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Addy groaned pathetically as she opened her burning eyes next day. She could feel her pulse in the back of her skull. She closed her eyes again and turned over, covering her head with her duvet, feeling deflated. She’d felt so…so brilliant last night, and for what? A dance with those ridiculous girls and getting felt up by Avery? Somehow, she didn’t think that was significant information to report back to Dumbledore. Really, why did she think this was something she could do? Whatever it was she was supposed to do… when was it she was supposed to hear something of import? They obviously didn’t discuss things like that at their frivolous little parties. She’d probably have to spend even more time with them, and she really didn’t think she was up for that. She was barely keeping it together as is… what was she to do? She needed advice. She decided to owl Alice, the only one she’d ever really trusted. Alice had always given it to Addy straight, something she felt she needed then.

Addy was climbing the stairs to the owlery, still lost in her thoughts, and yelped in surprise, causing the two occupants of the owlery to do the same; Peter and Jamie, some fifth year Hufflepuff Addy vaguely knew of, jumped apart, spluttering and blushing furiously. ‘It..it..it’s not what it looks like!’ Jamie stuttered.

Addy held her hands up. ‘Ok. I didn’t see anything any roads. I’m just mailing a letter.’ She crossed the room, calling the closest barn owl down from it’s perch as Peter and Jamie shot each other looks.

‘You…you won’t say anything, will you Addy?’

‘Course not Pete. Your secret is safe with my indifference.’

‘What?’ he squeaked.

‘Never mind,’ Addy waved him off. ‘He’s fit,’ she added quietly, trying to sound casual to reassure him. Peter spluttered and blushed again, and Addy smiled tightly before turning to leave. She really couldn’t care less who Peter chose to snog. Although it was a bit surprising, she had more important things to worry about. She needed to be able to calm her anxiety enough that she could dive further into the snake pit. Maybe she just needed to take some more of that elixir.

 

‘Habiba,’ Addy greeted politely, a few days later as they entered greenhouse five. ‘Have you been in touch with Morgan?’

‘Who?’ Habiba’s dark eyebrows knit together in confusion.

Godrick, but she was thick. Addy wondered how she had gotten the required OWLs to even make it into that class. Lucky for her, she was pretty. ‘Do you have anymore elixir?’ Addy whispered.

‘Oh, yeah!’ Habiba giggled, patting her satchel in a way that Addy knew she thought was discreate. ‘Do you…?’

‘Not right now,’ Addy said, glancing around. ‘Don’t want to be attacked by the venomous tentacula…break?’

‘Sure,’ Habiba shrugged, smiling easily.

 

Sirius watched Addy slide into the empty spot next to Remus just as McGonagall was closing the door to the transfiguration classroom, her eyes bloodshot. She was high again. Sirius had been watching her closely. He’d noticed when she’d begun spending even more time with Habiba and Carina the last few weeks, withdrawing further from the other Gryffindors, turning up inebriated frequently, even going so far as to come to class as such, something she never would have done before. She’d been getting more letters as of late, though he caught the signature once, and found she was corresponding with Alice, although she’d gotten just one more letter from her mother. He’d seen her still, eyes going wide briefly before she stole herself and withdrew outdoors. He had followed her again, as Padfoot, to the edge of the tree line, where she quietly recounted the contents of the letter to him as she worried her bottom lip between her teeth, her brow knitted. She’d been scribing in that little book of hers more often, either during class or when she’d hide herself away in the shadowed corner of the common room. He’d thought she was writing until he caught the scattered sketches littering the pages.

McGonagall set them to change the color of their eyebrows, using a hand mirror, and Addy had lazily gone through various colors, before removing it all, looking bored. She started transfiguring her fingers into tiny spear like claws, grinning as she held her hand out in front of her face. Remus looked over at her, quirking a brow. ‘How do you do that so easily?’

Addy shrugged. ‘I have a very active imagination and excellent wand control.’ She reached over and ran a finger up Remus’s arm, smiling cheekily when his eyes widened in surprise. ‘You know who really has excellent wand control?’

‘You-know-who has excellent wand control?’ said Remus.

Addy’s brow knitted in confusion before she rolled her eyes and smirked back at him. ‘Ha ha,’ she said dryly. ‘Marlene.’

‘What?’ Marlene said, turning around.

‘Nothing,’ Addy waved her away. ‘Don’t be an earwig.’ She righted her fingers with a quick wave of her wand before she leaned closer to Remus to whisper, ‘Marlene has excellent wand control.’

Remus’s expression morphed into one of contrite. ‘That situation is…complicated,’ he said, glancing at Marlene.

