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Mandy had long forgotten her turmoil about Remus and was now dating Davey Gudgeon. She sat with him in Potions now, which was a great loss for me as I could no longer copy her. But Davey probably needed as much help as I did with Potions. As far as I knew, he wasn’t particularly bright, but all I had to go on was the fact that during first year, he had nearly lost an eye whilst trying to touch the Whomping Willow, a tree that violently swung its branches at you if you got near it. There had been an ongoing challenge that year to get close enough to touch the tree. I don’t know what would have happened if someone actually did touch it – they’d get eternal glory in the minds of all Hogwarts students, perhaps. But we never found out; the game stopped after Davey’s mishap, and people decided there were more sensible things to do.

One day, as Charlotte and I were leaving the Great Hall after lunch, she asked me, “Have you ever noticed how Mandy’s new boyfriend looks like Peter Pettigrew?”

I looked over at the Hufflepuff table where I saw Mandy and Davey standing up to leave. I wouldn’t have thought of it before, but now that Charlotte mentioned it, all I saw was Peter. I burst out laughing. “He must be Peter’s long-lost twin brother.”

“Oh, she’s coming over here,” said Charlotte. We watched Mandy and Davey part at the door, and Mandy saw us watching her and ran over to meet us.

“What?” asked Mandy, eyeing us suspiciously. “Why have you got that expression on your face?”

I glanced at Charlotte, who was attempting to keep a straight face and failing miserably; she looked like she’d just eaten something very sour.

“Nothing’s up,” I said, hoping I looked less ridiculous.

Charlotte eventually gave up and let out a laugh. “We were just discussing how Davey looks like Peter.”

Mandy looked over at me expectantly, but I just shrugged. I think she had been hoping for me to deny this and say it was just Charlotte joking around, but I couldn’t deny the truth in her statement. Mandy frowned. “He doesn’t, not really! Davey’s taller. And his eyes aren’t as squinty.”

“If you say so,” said Charlotte. She grinned at me over Mandy’s head.

“Speaking of Peter,” said Mandy, “who knew he was such a talker? I wish he’d go back to being quiet. Ever since I started dating Davey, Peter has been coming up to chat all the time. It’s like he’s somehow under the impression that he can convince me to switch my affection over to him instead.”

“Probably because he realized he looks like Davey, so he thinks he has a chance,” I said, giggling.

Peter fancies you?” Charlotte exclaimed.

“Shhh, here he comes!” She ducked behind me as we approached the classroom for Defence Against the Dark Arts. The four Gryffindor boys were walking in from the other end of the corridor. Peter had seen Mandy; he walked right up to us and started talking to Mandy about the weather, and then asked her about her favorite type of quill. Charlotte and I exchanged a look. James and Sirius were clearly entertained as well, and Remus just watched other students walking by, like he was trying to pretend he didn’t see what was happening.

I watched Remus carefully for a few seconds, trying to assess the way he was acting. It certainly appeared to me that he liked Mandy, because he didn’t seem too happy about Peter’s behaviour. Yet he was doing nothing about it. And why had he turned her down?

Octavius Pepper joined the queue behind us, and I briefly said hello. Then the queue started to file in to the classroom, and I turned around to see that James had actually gotten Peter away from Mandy, and Sirius was watching me and Octavius with a slight frown. I half expected him to hex Octavius again, and I kept an eye on Sirius’s arm to make sure he did no such thing as we walked inside.

“Couldn’t you have kept him away from me?” hissed Mandy as we sat down. “I keep trying not to be rude to him but I just can’t stand it anymore! One of these times I’m going to say something awful, I just know it!”

“Come off it, you would never say anything awful to anyone,” said Charlotte.

I looked over at the table across the room where Peter was smiling coyly and waving at Mandy, who busied herself with getting her textbook out of her bag. Peter’s behaviour was so strange; Charlotte and I found the whole situation highly amusing, but Mandy did not see the humour in it. Admittedly, though, I would not have found it funny if I had been in Mandy’s situation.

