yell at Sirius in case he really did go berserk and pull a Gunther.

Sirius prompted them. “Please.”

James grinned wickedly. “If you insist, mate.” James took a step away from Sirius as if he needed room for the amount of words he was about to hurl at Sirius. He drew a long breath and in his exhale he let loose a stream of insults, threats, assertions, and swears that would have even made Sirius’ house elf Kreacher cringe. Even Peter contributed, throwing in the occasional jeer at well-timed places during James’ tirade.

“—You could have killed us all—”


“—Think of how much it would have hurt Remus if he killed Snape—”

“—Even Pumpkin has more sense than you—”

“—You’re such a stupid troll—”

“—Whore!— ”

And so on.

They only stopped when James’ stomach began to growl so loudly that it was making it difficult to hear his ranting. In the end, Sirius was no longer angry with James, Peter, and Remus, and they were no longer mad at him (except for Remus, since he didn’t know about any of this yet), but Sirius continued to feel extremely weak because of his inward anger. But now he had his friends to help him through it. He reminded himself never to lose such a valuable commodity again.

“It’s a good thing you aren’t going to Azkaban, Sirius,” Peter said, linking his arm around Sirius’ shoulder as they headed to breakfast, prepared for the onslaught the Gryffindors were going to have in store for them, “One of the Dementors definitely would have made you its bitch.”

* * * *

The Gryffindor hourglass had never been so empty. Thanks to Peter, James, and Sirius, the Gryffindors were now in the negative numbers in the House Cup running. There were absolutely no rubies at all in the hourglass, for the three of them had lost Gryffindor a combined total of six hundred points. They were, of course, forbidden to describe why they were shy six hundred points, and though they had no evidence, all of Gryffindor house was sure that the Marauders were responsible for their imminent loss.

The walk to the Gryffindor table was torture. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws all stood up and applauded the Marauders. Some raised their goblets in a toast, others were repeating a chant over and over. “Thank you, Potter” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. “Thank you, Black” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. “Thank you, Pettigrew” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Others improvised the clapping by banging the table or stomping on the ground.

A first year threw a scone at Peter’s head. Sirius was tripped by a well-placed Tripping Jinx. James was pelted with a handful of grapes. The three looked pleadingly at the High Table, hoping McGonagall would come rushing forward to stop the food firing, but the deputy headmistress seemed to think that it was okay to make an exception this once. The abuse continued.

Over at the Slytherin table, there was an equal amount of pandemonium. The Slytherins were in second place in the House Cup running the night before and now they were in second to last place. The mysterious loss of two hundred points was at first greeted as a joke, but after Slughorn told his House that there had been no mistake, the bedlam broke out and the Slytherins were determined to find the culprit. None of them suspected Severus Snape, who said loudly, “I heard Reid Rivers say that he was going to sneak out with his girlfriend last night.”

At the Gryffindor table, there was no doubt that it had been the Marauders—three of them, anyway. Normally, the Marauders would have blamed the loss of the points on Piper, they would have made up some sort of elaborate tale, building off each other’s lies until there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Piper had been the one to lose the points. But since Piper had been missing in action for nearly the last week the Marauders couldn’t blame her (Piper had been showing up dreamily at the start of each lesson, drifting to the back of the class with a blank, emotionless mask on her face, and then she would let her head fall down onto the desk and stay that way throughout the entire class. No one dared to speak to her let alone blame the loss of six hundred points on her).

“Just keep smiling,” James said through gritted teeth, allowing a piece of toast to hit him, butter side up, in the back of the head. He tried to hide the anger that he felt at having his perfect hair day be ruined by a piece of flying buttered toast and kept his taut smile in place.

Peter yelped beside him, the result of a Knut to the jugular.

“Grab muffins and run.” Sirius was forced to dodge an entire plate as he spoke. The assault of food, money, and utensils was accompanied by the roar of angry Gryffindors, each of whom was demanding answers for their missing six hundred points. The Gryffindors were used to losing points because of the Marauders, but some sort of entertainment always came from it to make the loss of the points sting less. This time, there was nothing to show for the Marauders’ antics.

“Agreed,” James and Peter said. The three would have run from the Great Hall but their stomachs appeared to be magnetically attracted to the bacon and sausage and eggs and toast and tea. By using their robes as defensive shields and nimbly dodging the objects hurled at them, James, Peter, and Sirius were able to retrieve an apple, three slices of toast, one sausage link, and a waffle. While retrieving their breakfast of champions, however, Peter was stabbed with a spoon, a great chunk of James’ hair was ripped out (an unbuttered section), and Sirius was nearly choked by a napkin.

Once safe on the second floor corridor, the Marauders revealed their spoils. Their stomachs begged to be brought back to the Great Hall, no matter what the consequences were, even death –at least they would die with full stomachs—a piece of fruit, some bread, a waffle, and one sausage was not going to fill up three teenage boys who were running around all night. They had narrowly escaped the first time (a mob of angry third years had pursued them out of the Hall but thanks to their knowledge of the castle, James, Peter, and Sirius had given them the slip through a secret passageway) and they were sure their reception would be equally unpleasant if they returned.

“Well, eat up.” James began dividing the food among them. They’d been unable to grab plates and silverware and were forced to eat the food off their laps with their fingers. The three didn’t mind. It was the first meal they’d all eaten together for weeks and though the food was unsatisfying, their fingers were dirty, and they were sure that a lynch mob was still eager to find them, James, Peter and Sirius were happy.

“Lessons are gonna be a blast today,” Peter said sarcastically once his slice of toast, third of a waffle, third of a sausage link, and three bits of apple were eaten. “I say we skip, go be with Moony all day, maybe.”

“Can’t,” Sirius was eating his toast slowly, savoring every bite. “I’ll be suspended if I skip without ‘a reasonable cause’ according to Min.”

Peter hoped James would say that he and Peter should still skip and leave Sirius to be stoned by the masses as a scapegoat.

James disappointed Peter deeply when he said, “Then we all go to lessons. We stick together.”

“You two should skip, I can handle the Gryffindors myself.” Sirius licked his fingers, trying to get the last few crumbs off them.

“Marauders stick together,” James repeated so forcefully that neither Sirius nor Peter argued, though Peter still wanted to skip.

* * * *

The only person in the Great Hall who hadn’t been frantic about the loss of Gryffindor’s and Slytherin’s points was Lily Evans, who was sitting next to Grant Grey at the Ravenclaw table. Grant Grey was the one to begin the cheer that was called to the Marauders.

Lily never liked to think of herself as a high strung person. She cared about her schoolwork, didn’t enjoy breaking the rules, disliked anarchy, and always listened to what her elders told her, but she wasn’t high strung, despite what James said. But when she entered the Great Hall early that morning, saw the empty Gryffindor hourglass, and her first instinct was to hunt James Potter down and kill him, she began to rethink her theory that she wasn’t high strung and promised herself that from now on she would be more relaxed.

They were just points, she told herself. Most of them had been earned by her anyway and there was something that didn’t add up. Why weren’t the Marauders bragging about losing them and describing the entire night in depth to anyone who would listen? They were being modest. They ran away from the Great Hall instead of basking in the attention—negative attention though it was. Yes, something didn’t add up. So Lily watched while her boyfriend stood up and jeered at the Marauders; she winced as Sirius, Peter, and James were attacked with everything from food to an owl ambush set up by a fourth year and his friends.

Lily’s earlier anger had vanished completely, affirming her suspicions that she was not high strung. A high strung person would have hunted James Potter down like a dog and made him pay for losing all of her points. A high strung person would have stomped up to the three of them as they entered the Great Hall and demanded an explanation. A high strung person would have been having a mental breakdown. Lily was doing none of those things. She could honestly say that she didn’t care that James, Sirius, and Peter had lost six hundred points for Gryffindor.

Dating Grant Grey had changed Lily Evans.

Being around someone as obnoxious and frustration as Grant Grey will do that to a person. He was always talking about how well he’d done on a test or homework assignment, speaking badly about one of his peers, or going on about one of his achievements. His favorite subject was the Reddens. He told Lily all about their house, going as far as drawing her the blueprints of the Redden manor, he’d memorized the Redden family tree and knew essentially everything about the family, he could rattle off more trivia about the Redden family than Lily suspected even Piper knew. When Lily asked Grant why he spent so much time obsessing over the Reddens, he explained that he planned on being the Minister of Magic and the only way to do so was to be on good terms with the Reddens. Grant was even knowledgeable about Piper’s disownment, but, as of late, whenever someone said Piper’s name, Grant would wince, put his hand to his cheek, and mumble something about not wanting to talk about it.

His second favorite subject was James Potter. Whenever James’ name came out of Grant’s mouth in a negative way, Lily would find herself defending James, more to spite Grant that out of any feelings for her least favorite Marauder. If Grant said that James was immature and was in possession of no self discipline, Lily would say that most of James’ antics were actually quite clever and thought out. If Grant said that James had no talent on the Quidditch field, Lily said that he was the best Seeker she’d ever seen. If Grant said that James was arrogant and self absorbed, Lily told him to look in the mirror.

