The rest of the week, as well as the weekend, went by without so much as a hitch after our detention. Sirius and I still hadn’t decided upon a potion to brew for our project and our essay was due in a week’s time; much to everyone’s surprise, Lily and James were the first to turn in their essay and, rumor had it, they had already started brewing their potion.
Instead of rushing to the library at every available chance we got like we should have, Sirius and I really didn’t talk much, save for in our lessons. He was always busy with Quidditch practice or had a previously schedule engagement he had to attend to, which I assumed had something to do with his wench of a girlfriend, Lucinda. Everywhere I went, I could feel her cold, hard, icy blue eyes following my every move, committing it to memory. It was a little bit creepy, if you asked me.
Normally, I would have been freaking out that the homework I had been assigned was left undone, but for some reason, I could gather up enough anxiety. It was like all the tears I had shed on the floor in the corridor and in my bed had given me an odd sense of tranquility, something that I wasn’t used to, considering that I was something of a high-strung person. If I had time, I would pay a visit to the library and read up on some potions; there were some that sounded promising and others we had brewed in fourth year. If only we could’ve done Polyjuice…that would’ve been a good potion.
On the weeknights, I hung out in the common room with Alice and Lily by the fire. It was weird the sense of companionship I had to them. It was so sudden, but no matter how much my mind told me to resist it, I just couldn’t. I had never had the delight of easy friendships and this was like a breath of fresh air I wanted to keep inhaling. I would stretch out in an armchair, my legs thrown over the side with a crossword in my lap while Alice and Lily played Exploding Snap in front of the fire. I always played the winner and ended up losing terribly; I had never been any good at Exploding Snap.
During the days, I would lounge around the common room, reading a book or catching up on homework that needed to be complete. The only thing that couldn’t seem to complete itself was the Potions essay. I had tried starting on it, but it didn’t work out very well when I didn’t have a potion to write about. Besides, we had to get our selection approved by Slughorn. I didn’t want my hard work to go to waste if he didn’t think the potion we selected was appropriate.
When Monday rolled around, I lugged myself out of bed, forcing myself to not fall asleep while standing underneath the showerhead by pinching myself on the arm whenever I felt my eyelids get heavy. By the time I stepped out of the shower, there was a faint bruise on my left arm from where my fingernails had dug into the skin countless time.
After drying off, I pulled my uniform on, stuffing my feet into a pair of Puddlemere United socks that Aunt Eliza had given me for Christmas the year before.
Aunt Eliza was a huge supporter of the team, going to the matches with her friends while I was away at school or during the summer. I could still remember the first Puddlemere United match she took me to. My father had gone away on a business trip and he had asked Eliza to take care of me for the weekend, she was more than pleased to take him up on his offer and she dragged me to the match. We sat near the top and I fell asleep halfway through the match. It was the first and only professional Quidditch match I had ever attended in my life. She tried to force the sport upon me, being such an avid fan, but I just didn’t take to it very well. So, she tried another tactic: if she couldn’t get me to watch the sport, why not give me countless Christmas and birthday gifts that consisted of Puddlemere United paraphernalia. I owned at least seven tee shirts, four jumpers, eleven pairs of socks, and three pairs of sweatpants with the Puddlemere emblem emblazed upon the bum of the trousers. I made a habit of walking around the house wearing them just to make her happy.
With a heavy sigh, I shoved my arms through the sleeves of my school robe, buttoned the top two buttons and started down the staircase. Lily and Alice were waiting for me at the foot of the stairs and I continued to fumble with the buttons as we made our way down to the Great Hall. Alice had not given up on raving how wonderful Frank Longbottom was. Lily had told me early on that I should just bob my head and make the occasional noise of acknowledgement instead of focusing on every word she said. Besides, we all knew that Alice would talk regardless if she had listeners or not.
I was shoving half a piece of toast into my mouth while my eyes scanned the front page of the Daily Prophet when a shadow was cast over my paper. I frowned and tilted my head backward, only to find myself looking at Sirius Black.
“’ello,” he greeted cheerfully, a smile on his face.
“I can see up your nostrils,” I remarked.
Sirius let out a bark of a laugh and sank down on the bench next to me, nudging me with his elbow to move to the left a little bit.