On Tuesday night, Mandy and I went back to the Gryffindor common room with the boys after dinner. James disappeared rather quickly when Lily asked to talk to him, but the rest of us played various games and things that were not homework. Eventually I convinced Remus to study for Herbology with me, but Sirius came to join us eventually, apparently having overcome his professed allergy to homework. As it turned out, he was there only to distract us, and Remus and I didn’t get a whole lot of work done after he showed up. This arrangement also left Peter alone with Mandy, so the two of them joined us as well, and it was decided that no one would bother doing any work tonight.

Across the room we could still hear James and Lily laughing before they finally left the room on a patrol together. I smiled as I watched them. Since the beginning of the year, something had definitely changed in the way Lily looked at James: it was a look of respect now, rather than annoyance.

Some time later, Mandy pointed out that we should probably leave soon because it was soon to be curfew, Lily and James were due back any second, and we technically weren’t allowed to be here. I said goodbye and collected my Gobstones pieces as Mandy started walking to the portrait hole, and then when I turned around to join her, I could only stare, flabbergasted.

Mandy had opened the portrait and remained standing there in the doorway; just past her, out in the corridor, were Lily and James kissing, oblivious to the fact that the entire common room was staring at them. Next to me, Sirius whistled loudly.

James and Lily, clearly in their own world, hadn’t noticed Mandy opening the door or heard Sirius whistling at them. But maybe they heard the cheering from some people in the common room, because at that point the couple in the hallway separated. Lily hurriedly removed her arms from around James, and the two of them stood in the doorway for a moment awkwardly looking through at all of us gaping at them. They looked back at each other again, grinning but with very red faces. Then James shouted back at us, “Lily Evans just asked me out!”

Amidst all the cheers and laughter, Lily squeezed his hand and led him away – either so they could avoid all of our eyes, or go to an empty classroom so they could carry on without interruption, we weren’t sure.

“How in Merlin’s name that happen?” I asked. “They were arguing when they went out on patrol!”

Sirius grinned. “I bet they never actually made it out to patrol, and they’ve been out there this whole time.” Then he saw Remus and excitedly went over to talk to him about this new development in their friend’s life for which clearly they had both been waiting for ages as well.

Mary Macdonald was standing nearby, looking almost as happy as Lily and James had, and as Sirius left, she came over to talk to me. “Finally,” she said. “I was getting so tired of Lily asking me what I thought of James this year. She’s liked him for months!”

Peter appeared to be inspired by this display by James and Lily, and he ran his hand through his hair the way James always used to do before he talked to Lily, then strode confidently over to where Mandy stood still in the doorway. This time, however, I helped her out and reminded Peter that Mandy and I were supposed to be back in the Slytherin common room by now, and took our leave.

Gossip circulated quickly at Hogwarts, and by the following morning everyone seemed to know the Head Girl and Head Boy were going out. There was an excited buzz of discussion when the two of them came in to breakfast together on Wednesday. It was weird to think of them as a couple now, after so many years of Lily flatly refusing James’s many offers of a date. And now I rarely ever saw one without the other.

After Quidditch practise a week before Halloween, I found myself alone with Regulus as we finished putting away our things. He gave me a friendly smile – perhaps because Jasper wasn’t around to tell him not to. Regulus and I had never talked much, due to his choice of friends, but I saw no reason not to now. I thought about all Sirius had told me, and while Nathan had made his choices, there was still hope for Regulus. “Do you actually like Jasper,” I found myself asking him, “or do you just hang around with him anyway?”

He watched me for a moment, a calculating look in his narrowed grey eyes, and his arms crossed. “Elliott is my friend,” he finally said. “What’s it to you?”

“No reason,” I said, pausing to collect my thoughts before speaking again. “Just that you’re just a lot nicer when he’s not around.”

Regulus scowled. “Did Sirius put you up to this? Because I don’t need his advice or his approval,” he said callously as he looked away, his jaw set. Just like his brother. All that time I’d spent trying to figure Sirius out made Regulus quite easy to read.

“No, I’m not trying to give you advice,” I told him. “But you know, I’ve spent enough time around Sirius to know that you’re lying.”

He looked at me critically, but didn’t remark on my accusation. In the few moments he took to respond, I pondered how while some of his mannerisms resembled his brother, the great difference was in that Regulus’s every move, every word, was the product of careful thought and deliberation. His face twisted into a smirk as he said simply, “I see.”

