When you are invisible, people fail to realize that you really are a person with perfectly good hearing - in most cases, that is - and have a fully functioning mind. Therefore, you can hear everything they are saying and commit it to memory.
Though I may not be one for gossip, I have become incredibly gifted in the art of dropping eaves, seeing as how they never seemed to notice that I’m just a few feet away from them with perfectly functioning ears and a sharp mind to boot. Whether I’m walking behind people in the corridors or I’m studying all by myself in the library or doing something that won’t draw unnecessary attention to myself, I’ve always heard things that I knew I wasn’t supposed to her. Over the past six years, I’ve heard things that little gossip-oholics like Rita Skeeter and Bertha Jorkins would simply die to hear.
But since I’m invisible - in the figurative sense, of course, not literally; a potion wasn’t spilled all over my infant body and my father wasn’t an Invisibility Cloak -, no one has ever approached me, asking if I had heard the latest rumor about so-and-so’s relationship going down the tubes for some unknown reason. It’s not because I don’t have any friends, I have a few, but they’re just not…well, close, I guess. They’re more of friendly acquaintances and most of them are just as quiet, if not more, than me. They are the sort of people who don’t want to draw attention to themselves, much like myself. In short, they’re the kind of people I associate with from time to time.
Anyway, getting back to the point. I never participated in those sort of conversations and I never had the desire to. Though I might not know all the dish on some person or another, I did pick up on some things that would answer everyone’s burning questions as to why Benjy Fenwick broke his girlfriend of two years, Addison McDonald’s, heart on the Sunday before last. Of course, I didn’t intentionally listen in to the conversation, but they had quite the row by the lake, where I was sitting underneath one of the great beech trees, reading a book by one of my favorite Muggle authors, William Faulkner. I’m sure if I was anyone else, they would’ve realized that I was present right away, but since I’m something of a nobody, they ripped each others heads off right in front of me. And I’ll be the first to tell you that she is vicious.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that people fail to acknowledge the fact that I’m an actual human being and, even though I might not invisible in the literal sense, I sure as hell feel like I am. It’s almost as though I’ve walked through life with an Invisibility Cloak thrown over my head and a Silencing Charm cast on me to make sure that, even when I did take the rare opportunity and spoke, no one would hear my voice.
Being invisible didn’t bother me - in fact, it was rather nice. I never got pulled into any unnecessary drama and, since I really didn’t have any best or close friends, aside from my twenty year old half brother, Kevin, I was never ‘known by association’. Instead, I was just an unknown and perfectly happy with it…for a while, anyway. Until I realized that maybe it wasn’t so bad having friends. Maybe it wasn’t so bad sticking out a little bit. And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t kill me if I actually spoke up every once in a while during my classes. This sort of thinking started toward the end of my sixth year, when my half brother got married to his long-time girlfriend, Gwen. It was then, as I watched him plant a big one on her lips as they were pronounced man and wife, I suddenly wanted someone else other than my family members to give a shit about me, to actually notice me and know me for, well, me.
Surprisingly, I actually got my wish - my desire to finally be noticed. I only wish that it could’ve been a more positive situation instead of the one I was unceremoniously thrust into on the afternoon of October the second.
It was a rainy afternoon. The sky outside was a dark, foreboding gray and every so often, a flicker of lightening would flash across the sky and the window panes would shake as an almighty rumble of thunder followed. As the rain beat loudly against the foggy windowpanes, I sat at my customary table in the dusty, dank library, leaning over a book with a roll of parchment smoothed out in front of me and eagle feather quill at the ready: History of Magic was a dreadful subject.
I had been minding my own business, my eyes squinted as I adjusted the reading glasses perched on the bridge of my nose to see the faded, miniscule text on the yellowing page when a particularly loud clap of thunder cracked through the sky and scared the wits out of me. In my fright, I had knocked over my ink well and it splattered all over my nearly finished essay. I cursed under my breath as I hastily grabbed my wand out of my robe pocket and cleaned up the mess as best as I could.
Once I had finished cleaning up the mess with a simple charm, I reached for my quill, only to realize that it wasn’t on the table top where I thought I had left it. I searched the table to make sure it hadn’t rolled underneath any of my papers and, eventually, got down on my hands and knees in order to find it. It wasn’t under the table I was currently occupying, so I crawled across the floor, hoping to Merlin that no one would trip over me and, after a few seconds of searching, I saw the tip of my quill sticking out from underneath the lip of one of the bookcases.
With a heavy sigh, I crawled over to where my quill was to retrieved it. I would’ve gone back to my desk almost immediately, but I heard low and hushed voices and couldn’t resist the temptation. Really, after several years of picking up on things I wasn’t supposed to hear, it became a habit to stop whatever I was doing and eavesdrop. So, still supported on all fours, I listened to the conversation on the other side of the bookshelf.
“We can’t keep this up,” the first voice - female - said.
“Why not?” the second voice asked. This voice belonged to a male.
“Because, we just can’t, all right?” The female replied, her voice burning with desperation. The girl sighed heavily. “It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s just that…well, he’s becoming suspicious. Incredibly suspicious, actually. Always giving me weird looks when I come traipsing through the portrait hole with my hair askew.”
“Who’s suspicious? Sir-?”
“Shhhh!” The female hissed through clenched teeth. “D’you want the whole world to hear you? Merlin, learn to shut your trap for once in your life.”
“Sorry,” the male muttered.
There was a moment of tense silence before the girl spoke again. “Of course I’m talking about him. He’s not as daft as people make him out to be, Amos.”
“So…what are we going to do?” The boy, Amos, asked.
“We’re not going to do anything,” the girl responded in a defiant tone. “If anyone is going to do something, it’s me. I refuse to drag you into this mess.”
“Can’t you just break up with him, Lucy?” Amos inquired.
“No, I can’t,” the girl, Lucy, snapped angrily. “Not now, anyway. Then he’ll know for sure and tell everyone what a horrible girlfriend I am; I’d be ruined!”
“So that’s it then? We’re just going to continue sneaking around all because you are scared that if something like this got out, it would taint your reputation?”
“Yes! That’s precisely why we have to wait until he slips up, Amos," she growled fiercely. “That way, I’ll have an excuse to break up with him, but we have to wait until that happens. It almost sounds like you don’t think the risk is worth it.”
“It’s not that, Lucy," Amos whispered. “I just don’t want to hide the fact that I love you.”
There was a shuffling sound and the girl, Lucy, sighed softly. If I wasn’t mistaken, it sounded as though he had pulled her into a tight embrace.
“I love you, too, Amos, but it’s too risky for me to break up with him now,” Lucy said. “He already doesn’t like you as it is, I don’t want to make things worse for you. And, if he finds out that we’ve been sneaking around for months now, he’ll have both of our heads on a silver platter. Especially if he alerts Potter of the matter and I need Potter on my side as well.”
“D’you really think he’d do something like that?” Amos asked.
“I don’t know, Amos, but I’d rather play it safe.” Lucy heaved a heavy sigh again. “You don’t mind this…do you?”
“’Course not. As long as I get to have you in the end.”
I resisted the urge to gag as I heard Lucy’s lips pull back into a smile. “You will.” She kissed him soundly on the cheek. “I promise.”
Seeing as how that appeared to be the end their conversation, I quickly scrambled to my feet, all but flying back to my table. In my haste, however, I tripped over my own feet and fell flat on my face. My chin hit the cobblestone and my jaw rattled, nearly knocking out several of my teeth. Groaning as white hot pains shot up my jaw, I moved to push myself off the floor when the pair of them came round the bookcase to see what had caused such a loud ruckus.
Both of them gasped as I hurriedly pushed myself to my feet, one of my trainers getting caught in the hem of my robe. I could feel my cheeks glowing red as I attempted to ignore the pain surging through my jaw and kept my eyes focused on the ground.
Caught. I had been bloody caught in the act of eavesdropping.
“How much of that did you hear?” Lucy questioned, her golden eyes blazing with a mixture of fury and fright.
I licked my lips and glanced at Amos, who had taken his spot next to Lucy. Wringing my hands nervously, I chewed the inside of my cheek before answering quietly, wincing as I spoke. “All of it?”
“All of it?” squeaked Amos as Lucy let out a menacing growl, “Did he send you to spy on me?!”
“I didn’t mean anything by it!” I said quickly, shooting a glance at the librarian’s desk. She didn’t seem to have notice. Hm, not entirely shocking. I opened my mouth to say something else when Lucy’s words hit me like a load of bricks. “Wait…what?”
“Did. He. Send. You. To. Spy. On. Me?” Lucy asked through clenched teeth.
“N-no.” I replied, swallowing and fidgeting worse than ever. She stared at me down her long, aristocratic nose as I shook my head frantically. “Honestly! I was just finishing up my Potions essay and the thunder scared me. I knocked over my ink well and lost my quill, which you’re standing on, by the way.” Both Amos and Lucy glanced down at their feet and, underneath Amos’s black shoes was my brand new eagle quill, crushed and rendered useless; damn, that had cost 16 Sickles and 7 Knuts. He quickly picked up his foot and handed the quill back to me, shrugging his broad shoulders in apology; he really was a handsome boy.
“So he didn’t send you?” Lucy asked again.
“I don’t even know who you’re talking about,” I said truthfully.
“As in Sirius Black?” I questioned dubiously - I had forgotten that she was dating Black.
“Yes! Who else would I be talking about?” She ground out angrily, looking murderous. “Did he send you?” she added shortly.
Again, I shook my head vigorously. “N-no. He didn’t. I don’t even talk to him; in fact, I’ve never talked to him before. I didn’t even know you two were an…had a thing…well, you know.” My shoulders sagged in defeat.
Lucy raked her eyes over me, as though my appearance would let her know if I was lying or not. Unless she was a skilled Legimens, which was highly unlikely, then she wouldn’t know by simply staring at me. I would’ve pointed this out, but I doubted that she would appreciate it.
I shifted uncomfortably under her intense scrutiny as the storm outside raged, the windows rattling into their panes as rain drops splattered loudly against the foggy panes. The silence between the three of us only intensified as Lucy continued to look me over.
“Who are you?” she asked after a few more minutes of incredibly thick silence.
“Who the hell are you?” Lucy questioned irritably. “I’ve been trying to figure out what your name is, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”
Ouch, that one hurt. I had only been attending this school for the past six years. But I guess it was my own fault that she couldn’t pin point exactly who I was after a few minutes of concentrated staring.