Lily would have never believed that there could be someone more aggravating than James Potter, but Grant Grey taught her that she was wrong. He was constantly talking over her, ignoring her in front of his friends, telling her that she didn’t know anything, and, when he did talk to her, he spoke in a tone that made her feel like an inferior. James may have been an overzealous fool, but he respected Lily, which couldn’t be said for Grant, who was acting like Lily was no longer interesting now that he was dating her. A prize that had been won, which was exactly what she feared would happen if she ever did date James.

Piper, Lily realized as Grant began the taunting cheer directed at James, Peter, and Sirius, was right in saying that Grant Grey would drive her to levels of insanity that hardly seemed possible. She would have apologized to Piper, but Lily hadn’t seen her in days. She wasn’t even sleeping in the dormitory anymore.

Lily did not expect that her relationship with Grant Grey would last long when they began dating, she really only accepted his offer to go steady because she couldn’t bring herself to reject him. He’d been so nice before they started seeing each other, but he steadily became more and more repulsive with each minute that they were dating. But Lily had been so lonely, Piper was off in her own stoic world, Korey was now best friends with some Hufflepuff in seventh year, Remus was off visiting a sick aunt, and James finally seemed to have given up on making Lily his girlfriend, which Lily missed most of all. So she used Grant to fill that void…but he’d done a rubbish job of doing that. After dating Grant Grey, Lily understood that she couldn’t use a person to make her feel better and then throw them away. It took a torturously long several weeks for her to realize that.

Lily sighed. The noise in the Grant Hall was slowly dying down, but Grant continued to shout about how Ravenclaw was bound to win the House Cup now.

“It’s just a silly competition, Grant,” Lily said, trying to pick a fight. Oddly enough, Lily was surprised to find that, though she was always willing to engage in an argument with James, she was unable to yell at Grant—probably because he never let her say more than a sentence before he interrupted her.

“It’s not just a silly competition, Lily,” Grant said patronizingly. “It’s a contest where, at the end, the best house wins. And now, Ravenclaw, the best house, is going to win.” He high-fived Ian Snow jovially, perfectly happy to go back to ignoring his girlfriend.

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Grant,” Lily warned.

Grant leaned into Lily, wrapping his arm around her. He kissed her on the neck, making her forgive him somewhat. “Then don’t act like one.”

The forgiveness flew out of the window with the morning owl post.

“That’s it!” Lily jumped up, her red hair flying every which way. She tripped over the bench in her attempt to get as far away from Grant as possible. Lily’s outburst would have been lost if she had said it moments before while the hall was still in a small amount of disarray, but what with the quiet returning, her words were heard by every person. “We are finished!” Lily’s voice rose to a shriek. “I can’t take it anymore, Grant. You’re driving me crazy!” To illustrate her lack of sanity, Lily tore at her hair. If Piper, Sirius, or James were there, they would have made some sort of remark about their predictions of Grant finally driving Lily to insanity coming true. Ian Snow discretely moved the knives and forks out of Lily’s reach. He’d seen Grant’s girlfriends have fits like this before.

“Lily, come on,” Grant tried to pull Lily back to her seat, but she was past being calmed down.

“No! These have been the worst weeks of my life.” Lily lowered her voice to a level where she wasn’t only heard by dogs and shivered. “As of right now, we are no longer dating.” She ripped off her silver bracelet that Grant had given her, glad to be rid of the tacky thing, and threw it down on the table. “Ugh, Piper and James were right about you.”

Grant nearly fell off the bench at the sound of Piper’s name. He looked around nervously, as if Piper was ready to attack him from behind a candelabra if he spoke about her. By the time he righted himself, Lily was gone and he was girlfriendless.

Grant slammed his fist down on the table. “Damn it!”

* * * *

“James, can I talk to you?”

James had been waiting for this. It was only a matter of time before Lily Evans tracked him down; without even turning around he could predict what Lily looked like: a bit of foam on the corners of her mouth, her red hair wild, her eyes alive with electricity, her cheeks the color of strawberries. It was how James liked Lily best. Each time James did something to incur the wrath of Evans, he went into a sort of Zen-like state and blocked out everything she said to him and concentrated on how perfect she looked when she was angry. He, Sirius, and Peter were planning on how best to enter the Great Hall and get a reasonable amount of food when Lily found them (Peter’s plan was to use their robes as nets and catch whatever food items were thrown at them). James prepared to enter this Zen state of mind when he heard Lily’s voice; when he was fully prepared he faced her and was disappointed to see that she was neither frothing nor wild.

Lily motioned to a more private section of the corridor where there was a stone bench. They sat down; James, suspicious that Lily was hiding a cleaver behind her back, chose to sit on the furthermost corner of the stone slab. He hoped that Sirius and Peter remembered that the signal for trouble was a wolf call.

“Look, I just wanted to tell you that you were right about Grant Grey and I’ve broken up with him. He was a prick.”

“Hold on. The Apocalypse must be nigh,” James looked around for any signs of an Apocalypse, but seeing no Horsemen, vortexes, or demons, he turned back to Lily. “Did Lily Evans just tell me that I was right, and swear in the same sentence?”

“Shut up.” Lily pushed James’ shoulder with her own, causing both of them to laugh.

“This isn’t some sort of distraction, is it?” James had already fallen prey to three ambushes today; the Gryffindors were serious about learning the truth of what happened the night before. This stone bench was the perfect place for a water balloon assault or a volley of crystal balls. “You’re not setting me up, right?”

Lily shrugged, almost flirtatiously. They shared another laugh. “I should go.”

“Me too,” James said, even though he didn’t.

“Friends again?” Lily held out her hand for James to shake, which he did with vigor, hurting Lily a bit. “Good. I—er—I—oh never mind.” She’d been about to say that she’d missed him, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted James to know that he meant that much to her just yet. “Well ‘bye then.”

James was basking in the glory that was Lily Evans’ friendship when— “LILY! Wait! If we’re friends again you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor…”

Twenty minutes later, the Marauders were back in their dormitory with a feast laid out before them. Lily agreed to be their food liaison for the time being. She would go into the Great Hall, eat her meal, and then smuggle the Marauders their own meals by using some clever witchcraft that, when explained, was actually very boring. It went this way for the rest of the day until James, Sirius, and Peter had to leave to serve their detentions, clean with Filch, and, in Sirius’ case, follow Hagrid around.

That evening, Sirius was too tired to think about Piper and what Dumbledore had said to him. He was grateful that the manual labor he’d just endured kept him from thinking of her; it allowed him to go to into a deep, Piper-less sleep. The next morning, however, his problems arose again, not in the form of Piper, though.

At the break of dawn, a pale Remus Lupin entered the Gryffindor Sixth’s dormitory with bags under his eyes and scratches on his arms. James, Sirius, and Peter were all snoring loudly with various limbs dangling off their beds. The opening and closing of the door woke up the three of them. “What is going on around here? Our hourglass is empty, there’s a poster that says ‘Get the Marauders!’ on it in the common room, and I’ve been asked to see Dumbledore tomorrow.”

“I think you better sit down, Moons. It’s a long story…”

“So you thought that if I ate Snape that all of your problems would vanish?” Remus said, once the three of them finished their renditions of the night’s escapades.

Sirius thought it over. “Yeah, pretty much.”

“And now Snape knows, but he’s forbidden by Dumbledore from saying anything about it?”


“What were you planning on doing if I did eat Snape?”

Sirius hadn’t thought of that. He frowned. “I guess I would have told everyone that he was eaten by river dancing hating yetis.”

“God I hate you sometimes.” Sirius wasn’t sure if Remus was joking, but Moony, at least, was wearing the ghost of a grin, which gave Sirius hope that their friendship would last. “I guess since I almost stole your woman, it’s okay.” That sentence was definitely said in jest. “You’ve been punished enough.”

Again with the forgiveness. Sirius felt the anger that he felt with himself clawing at his stomach. Sirius chose to ignore the slight made on Piper and chose to acknowledge the forgiveness first. “No Moony, I haven’t been punished enough. And it would really do wonders for my sanity if you could just be a little bit mad at me.”

Remus didn’t seem to understand.

“Just hate me for a little while. Give me the silent treatment. Shun me for fuck’s sake!”

James and Peter shrugged at Remus. “At least he’s not making you yell at him like he did with us.”

“Remus, Remus will you shun me? Will you?”

Remus didn’t answer; he was over at his trunk, changing his clothes from his ragged travelling ones to his crisp black ones.


“I think he’s shunning you, Paddy,” James, also beginning to change, said.

“Ooooh. Right. Bang up job, Moons. Keep it up.” Sirius made a fist with his hands and pulled his elbow down into his side victoriously. He was lucky to have friends that were willing to make him so miserable.

* * * *

The next day being Saturday, the exhausted Marauders would have gladly slept all day, but, what with it being a Hogsmeade weekend and what with the amount of homework they had been putting off and what with the detentions they had to serve, sleeping was simply out of the question.

Sirius had it worst of all.

