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Author's Note: Here's to end of term 1!! *woot*
Happy Holidays! 






It was Saturday morning, the morning of Hogsmeade. Alex woke up pretty early and got ready for her ‘date’. She promised to meet Brad at ten in front of the fountain in the middle of the village square. Then why was she up so early? She had agreed to meet Severus for a quick trip to the apothecary. She also planned on getting some breakfast. Getting dressed warmly, simply yet nicely, into some black pants and a wooly sweater, she donned her red knee length jacket, grabbed her purse and headed out the girls’ dormitory, whistling to herself as she skipped down the stairs and past the couches.

“I never knew you knew how to whistle,” a voice said from one of the couches, stopping her in her tracks.

“Well surprise,” she said sarcastically with a shrug. “What are you doing up so early?”

He shrugged, “I magically became a morning person.”

“Oh. Er…if that’s my fault…sorry,” Alex replied, feeling a little awkward.

He waved a hand dismissively as he stood up and walked towards her, “You going to Hogsmeade so early?”

“Actually I’m just getting some quick breakfast before I head out. Wanna come?”

“Sure. I doubt they’ll be up anytime soon,” Sirius replied as they started to walk down to the great hall. “But it still is pretty early to be going down to Hogsmeade…you’re not meeting up with Kythes this early are you?”

She laughed, “No, actually I promised Severus some help at the apothecary. I’m not meeting Brad till ten.”

“I see…Look, about what I said yesterday, I didn’t really mean it. That is…I don’t think…er, Brad…would be stupid enough to ask you to Hogsmeade for that, and I don’t think he’s a smarmy git, and you have all the reason to be excited,” he rattled off, trying to say as many things he could remember thinking about during the night before he changed his mind yet again. “…and, and I hope you... have fun.”

“That’s sweet, thank you,” Alex responded, a little bemused at his speech.

“And out of curiosity,” he continued with an odd grin, “Does Brad know you’re meeting up with Snape beforehand?”

“No.”

“And were you planning on telling him?”

“I’m not an idiot, Sirius. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him,” she said with a sly grin, and he just had to laugh. “Beside, Sev and I are just friends, and he needs help so…yeah.”

A part of Sirius registered what she said and felt relieved to actually hear her say it (though the usual shudder ran down his spine at mention of Sev), and a different part wanted to scream out at her why in hells name was she meeting up with Snivelly? But then again, if she was meeting with Snivellus on the same day of her date with Kythes, and was taking the whole thing so lightly in the first place, then didn’t that mean she wasn’t particularly bent on the idea of spending time with Brad…? 

“And where are you planning on going?” she asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.

He looked at her, and vaguely wondered why she was interested, but replied anyways, “Probably Three Broomsticks, after a stop at Zonko’s and Honeydukes and what not.”

She nodded, “Sounds cool. Make sure, then, that James doesn’t do anything stupid if Lily is around. I think his euphoria may be getting to him.”

“You think?” Sirius asked in mock surprise. “Alex, he’s been repeating the same two stories without cease the whole week. I think it’s past euphoria at this point.”

She chuckled, but they walked the rest of the way silently, and only made a few remarks during the rather quick breakfast before Alex stood up from the table and said goodbye.

“Yeah, see you later,” Sirius replied gloomily. “By the way, you look nice.”

“Thanks,” she said with a really heart-felt smile, and Sirius found himself glad to be sitting down, or he surely would have gone weak at the knees like a girl from some tacky romance. He watched her leave the great hall, and listened to her footsteps die away as his mind started to race again. This is ridiculous…she’s meeting Snivelly and Kythes in the same day? What’s she trying to do to me? He hadn’t ever really been jealous before. Or rather, he had been jealous, but now when he was faced with this the other times seemed completely superficial and trivial. He didn’t like it, this feeling of jealousy. And it definitely did not suit him well. He didn’t even consider the possibility that she wasn’t trying to do anything to him, just trying to live a little. It was, after all, in her style to be impulsive and take any opportunity for an adventure without thinking it completely through… So he was left with two possibilities: one, she was completely oblivious to what she was doing to him and really liked Kythes, or two (thinking of her ‘you-didn’t-ask-in-time’ statement) she knew exactly what she was doing, and was being impossibly cruel, doing it all purposely to see him, Sirius, squirm while she looked on laughing…but on the flip side of that point, not really interested in the Ravenclaw, which soothed his chaotic thoughts at least a little.

