Despite how little I had slept, I was full of energy the following morning. I woke up way too early, so decided to go for a quick run. It was so cold the ground was hard and frozen, which was much nicer than wet and muddy so long as I didn’t slip on an ice patch. I began my run exactly at sunrise and I had been at it for about twenty minutes when I circled around the castle and almost had a heart attack. James, looking disheveled and dirty, was carrying a semi-unconscious Sirius. He appeared to be bleeding profusely.
“Oh my God! What happened James?” I asked. He hadn’t seen me until I spoke and looked absolutely horrified at the sight of me.
“Jocelyn” I didn’t give him time to ask any stupid questions. It was obvious Sirius was injured and in pain and I could not bear it.
“We’ll talk later, we need to get Sirius to the infirmary, right now” I said, hurrying over to them and helping James carry him.
“Jo?” Sirius said, weakly.
“Hey, you’ll be okay. Hang on, yes? I got you” I told him. He smiled but it quickly turned into a grimace of pain. I tried to move back in the direction I had come, but James shook his head.
“We’re not going to make it if we go that way” he said. “I trust you to keep this a secret” he moved forward towards a rock formation that rested against one of the castle walls and took out his wand. With a few taps, a passage opened for us.
“Where does it lead to?”
“Almost all the way to the Infirmary” I nodded and we started making our way through the passage, which had closed itself behind us.
I could feel Sirius trying really hard to help us, and failing miserably. His breathing was very shallow, and he was sweating despite the fact that the passage was freezing. He was heavy, and I couldn’t help but marvel at James’ strength. I had no idea how long he’d carried him for on his own, but it had not been easy. I thanked Merlin for the fact that, despite my small and slim frame, I was much, much stronger than I looked or I would have been completely useless.
“Wait here a second, I need to check there’s no one on the corridor” James whispered when we finally made it to the end of the passage. I nodded. He gently helped Sirius lean on me fully and dashed forward.
“We’re almost there Sirius, it’s only a little bit further away” I wasn’t sure what to tell him. He was getting paler by the minute, and I was getting desperate. I would have done anything, given anything to take his pain away, but I couldn’t.
“You…” he tried.
“Don’t, don’t speak. You can tell me when you’re better”
“You called me Sirius” he whispered, lifting his eyes to mine and smiling weakly. I felt my breath catch. There were about a million things he should be thinking about right now, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t one of them. Once again, I was trapped in his eyes, unable to look away, unable to say a word.
“Right, the coast is clear. Come on, let’s get you to Poppy” James came back and helped me carry Sirius again.
We burst into the infirmary shouting ‘help, Madame Pomfrey, quickly, please’, which seemed to do the trick. She took one look at Sirius and ushered us to the nearest bed, helping by levitating him onto it with her wand.
“Off, off with you. I need space to work!” she kicked us out and closed the curtains. James and I stood there awkwardly.
“Do you think he’s going to be okay?” he asked me. I looked at him and my heart broke for him. There was a look of pure terror on his face, and I realized he’d been keeping himself in check for the sake of his friend.
“Madame Pomfrey can cure anything, he’ll be fine” I took his hand in mine and squeezed it reassuringly. James nodded. “You should get changed, you’re covered in dirt and… well, blood” I told him gently.
“So are you” he replied. I look at myself and found that he was right. “Okay, come with me back to the Gryffindor Tower. We can change and be back here in less than half an hour. I bet you Sirius will be fine by then”
So that’s what we did. I did not let go of James’ hand as we made our way back to the common room. It was deserted. Most people were either at breakfast or on their way to the first classes of the day already. I showered faster than I had ever done before, and threw on whatever clothes I found under my robes. I found James in the common room waiting for me looking pale and anxious. I took his hand and led him out without a word. There was nothing to say, we were both worried sick about Sirius and the sooner we got back to him, the better.
Dumbledore was in the infirmary when we walked back in. James looked like he was debating whether to talk to the Headmaster or ignore him and try to get closer to Sirius’ bed.
“Talk to Dumbledore, I’ll look after Sirius” I whispered to him. He looked like he’d rather go to Sirius himself, but I couldn’t talk to Dumbledore. I had no idea what had happened, so he nodded after a moment.