And with those two words, Regulus had turned the tables; I no longer had the upper hand. His eyes bored into me and I sensed that my feelings for Sirius were plain as day, written on my face, and that was all Regulus had taken from my comment.

Perhaps Sirius was right; some things you just couldn’t be told, and had to learn from experience and possibly mistakes. “Maybe someday you will,” I muttered as I hung my green Quidditch robes by the door. “Nice flying during practise, though. We’ll absolutely have the Quidditch cup this year.”

“Thanks,” said Regulus, his arms at his sides now as we awkwardly faced each other. “It’s a new broom.” He gestured stiffly to a shiny broom leaning against the wall near the robes.

“It’s nice,” I said, admiring the perfectly clipped tail twigs.

He smiled slightly, but at that moment, Jasper opened the door and asked Regulus what was taking him so long. As far as they were concerned, I was no longer in the room, and they left without another glance or a word to me.

All we heard from the Gryffindors that week was about how great Saturday’s Halloween party was going to be. They never missed an opportunity to throw a party, and apparently Halloween was one of their favourites because it enabled them to make a grand entrance in costume and have even more people pay attention to them than usual. It was really just Sirius, Remus, and Peter talking it up – although James had helped with party preparations, his involvement was not quite what it had been in the past because he spent all his free time with Lily.

I stood in front of the mirror putting the finishing touches on my costume. I was dressed as a tree, wearing brown corduroy trousers and a green jumper that I had covered in leaves. There were also leaves in my hair and all over my face.

“Ready?” asked Mandy. She stared at me as sternly as she could and I just laughed. Mandy had dressed as Professor McGonagall.

“Yeah,” I said. I looked over at Charlotte, who was just lying on her bed. “You going, Charlotte?”

She shrugged. “No, I don’t really feel like it. We weren’t even invited, anyway.”

“Suit yourself,” said Mandy. She put on a pair of square glasses, completing her costume, and the two of us walked out of our dormitory and through the halls on our way to the Gryffindor room for the party. Along the way, Mandy tried to give detentions to anyone we saw in the corridors who would believe she was in fact Professor McGonagall.

Eventually we arrived at the Fat Lady’s portrait that guarded the Gryffindor common room, and then Mandy turned around to face me with a scowl.

“What is it?” I asked. “Or are you just practicing your McGonagall facial expression?”

Mandy sighed. “The Gryffindor password’s changed again, and I don’t know what it is.”

“Oh. We’ll find a way to crash their party somehow. Someone’s bound to come by, right?”

As it happened, we only had to wait five minutes until two fourth year Gryffindor boys sprinted up to the portrait of the Fat Lady and exclaimed “Diricawl!”

The portrait swung open, and one of the boys jabbed the other in the ribs. “You berk, you just yelled that for the whole school to hear! Those are Slytherins standing there!”

“Yep, and we’re coming with you!” said Mandy. She marched through the hole in the wall behind the portrait as the two boys gaped at her, and I hurried after Mandy.

“Hey!” shouted one of the boys. A noise ricocheted off the wall next to us and I ducked from whatever jinxes they might be trying to use and slow us down. But they didn’t try anything else now that we were inside the common room and they might hit someone else.

Someone looked up from behind a table of drinks: it was James, wearing swimming trunks and a Voldemort mask. Next to him was a dementor, who I could only assume was Sirius. He was making exaggerated rasping noises, and it was a pretty good imitation, only rather than that dreadful feeling of cold and misery that came with dementors, he radiated more of an air of drunkenness.

“All right,” said James, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“We heard there was a party that was not to be missed,” I said.

“I’m sorry!” said one of the fourth-years. “I tried to stop them, but they came in anyway! They’re Slytherins!”

“Have they not noticed us the countless other times we’ve been here?” I muttered to Mandy.

James ignored the boys and handed me some firewhisky. “What?!” the fourth-year boy continued, clearly unhappy that his efforts to stop us had not been appreciated. His friend, however, gave up on trying to get us out of the room and asked James for some firewhisky as well.

“Sorry, mate, you’re only fourteen,” said James. Perhaps it would look bad for the Head Boy to be giving alcoholic drinks to kids not yet of age. This didn’t affect Sirius, however, who beckoned the kid over and gave him a drink.