He received word the night before that he was to wake up at the ungodly hour of four o’clock in the morning and meet Hagrid at his cottage. The dormitory was still dark when Sirius woke up to the sound of his Alarm Spell; upon seeing that the sun wasn’t even up yet, Sirius was prepared to fall right back into his warm, if not somewhat smelly, bed (Sirius hadn’t changed the sheets in weeks), under the argument that if the sun wasn’t up yet, Sirius should have to be either. But then, as his head hit his pillow for a second time, he remembered that if he didn’t go meet Hagrid that he would be suspended. So Sirius groped about in the darkness for the necessities: pants, socks, shirt, coat, shoes. Not entirely sure that all of the clothing he was wearing was actually his, Sirius trudged out into the darkness of the grounds to meet the gamekeeper.

The brisk morning air did nothing to wake Sirius up. If anything, it made him long for his bed even more. His eyelids begged—pleaded to be closed. “Please, Sirius,” they said, “just close us for a couple of seconds. Rest your eyes.” Sirius rubbed his tired eyes with the heels of his palms, not sure if he was dreaming or just insane—talking eyelids fit into both categories. Somewhere along the way to Hagrid’s cabin, Sirius fell asleep standing up. He wasn’t exactly sure how it happened; one moment he was scolding his talking eyelids, the next he was swaying, unbalanced, in the wind with his shoulders slumped and a bit of drool forming at the corner of his mouth. Then a particularly strong gust of breeze came along and Sirius snorted awake and continued on his way.

He looked at Remus’ watch. 3:59. He hastened his pace and made it to the front of Hagrid’s cabin just as the second hand ticked past the twelve and the minute hand settled there.

“Git dressed in th’ dark?” Hagrid chortled. The gamekeeper looked more than ready for a day’s labor in his worn in overcoat, study boots, and tough-looking pants. Though Hagrid was easy to be frightened of with his giant bulk, wild hair, and mysterious history, Sirius and the other Marauders always held a special place in their hearts for him (it was always so cute to watch him chase them out of the forest).

In the now dull grey light of morning (if you could call it that since it was still only 4:02), Sirius saw why exactly his ensemble was making Hagrid laugh so.

We’ll start at the top: Sirius’ long head of hair was uncombed and unwashed, making him resemble Hagrid slightly. Sirius promptly tore though his hair with his fingers, trying to brush out the tangles. His shirt was not actually his shirt, as he’d guessed, but Peter’s hideously ugly magenta one that his great-aunt had given him by accident last Christmas (it was actually meant for Peter’s cousin) that said in curly letters, “The Society for Distressed Witches,” of which she was a member. What the shirt was doing out of Wormtail’s trunk, Sirius would never know. He tried to cover up with his robes, but, since he’d grabbed James’ deep red bathrobe instead of his well-insulated black robes, the effect was not the same. His jeans were, upon first inspection, relatively normal, but after a closer examination, one would have found that there was an outline of a dragon done in glittering rhinestones on the left leg of the jeans and they would have seen the words “I love dragons” wrapped around the right leg in repeating, similarly glittering ink (a joke executed by James, Peter, and Remus several nights ago). Sirius’ socks were mismatched, which couldn’t even be hidden by his jeans since the bottom three inches were cut off to reveal Sirius’—as Remus put it—skinny ankles. And, finally, Sirius was wearing slippers, giving him the appearance of a vexed housewife who spent most of her day boozing it up.

“Yeah actually, I did.”

This only made Hagrid laugh harder. Nothing made Hagrid happier than laughing at Sirius Black, except perhaps making Sirius Black follow him around for the better part of the morning carrying his supplies while laughing at him. Unbeknownst to Hagrid, the physical labor, the taunting, and the “Serves him right”s he was receiving from his peers making their way to Hogsmeade, only satisfied his need to be chastised for very nearly killing Snape, even if it was making him remarkably miserable.

So it went for the first part of Sirius’ Saturday. He helped Hagrid imprison a rogue Porlock that had been seeking refuge in the lake while guarding the local grindylows, he polished the teeth of the gargoyles standing sentry at the front gate (Hagrid made Sirius do this so he would have to watch his friends down in the village below having a joyful time), he held Hagrid’s shears for him while the gamekeeper trimmed the shrubbery, and he ran back to Hagrid’s hut at the to find the items the gamekeeper requested, most of which were wild pixie chases. But, though these meaningless tasks made Sirius ever more miserable, he knew that they would make him happier in the long run…if he survived, that is.

After this, Sirius’ tight scheduled Saturday continued with his cleaning duty with Filch, who was also reveling in the opportunity to make Sirius’ jobs as pointless as possible.

“Did you get dressed in the dark this morning,” Filch wheezed as Sirius said, “Mmm.”

Then the labor continued. From shining the frames of every reachable portrait, to changing the poses of the armored knights (they objected firmly to this treatment), to cleaning the doorknobs to the classrooms, Sirius couldn’t help but feel that his chores grew more meaningless as they progressed. But Filch had worse things in store than cleaning picture frames and brass. He reserved the worst punishment for last.

“Here’s a broom,” Filch pressed the most haggard-looking broom into Sirius’ hand; Sirius counted only nine twigs, it’s handle was broken off, leaving a jagged end, and the entire thing was so poorly sanded Sirius felt the splinters just looking at it. “You’re next job,” his toothless smile revealed how dreadful the punishment he had in store was, “is to clean the Owlery.”

Sirius dropped the already abused broomstick, breaking off one of the valuable twigs. Only four other people, in the history of Hogwarts had been sent to clean the Owlery. Only one survived (or so Hogwarts lore went). If you were lucky enough not to slip in owl dung and break your head open on the floor, and if you were lucky enough not to catch pneumonia while cleaning, and if you didn’t suffocate because of the smell, you still had to watch out for the owls. While the owls of Hogwarts generally behaved while their owners were in to mail a letter or bring their pet a treat, they always seemed to simply know when someone was there to clean. The owls would divebomb, attack, scratch, bitch, and try to eat whoever was unfortunate enough to be sent to sweep out their hay and droppings and collection of mouse bones.

But he survived even this.

Fortunately, there was an owl treat in the back pocket of his dragon jeans and by throwing it into the midst of the owls for them to fight for, Sirius was able to sweep his wand around the room and make it at least smell a bit more presentable. He enjoyed himself by watching a few moments of Owl Gladiator (a large barn owl had the treat in its beak when a vicious screech with only one ear pecked it in the eye, causing another free-for-all). Sirius faked a limp when he emerged from the Owlery, which seemed to please the caretaker and he was released to do his detention with Professor McGonagall, who must have been feeling uncreative, because she only made him write, “The only people who go outside the castle at three in the morning are dimwits like myself” a thousand times.

“Did you get dressed in the dark this morning, Mister Black?’ McGonagall said, releasing a rare chuckle while Sirius settled himself down and began to write all the while mumbling darkly about dragon pants and societies for women.

He, if not his hand, survived this as well.

Only two more Saturdays and three more Sundays just like this to go.

Sirius took the long way—the very, very, very, long way—to Gryffindor Tower; he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of getting caught in a shirt promoting a club for distressed witches who banded together, a pair of tight jeans that said “I love dragons,” a bathrobe, and slippers. He did well in avoiding the populace that wasn’t yet allowed to go to Hogsmeade, but he still had to face the common room, the thought of which was not appealing.

“Curtsying catfish,” he said to the Fat Lady—a very speechless Fat Lady. Jesus, if I scared the thoughts right out of here, there’s no telling what I’m going to do to the first years in there. Pictures of first years running, terrified, at the sight of him accompanied Sirius through the portrait hole. He wasn’t far off.

The occupants of the common room, which included four first years, seven second years, a fifth year, and a fourth year, no matter what their facial features before, now all wore the same blankly disgusted face that the Fat Lady was probably still wearing. They followed Sirius’ progress to the stairs with their eyes.

The fifth year was the first to laugh. This solitary, second long titter was all it took for everyone to join in. “Get dressed in the dark, Black?”

“Oh sod off!” Sirius said. He had bigger things to worry about than being laughed at because of his wardrobe. He didn’t look that bad. Too eager to even change (the robe was actually very comfortable, he could see why housewives wore them), Sirius rifled through the stash underneath the floorboard under James’ bed where they kept all of their most prized possessions from the Cloak to dungbombs until he felt the familiar, worn down parchment and, with a flourish, he pulled out the Marauders’ Map.

He made sure no one was in his destination and then he climbed on top of his armoire and was about to climb up through the now open ceiling when he looked at his bed—his alluring, beautiful, welcoming, empty bed. It called to him enchantingly. “Come here, Sirius. Don’t you want to sleeeeeeep?”

Figuring talking beds were at about the same insanity level as conniving eyelashes, Sirius said, “Sorry, bed,” and he wriggled his way up through the tunnel.

When he dropped down into the girls’ sixths bathroom, he decided that he wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing. At least Piper hadn’t booby trapped it. But he figured that if he ever wanted to be sane and happy again he would have to figure out this Piper problem and, since she was nowhere to be found, being near her belongings was the next best thing.