When the Marauders finally reached Hogsmeade, it was already past ten o’clock. So everywhere they went, Sirius’ eyes were uncontrollably scanning the area for the sight of her. But no matter where they went, she was nowhere in sight. Not even at the Three Broomsticks, by which time it was already late in the afternoon, and they finally decided to head back to Hogwarts.

“Hey, Black!” a voice from behind him yelled. He turned and saw Brad running up to him. Alone. “Have you seen Alex anywhere?”

“I saw her this morning, but she left for Hogsmeade around eight, I think,” Sirius replied, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. They seemed to do that automatically whenever Kythes was in his range.

“Really?” Brad asked. “Because she didn’t show up.”

“Sorry mate,” Sirius said, not bothering to hide the fact that he really wasn’t. In fact, what he was, was rather pleased. But Alex would not have stood him up…Would she? Unless she only agreed to go with him as a joke and then planned to leave him all alone…? Urgh I’m not even going to try to figure this out…

“I just hope she’s alright,” Brad said. “Apparently there was some explosion at the apothecary this morning, but I doubt—“

Sirius paled. Explosion…Apothecary…Alex…Snape… “What do you mean you doubt she was there? She’s a bloody potion’s prodigy, if you haven’t noticed.”

“I have noticed,” Brad said defensively, a little flushed. “But why would she be there if she was supposed to be meeting me?”

“Her life doesn’t revolve around you, Kythes,” he replied rather sharply. “The point is, she told me this morning she was going there. And though I’m not sure why, I doubt she would ditch you.”

Brad seemed to finally catch on that for whatever reason Alex didn’t show up for their date, it was not because it was all a big joke. He watched Sirius sprint towards the apothecary, followed by Remus, James and Peter. After a moment’s indecision, he decided to follow.

Sirius’ heart was pounding in his throat, and he cursed whoever had built the apothecary for building it so far away. He didn’t hear what the other three were shouting at him…all he knew was that he had to get there soon, before he would die from anxiety. But when he did reach the apothecary, his heart seemed to have stopped beating completely as he just stared at the remains of the building. The other four stopped behind him, and gasping for air, looked at the building with wide eyes. With the exception of the door frame, the entire front wall was now a crumbling ruin, with black burn marks across the stones. Shattered glass lay at their feet. Inside, the counter had scorch marks, as did all the shelves full of ingredients, some of which lay scattered in chaos on the floor. And where he stood, red smears blotched the ground. The owner of the apothecary was talking with some villagers not too far from him, a couple of bruises and scratches visible on his body.

“…not sure what happened. Two youngsters were picking out some ingredients this morning. Well I didn’t really bother to help them, they seemed quite sure of what they were doing, besides I was serving Mrs. Paula from down the street…Yes, well they finished before she had so I just went to ring them out…it turned out only the gentleman was buying ingredients… And then I don’t know what happened, the miss stepped outside the door and then BAM!”

The five boys jumped at his onomatopoeia, and Sirius couldn’t take it any longer. He stepped up to the owner and interrupted, “The young lady…was she rather tall, wearing a red jacket?”

“Yes, I think she was…”

Behind him, he heard James curse and Remus gasp, but he continued in a very weak voice, “Where is she?”

