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Old September 19th, 2012, 6:10 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

Hello again! Thanks much to nevillesgal for your feedback I had an awful bout of writers block with this chapter! But many edits later, here it is...


Chapter 28: Discoveries

Charlotte and I stood in the queue, waiting for Filch to check our names against the list of students allowed into Hogsmeade and scan us over with some magical Dark detector before letting us out. Mandy was going with Remus, whom she’d asked about a week ago. Well, she hadn’t really asked, she had simply informed him that they were going, and Remus, probably out of sheer surprise, had agreed. I had not asked Sirius. There was a reason I was not a Gryffindor: I wasn’t brave enough to ask someone out.

There was more to it than that, though. I still cringed when I thought of how I acted in the Great Hall and had lost my head. It was also pretty clear to me that he would have said no if I had asked. If he’d wanted to go with me, he would have asked. But after that day when I’d inexplicably snapped at him about Althea, he always seemed to have somewhere to be off to whenever I was around. He acted a lot more detached from people in general, like he just didn’t really want to be around anyone other than James, Remus, and Peter.

I wasn’t concerned about this change in his behaviour, though. He did that sometimes; he’d sort of get into a strop and no one would really be able to get him out of it except his three best friends. (Well, I had too, once – the time we’d had detention together for Slughorn – but I’d also been the reason he’d been in a bad mood anyway.)

I watched with amusement as Camilla Rookwood, who was only a second year, tried to sneak out, but Filch caught her. Camilla gave me a surly look when she caught me watching, and slunk back down the corridor. A few people behind her in the queue, Charlotte and I finally made it out of the castle and towards Hogsmeade.

In the High Street, Aurors from the Ministry were positioned near a few of the shops, probably as a precaution given what had happened at Hogwarts two weeks ago. There were a few other people hovering outside other shops, trying to sell amulets and potions to ward off Dark curses, and warily eyeing the Aurors. We walked by one hag who leered at me, reached into a wheelbarrow and held up a large rock on a chain, insisting that it would protect me from the Imperius Curse. Charlotte glared at her and we walked away, just in time to see an Auror start walking towards the hag. The hag took three steps away with her wheelbarrow, and when the Auror had stopped, the hag tried to continue her black market sales a bit farther down the road.

Charlotte and I walked into the Three Broomsticks, got some butterbeers and sat down at an empty table, doing little but watching the people around us. Sometimes, you didn’t need conversation – it was enough to sit there in silence with a good friend, occasionally pointing out silly things people were doing. I took a sip of my butterbeer, tapped Charlotte’s arm and pointed to a table in the corner, where Vanessa Saltz was sitting, showing a small pink bottle to two of her friends.

“It’s probably a fake potion supposed to keep Death Eaters away,” I suggested. “I bet she’d be stupid enough to buy something from that hag outside.”

“No, it looks like a love potion,” said Charlotte.

“Looks like a waste of money, whatever it is,” I said. “Filch isn’t letting that back in the castle.”

“Unless she uses it on him,” she said. We both laughed at the revolting idea of Vanessa using love potions on Filch, and then went back to looking around.

Sirius was sitting with Carol Whitby, a Gryffindor in our year, but he didn’t seem to be paying much attention to her. She was leaning forward on the table, hanging on to his every word, but he wasn’t even looking at her. At one point when I was looking over at them, I accidentally met Sirius’s eyes, and hurriedly looked away.

Althea Seward walked in, surrounded by a huge pack of Hufflepuffs that for the past two weeks had accompanied her wherever she went. They’d all wanted to help her out since her friend Artemis was still in a coma at St. Mungo’s, and Althea seemed to be improving thanks to their constant moral support. Having a lot of people around with words of comfort seemed to be just what she’d needed to make it through a hard time.

“You ever thought of being an Auror when you leave Hogwarts?” Charlotte asked me. She was looking out the window beside our table at one of the Auror guards who was essentially blocking our view of the street by standing there on watch.

“Not really,” I said. “Not if I’d be just standing around watching Hogwarts students buy Dungbombs.”

“Right, you want to live life on the edge.”

I smiled. “Not too on the edge. I know most Aurors aren’t standing guard in Hogsmeade, they’re running after Voldemort and bringing down Death Eaters. I’m not really cut out for that kind of work… and I don’t want to be dead in five years.”