I honestly had no idea what was going on between Sirius and myself. One minute, my heart was fluttering a mile a minute, my knees were knocking together, and I kept having flashes of my dream - excuse me, delusion - of him shoving me against the wall and snogging me. And the next minute, I felt like he was one of my good friends, even though we had only been conversing with one another for a little over a week and a half.
He reached over my arm and snatched the last piece of toast off my plate.
“I was going to eat that,” I said.
“Well,” he replied through a mouthful of toast. “Obviously you aren’t anymore.”
Lily rolled her eyes and took a sip of her coffee. “Don’t you have other people to sit with?” It was common knowledge that Lily could only put up with any of the Marauders, save for Remus, for a little longer than five minutes before she lost her head.
Sirius stared at her unblinkingly for a few minutes before he shook himself out of his momentary stupor. “Right,” he rubbed his hands together and crumbs littered the table. “We need to find a potion; so let’s meet in the library after the last lesson of the day, yeah?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Sure, I guess,” I said, a little bit unsure.
“All right. See you at three o’clock.”
He snatched a piece of bacon off the plate in front of me, winked at me, and walked down the length of the table to join his friends, who, oddly enough, sat near the head of the table nearest the Staff table. One would think that they would sit as far away from the administration as possible, but the Marauders were daring blokes; who else would have the audacity to call themselves “the Marauders”?
Once he was out of earshot, Lily remarked offhandedly, “You two seem friendly.” There was no tone of bitterness in her voice, only a little spark of mild curiosity.
“I guess so,” I said thoughtfully as I finished off the last of my toast. “I mean, he is my Potions partner for the rest of the semester; I’m sure that’s the only reason why he’s being so nice to me.”
“I bet it isn’t,” Alice quipped. “I bet he fancies you.”
I rolled my eyes. How much more ridiculous could they get? I released a laugh, took a sip of my pumpkin juice, and swiped at my mouth with the back of my sleeve. “Are you joshing me?” I snorted. “There’s no way he fancies me; he barely knows me.”
“So?” Alice urged. “That can change.”
“He has a girlfriend,” I pointed out. “Only the most beautiful girl in the entire school.”
“You think Lucinda Matthews is pretty?” Lily wrinkled her nose in distaste. “I think she’s a stupid, ugly cow that needs to get her priorities straight and learn a few manners.” She spat Lucinda’s name like it was poison; the two were notorious for not getting along very well. Lily always had something to say about the way Lucinda treated people and Lucinda would always make quips about how Lily was a prude, amongst other things.
“She treats everyone so horribly,” Alice remarked. “I don’t even understand how she has any friends.”
“They’re all petrified of her,” Lily said. “They know that if they get on her bad side, they’re ruined as far as social status is concerned.” She rolled her eyes again. “People are so bloody stupid. Why anyone would want to be friends with such a horrendous bitch, much less date her, completely baffles me.”
“It’s a general consensus, isn’t it, though?” I said, tucking my hair behind my ear. “I mean, nearly every bloke in this school practically worships the ground she walks on. It’s…”
“Disgusting? Repulsive? Abhorrent?” Lily supplied, her nose scrunching up with each new adjective.
Alice and I laughed, nodding our heads in agreement.
Lily’s brilliant emerald eyes focused over my shoulder and I assumed that she was looking at Lucinda. Her nostrils started to flare a little bit and she was tearing her napkin into fine shreds of white paper compulsively. Her green eyes hardened with disgust and revulsion.
“She’s such a slag,” Lily murmured under her breath, shoving a piece of napkin in her mouth before either of us could stop her. She chewed on it for a few seconds before a look of realization dawned on her pale, freckled face and she spat out the chewed up napkin into her hand. We all stared at the wet piece of paper before bursting out into loud laughter.
Several heads swiveled in our direction and I could’ve swore I felt some jealous glares.
X - X - X
By three o’clock in the afternoon, I found myself sitting in the library at the table near the Restricted Section, like Sirius had instructed when he not-so-discreetly tossed a note at the back of my head in History of Magic. The only problem was that Sirius wasn’t here.
I shook back the sleeve of my robe and looked at the face of my watch. It had belonged to Aunt Eliza’s daughter, Anna, before she had left for Berlin with that Hans bloke. I received it as a present for my so called “fantastic” marks on my O.W.Ls. The hands of the watch were designed to look like comets with blazing tails and brightly glittering stars represented the numbers. I loved the watch.