‘Only because you make it complicated. You obviously fancy each other.’

‘It’s not that easy.’

‘Oh, get over yourself and just bloody snog the girl, Lupin.’

Remus poked his tongue into his cheek, shaking his head. ‘Just get over myself, eh?’

Addy nodded. ‘It’s not like she’s asking you to get married and make babies. Besides, you seem like you need to unwind sometimes.’

‘Like you do?’

Addy frowned. ‘Now that, is a complicated situation.’

‘Is it?’ Remus said, looking at her sideways. ‘Or do you make it complicated?’

Addy sat up straight, looking cross. ‘It is.’

‘Ok,’ Remus said, holding his hands up in mock surrender, ‘it is.’

 

‘So, what were you and Dara all chummy about, Moony?’ Sirius asked, trying to act casual, as they left the classroom.

‘She told me to get over myself,’ Remus said, eyes wide in irritation.

Sirius laughed, relieved. ‘Why?’

‘Said something about snogging Marlene…’

‘Well, you know our opinion on that,’ James said easily, clapping him on the back.

‘But I can’t lead her on like that,’ said Remus.

‘How is it leading her on to snog her, Moony?’ Sirius said exasperatedly.

‘She could get the wrong idea.’

‘And what idea would that be? That you want to snog her?’ Sirius said.

‘That we could ever have a real relationship!’

‘C’mon Moony, you could have a real relationship. You deserve to be happy too,’ said James.

Remus shook his head. ‘Marlene deserves someone whole.’

‘You are whole,’ Sirius said earnestly.

Remus shook his head again. ‘We’ve been over this, and I’m not going to change my mind, so can we just drop it?’

Sirius sighed.

‘Sure mate,’ James said resignedly.

Peter, as was often the case, didn’t know what to say, so had remained silent through the entire encounter, frowning in concern. He was better one on one really and would usually put in his quiet words of encouragement later, when the two were alone and he’d had time to have a think on it.

 

James and Sirius had detention that night for exploding Snape’s cauldron during potions for bothering Lily. Again. They’d been split up, as was routine by now, James having to fertilize plants in the greenhouses with a few other students, while Sirius had to scrub out cauldrons for Slughorn. Sirius sighed irritably as he entered the common room. It was going on midnight, and he figured James would already be in their dorm. He crossed to the stairs and stopped as the firelight played across the familiar legs of a figure in a corner armchair. Sirius smiled softly, seeing Addy had fallen asleep while drawling again, her head lolled onto the back of the chair and her book resting open on her lap; he changed his course and crossed the room to her, sitting on the small table in front of her and placing his hand on her arm to shake her lightly. He hadn’t anticipated her reaction however, as she started violently, reaching frantically for her wand in her lap with wide eyes, her book tumbling to the floor in the process. Sirius grabbed her upper arms quickly and stooped to catch her gaze with his. ‘Woah, Dara, it’s ok! It’s just me,’ he said softly.

Addy visibly relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief. ‘Sorry,’ she said quietly, lowering her wand with a look of contrite.

‘S’alright,’ Sirius said, bending to pick up her book as she rubbed a hand over her face tiredly. He paused in the act of handing the book back to her, smiling as he saw some of the drawings. ‘These are really good,’ he said quietly. ‘I didn’t know you could draw.’

‘Erm…it’s just a hobby really,’ she said, shrugging casually. ‘I don’t know that I’m any good, it just…helps clear my head.’

‘No, these are brilliant,’ he said, smiling as he turned a page. ‘You’ve drawn me?’ He said, his expression morphing into one of delighted surprise.

Addy stilled, her eyes widening again. ‘Oh, uh…yeah. Just a time or two,’ she muttered, looking to her lap.

Sirius grinned widely. ‘You’ve drawn me more than once?’ he said, turning another page.

She cleared her throat awkwardly, sitting forward to hastily pull the book from his grasp and he suddenly realized how deeply she was blushing as the firelight hit her face. ‘Well, you’ve been in most of my classes and you’re in my house…I see you a lot,’ she defended weakly.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to intrude. But they really are brilliant. I can actually tell what you’ve drawn. I have trouble with stick figures.’

Addy smiled shyly. ‘Thank you,’ she said quietly.

‘You’re welcome.’