Charlotte raised her eyebrows interestedly. “I’d have thought you would want to go after Death Eaters. You get in enough fights here with people who you just know are going to become Death Eaters.”

“I don’t get into that many fights! And it’s different. Turning someone’s arm into wood or their legs into noodles is entirely different to the sort of fighting that happens in the real world. I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I’ve been thinking about after Hogwarts, though – since it’s seventh year and we’re supposed to have an idea by now – I think I want to be an Obliviator.”

“That’s great, Charlotte! Why an Obliviator?”

“I’d be good at it. And you have to be able to come up with good enough stories to tell Muggles when some sort of magical accident happens – I could probably do that in my sleep. It’d be fun.”

“I could see it,” I said, smiling. It was only too easy to imagine Charlotte making up outlandish yet somehow believable stories to feed Muggles to cover up blatant magic. “That’s great you’ve got it figured out – at least for you, life after Hogwarts isn’t just a scary unknown; you’ve got a plan. I’ll probably end up being one of those dodgy people who sells fake amulets.”

She laughed. “Just figure out what you like, what you’re good at… there’s probably a job in it somewhere.”

“That’s not really true. I’m good at Charms and Ancient Runes, that’s about it. Well actually, in Runes this week, we just started a unit on time travel, we’re reading all these things about ancient methods of time travel and I love it, it’s fascinating. But… it’s not a job.”

“You’ve been watching that Muggle television programme too much. The one Mandy likes, about the Healer who travels through time in a box—”

“Doctor, not Healer,” I corrected her, laughing. “And that’s not the reason why I think time travel is interesting! Not everyone can have their life figured out. Only last year you were still considering just having fifty cats and spying on your neighbours.”

“Who says I can’t still do that too?” She grinned and set her empty butterbeer on the table. “You want to head to Zonko’s or something?”

Charlotte and I left the Three Broomsticks and continued walking around the town. The street suddenly began to feel very cold – much colder than it should have done for early October. It wasn’t a normal chill; it felt like it was sweeping in from behind me. I pulled my cloak tighter around me and looked over my shoulder to see a dementor in the middle of the street, and whirled the rest of the way around so I was facing it. It was emitting a rattling noise that sounded like dying breath.

“What is that doing here?” I cried. I stepped backwards to get away from it until I ran into someone, and then only stood there watching it glide up the street. As it drew nearer, I heard my father’s voice shouting at me, heard my own thirteen-year-old voice lying to him and saying I wasn’t friends with Mandy anymore. The sight of Hogsmeade High Street began to fade from my view as I withdrew into the memory. Dad grabbed Mandy’s letter from my hands and tore it up while I pleaded with him, crying, and then he struck me and I fell to the floor. Mum’s voice echoed in my head telling me I was a failure.

I felt a hand grip my arm and looked up to see Charlotte, looking terrified. I had never seen an expression like that on her face before. “Do something!” she wailed, pointing. “Don’t let it get close enough to kiss you!”

The dementor was now less than ten feet from us. That was close enough – I certainly didn’t want it to suck out my soul through the Dementor’s Kiss. I blocked my father’s voice from my mind and summoned all my strength to send a Patronus at the dementor.

A wispy horse charged at the dementor, but dissolved just as it got close enough. I stared at where my Patronus had vanished, feeling just as weak as I had that night when I was thirteen and my parents had discovered my correspondence with ‘that Muggle’ Mandy. “I can’t!” I cried.

Someone behind us – one of the people I’d run into – sent another Patronus, but it met the same fate and vanished before it could reach the dementor. Suddenly, from the opposite direction, a bright white stag sped towards the dementor. The dementor fell back when the stag’s antlers collided with it, and then the dementor disappeared. I stood up on shaky legs, looking for the Auror that had cast the Patronus, but only saw James, Sirius, and Peter standing together.

The Aurors responsible must have cast the Patronus while standing just inside the post office, because a few seconds later two Aurors appeared and approached the Marauders. I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked back around to face two boys: a tall, curly-haired Hufflepuff I was pretty sure was called Octavius Pepper, and a ginger-haired Ravenclaw I recognized but didn’t know his name. I really should have known both of their names – they were in Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts with me, but I’d never paid much attention to them before.