Their dormitory was pristine compared to Sirius’, there were clothes strewn about, hanging off the four posters, wrinkled up in the corners, and draped over the full length mirror. It was not hard to tell which one was Piper’s bed; it was the most untouched out of them all, her trunk was shut neatly at the foot of her bed, her bedside table was empty, her wardrobe shut tightly. It looked like she hadn’t been there in weeks.

Sirius sat on the foot of her bed with his feet resting on her trunk. He tapped his finger on the quilt. This wasn’t helping, he decided and hopped off the bed.

What had Professor Dumbledore said? “Put yourself in her shoes, dear boy, and you will understand what this babbling fool is talking about.” Right. So he was looking for shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. He never really paid attention to what type of footwear Piper wore. Boots? Trainers? Birkenstocks? Sandles? He opened her trunk. There, sitting at the very top were a pair of very brown, very small, very high, high heeled shoes. He never imagined that Piper wore those under her school uniform and, had Sirius given it a bit more thought, he would have realized that Piper obviously didn’t wear those heels, for, wherever she was, she probably needed to be shoed and that normally, when Piper walked, she wasn’t accompanied by the telltale click clack of heels. She only wore these on special occasions. Like when she was seducing peoples’ best friends.

The brown pumps might as well of been a pair of Turkish Toe-Eating Turtles for the expression on Sirius’ face.

Gingerly, he picked them up by their spiked heels and, holding them as far away from his face as possible so as not to puncture his eyes, he regarded them.

“Why?” was all he could say.

Then, almost experimentally, Sirius slid off his slippers and, with his teeth gritted and his mouth formed into a completely horizontal line and his eyes closed tightly (which his eyelids were very happy about), Sirius slid one the torturous-looking shoes onto his feet in a manner that reminded him of that Cinderella broad and her Prince Charming.

Perhaps, tried to slide would have been a better description.

Sirius was only able to get the shoes on past his toes before they would go no further. He pushed and shoved and prodded and coaxed and stomped, but, even after this process, only half of his foot was in and he was pretty sure that it would be permanently lodged inside of the brown pump forever. Right, well, halfway in is good enough, Sirius decided and, feeling more like a drag queen than he ever had in his life, Sirius tried to stand up.

He wobbled around, throwing his hands out for balance and, after a few minutes of this, he got into a sort of rhythm. By hunching over, keeping his feet as wide apart as possible, and by always using his hands and arms for balance, Sirius was able to wobble around quite comfortably—except for the fiery pain that was now in his feet, of course.

Ooooh-kay, I’m in Piper’s shoes. So now what? Have I got to do a song and dance number? Sirius tried to put himself in Piper’s position, but the shoes weren’t helping. Every time he was about to make a breakthrough, he tripped over a hair curler or a Witch Weekly and nearly impaled himself with the sharpened stick he was walking on.

He tried to concentrate. You are Piper Redden. You are in her shoes. Think like Piper. Be Piper. Sirius was now ready to find out just why Piper was acting so strangely.

Sure maybe if Sirius had been Piper he wouldn’t have appreciated it if she’d told him to marry some pureblood who’d nearly—God, who leaves a stuffed bear laying on the floor like that?—and sure, maybe if Sirius was Piper he wouldn’t have taken it kindly if she’d left him shirtless on a desk after an amazingly passionate, intense kiss. Okay, and maybe if Sirius was Piper he wouldn’t have wanted Piper telling him to go back to his family after he’d been disowned. And fine, if Sirius was Piper, he probably would have wanted to talk to someone and not have Piper try to kill that same someone simply for conversing with him. Alright, maybe if Sirius was Piper, just maybe, he would have wanted Piper to be a bit kinder to him that he’d been to her these past several months. Also, maybe if Sirius was Piper, possibly, just possibly, he would have wanted an apolo—Zeus, Agrippa, and Merlin!

Sirius took his worst fall yet just as he reached this last revelation. While he’d been clunking around in those pumps (making a tremendous amount of noise, I might add), he’d been completely oblivious to the turning of the handle of the dormitory.

So when Piper Redden emerged from the doorway looking like she’d just been harassed by a Grim, Sirius, in complete, utter, and horrified surprise, slipped on a satiny bra and crashed to the floor behind one of the other beds. The fall, thankfully, dislodged one of the shoes though the other was still planted firmly on his foot. Sirius waited in terrified silence, not even daring to poke his head out and see if Piper had heard the crash and was slowly coming towards his hiding spot to see what had just disappeared from view so quickly and with so much noise.

Which was exactly what she was doing.


Chapter 19: A Missed Opportunity
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You Hate Me
Chapter 19: A Missed Opportunity

“Oh, Bonjour, Piper. Comment vous aujourd’hui?” Why Sirius was suddenly French, he did not know, but he was sure that whatever he was trying to say had not come out correctly. He’d definitely missed a verb or subject in there somewhere. Piper was looking at him strangely, but whether it was because he’d suddenly developed an outrageous French accent or because his right foot was still stuck inside of her high heel meant for baby elves, he also did not know.

There was a long moment where Piper stared blankly at Sirius, saying nothing.

“Right, well, it was good seeing ya.” Sirius tried desperately to take off the medieval torture device that was still clamped on his foot. It felt like the shoes had sprouted teeth that had sunk into his ankle. Deep into his ankle. Making it impossible to pry them off. Making it impossible for him to escape. He could always jump out of the window and hope there was a good tail wind. He could just float to the ground. Especially if he had an umbrella handy—that Muggle nanny did it all the time.

Piper just stared blankly. As if she didn’t see Sirius at all. Was he invisible? Had he taken James’ Invisibility Cloak with him and just forgotten? No, she’d definitely seen him. She’d said, “Sirius?” He remembered that distinctly.

“You’re wearing my shoes,” she said at last. Her soft voice, void of any of its usual bitter anger, hurt Sirius’ ears. She looked thin and broken, like the wall that she had built up over her life had crumbled down. And it was all because of him. Her every breath was ragged, labored; it hurt her to breathe. He had impaled her, hurt her, and now she was suffering.

An ocean separated the two of them when in reality less than five feet stood between them. It was an impossible distance.

After Piper’s last encounter with Sirius she had avoided him—avoided all human contact really—at all costs. After their heated words in the corridor next to Snipip’s portrait, Piper had been seething. She could not go back to the common room since that was likely where Sirius was going, she couldn’t even find sanctuary in her dormitory since she would hardly receive a warm reception from Lily and her other year mates. So she wandered and paced, thinking about how she just wanted to be alone in a place where no one could find or bother her.

And then she found it.

Upon stumbling across a small bedroom complete with the most comfortable bed Piper had ever been in, Piper’s love of Hogwarts multiplied. The castle had provided her with exactly what she needed most. It was strange, she had walked past this tapestry hundreds of times and there had never been a room here. It was all in the mystery of Hogwarts. But it was perfect. Piper had been spending most of her time locked in her room sleeping and when she had to go to classes no one bothered her. She hadn’t even noticed the empty Gryffindor hour glass. She hadn’t noticed the “Get the Marauders!” fliers hung all around school. She was in her own world. But today she had run out of fresh clothes and had to make a quick stop in her dormitory, but she had become a ghost to the people of Hogwarts and knew she would not be bothered. The students had found something more interesting than her to obsess over.

But she didn’t think that he would be here. She had been avoiding him like the people in the Dark Ages tried to avoid the bubonic plague. They, like her, were unsuccessful. She had developed a fear of seeing him. Every time she rounded a corner or walked into a classroom, her body trembled in terror at the prospect of coming close to him. She could not face him. She felt like he had frozen her body then smashed it to bits with a broom. She had never been so hurt, not when McClure attacked her, not when her mother disowned her. She had let Sirius in, into every aspect of her life—into her heart. And he had torn her up from the inside. She was supposed to want to fight back and hurt him, to retaliate, but all she wanted to do was sleep until she was thirty.

And then, despite all of her cautionary measures, he was here. In her room. In her shoes. Piper wasn’t afraid of much, but now she understood why Korey threw a fits and hopped onto whatever piece of furniture was handy whenever she saw a spider, now she understood why Lily needed a nightlight. Because there is nothing worse than confronting your fears—especially when your fears take you by surprise.

But Piper did not jump onto her chair or trunk and yell “Eeeeee! Kill it! Kill it!” when she saw Sirius, like Korey did when she saw any sort of insect. Instead, her body became frozen and she was paralyzed.

Sirius stopped focusing on his foot that was likely going to have to be amputated and shifted his attention to Piper.

“Piper,” Sirius moved to breach the gap that separated them, but with his sudden movement that was made even more sudden by the high heeled shoe that was on his left foot, Piper gasped and retreated like he was some sort of terrifying monster.

She was afraid of him.

“Piper.” Her eyes were closed, making Sirius feel even more monstrous. With every step he took forward Piper took a step back, keeping the distance between them. He said her name with each step. He did not pay attention to the way he wobbled as he walked, he did not pay attention to the annoying difference of height between his legs, he did not pay attention to the pain he was enduring. All he saw was her face.

