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The Brave at Heart [Completed]



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  #21  
Old August 17th, 2011, 2:05 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Woah, new page! I'm so excited!
Anyway...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 20: Unintended

With Charlotte’s new revelation in mind, I took extra notice of Lester, Mulciber and Snape in the common room when I saw them sitting together, to see if I could find any indication Snape and Mulciber were Death Eaters, but was unable to find out any more than she had.

Mandy and Charlotte continued to hang around with the Marauders, whom I was still avoiding, and while this was happening I spent time with Hector and Russell instead, or with Lily and her friends (I was a bit of a fifth wheel in that case, but they were friendly, so it was fine for the time being). I did miss the Marauders, but I was still angry at Sirius and didn’t want to deal with any more of his rudeness.

One evening as I was getting into bed, and Mandy and Charlotte had just returned from Gryffindor Tower, Mandy parted the curtains of my bed and leapt onto it, landing on my knees.

“Ouch! Mandy, what in Merlin’s name are you doing? I’m trying to go to sleep!”

“No you’re not, you just got into bed two seconds ago. I was just wondering what you meant by saying the Marauders don’t like us. They are nothing but friendly every time they see us! So tell me.”

I attempted to roll over and ignore her so I could sleep, but she was still sitting on me and I couldn’t turn over.

“It’s nothing,” I sighed. Mandy looked at me expectantly, and I said, “Fine. Well, Sirius and I got into a fight, and I’m not going to talk to him until he apologizes, which will probably be a long time because I’m sure he has never apologized for anything in his life.”

“Well, if it was nothing, why are you making a big deal of it? Why don’t you apologize?”

“Because it was his fault! And guys who are as attractive as he is can get away with anything, but I’m not going to be manipulated like that."

“Guys who are as attractive as he is?” Mandy repeated. “Ha! Who has a crush now?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Did you hear anything else I said? When have I ever indicated that I liked him? I mean, he is good looking, I’ll admit, but there are much more important things than looks!”

Mandy’s jaw dropped in mock surprise. “Rubbish!” she cried. “More important things than looks? What nonsense! Where would you get an idea like that?”

I laughed. “Crazy, isn’t it?”

“But really, you’re not going to talk to him until he apologizes? That probably means never.”

“I know. But I’m tired of him getting away with things like this just because he’s popular.”

Mandy shrugged. “Well, do what you think is right. He’s not as insensitive as you’ve made him out to be, though.”

“I suppose… or maybe you’re biased because you’ve had a mad crush on him for five years,” I said, grinning.

She grabbed my pillow out from underneath my head and shoved it into my face. I pushed it back up at her and before I knew it, three more pillows were flying through the air. I rolled out of my bed as Mandy stood up to get Alanna with my pillow, and the five of us in our dormitory ran around and had an immensely entertaining pillow fight, which involved a lot of feathers in the air and a lot of Reparo.



On my way to class the following day, I heard loud laughter behind me indicating the Marauders were nearby. I turned around and saw Remus shove Sirius forward towards me with a laugh. I began to walk faster, but then came across Elliott Jasper and Darian Wilkes, and I slowed down, as I would rather talk to the Marauders than to Jasper and Wilkes. I couldn’t avoid Sirius forever, and maybe – just maybe – he was actually going to apologize.

I turned towards Sirius, just in time to see him send a Slipping Jinx at Jasper. I rolled my eyes; Jasper and Wilkes hadn’t seemed like they were going to do anything to me this time, but Sirius had gone and provoked them – and from behind them, so they hadn’t actually seen him do it.

Jasper got off the floor angrily and yelled, “Petrificus Totalus!” My arms locked to my sides and I fell over.

“JASPER!” cried Professor McGonagall’s voice. “What do you think you’re doing? I would never expect this kind of behaviour from a fifth year. That’s another detention for you.” I felt the jinx lift from me and grinned as I saw Jasper looking furious at being caught.

“Hastings started it, Professor!” said Jasper. “She attacked me from behind when I wasn’t looking.”

McGonagall turned to me sternly. “Hastings, you should also know by now that there is no hexing allowed in the corridors.”

“I was in front of him! I didn’t do anything, I promise!” I cried.

To my surprise, Sirius backed me up. “I saw it happen, Professor, she wasn’t involved.”

Professor McGonagall looked suspiciously at him. “I take it all three of you were involved, then?”

Sirius was still trying to work his charm. “Professor, I wouldn’t lie to you. I might cause some trouble now and then, but I’d never lie, she didn’t do it.”

McGonagall looked at us, eyebrows furrowed, and with conflicting accounts and no way to tell what had actually happened, just took some points away from Slytherin and Gryffindor for such a shameful display of fighting in the hallway. After she had gone, I turned to go on my way to class, still glancing behind me at Jasper, and promptly ran into the wall.

“All right Hastings?” asked Sirius, grinning, as I stepped back and tried in vain to look dignified in spite of walking into a wall. I was reminded forcefully of the time I’d dropped books at Remus’s feet as I was trying to get away from Jasper, at this very corner in fact.

I scoffed. “As if you cared.”

“’Course I care, you just ran into a wall, didn’t you?”

I frowned at him. He was acting as he always had – was he expecting me to just forget everything he had said to me?

“Why are you talking to me, Sirius? The last thing you told me was that I was a b***h. Are you going to apologize, or should I just keep walking?”

“Oh, that? That was a week ago, are you still annoyed over that? And I was just kidding,” he said.

I did not smile. “It didn’t seem like it,” I said.

“You should be grateful, I just hexed that git Jasper for you and I got you out of a detention!”

“I didn’t need any help from you. There wouldn’t have been a detention anyway if you hadn’t started anything.”

“He was asking for it.”

I simply stood there a few seconds, my arms folded across my chest, as I considered him. My cold shoulder tactic was clearly not deterring him, so I went with the same obnoxious, smug manner he always used with me. “So what’s this all about then? Did you finally decide you missed me so much that you’re coming to apologize for insulting me – but you just can’t get the words out? You don’t know how?”

He laughed. “Yes, that’s exactly it. I’m struck dumb by your charm.”

I snorted. “What, have you been getting lessons from James on cheesy one-liners?”

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

“Almost,” I said, and started walking. “We’re going to be late for class, by the way.”

“Oh yeah.” He looked around for the other Marauders, but they had already gone, so he walked around the corner with me. “I don’t actually think you’re a b***h, by the way,” he said as we approached the door to the Charms classroom. “I'm really sorry I said that. I like having you around.” I looked up at him, surprised, and he smiled – not the teasing grin I was used to, but a sincere smile. He opened the classroom door a second later and we snuck in and went to our seats just before Flitwick started talking.



Life went back to normal as I was no longer avoiding any of my friends. Throughout the rest of the week, Sirius and I were slightly more polite towards each other than before our argument. I wanted to avoid getting into another argument like our last one. It ended up that we alternated between an odd combination of petty arguing and one-sided flirting (him flirting, me responding with sarcasm as usual).

On Saturday was Slytherin’s last Quidditch game of the year, against Hufflepuff. And for the first of Slytherin’s games this year, I was back in the stands again, watching the team play. After having had a taste of being on the team earlier this year, I desperately wanted to be out there on the pitch again, but unless Slytherin’s team had a better Captain next year, those two were likely to be my only Quidditch games at Hogwarts.

Mandy, Charlotte, Russell and I sat together; Hector wasn’t with us because he was on the team. Mandy’s new interest, Francis Madley, was also playing. Charlotte and I asked Mandy whether she wanted Slytherin or Hufflepuff to win, because if Hufflepuff won she could go congratulate Francis.

Mandy rolled her eyes. “Of course I want Slytherin to win, you idiots.”

It was only Slytherins who wanted Slytherin to win – the other houses were all supporting Hufflepuff – but this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Slytherin’s team was generally unpopular with the other houses, which was probably because our Captain was such an a*** and encouraged the team to use dirty tactics.

I watched Nott hit a Bludger and thought about how much better I could do it if it were me out there instead of him. Hector made some great goals and we cheered for him. At one point Slytherin had a twenty-point lead, but eventually Hufflepuff pulled ahead, and their Seeker caught the Snitch to boot, leaving Slytherin in the dust.

Slytherin’s loss to Hufflepuff unfortunately put Gryffindor in position for first place in the Quidditch Cup. So of course, for several days after the game, James could be seen showing off on his broom whenever he had a few minutes of spare time. One such afternoon he was lazily drifting along by the lake, occasionally doing a dive, at which point several of the girls nearby would gasp or scream, only to laugh again when he easily pulled out of the dive. Lily was sitting by the edge of the lake with a book, and was glancing up at James surreptitiously every few seconds.

“Ooh, who’s checking James out,” I said as I approached.

“No,” said Lily, scowling at me over the top of her book. “Potter showing off is the only thing happening around here. I was observing, not checking him out.”

“I know, I know, I was only joking,” I said, grinning. “I won’t tell.”

She smiled, although she looked like she was trying not to. “He actually is a great Quidditch player,” she acknowledged, “but if he knew I thought so, he’d show off even more, and insist that it means I like him!”

“Of course. Although, if he shows off more, that’d mean he would spend more time in the air on his broom and less time with you,” I reasoned.

“True, but he’d still find a way to annoy me from up there.”

Almost as if on cue, James shouted, “All right ladies?” while soaring by on his broom, no-handed.

“Too cool to watch where you’re going?” she asked, as he sailed right into a nearby tree. Lily laughed, but looked over anxiously at the tree as his broom fell to the ground. James levitated himself down, unharmed, a few seconds later, and Lily’s eyes were back on her book.

“That timing was too perfect,” I said. “But I saw you watching to make sure he was okay. I don’t think you’re nearly as annoyed by him as you say you are.”

Lily raised her eyebrows. “Speaking of which, I’ve noticed that you and Sirius have been spending loads more time together lately!”

“Well yeah, we’re talking again, if that’s what you mean…”

She merely smiled and turned a page of her book. “Have you done the Runes translation for Monday?” she asked.

“Not yet,” I said. “I’ll probably do it this weekend. I’m really enjoying this sunny weather, and pretending exams aren’t in a week and a half…”

Just then, Mary Macdonald and Denise Newbury, two of Lily’s Gryffindor friends, showed up. I stayed a little while longer with them, and then departed to start studying – in truth I had spent the entire morning out enjoying the sunshine, and I really did need to get to work if I wanted to pass my exams.



That Sunday after I’d spent hours in the library finishing my Ancient Runes translation and then talking with Remus and Peter, who were also studying, I was headed back to the common room and took a shortcut through a tapestry. As I was about to come through the tapestry on the other end concealing the exit, I heard the voices of James and Sirius, in low tones as they walked through the hallway beyond the tapestry. Sirius’s voice said, “I really like her. I never thought I’d say that about a Slytherin.”

Did Sirius have a crush on a Slytherin? It was the last thing I would ever expect from him. And I had never heard Sirius sound so unsure of himself; it was oddly amusing to me. I remained hidden in the staircase behind the tapestry, waiting to find out who it was. Maybe it was Mandy! It would absolutely make her day if I could tell her that I’d found out Sirius fancied her.

James laughed. “Ask her out then.”

“I didn’t mean like that,” said Sirius defensively. “I just meant that she’s not bad, I like her as a friend. Besides, I’d never date a Slytherin.”

“I don’t know, mate,” said James. “I’m not convinced. I know you better than that. When you say things like that, it means you’re mad about a girl. And she’s not a bad choice, I suppose… it’d be better if she wasn’t a Slytherin, obviously, but you’ll have to deal with that…”

“Oi,” said Sirius. “I meant nothing by that comment. You’d understand if you weren’t such a hopeless romantic.”

James was undeterred. “Remember when you indirectly told her she was, and I quote, ‘stunningly hot’?”

“Shut up,” said Sirius. There was a scuffling noise and laughter and I assumed that Sirius had punched James, or something similar had happened. As James’s words finally registered with me, I froze, my breath catching in my throat. Sirius had said that about me, on that stupid parchment of his. I had thought that was all a joke at the time. Didn’t he dislike me? Maybe he had said that about several different girls – he could actually be referring to anyone.

“You’ve said much sillier things about Evans,” said Sirius. I couldn’t hear James’s response, as they were too far down the corridor now. I waited a few seconds to make sure they were actually gone, and poked my head out of the tapestry.

As I walked back to the common room, I thought over what I had just overheard. Did Sirius like me? All we ever did was get into fights. He had definitely flirted with me quite a bit, and tried to get me to say I liked him, but he flirted with nearly all the girls in the school, so I had thought nothing of it. I had never thought it was anything real. And I didn’t give him the adoring attention he seemed to thrive on; I responded to his flirtatious comments with sarcasm rather than interest or flirting in return. So I had no idea what to think. But despite Sirius’s denial, James had appeared to think there was more to it than Sirius admitted, and James knew him better than anyone. And so I found myself wondering if there was something there… if Sirius did like me.

I wasn’t even interested in him; I liked him as a friend, although he annoyed me most of the time. And I was worried that now I’d overheard his conversation with James, now that this idea had been planted in my head, it would be awkward next time I saw him. I wished I hadn’t heard anything.

Mandy was lying on her bed as I walked in, folding a piece of parchment. “Hey!” she greeted me as I walked in.

“Hi,” I said, trying to stop thinking about what I had just heard, and threw my Ancient Runes textbook and translation into my trunk at the foot of my bed.

“I got a letter from my mum today,” said Mandy, holding up the piece of parchment. “You’re invited to stay for part of the summer. Dad added in some stuff too, he recommended that we go to the movies and see some new film called Star Wars.”

“Hmm,” I said distractedly.

“What’s up with you?”

“Nothing,” I said, and sat down on my bed.

“You always say that and I always find out what it is. It’s not nothing. Tell me!” She sat up and stared at me.

She had an uncanny way of knowing when anything was up with me, and right now I resented it. I fidgeted a bit while I wondered how to tell her that the guy she’d liked for almost six years might fancy me. “Er, you probably don’t want to hear it.”

“Why not? Something bad happened? Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine, nothing bad, actually it’s very funny… it’s just that you won’t like it. Well, maybe – it might not mean what I think it means, but it’s very… it… just forget about it.”

“Well that made a lot of sense. What potion are you on?”

I laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to keep a secret from you, I just overheard Sirius and James talking about… stuff. It was nothing important, just their boring conversation. Can you believe exams are in a week?”

Mandy rolled her eyes. “Clever topic change. No, I can’t believe it, I’ll be up for another three hours at least, studying for Transfiguration.” She looked at me again, showing every sign of wanting to ask me more about Sirius and James, but thankfully didn’t say anything.

“Yeah, I think I need to work on that too.” I dug out A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration and my notes from my trunk and lay on my bed, reading.

“Sorry for bothering you,” said Mandy, lying back down and setting her letter on her bedside table. “I shouldn’t have been so nosy.”

“It’s all right, you were fine. Leave it up to you to instantly sense when something’s up with me.” I laughed.

“Yeah, I know you too well, I guess. And if I wasn’t being nosy, that means I can ask again, right?” She grinned.

Since she continued to ask, and stared at me, I relented, although I was sure I was being a terrible friend by doing so. “Fine, but if you don’t like it you can’t get angry with me, you just spent five minutes begging me to tell you… I overheard James and Sirius talking, apparently James thinks that Sirius likes me. Silly, isn’t it?”

“Oh,” said Mandy after a second’s pause. She looked entirely unsurprised. “Well, yeah, I reckon he does.”

“What? You never said anything before.” All my guilt at wanting to keep it a secret evaporated, as it was evident she’d known for a while and not told me. Although as I said it, I realized I wouldn’t really have wanted her to tell me – I hadn’t even wanted to hear it from Sirius.

“Of course not, you were too preoccupied about Luke so I was hoping you wouldn’t notice Sirius; then maybe I’d still have had a chance…”

“Maybe you do. Maybe he’ll change his mind. Merlin knows I can’t stand him…”

She looked contemplative for a second and then asserted, “It doesn’t matter. I have Francis now.”

“Oh?”

“Well, not really. But I think we have potential. He seemed happy when I congratulated him on Hufflepuff’s win in the last Quidditch match.”


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thanks for reading! Feedback???

(I know it was forever and a half since the last post... again... And I'm back at school now, and might be taking five classes this semester, so I'll probably become even less reliable about posting - but I DO plan to finish it, so if anyone's sticking around, I'll still be writing!)


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Last edited by marauderfan; January 9th, 2013 at 6:21 am.
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  #22  
Old August 23rd, 2011, 8:29 pm
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 4127 days
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Age: 27
Posts: 258
Re: The Brave at Heart

Chapter 21: Finals and Farewells

A few days later, Mandy and I went flying around the grounds after classes as a break from our now constant studying for exams. Out on the pitch, the Ravenclaw Quidditch team was practicing for their match on Saturday against Gryffindor, which would decide the Quidditch Cup. Mandy and I went around near the lake, but far enough away from where people normally lay out in the grass, so that we wouldn’t be watched.

The one downside to flying with Mandy was that she was using an old school broom, which was a lot slower than mine. Several times I noticed I was slowing down, and turned around to find Mandy holding on to the tail of my broom, laughing. Eventually she said we could either trade brooms or she would keep holding on to my broom, so I consented to switch for a little while (and I held on to the tail of her broom this time to show her how annoying she was).

“Do you remember when James was flying through the hallway on two brooms?” I asked Mandy, as we touched down on the grass.

“Yeah, I saw him going by,” she said. “It was like skiing in the air.”

“Skiing? That Muggle sport where they race down hills on sticks?”

Mandy laughed. “Yes, although I promise it’s more interesting than that.”

“I’m going to try,” I said suddenly, then glanced around, hoping no one was watching.

“You’re going to try what James was doing? Standing on two brooms?”

“Yeah,” I said, as I positioned one foot on each broom. I took off, and as I was going slowly enough, Mandy’s broom wasn’t any worse than mine. I had my arms out to either side and was sort of hunched over, but I was doing it!

“Go faster!” shouted Mandy. “And you’re only three feet above the ground, that’s lame.”

I started going faster, lost my balance, and tumbled off the brooms, which sailed on another few feet and then landed. Mandy ran over to me, beside herself with laugher. “I hope you’re okay,” she said, “because I can’t stop laughing.”

I rolled over. “Why did I do this again?” I asked, massaging my head.

“I don’t know,” she agreed. “You need a professional to show you how it’s done… like me.” She picked up my broom and stood on it.

“No, you have to do it with two brooms!”

“Are you kidding? The school one’s terrible. Anyway, I’m demonstrating surfing, not skiing.”

I raised my eyebrows. Mandy grinned. “To you, it’s a Muggle sport where they stand on a board on the water.” She took off, and lasted a lot longer standing on the broom than I did.

“Thank you, thank you,” she said, bowing to her imaginary audience as she got off the broom.

“Show-off,” I said, but I was smiling. After about a quarter of an hour practicing standing on the broom, we started to head back inside.

As we passed by the Quidditch pitch, Ravenclaw’s team came out, having just finished their practice. There was nowhere to hide from Luke so I decided I’d finally just deal with it. When we reached the castle, the team split up to walk their separate ways, and Luke came over to me and Mandy.

Luke greeted us politely and asked us how we were doing, then told me, “I haven’t seen you in ages!”

“Yeah, err… I’ve been really busy studying for exams.” It might have been a reasonable excuse if he didn’t know how much I hated studying and hadn’t seen me wandering over the grounds with my broom. But I couldn’t say anything rude to him – he didn’t deserve that. He was too nice. However, I still didn’t particularly want to speak with him.

“Yeah, those are really soon, but they’ll be over soon enough.”

“How’s your Quidditch team doing? Are you set for the final game this weekend?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mandy start walking away.

“Pretty well. Potter’s got a good team though, it’ll be tough, but you never know.”

“Good luck,” I said.

“Thanks. Listen, I’m sorry if it seemed like I was avoiding you forever after we broke up. I hope we can just put that behind us and be friends again.”

“You were avoiding me?” I laughed with relief, and then admitted, “Really, don’t feel bad about it, I was avoiding you too.”

We laughed at how ridiculous we had been, and then told me he should go. I turned to go back to the Slytherin common room and felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. I was actually glad I’d stopped to talk with him, and gotten closure. Enough time had passed since our relationship ended that I thought it would be fine between us now – the days when I was always trying to impress him and the time when we were dating seemed so long ago. I couldn’t care less now. And it seemed he was over it as well.


As it turned out, Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw in the last Quidditch game, so they won the Quidditch Cup. They’d had it for years, so I wasn’t surprised, but I thought it was long since time for another house to have it.

Exams began in two days, so I spent literally the entire weekend in the library. I’d staked out a table for myself in a corner and spread books all over it, and I hardly ever left. I even slept there Saturday night, although that was unintentional; I’d simply fallen asleep and then woken up the following morning with my face stuck to my Charms book.

Mandy and Charlotte visited me on Sunday and asked if I was planning to move there permanently. But my biggest distraction came in the form of the Marauders, who came into the library not to study, but to talk and use up my valuable time for last-minute studying. Well, Remus and Peter had come to collect some books, but I could not see any logical reason James and Sirius were there. They stopped by a table where some Gryffindors were studying, and then found my table.

I didn’t look at them as they approached, hoping they’d get the hint and leave. I was unsuccessful, however; they both sat beside me at my table, and James actually moved some of my books off to the side, removing the giant wall of textbooks I had constructed.

“I heard you’re planning to live in here,” said James, as he put his feet up on the table in the space he had just cleared.

“I don’t want to fail my exams,” I reasoned, scowling at his feet. “I wasted time all last week, so I have to make up for it now.”

“I assume you took a break yesterday to watch the finest Quidditch match of the year,” said Sirius. He was leaning back in his chair too, his arm resting on the back of my chair.

“You came to my table to gloat about Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup?” I asked, amused. “Haven’t you got anything better to do?”

Sirius grinned. “We’ve got all the time in the world. You’re taking this much too seriously.”

“Sixth-year exams don’t even matter,” James agreed. “It’s next year we’ll have to worry about.”

I was about to tell them to leave when Remus and Peter joined us. “I’m glad you’re finally taking a break, Melanie,” said Remus, carrying an armful of textbooks. “From what I’ve heard, you haven’t left the library for longer than an hour since yesterday afternoon!”

“That’s not entirely true, I saw her at dinner yesterday,” said Peter.

“I’m not taking any breaks, I need to read this entire book.” I held up my Charms book and attempted to hide behind it again.

“You don’t need to study for Charms, you have enough charm as it is,” said Sirius. I rolled my eyes. His arm moved from the back of my chair to my shoulder, and I shrugged it off immediately. James cleared his throat loudly.

“Go away!” I said.

Sirius yawned. “You’re no fun.”

I began moving my textbooks back around me like a bulwark, and retreated to my studying. Remus got James and Sirius to leave with him, and I mouthed “Thank you” to him as they walked off. He waved with the hand that was not carrying six books, and they disappeared out the door.

Sirius wasn’t acting any differently to how he did before I heard his conversation with James, but I was seeing his actions in a new light. How could I have been oblivious to this? It seemed so obvious now – of course Mandy and James had noticed all along.

But I calmed myself down by noting that he was flirtatious around every girl at Hogwarts, so it really meant nothing. And luckily there was no chance that he would actually ask me out, so I had nothing to worry about. I bent down over my book again and continued reading about the Aguamenti charm.



True to my word, I spent the remainder of the weekend in the library, although I finally left my post at my table Sunday night, and slept in my bed. I woke up early on Monday, crammed for Ancient Runes, and then went off to take the exam. It went well; although I was sure I mistranslated a few sentences, I didn’t want to look them up afterwards to check. It was better to not think about it.

I ran into Charlotte that afternoon, and I hadn’t actually seen her for most of the weekend, as I’d been in my self-imposed isolation in the library. “Oh, who are you? Do you live here?” she asked as I walked into the common room.

“Your sense of humor astonishes me,” I said, sitting beside her on the sofa. “How were your exams today?”

“Oh, fine… I had Divination after lunch though, and it was complete rubbish. I ended up predicting my own imminent death – that’s what I saw in the cards – and then Professor Sage got all emotional and said she’d seen it coming since my first day of class, and was so proud of my Seeing ability.”

“I’ve been telling you for ages that class was worthless.”

“Yeah, she’s about a hundred years old; she might have lost her touch. Hector reckons he’d drop the class if he could, but we did sign up to continue it when we took it this year…”

“I feel that way about Potions. But I don’t know what I want to do with my life, so hopefully it’ll pay off when I decide.”

The door of the common room opened and Alanna walked in, her nose in a book, and she walked through to the staircase without looking at anyone. Mandy was behind her, and when she saw Charlotte and me, she came over to join us. “That was you over the weekend,” Mandy told me, gesturing to Alanna, who was now walking up the stairs and still not looking where she was going.

I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t that bad; I didn’t bring my books with me when I left the library.”

“That’s because you didn’t leave the library,” said Charlotte.

“You two think you’re so funny, but at least I’m going to pass Charms tomorrow.”



As I reviewed for my Charms exam, I recalled Sirius’s ridiculous comments to me while I’d been studying Charms in the library that weekend. Even though we’d be at Hogwarts for about a week and a half longer before going home, I just decided I just didn’t want to deal with men any more. They were really much more trouble than they were worth. Earlier this year it had taken months of trying to impress Luke in order to get his attention, and for some reason Sirius was after me now, though it was the last thing I wanted.

I decided to help Sirius make up his mind about me – I did not fancy him at all, so my goal was to make him realize that he didn’t fancy me either. I tried to be as unattractive as possible when I was around him, and maybe he’d change his mind about me. It was the end of the year, I didn’t care what people thought of me. Charlotte and Mandy were utterly confused at my behaviour, especially when I walked down to breakfast on Thursday wearing a hat that resembled a miniature troll.

“Where in Merlin’s name did you get that?” asked Charlotte, making a face. “It looks like vomit.”

“I found it in your closet,” I lied. She laughed, shaking her head, and poured herself a bowl of cereal.

I was thankful my friends were so tolerant. Although they made it clear they thought I was out of my mind, they still didn’t mind being seen with me even while I was wearing my hideous troll hat. We reviewed Transfiguration at breakfast and then went off to take the exam.

Of course, the Marauders were directly in front of us in the queue outside the classroom, and, of course, Mandy began talking with them the instant we walked up, although I would have liked her not to. I used the opportunity to talk to Remus while Mandy was occupying Sirius’s attention.

“Is this your new style, then?” asked Remus, glancing at my hat.

“Yes, I’m thinking I’ll start a trend,” I said. “Are you ready for the exam?”

“I hope so,” he said. “Do you—”

“I definitely am,” interrupted Sirius, who had showed up a second before and decided to barge into our conversation. Mandy and then James followed him.

“You didn’t study at all, did you?” I asked.

“Not much – you see, we’re brilliant at Transfiguration,” said James.

“What’s the deal with the hat?” asked Sirius. “Is that supposed to look like a giant bogey?”

“The stress of exams has got to me,” I said serenely. “I’ve gone crazy.”

“I’ll say,” said Peter, looking a bit worried.

“It’s her man-repellent,” Mandy explained. “Doesn’t look like it’s working.”

“It’s working for me,” said James. “I think I’d rather just go take the exam than stand here talking to you.”

“If it doesn’t work, try an Acromantula hat next time,” Remus suggested, laughing, as Professor McGonagall finally opened the door and the queue started to file in.

I made a face. “Good idea, but I’d scare myself if I looked in the mirror.”


Before we knew it, we were walking down to the horseless carriages that would take us to the Hogwarts Express and home for the summer. And the next time we’d be back, it would be the last year at Hogwarts – the last year we didn’t have to worry about jobs, the last year we could still be carefree kids, the last year we were still really protected from Voldemort. After that, who knew?

Mandy, Charlotte and I approached an empty carriage. As Charlotte got in, I looked back at the castle, and then at the front of the carriage. I had never really thought anything of it before, but now I knew it was actually pulled by a thestral. I reached out to touch the thestral I knew was there but could not see. I eventually found it; I wasn’t sure whether it felt silky or scaly or both. It was very weird.

“Mel, are you coming?” asked Mandy’s voice from inside the carriage.

“Yeah,” I said, stepping back from the invisible thestral and hopping into the carriage beside my friends. We watched Hogwarts disappear out of sight out the window, and then started discussing how old we felt as we just had one year left. On the train the three of us found a compartment together with Hector and Russell. We passed the time by sharing our various plans (or lack thereof) for the summer, and then made plans to all meet up and see the Hobgoblins concert in July.

The train ride back to King’s Cross was, as always, too short. As the Hogwarts Express puffed slowly into the station, on board the train was a flurry of activity as people said their last-minute goodbyes for the summer and got their belongings in order.

I lugged my trunk out of the compartment and into the hallway. Several doors away I saw Mulciber talking to Mark and his surly dark haired friend, whose name I had finally learned was Camilla. I wondered vaguely if Mulciber was trying to recruit first years to be Death Eaters.