“You all right?” asked Pepper. I eyed his hand on my arm, then realised I was standing on his foot.

“Sorry,” I said, stepping away, and then I helped Charlotte up, her face still chalk white. Several other people were standing nearby and getting to their feet again after clinging together in a group when the dementor showed up.

“It’s just one thing after another, isn’t it?” asked Pepper. “First Death Eaters at school, then a dementor in Hogsmeade…”

“That’s even with Aurors here too,” I pointed out.

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but they weren’t much use.”

“They got rid of the dementor, I’d say that’s a lot of help,” said the redhead.

Octavius Pepper shook his head. “No, that was James Potter.”

“Really?” Lily, who had been standing with Denise Newbury about a foot away, paused in the middle of wiping sweat off her forehead when she heard Pepper’s words. “Potter?” she asked. “That Patronus… that was Potter?”

“Yeah, I saw him,” said Pepper. Lily stared at the Aurors and the Marauders, stunned. One of the Aurors shook James’s hand and then the two of them departed. The three Marauders continued standing there; I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Sirius gestured towards the post office, an eager look on his face. Next to me, Lily was still watching them too, as if she couldn’t decide whether to walk up and talk to James or not. But she eventually lost her chance, as James and Peter both followed Sirius into the post office.

“That was impressive, I’m going to have to ask him about that later,” I told Charlotte.

She didn’t respond. I turned to find her telling the redheaded Ravenclaw the story of Vanessa Saltz buying love potions from a hag in the street.

“I used to date her, you know,” said the boy.

Charlotte’s eyes grew to the size of saucers as she goggled at him. “Why?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

He shrugged. “She probably used a love potion,” he said. “I liked her at the time, but it didn’t take me too long to realise what a tart she is.”

I laughed to myself, and then, because I didn’t really have anything to do with their conversation, I made small talk with Octavius while I waited for Charlotte to finish. I saw the Marauders exit the post office, grinning and crowding around a large parcel they were trying unsuccessfully to conceal. I suspected some sort of prank equipment they’d had to order that wasn’t available at Zonko’s. After about half an hour, when we were still standing out in the street, I decided it was impossible for Charlotte to actually finish talking. I tapped her on the shoulder and tilted my head, gesturing to Zonko’s, where we had been planning to go before we got detained in the street by the dementor and then by the two boys.

However, the boys said they were on their way to Zonko’s too, and they joined us. The redhead introduced himself as Inigo Imago. Charlotte apparently knew him because they took Divination together. (That class was a lot smaller than the ones I took with him, so I convinced myself I shouldn’t feel guilty about having not known his name when Charlotte did.)

Charlotte’s and my afternoon out ended up becoming a double date of sorts. Charlotte and Inigo were chatting away to each other the whole time; apparently he was really into Divination and was almost as talkative as Charlotte, so they got on very well. This left Octavius and me the afternoon to get to know one another. He was a rather nice guy, so I didn’t really mind the change in plans for the day. The one flaw in an otherwise lovely afternoon happened when we were heading back and found the three Marauders.

I stopped to say hello. James and Peter greeted me. Sirius initially smiled but then became rather annoyed and did nothing except glare. I chose to ignore this and mentioned to James that I’d seen his amazing Patronus drive away that dementor earlier in the day.

“Oh, it was nothing,” he said with a wave of his hand.

“Right, nothing, just some of the most complex magic we’ve learned at Hogwarts. Nothing at all.” I laughed, shaking my head. “What do you think the dementor was doing there? How did it get there?”

“Well, apparently they were supposed to be here in addition to the Aurors in protecting everyone from Death Eaters. They just got a little out of hand and went after students instead.” I raised my eyebrows in surprise. The dementor was supposed to be there? “Yeah, it was weird,” James continued. “Those Aurors told me afterwards. Guess they were inside and had no idea until the dementor was here. The dementor was supposed to be on the edge of the town, out of the way.”

“Why do the Aurors even get paid?” Sirius asked James. “You and me could do a better job than they did.”