“Eleanor Briggs.” I answered, shaking my brown hair out of my eyes.
Her eyes flashed down to the breast pocket of my robes, where the crest of my house was located. “Of Gryffindor?”
“The very same.”
“Hmm, never heard of you before.” She shrugged her perfectly round shoulders.
“Well, I’m sure you already know who I am.”
I did, in fact, know who she was. She was Lucinda Matthews, only the most beautiful and popular thing to waltz through the doors of Hogwarts and be sorted into Ravenclaw since…well, ever, I suppose. She was known for being undeniably charming, her family was filthy rich, and it was rumored that she was part veela, seeing as how she was incredibly gorgeous, what with her silky mane of silver- hair, piercing, but glacial blue eyes, and meter-long legs. And there was the small factor that everywhere she went, males seemed to fall head over heels in love with her as she walked by them, her head held high and aristocratic nose in the air. Of course, she knew that she was beautiful beyond all words and, because of that, it made her extremely arrogant and proud - but personally, I think her French heritage might’ve contributed to her haughtiness. She wasn’t exactly the friendliest person to ever walk the planet either.
However, unlike little Miss Matthews, Amos didn’t introduce himself, even though he was known for his manners and politeness. In fact, he hadn’t spoken since he asked me how much of the conversation I had heard. But I already knew who he was, so it didn’t seem all too important from him to make himself known, although it would’ve been polite.
“And,” Lucinda said, her sharp voice catching my attention. “I’m sure you know how much I hate snitches, too. That being said, if I ever find out that you breathed a word of this to-.”
“Don’t worry,” I interjected. She shut her mouth tightly, pursing her full lips and stared at me, her eyes blazing. “I won’t tell Sirius. Or anyone, for that matter.” I tacked on, hoping that would make her happy and she’d let me go.
“You swear it?” Lucinda said.
I nodded. “I promise.”
“You really mean it? We don’t have to do anything for you?” Amos questioned, almost as though he didn’t believe what he was hearing. Lucinda elbowed him in the ribs.
“Not a single thing.”
He seemed to mull this over for a few moments. “If you’re sure…”
Lucinda scoffed and folded her arms over her busty chest, apparently not willing to believe me so easily. I had never lied in my life - well, except for when my aunt caught me with my hand in the cookie jar before dinner and I told her our house elf, Gingy, put me under the Imperius Curse and made me get it for her and on other occasions when I tried to get myself out of particularly sticky situations. I had gotten in quite the load of trouble for that little lie, but honestly, I was nine!
“Don’t think I won’t be keeping an eye on you, Bronze.”
“It’s Briggs. Eleanor Briggs.”
“What makes you think I care?” she snapped impatiently, “If I so much as see you talking to Sirius, or any of his other friends for that matter, you’re going to have me to answer to, you got that?”
“Yes,” I muttered.
Lucy flung her platinum locks over her shoulder. “Remember, Brockner-.”
“I don’t care!” she exclaimed, expelling a breath of annoyance. “Just remember that I’m practically royalty in this school and if you so much as think about going against your word, I’ll make you wish that you were never born.”
With that, she turned on her heel and marched out of the library, her long hair billowing behind her gracefully, slamming the door as she exited. I glanced at Amos and he smiled back at me awkwardly. He was a nice guy, Amos Diggory, so how he had managed to get himself involved with someone like Lucinda Matthews was beyond me. I almost felt sorry for him as he gave a small wave and fled the library.
A flash of lightening dashed across the sky, momentarily illuminating the grounds before a deafening clash of thunder followed. I jumped again and quickly returned to my table, gathering up all my belongings. As I rolled up my nearly complete essay and stuffed it into my bag, I marveled at my own intelligence - or lack thereof. Slinging my bag over my shoulders, I made for the exit, sincerely hoping that the old proverb wasn’t true and my curiosity wouldn’t be the end of me, unlike that unfortunate little cat.
The feeling of dread sank like a lead bullet into the pit of my stomach as I made my way toward the Gryffindor common room. Colors swirled before my eyes as I tried in vain to sort out of my chaotic thoughts. I was starting to feel physically sick. Halfway up the third flight of stairs, the bile in my stomach began to burn and I felt sickness coming on. I darted up the remaining steps, careful not to trip myself and flew around the corner.
I stopped, my breath coming in pants as I leaned against the wall. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the stones supporting me. The cool surface felt remarkably fresh against my hot and clammy skin. The overwhelming urge to toss my cookies was slowly abating as I drew in a few deep and steady breaths.
In the time I had allowed myself to stop running back to the common room, brief flickers of what had just happened flashed before my eyes and I groaned. This couldn’t be happening, not to me anyway. Why did it have to happen to me? That’s what I wanted to know. I had been minding my own business…well, for the most part anyway, but you get the picture, don’t you?
Of course, they had to be conversing about their secret, torrent love affair. Why couldn’t they be talking about the weather and how frightening the storm was? Or something along the lines of…of Quidditch! Yes, that’s it! Why couldn’t they have been discussing the most recent and magnificent plays made by the best players in the league? I’ll tell you why: because I was listening. If it had been anyone else, someone who would kill to have a piece of information like that in their deck of cards, they most likely would’ve been talking about the weather or the difficulty level of their next Charms exam. But of course, since I had decided to ignore my instincts and actually eavesdrop, I just HAD to pick up on something like that.
All I knew was that this whole situation had dragged the one and only thing I had been trying to avoid into the picture. What could that be, you ask? Well, I’ll be kind enough to tell you: Drama. That’s what it brought. If there was one thing above all others I despised, it was drama and I just got myself into a massive pile of it.
Merlin, I was in deep shit. Why couldn’t it have been anyone else? Why did it have to be the residential bitch, Lucinda Matthews? It wouldn’t have been so horrible if it had been anyone else, but I’m actually scared of Lucinda. You think I’m pulling your leg, but I’m really frightened of her. Well, not frightened that’s a bit too extreme, but I am intimidated by her. And who wouldn’t be? She’s beautiful, rich, and incredibly smart. Not to mention insanely popular and a massive bitch.
So there you have it. My honest opinion about Lucinda Matthews. I normally try not to be judgmental, but in her case, I just can’t help it. She glares at you if she doesn’t think you are worthy of her time. I’m sorry, but she’s not the kind of person I would like to associate with, yet here I find myself, stuck in an incredibly sticky situation where I’m the puppet at the end of her manipulative string. And trust me when I tell you that is not a place you want to be.
I may be invisible, but I’m not stupid.
Except for today. I displayed a rather foolish side of myself in the library.
Heaving a small sigh, I pushed myself off of the wall with my fingertips and started to walk back down the empty corridors. Before I could contemplate why the halls would be empty, my stomach gave an uncomfortable flip and I was suddenly remembered why. While everyone else was down in the Great Hall, enjoying their plates of steaming and delicious food, I was wandering the dank corridors, trying to clear my head of all my hectic thoughts, which wasn’t going very well at all.
Sometimes, I wondered why I didn’t listen to my instincts in the library. I mean, you’d think that you would listen to your instincts, since they’re there to guide you in the first place, but I was still trying to decipher the reason why I had blatantly ignored mine as I walked down the length of the dark corridor. My father always told me to never ignore my instincts, even if a part of my mind was telling me to do something. He never clarified if there would be situations in life where I should just throw caution to the wind, but something told me that my decision to “throw caution to the wind” wasn’t exactly the wisest choice I could’ve made and was probably what had gotten me caught.
I shook my head to myself and ran my fingertips over the bumpy surface of the walls for lack of anything better to do. Now that I had gotten over my nauseas, I wasn’t so keen on getting back to the common room just yet. Even though the corridors weren’t the most idyllic place to be, they offered the silence that I needed and, while most people would enjoying their dinner in the Great Hall, there was a chance that someone or maybe a few people might be up in the common room. And I didn’t want to face them. Not now, anyway. Because then, it’d prove that this wasn’t one of my strange dreams that I had from time to time, but was actually happening and I didn’t want to face that just yet.
As I rounded the corner, I collided with a large, warm mass and let out an unattractive squeal/scream as I plummeted toward the ground. And unlike in countless Muggle movies I had seen, no pair of strong arms caught me right before I hit the ground. A pair of incredibly soft lips didn’t brush against mine in an accidental, feather light kiss. Oh no, nothing of that sort happened. Although one thing did happen and that was gravity. I fell to the ground with a dull thud, my tailbone hitting the stone floor seconds before my head. White hot sparks shot before my eyes as pain racked up my spine and a moan escaped my mouth before I was able to stop it.
“Sorry,” I said sheepishly, purposely shaking my dark brown fringe into my eyes. I boosted myself up to my elbows, the back of my head throbbing painfully, and prepared to peal myself off of the floor when a pale hand was thrust into my vision. Deciding that it couldn’t help, I took the proffered hand and allowed them to help me up.
“Thanks,” I muttered, staring at my scoffed shoes as though they were something to look at, even though they really weren’t.
“Not a problem,” a warm, friendly voice said. “It’s my fault I ran into you, actually; I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
I chuckled and shook my fringe out of my eyes, which widened at the sight of who was standing before me. My mouth open and closed a few times as I tried to form an intelligent sentence, but I found that I couldn’t. It wasn’t every day that someone like Si-.
Wait a tick…
My mouth went dry as I silently cursed all my relatives. Somewhere along the line, one of them had be cursed with the worst luck and passed it down through the generations down to me! This just wasn’t normal! People didn’t experience this sort of bad luck all within twenty minutes! Merlin, Circe, Houdini! Anyone - Dumbledore even! Please tell me that I did not just collide with the very person I was supposed to be avoiding like the Bubonic Plague!
I mean, had life dealt me some cruel hand today or something? Had I done something that pissed off the Fates? Or were the negative remarks I had made against the Divination professor finally catching up with me and nipping me in the ass? Oh bloody hell, why couldn’t I have bumped into one of his dumbass friends? Well, his mates weren’t dumbasses at any rate; on the contrary, they were quite brilliant, save for that Pettigrew bloke; he was a bit lofty…
Focus, Ellen! You can’t keep going off into your own little world whenever you damn well please! You have to pay attention otherwise you will get caught. Damn!