And then she was pressed against the wall and Sirius was in front of her. He had crossed the ocean.

“Piper,” He cupped her small face with both of his hands. She recoiled from his touch. “I am not going to hurt you.”

Then the heel finally gave out and Sirius lost his balance. Piper’s face still in his hands, he crumpled to the ground, taking her along for the ride and, by the feel of it, twisting her head right off. The awkward way he fell finally pried what remained of the shoe off and, with that distraction gone, he was able to ascertain that Piper’s head was still firmly attached to her neck.

He was laying half on top of her, half off and he now worried that his weight had crushed her. She had become so fragile. He ran one hand down her hair and across her cheek. She hadn’t made a sound as they toppled onto the floor—maybe she was concussed. But she flinched at his touch so it was apparent that she was still conscious.

“Stop,” she whispered almost inaudibly. She was breathing harder than before, but that was probably just because Sirius had squashed her lungs.

“Piper,” he whispered in her ear. He pressed his lips onto her cheek. She shuddered. God he missed her touch, her taste, her smell. She was toxic. Addictive.

He brushed her hair away from her face and touched his lips to the top of her head. “Stop,” she said again in the same defeated voice.

And then her eyes opened and he saw the emotion in her usually stormy eyes. The tempest had calmed and there was only deep fear in them. She really was afraid of him.

Sirius scrambled to get off her, relieving her of both physical and emotional pressure. “I’m sorry, Piper. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have.”

Piper was up now too, standing in the corner as far away from him as she could go. “Get out.” It was a phrase Sirius was used to hearing from her. “I don’t want to see you ever again. I hate you.”

Sirius scoffed. “You hate me?” He asked, indignant. “You hate me?” Piper did not need to nod to affirm her statement. Sirius continued to huff; as long as he was angered by her words he would not have to accept them. He could not accept them. Piper, the one he ignored, hated, and tormented had always been there. He had been the one who hated her, not the other way around. She only hated him because he hated her, but now she hated him for a legitimate reason. And it was a real hate. Not the kind of hate where you say, “I hate tomatoes,” or “I hate Professor McGonagall,” but the kind of hate where you would be in Nirvana if the object of your detestation was suffering in miserable agony for the rest of their existence. It was that kind of hate. He doubted that if the heavens opened up and Zeus or God or Buddha and hurled a lightning bolt or spear at his heart that Piper would call for help or really even care. She was completely indifferent to him.

“I hate you.” Well, maybe not completely indifferent.

“You hate me.” There, he had accepted it; all of the fortifications he had built up around his heart did nothing to protect him against the onslaught that was Piper’s hate. It would have hurt less to have a thousand piranhas swimming through his veins, nibbling at his vital organs.

“I’ll just be going then.” Sirius only had a second to pause and collect his thoughts outside of the dormitory before the stairs turned into a chute and he slid down into the common room below. “She hates me,” Sirius said lamely as he limped up to his room where he collapsed. “She hates me.”

* * * *

“I hate him.” Piper was liberated, freed of Sirius Black. He would haunt her no more. The strength that would not come to her five minutes earlier had now found its way back into Piper’s bones. She was powerful again. Like Hercules or a lumberjack. Her sudden empowerment, however, only lasted for a second. A victory over Sirius Black was no victory at all. Casting Black out of her life only left her alone.

She had no one.

Lily was off with Grant Grey and Piper still had a hard time believing in friendship, Snape had never been a friend and was likely trying to find a way to perform a blood transfusion with her, and her family had abandoned her. The people that she had renounced her family for had now abandoned her too.

They hadn’t been worth it after all.

Would marrying Alexander really be that bad? She had never complained much about being a pureblood before this year. Her family wasn’t exactly a basket full of kittens, but they treated her well enough. She was never in want of anything that her family could not provide. Sure there was the whole fact that the Reddens were a bunch of Muggle-hating murderers who indulged in criminal activities and the Dark Arts, but she could overlook that. They would protect her like Sirius, Lily, and even Dumbledore never could.

She was at her desk and, in a sudden movement that startled Sanaa’s cat, she fumbled for a piece of parchment and wrote:

I’ve changed my mind.

* * * *

It had been two days since Piper had rashly sent her owl to Alexander McClure. He hadn’t replied. This was a strange relief to Piper, who had been regretting her letter immensely. Yet she continued to fret, worried that Alexander and her family would not accept her again. No matter which course of action she took she was likely to suffer.

And there was already plenty of suffering at the Gryffindor table.

Even though the “Get the Marauder” hysteria was slowly dying down, the Gryffindors were still ravenous about their House points. At the moment, a first year was begging McGonagall to give him a point for every gallon of pumpkin juice he consumed; he had already ingested at least two and was beginning to look a bit peaky. Suffering worse than the first year was the seventh year who had challenged Professor Kettleburn to a Grindylow wrestling competition. Suffering worse than the seventh year was Sirius Black who, though he had not been whoring himself out to professors for House points, had incurred the wrath of Piper Redden.

It was the first time Sirius had emerged from his dormitory since his latest encounter with her. When he hadn’t appeared in his classes on Monday, Professor McGonagall made a surprising visit to the Gryffindor Sixths’ where she found a clearly ill Sirius. Because of the terms of his probation Sirius was not permitted to miss classes, but after the young Madam Pomfrey gave Sirius a brief examination she deemed him unfit to leave his bed (“only bed rest will cure him”). McGonagall compensated by having all of his schoolwork sent to his bedside.

But now Sirius had emerged and he looked and felt terrible. The coy smiles and flirty ‘Hello, Sirius’s that he received on any normal morning were gone. No one wanted to wink at a teenager who resembled a troll more than a human. He was beginning to rethink his self-induced ostracization. He was in Hogwarts exile and it was not enjoyable. But it gave him the rare opportunity to be an observer; without the distraction of his friends he was able to focus entirely on one individual.


So not only did he look and feel terrible, but he also looked and felt like a stalker. But it wasn’t like he was creeping around the armored knights and tapestries in order to follow her every move. He wasn’t recording her habits (although that was a good idea). He was just watching her—and that wasn’t a crime. Unless it was—then he was going to Azkaban for sure. He just wanted to watch, to take note of how she was doing. Piper had never been what one would call ‘emotionally stable.’ She was impulsive, radical, and moderately insane. Her insides were in turmoil and there was no knowing what she would do. Sirius just hoped she wasn’t going to do something she would regret.

Unbeknownst to him, she already had.

Hogwarts was unraveling at the seams. It was falling apart from the inside out; the stones were cracking, the portraits fading, the silver tarnishing. It was losing its magic. The mood of the school, traditionally joyous and benevolent was now melancholy and dark. Everyone was nothing less than miserable.

You Hate Me
Chapter 20: The Ring

It had been exactly a week since Piper had sent her rash letter to Alexander McClure. He had not responded. Radio silence. Every time she tried to start a letter back saying that she had yet again changed her mind and that her last letter had been a practical joke (a hilarious one at that) her mind would cramp and no words would come. Piper was at his mercy, she was powerless. All she could do was wait.

Marrying him would mend everything. She would have station in the pureblood world, she would be back in her family’s good graces, and all of her earthly needs would be met with the combined wealth of her restored inheritance and the McClure fortune. It would be a charmed life. So why didn’t she want it? It was the future that she had been destined for, but as she had walked towards it the past six years she found every possible opportunity for a detour. This year that detour had been Sirius Black. Since he had crawled under her skin she had run away from home, been disowned, and slammed every door that her family opened back up to her. All of her problems could be traced back to him.

No, that wasn’t fair. When he left his family he displayed a courage that truly was reserved for Gryffindors. He may have been the catalyst, the inspiration, but the fault was her own. She just did not have his strength.

Things had dissolved between them. When Sirius saw Piper he acted as if he could see right through her, as if she were less consequential than a ghost or spirit. She did the same. Their indifference was less painful than acknowledgement. The shroud of invisibility they had placed over each other protected them from the other’s cold, distant stares.

Sirius would not be her salvation, and every time she attempted to write back to Alexander she was reminded of just how alone she was.

She was not like Sirius, she could not make it in the world on her own. The rush that came from rejecting Alexander and leaving her family had faded and had been replaced by the current of loneliness.

Piper was beginning to succumb to the iron grip of the lonely waters within her, falling under and into herself. She went to meals but did not eat, giving her a waifish look and unhealthy pallor. She could have been Snape’s sister. She was at breakfast picking apart a piece of toast, letting the crumbs fall over the plate and her robes. The sky was warm and bright, awakening from a winter slumber. The post was flying in through the windows, the owls dropping off parcels and letters from loved ones, a sight that made Piper’s heart contract.

A first year down the bench pointed at a group of three owls. All three were oversized with sharpened claws and beaks, bright yellow eyes, and dark feathers. The one in the middle carried a small black box and the other two guarded it at its flanks. The three of them landed in front of Piper, sending the plates and goblets scattering.