Peter coughed, looking sideways at Sirius as if hoping Sirius would rephrase to include Peter in his plans for who would become great Aurors. He kept patting one of the pockets of his cloak nervously – I would have bet ten Galleons that they had shrunk their mystery parcel and Peter was carrying it.

“Well, we’d better be off,” I said. “Have to get away from whatever it is you got through owl order and are planning to let loose on the school.”

James grinned, Peter put his hand over his pocket again and looked innocently confused, and Sirius just scowled at me coldly. His eyes flicked up to where Octavius was standing next to me, and then he went back to frowning at nothing in particular. Maybe he didn’t like Octavius – but he seemed nice enough, and who was Sirius to judge who I became friends with? Octavius and I started walking back, a process that was impeded when Octavius tripped and landed on his back like a turtle. Moments after Octavius stood up, he fell to the ground again. Suspicious, I glanced back towards the Marauders to see Sirius hastily putting his wand away.

“Charming friends you’ve got,” grumbled Octavius.

“Sorry,” I muttered, hoping this wouldn’t happen again. I was never going to make friends if Sirius kept attacking them.

“How was your date, Mandy?” I asked at dinner as I reached around her for a dish on the table.

“It was great,” she growled irritably, dishing some roast potatoes onto her plate with more force than was necessary.

“Right, sounds like it,” said Charlotte.

Mandy sighed. “It was, though, and that’s what’s so frustrating! Remus and I had a great time. But then he made it so clear he didn’t want anything else – he doesn’t want to go out with me again. It’s like he’s afraid to get too close.”

“I’m sorry,” I said sincerely.

“I can’t figure out why! Do you think it’s because I’m a Slytherin? I mean, usually it’s you who says that’s the reason people don’t like you, Melanie, and I’ve always disagreed, but now I’m starting to think you’re right. I guess I should have known going into this that the Marauders will trust a Slytherin only so much…”

I shook my head. “You know, if it were Sirius we were talking about, I’d agree. But Remus has always looked past that – he was the first of that group to become our friend. I honestly don’t think he cares about that. It must be something else. But what that reason is… I have no idea.”

“Bad date?” asked Rachel, as she and Alanna moved in to sit by us. Mandy eyed her warily; Rachel never really talked to us except to gloat about things. I didn’t mind Alanna, but you rarely got one without the other, as they were nearly as close as Mandy and I were, only the two of them were a lot more into blood purity.

“It was okay,” said Mandy, but I don’t think either Rachel or Alanna were convinced.

“That’s what you get for going with a Gryffindor,” said Alanna. “Sorry. Better luck next time.”

“How was your day?” Charlotte asked. “We didn’t see either of you in Hogsmeade.”

“I was writing a paper for Defence Against the Dark Arts,” said Alanna. “I finished it, but I’m wondering if I should have let myself take a day off instead!”

“That paper was a waste of time, in my opinion,” Rachel agreed. “You’ll do well on it, I’m sure, but it’s a useless subject to begin with!” She turned back to face Mandy, Charlotte and me. “And I went to Hogsmeade with Evan.”

I choked on my pumpkin juice a little. There was only one Evan I knew – someone I wasn’t particularly fond of, who spent most of his time inventing Dark Magic jinxes with people like Mulciber and Snape. “Evan Rosier?” I asked once I had finished coughing.

“Of course. We’ve been together a few weeks now. In Hogsmeade today he bought me a new set of peacock-feather quills and some of Honeydukes’ best chocolates.” She smiled smugly.

“Well, Galleons are the way to a girl’s heart,” said Charlotte.

Rachel rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling. “If you’re nice to me, I might share the chocolate. Oh, and if you need another reason to be nice – Evan is good friends with Darian Wilkes, and so I’ve figured out that Darian really fancies you, but I think he’s too intimidated to ask you out.” She grinned at Charlotte, looking as if she had just imparted the most welcome news anyone could want to hear.

Charlotte started talking about how she wasn’t going to change a thing about herself and she didn’t even like Wilkes anyway. I’d heard this tirade before – the five of us had some sort of girls’ night about three years ago, and while painting our toenails, we’d tried to decide who would be the future husband of each of us. Alanna had suggested Wilkes as a candidate for Charlotte, and Charlotte had dismissed him as immature and self-absorbed (a very apt description, in fact). Then Mandy had suggested my brother, and Alanna and Rachel started fighting over him. It was around that time that I had realized girls’ nights were just not my thing.