“Mr Potter, a word” Dumbledore led him a few feet away, and I moved the curtains surrounding Sirius’ bed aside.
He was asleep. He looked a bit less pale than before. I stood next to the bed, unsure of what to do. My hand brushed his and I hesitated whether to go for it and hold it or not, but Sirius’ hand reached up and held on to me.
“I thought you were asleep” I said. He opened his eyes slowly, a lazy grin forming on his lips.
“I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming” woah, whatever Madame Pomfrey had given him for the pain was strong stuff.
“How are you feeling?”
“Only just” I sighed and shook my head. “What the hell happened Sirius? You scared me to death”
“It was an accident” he said.
“I most certainly hope so. I would like to trust you not to be so stupid that you’d do something like this on purpose”
“You really do have a high opinion of me”
“You’ve been known to take a stupid risk here and there” I said. He shuffled to the side in his bed and motioned to the small space now available. I sat on it, pulling the sheet a little bit with my weight. I couldn’t stop the small gasp that escaped my lips.
His chest, now on display, was covered in angry red slashes. I could see a nasty bruise forming on his right shoulder, and a bloodied bandage on his left arm.
“Hey, don’t worry, I’m fine. Just waiting for the potion Poppy gave me to take care of these, then I’ll be good to go. It just takes a while” he said, squeezing my hand gently.
“What did you do, Sirius?” I felt like I would start crying any second. I was finding it hard to breathe. The sight of his wounds was undoing me, making me feel things I didn’t even know how to name. I feel an overwhelming need to nurse him back to health, to look after him and to make sure nothing like this ever happened to him again. It was devastating.
“I was stupid. James and I wanted to explore the forest for a bit” he said, looking guilty. I felt a chill run down my spine as the shriek and howl I heard last night rang in my head.
“Something was wreaking havoc at the edge of the forest last night” I whispered.
“What?” he tried to sit up but decided against it when one of his cuts started bleeding lightly.
“I heard it. I was coming back to the common room late, I’d been working with McGonagall and lost track of time again. I took the long route, the one through the outdoor bridge, to enjoy a bit of fresh air on the way back and I heard it. It was terrifying”
“Yeah, tell me about it” he relaxed.
James shoved the curtain aside that moment. He rushed over to Sirius and ran a hand through his hair. Peter was with him. I hadn’t even heard him arrive at the infirmary.
“Yeah” Sirius nodded. James breathed.
“Hey, I got you these” Peter who had arrived at some point without me noticing handed Sirius a chocolate frog and he smiled widely, biting into it with gusto.
“He’s… uhm… he’s gone to see Alice” said Peter awkwardly. Sirius looked like he was going to say something else, but James gave him a pointed look and he dropped it. I wanted to know but I also knew to respect people’s privacy, so I pretended I hadn’t noticed it.
We spent the day with Sirius in the infirmary whilst the potion he had been given worked on his wounds. Miraculously, by dinner he was good as new. He left with stern warnings from Madame Pomfrey to be more careful and for Sirius to get extra sleep that night.
I walked into my room feeling exhausted and thinking of calling it an early night. James has cancelled Quidditch practice, rescheduling it for Sunday instead and, even though I wasn’t keen on a weekend session I was glad I didn’t have to endure training that day. Unfortunately, as soon as I opened the door it became clear that my early night and beauty sleep weren’t going to happen. Alice was in bits, crying hysterically on her bed, and Lily was trying to comfort her and find out what happened at the same time.
“Alice! Alice, what happened?” I rushed to her side. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
“I… R… Re… I…”
“She’s been like this since I found her half an hour ago” Lily whispered to me.
“Alice, look at me. Look at me!” I said firmly. Slowly, she lifted her face and our blue eyes met.
“Remus…” she said before dissolving into tears again.
“I AM GOING TO KILL THE BASTARD!” I yelled, outraged. “What did he do?!”
“Remus? What happened Alice? Things were going so well” Lily said at the same time. She had a lot more faith in people in general than I did.
“He… he broke… up” she hiccupped and kept crying.
“Why?” I shot Lily a look but she shook her head. This was totally unexpected.
“But I thought…” oh. Oh no. The little moment in the infirmary this morning played itself in my head again and I had a horrible suspicion that the boys knew this has going to happen.
