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Old June 4th, 2012, 8:41 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
Join Date: 02nd August 2006
Location: Beyond the veil
Age: 29
Posts: 261
Re: The Brave at Heart

Thanks to nevillesgal for leaving feedback!


Chapter 27: Carry That Weight

After Quidditch I dropped my stuff off in my dormitory, then headed to the Gryffindor common room, my feet leading me there almost of their own free will. If my feet had consulted my head about doing this, I would certainly not be going, because if Sirius was there I might end up saying stupid things around him. But my feet resolutely led me there. I walked in and saw groups of people here and there; Sirius was sitting with Peter by a window, the latter flicking pieces off a chessboard moodily.

“Er, hi,” I said as I approached. Peter began to clean up his chess pieces, and I talked briefly with the two of them. I figured James was on his patrol with Lily at the moment, but I hadn’t seen Remus all day, even in class. “Where’s Remus been today?” I asked.

“He’s ill again,” said Sirius. Remus seemed to be very prone to illness; it happened quite frequently. I guess it ran in the family, because he’d often be gone from Hogwarts for a couple of days to visit his sick mum every now and then.

“Aw, I hope he feels better,” I said.

Peter had finished picking up the fallen chess pieces and stowed them, and then started walking away. “Good to see you, Melanie,” he said as he left. “See you later, Padfoot.”

“What is it with those nicknames? After a year of hearing them, I still don’t get it. You’re Padfoot, Remus is Prongs… no, that’s James…?”

“That’s sort of how nicknames are, not everyone needs to get it,” said Sirius evasively. “So how was Quidditch?”

“It was fine. Jasper’s still being a problem, but what else would you expect. Oh, you’ll never guess who Slytherin’s Seeker is this year…”


“Your brother. Regulus.”

Sirius raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t even know he knew how to play.”

“He’s actually rather good.”

“Hmm,” Sirius grunted, frowning.

“Do you… miss talking to him?” I asked hesitantly. “Do you wish you were closer?”


I had a feeling that was not entirely true. After encounters with Regulus, Sirius was usually rather moody. And I could sense him starting to close off now, so I didn’t press the issue. I knew Sirius well enough by now to know that he would only talk about Regulus of his own accord, and not because anyone asked.

I leaned on his shoulder, without really knowing why I did. If he made a big deal about it, I could easily just say I’d fallen over or something. But he didn’t seem to mind. We discussed other things for a while, and I savored how nice it felt to sit there and talk, very aware of how close his hand was to my leg. Maybe if I moved my leg…… No. That would do nothing except probably make him uncomfortable with sitting next to me. I'd be just like those annoying girls who always followed him. It wasn’t as if I actually could, anyway; the sight of him and Althea in the corridor together was still carved in my memory and torturing me. That was something I absolutely wouldn’t bring up to him.

“Well, it’s not that bad, at least you have someone who will make you feel better by losing to you at chess,” I reasoned. “Where’d he go, anyway? Is he afraid of me?”

“Probably,” said Sirius. “Maybe it’s the way you walk around like this.” He raised his hands like claws and made a face. “It scares everyone.”

I laughed. “What are you talking about, that’s my friendly face. You mean that doesn’t look friendly to you?”

“Of course it does. All right, the real reason is he’s just intimidated by your astonishingly good looks. Is that better?”

“That’s understandable,” I said archly. “Not many people can do such nice looking claw hands.” I imitated the claws and grimace he’d just done, and then started giggling.

“I actually saw something that looked like that on holiday in Wales when I was little,” I said. I began telling him the story of how Nathan had tricked me into believing there were Yetis in Wales, but when I saw one, it turned out to just be Nathan in a furry costume. This led into a competition of sorts in which we tried to outdo each other’s stories. I had a feeling Sirius was embellishing most of his anecdotes.

“…I saw a unicorn there when I was about six,” Sirius continued. His story was sounding increasingly less probable the more he told of it.

“I don’t believe you,” I said dismissively. “Unicorns are shy – they only like innocent, trustworthy people. They wouldn’t go anywhere near you.”

“I was six! And Reg was four. Little kids are innocent and trustworthy. The unicorn loved us.”

“Until you scared it away.”

“No, until my mum started shouting at us to stop wandering off and come back. Family holidays, they were the greatest…” He sighed. “And I guess you’re right about Reg, by the way,” he said.

“What, that you two scared away the unicorn?”

He laughed. “No, about what you said earlier.” I looked up in surprise that he had brought up the topic of Regulus again, and he looked back at me thoughtfully, as if deciding how much he really wanted to talk about it. “But there’s nothing I can do about it – we’ve both chosen our paths, and it seems he wants to hang around with other kids who are going to become Death Eaters. So he’s going to become a Death Eater just like them – I don’t even know who he is anymore.”