I could feel his eyes upon me, studying my every move. He was waiting for me to say something, obviously, but I was keeping my lips sealed tightly shut. Oh no, I wasn’t going to risk spilling the beans about his cheating girlfriend when I had just sworn to her that I wouldn’t tell a single soul, let alone be caught around her boyfriend. Yet, here I stood, in the middle of a corridor, with Sirius Black staring at me as though his life depended on it.
Like I said earlier; oh fuck.
“Do I know you?” Black asked, not bothering to mask the apparent curiosity in his voice.
“I-I, uh…er,” I trailed off, pushing a hand through my locks out of pure, nervous habit.
A somewhat sarcastic smile pulled at his lips as he raked his eyes over me. What was it with people and their constant stares? And why the hell did everyone think that they were suddenly blessed with the talent of Legimens? Merlin, this was getting annoying.
“I didn’t think so," he said, chuckling softly.
Was he laughing at me? Oh, the nerve of him! Black shook his head casually, his dark locks falling away from his eyes as I stood there, struck dumb not because his hair was incredibly silky, but because he had been laughing at me! “Well, I’m-.”
“I know who you are,” I cut in, not caring to be introduced to him.
“Oh,” Black muttered, briefly dumbfounded. Something in his gray eyes snapped and, oddly enough, something that resembled a frown quirked the corner of his lips downward. “Well, in any case, I don’t know who you are.”
I opened my mouth to introduce myself, even though my gut was telling me not to. It was telling me to turn around and make a run for it. Just take the next corner and fly up the staircases and don’t stop until I reached Gryffindor Tower. But before I could get so much as a breath of air out, Black held up his hand for silence. I furrowed my brow in curiosity.
“Wait!” he said hurriedly. “Don’t tell me!”
“Er…why not?” I questioned, averting my eyes so that I was staring at my uninteresting, completely scoffed shoes. What can I say; it was a nervous habit!
“Because it’s on the tip of my tongue, that’s why," he replied, as though he was trying to recall the name of a particularly nasty flavor of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans he had eaten.
“Um, all right.”
A smile of triumph briefly flashed across his lips before he tapped his index finger against his chin. Wow, I didn’t think that he would put that much thought in it. Most people just didn’t care about me, seeing as how I was nothing of interest. And it wasn’t like I was connected to people who worth knowing and I didn’t possess any spectacular talents - although, I’m extremely talented in Transfiguration and Ancient Runes…not to brag or anything. There was also the fact that I had been extremely anti-social in my first year at Hogwarts, the pivotal year where friendships are formed and your future at the wizarding academy was, seemingly, determined. But it wasn’t like I didn’t have a good excuse for being that way, because I did.
“Aha! I’ve got it!”
The sudden sound of his voice scared the wits out of me and my eyes snapped to his face unwillingly. My heart thrummed wildly in my chest as I waited for him to speak. Maybe he would get it right…oh, who am I kidding?
“Janine Phillips!” Black exclaimed proudly, puffing his chest out a bit.
I knew it; I had to stop putting so much faith in people. “Er…no.”
“No?” he parroted in disbelief.
Slowly, I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Damn, I could’ve sworn that was your name,” Black murmured to himself, looking mildly disappointed in himself. When I opened my mouth to speak again, he held up his hand once more. “Wait! I’m going to figure it out.”
I closed the gaping hole that was my mouth and nodded my head. If he wanted to waste his precious time trying to figure out what my name was, he could do just that. But now that he was distracted, this was my chance to get away. I wasn’t going to stand here much longer and run the risk of being caught by Lucinda, as she never seemed too far away from her ‘precious’ boyfriend, even though she was a cheating little slag…
“Hyacinthine Hubert!” Black said loudly, before shaking his head to himself. Hmm, maybe he was catching on that he wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
What are you doing, Ellen! This is your chance to get lost! To get out of his sight before his commits your forgetful face to memory! Get a move on, you lazy arse before he comes to his senses and asks you for your name.
It seemed as though my conscious was right and, as I shuffled backward slightly, I found that after a few, small steps, my feet refused to move. It was almost as though they had been glued to the spot. Either that or my brain just refused to cooperate. Maybe it was the tumble to the ground that messed up the nerves in my legs. I mean, I had landed on my tailbone pretty hard.
BRIGGS! MOVE YOUR SCRAWNY ASS, NOW!
Right. I had to keep myself focused. I couldn’t keep trailing off, not unless I wanted to get myself caught…again…for the second time today. And I sure as hell didn’t want that. With a small huff of annoyance at the fact that my feet weren’t listening to the frantic messages my brain was sending them, I looked around for a way to escape.
Black was standing in the way of the quickest escape route, so I couldn’t very well go that way. So where else was there to go? I suppose I could take the passage behind the tapestry that leads to the seventh floor….YES! That’s the way I could go. I just had to get myself around the corner without Black seeing, or being suspicious as to where I went, not that he would care or anything, and then run at break neck speed and slip behind the tapestry unnoticed. Oh yes, this was going to be impossible.
But lucky for me, Black was distracted with trying to figure out who the hell I was. I all but forced my feet to shuffle backward until my back hit the wall lightly. Pressing my back against the stone, I slowly shifted toward the edge of the wall, which wasn’t very far away at all. In fact, all I had to do was swing my leg in a rather difficult matter and then I was home free.
Come on, Briggs; you can do it. It’s not that hard. All you have to do is give your leg a little kick! Just a small kick and then you can propel yourself down the corridor at whatever speed you please.
Right, easier said than done. Casting a quick glance to Black to make sure he was still distracted - and he was -, I bit the inside of my cheek as I swung my left leg around the corner, feeling triumphant for a grand total of two seconds for actually achieving something that I normally wouldn’t have been able to do.
But who was I supposed to know that someone was coming around the corner the exact moment I had decided to stick my foot out into the hallway and kick them in the shins! I WASN’T A SKILLED LEGIMENS, FOR MERLIN’S SAKE!
A brief exclamation of “bloody hell” was followed by the loud crash of what could only be described as someone falling into a suit of armor, trying to latch onto it to prevent themselves from falling, and then bringing the suit down with them in their failed attempt to save their butts from meeting the hard cobblestone.
Black met my eyes, but instead of wearing an expression of shock, much like I was, he was wearing a smirk and his gray eyes were glittering. Why they were glittering, I have absolutely no idea, but they were. So we’ll just leave it that. But instead of standing stoic still like I was, Black actually walked around the corner to see who had fallen because of my damn foot.
I heard Black laugh in his bark like way and vaguely wondered who I tripped. Once again, my curiosity won over and I poked my head around the corner. My stomach plummeted.
For the love of Circe, of all people, I just had to trip Black’s best mate, James freakin’ Potter! Brilliant, this is just what I needed. While Potter may not be as serious as the Bubonic Plague, he was like the stomach flu - something you wanted to avoid at all cost. The only thing about the stomach flu is that it seemed to follow you everywhere and if that was foreshadowing future events, then I was changing him to malaria or something.
“Blimey, Prongs,” Black said as he extended a hand to Potter, much like he had to me when I had fallen flat on my back. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Potter replied as he straightened his wire-rimmed glasses on the bridge of his nose and smoothed out the wrinkles in his robe. “I’m fine.”
“What happened?” Black inquired.
“I tripped over a foot.”
“Prongs, are you sure you didn’t hit your head anything when you fell, because it sounds like you’re imagining things,” Black said with a small laugh. “There wasn’t a good in the middle of the corridor. Couldn’t be, unless I randomly sprouted another limb that I didn’t know about and you tripped over.”
“Could happen, you know,” Potter pointed out. “A slimy Slytherin git could’ve hit you from behind with a hex or something.”
“True,” Black muttered under his breath before shaking his head, “but everyone’s at dinner.“ He threw a look over his shoulder. “Besides, I don’t see Snivellus anywhere.”
Potter laughed appreciatively and the pair of them started walking toward me. I backed away from the wall and started walking backward toward the end of the corridor. They rounded the corner.
I stared at them.
They stared at me.
“I, er…I’ve got to go finish my Herbology of Magic -- uh, I mean, er, my History of Magic essay.” I stuttered, heat rushing to my cheeks. Oh Merlin, please not now! “So…yeah…bye.”
And with that, I turned around and took off running toward the end of the corridor, dashing up four flights of stairs in record time.
By the time I reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, I was out of breath and shouted the password at her. She shook her head at me in disapproval and muttered under her breath about the insolence and disrespect of today’s youth. I was relieved to find that the common room was empty and ran across the carpet, nearly tripping as the toe of my shoe caught on one of the rugs. I stumbled up the stairs that led to the seventh year girl’s dormitory.
Using my shoulder, I pushed the door open and took off my bag, throwing it on the trunk that sat at the foot of my bed, which was located nearest to the door, seeing as how no one wanted that particular bed in case there was an attack. Well, if there was a fire and no one was capable of finding their wands, we all knew who would be escaping with their lives and who wouldn’t. Shaking my head, I took off my robe, tossed it to the floor, and loosened my tie. I kicked the door shut with my foot and, heaving a heavy sigh, I flung myself onto my unmade bed.
One would think that with so much on their mind, they wouldn’t be able to sleep. But it was quite the opposite for me. I grabbed my pillow, fluffed it up a bit, and stuck my arms under it for support. My eyes were already heavy with sleep and, by the time I had managed to wiggle my feet out of my shoes, I was already halfway asleep. And, within two minutes of laying my head down on my pillow, I was being carried away into the realm of dreams, where a giant milkshake that looked like Professor Slughorn was chasing me around with a fork.
I was the first one in my dormitory to wake up the following morning. Pushing the covers off of my face so I could actually breathe, I rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling for Merlin only knows how long. The cloud of sleep was still looming over me, but it always took me a long time to wake up in the mornings. With a groan, I untangled my limbs from the sheets and kicked them off of my legs. Sitting up, I tossed my legs over the side of the bed and rubbed the sleep from the corners of my eyes with the back of my palms.
With a sigh, I pushed myself off of my mattress and ambled over to the bathroom, which was on the opposite side of the room. Though I would be the first to escape should there be a fire or something else would happen, if I had to go to take a piss or my lunch was threatening to come up, then I would probably end up making a mess of my roommates belongings and I’m sure they wouldn’t like that at all. I tiptoed across the floor, hoping that the floorboards wouldn’t squeak obnoxiously and wake up my dormmates. But alas, since I had an never ending supply of bad luck these days, the floor creaked ominously beneath my foot and I cringed, squeezing my eyes shut tightly.
