Mary sat at the window seat in the Gryffindor common room until the sun rose. At first it had just shyly poked around the tops of the trees in the forbidden forrest and then all of a sudden it had exploded brilliantly over the grounds, throwing little specks of dust all over the now-orange common room. She was staring out at the grounds with her forehead resting on the window when Adrian came down the staircase. She recognized his footsteps without looking because he always would sort of skip down these specific stairs. First the left foot cautiously and then he'd bound two at a time with a particular rhythm. She'd seen and heard him do it so many times before and she was just as excited to hear him as she'd ever been but she didn't turn towards him. There was a part of her who'd been playing around with the idea of making him feel unloved as well. Then another part who couldn't stand the idea of treating him poorly or of isolating herself even further.
"Want to go for a walk?" he asked half-heartedly.
"Why're you up so early?" she asked, still looking out over the grounds. There was an owl soaring in circles more playfully than what she was used to seeing. It didn't appear to be looking for food but rather enjoying stretching it's open wings. Mary imagined the train ride would be unbearable in a cage.
"I knew you'd be awake." damn him, she thought. Buttering her up when she was still feeling off around him and selfishly hoping to make him feel bad too.. "Let's go for a walk. Come on." she looked over at him and his hand was outstretched towards her. In the past she would've taken it without thinking and then she would've thought nothing of the way his arm would wrap over her shoulders. This morning, however, she slid off the window seat and ignored his hand, walking towards the portrait hole. She turned around and saw the pained expression on his face.
"Let's go." she said, with a small smile and a nod towards the exit.
The pair walked to the lake in near silence. Lately the muggle world as well as the wizarding world had been experiencing some changes but Hogwarts always felt so safe and unchanging. Until now, of course. The thought that there were dark thoughts and even darker magic spreading throughout the dungeons of Hogwarts made Mary shiver on this warm day.
The two old friends found a spot near the lake under the shade of an old tree and talked about the book as she practiced on him for hours. Adrian was very serious about wanting her to be prepared.
"Calvario!" she said, causing Adrian's hair to slowly fall to the grass. She then stared at his bald spot with unwavering eye-contact and focused on the counter-curse without actually saying it out loud. She was beginning to get impressed with her own ability to do non-verbal spells. The bald spot filled with hair again as quickly as it had disappeared.
"Cantis!" she exclaimed, forcing Adrian to break into a rousing chorus of "Bennie and the Jets," a muggle-song that he'd driven her crazy with the year before after he'd first heard it on the radio. Her annoyance for the song made the counter-curse very easy and before he'd gone too far suddenly he was no longer singing.
"Not my fault!" he said, laughing with his hands raised in surrender. "It was the first thing my brain came up with, I guess." At this point other students had made their way to the grounds and were beginning to lounge on the grass around them, some had laughed at Adrian's version of the Elton John song. Mary noticed a group sitting in the shadows of the castle where the Slytherins were most often found and took that opportunity to suggest going for breakfast. Adrian had clearly seen them too because as they approached the castle he moved to her right side in a way of blocking their view of Mary.
When they arrived at the Gryffindor table they found the marauders as well as Natalie who seemed to be filling her plate for the second time.
"Let me guess.. You'll be spending the day practicing your flying?" Mary asked. Sirius and James Potter both scoffed as if it was the only way to spend a Sunday and Mary needn't have asked. Natalie simply smiled sheepishly through a full mouth of scrambled eggs and managed to raise her shoulders in response.
"And you two will be spending the afternoon doing what?" Remus Lupin inquired.
"Well, actually, I might watch." Adrian shrugged as he picked through an assortment of fruit trying to avoid putting any strawberries on his plate. He'd never liked strawberries. Mary raised her eyebrows at him in question. "Well, I don't know. I was hoping to spend the day outside, at least. Might be fun to watch people exercise while I sit lazily and nap off this meal." Mary had no intention of joining him. She truly enjoyed the games but she'd never been the type of girl to go and watch the team practice. She also felt it was a good opportunity to distance herself a bit from Adrian, having spent the whole morning together. Maybe he was trying to do the same thing, knowing that she'd never want to watch the marauders and company mess around on their brooms. She looked up from the porridge slowly dripping off of her spoon and realized that Remus was waiting for her response.