The biggest of them pecked Piper’s hand and then the three took off, leaving the parcel where her destroyed toast had been.

Hands shaking, she reached out and popped open the box. Inside was the ring. The same beautiful, sparkling, diamond ring that Alexander had shown her at the pub. Attached to it was a simple note that said: I thought you would—AM.

Piper touched the ring—her ring. She let her fingers investigate the curve of the band and the edges of the diamonds, which caught the morning light and reflected it back in the form of a rainbow. She slid it onto the designated finger; it fit perfectly like it had been meant for her and only her.

All down the bench her fellow Gryffindors were staring. She had been so captivated by the ring that she did not notice until the ring was securely on her finger.

“Is there a problem?” Piper said to those nearest to her. Their heads snapped back and their attention returned to their breakfasts.

Piper was proud to hear the authority that had been infused in her voice again. It was a voice that people listened to. It was a voice that had the power of the pureblood world. The ring reminded her of who she was.

Piper Redden was back.

* * * * *

After the initial gossip about Piper’s brilliant piece of new jewelry had died down, things returned to the way they had always been. In fact, the castle was more peaceful than it had ever been before. The Marauders had stopped taunting Severus Snape and James had even stopped calling him Snivellous. There were no more exchanged hexes or jinxes between Piper and Sirius Black, even the House Quidditch teams were getting along. Most importantly, Remus had forgiven Sirius for tricking Snape into going to the Shrieking Shack. Sirius did not know why.

“When you, James, and Peter found out about me you could have told anyone at any time,” Remus had said. When Sirius protested that he had essentially told Snape and betrayed Remus, Remus said, “Snape would have found out sooner or later, you just helped him along. You were a friend to me at a time in my life when I thought I was a monster. You and James and Peter, you three gave me something to live for. And besides, if I got mad at you every time you did something stupid I would have ditched you long ago.”

Remus always was the best of them all.

Sirius was on the mend. He felt like someone was stitching him back together each night he slept; with each passing day he felt more whole. He had fixed things with his friends, he was getting good marks finally because the terms of his punishment required him to attend all of his classes, his appetite had returned and with it his physical strength. He had finally rid himself of the cancer that was Piper Redden and her pureblood family. She would be Alexander McClure’s problem soon. Good riddance.

Piper had received a letter from her mother instructing her to board the Hogwarts Express and they would send a car to pick her up at King’s Cross Station and bring her home. The letter did not include any sentiments about Piper’s decision, as if everyone but Piper had known all along that leaving had been a silly moment of teenage rebellion. A phase she would regret. It made her feel like a temperamental child that had been appeased because her parents knew that she would regret it. Like when they would let her eat too much dessert at dinner, knowing she would have a stomachache from it later. She was the butt of a joke that everyone had been in on but her.

All of the Gryffindor girls were going home for the vacation. Each of them was busy packing. They spoke in an uninterrupted stream to each other, asking if the others thought they would need to bring various items and arguing over whose mum made the best ham. Piper did not join in. House Elves made her ham.

“Do you have any plans for the holiday, Piper?” Only Lily Evans would ask Piper that. She always tried to make people feel included.

“If I do, my mother hasn’t informed me yet,” Piper said, trying not to be short with the redhead.

Lily smiled. “Busy planning your wedding, I bet.”

“Right,” Piper said. “The wedding.”

“I’ve been meaning to say congratulations. That ring is gorgeous.”

The other conversations about clothes and hams ceased. They were all listening to Piper and Lily.

“Thanks,” Piper said dully. She smiled back. When Lily said congratulations Piper knew that she meant it. Sometimes it was hard to dislike Lily Evans.

“I personally can’t imagine getting married at this age,” Korey said. She was putting her hair into a braid so that her hair would be wavy the next morning. “We’re only sixteen for God’s sake.”

“Well it’s a good thing you aren’t me then,” Piper snapped at her. The spell of peacefulness that had come from Lily and Piper’s brief but venomless conversation was lifted. Lily and Piper went back to packing.

Korey’s words had stung Piper. She knew that she would not be marrying Alexander soon, they would have a long engagement. Arrangements such as this were made all the time in the pureblood community. The planning started young. The word betrothed came to mind. But once she turned eighteen she would be married. And what came next? Having children was the next logical step. Piper did not even know if she wanted to be a mother. Any children she had with Alexander would be raised as purebloods, if they went to Hogwarts they would be in Slytherin House, they would bully people like Lily.

No. She would make sure they were different. They would be like her. And besides, children? She was getting far, far ahead of herself.

That night Piper dreamed she was lost in the halls of a cold, dark castle. In one corridor three black haired children ran towards her coming from the opposite direction. They ran past her and she turned to follow them as if they would lead her out of the maze of the hallways, but when she rounded the corner they were gone. When she woke their childish laughter was still ringing in her hears.

* * * * *

Piper had been right, her mother had planned every minute of Piper’s vacation as if she were frightened that a moment of idle time would tempt Piper to stray from expectations once again. Her mother and father did not greet her with even a “glad to see you” or a “happy you’re home.” Things picked up right where they had left off. Only Rhett, her brother, gave any indication that there had been a family schism. He held her in a rare embrace and said, “Don’t scare us like that again, Pipe.”

“I won’t,” she said.

Although the wedding would be at least a year and a half away there was a surprising amount of planning to be done. Piper, of course, was not allowed to have an opinion about these matters and yet her presence was deemed necessary. Her mother had already drawn up a guest list for an engagement party. The Blacks were not on the list, a slight that Mrs. Redden had intended. Piper could almost hear her mother thinking something along the lines of, “Serves them right for having such a wretched son.”

“We will have the party here, naturally. June thirtieth, that sounds like a lovely date, doesn’t it? Yes June thirtieth sounds just right. Now we must decide on colors, flowers, music, food, center pieces, indoors or outdoors. There’s so much to be done. I must write to Indigo Powell, she had the loveliest party for her daughter last summer, don’t you remember Piper?”

Piper was not interested in colors or food or decorations; it was better for her mother to tackle the planning, Piper would inevitably have chosen the wrong string quartet or invited the wrong family. She nodded along, the picture of a dutiful daughter.

“We have brunch with the McClures tomorrow, and after that an interview with a reporter from Witch Weekly, she’ll be doing the engagement announcement. I’ve hung up something in your wardrobe to wear, I trust you can do your hair by yourself or do you require supervision for that as well?” Carolyn’s iron gaze told Piper that the only satisfactory answer would be No. “Why don’t you go get some sleep. You look like you need it.”

Piper did not protest. She was not trustworthy anymore. Her mother would probably post guards outside her bedroom door once she shut the door. Piper would be surprised if there were not at least an Alarm Charm that would go off if she tried to leave again. She was a prisoner. A prisoner in a high end jail, but a prisoner nonetheless. But she had confessed, it was willful confinement.

The last time she had been in her room Alexander had slapped her. She stood in the exact place she had been when it happened, next to her bedside table. If it was true that time was not linear, rather it existed all at once, then there was another Piper standing here as well. Existing separately but all at once.

Piper lifted her hand to her cheek, as if it were still smarting. Alexander had darkness within him; it was deep down in the crevasses of his soul, but it was quick to emerge from its cave. Would she learn how to placate the beast or learn how to hide from it?

Piper had known women with husbands like Alexander. Too many pureblood men were bound by tradition. They expected their wives to be obedient above all else. Even Piper’s own mother would bow to the will of her husband. Piper was not practiced in obedience. Her natural reaction to being given orders was to resist them. Alexander claimed that he loved her, and this at least gave her hope that she would be offered more freedoms than most of the women she knew. And if she could return the feelings they could be—dare she think it?—happy.

Piper crawled beneath the covers. Her bed was too big for just her. It was the type of bed that was made for two. She wondered where she would live with Alexander. Her mother would likely have it all planned out for her. She would have to ask. That was the last thought she had before she fell asleep.

She had not expected to sleep soundly. She had expected a night of tossing and turning, of bad dreams and cold sweats. But even the rising morning sun did not stir her. Carolyn Redden, however, was able to fulfill the task. She opened the door to her daughter’s room as if it were her own, clapping her hands. “Up up!” She called, drawing open the curtains on the windows. She was only this chipper when a social event was on the horizon. That’s right, Piper remembered, brunch.

She bathed and when she came out of the bathroom a pair of dress robes had been lain out on her bed. They were emerald green with sleeves that billowed out into bat-like wings, ending in a lace hem. There was a generous slit on the right leg that would show just the right amount of leg. She pulled them over her head and the hood weighed heavily on her neck. The Redden family crest was on the left breast, stitched on in golden thread. It fit tightly around her slim shoulders and small chest, flowing out from there.

Piper pulled her hair up in a French chignon bun with a braid down one side, a hairstyle she had learned how to master so that her mother would never have the opportunity to pull and tear at her hair. She put a slash of blush down each cheek. Her skin was as pale and creamy as alabaster but her eyes were as lifeless as a statue. The statue of a regal, pureblood wife.