“So what exactly are you supposed to be?” Mandy asked James.

“I’m Voldemort, obviously.” The fourth-year boy flinched and spilled most of his firewhisky as James said the name. “See, if we don’t make Voldemort look silly, people will be too scared to stand up to him! But he’s nothing but a loser who doesn’t have a nose!”

“A powerful loser without a nose,” I corrected. “But you’re right. And your costume is very… original.”

“Thanks,” said James with a grin. “Yours is pretty convincing, Mandy. Either you did a very good job with the costume, or you’re actually just fifty years older than I thought you were.”

“That deserves a detention, Potter,” she said in her best McGonagall voice, and then laughed.

“Maybe you should give him a detention for not actually inviting us,” I suggested.

“You were invited,” he said, shrugging.

I snorted. “Really? I didn’t realize that ‘We’re having a party for Gryffindors only and it’s going to be amazing and too bad Slytherins can’t come’ meant ‘you’re invited’.”

“Melanie! Mandy!” said a voice. I turned around to see Mary Macdonald, grinning. “You came!” she said, and hugged me tightly. “They said it was supposed to be Gryffindors only, but I think the more the merrier, right? I brought Maurice along and he’s a Ravenclaw, but see, you can’t tell because he’s wearing my Gryffindor scarf!”

Maurice Zeller, standing behind Mary, was indeed wearing a Gryffindor scarf. Apart from the scarf, however, he hadn’t really dressed up for the party – unless his idea of a costume was simply dressing as a Gryffindor. “Right,” I said, “I think it’d be great if the whole school could come. Of course, the professors might find out about it that way… And Gryffindor’s password would be useless… that’d be cool.” I shrugged.

“I love your costume!” said Mary, having probably not listened to most of my ramble.

“Thanks,” I said, adjusting a couple of the leaves in my hair. Another girl came up to talk to Mary, who threw her arms around the girl and then they started talking animatedly. So I turned back to the drink table, where Peter had taken James’s place; James was across the room with Lily. Peter had dressed as a girl, complete with a rather untidy blonde wig, and kept stumbling in his purple platform shoes.

Sirius wandered out from behind the table, a half empty glass of firewhisky in his hand. “Who wants a kiss?” asked his voice from inside the hood. “Dementor’s Kiss, get it?”

I rolled my eyes. The dementor appearance in Hogsmeade at the beginning of the month must have just served as an inspiration to him rather than scaring him in any way.

Two fifth-year girls nearby had heard his voice and began trailing behind him expectantly, each girl trying to get one step in front of the other as Sirius walked further into the room, but he sped right past them.

“Melanie?” He waked towards me, removing his hood; his face looked hopeful, resembling that of an eager puppy. He pursed his lips at me.

I half wanted to immediately launch myself at him and accept this welcome opportunity, but thankfully the sensible side of my brain was in control instead and reminded me that he was joking. “Tempting,” I said, trying not to crack a smile. “You know how attracted I am to dementors.”

One of the fifth-year girls stepped up boldly. “Well if she’s not going to take you up on that offer, I will.”

Sirius stopped. “Ah, well, sorry, I’ve just decided the offer’s not available anymore. It’s not really fair anyway. Everyone will want one.”

The girl pouted. Sirius looked back at me. “Anyway, where were we?”

“You were trying to take my soul away. But really, I think I should be taking this away from you.” I took the glass from his hand and drained the remaining firewhisky in it, then coughed as it burned my throat.

“I could have just got you your own drink,” he said.

“I already have one,” I said, holding it up. “I only did that because you’ve clearly had enough to drink, if you’re running after me.”

“How greedy.”

“I know, it’s pretty awful, isn’t it? First I come to your party uninvited, then I steal your drink. You should consider yourself lucky to have a friend like me.”

“Of course I do. And it’s not just anyone who could look beautiful even with leaves all over her face.”

“Stop it, you’re making me blush,” I said flippantly. I was quite glad of the leaves at the moment, as I must have looked more like a tree on fire than anything else. I decided now would be a good time to find someone else to talk to before I slipped up like I had before. That was my plan, but somehow I ended up standing there talking to him for at least an hour, and drinking far more firewhisky than I should have done.