"Right, no, I won't be doing that." Sirius, who'd also been waiting for her answer, rolled his eyes. She pulled her long hair into a messy bun. "I've got to send letters to family, thanking them for birthday presents I'll never use. I told mum I'd do it weeks ago and if she finds out I never sent them that's howler territory."
"First of all, i'm so horribly sorry I missed your birthday." Sirius jumped in, pointing a fork at her which an entire sunny-side-up egg dangled dangerously from. "Secondly, can't you write your letters from the bleachers?" Natalie and Remus chuckled together, both accustomed to his quick wit and interest in Mary.
"I'm writing a letter to my mom in the stands!" Peter piped up. He'd always been a shy, follower type and for years Mary wondered why the other boys had befriended him. He wasn't as smart as them or as funny or even charming at all, really. In the beginning of their fifth year, though, she'd witnessed them stick up for him after Avery had thrown a bat-bogey hex his way. She'd admired their loyalty and spellwork after seeing the damage they did to the Slytherin.
"As fun as it sounds, I think I'll pass. Don't want to over-exert myself, you know, with classes starting tomorrow." Sirius gave her a narrow-eyed grin but didn't fight it any further.
"Are you done yet Natalie?" James asked impatiently, eager to get off of the ground. As he finished his sentence, though, Lily and Taylor walked into the Great Hall and his posture immediately reminded Mary of a dog that'd found a scent. He stammered to correct his mistake. "Because I don't think you've had any toast and you'll need your energy if you're going to protect those posts from me rather than the usual half-assed Slytherin shots." he raised his voice and started talking more enthusiastically as the two girls sat down next to Mary.
"You know, I don't know if I feel like toast today, James." Natalie said with a smirk, though the entire group knew that Natalie always had a never-ending hunger.
"Have some toast! The orange marmalade is exceptional this morning. So, Evans! What're you up to today?" He asked with a forced casual attitude combined with too much interest. The gang of Slytherins which this particular group of Gryffindors had so much trouble with came into the Great Hall at that moment. Lily's glare went from James to Severus Snape to her plate. Snape was a Slytherin in their year who was friends with Mulciber and Avery. He had been friends with Lily until last year when he'd shown his true colors (green and silver) to her by calling her a filthy mudblood simply because she'd tried to help him from being picked on by James. Mary still remembered when she'd come upon him outside of the fat lady's portrait with a new bottle of Firewhiskey hidden in her robes. It was one of their last nights before summer and Mary had very recently been taken from the hospital wing. She'd told him to get lost, she said that she'd heard what he'd said to Lily and he should go be ashamed of himself somewhere else. He simply informed her that he would be sleeping in front of the portrait if he couldn't talk to Lily. She warned him not to fall asleep in case James found him first. She had then gone to tell Lily that he was there and to be careful while Mary and Adrian proceeded to drink the Firewhiskey. In a way, Mary thought, two old friendships had come to an end that night.
"We'll be preparing for classes, Potter." Taylor said without looking at him as she scooped potatoes out of the serving dish.
"Term hasn't even started yet!" Said James and Taylor at the same time. She smirked and raised her eyebrows at his predictability.
"Come watch us play, Evans, it could count as our first date." James said, flashing the grin he usually reserved just for Lily. She glared at him as she buttered her toast rather aggressively.
"Tempting." she grumbled. Normally Lily was one of the nicest girls at Hogwarts but for James Potter she had a short temper and an old grudge. He'd been bothering her for year, much more obsessively than Sirius had ever done with his own target and Mary was thankful for that. While Sirius had been interested in chasing Mary since the beginning of their third year, he'd also been dating other girls whether he'd been taking them to Hogsmeade or simply to broom cupboards during a Gryffindor celebration. None of them had ever lasted longer than two or so dates but he'd known not to put all his eggs in Mary's basket. James, however, had been hopelessly stuck on Lily for years with noone else in sight. It was almost sad.