The grandfather clock across the room suddenly toned midnight, and Addy sat up straighter, looking down at her watch. ‘Oh,’ she looked up at him. ‘Happy birthday.’ She leaned forward again, Sirius assumed, to kiss his cheek, but he jerked his head to the side and she stilled, her lips a few centimeters away from his. He waited, wanting to give her an out, and he saw her eyes widen, her gaze flicking to his before she looked to his lips. He could see her internal struggle on her face and was pleasantly surprised when she bridged the gap and pressed her lips to his softly in a chaste kiss, pulling back and murmuring a, ‘many happy returns,’ so close her breath danced across his cheek. She didn’t pull back any further, and he stole himself, feeling his heartrate pick up as he reached up to cup her cheek. It was just as soft as he remembered; it’d been all he could do not to touch her every damn day. He heard her breath hitch at his touch; her eyes closed, and she seemed to lean into him. Buoyed by her reaction, he smiled slightly before he slipped his hand round to thread his fingers into the hair at the base of her neck to pull her toward him and capture her lips again. She didn’t resist him in the slightest; no, she breathed in deeply, leaning into him further, and he was encouraged, leaning into her in kind to deepen the kiss. Oh, she smelled like a curious mix of vanilla, lilac, and broom polish, and she tasted like treacle tart. He’d been wanting this so long he wondered idly if he was imagining it again, and reluctantly pulled away some time later when he realized they both still needed air… when had he sat on her lap?

Sirius moved to sit back on the table with a muttered ‘sorry.’ Addy looked at him bemusedly, still breathing heavily, so he gestured toward her lap awkwardly.

‘Oh,’ she breathed, smiling shyly. ‘S’alright. I didn’t mind,’ she said quietly. He grinned then, and she blushed deeply again. ‘Well, I should get to bed. Happy birthday, Sirius,’ she said as she stood.

‘Thank you,’ he paused, wanting to say something more, so much more, but where should he start? ‘You’re coming to my birthday party, right? On Saturday,’ he said quickly.

She hesitated, biting her lip, before she nodded. Then she turned to cross the room, ascending the stairs quickly as Sirius watched her go with a smile playing at his lips. He could talk to her then. That gave him time to have a think on what to say…

Addy stopped halfway up the stairs, clutching a hand to her still rapidly beating heart, her eyes wide in realization. That smell… that smell that she couldn’t place. It had been him. She shook her head, chastising herself silently. She couldn’t dwell on that, she couldn’t do that to him. She wouldn’t burden him. He was better off without her. Besides, he would never think of her that way, she told herself, so it really didn’t matter.

 

That Friday was the next ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight Gathering’ and Addy found herself in the same position as last month’s, stood frowning in front of a mirror. She’d pinned her hair back and put on her floor length, cobalt dress robes, and then she was just standing there, trying to muster the courage to go. Habiba had given her some elixir, which would help, but not enough. Her hands often shook with the constant anxiety she felt, and she was sure she was on the verge of a panic attack. It’d been some time since she’d had one, but it seemed it was only a matter of time. She didn’t know if she could handle this anymore, and it hadn’t even been that long. She felt utterly useless. She felt herself slowly slipping away, losing herself, not that she’d ever found herself really. And it didn’t matter, because she couldn’t get out, even if she wanted to.  ‘Get your shit together, Addy,’ she admonished herself quietly. ‘You’re stuck in this, so make it count.’ She sighed and nodded to her reflection, downing the potion before she finally left the dormitory.

That Bertram kid had continued to crop up randomly at Addy’s side here and there, offering strange complements such as, ‘you have nice skin,’ and generally serving to make her uncomfortable. He tended to startle her, as he seemed to pop out of nowhere, and she couldn’t for the life of her remember his name. He was really just a nuisance. As she was walking to the Slytherin common room he joined her as she crossed a corridor, suddenly appearing at her side, making her flinch. ‘Hello, Addy.’

‘Hello…’she glanced around uncomfortably.

‘What are you doing out at this time of night?’

‘Oh, er… I was walking to the Slytherin common room… are you going to turn me in?’ she said hesitantly.

He shook his head. ‘I’ll let you off with a warning,’ he said, grinning widely. He seemed to think himself witty.

She nodded slowly. ‘Er… thanks.’

‘Your eyes are really blue.’

She smiled tightly. Was that a compliment or just an observation? ‘Thank you?’

He nodded as they rounded the last corner. ‘Well, here you are.’