My thoughts were interrupted when someone bumped into me, causing me to drop Aquilo’s cage, and he screeched. Vanessa Saltz brushed past and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry you were taking up the entire doorway. I didn’t mean to bump into you.” I remembered my promise to myself that I would not let Vanessa bother me, and simply gave her a disinterested smile as fake as her own. Hector, who had left the compartment after me, called her a few choice words under his breath.

Vanessa continued walking and pushed through another doorway just as Althea Seward was trying to walk through. Althea of course stepped back and apologized, letting Vanessa walk through. How did Vanessa have any friends at all? She treated everyone like dirt – and I felt sorry for Althea, who didn’t have a backbone and let people like Vanessa walk all over her.

I dragged my stuff out and walked toward the door. “Hey,” I said to Althea. She just smiled in response. “Don’t let that tart push you around, you’ve got to stand up for yourself!” I said.

“I don’t mind, it’ll only take me about three more seconds to get off the train.” She continued struggling with her trunk, and Hector saw her and went to help. He tried to make conversation, but she just stared at her feet as he took the trunk from her and was too shy to say anything but “thank you.”

As we all stepped off the train, the goodbye hugs continued as people went off to find their families, and the platform was full of the sounds of people excitedly talking, and of owls hooting and cats meowing. I wished Althea a good summer, hugged Hector and then Charlotte before they went off to greet their families, and then found Mandy again and we waited as long as possible to leave each other.

I saw the Marauders near the other end of the platform. James was speaking to someone who must have been his father – he looked just like James, only much older. I met Sirius’s eyes as I was looking over, and he grinned and waved. I waved back at him, and Mandy nudged me hard in the ribs.

“Ouch! I was just waving,” I said to her. “I’m not going to say goodbye to you then, if you’re just going to punch me!”

She laughed, and gave me a hug. “I see my parents, so I should get going,” she said. “And I think I see yours, too.” I turned around, and sure enough, there were Mandy’s parents. Her father was grinning and looking around at all the students filing off the train with owls and trunks and broomsticks in hand. It seemed that it never got old for him, even after the many times he had come to drop off or pick up Mandy at the station. My father was standing a few feet away, watching him with disgust.

Mandy’s parents came up and hugged her; we talked for a few minutes and then as she started to walk away with them she turned back to tell me, “I’ll see you sometime this summer – I’ll write you!”

“Okay! Bye Mandy!” I said, waving.

Finally I turned to meet my own parents, who were by now probably tired of waiting for me. Dad stopped glaring at Mandy’s father and glared at me instead. “Still hanging around with that Muggle friend of yours?” he asked.

What a great way to start the summer… I already wanted to go back to Hogwarts.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thank you for reading! Please leave feedback!!


__________________


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

Last edited by marauderfan; August 17th, 2012 at 2:50 am.
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  #23  
Old August 28th, 2011, 9:10 pm
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Joined: 4127 days
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Thanks to nevillesgal and PotterGirl654 for your feedback. You guys are great.

Warning: this is a rather turbulent chapter. And it's a doozy...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 22: Over the Edge

When we got back to the house, I lugged my stuff upstairs and into my room. My room was exactly how it had been when I’d left last summer, except perhaps everything had a bit more dust on it and Mum had been storing a few boxes in here. I could see the corner of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sticking out from under the bed – I’d been wondering what had happened to that book for ages.

I set Aquilo’s cage on top of my trunk, and he hooted and clicked his beak, reminding me that he’d been in his cage all day and must want to fly around a bit. I opened his cage and he flapped around my room until I’d got the window open, and he soared off. My trunk continued to sit in the middle of my floor; I was far too tired to consider unpacking it at the moment.

I eventually walked downstairs to get some food. Mum was in the kitchen, and Dad was in the adjoining living room reading the newspaper. “It’s good to have you back,” Mum said as I walked in. “Have you got all your stuff unpacked yet? I don’t want you leaving your clothes all over the floor like you did last summer.”

“Er, not quite,” I admitted. “Almost.” Overstatement of the century… It was fortunate Mum wasn’t very good at Legilimency.

“Nathan’s at work, but he should be home soon,” said Mum. “I know he’s missed you too. He’s been promoted at work, he’s doing so well. We’re so proud of him. I can only hope you’re as successful once you leave Hogwarts.”

Dad said, “I think you can be, if you stop hanging around with Mudbloods and other riffraff and make real friends who will help you on your way to success, rather than associate you with Muggles. Nathan is very well connected, because he’s in with circles of people who matter.” He shook his newspaper to get a large fly off of it.

“And you’ll want to do much better on your N.E.W.T.s than you did on your O.W.L.s,” Mum suggested. “You should have been ashamed of your O.W.L. grades.”

“Right,” I said vacantly.

The fly continued to buzz around Dad’s head, and he looked up from the newspaper and pointed his wand at the fly. “Avada Kedavra,” he said casually, and the fly dropped dead on the arm of the sofa. He flicked his wand and the fly sailed over into the rubbish bin on the other side of the room.

“Conway, I wish you wouldn’t do that in the house,” said Mum. “What if Melanie had been standing over there?”

I decided it was about time to head back upstairs. As soon as I left the room and walked into the hallway, the front door opened and Nathan was there. I grinned and ran to greet him. “Hey!” I said excitedly.

“You’re back!” he said, smiling and hugging me. “Hope the train ride home wasn’t too long.”

“Not too bad, how was work?”

“Great, although exhausting. They made me go in on a Saturday! Right now I’m pretty jealous of Dad, he can just work whenever he feels like it. I don’t think he’s done anything this week.”

Dad was the co-owner of a company that made cauldrons, and could take time off whenever he wanted.

“Well, you are in the Ministry, you signed up for hard work!” I said.

“They didn’t say that explicitly in my job description.”

I laughed. Nathan was just the same as he had ever been. How could I have suspected him of being a Death Eater? I’d freaked myself out over nothing, and then our minimal communication during the year hadn’t helped. I was really glad to see him again.

The following day Nathan and I played Quidditch. Each of us was simultaneously Chaser, Beater and Keeper. So when Nathan had the Quaffle, depending on where he was on the field, I had to either hit the Bludger at him (we were only using one), or block the goal hoop. We didn’t use a Snitch – we simply finished when we got tired of playing three Quidditch team positions.

Nathan had work again on Monday, which meant it was just me home alone with my parents. It was best for everyone’s sake if I didn’t spend much time with them, so I usually had a project every summer that would enable me to spend most of my time by myself but not be bored. Last year I had tried gardening, until Dad worked out that none of the things I planted had any magical properties, and subsequently tore up my garden. I had pointed out that much of the food he ate was grown in a garden and had no magical properties, but when did he ever listen to reason?

This summer I had decided I would learn to paint, so when Nathan left for work, I went to London and bought a few supplies, and set up in my room. I set up the easel in the center of the floor and started sketching. I didn’t really know where to start, but I figured it would be best to draw an outline before I began painting. After that, I spent the day painting a picture of Hogwarts. It was supposed to look like Hogwarts, at any rate, but it wasn’t very good. But I’d get better over the summer.

At dinner that evening, Mum asked me, “What have you been doing so secretly all day?”

“I’m learning to paint,” I said.

Mum looked baffled, as if she thought no one in their right mind would do such a thing. Dad paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. “Only Muggles do that,” he said.

Where had he got such a ridiculous notion? “Anyone can paint, Dad – just because you don’t, it doesn’t mean only Muggles do.”

“If you want to make art, it’s a lot faster and much better with magic!”

Only when Nathan backed me up and said his coworker Randolph painted, was Dad happy. Dad apparently approved of Randolph, who was a pureblood and very well-respected in the Ministry.



Other than on the weekends, Nathan wasn’t around much, because he worked during the week, and then after work would usually spend time with Lucius Malfoy and his other friends. So I spent a lot of time painting during the week. A few days later I received an owl from Mandy asking me to go see Star Wars with her. I laughed aloud; I could just imagine Mr. Macintosh had talked about it so often that Mandy had finally told him she’d go.

I wrote back to her and we planned out when and where to meet, so the next day I was about to leave when Mum stopped me. “Where are you going?” she asked suspiciously.

“London,” I said.

“What for?”

“I’m meeting a friend.” I couldn’t tell her I was going to see Mandy; neither of my parents liked her and didn’t want me to spend time with her. Plus, the two of us were about to go into a Muggle theater and watch a Muggle movie, something they would not approve of.

“Who? When will you be back? Why are you dressed like that? You look like a Muggle!”

“I’ll be back in a few hours, and I dressed like this because obviously I can’t run around looking like a witch when there are Muggles around!”

She didn’t look pleased, but said, “Have a good time.”

"Thanks." I grabbed a handful of Floo Powder, threw it into the fireplace, and said, “The Leaky Cauldron!”

I appeared in the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron and met Mandy who had Apparated there, and then we left and went out into Muggle London. We got ice cream at a shop, which was an interesting venture because I tried to pay with a Sickle and the woman at the shop just stared at me until Mandy saw what had happened and pulled out her Muggle money. She told the woman I was foreign, and paid for my ice cream. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid as to try to use my wizarding money – I just hadn’t thought at all about it.

After this minor mishap, we spent a while pretending to be Muggles, and as usual discussed typical Muggle things like airplanes and dishwashing machines as we walked to the theater.

We both enjoyed the movie. Muggle technology never ceased to amaze me – the wizarding world didn’t have anything quite like the movies! As we left, Mandy and I discussed when would be best for me to stay with her at her house. I didn’t know how I’d run it by my parents without them instantly saying no, but I’d deal with that later. We decided that I’d go over in a couple of weeks, which would hopefully give me enough time to convince my parents.



One day at the beginning of July I was sitting on the sofa, skimming through the Daily Prophet, and saw an article called “Death Eaters Identified,” written by Leonora Macintosh – Mandy’s mum. The article discussed how people should take extra care to make sure their friends and family were not under the Imperius curse, and how your seemingly friendly coworker could be a Death Eater and you might not even know it. It even listed, as exclusive new information, a few Death Eaters by name, and I saw Henry Avery on the list: Charlotte’s father. Most of the other names I didn’t know, although there were a few Dad had mentioned as people he knew and liked.

“Are you reading the rubbish that woman wrote about Death Eaters?” Dad asked, noticing me reading the paper.

“Yeah, I’m reading it.”

“That woman is terrible,” said Dad. “She has no idea what she’s talking about, and clearly doesn’t understand that the Death Eaters are just helping us out. She has no business writing any of that.”

“Hmm,” I said noncommittally, and turned the page. The next article was a detailed and dramatic account of the private life of the didgeridoo player in the Hobgoblins, and my eyes drifted over the page without actually reading anything.

It dawned on me that the way I acted with my family mirrored the way Althea reacted to bullies like Vanessa. Dealing with people like Elliott Jasper over the years at Hogwarts had given me the strength to stand up for myself, and I could do it at school. But it was totally different with my family.

They thought that I still had their way of thinking, but had mistakenly made friends they didn’t approve of. In reality, I just didn’t believe the nonsense they spouted about purebloods being like royalty. At home, I was still the scared, shy first year I once had been; I needed to finally stand up to my family. And then they could either accept me for who I was, or they’d get angry – and I didn’t like to deal with Dad when he was angry – but it would pass. I was just tired of living a lie at home for years.


Nathan was at home the following day. As I was eating breakfast, he walked into the kitchen, yawning and rubbing his eyes – he had clearly just tumbled out of bed. “Morning,” he yawned, and walked over to a cabinet, reached up and got a bowl. I saw a dark shape on his left wrist peeking out from underneath his sleeve; Nathan had apparently started his teenage rebellion years a bit late and gotten a tattoo. He saw me staring at it and moved his arm so I couldn’t see it anymore. I rolled my eyes. “Where are the cornflakes?” he asked.

“They’re out on the table,” I said. He was very clearly still asleep. “What are you up to today – after you’ve actually woken up, that is?”

“Let’s play Quidditch,” he suggested, coming over to the table and pouring cornflakes into the bowl.

“Sure! I’m totally going to win because you’re asleep.”

After I finished breakfast, I brought my broom downstairs and leaned it against the wall in the front hallway. I read the Daily Prophet while I waited for Nathan, and he took his time, writing a letter to someone after he had finished eating. “I’m going to fall asleep if you keep writing that letter,” I told him eventually. “It’s got to be the length of a novel by now.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I’m just about finished,” he said, and walked into the front hallway to get his owl, Bellona, whose cage was on a shelf just off the entryway. As he tied the letter onto her leg, I got a better look at his wrist. I could only see half of the design, but it looked eerily familiar… I grabbed his wrist and yanked the sleeve up, exposing the black outline of a skull and snake.

Nathan let go of his owl and drew his arm away from me sharply. Bellona screeched and flapped around our heads, but I ignored her.

“What is that, Nathan?” I asked, nonplussed. “You decided to get a tattoo of the Dark Mark? Voldemort’s symbol? What the hell is that all about?”

“It’s nothing,” he said, tugging his sleeve back down.

“You’re trying to show your support for Voldemort?”

“I told you, it’s nothing,” he insisted. “Did you get your broom yet? We were going to play Quidditch.”

I wasn’t about to let him change the topic so quickly. “Nathan, are you a Death Eater?” He didn't even have to respond; the instant I asked it, I knew. I closed my eyes in horror, and turned away, speechless.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought I knew him. My own brother, whom I had been so close to when we were growing up, whom I’d always looked up to, was now a Death Eater. He was the one who’d encouraged me to stand up for my beliefs – and here he was doing the same thing, but it was to support Voldemort. I felt like he’d personally betrayed me. It was one thing to have suspected it earlier this year, but now to know for sure was terrible. How long had he been a Death Eater?

“Melanie, what’s wrong?” His voice faltered.

I stared back at him. What kind of question was that? “What’s wrong?” I repeated hysterically. “You’re working for Voldemort!”

Nathan flinched. “Look, I—”

I laughed mirthlessly, interrupting him. I didn’t care what he had to say – whatever explanation he had, it was never going to be enough. “Don’t want to hear his name, huh? He’s The Dark Lord to you? Voldemort Voldemort Voldemort.”

The commotion drew my parents from the living room into the hallway, but I just kept talking. “All this time you’ve been telling me about your Ministry job, but you just failed to mention that in your spare time you’ve been running around killing innocent people!”

My voice was about ten times higher in pitch than usual. I turned to face my parents and finally let loose on my family everything I’d kept inside for the past six years. “If I’ve learned anything from being sorted into Slytherin, it’s that pure blood means nothing, and everything you’ve taught me is wrong!” I shrieked. “And Voldemort just wants power for himself, he doesn’t give a damn about anyone else! All his Death Eaters, like you,” I pointed menacingly at Nathan, “just play around with Unforgivable Curses! I can’t take it anymore!”

I had never been so rude to him before – I usually tried to keep all my anger towards my family inside so situations like this wouldn’t happen. But I was past the point of no return.

My father roared with rage, his face a dark maroon color. He grabbed my arm, but I wrenched it out of his grasp so he picked up my Cleansweep from where it was leaning against the wall, and swung it at me. I screamed and ducked to avoid it, and then leapt a few stairs up the staircase. I was stopped halfway up by a Body-Bind curse, fell down, tumbled down a few stairs and lay diagonally on the staircase.

“NOW YOU LISTEN TO ME, YOU INSOLENT GIRL!” my father shouted, throwing my Cleansweep on the floor. “The Dark Lord has power you can’t even dream of! I didn’t ask for a lecture on your stupid ideas, we all know you’ve been making a fool of yourself at Hogwarts running around with your filthy half-blood, Muggle-loving friends!”

I couldn’t say anything while I was trapped, immobile and somewhat upside down, on the stairs. Dad sent another curse at me, and as I was unable to move out of the way, it hit me and my entire body stung with pain. Bellona continued to flap around the room and screech, angry that she was being ignored with a letter tied on to her foot.

“Stop it,” Mum finally insisted, and released the Body-Bind curse.

“Mum’s a half-blood!” I argued the instant I could move again, stumbling down a few stairs as I got up. “Grandpa was Muggle-born!” Mum looked ashamed at my words. Dad grimaced and flinched as if there was an irksome fly buzzing in his ear, and he aimed another Body-Bind curse at me.

I fell to the floor again, and my parents ignored me as they argued. “I know we can’t all agree, but she’s our daughter, Conway! You’re both being unreasonable! Melanie, why did you do this?”

“Stay out of this, Helen! She is nothing but a blood traitor! You know as well as I do that her best friend’s father is a Muggle!”

My mother said nothing, but lifted the curse off me again. Nathan didn’t even come to my defense. I started to edge back up the stairs again as Dad went into another of his rants about how “Muggles ruined wizards’ lives and Mudbloods impurified the wizard race”… It was all worn-out arguments I’d heard a thousand times before, and I ran back up the rest of the stairs. At the top landing, I heard Dad’s voice call, “Not so fast!”

I paused reluctantly, and he came around the corner into view. “Come back down here, this isn’t finished.” He continued as I walked slowly back down the stairs, clutching the railing so tightly my knuckles were white. “If you think you’re going to be staying in this house this summer,” he said, “I don’t want to hear another word about how much you love Mudbloods, it’s important work Nathan is doing for the Dark Lord, and he’ll be rewarded for it. You should be proud of your brother! But you’ve turned into such a pathetic Muggle-lover, you wouldn’t understand. Let me know when you’ve come around and realized how wrong you are. But in the meantime I won’t let you get in the way of what he’s doing.”

“If I’d ever had any respect for you, I would have just lost it,” I announced, fighting back tears. “I’ve been so tolerant, but I shouldn’t have to be – you’re my family! I just can’t believe this.”

You’ve been tolerant?” he asked. “We’ve been the ones dealing with the embarrassment of a blood traitor for a daughter! You are such a disappointment! You hang around with Mudbloods, listen to your Muggle music and read those Muggle books… And I expected more O.W.Ls from you, but all your Mudblood friends must have rubbed off on you, because you got what I’d have expected from a Mudblood.”

Next to him, Mum was watching me, looking very conflicted with herself. Nathan’s face was impassive.

“I have nothing to say to you,” I finally said.

Dad pointed his wand at the front door, which swung open with a bang. It crashed into the wall and knocked a picture onto the floor. The frame shattered and the subject of the painting screeched and ran out of sight in the frame to take refuge in another painting down the hall. “There you go. You’re so keen to disassociate yourself from us, then leave. Leave!” he cried, when I hesitated.

“I’m going,” I said. I walked down the last couple of stairs, and Mum rushed over to me and hugged me. After she released me, she turned to Dad and said softly, “Please, Conway, you’ll regret this later.”

“It’s her own choice as much as it is mine,” he said. He faced me again. “Go!” he thundered, as I looked at Nathan, who refused to meet my eyes. I turned around, picked up my Cleansweep from the floor, and walked out the door, leaving my family behind. It was so hard to leave Nathan; I wanted to run back to him and tell him to reconsider what he was doing, but he’d made his decision of loyalties years ago. The door slammed behind me, and I didn’t bother to hold in my tears any longer.

I had thought living in that house every summer was bad enough – but now I didn’t even have a place I could call home. I couldn’t believe how yesterday I had been thinking it was time I spoke up; I wished I had just kept my stupid mouth shut. It was barely two weeks into the summer and I was alone, kicked out of my own house, with almost no money and no idea what to do.

I walked down the front yard, and when I was just at the street I remembered all my luggage was still in my room. “Accio trunk!” I said shakily, and my trunk crashed loudly through my window, sending glass everywhere, and flew out to me. I then summoned Aquilo’s cage, which soared through the hole in the window and landed on the trunk. Then I just sat down at the side of the road with all my things, completely at a loss for what to do.

I considered going to Mandy’s house to stay – I hoped it would be fine if I showed up earlier than we’d planned. I knew she and her family would be as welcoming and kind as always, but I’d never stayed there for an entire summer before, only a week every now and then. Suddenly I heard the crack of Apparating coming from inside my house, a scream, and some more shouting. Then the door was thrown open, Mandy hopped out on one leg, and the door slammed again.

“Mandy!” I called, shocked. She looked up and saw me at the edge of our yard and attempted to hop towards me, but collapsed after a few jumps. I ran back to the house to join her and was horrified when I saw her up close – half her left leg was missing, and her face was red and blotchy; she had clearly been crying.

What happened?” I gasped, staring at her bloody stump of a leg. “Where’s your leg? What are you doing here?”

“Death Eaters,” she sobbed. “There’s – someone attacked – everything’s gone – Death Eaters…”

My own family problems, which five minutes ago I had thought were going to ruin my whole summer, were trivial compared to whatever had happened to Mandy. She was shaking violently. “What happened, Mandy? Did Death Eaters attack you? Is that why your leg is missing?”

She shook her head. “I wasn’t attacked – I think I – I Splinched myself… b-but my parents are gone, I don’t… I don’t know what happened…”

“Okay… Are the Death Eaters gone? Should we go to your house?” I looked at her for a response, and she nodded dazedly.

“But we’re not Apparating. I can’t…”

“Just hold on to my arm, I’ll bring you by Side-Along-Apparition.” I summoned my trunk, broomstick and owl cage over to where Mandy and I were standing; as I wouldn’t be returning for the summer, I decided to take all my belongings with me. I opened Aquilo’s cage to let him out, and put a Shrinking Charm on my broom and Aquilo’s empty cage and put them into my trunk. I then grasped my trunk in one hand and Mandy’s arm in the other, and Apparated to Mandy’s house.

The scene that met my eyes was worse than I could have imagined. It was no wonder Mandy had Splinched herself; she had been too distraught to think clearly. Mandy’s beautiful, perfect house was reduced to piles of ashes, still smouldering. The big tree in her yard that we had loved to sit under was lying on its side, uprooted and charred. The whole place was unrecognizable. I saw what looked like her dog lying amidst a pile of rubble, its legs sticking out at odd angles.

“Oh Merlin, Mandy, I’m so sorry,” I whispered. She sat on my trunk and just stared blankly at the remains of her house. There were a million questions I wanted to ask her, but she wasn’t in a state to answer questions or even speak at all. I wished I could do something as we simply watched the smoke continue to rise from the debris. As I stood there, my hand still on her arm, I spotted the other half of her leg in the yard.

I went over to pick it up, and carried it back to Mandy. She ignored it. I had no idea how to reattach it, and if Mandy knew how she certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything about it at the moment. “We need to go to St. Mungo’s,” I said. “I know your leg is probably the least of your concerns, but you have to get it back on. Can we go?”

She didn’t respond. She was no longer in hysterics, or even crying, but she just continued looking at her house, absently picking at the initials M.R.H. on the side of my trunk. “Hold on to my hand,” I said, and then realized I hadn’t the faintest idea where St. Mungo’s was. What would happen if I Apparated somewhere without knowing its location? Would we end up floating in nothingness for the rest of time? We had very little time and no idea what to do. I tried to think of a way to get there – we couldn’t fly there, or Apparate… In despair I sat down clumsily and flung my arms out in front of me, resting them on my knees.

Suddenly a huge, three-levelled, bright purple bus drove up and wildly screeched to a halt in front of us. Above the windscreen it said “The Knight Bus.” The doors opened, and out came a middle-aged wizard with a long, twirly grey moustache.

“Hello there, welcome to the Knight Bus! Emergency transportation for stranded witches and wizards, just hold out your wand hand and we’ll take you wherever you need to go! My name is—” But whoever he was, we never found out, because when he saw the ruins of Mandy’s house, he stopped speaking and stared open-mouthed out of the door.

It was quite lucky this bus had arrived. “Do you know where St. Mungo’s is?” I asked urgently. “We have to get there right away but we don’t know where it is!”

He looked back at us. “Er – yes, that’s in London, that is. Ten Sickles each, or if you want hot chocolate it’s—”

“Do we look like we want hot chocolate, you idiot?” I snapped. “Look at her leg! We just need to get to St. Mungo’s!” Mandy and I got onto the bus with difficulty and I searched my bag for money. I withdrew a Galleon and a large handful of Sickles from my trunk and thrust it at him. “Here, just get us there as soon as possible!”

The driver squinted at us, and then looked back to the front of the bus, still squinting. Suddenly the bus rocketed forward with such force that Mandy and I slid off our seats. This bus now seemed like it wasn’t the best idea – but it was the only thing we had. I looked out of the window and saw a lamppost lean out of the way of the bus barreling on by; the squinting driver must have been practically blind. The bus swerved and we slid sideways on our seats. And just as suddenly, the bus stopped, and my trunk slid forward about six feet.

“St. Mungo’s!” announced the conductor. He must have noticed how lost we felt, because he pointed out of the bus door towards an old, forgotten-looking building on the corner of a street.

“Thanks!” I said, and I hurriedly collected my things and we got off the bus. We were in front of a somewhat old department store called Purge and Dowse Ltd. In the window display were various dummies wearing outdated things.

“I guess this is it,” I told Mandy. I tried the cobwebby door, but it was locked, and Alohomora did nothing. I couldn’t remember exactly what Nathan had told me about St. Mungo’s a long time ago, but I recalled that you went in through the window. So I went back to the window and tried to walk through it. One of the dummies behind the window tilted her head, and I asked her if this was the way in. She nodded and moved her hand as if beckoning us in, and with my other arm still supporting Mandy, we walked in through the window.

We were now in a clean looking reception area. The dummies had vanished, but in the center of the room was a desk, behind which an irritated-looking wizard sat in a chair. We walked up to the desk and I said very quickly, “My friend Splinched herself and her leg’s come off and—”

“Fourth floor,” the wizard grunted. “Read the sign,” and then pointed to a sign, which I did not read because he had just told us where to go. I left my trunk in the lobby, and with Mandy’s arm around my shoulder, we hobbled over to the lift. The Healers took Mandy into a room and I waited outside. They didn’t take long to fix her leg, but I knew it would be a while before she would really be all right – after all, she’d been through quite a shock today.

When she came back out, with her leg reattached as good as new, I gave her a hug and we walked silently together back down to the reception area. We found my trunk again and we both sat on it, and then wondered where to go from here.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Whew! Thanks for reading, and any comments, or tomatoes you want to throw at me, can go 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 13th, 2013 at 5:30 am.
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  #24  
Old October 13th, 2011, 7:37 pm
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 4127 days
Location: Beyond the veil
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Surprise! I found some time to finally finish this post, and it turned out a lot longer than I thought it would. So here goes!


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 23: Why So Sirius

Mandy and I sat in the reception area of St. Mungo’s for a while. Mandy stared at the floor and I kept looking around the room every now and then. Although the occasional Healer would come by and ask us if we had been helped yet, in general people just walked by and left us alone. Neither of us was in any hurry to get going – as if we had anywhere to go – and we really just needed to sit down for a while.

Eventually (I had no idea how much later), Mandy asked me, “Why are you here, with your trunk? What was going on at your house?”

“Erm… you Apparated in just after I’d been kicked out of the house,” I explained. “There was a huge fight.” I didn’t go into the details; there’d be time for that later if she wanted to hear it, after we’d fully processed everything that had happened today.

She looked up at me, startled. “Really? I’m… I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to Apparate into the house, but I was…” She shook her head, and took a deep breath. “I had just come back from visiting my Muggle cousins for a few days, and I saw my house and looked around, I couldn’t find my parents anywhere – everything was so destroyed, I have no idea where they were, or if they were in the house… I don’t know if they’re…” She stopped talking again, unable to continue, but I seized on the dim ray of hope in what she’d just said.

“Mandy, if they weren’t there, they could have gotten away. They might be safe.”

“You think so? I hope you’re right…” She sighed. “What should we do now?”

I thought a moment. “I guess we should find somewhere to stay tonight… Do you think you’ll go back to your cousins’ place?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “They haven’t heard yet… and I really don’t want to have to explain everything to them, that’d be too much right now. Especially because they haven’t any idea who Voldemort is… But I have nowhere else… What about you?”

“Probably the Leaky Cauldron,” I said. There was an inn there, but I didn’t know how I’d be able to afford it for the rest of the summer. At the moment, however, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Eventually we decided we’d both go to the Leaky Cauldron for the night. Mandy thought she might then stay with her cousins after a few days, and I’d look for a job in Diagon Alley so I could afford to stay at the Leaky Cauldron for the rest of the summer. Mandy offered me a place to stay at her cousins’ house, but I’d never met them and felt I’d be an intruder after something this serious happening to their family.

That night, I slept for probably about an hour, and I could hear Mandy in the other bed tossing and turning all night as well. It was a very long night.

The following morning an owl arrived at our window for Mandy. She took the letter, unrolled it, and said “It’s from Charlotte!” I went over to read it.

Mandy,

Can we meet today? There’s something you need to know, I’d like to see you as soon as possible. It’s good news. Can you meet me in the Leaky Cauldron this afternoon?

Charlotte


“I wonder what that’s about,” I said. “Lucky you’re already at the Leaky Cauldron.”

“Good news…” said Mandy. “Maybe she knows something. It doesn’t seem like typical Charlotte gossip stories; she’d have written that out in the letter.”

So at two in the afternoon we went downstairs to meet her. We waited about five minutes, and then she walked in, carrying a bag of oranges and already sporting an impressive summer tan. Although she’d said she had good news, she did not look happy.

