There was an hour and a half in between my last class of the day, which was Potions, and the start of dinner. Although my stomach gave an almighty rumble as I left the dungeons, feeling very pleased with myself for some unknown reason, I decided to head back to the common room to get started on some of my homework. Even though I had tackled a massive pile of it over the weekend, from today’s lessons alone, I had a good five or six hours of work ahead of me. It wasn’t a very good prospect, but the sooner I got it done, the sooner I could finish the crossword puzzle from this morning’s issue of the Daily Prophet.
I sat at one of the many round tables in the common room, my book opened in front of me and quill poised over a fresh sheet of parchment, but for some reason, I couldn’t concentrate. For a few seconds, I forgot what I was even writing about. Shaking my head to myself, I looked down at my book and saw that I had chosen to start with Athrimancy first.
I didn’t get very far into my essay, considering that my stomach let out an unattractive rumble halfway through my first paragraph. Not only that, but like always, my thoughts had started to wander. For some reason, I couldn’t get today’s Potions lesson off my mind. Perhaps it was because of the conversation I had engaged in with Black. Had I really subjected to my mental protests and flirted with the bloke? I shook my head to myself. No, there was no way I had done something so foolish. I was smarter than that, I wasn’t like all the other boy-crazy girls in this school…was I?
My stomach swooped and I slapped my hand to my forehead. Merlin, I was exactly like every other girl in this place, swooning at the sight of his gorgeous gray eyes and his damn silky black hair! I was supposed to be ignoring him with all my might, yet I had done the exact opposite down in the dungeons. I made a silent vow to myself that I would erect the thick, icy wall that was always in place and fortify it to make it stronger whenever I was around Black; I couldn’t let my guard down again. But I hadn’t even noticed that I had let it down until I was laughing with him. Well, not laughing per say, but I certainly did chortle a little bit. Christ, I really was like all the love struck birds in this damn school!
When my stomach rumbled yet again, I decided it was time to head down to dinner. A quick look at my wrist watch told me that dinner had already started. Setting my quill down on the table, I stood up, stretching my arms over my head as I fought off a yawn. The common room was nearly empty; apparently, everyone had decided to gravitate toward the Great Hall at the same time. Following their examples, I stumbled through the portrait hole and toward the Great Hall.
All too soon, my legs had managed to carry me down six flights of stairs. I found myself standing at the foot of the main staircase, the glorious and mouthwatering scents of the delicious platters of food wafting my way. My stomach gave an involuntary growl and I was propelled forward by my legs. The noise level gradually increased as I neared the Great Hall and, as soon as I entered, it was like someone had plugged in one of the Muggle devices that amplified noises. I walked down the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables, looking for an empty space where I could situate myself a good deal way from people.
I had just found a spot between a gaggle of fourth years and a platter of scrumptious looking lamb chops when the most peculiar thing happened.
At first, I wasn’t entirely sure if it had been my imagination or not. Someone was flailing their arms above their head frantically, a wide, pleasant smile on their face. I didn’t know if it was meant for me or not, so I looked over my shoulders. I didn’t see anything on either side, but just to save myself from the embarrassment, I did a little circle on spot, making sure that no one was behind me. There wasn’t anyone standing behind me.
I expected that much.
What I didn’t expected was for people to actually stop eating, their forks mid-air, to stare at me with wide, curious eyes. It was like I had a disease or something. Maybe they thought I was going to whip out some sort of crazy chainsaw-esque device and go mass murderer on their arses. Although it was highly unlikely, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of these people thought I was unstable enough to actually do something like that. Several people blinked owlishly at me, trying to decided if I was doing some sort of strange fertility dance or I was really was as mental as people made me out to be.
Well, that’s to say if people talked about me. You know, if people did gossip about me, I want them to talk about how crazy I was. It was better than being a whore or a prude, wasn’t it? Or a complete bitch because, really, who wanted to be a bitch? Aside from Lucinda Matthews, that is. That girl took pride in being the biggest bitch in the history of Hogwarts.
The person was still flailing around like a fish out of water, but I was still convinced that they must’ve been mistaken. Surely, they couldn’t have been trying to get my attention…
“Eleanor!” A familiar, friendly voice shouted.
Or maybe they were! You know what they say: there’s a first time for everything.
And I assuming that this was my moment to actually sit with people my own age instead of talking with the Gryffindor ghost, Nearly Headless Nick. Sure, the imprint of a departed soul was a very nice bloke to talk to, always interested in what I had to say, but honestly, it would be nice to not have to listen about how horrible death was. Yes, I got that it was incredibly depressing that he wasn’t able to be a part of the Headless Hunt, but I didn’t care all too much. I acted like I did, but I really didn’t. So, sorry Nick, if you ever manage to master the art of Legimens and get inside my head and hear my thoughts. I like you, buddy, but you just complain way too much.
I had been so caught up in my own thoughts about several strange conversations I’d had with Nick over the past few years that I nearly screamed when someone placed their hand on my elbow. I didn’t scream, per say, but I did squeak. Rather unattractively, too. It was like a loud giggle mixed with an obnoxious squeak and a hint of a squeal.
See, I told you it was unattractive.
“It’s okay,” I said, not taking my eyes off the scratched hand which was still holding my elbow. I stared at the hand pointedly until the person removed it. I would’ve felt incredibly awkward looking up into their face while they were still holding onto my arm. Don’t ask why, but I just would’ve.
My eyes widened at the sight of Remus Lupin, drinking in his floppy hair and dazzling eyes. He was smiling in his timid way, but it was so hot on him…erm, what I meant to say was that it worked for him. Yeah, that was it. I didn’t like Remus. He was just a friendly acquaintance that I talked to on rare occasions…
Okay, I’m the worst liar in the entire world. I’ve had a crush on Remus Lupin for as long as I can remember. All right, so maybe not that long, but I think it started somewhere around the middle of fifth year when I said to myself, ‘Self, Remus Lupin got hot.’ Of course, I probably would’ve never noticed that he had gotten ‘hot’ over the summer if it hadn’t been for that delightful little man named Filius Flitwick. Oh, how I mentally thanked Merlin for putting him in this world. We probably didn’t become friendly acquaintances/almost friends under the best conditions, considering that he was tutoring me, that’s how bad I was at Charms, but hey, at least we talked. And I mean like really talked. Not some pleasantries and then got cracking down to business, but actually exchanged pleasant conversation.
So, I might be exaggerating just how much we talked, but I swear it happened!
“Hi,” I breathed, suddenly feeling lightheaded. Oh Merlin, not this again. Shite, there was nothing for me to grab onto.
“Hi,” Remus said back, still grinning. “So, I was wondering if you wanted to join us for dinner?”
What? He wanted me to marry him? Oh yes! I accept!
“Yes.” I answered.
“That’s great,” replied Remus as he started to walk down the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff table. He was moving toward the middle of the table, where he sat with his buddies. I cringed inwardly as we neared the table. Had I really just agreed to sit with Remus and his best mates, one of which just happened to be Sirius Black? How in the name of Merlin’s pants did I get myself into such incredibly sticky situations?
Thankfully, I couldn’t feel any eyes on me as we came to a stop; people were much too busy eating their food. Remus gestured for me to sit down on the bench. I smiled tightly at him as I swung my leg over the bench, my knee cap hitting the lip of the table. I bit the inside of my cheek to prevent from crying out in pain, even if it hadn’t hurt very much, it was just instinct to do so when one got hurt, wasn’t it? No one laughed, much to my relief, and I lowered myself onto the bunch, only to see that I was sitting beside my cheery roommate, Alice Harper.
“Hiya Eleanor!” she said brightly, taking a small bit of her mashed potatoes.
“Hey Alice. How are you?” I asked as I struggled to fight off the feelings of intense awkwardness.
“Good, thanks for asking.” She wiped her mouth with her napkin. “What brings you over here? Don’t you usually sit by yourself?”
Though I loved Alice to death, she had a habit of stating the obvious as well as saying the things that was on everyone’s mind, but no one dared to speak. She was a sweet girl, really, she was, but sometimes, I wish someone would tell her that she should keep some of her words to herself.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, wanting nothing more than to hop off the bench and go running out of the Great Hall at top speed.
“Well,” Alice said, “I’m glad you’re sitting with us. You always look so lo-.”
“Do you want some potatoes, Eleanor?” Remus asked, cutting across Alice before she could finish her sentence.
I shot him a look of thanks, nodded, and wordlessly handed him my plate. It was sort of strange, having Remus slap a massive spoonful of mashed potatoes on my plate; it almost made me feel like a child again. Apparently, I was the only one who felt the least bit awkward, as everyone else was busy spooning - or in some cases, forking - food into their mouths with such seriousness, you would’ve thought that it was some sort of competition.
“Thanks,” I said as he passed the golden plate, which was now loaded with more potatoes that I could ever dream of eating, back to me. Our fingers brushed and, as juvenile as it sounded, I could feel the heat start to rise in my cheeks. Unfortunately, Remus seemed to notice.
“No problem,” He replied, smiling widely.
I lowered my head and began to eat my mashed potatoes, praying to Merlin that I was wrong about Remus seeing the blush in my cheeks. It was already bad enough that I was sitting with people I wasn’t exactly friends with, but now he had seen me blush at the simplest brushing of fingers? How ridiculous was I?
“’Ello,” said a pleasant, familiar voice. I looked up to see that James Potter had dropped onto the bench across from me. He nodded at me, smiling as he began to load his plate up with great amounts of food.
“What kept you?” Remus asked as he cut his steak into pieces. What a polite gentleman.
“Quidditch practice,” James answered after vigorously chewing up the chunk of meat in his mouth and swallowing roughly. He reached across the table and filled up his goblet with pumpkin juice, which he downed in one enormous gulp. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he added, “Padfoot should be along in a minute,” before plunging his spoon into a massive mound of gravy-covered mashed potatoes.
Remus merely nodded before returning to his food. I hadn’t realized that I had stopped eating until Peter brought it to my attention.
“Oh,” I muttered, the heat creeping up my neck as I stared at my plate of food. I blinked a few times, shaking myself out of my comatose state, and hurriedly shoved a too-big piece of steak into my mouth. My nerves were too frayed for me to properly chew my food, which led to my swallowing of a rather large, unmasticated piece of meat. It hurt as it made its way down my throat, scraping the sides of my esophagus.
Maybe if they got caught up in their conversation, I could slip underneath the lip of the table and crawl my way out of the Great Hall. It’s not like anyone would notice that I was crawling out from underneath the table when I reached the end anyway; no one ever noticed me. Ah, the perks of being invisible. They were grand and very valuable in times like these. If that plan failed, I could always feign sickness and rush out of the Great Hall and hurry back to the common room. Of course, I would be shut away in the girls’ dormitory for the rest of the evening and I didn’t exactly want that happening, but if it lowered my chances of encountering Black, then it was a possibility.
I kept my eyes trained on my plate of food, watching as the mound of mashed potatoes slowly dwindled as I forcefully shoved spoonful after spoonful into my mouth. There may not have been enough room in my stomach, but it was distracting me and that was all I needed. I missed my mouth several times, hitting my teeth as well as the tip of my mouth. Naturally, this had escaped my notice, as I kept sending the tiniest peeks over at the entrance to the Great Hall.
The second I saw his shiny black head of hair, I would slink underneath the table and crawl. Yes, I had decided that was the best way to go about making my escape. It was the only way I was going to be able to escape with the hopes of it going unnoticed by Remus and his friends. I sent a cautious look in their general direction and breathed a breath of relief. All three of them, and Alice included, were immersed deep into conversation with one another, most likely discussing a lesson they’d had that day. It would’ve been smart to keep one ear tuned into the conversation in case they asked me a random question, asking for my opinion of the subject matter, but of course, I hadn’t thought ahead.
So when they did ask for my input, I stared at each of their expectant faces in turn, my mouth slightly agape, despite the fact it was full of chewed up meat and potatoes. Swallowing roughly, I cleared my throat and shrugged my shoulders.
“I-I’m not really sure how I feel about that,” I said, trailing off as my sentence became more and more ridiculous.
Neither Alice nor Peter looked peeved by my answer, rather they looked as though they had expected such a thing from me. I wish I could say the same for Remus and Potter, as they were both staring at me with equally incredulous expressions on their faces.
“So you don’t think that women should be given the fair chance of playing for a professional Quidditch team as males are?” James questioned.
Oh, so that’s what the conversation was about.
“I, uh, don’t know much about Quidditch?” I replied, wincing slightly as I waited for their reactions.
“Just because you don’t know much about the sport doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion, Eleanor,” said Remus pointedly.
I wish the floor would just open up and a monstrous earth worm would gobble me up. But nothing of the miracle sort ever happened to me.
“You don’t like Quidditch, do you?” James accused, raising a brow, his voice drenched with contempt.
“No!” I said hurriedly, holding out my hands and accidentally knocking my fork onto the floor. For the love of Circe! I tried to ignore the undeniable sensation of the heat creeping up onto my cheek as I rummaged my brain for a response. “It’s not that I don’t like Quidditch, I just don’t…oh…well, I don’t really understand it.”
“What about it don’t you understand?” Remus inquired, looking curious.
“I get the whole point of throwing that one leather ball - what’s it called?”
“The Quaffle.” James supplied, barely biting back a grimace.
“Yes, that thing. I know you have to throw the Quaffle through the hoops at either end of the field and there are those really heavy balls that the Booters-."
"Beaters. And those 'really heavy balls' are Bludgers."
"Right. I knew that. Then that Snatcher thing-."
“Snitch,” corrected James impatiently.
“Right, the Snitch. All I know is that needs to be caught in order for the game to end and it’s worth a lot of points.” I released a breath, wondering what my fellow Gryffindors would think of me after this revelation.
Much to my surprise, both James and Remus laughed. Not mockingly, thankfully, but in general amusement. But for some unknown reason, that bothered me. They may not have been making fun of me, but still, I didn’t want them laughing at me unless I thought it was funny as well. And I didn’t.
“Why are you laughing?” I snapped, unable to hold back my annoyance. Which was shocking. I was usually good at that sort of thing.
James was the first to sober up, somehow managing to get his incredibly girlish snickers under control. “I think that’s the most I have heard you say at one point in time,” he answered, unable to hide his smirk. “Ever.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but the words never came out. Snapping my jaw shut, I stared at the pair of them for a few more seconds before turning my attention back to my food. I wasn’t even hungry, but I couldn’t look at them. They had confirmed my worst fear: people had noticed me, but they had given up trying to get me to speak.
“Well,” Remus said, breaking the oddly tense silence that fell over our portion of the table. “There’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?”
“Exactly,” James agreed, sending a genuine smile my way. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as Lily made him out to be.
Well, at least I thought he was smiling at me. He pushed himself away from the table, standing up to look over the various heads. “Oi! Padfoot!” He waved his arms in a wide arc and my stomach plummeted toward the ground.
Why, Merlin, why?