She smiled tightly again, giving an awkward wave. ‘Thanks,’ she said, without knowing what she would be thanking him for, turning to hurry into the common room for once, just trying to get away. She sat quietly next to Avery this time, staring blankly at a glass of firewhiskey while he talked quietly with Rosier. She hadn’t worn robes with a short hemline, so she thought she was safe from skin to skin contact, however Avery wasn’t deterred, and as soon as Rosier departed, he took to brushing her hair away from her shoulder and caressing her neck. She felt the bile rising in her throat and fought to keep her expression neutral. She gripped her glass tighter, starring at the floor, trying to focus on something else. What was it she was doing? Being of some use. Right. Somehow, she didn’t think this counted… Avery excused himself after a while to talk with Mulciber and Snape, and Addy struggled with whether she should follow or try to calm herself. Her decision was made for her however, when Regulus took a seat next to her. ‘Hey, Reg. How are you?’

‘Do you really think he only cares about himself?’ he said, skipping straight to the point.

Addy blinked slowly, shaking her head. ‘Well, uh… that is the impression I’ve gotten in the past…’

‘But he’s brilliant! I’ve heard of his charisma, he could change the world.’

‘Oh, I’ve no doubt he’ll change the world. I’m just not so sure it will be for the better.’

‘Why is that?’

Addy chewed her lip, thinking over her words. ‘I’m not sure, honestly. Just… he is charismatic. You’re right about that. But…’ she shrugged. ‘There’s just something, I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it. He… he’s unnerving. And honestly, I have a problem with murder.’

Regulus smiled, shaking his head. ‘So, you don’t really know?’

‘Is that all you took away from what I said?’ she asked, shaking her head. ‘Look, you’ve got this… whole enamored thing going, and I can’t compete with that. I just… I have a feeling you’re going to get in this and you’re going to find yourself in over your head.’

‘I respectfully disagree.’

Addy nodded. ‘Alright. I can respect that. Just… if you ever do…find yourself in that situation. Just know…’

‘You’re going to say, ‘I told you so?’’

Addy laughed lightly. ‘No. If you need a friend, I will be there.’

Regulus smiled softly. ‘I doubt that will ever happen but thank you.’

She nodded. It honestly pained her to see him going down that path. She could see it on many of the other faces that surrounded her in that room, the mindset, the evil; it was already ingrained, stitched into their being; it was practically part of their genetic code. But Regulus… he was still just some bright eyed, castle in the clouds, kid. He was doing what he thought was right, what was expected of him, what was for the greater good, as they say. She saw him going down that path determinedly, and she knew she couldn’t change his mind, it was already made. But she couldn’t just… give up on him. She knew Sirius had only turned away because it pained him too much to watch it happen anymore. Maybe she could still help. Even if it was just a little.

 

Next night Addy got ready with Lily, Mary, and Marlene before going down to Sirius’s birthday party. She took a firewhiskey and a plate of strawberries and biscuits, and took a seat in a quiet corner, watching people dance and laugh as she sipped at her drink. ‘Hey Addy, can I talk to you?’ She looked up to see Peter looking down at her nervously.

‘Er, sure Peter,’ she said, before setting her drink aside and standing. Her eyes widened when he grabbed her arm and practically dragged her out through the portrait hole and around the corner.

‘You haven’t told anyone have you?’

‘Told anyone what?’ she said, her brow knitted in confusion.

‘About… the owlery,’ he spluttered agitatedly.

‘Oh, right. I’d forgotten about that.’

‘Must be nice,’ he said dejectedly.

Addy rolled her eyes. ‘Sorry I’ve had more important things on my mind. And any roads, wouldn’t you have known if I’d told anyone?’

‘I don’t know…’ he trailed off. ‘Just…please don’t. Please? I’m not… I’m not ready to tell anyone.’

‘Peter, I don’t think your friends would mind, really. Surely you could tell them?’

 

Sirius had seen Peter pull Addy out of the common room and frowned in confusion, before deciding to follow them. He spotted her back down the corridor where she was facing the other way, and quietly walked toward her.

‘Really Peter, I don’t know why you’d be worried, it’s not as if I talk to anyone. My only confidant is a dog,’ she said reassuringly. Sirius smiled softly, but the smile slipped from his face as he heard Peter’s response.

‘Don’t even tell the dog! Please!’ he said desperately.

‘Ok, Peter, I won’t tell a soul, I promise,’ she said earnestly.

Peter suddenly launched himself at her, causing her to stumble slightly, as he gripped her in a tight hug round her middle. Her eyes widened as he started sobbing and she looked around bemusedly before awkwardly returning his hug, patting him lightly on the back. ‘It’s ok, Peter. It’ll be alright,’ she said quietly, feeling entirely out of her depth. She looked up then, catching sight of Sirius down the hall, smiling sadly back at her. She shrugged at him though continued patting Peter’s back, muttering small condolences intermittently.

Sirius turned and retreated to the common room, wondering what on earth Peter could be keeping a secret.

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