Next to me, Mandy tapped my arm and nodded towards the door of the Great Hall. I heard Charlotte carrying on about Wilkes being immature, so I finished my last bite of potatoes, then stood up with Mandy and we went back to the Slytherin common room. “I knew that discussion was going to last a while,” said Mandy, “and I didn’t want to stick around while Rachel goes on about how much she loves Evan Rosier. They’ve only been dating for three weeks, and she’s convinced they’re in love. You weren’t sitting with her at breakfast, she was just rattling on about him the whole time to Alanna, I was half expecting her to say they were getting married. Where were you at breakfast?”

“I came later, with Charlotte. We were in no hurry.”

“Meaning, she didn’t know what to wear, and she made you wait for her,” Mandy concluded astutely.

“Right you are.”

“You never know, she might have been trying to dress up just for you. Maybe that’s why she’s always turning down my suggestions of boys she should go out with… So how was your date?

I snorted. “Oh, very funny.”

“Speaking of dates… I don’t think it’s going to be too much longer before Lily finally agrees to go out with James. I saw her in Hogsmeade today, and she seems a lot keener on James than she cares to admit! I have a feeling she wanted him to ask her to Hogsmeade, but he didn’t, apparently he’s been paying almost no attention to her lately. And she doesn’t like that!”

“What, she told you that?” That seemed very unlike Lily.

“No, she never said any of it directly, but I got that feeling. She kept looking around, and when she did happen to see James, when I was talking with her, she just sort of watched him for a while. Her friend Denise said something like ‘isn’t it nice how he doesn’t bother you anymore?’ and Lily agreed but it was really not convincing.”

“It’s funny, I’ve been noticing that too,” I said. “I can’t decide whether there’s actually something there or whether it’s only because I think they should get together. But you should have seen her face when James cast that Patronus and got rid of the dementor. Lily looked like she’d just been slapped in the face, she was so shocked!”

Mandy grinned. “That’s perfect.” Then she looked at me intently. “You’re not still upset that Sirius went with Carol, are you? Because I don’t think it went well. I saw them leave the Three Broomsticks in opposite directions.”

“I know, the Marauders got some exciting parcel in the post today, maybe it was something for their eyes only and not Carol. But he always does that, anytime a girl is competing with the other Marauders for Sirius’s attention, the girl loses. But I’ll bet anything he and Carol will be back together in a few hours when Sirius gets bored or something.” I tried to shrug it off like I didn’t care.

“You should have asked him.” It was still catching me off guard when she did this – her eternal crush on Sirius had practically been part of who she was, and it was weird not seeing that anymore.

“I told you, I didn’t feel like it. He would never have gone with me, not after I acted like an idiot two weeks before. He likes to flirt with me, but he doesn’t like me. Well, as a friend, but that’s…” I trailed off. That’s not good enough anymore, I thought. It was only going to get worse from here; the better I got to know Sirius, the more I liked him.

“There’s no way to know for sure unless you ask. You had plenty of opportunities – you two are always off somewhere talking to each other.”

I scowled, but it did nothing to erase that smug smirk from Mandy’s face. She knew exactly how I was feeling – it had been her feeling the same way for six years. I sighed. “You know, even though I know him so much better now than I did last year, I still feel like he’s hiding something. For someone who I used to consider to be the definition of arrogant, he doesn’t really like talking about himself.”

The door to the common room opened and Charlotte, Alanna and Rachel walked in. “No, his ears stick out!” Alanna was saying. I looked back at Mandy and raised my eyebrows. Those three were still trying to set each other up with potential dates?

Mandy laughed. “Anyway, what were you saying… I actually think you might be on to something. Not Sirius in particular, but all four of them. They’ve always seemed like they’re hiding something, have you ever gotten that impression?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I only feel that way about Sirius.”

“Ew, Sirius Black?” asked Rachel, who had turned up right behind my chair with Charlotte and Alanna; I hadn’t even noticed them coming over here. Her lip was curled in obvious distaste – she hadn’t heard our whole conversation, but she’d heard enough to guess that I liked Sirius, and didn’t approve. I found I didn’t particularly care what she thought about him or my friendship with him.