I wish that a meteorite would come crashing down from the enchanted ceiling and hit me on the head. That way, one of two things would happen: I’d either be rendered unconscious or, if life actually decided to relinquish its vendetta against me, I would drop dead. Although, judging by the glare I was receiving from Lucinda, it would only be a matter of time before I would crumple to the ground, dead. Not that anyone would care.
I subconsciously shrank back, my shoulder brushing against Remus’s. He glanced at me out of the corner of his eyes, his normally smooth brow furrowed in concern. The only thing he needed to be worried about were the thunderous words that threatened to escape Lucinda’s perfect mouth.
I vaguely marveled at the fact that she hadn’t spontaneously combusted yet. Her exquisite face was contorted, distorted even, into an expression beyond rage. Her pale skin was an ugly color of puce. Anger most certainly did not become her. In any other situation, I would have been struggling to keep my laughter under control, but this wasn’t an every day scenario. Oh no, the beautiful blonde’s anger was directed at me and the only person who seemed to notice was Remus.
“Move over, Moons,” commanded Sirius, his oddly soothing voice calming my nerves. I hadn’t even realized that I was nervous in the first place. Not until he spoke, at least.
Remus opened his mouth to say something, still looking at me and, most likely, seeing the fearful look in my eyes. But Lucinda beat him to it.
“There’s no more room here, baby,” came her sickeningly sweet, yet incredibly annoying voice. I cringed inwardly as she gave his arm a sharp tug, wondering how anyone could be so…well, I don’t know what word I’m searching for, as none seem to fit. “Let’s go sit at my table,” she insisted, pulling on his arm again as she sent me a scathing look. Oh, if looks could kill, then I would die worry free.
Sirius jerked his arm roughly out of her talons -- er, I mean fingers. He looked down at his arm briefly before his eyes flashed to her lovely face. The sternness in his silver depths seemed to lessen and he sighed. He didn’t say anything as he nudged his way onto the bench. You know, without considering the fact that someone else might actually be occupying it, a.k.a. me. He stepped on my toe and hit me square in the face with the point of his elbow.
“Oi!” Remus said. “Watch it, Pads.”
“What’d I do?”
“You knocked Eleanor in the face with your elbow.”
Why did Remus had to be such a gentleman? Couldn’t he just have let it slide? I didn’t care that Sirius had elbowed me in the face, so why did he? It hadn’t hurt that much anyway. I mean, yeah, my nose was throbbing and I had bit into the inside of my cheek, but other than that, I was injury free. Besides, it was an unnecessary shift of attention to me.
I tried to keep my attention focused on my half-empty plate of food, but it was a lot harder than I would have thought it to have been, considering there were six pairs of eyes glued on me. I shifted uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny. Did they all have to stare at me like stupid idiots? Merlin have mercy!
Sirius was the first to recover. With a shake of his head and a gleam of his light eyes, he gracefully sank down onto the bench beside me. I scooted closer to Remus, a sheepish smile on my face as I was pressed tightly against his side as Lucinda sat down as well. I could feel her glaring at me from around Sirius while he piled both of their plates full of food, looking incredibly happy.
If only he knew the truth about his so-called perfect girlfriend. I bet he wouldn’t like her very much then, or look as happy with himself like he did now. Unfortunately, I had made the Devil herself a promise and thought I may not like her, I wouldn’t go back on my word. Besides, I didn’t have anything against Sirius. At least, nothing more than the next person, so I wouldn’t bring that kind of unhappiness upon him unless the situation with Lucinda and Amos got worse.
Conversation commenced around me, and thankfully, it wasn’t about me. Neither Alice nor James talked to me, as they were deep into Quidditch talk with Sirius. Peter was too engrossed with his foot to care what was going on around him. And Lucinda, well, she was looking into the back of her spoon, dragging her finger along the edge of her lips to wipe away all stray access of lip gloss that might’ve smeared. Vain little bitch.
Wow, I was in quite the mood today, wasn’t I?
Remus, however, was staring at me, waiting for me to make a move. It was slightly unnerving.
I cleared my throat as quietly as possible, as I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself, and turned slightly to the left to look at Remus. “I’m going to go,” I muttered, tearing my eyes away from my plate and staring up into his face.
“Why?” he asked, sounding disappointed.
“I’m finished with my dinner and I have a lot of homework to do that’s due tomorrow,” I answered.
He could understand that, right? After all, he was a Prefect.
“Oh,” or maybe he couldn’t, “That’s all right.”
Ah, I knew I liked Remus for a reason. I looked down at my hands. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Eleanor. I understand. I have a lot of homework as well.”
Or maybe he did. Like I said, I knew I liked him for a reason.
Pushing away from the table, I struggled to worm my way off the bench. Neither Sirius nor Lucinda gave any inclination that they knew of my struggle, so it was increasingly difficult to get my left leg out from underneath the table. I jiggled my leg, cursing under my breath before I gave a frustrated kick…and succeeded in nailing Sirius in the shin with the back of my shoe.
“Ouch!” he cried out, small bits of food flying out of his mouth. I opened my mouth to apologize, but Lucinda was fawning over him before I could get a word out. Oh well.
Remus gripped my elbow so I wouldn’t topple over as I freed my leg. I struggled to ignore the frantic fluttering of butterflies in my stomach. Grindelwald be damned, I was acting like some silly little tart!
“Thanks for letting me sit with you,” I muttered, looking away sheepishly.
“Anytime.” He smiled, taking his hand off my elbow. “Again tomorrow?”
I smiled back timidly, my skin burning where he had held my elbow. “Maybe.”
X - X - X
I stared longingly out the window, my eyes following the drops of rain as they made their slow descent toward the bottom of the pane. I was glad I sat in the back corner by the window. Not only could I daydream, but I could gaze outside and wish that I was out there. I wasn’t the biggest fan of thunderstorms, but rainstorms I could deal with. I could still remember when I was younger, my father would take me outside when it was raining and we’d try to catch raindrops in our mouths.
I sighed and glanced down at the watch on my wrist. I still had another fifteen minutes left of this class. Would it ever go any faster or would time slow down completely? I hoped not. I don’t think I could handle the sound of Binns’s monotone voice for the rest of eternity. Could you imagine how horrible that would be? I shudder at the mere thought of it.
While I stared out the window, I let my mind wander. It’s not like anything I would write down would help me remember what Binns’s had been talking about…okay, so maybe it would, but it’s not like I was going to use History of Magic at any point in my life as it were, so that made it unimportant.
Anyway, that’s not the point.
I didn’t want to go to my last lesson of the day. The familiar lump of dread was already forming in the pit of my stomach, which was gurgling uncomfortably. Maybe I could make myself throw up a few minutes into the class and leave? I wouldn’t have to go to the Hospital Wing because it would be unnecessary, so why not give it a try? The only flaw in the plan I saw was that I hated vomiting. That could prove to be a problem, don’t you think?
Shaking my head to myself, I looked out the window at the Quidditch Pitch. I could barely make it out through the haze of the rain nor from the angle the classroom was positioned at. A massive tree was blocking the majority of it from my view. I don’t know why I was so fascinated with staring at the Pitch, but I was.
I had never learned how to play Quidditch as it didn’t hold much interest to me. It wasn’t that the sport was boring, not in the slightest, it was just probable that I would - well, I’m going to be honest with myself - not only would I suck, but I would probably die the first match I played three seconds into it. Not only did I not do too well with nerves, but I wasn’t exactly the best flier. It wasn’t because I didn’t like heights, I just didn’t know how to control the damn broom. I want it to go left, it goes right. I want it to go up - you guessed it! It goes down. Besides, it was a bit too rough for me and, in my opinion, seemed like a man’s sport, no matter how much girls liked to argue otherwise. I wasn’t doubting any of the females’ skills, I just don’t fancy playing the sport myself.
Oh vey, if feminists could hear the conversations going on in my head right now, I’d be flayed like a fish. I cringed at the idea of hundreds of women coming rushing at me with their pitchforks raised and fists clenched and shaking mightily. I didn’t do so well with crowds.
The shrill sound of the bell cut through my thoughts. There was a chorus of chairs scraping against the flagstone and the general shuffle toward the door. I hung back like I always did, taking my time to shove my stuff into my satchel. Pushing a hand through my hair, I moved my fringe out of my eyes before I shouldered my bag. On the way out of the door, I gave a small wave to Mr. Binns, who didn’t seem to notice at all.
I was halfway down the hall when it happened. A strong hand clamped down around my upper arm and I was roughly tugged into a dark alcove. Before I could open my mouth to protest, I was being slammed against a wall, my teeth rattling in my skull. I blinked away the wetness that had gathered in my eyes as best as I could, trying in vain to clear my vision of all haziness.
“Could you let go?” I asked meekly, scrunching up my face as I anticipated the fist that would most likely coming hurling in my direction.
Much to my surprise, the grip on my arm was released and I could feel a surge of blood rushing through my veins.
“Open your eyes, you stupid cow,” growled a familiar voice. “You look like an idiot.”
Reluctantly, I unwrinkled my face and opened my eyes. I found myself staring into the obnoxiously beautiful face of Lucinda Matthews, her head several inches away from mine. Well, this was just fantastic, wasn’t it? I tried to shy away, but she put a hand on either side of my head.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she leered, baring her perfectly straight teeth.
I stared at her, completely dumbstruck. What in the name of Circe was she talking about? “Um, I’m not following?” The pitch of my voice rose as my sentence came to a close.
Lucinda rolled her brilliant eyes and backed away, an ugly expression on her pretty face. “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about, Briggs.”
I would’ve said something, congratulating her on remembering my name, but I decided against it. She already looked furious as it was, and I doubted it would be any good on her complexion if she continued to turn such an ugly shade of puce all the time.
“I, uh,” I swallowed the lump in my throat. I never responded well to intimidation. “I don’t think that I do know what you’re talking about, Lucinda.”
Okay, so that was a flat out lie. The truth of the matter was that I knew exactly what she was talking about. I just didn’t want to admit it to her too gorgeous face. My imagination could only invent so many new methods of social torture. Besides, it would probably only make her more livid than she already was.
Lucinda grabbed my arms again, tightening her grip on the tops of my arms as her sharp nails bit into my flesh. “Don’t play dumb, Briggs. I know exactly what you’re trying to do.”
Before I could help myself, I said, “Oh really?” The tone of voice I used sounded slightly challenging, but pained at the same time: a cold rush of air had just swept over my cut flesh. I could feel a drop of blood trickle down my arm. I’m not going to lie, I was a wimp when it came to pain.
Leering, she pulled me closer to her perfection. Lucinda was several inches taller than me, so she had to bring her face down to my level to reach proper intimidation conditions. Although, as I said earlier, I never responded well to intimidation and therefore, I was intimidated very easily.
I could barely contain my laughter at the next words that left her mouth:
“You plan on stealing Sirius from me,” she snarled through gritted teeth. “You want him all to yourself.”
A short breath of laughter escaped me before I clamped my jaw shut, my body shaking with unreleased laughter. How bloody stupid could she honestly be? If she thought that I was interested in stealing her annoying, exceedingly arrogant boyfriend away from her, Miss Ruddy Perfection, then she had another thing coming for her.
“Why are you laughing?” she demanded, her eyes widening. “Stop laughing!”
I sobered up immediately, my face blanching as I looked into her furious face. I mumbled my response under my breath, but she didn’t catch it.
“Excuse me? What was that?” Lucinda asked, her brow furrowing.
I gulped. Maybe I should learn to keep my comments to myself instead of saying them out loud. I struggled to make up a lie, but I was never good at lying on the spot and almost everyone saw through the feeble fibs I told.
“I said that you’re stupid for thinking something like that,” I muttered, hanging my head to stare at my shoes. Old habits die hard, my friends.
“I’m stupid?” she repeated incredulously. “I’M STUPID?!”
“No! That’s not what I meant, Lucinda,” I amended quickly. I swallowed again, licking my lips nervously. Well, might as well butter her up so she’d relinquish her death grip on my arms. I could already feel the bruises forming under my skin. Clearing my throat, I continued, “What I meant to say is that the thought of me actually attempting to steal Sirius away from someone as pretty, intelligent, and sophisticated as you is simply preposterous.”
Lucinda considered it for a second, her eyes narrowing as she searched my face. I wasn’t lying, honestly. That was my opinion on the matter. I would never attempt something as pigheaded as that anyway. Besides, it’s not like I fancied Black anyway. In fact, he sort of repulsed me at times. And there was the whole intimidation thing…
“So you’re telling me that you didn’t plan on becoming partners with him in Potions?”
I shook my head vigorously. “Merlin no! Potter asked if he could switch to Lily, since she’s a genius when it comes to Potions and, well, Black’s not. Slughorn agreed and made me Black’s partner instead. I had no say in the matter.”
That was another lie. I did have a say in the matter, I just hadn’t been paying the slightest bit of attention. Actually, I think I was preoccupied with the various items floating around in that green stuff in those jars behind his desk…yeah, that was it.
When she didn’t say anything for a few seconds, I asked, “Could you please let go of my arms?”
“Oh, right,” she murmured to herself, immediately releasing me. My words seemed to shake Lucinda out of her stupor and she straightened her spine, rising a fraction of an inch. She tossed her curtain of long, flaxen hair over her shoulder before adding, “I guess I can accept that as an answer.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, my shoulders literally sagging as I leaned against the wall.
“Just remember: if I even catch wind that you told Sirius, you’ll have me to answer to.”
I was tempted to make some comment about how she couldn’t be much worse that the Devil himself, but I refrained. I could only imagine how insanely perfect her right hook would be.
“I won’t,” I squeaked.
Rolling her eyes, Lucinda looked at me for a prolonged moment before shoving past me. When I stepped out of the alcove, she was already around the corner and out of sight.
The rest of the lessons for that day came and went in their natural, orderly fashion. The constant patter of rain against the windows, the ancient rooftops, and the walls of the school wasn’t helping relieve my sudden wave of drowsiness. One would think that I would’ve been more alert than ever after the encounter with Lucinda, but if anything, it had made me all the more exhausted.
A heavy sighed escaped me as I pushed the door open, stumbling into the hallway. It was empty, just as I thought it would be. I was always one of the last students, if not the very last, to leave the classroom once a lesson had finished up. Hell, even the professor disappeared before I gathered up all my stuff as well as enough nerve to step out of the room. So, naturally, the corridors were deserted.
As I replayed the generally boring day - Lucinda encounter aside - while I walked down the hall, I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Clutching my books closer to my chest - the strap on my satchel had broken and even though it would’ve taken a simple flick of my wand, I didn’t feel like fixing it after lunch - I lengthened my strides. By the time I reached the end of the corridor, I was all but jogging down the corridors.
Glancing down at my watch, I saw that there was another hour and a half before dinner. I hadn’t been given much homework from today’s lessons, and I had really been wanting to seek some peace and quiet so I could read the book my Aunt had sent in the post that morning. I bit my lower lip, contemplating whether or not I should brave the loud ruckus of the Gryffindor common room and run the risk of bumping into Black or just head straight to the library and do whatever homework I had yet to complete.