“Well I believe they took her back up to the school, the boy had run for help, see, though he wasn’t in too fit of a condition either. And I tried to take care of her in the meantime,” the owner started, his eyes looking troubled, “but I…well I just hope she made it there alright…she was a very nice young lady, it would be so terrible if she had…well…”

It seemed as if Sirius had lost all feeling in his body. The apothecarian was talking as if…as if she had been on the brink of death…but it just couldn’t be possible. She couldn’t have died, when only this morning she was laughing and smiling at him. His mind froze, and he wasn’t even sure if he was breathing, but he didn’t care. All that mattered right now was Alex. He felt somebody put their hand on his shoulder, and somewhere in the distance he heard Remus ask, “How bad was it?”

The man failed to suppress a look of nausea as he said, “Well she practically stepped right into whatever it was that exploded…She didn’t lose any limbs, thank merlin, but there pieces of wood and glass sticking out every which way, and blood…”

He didn’t seem to be able to finish, and Remus was thankful, because he wasn’t sure he could hear much more, and beside him, Sirius looked ready to collapse. Suddenly, a stone look of determination overcame Sirius, and he took off without warning, running full speed towards the castle, taking a shortcut through the woods instead of waiting for the carriages. James and Peter took off after him, as did Brad. Remus was just about to, when he heard the shop owner continue, “Something strange about that girl, though. I’m not saying, ‘cause she was hurt pretty badly, but you would have imagined the damage to have been much worse. And I swear, she looked ready to pass, but then I swear I saw her eyes turn red. Hell, I’d even swear I saw the gaping hole in her side stop bleeding all of the sudden. And the whole time I was with her, there was this strange feeling in the air, as if…I don’t know. I suppose it was just the after effect of the explosion…”

Remus shook his head and decided to leave that bit to himself, as he started to run back to Hogwarts.

Sirius had tried to run straight into the infirmary, but Professor McGonagall was standing guard outside the doors, almost as if waiting for them.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Black, but you can’t go in to see her,” she said gravely, and automatically he assumed the worst. Her hard expression softened at the look in his eyes. “She’s alright, so don’t be troubled by it. However, she is simply not in the right condition to be visited at the moment.”

“But I need to see her!” he yelled, and McGonagall took a step back. James, Peter, Brad and the just arrived Remus looked at Sirius strangely.

McGonagall opened her mouth, but at that moment, the doors of the infirmary opened, and Dumbledore stepped through them. He smiled warmly, “Ah, friends. How wonderful. She would be glad to see you all here, of course, but as Professor McGonagall said, it would be best to leave her be, for now. But perhaps one of you may keep her company.”

McGonagall looked ready to protest, but Dumbledore just looked at Sirius with that twinkle in his piercing blue eyes, and Sirius stepped forward into the infirmary without a word, without considering the others. It had to be him.

The doors closed behind him silently, and he slowly marched towards the bed with the curtains drawn around them, briefly noticing Snape lying in the bed opposite. He snuck into the curtained area, and took a couple of steps towards her bed, scared of what he would see. To his relief, Alex looked perfectly whole and healthy, sleeping with a faint smile. Granted, there were some scratches and bruises left in a couple of places, and white bandages wrapped around her arm, torso, and head…but she was alive. At last, it seemed that his heart started to beat again, as he sat down in the chair next to her bedside. Leaning back and staring at her face, his mind recommenced its workings.

Sirius didn’t get much time to himself, though, because Dumbledore came back shortly afterwards, wanting to talk to Alex. She was still asleep however, and he didn’t want to wake her. So Sirius took his opportunity.

“Sir? Do you know what exactly happened?” he asked politely.

“Not exactly,” Dumbledore replied with a sigh. “From talking to Alex for a bit, and talking to Severus and the shop owner, I gather that someone attacked her. She said she saw a figure walking away, only a split second before it happened, but she couldn’t remember what he, or she, looked like. It looks like she stepped into some kind of explosive substance.”

“But who would attack Alex?” Sirius asked in shock, before he answered his own question. After all, this was Alex, and even at school, not everybody was her friend…

“These are difficult times, Sirius,” Dumbledore started, his eyes troubled, “And Alex, and in the eyes of some, is not an equal. Strange really, how in one world she’s considered everything, and in another, nothing…It is to her disadvantage, unfortunately, because the Death Eaters would make an excellent point through her.”