“Hey,” she greeted us as we walked to a table in the corner. We didn’t bother with any small talk, and Charlotte got right to the point. “I heard about what happened, and… Mandy, your parents are still alive. I’m sure of it.”

“How… how do you know?” she asked, wringing her hands under the table.

Charlotte sighed. “Well… please don’t be angry with me… I know because my father was involved,” she said quietly. “He saw what your mum wrote in the Daily Prophet, he was furious about it. And his friend works at the Ministry and knew where your house was, so the next day they went over to destroy the house. My father came back angry because he said he didn’t even get anyone. No one was there. So your parents are alive.”

“But… I haven’t heard anything from them,” said Mandy.

“Maybe they don’t think it’s safe yet, because they’re worried they’re being tracked,” I suggested. “Or they don’t have a way to send you anything. It’s been less than a day.”

Mandy nodded slowly, and then looked back at Charlotte, who implored, “Don’t hold this against me, I didn’t even know he was doing it until after he came back!”

“I could never hold it against you,” said Mandy. “It’s not your fault. And you’ve just told me exactly what I needed to hear! They’re all right!”

Charlotte nodded, and eventually looked over at me. “How come you’re here too, Mel?” she asked. “I thought you’d be home.”

I sighed and briefly explained what had happened, and how Nathan was a Death Eater.

She stared at me. “I’m sorry,” she said, and then looked out the window as she continued to speak. “I know you had been close… And now you’ll never be able to trust him anymore… Lester knew Father was going to your house, Mandy… and he knows you’re my friend. And he did nothing about it.”

“How can you stand being in that house with them?” I asked, aghast. “I couldn’t last a day at my house when I found out, I just screamed at everyone.”

“I’m a good actress, I guess,” she said, turning back to look at us. “But, well, apart from what just happened, it’s not that bad. I should probably be headed back now, I said I was going out to buy fruit and if I’m gone too much longer, Lester will probably figure out where I’ve gone. I just had to come and tell you. I’m really, really sorry, both of you. Keep in touch, let me know how you’re doing…”

We said our quick goodbyes, and she hugged us briefly and walked out the door.

I continued staring at the door she’d just walked through, dazed. But Mandy was considerably more cheerful now that she knew her parents were still alive. “I’m so glad she came by,” she said. “I don’t know when I would have heard otherwise.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “You’ve been through so much, I’m glad your parents are all right.”

“I guess I just have to wait to hear from them…” she trailed off into thought. After a moment’s silence, she said, “You’re going to be all alone here, and after everything that’s happened, you shouldn’t have to spend the rest of the summer staying at the Leaky Cauldron alone. I don’t think I’m going to stay with my cousins after all. It’ll be all right.”



Throughout the next week, Mandy and I continued living in our small room above the Leaky Cauldron. I got a job at old Ferdinand Fortescue’s ice cream parlor dishing ice cream for a few hours a day. He didn’t really need another person working there so it wasn’t much of a job, but it was better than nothing. Mandy was still looking for a job, although when the Leaky Cauldron got busy she helped out there a bit. The innkeeper at the Leaky Cauldron was letting us stay on cheaply because she knew we were going through a hard time.

After work one day in the middle of the week I went off to take the Apparition Test. I was pretty confident about it, considering I’d just successfully (albeit illegally) Apparated a few days ago to go to Mandy’s house and then the Leaky Cauldron. I passed the test, and afterwards happily Apparated back into our room in the Leaky Cauldron to tell Mandy, if she was back yet.

Mandy had planned to go to Gringotts that day to get money so she could help pay for the room, and buy some clothes; because she didn’t have any with her, she was using my clothes. Although I had told her she could keep using my clothes, they were huge on her as she was rather short.

When I got back, however, she had already returned from Gringotts and was sitting on her bed with a piece of parchment in her hands. The parchment was flimsy and no longer folded; it looked like she’d been holding it all day. She looked up as I Apparated into the room. “You passed!” she cried. “Congratulations, I knew you would! And – look – I got a letter from my parents!”

“Great!” I said, hurrying over to look at the letter. “What did they say?”

“They said they hope I’m all right, and that they’re fine, although obviously shaken up… they’re currently out of the country, and worried they’re being tracked, but they might be back by the end of the summer!”

Another owl drifted in, and at first I thought it might be another letter for Mandy, but then I realized it was Nathan’s owl, Bellona. I hastily grabbed the letter off her leg and she swooped out the window again. Aquilo, who had found us again a few days ago and was now back in his cage, clicked his beak in annoyance. He was so stupid – just because I’d received a letter didn’t mean that he deserved Owl Treats, although he seemed to think so despite the fact that he had not been the one delivering the letter. I distractedly threw an Owl Treat at his cage as I unrolled Nathan’s letter. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading, but I couldn’t even get through the whole thing.

Melanie,
I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re doing well. I miss having you around. I’m so sorry you got kicked out of the house, I reckon Dad regrets it but he won’t say so. But you have to understand this is what I’ve decided to do, and of course I haven’t been killing anyone like you accused me of, I can’t believe you’d suggest something like that. I’m proud of the work I’m doing to get wizards the respect they deserve and I wish you could see that
. . . blah, blah. It went on for another paragraph or so, but I didn’t bother with it. I crumpled the letter and threw it across the room.

“Only another month and a half,” said Mandy, noticing me. “Then we’re back at Hogwarts where everything is normal again.”

And everything really would be back to normal… I never had much to do with my family anyway, and I hated going back to that house. The only thing I’d really lost was Nathan, but I still believed there was enough good in him to eventually turn his back on Voldemort. Maybe it would just take time.



One very hot afternoon two weeks later, I was dishing ice cream at the shop, and the queue extended way out the door as people wanted relief from the heat. It was almost the end of my shift and I was getting a bit tired, when I heard a very familiar voice.

“What’s she doing here?”

Surprised, I looked up from the pumpkin ice cream I was dishing, and saw the speaker, the second person in line. It was James, and standing next to him was Sirius. I handed a large cone of ice cream to the girl at the counter, and then James and Sirius moved up.

Sirius grinned. “Well look at you, we just came to get ice cream and found something else sweet instead.”

I rolled my eyes so exuberantly that I thought for a second that they’d get lost in the back of my skull. Honestly, if I spent any more time around Sirius, my eye muscles would suffer.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“What does it look like, we’re in line for ice cream, aren’t we?”

“I didn’t know you were working here,” said James. “Do you get free ice cream?”

“Sometimes,” I laughed. “Anyway, what kind of ice cream would you like, James?” Sirius started to say something, but I interrupted. “I know you were next, Sirius, but because of your cheeky comments you’ll have to wait now.”

When I handed them their ice cream, they tried to get it for free, insisting that’s what a good friend would do. “Isn’t there at least a discount, like fifty percent off if you’re a charismatic, great-looking guy?” Sirius asked, and ran a hand through his hair in a dramatic manner.

I laughed. “Well there is, but you don’t qualify.”

They gave up and paid for their ice cream, and then left. I kept dishing ice cream, but my mind was not on my job; I kept staring out the window every so often to see if James and Sirius were still here in Diagon Alley. It was nice to see a friendly face, and I hoped they would still be around when I got off work in half an hour.



Half an hour later, when the queue for ice cream had mostly disappeared, I left work and went out into the street. I walked down to Gambol and Japes joke shop to see if Sirius and James were there; it seemed like a logical place for them to be, but they weren’t there. With another brief unsuccessful stop into Quality Quidditch Supplies, I headed back to the Leaky Cauldron. They had probably left Diagon Alley by now.

But, lo and behold, when I entered the Leaky Cauldron I found Mandy, James and Sirius sitting at a table together, and I went over to join them.

“Mel!” cried Mandy, waving me over. “Look who I found!”

“I know, I saw them when I was at work. They tried to convince me to give them free ice cream!”

“Well it was worth a try,” said James. “You never know unless you ask.”

“What have you been up to all day?” I asked as I pulled over a chair and sat down.

“Just wandering around,” said Sirius. “We met up with Remus and Peter this morning, and then each of them had stuff to go to in the middle of the afternoon so we just hung around. And then we ran into you.”

James added, “And I’m glad we found you – Mandy told us what happened! I’m really sorry, both of you.”

“It’s all right,” I mumbled.

“And she just said you’ve been staying in the Leaky Cauldron,” James continued. “Do you two want to come stay at my house instead? There’s loads of space – and you’re my friends, you can’t spend your whole summer dishing ice cream to try to afford that room. You’re supposed to enjoy summer.”

“Er, well… I don’t know,” I said. That was a long time to stay – wouldn’t they get tired of us? Would it be weird?

“We’d love to,” said Mandy at the same time.

After a brief discussion it was decided that Mandy and I would stay at James’s house. I quickly went back to the ice cream shop and let Mr. Fortescue know I was leaving for the summer, while Mandy talked to Sally at the Leaky Cauldron to sort everything out with our room. Afterwards, we went up to our room to get all our stuff out; it didn’t take long to pack everything up again. As I packed the last few things in my trunk, I found the crumpled parchment that had been Nathan’s letter to me – and probably the last I would hear from him. I smoothed out the letter and looked at it again sadly, then put it in my suitcase.

When we were all ready, we walked outside the Leaky Cauldron, and James told us, “You two don’t know where my house is, so let’s just all hold on to each other,” and we all grabbed hands and disappeared.

We Apparated onto the front lawn of James’s family’s house. The house was huge and looked very well taken care of. James led us in, dragging my trunk behind him; I stared all around at the carved wooden door, the high-ceilinged entryway, the ornate rug… it was very elegant.

“Like it?” asked James, smirking. I realized he had been watching me, and I closed my mouth and stopped staring around, embarrassed.

I heard some footsteps and then a grey-haired woman appeared from a hallway, smiling and holding a bag of flour in one hand. “James, Sirius, you’re back,” she said warmly. “Did you have a good day in London?”

“Yeah,” said James. “Mum, these are my friends from Hogwarts, Mandy and Melanie – we ran into them in Diagon Alley.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said as I shook her hand.

“Is it okay if they stay here for the rest of the summer?” asked James. “In one of the upstairs rooms or something?”

“Oh… well… yes, of course, we have a room available upstairs,” she said, letting go from shaking Mandy’s hand. “How about the end one on the upstairs hall.”

“Okay,” said James, and pointed his wand at my trunk and Mandy’s bag. “Locomotor Trunk,” he said, and indicated for Mandy and I to follow him up the stairs. We passed a few doorways and then at the last one, James opened the door and told us, “This one will be yours.”

It was a spacious, sunny room with a large window, and I loved it immediately. James dropped off our belongings in the middle of the floor, while I walked over to the window and looked out at the sun above the neat hedgerow. When we all went back downstairs, Sirius was talking in low tones to Mr. and Mrs. Potter, who both looked surprised. Sirius saw us coming and finished speaking.

“Sirius just explained everything, I’m so sorry about what happened,” said Mrs. Potter sincerely as we reached the landing again. “Of course you can stay here as long as you like.” She clasped my hand again in both of hers.

“Thanks, Mrs. Potter,” I said.

“Oh you don’t need to call me that, it sounds so formal,” said Mrs. Potter, her hazel eyes twinkling as she laughed and let go of my hand. “Please just call me Evelyn.”

“You’re so kind to let us stay here, thank you so much,” said Mandy. “We had been staying in the Leaky Cauldron, it was lucky James turned up!”

“Yes, I’m glad too,” said Evelyn. “Please make yourselves at home!” She turned to James, who was walking around the corner, and asked, with a look of amusement, “Aren’t you going to show them around, James?”

“Oh, yeah,” said James. “Well, this is the living room. And here’s the kitchen…” He led us all around both levels of the house, and then when he pointed out the garage, Sirius insisted we go in. James laughed, and said “They won’t care about that.”

“Sure they will,” said Sirius. We followed him into the garage, which contained a nice-looking silver car that would never pass for a Muggle one. It looked classy but at the same time very obviously magical, and had all sorts of funny magical instruments on it. Along the outer wall of the garage were neat piles of old magical artifacts. And in the middle of the floor, surrounded by spanners and rags and all sorts of cleaning and maintenance tools, was a shiny black motorbike.

“Isn’t it gorgeous?” asked Sirius. “A Muggle motorbike, I’ve wanted one my entire life and I finally got one.”

“His pride and joy,” said James. “He’s spent so much time in here polishing it I’ve almost forgotten he’s been here.”

“It’s nice,” I said. I didn’t know if that was true really – I knew nothing about motorcycles, and I’d certainly never refer to one as being gorgeous, but that was clearly what he wanted to hear.

“Anyway, that’s that,” said James as we walked back into the living room and met up with James’s dad again. “You’ve seen pretty much everything now.”

James’s mum came in from the kitchen with flour on her hands and wearing an apron. “James, Sirius, why don’t you come help me with dinner.”

“Do you need more help cooking?” I asked, as James and Sirius walked into the kitchen.

“Oh no dear, you don’t have to, it’ll only be a few more minutes anyway.” She smiled and went back to the kitchen.

“So are you two in the same year at Hogwarts as James and Sirius are?” asked Mr. Potter.

“Yes… although, we’re Slytherins,” said Mandy.

Mr. Potter looked surprised, but interested. He then asked if either of us played Quidditch, and so we ended up talking about Quidditch for a few minutes – until James came out of the kitchen, a wooden spoon still in hand, and eagerly started throwing in his thoughts about Puddlemere United.

“James, you’re supposed to be stirring this,” said his mum’s voice lightly from the kitchen.

James disappeared back into the kitchen, and Mr. Potter said, “You probably hear enough about Quidditch from James at school, don’t you? I shouldn’t have brought it up.” He laughed. “Did you read the Daily Prophet story today about that witch who just invented the rocket stilts?”

“Ernest, Melanie, Mandy… Dinner is in a few minutes,” said Mrs. Potter from in the doorway of the kitchen. We went in, and James was pointing his wand at a pot of vegetables that was stirring itself, and Sirius was setting the table. It was sort of a funny sight; I giggled as Sirius re-folded a napkin that had turned out messy, and went to help.



I was sitting on the sofa in the living room. We’d had an excellent dinner, and then sat around talking for a while, and now I was pretty sure I was the only one still downstairs, if not the only one still awake. Mandy had gone up to our room a little while ago, but I wasn’t really tired. So I just sat there on the sofa, staring at the patterns on the rug, my arms wrapped around my knees (my mother had always told me it was rude to put my feet on the furniture, but right now no one was around to see it).

Away from the cheeriness of having everyone around, I had started thinking over everything that had happened. Somehow, being back in an environment with people all around, enjoying themselves and being friendly and supportive, emphasized what I’d lost, and even more, what I’d never had. I knew the situation was beyond my control, but I couldn’t help being upset about it.

It was so nice for James to have let us stay. His parents were the nicest people. I was jealous. I wondered why my parents couldn’t have been like this. I’d dealt with so much abuse; that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Why did I have to grow up in a family of Voldemort’s biggest fans? Why?

I was interrupted from my solitude when I heard “Hey!” and turned just as Sirius leapt over the back of the sofa and sat right next to me. “See, isn’t this better than being at home? I might even let you test out my bike sometime… Maybe. It pays to get kicked out of the house, doesn’t it?”

If he had said this to me when I wasn’t already upset, I’d think nothing of it, but his timing could not have been worse. I turned away from him. “Sirius, you’ve never taken anything seriously in your life, everything is a joke for you, but this is not funny. My brother is a Death Eater and my father kicked me out of the house! I essentially have no family anymore.”

“Should I just leave you here to feel sorry for yourself?” he asked with a smirk.

I frowned. “Stop it. You couldn’t even begin to understand.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes and turned away from him. This was the last thing I needed.

There was a short silence, then he said, in an entirely different tone of voice, “Actually, I do understand.”

“Oh, please,” I said. “You’re a popular Gryffindor with a perfect life and a perfect family, so how could you possibly expect me to believe that?”

“Are you kidding?” Sirius asked slowly. “A perfect family? You do know who my family is, right?”

I had completely forgotten. As I had only ever known Sirius at Hogwarts, where he was a rebellious and proud Gryffindor, I never really associated Sirius with any of the rest of the Blacks. But his family did have a reputation for being as Slytherin as one could possibly be, and, I suspected, very close to Voldemort.

“They disowned me, you know,” Sirius told me. “I ran away from home last summer.”

“Oh… er… I’m sorry…” I was shocked – too surprised to continue trying to get him to leave. I quickly wiped the tears from my eyes and turned to look at him. “Really? You ran away from home?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m living here.”

“Oh – I thought you were just visiting.”

He didn’t respond, but shrugged and stood up as if he was about to leave. I was intrigued; he had never said anything before about running away from home. I actually knew very little about his past. I knew he was trying to still act tough and “cool” about it, but he had to feel strongly about it, even if he wouldn’t say so. There had to be more to him than the happy-go-lucky side of him he displayed to everyone. I prompted him by asking, “Were you disowned because you ran away?”

“Yes, I’m sure that was part of it,” he said as he started to walk away. “But they probably would have done it anyway, they never cared about me… Well I’ll leave you alone now.”

“Wait,” I said, aware that this was a complete reversal of five minutes ago; now it was me wanting to talk with him, and it seemed he didn’t want to anymore. But I kept going anyway. “Why did you run away?”

He hesitated in the doorway uncomfortably, as if trying to decide whether to continue walking out of the room or to talk to me. I said, “Never mind, it’s all right if you don’t want to tell me, I shouldn’t have asked such a personal question.”

“It’s okay,” he said, looking at me with an oddly calculating expression. Then he sat down again, this time at the other end of the sofa, and sat sideways on it so we were facing each other. “I just could never handle the lot of them. I’m the only person in my family to have become a Gryffindor, and my parents thought it was a huge disgrace to the family. They practically believe they’re like royalty, being a pureblood family and all that, and they wanted me to act like it. But I didn’t buy it.”

“That’s exactly how my parents are,” I said. “Exactly. My father idolizes Voldemort. I had to pretend that I agreed with him at home… I was always pretending to be someone else. I think my father knew all along, but nothing happened until I just exploded and screamed at him. He said he was tired of tolerating me,” I said.

He nodded, and half-smiled. “I was the opposite, I wore my Gryffindor scarf all the time at home and made it so clear I wasn’t like them. And they hated it. I wasn’t the son they wanted me to be – they wanted me to be a narrow-minded Slytherin with sympathies for Voldemort… Like Regulus, my brother. My parents constantly said he was such a good son… the better son… and you’ve seen who his friends are, they’re probably all Death Eaters in training.”

“You think Regulus is going to become a Death Eater?”

“I don’t know. He’s been raised to think they’re great… I’ve tried to talk to him sometimes, to stop him before he gets in too deep, but it always ends in fighting. I’ve kind of given up on him.” He said it very matter-of-factly, but in his eyes I could see that this bothered him much more than he let on. I didn’t ask him anything more though.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t be. I don’t even think about it anymore. Pretty soon you’ll get to that point too. It’s just kind of a shock at first, realizing you’re on your own.”

I nodded. “My brother Nathan and I were really close, and now… I think that was the biggest shock for me. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“Well, you’re not alone,” he said. He was being so sweet – something I hadn’t even thought he was capable of.

“Thanks,” I said quietly. I sniffed and he looked up at me, and I wiped my eyes again. “Sorry,” I mumbled.

“Come here,” he said, and reached out his arm across the back of the sofa. I slid on over and when I was close enough he gave me a hug. I laughed weakly into his shoulder.

When he let go, he put his arm on the back of the sofa again, and I continued leaning against his shoulder. “I can’t believe I just told you all that,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t usually talk about that.”

“Well I’m glad you did, I thought I was the only one…”

We weren’t so different after all. Both of us had rejected our families’ beliefs and left, and our families had renounced us. And now here we were, essentially homeless and living at James’s house. We seemed to have formed an unspoken connection.

We sat there for a while. Sirius had his arm around my shoulders and we were sitting very close to each other, talking and joking; it was very comfortable and relaxed after I’d finally calmed down about everything. And it was nice that we were able to confide in one another – though Sirius didn’t tell me much more about his family, other than that one of his uncles had given him money and Sirius was looking into buying a house when he left Hogwarts.

“So, I was wondering,” Sirius asked, “after everything you said about your family… how did you end up in Slytherin?”

“When I was eleven and very impressionable, I still thought Slytherin must be the best, my family said so. So I requested Slytherin. And then I regretted it and wanted to be anywhere else – but I had the ambition and resourcefulness and disregard for rules and Merlin knows what else the hat sees in Slytherins. Oh and speaking of Merlin, he was a Slytherin. And it’s not that bad, not all Slytherins are like our families! Most are fine, we just have a bad reputation because of the ones like Snape and Jasper.” I shrugged. “It’s just a label anyway. I think there’s a little of each of the houses in everyone, though, don’t you?”

“Don’t forget Voldemort, he was a Slytherin too,” said Sirius with a smirk. I rolled my eyes. “Don’t get me wrong,” Sirius continued, “nothing against Slytherins in general, I’m glad you’re happy with it. Personally, I think Gryffindor’s got one up on Slytherin because lions are so much cooler than snakes, and Gryffindors are just more awesome... well, I suppose Merlin is all right… but yeah, I guess you could be right, it’s a label.”

I snorted. “Remind me again why we’re friends?”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*


I know that's a really strange place to end the chapter, but honestly I could have gone on for pages and pages, so I had to cut it off there.

Feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading


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Last edited by marauderfan; May 20th, 2013 at 3:19 am.
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Old January 31st, 2012, 5:56 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Heyyyo. This post is really long, hope that makes up for the fact that I haven’t put up a chapter in months. Part of it was written ages ago, and I’m kind of nervous posting it! You might hate me. And it was weird writing this post about summer when there's snow outside my window right now. So without further ado, before it actually becomes summer... here's chapter 24. (And a huge thank you to PotterGirl654, nevillesgal, and Melissa_Potter for your feedback! Your reviews mean so much to me! <3 )


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Chapter 24: Communication Breakdown

Sirius and I ended up talking until half past two in the morning before we realized what time it was. I felt so much better about my family situation, and was so glad Sirius had taken the time to talk with me – here was someone else going through the exact same thing as me, and that made it so much easier to bear. After discussing our families, our conversation had drifted to more pleasant topics and continued for a while, and we were quite surprised to look at the clock and discover the time!

The days that followed were among the best of my entire summer – or in fact any of my summers at home since I started at Hogwarts. It was exactly how summer was supposed to be. We played Quidditch, and Mandy tried to teach us some Muggle sports and games, although the Monopoly board she made in order to try and teach us ended up being a waste of her time, because the game took forever and the other three of us tired of it very quickly. After attempting for a few minutes to get us to stop charming the pieces to attack each other, she finally gave up.

We also spent a lot of time just relaxing out in the yard, lying in the shade with glasses of iced pumpkin juice. One day James was apparently trying to see if he could move clouds with magic, although I don’t think anything ever became of it, because the clouds were too far away – but we were able to move trees in the garden. It was nice to be seventeen and able to use magic away from school!

Mandy and I got to know James’s parents better as well. I saw that they essentially treated Sirius as a second son, just like a member of the family – he still had to help with the dishes, and that was generally not something you made a guest do.

I also noticed that Sirius and I found ourselves alone together a bit more often than usual; the closeness in our friendship we’d attained during that first night talking together on the sofa had not gone away. It was just so much easier to talk to him now as we actually began to trust one another; even though we had been friends for a while, I hadn’t really trusted him until now.

I found myself wanting to know him better, to know more about him. After we’d finally opened up to each other about our brothers, I felt more of a connection to him, and I wanted him to be able to talk to me. The only people I felt he was that close to were James, Remus, and Peter. Sirius never really showed real affection for anyone else, just that sort of superficial charming exterior. Behind that, he essentially had a guard of armor up around him. But he had started to let me through – and now that I’d seen this side of him, I wanted to know more.

Mandy was back to being her cheerful self again; she was in contact with her parents, who informed her that they had not had any attacks or pursuers since that first one, and they would be returning to the area and temporarily renting a flat, and having her come back to stay for the last few weeks of summer.

A few days later, on the first of August, the chaos in the kitchen of all of us making breakfast was increased by four owls zooming in through the window with letters. James reached out to grab his glass of pumpkin juice before it fell over, and I put my hands over my cereal to shield it from feathers.

“Must be our book lists and all that rubbish,” said Sirius, taking his letter from his owl.

“Yep,” said Mandy as she retrieved her letter from the puddle of spilled pumpkin juice on the table. “Ugh, the ink’s running, that stupid owl couldn’t have been more careful?”

As we all opened our letters, the owls departed in a flurry of feathers, leaving us with our book lists and other notice papers about the upcoming year at Hogwarts.

“Oh, this is too much,” said Mandy, flinging her papers aside the instant she opened them. “I don’t want to look at it, it just reminds me of how old we are. Seventh years? When did that happen?’

“But it’s going to be our best year at Hogwarts,” said Sirius.

“I don’t know about that, it looks like we’re studying flesh-eating trees again in Herbology,” I said, scanning the book list.

“Why are you so quiet, Prongs?” asked Sirius, looking up from his various beginning-of-term papers. I glanced up too and saw that James had not moved an inch since opening his letter, but was holding one piece of parchment and staring at it.

“I’m… I’m Head Boy,” said James, bewildered.

Sirius laughed. “Nice work, mate, I’m Head Girl!”

“I’m serious!”

“I’m Sirius!”

“No, look!” James held up the badge.

Sirius’s jaw dropped. “No way, is that real? Has Dumbledore gone mad?”

James looked to Mandy and I, as if expecting us to assure him it was real. I was no less surprised than Sirius – James was a great student, but caused way too much trouble to be in a position of such responsibility, so I’d never have guessed he’d make Head Boy.

“Is it a mistake?” Sirius wondered. “Maybe it was meant to go to Moony, he’s the prefect after all.”

“Right, that’s what I thought at first too,” said James, “but the letter is addressed to me.”

“Well… wow,” said Sirius after he had finished gawking at the badge. “That’s brilliant! Congratulations!”

“Yeah, well done,” Mandy and I agreed.

“I can’t believe you’re Head Boy!” Sirius continued, apparently even more excited about it than James was. “This is fantastic! We’ve got the Head Boy on our side, we can do any pranks we want. You have more authority than prefects!”

“Of course! It’ll be just the same, only now I can tell the little second years they’re misbehaving.” He laughed.

“The Head Boy is supposed to be a model student,” I said. “I hardly think you’ll be able to get away with whatever you want!”

“Thanks, Mum,” said James, rolling his eyes. “And we’ve gotten away with stuff before, so I don’t see how this is any different, except I have more authority now.”

“Hogwarts is bound for disaster this year,” I said. “Let’s hope the Head Girl has more sense.”

“Wonder who the Head Girl is,” Sirius mused while we ate our breakfast. Mandy kicked my leg under the table, and then stared at me from across the table, raising her eyebrows. I smiled back, rolling my eyes. It didn’t take a genius to figure out who it would be – it had to be Lily, as she’d been a prefect for the past two years, a great student, and rarely got into mischief.

James looked up from his letters, wide-eyed as he considered it too. “You don’t think it’s… No, I can’t think of anyone else it would be! I bet it’s Evans!”

Lily wasn’t going to react well when she found out she’d be spending a lot of time with James this year. James, however, was ecstatic and continued to talk about it for the remainder of breakfast. One thing was certain: this was going to be a very interesting year.

James’s parents, obviously, were so proud when he told them. His mum also commented on how he might now have to give up his goal of breaking every rule in the book, which I thought hilarious – clearly nothing got past her.

Later that day I received a letter from Hector, who informed me that he had been selected to be the Slytherin Quidditch team captain. He urged me to try out again this year and essentially promised I’d get on the team. I knew this was really just what Simms did, letting his friends on the team, but this time I was okay with it!



After dinner one day, James was writing an owl to Remus, Sirius went into the garage to continue polishing his motorcycle, and Mandy went off to read. I was alone in the living room, responding to an owl from Luke, who had written to me last week and I’d only just gotten around to writing back. Now that the two of us were back on friendly terms, as it seemed he was over me, I had no problem writing to him again and trying to be friends. However, I’d written about three sentences when Sirius came back from the garage. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, just writing a letter… nothing much. How does your motorbike look? You haven’t polished a hole in it, I hope?”

He laughed. “Nope. I think I’m done fixing it… at least for now. Do you want to see?”

“Can I ride it?” I asked.

“Sure!” he said. I got up and pushed my quill and parchment to a corner of the table, then followed Sirius to the garage.

“I was kidding, you know,” I said as he opened the garage door. “I’d crash, and then you’d kill me.”

“Oh, I’m not letting you go alone, it’s new!” he laughed. “I meant come with me. And if you need any more incentive, I’ve charmed it to fly!

That’s what you’ve been doing all this time? Why not just fly on a broom?”

Sirius looked at me as if I was out of my mind. Obviously, this was something I was never going to understand – maybe a broom wasn’t manly enough. Who knew. He set aside his maintenance kit and said, “You’re only saying that because you don’t know how great it is, you’ve never been on it. So how about it then, did you want to go for a ride?” Grinning, he sat down on the bike and patted the seat behind him.