Just when I was about to make my decision, someone called my name. I stopped walking mid-step, wondering if I had made up the voice. Slowly, I turned to look over my shoulder and breathed a breath of relief. I wasn’t crazy and I hadn’t made up the voice; Lily Evans, with Alice Harper in tow, was coming toward me, a brilliant smile on her already brilliantly beautiful face.
“Wotcher Eleanor!” Alice greeted pleasantly as both she and Lily came to a halt in front of me.
I muttered a soft hello, staring instinctively down at my feet. It was one of my worst habits, but one I couldn’t seem to break. My plain, brown hair fell into my eyes, but I didn’t push it out of the way.
A few moments of uncomfortable silence passed between the three of us in which I was began to ponder why they had called out to me in the hall to stop me in the first place. But before I could voice my concern, Lily began to speak;
“Were you making your way to the library?” she asked, looking at me curiously.
I nodded. “Yeah, I was.”
Her smile returned, wider than it had been before. “We were wondering if you’d like to study with us for our Charms exam tomorrow. I know you have some difficulty with the class, just like Alice does, so…” she trailed off suggestively, a hopeful tone in her voice.
I picked my gaze up from the floor and my eyes flickered between their faces. Of course, she knew that I was horrible in Charms. Then again, who didn’t, especially after the incident in second year when I knocked Professor Flitwick unconscious when one of my charms had gone terribly wrong. I contemplated whether or not I’d like to study with them when, really, I had been looking forward to just sitting in the library and listening to the rain. Hmm, it seemed that I had already subconsciously made up my mind about my return to the common room.
Alice was so anxious, she was gnawing on her bottom lip.
“Yeah, okay,” I conceded, giving another small nod of my head. “I’ll join you guys.”
The sweet-faced, honey blonde let out a noise of great happiness while Lily smiled widely, “Brilliant.”
I was glad that someone was happy in this situation. Well, technically, two people were happy, but that just didn’t count, now did it? I had only begrudgingly agreed to this scenario and the reason was solely academic. It wasn’t like I had anything against either of the two, as they were some of the few people that actually spoke to me on a regular basis - well, semi-regular - and acknowledged my existence. I had just planned on being alone for a little while.
Lily led the way to the library. As we walked behind her, Alice chattered on incessantly and, after about two minutes, I blocked her cheery voice out. It wasn’t that I was trying to be rude, I just didn’t care for the ramblings that were coming from her lips. I had either heard them all or didn’t have any interest in them.
The strange feeling that I was being watched came over me again and I tried my very hardest not to shiver and alert Alice and Lily to my discomfort. I held onto my books more tightly, staring straight ahead of me. I dare not look elsewhere because I would probably end up freaking myself out and running back to the common room like the little sissy that I was.
I barely registered that we had entered the library when we did. The sound of my feet against the floor changed ever so slightly as we walked toward a table. Well, my table to be exact. The one that was the farthest one away from all the buzz of the library were large amounts of students crowded the interior, studying until they could barely keep their eyes open - or Madam Pince kicked them out of the library.
Hurriedly, I took my regular seat before either of them could. If I was going to study with them, I might as well make myself comfortable. There were two reasons why I liked this particular seat: one, because the padding on the seat of the chair actually still had padding it in, despite the fact that it looked incredibly rickety, it was comfortable and two, the angle of the bookcases concealed me from the view of all the other students. In short, it was perfect for me.
Lily took the seat to my immediate left and Alice sat down beside her. Because of them, I was almost completely blocked from view. On the inside, I did a small dance before I set my books down on the top of the table. The last time I had been in the library had been fateful and was the cause behind the bruises that decorated the upper portion of both my arms.
“So, what are we going to study first?” Lily asked eagerly, her emerald eyes sparkling at the notion that she actually got to help two of her friends - or one of them, anyway, I was more of an acquaintance - with their homework.
“Um,” I glanced at Alice, who looked just as apprehensive as I did.
“How about what we learned in class today?” Alice suggested.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” I agreed, nodding my head.
I just wanted to get this over with before anyone saw me.
Even if I wasn’t “forbidden” from associating with Lily and Alice, I couldn’t help but see through the eyes of Lucinda, who probably thought I was trying to get closer to Black through Lily and Alice. The thought alone usually would’ve made me laugh, but now, it made me cautious; I had to watch who I hung out with and where I did.
“Well, in order to pick up where we left off in class, we’ll have to round up some books,” Lily began, reaching into her satchel and producing a piece of parchment and a handsome looking eagle feather quill. I thought of my ruined eagle quill and sighed inwardly. She quickly scribbled on the sheet before tearing it in two and handed me one half. Alice received the other.
I looked down at the call number and resisted the urge to breath out in an angsty way. Of course, I would get the one book that would be impossible to find. I rolled my eyes as Alice studied her paper, her lips silently forming words, as though she was committing the words on the parchment to memory.
Lily was the first to leave the table, hurrying off and muttering under her breath. I glanced sidelong at Alice and bit back a small titter of laughter. You know what they say, birds of a feather, flock together. I pushed away from the table and went off in the direction where I knew the bookcases held the book I was assigned were located.
Miraculously, I managed to not trip over my own feet as I made my way over toward the bookcases on the opposite side of the library. Thankfully, there weren’t many students inside the library and, at any rate, they were all too focused on their work to notice me.
A small smile lit up my lips as I started on the first row of voluminous books. It may not have been the most glorious of tasks to look up at the crackled spines of all the old, leather bound books, but I reveled in the musty smell of old books. I inhaled deeply, my eyes fluttering shut for a few moments. I leaned against the wooden shelf, my eyes still closed as I ran my fingers over the various spines of the books.
If anyone saw me, they’d probably think that I was some sort of freak. But that was really going out on a limb and saying that someone would actually take the time to look my way. Sighing softly, I opened my eyes and looked down at the piece of parchment in my hand. I was in charge of finding some ridiculously titled Charms book and, as I tilted my head upward and looked at the rows and rows of shelving, my stomach knocked together.
This was going to take a while.
I had been searching for a little longer than five minutes when someone cleared their throat rather noisily, causing me to hit my head on the lip of one of the shelves. I bit back a retort, knowing that it wasn’t smart to plunge headfirst into a disagreement with someone without actually knowing who you were confronting.
“Hello,” a smooth, familiar voice said.
Once I managed to duck my head and avoid hitting the shelf again, I shook my fringe out of my eyes and turned to look at who had cleared their throat.
Much to my surprise, instead of cowering at the thought of conversing with someone, my lips twitched slightly, as if they wanted to pull back into a welcoming smile.
“Hi Remus,” I said, my voice cracking slightly.
“I didn’t mean to make you hit your head,” he commented, taking a step closer to me.
“Oh, it’s all right,” I replied, standing up to my full height instead of crouching down on the dirty floor. “I scare easily.”
A warm smile made its way across his friendly face and he chuckled. Leaning against the bookcase and crossing his arms over his chest, he asked, “Are you planning on joining us for dinner again? James plans to teach you all about Quidditch.”
“Really?” I raised a brow in amusement. It was so easy to feel comfortable around Remus.
“Oh yes,” he continued, still smiling. “He’s made a bet with me that he could convince you that Quidditch was not only the greatest sport ever invented, but that you’d become an avid fan by the end of dinner.”
I laughed and Remus joined in. “He has high hopes, James does.”
Remus’s face immediately sobered up and he nodded his head in a rather somber manner. “That he does.”
I knew almost instantaneously what he was talking about. I thought of my study partner - or tutor, rather - and sighed.
“So,” he said after a moment of relatively awkward silence settled between us. “What brings you here?”
“Studying,” I answered.
“Try not to sound so enthusiastic, Miss Briggs,” Remus reprimanded jokingly.
Again, I laughed. “Well, it’s not exactly fun when one is studying their most dreaded subject.”
He pulled a face. “Binns does know how to assign some pretty nasty essays.”
“Oh no,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m talking about Charms.” If anyone knew how horrible I was at Charms, it was Remus.
Another smile twitched at his lips and he nodded his head serenely. “I had forgotten how horrendous you were at that subject.”
I opened my mouth in mock offense. “That was a low blow, Mr. Lupin. A very low blow.”
“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, sounding genuine in his apology. Had he not picked up on the joking, sarcastic tone in my voice?
“It’s all right. There’s nothing to be sorry about.”
“So, how about it?” Remus asked. “Are you going to join us for dinner?”
I couldn’t ignore the hopeful note in his voice and, inwardly, I cringed. I would’ve gladly accepted the invitation to sit with him and his mates had it not been for my encounter with Lucinda that afternoon. I subconsciously rubbed the tops of my arms and bit my lip when I applied a little too much pressure on a particularly nasty bruise. Was it really worth it? I valued Remus’s friendship, if that’s what you could call this new…thing that had formed between us, but were his feelings really worth having to subject to whatever Lucinda had planned for me should I go back on my word?
Thankfully, Lily came to my rescue. “Eleanor!” she said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Have you found that book yet?”
Remus looked over his shoulder at the vivacious redhead and smiled warmly. The two of them were quite the pair of friends, having been Gryffindor Prefects from fifth to this year - until Lily was made Head Girl. “Oh, Hiya Remus! I wasn’t expecting to see you here. Care to join our little study group?”
His kind eyes flickered over to me and I bit my lip. I wanted to say no, that he wasn’t allowed to join our little study group, as Lily had put it, that he should just go back to the Gryffindor common room before I spilled the beans about why I was being semi-rude to him. Of course, I didn’t have the nerve to speak out. I rarely ever did.
“Actually,” he began. “I have to help Prongs with some Astronomy homework that he’s been having some trouble with.”
Lily’s brow furrowed at the mention of Hogwarts’ Head Boy, her expression halfway between a scowl and a fond smile. The look vanished immediately and I vaguely wondered if I had made the entire thing up, which was highly likely. “Can’t it wait until later on? Like after dinner?”
“We have arrangements after dinner,” Remus said. “Otherwise, I’d love to help you tutor the Charms invalids.” His lips quirked up into a smile at his last words and I smiled back.
“I’m glad you find humor in my incompetence, Mr. Lupin,” I muttered jokingly under my breath, loud enough so that they could both hear me.
Like I expected, Remus laughed before shoving his hands into his trouser pockets. “Well, I should be going. Take care and good luck with the inept, Lily.”
An awkward silence settled between Lily and I before I turned my attention to the sprawling sea of books in front of me, intent on finding the book as soon as possible so we could return to our table in the corner of the library. I kept my eyes trained to the old spines of the books, my eyes narrowed as I searched.
Lily found the book first, holding it out for me to take. I accepted it wordlessly and followed her out of the aisle between the bookcases. I could tell that she wanted to say something, but she was keeping it back for my sake. At least, I hoped that it was for my sake and that it wasn’t some biting remark about how I should back off of Remus. Because, you know girls these days, they were always convince that you were going after their piece of man candy if you so much as talked to them. Delusional, I’ll tell you, the whole lot of them.
We were dangerously close to our table when Lily whispered in my ear, “I know your secret.”
A giggle escaped her as I stared at her back in disbelief, at a complete loss for words. Was I really that transparent? Was it really that obvious?
Oh shite, I was in for it. I was done for! Lily would tell Black not because she liked it, but because it was the right thing to do and then Black would go storming to his girlfriend and they’d have a nasty row and then she’d come to me, thinking that I told Sirius myself and…my Circe, it was just one huge, vicious circle, wasn’t it? Oh vey, I should just run up to my dormitory right now and pack up all my belongings to get it over with. I could Floo home, couldn’t I? Or maybe I could sneak out of the castle to Hogsmeade and fly to the nearest train station? It wouldn’t take that long, I suppose, and it was possible if I were stealthy enough.
“Eleanor!” By the sound of Alice’s voice, I could tell that she had been trying to get my attention for quite some time. I shook my head, clearing all thoughts of possible escape from my mind and gave her my full, undivided attention. Or at least, what I could spare of it.
“Finally, she speaks!” Alice threw her arms up in mock exasperation before she smiled and beckoned me toward the table. I glanced at Lily and there was no trace that she knew anything of my “secret”. She swore a strictly business expression and I vaguely wondered if I had imagined the whole thing. After all, I did have a very overactive imagination.
My back connected with the rough stone wall behind me, stealing the breath from my lungs. It would’ve hurt had it been any other circumstance, but the pain in my spine was the last thing on my mind. Once air returned to my lungs, my chest heaved mightily. I struggled to get my pulse under control. There was a nervous lump in my throat, but the pure thrill of it all had somehow managed to calm all my other nerves.
I opened my mouth to whisper something, but I couldn’t utter a single syllable, as a pair of warm lips came crashing down upon mine. At first, I began to struggle, uncertain that this was the wisest thing to do, but once I looked around and saw that there was no one else around, that the corridor was deserted, I foolishly gave into it. No longer reluctant, I gave myself over to the heated kiss, my insides melting lightly when a tongue pushed its way into my mouth.
A pair of hands worked their way up my arms, swept over my shoulders, skittered across the curve of my neck, and came to rest on either side of my cheeks. Almost immediately, my face burned a brilliant shade of red, the heat of my blush warming the hands.
Much to my disappointment, the delicious lips delivering the most tantalizing kiss in what I was sure the entire history of the world, broke away from my mouth. A soft laugh emanated from the person I had been snogging and my cheeks burned yet again.
“Oh Ella,” the familiar warm voice muttered quietly, their hot breath dancing across the wet surface of my lips. The pad of a thumb stroked the length of my cheekbone, causing my eyelids to flutter slightly. “Open up those gorgeous eyes; I hate to see them veiled.”
I knew a command when I heard one and, hesitantly, I obliged the order. My found herself staring into a pair of sparkling gray eyes and my knees began to shake. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but Sirius Black placed a finger over my lips, silencing me.
“Not now, Eleanor,” he muttered, his appearance suddenly altering. The eyes changed color; they were no longer a mischievous shade of gray, but a pair of warm brown eyes. The voice had always changed timbre and the soft smirk on those delicate lips belonged to none other than Remus Lupin. The glint that reside in his eyes didn’t look like something one would expected to see in Remus’s kind eyes; it looked animalistic, in a sense. But the overall effect made my entire body shiver in anticipation. Deliberately stepping closer to me and crushing his chest against mine, he captured my lips in another heart melting-.
A sharp pinch to my arm jolted me from my dream. I picked up my head a little too quickly and ended up smashing the top of my head against Lily’s chin. She let out a short howl of pain, rubbing the point of her chin.
“Sorry,” I muttered under my breath, trying - and failing miserably - to shake off the dream - or was it a nightmare? - that I had just experienced.
“It’s all right,” Lily said, smiling tightly, her brow still furrowed in pain. “I just thought I’d wake you.”