“The world is not split into good people and Death Eaters, Sirius,” I said softly, thinking of Nathan. “It’s possible for someone to be both.” I hadn’t talked to Nathan since I left, and the last thing he’d written to me was over the summer when he tried to justify his decision to join the Death Eaters, but I was still convinced that despite everything, he was a good person. Then there were also people like Vanessa Saltz, who was neither a Death Eater nor a good person. “You should talk to him.”

“You should write to Nathan,” he countered.

I thought about it. I wanted to fix things with Nathan, but I just had nothing to say to him. I felt I was waiting for him to admit he was wrong, and then I’d be willing to talk to him again. But that might never happen. And maybe that was the same reason Sirius and Regulus wouldn’t talk to each other – they were each convinced the other was wrong, and if Regulus was as stubborn as Sirius was, they’d never work it out. I didn’t want that to happen with me and Nathan.

“Why?” I finally asked. “Why would I write to him?”

“Because I know you miss him, and you’re convinced it’s not too late for him.”

He was right, but I asked, “How do you know that? Because you think the same thing about Regulus?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe. It’s different with me and Reg. He wants nothing to do with me.”

“You think so? I think you’re both just too stubborn to talk to each other. Maybe he’s as upset about this as you are.”

Sirius only shrugged, so I told him, “It’s hard. I understand.”

He smiled slightly. “I know. That’s why I can talk to you about it – because you do understand.”

We lapsed into silence for a few moments. I took hold of his hand and squeezed it, in what I hoped could be interpreted as just a friendly gesture. Although he didn’t try to withdraw his hand, he looked down at our hands after a moment and I reluctantly let go of him.

Just then, the common room door opened and James soared in on his broom, leapt off, then ran one hand through his hair as if to make it look more windswept. He cast a glance at Sirius and me by the window, flashed a quick grin at us, and started to head up the stairs. Sirius moved slightly, causing me to stop leaning against him, and I instantly missed his touch.

Lily looked up at James. “It’s not good enough for you to just show off on your broom outside? Now you have to do it in the castle too?”

“That’s not what I was doing,” said James. “I was really just helping out – it would have been awful if I tracked mud all over the floor on the way up here. Poor Filch would have had to clean it up!”

Most people in the room laughed. Lily shook her head and went back to reading her book. I couldn’t help noticing that now every time Lily and James talked, it was usually Lily initiating it now – she clearly missed the attention he used to give her.

My suspicions were confirmed when I went to talk to Lily shortly before I left the Gryffindor common room for the night. We talked about Ancient Runes for a bit, then I asked her how she was liking being Head Girl. She discussed how much work it was, but how rewarding… and half of what she said was about James.

“He’s really changed a lot this past year, you know,” she said, more to herself than to me.

“In a good way?” I asked, eager for her response.

“Yes,” she said pensively. “I mean, I never thought I’d…” She stopped and looked at me again, perhaps realising she might be about to say too much. “He seems more responsible now. He puts his Head Boy duties ahead of pranks with his friends… most of the time, anyway. And I’d never realised how much he cares about people. I’ve seen him be so compassionate to people he barely knows – and to me as well, without expecting anything in return. I think patrolling with him has made me see an entirely different side of him.”

“So you think you two could actually be friends?”

Lily smiled. “We are friends. And stop it, I can see you’re getting ideas about us, just like Mary and Denise are.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. But I couldn’t help grinning.

The Slytherin Quidditch team had another practice the following day, albeit a shorter one, because there wasn’t a whole lot of time between afternoon classes and dinner that day, and Gryffindor already had the Quidditch pitch booked for after dinner.

On my way back into the castle after practice, I saw Lily, Remus, and Sirius walking together towards the Great Hall ahead of me. Remus appeared to be chewing a piece of Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum; he was blowing large blue bubbles which lingered behind him in the hallway as they walked. As I ran up behind them to catch up, Peeves the poltergeist whooshed in from an abutting corridor and hovered in the air above them. He threw something at Lily, who jumped aside, and Sirius reached up to knock Peeves out of the way.

Remus calmly took the chewed piece of gum out of his mouth, pointed his wand at Peeves, and muttered “Waddiwasi,” shooting the gum into Peeves’s nostril. The others laughed as Peeves cursed and zoomed away.

“Sometimes those spells you lot make up are pretty good, I’ll admit,” Lily told Remus.

“Hey,” I said to them, catching up. “I saw that, Remus – I think I’ll have to make sure I always have gum with me wherever I go in case Peeves drops by. That was neat.”