Carolyn, Alexander, and his mother were waiting for her in the dining room. The four of them did not occupy enough space at the long table. The row of empty seats made the room feel emptier with their presence. Alexander was in black dress robes, his stocky torso filling out the fabric, breathing life into it. His dark hair had been clipped short, giving his face deeper, sharper angles. He was smiling.

Mrs. McClure rushed to Piper’s side and kissed her once on each cheek, the warmth of her lips lingered on her skin. Her reception was warm; yet another person who had chosen to not acknowledge Piper’s indiscretion. Alexander tailed behind his mother, he cupped Piper’s face and stole a brief kiss on her lips. Carolyn and Alexander’s mother made noises of approval. Piper was on autopilot. She was following the course that had been determined by others. The brunch, the kiss, the parties, they were all stops she would have to make to keep the passengers happy.

Alexander held her hand while they ate. Carolyn poured each of them a glass of champagne, talking about how she wished Mr. Redden and Mr. McClure could have joined them. Piper knew that her father and Rhett were at a Quidditch match—both of them loathed brunch.

Since one of Piper’s hands was in the grip of Alexander she found it difficult to actually eat. His hand was soft, applying just enough pressure for her to know that he did not want to let it go, even if the ring was digging into him. She picked at pieces of fruit, enjoying the sweet juices that exploded in her mouth with each bite. The flavors lingered in her mouth suppressed the harshness of the champagne, which she was drinking ample amounts of, to her mother’s disapproval.

Carolyn and Alexander’s mother did not ask Piper questions, and since she was not spoken to Piper remained quiet. She was, however, talked at.

“Piper, you must spend the summer with us in France this summer. Egypt was so dry and dusty. Our home in France is right on the water. I went to Beauxbatons, you know. Maybe we could take a tour of the grounds. It is quite the shame Carolyn did not send you to Beauxbaton, I can see you doing quite well there.”

They were sending her to France for the summer. They would try to get her into the French school for her final year. She was being shipped off. What trouble could she get into in France? Piper nodded along, pouring herself another glass of champagne. She was beginning to feel more inclined to smile, the champagne was making her feel loose and bright.

By the time the Witch Weekly reporter and photographer arrived Piper was happy and drunk. The witch was clean cut. Her robes did not have a wrinkle and every blonde hair on her head was slicked back into a high ballerina bun. Her features ended in points, her chin, jaw, nose, and cheekbones looked sharp enough to cut. The photographer was a redheaded witch with a pixie cut that looked too small to carry all of the equipment. Her size was not relative to her strength, and she managed it all with ease.

The party had moved into the drawing room, and while the redhead tested the lighting and the flash on the camera, the blonde sat down in one of the armchairs, crossed her legs, and readied her quill and parchment.

“You are a handsome couple,” she said, analyzing Alexander and Piper with her bright hazel eyes. Her voice was clear and vibrant, she spoke in short sentences as if she placed value on each of her words and never let one go to waste. She did not say it with desire for Alexander, but as a fact. “Now, tell me how you met.”

Alexander took over from there. He told the witch how the Reddens and McClures had been family friends, how he had known Piper from a young age, how the two had grown closer as they aged, how that closeness eventually lead to romantic feelings. He looked over at Piper occasionally saying, “Right, love?” From time to time he squeezed her hand as if in reassurance.

“Mrs. McClure and I used to always say that it would be a dream come true if Alexander and Piper fell in love, then our families would be bound in more than friendship. I suppose dreams really can come true,” Carolyn added in.

Piper drank.

“Well I think we have enough for the announcement,” the witch said. “And now comes the fun part.” Piper could not tell if she meant that as sarcasm or not. “Liv?”

“Yeah,” said the redhead, who had been looking at the family portraits decorating the room.

“Are you ready?” said the witch.

“Yeah,” said the redhead—Liv. “Let’s start in front of the fireplace.” She spoke in the same matter-of-fact manner as the witch. Piper wondered if it was a reporter thing.

Piper rose from her seat and posed next to Alexander in front of the unlit fireplace. There were magical relics lining the mantle piece: an ancestor’s broken wand on a plaque, an enchanted conch shell that Piper was forbidden to touch (she never knew what the enchantment was), a vase made of blue and white china that kept all flowers in it alive, and inside the vase a black rose. Alexander put his arm around Piper’s waist. The photographer came forward and changed their pose so that they were angled into each other. His chin hovered just above her head.

The photographer sighed as if she wished she could do something about their uncomplimentary heights. She started snapping pictures and soon the room was hazy with the purple smoke that came from magical cameras.

“Let’s try a few sitting down,” the blonde reporter said. The photographer herded Piper and Alexander onto one of the sofas—the loveseat, naturally. Finally they posed in front of the largest window in the room from which you could see the well-manicured grounds outside the home.

“That should do it,” the blonde said. Piper wanted to ask the witch if she always wanted to do this: go to people’s homes and hear the history of a couple’s love, take pictures of the happy couple, and then write the announcement for the readers. There were real stories that she could be covering, and Piper’s upcoming nuptials were taking away from these stories.

The two women packed their equipment. “I will get this into next week’s edition.” Then, to Piper and Alexander: “Congratulations.” And they were gone.

“Shall we take a walk?” Alexander said into Piper’s ear.

Carolyn Redden and Alexander’s mother watched Piper for her reaction.

“Yes,” Piper said.

The gardens outside the Redden home were colorless and bleak that afternoon. There were no bursts of red from the roses or the ocean blue of the Atlantis plant, the extract of which had properties that made items or even people disappear. The stones on the walkway were damp and dark from a recently fallen rain. It smelled like mud.

Piper’s arm was looped through Alexander’s, and he walked her along.

“You’ve made the right decision,” he said. “We all knew you’d come to your senses.”

“Yes,” Piper said.

“I hope you’ve got that rebellious attitude out of your system. Don’t get me wrong I love a challenge, but I can’t live in fear that my little wife with run away every time I turn my back.”

Their steps clacked hollowly against the stones. Their pace was leisurely.

“It’s a shame we will have to wait so long, but I am sure we will find ways to keep ourselves entertained,” he said.

Piper had the feeling he would be perfectly content to carry on the entire conversation by himself.

Just as she had the thought he said, “Why did you change your mind? You seemed quite sure of your answer when we met at that dreadful pub.” He stopped and turned to face her. She would have to be part of the conversation after all.

Piper did not have an answer. She had written to Alexander in a moment of weakness infused with fear and hate. Sirius had accused her of marrying Alexander, and fulfilling his prophecy had planted a seed of revenge. And then seeing him in her dormitory, him touching her, falling on her, his touch reminded her of all she had given up.

“I realized I made a mistake,” she said slowly. She was not forced to analyze her behavior any further. Her sentence had been enough to satisfy Alexander.

“We all make mistakes. Some of ours are not so dramatic as yours, but you always had a flair for that.” He pulled her into him and she let him. He kissed roughly, like her mouth was a territory he was familiar with, like he knew he did not need to be careful. And even when her lips began to hurt she did not pull back. She could not remember the last time she had been held.

* * * * *

The holidays were over, and the brief reprieve had given the students of Hogwarts a rather dismal opinion on schoolwork. It did not help that the weather was improving.

Sirius, however, was surprisingly chipper. “Who knew completing assignments could feel so good?” he said the first morning back. Remus dropped his knife on his plate and gaped. “I mean it,” Sirius said. “I feel completely, one hundred percent stress free.”

“You should write one of those self help books,” James said dryly. He ran his hand through his hair, wondering where his cynical, pessimistic, gloomy friend had gone. Who was going to provide the sarcasm for the group if sulky Sirius was replaced by this cheerful one?

Sirius’ positive outlook was short lived.

Lily and Korey were several seats down the bench, pointing at an article in some magazine. Their mouths were open and their eyes shining in astonishment. Sirius suspected they were looking at a beautiful model in a fabulous dress, that’s how girls always looked when they were looking at other beautiful women.

“Her house is gorgeous,” Lily said.

“Who knew she had such a romantic love life,” Korey said. “You’d never guess.”

“Women,” James said. “They’re always talking about men.” In one swift movement he reached around and pulled the magazine from between Lily and Korey and flourished it in front of him. His mouth also dropped open. “Whoa,” he said.

Over the brim of the magazine his eyes caught Sirius’. They glanced back down the article and he wordlessly slid the magazine over to Sirius.

There were five pictures across two pages, the centerfold. One was a family portrait of his family. All four of them flawless. Even though it was a magical photograph they did not move. The second picture was her family. The four of them were standing in the same arrangement, unmoving except for her. Occasionally the picture version of her would turn and look out the window briefly. The other three pictures were of the two of them standing and sitting in different settings. They looked regal, like the King and Queen of the purebloods. The picture version of him moved his hands down her arms; he was touching her in each of the pictures. Her lips were pulled into a tight lipped smile.

Sirius read the surrounding text out loud. “It is the love story we all dream of. Years of friendship leading to a not-so-surprising proposal.” He had to stop there. He read the remaining text in his head. The reporter wove a tale describing a magical romance that has resulted in a happy ending. She ended the story, “In these dark times it is stories such as this that remind us all that love truly does conquer all.”