I yawned, sitting up more cautiously than last time, and stretched my limbs over my head. The common room fire was lit and, much to my surprise, still blazing. Why on Earth would the fire in the hearth still be burning as brightly as it had been several hours ago when no one else was conscious?
“What time is it?”
“Seven? Where the hell is everyone?”
“- in the morning,” Lily finished, wincing slightly at my reaction.
It took me a few seconds to digest what she was saying before my eyes widened and I pushed myself away from the table so roughly, my chair clabbered to the cobblestone loudly. “What? Why didn’t anyone wake me up?!”
Lily shrugged her perfectly round shoulders, gesturing helplessly. She thought I blamed her, which I didn’t. If it hadn’t been for her, I would’ve slept through the entire day, most likely.
“Never mind,” I sighed heavily, knowing the exact reason why no one had shaken me awake. “I think I know the reason why.” Shaking my head to myself, I began to gather up all my belongings, shoving various items into my broken satchel. I turned to Lily and smiled as warmly as I could for being in such a foul mood. “Thanks for waking me, Lily. I appreciate it.”
The expression on her face transformed and she smiled. “Not a problem, Eleanor.” She looked at my bag and sighed. Pulling her wand out of her pocket, she pointed it at my satchel and a blue streak of light shot out from the tip of her wand. Merlin, was this girl good at everything? “Here,” she said, “You go upstairs and get changed into a fresh uniform. I’ll pack all your stuff up for you.”
“Really?” I said, smiling for the first time that morning. “Thank you, Lils.”
“Like I said, not a problem,” she beamed at me. “Now hurry along; you don’t want to be late for class, now do you?”
I shook my head before hurrying up the girls’ staircase, wondering what I would do if I didn’t have Lily as a friend.
X - X - X
I had been so concerned about getting to my lessons on time and turning in all my homework that I barely remembered what day it was until the second to last class of the day ended. Hell, it didn’t even hit me until I was already half way to the dungeons. And it probably wouldn’t have registered in my mind if Black and Potter hadn’t pushed past me.
I stopped walking in the middle of the dark corridor, the torchlight flickering eerily against the stone walls. I felt like I was going to be sick all over the floor. My stomach was twisting and turning and my world was spinning. I could feel a wave of nausea looming over my head and, if it hadn’t been for someone running into me, I would’ve thrown up everywhere.
Instead, I just fell flat on my face, my chin colliding roughly with the floor. I could feel my brain rattling in my skull and knew that a mental headache, if not a physical one, was fast approaching. I flipped over onto my back, clutching the lower portion of my face in my hand. No one bothered to help me, merely walked right around me like I was nothing. Which I pretty much was in their eyes. Hell, I would be surprised if they could see me at all, let alone give a damn.
I scoffed to myself in annoyance, wondering when people would get over themselves and actually lend a helping hand to those in need. Shaking my head to myself and barely masking my vexation, I started to push myself up off the floor when a hand shot out for me. I looked up to see that Severus Snape had his hand held out. I glanced from his hooked nose to his hand several times before I slid my hand into his and he hauled me up to my feet.
“Thank you,” I said, hoping that the gratitude showed in my voice.
He nodded curtly, wiping his hand on his fading black school robes before pushing past me and continuing down the hall. I stared after him, at a complete loss for words. For one, I was shocked that a Slytherin would so much as think of helping a Gryffindor like me off her feet and, secondly, it wasn’t just any Slytherin. This was Severus Snape. He never helped anyone, let alone someone as invisible as me.
Still baffled, I followed suit and started toward the classroom at the end of the corridor. Much to my surprise, I was one of the last students to gather in front of the door. Near the front of the line, I could hear Black and Potter laughing loudly, those around them joining in on the snickering. My curiosity was tweaked and I found myself wishing to know what they were talking about.
Or maybe it wasn’t my curiosity, but my insatiable need to know everything that was going on around me. I would be the first to admit that I was a nosy person, but that’s only because I got away - for the most part - with eavesdropping on my fellow classmates without them being none the wiser. Like I’ve said many times before, invisibility sure did have its perks from time to time.
Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, I waited with the rest of my classmates, wondering when Slughorn would open the damn door and we could get on with the lesson. I wasn’t eager to get into the classroom and do the work, but I just wanted to get this done and over with. The quicker the lesson went, the easier this whole situation would become. I had already taken a vow of silence when it came to this particular class, so even if Black felt the need to strike up a conversation with me, I wasn’t going to let him get to me like he did last time. Make no mistake, I was not going to be charmed by him again. I had let my guard down once and it had been a fatal mistake.
Okay, maybe not a fatal mistake, but it was still a mistake. No one was injured, so it wasn’t fatal, my mentality and ego had taken a bruising. I had believed myself to be immune to Sirius Black’s infamous charms, but I was just like the rest of them, much to my chagrin. How he had managed to get me talking was still beyond me, but it’s not like it mattered, did it? I knew what to expect this time, so therefore, I wouldn’t be fooled again.
Merlin, this plan was foolproof! If Sirius Black thought that he was going to break the ice and get me talking again, oh boy, did he have another thing coming for him. Stupid, egotistical, charming, handsome - NO! Stop it! I couldn’t think like that. I shook my head to myself when I found my eyes were trained on, what else, Black’s perfectly formed arse.
You stop that right this instant, Briggs, Logic exclaimed angrily. You know better than that to act like such a…such a…tart!
Eleanor is not a tart, argued Ego.
Inwardly, I was beaming at Ego.
She’s barely done anything with any blokes to be considered a tart, anyway.
The smile fell off my face abruptly. And here I thought egos were supposed to be make you more confident, not feel like such a pathetic waste of space. Leave it to my ego to get it backward. Circe be damned.
Just because she’s making an observation certainly doesn’t mean that she’s a tart. Besides, she’s right. He does have a rather nice bum, now that I look at it.
Are you kidding me? Look at yourself, Briggs. You’re just like the rest of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you slipped on your own puddle of drool on your way through the door.
Now you wait just a minute, you should not be berating her. She’s a girl, after all. She’s allowed to admire the scenery. Besides, it’s like Ego said, she was just making an observation.Eeek, that voice sounded eerily like my Aunt Eliza. What the hell was she doing inside of my head?
An observation, you say? What about her dream? How can you explain that?
Er, Logic’s got a point, Ellie.
Indeed she does.
I let out a little growl, stomping my foot on the ground in annoyance. Of course, all the voices in my head would turn against me. Damn Logic! Would needed it anyway? Grinding my teeth in irritation, I suddenly realized that I was angry at non-existent voices inside my head. My face paled slightly and I wondered if I really was going as crazy as I thought I was. I looked around at my peers to see if they had noticed my little outburst, but none of them have, save for one.
And of course, it just had to be Sirius Black who was smirking at me in the most charming way, making my heart skip a beat when he raised a singular dark brow in amusement, those hauntingly beautiful eyes twinkling joyously, like he had just discovered some precious secret. I hated him for being able to raise one eyebrow in such a James Bond-esque way. And for being able to see that embarrassing show of frustration at the voices in my head.
Merlin, Briggs, you are going crazy!
I shook my head to myself, wondering if all these damn voices would ever leave me alone. I silently thanked God that no one was able to hear the raging war that questioned my sanity that was going on in my head between Logic, Ego, and my Aunt about whether I was a tarty girl or not.
Much to my immense relief, the door to the classroom opened and Slughorn made his usual short speech before allowing us entrance. I was the last one through the door. I made my way toward the back of the classroom as quickly as possible, hoping that no one noticed that I was partnered with Sirius Black.
When I reached the table, I saw that he was still wearing his trademark, knee melting smirk. But I was shocked to see that there wasn’t a trace of mocking or laughter in his smirk, and it was just simply that: a smirk. It wasn’t teasing, but rather friendly. I set my bag down on the top of the table before taking my seat on the stool beside him.
“Hi,” he greeted in a pleasant voice. He sounded genuine enough to me.
Without looking at him, I said, “Hello,” back.
“How are you doing today?”
My jaw tightened and I wondered if the rest of the lesson would continue in this vein. I prayed to Merlin that it wouldn’t. “Fine,” I replied shortly. I wasn’t intentionally being rude…
Okay, so I was trying my hardest to be rude, but with good reason. I didn’t want the other students in the classroom to see that I was actually conversing with Black about something other than Potions in fear that they would report back to Lucinda and my life would be over. As pitiful as my existence was, I didn’t exactly plan on ending my life as early as seventeen. That just wasn’t an option in my book.
“I’m doing good,” Sirius said out of the blue. “You know, in case you were wondering.”
“I wasn’t,” I muttered under my breath, feeling more than slightly annoyed, “but thanks for informing me anyway.” I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye to see that he was staring at me with a curious expression on his handsome face.
“Oh, it’s no problem at all,” he replied smoothly. I turned my head in his direction to see that he was smiling.
Shit, he wasn’t supposed to hear that. Goddamn it. Wow, I turned into quite the potty mouth when I retreated into the sanctuary of my own mind, didn’t I? But that’s the question, isn’t it; is my mind really a stable place?
Thankfully, I didn’t have to reply - to myself or to Sirius - , as Professor Slughorn began to prattle on and on about the essays we had turned in the previous class. He kept saying that he was greatly
‘disappointed’ and ‘displeased’ that our essays weren’t up to par, save for the papers submitted by Lily Evans and Severus Snape. My jaw clenched as I remembered the way Snape had wiped his hand on his school robes after helping me up like I had some sort of contagious disease.
People began to shuffle about, pulling their books from their bags and such. I had no idea what Slughorn had said, so I had to watch Sirius out of the corner of my eye to see what he was doing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t doing anything. He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the table. My, someone certainly was self-confident, weren’t they? Following the suit of my classmates, I pulled my book out of my newly repaired bag, thanks to Lily, and flipped open to the index, intending on scanning the small print for a potion that we could brew.
I had been skimming the finely printed text for a little more than thirty seconds before Sirius spoke up, “Did you know your lip is bleeding?”
I was startled by his words and picked my head up, my reading glasses resting on the crook of my nose. “What?”
“Your lip,” Sirius said, putting his chair down on all four legs and removing his feet from the table top. “It’s bleeding.”
I brought my fingers to my lips and felt around. Sure enough, when I pulled my hand away, my fingertips were dotted with a light layer of ruby red blood. “Oh,” I murmured under my breath. “Thanks.”
“For telling me,” I said.
Sirius smiled in his easy way and scooted his stool closer to the table top, finally seeming interested in what we were supposed to be doing. “So,” he began, resting his elbows on the table. “How’d it happen?”
“How’d what happen?” I asked stupidly.
“How d’you get that cut on your lip? Surely you didn’t just bite into your lip without a good reason.” He seemed intensely interested in the words coming from his own mouth and I could see in the depths of his gray eyes that the wheels were turning in his mind. “Did Peeves get you?”
“No,” I said defensively, shaking my head. As if Peeves could scare me…all right, he probably could, but that was beside the point.
“Did a Slytherin sneak up on you?” His tone hardened, as did his facial features.
“No,” I answered. “Someone ran into me and knocked me down to the floor. I guess I hit my chin so hard that I bit into my lip.” Tucking a lock of hair behind my ear, I continued, “And it was actually a Slytherin who helped me up.” My eyes flickered over to where Snape sat over his cauldron, looking positively vexed at the world. I was surprised to find that he didn’t have a partner. I wondered why that was…
“Oh,” muttered Sirius, looking a bit crestfallen. “Well, I’m sorry that someone bumped into you and you had to be helped up by a grimy Slytherin.”
I knew that it was pointless to try to tell him that not all Slytherins were like Lucius Malfoy. I shivered at the name, remembering the general pompous air that surrounded him when he walked down the halls. I could still remember when I was in my second year and he was in his seventh year, I had thought that he was one of the most frightening and imposing people I have ever seen in my life. I could still remember the way he had sneered at me when I accidentally gotten in his way.
Other than that, I really didn’t have a problem with Slytherins. True, they were a rather arrogant bunch, but just because they were overly self-confident in their abilities and their blood status didn’t mean that they were all bad. Lucinda belongs in Slytherin, the bloody cow, I thought blackly to myself.
“It’s not your fault,” I said softly, turning my eyes back to my book.
He didn’t say anything in response, so I figured that he had lost interest in the conversation, let alone the assignment we were supposed to be doing. I could already tell that I was going to be doing the majority of the work, seeing as how he hadn’t even taken his book out of his bag. Why did Potter have to be such a good persuader and get his way all the time? I would be partners with Lily and we would be having fun researching our potion. I wouldn’t be so high strung as I was when I was around Sirius Black and I wouldn’t have to watch what I said. I mean, I would still have to edit a great deal of my thoughts, as some were more…eccentric than others, but that was beyond the point. I did that around everyone, my family included, as it was.
“So,” Black drawled in his warm and sophisticated voice. “Have you come across any possibilities?”
I looked up from my book and shook my head. “No, not yet.”
“Damn,” he swore. “Neither have I.”
My eyes widened slightly and I could imagine how they looked behind my glasses. “You’ve looked?”
Sirius laughed in his bark like way, causing several heads to swivel in our direction. I could feel my cheeks flame up and suddenly, I was reminded on my dream. No, wait, it wasn’t a dream, it was a delusion. I had decided that in my Athrimancy lesson earlier that day when the professor had given us free time to do our homework. After spazzing out the entire time I rushed down the various corridors in hopes of making it to my lesson on time, I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t had that twisted dream where I snogged Sirius Black senseless before Sirius magically morphed into Remus Lupin. I shuddered as I remembered that - in the dream, not in real life - that I had actually enjoyed kissing not only Remus, but Sirius as well.
Sirius was speaking, but I couldn’t make out the words. I was just staring at his lips, reveling in the fact that they actually did look as smooth and inviting as I had imagined them in my dream - uh, I mean delusion. In my delusion.
“You have really nice lips,” I blurted before I could help myself.
Sirius stopped mid-sentence and stared at me in curiosity, his eyes dancing dangerously. “I what?”
“I, er,” I could feel my face going beet red and I pulled at my collar, as my neck as flaming as well. How could I be so bloody stupid? I wish the floor would open up and swallow me whole. That would put me out of this stupid misery that was adolescence. “I said that, um, I couldn’t understand what you said?”
His gaze turned doubtful, but after a few seconds of intense staring, he more or less decided that it wasn’t worth it. The amusement in his eyes died down and he seemed to be accepting my answer. He pushed a hand through his silky locks before he cleared his throat.
“I was saying that I had looked in the book last night with Moony, but we couldn’t find anything. So maybe, you and I could meet in the library after dinner tomorrow night to search for some potions.”
Slightly confused, I asked, “Who’s Moony?”
“Remus,” he supplied, giving a joking roll of his dazzling eyes.
Oh! So that’s why he was in the library last night! He had been searching for the same sort of book that I was. We had both been in the potions section of the library. I breathed a mental sigh of relief; so he hadn’t been stalking me. It hadn’t occurred to me that our meeting last night could’ve been more than chance until I had returned to the common room to do homework. It was a huge relief to know that he wasn’t my own personal stalker, although it would’ve been nice if someone showed some interest in me now and again.