“Ew, Evan Rosier?” I said carelessly. Rachel frowned, but Charlotte looked like she was trying not to laugh, like she was pleased with my comeback. It was kind of like something she would say, anyway.

“Melanie, you can do better than Black,” said Alanna. “Besides, he’s a lost cause for anyone now. I heard Lydia Carybda saying so in Hogsmeade today. He’s totally fallen for someone. At least that’s what Lydia said. She overheard a conversation between Black and Potter.”

So he really liked Carol. That’s why he had been acting so weird recently – he’d actually fallen for someone at last. I tried to rearrange my face into a smile or at least something that didn’t show how distressed I was by this.

Mandy watched me with concern, then said to Alanna, “What you’re saying is that you don’t really know, you just heard it secondhand. Who knows how much of that Lydia made up? I doubt they’d talk about something like that in Hogsmeade anyway.”

Alanna shrugged. Then her face lit up. “Ooh, I have a great idea! We can have a girls’ night again! We haven’t done that in so long. And we were just talking about this sort of thing when we came back from dinner!”

The rest of us were unenthused. Only when Alanna pleaded us and suggested that Rachel could show off her new robes, and added that she had a new hair-straightening charm she wanted to show us, did we finally relent. Mandy and I followed them up the stairs, Alanna chattering away excitedly. I turned to Mandy and muttered, “I don’t want to hear them argue over Nathan again. I will curse you into next week if you mention him.”

On Tuesday that week, Artemis Jones returned from St. Mungo’s, having finally woken up from her coma over the weekend, and so we learned how the Death Eaters had gotten into the castle weeks ago. Apparently they had used extreme Shrinking Charms and flown in on owls, delivering themselves like letters. Artemis had stepped into the Owlery just as the Death Eaters returned to normal size, and she had run to the nearby Ravenclaw Tower, pursued by the Death Eaters the entire way, until they got her.

Artemis had returned to Hogwarts to find herself very popular because of her ordeal. Althea, her best friend, was now surrounded by not only the Hufflepuffs that had given her moral support while Artemis was in St. Mungo’s, but also by many other students from other houses who wanted to be friends with Artemis, Hogwarts’ new hero.

The best part of that for me was watching Mulciber try to insult Althea by telling her she only made friends because people felt sorry for her, but he got completely shut down by the twenty people surrounding her and Artemis. Mulciber went away to a chorus of boos, and then to add on to it, I charmed a nearby suit of armor to follow him and shout things like “Calvin Mulciber is a swine” for the rest of the day.

We also found out that day what the Marauders had been up to in Hogsmeade over the weekend. Still revelling in the sight of karma taking down Calvin Mulciber, I turned a corner and slid on the unexpectedly slippery floor. Winter had come early to one particular corridor: The stone floor was now made of ice, and a few suits of armor had been changed into trees. Three fanged gargoyles on the wall had icicles for fangs. I thought that was good enough, but then a reindeer walked out of a classroom. It was very well done.

People were slipping all over the ice and falling down, and even a brief snowball fight erupted in the corridor. This was quickly stopped by the arrival of professors, but the best part was that the professors didn’t seem to know how to get rid of it all without creating an even worse mess. Professor McGonagall attempted using Incendio to melt the ice while Professor Flitwick siphoned off the resulting water, but this still resulted in a slippery floor and a lot of water streaming down an adjacent corridor. Filch was absolutely beside himself and clearly didn’t know what to do, because in this instance the professors were making more of a mess than the students had done.

I finally got to Potions, a bit late, but not as late as most other people. Slughorn was having enough trouble getting the class to focus on Potions instead of on the icy corridor upstairs, when five minutes into class another distraction arrived in the form of Abigail Corner walking in late. She was trying desperately to make a quiet entrance, but every time she took a step, each foot made a noise like a tuba. It was like having a brass band follow her into the classroom. She glared at the desk where the four Marauders sat, and then found her seat.

Class had finally settled down a few minutes later, when we all had to actually start our potion. I walked over to the supply cabinet to collect ingredients.

Sirius stepped up to the supply cabinet beside me. I grinned at him without thinking about it, then remembered the stupid things I’d said to him, and recalled our last interaction when he’d tripped Octavius, so I busied myself with looking in the cabinet for dried snails.

