A/N: All right, I figured it was time for another author’s note. I usually don’t write them very often when it comes to my hpff.com stories, but I thought it was necessary now. I can’t even begin to describe how amazed I am that you guys are responding so well to this story. I thank each and every one of you for reviewing my story; really, I do. If it wasn’t for you all, I doubt I would’ve continued after Chapter Four. So, I’m dedicating this chapter to all the reviewers. Thank you all so much.
And yes, I realize that there might not be a plant called a Giggling Plant, but hey, it’s a magical world; I can make things up. XP
There was a reason why I wasn’t the biggest fan of Herbology. It wasn’t because I was severely allergic to almost everything that retained green pigments; not in the slightest. It just seemed that all plant life seemed to want to attack me, even if they weren’t of vicious nature. I could barely recall a Herbology lesson where I hadn’t gotten hurt by some stupid plant over the past seven years that I’ve been attending Hogwarts. And they said that Herbology was supposed to be an easy subject, BAH! So sorry that we all can’t transfer flesh eating plants from one pot to another with one hand tied behind our backs and all the lights off.
Not like that was our assignment, but you catch my drift, right?
I gave a huff of annoyance as I struggled to de-root the plant that was currently wiggling about in the pot settled in front of me at my lab station. This was much more difficult than Professor Sprout had made it out to be. She made it look as though she was lifting a cotton swab instead of a two hundred pound dumbbell. Then again, she was an experienced and licensed professional in the subject of Herbology and relatively young and full of spirit. So I’m assuming that those small factors might’ve contributed to her abilities.
Besides, I only had use of one hand. Wiping the beads of sweat that had begun to gather at my hairline, I pulled my singular hand out of the planted pot to find that my glove had gotten stuck in the dragon dung fertilizer.
“For the love of Morgana!” I stomped my foot in irritation, having half the mind to throw down the rest of my tools and march out of the greenhouse. But I’m sure that Professor Sprout wouldn’t exactly appreciate that. I could always say that my wrist was bothering me and to be quite honest with you, it was starting to throb a little bit. Nothing that was too serious, of course, but Sprout didn’t know that.
I pushed myself up to my tiptoes and looked around for the tattered hat and flyaway brown hair that belonged to Professor Sprout. My eyes scanned the interior of the greenhouse and I even turned in a full circle, but I couldn’t find the damn woman. Bullocks, now what was I going to do?
Releasing a deep breath, my shortened hair swirled in front of my face before settling against my forehead, some of the hair becoming damp and matting due to the sweat on my forehead. Great, I probably looked like the most attractive woman on the face of the planet right about now. I suppose that I should just get to work and live with the assignment that had been given to us by the slightly crazed, if not a little quirky professor. I licked my lips and tilted my head to the side, trying to scope out all the possible angles in which I could yank the damn plant from the blasted pot and actually transfer it into the empty one that looked quite lonely and pathetic. The more I studied the pot and the plant, the more I realized that this was going to be next to impossible without both of my hands.
Fantastic, isn’t it? Having to participate in Herbology when you were partially crippled. I should’ve been excused from this class or something. It’s only the most logical thing I could think of.
Oh, Ellen, you sound like such a whiny little baby. Toughen up a little bit, will you? Maybe grow some vertebrae.
I could feel my jaw clenching together at the sound of the Voice in my head. Really, it was about time that I did something about that pesky little bugger. It was starting to grate on my every nerve and I wasn’t sure how much more criticism I could take from it without yanking what little hair I had left on my head out.
Rolling my shoulders as I mentally prepared myself, I delved my free hand into the pot and felt around with my fingers. Once my fingertips found the fabric, I quickly grabbed it and gave a sharp tug. When I removed my arm, it was covered in dragon dung fertilizer all the way up to my elbow. I grimaced at the sight of dirt underneath my fingernails.
One thing was for sure, I wouldn’t be biting my fingernails anytime soon without giving my hands a few good washings. Shaking the excess dirt off the glove, I shoved my hand back into the leather piece of fabric, flexing my fingers as they slipped into the finger holes. Merlin, this was going to be quite the chore.
Taking a deep breath, I plunged my good hand into the potted plant and began to tickle the roots to the best of my ability, just as Professor Sprout had instructed us to do. It was difficult to work my fingers beneath the heavy weight of the soil, but somehow I managed to move them about slightly, just enough for the plant to start jumping about. Just as I expected, the plant started giggling obnoxiously and I resisted the urge to sock it in the face, even though it would’ve been extremely difficult, what with this sling and all. But I could manage if I really wanted to. There’s nothing quite like determination.
What I didn’t expect was to start giggling along with the stupid plant. At first, it was just a few small titters that managed to escape me, but before I knew it, I was chuckling under my breath, trying my hardest to mask my snort as a sneeze. Several of the students around me looked at me as though I had sprouted six heads and had just proclaimed that I had plans to rule the world. I tried to squelch my laughter, but nothing was working. Especially since I had to keep tickling the damn plant until it jumped out of the soil and I could wrangle it into the other pot.