I followed him over to the bike. “Won’t the Muggles see us?”

“Oh they never look up, it’s fine,” he insisted. “As long as we’re far enough away from the city. Let’s go, before James’s mum sees us, I don’t think she really approves of this bike… You ready?” When I hesitated, he said, “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”

I grinned in spite of myself. “Okay.” I had just swung my leg over the seat and sat down when he started the engine. I threw my arms around him and held on tightly.

We started forward, out into the clear evening. The western sky was lit with a beautiful red glow, and a few faint stars were just beginning to blink into the dark blue above us. The motorbike took off and we were soaring through the sky in an instant. My hair was blowing in the wind behind me, and the houses below us began to look like specks - it was just like being on a broom, only much louder and faster, and felt a bit more secure. Although the feeling of security could have had less to do with the motorbike and more to do with the fact that I was clinging to Sirius as if my life depended on it…

I looked over his shoulder at the sunset in front of us. I could see why Sirius loved his bike so much. It really was an exhilarating feeling soaring above the ground so quickly and so high above everything. Suddenly, he turned the bike swiftly and we soared in the other direction – we approached a tree, way too close for my liking. “What are you doing?” I cried, my hands gripping his jacket tighter. “The tree, look out, we’re going to crash!”

“Shut up, I’m the one driving!” he said, laughing as we easily avoided the tree.

“You’re just trying to show off, then?” I asked, collecting myself after an almost near-death experience.

“I never took you for a backseat driver.”

“I am not! I just thought you were too busy showing off to look where you were going. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen that happen!”

“What? I can’t hear you because of the wind.”

“Of course…” He might have been telling the truth and not actually able to hear me, but it was just as likely he was pretending he couldn’t hear me teasing him.

“Look at the sunset,” he said. “How romantic.”

“What?” I asked, though I had heard him perfectly well. “Can’t hear you, it’s too windy.”

He turned his head to look at me, but since I was leaning so close to him looking over his shoulder, our faces brushed.

Ordinarily I would have leapt back from such an encounter – and maybe it was because we were high up in the air, but I felt no desire to move away. I continued looking over Sirius’s shoulder at the gorgeous sunset and at the small houses far below us. Still very conscious of how near we were sitting, I recalled that in the back of my mind I was still pretty sure he liked me… and the fact that I didn’t mind that anymore. Most of the time the two of us had spent together in the past had been arguing – and although we still argued, things had definitely changed. I looked back on these memories with amusement now: the snow fight before the Yule Ball, the water fight in detention, and the incessant teasing and flirting which, at the time, I had hated.

I couldn’t stop thinking the entire time we were flying. I needed a bit of time to clear my head, but that wasn’t about to happen way up there in the sky. Eventually we touched down on the ground and coasted for a few minutes, and after we’d pulled to a stop in the garage, Sirius said, “You know, I understand if you want to keep holding on to me, but we have stopped…”

“Right,” I said, as my brain clicked back into reality, and I withdrew my arms from the tight grip they had around him.

“So, what did you think?” he asked as he got off the motorcycle.

“Great,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say – everything seemed off limits after my sudden analysis of our friendship and a realization that I might like him as more than a friend. But I was unsure even of that much – I didn’t know how I felt. I was so confused.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“What?”

He looked at me intently for a moment, and I became very aware of his eyes on my face. “Nothing,” he said finally.

My face felt very warm. I hoped it wasn’t as red as it felt. But I had a feeling it was, and maybe that’s what he was looking at. I had to steer the conversation out of these dangerous waters. “Why are you staring at me? Do I have food in my teeth?”

We both started laughing, and thankfully he didn’t question me any further; he put his arm around my shoulder and we started to walk outside. I grabbed his hand from my shoulder and as I flung his arm away from me, he spun around clumsily as if his arm had been the only thing holding him in place and I had just thrown him off balance. We went to sit in the front yard, laughing, and continued talking for a little while longer until the last of the sun’s light disappeared below the horizon, at which point I went back inside to continue writing my letter and overthinking everything that had just happened.

“Where’ve you been?” Mandy asked, looking up from her book when I walked into our room with my parchment, quill, and ink.

“Nowhere,” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me, and I added, “Er, I was just outside… enjoying the sunset. Great sunset today.” That part was true at least!

I felt like I was lying to Mandy, and I didn’t like it – although in fact, this was really the first time I had ever done so. I had never shared any of my personal secrets with Charlotte; as much as I loved her, her reputation as Slytherin House’s biggest gossip was not without reason! Usually she had the sense not to spread tales about me around, unless she found them too interesting to conceal. But I didn’t like people talking about me. Mandy and I had always shared everything with each other, but my changing feelings toward Sirius were something I couldn’t even admit to myself – and if I told Mandy, she’d kill me. She’d been through enough this summer, and I didn’t want her to have to deal with something else she wouldn’t like, such as the fact that I might be starting to like the guy she’d had a crush on for six years.



Several days later, James, Sirius, Mandy and I were lying outside in the grass playing Exploding Snap, and it was a good thing the lawn had been watered recently or we might have started a fire. We finished a very exciting game and then abandoned the cards for a while, discussing the possibility of going out to do something that afternoon. I collected the cards and stood up to bring them back in to the house, and Sirius jumped up as well and said, “Yeah, I was just thinking of getting some pumpkin juice, I’ll come with you. Anyone else want pumpkin juice, since we’re headed into the house anyway?”

“Sure,” said James, leaning back and lying in the grass. “Thanks.”

“Well if we’re all headed out today anyway, we don’t need to just hang around out here waiting for them,” I could hear Mandy saying as Sirius and I walked into the house.

“What, can’t bear to be away from me?” I asked Sirius, nudging him as we turned the corner. Maybe if I teased him it would ease my own insecurities.

“Just thirsty!” he said. He retrieved the pumpkin juice while I found an ice tray. “What about you following me? Those cards don’t belong in the kitchen. Looks like you can’t stand to be away from me either. I always knew… And see, you didn’t even slap me for saying that. I think it’s because you like me.”

“Hey, I haven’t done that in a long time,” I protested. “I try to not slap people in general, it’s rude. Although every so often I do make an exception for you.” I set the ice tray on the counter.

“You’re saying I’m exceptional?”

I hated it when he turned my words around like that. That was probably why he did it. “Oh stop it, we’ve been over this,” I said, leaning against the wall. “Remember what happened last time you tried this – we didn’t talk for a couple of weeks!”

“That was then,” he said. “I think a lot has changed since then.”

“Yeah, well…” I said, instantly regretting it because I discovered I had nothing to argue after that. He was clearly expecting me to argue, too, as he looked rather surprised. But he was very close to me, and I couldn’t think straight. “You’re still an idiot,” I said.

Sirius leaned his hand on the wall just above my shoulder, placing me between him and the wall. His face was inches from mine. My brain seemed to have stopped working. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to push him away or pull him closer.

I heard a sudden noise and immediately looked to my right – and down the hallway I saw a blonde head disappear behind a corner. Shocked, I looked back at Sirius, who had glanced up at the noise as well. I realized one of my arms was around his neck and I wasn’t quite sure how it had got there. I withdrew it instantly.

“Sirius, I…” I said, weakly pushing him away, and he had a trace of amusement on his face. I ducked out from under his arm and sprinted down the hall after Mandy.

Just as I caught up to her, however, she darted into a room and slammed the door in my face. I heard the lock click. I knocked on the door for several minutes, and begged her to let me explain, but she didn’t respond at all. Resigning, I went back down the hall, and only found Sirius again.

“Mandy’s avoiding me now,” I said irritably.

“Why?”

If he wasn’t already aware that Mandy liked him, there wasn’t a lot I could say. She’d only be angrier with me if I told him, and I didn’t want to damage my friendship with her any more than had already been done, so I just said, “Never mind.” Then I thought about saying that we should just forget everything that happened in the hall just now, and we should just be friends… but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted anymore. Instead, I mumbled some nonsense about having left my shoes outside, turned around, and walked out the back door. I was a master of creating awkward situations; I had gone for the easy way out instead of actually solving anything, so it’d just create more of a mess later, but I at least didn’t have to deal with it right now.

James was still lying outside in the grass when I walked out. “So what did you want to do today?” I asked him.

“Eh, I don’t know,” he said, turning his head towards me. “I was just going to come find you lot and ask the same thing. What happened to the pumpkin juice? You were taking ages, I almost fell asleep.” I forced a laugh, and when James got up to head back into the house, I followed reluctantly. How was I to tell him nicely that I didn’t wish to be around Sirius at all for the moment, and Mandy wouldn’t talk to me, so I’d prefer it be just the two of us?

We ran into Sirius in the hall near the kitchen, and stood there talking for a bit. It was an awkward and very brief discussion. I mentioned that Mandy probably didn’t want to go anywhere, but then James suggested we go find her to ask her instead; we started to walk off to find her, but Sirius lightly grabbed my arm and held me back. “Wait,” he said. “I’m… sorry about what happened, I shouldn’t have—”

“It’s fine,” I said dismissively, and continued to walk after James. As I turned around, it dawned on me that Sirius had, for once in his life, apologized for something – I was actually very impressed, but I was too worried about Mandy to comment on it. I had a bad feeling about her.

As I expected, when we found Mandy she didn’t want to go anywhere, and only spoke when James talked to her. She refused to even look at me. James was confused, but left her alone.

And for the next few days, every time I tried to talk to Mandy, she walked out of the room. Even at night, when we shared a room, she would just curl up on her bed, facing the wall, and pretend I didn’t exist. So eventually I gave up, and the only person I really talked to was James, or his parents sometimes if they were around. I think the same was true for Mandy, too. As for Sirius and I, we weren’t exactly avoiding each other, but I didn’t want to talk about what had happened, and so we definitely spent a lot less time together. It was so awkward, and I began to wish Mandy and I had never come to stay here in the first place.

I felt badly for James. He probably regretted inviting us to stay at his house – he was just being nice, and all we had done was create a lot of drama. I toyed with the thought of moving back to the Leaky Cauldron, but it really wasn’t an enticing idea. I’d be there all alone, dishing ice cream all day again. The truth was, I missed Mandy. If only she hadn’t seen anything…

We had all been having breakfast at different times each day, and it was probably for the best because Mandy and I were still trying to avoid each other. But one morning I was just finishing my toast when James and Mandy walked in. Mandy didn’t leave when she saw me, which I took as a good sign.

“That’s great, when do you get to go?” James was saying to her.

“Tomorrow morning,” said Mandy. “They’ve got a new flat and they’re just moving in. It’s probably not much, but I don’t care – I haven’t seen them since the beginning of the summer. Thanks so much for letting me stay here in the meantime, though. I really appreciate it.”

“Not a problem. I’m glad I could help.”

“You’re going back to stay with your parents tomorrow?” I asked, surprised, my mouth full of toast. “I didn’t know you’d heard from them again.”

“Yes,” said Mandy defiantly, a smug expression crossing her face.

I scowled. I had no idea how long she had known she would be leaving – but it hurt that she didn’t feel it was worth sharing things with me anymore. And I was angry at her for ignoring me for something that was not my fault. I had tried to talk with her these past few days, but she was being immature and avoiding me. I was just so sick of her at the moment. I thought of several things I wanted to say to her, all of which were very rude, but for James’s sake I said nothing and acted as if this wasn’t a huge deal for me.

But after breakfast, I followed her upstairs as she went to begin packing her things for leaving tomorrow. “Mandy, this has gone on long enough,” I said as I chased her down the hallway towards our room. “It isn’t fair, to me or James or anyone in this house.”

We ran into our room at the same time and I sat on her suitcase to prevent her from packing it.

“Get up,” she insisted, picking up a shirt from the floor to begin packing.

“No. Not until we sort this out. Why are you still avoiding me? You can’t keep doing this!”

She threw the shirt at me. “You inconsiderate little tramp, what do you mean I’m to blame?” she hissed. “You know I’ve liked him for six years, and still you go and throw yourself at him!” I had never seen her so angry in my life – it was scary.

“I did not throw myself at him! I’ve never thrown myself at anyone! You on the other hand…”

“I saw you in the hall!” she shrieked. “Petrificus Totalus!

“I know you did, you were spying around the corner,” I shouted, jumping out of the way of her spell. “It’s really nothing, I promise! You’re just pretending it’s worse because you’re jealous!”

“I’m not jealous, I’m just disappointed in myself for having such terrible friends! But at least my family doesn’t hate me.”

Furnunculus!” I yelled, furious, but Mandy ducked.

Expelliarmus!” she cried. My wand flew out of my hand, and Mandy pointed her wand at me again. With nothing to defend myself, I jumped at her and we fell to the ground in a confusing tangle of fists.

I wasn’t really sure what was happening. My head hurt and after a few moments I noticed that Mandy’s nose was bleeding, so I stopped trying to attack her. We sat up, and Mandy attempted to stop the bleeding. I rested my head on my knees, wrapping my arms around my legs. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled to my knees. “I’m sorry about this, and about me and Sirius on Monday, and everything… I hate that we’re not talking.” I rubbed my eye, and it felt a bit puffy – I hoped I didn’t have a black eye.

“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” said Mandy thickly. I looked up at her and saw just how much we had both suffered these past few days – and it only took a few seconds and both of us were hugging and sobbing.

“I shouldn’t have overreacted,” she said. “I shouldn’t have kept avoiding you. But… it’s just not fair. I’ve liked him since forever ago. All those times I told you I’d moved on to someone else, and I was over him – I really wasn’t.”

I had figured as much. “I know… But really, look, it was nothing. We’re the only two girls here and he probably feels out of his element to not be flirting with someone. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with me – I doubt he even likes me really.”

She looked up at me. “Stop it. Yes, he does.”

I sighed. I couldn’t pretend anymore that there was nothing going on. There was, and it seemed everyone knew it.

“I actually think I sort of like him too…” I admitted. It was best to just be honest now.

Mandy laughed slightly. “I thought so. You didn’t seem to mind that nice little situation in the hallway at all.”

I scowled. “But at the same time he completely infuriates me sometimes.”

“Trust me, I know exactly what you mean.”

“What’s going to happen now?” I asked tentatively.

“Whatever happens, happens… you can’t change how he feels about you,” she said, although it sounded a bit wistful to me – more so than she intended, I supposed. “I know he’s liked you for a while. It was fine then because you didn’t feel that way about him, but now…” She shrugged.

I felt horrible. It really wasn’t fair; Mandy had liked him for ages and I was only just now figuring out how I felt. “Mandy, I’m so sorry,” I said. “No guy is worth this.” Especially not Sirius – if he knew we had been fighting over him, he would have been unbearable. “I can’t believe we just got into a fight!” I cried.

“A fist fight!” She laughed. “What were we thinking?” One minute we had been punching each other, the next laughing. That was all it took, I guess… Maybe we were back to normal.

“I do seem to have a history of chasing away your love interests,” I mentioned.

“Or scaring them away – remember Carl Strafford?”

“Yes…” I recalled with embarrassment. “When was that? Was that third year?”

“Yes it was, you spilled Shrinking Solution on his feet during Potions! It was awful!” She giggled.

“He wouldn’t go near you for a month, he thought you were in on it!”

“Maybe it was for the best though… he didn’t turn out to be that good looking. I see him every now and then and wonder what I ever saw in him! Oh and then there was Norman at the end of fourth year, I swear you almost killed him—”

That wasn’t my fault, I didn’t see him. All I did was step back, if he hadn’t been stupid enough to be standing right in front of the Venomous Tentacula he’d have been fine.”

“He was waiting for me! It was sweet of him. Although yeah, stupid I guess…”

We lapsed into silence. I sighed and looked out the window. Although it had taken a fight for us to speak to each other, I was glad we were talking again. The past few days had been awful without her. “Are we back to being friends again?” I asked. “I missed talking to you…”

“Yeah,” she said. We hugged each other, and she added, “You know, you’re invited to stay with me when I go back to live at my parents’ place. You were originally going to, if you remember – unless you’ve had enough of me this summer! And… I’d love it if you’d come, I’ve been miserable the past three days not talking to you.”

I was so glad she’d offered, because I would never have asked otherwise. And my friendship with Mandy meant much more to me than anything Sirius and I had (besides, that was essentially nothing). “No, I think that’d be lovely, thanks,” I said. “To be honest I think we’ll both be glad if I have some space away from Sirius. And I’d love to see your parents again too – I’m so happy that they’re all right, that was so scary.”

Mandy and I went back downstairs to join James and Sirius, and the four of us finally had a non-forced conversation for the first real time in three days. Now that all that business with Mandy and me was over, we were able to joke and everything was funny again. I only wished we hadn’t had to miss out on three days of this, now that Mandy and I were set to leave the next day.

The rest of the day was a lot of fun, and only at the end of the day when we were cleaning up dinner dishes did I bring up the fact that I would be leaving tomorrow as well. As I pointed my wand at a stack of plates and watched them zoom back into the cabinet, James said, “I forgot to mention, Remus and Peter are going to be joining us the day after tomorrow.”

I would have liked to see them again, particularly Remus, but Mandy and I had already planned to leave tomorrow. And there would be time to see them again in less than a month when school started. “That’s great! I’m not going to get in the way of you lot though – I’m actually going with Mandy to stay with her parents.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. “I’m glad you worked out… er… whatever was going on.”

“Yeah… James, I’m so sorry about that. You didn’t deserve to have us come ruin your summer with our drama. I wish I’d –”

“It’s fine,” he interrupted. “Really, it is. It was only three days anyway, the rest of the time was a lot of fun. I’m just happy everything worked out all right. You’ve had a tough summer and I’m just glad I could offer you somewhere to stay.”

“Thank you,” I said. “You know, I can understand why Dumbledore made you Head Boy. You may be the biggest troublemaker at Hogwarts and far too proud of it, but you’re one of the nicest people I know.”

“Well, thanks…” he mumbled, although he looked a little embarrassed. I grinned and gave him a hug.



The following morning we said our goodbyes, our thank-yous to James’s parents, and everything. I thanked James for being so generous and hugged him, and then since it would be awkward if I just ignored Sirius, I gave him a hug too, although I let go again very quickly – I didn’t want to hold on too long for fear that Mandy would change her mind about letting me stay with her. Sirius let go quickly as well, and gave me a rather sheepish smile as I stepped away from him. Mandy and I walked out onto the front porch with our belongings and Apparated into London, where Mandy’s parents had arranged to meet her.

They met us by the Leaky Cauldron, and despite everything they had gone through this summer as well, they were beaming as they came over to greet us and hugged both of us. Mandy was finally reunited with her family, and I felt just as happy as she did. I realized it was just as Sirius had told me; my family kicking me out didn’t matter anymore, because I still had a family – Mandy’s parents were family to me.

The last few weeks of summer passed by relatively uneventfully. I was living with Mandy and her parents in their small flat. They didn’t have much anymore so I slept on the sofa. Mandy and I passed our days going out into the city, or just staying home and watching Muggle television programs like The Muppet Show or Doctor Who. We’d already had enough drama to last the entire summer (maybe even our entire lives), so the rest of it was pretty laid back.

As the days went on, I was more convinced that anything between Sirius and me while we were at James’s house was over. It had just been a product of the two of us being in such close quarters for almost two weeks. He wasn’t around for me to talk to anymore and I was glad of it. So when Mandy asked me about Sirius once, I told her in complete honesty that I thought of him as just a friend. I wasn’t entirely sure she believed me, but at any rate Mandy and I were back to being best friends, and that was all that mattered.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


I don’t know what it is that I like about [feedback] but I like it a lot…

I'll just be nervously awaiting your comments for this one. Eek!


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Last edited by marauderfan; May 18th, 2013 at 6:12 pm.
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Old March 15th, 2012, 12:39 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Thanks so much to PotterGirl654, Melissa_Potter, and nevillesgal for your feedback! You guys are the best!


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 25: A New Start

Mandy and I leaned out the open window, waving goodbye to the disappearing figures of Mr. and Mrs. Macintosh on the King’s Cross platform. After they had become specks in the distance, we pulled our heads back into the compartment just as Hector and Russell walked in. Hector said, “Okay, here I am. The party can start now.”

“Who are you and what have you done with Hector Branstone?” I asked, laughing. “Good to see you. How was the rest of your summer? How was Greece?”

“It was great,” he said, lifting his suitcase up onto the rack. “Just got back a few days ago, I’m not ready for summer to be over!”

“Of course you say that, all you did was sit on your lazy a*** all day,” Russell muttered.

“Hector, by the way, congratulations on Quidditch captain!” I said, remembering his last letter.

“Thanks! It’s going to be great this year, I’m so glad Simms left. I was worried, because he never did any work so I thought he might have failed seventh year and then had to repeat it. So how was your summer? Er, after you moved out, I mean…”

Mandy and I looked at each other, trying not to laugh. The last Hector had heard from me was about leaving home, and the only major thing that had happened since then was Mandy and I getting into a fight, which was something we both agreed had never actually happened.

“We moved back in with my parents,” said Mandy. “They were fine, they just ended up leaving for a while and then moving house.”

Russell looked confused. “So what happened exactly?”

Mandy and I covered the essentials of the story, and then our discussion inevitably turned to the increasingly routine topic of developments in the war with Voldemort. We were always so much more aware of things happening outside of Hogwarts when we were away; Hogwarts served as a shield both from invading Death Eaters and from information. All we got at Hogwarts was the stuff in the Daily Prophet, which wasn’t always true (even Mandy’s mum said that, and she worked for them).

Russell had heard from one of his father’s Ministry coworkers that someone high up in the Ministry of Magic had been under the Imperius Curse for a while, and it was difficult to investigate because no one knew who to trust. We were interrupted from our collective worrying about the future of wizardkind when the compartment door opened again.

“Just heard the news,” said Charlotte as she breezed in and left her trunk in the middle of the floor, and sat between me and Hector. “Your favourite professor left.”

“Whose favourite? Not Professor Trynn, is it?” I asked, shocked. I loved the Ancient Runes professor. “Did the Death Eaters find her? She’s Muggle-born, I think she mentioned that once…”

“No, no, not her. I meant Professor Alvers!”

“Ugh,” I said. If I were to rank my favorite professors at Hogwarts, Professor Alvers would be at about 50, even though Hogwarts only had 14 professors. He was just that bad. “He’s gone, though? That’s a relief!”

“Defence Against the Dark Arts professors never seem to last long,” Hector observed.

“Guess what happened to him?” asked Charlotte. “You’ll never guess, so I’m going to tell you. He got bitten by a werewolf!”

“That’s terrible!” cried Mandy. “Is he going to be all right?”

“He lived, if that’s what you mean, but of course he’s not all right – he’s a werewolf now.”

“No wonder he left,” said Russell. “Wonder if he got fired or if he just left because he knew no one would like him anymore.”

“I don’t know,” said Charlotte. “I sure hope our new professor is better though. Wouldn’t take much, would it? Anyway, what’s new with you lot?”

We had already covered everything before Charlotte had come in, but she wanted to hear everything, particularly the aftermath of Mandy’s and my temporary homelessness. So we essentially repeated much of the previous conversation, and then listened to her dish out some more gossip as we watched the familiar landscape drift by outside the windows.

As Charlotte was regaling us with some hushed-up and questionably factual scandal involving the Minister of Magic’s teenage daughter running off to elope with a Yugoslavian dragon tamer, I looked up just as Sirius, Remus, and Peter walked by our compartment. I didn’t think they had seen us, but suddenly Sirius turned and slammed into the door, pressing his hands against it and making a grotesque face, and then sliding down the door as if he were dying. Mandy had jumped in her seat as Sirius hit the door, but passed it off unconvincingly with a badly faked sneeze. Remus grinned and waved over Sirius’s shoulder while Peter just laughed, then Sirius stood up again and the three of them walked off down the corridor. Charlotte glared after them, as they had interrupted what was clearly the most gripping part of her story.

“What was that all about?” said Hector.

“Honestly, would you expect anything else from them?” I asked, laughing.

We hadn’t even gotten to school yet and the three of them were running around creating trouble on the train. This was of course no different than the train ride any other year, but they didn’t have James with them this time because he was probably at this moment meeting with Lily to discuss their duties, talk to the prefects, and patrol the train as Head Boy and Head Girl. And James’s friends didn’t let this stop them – maybe they wanted to see if James would actually try to tell them off.

Once the train stopped and we arrived at Hogwarts, we filed out of the compartment and towards the carriages. When I stepped off the train I saw Lily already halfway to a carriage, marching swiftly. Her friends Mary and Denise were running to catch up to her. I had a feeling she had bolted out of her compartment the moment she could get away from James; it didn’t seem like it had been a particularly enjoyable train ride for her.

I passed Snape on the way up to the carriages and we did not acknowledge each other, as was now usual. It was so strange that Snape and I had started our time at Hogwarts first year by becoming friends on the train. How much had changed since then… He wasn’t even friends with Lily anymore, and they had known each other since before Hogwarts.

Mandy, Charlotte, Russell, Hector and I got a carriage together. After the ride up to the castle, we walked into the Great Hall and sat down to watch the new group of first years get Sorted before the welcoming feast.

“Ooohhh, look,” said Charlotte, pointing up at the staff table and paying no attention to the Sorting Hat singing its song at the front of the hall. “That must be the new professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts! He looks like he’s only in his early twenties. He must be brilliant to get a job teaching here at such a young age. When do we have his class?”

“I think Charlotte is in love,” Mandy whispered to me, eyeing the new professor. “I never thought I’d see the day – you know every boy at Hogwarts annoys the hell out of her. She was always interested in the older guys and they’ve all graduated. Until now, I guess.”

“I know, remember when she had a crush on Nathan?” I said. “Eww.”

Mandy rolled her eyes. “It’s not that weird for a girl to have a crush on her friend’s older brother.”

“Don’t tell me you did too.”

“No, I didn’t. There were about three guys in our year I liked at the time, I think that was probably enough! But Carl and John liked Charlotte instead. Well, until she told each of them to go get eaten by Hippogriffs.” She shook her head, and smiled at the memory.

I laughed. “Funny how Charlotte is the prettiest girl in our year, but also the most offensive.”

Mandy laughed. “I wouldn’t say offensive, just not friendly…”

“We’re just used to it. But every word out of her mouth is rude and sarcastic, or else gossipy. I’m a bit amazed she’s as popular as she is.”

Charlotte turned around. “Are you talking about me?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I thought you were listening, but I didn’t realize you were too busy ogling the new professor to hear us!”

I was probably lucky there was no food on the table yet, because if there was, Charlotte might have thrown it at me.

After the Sorting finished, Dumbledore introduced Professor Thornhill, the new Defence professor, and reminded us again that the forest was out of bounds, and other things that I didn’t particularly pay attention to. I was getting hungry and the only thing keeping the food from appearing was the fact that Dumbledore was talking – a fact he probably was well aware of because his speech thankfully wasn’t too long.

The food appeared on the table and I reached for a dish immediately. Charlotte had stopped looking up at the staff table and Mandy was questioning her about him already. I laughed. It was good to be back.



After the welcome feast, we went down to the Slytherin common room, where I stretched out on one of the comfortable sofas. It was the one evening we weren’t going to have any homework, because classes hadn’t started yet, and I intended to use that to its full potential.

“You look like my cat,” said Charlotte. “He always takes up as much space as possible. Actually I think the only difference between you two is the amount of hair you shed.” She picked a stray long curly hair from my sleeve and dropped it on the floor.

“Yeah, your cat sheds enough hair to weave a blanket.”

“No, I meant you shed more hair.”

I rolled my eyes. “Well, I don’t cough up hairballs!”

“After you comb your hair, I always find hairballs in the bathroom.”

“Sorry to interrupt,” said a voice. I looked up; it was Mark’s friend Camilla, and she had a sour expression on her face. I instinctively looked around for Mark, but didn’t see him; for some reason Camilla had decided to talk to me, which was weird because I was sure she didn’t like me. It was also weird because Charlotte and I had just been arguing about hairballs when she showed up, and Camilla’s expression told me that she thought such conversation topics were far beneath her.

“Hey,” I said blankly.

“What happened to Mark?” Camilla asked me accusingly. “You were always telling him who to hang around with. Now he’s not back at Hogwarts.”

I was affronted. “First of all, I never told him who to spend time with; he hung around with you, after all. And second, why are you asking me? I thought you two were friends, shouldn’t you ask him instead of me?”

She crossed her arms, turned her back on me and walked away. I watched her go without caring; I had been sort of rude, but then again we had never particularly been friendly to one another. However, I was concerned that Mark apparently wasn’t back at Hogwarts and had not told his friends why.



My first class on Monday was Ancient Runes. Seventh year was when we took the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, or NEWTs, which were kind of like the OWLs in fifth year but worse. And professors wouldn’t let us waste time when the exams that partially determined our future careers were at the end of the year. So I was assigned two feet of translations and about two hundred pages of reading, and when I went to Defence Against the Dark Arts class that afternoon I was already tired. I joined the middle of the queue where Mandy and Charlotte were standing together.