"Let's go!" Sirius whined. Even Natalie had finished eating which meant that Sirius had probably been waiting for a while. The three quidditch players got up from their seats with Adrian and Peter following them into the Entrance hall. Adrian had put his hand on Mary's shoulder on his way out and she wasn't sure if he was apologizing for leaving her alone or simply saying goodbye. She'd once been able to read him so well.
"You're not joining?" Taylor asked Remus. He was definitely done with his plate but hadn't gone with them.
"Not today. I also need to make a trip to the owlery. Care for some company?" he asked Mary. She'd always found him to be the most pleasant of the Marauders so she accepted his invitation as she poured herself some tea.
Ten minutes later as the two left the Great Hall together, Mary made the mistake of letting her eyes wander to the Slythern table. Mulciber had been watching her, of course, and had a horribly serene smile on his face as if to say that she'd be alone sooner or later and he'd find her then.
"He really got to you, didn't he?" Remus asked as they got closer to the Gryffindor common room. They had been walking in a comfortable silence before he'd interrupted it but the thoughts in her head had been very loud.
"Hm? Oh, well.." she mumbled. "Frog Spawn Soap." she said to the Fat Lady and the portrait swung open to let the two in. They separated to grab their quills and parchment and rejoined to go to the owlery. Mary hadn't truly intended on writing the thank-you notes but didn't want to be caught in a lie. As they walked they retreated back into the comfortable silence until a thought suddenly occured to Mary. "Wait a minute! Adrian is prefect this year! Why wasn't it you again?"
"Oh, noticed, have you?" he chuckled. "Adrian's perfect for the job. I told Dumbledore I didn't want the added responsibility on top of my school work. Besides, you'd be surprised how hard it is pretending not to recognize the work of James and Sirius. Their pranks have a certain style to them, a lack of subtlety, and it was hard being put between them and Lily." He said with a smile. For some reason his smiles always had a sadness to them and Mary always suspected he wasn't ever telling the full truth. She wasn't one to judge, of course, she had several secrets of her own. Or maybe that's simply the way he spoke- maybe he could say two plus two is four and she would doubt him.
"I suppose that makes sense." She said as they climbed the staircase to the owlery. "I never was sure how you juggled all your responsibilities, I mean, what with your studies and prefect duties and pranks and sneaking about in the nights like you marauders are known to do.." she grinned at him. He looked concerned for a moment about how she knew so much. "You share a dormitory with my best friend! When you guys would go sneaking off at night I'd go up there and we'd put a charm on Edgar Bones to keep him from waking up and have the room practically to ourselves for chess or exploding snap or butterbeer."
"Wait a minute- are you the one who drew mustaches on all of the naked witches in Sirius' wardrobe?" Remus asked, an excited realization dawning on his face. She winked at him. "He still blames James for that!" Remus laughed a good hearty laugh. It was now Mary's turn to wear a sad smile. She was pretty sure she and Adrian would not be having too many more nights like that one. She suddenly looked up to see that Remus had noticed her change of expression. They opened the door to the owlery and she realized how much she had missed it.
"I get the feeling that what happened with Mulciber isn't the only thing bringing you down." Remus said cautiously, his head tilted down but his eyes meeting hers. Mary usually had her guard up but right now it was at a half-way point. Maybe it was something about Remus that she trusted or maybe it was the fact that she felt so alone these days. It could possibly be the fact that she knew he had secrets of his own- Mary knew that she could confide in him.
"You're right. But you also don't know everything that happened with Mulciber.." she said. Her owl heard her voice and began quietly letting go of high pitched, hoarse notes that had always reminded Mary of a dog's bark. Mary finally spotted her- the light brown owl with the orange beak and long tail feathers was looking down at her with one sleepy eye. She was normally quite friendly and energetic but preferred to be sent to work at night. "Hi, Doris." Mary said softly as she sat down on a wooden bench with her parchment and quill ready.