I worked my fingers as fast as the soil would permit under the roots of the plant. When the Giggling Plant reached its peak, I quickly withdrew my hand from the fertilizer and wrapped it around the top of the stalks. The plant jumped and I gave a hard tug. The roots came from the fertilizer and I jumped up in my excitement.
“HA! VICTORY!” I shouted as I placed the Giggling Plant into the pot. Maybe I really was good at this whole Herbology thing.
Surprisingly, I managed to escape Herbology with only a few cuts on my arm. I think that Professor Sprout actually started tearing up once she saw that I hadn’t gotten a bloody nose or tore open a good portion of skin. I mean, she did pat me affectionately on the shoulder and praised me for my work. Which happened only on very rare occasions, I’ll tell you.
After class, I trekked up seven levels to Gryffindor Tower, spoke the password to the Fat Lady, and clambered through the portrait hole. Considering that most students were in class, the common room wasn’t too crowded. It was nothing too bad, but there were still a few people horsing around or lounging in front of the fire. I spotted Alice sitting by herself at a table, her head bent low and her hand moving at an alarmingly quick rate across a piece of parchment. I raised my hand in greeting, but realized that it was a lost cause as she wasn’t likely to pick her head up any time soon. At least not with an look of concentration that intensely set upon her delicate facial features.
I made a bee line toward the girls’ staircase and was nearly there when someone grabbed a hold of my elbow and spun me around. I gave a startled cry of surprised, which got trapped inside my throat and sounded like I was choking on air. Which I was, but that’s beside the point.
“Merlin, Sirius,” I gasped. “You scared me.”
“Sorry,” he offered, smiling limply.
Almost immediately, I knew that something was wrong and for some reason, all the alarms inside my head went off, telling me that he knew something that he wasn’t supposed to know. I felt my entire body stiffen and a singular thought ran through my head: he knows.
I tried my best not to swallow too noticeably and licked my lips uneasily. “What’s up?”
“Oh,” he muttered distractedly, shaking his head. “Nothing.”
My brows knitted together in confusion and I placed a hand over his hand, which was still gripping my upper arm.
“Sirius,” I started.
He jerked his head upward too quickly and the crown of his head connected with my nose. We both let out a howl of pain and backed away from one another; me gripping my nose and he holding onto tightly to his head, as though he were trying to fuse the bones back together that I had probably split apart.
“Circe, are you all right?” Sirius asked as he semi-stumbled over to where I was standing.
I could feel something warm and sticky leaking into my hands and knew what it was almost instantaneously. Blood. He had given me a bloody nose. Fantastic.
“Ih tink Ih gorts er nahbead,” I said from behind my hands, hoping that it was stem the blood flow.
“What?” he questioned, looking genuinely perplexed. With a roll of my eyes, I pulled my hand away from my nose and showed him the bloody mess that was my face. “Oh fuck,” he breathed, his gray eyes widened in shock. “I’m so sorry!” Before I knew what was happening, he casually wrapped his arm around my waist and ushered me toward the portrait hole.
In a slight state of panic, I pressed the heels of my feet into the ground, hoping that it would stop our progress toward the door. When Sirius realized that I was delaying us, he sent me a questioning look.
“I don’t w-wanna go to the h-hospital wing,” I explained, wincing and stuttering every few words as it hurt my nose to talk.
“I was just there a few days ago, that’s why,” I responded, unable to stifle the note of annoyance in my voice.
He thrust something into my hand then and I looked down to see a handkerchief. I had no idea that people still kept these things on their person. It seemed so…nineteenth century to me.
“For your nose,” he elaborated at my perplexed expression. “Don’t forget to tilt your head forward.”
Hesitantly, I balled up the handkerchief, which was made of what I presumed to be silk, underneath my nose and pushed my head downward. I was still able to see, but just barely. In fact, my feet were pretty much the only thing in my direct line of vision.
I felt myself being turned around in a circle and led toward the staircases. However, instead of veering off in the direction of the girls’ staircase, I found that I was being directed toward the boys’ dormitory. My stomach clenched with a mixture of emotion, the most prominent being anxiety.
“Where are we going?” I asked, a gush of blood streaming from my nose and making me gag.
“Up to my dormitory.”
“Why?” I squeaked.
“Because you won’t let me take you to the Hospital Wing and someone’s got to fix you up,” he stated simply.
“Please…just be careful. I can’t seem a damn thing like this,” I replied, tentatively placing my foot on the first step.
I could practically hear him smiling. “Don’t worry,” he spoke softly. “I’ve adapted to your inability to walk a straight line without tripping.”