Sirius stared at the old Professor with wide eyes. He hadn’t ever considered it, but Dumbledore was of course right. His mind started to swim with images of Alex tortured, or dead, and for no other reason than making an example of her. And if the tough muggle-born princess couldn’t last, how could any other muggle-born?

When he came to his senses, he realized he had been staring at a wall, though he wasn’t sure for how long, and turned to see Dumbledore standing over Alex. He couldn’t quite but a pin on it, but there was something about the way he was looking at her that told him something strange was going on—that Dumbledore knew something neither he nor Alex did. And from what he could read from the professor’s face, which was very little, it was not a good thing, but surely, something that would change everything.

Dumbledore looked up at Sirius, smiled, and left him to even more confusing thoughts.

It was now almost midnight, and he had only left her side to run to the loo, and quickly get some food, though he barely ate it. The whole great hall had been whispering about the explosion, and about the two injured students now lying in the infirmary, and had not given Sirius any relief or comfort. His friends’ questions had not been helpful either and he eventually decided to retreat back to his spot beside Alex’s bed. The voices in his head had finally shut up, but were replaced with a severe migraine, and a rather empty space which just echoed his questions instead of giving some sort of answer. What have I gotten myself into? he asked himself. And why…how did this happen? When did Alex become so important to me? And why am I doing this? I know that she’s fine and that me sitting here is completely pointless, so why am I still here? Still sitting at her side, staring at her face instead of sleeping in my own bed? He sighed, and realized just how much he hated questions, bitterly wondering why there were so many without answers. He ran a hand through his hair and leaned back into his chair—he really didn’t know how much more he could take of this… No girl can be worth this much trouble…

Then Alex stirred restlessly in her sleep, spasms of pain etched into her still face. Sirius sat up right away, found her hand, and grasped it tightly. She relaxed at his touch, and a faint smile replaced the pain in her face.

“Sirius…” she mumbled through her sleep.

He looked at her, not believing his ears. Had she really called for him? Had she felt somebody take her hand through her pain, and assumed it was him? Was it comforting to her to know that he was there beside her?

“I’m here Alex, it’s alright…” he whispered.

Her eyelids fluttered at the sound of his voice, and then opened. Her eyes darted around the room for a moment, trying to acclimatize to the darkness around her, and then traveled slowly over to meet Sirius’ gaze.

“How are you feeling?” he asked gently.

“Like I just blew up,” she managed to say with a grin, though it was obvious every word was painful to utter. “Go to bed, Sirius. I’ll see you tomorrow…”

“I’m not leaving you,” Sirius stated, wincing at her hoarse voice.

She looked at him, right into his eyes. He saw them sparkle in the moonlight, and for once, didn’t feel himself shrinking away from her hard gaze; for once, not afraid that she would see through him. He saw her smile, and in that moment he knew that if any girl was worth all the trouble, sleepless nights and half-eaten meals, it was only Alex. And he would sit here till kingdom come if he had to, but there was no way he would leave the infirmary without her beside him, linked arms and chatting merrily. He had finally figured out the answers to all those questions, though now that he thought about it, it felt as if he had always known. This had just been the moment where the glorious truth had finally exploded on him. He grinned as he told himself, still tightly holding her hand, Because it’s Alex, and I’m in love with her... 

“Sirius…I’m not going anywhere,” she said with another grin.

“I can’t be sure, though, can I?” he replied, trying to joke back, though in truth still caught up with his revelation. "Besides, look what happens when I leave you alone for barely a few hours."

His joke rang with a sincerity and pain that surprised the both of them.

“I think you were right,” she said softly after a pause.

“What?” he asked, confused.

“I don’t think Brad was meant to be my first date,” she explained, trying to contain her laughter for fear of the nurse coming out to check up on them.

Sirius grinned at her, and fervently hoped she meant what he thought she did.

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