It was three thirty now. I tapped my foot against the leg of my chair impatiently, folding my arms over my chest. He was just running a little late. He had probably gotten into trouble after one of his classes and was being reprimanded for it now. Yeah, I told myself, that was it. He wouldn’t have ditched me, would he? Not when he had made the plans to meet in the library in the first place.
Even though I didn’t quite believe myself, I handed Madam Pince the permission slip to use the books from the Restricted Section. She glowered at me, muttering under her breath as she watched me walk amongst the forbidden shelves of books. She kept her hawk-like gaze on me the entire time. I was quick to find the books that had been written down on the list and took them back to my table.
I might as well get some research done instead of wasting valuable time. I sank down into my chair, opened the book on the top of the stack, and was overwhelmed by the offense odor of molding paper. I gagged, turning my head to the side and ordering myself to breath through my mouth. I held my breath as I turned the pages, as the smell got worse with each page I turned.
By the time I had cracked open the third book, my left hand was plugging my nostrils shut as I struggled to flip pages and write at the same time with my right. It was all but impossible and I suddenly remembered that my Potions partner was still missing. I pushed my sleeve aside and my eyes widened in anger as I read the time. It was nearly six o’clock and Black had yet to show up.
I gritted my teeth in frustration and hurried to copy down the remaining information on a particular potion that had potential. I closed up the books, shoved my belongings into my bag, and launched myself out of my chair. When I passed Madam Pince, I handed her the books and she clutched them protectively to her chest. I swore that I saw her stroking the spine of one and whispering to it. I shoved the library doors open furiously and stormed up the common room, all but shouting the password at a startled Fat Lady; in all the years she had known me, I had always been polite.
I scrambled through the portrait hole, muttering a string of colorful curses under my breath as I went along. I nearly bumped into another student as I went stumbling into the common room. I managed to regain my footing without grabbing onto any furniture - or people. I was halfway to the staircase when Remus called out my name.
I turned around and nearly slammed into his chest. I held my hands out to prevent myself from falling into him.
The smile on his face faltered, his chocolate colored eyes raking over my appearance in what looked and seemed to be concern. “Are you all right?” he asked, the smile completely disappearing; it was replaced with a lopsided frown. “You looked a bit peeved.”
I shoved my hair out of my face, staring pointedly into the flames of the fire. I had a problem with looking people in the eye when they wanted to know what was wrong with me. First of all, I had absolutely no idea where to begin when someone asked me that question simply because there were numerous things wrong with me. Shall I start the list?
I was neurotic, I talked to myself in my head, the voices inside my head had arguments, and I may or may not be crushing on someone I thought I had gotten over in the beginning of sixth year. Add that to the fact that the head bitch of the school was watching me like a hawk because I couldn’t keep my nose out of people’s business - although, if you’re really going to cheat, you might not want to do it in public - and the fact that said bitch actually knew something about my past and was more than willing to use it against me, as she advertised in the corridor after she assaulted me for the second time in a week and a half. Oh yeah, and there was the small factor that I may or may not be losing my mind.
I breathed out a long, exaggerated sigh, my shoulders sagging as I sunk farther into the couch cushions. “That’s because I am,” I said in a relatively helpless voice. “I’m peeved, I’m stressed out, and I’m famished.”
As if right on cue, my stomach let out a long and unattractive growl. Surprisingly, this time I wasn’t embarrassed. For one, I was too ticked off to be embarrassed and there was also the fact that I had just informed him that I was hungry.
Remus looked like he wanted to smile, but he managed to keep his face a composed mask, neither amusement or laughter present in his expression. “So…what happened?”
“It’s not just ‘what happened’, it’s more like what hasn’t happened!” I plopped down on the couch next to him, folding my arms over my chest and exhaling deeply. I tried to keep as much space between us as possible. I frowned at my shoes and added, “It’s everything.”
I was well aware that I sounded incredibly overdramatic, but I honestly didn’t care. I hadn’t complained to anyone yet, so why not talk a little bit with Remus? After all, he was the one who was responsible for opening this can of worms. If he couldn’t handle it, that was his problem, not mine…well, to a certain extent anyway.