“Excuse me, I believe you cut in line,” said a voice behind me. “How unbelievably rude.”

I turned around. It was Sirius. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you wanted to be first into the classroom,” I said. “I’m surprised you turned up to class at all.”

He laughed. Was I imagining it or had he become more attractive since I’d last seen him three weeks ago? Maybe that phrase about absence making the heart grow fonder was not just talk. I had always known he was good looking, but it used to be that his arrogance and the fact that he irritated me had far outweighed his attractiveness. But now, after we’d become so close over the summer, things were definitely different. And even though I’d convinced myself I wasn’t really that into him when I was at Mandy’s house, that illusion came crashing down when I saw him again for the first time in three weeks (technically not the first time, but him making faces at us on the train didn’t count).

“Hello?” asked James, waving a hand in front of my face.

“Sorry,” I said. I had no idea what he had just asked me, or if he had even asked me anything at all. Fortunately, Professor Thornhill arrived just then and let the line in. I walked to a seat without looking at Sirius again.

Professor Thornhill began discussing what we would learn this year in Defence Against the Dark Arts. Charlotte was not the only person to have noticed his appearance at the start of term feast; half the girls in the class seemed transfixed by him. Veronica Smethley, sitting front and center, was staring at Professor Thornhill without stopping to write notes, or even blink. Charlotte was paying as close attention to the professor as I’d ever seen her. For the most part, I was concentrating; I spent over half the time in class paying attention to Professor Thornhill and frantically writing notes, and admittedly a fair bit of time staring ahead of me at the back of Sirius’s head. And the occasional glance up to see if Veronica Smethley was drooling.

Halfway through class Sirius cast some spell on James, so when Professor Thornhill asked him a question, James could only answer in a strange growl; it honestly sounded as if he were speaking Troll. Leave it to those two to create disruptions in class on the new professor’s first day. Needless to say, they started out the year by getting a detention.

It was pretty hilarious, really. I guess Professor Thornhill hadn’t been warned about them, because he seemed quite rattled and uneasy afterwards, and didn’t ask any more questions to the class. I felt a bit sorry for him, but I knew he’d get used to it. They regularly played practical jokes, but I had a feeling all the professors loved the Marauders. After all, they were all very bright students, and a little fun kept people in good spirits with something to laugh at, despite the fact that Death Eaters were running around destroying things just outside the safety of the castle walls. Why worry about the war when you should be worrying about James Potter turning your ears into leeks?

At the end of class I was able to ascertain that Thornhill was indeed a much better professor than Alvers, but I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually learned in class today.

“Good start as Head Boy,” said Lily sardonically to James as we filed out of the classroom. “Not even a day into the year and you’re causing trouble for new teachers!” I rolled my eyes. I had seen Lily laughing just as hard as the rest of us at the disruption in class, only she’d had her hand over her mouth as if to hide that she was laughing. “What am I going to do for patrol tonight while the Head Boy is in detention?” Lily asked in exasperation.

“I don’t know, Evans,” said James with concern. “I really don’t know what you’re going to do without me. I know it’ll be tough for you, and you’ll miss me, but—”

Lily made an irritated noise and walked off. Remus turned around and saw us, and stopped while we caught up to them. The others were a bit more oblivious and walked on a few paces before stopping too.

“We were just on our way back to Gryffindor Tower,” said Remus. “Come join us, we didn’t have time to catch up on the train!”

“Sure,” said Mandy, and we fell into step beside them.

“We could have had time for that on the train,” I said. “If you hadn’t been too busy running into the door of our compartment, that is.”

“Well you know, things just had to get done. We couldn’t put that off,” said Remus, grinning.

James asked Mandy about the end of the summer as we approached the portrait of the Fat Lady that led into the Gryffindor common room.

“It was good,” Mandy replied. “We didn’t do much… We just went back to my parents’ new flat and explored London and watched some Muggle television. That’s really all. How was your summer? How long did you two stay with James?” she asked, indicating Remus and Peter.

“Just under a week,” said Peter. “It seems weird that we’re back here now for our last year at Hogwarts!”

“Why’s it weird, thought you’d fail out before now?” Sirius teased.

“No, just that it doesn’t seem real that we’re seventh years! I know I’ve been saying ever since we got back, but it’s still true.”

“Don’t worry, Peter, I feel the same way,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about it ever since we got on the train to leave last year.”

It was certainly odd for me to think that just a year ago, I could never have predicted we would now be such good friends with the Gryffindors who were most responsible for playing pranks on Slytherins. And all this because of the one time Mandy had sent me on a blind date with Remus.

We walked into the common room and James went off to talk with two members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team who apparently had known he was coming and ambushed him in the doorway to show him their new brooms. Sirius got caught up talking to a few girls before we even made it three steps inside the room, so Mandy, Charlotte, Remus, Peter and I sat down and talked without them.

I kept glancing up at Sirius standing there with Mary Macdonald and Persephone Winchester. One of these times, unfortunately, I looked back at the group in front of me only to find Remus watching me. He raised his eyebrows, and I could feel my cheeks getting red as I looked away. I wished Remus wasn’t so observant. What if he thought we came to visit only because Mandy and I both had a crush on Sirius? This was of course wildly false, but I didn’t want him thinking it. I made a conscious effort to not look in that direction again.

This was an ill-fated goal, because Sirius soon came to join us. He walked over behind the sofa where I was sitting, and leapt over the back of the sofa into the empty seat next to me. He grinned at me – a grin that used to irritate me, because it always came along with making fun of me, but now my heart melted at the sight of him. And I had never really noticed how lovely his grey eyes were.

What had happened to me? Soppy thoughts like this had no place in my mind. This was really not good.

I had been trying to convince myself I didn’t like Sirius for months now. I was now at least to the point where I was definitely aware that I liked him, but I didn’t want to do anything about it. The best thing to do would be to just get over him. For Merlin’s sake, our friendship was off-and-on; anything more than that would be a disaster. I also had no idea whether he actually liked me or just enjoyed flirting with me – but I had the feeling that he would just tease me if he knew I actually liked him, and I’d just get my heart broken. So, ending it before it even started would be the best course of action.

And here he was, sitting next to me and being as charming as ever. There were a number of different conversations going on within the group at the same time, and Sirius was telling me jokes and trying to get me to laugh, but I refused to laugh. I looked over at Remus, but he was just smiling encouragingly. That was useless; I wanted him to say something to make Sirius leave. After all, the easiest way to get over Sirius would be to ignore him, or for him to not be around; being away from him during the end of the summer had helped, but I didn’t really want to go back to ignoring him. We’d already been through that enough.

When had my life turned into a soap opera?

As we were all chatting, Sirius had taken out his wand and was pointing it at my hair, which I had just realized was winding around my neck and beginning to strangle me. I wasn’t able to unwrap it from around my neck as fast as he was wrapping it there. The best thing I could do was to just reach up and strangle him in return, but he kept moving and it turned into a sort of one-sided tickle fight. I wasn’t quite sure how this fit in with my resolution to pay less attention to him.

“Oi, you two!” said James. “Cut out the flirting, we’re trying to have a discussion here.”

“We are not flirting, he’s strangling me!” I protested.

Sirius stopped attacking me with my own hair, and I turned away from him and struck up a conversation with Charlotte instead, who was sitting in the armchair adjacent to the sofa where I was. On Charlotte’s other side, Mandy and Remus were talking about classes, but I noticed Mandy twirling her hair, laughing unnecessarily, and casting flirtatious glances in the way she only did when talking to guys she liked. Remus seemed oblivious, or at least was just acting as if this was normal. I’d had no idea Mandy fancied Remus – or maybe she was just so used to acting that way that it had become normal for her when talking to anyone whether she liked them or not. I made a mental note to ask her about it later.

After a while, James and Sirius left, much to my relief, and Lily and Mary stopped by for a brief moment. We asked each other about how summer had been, and I congratulated Lily on becoming Head Girl.

“Thanks,” she said. “I was so surprised! I could hardly believe it when I got my letter.”

Mary laughed. “You were the only one surprised in the entire school; I was sure all along it would be you.”

“James knew it too,” I told Lily. “I was at his house when he got his badge for Head Boy, and he thought there had been a mistake. But he knew you’d be Head Girl for sure!”

Lily glanced around to make sure James was not within earshot, and said, “I still have trouble getting my mind around that. I had thought it would be Remus; I owled him over the summer and asked, but he wrote back that Potter was Head Boy. Obviously I thought he was joking. And then when Potter walked into the compartment on the Hogwarts Express, I just asked him if he was lost. I still didn’t think it was true. I mean, what did he ever do to deserve that responsibility? And what did I do to deserve having to work with him?”

Mary grinned at me. “This is all I’ve been hearing from her for the past couple of days. James Potter this, James Potter that. She can’t get her mind off him!”

I laughed, but Lily groaned. “Mary, you’re supposed to be on my side! At least Denise sympathises with me.”

“I’m only kidding, of course I’m on your side,” said Mary. Apparently Mary and I had something in common, because I always teased Mandy like that.

“Good luck with that this year,” I said. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to manage.”

Lily and Mary headed out, and not long after that, Mandy and Charlotte and I decided to go sit out by the lake and fruitlessly attempt to get some homework done. Remus and Peter bid us goodbye, and I couldn’t help feeling that Remus still had that smug knowing look in his eye after having seen me staring at Sirius. I just hoped Remus was good at keeping a secret.



On Wednesday afternoon we had Herbology, and it was nice to be outside for class instead of in the castle when the weather was so beautiful. Technically we were in the greenhouse, not outside, but the windows were open and the sunlight and a breeze were coming through. It was lovely.

We walked in to sit at the tables. There were pots on the tables, full of dirt and odd little blue stalks. I waited for Mandy to take the seat next to mine, but Luke got there first. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Not at all!” I said. He sat down, and Mandy, arriving a minute later, sat behind me and flicked clumps of dirt in my hair.

Once Professor Sheridan began the class and discussed how we’d be repotting and trimming Indigo Spinecorns, I reached my hand into the soil, hoping it wouldn’t get bitten off by the Spinecorn lurking beneath the surface. I touched something sharp and grabbed it out of the dirt, where once out of its natural environment it became dormant. The plant looked like a spiny blue Puffskein with a stalk growing out of it. As I moved it into the other pot it started moving again, and I almost dropped it. Luke steadied my hand so I wouldn’t drop the Spinecorn, and helped me replant it while it moved around and refused to stay still.

I trimmed the stalk and slid the pot to the side, and pulled over another one. We were enjoying a great conversation when, out of the blue, he said, “You know, we got off to a bad start after we broke up, but I think we’re good now – do you want to try again? I really like you…”

Just because we were on good terms, he thought that meant I wanted to go out with him again? He was polite about it, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say, so I dropped the Spinecorn on the table to distract him. However, the Spinecorn spewed out purple slime that got all over our hands, and then rolled off the table onto the floor, where it continued to emit slime.

“Be careful!” squealed Professor Sheridan, racing over to our table, her long grey hair flying out behind her. She picked up the plant from the floor where it had fallen, and crooned softly to it, gently setting it in the pot.

Luke and I glanced at one another. Here she was talking to the plant, while we still had nasty slime on our hands that was likely poisonous. Luke said “Scourgify,” and the oozing liquid disappeared but left our hands purple-tinted and stinging. How did I get myself into situations like this? I looked behind me at Mandy exasperatedly.

Professor Sheridan walked away, cradling the pot containing the injured and now replanted Spinecorn. Luke stared after her. “I thought for a second that she was going to help us,” he said. “Silly of me to assume that… Now what? How do we fix the sting? I don’t know what to do.”

“Use the Force, Luke,” said Mandy’s voice from behind me. I laughed hysterically. Luke was baffled, but I didn’t bother explaining.

Professor Sheridan came back a few minutes later after she was done saving the plant from us. “Oh, I have a potion that can help get rid of the sting,” she said distractedly. “Your hands might be purple for a few days, though.”

After things had calmed down, and Luke and I had continued working, he brought up his question again. I had hoped he had forgotten in all the commotion of class and getting stinging slime on us, but I was unfortunately incorrect. I told him I thought we should just be friends, which was actually a lie – I didn’t really care if we didn’t talk to each other anymore, but he wouldn’t have wanted to hear that.

Mandy had been lucky breaking up with Russell – the two of them had been better as friends anyway, and went back to being friends without an issue; we hung around with him all the time and there was no problem. I had thought Luke was over our relationship as I was, but even now, months after we broke up, he still thought we would get back together. Although I had been over Luke for a long time, I hated to admit to myself that one reason it bothered me so much was because part of me wanted to be with Sirius instead; something that would never happen.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks so much for reading!!!
Tell me what you think, or yell at me for how long it takes me to post, etc. here! Thanks


__________________


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

Last edited by marauderfan; August 17th, 2012 at 2:56 am.
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  #27  
Old May 28th, 2012, 6:46 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 4127 days
Location: Beyond the veil
Age: 27
Posts: 258
Re: The Brave at Heart

Well... I've made it through the busiest semester of my life during which I barely had any time to sleep, let alone write, and now I've graduated! And it's summer, so I have a lot more time to write and I'm hoping to post much more regularly. Here goes!

(And as always, thanks to my loyal feedbackers for all your comments!)


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 26: Second Hand News

The following week brought many great things, including the purple on my hands from last week’s Herbology class finally fading on Monday, Charlotte’s eighteenth birthday on Tuesday, and Slytherin Quidditch tryouts the next day.

At lunch on Wednesday, I tried to convince Mandy to come with me and try out for the Quidditch team again this year, but she wasn’t interested. So when we finished lunch, I was walking out of the Great Hall when I heard loud footsteps running up behind me, and turned around in time to see Hector running with a Quidditch robe just before he threw it over my head, grabbed my shoulders and started marching me somewhere. “Quidditch tryouts!” he shouted.

“Yeah, in two hours,” I said, my voice muffled by the robe over my head. I reached up and pulled the robe off. “Hector, this reeks. Please tell me you’ve washed your Quidditch robe since last year?”

“I think so.”

I threw the robe back at him. “I’ll be there, I promise. I just have a few things I need to do first.”

After an hour of trying to write a remotely intelligent-sounding essay for Defence Against the Dark Arts, I grabbed my Cleansweep Five and hurried to the Quidditch pitch. I was still an hour early, but it would give me some time to practice. When I got there, however, Gryffindor were in the middle of their tryouts. I practiced by hitting rocks and pinecones instead.

I was alerted to the start of Slytherin’s tryouts an hour later, when I heard Hector’s voice shouting, “Off the field, Potter! We have it reserved now!” James, still up in the air with a Quaffle, threw the Quaffle at Hector, soared down and grabbed it again before touching down on the ground lightly.

“Sorry about that… too close?” James laughed.

“No one in Slytherin cares if you show off,” I said archly as I walked by James. “We’re so not impressed.”

Hector began tryouts with the Chasers, and I sat in the stands with other team hopefuls. I saw Elliott Jasper among the group gathered, and hoped he was just there to watch and not try out! After six people had tried out for the two remaining Chaser spots, Hector ended up choosing the same ones the team had had for the past two years: himself, Derrick and Corlon.

After that was Beaters, which was good because I was tired of waiting there nervously. Three of us walked out onto the pitch to try out. I went first, and felt I did reasonably well. Hector gave me a thumbs-up as I landed afterwards; I actually had a chance this year. A third-year named Byrd followed me. He also looked like a bird; he was a short, squat kid with yellowy hair, long arms and a long beak-like nose. He hit the first two Bludgers thrown at him off in the opposite direction, but then seemed to find his confidence and did rather well. The last one to try out was Nott, and he was just as bad as last year.

Hector chose Byrd and me for the new Beaters, and Nott objected to Hector’s choice and complained for a solid fifteen minutes that he had not made it on the team again. Meanwhile, Hector ignored him and called the potential Keepers down to the field; I cringed when I noticed Elliott Jasper was one of them, and I watched the tryouts intently.

Much to my horror, all of the people who tried out let in over half of the goals, except Jasper, who blocked almost all of them. As Wilkes came back down to the field after his tryout to await Hector’s final choice, I ran down from the stands too. “Not Jasper,” I said frantically to Hector. “You can’t pick him, he’s horrible. You remember when we used to fight all the time – it’ll be just the same. Please don’t.”

“You saw the tryouts, Mel,” he said. “He’s clearly the best one of the lot. Who else would you pick?”

Jasper had outperformed the others by far, but I wouldn’t ever admit it to him. Hector stepped away to announce Jasper’s position as Keeper, and the excitement I’d felt about the upcoming Quidditch season was partially replaced with trepidation because of the new Keeper.

Three people tried out for Seeker. Warrington, last year’s Seeker, did well. He was a good player but I knew he was responsible for causing a lot of fouls last year. After him was Selma Yaxley, who did very well but then yelled shrilly at Hector about why he would regret it if he didn’t pick her, while Regulus Black tried out. Hector eventually picked Regulus, and then had to deal with Yaxley and Warrington shouting at him as he left the field.

It was easy for me to tune out Yaxley and Warrington, but I was still upset about Jasper being picked for the team. I saw all kinds of potential trouble coming from this. During second year he used to make me run off crying all the time, but as I’d become more confident through the years, he’d had a lot less impact on me and it had sort of waned; last year we’d only shouted and humiliated each other. But I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a repeat of any of it. Although it was true Jasper and I hadn’t really gotten into a fight in months, I had a feeling it might start up again now that we’d be working together and seeing each other’s failures more often. We’d simply have to learn to get along.



Charlotte’s infatuation with Professor Thornhill ended the instant she got back her first Defence Against the Dark Arts essay marked with a D the following afternoon. “Dreadful?” she cried, turning to me, as if I could tell her she was seeing it incorrectly. “It wasn’t that bad! How can he expect us to already be at NEWT standard, those aren’t for months! What an a***.”

I could sympathize; I’d gotten a P for Poor, which wasn’t much better. I had thought it was a reasonably good essay, too. “Well, it’s only the first paper,” I said, trying to justify it to myself as much as to her. “And think about it this way – we did so badly that we can only improve from here on.”

Mandy said nothing about her essay, leading me to think she’d probably gotten at least an Exceeds Expectations and didn’t want to make us feel worse.

Charlotte turned her parchment over and began doodling a caricature of Professor Thornhill on the back, adding devil horns and a tail. I reached over and drew a pitchfork in his hand. Mandy coughed pointedly, and Charlotte slid her essay parchment underneath her notes just as Thornhill walked by. It had been a close call. Then we decided we’d actually take notes.

After dinner that day, Mandy and Charlotte and I got a table in the library, spread out books everywhere, and griped about how much work we had. I wrote a few sentences and was feeling particularly proud of myself for being so productive, and then Vanessa Saltz and her posse walked by. It seemed they only picked on people who were alone; they apparently were smart enough to not pick on us because we were in a group, but rules like that didn’t apply to Charlotte.

“Vanessa, that spider decoration in your hair is so realistic,” said Charlotte. “It looks lovely, where did you get it?”

Vanessa just stared back, and I could see the gears turning in her mind. She didn’t want to let Charlotte know that she was bothered, but she clearly was. Lydia, who was also a seventh year Ravenclaw almost as vain as Vanessa, scanned the top of Vanessa’s hair but wouldn’t touch her. Vanessa shook her head, frantically moving her hands through her hair and hyperventilating, trying to get the spider off. Charlotte, in the seat beside me, was dying of laughter.

By the time Vanessa had figured out there was in fact no spider in her hair, Madam Pince, the librarian, had noticed the commotion at our table, and headed over to investigate. Lydia purposely bumped into our table as they left, upending an ink bottle all over my half-completed essay, and then went to talk to Madam Pince, probably to get us into trouble.

That was unlikely to end well. Vanessa could act sweet if she wanted to, in a sort of fake way that I could see through but Madam Pince probably wouldn’t. And Madam Pince would believe her over anything Charlotte would say, because it was guaranteed Charlotte would be rude about it.

“Let’s go,” I whispered to Mandy and Charlotte, and we hurriedly collected our things and dashed out of the library.

“Did you have to do that?” I asked Charlotte once we got into the corridor. “They were actually going to leave us alone, and you went and did that. I thought Vanessa might have been done bothering me, since I broke up with Luke and I think she liked him, but now she’ll just be after me all over again.”

“Calm down,” said Charlotte. “No, she’ll never be done bothering you. Maybe if there was nothing interesting in your life that she could make fun of, she would… but you’re a much more interesting person than she is, so she’ll always have something to pester you about.”

“Still,” said Mandy, “that was close. I’m amazed we didn’t get in trouble!”

We turned a corner and came across James and Lily walking down the hallway on patrol, looking out for first and second years breaking their curfew. Lily was laughing; they appeared to have not noticed us yet.

“Why are you laughing?” asked James.

“Because… that was funny, I guess,” said Lily awkwardly.

“But you never laugh when I say things.”

“I’ll try not to do it again.”

“Lily…” he whined, making a face. Lily giggled. She actually giggled, at something James said - it was a miracle that should have been noted in the history books. Lily waved at us as they walked by, and James said hello.

So he was calling her Lily now. That was an improvement over calling her by her last name, as he’d done for the past six years. You’d think he would have figured out something like that before. And I also thought that even though Lily still insisted that she didn’t like James, it was without much conviction. Maybe she actually was starting to like him, but she’d just gone so long saying that she didn’t, and now her pride stopped her from saying she’d changed her mind.

That was also a lucky escape,” said Mandy after they had passed by. “They were too busy talking to notice us, which was good because we were just discussing how we ran away from trouble in the library.”

“Yeah, keep talking about it, maybe we’ll run into McGonagall too,” I said.



The following day Mandy and I ran into Lily again as we walked into the castle for Transfiguration after taking a break outside after lunch. Lily and Remus had been sitting under a tree together, but Lily looked at her watch and they both got up; Remus walked off to join his fellow Marauders and Lily began walking into the castle, her long auburn hair dancing in the breeze behind her as she walked.

“Hi,” she said brightly to us as I held open the castle door for her. “How are you two?”

“Great,” said Mandy. “Enjoying being outside all we can before it starts getting cold.”

Lily smiled. “Yeah, good day for that. I almost didn’t want to come back inside. You’re headed to Transfiguration too?”

“Yep,” I said. “Wonder if McGonagall would hold class outside today instead.” Lily and Mandy both laughed – the idea of stern Professor McGonagall leading the class outside to teach because it was sunny was ludicrous. Maybe Flitwick would have done it for Charms, though.

We reached the queue for Transfiguration, and as we lined up, James came up beside Lily and tapped her on the shoulder lightly. “Sorry... you dropped this,” he said, holding out an ink bottle, which he must have been carrying since before entering the castle because it would have broken if it had fallen on the corridor floor.

“Oh. Thanks,” said Lily, and took the bottle from him, stowing it in her bag. She glanced sideways at him again, or where she thought he was, but he had already gone to wait further back in line with his friends.

“That was nice,” said Mandy.

Lily scowled. “Maybe. I’ve spent too much time with Potter recently though. Patrol was awful yesterday.”

“Why?” I asked. “What did he do? When I saw you, it seemed you were having a great time…”

“Oh, I don’t know… nothing in particular… just spending that much time with him was something I could have done without. It was fine until he tried to get me to sneak out of the castle with him. He said I take my position as Head Girl too seriously – but we’re supposed to take it seriously!”

Mandy pounced on this opportunity for matchmaking. “You need to find someone else to go to Hogsmeade with in a couple of weeks. If you’ve already got a date, maybe James won’t bother you.”

“Oh, he wasn't bothering me, not like that. He's actually been really polite to me lately, none of the old arrogance. He hasn’t asked me out in a while – although he does say stuff like how he loves patrol because we spend so much time together. He said he hoped we could be friends, but I don’t think he meant it.”

I wondered how on earth she could be complaining about that, and Mandy sighed, a sappy grin on her face. “Lily, that’s so sweet!" she said. "If a bloke said that to me, I’d love it! And I bet if anyone other than James said that to you, you’d love it too.”

“I suppose,” said Lily. I shook my head. Lily was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met. She had an infectious smile, she was brilliant, and responsible… It wasn’t surprising that half the male population of Hogwarts was in love with her, but she was unattainable, especially to James, who was probably the one person she lost her patience with and snapped at. (For a while I’d even suspected Snape fancied her, but I must have been wrong – Snape never really liked anyone.) James had set lofty goals, if he intended to get Lily to change her mind about him.

And it might take a miracle for Lily to change her mind about James, although it was clear to me that James had changed quite a bit since this time last year. He seemed much more responsible, and slightly less blatant about his rule-breaking. Even though I’d thought Dumbledore was mad when I’d first found out James was Head Boy, it seemed Dumbledore had had very good judgment on how James could handle responsibility.


One person I wished would change his mind about me was Luke. After that time he’d asked me out during Herbology at the beginning of the year I’d gone back to avoiding him. This generally worked, but I ran almost straight into him as we both left class one day.

“Sorry,” I said grumpily, without any attempt to be friendly, and kept walking. I was so past the point of caring whether or not he thought I was a nice person. He hurried to catch up with me.

“Melanie, can we talk for a minute? I promise it won’t take long.”

“Okay,” I sighed, turning around. “One minute, you said? Go ahead.”

“I’m not going to ask you out again, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Interestingly enough, I had been worried about that… “I have a new girlfriend now.”

“Oh?” I asked, for the first time actually interested in the conversation. “Who?”

“Monica Turpin.”

“Great… I’m really happy for you!”

“Thanks,” he said. He smiled, his alluring blue eyes twinkling. Once, ages ago it seemed, I had been enchanted by that smile. “I just wanted to get closure on this so you don’t have to keep running away from me.”

“Oh, but I was getting such a good workout from all the running,” I said. There was no point in denying that I fled every time I saw him. I really needed to stop being so awkward. But he laughed; apparently he found it funny instead of awkward. “Well, I appreciate it,” I said. “Take care. And… for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

I continued walking up the hill, relieved. I would never have to worry about something as silly as this again. I had thought so last year, after we’d made up during the end of year exams, but this time it was final. It had been quite an ordeal with Luke, which I never could have predicted when we started dating. At least it had taught me a lesson.



The second time Camilla came alone to see me, I was still unprepared for her actually speaking to me, after months of her giving me disapproving looks while Mark talked to me last year.

“What?” I said rudely.

Camilla hesitated. “It’s about Mark,” she said. “But if you don’t want to hear it, I’ll leave you alone so you can keep doing your… ah, homework,” she concluded disdainfully, her eyes resting on the balancing stack of Exploding Snap cards on the table, surrounded by untouched textbooks and quills. So, we’d never actually gotten around to working…

“What is it?” I said, dropping the impatient tone I’d taken with her a few seconds before.

“I just… I wrote to him,” she said. “He’s at home! His parents wouldn’t let him come back to Hogwarts because they were worried about the Dark Lord, and wanted to keep an eye on Mark.”

That wasn’t unheard of – a Hufflepuff had left last year for the same reason. “Is he all right?” I asked. “Does he want to come back?”

“Well I think so, why wouldn’t he want to come back? He told me to be careful though. I don’t know why – it’s not like the Dark Lord is going to just stroll into Hogwarts. I’m not worried anyway – I’m a pureblood.”

“Good for you. You’re the only one who’s not worried about Voldemort.”

She flinched when I said the name. “But Mark shouldn’t be worried either!”

“There’s probably a lot going on out there that neither of us knows about,” I said finally. “I think Hogwarts is safe, at least for now, but Mark’s parents want to protect him and they think they can do better. I also think it might have to do with protecting him from some students here – students who might be Death Eaters in training. But since I know you don’t really trust me, at least listen to him.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Okay,” she said eventually. I smiled encouragingly at her, and she left.

Mark’s predicament got me thinking again about the possibility of Mark’s idol Mulciber being a Death Eater, as I had suspected last year. Maybe Mark was better off than he realized. I turned back to the table in front of me, where Charlotte and Mandy were working their way through a Transfiguration assignment.

“Charlotte, have you told anyone that Lester is a Death Eater?” I asked quietly.

Mandy looked up from Transfiguration Made Easier, and Charlotte set down her quill. “Other than you two?” she asked. “Yes, I told Slughorn. I figured having a professor know would be a good idea – and he went and questioned Lester about it, but Lester just denied it, and there’s no way to prove it of course. So either he was just faking all along, and told our family just to feel important… or he actually is a Death Eater and is good at hiding it. I honestly don’t know.”

“Do you think he and his friends are making Hogwarts unsafe?” Mandy asked.

Charlotte shook her head. “I don’t know. He doesn’t really talk to me about it… even less so now, because he knows I told Slughorn. But he’s my brother, I don’t think he’d put Hogwarts in danger. He does bully other students around some, though… I have no idea of half of the stuff he gets up to, and although he respects You-Know-Who, I doubt he’d try to make Hogwarts unsafe.” She sighed. “Mandy, you have no idea how lucky you are being an only child, with fewer people to constantly worry about.”

Mandy sighed. “It’s not like I haven’t got anything to worry about. Everyone’s worried about something right now, because of Voldemort. And anyway, I don’t feel like an only child. You two are essentially my sisters. But it’s true – at least neither of you are Death Eaters.”