“Thanks! I’ve got a few more of those tricks; I’ve finally learned how to stay one step ahead of Peeves. I could teach you a few if you want.”

“Please do,” I said. “I’m usually one step behind.” I recalled the many times Peeves had interrupted Luke and me when we were in the corridors or alone together in empty classrooms.

“What are you doing following us to the Gryffindor table?” asked Sirius as we approached. “Don’t tell me – I’m so irresistible that I’ve led you astray.”

He did have that effect on me. Worse than that, I had nothing to say to counter his claim. He only meant it as a joke, but it wasn’t a joke for me; I had followed him just to keep talking with him. I felt my cheeks burning, and I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t even play along – I had used to be able to get away with sarcastic responses because I didn’t mean it, but things had changed. I clapped my hands over my face, as if that would hide me. Sirius looked over at me, a rather surprised expression on his face.

I removed my hands from my face, hoping he couldn’t tell how much I was blushing. But I needed to speak to redeem myself. “Of course not,” I said. “Obviously. I was just walking this way because… I followed you into the Great Hall… that’s why… not because I fancy you or anything.”

Some people at the neighbouring Hufflepuff table were staring at me. I should have just kept my hands over my mouth and stopped speaking. Had I just announced in front of the entire school that I had a crush on Sirius Black? I was frozen, unable to think of anything to say that would get me out of this highly embarrassing situation. Sirius raised his eyebrows, and as I turned away to pretend I was interested in what Lily and Remus were discussing (they were talking about rules, so that was already a lost cause for me), I heard Sirius chuckle beside me, and did not appreciate it.

“What are you laughing at?” I demanded, turning towards him again, his laughter at me having provoked me to speak again.

“Nothing,” he said in a singsong voice that only made me angrier.

“Fine, I’m leaving,” I said. The Hufflepuffs were still staring at me; I gave them a rude hand gesture as I stormed by. Sirius called my name to get me to turn around again, but there was no way I’d let myself near him ever again. On my way over to the Slytherin table, which, unfortunately, was all the way across the hall from the Gryffindor one, I thought of a lot of great comebacks I could have used instead of the lame “I’m leaving”. Too late…

I made sure to sit in such a location at the table that I couldn’t see him. I was facing away from the Gryffindor table, and indeed away from all the other tables, but I could hear the excited buzz of talking. How many of them were laughing at me? I could still feel the intense blush on my face, and I wanted to just disappear.

Mandy joined me at the table, and it seemed she’d witnessed the whole thing too. “Hey,” she said.

I sighed. “Mandy, I’m an idiot,” I said.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she said. “People might talk… and by ‘people’ I mean Vanessa Saltz… but they don’t have a lot to gossip about. I know you’re embarrassed, but to the rest of us, it was one little thing; no one will care tomorrow. Not a big deal at all.”

Of course, word got round the school that I fancied Sirius, much to my shame, and it seemed Vanessa had elaborated the story, as she always did. It was now well known around Hogwarts that I had told Sirius I loved him, asked him out, and we had gotten into a fight. Vanessa also had supplied any listeners with her opinion that Sirius would never go for a Slytherin like me, I had absolutely no chance with him, and everyone regarded me as such a joke. There was no way I could actually ask him out now, like Mandy had suggested.

It was another two days before I spoke to Sirius again. Every time I saw him, I would quickly walk in the opposite direction. He already knew I liked him. He had to by now, after my complete blunder in the Great Hall. I couldn’t trust myself to say normal things around him anymore. But eventually, on my way out of class, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Sirius. My heart started beating faster, and I fidgeted with the clasp on my bag. “Melanie,” he said.

“Black,” I responded coolly, in control of my emotions this time.

He let out a barklike laugh. “Been a while since you called me that.”

I didn’t really know what to say – it would have been so much easier if I knew whether or not he liked me. “Sorry about that display in the Great Hall the other day,” I said airily, as if it was nothing. “That was awkward. I know I’m an idiot, you don’t have to tell me.”

“Oh – that’s not what I was going to talk about,” said Sirius. “I had almost forgotten about it.”

I rolled my eyes. “No you hadn’t,” I said.

“Okay, no, I hadn’t forgotten,” Sirius admitted. He was regarding me with a strange expression; he kind of looked lost. “Actually, I wished you hadn’t run away after that, because… well—”

Some loud giggling interrupted him. We turned and saw a few fifth year girls hiding behind the statue of Winifred the Worldly, sneaking glances at Sirius and waiting in vain, as they always did, for him to stop what he was doing and come talk to them. One of them waved, and Sirius turned back to me instantly, a scowl on his face. So maybe Mandy had been right – I wasn’t that bad.

