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 Someone shoved me to the side as I stood in the middle of the room. The fire was burning brightly, but it was not contained in the fireplace anymore. I looked down at my feet, and the flames licked at them but I could not move. I couldn’t move my feet. A faceless figure was burning up at the other end of the room. I felt slippery all of a sudden, like I wasn’t really there at all.

“Charlotte why are you doing this?” Remus Lupin asked me from somewhere all around me. His voice was clear and alive, but floating and omniscient.

“I don’t know what you are referring to.” I felt oddly concerned with whatever Remus was talking about.

“The Quidditch match!” he urged further, as if I should know exactly what he meant. “Why would you do that?”

“I like having a violin lull me to sleep,” I said, matter-of-factly, as if Remus should know exactly what I was talking about.

I looked down again, and the fire was climbing. It hit my calves now, and I began to feel the burn. I watched my legs turn from their light beige to a dark, crispy, black. I could still stand, but I still felt stable, upright.

“No one is playing a violin,” Remus’ voice countered, coming from farther away this time.

“I could learn to play the violin,” I reasoned.

“But what about the other?” someone unrecognizable asked, shoving me off my balance again. My legs were gone now, but I was still standing up.

 

I shot up out of bed. I threw the covers off my lap, and saw my legs, letting out a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what a dream was, I’d just never experienced one so vivid. I let my hands fall to my legs, untrusting of my eyes alone. The drapes around my bed weren’t closed, and I looked over to see Emma and Elizabeth asleep in their beds. At least I hadn’t woken them up.

The sky was just coming out of its sleep as well. The sun was peeking up on the horizon. I stepped out of bed, wiggling my toes as my feet hit the floor. Emma turned over in her bed, and I stood up, walking over to the window. I climbed into the windowsill and unlatched the window, sneaking through it silently to sit on the roof. A shiver ran through my body as a gust of wind blew past on the Ravenclaw Tower. October had brought a chill with it, and I was beginning to feel the effects.

This was perhaps something I should mention to Dumbledore. Ever since I came to Hogwarts, he has been hovering. Even before Hogwarts, I suppose, he hovered. Going through the amount of foster homes I went through was almost astonishing; he must have had a hand in that. And then there is the part about how I became half-Inferius.

There are no sealed hospital records, no tall tales, no secrets. Not that I know about anyway. My mother was pregnant with me when she was turned into an Inferius, and then I showed up at a hospital. From then on, I was just a little girl who threw up her formula a lot. This is the story given to me by Dumbledore. So again, no secrets that I know about.

The strange part: I remembered a father. No, I would never tell anyone about this. I don’t know if the memory is something I created to fill a hole, or something much darker, but it is there. So maybe I would tell Dumbledore about the dream, and maybe I wouldn’t. There is nothing that special about me besides my condition. Plenty of people have strange dreams.

And in another way, I know that this is probably the sort of thing that Madame Pomfrey was talking about when she’d asked if anything strange was going on. But my meeting with Dumbledore today was about the trouble that Sirius Black had gotten me into last night. So I would keep the focus on that.

Sirius Black and I were caught stealing Butterbeer from the Hogwarts kitchens. What Butterbeer was doing in a school kitchen was beyond me, but I digress. Sirius Black and I; quite the pairing. I do not know what possessed me to leave the party with him, logically knowing that wherever we were going alone could not have been better than the party.

It was just something about Sirius Black that made you want to listen to him. And it was infuriating. Because inside my head there was a voice telling me that he was a bad influence, and would ruin my school record at the drop of a hat. But with every fiber of my being, and every nerve of my nervous system, I ignored that voice in my head and I went with Sirius Black anyway. My bones chilled again as a second wind blew past.

The clock in the Astronomy Tower began tolling, and caught my ear. The bell rang out two times, signifying 7:30 AM. I sighed, and leaned my head back for one more second. Our meeting was scheduled for 8:00 AM in Dumbledore’s office. I tucked back into the room, closing the window lightly behind me.

 




 

Professor Dumbledore’s office was stuffy, in my humble opinion. Sirius Black sat next to me in the Headmaster’s office, leaning back in his chair and sucking on a lemon candy. He seemed oddly comfortable in the circular space. I felt as if it was closing in on me and expanding to accommodate all of the trinkets all at the same time.