“Excuse me” I said, storming out of our room. I raced down the staircase and up the boys’ as fast as I could. I should have knocked on the door, I really, really should have, but I was furious so I didn’t.
Their room looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off right in the middle of it. It was chaos like I had never seen before. And it was also empty. I groaned in frustration and kicked the nearest trunk, sending it sliding a few feet away.
“Woah, someone’s in a mood”
I twirled towards the voice, getting ready to shout at him and demand an explanation or, at the very least, directions to where Remus was hiding but all thoughts of pretty much everything escaped me when I saw Sirius standing by the door that led to the bathroom with a towel hanging loosely from his hips. His hair was wet and it fell around his face, framing it perfectly. A few drops of water were still on his torso, catching the light in a very distracting way.
I noticed he was walking towards me and began to panic. I was not prepared to deal with a pretty much naked Sirius Black, especially not after the hurricane of emotions that his near-death experience had awakened in me.
I took an unsure step back and caught my foot on a discarded robe, losing my balance.
“Careful” Sirius’ reflexes were excellent, and he caught my arm halting my fall and pulling me up, but he did so with more strength than needed, sending my tumbling against his chest instead.
I was petrified. It felt as if I was experiencing it all in slow motion. I crashed against his perfect torso, and he lost his balance. He both fell backwards onto the pile of clothes on the floor. My face landed inches away from his and my left hand was splayed across his chest. My right arm was awkwardly crushed between my stomach and his, and I was firmly held in place by his arm around my waist. A strange but very intense wave of desire washed over me. I felt his breath catch, and wondered, for a split second, what would happen if I kissed him.
The moment was short lived, and I realised with horror that I had thought about kissing the best friend of the guy I was seeing. That was just wrong. That was really, really, not like me at all. Besides, Sirius was my friend, my fellow beater and I absolutely did not want to kiss him. Did I? Maybe I did, a little bit… but then again so did every girl in the world. Clumsily, I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could.
“Sorry” I said.
“Anytime” he muttered. I could tell he was bothered, and a rebellious and very small part of me started having a mini victory party at the thought that I could make Sirius Black lose his cool even if for a little bit. I had to crush that part as soon as possible.
“Right, well, I was looking for Remus” I said, regaining some composure.
“I don’t care if he’s having tea with the Queen of England. Where is he?”
“He’s with James and Peter, they are busy” Sirius picked up a t-shirt and pulled it over his head. That small part of me wanted to protest but I focused hard on my anger towards Remus instead.
“He hurt Alice, I am going to hurt him”
“That’s not really persuading me to tell you where he is, you know” he smirked.
“You knew this was going to happen. You knew, in the infirmary this morning when Peter said he’d gone to see her. You didn’t warn me, you didn’t warn her! She doesn’t deserve this” I yelled at him.
“Remus will get over this. They’ll sort it out” he said.
“What the fuck? Do you think this is normal? First it took him months to make a move despite the fact that it was obvious they both fancied each other, and now a month after they get together he breaks up with her for no apparent reason... and all you have to say is ‘he’ll get over it’?” I was absolutely raging. This was my best friend’s feelings they were toying with.
“You lot are disgusting” I spat, ripping the door open and slamming it behind me. Sirius didn’t follow.
The next day would go down as one of the most awkward days of my Hogwarts years. We all woke up early and gave Alice a pep talk, and convinced her to do her make up with extra care. I refused to let anyone, including Remus, know she’d been crying all night. Lily and I took it upon ourselves to keep her protected from everything and everyone, so we positioned ourselves to either side of her as we left the room. In our little formation, we made it to the Great Hall for breakfast. We saw all four boys look up when we arrived.
“Let’s sit with Cal” I suggested. Lily nodded. Alice wasn’t really doing or saying much today, but that was okay.
I could feel Sirius and James’ gaze on us as we sat with Cal and his friends, which included Matt, for the first time since November but I refused to look their way. Matt was about to say something to me when he looked behind me with a slight frown. I took a deep breath, expecting it to be Sirius or James, and turned.
“Hey” it was Ken. Phew.
“Mind if I sit here for a second?” he asked.
“Sure” I scuttled over and he sat. Some people gave him a funny look – Ravenclaws at the Gryffindor table? – but nobody said anything.