Amazingly, it seemed that none of them had moved an inch in their beds. Marlene McKinnon was snoring in her obnoxious way; Leanne Mason was nuzzled deep in her wool duvet; Alice Harper was, well, honestly, I couldn’t see much of her, since she was such a tiny little thing; and Lily Evans was lying in her bed, which was next to mine, looking incredibly peaceful. Oh how I envied them all with their capabilities of sleeping more than eight hours a night. With a glare around the room, I walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind me as quietly as I could.
The frigid air of the bathroom made goosebumps appear on my arms and legs as I turned on the shower and let the water warm up until it was a bearable temperature. I looked at myself in the mirror and grimaced; a white outline of what I presumed to be dried drool was caked on my cheek. It wasn’t exactly surprising, seeing as how I had always been a drooler more than a snorer. I tested the water and, once I was satisfied, I pealed off my wrinkled uniform and tossed it to the floor, stepping into the hot, steaming shower.
As the scalding water skittered across the surface of my skin, seeping into my muscles and relaxing the coils of tension held in my shoulders, I rolled my neck to side to side, enjoying the sensation. Though I had slept for nearly ten hours, it hadn’t been a very restful sleep at all. I had woken up several times in the night, my forehead drenched with sweat and my chest heaving. I couldn’t remember if I had any nightmares, but I highly doubted that any of them would cause me to wake suddenly like that; I very rarely woke up from “bad dreams”, at least not in the recent years of my life. But somehow, I had managed to get back to sleep within seconds of jolting myself awake. Although, it was only a matter of time before I would wake up again. It was strange, really, and I knew that it couldn’t be a good sign.
Then, like a load of bricks, I became painfully aware of the reason why every muscle in my body was so tense, why I could hardly sleep last night, and why I kept waking up at random. It was because of everything that had unfolded the day before. No matter how much I wanted to deny it, I couldn’t. Yesterday had happened. I had eavesdropped on Lucinda Matthews and overheard a conversation that wasn’t supposed to be overheard.
I leaned against the tiled wall, my eyes trained the slippery floor, watching the soapy water swirl down the drain. With a small sigh, I shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel and securing it around my body. I nearly slipped on the floor, but managed to catch myself on the corner of the sink. I cursed under my breath, wondering when this horrible luck was going to leave me alone. I dried off as quickly as I could, seeing as how, despite the steam swirling around, the bathroom was still freezing cold. Once I was dry, I pulled a new, clean uniform on and lean over the sink to wring the water out of my hair.
Merlin’s beard, what had I gotten myself into? I shook my head to myself as I wiped off the steam covered mirror and stared at my reflection. Though the line of dried drool may have vanished, the purple bags under my eyes were still very visible and not very attractive, to say the very least. I leaned toward the mirror, examining my eye when someone banged on the door with their fist.
“Ouch!” I cried, seeing as how I had poked myself in the eye in my surprise.
“Are you almost done in there?” Marlene McKinnon’s husky voice shouted from the other side of the door. She banged her fist against the wood again in annoyance. “It’s nearly seven thirty and you’re not the only one who needs hot water for a shower.”
I opened the door, my left eye streaming, and squeezed past Marlene, who was muttering darkly under her breath. How was I suppose to know that I had been in the shower for nearly forty-five minutes? It certainly didn’t seem that long when I was standing under the water. Geez, some people just need to relax a little bit. Everyone was always so high strung around here.
You’re one to talk, Briggs.
I ignored that annoying little voice in my head that seemed to point out everything that I didn’t want to acknowledge and walked toward my bed. My roommates were all in various stages of getting ready: Leanne was balancing a mirror on her knee while she applied a light coat of eye shadow onto her eyelids; Alice was braiding her long, caramel locks into pigtails that hung on either side of her head; and when I glanced at Lily’s bed, not only was she nowhere to be found, but her bed was freshly made, like she hadn’t slept there at all. The only one who even acknowledged my presence was Alice, who was a very friendly girl, and smiled at me as I passed her on my way to my bed.
I dropped down onto my knees at the foot of my bed and opened my trunk, rummaging around for my hairbrush so I could get the knots out of my hair. Once I found it, I quickly tugged it through my wet hair, wincing as I pulled through several knots. I tossed the brush back into my trunk and slammed it shut once I had finished brushing my hair and placed my hands on the floor to look for my trainers. One was underneath my bed and the other one was laying next to my trunk. I snatched them up and, after I put on a pair of day-old socks, I stuffed my feet into my trainers and grabbed my school bag. I double checked to make sure I had everything before opening my bedside drawer and taking out a Chocolate Frog, shoving it into my school bag; I was saving it for my History of Magic lesson, a class in which my stomach always gave loud groans of hunger.
I left the dormitory as quickly as possible, seeing as how Marlene had just gotten out of the shower and would most likely be a total cow. Shutting the door behind me, I traipsed down the steps, nearly tripping yet again at the foot of the stairs, but I grabbed a first year by their robes and saved myself from the fall. It’s not like the first year noticed anyway. I rolled my eyes and walked toward the portrait hole. But as I was walking, I felt a pair of eyes on me and, when I glanced over my shoulder to see who was looking at me, I couldn’t find anyone. With a shrug of my shoulders, I climbed through the hole and made my way toward the Great Hall, where a nice heaping pile of scramble eggs, kippers, and bacon was calling my name.
Like always, I sat alone at the Gryffindor table. There were groups of friends on either side of me, yet I sat, completely isolated, in the middle of the table, surrounded by platters of food. The only time people ever talked to me during meals was when they needed something that I had and they had run out of. One of the fifth years asked if they could steal my pitcher of pumpkin juice for a few moments, since they had run out. Before I could give the go ahead, the girl snatched it up and walked back toward her gaggle of giggling, gossiping girlfriends. I know, I’m a mastermind at alliterations. She never came back with it.
I was eating a piece of toast, seeing as how they weren’t serving kippers this morning, much to my dismay, when the post arrived. A tawny owl came to a halt in front of me, an issue of the Daily Prophet in its beak. I took the paper from it and reached into my pocket in search of the seven Knuts I owe the bird. It held out the money pouch toward me, staring at me threateningly with its eerie, amber eyes. I only managed to grab five Knuts the first time and, as I dropped them in to the bag, the owl hopped onto my breakfast plate and lowered its head toward me. I was eye to eye with the beast and squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. You see, this was exactly why I didn’t own an owl and didn’t send many messages to anyone: I was, more or less, terrified of an owl biting my thumbs off, or any of my fingers for that matter, if it got irritated, but like this owl was now.
“Okay, okay!” I said to the bird as it started to peck at my fingers, squeaking at the thought of my worst fear actually coming true. I squealed and ducked my head under the table while I turned my pockets inside out, searching for those damn Knuts. Then suddenly, something cold and wet was seeping into the back of my robe. I hit my head on the table as I resurfaced and saw that the impatient owl had knocked over my goblet of pumpkin juice. Thankfully, however, there hadn’t been much in it, so my robes couldn’t be that big of a mess.
I could feel several pairs of eyes on me as I gave the rest of my money over to the owl. It hooted indignantly at me, snapped its beak twice, and flew off. I glared after the bird and muttered under my breath as people went back to their breakfasts as though nothing had happened. Good, I didn’t want them looking at me anyway. I wanted to be invisible; I didn’t want people to start acknowledging my presence. I only had nine more months left of schooling, then I would be free to do whatever I wanted. And who knows, maybe I would shed my Invisibility Cloak.
I pushed back the sleeve of my robe and looked at my wrist watch. There was only fifteen minutes before the start of my first lesson, which was Ancient Runes, and was located on the complete opposite side of the castle. It would take me at least ten minutes to get there and that wasn’t including the possibility that the staircase might shift on me halfway up the flight.
With a sigh, I finished the rest of my toast, rolled up my copy of the Prophet and shoved it into my school bag. I would read it later, perhaps during History of Magic. I didn’t need that class anyway, but it was a requirement, so why not use the time to read the newspaper? Without so much as backward glance, I left the Great Hall.
X - X - X
Before I knew it, all my morning classes were over and it was lunch time. Once again, I sat by myself while I ate. You’d think that I would be bothered by it, but after six year of dining by oneself, you usually got used to keeping your own company. I wasn’t able to finish all of the morning paper in my History of Magic lesson, seeing as how we had a pop quiz, which I probably failed miserably. So, as I stuffed a sandwich into my mouth, I skimmed the paper, my eyes searching for any news on Voldemort or if anyone had been killed in the last twenty four hours. Thankfully, no one had been killed and, as I washed down the remainders of my sandwich, I headed toward my last class of the day: Double Potions.
When I reached the dungeons, I wasn’t surprised to find Severus Snape standing in front of the door with his books in his arms. He stared at me as I approached, but didn’t say anything. There was just a blank look on his face and I couldn’t help noticing a faint yellow outline around his left eye. Of course, I wasn’t brave nor was I stupid enough to ask how he had obtained the injury; he’d hex me into oblivion if I did. I could still feel his eyes on me as I leaned against the wall, trying to blend in with the wall. I wasn’t a chameleon, so it was a great deal harder to blend in with my surroundings.
I’d like to be a chameleon, though. That’d be pretty sweet, if you asked me. I mean, you could hide out all the time and no one would ever see you. Not that anyone ever saw me anyway, but I really would blend it with my surroundings; I really would be invisible, in a sense. I could slink along in the corridors at night, maybe sneak to the Astronomy Tower to observe the stars late at night, since I did enjoy star gazing. Oh! And I could sneak into the Restricted Section of the library and get as many books as I could and bring them back to my dorm.
A sharp elbow to the small of my back jolted me out of my thoughts and I picked my head up to see that nearly the entire class was waiting outside the door. I shifted my bag onto my other shoulder and stifled a sigh. Someone’s hand brushed against my own and a jolt of electricity shot through my body. I pulled my hand away from my side and crammed it into my pocket; my hand stung, but oddly enough, it wasn’t a painful stinging.
Seconds later, the door to the classroom opened and a large, curved belly came into view before the Potions instructor, Professor Slughorn’s, face was visible. A bright smile lit up his lips as he motioned for us to file into the classroom. Snape slithered into the classroom before everyone else and was in his seat by the time I had walked through the door. There was only one seat available, seeing as how everyone had pushed their way past me and into the classroom, and that was by my roommate, Lily Evans.