“Good morning, Sirius, Charlotte,” Professor Dumbledore said mildly, descending from his tower that leads to Merlin knows what above his office. “I hope that the rest of the night allowed for some restful sleep after last night’s events. I kept my face flat as a twinkle rose in Dumbledore’s right eye. “I see you have already helped yourself to the offerings, Sirius. Please, Charlotte, feel free to my candy. It is not set out for my benefit,” he said, an internal chuckle raising to his eyes as well. I do not believe Dumbledore understood the properties of an inside joke.

“No thank you Headmaster.” He paused for a second after I said that, and Sirius stopped sucking on his foully-scented candy as Dumbledore’s piercing gaze tore into me. If Sirius wasn’t a Legilimens, Dumbledore certainly was.

“Charlotte is right,” Dumbledore said, breaking his concentration and finally sitting across from us at his desk. “We should get started with our discussion before time slips away from me again. Sirius, would you like to tell me why Professor McGonagall found you lurking in the kitchens once again?”

Sirius opened his mouth, but Dumbledore held up a finger.

“Might I add that Professor McGonagall has already informed me that Butterbeer was involved.” Sirius’ face was crestfallen, and I swear Dumbledore smirked. “Go on,” he said, after a beat. Sirius seemed to have been shot down, so I decided to get it over with.

“Sirius and I went to the kitchens to find more Butterbeer for an after party that was held in the Gryffindor common room.” I said swiftly. Sirius scoffed, and I felt him glaring at the side of my head. I refused to turn and look to him, because his eyes were just as piercing as Dumbledore’s.

“Mr. Black, you recall how this must go,” he said, rather dejectedly. It seemed as though Dumbledore would have preferred not to know exactly what had happened. Something about this made me realize how Sirius Black got away with as much as he did. “I am afraid I must assign the both of you detention. Three detentions over the next six weeks until Holiday Break seems fair,” he reasoned, seeming to talk to someone else invisible to everyone else.

“I have Quidditch Monday through Thursday,” Sirius offered before Dumbledore even had a second to breathe. He had clearly done this before.

“Does Friday work for you Miss Malkin?” I cringed at the opportunistic alliteration of my name. I cleared my throat.

“Friday does work for me. After 4:30.” I felt Sirius roll his eyes at me. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make the schedule for NEWT Charms.

“I think we have it settled, then! Detention will be held Fridays at 5:00 with Mr. Filch,” Dumbledore said brightly. “Is there anything else I should know?” he asked, turning his gaze to me once again. I didn’t say anything; I just stared right back at him.

“No,” Sirius said nonchalantly, standing up and taking a great yawn, stretching his arms up.

“Me either,” I said, finally taking a break from Dumbledore and glancing over to Sirius, who had released his arms and had walked out from behind his chair.

“Thank you for your time,” I said to Professor Dumbledore, standing up and refusing to make eye contact with him again.

“We shall see each other soon enough,” he said to our retreating backs. Sirius got to the door first, and held it open for me as I snuck through. I stepped forward onto the stone platform outside his office, and began my way down the stairs.

“Wait, Malkin,” Sirius called after me, skipping over a few steps to walk next to me. “I figure we’re about even now, eh?” he asked, nudging my elbow with his. I involuntarily shuddered as he touched my elbow.

“How on earth do you think that we are even? Not that I really care to get even, or to be in the same room with you, but thanks to you it appears we have no choice,” I rambled fluidly. “Let’s call the situation…bearable.”

“Well, for this!” he exclaimed irritably, rolling up the sleeve of his T-shirt and showing me a nasty bruise on his shoulder that clearly ran further along his chest.

I shrugged and just kept walking, recalling a particularly vicious hit I aimed at Sirius during the match.

“I’m sure Madame Pomfrey can fix that up in a jiffy,” I said flatly, clearing my throat and speeding up my pace ever so slightly. “Unfortunately there is no cure for detention,” I said bitterly, almost biting my tongue at the snide comment. Calm down I internally berated myself.

“Are you really that upset?” Sirius asked in disbelief, clicking his tongue behind his teeth. “What’s a few hours with me and old Filchy really going to do to you?”

In all honesty, the detention wouldn’t be all that bothersome. I didn’t need to sleep, cutting into my dinnertime was not a problem, and my homework would get done in the time I didn’t use for sleep. The most bothersome thing running through my head right now was the fact that I wanted Sirius to think that it would be a bother to me.