But whatever Sirius had been about to say, he no longer felt like saying it. He merely twirled his wand in his fingers as the girls’ giggling grew louder now that Sirius had looked their way.

“You didn’t get enough hexing people during class?” I asked. He’d been transfiguring Snape’s quill into a centipede from across the room every few minutes during class.

He laughed when he saw that I knew what he was thinking. “I’m not actually going to do anything,” he said. “I just wish they’d leave me alone for once.”

“What, leave you alone with me? That’d never be good, considering what happened last time I talked to you. But don’t worry, I won’t do that again – I was tired and couldn’t speak clearly.”

“You can do it again if you want to,” he said. “I rather enjoyed it.”

I jabbed him hard in the ribs with my elbow. One of the fifth-year girls stared at me in shock, as if I’d just burnt down a building or something.

“Sod off,” I said to the girls finally, waving them away. “Find something else to entertain you.” They slunk away down the hallway with jealous sullen faces. “Easy as that,” I told Sirius.

“You have a way with words,” he said. “Well, sometimes.”

“We’re done talking about that,” I insisted. He was never going to let me live that down. “I have to go, actually.”

“Why?” Sirius seemed content to just stand there and talk with me in the corridor, but I was worried I’d say something stupid again. And as much as I loved Sirius’s company, I didn’t really enjoy talking with someone I had very strong unrequited feelings for; I knew he didn’t care for me that way at all. He took a step towards me but I turned and walked away. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“It’s getting late, I should start my homework,” I invented. “Don’t you have to meet Althea Seward in a broom closet or something?” And I’d done it again. Someone needed to lock me in a box and forbid me any human interaction.

“What? No! Melanie, wait.”

I stopped. “I’m sorry. I’m being a terrible friend.”

“You know, there’s nothing going on with me and Althea,” he said cautiously. “I had only just met her the time you saw us. We were only talking.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “It’s none of my business.”

He frowned. “All right,” he said. “Well, see you around then.”

Sometimes I really felt that Sirius cared about me, and there were times like at James’s house over the summer, when Sirius had taken me out on his new motorbike, and I couldn’t help but be happy thinking of that memory. We had similar senses of humour. And sometimes I even enjoyed fighting with him. But I couldn’t tell what he thought at all. I was so confused, and tired of going around in circles with him. Why did I have to like someone who could be so infuriating?

I was browsing a shelf in the library, which was becoming one of my most frequent haunts this year, when I saw Althea Seward on the other side. I made a bit of small talk with her, and then, because my curiosity was killing me, asked, “So… how do you know Sirius Black?”

She looked confused. “I don’t know him that well, really,” she said. “You found us the other day just after my bag broke and he helped me collect my books, that’s all. Then we were just talking.”

“Oh,” I said. “You don’t… like him?”

“Well, he was very nice to help me, so I do like him—”

“Who doesn’t?” I muttered.

“—but then he started talking about you, after you left.” I just stared at her, and she continued. “So I actually like someone else a lot more; he’s nicer. Is that weird? Do you like Sirius Black?” she asked, then looked embarrassed that she had asked me a personal question so boldly. No doubt because she’d either heard the gossip about me, or witnessed it directly…

“No,” I said a bit too vehemently to be believable. “Well, maybe. Anyway, I don’t know why we’re talking about this,” I said, keen to get the discussion away from my feelings for Sirius. I would have loved to ask who it was she liked, because I was under the impression that she rarely talked to anyone, but I figured it wasn’t something she’d want to discuss with me.

Just then, Hector walked by the shelf where Althea and I were standing. “Hey, Mel,” said Hector, and lightly hit the side of my head with a book.

“Watch it, Hector, I’ve got three times as many books in my hand right now, and I’m not afraid to use them.”

He dodged out of my reach, continuing down the shelf away from us. “Sorry about him,” I said, turning back to Althea, who looked like she was attempting to camouflage with the bookshelf, her face brick red as she stared at the floor.

“What’s up?” I asked her, baffled, and then wondered… was it possible that Hector was the one she liked? Hector was a really nice person. And I supposed he was cute too, if you ignored how weird he was and how often he demonstrated his ability to cross his toes after Quidditch practices.

But the only time I’d ever seen Althea and Hector interact was when Hector helped her with her trunk on the Hogwarts Express at the end of last term, and she hadn’t really spoken to him then, although he had tried to talk to her.

Althea said nothing. With no idea what to say, I merely told her, “That was Hector Branstone.”

“I know,” she finally said. “Although I don’t think he knows who I am.”

“Do you want him to?” I asked. She blushed even more. I suggested subtly that she should try talking to him, and that he was friendly, and I might have slipped in the fact that he did not already have a girlfriend. I was really bad at this advice stuff, but she seemed to be encouraged.