Before I could stop myself, my arm flailed out and smacked him hard in the stomach. He sucked in a deep breath, but didn’t do anything else as he continued to guide me up the stairs. I had half the mind to sock him once more in the stomach and hurry down the stairs. I don’t know where I would go from there, but there was something about going up to their dorm that seemed so personal, it seemed like something I shouldn’t be doing at all. I mean, Sirius and I really didn’t know each other all too well, even if he was treating me like I was one of his good friends, which I knew I wasn’t. I would be foolish to think that I was a good friend of his. Besides, I had promised myself at the beginning of this thing that I wouldn’t get involved in any sort of way with him.
Well, we see how that all turned out.
“Ladies first,” Sirius said, letting go of my elbow and dipping into a low bow.
I rolled my eyes, handkerchief still pressed firmly to my nose, although I was no longer tipping my head forward. I was almost entirely positive I looked ridiculous, but thankfully, there hadn’t been many people in the common room to see me. And the fact I had sorta-kinda snuck up to Sirius’ dorm. That sort of evidence could be rather incriminating, especially if it fell into the wrong hands.
I scanned the boys’ dormitory and blinked once. Was I really standing in the middle of the boys’ dorm? I turned to Sirius and saw that he was loosening his neck tie as he swaggered into the room.
“Where’s the mess?” I blurted.
Sirius’s gaze met mine and his eyes twinkled mischievous. Damn knees better not start knocking again, I thought to myself, locking my jaw. “What mess?”
“You know,” I gestured toward the room, which was pretty clean, save for the bed pushed in the farthest corner of the room. There were some school shirts lying about and some dirty socks, but other than that, the room was reasonably clean. I sputtered for a few seconds before I sighed and pushed a hand through my hair. “Aren’t boys supposed to be complete slobs?” I asked helplessly.
Sirius laughed as he shrugged off his school robe, tossing it on one of the beds that I automatically assumed was his. “You might not believe me, but James is a really neat freak,” he informed me.
“Really?” I tried to raise a singular brow in amusement, but like always, it didn’t work.
“Yeah,” chuckled Sirius. “He goes ballistic when the room gets too dirty and makes a time where we can all clean our portions of the room…together.”
I eyed him skeptically, but the look on his face told me that he was telling the truth. “That’s taking it to extremes, don’t you think?”
Sirius disappeared into the bathroom attached to the dorm. I heard the sound of a cabinet being opened and the faucet running. He reemerged from the bathroom with a damp cloth in his hand.
“One would think,” Sirius said. “Just don’t let James hear, though. He’ll go-,”
“Ballistic?” I offered, grinning widely.
“Someone’s feeling a bit cheeky,” he commented dryly, an amused smile on his lips as he shook his hair out of his eyes. Damn him. Why did he have to do that now of all times? “Sit down,” Sirius instructed, taking me off guard.
My eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
“I said sit down,” he repeated, gesturing toward the trunk at the foot of his bed.
I eyed the trunk for a few moments, considering my options. I was never a fast runner and it would be incredibly awkward if I suddenly fled the room. With a small sigh, I hesitantly took a seat on the hard surface of the trunk, tucking the folds of my skirt underneath my bum. I could barely hide my shock as Sirius knelt down in front of me.
“What are you doing?” I asked suspiciously.
“Fixing your nose for you,” he said in exasperation. “Move your hand.”
I pulled the blood stained handkerchief away from my nose and grimaced at the mess I had made on it. I sent a sympathetic look at Sirius. “Sorry. I kind of ruined it.”
He shrugged his shoulders carelessly. “It’s no big deal. I have enough as it is.”
He readjusted his position on his knees, scooting so close to me that his abdomen was touching my knee caps. I prayed to all the magical forces out there that my knees weren’t knocking together as they always did when I was in Sirius’s presence. Luckily, they weren’t.
“So tell me,” Sirius began conversationally as he brushed some of my hair out of the way, tucking it primly behind my ear. I shivered as his thumb stroked against the length of my cheekbone, but he didn’t noticed…thankfully. “Is it normal for you to get this many nosebleeds?”
I scoffed in mock offense. “I’ll have you know that this is the first one I’ve had all school year.”
“I’m sure it is.” I nudged him in the stomach with my knee and he sucked in a breath. “All right, I believe you.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes while he cleaned up the blood monstrosity that was my nose. I felt like a little kid who was getting fixed up by their parent. Except most little kids don’t fancy their parents. I could feel the butterflies fluttering about in the pit of my stomach, but it wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, to tell you the truth.
“Sorry about that,” I muttered under my breath.
“Sorry about what?” Sirius asked, his eyes never leaving the lower part of my face.
“About kneeing you in the stomach,” I explained quickly. “It wasn’t very nice of me, especially since you’re helping me with my nose and all. Even though I think I’m capable of cleaning up the remains of a bloody nose all by myself.”