We were interrupted when Alanna ran over to us, carrying several textbooks, her blonde hair flying everywhere and her eyes wide. Rachel followed, walking up behind her and looking slightly bored. She caught up to Alanna, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and looked over our heads at a lamp on the wall, a haughty expression on her face.

“What happened?” Mandy asked Alanna, alarmed.

“Nothing,” said Alanna, looking a bit confused. “Nothing happened, why? What did you get on your Transfiguration project?

I almost laughed when I realized that was why Alanna was so frantic – it was the first time she’d seen us since getting our grades back, which meant she had had to wait several hours to compare her marks with everyone else’s. If she had done well on something, she was typically much calmer than this.

“Erm… Acceptable,” said Mandy quietly.

“I told you,” said Rachel to Alanna, tugging Alanna’s sleeve. “Of course you did better. I’m the only one who did better than you, so you’re fine. Let’s go, I don’t want to just stand around all evening.”

But Alanna looked to Charlotte, who said, “Come on, you know me better than that. I’m still not saying anything about my grades. I never have, and I never will – it’s none of your business. Do you want to join us though?”

“Er… What are you working on? I have so much to do! I’ve been working for days on my Potions essay. I rewrote it twice. Every time I read it over there’s something I realize I can do better, so I’ve got all these books. Are you making a card house out of Exploding Snap cards or working?” she asked shrewdly, seeing the stack of cards on top of Mandy’s closed textbook.

“We’re just about to start working,” said Charlotte.

Rachel looked over at me and Mandy, making eye contact with us for the first time all evening, then started to tug on Alanna’s sleeve again. “I think we’re going to go, actually,” she said, and the two of them walked across the room to a different table.

Rachel had never said outwardly rude things to my face, but I’d always had the feeling she talked about me behind my back. It was funny - I had a feeling that if Vanessa Saltz didn’t hate Slytherins so much and Rachel didn’t hate non-Slytherins, the two of them could have been great friends, because they were actually very similar. Well, maybe they would be friends. It would be interesting to see if two people who thought everyone else beneath them could actually be friends, or whether each would hate the other for thinking she was better.

I turned back to our table of work and realized I only had half the materials I needed to write my paper. “I think I’m going to the library,” I said.

“It’s too late,” said Mandy, glancing at her watch. “Curfew is in about five minutes, you won’t make it back in time.”

“Yeah, but James and Lily won’t care, they’d never get me in trouble,” I said. “I’ll be fast.”

Mandy shrugged and I set off for the library. I was yawning as I walked the entire way there – I considered that maybe I shouldn’t bother and should just go to the library first thing tomorrow morning, because it was late and I was probably too tired to write anything good. But I was already halfway there, I may as well just get my books now.

I got into the library just as Madam Pince turned off the lights. I asked her, “Is it too late for me to just…” I gestured towards the shelves.

“The library is closed,” said Madam Pince. “I’m not going to stay around an extra hour while you decide on your books.”

“I’ll just get them really quickly—”

“That is how the books get damaged,” hissed Madam Pince as she swooped over towards the door. “You don’t just snatch them off the shelves – you have to be careful with them! I have seen many books meet a terrible fate – pages torn out, spine bent, covers falling off – because people don’t treat them with care!”

“Right,” I sighed, resigned. “I’ll be back tomorrow then…”

I walked out of the library empty-handed and headed back to the Slytherin common room. Halfway there I heard Sirius’s voice as I rounded a corner. “All right Melanie?”

I turned to stop and talk to him, but instantly felt the smile slide off my face when I saw Sirius and Althea standing too close together. He had his arm around her and she was grinning up at him in a stupid way – as any girl would be if Sirius had his arm around her. I didn’t even know they knew each other. It was very surprising for two reasons – first of all, that Althea had come out of her shell enough to talk to a guy, much less Sirius Black; and second, that Sirius was interested in her at all. Seeing him and Althea together bothered me a lot… Althea was so sweet and would just get hurt when Sirius predictably would dump her and move on to someone else in a week. Or what if that didn't happen – what if I had to go through months of seeing this?

“Hello,” I said to them very coldly. “You’re in the hallways after curfew.” Without a second glance at them I abruptly walked past. I was baffled by the combination of feelings that arose in me – I hadn’t expected something like this to bother me so much; after all, Sirius had always been a flirt. And maybe they were just standing and talking, and I was making a big deal out of nothing. But then I pictured Sirius in the hallway with me instead of Althea, and my heart felt a pang… I was jealous of her. Even as much as Sirius exasperated me, I would give anything to be in Althea's place right now. I realized that this was exactly how Mandy had felt during the summer, seeing Sirius and me at James’s house. Only now, I was jealous. It had come full circle.

And Sirius had been just playing with my emotions. After all that when I thought he liked me last year – now I was falling for him, but it seemed he had given up and didn’t care anymore. He’d moved on. I should have expected that. He either had no idea I liked him, or he was only interested in the chase.

I supposed it was all for the best, because I’d been trying to rid my head of thoughts about Sirius anyway. It bothered me more than I would ever admit, but out of respect for Mandy, I wouldn’t talk about it, or act concerned – I was keen to avoid another situation like the summer.

That was my plan, anyway. But Mandy had an innate ability to sense my thoughts, and the moment I walked into the dormitory, she asked “What’s with you?”

I didn’t know what to say. I knew she still liked Sirius, and although over the summer she’d said that whatever happened would happen and she’d be fine with it, I knew she had just been trying to smooth over our argument and didn’t mean it. I shook my head and flopped down on my bed. “I thought you were still in the common room working with Charlotte,” I said, hoping she’d drop it.

“No, I’m here,” she stated obviously. “Charlotte’s still in the common room. At least she was a little while ago. So tell me…”

“It’s nothing,” I said mechanically. Mandy rolled her eyes, and I gave in. “Well, I think Sirius likes Althea, I just saw them in the hallway together, but I don’t know whether he was trying to make me jealous or whether he actually likes her. And I could be just over-thinking it like I always do. But I’m pretty sure he likes her.”

I realized how incredibly stupid and desperate I sounded, and stopped talking, burying my face in my pillow again.

“You don’t know that for sure,” she said sympathetically. “Maybe he was trying to make you jealous and thinks that’s the best way to find out if you like him. Because as far as I know, you’ve never given any indication you like him, you’re always denying it. Or maybe he gave up. You can’t expect him to make every move – maybe you should ask him to go to Hogsmeade, or something.”

I lifted my head from the pillow and stared at her, and my jaw dropped. For the first time, Mandy was acting as if she didn’t have feelings for Sirius anymore – and had she actually just advised me to ask him out?!

“I can’t do that!”

“Why not?”

“Well… why would he go with me? There are so many other girls who are dying to go out with him… There's even a whole group of fifth years that follow him!”

“And you honestly think he’d choose one of them over you? He can't stand them.”

“Or what about Althea?” I didn’t know what to do about her. The girl was so nice I couldn’t possibly hate her, but I was starting to resent her!

“Well what about her? You said you just saw them in the hallway. That means nothing. He likes attention but I don’t think it necessarily means he fancies her.”

“Mandy, I can’t. What about you? I am the worst friend ever. Friends aren’t supposed to go after each other’s interests.”

Mandy smiled. “But I’m over him. For real this time.”

I couldn’t believe it. “That’s what you always say.”

“I’m into someone else now. And besides… after seeing the way you and Sirius act together, I can tell that he and I would make no sense together. We’ve become good friends, but I never liked him the way you do – I just liked him because he’s gorgeous.”

“The way I do?” I sputtered. “What – I… it’s that obvious?” I asked, resigned.

“Sometimes,” she said, grinning. “And I think he likes you a lot too. You two wind each other up – I’ve never seen Sirius like that with any other girls. You can keep up with him in an argument. And he always seems so happy when he talks to you – when you’re not bickering, that is.” She laughed. “Trust me. I’ve picked up on these things from watching him for so long.”

I laughed. Mandy had been stalking us for ages, apparently. As much as I appreciated her show of support for me, I felt like she might only be saying that to make me feel better. Had I not just seen Sirius with Althea? I supposed it was true he hadn’t had a girlfriend for a while, and he was much less of a flirt now than he was last year, but it wasn't enough to convince me. “So… what should I do? You’re so much better at this sort of thing than I am.”

“I told you, ask him out! There’s nothing wrong with a girl asking a guy out. And if he doesn’t want to, you’re no worse off than you are now.” Then she laughed, and said, “I can’t believe I’m giving you advice about how to get together with the guy I liked since I was eleven! You better be really nice to me for the rest of your life. You owe me. You owe me so much that I’m expecting you to pay for my first house and a lifetime supply of ice cream.”

“See?” I said triumphantly. “You still like him.”

“No, I’m just saying I never saw this coming – years ago I never would have imagined I’d be saying this to you. But I think you and Sirius are perfect for each other.”

“Puke,” said Charlotte, walking into the room. “If I knew I’d be walking into a discussion about feelings, I never would have come in.”

“What have you been up to?” Mandy asked suspiciously.

“James was being a git, he told me off for being in the hallway. So I snuck up to the seventh year boys’ dorm room and put Dungbombs under James’s bed.”

“You’re a charmer,” I said.

“You did the exact same thing last year,” said Charlotte, and climbed into bed.

“So… who’s this new guy, Mandy?” I asked.

She glanced briefly around the room, to see if anyone was listening. I don’t know why she did – it had only been the two of us for the past fifteen minutes until Charlotte walked in, and unless Rachel or Alanna had been hiding under their beds the whole time, no one was going to hear. Mandy whispered, “It’s Remus.”

“I thought so!” I said gleefully.

“He doesn’t draw as much attention to himself as his friends do, so it took me a while to really notice him that way. He’s also really different from every other guy I’ve liked. And he’s so sweet – he always knows how to say the right thing at the right time.”

“And he’s also not the type of guy who will just play with your emotions. Can’t say the same for Sirius…”

She laughed. “It’ll get better.”

“I know. Thanks.”

“I’ve noticed Remus is really closed off about how he feels though. Very secretive. I wish blokes didn’t do that.”

“If only everyone was as transparent as we are about our feelings, then it wouldn’t lead to such drama,” I said, and we both sat there laughing until Mandy tried to get Charlotte to come talk with us. It was fruitless, though – this was a topic Charlotte tended to steer clear from, and she was pretending to be asleep and did not answer. I supposed she actually could be asleep, but that was unlikely – she hadn’t been there that long, and she’d definitely do something like lie there and listen to us. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I felt significantly better after talking to Mandy. And I still couldn’t get over my amazement that she had moved on from Sirius. After all, she had said that it was just his looks… and it sounded like she would rather see me with Sirius. I had always teased Mandy about her crush on Sirius, and a few of her previous boyfriends whom she’d dated because she thought they were cute, but I wouldn’t tease her about Remus. Although this was a very recent development, it seemed more genuine to me, and that she was finally looking beneath the surface. I felt sort of a mix between being proud of Mandy as she changed and being selfishly glad that she didn’t fancy Sirius anymore.



The Slytherin Quidditch team’s first practice of the year was a few days later, in the evening. I was thrilled to be part of the team at last, practicing with them from the beginning instead of as a last minute substitute. The only thing that brought it down was the presence of Elliott Jasper as the Keeper. Luckily, he stayed near the goal hoops, so I didn’t have to interact with him much, although I did catch him sneering and heard him muttering things indistinctly when I missed a Bludger.

I ignored him. I was going to put forth my best effort this year to not get into any fights with him. However, at one point when Hector called us all back down to the ground to discuss strategies, Jasper said to me, “It’s nice to see you acting normal for once. Because there are no Mudbloods on our team, you don’t have to act like you’re everyone’s personal saviour.”

“I’ve never thought I was anyone’s saviour,” I said, nonplussed. I supposed it was true that I stuck up for people Jasper picked on, but that was really just because I knew what it was like to be able to do nothing when being picked on, and for years I’d wished someone had been there to stick up for me at home when Nathan wasn’t around. “Will you leave me alone now, or do you not feel complete if you haven’t gone a day without saying I’m unworthy to be a Slytherin?”

Jasper laughed derisively, but had no time for anything else because Hector addressed me and Byrd, the other Beater, and began suggesting a couple of different tactics we could use in the game. I had a feeling Hector was just trying to prevent Jasper and me from fighting. I appreciated it, but I knew that if Jasper and I were ever going to get along, it wasn’t going to start with other people interfering just in time. We’d never be friends, but I hoped that maybe if Slytherin did well at the first Quidditch match this year, then maybe he’d stop sniping at me every chance he got and we might be able to tolerate each other.

Overall, practice went well, and there were no more disagreements began between Jasper and me. Hector was doing a great job as captain, and the new players he’d selected were fitting in to the team well. I had a feeling it would be a good year for Slytherin’s Quidditch team. We walked back up to the castle together as the sun began to set over the hills.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


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Last edited by marauderfan; March 16th, 2013 at 7:39 pm.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 9:41 am
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Re: The Brave at Heart

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*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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…”

“Who?”

“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?”

“No.”

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 6:17 am.
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  #29  
Old September 19th, 2012, 7:10 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 4127 days
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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 11:47 pm.
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  #30  
Old October 8th, 2012, 12:41 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

All right ladies and gents! Here's the next one - sorry it is mostly filler and awkwardness, but there is exciting stuff coming up, I promise

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 29: Sixes and Sevens

Mandy had long forgotten her turmoil about Remus and was now dating Davey Gudgeon. She sat with him in Potions now, which was a great loss for me as I could no longer copy her. But Davey probably needed as much help as I did with Potions. As far as I knew, he wasn’t particularly bright, but all I had to go on was the fact that during first year, he had nearly lost an eye whilst trying to touch the Whomping Willow, a tree that violently swung its branches at you if you got near it. There had been an ongoing challenge that year to get close enough to touch the tree. I don’t know what would have happened if someone actually did touch it – they’d get eternal glory in the minds of all Hogwarts students, perhaps. But we never found out; the game stopped after Davey’s mishap, and people decided there were more sensible things to do.

One day, as Charlotte and I were leaving the Great Hall after lunch, she asked me, “Have you ever noticed how Mandy’s new boyfriend looks like Peter Pettigrew?”

I looked over at the Hufflepuff table where I saw Mandy and Davey standing up to leave. I wouldn’t have thought of it before, but now that Charlotte mentioned it, all I saw was Peter. I burst out laughing. “He must be Peter’s long-lost twin brother.”

“Oh, she’s coming over here,” said Charlotte. We watched Mandy and Davey part at the door, and Mandy saw us watching her and ran over to meet us.

“What?” asked Mandy, eyeing us suspiciously. “Why have you got that expression on your face?”

I glanced at Charlotte, who was attempting to keep a straight face and failing miserably; she looked like she’d just eaten something very sour.

“Nothing’s up,” I said, hoping I looked less ridiculous.

Charlotte eventually gave up and let out a laugh. “We were just discussing how Davey looks like Peter.”

Mandy looked over at me expectantly, but I just shrugged. I think she had been hoping for me to deny this and say it was just Charlotte joking around, but I couldn’t deny the truth in her statement. Mandy frowned. “He doesn’t, not really! Davey’s taller. And his eyes aren’t as squinty.”

“If you say so,” said Charlotte. She grinned at me over Mandy’s head.

“Speaking of Peter,” said Mandy, “who knew he was such a talker? I wish he’d go back to being quiet. Ever since I started dating Davey, Peter has been coming up to chat all the time. It’s like he’s somehow under the impression that he can convince me to switch my affection over to him instead.”

“Probably because he realized he looks like Davey, so he thinks he has a chance,” I said, giggling.

Peter fancies you?” Charlotte exclaimed.

“Shhh, here he comes!” She ducked behind me as we approached the classroom for Defence Against the Dark Arts. The four Marauders were walking in from the other end of the corridor. Peter had seen Mandy; he walked right up to us and started talking to Mandy about the weather, and then asked her about her favorite type of quill. Charlotte and I exchanged a look. James and Sirius were clearly entertained as well, and Remus just watched other students walking by, like he was trying to pretend he didn’t see what was happening.

I watched Remus carefully for a few seconds, trying to assess the way he was acting. It certainly appeared to me that he liked Mandy, because he didn’t seem too happy about Peter’s behaviour. Yet he was doing nothing about it. And why had he turned her down?

Octavius Pepper joined the queue behind us, and I briefly said hello. Then the queue started to file in to the classroom, and I turned around to see that James had actually gotten Peter away from Mandy, and Sirius was watching me and Octavius with a slight frown. I half expected him to hex Octavius again, and I kept an eye on Sirius’s arm to make sure he did no such thing as we walked inside.

“Couldn’t you have kept him away from me?” hissed Mandy as we sat down. “I keep trying not to be rude to him but I just can’t stand it anymore! One of these times I’m going to say something awful, I just know it!”

“Come off it, you would never say anything awful to anyone,” said Charlotte.

I looked over at the Marauders’ table. Peter was smiling coyly and waving at Mandy, who busied herself with getting her textbook out of her bag. Peter’s behaviour was so strange; Charlotte and I found the whole situation highly amusing, but Mandy did not see the humour in it. Admittedly, though, I would not have found it funny if I had been in Mandy’s situation.



On Tuesday night, Mandy and I went back to the Gryffindor common room with the Marauders after dinner. James disappeared rather quickly when Lily asked to talk to him, but the rest of us played various games and things that were not homework. Eventually I convinced Remus to study for Herbology with me, but Sirius came to join us eventually, apparently having overcome his professed allergy to homework. As it turned out, he was there only to distract us and Remus and I didn’t get a whole lot of work done after he showed up. This arrangement also left Peter alone with Mandy, so the two of them joined us as well, and it was decided that no one would bother doing any work tonight.

Across the room we could still hear James and Lily bickering and laughing before they finally left the room on a patrol together. It sounded like a playful argument, but regardless, I had a feeling this was no different to normal; no one paid them any mind because everyone was probably used to hearing the two of them argue their way off to patrol.

Some time later, Mandy pointed out that we should probably leave soon because it was soon to be curfew, Lily and James were due back any second, and we technically weren’t allowed to be here. I said goodbye and collected my Gobstones pieces as Mandy started walking to the portrait hole, and then when I turned around to join her, I could only stare, flabbergasted.

Mandy had opened the portrait and was just standing there in the doorway. Just past her, in the hallway, were Lily and James snogging, oblivious to the fact that the entire common room was staring at them. Next to me, Sirius whistled loudly.

“Sirius!” I said, pushing him. “Shut up! They don’t need some berk whistling at them and interrupting. You wouldn’t like it either, if that was… you.” I had almost said “if that was us” – I was immensely glad I had caught myself before I’d said that and embarrassed myself.

“I’m sure they didn’t even notice. They’re kind of off in their own world.”

It was true – James and Lily clearly hadn’t noticed Mandy opening the door. A few people in the common room were cheering, and a few younger girls who always tried to flirt with James looked quite put out.

Maybe they heard the cheering, because at that point the couple in the hallway separated. Lily removed her arms from around James’s neck, and the two of them stood in the doorway for a moment awkwardly looking through at all of us gaping at them. They looked back at each other, grinning but with very red faces. James began fidgeting as he looked through the portrait hole, as if trying to determine if it was worth coming into the common room at all anymore. Lily squeezed his hand and led him away – probably to an empty classroom so they could carry on without interruption.

“How in Merlin’s name that happen?” I asked. “They were arguing when they went out on patrol!”

Sirius grinned. “I bet they never actually made it out to patrol, and they’ve been out there this whole time.” Then he saw Remus and excitedly went over to talk to him about this new development in their friend’s life for which clearly they had both been waiting for ages as well.

Mary Macdonald was standing nearby, looking almost as happy as Lily and James had, and as Sirius left, she came over to talk to me. “Finally,” she said. “It’s been driving Lily mad for weeks. She’s liked him for a while now, I could tell. But she’d done nothing but reject him for six years; she was way too proud to say she was wrong… guess she’s over that now!”

Peter appeared to be inspired by this display by James and Lily, and he ran his hand through his hair the way James always used to do before he talked to Lily, then strode confidently over to where Mandy stood still in the doorway. This time, however, I helped her out and reminded Peter that Mandy and I were supposed to be back in the Slytherin common room by now, and took our leave.

Gossip circulated quickly at Hogwarts, and by the following morning everyone seemed to know the Head Girl and Head Boy were going out. There was an excited buzz of discussion when the two of them came in to breakfast together on Wednesday. It was weird to think of them as a couple now, after so many years of Lily flatly refusing James’s many offers of a date. And now I rarely ever saw one without the other.



All we heard from the Marauders that week was about how great Saturday’s Halloween party was going to be. They never missed an opportunity to throw a party, and apparently Halloween was one of their favourites because it enabled them to make a grand entrance in costume and have even more people pay attention to them than usual. It was really just Sirius, Remus, and Peter talking it up – although James had helped with party preparations, his involvement was not quite what it had been in the past because he spent all his free time with Lily.

I stood in front of the mirror putting the finishing touches on my costume. I was dressed as a tree, because I wasn’t creative enough to think of anything better. I was wearing brown trousers and a green jumper that I had covered in leaves. I also had leaves in my hair and all over my face.

“Ready?” asked Mandy. She stared at me as sternly as she could and I just laughed. Mandy had dressed as Professor McGonagall.

“Yeah,” I said. I looked over at Charlotte, who was just lying on her bed. “You going, Charlotte?”

She shrugged. “No, I don’t really feel like it. We weren’t even invited, anyway.”

“Suit yourself,” said Mandy. She put on a pair of square glasses, completing her costume, and the two of us walked out of our dormitory and through the halls on our way to the Gryffindor room for the party. Along the way, Mandy tried to give detentions to anyone we saw in the corridors who would believe she was in fact Professor McGonagall.

Eventually we arrived at the Fat Lady’s portrait that guarded the Gryffindor common room, and then Mandy turned around to face me with a scowl.

“What is it?” I asked. “Or are you just practicing your McGonagall facial expression?”

Mandy sighed. “The Gryffindor password’s changed again, and I don’t know what it is.”

“Oh. We’ll find a way to crash their party somehow. Someone’s bound to come by, right?”

As it happened, we only had to wait five minutes until two fourth year Gryffindor boys sprinted up to the portrait of the Fat Lady and exclaimed “Diricawl!”

The portrait swung open, and one of the boys jabbed the other in the ribs. “You berk, you just yelled that for the whole school to hear! Those are Slytherins standing there!”

“Yep, and we’re coming with you!” said Mandy. She marched through the hole in the wall behind the portrait as the two boys gaped at her, and I hurried after Mandy.

“Hey!” shouted one of the boys. A noise ricocheted off the wall next to us and I ducked from whatever jinxes they might be trying to use and slow us down. But they didn’t try anything else now that we were inside the common room and they might hit someone else.

Someone looked up from behind a table of drinks: it was James, wearing swimming trunks and a Voldemort mask. Next to him was a dementor, who I could only assume was Sirius. He was making exaggerated rasping noises, and it was a pretty good imitation, only rather than that dreadful feeling of cold and misery that came with dementors, he radiated more of an air of drunkenness.

“All right,” said James, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“We heard there was a party that was not to be missed,” I said.

“I’m sorry!” said one of the fourth-years. “I tried to stop them, but they came in anyway! They’re Slytherins!”

“Have they not noticed us the countless other times we’ve been here?” I muttered to Mandy.

James ignored the boys and handed me some firewhisky. “What?!” the fourth-year boy continued, clearly unhappy that his efforts to stop us had not been appreciated. His friend, however, gave up on trying to get us out of the room and asked James for some firewhisky as well.

“Sorry, mate, you’re only fourteen,” said James with a quick glance over to his left where Lily was standing. If she hadn’t been there James might have given a different response, but he knew she might disapprove of the Head Boy giving alcoholic drinks to kids not yet of age. This didn’t bother Sirius, however, who beckoned the kid over and gave him a drink.

“So what exactly are you supposed to be?” Mandy asked James.

“I’m Voldemort, obviously.” The fourth-year boy flinched and spilled most of his firewhisky as James said the name. “See, if we don’t make Voldemort look silly, people will be too scared to stand up to him! But he’s nothing but a loser who doesn’t have a nose!”

“A powerful loser without a nose,” I corrected. “But you’re right. And your costume is very… original.”

“Thanks,” said James with a grin. “Yours is pretty convincing, Mandy. Either you did a very good job with the costume, or you’re actually just fifty years older than I thought you were.”

“That deserves a detention, Potter,” she said in her best McGonagall voice, and then laughed.

“Maybe you should give him a detention for not actually inviting us,” I suggested.

“You were invited,” he said, shrugging.

I snorted. “Really? I didn’t realize that ‘We’re having a party for Gryffindors only and it’s going to be amazing and too bad Slytherins can’t come’ meant ‘you’re invited’.”

“Melanie! Mandy!” said a voice. I turned around to see Mary Macdonald, grinning. “You came!” she said, and hugged me tightly. “They said it was supposed to be Gryffindors only, but I think the more the merrier, right? I brought Maurice along and he’s a Ravenclaw, but see, you can’t tell because he’s wearing my Gryffindor scarf!”

Maurice Zeller, standing behind Mary, was indeed wearing a Gryffindor scarf. Apart from the scarf, however, he hadn’t really dressed up for the party – unless his idea of a costume was simply dressing as a Gryffindor. “Right,” I said, “I think it’d be great if the whole school could come. Of course, the professors might find out about it that way… And Gryffindor’s password would be useless…” I shrugged.

“I love your costume!” said Mary, having probably not listened to most of my ramble.

“Thanks,” I said, adjusting a couple of the leaves in my hair. Another girl came up to talk to Mary, who threw her arms around the girl and then they started talking animatedly. So I left, got another drink, and started walking over to talk to Lily, whom I could see across the room.

Sirius wandered out from behind the drink table, a half empty glass of firewhisky in his hand. “Who wants a kiss?” asked his voice from inside the hood. “Dementor’s Kiss, get it?”

I rolled my eyes. The dementor appearance in Hogsmeade at the beginning of the month must have just served as an inspiration to him rather than scaring him in any way.

Two fifth-year girls nearby had heard his voice and began trailing behind him expectantly, each girl trying to get one step in front of the other, as Sirius walked further into the room, but he sped right past them.

“Melanie?” He waked towards me, removing his hood; his face looked hopeful, resembling that of an eager puppy. He pursed his lips at me.

I half wanted to immediately launch myself at him and accept this welcome opportunity, but thankfully the sensible side of my brain was in control instead and reminded me that he was joking. “Tempting,” I said, trying not to crack a smile. “You know how attracted I am to dementors.”

One of the fifth-year girls stepped up boldly. “Well if she’s not going to take you up on that offer, I will.”

Sirius stopped. “Ah, well, sorry, I just decided the offer’s not available anymore. It’s not really fair anyway. Everyone will want one.”

The girl pouted. Sirius looked back at me. “Anyway, where were we?”

“You were trying to take my soul away. But really, I think I should be taking this away from you.” I took the glass from his hand and drained the remaining firewhisky in it, then coughed as it burned my throat.

“I could have just got you your own drink,” he said.

“I already have one,” I said, holding it up. “I only did that because you’ve clearly had enough to drink, if you’re running after me.”

“How greedy.”

“I know, it’s pretty awful, isn’t it? First I come to your party uninvited, then I steal your drink. You should consider yourself lucky to have a friend like me.”

“Of course I do. And it’s not just anyone who could look beautiful even with leaves all over her face.”

“Oh, stop kidding around, you’ll get my hopes up,” I said flippantly. I could feel the blush on my face and was very glad there were leaves all over it. I probably looked more like a tree on fire than anything else. I decided now would be a good time to find someone else to talk to before I slipped up like I had before. That was my plan, but somehow I ended up standing there talking to him for at least an hour, and drinking far more firewhisky than I should have done.

“How much have you had?” Sirius asked at one point when I returned with another drink. He was sitting on the floor now, so I joined him there.

“This is my second one,” I slurred.

He raised an eyebrow, as if he didn’t believe my convincing lie. “I think you’ve had enough,” he said, and reached for the drink in my hand.

“You’re one to talk,” I said. “You can’t even stand up right now.”

“Yes I can. I just don’t feel like it. Besides, it’s easier to just take this than get my own,” he said, swiping my drink from where I had set it on the floor next to me.

At some point I vaguely noticed that the room had started to grow quieter, but Sirius and I were still sitting against the wall away from the rest of the party. And I wasn’t about to leave anytime soon – I was quite enjoying the way Sirius hadn’t taken his eyes off my face for the past half hour. By this time we’d somehow moved on to telling embarrassing stories about ourselves.

“That’s like the time Mandy and I went swimming in the lake,” I said eagerly, “but we went out too far and ran into the giant squid. We both came back with tentacle marks all over our necks and our arms, and it stayed that way for a week, so we had to wear long-sleeved jumpers for a while even though it was June!”

Sirius laughed, and Mandy turned around from where she was standing a few feet away flirting with Remus. “I thought we both agreed to never talk about that,” she said with an amused smirk. She looked at me for a moment, then said, “Come on, we’ve got to get you back home.” I felt her hand lifting up on my arm.