“Hi, Eleanor,” Lily greeted as she moved her books aside from me so I could put my own in their place.
“Hey, Lily,” I replied, smiling in response as I sat down. “You weren’t saving this seat for anyone, were you?”
“No, I wasn’t,” she said with a shake of her head and a small sigh. “None of my friends were good enough in enough at Potions nor did they have the desire to continue.”
I took off my bag and set it down on the floor by my feet. I had to bite my tongue in order to restrain myself from pointing out that she actually had friends. I opened my mouth to ask her how her day had been when Professor Slughorn stood up, his chair scraping noisily against the cobblestone.
“All right, all right, settle down children," he said, chuckling to himself like he always did, his chins - yes chins, he just doesn’t have one; he has several - swung back and forth dangerously.
Surprisingly, the class actually quieted down for once. Although, I could hear a few people snickering, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who it was. After all, Black and Potter sat two rows behind Lily and I.
“As you know, we’ve been researching various ingredients and their powers and the effects they have in potions over the past few weeks,” he looked around the classroom and began to pace in front of his desk, “along with researching these ingredients, you all have been making potions all by yourselves. But now, I think it is high time that you pair up, so you can start making more complicated and complex potions.” A murmur of interest rippled through the class at these words. Slughorn laughed excitedly. “Now, now, calm down.”
A hand shot up in the air and Slughorn called on the person. “Who are our partners?”
“Good question, Miss Greengrass. The person sitting next to you will be your partner from here on out,” Slughorn replied, smiling so widely, his eyes were drawn into small slits.
Another rush of voices rippled through the class, some of them happy, while others sounded a little bit more disappointed, including two very distinct voices behind me. I resisted the urge to smirk as I heard James Potter sighing wistfully at the prospect of not being partnered with Lily.
Speaking of Lily, I turned to look at her and saw that she, too, was sighing, only I’m sure she was sighing in relief.
“Glad Potter’s not your partner?” I asked her, seeing as how she obviously overheard the boys conversing behind us.
She nodded vigorously. “You have no idea. I’ve had to work with Potter before and it was miserable.”
“Don’t you have to work with him now? Since you are both Heads?”
Again, she bobbed her head. “Yes, I do. But thankfully, the only thing we have to do is arrange the Hogsmeade trips and patrol schedules for the Prefects and that doesn’t take much time at all.”
I glanced over at my shoulder to look at them - them being Black and Potter, of course - and saw that they were now struggling to hold back their laughter. What weird blokes, those two were.
“Is he really that bad?” I questioned, turning back around to face her. Potter didn’t seem like such a bad guy to me. Sure, he was a bit arrogant at times, but at least he had his redeeming qualities. And he actually tried to talk to me several times in first year, but gave up when he saw that I wasn’t going to respond.
Lily shrugged her shoulders and opened her mouth to say something when, yet again, Professor Slughorn interrupted.
“Your first assignment will be to find a potion to brew together. There are a few requirements, however, for this project and they are the following: one, the potion must take at least one, but no longer than three months to brew; two, before beginning said potion, it must be researched and you must turn in an essay with all the information on the potion of your choice; three, I must approve your choice of potion; and four, the potion must be legal and, no, Mister Black, Polyjuice Potion is not an exception to the last rule.”
The Gryffindors in the class laughed while the Slytherins scoffed louder than necessary, which made me roll my eyes. They were all for dramatics, those Slytherins were. Slughorn smiled, took a deep breath and spread his arms out wide, which wasn’t very far at all. “So does anyone have any questions?”
A few hands went soaring up into the air, Lily’s included in the bunch. I sat there, not really paying attention to the inquires being made or the answers that Slughorn was providing since I didn’t have any questions myself. However, when Slughorn called upon Lily, I snapped myself out of my incredibly pointless thoughts about the perks of being a chameleon. I mean, she was my new Potions partner and it would be rather rude if I didn’t pay any attention to what she had to say. I didn’t want her to have to do all the work, even though I was pretty good at Potions.
“Yes, Miss Evans?” Professor Slughorn said, positively beaming at her.
“I was wondering how long we have to research our potion and write our essays.”
“Oho! Thinking ahead, you are, Miss Evans, as always.” He gave an almighty chuckle, causing his chins to jiggle like jelly. I bit back a laugh and beside me, Lily was struggling to hold back her smile. “You will have three weeks to find and research your potion, and you’ll have another two weeks to write your essays, including our lesson time.”
“And how long do the essays have to be?” Lily asked.
“At least two feet long,” Slughorn answered.
While my eyes were all but bugging out of my head, Lily just nodded and quickly wrote down the information she had just obtained on a spare sheet of parchment. All around me, people seemed to be whispering about the absurd length of the essay. But hey, we were getting two weeks to complete it. And it’s not like we couldn’t get a head start on it.
“Any more questions?” Slughorn addressed the class at large. When he saw that no one else had their hand raise, he nodded to himself. “You have the rest of this period to discuss with your partner the possible potions you can brew. Do try and keep the noise level at a respectable level, please Misters Black and Potter?”
“Yes sir!” The pair of them chimed together, though the looks on their faces weren’t very convincing. If anything, it only spelt trouble. They were obviously planning something and, whatever it was, it couldn’t be good, judging by the expression of glee on Potter’s face; his warm, hazel eyes were glinting behind his wire-rimmed glasses.
“Oh no,” muttered Lily under her breath. She had obviously seen the same thing I had and was now shaking her head in dismay. “They will be the end of us all, I tell you.” Tucking a strand of vibrant, dark auburn hair behind her ear, she pulled her copy of Advanced Potion Making toward her and flipped to the index. “So,” she didn’t look up from her book as she spoke, “do you have suggestions for a potion we can brew?”
Oh Merlin, how I hated being put on the spot. This was precisely why I sat in the back of all my classes if it were at all possible or I took classes that required very little talking, considering it wasn’t exactly my thing.
“Erm…not yet?” I said hesitantly.
Lily chuckled to herself and smiled. “Don’t worry. I don’t have the slightest clue what legal potion we could brew. And, not to brag or anything, but I’m supposed to be some sort of potions genius.”
I laughed half-heartedly at her attempt at a joke. She didn’t seem to notice, as she continued to flip through the book. I should’ve been looking through my book as well, but I couldn’t. Instead, my eyes were trained on Professor Slughorn’s desk, where none other than James Potter was standing, his head bent toward the fat, balding man, apparently whispering something to him. Judging by the look on Slughorn’s face, he was eating up whatever Potter had to say and something told me that it wasn’t a good thing.
Shaking off the odd feeling, I pulled my book toward me and began to flip through it, looking at the text but not really reading it. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true. I could barely concentrated, seeing as how I had much bigger things on my mind. For some reason, staring at Potter while he conversed in hushed tones with Professor Slughorn had reminded me of what had happened in the library the day before. And that was something I was trying so very hard to forget.
Before I knew it, Professor Slughorn was announcing the class was over in three minutes, so we might as well pack up our belongings. I slammed my book shut and grabbed my bag off the floor, accidentally knocking my head against the leg of the table. Rubbing the newly forming goose egg on the side of my head, I sat back up and shoved my book into my bag, along with my quill and anything else I had gotten out during the class. The bell rang and everyone made their way toward the door.
“Oh, Miss Briggs!” Slughorn called out. I was halfway toward the door when he had called my name and, if I pretended I hadn’t heard, I could rush back to the common room straight away and start on that Ancient Runes essay I still had to complete.
“Miss Briggs!” he shouted, a bit louder this time. Several heads swiveled in his direction and I knew I couldn’t escape now. With a sigh, I stopped where I was and left people walk around me. Slughorn smiled at me and beckoned me toward him with a chubby finger. Reluctantly, I obeyed and stopped a few feet in front of his desk.
“Yes Professor?” I asked what I assumed was an innocent voice.
Judging by the look on his face, I wasn’t going to like what was coming.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Miss Briggs?”
As soon as the suggestion came rolling off his lips, I knew that no matter what he was about to share with me, it couldn’t be good. No good conversations started out with the words “why don’t you take a seat”. Most conversations that started out like that either ended with the person being directed to sit down bursting out in tears, for they had just lost someone dear to them or something equally tragic had happened to them or they were getting into a serious bit of trouble.
My stomach dropped at the possibilities that lay in store for me. Although, I was more than willing to bet that he was instructing me to sit down because he had some unwanted news he wanted to give me, something that he knew would upset me.
Oh joy, this was going to be lovely.
With a flick of his wand, a reasonably comfortable looking chair appeared out of thin air. Of course, I was expecting this, seeing as how most magical people did this sort of thing all the time. Most teachers, however, conjured up hard, wooden chairs that would leave splinters in your arse if you didn’t sit still. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell didn’t fancy splinters in my buttocks, thank you very much.
Casting the chair a cautious look, I slowly sat down and wondered what the professor of Potions and Head of Slytherin House had in store for me.
I heard the door to his office close behind him and I gulped. Why did he have to shut the door? That only made things more dramatic. Could the information he was about to give to me really be that grave that he had to shut the door to prevent anyone from hearing my wails of despair? An odd sensation bubbled in the pit of my stomach and I resisted the urge to vomit; I didn’t want to ruin the nice, rather expensive Persian rug beneath my feet.
That was something I never quite understood, though, why someone would pay so much money for a rug if they were just going to walk all over it. I mean, doesn’t that sort of deface or devalue said rug? And what was the point in buying it if it was just going to get dirty and lose it’s value. Didn’t make much sense to me, quite honestly. If anything, I would just leave the floor bare-.
“As you know, Miss Briggs, I’ve assigned partners for the remainder of this term,” Professor Slughorn said as he settled himself down in his lavish armchair behind his dark oak desk. He really knew how to appreciate the finer things in life, old Sluggy did. “While everyone seemed satisfied with their partner - were you satisfied being paired with Miss Evans?”
I nodded my head, several strands of hair falling into my eyes annoyingly. “Yes, I was glad that I was partnered with her. She’s one of the best Potions students in our year.”
“Second only to Mister Snape,” Slughorn said, smiling as he pulled a silver tin toward himself. “I can remember the first time I learnt that Miss Evans was a Muggleborn. Couldn’t believe it, quiet honestly, seeing as how she had all the skill of a pureblood.”