“I have a schedule, Sirius, and I like to keep to it,” I answered vaguely, hoping he would probe no further.

“What’s your bloody schedule then?”

Another trait of Gryffindor house: they were impossibly, unendingly, nosy.

“I don’t need to share anything else with you, Black,” I said snidely, almost spitting out his name.

“Alright, then, Malkin,” he rebuked, matching my tone. My eyes snuck towards Sirius out of their own volition. His jaw was tight, but his smirk was still visible. He looked down at me, probably feeling my eyes on the side of his neck, and our eyes met for a second- just a second.

I turned away from him, and kept my head straight on as we made our way towards the Great Hall. More than anything I wanted to rip that smarmy smirk off of Sirius Black’s face. Not because it made him unattractive, but because the smirk meant that Sirius Black was flirting with me, and I would not stand for it.

 




 

“I cannot believe you left the Gryffindor party with Sirius Black,” Mary hissed at me across the table at the library. “Do you know what this means?” Mary asked unnecessarily. She knew I would not know what that meant.

“Hush, Mary,” I whispered, flipping the page over on my History of Magic textbook. This passage on an Italian philosopher was especially captivating.

“You are two beaters from opposing teams, both Seventh Years,” Mary mulled to herself in a voice that I could hear. “The sexual tension!” she finally squeaked out grabbing my wrist across the table. I took a small breath before daring to respond to Mary.

“So how was your night, Mary? I went for your sake, after all,” I grumbled, going back to my reading.

“Do not try and deflect, Charlotte. Do not do it to me,” Mary warned, the excitement in her voice all too clear. She squeezed my wrist one more time before releasing it. “You know all the Gryffindors will be talking about it. You two would have beautiful, vicious, dark haired, babies!” she spilt out, sitting back in her chair before I had a chance to retaliate.

“Mary, you know I can’t have children,” I said, bored. I saw Mary’s face crumble out of the corner of my eye, and I felt guilty for a second. I really had no desire to have children, but Mary did. And it pained Mary to know that I would never have the opportunity; I knew that it pained her. “Really, how was your night?” I asked, submitting to her wills and closing my textbook.    

“It was actually really fun, Char,” she said, letting out a breath. “Thanks so much for coming along.”

“Of course,” I muttered, almost rolling my eyes.

Mary and I fell into a comfortable silence, and I decided I was safe to open up my textbook. I couldn’t concentrate on the words in front of me as Mary hummed to herself and began translating some runes.

“So did mum write you, too?” Mary asked timidly, keeping her quill to her parchment. She had a trained sort of casualty that I recognized.

“Mum did not write me, no,” I said touchily. Mary had always been the favorite child. It wasn’t difficult to see why. “What did she have to say?”

“Well, Thomas moved out,” Mary said tentatively, seeing the darkness cloud over my face. “He just turned eighteen a week ago.”

“Lucky, Thomas,” I muttered.

“Charlotte, Annie has been nothing but kind to us,” Mary argued, unconsciously touching her deaf ear.

Mary lost all hearing in her left ear because her biological father beat her until she finally got put into the foster system. Our stories were quite different.

“We really got lucky, considering…”

Mary did not often leave much to the imagination, but when she did it was because the topic was too uncomfortable for her.

“Considering what? How Angela, and David, and Tabitha ended up?” I saw Mary look around nervously as my voice rose slowly. I took it down a notch as I noticed several other students peeking their heads out from behind the shelves of books.

“I really am sorry, Mar,” I apologized. “I’m just a bit on edge.” Mary looked at me with sympathy, and placed her hand over mine again. I don’t know how she stood the cold grip of my hand without cringing.

“When is the last time you ate?” she asked. Mary would make an excellent mother, now that I think on it.

“Must have been before the match,” I muttered. Mary gave me a look of disapproval. Sometimes I forgot to keep up my eating habits.

“Let’s grab lunch before you go full on you-know-what,” Mary said, whispering over the table. I cracked a brief smile: joking about my infliction was the only way to lighten things up.

“Alright,” I said, packing my textbook in my bag.

Mary stuffed her parchment and quill in her satchel, and headed out of the library with me on her heels. I walked past a table with Remus Lupin on the way out, and his table of tutoring students quieted rather coincidentally as I passed.  

I looked away, pretending I didn’t see him. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I was afraid of what he would say to me or if it was because I was afraid of what he had heard. 

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