“It’s okay,” he assured me, lifting his eyes up to meet mine. I could tell by the glimmer in his eyes that he was smiling, even if his lips weren’t pulled back as usual. “Besides, you wouldn’t even have a bloody nose if it wasn’t for me, so the least I can do is help you clean it up.”
Once again, it felt as though someone had unleashed a cage of butterflies in my stomach and they were desperately trying to escape. I placed a hand over my stomach and almost immediately, he noticed.
“Are you all right?” he questioned, sounding a little more than alarmed. “You’re not going to be sick, are you?”
“What?” I followed his gaze to my hand, which was clutching my stomach in the universal ‘I’m going to toss my cookies’ sort of way. “Oh no!” I said, quickly removing my hand. “I’m just hungry.”
He rolled his pale gray eyes exaggeratedly and I placed both hands on either of his shoulders, giving him a rough shove backward. Playfully, he fell onto his back and started rolling around as though in pain, although if you asked me, he looked more like a dog begging for a belly rub. It was that simple thought that drew my eyes to his stomach, which I knew I shouldn’t be looking at, but I was an easily distracted person.
Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice, as he sat up a few seconds later and sat down next to me on the top of his trunk. He took my chin in his hand and turned my face toward his, tilting it upward slightly. Once he was satisfied with whatever he was looking at, he nodded his head. “Looks like the bleeding’s stopped.”
“Have you ever thought about becoming a Healer?” I asked him curiously.
“A few times,” he shrugged his shoulders noncommittally. “What I’d really like to be is an Auror.”
“I’m too clumsy to become an Auror,” I laughed. “I’m not even sure if I want to take up a magical profession.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. Damn him! “Really?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, suddenly feeling thirsty. “My Aunt Eliza has a bookstore that she runs in downtown London and I’m thinking about joining her employees when I graduated. I know it’s not the best job, but I love being around books, especially Muggle books-,”
“Do you fancy Remus?” Sirius blurted.
We both looked at each other, our eyes wide with shock. I was shocked that he’d actually asked me that question and I suppose that he was, too, if the look in his eyes gave away anything. Which it did.
“W-w-what?” I sputtered breathlessly. I hoped to Merlin that color wasn’t flooding to my cheeks and giving me away.
He opened and closed his mouth a few times, struggling to find the right words. “It’s just that he’s going to ask you to the next Hogsmeade trip tomorrow after Potions and I figured I would give you the heads up,” Sirius lied (although at this point in time, I didn’t know that he was lying.). “’Side, I don’t want him making a fool out of himself when he asks you.”
I stared at him, completely dumbfounded. I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that. Some part of me told me that when Sirius had asked me that particular question, it wasn’t because he wanted to make sure that I was going to say yes to his friend. It almost sounded as though he were, dare I say it, jealous? No, that was just too preposterous. Why would Sirius be jealous of Remus? After all, he was dating his precious Lucinda, the bitch that could do no wrong whatsoever; I was still wearing the faint outline of her bruises.
Jealousy was definitely not the reason why he’d asked me that…or was it? As much as I wanted to convince myself that he’d asked for the sake of his friend, there was something that I just couldn’t put my finger on that said he had other intentions. He was interested in knowing, there was no doubt about that, but I wasn’t entirely positive why he wanted to know. Not only did it mean that it was obvious that I had a crush on Sirius - I MEAN REMUS! -, but maybe Remus liked me, too. Unless he was asking me out of pity, which was a distinct possibility.
Licking my lips, I rose to my feet and took three long strides toward the door. “I’m going to go,” I announced, opening the door and disappearing through the thin slit I had made before he could object. I sprinted down the stairs, nearly stumbling over my own limbs several times. I jumped the last three steps and hurried up the girls’ staircase, wondering why on earth I had gone up there anyway.
I forced the door open with my shoulder and stumbled into the room. I cringed when I heard a firm something fall to the floor. I shut the door and hurried over to Lily’s bed, where she was lying on her side on the floor. She looked like she was trying not to cry and laugh at the same time.
“Oh my Merlin, I’m so sorry, Lily!” I exclaimed as I knelt down beside her and helped her into a sitting position.
“It’s all right,” she said, smiling at me as she pushed herself up to stand. “You just scared me, is all.”
“Well, sorry,” I repeated. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightening shooting from the sky, I remembered what James had told me and I rushed over to my bedside table, retching open the drawer and pulling out an envelope. “Here,” I said, handing it to Lily. “This is for you.”
She eyed the letter skeptically before taking the envelope from me. “Thanks?”
“I’m going to go to the library,” I decided suddenly. “I need to do some homework and I need some time to think.”
Lily stared at me dubiously. “Um, all right?”
Without another look, I scurried out of the room and headed not toward the library, but the Astronomy Tower.
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