I took offense to that. Though I was a half-blood, my mother was still a Muggle and I always hated it when people spoke negatively about Muggleborns. Stupid, prejudice wanker! Just because their parents weren’t magical folk certainly didn’t mean they were any less talented. I fought hard to keep a scowl off my face as I adjusted my bag on my shoulder, the weight of my textbooks causing me to tip to the side in my chair.
Slughorn finally stopped rambling and turned his attention back to me. Not that I wanted his beady little eyes focused on me; I hated it when people stared at me. “Oh, I’ve seemed to have lost myself in old memories.” He chuckled good-naturedly and I forced a tight smile. “And I have seemed to have forgotten what we had been talking about, Miss Briggs.”
I uncrossed my ankles and itched the back of my left calf with the toe of my right shoe. “You were saying something about Potions partners.”
“Right you are, Miss Briggs,” Slughorn said, opening the tin and unwrapping what appeared to be a little piece of chocolate. “So, that being said…”
I tuned him out as I watched him pop the chocolaty morsel into his mouth and chew it viciously. It’s not like he needed anymore sugar, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. He’d probably get really cross with me and have my head for breakfast tomorrow morning…wait, did I really just suggest that old Slughorn was a cannibal? The thought of Slughorn munching on human fingers as a snack in between lessons was both amusing as well as disgusting. The idea of anyone eating human body parts was vaguely revolting, but since this was Slughorn I was thinking about, I just couldn’t help but laugh. Silently, of course, there was no way I was going to laugh in the middle of Slughorn’s office. You know, since the door was closed and he was nearly five times my weight.
“So,” Slughorn exclaimed loudly, causing me to snap out of my ridiculous, but highly amusing thoughts and give him my full attention. “What do you think about that? Do you agree or disagree?”
Shit, I should’ve paid attention. Why, oh why did I always pick the worst times to tune people out? He was obviously explaining something to me of great importance…okay, so maybe not great importance, but it was important, since he had pulled me aside and asked to talk to me privately. Teacher usually didn’t do that to me, seeing as how I didn’t really do anything to get in trouble, turned in all my homework on time, and answered questions whenever I was addressed.
“Um…,” I licked my lips and looked around the office helplessly, searching for anything to fix my eyes on. I decided on the rather odd looking…thing floating in the green liquid behind his shoulder on the shelf. That was interesting enough. “I agree?” I winced, hoping that was the right answer.
“I knew I could count on you, Miss Briggs!” Professor Slughorn beamed.
I struggled to smile as convincingly as I could, but somehow, I just couldn’t get the left side of my mouth to cooperated. It probably looked like I was having a stroke or something, or at least a heart attack. Not that wizards knew what those were…or did they? I never knew of a wizard having a heart attack before. I wondered if it ever happened.
Slughorn cleared his throat and I, once again, snapped myself out of my pointless thoughts.
“I suppose you’d like to get going to dinner now, wouldn’t you?” he said, chuckling. “You’re free to go, Briggs.”
Heaving a heavy, mental sigh of relief, I rose from my seat, which disappeared with a sharp crack almost as soon as my butt had left the chair. I jumped slightly and made my way toward the door, trying to shrug off the odd sensation that I had just missed something incredibly important. Although, it obviously wasn’t an odd sensation, but a notion I should have, considering I didn’t catch a word of what Slughorn had said to me.
As I opened the door, I turned to Slughorn. “Thank you, Professor.”
“Oh no,” Professor Slughorn replied as he rose from his chair and came to stand beside me, holding the door open for me. “Thank you, Miss Briggs. If it wasn’t for you, Mister Black would be without a partner.”
My jaw unhinged itself from my face and fell to the floor with a loud crash, shattering into a hundred pieces.
Okay, so maybe that precise thing didn’t happen, but my jaw did drop wide open.
“You’ve looked like you’ve just seen a ghost,” chuckled Slughorn, giving me a friendly pat on the shoulder before not-so-discreetly nudging me out of his office and closing the door with a tight snap.
I stood by the door for Merlin only knows how long. Professor Slughorn had long since left the classroom before I finally came to my senses - and it was only because my stomach gave a great growl. Shaking my head to myself and hoping that this was just another part of this spiraling-out-of-control nightmare, I left the dungeons in exchange for the Great Hall.
X - X - X
I barely ate anything before I headed up to the common room, where an alarming amount of people were clustered around various tables, end chairs, and the singular couch. There were bodies strewn across the floor - live ones, mind you - and laughter all around me. It finally made sense as to why it had been so easy for me to find an empty space at the Gryffindor table.
I was much too awake to even think about going to sleep. So, as a substitute for rest, I pulled out the morning’s copy of The Daily Prophet and flipped to the crossword that was always on the second to last page. I had already read the funnies at breakfast and never mind that the Evening Prophet had already been issued. I honestly didn’t care. I picked an armchair quite a good deal away from all the commotion of the common room and sank down into it, sighing in content as the muscles in my shoulders finally began to relax.
Honestly, I was going to die of a coronary soon if I didn’t get things settled sooner or later. All this mounting stress couldn’t be good for one girl, could it? I might not be incredibly tiny like Alice Harper, but I certainly wasn’t big. I was average, I guess you could say, stuck right in the middle. Like everything else in this world. I rolled my eyes to myself as I pulled a quill out of my bag and adjusted the paper on my knees.
I was really good at crossword puzzles. Sometimes, it took no longer than five minutes to figure out the entire thing and other times, it would take me the entire day. I never gave up because it would either eat away at me until I finished it or I was just that determined to finish the damn thing that everything finally clicked and I got the last clue. They weren’t as fun as the Muggle puzzles my dad used to solve in his office when I was younger…oh, what where they called?
Brain teasers! That’s it. Merlin, I used to love those things. I remembered sitting on his lap and trying to help him solve the riddles. Sometimes, I would get it right and he was praise me, kissing me on the top of my brunette head and giving me a Tootsie Roll, those delicious Muggle chocolates that even Chocolate Frogs couldn’t seem to beat - and I was obsessed with Chocolate Frogs.
I sighed to myself, momentarily revisiting my childhood and trying not to get too absorbed with my past. That was always one of the negatives things about reminiscing. I dipped my quill in my inkwell and poised it above the paper, reading the first clue off to the side.
I was about to write the answer to the ridiculously easy question ( What is the position on a Quidditch team that uses a bat to beat the Bludgers? ) when someone tapped me on my shoulder. Halfway frozen in between shock and frustration, seeing as how the ink was now dripping off the tip of my quill and soaking through the paper, I looked up from my crossword puzzle to find Lily Evans standing a foot in front of me, a bright smile on her face.
“Hi!” she greeted.
“Hello.” I replied, folding up the paper and placing it beside me on the armchair.
We stared at each other for a few moments, trapped in that awkward silence that always followed a friendly, but over exaggerated greeting.
“Did you enjoy dinner?” Lily asked, sitting down on the arm chair next to me.
I shrugged. “More or less. Why?”
“Oh…nothing, just wondering what took you so long to get into the Great Hall, is all.”
Whoa, wait. Someone actually noticed that I wasn’t at the first fifteen minutes dinner? Alert the Daily Prophet, for this was some seriously breaking, headline worthy news! Of course, it wasn’t a piece of juicy gossip or a mass murder of Muggles, but it was still pretty flashy, I guess you could say. Do people even use that word anymore; flashy, I mean?
“I was late because Professor Slughorn kept me after class.” I said, knowing that she was going to ask what had delayed me.
“Why did he keep you after class? You’re not failing, are you?” she inquired curiously.
Am I really that horrible at Potions that she automatically assumes that, just because Slughorn kept me after class, I’m failing? That was a low blow, I must admit, but I quickly recovered. Well, sort of.
I didn’t exactly want to break the news to her that Black was my partner now, which not only meant that I was confirming this wasn’t a dream, but actually a true, horribly painful reality that I couldn’t, but it was also mean that I would have to inform her that Potter was her partner.
Oh vey, this didn’t look good for me either way. You know, I could just make something up, or just go along with what she was saying about me failing Potions. But then, if I was failing, why would Slughorn have accept me into his N.E.W.T class? Or I could go along my favorite route and just play stupid! That wasn’t exactly the hardest feat to accomplish, but then again, as my conscious reminded me, it wasn’t very nice to lie…even though I wasn’t lying, per say, I was just fibbing to a certain extent. And yes, there is a difference between lying and fibbing, in case you were wondering, and it is quite astronomical.
“I…uh…,” I trailed off, my mouth suddenly going dry. I couldn’t lie to Lily! She may not have been my best mate, but I considered her a close acquaintance. You know, one of those people you called your friend in your head, but acknowledged them as something more than an acquaintance, but not quite a friend in public?
Yeah, maybe it’s just me.
“If you’re failing,” began Lily, her tone suddenly becoming very serious. “You could’ve always come to me for help. I would’ve been more than glad to assist you with some of the more complicated potions. I mean, I may not be the best brewer in our year, but I’m-.”
“Right after Snape,” I finished for her, smiling tightly and shaking my hair out of my eyes, as it was a great annoyance to me. “I know. Professor Slughorn let me know that in his office.”
“So…I’m taking it that you aren’t failing.”
“Thankfully, no, I’m not failing. I actually got an ‘E’ on my last essay,” I informed her. Of course, she had probably gotten an ‘O’, but now wasn’t exactly the time to let the little green monster known as jealous get the better of me, now was it?
“Well, that’s good," she said, cheerfully. Much to my surprise, her cheerfulness was genuine.
“Yeah,” I replied, a small smile forming at the corners of my lips. “I guess it is.”
Lily casually tossed her curtain of long, dark auburn locks over her shoulder and I felt a way of resentment surge through me. I wish I could toss my hair, but no, mine was much too thick, not to mention up in a ponytail at the moment, to do such a thing. And she looked so casual doing it. Most girls looked like little haughty, slightly deranged Barbie dolls when they tossed their hair over their shoulders. Not to mention, their facial expression was usually arranged in such a way, it looked like there was a nastily large pile of dung under their noses.
Aha! It had finally reached that awkward stage, yet again. I knew she was dying to ask me why I had been kept after class, but she wasn’t sure it was in the lines of our friendship, if that’s what you could call it, to ask me.