“I hear you’re going out with Octavius Pepper?” asked Sirius, a smirk on his face. “Another boyfriend already?”

I just stared at him. Rather than correct him about my friendship with Octavius, I instead focused on the last part of what Sirius had said. “That’s a bit rich coming from you, the number of ex-girlfriends you have is larger than the number of times the Chudley Cannons have lost a Quidditch game.”

“What kind of a name is Octavius? He sounds like the most pompous bloke ever.”

“Who are you to judge who’s pompous?” I asked. “You’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met. Besides, what kind of a name is Sirius?”

“You never paid attention in Astronomy, did you? I’m the brightest star in the sky.” He grinned.

“Thank you, you’ve just proved my point.” I peered into a jar of eel eyes, selected two, then handed him the jar. “So would you mind not jinxing Octavius every time he walks by?” I asked him. “I know it’s you who’s doing it. If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were jealous.”

“Of course I’m not,” he said defensively, spilling eel eyes onto the floor. “Why would I be jealous?” He waved his wand at the floor and the spilled eel eyes zoomed back into the jar.

I began rummaging in a box of dried snails. “I didn’t say you were. Not that it matters, but I’m not even dating Octavius. We had basically just met in Hogsmeade. And I know you like Carol, anyway.”

“Who?” asked Sirius, looking up at me from the jar in his hands.

I stared at him. “Carol Whitby. I thought you liked her. You went to Hogsmeade with her.”

“Well, not really. I mean I did go with her, but I would rather have…” He stopped suddenly, and for a moment the two of us just looked at each other. Then he hastily turned back to face the cabinet.

I wanted to know what he'd been about to say, but I knew Sirius well enough to be sure he wouldn’t talk about it. But he had just confirmed that he was not in fact head over heels for Carol like I thought he was, which was welcome to my ears.

“Mr Black, Miss Hastings, what’s taking you so long?” asked Slughorn. We were the only two left at the supply cabinet. Without another word I handed Sirius the box of dried snails and went back to my seat.

During class I risked a glance in Sirius’s direction a few times, but each time I did so, I met his eyes. He must have thought I was just staring at him the entire class period. I realized I must be annoying him quite a bit, too; the last time I looked he was resting his head on his hands, and looked rather frustrated. I refocused my attention on my cauldron.

After a particularly exciting class period in which Clarence Macmillan’s potion frothed up so high that it eroded a bit of the ceiling away, I walked out into the corridor with Mandy and Charlotte. The Marauders showed up behind us, and I heard James hiss “Now!”

Sirius refused. He took several steps in my direction to get away from James egging him on about whatever. I looked up, surprised that he chose to come to me instead. “What is it, the Head Boy bothering you? You think you’ll get infected by hanging around with someone responsible?” I realised I had just referred to James as responsible… Things certainly had changed since last year.

“That’s about right, yeah.” He grinned.

I looked back at the other three Marauders where they were right behind Mandy and Charlotte. Remus asked Charlotte to tell him more about the rumour that Stubby Boardman, the lead singer of the Hobgoblins, was cursed with unluckiness. Charlotte seemed a bit surprised at his interest in that, but she was a sucker for gossip and happily started telling them all about Boardman’s trip to France and subsequent encounter with a Mackled Malaclaw, a creature which causes unfortunate things to happen to those bitten by it. (Perhaps the entire Chudley Cannons Quidditch team had been bitten as well.) As we approached the corner, they all turned left, while Sirius started going right. I kept walking with Sirius.

“Lost?” I asked. “They’re on the way to Transfiguration,” I said, jerking my thumb over my shoulder at them, “and we have that next too. Where are you headed?”

“Nowhere,” he said, shrugging. He stopped and turned around, and we began heading the other direction, following our friends. I looked up at Sirius, puzzled. He appeared a bit nervous for some reason, focusing intently on a spot on the floor just ahead of us.

“What’s up with you? You’re acting weird.”

He sighed. “Nothing. I’m just tired.” He shook his head as if trying to clear his mind. “Er… so…”

Just then, Abigail Corner walked by us on her way to the hospital wing, her feet still blaring their tuba noises. I laughed. “So which one of you did that?” I asked Sirius.