Sirius stood suddenly, the bench scraped against the floor. He curled the magazine in his hands and stormed down the aisle. He found her at the very end, closest to the door. He slammed the magazine down in front of her, sending the contents of her plate flying.

“Congratulations,” he said. “I hope you two are very happy together.” And he walked away. She sliced through the patches he had made and was unraveling again.

“Hey!” Piper followed Sirius out of the Great Hall. She did not catch up with him easily. His stride was greater than hers, but she had the fuel of anger. She had the magazine rolled up in one hand; she didn’t remember picking it up as she followed after him. “Hey,” she said again as she gained on him. He did not turn, and she took advantage of the vulnerability of the back of his head and hit him with the magazine.

That got his attention. Just as she was about to swing again, he spun around and caught her arm in midair.

“You don’t get to speak to me like that,” she said.

“I’ll talk any way I please,” he said. He dropped her arm and walked out the front doors of the castle, making his way to the grounds.

Piper followed.

Sirius looked over his shoulder. “Stop following me,” he growled.

“No,” she said. He walked sure-footed and purposefully down the hill, putting more distance between them. “I don’t get it with you.” She was already out of breath. Misty clouds escaped from her mouth as she spoke. “You hate me, you run away with me, then you ignore me for a week. Now you’re pissed at me. Why don’t you just make up your mind about how you feel already?”

“You know how I feel.” He was on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, just on the brink of entering.

“It’s hard to keep up with,” she said.

“You know, Dumbledore told me to take a walk in your shoes. And I did—literally in fact. And all I found out when I was there is that you’re just a frightened little girl that is good at putting on a brave face until thing’s start going badly. The minute you don’t get what you want you go crying back to mummy and daddy.”

This time, Sirius did not catch her arm in time. Piper’s open hand connected with Sirius’ cheek. Her finger tips and palms stung from the contact, but she was sure his cheek hurt worse. He did not retaliate. His cheeks, which were already flushed from his pace, grew redder. She breathed heavily, exhilarated by her action and nervous about his response.

After a heavy moment he said, “I hurt you, you hurt me. When will we ever be even, Red?”

The old name he used to call her brought tears to her eyes. ‘Red’ was once a name that he used to distance himself from her, but now it sounded affectionate, like a pet name.

“I lost count a long time ago,” she said, trying to blink back the tears. But her eyelids only squeezed them out. With the layer of water brimming them her eyes were the color of the purest sapphire.

Sirius’ grey eyes also softened, they went from iron to nearly silver as tears filled them.

Slowly, almost experimentally, he touched her elbow. When she did not recoil, he gently wrapped his arms around her, folding himself along the slight curves of her small body.

“I don’t want to marry him,” she cried, the words muffled by his shoulders. Her sobs wracked her body, and Sirius absorbed the blows.

“I don’t want you to marry him either,” Sirius said. He kissed the top of her head, breathing in the smell of her hair.

“I can’t do this by myself,” she said.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “you won’t have to.”

Chapter 21: Epilogue
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 You Hate Me



Mr. Frederick Baker of 1 Green Street was smiling. Above him in the room upstairs there was a loud crash and a cry of protest. Normally a landlord would not smile about the likely destruction of property—his property—that was going on upstairs, but he could not help the grin. They reminded him of his youth, and with thoughts of his youth came thoughts of Maggie.

When he was their age he fought constantly with Maggie. Their eventual love was built on a sturdy foundation of hate. He once dipped her blonde curls in an inkwell. She once put glue in his favorite hat, giving him a “free haircut,” as she called it. She was a spitfire. But over the years that hate gave way to a more powerful emotion, and even after forty years of marriage and forty years of fighting, love always won in the end.

He wished the two upstairs the best of luck. Maggie would have liked them too. There was another crash upstairs, and a shout of, “You bloody imbecile!” Frederick shook his head. Then again, maybe not.

Upstairs, Piper threw another plate at Sirius’ head. Her arms were not strong, and her aim was poor, and Sirius was amused rather than scared.

“Shall I add plates to the shopping list?” Sirius said, dancing away from an oncoming plate.

Pumpkin, the calico cat that James, Remus, and Peter had given Sirius on Valentine’s Day, jumped off her perch on one of the armchairs. She wove between Piper’s legs, rubbing against her with her back arched, as if in approval.

“You’re mad if you think I’m going anywhere with you,” Piper said.

They had fought all summer long. The slightest annoyance set the other off, but the rows were short-lived and always ended with them falling with each other into their bed, or the sofa, or the kitchen table, or the floor. Lying in each other’s arms, they would forgive and forget—until the next argument commenced.

After Piper and Sirius spoke in the Forbidden Forest at the end of their sixth year they did not become a couple. It was not as easy as that.

It took Piper weeks to write to Alexander calling off the wedding. Sirius listened as she voiced her terror about breaking away from her family once and for all. She said they would come after her, that they would never let her go. She had lengthy discussions with Professor Dumbledore, which she never went into detail about with Sirius, but he knew that the old wizard loved his pupils and would always protect them.

Near the end of the year, the attacks started to happen. Pureblood supporters of the dark wizard whose name was never spoken coordinated a terrible attack on Muggles. When the news reached the castle, Piper found Sirius late that night in the Gryffindor common room. He held her in his arms as she cried, saying that she could not go back, not when she knew in her heart of hearts that her family likely supported the attack. 

She wrote the letter that night, sending a mean looking barn owl out of the Gryffindor tower.

“What will you do?” Sirius asked her.

 “I don’t know. Find a place to live, I guess. Maybe ask if I can stay here for the summer.” 

“We could—we could find a place together,” Sirius said, his voice lacking its usual confident air. “You know, to save money.”

“I think I’d like that,” Piper said. And she leaned into him, breathing in his scent, capturing his mouth with hers. There in the Gryffindor Tower they came together at last. Sirius did not touch her like she was an easily broken piece of china, but rather as a blind man felt an unfamiliar material, full of wonder and excitement. Their need was urgent. Afterwards, Piper felt like something she had not even known was missing had suddenly been put back into place, like a long forgotten book suddenly reappearing on the shelves after years and years.

For a long time neither of them had said anything. Finally, Sirius said, “Wow.” And Piepr said, “Wow.” And Sirius said, “I can’t believe we waited so long to do that.” And Piper punched him in the arm. “Let’s do it again,” she said.

The next day, with permission from Dumbledore, she traveled to London to empty out her Gringott’s account before her parents heard the news. That was how they managed to afford the one bedroom flat rented from Mr. Baker that summer.

And there they had been living in relative peace—until now. Sirius walked in the door, breathless from excitement.

 “It’s happening,” he said urgently. 

“What’s happening?” Piper said.

“Dumbledore’s starting a group—an order to fight back. Against Him.”

Piper had dropped the plate she was washing into the sink.

 “I told him I’d join. I’m of age. I told him I’d fight. James too.”

“You what?” Piper said, and that is when the fight began in full.

Piper hurled insults at him along with the plates until she ran out of both. Sirius took advantage of the pause in her assault. “Piper,” he said, “I know you’re afraid.” He wrapped her in a hug. Piper had a quiet courage that took coaxing out, as Sirius had learned. “But if people like us don’t fight, He will win.”

“We can’t let that happen,” Piper said, standing straighter.

Sirius kissed her. “I love you,” he said. “Come on, say it back.” Even after all this time she sometimes still had trouble speaking the words out loud to him. “Come on,” he said, teasing. “I love you and you love me.”

“Don’t tell me how I feel,” she said. She gripped the fabric of his robes and pulled them down.

“You love me,” Sirius said.

“Shut up,” she said.

They crashed into each other and he went to work on her outfit. Sirius propped himself up on his elbows, looking down on her. “Do you love me?” he said. 

“Of course I do, you idiot. I love you and you love me.”

“Glad that’s settled,” Sirius said.

“Only took us six years,” she said dryly.

He laughed. “We just mistook hate for love, that’s all.” He unbuttoned her shirt.

“No,” she said with a laugh, “We definitely did.” She pulled him into her thinking about the pranks they played and the names that they uttered to each other. She thought about how far you can come in a year. She thought about how hate is not the greatest emotion in the human spectrum, rather it is the weakest. It is easily conquered. Then Sirius took off his shirt, put his lips on hers, and she thought of nothing but him.

Afterwards, laying beside him, Piper said, “Sirius?" 

He looked up. 

“Why did we hate each other so much anyway?” 

“Piper,” he said, “I don’t think we ever did.”


A/N: Well that's all folks. Only took me about eight years. I know there are about a million loose ends I never tied up and to some of you this might be a little unsatisfying, but hey it's better than nothing. We all know Lily and James get together in the end, and this story was always more about Piper and Sirius. This was always the ending I imagined, with them living together in London always rowing and shagging. The problem with Sirius fics is that, unfortunately, we know his fate as well. I once envisioned writing up to that point in time, but I think this is a good place to close it. Thanks to everyone who reviewed and everyone who read. You're the heart of HPFF.