“What? No, I’m staying here,” I said, and grabbed hold of Sirius’s hand. “We’re telling embarrassing stories.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m worried about,” said Mandy calmly. “I don’t want today to turn into one either. It’s late. And you’re too drunk.”

“Oh, come on, Professor, we’re having fun,” said Sirius with a dismissive wave of his hand, knocking over an empty bottle of firewhisky that had been sitting on the floor next to us.

Mandy removed her square glasses – maybe so Sirius wouldn’t call her Professor again. “Look, the party’s over,” she told me. “Let’s go.”

I looked around, peering over the edge of the sofa. There were a few groups of people here and there still talking. Sirius and I were still seated on the floor and hadn’t really known what was going on with anyone else for a while. I turned back to face Sirius. “What happened to you being the talkative party host?” I asked him. “You’re not as good at throwing parties as you say you are – you just spent the whole time in the corner talking to me.”

“Well it’s because I like you. I would rather talk to you.”

I giggled. “Really? I like you too.”

Mandy sighed. “Remus, our friends are drunken idiots,” she said. Remus turned around and looked at Sirius and me sitting there, and came over to us. Mandy helped me to my feet. I turned back to face Sirius; Remus was trying to talk to him but was having about as much success as Mandy was with me.

“You can thank me tomorrow,” said Mandy as she put my arm around her shoulders and led me to the door, waving at people along the way. But before I knew it we were out the door and on our way back to our own dormitory. I wanted to just stop and sit in the middle of the corridor and maybe fall asleep there, but Mandy kept walking me back. Around that point I realized that I wasn’t able to walk without her, and how embarrassed she must be to be seen with me right now, and so I made sure to thank her at least eleven times for being such a good friend.

Mandy and I walked into the Slytherin common room, my arm still around her shoulders tightly as I clung to her in order to stay standing. I felt a little like I was on a boat out at sea. In a corner off to the right, near the stairs, were Lester, Mulciber, and Snape gathered around something. Charlotte was talking with them.

“Hi Charlotte!” I exclaimed loudly, and removed my arm from around Mandy and started walking over to meet Charlotte. After two steps, I stumbled on the carpet and Mandy grabbed my arm as I landed on my knees on the floor. I knelt there laughing as the group in the corner simply stared at us. Mulciber looked quite angry, and Lester put his hands behind his back. I tried to look around Charlotte to see what they were hiding, but I fell over. Then I rolled back and forth on the floor and continued laughing.

The next thing I knew, my arms were around both Mandy and Charlotte’s shoulders as they helped me up the stairs. We reached our dormitory and they got me over to my bed, where I fell face down on the pillow and dropped off to sleep instantly.

I woke up the next morning with a blinding headache. Groaning, I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and then gave up and leant back against the pillow again, not quite ready to get up. I recalled the stupid way I had behaved last night and buried my head further into the pillow. Then I propped my head up again to get the leaves out of my mouth, because I’d never bothered to get them all out of my hair last night before I fell asleep and they now covered my pillow.

I remembered with excitement that Sirius had told me he liked me. But then I thought that it might not have actually happened and I had just dreamed it. And I couldn’t really ask him about that to clarify…

“Good morning,” said Mandy. “I have a hangover potion for you.” She handed me a small crystal bottle.

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “Where’d you get this?”

“I keep it on hand for the day after Slug Club gatherings,” she said. “And it’s good too. This particular one is recommended by Slughorn himself, and I figured he’d know.”

When I was ready to face the day, I went to breakfast with Mandy, who had waited for me. She hadn’t really been waiting long, though – she’d slept in just about as late as I had.

Amazingly enough, for the end of October, it was sunny and relatively warm, so we spent much of the day outside enjoying possibly the last day of sunshine we’d get all year. So it wasn’t until around dinner time that I finally saw Sirius again. We were both walking into the Great Hall at the same time. I gave him sort of an awkward smile, wondering just how much of last night he remembered, and hoping it wasn’t much. But he looked rather uncomfortable as well when he said “All right Melanie?” Clearly I hadn’t just imagined him saying he liked me…

I thought it might be less awkward if we talked rather than just walking away, so we had a very superficial conversation about the weather, and it felt like there was a hippogriff in the room. Sirius kept fidgeting with his sleeve. It was strange to see Sirius so out of his comfort zone and not his confident and charming self. He had the ability to be nervous – who’d have thought?

After a couple of minutes we ran out of ways to discuss how sunny it had been today, and we headed off for our separate tables. I rejoined Mandy and Charlotte at the Slytherin table, and Charlotte looked up at me. “Please sort that out, I saw you two talking over there and I’m glad I was so far away from you, because you two are embarrassing. You obviously both like each other, so quit dragging it on.”

“What?” I asked. I turned to Mandy, who took a large bite of pie. That was exactly what I did when she wanted information from me, and I didn’t like her doing it back to me. I scowled, and then turned back to Charlotte and changed the subject. “What were you doing last night?” I asked. “I saw you and Lester and Mulciber and Snape hiding out in a corner.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said dismissively. “They’ve got all sorts of stupid ideas and were trying to get me involved.”

“What sorts of stupid ideas?” I asked, anxious. Given some of their other ideas of fun, like using the Imperius Curse on Althea, I was sure this wasn’t anything innocent. “It hasn’t got anything to do with Dark Magic, has it?”

“No. I don’t even know half of what they were talking about, I wasn’t paying attention. Lester got a new bracelet of some sort. It looks girly.”

“That’s probably why he was hiding it,” said Mandy.

Mandy and Charlotte continued talking about our fellow Slytherins, but I had eyes only for the boy across the room from me. The Gryffindor table was on the other side of the hall from us, but when I looked up, the people at the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables in between were seated in such a way that I could still see Sirius. And he was watching me. And finally, rather than just looking away and pretending I’d not meant to look at him, I smiled back.

Charlotte was right. I needed to talk to him. I didn’t want to keep stringing it out; I was tired of wondering and feeling awkward. Last year I’d done that for months waiting for Luke to ask me out. But now I thought I might be able to take matters into my own hands. Maybe I’d finally ask Sirius out, like Mandy had suggested a few weeks ago. There was another Hogsmeade weekend in the middle of November, which would be the perfect opportunity.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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Last edited by marauderfan; November 8th, 2012 at 5:47 am.
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Old October 21st, 2012, 5:47 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Thanks to nevillesgal for your feedback, you’re a star! And now here is a chapter that’s been mostly written for years (yes… years) so it’s exciting to finally have it posted. Here goes!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 30: Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town

After class on Wednesday, almost two whole weeks before the Hogsmeade trip, I worked up the courage to ask Sirius. I was walking in a third-floor corridor when I saw him. He was alone for once, which made it easier for me, but I was still nervous because there was almost no chance he would want to go out with a Slytherin when he had so many other options. He had even said so himself at one point last spring. But after the Halloween party it was evident that he’d changed since then. At least, I hoped so.

“Hi,” I said as I approached. Sirius, looking unsurprised to see me, was putting a piece of parchment in his pocket. It looked like the same one he and his friends always had with them – the one that wrote comments about anyone looking at it. “What is that, anyway?” I asked, my curiosity heightened with each time I saw it.

“A piece of parchment,” said Sirius dismissively. “Where are you off to?”

I hesitated. I had really been just trying to find him, and not going anywhere in particular. “Looking for parchment,” I said with a smirk. I waited for him to keep walking, but he didn’t. “Er…” I began. All I had to say was nine more words. Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me. I looked at my shoe. Maybe I’d wait and ask the next time I saw him… But that was what I had told myself last time I talked to him. Even though the Hogsmeade weekend was still two weeks away, the Yule Ball last year had taught me that I shouldn’t wait too long. What if Sirius already had plans for Hogsmeade? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

“Um… do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” I asked. I felt my cheeks burning, and then I started to freak out. I couldn’t do it! “Well, I mean, just – not as a date, of course,” I said, my eyes darting around the hallway. “You know. Just if you wanted to walk around and stuff… I, well,” I had no idea what I was saying; I was practically digging my own grave with my awkwardness. No one in their right mind would say yes to that.

I chanced a look up at his face, dreading that I’d see a smirk there. But he wasn’t smirking; his expression was rather unreadable, and in the few seconds it took for him to answer, I stood there frozen. “Sure, why not,” he finally said, with a trace of a smile.

“Er, great,” I said, trying to hide how ridiculously excited I was. I noticed I was still sort of wringing my hands, and stopped.

Sirius looked at the statue of a one-eyed, humpbacked witch beside us, and then turned back to me. “So, did you mean next weekend or now?” he asked.

“Well, next weekend. It’s not a Hogsmeade weekend now,” I said, glad I had regained my ability to speak properly.

“It can be,” he said evasively.

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Are we going to sneak out?”

“Only if you want to,” he said, shrugging.

I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I’d never tried sneaking out of the Hogwarts gates. Someone was bound to notice. But if we were able to sneak out, the prospect was very inviting…

“Okay,” I said. Sirius clearly had a bad influence on me. I would never have snuck out to Hogsmeade like this if he hadn’t persuaded me to. Sneaking onto the grounds was one thing – I was still within sight of the castle then. But Hogsmeade was a fair distance away.

Sirius turned around to face the one-eyed statue behind us, tapped the back of it with his wand, and muttered, “Dissendium.” The statue’s hump opened up, and Sirius looked in the hole, satisfied. “Ready? That’s how we’re going to get to Hogsmeade.”

I stared at the statue. If anyone knew secret tunnels that led out of the castle, Sirius would be the first person I’d expect to know them. But this could just as easily be a joke, and he was waiting for me to climb inside a hole in a statue and look like an idiot. “What is this? Is this a trick?”

“Why would you say that?” asked Sirius, feigning innocence.

I rolled my eyes. “No, who am I kidding? You’d never play a trick on someone.”

He laughed. “It’s not a trick. Here, I’ll go first if you want.” He climbed inside the hole and disappeared.

“Sirius?” I called down the hole. It was dark and I couldn’t see him.

“Come on!” I heard him call. “Hurry, before someone shows up.”

I looked around the corridor to make sure no one was coming, and then climbed in after him. I slid down a long stone slide for a bit, and then the ground leveled out. “Lumos,” I whispered as I stood up. “What is this?”

“Hey,” said Sirius’s voice in the dark. My vision was not accustomed to the dim light yet and I could only faintly see him. “This is a tunnel that leads out of Hogwarts and into Hogsmeade. Right into Honeydukes, actually. We use this a lot to get food for parties and stuff.”

“I always wondered how you did that,” I said, impressed.

“This way,” he said, and we began walking over the uneven earthy floor. I stumbled and reached out for the wall, just managing to catch myself before I fell. He held out his hand, and I grabbed onto it gladly. He kept holding onto my hand as we walked down the dark tunnel; I wasn’t about to let go, although I worried that my hand was getting too sweaty.

“Is that what you and James and Remus and Peter do when you come down here? Because it’s so dark?”

“You think you’re being funny, but actually the first time we found this tunnel, in third year, we were all holding on to each other while we walked down here. We had no idea where we were going and we thought it might help, but we just tripped over each other’s feet a lot. I’m surprised no one found us, actually – we were talking loud enough for people to hear us miles away.”

“How did you find this place?”

“We actually found it from the other side – it gets out in the Honeydukes cellar. We were in Honeydukes on our first Hogsmeade trip third year, and snuck into the cellar.”

I snorted. “Of course,” I said.

“And we found a trapdoor – so obviously we had to see where it went.”

“How long is this tunnel?” I asked. “It goes all the way from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade – that’s a long way – and you never thought to turn back? You never thought you were lost, or worried you’d never find your way out again?”

“Well it had to go somewhere, right?”

We kept walking along the winding passage. It was indeed a long tunnel, and very dark, despite the light from our wands. After a while I realised that my face hurt a bit, because I’d been grinning almost since we first set foot in here, and hadn’t been able to get the smile off my face. After all, any girl in the school would be dying to go out with Sirius Black, but instead, here he was in a dark tunnel holding hands with me as we snuck out to Hogsmeade.

The tunnel began to slope upwards finally, and then we reached some stone steps, of which there must have been at least a hundred. My legs were beginning to get tired by this point; I was starting to feel like I’d just climbed Mount Everest when I heard the creak of floorboards right overhead. Sirius reached up and tapped a wooden ceiling, feeling around for a crack in the wood. We were there!

“This trapdoor leads into the cellar of Honeydukes,” he said once he’d located the hinge. “We just have to wait until we don’t hear people walking around on it anymore, and then we sneak through here, and we’re in Hogsmeade!”

The noises above us receded, and Sirius pushed up on the trapdoor. Some dust drifted down onto our heads, and he stepped up and looked out of the trapdoor like a prairie dog. He nodded, indicating the coast was clear, and climbed out. I followed right after him and then he let the door back down and slid his foot over it to rearrange the dust and make it look like the trapdoor hadn’t been opened.

“This way,” Sirius whispered, and put an arm around me, resting his hand on my waist. It sent a shiver up my spine. My brain was focused more on the location of Sirius’s hand than on being quiet, and I accidentally kicked a large barrel that had a pile of sweets balanced on top of it. Sirius and I looked at one another as the sweets fell to the floor and created a large amount of noise, then we bolted up the stairs out of the cellar without stopping to worry about being quiet. Fortunately (and rather surprisingly), no one saw us.

We left Honeydukes rather quickly in case any of the staff decided to investigate the source of the noise, and decided we’d just stop in there on our way back. We went to Zonko’s, of course, and tested out some of their new merchandise for a little while before getting caught. Afterwards we discussed going to the Three Broomsticks, but ultimately decided on the Hog’s Head because neither of us went there quite as often, and it seemed like a more appropriate place to go for people sneaking out of school.

It had a much different atmosphere from the cheery Three Broomsticks. In the Hog’s Head, there were all sorts of weird people, and the room was so dirty that you could hardly tell it had windows. “I’m surprised you don’t come here more often,” I told Sirius. “It seems like just your sort of place.”

“Oh it is,” said Sirius. “I know all of these people. That guy, see him there? We’re best mates.” He pointed to an old warlock in a corner whose grey eyebrows obscured half his face. The rest of his face was taken up by an angry looking grimace. That was all we could see of him; he was wearing a long cape with the hood on. Frankly, he looked like someone I wouldn’t really want to have a conversation with, unless I wanted to be turned into an insect and then subsequently crushed by a club.

“I bet,” I giggled. “Well I’m a little creeped out by the way he’s staring at us, or at least I think he’s staring – I can’t tell because of his eyebrows—”

“I’ll get us some butterbeer,” said Sirius, and walked up to the bar. I found us a table, blew some dust off of it, and then Sirius showed up shortly with two dusty bottles of butterbeer.

“That was quick,” I said. “Amazing how much less time it takes when it’s not Madam Rosmerta up there at the bar…”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I was just hurrying to come back to you.”

“Of course, that must be it,” I said with a satisfied smirk.

“Do you want one?” he asked, holding out a bag of sweets he must have picked up at Honeydukes when I wasn’t looking.

“Thanks,” I said, taking one.

As I bit into it, Sirius said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, it has a side effect of uncontrolled singing.”

“What?” I asked frantically, before standing up against my will and belting out a rousing chorus of “Danny the Muggle.” An old wizard with about three teeth at a nearby table joined in singing with me, and once I had finished singing, I sat down in shame, not looking at the few people who were clapping slowly. The hooded warlock in the corner still had his eyebrows fixated on us from across the room. Sirius was grinning, and took the bag of sweets off the table. I could now tell that the bag clearly said Zonko’s – how could I not have suspected that before?

“You have a lovely voice,” said Sirius conversationally. “I particularly liked the harmonies when that bloke joined you.”

“I am never accepting any food from you ever again.” I said through gritted teeth. “That is not something you do on a date!”

“You said yourself it wasn’t a date,” said Sirius wryly, but I didn’t smile. I mumbled something about maybe it should have been a date, but it was incoherent at the least, and I was fairly sure he didn’t hear it. He shrugged. “At least no one gave you one of these sweets during class. Once during fourth year I lost a bet to James, and he made me eat one of these in History of Magic. Professor Binns didn’t even notice though – a hurricane could come through class and he’d still be standing there droning on about Ulric the Unlucky’s historical imprisonment by his rebellious pet trolls.”

“He didn’t notice?” I asked, skeptical of this claim. Professor Binns may be a ghost who didn’t even recognize anyone in the class (he'd always thought my last name was Harrison), but I highly doubted he wouldn’t notice if someone stood up and started singing in the middle of a lecture. “I’m sure he noticed.”

“Well, yeah,” Sirius conceded, “he looked up, really confused, and then he said, ‘Please sit down, Mr Brown.’”

“He rhymed,” I said.

“Right, so James agreed with him and said, ‘I was thinking the exact same thing. We’re twins, Professor Binns.’”

I laughed. “I wish I’d had class with you lot. It was always so dull and no one ever interrupted him like that. But at least that class afforded me a few extra hours of sleep per week.”

Despite the weird atmosphere of the Hog’s Head, Sirius’s practical joke, and the guy with the eyebrows staring at us from his corner, Sirius and I had a fun time. We wandered about the town for a while, with no real direction in mind, and I couldn’t help but be happy. Sirius also had not let go of my hand for practically the entire afternoon.

On our way back to the secret tunnel, we browsed through Honeydukes. This was not a particularly good idea, because we were both a bit peckish, and bought far more sweets than we needed. We walked through the back room of the shop as we made our way back to the cellar. I had never really paid attention to the back of the store before – it had the most ridiculous sweets. The first thing I saw was what appeared to be a tarantula, but was apparently chocolate.

I picked it up, and then glanced over at Sirius, deciding it was probably time to get him back for that stunt he pulled with the singing sweets in the Hog’s Head. “Look at this,” I said with relish, holding the chocolate spider not one inch from Sirius’s face. He recoiled and then frowned at me while I laughed.

“Funny,” he said.

“Aww, too scary?” I said, still laughing, even though it really hadn’t been that good of a joke. “It’s chocolate.”

“Maybe I should get that for Moony,” Sirius mused, apparently to himself. “He loves chocolate.”

“Does he love giant spiders too?”

“No, why would anyone love giant spiders? Apart from Hagrid?”

“I’ve heard Hagrid has a pet Acromantula,” I said. A rumour like this concerning anyone else would undoubtedly be false, but with Hagrid you could never tell. I didn’t really know how he’d keep an enormous spider like an Acromantula in that small wooden hut of his, unless he kept it in the Forbidden Forest, which was even more worrisome.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s got a whole colony of them living in the forest.”

A colony? “That doesn’t sound very safe,” I said. “Do they get out at all?”

“No, he keeps them on leashes. All right, we should probably be quiet now so we don’t get caught,” he said as we snuck around to the stairs into the cellar and ducked down out of sight. He pulled the trapdoor up; I stepped in and walked down a few stairs to avoid being hit on the head by the trapdoor when Sirius closed it. We walked down the hundred stairs and back up along the earthy winding passageway.

Before I knew it, we were back near that stone slide that had led into the tunnel in the first place. I took two steps up it and slid back down. How were we supposed to get out, anyway? Unless there actually wasn’t a way back out and Sirius and I were just trapped in here forever. Life could be worse, I supposed…

I looked back at Sirius. His back was to me and he had that large parchment out again. “What are you doing?” I asked, baffled.

“I’m seeing if there’s anyone out there – unless you want to come out of that statue and find McGonagall…”

I tried to look over his shoulder. “Isn’t this the same parchment you had that told me… er, some interesting things about what you think of me?” What could he possibly use that for right now?

He looked back at me abruptly, and using this moment of distraction to my advantage, I grabbed the parchment out of his hand. “Ha! ‘The Marauder’s Map’?” I asked, looking at the title. He tried to take it back from me, but I turned around to continue looking at it, and he stopped tugging to avoid tearing it. “This does look interesting,” I said.

It appeared to be a map of all of Hogwarts and the grounds. It was very detailed, and showed little dots with people’s names moving around in the corridors. I located two dots labelled Sirius Black and Melanie Hastings near the entrance to the third-floor tunnel, while another dot, Veronica Smethley, wandered by in the corridor. Every room in the castle was on here, and every person. It certainly explained the times Sirius had known I was walking into a room without turning around, or how James had known where the Slytherin common room was to pick me up for the Yule Ball without me telling him.

I turned back to face Sirius. “You made this?” I asked. It was actually rather obvious that they’d made it; their nicknames – Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs – were all across the top of it in curly handwriting. “This… this is amazing,” I blurted. “I had no idea you could—”

Another feature caught my eye. There was another passage out of the castle, on the fourth floor! “There’s another tunnel!” I cried.

“Hey,” he said. “Can’t have you knowing all the secrets of Hogwarts already. It took us years!” He hid his lit wand behind his back so I couldn’t read the map in the dim light. It illuminated him like a weird silhouette as he moved closer.

“No, that’s not going to work,” I said airily, “if you want it back now, you’re going to have to grovel and apologize for being mean to me and making me sing in the Hog’s Head.” The lack of light was not a problem; I held up my own wand, adjusting the map so I was only holding it in one hand now, but I kept an eye on Sirius to make sure he didn’t get close enough to take it back.

Sirius reached into the bag of Zonko’s products and then I heard a thud and something scurrying along the floor. I ignored it, as my attention was mainly focused on how close Sirius was to me at the moment. I knew he was only interested in getting the map back, but still, my heart was thumping wildly, and my stomach seemed to be made of butterflies.

“That’s won’t work either,” I said. “Nothing is going to distract me from this map now that I finally have it!” This was of course a huge lie, because I wasn’t even looking at the map. Sirius was distracting enough without letting loose magical distractions from Zonko’s.

“Nothing?” he asked with a wicked grin. “All right, what about this?” He pulled me to him and pressed his lips against mine. I tensed up, surprised; for a second I just stood there with my hands curled up against his chest, not really sure what to do with them, the map flattened between us. Then I relaxed and wound my arms around his neck, pulling him closer. His hands moved to my waist. My wand clattered to the floor and we were left in complete darkness, but that was just fine. In my mind, there were fireworks going off in the tunnel rather than it being pitch black.

He eventually pulled away, though my arms were still around his neck. I had no intention of letting go of him just yet. “Sorry, what were you saying?” he asked. Even though I couldn’t see him in the dark, I knew he was smirking at me.

If I had tried to say anything, it wouldn’t have come out as comprehensible words, so I just laughed, then pulled him back and kissed him again, more passionately than before. I never wanted this to stop. I wouldn’t have minded if we just stayed down here in this tunnel forever. It would be at least a few days before someone sent out a search party for us, right?

I had no idea how long we remained in the tunnel, but it wasn’t long enough. After one unsuccessful attempt to leave, in which we separated long enough to take two steps and then decided better of it and started kissing again, we eventually realised we had been a while in the tunnel and should probably get back into the castle soon. We reached around on the floor for all the things we had dropped. I found my wand, which was a great help for finding things now that we could actually see them.

Sirius picked up the map from the floor and looked at it while I attempted climbing up the stone slide. I prodded the inside of the statue and opened it, only to duck back down again when I heard footsteps. Sirius quickly muttered something that sounded like “Mister Manage” and the map disappeared, leaving the parchment blank. “It’s all right, it’s only Pr- James out there,” he assured me.

I pushed the statue open again and climbed out, and James, who was walking by, looked at me in surprise. “Melanie,” he said. “Hi, I didn’t realize you…” He broke off when Sirius climbed out of the statue behind me. James’s eyes widened; his expression went from confusion to realization and he started laughing. I looked back at Sirius and saw just how messy his hair was – it was quite obvious we hadn’t only been walking back from Hogsmeade. I was sure I couldn’t look much better. “Busy day?” asked James, and whistled to himself as he kept walking down the hallway. I wasn’t sure whether the situation was embarrassing or hilarious.

“Your hair’s a mess,” said Sirius, laughing.

“Have you had a look at yourself?” I muttered, putting my hair up into a ponytail, hoping that made it look slightly less ridiculous.

Sirius looked at his watch. “It’s about time for dinner,” he said. “You should come join me at the Gryffindor table today.”

I grinned. “I’d love to,” I said. We started walking down to the Great Hall together, and I felt as if I were walking on clouds the whole way. “Today was really fun,” I told Sirius. It had been the weirdest date; we’d gone to the Hog’s Head, of all places, he’d made me sing, and I’d stolen his map. But if I’d wanted perfect, I would have stayed with Luke. Sirius was the complete opposite. We fought, we flirted… there was never a dull moment. And I could be myself around him. So it hadn’t been the perfect romantic date, but it had been perfect for me.

“I’ve wanted to ask you out for ages, you know,” he said as we walked through the corridor. "I was actually just coming to look for you when you found me.”

“Oh, ha ha,” I said, assuming he was just having me on as usual. Of course he hadn’t planned to ask me out – it had been a total spur of the moment thing, and he’d kissed me only so he could get his stupid map back. But Sirius looked rather taken aback, and I wondered… “Wait, you weren’t serious?” I asked awkwardly, stunned.

“I’m always Sirius. It’s my name.” And we were back to this. Sometimes I’d think he was about to say something real, and it would always turn out to be a joke. Then when he did say something real, I obliviously made fun of it. Just like me…

“Wow, clever, I’ve never heard that one before.” I shook my head. “So… how long is ages?” I asked, trying to convince him to talk about it again. “Because I’ve liked you for ages too. How did it take so long?”

Sirius laughed. “Months, actually… Since last spring. I was so relieved when you broke up with Luke, and I couldn’t work out why at first. You weren’t interested in me at all, and then it started to bother me that there were all these shallow fourth and fifth years who followed me everywhere, saying things they thought I wanted to hear and laughing at all my jokes, but you wouldn’t look twice at me. It was awful – you had seen my comments about you on the map, but I had no way to know how you felt. Nothing I tried seemed to work, and then after this summer I was convinced you only wanted us to be friends. So I tried not to be obvious, but it was driving me crazy.”

Months? I’d had no idea. Last spring was when he’d tried to get me to say I liked him and we’d gotten into a fight. And the few times I had thought he was flirting with me since then, I worried I’d been interpreting his actions wrong and was only seeing what I wanted to see. If I’d known how he really felt, I wouldn’t have acted so foolishly for so long. I smiled, remembering when Sirius and I had flown all around London on his motorbike during the summer. But I supposed that when I’d pushed him away in the hallway later had made him think he was going too far.

“It probably didn’t help that we kept getting into fights, either,” I said.

Sirius laughed. “But I like that about you. You’re one of maybe five people who will ever tell me I’m being an idiot. You’re not afraid to speak your mind.”

“Really? I always thought my inability to shut my mouth was not one of my better qualities.”

“That was the other thing that stopped me,” he said, looking rather shy all of a sudden. “I was… worried you’d say no. And knowing you, you would have been really blunt about it.”

“It never stopped you last spring,” I pointed out. “But I thought you were only joking then. And this year, it was all different. I didn’t help you out, either – I just created awkward situations and imagined you were after someone else.”

“Well, clearly last year’s strategy hadn’t worked,” he said with a small laugh. “I had thought it’d be easy then. But after the summer, I realised I cared about you so much more… and… I didn’t know what to do anymore. I didn’t know how you felt, and I wouldn’t have been able to handle it if you said no.”

I was surprised he’d admitted as much to me. “Well, you had nothing to worry about. Since we got back to school this term I don’t think I could have been more obvious that I liked you, though I was trying not to be. I was always making a fool of myself whenever you were around! I’m amazed it didn’t put you off.”

“Well, I’m glad my prank with the sweets this afternoon didn’t put you off – I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry about that.”

I laughed. That prank had been so typical Sirius. “You do have such a way to win people over,” I teased.

We had reached the doors to the Great Hall by this point. Somehow, I’d gotten Sirius to discuss his feelings, but now in the presence of other people, we ended our conversation. Not that we could be done talking about it – the other three Marauders crowded around us at the table and treated us to their thoughts about the two of us, until Lily dragged James away. Sirius’s friends all seemed just about as happy as I felt. It was actually rather funny; all the attention from them gave me the impression that they all talked about me a lot when I wasn’t around.

Seated at the Gryffindor table, I could see the Slytherins at the other side of the hall, and the first thing I noticed over there was Mandy, who was staring directly at us, her wide eyes boring into me from across the room. She gave me a thumbs up and went back to eating her dinner, but I knew I was in for a long question and answer session the next time I saw her.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Well, I originally wasn’t intending to have Melanie and Sirius get together right after James and Lily did, but the characters had other ideas. So there you have it.

[Feedback feedback feedback] is as simple as 1 2 3!


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Last edited by marauderfan; May 18th, 2013 at 6:16 pm.
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  #32  
Old October 30th, 2012, 7:56 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

This chapter is mostly just fluff and silliness. Yay! And thanks so much to PotterGirl654, nevillesgal, and Baarney for your feedback!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 31: Mysteries

People gossiped about Sirius and me almost as much as they’d talked about James and Lily the previous week. Everyone at Hogwarts had been happy when James and Lily finally got together, but in our case, no one else was that happy for us, particularly the female population of Hogwarts. I’d get jealous glares from girls I’d never met while I walked to class, and some went so far as to hex me. Most of the discussion about us was just people being surprised Sirius Black was dating a Slytherin, and how they never thought we’d last.