“Er, it was me. She kept hanging around and batting her eyelashes at me when I was trying to get to class, it was driving me mad.” He forced a laugh, then went back to watching his feet as we walked quickly down the hall.

“You sure you’re all right?” I put my hand on his arm.

He turned sharply and just looked at me. I removed my hand from his arm, thinking I’d been too obvious and was about to get the tuba feet treatment myself. Fortunately we caught up with the others before I met that fate. James looked back at Sirius, eyebrows raised, but then Sirius shook his head and James turned to face forward again. Charlotte was still regaling them with the story of Stubby Boardman’s misadventures in France. I was rather confused by what had just happened, but Sirius seemed to be back to normal by the time we’d reached the queue for Transfiguration. The icy corridor had also been put back to normal while we had been in Potions, and with everything back to normal, I put it all out of my mind.

On Saturday morning, I sat with the Quidditch team at breakfast for the first time, before our first game of the year. We were going to be playing against Hufflepuff today. I was at the end of the line of players at the table, and Mandy was seated next to me, reading a letter that had arrived in the morning’s owl post and informing me of the news from her parents.

“Dad says the Prides are losing in the League this year. It’s a shame, because they were so good when I was little.”

“Your dad’s Quidditch team is Pride of Portree?” asked Charlotte, seated on the other side of Mandy. “How does he even have a favourite team, he’s a Muggle!”

Mandy rolled her eyes. “Right, but he’s been married to my mum for twenty years, he knows a lot about the wizarding world. When he found out about Quidditch, he was thrilled to discover there was a team from Skye. He’s probably their biggest fan.”

“But you like the Chudley Cannons,” I said, remembering her Cannons poster at her old house. “You’ve finally changed your mind, then? That’s good, the Cannons are rubbish—”

“No, my mum likes the Cannons, and I like both teams. You should know that,” said Mandy, frowning at my slight on the team. “Quidditch is the one thing my family really disagrees on.”

I laughed. Quidditch was about the only thing my family agreed on. We’d always been Catapults fans; we lived in Cardiff until Nathan started Hogwarts, when we’d moved to England. “How can you like both teams? What happens when they play against each other?”

“Then it’s a great game, and I’m happy whichever way it turns out. But apparently my mum and dad nearly broke up over a Prides versus Cannons game in 1955. It all worked out in the end though.”

Beside me, Andrew Derrick tapped my arm. “Melanie, we’re about to head down to the pitch.”

“All right,” I said. My friends wished me good luck as I walked away with the team. I felt what was becoming a familiar pre-match nervousness – but at least this time I had weeks of practice behind me, and I was an actual team member rather than just a substitute on a team of people that resented me.

Slytherin ended up winning by a narrow margin. We were well behind Hufflepuff but then Regulus caught the Snitch while everyone was focusing on Smith, one of Hufflepuff’s Chasers, dropping the Quaffle and nearly falling off his broom for the second time.

We went up to the castle afterwards cheering, our arms around each other’s shoulders as we enjoyed Slytherin’s victory. Regulus was walking next to me. It was unnerving how similar he looked to his brother – it was like seeing a copy of Sirius without the charm. That was where the similarities ended, though. I congratulated Regulus on his great catch of the Snitch, fully expecting him to ignore me because Jasper was walking on the other side of him, but Regulus thanked me. Apparently he wasn’t bad at all when Jasper wasn’t influencing him. But even Jasper was civil to me for the moment – meaning just that he was not outwardly rude, and we had temporarily set aside our mutual animosity.

Other Slytherins from the stands joined our celebrating team and soon Regulus was lifted up on to some people’s shoulders as we walked to the castle. Students from other houses were walking up too, leaving a small distance between themselves and the walking Slytherin mob. In a group of Gryffindors just behind us, I saw Lily and James talking and laughing as they headed back to the castle. They were actually spending time with one another outside of when they were required to do so… it was quite a sight.

My focus was returned to the celebration at hand when one of the people carrying Regulus tripped. I laughed, and Jasper scowled at me like it had been my fault. Some things never did change.


Thank you so much for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts 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; December 8th, 2012 at 10:47 pm.
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