With a sigh, I finally squelched her need to know. “If you really want to know why Slughorn kept me after class, it’s because,” I paused, gathering my wits about me, should she go ballistic on me and starting hexing and cursing me, “well, Slughorn assigned me a new partner.”
A look of shock swept briefly over her freckled features and her emerald green eyes flashed with momentary hurt.
“Oh no!” I said quickly, holding up my hands. “It’s not because I wanted a new partner. Not at all. You’re my…,” I trailed off, not sure what word I was looking for. Should I go the extra mile in my attempt to convince her and say that she was a friend, or should I just stick with classmate? I took a deep breath and went for it. “You’re my friend, Lily. Besides, with you as a partner, I would’ve surely gotten an ‘O’ on our project.”
She stared at me for a few more seconds, as though I was about to explode and tell her the truth, but once she saw that I was actually telling the truth, much to my own apparent surprise, a small smile crept onto her face and she blushed. “Well…yeah.” Lily tucked a strand of brilliant red hair behind her ear and her brow furrowed. “If you didn’t ask for a new partner…then why did you get one?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I honestly don’t know why I got a new one. He just pulled me aside and asked if I would take on a new partner. Of course, I wasn’t listening to what he was saying, as he tends to ramble on and on unnecessarily about things I don’t care about, but I, unfortunately, agreed without knowing what I was agreeing to.”
Lily sent me a look of pity. She licked her lips and shifted so she was sitting on the edge of her armchair. “So…if I’m no longer your partner…then who is?”
Oh no. This was it. The moment I admitted to myself that this was a harsh, cruel reality and I had the worst luck in the world. The moment where I acknowledged the fact that I was no longer as invisible as I once believed myself to be. The moment where I actually came face to face with the idea that Lucinda Matthews was keeping an sharp and weather eye on me, which slightly gave me the creeps.
I took a deep breath before I closed my eyes and exhaled. “Sirius Black.”
There was a prolonged moment of silence in which I watched, transfixed, as Lily turned an abnormal shade of red. Then, at the top of her lungs, Lily screamed, “I’M GOING TO MURDER YOU, POTTER!”
And, without so much as a goodbye, she flung herself out of her armchair in her anger and stormed off, no doubt going to find James and give him a good tongue lashing. I knew one thing was for sure, though it may suck to be me at this point in time, I sure as hell didn’t want to be James Potter.
The next day passed in a blur. My classes went unusually slow and I found myself doing head nods in Athrimancy, even though it was one of my favorite subjects. I enjoyed the professor’s lectures, no doubt, as they were always extremely interesting, but I hadn’t slept very well for the second night in a row and I could place the blame on one person. I realized that it wasn’t entirely his fault, but he certainly contributed to it. In all reality, almost all the blame belonged to me, seeing as how I hadn’t been paying attention to Slughorn in the first place and I had found it necessary to eavesdrop. If I had just gone back to my table…
You know what was irritating? I hadn’t noticed until the day after my odd meeting with Slughorn that Sirius Black was taking nearly every course I was taking, which were the classes required to become an Auror, something that I had overheard Black saying he’d like to become. There were only two classes that I didn’t share with him and they were Athrimancy and Ancient Runes, the only place I was safe from having unnecessary confrontations with him. It was already bad enough that I was partners with him in Potions, even when I didn’t want to be and hadn’t volunteered for it, but agreed anyway, since I wasn’t paying attention, but to have him in six out of eight classes? That was just torture!
Come on now, life, you could be a little bit fairer to me, couldn’t you? You know, ease up a little bit on the karma?
Ah, of course not. Apparently, life and that damn thing called luck had a personal vendetta against me and decided to hate on me at the exact same time. Why couldn’t it have happened last year? Or the year before last? Why did all this…crap have to happen now, in my seventh and final year at Hogwarts? Life and luck had been playing a fair game with me, giving doses of both good and bad throughout the majority of my life, but for some reason, it had something against me and my damn seventh year. Wasn’t the last year of my mandatory schooling supposed to be fun? If it was, then I must’ve really done something to tick off life and luck.
Was God trying to give me as sign? To stop taking Merlin’s name in vain or something…that really wasn’t a message, but it could be. Not that it would be that crucial, considering that Merlin actually was a phenomenal wizard and whatnot…
Anyway, back to the point.
Even though Friday was relatively uneventful. None of my lessons had gone by any different. I sat as quiet as a log during my classes, not once raising my hand. Thankfully, none of my teachers decided to give me the Spanish Inquisition, so I didn’t have to speak unless someone spoke to me. Which they didn’t, not that that was surprising or anything. And, like always, I sat by myself at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, for the most part, it had been an uninteresting day where nothing strange had happened whatsoever.
Although, there was one thing…
As I walked through the corridors to my classes, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. But every time I tried to find out who had been staring at me like I was some pickled specimen to be viewed at one’s desire, I couldn’t find the damn culprit. Oh well, there really wasn’t anything that I could do about it, now could I?
The weekend was much like Friday had been: uneventful. I had a pile of homework to tackle and, much to my dismay, it didn’t take as long as I had hoped it would. In fact, I had been so efficient in completing my homework that I didn’t have anything to do on Sunday. Wasn’t that such a tragedy?
Since it had been nice outside, I decided to take a turn around the Black Lake. I figured that I might as well take advantage of the good weather before it turned dreary. Of course, just because it had been nice outside didn’t mean that it was sunny. Oh no, there had been a bitter wind that drove me inside after a half hour of being outdoors, my cheeks a brilliant shade of red, no thanks to the harsh whipping of the wind.
All too soon, I found myself rolling out of bed and preparing to get ready for my lessons. I had woken up early again, so I could take a shower before my roommates woke up and decided to drain the heater of all the hot water. You’d think that there would be some sort of enchantment or another on the heater, but to my knowledge, there wasn’t. I went through the same old routine, from the tying of my scuffed shoes to the pulling of my thick, dark hair back into a low hanging ponytail.
But even as I executed my morning routine, which I’ll admit, I was a little OCD about, there was something strange in the air. I couldn’t explain it, but it was something that I just knew. Today wasn’t going to be like any other day I had even had. Which could be either a good or a bad sign. And judging by the way my life had been going over the past few days, it was most likely a bad sign. As if I needed to sink any further into that pile of shit known as trouble.
With a small shake of my head at my own stupid thoughts, I traipsed down the staircase and, miraculously, I didn’t trip at the bottom of the steps like I normally did. In my triumph, I hadn’t been paying attention and ran smack into a firm chest, stumbling backward.
But before I could fall, a hand seized my elbow and kept me steady. When I looked up to see who it was, I found myself staring into the warm brown eyes of Remus Lupin, one of my fellow Gryffindors and also one of Sirius Black’s best friend.
What the hell was with the world? Who was I going to run into next, Peter Pettigrew? The thought alone made me grimace; he wasn’t exactly the most appealing boy in the universe and he always smelled like rotting cheese. I assumed that it was because he ate a lot of cheese and passed a lot of gas, but who knew. Maybe he was just lactose intolerant?
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, hanging my head in apology, “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“It’s quite all right. I’m not as alert as I’d like to be in the morning, either.” Remus said, a smile gracing his lips. He had such a nice, friendly smile. If he wasn’t best mates with Potter and Black, I probably would’ve been better acquaintances with him.
Oh who was I kidding? Even if he wasn’t chums with that lot, I wouldn’t talk to him in a million years. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I probably would’ve never been able to gather the courage. Does it surprise you that I’ve never had a boyfriend? Nah, I didn’t think it would.
I opened my mouth to say something but I promptly closed my mouth as my stomach rumbled loudly. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, blotches of red coloring my cheeks in my embarrassment. Oh my Circe, that hadn’t really happened, had it?
“You seem hungry,” Remus stated, not bothering to mask the note of amusement in his voice.
Mother of Merlin, it did! Why couldn’t Zeus just send a bolt of lightning streaking down from the high heavens to strike me down and save me from this humiliation!? I know why, because life hated me! It just wasn’t fair anymore and decided that not even death was a good enough punishment for me. Wasn’t that just wonderful? I had pissed fate off so badly, death wasn’t a considerable penalty.
Crap, Remus just said something and I had missed it because I wasn’t paying attention. Again. I had a knack for missing important things because I got distracted by my own train of thought, didn’t I? Probably not the best knack to pick up on, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
I looked up at Remus to see him wearing a curious, but warm expression. “Umm, er…sure?” I said, uneasily, biting the inside of my lip to make sure that I hadn’t said just agreed to something that I would regret five minutes from now.
He laughed. “You weren’t listening to a single word I said, were you?”
I lowered my eyes and shook my head, utterly mortified. Caught. In the act. Again. Fuck me.
“Sorry,” I said softly, making him chuckle again.
“It’s not that important, Eleanor.”
I picked my head up so quickly, the crown of my head collided with his chin. My teeth rattled at the impact and I groaned, placing a hand over the spot on my head. “Oh my Merlin! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Remus said, rubbing his chin.
It’s not my fault that he was standing so close to me! It wasn’t like I had eyes on the…well, maybe I did have eyes on the front of my head, but that didn’t matter, did it? I had been observing the ground to hide my flaming cheeks and now look where it got me. I thought people knew by now to stay as far away as possible, for I often caused accidents in which either or both parties would walk away with minor to moderate injuries.
This was yet another reason why I had chosen invisibility to visibility in my first year at Hogwarts. I was unbelievable clumsy and it was one of the most unattractive attributes about me…not saying that I thought that I was a visually appealing person or had a lot to offer, but you get what I mean, right?
I found myself staring into his chocolate eyes, unable to tear my gaze away. “I…er…I’m just going to…yeah.” Without so much as a backward glance, I hurried out of the portrait hole, rushing as quickly as I could down to the Great Hall.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The strange encounter with Remus was still replaying in my head as I slowly made my way down to the dungeons. In fact, it had been playing in my mind for almost the entire day, seeing as how, like Black, he was in almost every single one of my classes; however, unlike his best mate, he actually took Ancient Runes. Could I never escape the curse of having Black’s friends follow me everywhere I go?
Wait a tick, I’m flattering myself. They’re not stalking me nor have they ever. They can’t help it that they have virtually every lesson with me. Hold on…was I actually taking pity on them? What in Circe’s name was I thinking? If I should feel sorry for anyone, it should be myself. I’m the one who is stuck with those pigheaded gits all day long.