“What should I say to him?” Althea asked. “How do I get him to notice me?”

“Well… the ways I’ve gotten guys to notice me include accidentally hitting them in the head with Bludgers or fighting with them. That’s worked for me. But maybe I wouldn’t really advise that…” She really needed Mandy’s advice, not mine!

She laughed. “Maybe I… I’ll stop by the Slytherin table at dinner tomorrow? And you can introduce us?”

That seemed easy enough. There would be no injuries involved at all, and no fights. Why couldn’t I have thought of something so normal?

“Sure,” I said. I added a fourth book to the stack in my hand, said goodbye to Althea, and went back to sit at my table.

So I had just been overreacting to seeing Sirius and Althea that time in the hallway. I could only be embarrassed now about how much time I had spent stewing in jealousy over having seen the two of them in the hallway, when in reality she liked Hector, and Sirius was just being himself. I needed to stop getting paranoid about little things, because I’d worked myself up over nothing.

I still wasn’t entirely sure where I stood with Sirius. I had thought for a little while that he was changing – that he was letting me through his wall he’d built up around him. But apart from two times when he’d told me something about Regulus, it was the same as ever. We weren’t really that close, as much as I wanted it; we still got in plenty of fights, after all. But sometimes it came across that he liked me. I didn’t know what to make of it. I supposed the only way to find out was to ask him out – and to do that I had to get over my nervousness about asking him out. And that, in reality, was a much scarier obstacle than knowing one of my friends liked him.

I contented myself with the fact that I was helping a friend do something I could never do. Maybe this was why Mandy was so prone to matchmaking for her friends – it drew her attention to other people’s happiness rather than her own unrequited love for her various crushes. This was at least something to hope for if Sirius and I together ended up just being nothing more than a wish.

At dinner the following day, Hector was ranting about Vanessa and Lydia, whom he’d heard discussing Slytherin’s Quidditch team in the hallway earlier that afternoon. They’d had something negative to say about all of us – Regulus Black was an aspiring Death Eater… Byrd was a little geeky kid who wanted to marry his Charms textbook… Corlon was overweight… I didn’t know what they had to say about me, though; Hector wouldn’t tell me. But I had a few ideas, if my stint as last week’s gossip topic indicated anything.

“There they are,” said Mandy, pointing to the Ravenclaw table where Vanessa and her friends were sitting. Vanessa was touching up her makeup, holding up a small mirror, and Lydia was preening her already perfect hair.

“Watch this,” said Hector. He put a levitation charm on his soup bowl and subtly sent it flying towards them – low enough to hopefully not be spotted. I giggled, watching the soup bowl fly up into the air. And then, as if time had slowed down, I froze as I noticed Althea approaching our table out of the corner of my eye – but it was too late. The bowl of soup hit Althea and drenched her robes.

“Is that what we were supposed to watch?” asked Mandy.

“Smooth, Hector,” said Charlotte. “That’s a way to make friends.”

Althea looked like she was about to bolt out of the Great Hall, but Hector leapt up out of his seat and went to apologize to her. She dried off her robes in an instant but they remained talking there for a few minutes – mainly Hector repeatedly apologizing and Althea shyly attempting to talk to him now that he was over there. Although she was trying, she kept looking at the ground, her face getting redder.

I grinned. “Well that worked. Better than I imagined it would.”

“Huh?” asked Mandy.

“You’d love this,” I explained to her. “Althea wanted me to introduce her to Hector. But it looks like my help isn’t needed!” That was probably a good thing, too – I would inadvertently find some way to foul it up even more.

“Oooh, she likes him,” said Mandy, watching the two of them intently.

“Okay, they’re not a show. We’re done watching,” I said, but neither of us actually turned away.

Eventually Hector turned around to join us again and Althea left the Great Hall. As he sat back down next to Charlotte, and saw Mandy’s and my eyes fixed on him from across the table, he laughed. “What?”

“Well aren’t you smooth with the ladies,” I said.

“What was I going to do, just leave her there after I’d spilled soup on her? I maintain that it was Vanessa’s fault that happened.”

“You and Althea would be cute together,” said Mandy. “And then people would ask how you met, and you can say it was because you spilled soup on her, but love overcame all obstacles and you still ended up together! Wouldn’t that be sweet?”

“Yawn,” said Charlotte, and then flinched; I had a feeling Mandy had kicked her shin under the table.

Hector shrugged, and glanced back at the doorway of the Great Hall, although Althea had gone by now. I couldn’t tell if he actually cared about her, but at least Althea had seemed happy when she was talking to him. “I actually met her last year,” said Hector, “but she didn’t say much then.”