But it really was everything.
Even though I had been trying not to focus on what had happened in the hall between Lucinda and myself, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was like a bad scene from a movie that kept replaying in my head repeatedly, no matter how hard I tried to shake it loose. It was always in the back of my mind, waiting for the perfect opportunity to implant itself in my brain permanently. At some point in time, I was going to spill the beans to someone; I just didn’t know who it was going to be. There was also the minor factor that I knew Lucinda was a lying, cheating, scathing little slag that everyone called her behind her back. And last, but certainly not least, there was what happened today in the library, or lack thereof, considering that much didn’t get completed. I had waited for nearly three hours for him to show up! Three bloody hours! So maybe it didn’t seem that long because I was doing research, but he was the one who had planned the meeting in the first place! I scoffed in annoyance.
“Like what?” Remus implored.
I ran a hand over my face and sighed again. “I wasted three hours in the library, waiting for someone, when I could’ve been doing my own homework.” I bit my lip. “Okay, so maybe I didn’t waste three hours, I actually managed to get some research done, but still, that doesn’t make it right. If you make an appointment with someone, you should show up, shouldn’t you?” I turned my eyes to Remus, searching his face for understanding.
Luckily, I found it in his kind face and I was suddenly reminded why I had fancied him in fifth year. Not only was he handsome, but there was something about his face that was warm and inviting, much like his eyes and his smile.
“I completely agree,” he said. “Do you know why they blew you off like that?”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t. And I don’t care right now.”
“You certainly seem like you care.”
“All right, so maybe I care just a little bit. I’m not going to let it annoy me, though.” I roughly pushed a hand through my hair and folded my arms over my chest with a huff.
I could almost hear the laughter in his voice as he spoke. “If you say so.”
I wasn’t good friends with Remus, yet he knew me better than most people I associated with, which was a grand total of three other people, one of which I was feeling distinct feelings of hatred - well, not hatred, but utmost annoyance at. Who was I to say that I associated with Sirius Black, anyway? There was a distinct difference between talking to someone because you want to and talking to someone because they were your Potions partner and you had a huge project coming up.
I sent Remus what was supposed to be a silencing look and I could see that he was fighting off a smile. Narrowing my eyes, I hoped I had a chilling effect and didn’t look like a five year old pouting because they didn’t get their favorite Acid Pop. Judging by the way the corners of his smooth lips quivered, it was the latter rather than the former. Inwardly, I stomped my foot on the ground like a child throwing a temper tantrum, but I kept my face calm and composed…well, as calm and composed as I could manage.
“So,” Remus drawled casually. “Do I know this person?”
“You practically know everyone in this school,” I began, twirling a strand of hair around my finger absentmindedly. “So, I’m going to go with yes.”
“Are they a Gryffindor?” he urged.
I raised my eyebrows. “What is it, twenty questions?” I tried to make my voice sound harsh and biting, but even I could hear the edge of laughter in my voice.
“Well,” he pressed. “Are they?”
His brown eyes twinkled mischievously and my stomach flip-flopped all over the place. Reluctantly, I nodded my head. “Yeah,” I consented. “They’re in Gryffindor.”
“And I’m taking it that they are of the male species, yes?”
“However did you know?” I asked, rolling my eyes playfully, and obviously, for fun.
“Only someone as stupid as a bloke could forget a meeting with you,” Remus said, his voice dropping a tone lower.
Okay, what was with the sudden shift in conversations between Remus and I? One minute, we were laughing and joking, and then the next, he was dropping comments like nucleus bombs…or whatever those devices are called that Muggles drop all the time. First, it was the staircase before dinner. Then, it was the library. And now this! It was just getting a little too awkward for my taste. I mean, I fancied Remus in fifth year, but judging by the flip-flopping acrobatics that my stomach was performing on a daily basis, I was going to say that the fancy might’ve been recently rekindled…
My stomach growled loudly and I put a hand on my belly in embarrassment, as though it would quiet the pains of hunger that were shooting through my abdomen.
“Do you want to go head down to dinner?” Remus questioned, a smile on his face.
I nodded my head, pushing myself to my feet, and followed him out of the portrait hole, feeling a lot better than I had when I had first entered the common room.
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