"How much more to the story is there?" Remus asked with concern in his voice.
"That depends on what you've heard." She said matter-of-factly, looking up at him.
"Well.. We heard Flitwick talking to Sprout about it when we were coming back from one of our apparently well-known night-time strolls. He told her that Mulciber.. cut the words "blood-traitor" into your skin after you'd gotten in a fight. That he left you lying on the floor to bleed and Adrian had found you... That It was dark magic Pompfrey hadn't expected and that she'd been worried for a bit that she wouldn't be able to make the bleeding stop. I'm hoping we've heard it all." he said, meeting her eyes and sitting down next to her on the bench.
"Yeah, mostly. Except.. He used the Cruciatus Curse on-"
"What?" Remus looked disgusted. "Did you tell Dumbledore?" he whispered. She shook her head and looked down at her blank parchment. "Why not? He used an Unforgiveable, Mary, he could be put in Azkaban for what he did to you."
"I don't think he'd go to Azkaban. He's still a minor and plus his family is very well connected and important within the ministry. My family... for the most part my family is into the whole blood purity thing. My grandparents and aunts and uncles, I mean. Some of my cousins don't want to pick a side. But my parents are good people they don't believe in that sort of thing. I can't force them to out themselves, they both work at the ministry and we all know the ministry has Death Eaters on the inside.." He didn't seem convinced. "Also, the reason why he cursed me was because I turned him down, I guess.." She took a deep breath and readied herself. Somehow talking about Adrian was much more difficult than telling Remus about the Cruciatus curse. "He was being too aggressive and I got scared and I told him to stop and he wouldn't stop and then he brought blood into it. He brought Adrian's blood into it. I told him that I.. I love Adrian. He told me I'd love him. He thinks he's going to make me love him." It was all so embarassing. She was ashamed that she hadn't been able to fight Mulciber off properly, that she'd held onto such a stupid secret, and that the most important person in her life didn't find her enough to love. "I lied to Madam Pompfrey to keep my dignity but then I became a blundering drunken mess a few nights later and told Adrian that I loved him.." She was still avoiding Remus' eyes. "He didn't feel the same way."
"And that's what's been bothering you?" Remus asked, making her feel even more ridiculous. A love-struck child, thinking her heart weighs more than her life.
"He's my best friend. I thought we meant the same to each other but now I know that's not the case.. I tried to kiss him and everything. It was horrible."
"Wow.." Remus just shook his head in disbelief. "Mary, have you ever seen him show interest in any girl at all?" he asked her with raised eyebrows and a look on his face as if she was missing something very obvious.
"Well, neither of us have ever actually dated anyone at Hogwarts. Just summer flings, so no, I don't suppose i've ever actually seen him show interest in any girls." she said, not seeing his point. Remus sighed.
"Listen, Mary, if this is really what's bothering you then I think you need to know the truth. The guy's gay."
"What? No." she laughed. It was the seventies, there was nothing wrong with homosexuality, but Adrian wasn't gay. He dated a girl from Bristol the summer before their fourth year. "No, he's not gay. He dated a girl once. From Bristol. Before fourth year."
"Did you ever meet her? Did he write to her?" She opened her mouth as if to answer but closed it again, thinking. He'd really only ever brought it up in passing. She'd thought it was very gentlemanly. "Mary, what are the chances that a bloke can be best friends with one of the most beautiful girls in the school, spend all of his time with her including drunken nights with a dormitory to themselves, and he'd never made a single attempt on you in all these years?"
"No." She said laughing. "You've got the wrong idea, he's a gentleman, that's all."
"He's a gentleman who likes gentleman." Remus chuckled softly.
Mary rolled her eyes at his comment and put her quill to parchment, dismissing his idea. Adrian was her best friend- she'd know if he was harboring such a big secret. But then again, she let herself think, he didn't know that she was harboring a secret of her own. And how silly a secret it would be if his turned out to be true.
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