I snorted out loud.
“What’d I say?” Sirius questioned.
“Nothing,” I amended quickly. “I just thought of something funny.”
“All right,” he said slowly, as though he was trying to understand what was so funny. Thank Merlin he wasn’t a skilled Legimens. That would really suck, wouldn’t it? Lord, everyone would know that I was insane. “So, how about it?”
Biting my lip, and immediately regretting it, as a white hot lick of pain shot through my jaw, as well as my mouth, I pondered the possibility. Lucinda couldn’t get mad at me since it was school related. I would just have to be weary of what I said. Not that it was that hard for me to do…okay, so maybe it was. Especially around Sirius. I felt like I was lying to him just sitting here. Even though he wasn’t my friend, nor my acquaintance, by any means, I knew something that would cause potential hurt to him when he found out that I knew, or just find out in general. I mean, it was a long stretch to ever think that we would become friends, but we were Potions partners, meaning that we would elevate from a first name basis, which we still hadn’t achieved on my part, as I had refused to give him my name, to something of acquaintances. Besides, I thought that all people deserved to know the truth, but look at me, hiding a huge secret from him simply to save my own hide. What sort of person was I?
“Um,” I closed my eyes very briefly before I nodded my head. “Sure.”
His grin was spectacular. “Excellent,” he exclaimed. Returning to his stool, he leaned it back on two legs and propped his feet back up on the table.
X - X - X
Fifty-five minutes later, the bell rang, signaling the end of class. There was the usual rush of students pushing themselves away from their desks and gathering up their belongings. The noise level, which had been at a manageable level throughout the lesson, increased by a tenfold the second the bell rang and dismissed everyone from class. I was putting my glasses back in their case and packing up all my stuff when I felt Sirius brush past me.
He seemed to notice and looked at me, smiling. He had been smiling almost the whole entire class. Why, I wasn’t sure, but it was a nice sight to behold. I tentatively smiled back as he turned around and started toward the door. Before he exited, he grabbed the doorframe, his smile widening into a arrogant, but insatiably attractive smirk, “See you around, Eleanor.”
And like a thin vapor, he vanished from sight, leaving me utterly dumbfounded.
The next morning at breakfast, I was still dumbfounded by what Sirius had said. Sure, he had only said my name, but that was huge. How had he found out? Well, I suppose since that he was one of the infamous Marauders, he had his ways of finding out, but I was more than willing to bet that he went straight to Lily to ask her. They might not have agreed on the treatment of Slytherins, but they usually got on just fine. So, there was no doubt in my mind he had asked her for my name and, knowing Lily, she would have gladly giving the information over to him.
Oh, listen to me! I’m talking as though I’m best friends with Lily Evans and have known her my entire life. Though it was true that we had become something of friends over the past week and a half, it was stupid of me to act like I actually knew her. I didn’t know all her little quirks, so why I would be assuming that she would willingly give him that small bit of information was beyond me. But that was beside the point, wasn’t it? Merlin, all my pointless rambling was going to get me into quite the pit of trouble, of that I was certain.
Although, it would look as though Lily and I had been friends for a while, as I was now sitting with her at breakfast. Unlike me, Lily actually enjoyed the mornings. I had never known that about her until I saw just how perky she was when I came down to the Great Hall and she beckoned me toward her. I had plopped down on the bench, giving Alice a friendly grunt when she, like Lily, had acted so bright so early in the morning.
I also discovered that Leanne Mason, one of my roommates, wasn’t as unpleasant as she appeared. Though she barely spoke to me, as her boyfriend was sitting right next to her, she said hello to me when I had dropped onto the bench and began to pile food onto my plate. Marlene McKinnon on the other hand wasn’t as pleasant. She was mad that I had taken the last of the pumpkin juice from the pitcher nearest us and practically snatched the last pieces of toast off the platter when she saw that I had the intention of taking some. I didn’t know what her problem was, but I knew that she could be quite the bitch if she was displeased, so I decided to leave her alone and stuck to polishing off my scrambled eggs.
I pushed the bacon rinds on my plate around with my fork for lack of anything better to do. I was full, but there was another half an hour before lessons started. It was pointless to go back to the common room for fifteen minutes when my class, Ancient Runes, was already on the other side of the castle. So, I decided to wait it out at the table. I barely listened to the conversation going on around me, as Alice and Lily were prattling on in their usual manner about, what else, school gossip. I didn’t even realized that the post had come until an owl bit my finger.
Giving a small squeak of fright, I nearly fell off the bench as I pulled my hand away as though I had been burned. The small cut started to bleed. Do you see now why I’m so afraid of owls? They could bloody chop clean through your fingers if they really wanted to.
“Damn owl!” I said loudly.
I could feel my companions eyes on me as they watched the scene unfold right before their amused eyes. I probably looked utterly ridiculous, shying away from the tawny owl as though it was some monstrous beast. I delved a bleeding hand into my pocket and took out the proper amount of money. Ever so cautiously, I reached out to put the money in the pouch when I realized that there wasn’t one. I looked at the owl more closely and saw that it wasn’t an owl carrying my Prophet at all; it was my Aunt Eliza’s owl, Leonidias.
Leonidias screeched at me impatiently, shaking his leg at me in annoyance. I stared at the owl, my brow furrowed as I hesitantly untied the letter. I wasn’t expecting a letter from Aunt Eliza, but it wasn’t all too surprising, seeing as how she hadn’t sent me anything for a little over two weeks. Leonidias nudged my hand away from my plate with his beak and feasted upon the remains of my bacon rinds before he pressed his tawny head against the palm of my hand, as was his odd custom, and took off flying.
“Did you get a letter?” Alice asked eagerly.
“Obviously she did, Alice,” Marlene said impatiently, rolling her eyes in an overdramatic manner. It might have been annoying that Alice always stated and asked the obvious, but Marlene didn’t have to be mean about it.
I didn’t say anything, as I didn’t want Marlene’s agitation to be taken out on me. Shady, but it was true. I’d rather not have anyone yelling at me in the middle of the Great Hall, thank you very much. So, without another thought as to those surrounding me, I broke the seal and began to read my letter.
Dear Ella ( Merlin, I hated when she started with that bloody salutation! )
When you didn’t respond to my last letter, I began to wonder if you had received it. But then I remembered that I was talking about you, my dearest niece, not my daughter who would - should, I suppose I should say - feel obligated to write me back. I can understand that you are busy with your school work and I don’t mean to sound like a pestering mother, but sometimes, it would be nice if you gave me a little clue as to what’s going on in your life away from home.
I sound like a condescending cow of an aunt, don’t I? Just ignore what I’ve just written, would you, Ella love? I know that Anna didn’t write to me as often as you do when she was at Hogwarts, so I shouldn’t be pestering you. It’s just that I worry about you, Ella. When I don’t hear from you, I fear that you…well, you know, after the situation with Anna, I guess I’ve just been a little paranoid that you’ll follow in her footsteps, no matter how foolish it sounds now in retrospect. Merlin, I really need to learn to shut up, don’t I? I must be annoying the piss out of you right about now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you crumpled up the letter already; I know I would’ve.
Anywho. Things at home have been good. Although, that pesky wandering dog that you fed before you left keeps hanging around the back kitchen door and I’m not entirely sure what I should do with it. I know you have an attachment to that dog - what did you name it, again? Rusty? Rudolph? Oh well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. He is rather cute, isn’t he? Suppose I’ll have a surprise for you when you come home? Although, I’ve just given away some massive clues, haven’t I? Oh, Circe be damned, I‘ll just come right out and say it - I‘ll probably end up adopting the dog. Does Rufus sound like an okay name to you? He looks like a Rufus to me.
As it is, I’m holding up here pretty good. It’s not the best thing, being alone, but it’s not always so bad. I just recently joined the neighborhood book club. They seem to be a nice pack of birds, but I don’t know about one of them. She’s called Rebecca Lyndall. She’s not very pleasant and thinks that she’s better than everyone else. I feel like socking her in the face every time she opens her mouth and her pompous voice comes forth. She’s a right cow, that’s what she is. Some of the novels they have picked out, I believe you have read before. Would you mind if I checked out the bookcase in your room to see if you have any of the novels so I don’t have to go out and buy them?
Well, I suppose your eyes are sore from reading all this pointless nonsense, but I had to get it out to someone. I’m sorry that it had to be you, love. I miss you terribly and hope that you’ll write back this time. Don’t feel like you have to, but it would be nice to have someone to talk to. I can’t wait to have you home for the holidays. A new jumper should be arriving for you in the post tomorrow morning that I believe you’ll like. So, with that, Ella, I shall take my leave.
A smile lit up my face as I quickly reread the letter. I was unable to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the words on the parchment. My Aunt Eliza was, quite possibly, the most eccentric person I had ever met in my entire life. Not only was she as random as rain in the middle of May, but the way she put things and how she could switch moods so suddenly baffled me. For a forty-seven year old, she had more energy than I could and would ever dream of obtaining.
It was with a sharp pang through my chest that I realized just how much I missed Aunt Eliza. I missed her wild, fly away strawberry blonde hair that was going gray at the temples; her bright blue eyes that seemed to dance with an indescribable fire; her brilliant smile that always managed to lift my spirits; her arms wrapped around me when she embraced me; her soft way of speaking and the curses that rolled off her tongue when she was feeling particularly vexed.
I suddenly felt horrible for not responding back to her letter, especially after the comment she had made about her daughter, Anna. The last anyone had heard of Anna was three years ago, when she had announced over the Christmas Holidays that she was going to Berlin with her latest boyfriend, Hans. Aunt Eliza and I had tried countless times to contact her, but she never replied to any of our letters. It had left my aunt completely crushed, which was why she was wanted me to reply to her letters. She didn’t want me to abandoned her like her own daughter had.
I made a mental note to reply to her letter, folding the letter up and sticking it in my pocket.
“Who was the letter from?” Lily asked conversationally.
“My aunt,” I replied, picking up a banana nut muffin and taking a massive bite out of it.
“You talk to your other family members on a regular basis?” Alice said, smiling. Before I could chew my mouthful of muffin and come up with a reasonable lie, she added, “That’s great!”
After Alice spoke, the subject was dropped and I finished the rest of my muffin. I drank the rest of my pumpkin juice and wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve. Marlene seemed revolted by the display, but didn’t say anything, much to my immense relief.
I glanced down at my watch and saw that there was only seven minutes before the day’s lessons began. I bid my roommates goodbye, slung my satchel full of books over my shoulder, and headed out of the Great Hall to what would most likely prove to be an uneventful, yet oddly stressful day. Oh, anticipation. It could be such a royal pain in my ass.
X - X - X
My hand was frantically working across the page of parchment, scribbling down the professor was dictating to the class in my cramped handwriting when something hit me in the back of the head. There was a folded piece of paper resting near my elbow. I stopped writing and looked around the classroom as discreetly as possible. No one seemed suspicious, so once I was positive that the professor wasn’t watching, I opened the note.
What are you doing this afternoon?
My eyebrows shot up and it probably looked like they were getting very well acquainted with my hairline. Why was Black interested in knowing what I was doing this afternoon? I double checked to make sure that he had thrown the note at the right person and that it hadn’t been meant for someone sitting near me.
I turned around in my seat to look at him, but his head was bent and he appeared to be the picture perfect student. Yeah, right. That disguise wouldn’t fool me or any other student within the walls of Hogwarts.
I dipped my quill in my inkwell and scribbled down a reply.
I was planning on getting some of my homework done. Why?
I scanned the vicinity and once I was absolutely sure that no one was watching, I tossed the note over my shoulder, hoping that it landed within Black’s grasp.
A few seconds later, I was hit on the back of the head again.
Just curious, that’s all. It’s really nice outside, why would you want to do homework?
Because I have a lot of it? And it’s the middle of October; it can’t be that nice.
Why would you care when I did my homework, anyway?
Honestly, this was incredibly confusing. Why was Black so concerned about my studying habits? I mean, I know that we had arranged to meet in the library after dinner to start our project, but that didn’t mean anything.
Sorry for making an attempt at getting to know my Potions partner. I’ll toss a note at someone who will bother being nice to me.
Oh, okay. Now I felt bad. I had been a little bit of a bitch in my last response, even if that was the last notion I had in mind.
Oh. Sorry. I have to take notes. I’m really far behind.
You can copy mine in the library.
But that’s cheating. And cheaters never prosper.
You sound like Evans.
I’m not going to write back after this.
Sure you won’t. Remus says “hi”, by the way.
My heart did this odd sort of fluttering thing in my chest as I thought of Remus. I was acting like a silly schoolgirl, but I just couldn’t help it! After our confrontation in the library, it was hard to get him out of my head. But honestly, could you blame me? Not only have I had a crush on him since fifth year, but we were actually talking like we were friends.
While it might not be a huge deal to some people, the prospect of actually having friends made me happy. I never really had a best friend. And when I say that, I mean ever. Sure, before Hogwarts, there were a few kids that I was really close to, but not close enough. There has never been that one person, outside of my Aunt Eliza and my half brother Kevin, who I felt like I could be myself around. It was hard to get through school sometimes, but I had managed thus far, hadn’t I?
Against my better judgment, I looked over my shoulder and saw Remus bent over his notes, his quill moving quickly across the page. Black, on the other hand, had his feet kicked up on his desk and was leaning back in his seat, chewing on the end of her quill. He smiled at me once he made eye contact and my stomach did an uncomfortable little flip thing. I mentally scowled myself; hadn’t I just had heart palpitations for Remus Lupin? And now my stomach was doing odd loopy things at the mere sight of Sirius Black’s smile. Oh vey, maybe I really was a tart!
He raised a brow in a very James Bond way and I gnashed my teeth together. I don’t know why I didn’t turn back around, but I didn’t. Instead, I stared at Sirius with fascination. I had never really taken the time and actually looked at him. I mean, sure, I had looked at him, but not seriously securitized his appearance. But now that I was actually looking, I could see the faint sign of purple bags under his eyes and I wondered why he wasn’t sleeping. Or if that was even the cause. For all I knew, someone could’ve socked him in the face. But even with the purplish bags under his eyes, he was still inhumanly attractive. I could see why practically every girl in the school got a little bit weaker in the knees whenever they looked at him. Hell, I’m pretty sure my knees were knocking together underneath the table right now.
Holy Circe, I am a tart! That’s the only proper explanation for this whole…well, I’m not really sure what this situation is at the moment, but I’d find a name for it. Eventually. Not only am I thinking not-so-innocent thoughts about Sirius Black, but I’m also harboring a huge crush for his best friend! But that’s not even the half of it. Oh no, I’ve been having dreams about getting hot and heavy with Sirius one minute and then the next thing I know, I’m locking lips with Remus and actually enjoying it!