By the time I made my way down the dungeons, there was already a crowd gathering at the door. Snape was, as always, positioned right in front of the doorway, his books clutched to his chest as though he was protecting himself with them. I didn’t know why he just didn’t get a bag to put them in, but maybe it was his own way of shielding himself. Or maybe he just didn’t have enough money for a bag? I rolled my eyes to myself, wondering why I was even bothering contemplating the reasons why Snape didn’t have a school bag. Someone must’ve put something in my pumpkin juice because I wasn’t acting very normally today. Not that I ever acted normally, though…
Just as I began to wonder if Slughorn was going to show his rotund self, the door to the classroom opened and his belly preceded him out of the doorway. Like any other day, a bright, shining smile was stretched across his mouth, shadowed by his bushy mustache. His balding head was glistening in the torch light from a light sheen of sweat and he hastily brushed his powder covered fingers on the front of his robes before beckoning the class inside.
I wrinkled my nose as I entered the dungeon, my nostrils had encountered a peculiar, but foul scent. I tried to mask my disgust at the smell, but once I noticed that nearly everyone around me had their faces scrunched up, I didn’t hesitate to let my face rearrange itself.
Subconsciously, I moved to sit next to Lily, who was smiling kindly at me. But when Potter lowered himself in the seat beside the vibrant redhead, sporting a noticeable black eye and a wide grin of thanks, Lily’s smile vanished and was replaced by an unpleasant grimace.
My shoulders slumped in defeat; my worst nightmare had come true. Over the past few days, I had been hoping that it had all been some crazy sort of delusion, but the sight of Potter’s bruised eye and Lily’s grimace had sent me catapulting back into reality and the cold, harsh truth was staring me in the face. I really was partnered with Sirius, much to my dismay.
I looked around the dungeon to see where Black was sitting and found him sitting by himself, a distinct pout on his face, at a table near the back of the class. Taking a deep breath, I made my way toward the table, feeling like everyone’s eyes were on me, even though I knew they weren’t. It was foolish to think that they would spare me a moment’s glance.
Black’s expression couldn’t be anymore pathetic than it was when I set my bag down on the tabletop and sat down timidly on the stool beside him. It was obvious that he was upset with the prospect of having a partner who wasn’t James, but I wasn’t that bad…was I?
He turned his head toward me as I folded my hands in my lap and stared pointedly at the front of the room. Professor Slughorn was flicking his wand at the blackboard, instructions appearing on the dark surface in scrunched, yellow writing. It was difficult to read from back here and since I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, I had to squint unattractively just to make out the letters. It probably looked like I had just popped a lemonhead in my mouth at that precise moment and I wouldn’t be surprised if Black started laughing any moment now.
But he just continued to stare at me, an unreadable expression on his face as Slughorn gave a big, showy flourish of his wand, the invisible hand ceasing to write anymore. He turned toward the class, a smile on his face and hands on his belly, and began to ramble on about how important this project was and how it would be in our best interest to write down the rules, guidelines, and instructions for the essays we were supposed to assemble and turn in three weeks from now.
“You have the rest of the period to converse with your partner and think of the endless possibilities for your potions! Have at it!” Slughorn chirped merrily in a sing-song voice, removing his hands from his great stomach, only to reveal the yellowish outline of his handprints. The entire class began to laugh under their breath, myself included. It was hard not to laugh at the completely ridiculous sight that our professor was obviously oblivious to. The giant master of Potions smiled again before returning to his seat and a rather large stack of intimidating looking essays.
As the laughter died away, people began turning to their partners to discuss the possible potions they could brew for a grade. However, my partner and I remained silent, the pair of us staring in opposite directions. He was looking down at his hands where he was twisting a quill around his fingers and I was still staring at the front of the classroom, struggling to read the board.
I nearly leapt out of my skin in fright at the sound of Black’s low, yet oddly comforting voice, my hand flying off the edge of the desk and knocking off the piece of parchment I had placed in front of me. I’m glad I hadn’t pulled my inkwell out of my bag just yet, for it probably would’ve joined my sheet of parchment on the floor.
I sent him a side long glance and said, “For what?”
“For agreeing to be my partner,” he replied, as though he was stating the obvious.
I was at a loss of words. I couldn’t exactly tell him the honest to Pete truth, he’d probably get really offended and a nasty rumor about how big of an ice queen I was would spread around the school and I would go from a nobody to a widely known and acknowledged bitchmaster!
Instead of doing the polite and logical thing of replying as kindly as possible to him and plastering a fake, but cheery smile on my face, I pulled my bag toward me and opened it up, rifling through it in order to find my inkwell and a quill to write with. I made a show of rummaging through the mess that was my school bag so I wouldn’t have to face the music and say something back to him. After a few minutes of unnecessary searching, I finally snatched my hand out of the bag, which had been clutching my inkwell and quill for as long as I had been searching.
I had decided that I would avoid eye contact at all costs, even if it meant ticking him off. So a few rumors spread about me might be a bit hurtful, but hey, there were worse things that could happen to me, such as Lucinda finding out about this entire mess and slitting my throat while I slept in my comfortable four poster, dreaming only dreams that someone with a wildly overactive imagination such as myself could conjure.
Uncapping my inkwell, I dipped the tip of my quill in the ink and began scratching away at my parchment, which had miraculously appeared in front of me. I had a hunch that Black had pulled a gentlemanly move and snatched it up off the ground for me. Damn him! Damn him to the deepest, darkest ring of Hell for being such a nice bloke!
Though I had to lean forward on my stool and squint to read Slughorn’s writing on the blackboard, it was all too soon before there was nothing else to write down. I had written as slow as I possibly could, which was incredibly slow and I must say, my handwriting was actually halfway decent and didn’t look like I was having a stroke mid-sentence.
I frowned inwardly at the prospect of having to actually talk to Black once he noticed that I had run out of things to scribble down on the paper. Over the weekend, I had imagined that we would have so many notes and instructions to copy down that there wouldn’t be much room for conversation, but alas, I had thought wrong. There was a surprisingly small amount of information we had to copy down in our notes and unfortunately, it left another half hour of class to talk. In my mind’s eye, I hadn’t thought about the possibility that I would actually have to engage in conversation with Black. My stomach plummeted at the mere idea and I resisted the urge to vomit my lunch all over the table as my stomach gave a great turn.
“Are you all right?” Black asked, an odd and seemingly out of place note of concern in his voice.
“Huh?” I said through clenched teeth, my stomach giving an almighty lurch as I turned to look at him.
“You look a bit peaky,” he supplied, his lips quirking downward. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
I nodded my head frantically, keeping my mouth tightly closed. Why was the thought of talking to Sirius Black making me physically sick? Was I really that frightened of speaking to him? Or was the thought of Lucinda killing me just that threatening?
Black raised his hand in the air, an out of characteristic thing for him, to call Slughorn over to us. I picked up my head, which I had laid down on the tabletop, and shot him a glare.
“Don’t!” I squeaked, lunging at him and forcing his arm down. Black stared at me with an expression that could only be described as sheer shock.
A smile graced his full lips. “So it does speak.” His gray eyes glanced down at my hand, which was clamped tightly around his arm and I quickly released it, folding my hands in my lap once more.
“Yes, it does!” I growled indignantly, my teeth still clenched.
“Ah, but does it have a name?” Sirius asked, cocking a brow slyly. Damn him and his ability to raise one brow. I had always wanted to do that, but it was a seemingly impossible feat and I gave up after a few minutes of practicing in a mirror several years ago.
When I didn’t respond right away, he said, “I still haven’t figured your name out yet.”
“I seemed to have notice,” I retorted, sending a furtive look around the classroom to make sure that no one had seen us talking. But alas, they hadn’t, as they were all busy discussing their projects. Save for Lily and Potter. They looked to be arguing under their breath, Lily turning bright pink in the face from frustration.
Black laughed in his bark like way, making me jump in surprise once again, which only made his laughter continue. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and I found myself wishing that I would’ve kept my head on the desk and pretended to have passed out.
“But don’t think I haven’t been thinking about it all weekend,” Black continued, smirking when my eyebrows shot up into my fringe. “Does that honestly shock you? I figured that everyone knew that I’ll stop at nothing when there’s a mystery to be solved.”
“So you’re saying that I’m mysterious?” I shot back, grinning despite myself.
God, what was wrong with me? I was supposed to be giving him the cold shoulder so he wouldn’t talk to me at all, but I couldn’t help myself. Black was just so laid back and easy to talk to…
Oh, get a hold of yourself, Briggs! He’s nothing special, you just think he’s a fit young man. Figures you’d be just like the rest…
I scowled at my conscience, wondering if it would ever lay off and just let me think without criticizing my every thought. But I suppose that’s what your conscience is there for, isn’t it? To tell you when you’re about to do something incredibly stupid or to criticize you for doing something that could get you into a lot of trouble.
Sirius smiled in response. “I guess you could say that.” He shook his shaggy, black locks out of his eyes with such grace that made the purest of swans out there green with envy. Why couldn’t my hair look as elegant or as silky as his? My eyes widened when he pulled his stool closer to me and leaned toward me, as though he wished to tell me a secret. I scooted back onto the very edge of my stool, hoping that no one was looking at us, for it would look rather incriminating if they did. But, when I scanned the classroom, I saw that all my classmates were as close, if not closer, than Sirius was to me.
I stared into his handsome face and he smiled charmingly at me. Ah yes, that smile of his. If I had thought that Remus Lupin had a nice smile, he had nothing on Sirius Black. My stomach made a strange, swooping sort of movement. I didn’t understand it and chose to ignore it.
“So…,” continued Sirius, leaning slightly closer to me. I could see the faint dusting of light colored freckles that dotted the bridge of his nose and trickled onto his high cheekbones, that’s how close he was to me. “Care to tell me your name?”
That was it. My resolve had crumbled. If I didn’t tell him what my name was, the world that I knew around me would crumble and I would be held responsible for the destruction of the universe. Although, there was a certain appeal to having that sort of thing known about you, it wasn’t exactly something I wanted to be known as forever and always. Not that people would know, seeing as how all humanity would end due to my aforementioned destruction of the universe.
Just as I opened my mouth to speak, the bell rang, signaling the end of class. I gave Black an apologetic smile and said, “Sorry. It seems you’ll have to wait to solve this ‘mystery’.” And with that, I grabbed all my belongings and fled the classroom, an oddly pleased smile on my face.