I continued to eat my sandwich, reflecting on what a mess this year had become in terms of who liked who, and who used to like who… I couldn’t keep track of it all. And it was still only September.

On the last Wednesday morning of September we had Charms, in which we were learning the Protean Charm. As I took notes at the beginning of class about how the charm causes one object to change and to mimic another, I spent part of my time watching Sirius and trying to figure out what exactly was going on between us, and debating whether I should still bother asking him out.

“Stop staring at him,” hissed Charlotte, “you’re as bad as Mandy.”

Mandy and I both scowled at her. I went back to my notes until we were to work on the practical aspect of the charm: We each had two identical teacups, and by changing the characteristics of one, the other was supposed to follow.

“This would be useful with writing notes,” said Charlotte. “If Mandy took notes for all of us, and we put a Protean Charm on her notes, it would copy onto our parchment.”

“Brilliant,” I agreed.

“I would take useless notes,” said Mandy. “Then you wouldn’t get anything from copying!”

“And you would have useless notes to study from,” Charlotte reminded her. “All right, where was I?” She attempted a Protean Charm on the teacups, and then elongated the handle on one of them. The second cup did nothing.

A teacup whizzed by my ear, sailing all the way to the front of the classroom where it crashed into the blackboard. “Sorry,” said a voice behind me. “Think that was the wrong charm…”

“That almost killed me,” I muttered as I prodded one of the teacups in front of me.

“Better you than Mandy, because I need her notes,” said Charlotte. I hit her with my elbow.

Mandy rolled her eyes. “Well I’d be sad, Mel. At least one of us cares about you.”

Charlotte scoffed. “If I died, you wouldn’t need to be sad, because I’d come back and haunt you from the grave. Isn’t that nice? The things I do for you two…”

“Yeah, that’s pretty great,” I said sardonically. “I’ve always wanted my own personal ghost.”

“Plus, as they say, dead people tell no tales,” Charlotte continued, “so obviously I’d want to stick around and get all the dirt from living people anyway. I wouldn’t let something silly like death get in the way of gossip.”

Mandy and I laughed. “Divination is really getting to you,” Mandy said. “Having to predict your own death every other week – you’ve gotten so used to it that you’ve already planned out what will happen after your death.”

“Hector had a really good one in class the other day,” said Charlotte. “He said he’d unexpectedly die from heavy books falling on his head. He usually sits at the table right in front of the bookshelf, where everything’s really poorly balanced. There are some books that could easily fall, and he sits right underneath them – I swear Professor Sage was actually wondering whether to move those books for his safety, or to leave them there and prove him right and show the class what a good Seer he is.”

“I’ve never been more glad that I dropped that class,” said Mandy.

“Sitting around chatting?” squeaked Professor Flitwick, who had showed up right next to our desk as he walked around the room to check on everyone. “So you must have figured it out. Let’s see, Miss Hastings.”

I turned back to my own teacups, clearing my throat. “Protea,” I said, waving my wand extravagantly. This charm had weird wand movements that made it a particularly difficult charm. Then I attempted a colour-change charm on the first teacup. The second one melted into a porcelain puddle. “Er – still working on it, sir,” I explained.

“Good try,” he said. “The easiest way to master the charm is to practice, rather than talking…” He walked off to the next desk, and I renewed my efforts to perform the Protean Charm, but was mostly unsuccessful. Towards the end of class I had managed to turn the second cup a slightly lighter shade of blue, but it wasn’t much.

About ten minutes before when class would normally get out, the corridors filled with noise. It didn’t sound like the noise of students fighting – it sounded like a lot of people running around. Flitwick walked over and opened the classroom door curiously.

After he’d done little but stand there trying to calm the commotion, and a few people in the corridor had come to talk to him, some of us in the class stood up and walked to the doorway to witness it ourselves. We looked out of the classroom to absolute disarray and chaos in the corridor. Prefects were running around, herding younger students; everyone was talking in whispers. I was overcome with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Whatever this was, it was serious.

James appeared from inside the classroom and walked into the fray, attempting to bring some sort of order and calm people down, although it was clear he had no more idea what was going on than anyone else did. Lily came up behind me and asked what had happened, and I shrugged, but then she saw James talking to two sixth year prefects and went to join. I asked the girl on the other side of me what had happened.

She replied, “No idea – I was just asking Linda!” She turned to the girl next to her.

“All I heard is that someone’s been injured, they were just taking her to St. Mungo’s a few minutes ago.”

“There were like ten Death Eaters in the tower!” someone else supplied.