Oh dear Merlin, I’ve actually admitted that they were dreams and not delusions, even though I decided a few days ago that they were delusions. At least, the first one was. The sad thing about the matter was that there had been more than one. Oh, but it gets better. Much, much better. I barely knew either of them, but out of the pair of them, I knew Remus better. Yet, I imagined that Sirius was the better snog of the two. How horrible was that? And who was I to say that he was better at kissing than Remus? First of all, I hadn’t kissed either of them, and in my entire life, I had only snogged one bloke and that was because he kissed me, not the other way around.
“Miss Briggs?” Professor Gilbert asked.
Eyes as wide as saucers, I looked up from the piece of parchment that I had been holding in my hand and found that the entire class was staring at me curiously. I could see Bertha Jorkins in the corner, leaning across her desk to hear the entire exchange.
I swallowed nervously. “Yes, Professor?”
“It seems as though you are too busy to pay attention in my class and have chosen to exchange notes with another one of your classmates,” Professor Gilbert began. I could tell by the look on her face that she was going to do something that would embarrass me for the rest of my life. But why she would do that when I was one of her favorite students, I have no idea. “So, I’ll give you one of two options: give me the note now and I read it in front of the entire class or wait for me after class and make sure that your partner in this minor crime stays behind with you so I can issue the both of you a detention.”
I swear to Merlin, I just pissed my pants. I could feel my cheeks flaming up. I was at a complete loss for words. I had no idea what to say to that. Not only would I be incriminating myself, but Sirius as well. What would he think of me if I chose option number two? Of course, it was much more appealing and would save me a great deal of embarrassment. Not that our note was all that embarrassing, I just seemed like an uptight priss.
That’s because you are an uptight priss, Briggs.
I ground my teeth together and willed my conscience to shut its mouth. I need to think in my head, but I couldn’t when that stupid little voice was breathing down my neck like an irritating little monkey!
“Well, Miss Briggs?” Professor Gilbert drawled. “What will it be?”
I cringed inwardly. Sorry Sirius. “I’ll stay after class.”
She smiled tightly at me and took the piece of wrinkled parchment out of my hands. “Get back to taking notes, Miss Briggs. I would hate for you to fail the next exam because of it.”
Again, I swallowed and I turned my attention back to my notes, which Professor Gilbert began to dictate as though there had been no interruption at all. Behind me, I could swear that I heard Black snickering under his breath.
X - X - X
The bell rang, signaling the end of class. While everyone gathered up their belongings and shuffled out of class, two students remained in their seats: myself and Sirius Black. Professor Gilbert herded the stragglers out of the classroom and shut the door before anyone could poke their heads in the doorjamb. She then cast a Silencing Charm around the room, so none of the pesky gossip-oholics could listen in.
With a swirl of her royal blue cloak, she faced us. But instead of looking threatening and downright frightening like I thought she would, she smiled at us.
“Come to my desk, won’t you children?” she said as she lowered herself down into her comfortable looking chair behind her desk.
I hesitantly looked back at Black to see if he was mad at me, but no anger showed on his handsome face as he gathered up his stuff, shoved them into his shoulder bag, and made his way to the front of the classroom. I started to pack up my items and, as he walked by me, he sent me a wink and I swear my knees started clattering together.
You like Remus, you little slag, not Black. Besides, he’s off limits anyway. Or do I need to remind you of what happened in the library nearly two weeks ago?
I shook myself out of my own head as I closed my satchel, slung it over my shoulder, and moved to the front of the room. I stood close to Black, so close, I could feel heat radiating off of his body. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and I could see that he was struggling to hold back a smirk.
Of course he could find humor in the situation.
“I’m sorry I embarrassed you in front of the class, Eleanor,” Professor Gilbert said quietly. “Normally, I wouldn’t have said anything, since you are always such a good student and pay attention to my lectures, but I noticed that some of the other students were, shall we say, gossiping about the passing of notes between the pair of you and I couldn’t let it go unnoticed.”
“It’s okay, Professor,” I replied, tucking a strand of dark hair behind my ear. It was another one of my nervous ticks. “I completely understand. You don’t want to seem like you favor me above other students.”
“Exactly,” smiled Professor Gilbert. Her eyes flickered over to Black and her lips pulled into an even wider smile. “And we both know how many run-ins we’ve had with one another when it comes to not paying the proper amount of attention in class, Mr. Black.”
Sirius grinned. “How could I forget a single encounter with you, Nora?”
Professor Gilbert blushed slightly. Oh my Circe! He had just charmed the teacher! She was supposed to be disciplining us and here he was, charming the pants right off of her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me to leave the room.
Okay, so that was definitely an unnecessary thought to have that welcomed unwanted images in my mind, but whatever. The sad thing is that it’s probably true.
“Nice try, Mr. Black,”
“Please, Nora, it’s Sirius.”
She rolled her dark eyes and nodded. “All right, Sirius, it was a nice try, but nothing’s going to distract me from delivering your punishment.”
“Don’t make it too harsh, Nora; I’ve got Quidditch practice tomorrow night and you want Gryffindor to win in our next match, don’t you?”
Professor Gilbert nodded. “Of course I do. No one wants the Slytherins to win the House Cup. Especially after that foul went unnoticed by Madam Hooch and they cheated their way to three goals against Hufflepuff last Saturday. Besides, Gryffindor doesn’t play Slytherin until December.”
Wow, this was sad. My Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher knew more about Quidditch than I did. Maybe I should start paying attention to the sport, since the whole school seems to care so damn much about it.
“But nevertheless,” Professor Gilbert continued, “I have to issue out a detention for Thursday night. Eight o’clock in the Trophy Room. You know the drill, Mr. Black, so I trust that you’ll show Miss Briggs the ropes of cleaning trophies.”
Sirius smiled brilliantly at her. “Of course I will, Nora.” He saluted her as he hitched his bag up on his shoulder. “I won’t let you down.”
“I knew I could count on you,” she replied sarcastically. “Now get out of my classroom before I change my mind about your punishment.”
Black swept into a low bow, which made Professor Gilbert chuckle, and I gave a small wave. She bobbed her head in recognition and I walked out of the door. When I stepped into the hallway, there were three girls gathered outside. I assumed they had been trying to listen in on the conversation that had just been had, but now they were consumed by the fact that Sirius Black was actually talking to them.
Merlin, some girls were so dim-witted, it was hardly bearable to watch. I actually felt sorry for them and I didn’t even know them. I shifted my bag from one shoulder to the other and took off down the corridor. I was nearly to the staircase that would take me to the seventh floor when Black fell into step beside me.
“Can I help you?” I asked, not daring to look at him. For all I knew, he would be grinning like a maniac, since happiness seemed to be the only expression that would dance across his face in my presence. That and confusion. Not to mention amusement and determination.
“What? I can’t walk beside you to the Gryffindor common room?”
“No, you can,” I replied, “I’m just wondering why you would want to.”
“Like I said earlier, I’m just trying to get to know my Potions partner,” Sirius answered, sounding serious. No pun intended.
“Oh,” I murmured under my breath, starting up the staircase.
It started to shift halfway up and I lost my balance. I would’ve fallen backward and probably broken my neck if Sirius hadn’t steady me in that oh-so-clichéd fashion that was only seen in the movies. Of course, I wasn’t dipped backward and his face was nowhere near mine. In fact, his face was buried in the back of my head in my mess of brown hair.
He spit some of my hair out of his mouth and shook his head to himself. “You know, it’s impossible to find anything out about you.”
I furrowed my brow. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, I asked around about you and no one had anything to say,” his brow pinched together in thought, “to tell you the truth, half of the people I asked didn’t even know who you were.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” I muttered to myself.
I shook my head. “Not really. Does it surprise you?”
“Sort of,” he replied. He shrugged his shoulders and stuck his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know, I just would’ve thought that someone as nice as you… well, I thought that people would know a little bit of information about you. But they didn’t, not even your roommates. So yeah, I guess you could say that it kind of surprised me.”
“I like to keep to myself,” I said.
“I can tell,” Black laughed, casually shaking his hair out of his eyes. “Why is that, anyway?”
I shrugged my shoulders. Like I would really tell him the real reason behind my “ways”. “I don’t know. I guess I just can’t relate to people our age. And they never took the time to talk to me, so if they don’t make an effort to be my friend, why should I waste my time on them?”
Sirius stared at me like I had sprouted a second hand. Maybe I should’ve put it in nicer terms; I sounded harsh and, well, like a bitch.
“Hmm, I never thought of that,” he pondered out loud. “Oh well.” We had reached the common room at this point in time and Black smiled at me, though I had no idea why. “I’ll see you tonight in the library, yeah?”
“Yeah, I guess you will,” I said as I scrambled out of the portrait hole into the common room. I started to walk toward the girls’ dormitory when Black called my name. Several curious heads swiveled in my direction and I felt myself blushing. Goddamn it! Stupid red cheeks! “What?”
“Remus wanted me to ask you if you’ll sit with us at dinner,” Sirius said. “So, how about it?”
I was eerily reminded of my encounter in the library with Remus. I pushed back the urge to shiver and I nodded my head. “Sure, I guess.”
He grinned in his wide, charming way and my knees did that stupid knocking together thing. “Perfect.”
Chyeah, maybe for you. For me, it spelt death.
A/N: Hello, my faithful readers! I just realized that I haven’t put an author’s note in this story yet, but I’m going to do it now. Thank you all so very much for your kind words in your reviews. You have no idea how much they mean to me and how much they inspire me. It’s because of you guys that I’m writing this story and posting chapters. I just wanted to say thank you and keep showing me some love in the form of reviews.
X - X - X
The dormitory was empty. I sighed heavily, tossing my bag of books on my bed. I sent a glance over at the bathroom door and decided that I deserved a nice hot shower. Tension had been pinching my shoulders the entire day and I knew that the steam would help loosen my muscles. Kicking off my shoes and pulling off my socks, I made my way toward the bathroom. Just before I went into the bathroom, I looked at the alarm clock on Marlene’s bedside table.
I had forty five minutes before dinner started and I was expected to sit with the Marauders for dinner.
Merlin help me.
I turned on the tap and let the water warm up while I ran my fingers through my hair, working out all the knots that would only get more tangled when water touched them if I didn’t tug them out now. I pealed off my clothes, tossing them to the floor, and stepped into the shower.
I welcomed the hot water on my skin, even though it burned a little. Tipping my head back, I let the water drenched my hair and wipe away all the sweat that had formed at my hairline. A day’s worth of grim, even though I hadn’t done anything particular dirty that day, washed down the drain. Almost immediately, I started feeling better.
The tense coils in my shoulders were beginning to un-kink themselves and I rolled my head to the side. While the water was scalding and turning my pale skin bright red, it felt wonderful. I stood under the spray of the shower for a little more than fifteen minutes before I finally came to my senses and washed up. Like always, I watched with transfixed eyes as the foamy water swirled down the drain. I wasn’t sure why I did that, I guess it was just habit.
I shut off the water five minutes later and stepped out of the shower, blindly reaching for a towel. I wrapped the fluffy towel around myself and wrung the water out of my hair. The steam swirled as I walked through it and fogged up the mirror. I wiped the steam off the glass with my hand and surveyed my reflection. Compared to the last time that I had really studied myself in the mirror, I looked a hell of a lot better.
But that’s not say that I looked anything like Lucinda Matthews. I wasn’t gorgeous, but I wasn’t ugly. I guess you could say that I was stuck in the middle; yeah, that sounds about right, I was average. If I was ugly, I would’ve probably been picked on throughout my school years and if I was drop dead gorgeous, I’m pretty sure that guys would’ve noticed me. So yeah, I would say that average was the perfect word to describe my appearance.
I had always been slender, but not in an athletic way. I really didn’t have a hard jaw line or sharp, high cheekbones. My face was round, the planes of my cheeks smooth, the slope of my nose was gradual and short and my nose came to a round point at the end. My upper lip was much full than my bottom lip, which sort of made my face look out of proportion. But other than my slightly fuller top lip, the lines of my mouth were smooth. Absolutely nothing about my face made me remarkable. Nothing made me stand out, not even my blue eyes. If anything, my brown hair made me blend in with the rest. Which was never a problem. In fact, I kind of liked it that way.
“What are you doing?” I asked my reflection, shaking my head to myself as I finished drying off and put my uniform back on. It might have been dinner, but uniforms were still required. Bringing the towel with me, I stepped into the dormitory, only to find Leanne and Marlene perched on their beds, talking.
At my entrance, they turned toward the bathroom door and smiled in welcome.
“I didn’t know anyone else was here,” Leanne said as I crossed the room, towel drying my hair.
“Oh, you didn’t hear the shower running?” I asked as I dropped down onto my knees at the foot of my bed and rifled through my trunk for my hairbrush.
Leanne shook her head. “No, I didn’t. Sorry.” She smiled in apology.
I found my brush and began working out the tangles that had already knotted in my hair. I scowled; I hadn’t even been out of the shower for three minutes and knots were already forming. Just great. I winced when I pulled too hard on a particular knot and, eventually, I threw my brush to the ground in frustration.
Neither Marlene nor Leanne said anything, thankfully, so I found a new pair of socks, stuffed my feet into them, and then got down on my hands and knees searching for my shoes. Somehow, they had managed to get themselves tucked underneath my bed and I strained to reach my left shoe. When I pulled my arm out from underneath my bed, it was covered with dust.
Great. This was freakin’ fantastic!
I wasn’t sure why I was suddenly so angry at everything that normally went wrong during my day, but I supposed it had something to do with the fact that this would be the last meal I would ever eat. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. I had come to terms with it in the shower.
Lucinda would see me eating dinner with her boyfriend and his friends and automatically assume that I was trying to steal Sirius away from her, even after I had told her that I didn’t have those sort of intentions. Or worse, she would think that I was trying to get all buddy-buddy with him so I could tell him that she was cheating on him with Amos Diggory.
Oh boy, I wonder how the professors will react to murder in the Great Hall? What about the Prophet? What sort of headlines would be written then? What would my Aunt Eliza do once she received word that I had been killed in the Great Hall brawl?
My stomach dropped just thinking about it and I resisted the urge to vomit all over the floor. I had to pull myself together. The worst thing that could happen was that she would attack me, but the teachers would pull us apart, right? I mean, the most damage she could do in a cat fight is scratch out my eye and paralyze me from the waist down. That’s the worst she could manage in a thirty second period of time, right?
I gulped, threw my brush back in my trunk, and slammed it shut. I didn’t bother locking it like I normally did. I pushed off of the floor, wiping the dust of my left sleeve. I forced my feet into my shoes and without so much as another look at Lily and Alice, I made my way down the staircase.
When I reached the foot of the stairs, Remus was waiting for me. I gulped again. Why? Why did he have to be standing there, waiting for me, all the while looking like something good to eat?
Oh shit, had I really just referred to him as food? It was probably just because I was hungry. Yeah, that’s it. I wasn’t some sort of deranged psychopath who rated people on the scale of hotness by their ability to be eaten.
“Hi,” he said brightly.