“How much have you had?” Sirius asked at one point when I returned with another drink. He was sitting on the floor now, so I joined him there.

“This is my second one,” I slurred.

He raised an eyebrow, as if he didn’t believe my convincing lie. “I think you’ve had enough,” he said, and reached for the drink in my hand.

“You’re one to talk,” I said. “You can’t even stand up right now.”

“Yes I can. I just don’t feel like it. Besides, it’s easier to take yours than get my own,” he said, swiping my drink from where I had set it on the floor next to me. He watched the drink table for a few seconds, where Remus (dressed as Dumbledore) and Peter were entertaining a couple of people, then looked over at James and Lily in the corner, and sighed. “You know, standing up there was the most time I’ve spent with Prongs in the last week. He never has time for me anymore, unless Lily’s there too. And Lily’s great, but… there’s no James anymore, just James-and-Lily, like they’re one unit.”

I didn’t know what to say; I couldn’t blame him, and he’d probably continue to be jealous no matter what I said. “I’m sure after a little time, they won’t need to spend every moment together,” I suggested eventually. “But until then… how can I distract you?” I scooted closer to him. Too forward, perhaps, but it did seem to divert his attention away from James. He laughed.

At some point I vaguely noticed that the room had started to grow quieter, but Sirius and I were still sitting against the wall away from the rest of the party. And I wasn’t about to leave anytime soon – I was quite enjoying the way Sirius hadn’t taken his eyes off my face for the past half hour. By this time we’d somehow moved on to telling embarrassing stories about ourselves.

“That’s like the time Mandy and I went swimming in the lake,” I said eagerly, “but we went out too far and ran into the giant squid. We both came back with tentacle marks all over our necks and our arms, and it stayed that way for a week, so we had to wear long-sleeved jumpers for a while even though it was June!”

Sirius laughed, and Mandy turned around from where she was standing a few feet away flirting with Remus. “I thought we both agreed to never talk about that,” she said with an amused smirk. She looked at me for a moment, then said, “Come on, we’ve got to get you back home.” I felt her hand lifting up on my arm.

“What? No, I’m staying here,” I said, and grabbed hold of Sirius’s hand. “We’re telling embarrassing stories.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m worried about,” said Mandy calmly. “I don’t want today to turn into one either. It’s late. And you’re too drunk.”

“Oh, come on, Professor, we’re having fun,” said Sirius with a dismissive wave of his hand, knocking over an empty bottle of firewhisky that had been sitting on the floor next to us.

Mandy removed her square glasses – maybe so Sirius wouldn’t call her Professor again. “Look, the party’s over,” she told me. “Let’s go.”

I looked around, peering over the edge of the sofa. There were a few groups of people here and there still talking. Sirius and I were still seated on the floor and hadn’t really known what was going on with anyone else for a while. I turned back to face Sirius. “What happened to you being the talkative party host?” I asked him. “You’re not as good at throwing parties as you say you are – you just spent the whole time in the corner talking to me.”

“Well it’s because I like you. I would rather talk to you.”

I giggled. “Really? I like you too.”

Mandy sighed. “Remus, our friends are drunken idiots,” she said. Remus turned around and looked at Sirius and me sitting there, and came over to us. Mandy helped me to my feet. I turned back to face Sirius; Remus was trying to talk to him but was having about as much success as Mandy was with me.

“You can thank me tomorrow,” said Mandy as she put my arm around her shoulders and led me to the door, waving at people along the way. But before I knew it we were out the door and on our way back to our own dormitory. I wanted to just stop and sit in the middle of the corridor and maybe fall asleep there, but Mandy kept walking me back. Around that point I realised that I wasn’t able to walk without her, and how embarrassed she must be to be seen with me right now, and so I made sure to thank her at least eleven times for being such a good friend.

Mandy and I walked into the Slytherin common room, my arm still around her shoulders tightly as I clung to her in order to stay standing. I felt a little like I was on a boat out at sea. In a corner off to the right, near the stairs, were Lester, Mulciber, and Snape gathered around something. Charlotte was talking with them.