By the time we got to lunch, we had talked to enough people and had a pretty good idea what had occurred, unless the tale had been altered significantly before getting passed on to us secondhand, or fifth-hand, as it were. Two Death Eaters had found a way to get into the castle. They had shown up on the West Tower, and on their way in, attacked a student before being discovered and caught. The Death Eaters had been taken to Azkaban, the high-security wizard prison, but Artemis Jones, a sixth-year Hufflepuff, had been taken to St. Mungo’s, as she’d been found critically injured and barely alive.

The Great Hall was abuzz with discussion at lunch. “How did they get in?” I heard Russell asking Andrew Derrick.

“And what were they trying to do? There were just two of them.”

“Who knows if we’ll ever find out,” said Hector. “But at least they’re in Azkaban now.”

Dumbledore made a brief announcement at lunch about what had happened, so as to clear up any confusion, and to assure us that the protective spells on the castle would be improved immediately, and there’d be Ministry workers here for a couple of days until that was sorted out.

I wondered if Dumbledore’s words would be enough to convince people, or whether some parents would pull their kids out of Hogwarts. Students had been disappearing from Hogwarts gradually over the past couple of years. Not a lot of people, but enough to notice. Two had disappeared mysteriously over holidays, others had left school after things had happened to their families, and still others left because they felt Hogwarts was no longer safe, like Mark. It was true, Hogwarts wasn’t entirely safe – we had a painful reminder of that today – but I felt it was still much safer here than I’d be anywhere else.

Rumors continued to circulate about Artemis Jones for days. She was so far unresponsive to the Healers’ treatments; she’d been hit with very powerful Dark curses. No one would say it directly, but all I heard was that things were not looking up for her and people were expecting the worst.

A task force had been appointed to developing further magical protective spells to put on the castle. Some Aurors had been brought in from the Ministry – people whose job it was to fight Dark wizards and prevent things like this from ever happening again. I kept seeing them in the corridors and on the grounds.

“Those Death Eaters must have found a way to get around the protection already on the castle,” growled a tough-looking Auror to Professor McGonagall before Transfiguration on Friday. “Merlin knows it was well protected – there were a thousand spells on the castle. Now it can withstand more; there are about three times as many spells. Nothing’s getting through that at all. Of course, this is a war and you’ll still want to be on guard and vigilant at all times.”

“Good. Thank you, Alastor,” said McGonagall. Then she led the queue in for class, a few of us still staring after the Auror as he departed. Scars covered his entire face. And that eye – he had a bright blue eye that rotated around creepily, and independently of his normal other eye. I felt uneasy just looking at it. So that was what you got for a lifetime of fighting Dark wizards…

Charlotte, Mandy and I were sitting on the sofa in the common room, practicing for Charms, when Charlotte’s cat came slinking down the stairs and stopped by the sofa. His name was Lancelot, although Mandy always called him Wilbur, a name she said was more fitting considering the way Charlotte doted on him. Apparently it was from one of Mandy’s favourite Muggle books as a kid. It wasn’t like it mattered, anyway; Lancelot didn’t respond no matter what you called him.

“Wilbur!” said Mandy, reaching out and stroking Lancelot as he jumped up on the sofa.

“His name is not, nor will it ever be, Wilbur,” said Charlotte mechanically.

“What if it was his middle name?” said Mandy. “Lancelot Wilbur Avery. That’s a great name!”

“If you think it’s so great, name your first kid that,” said Charlotte, reaching over and picking up Lancelot off of Mandy’s lap. “Hi Lancelot,” she said in a much higher voice, stroking her cat behind the ears.

“But my last name isn’t Avery.”

“Well, what about two middle names, and Avery is the second one,” I suggested to Mandy.

“Or you could marry Lester,” said Charlotte, which resulted in a great deal of laughter from all of us. It was weird to hear the sound of laughter for what was probably the first time in two days. I wasn’t sure if it was acceptable yet. I sighed and set back to work.

Several hours later, I was the only person still awake in the common room, still practicing the Protean Charm on two quills. It was well past midnight when I heard a noise behind me, turned around and saw a semi-transparent grey shape. I gasped and stared intently at the indistinct shape. It didn’t look like a ghost – I couldn’t tell what it was. Maybe it was a trick of the light, or I had simply been sitting in the common room for too many hours, poring over this immense textbook and trying to make sense of it. I blinked and shook my head, but the vision was still there.

“H – hello?” I whispered.

“What’s gotten into you?” asked Mandy’s voice, as she appeared from within the grey shape that I now realized was her Invisibility Cloak. “And how did you know I was here?”

“That cloak’s not invisible anymore, Mandy,” I said, recovering. “Look.” I took the cloak from her and put it on, and she stared at me.

“Guess not,” she said glumly. “It’s made from Demiguise hair, and that stops being invisible after a while, I suppose it’s just old… But it’s still good enough to sneak out, at least for now. No one would be able to know it’s us, they’d just see a hazy shape. So how about it?”