“Hello,” I replied, trying my hardest not to toss my cookies everywhere.
“Padfoot told me that you agreed to come to dinner with us, but I just had to see for myself if he was telling the truth or not,” Remus explained.
The feeling of nausea eased in my stomach. “What makes you think that I’ll be joining you?”
“Well,” he started, slipping his hands into his pockets and leaning against the wall casually. “The way I see it, you really don’t have a choice now.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’m standing right here, aren’t I?”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. “Am I supposed to feel threatened?”
His smile faltered and a glimmer of worry flashed in his warm brown eyes. “Well, no. Why, do you feel threatened?”
I shook my head. “Not particularly, no.”
“In that case,” Remus said. “I’ll be escorting you to dinner.”
I attempted to raise just one eyebrow, but failed miserably; I had never mastered that skill like Sirius and Remus had. Damn it. “Oh, you will, will you? What makes you think that I’ll go willing?”
Remus chuckled. “From what I understand, a lady never refuses an escort.”
I looked over both of my shoulders before turning back to him. “What lady? I don’t see a lady anywhere,” I said jokingly, a small smile twitching at the corners of my mouth.
His face suddenly turned serious and a small smile worked its way onto his lips. “Really? Because I could swear that I’m looking at one right now.”
Okay, before this can go any further, I’d like to take a moment and inform you that I don’t take very well to pick up lines. Of any sort. Even the most charming of pick up lines manage to bounce right off of me. Not that boys have ever used pick up lines on me, but I’ve seen it in action and it’s just plain nauseating. But there was a difference between a boy who was just using a line to pick up a girl and a boy who wasn’t trying to pick up a girl, but deliver her a compliment instead.
My mind wanted to believe that that was Remus’s intention. So, I let it.
I could feel the heat creeping up in my cheeks as I stepped off the last step. Thankfully, I didn’t stumble and twist my ankle. Instead, I managed to seem a little bit graceful. At least, I hoped I looked the least bit graceful.
X - X - X
When we walked through the doors of the Great Hall, I had been expecting Lucinda to be waiting at the foot of the short steps with her hands on her hips and a glower on her face. I had been expecting her little gaggle of followers to be surrounding her, crackling their knuckles with ugly, matching grimaces on their face. I had been expecting to eat cobblestone before I even reached the end of the stairs.
But of course, I had been completely wrong. The Great Hall was barely full, just a few students sat at the table. I assumed that it was still early in the evening and people were either in their respective common rooms or hunched over essays in the library, trying in vain to complete their assignments before the roaring hunger in their stomach got to them.
To tell you the truth, I was glad that there weren’t many people in the Great Hall when Remus and I entered. I didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I didn’t want people to stare at me while we walked down the small aisle between the tables. I didn’t want anyone to see me sit down at the table with the Marauders, acting like they were my best friends. Because they weren’t and most people would probably be questioning their sanity. I know I would be if I saw me sitting down with the Marauders.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly common knowledge that I had witnessed Sirius Black’s girlfriend cheating on him with a Hufflepuff. And not just any Hufflepuff, but Amos Diggory. Most people didn’t know, since the two acted civil toward each other when they were forced into any given situation, but in truth, they hated each other. I’ll give you one guess as to why.
Nope, it wasn’t because of Lucinda Matthews. Well, not at first, anyway. I’m sure Diggory was bitter about that now, but when their feud, for lack of a better word started, it began over, what else, but Quidditch. There wasn’t any bad blood between Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, but from what I picked up on other people saying, there was a match in third year that went bad. Apparently, Sirius had been doing his job and whacked a Bludger in Diggory’s direction when he wasn’t paying attention. The force of the blow sent the Hufflepuff sailing straight toward the ground. Diggory fell about twenty feet and ended up breaking his wrist, enabling him to play for the rest of the season.
I mean, that’s just the rough version I’ve heard. Some people say that once everyone touched down on the ground, Diggory attacked Sirius and broke his nose. But I could knew that rumor was just that: a rumor. How? Because Sirius’s nose didn’t look broken at all.
Circe, here you go again! Thinking about that blasted Black boy when you’re about to sit down and share dinner with his best mate! Way to be a slag, Briggs. Way to go.
I mentally scolded the voice in my head and realized that I had been scolding that voice more than I had been thanking it like I had in the past. Before this whole situation happened, before I found myself in this sticky mess, I had relied heavily on the voice in the back of my head. But now, I just found it downright annoying.
“Are you just going to stand there or are you actually going to sit down?” Remus asked.
I shook myself out of my temporary stupor and found that we had reached the table and Remus had sat down. I smiled tightly at him and took the seat beside him. Peter was the only other Marauder present. I assumed James and Sirius were either causing havoc or actually doing their homework. I mentally snorted. Yeah, right. Potter and Black doing homework was just ridiculous.
The good thing about arriving to dinner early was that you got first dibs on everything. And by everything, I mean every single thing. The massive bowl of mashed potatoes hadn’t been touched. There was a variety of juicy meats that hadn’t been picked over. Pumpkin juice was practically overflowing from the silver pitchers. And the gravy, oh sweet Merlin, the gravy boats were actually full! My stomach gave a small, triumphant roar and I wasted no time shoveling food onto my plate.
“Pumpkin juice?” Peter asked, gesturing toward the pitcher in his hand.
I nodded, swallowing the hunk of succulent steak in my mouth. “Please,” I said, pushing the masticated cow to the side of my mouth so my words were audible. I could only imagine how attractive I looked.
Peter filled my goblet with freshly squeezed pumpkin juice and I drank over half of the cup before I lowered it from my lips and set it on the table.
Beside me, Remus chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” I questioned, my fork halfway to my mouth.
“You,” he replied, smiling. Before I could ask what I had done that had entertained him so immensely, he shook his hair out of his eyes and added, “I can tell that you don’t get to dinner early.”
I winced, but I couldn’t help smiling at him. “Is it really that obvious?” Remus nodded as did Peter. My eyes widened. “You mean you noticed, too?”
Peter sniggered and, again, nodded his head. “Yeah, I did.”
I sent a mock glower at Remus before violently shoving my fork into my mouth. I immediately regretted it, as I stabbed my tongue with one of the prongs on my fork. Speaking of Prongs…
“Where are James and Sirius? Don’t they normally sit with you?”
“They’re down in the kitchens.”
“The kitchens?” I said, whistling. I was impressed. I thought I was one of the few students who knew about the location of the kitchens. Of course, I had discovered it by accident when I got myself lost in second year. Maybe that’s why I’m developing love handles. “What are they doing in the kitchens?”
Peter chewed the dinner roll in his mouth before answering, “If we told you, we’d-.”
“Have to kill me?” I guessed, smiling all the same.
Peter beamed and reached for another dinner roll. Now that he was eating them, they did look rather appetizing. I snatched one out of the basket, buttered it up, and tore off the end. It melted in my mouth. Oh Merlin, this wasn’t good.
X - X - X
By the time James and Sirius arrived to the table, I was stuffed. I could feel the waistband of my skirt tightening uncomfortably. I wish I was wearing trousers: I would’ve unsnapped the top button and hide it underneath my jumper.
“’ello,” James said cheerfully as he dropped down on the bench across from me, sitting next to Peter.
“Hi,” Remus, Peter, and I chorused in unison. They were still consuming food in massive proportions and I suddenly wondered where they put it all.
“So?” Remus drawled anxiously, leaning forward and getting the sleeve of his shirt in gravy. “Yay or nay?”
Sirius and James glanced at one another surreptitiously. Their eyes gleamed with mischief and I know whatever business they had been conducting had been successful, to say the very least.
“Yay,” Sirius said, winking in my direction.
My knees did that same melty-knocking together thing that they had been doing for the past three hours at the mere sight of Sirius. My God, this was getting ridiculous. I might have to start my reply to Aunt Eliza sooner than I thought. She would know what to do, wouldn’t she? Dear Merlin, I hoped she would know what to do. She had always given me some reasonable advice in the past that had helped me out quite a bit, so surely she wouldn’t fail me now…would she?
My stomach flipped uncomfortably and I could feel the medium-well steak that I had just ingested practically begging to be upchucked.
Because I had been lost in my own mind, I hadn’t been able to fully register the reactions of Remus and Peter. But they were still smiling like maniacs, so I was assuming that it must be something good.
“So,” James began a few seconds later, wagging his fork at me as he spoke. “Have you been getting in the mood for Quidditch?”
“Uh, not really,” I replied. He opened his mouth, looking ready to deliver the tongue lashing from hell when I held my hands up, adding hastily, “but that’s because I’ve had a lot of homework. I did think about it a little bit today.”
“And?” His eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Man, he really could be intimidating if he wanted to be.
“And I think that I should get a little bit more into the whole House spirit thing. I mean, I’ve only ever been to one of the school matches and I ended up getting a nosebleed halfway through because of the high altitude.”
All four of them stared at me, slack jawed, before they burst out into loud, uproarious laughter. Well, Peter’s laugh was more of a girlish titter, but the rest of them were obnoxious. Especially Sirius, it was almost as though he was barking each time he laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I demanded.
“You can’t be - did you really - there’s no way - is that -,” was pretty much the general response to my question.
Before I knew it, their infectious laughter made me start to giggle. I just couldn’t help it. I mean, really, getting a nosebleed at the high altitudes was really stupid, now that I thought about it. And yeah, I was a little insulted that they would laugh at me, but it was something to laugh about. I mean, how many kids actually got nosebleeds at Quidditch matches from heights, and not because they got pummeled by the Quaffle?
Then, I realized that I was the only one laughing. Right when I had accidentally let a snort slip. I immediately sobered up when I saw that they were staring at me with their jaws hanging open again.
“What?” I asked a bit breathlessly. Laughing really stole your breath away.
“You’re really serious about that, aren’t you?” James said.
I nodded. “Yeah, I am. Why would I lie about something so ridiculous as that? I mean, I can be a relatively creative person at times, but I’m not that inventive.”
“So that’s the only reason why you don’t come to matches?” Sirius asked.
Again, I nodded. “Well, yeah. I mean, what’s the point in going if I’m going to get a nosebleed five minutes into the game and have to trek all the way back to the Hospital Wing? Last time it happened, I had lost so much blood that I actually fainted.”
“Really?” Peter squeaked, his watery blue eyes wide.
“Yep,” I nodded. “Like I said, I may have an imagination, but it’s not that overactive.”
The food disappeared from the golden platters only to be replaced by delicious looking desserts. I suppose I could squeeze a few more bites of the Crum Brulee. I mean, did you see how scrumptious it looked? I licked my lips and forked some onto my plate.
We all munched on our desserts for a few minutes in a companionable silence and, as much as I hated to admit it, I actually enjoyed eating dinner with the Marauders. They were all very nice, they made me laugh ( mentally, most of the time, as the only time I had laughed in front of them, which was just now, I had snorted. Which generally happens any time I laughed ) and their company was infectious. It was like a fever I couldn’t get rid of. It was like an itch I just couldn’t stop scratching.
I knew this would be potentially problematic in the future, but I had never had many friends, so why couldn’t I indulge in the fact that these people actually wanted to associate with me. They actually wanted to be my friends. For too long, I had shut everyone out. I had put up a thick wall, refusing to even let people take a peek on the other side. I had not only shut out everyone; I had shut out myself.
James spoke to me, but I didn’t catch his words. I blinked and asked him to repeat his question.
“Do you think you would brave another match if Moony and Wormtail sat with you? You know, to make sure you didn’t get another nosebleed from the high altitudes,” his voice cracked near the end, as he was struggling to hold back his laughter. His lips were quivering as he tried to fight off a smile, but he couldn’t conquer that feat and a wide grin broke out across his face.
Charming is, quite possibly, the perfect word anyone could use to describe James Potter. I was already finding myself attached to him and I had only talked to him on a number of occasions that I could probably count on one hand.
I considered his words. What was the harm in attempting to go to a match? I mean, everyone else did it and maybe that nosebleed was a fluke. Maybe my nerves had triggered it. Or maybe gravity decided that it didn’t want that much blood in my brain and said, ‘Nose, you shall bleed and bleed heavily.’
Oh wow, I was giving voices to natural forces. Merlin, I was going insane.
I looked at all of their faces in turn, my eyes stopping the longest on Sirius. He winked at me again and my knees were knocking together so badly, I swore people in Africa could hear.
“Sure,” I said, smiling tightly as I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t see why not. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Well, you could fall out of the stands,” Peter said.
I blanched and glanced at Remus helplessly. “D-does that really happen?”
Someone kicked me underneath the table and I cried out. “Ouch!”
“Oops,” James apologized. “That kick was meant for Peter. And to answer your question, that only happened once in a Bulgarian match and that was because one of the crazed fans was trying to jump on one of the player’s brooms to give their team the advantage.”
My mouth formed a small ‘O’ as I reached under the table and rubbed my shin. That was going to bruise.
“When’s the next match?” I asked as I stuffed another fork of Crum Brulee into my mouth. This was like an orgasm of the mouth, that’s how good this stuff was. Honestly, there was no food like Hogwarts food. Not even Aunt Eliza’s cooking and she was freaking amazing at cooking. At least, in my opinion she was.
“Next Saturday,” Remus said. “It’s not a Gryffindor match, but Ravenclaw is playing Slytherin, so it should be a good match nonetheless.”
“Yeah,” Sirius agreed, nodding his head. “You can sit with us, if you’d like. I promise I’ll keep the cursing to a minimum, if that sort of thing bothers you.” He smiled charmingly.
“Cursing doesn’t bother me,” I said. If only they could hear the way I cursed in my own head. Yeesh, they’d probably think that I was insane. Of course, I was still doubting my own sanity.
“Good,” Sirius said. “It’s settled.” He glanced at his wristwatch and took a long pull from his goblet of pumpkin juice, draining it. His eyes locked with mine and I felt like he was looking right through me, a feeling that was neither welcome nor comfortable. “You finished yet?”
When I nodded, he nodded, too. “Good. Let’s get to the library before all the good Potions books are taken.”
A bit dumbfounded, I pushed myself away from the bench and struggled to get my leg out from underneath the bench without tripping. Like last time, Remus grabbed my elbow and helped me. I thanked him and waited until James and Sirius finished talking.
“Ready?” Sirius questioned as he came up to my side.
I could feel several pairs of curious eyes on us. “Yep, but we’ll have to run up to the common room so I can get my stuff from the girls’ dormitory.”
“No need to worry,” Sirius said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a miniature satchel that looked exactly like mine. Once we were out of the Great Hall and away from curious eyes and ears, he performed an Enlargement Charm. He handed my satchel over to me.
I looked up at him in wonder. “How did you - I mean, how could you - um, wow.” I finished lamely, chuckling softly. “Thanks,” I said a bit unsurely. I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed or slightly disturbed that he had managed to retrieve my satchel.
“No problem,” he grinned. And we were off to the library.
