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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.

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