“Sneaking around two days after a Death Eater attack? Brilliant idea.”

“But I asked Slughorn if Hogwarts would be safe anymore. He said the Aurors tripled the protection on the Hogwarts castle and grounds. We’re actually safer sneaking out now than we ever have been.”

She had a point. And I had spent so much time sitting in this common room the past couple of days, and the room was starting to have a suffocating quality to it. Maybe it’d be a good idea after all. I tried to ignore the voice in the back of my head that sounded a lot like Professor McGonagall scolding me – something she was bound to do if we got caught. “Okay… where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know, the kitchens? I’m sort of hungry. Or outside.”

“Outside sounds good.” I left my books and quills in a pile on the table, and Mandy threw her invisibility cloak around both of us. We skipped up the three carpeted steps up to the door out of the common room, and sped through the corridors until we reached the comparative safety of outside, where we didn’t need to worry about having the cloak on anymore.

We wandered over to the lake, chatting about mundane things, and I started when I noticed a lone figure sitting under a nearby tree. A petite, shaking figure, whose knees were pulled up against her chest and her arms wrapped around her knees. It was Althea.

Mandy and I shared a glance, and then headed over to the tree where Althea was sitting. She looked up when we were only a few feet away, and her red, puffy eyes suggested she’d been out here crying for hours.

Althea had become even more withdrawn than usual since the attack; I never even saw her in the library anymore. Understandably, she’d taken the potential loss of her fellow sixth year Hufflepuff very badly.

“Are you okay?” I asked, and then wished I hadn’t – of course she wasn’t okay. It was a stupid question, but I hadn’t the faintest idea what to say to her. Althea ignored me and went back to staring out over the lake.

It hurt to see Althea like this. Why did something like this have to happen to her? She had never said an unkind word to anyone, and took all setbacks with grace and patience. But it seemed she had reached her breaking point, and had pushed everyone away now that one of her friends was possibly on her deathbed at St. Mungo’s.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, sitting down beside her and putting my arm around her shoulders. “I wish I could do something. I understand how hard this must be—”

“No. You don’t understand,” said Althea forcefully, pulling away from my arm. I hadn’t been expecting that, and pulled my arm back to my side as she continued. “You have no idea what it’s like to live every day in fear because you’re Muggle-born; that’s what it’s like for me. You Slytherins have nothing to fear in all of this. You’re the one house that’s off the hook.”

I was about to argue back defensively but Mandy cut in. “You’re right – we don’t know exactly what that’s like. But everyone is at risk here, even Slytherins; I’m a Slytherin, and Death Eaters tried to kill my parents this summer for stuff my mum wrote in the Daily Prophet.”

Althea sniffed. “Artemis is one of my best friends. And they say she’s… that she might not be coming back.”

“The Healers know what they’re doing,” I assured her. “Artemis will be fine.”

“You don’t know that. What if they can’t do anything? And don’t give me that sugar coated sympathy. I know what they were saying about her. What happens if she’s gone?”

“Then she’d want you to be happy,” said Mandy. “It wouldn’t mean you have no one left. You’re in Hufflepuff – the house that’s composed of the nicest people at Hogwarts. While you’re going through this right now, don’t be afraid to reach out to them; they will understand and be there for you. They’re dealing with the same thing as you are. You don’t have to go through everything alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and we are all here for you.”

“It’s just… so hard,” said Althea, her voice calmer now. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m scared.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” I said. “But you’ll be all right. So will she.”

“I want to be alone for a while,” she said eventually.

Mandy and I looked at each other over Althea’s head. “Okay,” I said, and we stood up; I felt bad about leaving her there by the tree, but there was nothing else we could do for her. If she needed to be alone, we’d let her. I just hoped she’d stop pushing everyone away eventually.

“Let’s just go back in,” Mandy muttered as we left, and we headed back to the castle in silence.

Artemis’s troubles put my own personal drama into perspective. How silly and trite my daily worries seemed now, when I should be worried about Voldemort, and whether people I loved would get hurt.

No one was going to make it out of this war without losing someone. Everyone had already been touched by the war and lost people in some way. I had lost my family – not because anyone had died, but because the war had split us apart, putting us on opposing sides. I didn’t think I was likely to speak with any of them again, even when the war was over. How much more would we have to lose before it was over? What would happen after we left Hogwarts forever at the end of the year?


Thank you so much for reading!!!! Please let me know what you think here!


Captain of the HMS Arts & Crafts, co-founder of Annie Is My Homegirl, Proud member of the IBP and KEBA

Last edited by marauderfan; April 12th, 2013 at 5:17 am.
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