It was awkward, the walk to the library. A silence had settled between Sirius and I that neither of us seemed capable of shaking. Sure, we’d talked for a few moments about a particular subject, but we could never really get into discussing it. And here I had thought that I was starting to like Black. Not in that sense, of course, but as a person. But I guess the moments of silence between us didn’t really have anything to do with how I viewed him as a person.
Oh vey, my mind was a very confusing place. I was marveled that I ever managed to form a coherent thought, but less an intelligent sentence.
Maybe that was the problem. Maybe my ability - or lack thereof - to form a sentence that actually made sense made it physically impossible for me to carry any sort of intelligent conversation. I knew that Sirius was smart; he, Remus, and James had top marks in most of the classes I had with them. So maybe this really was all my fault and Sirius was just being polite, having already figured out that it was beyond my mental capacity.
You know, I actually felt sorry for him. He had to have a basket case like me as a Potions partner for the next three months. That probably sounded so appealing to him. I know that it sounded like an okay predicament to me, aside from the fact that his girlfriend was watching me like a hawk and I was still wearing the bruises on my arms from when she had held them fast in her talon-like grip.
We came to a stop in front of the library doors and, at the same time, both moved to open the door. Our hands brushed and a jolt of electricity surged through my arm, momentarily stunning me. I quickly pulled my hand back and stuck it in my pocket.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
Sirius smiled. “It’s nothing to worry about,” he pulled the door open and gave a grand sweep of his arm, “ladies’ first.”
My hand was still tingling as I stepped into the library and headed toward my customary table. I was halfway there when there was a sharp pull on the back of my robes. I let out a small squeal and nearly toppled backward, my arms failing wildly at my sides.
Behind me, Sirius laughed in his customary bark-like way. “Chill out, will you?” He shook his head to himself, the expression of his face that of clear amusement.
I righted myself and pushed a hand through my tousled hair. Tugging on my robes, I tried in vain to smother the wrinkles. It didn’t work, obviously.
“Merlin,” Sirius continued, his voice full of amusement.
“What?” I demanded testily, still tugging furtively on my robes.
“You are quite possibly the clumsiest person I have ever met,” he replied.
“Maybe I wouldn’t be so clumsy if you didn’t pull on the back of my robes!” I stomped my foot, you know, to emphasis my point.
He stared at me for a few seconds, cocked his head to the side, and started to laugh again.
I tried my hardest to glower at him, but I couldn’t muster so much as a glare. He was smiling at me and, well, you already know how I got when he smiled at me. I looked down at my knees to see if they were knocking together. Yep, they were.
Coming around to my senses, I tucked a few stray locks of hair behind my ear and said, “Let’s get to a table before Madam Pince stops her precious bookcase lurking and actually comes after us.”
He mimed the action of wiping tears of mirth out of his eyes. I was hit by a surprise wave of annoyance. Now I understood why Lily could only handle so much of the Marauders - especially Sirius. He was grating all my nerves and the only thing he had done was laugh at me.
Then again, I never liked being laughed at in the first place.
I started for my favorite table in the corner again, but a hand on my elbow stopped me. Even through the fabric of my robes, I could feel my skin burning underneath his touch.
This is stupid, Eleanor. You’ll only get yourself into trouble if you let yourself start to fancy him.
Pshaw, I didn’t like Sirius. Why my conscience was trying to tell me I did was beyond me. I mean, the thought of actually fancying Sirius was preposterous. He was an arrogant, if not charming, bloke who’s head needed to be inflated to human proportions. Besides, he was strictly off limits. Remus, on the other hand…
That’s another sticky situation you want to avoid, Elles. It wouldn’t do you any good getting involved with either one of them.
Yeah, but that was saying that Remus even liked me. Which was, like the thought of liking Sirius, completely preposterous. It’s like Sirius just pointed out, I was a complete klutz and he was the exact opposite. And by he, I meant…
Well, did I really know who I was talking about? Merlin, this was so damn confusing. And it also reminded me why I steered clear of boys. And they said that girls were confusing. Ha!
Before I knew it, I was being pulled in a direction of the library that I wasn’t familiar with.
“Sit,” Sirius said, pointing to a chair.
“Yes sir,” I muttered under my breath as I pulled the aforementioned chair out and sank into it. I surveyed my surroundings. “Where are we?”
“Near the Restricted Section,” he answered, as though I had asked him a question about the weather.
I paled. “Y-you’re not planning on sneaking into the Restricted Section, are you?”
“No,” he replied and I released a sigh of relief. “There’ll be no need for sneaking with this.” He pulled something out of his bag made out of silvery cloth.
I reached out to touch it and was amazed as how soft, how flowy, it felt against the pads of my fingers. I stared at it for a few moments, running my hands over the smooth surface before looking up into Sirius’s face. “Is this an-?”
“Invisibility Cloak?” he finished, nodding his head, causing silky onyx locks to fall into his eyes. There went the knees. Again. “Yeah, it’s Prongs’, but I asked him if I could borrow it and he said that it was all right.”
He glanced over his shoulder and, before I could protest, slipped the cloak over his shoulders. His body disappeared right in front of my eyes and I clapped my hand over my mouth. Way to give a girl a heart attack, Black. And it’s not because of your good looks, either, I thought bitterly.
“Come on,” he held, holding out his hand. Well, at least, it looked like he was holding out a hand.
My eyes bugged out of my head. “You want me to get under that thing with you?” And be at risk of getting caught by Lucinda or one of her cronies? Hell no. I shook my head vehemently. “I-I can’t.”
He furrowed his brow. “Why not?”
“Because I’m - I’m -.” What was I was at a loss for words.
“Don’t even try to tell me that you’re allergic to invisibility.”
I frowned. Damn it, that was going to be my defense. “Could you at least pull that thing over your head? You’re freaking me out.”
Sirius laughed, but obliged my request. He disappeared before my eyes and suddenly, I found myself wishing that I hadn’t asked him to do that. My stomach churned uncomfortably and I drew my robe closer around me. No chance for him to cop a feel. Not that he would, but you never knew with blokes his age.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I felt hot breath on my neck. But at the same time, it felt nice. Very nice. And if it had been anyone but Black and I was anyone but me, I probably would’ve enjoyed it. Relished in it, even. However, I was a sensible young woman - shut up, conscience! - and I knew better than to do such a foolish thing. Besides, I didn’t even like him.
The Cloak was draped over my head and I suddenly found myself very, very close to Sirius Black. So close, I could not only feel his hot breath on my face, but I could see the faint dusting of freckles that covered the bridge of his nose and scattered out onto his cheeks unevenly. My breath momentarily hitched in my throat and Sirius smiled at me.
“Let’s hurry,” he said, waiting for me to stand up.
When I stood up, it became even more apparent that there wasn’t much room for us to move around. Since I was a great deal shorter than he was, standing at a modest five foot four inches and he was a towering six foot two, he had to hunch over to cover our ankles.
It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be, sneaking into the Restricted Section. I had visited the Restricted Section on several occasions, but that was with a teacher’s permission and most of the time, Madam Pince found the book for me so I wouldn’t tally. I also knew that there wasn’t any sort of gate that surrounded the Restricted Section. All I knew was that Madam Pince watched it like a hawk.
“Do you know what book we’re looking for?” I asked, barely breathing.
He nodded his head. “Yeah, it’s in the next aisle. Hopefully, no one’s taken it yet.”
“Oh,” I muttered, going back to my own business of saying nothing and walking in time with him.
I stiffened every time his body so much as brushed against mine. He didn’t seem to notice nor did he seem to care when I trod over his toes. The only time he did care about what I did was when I knocked into a bookcase and nearly sent it toppling over. He had sent me ‘a look’ and I had the distinct feeling that I was being patronized. Something that I didn’t like at all.
Kind of like I didn’t like how the Marauders - well, three of them, actually -, along with Lily, had weaseled their way into my life. Just two weeks ago, I was a normal, invisible girl who didn’t have any friends and kept herself. One little eavesdropping mix up, a slip up in my attention span, and a few other mishaps had suddenly got me friends.
The world worked in mysterious ways, did it?
X - X - X
All in all, the study session in the library went better than I expected. The book that Sirius had been looking for was still there, so we returned to our table. Surprisingly, I didn’t trip over my own feet or the hem of the Cloak. I would’ve felt horrible if I had caused a snag in James’s Cloak. First of all, it wasn’t even mine and secondly, it was beyond beautiful. I had to admit, I was jealous of Potter. But everyone knew that he was filthy rich; at least he didn’t flaunt it obnoxiously.
Even with the book, which listed potions that I had never even heard of, we couldn’t think of a reasonable potion that would take the appropriate amount of time to brew and would get us extra points with the Slug. Because, according to Sirius, that was the important part.
“We need to get some extra credit,” he had said as he tipped his chair back and tried to balance his quill on the tip of his nose. “Hit high in the books of old Sluggers.”
I shook my head to myself as I spit toothpaste into the sink and rinsed my mouth out. I gargled water for a few moments, riding my mouth of that nasty aftertaste. I spit the water into the sink, washed off my toothbrush, and put it back in the little stand thing that held everyone’s toothbrushes.
When I shuffled out of the bathroom, I was surprised to see that Lily was sitting on my bed, her legs folded Indian Style. Sitting next to her was, who else, but Alice. I blanched slightly: I didn’t like it when people invaded my personal space. And by that, I meant I didn’t want them sitting on my bed, regardless of their intentions.
I slowly crossed the room over to my bed and sat on the edge, pealing my socks off my feet. I could never sleep with socks on, my feet always got way too hot and I ended up kicking them off, never able to find them ever again.
“Is there something I can help you with?” I asked, trying to sound as pleasant as possible while I tied my hair back into a ponytail.
“No,” Lily said, smiling as she shook her head. “We just thought we could all talk. You know, since you never participate in the late night chats we have.”
Gee, I wonder why?!
“Oh,” I replied, chewing the inside of my cheek. “Well, I was actually planning on going straight to sleep. I’m really tired.”
Alice’s face fell, as did Lily. I would’ve felt bad, but I really was tired. Trying to focus on finding Potions instead of the nearly invisible freckles on Sirius’s face took a lot out of a person, as well as dealing with his egotistical personality.
Besides, this whole friends thing was still new to me. Very new, to be honest with you. It felt like their treatment toward me was a little…how can I say it, forced? Maybe it was just me, but as much as I wanted to believe them, I couldn’t. I had major trust issues, that much was true.
“Sorry,” I added.
“It’s okay,” Lily said, brightening immediately. “I guess we should all get to sleep; we have that exam in Charms tomorrow.”
I paled and my head spun. Oh, right. I had forgotten all about that exam. Crap. I burrowed down deep into my covers and, a few minutes after my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. And, for once, I didn’t dream about snogging Black one moment and kissing Remus the next.
X - X - X
I woke up at five the next morning to cram for my Charms exam. I studied while I ate breakfast, by myself, believe it or not, for the first time in nearly seven days. It felt nice to sit by myself, my nose in a book and a cup of steaming tea in hand. No one bothered me at breakfast and History of Magic went off without a hitch.
When I reached Charms, however, I was pissed. Why, you ask? Because the Charms exam was moved to the next class, not this class. I sank down in my seat and propped my head up in my hands. It was nearly impossible for me to keep my eyes open, much less pay attention to a single word of the review that Professor Flitwick was giving.
I sighed, this was just fantastic.
Once Charms was over, I packed up all my belongings and headed toward the door. I was halfway out of the door when an arm jutted out in front of me, slamming into my chest. My breath was stolen away from me and I found myself looking up into the cold, harsh eyes of Lucinda Matthews.
I gulped and she beckoned me with a long finger. I wasn’t going to be a wimp and run away. Chances were, I would end up tripping and she would beat me to a bloody pulp. Yeah, I didn’t think that it sounded all too appealing either. Besides, my arms were still recovering from when she sank her nails into them. I absentmindedly rubbed the bruised flesh as I followed her down the hallway.
Without missing a beat, she whirled around and started attacking me. Verbally, of course, so I’m sorry to disappoint if you were expecting a cat fight.
“What the hell do you think you were doing sitting with Sirius at dinner last night?” she practically shrieked.
I winced. “Remus invited me to sit with them.”
“Oh yeah right! Like I believe that!”
“If you don’t believe me,” I said. “Go ask Remus yourself. Or better yet, ask your boyfriend. You don’t seem to be spending nearly enough time with him.”
Lucinda’s eyes narrowed and she gave me a rough shove. “Was that a threat?”
My eyes widened and I quickly shook my head. “No, it wasn’t,” I squeaked, scared for my own life.
What was it with this girl and attacking people in the middle of the halls? Couldn’t she just confront me in a normal situation? Oh right, I forgot. Talking to me would be like committing social suicide. Or wait, would it, considering that no one really knew me.
“Good,” Lucinda pulled her face back and fluffed up her hair. “My friends have been watching you, Briggs. They said that you two got a little close last night in the library.”
Oh shit, she knew about that?! How was I going to back out of this one? Play stupid! Yes, that’s the way to go!
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You never do, do you?” She rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation. “She said that you were huddled together at your table.”
Oh phew. That’s a relief. I thought that her friend had seen us slip underneath the Invisibility Cloak together. Even I would admit that if I was observing that, I would be suspicious, too.
“That’s because we were studying, Lucinda,” I said. “You see, when people study, they usually sit closer together so they can share a book.”
Her eyes hardened. “You don’t have to treat me like I’m five years old, you know. I am the one who is in Ravenclaw here! You’re nothing but a pathetic Gryffindor. As to why you were sorted into that house will forever be a mystery.”
I glared at her. “Ha ha,” I bit out, clearly not amused.
Lucinda smiled in triumph. I had let her get to me. Again. And she knew it.
“Just make sure you keep that little mouth of yours closed, Briggs. If I find out that you’ve told him anything, I’ll make sure everyone knows about your deadbeat Mummy and suicidal Daddy.” She mimed the motion of placing a gun to the side of her head and pulling the trigger.
My breath was caught in my throat and little black dots were starting to dot my vision. My head was spinning out of control. I leaned against the wall for support, placed a hand over my throat, and struggled to draw breath. My stomach clenched with panic and I could hear my heart beating rapidly in my chest, despite the fact that I was hardly breathing. Tears pooled in my eyes as I slid down the rough wall, the stone scraping my back through my shirt.
How Lucinda Matthews of all people knew about my family’s past was beyond me. I hadn’t told a single soul about anything of my past, aside from Headmaster Dumbledore. Surely, he wouldn’t have given the information to her. Not without a good cause, of course. So, how did she find out then?
Lucinda laughed cruelly, patted me roughly on the head, and sauntered down the hall.
When my bum hit the ground, I drew my legs close to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I started to rock back and forth, hoping to keep the tears at bay, but nothing helped. A salty, hot tear leaked out of the corner of my eye. I drew a deep breath, my lungs burning from the strain. A sob tore through my throat, the sound very foreign, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. They trickled freely down my face like a rainstorm in the middle of June. And they didn’t stop.
That was the first time I’d cried so hard in seven years.