Possessed by a stupid idea that I wanted to get back at the boys, I shamelessly batted my eyelashes at him and flicked my hair back. He smiled appreciatively and I even managed to blush lightly at will. I was getting really good at this flirting thing.
“So, do you have plans for Hogsmeade tomorrow?” he asked me. I bit my lip in what I hoped was a seductive way and was about to answer when Matt scoffed. Both Ken and I looked at him.
“What’s that for?” Ken was not one to mess around.
“You don’t want to go there, mate. She’s with Potter” he said. Oh, for Merlin’s sake.
“Are you, like, official with him?” Ken asked me.
“No, I am not. We are kind of seeing each other, though” I said. Ken hadn’t asked me before, so I hadn’t felt the need to tell him, but I wasn’t going to lie to him.
“I don’t mind a bit of competition” he said, shrugging. Matt rolled his eyes.
“Mate, Potter will hex you into the next century”
“For your information, Matt, James knows I’ve been out with Ken a few times,” I snarled. It really bugged me that he was making me out to be a lying player.
“He does.” Apparently, he had nothing to say to that, so he shut up and looked away.
I turned to Ken. “It’s very sweet of you to ask me out, but James and I…” I hesitated.
I hadn’t even thought about this. James hadn’t done anything wrong per se, but I was sure he knew Remus was going to hurt Alice and he hadn’t told us. Did I still want to go out on a date with him? Yes, yes I did. Should I still go out on a date with him? I had no idea. What did girl code say about this?
“You have a date with him” Ken wasn’t a Ravenclaw for nothing.
“I do” I sighed. “We’re in a bit of a situation right now, but we haven’t cancelled the date, so…”
“Well, let me know if you cancel it. I’m going with some friends, so let me know if you want to grab a drink at any point,” he smiled and stood up. I smiled at him.
As he walked away, I caught a glimpse of James’ angry face. He was furiously whispering with his friends, glancing my way every few words. Remus looked miserable. Good, he deserved it. I couldn’t see Sirius’ face from where I was sat, but his knuckles were white and he was gripping his fork with what I was sure was excessive force.
We left the Hall and headed to potions. What a way to end the week. This year, we hadn’t had any major incidents so far and us girls always worked together. Lily was absolutely outstanding at potions, and Alice, wanting to be a beautician, was very skilled as well. I was partial to the subject, only taking it and working hard on it because it was needed to become an auror.
I left Alice and Lily safely barricaded in our room with lots of chocolate, tissue and girly magazines and headed to Quidditch practice. I was now deeply regretting telling James it was okay to re-schedule for a Friday after Sirius’ accident, but I couldn’t change it now. We had not spoken to the boys all day but there had been about a million furiously awkward glances from both sides. I was still firmly stubborn in my feeling that they were all scum for not giving Alice ample warning. In my eyes, though, Remus was the King of the Despicables because he’d broken her heart after dating for such a short amount of time. What bothered me most, though, was that his reasons sounded a lot like excuses.
Practice that day wasn’t great. I realized that it wasn’t just that I was angry at them. Sirius was absolutely furious at me that I had called him disgusting the night before and James was either sharing the sentiment, or pissed off that I’d been flirting with Ken during breakfast. Most likely, I thought, it was both. If I learnt one thing that practice was that making your captain, who was in charge of your training, jealous was a terrible, terrible idea. My lungs were on fire and my arms were cramping badly but I refused to give up. Sirius, who was enjoying this with a smirk on his face, kept sending bludger after bludger at me whilst I ran laps around the pitch. According to our captain, I had to get better at smashing balls whilst under pressure, and this was his way of ‘helping’ me. To make things even better, it had started to rain heavily halfway through practice.
“You know, if she passes out you’ll have a lot of explaining to do” I heard Cal say as I ran past the benches. Everyone else had finished training already and was putting the equipment away.
“One more lap, then you’re done!” James shouted at me. I had to grip the bat twice as hard to stop myself from giving him the middle finger. I gritted my teeth and kept running, focusing on my breath. Battling the elements as well as my own exertion out of pure stubbornness, I kept going. Sirius hit a bludger with all his strength and I saw it hurtle towards me. ‘One more, you only have to hit one more’ I told myself. I lifted the bat, ignoring the burn in my muscles, and smashed it with all I had. Picturing Sirius’ face on it helped.