“Hi Charlotte!” I exclaimed loudly, and removed my arm from around Mandy and started walking over to meet Charlotte. After two steps, I stumbled on the carpet and Mandy grabbed my arm as I landed on my knees on the floor. I knelt there laughing as the group in the corner simply stared at us. Mulciber looked quite angry, and Lester put his hands behind his back. I tried to look around Charlotte to see what they were hiding, but I fell over. Then I rolled back and forth on the floor and continued laughing.

The next thing I knew, my arms were around both Mandy and Charlotte’s shoulders as they helped me up the stairs. We reached our dormitory and they got me over to my bed, where I fell face down on the pillow and dropped off to sleep instantly.

I woke up the next morning with a blinding headache. Groaning, I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and then gave up and leant back against the pillow again, not quite ready to get up. I recalled the stupid way I had behaved last night and buried my head further into the pillow. Then I propped my head up again to get the leaves out of my mouth, because I’d never bothered to get them all out of my hair last night before I fell asleep and they now covered my pillow.

I remembered with excitement that Sirius had told me he liked me. But then I thought that it might not have actually happened and I had just dreamed it. And I couldn’t really ask him about that to clarify…

“Good morning,” said Mandy.

“I feel like death,” I told her without preamble. “I’m never drinking again.”

She nodded sympathetically. “Breakfast will make you feel better. And water. Let me get you some water.” She disappeared into the bathroom, and came back a moment later with a glass of water for me, which I accepted gratefully.

“Thanks.” I sat up again and finished the water, rubbed my temples for a minute, and then with a sigh, accepted that I had to face the day at some point. I finally went upstairs to eat breakfast with Mandy.

Amazingly enough, for the end of October, it was sunny and relatively warm, so we spent much of the day outside enjoying possibly the last day of sunshine we’d get all year. So it wasn’t until around dinner time that I finally saw Sirius again. We were both walking into the Great Hall at the same time. I gave him sort of an awkward smile, wondering just how much of last night he remembered, and hoping it wasn’t much. But he looked rather uncomfortable as well when he said “All right Melanie?” Clearly I hadn’t just imagined him saying he liked me…

I thought it might be less awkward if we talked rather than just walking away, so we had a very superficial conversation about the weather, and it felt like there was a hippogriff in the room. Sirius kept fidgeting with his sleeve. It was strange to see Sirius so out of his comfort zone and not his confident and charming self. He had the ability to be nervous – who’d have thought?

After a couple of minutes we ran out of ways to discuss how sunny it had been today, and we headed off for our separate tables. I rejoined Mandy and Charlotte at the Slytherin table, and Charlotte looked up at me. “Please sort that out, I saw you two talking over there and I’m glad I was so far away from you, because you two are embarrassing. You obviously both like each other, so quit dragging it on.”

“What?” I asked. I turned to Mandy, who took a large bite of pie. That was exactly what I did when she wanted information from me, and I didn’t like her doing it back to me. I scowled, and then turned back to Charlotte and changed the subject. “What were you doing last night?” I asked. “I saw you and Lester and Mulciber and Snape hiding out in a corner.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said dismissively. “They’ve got all sorts of stupid ideas and were trying to get me involved.”

“What sorts of stupid ideas?” I asked, anxious. Given some of their other ideas of fun, like using the Imperius Curse on Althea, I was sure this wasn’t anything innocent. “It hasn’t got anything to do with Dark Magic, has it?”

“No. I don’t even know half of what they were talking about, I wasn’t paying attention. Lester got a new bracelet of some sort. It looks girly.”

“That’s probably why he was hiding it,” said Mandy.

Mandy and Charlotte continued talking about our fellow Slytherins, but I had eyes only for the boy across the room from me. The Gryffindor table was on the other side of the hall from us, but when I looked up, the people at the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables in between were seated in such a way that I could still see Sirius. And he was watching me. And finally, rather than just looking away and pretending I’d not meant to look at him, I smiled back.

Charlotte was right. I needed to talk to him. I didn’t want to keep stringing it out; I was tired of wondering and feeling awkward. Last year I’d done that for months waiting for Luke to ask me out. But now I thought I might be able to take matters into my own hands. Maybe I’d finally ask Sirius out, like Mandy had suggested a few weeks ago. There was another Hogsmeade weekend in the middle of November, which would be the perfect opportunity.


A/N: Thanks for reading! Your support and reviews mean so much to me.

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