When I finally reached the benches, the team was gone and it was just James and Sirius there, putting the bludgers back in their box. Without a word, I marched into the changing room menacingly swinging my bat at my side. Just as I was about to push the door, lightning struck. I found it all very ominous.
I wanted to feel bad for her, but her face was hilarious as she ran lap after lap. She was so stubborn and proud she’d rather run herself into the ground than give up. I was also secretly enjoying that James was punishing her for shamelessly flirting with Winger. It had annoyed me she’d done that to James. She shouldn’t be flirting with people.
We had pranked Winger as well earlier that day, I hoped he still hadn’t figured out how to get his overgrown eyebrows back to normal. Not that Jo needed to know any of this. As far as everyone knew, it had been an accident.
“You know, if she passes out, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do” Cal said, bringing me out of my memory of Winger’s face of despair as his facial hair grew uncontrollably.
Annie nodded, giving James a look that said ‘whatever is going on, leave it out of team practice’. Prongs sighed and shouted at Jocelyn to let her know this was her last lap. She didn’t even look his way.
Now that the fun was over, I was eager to get back into the castle. It was raining cats and dogs, and I was cold and uncomfortable. Jocelyn strode past us without a word and headed to the changing rooms, leaving us to deal with the bludgers on our own. I couldn’t really blame her. It was a miracle she was still standing.
Just then, lightning struck. I had been watching Jocelyn all of last month and was pretty sure she had been doing the mandrake leaf thing. It was obvious if you knew what you were looking for: she ate a lot less than usual, avoided James at all costs and struggled with anything that would normally make anyone grit their teeth. I glanced towards the changing room and saw she was just standing there in the rain, staring at the sky instead of going in. As a second ray of lightning crossed the sky and she set her face with a determined look before dashing inside I knew I had been right. She was lucky that a storm had come this quick. When I did it, I had to wait a full two weeks.
I hurried to help Prongs with the boxes and we walked into the changing room after her. As soon as we walked in James looked around, and I knew by the face he made that she’d already left. I made a shit excuse about meeting Iris and left too.
I used every bit of Hogwarts knowledge I had acquired during our marauding years to make it to our room in record time through a combination of hidden passages and staircases. The map was on Moony’s bedside table. He’d been stalking Alice on it like a creep all day. I grabbed it, and Prongs’ cloak and ran back into one of the secret passages before examining it. I spotted Jocelyn leaving McGonagall’s office in a hurry by the speed at which her dot was moving. She was headed to the dungeons. I guessed it made sense, she needed a large and secure place to attempt her transformation. Safely hidden under the invisibility cloak, I went after her. I wasn’t sure why I was so curious about this, but I was.
I reached the dungeons before she did, so I waited for her next to an ugly gargoyle statue. I had to suppress a chuckle when I saw she hadn’t even bothered to change out her wet Quidditch gear. She looked around furtively to ensure nobody had noticed her and took out a key I guessed McGonagall had given her. She opened the door to an empty classroom and slipped inside. In one my proudest ninja moments, I managed to follow her inside without her noticing me.
She was shaking slightly, and I was reminded of my own attempt last year. I had been just as, if not more nervous. She stood in the middle of the room, wand in one hand and phial of potion in the other.
“Amato animo Animato Animagus” she said, firmly and clearly, before swallowing the potion.
I held my breath. For a second, nothing happened, then her eyes went very wide and she dropped her wand. I remembered how frightening and painful the first transformation is, I had to bite my tongue and curl my hands into fists to stop myself from going to her. If she panicked, things could go very, very wrong. I watched as her face contorted in suffering and her body started changing. I had been wondering what Jocelyn’s animal would be since I found her note with the potion ingredients. I was not expecting her to be a dog. I was sure she’d be something mysterious and elegant, a jaguar or a panther, perhaps. Maybe a cat, like McGonagall was. A part of me had been mildly worried she’d be a doe; James would see that as a sign from the heavens. But no, she wasn’t a doe, or a jaguar, or a cat. She was a dog. She was one beautiful, majestic Siberian Husky dog.
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