Vanessa Saltz, who was still bitter that I dated Luke when she liked him, was particularly unbearable, and in an attempt to sabotage our relationship she even told Sirius that I had cheated on him, which was of course a lie. Fortunately, Sirius did not believe her, because apparently Vanessa had tried the same thing last time Sirius had had a girlfriend. And because Sirius and I had been friends for so long, he trusted me without giving Vanessa’s claim a second thought.

Mandy, always the supportive friend, told me to just ignore all that, and insisted that I must be special because Sirius had actually been nervous to ask me out, and that just didn’t happen to him normally. She exaggerated quite a bit, but I appreciated the sentiment. For someone who had been infatuated with Sirius for nearly six years, she was remarkably delighted about Sirius’s and my relationship. And even Charlotte didn’t gossip about us. I know it must have been hard for her, because she lived for that sort of stuff, but she knew I didn’t like to be the centre of attention and perhaps she saw that I was dealing with enough as it was.

Even some of the professors were surprised; Professor McGonagall did a double take when she saw me and Sirius sitting together in Transfiguration, and her expression was hard to read but it almost seemed like she gave us a small smile. I wasn’t sure, though; I don’t know if I’d recognise a smile on McGonagall’s face if I saw one, because it was a rare thing for her.

But like all things, the gossip eventually faded away when we were still together after two weeks and people had found other things to talk about, such as the new comic strip, The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle, which had become rather popular and apparently tended to circulate in History of Magic classes as an antidote to Professor Binns’s wheezy droning. Girls would still glare at me, but I figured this was a small price to pay and it was worth it to be with Sirius.

I was sitting at the breakfast table one day with my fellow Slytherins and opened up the Daily Prophet, as always, to see if there were any casualties whose names I recognised or if Nathan had been caught up in anything recently. He hadn’t, not that I could tell, although there were two more missing people today. There was one from Muggle Relations and another from the Department of Mysteries. Death Eaters were always targeting people who worked closely with Muggles, but I had no idea what they’d want with someone in the Department of Mysteries.

“What do they do in the Department of Mysteries?” I asked Mandy.

“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why they call it ‘mysteries’, isn’t it, because no one knows.”

“It’s a bunch of blokes who people expected great things from, and then they disappeared to the basement of the Ministry,” said Charlotte. “They study how magic works, they make Time-Turners, they probably keep ghosts in there too—”

I didn’t really know if any of that was true of if Charlotte was just inventing it all. But despite the recent casualty in the department, it sounded rather interesting. “That doesn’t sound all that bad,” I said. “What do you mean, people expected great things? Do you mean they’re not doing anything great? I think that does sound pretty cool, studying the core of magic or whatever.”

“Doesn’t sound that great if you’ll just end up dead,” said Mandy, looking over at my newspaper.

“That may not have had anything to do with his job at all,” said Charlotte. “Maybe that guy was Muggle-born. Anyone could end up dead in this war.”

On that bleak note, we finished our breakfast. I rolled up my newspaper to remind myself about researching the Department of Mysteries later, and I went off to meet Sirius.

It was his birthday, which luckily happened to fall on a weekend so we could spend more time together and not have to go to classes. I met him in the Gryffindor common room and we just lazed around for a while, accompanied by his other friends. I had told him I had something really exciting planned, which was not actually true; I wanted to, but I was nowhere near as good at planning fun stuff as Sirius was. So I was trying to think about it as we sat there, hoping inspiration would strike before the end of the day.

For the meantime, we were just sitting in the Gryffindor common room, along with James, Lily, Remus, and Peter. I was sitting curled up on the sofa, and Sirius was lying on his back, stretched out along the sofa, his head resting on my lap as we worked through a crossword puzzle together.

I heard James mention my name, and turned to look over at him and Lily where they were cuddling on an adjacent sofa near the fire. James laughed. “Would you two quit being so… touchy-feely all the time?” he asked, wrinkling up his nose.

As if he could talk. He and Lily had been dating for about a week longer than Sirius and I had, and they were just as bad, if not worse. “We’re not—” I began, but stopped speaking when I realized I had been absentmindedly stroking Sirius’s hair. “Oh. Sorry.”

“Hey, why did you stop?” Sirius whined, looking up at me.

I laughed. “What are you, a dog? I can’t stop petting your hair for one minute?” I said. All four of the boys found this very funny, although I didn’t think I had been that funny.

Sirius folded the completed crossword in half, tossed it onto the floor and stretched, almost hitting me in the face with his hand as he did so. “Sorry,” he said, sitting up.

“It’s all right, I probably deserve it from those times last year when we got into a fight and I slapped you.” How could I have ever done such a thing?

I heard Peter clap and looked up. Sirius’s folded papers had landed in the middle of the rug when he’d discarded them there, slightly open with the fold facing up like a tent. Remus was flicking cards at it, balancing them on top of the paper tent using levitation charms while Peter watched with appreciation. I reached in between the sofa cushions for my wand, found it, and levitated another card onto Remus’s balancing card house. Sirius added one at a jaunty angle and after a few minutes of this it looked more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa than a house. It was rather amusing, anyway. And it only helped confirm my belief that the Tower of Pisa was in fact held up by magic, whatever Muggles said about it.

“Look, it’s snowing!” said Lily, pointing at the window. And indeed, large white flakes were swirling past the window, framed by the long crimson drapes of the Gryffindor Tower window. After the nonstop rain we’d had for the last couple of weeks, it was exciting to see snow.

“I think I’m going to go to lunch now,” said Peter, looking at his watch. “Who else is coming?”

Remus stood up to go with Peter. Sirius looked at me as if to ask if I wanted to join them, but I’d finally gotten a better idea.

“Actually, we’ve got plans already,” I told Sirius.

“Have we?”

“Yes, because it’s your birthday. I’ll meet you downstairs by the Great Hall in about ten minutes.”

Once out of Gryffindor Tower, I began walking down to the kitchens. This wouldn’t be much of a surprise, because he’d know where I’d got this food, but I wanted to make it as much of a surprise as I could. I opened up the door to the kitchens, which was a large painting of fruit, and walked in. The house-elves were very busy preparing lunch for the Great Hall tables, but a few of them slipped over to talk to me.

“Would miss like some tea?” squeaked an elf near my knee.

“Cheers, that would be lovely,” I said. “And some food too, some of whatever you’re making for lunch.”

One elf brought me some tea, which I sipped while about four more of them set to packing a picnic basket for me. I chatted with Zinty, the elf who had brought me tea, until the other four came back with the basket. I thanked them and went off to meet Sirius, hoping he wouldn’t find this whole idea boring.

He was just coming by the Great Hall when I found him. “What’s that you’ve got?”

“Lunch!” I said, taking his hand with my free one that wasn’t holding the picnic basket, and led him towards the doors of the castle. “We’re having a picnic instead. I know it’s snowing, but it’ll only be cold for a minute, until I figure out the Bubble Charm.”

We picked a nice spot on the field and I spread out a picnic blanket, then we sat on it and I cast a large bubble over our picnic to keep the snow and the cold out. It was like being in a little glass room outside. Sirius reached out through the bubble and caught some snowflakes, then brought his hand back through and the snowflakes melted. “This is cool,” he said as I pulled a few steaming bread rolls out of the picnic basket.

“Sorry I didn’t actually have anything exciting planned,” I admitted as we finished our lunch. “I wanted to have something impressive but I just couldn’t think of anything – you’re way better than I am at surprises and parties and such.”

“You didn’t need to plan anything impressive,” he said, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “It’s been a great birthday. I get to spend the day with all my favourite people.”

I grinned and happily leaned into his shoulder. We sat there and watched the snow fall, talked and laughed about unimportant things, shared some delicious Honeydukes chocolate, and in general had a wonderful afternoon. What with the seasons moving towards winter, it began to get dark midway through the afternoon, and we eventually collected our things and started heading back inside. We paused just outside the castle doors and I kissed him in a way that I hoped made up for the lack of impressive birthday planning.

As we walked back into the castle much later, Sirius reminded me, “Hey, you don’t have Quidditch practice today, right?”

“No, I don’t,” I said. I loved Quidditch, but I also loved having days off practice because it meant I could spend more time with Sirius, and any time was valuable time with it being the busy year we took our NEWTs. Besides that, Quidditch was a bit weird recently, particularly Regulus. We had never talked much because he was one of Jasper’s friends, but now that I was dating Regulus’s brother, he never really acknowledged me at all, and that wasn't something that worked well on a team.

“I’ve got a great idea,” he said, a spark in his eye that indicated it was an idea that would involve us narrowly avoiding getting in trouble, because those were the sorts of things he found to be good ideas. “Bring your broomstick with you up to the Astronomy Tower just before curfew. Just because you don’t have practice doesn’t mean we can’t fly around a bit.”

“Why not earlier?” I asked. “Why at curfew? Do you want to get caught by Filch?”

“There are fewer people wandering around then, so people won’t ask us what we’re up to.”

“All right then,” I said. Only Sirius could get me to agree to something so stupid, but I was rather looking forward to it. We parted for a few hours in which I tried to complete the entire weekend’s homework which I had put off, then I went to dinner with my Slytherin friends. I borrowed Mandy’s Invisibility Cloak just before curfew, and set off to meet Sirius by the stairs to the Astronomy Tower.

Sirius had apparently borrowed James’s Invisibility Cloak as well, only James’s worked and was actually still invisible. We walked up the stairs excitedly, and once at the top of the tower I remembered how cold it was. “We didn’t really think about the snow, did we,” I said.

“What about this?” asked Sirius, and did a Bubble Charm over his broom.

“That’s great, but I think the bubble will be stationary, so when you start flying, the bubble will get left behind…”

We decided to try it anyway, and stepped up on the parapet. I looked down. The Astronomy Tower was the tallest in the castle, and the ground was a long way down from here. We got on our brooms and jumped – it was a great feeling, especially starting from this high up. There was a half a second of freefall before we started actually flying, and it was quite thrilling.

The only disagreeable thing about this arrangement was that the bubble charm did not stick to the broom very well, so we were left flying out in the cold and the snow. It was still fun, and we raced side by side through the dark sky as the snow flew past us, but after a while we got rather cold.

I looked to my left at one point and Sirius was no longer there. Then I felt a drag on my broom and turned around to see him grabbing the tail twigs of my broom. I laughed and tried to go faster, but he held on and then somehow managed to get onto my broom behind me.

“Sirius!” I cried as he leapt off his broom and onto mine. “Watch out!”

“I’m fine,” he laughed. “See, it’s warmer this way.” He was still holding on to his own broom in one hand, and holding on to me with the other. It was in fact warmer since we were so close together, but the broom was not built for two and we started going a lot slower. However, this afforded us the ability have a conversation again, now that we no longer had the wind quickly rushing past our ears.

“What were you thinking? That was so dangerous!”

“But it worked, didn’t it?” said Sirius. He seemed quite pleased with himself.

“Yeah, but now we’re going so slowly we’d lose a race with a fly. And my hair is probably getting in your face.”

“You want me to get back on my own broom?” He pouted.

“No,” I admitted, laughing. We sailed around for a bit longer, while Sirius, now that he no longer had to worry about piloting his broomstick, tried various warming charms on our hands. And it was rather nice slowly flying around after racing before. But eventually we decided it was time to head back in, and went back up to the Astronomy Tower where we had left our Invisibility Cloaks.

Once back on the tower, I looked over the edge again, out at the night. Sirius came up behind me and I turned around to wrap my arms around his neck. “Happy birthday,” I said, hoping he had had as wonderful a day as I had.

“Thank you,” he said softly, “it was.” We said a very thorough and nonverbal goodbye before sneaking back down the spiral staircase and then going our separate ways.

Mandy was still awake when I got back into my dormitory, even though all the lights were off. I found this out when I put her invisibility cloak on top of her trunk, and then felt a hand grasp my arm in the dark. I gasped loudly before I realised that it was of course only Mandy. She giggled quietly, and then said, “So tell me about it! What did you need the cloak for?” So I snuck inside the hangings of her bed and told her about our adventure at the Astronomy Tower.

“Well, you lead an exciting life now,” she said. “You’d never have even considered that kind of rule-breaking before you started going out with him.”

I laughed. “It’s funny, you know. Last year I used to think Sirius brought out the worst in me. Because we fought all the time, and I could never avoid arguing with him; he just always got under my skin. But I think becoming friends with him made me more confident – maybe because he’s so confident himself… it’s something I wasn’t even aware I was capable of before we became friends.”

“You were confident before that,” said Mandy. “You knew you were good at Quidditch. And you had to have been sure of your acting abilities whenever you went home and your parents started harping on about how much they liked Voldemort.”

“Not quite the same thing,” I said. “I was only fine then because I had you to talk to, just an owl away. I was so unsure of myself.”

Mandy smiled. “All right, you may not have been confident, but you were always strong; you’ve dealt with a lot, and always held yourself together. That’s become even more evident this year. I’m proud of you.”

We stayed up late into the night talking, and then remembered that we had classes tomorrow and I reluctantly got in my own bed and fell asleep.

By Tuesday I had caught up on sleep again, as a result of going to sleep rather early in the evening on Monday. Mandy had done the same. Charlotte had watched us leave the common room Monday night mentioning that we were already old women.

We had Potions first on Tuesday. I took my new seat beside Sirius, who was actually better than Mandy was at Potions, although I had no idea how, because he never studied. Mandy was back to her old desk across from Charlotte as she’d broken up with Davey Gudgeon by this point; it was inevitable ever since she’d noticed his resemblance to Peter.

Slughorn gave us the task of making a Grogginess Potion in class, and I thought that maybe I could just dump my brain into the cauldron because it was groggy enough. But thanks to Sirius’s help, my potion was just substandard rather than awful. I looked into his cauldron, and it was bubbling just perfectly the way it was described in Advanced Potions for Sophisticated Potioneers.

“It’s easy to see why your potion is so good. You work so hard,” I said sarcastically. I looked pointedly at his textbook, inside which he had affixed one of the Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle comic books.

“But this is my secret to success,” he said with a grin. “You just have to understand the code. See, when Martin says ‘I think I’m going to travel to India’, it actually means ‘stir the cauldron four and a half times, not just four.”

I rolled my eyes and closed the book on his hand. As I moved my arm back, my elbow hit my ink bottle and upended it all over the table. Sirius only laughed and muttered something about karma. I picked up the bottle and managed to siphon most of the ink back up with my wand, but some had dripped off the edge of the desk and into my bag. I reached into my bag to find a soggy newspaper dripping black ink onto the other textbooks in my bag. It was Sunday’s Daily Prophet, which I’d kept to remind me about the Department of Mysteries.

For a few moments I stood there holding the dripping Daily Prophet, and then I looked up at Slughorn who was erasing some instructions from the blackboard. Slughorn, as Head of Slytherin House, was our career advisor, and had not been a lot of help during the advice sessions in fifth year, but then I hadn’t been particularly motivated to talk with him anyway. Perhaps I could ask him now.

“Don’t wait for me,” I told Sirius, “I’m going to ask Slughorn something. I think I’ve finally got a career idea.”

“Okay,” said Sirius, and gave me a quick kiss before leaving. I walked up to Slughorn’s desk, stopping along the way to discard the now useless newspaper in a rubbish bin.

“Very nice job today, Miss Hastings,” said Slughorn distractedly as he collected the vials of potion from the front table. He was holding up one which I assumed he thought was mine, but it actually said A. Macintosh on the side. Of course, it was Mandy’s that was good, not mine.

“Thank you, sir,” I said. “Professor, I was wondering if I might ask you about the Department of Mysteries. Do you know much about it? Because I’m halfway through seventh year now and I ought to have an idea of what I want to do when I leave Hogwarts.”

Slughorn looked up from the potions and turned his glance to me. “You want to work in the Department of Mysteries?” he asked, clearly surprised. “Well yes, I know a little about it, but of course, there’s a lot more that I don’t know. They keep it mysterious, after all.” He laughed at his own joke. “They study what makes magic work, test the boundaries of magic, how magic works into our lives… it’s a complicated profession, and a lot of work, from what I’ve heard… There aren’t very many women in the department, though.”

“That doesn’t mean there can’t be,” I said indignantly, and rather surprised at my own persistence at something I hadn’t even known about several days ago. But I was irked by his implication that girls couldn’t handle the amount of work for that job. That only made me more determined. “And I can handle hard work.”

“That’s that Slytherin ambition,” said Slughorn, beaming as if I were a six-year-old showing him some art I’d just completed and asked him to hang it on his wall. “I probably have a pamphlet you can look at if you want, and that’ll have names to contact. Shame you didn’t think of this earlier!” He rifled through his desk and eventually found a creased brochure that had a picture of a small crystal ball on the front. That was probably why I’d ignored the brochure entirely when all the career leaflets had appeared everywhere during fifth year: I had associated it with Divination, which I had hated.

I met up with Sirius again in the queue for Transfiguration. “So why did you prefer old Sluggy’s company to mine?” he joked as I walked up with my leaflet.

“I didn’t, I missed you,” I said, leaning in to kiss him. Charlotte made a face at me, but I ignored her. “I got this from Slughorn,” I told Sirius, showing him the Department of Mysteries flyer. “I’m glad I took so many classes, because they ask for a lot! NEWTS in Ancient Runes, Charms, Potions, Transfiguration, and at least an OWL in Astronomy… looks like I didn’t need to continue with Herbology, but at least that one was fun.”

“What, are you trying to be an Auror?”

“No. There’s a branch at the Department of Mysteries that deals with Ancient Magic. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds interesting.”

“Cool. I bet you’ll be great.”

It was good to have the vote of confidence from Sirius, because the next week was full of writing important and professional-sounding letters to people in the Ministry, which was a rather daunting task, but essential if I wanted to be employed when I left Hogwarts at the end of the year. With that, and Quidditch, and all the homework I was doing to ensure that I’d actually be able to pass all those NEWTs I was taking, it was indeed a very busy week.

But still, I made time for fun as well. One day, James, Lily, Sirius and I all went down to Hagrid’s cabin to visit him. I thought this was a strange idea, but apparently the boys did that all the time; they insisted he was great. I had talked to Hagrid maybe twice in my life before this.

Hagrid answered the door when James knocked, and I have to admit I was still a little scared of him. He took up the entire huge doorway just standing there. But he smiled and invited us all in, and he had even baked something for us. I should have realized when neither James, Lily, nor Sirius touched the little cakes on the table that I should avoid them too, but I found out too late when I bit into one and briefly thought I’d broken a tooth.

Regardless, we had a pleasant visit, and Hagrid was very friendly. We told him about our classes and activities and things he might not have found that interesting, and he mentioned his desire to get a pet Fire Crab, which was like a jewelled tortoise that shot out flames. I couldn’t really see the appeal in such an animal; the kaleidoscopic shell might be pretty, but the fire would put me off. James and Sirius, however, agreed with Hagrid that it would be an excellent pet, and talked about how great it would be while Lily and I rolled our eyes at each other. Hagrid even remembered me from last time I’d ventured into the outskirts of the forest, and updated me on how the thestrals were doing.

At the end of our visit, before we left, Hagrid offered us more of the cakes if we wanted to take any with us. Lily took one, although I noticed she held onto it rather than eating it, so she probably just took it to be polite. Hagrid told us to come see him again, and as we left, I wondered why I’d never bothered to talk to him much before.

Being the girlfriend of a Marauder didn’t entitle me to knowing their secrets, though – and I discovered they had quite a few secrets. The following Friday evening, Mandy and I went to visit the Marauders in the Gryffindor common room and only spent a few minutes there before James caught Sirius and Peter’s attention, pointed to his watch, and then the three of them stood up to leave.

“But we came to visit!” said Mandy, trying to persuade them to stay. “Where’s Remus, anyway?”

“He had to deal with a furry problem,” said James. “He should be around later.” James seemed to think this was enough of an explanation, and started to walk away.

“What?” I asked, bewildered. “What does that mean?”

“His rabbit escaped,” said Peter.

“It’s a really ferocious rabbit,” said Sirius, in response to Mandy’s and my visible confusion. “Don’t want that kind of rabbit getting loose in the castle, it’d be a nightmare. So he’s taking care of it.”

“Why would he have such a vicious rabbit?” asked Mandy. “Why couldn’t he have got an owl or something?”

“Everyone has an owl,” said James, as if this were obvious. “Well, we’re off. Things to do.” He and Sirius and Peter continued walking towards the portrait hole.

“Where are you going?” I asked. I looked toward Sirius, hoping he at least would tell me, but this seemed to be something for them alone. They were off to have some adventure, leaving Remus behind to find his rabbit, and leaving Mandy and I to wonder. Realizing I would get no logical explanation, I simply told them, “Well, don’t get in trouble.”

“That’s the idea,” said Sirius with a grin. They left, and I couldn’t help but be a little miffed that Sirius was keeping a secret from me. But it was probably nothing important. Lily was in a corner reading a book, and didn’t look surprised in the least to see the three boys leave. Maybe she knew something I didn’t, or maybe it wasn't as mysterious as it seemed. It really wasn’t my place anyway.

Nevertheless, Mandy and I decided to stick around, and talked with Lily. She and Mandy griped about the upcoming Slug Club Christmas party, which was a month away and Slughorn had told the whole group about it already so they could ensure they had no other commitments. I had gone last year when Mandy brought me for the New Years one, and it wasn’t as bad as they made it sound. Although they’d had to go to a lot more of those functions than I had – the novelty could wear off after so many years.

I noticed the following day when I met up with Sirius for lunch that he, as well as the rest of the Marauders, was covered in scratches and looked very tired. They must have gone into the forest again last night.

“Why don’t you come sit with us this time?” I asked Sirius as we walked into the Great Hall together. Sometimes I wondered what house I really belonged in, since I’d been spending so much time with the Gryffindors as of late.

He looked once at the Slytherin table and then started leading me towards the Gryffindor table instead. “I’m not sitting with a bunch of Slytherins.”

I rolled my eyes. A while ago this might have upset me, but I knew how to handle Sirius’s frequent unintentional rudeness by now. “Ah, you won’t sit with Slytherins, but you’ll go out with one…”

“You’re not just any Slytherin,” he said with a smile.

The news everyone was talking about at lunch was that last week’s Hogsmeade trip, which had been cancelled due to the overabundance of rain and a bit of flooding, had been rescheduled for mid-December. Sirius and I would be able to have an actual date this time that wouldn’t involve sneaking out, and hopefully wouldn’t involve tricking me into singing.

Remus was sitting on the other side of me and had been rather quiet during all the Hogsmeade discussion. I asked him if he was planning to go to Hogsmeade with anyone, and he said no.

“Well, I know someone who’d love to go with you,” I hinted. “Mandy said you two had a wonderful time when you went in October.”

Remus gave me a sort of sad smile and said said, “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

This should have been a cue for me to stop meddling, but an idea had just crossed my mind and I had to bring it up. “This isn’t still to do with Emily, is it?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t testing the strength of our friendship just by suggesting it. “Because you know, not everyone will treat you like that. She had no right to do that.”

As far as I knew, Remus hadn’t had a girlfriend since the end of fifth year, which might have had something to do with the fact that the girl had caused quite a stir one day right before OWL week by storming into the Great Hall and screaming at him over breakfast that he was a liar and a monster, and then leaving. I hadn’t known Remus well at the time, but I had felt awful for him – no one wants a public breakup like that. But it had been a while since then, and I knew Mandy was too considerate to ever do anything like that.

Remus sighed. “She was right.”

“Why, what dark secret could you possibly have that would have made her break up with you in that way?” I shook my head. Remus was one of the sweetest people I knew, despite his tendency to play practical jokes.

He just looked at me for a second, and I couldn’t identify the look in his eyes. But he recovered quickly, and said, “I don’t eat my vegetables.”

“Remus,” I laughed, rolling my eyes. “That’s not true.”

“It is true, I don’t like many vegetables. How many vegetables do you see on this plate?” He pointed to his lunch.

“I can certainly see why she was right, then. How dare you not eat your peas.” I was glad Remus hadn’t completely shut down and refused to speak to me, but I wasn’t going to press the issue any further. “I’m sorry I brought it up, anyway,” I said, patting his arm. “I just want you to be happy.”

“I am happy,” said Remus. “I have good friends like you. That’s all I need.”

My subtle hints for Remus ended up being for naught anyway, because by the time I got back to my friends in the Slytherin common room, it was only to hear Mandy rattling on about someone else she’d taken a shine to. “It was love at first sight,” she claimed.

Charlotte looked up as I walked in. “As opposed to Melanie and Sirius,” she said with a smirk. “Love at first fight, maybe.”

I laughed. “You’ve been planning that pun all day, haven’t you? So who’s the new guy then, Mandy?”

“Roderick Cadwallader,” said Mandy with a dreamy look. “I noticed him at lunch one day and I can’t get him out of my mind.”

“The Gryffindor Seeker?” I asked, sitting down next to Mandy on the sofa by the fire. “Well, lunch this week was not the first time you saw him. I believe that was first year when Peeves dropped strawberries on him before we were Sorted.”

“Okay, fine, it was a little bit of an exaggeration,” said Mandy, pouting because I was ruining her moment.

“I think the love part was an exaggeration too,” said Charlotte. “Maybe you should have said, ‘momentary-crush-that’ll-be-over-in-a few-days-when-you-find-someone-hotter, at five-hundred-sixty-first sight’.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” I said. “And I think that’s enough of crushing Mandy’s dreams for today.”

“Thank you,” said Mandy with an air of dignity. She held up her Transfiguration book purposefully and began to flick through the pages. But over the top of the book, I could see her eyes following Neal Rosenbaum as he walked across the room. I managed to keep from giggling by getting out my Potions homework, something that could be depended upon to suck the humour out of any situation.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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Last edited by marauderfan; April 13th, 2013 at 5:38 am.
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  #33  
Old November 18th, 2012, 2:36 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Whew! This chapter was very uncooperative. So sorry if it's not up to standard :/

And many thanks to Baarney and Rew for your feedback - you guys are awesome!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 32: Holmes for the Holidays

December arrived with a fresh, thick layer of snow on the Hogwarts grounds, and, as was customary, a majority of students could be found making use of it by having a massive snowball fight. The first big snowball fight of the year was always great. It would start out as a bunch of small groups of friends having individual snowball fights, and then it would evolve into one massive one that involved people from all four Houses.

But as December went on, people started looking forward to the end of term, which meant being able to go home and spend Christmas with their families. I had never been excited about spending Christmas with my family, and had usually tried to spend it at Hogwarts or with Mandy. This year, I didn’t have to come up with another elaborate reason why I wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas. Home was Mandy’s house now. As such, I was looking forward to the holidays much more than usual. The only downside this time was that it meant I’d have to spend a few weeks away from Sirius.

It had always seemed to me that time sped up when you had more things to do. And with N.E.W.T. work, Quidditch, figuring out my post-Hogwarts life, and trying to spend any free time with Sirius, half of December had slipped by before I knew it.

One Wednesday, about a week and a half before the end of term, I was in the library trying to catch up on my homework, a feat that was proving to be rather difficult due to the fact that Sirius was with me. I had actually convinced him to study for once, but rather than doing our work together we just kept getting distracted by each other.

Remus came by at one point to collect some books, and then walked over to where Sirius and I were sitting by the window. He was grinning. “Well, you’ve got Padfoot under your thumb, haven’t you,” he teased me. “I can’t remember the last time I was able to get him to study in the library.”

“I have my ways,” I said mysteriously. In truth, it hadn’t been that difficult – I had told him that I needed to study, and given how little time we had with each other anyway, he’d decided to join me. “N.E.W.T.s also have their ways of scaring people into studying,” I added. “No one is immune to that, no matter how smart you are.”

“I don’t think it’s the N.E.W.T.s that convinced him to study,” Remus said knowingly. “We had the same amount of homework yesterday but he was sitting in the common room making ink bottles chase each other for at least half an hour.”

“They were playing Quidditch,” said Sirius as if this had been obvious. “Get lost, Moony.”

“Are you ever going to tell me what those nicknames mean?” I asked, looking from Sirius to Remus hopefully.

The two boys glanced at one another. “Sometime,” said Sirius, shrugging. “But that’s neither here nor there. I thought you were worried about N.E.W.T.s.”

Remus left us and continued out of the library with his seven books, and Sirius and I went back to work. I was rather surprised to discover just how good at Transfiguration he was; of course, I had known that he was good at it, because he was always one of the first to manage a new spell in class, but I hadn’t realized how naturally it came to him.

At one point I paused from my work when I heard a muted buzzing noise. It sounded eerily familiar, putting into mind another time when I had been in the library and had discovered Mulciber using the Imperius Curse on Althea Seward.

“Do you hear that?” I asked Sirius.

“Yeah.” He looked around, and when neither of us could see any source for the noise, I got up out of my seat and went to investigate. I looked behind the nearest bookshelf. Sirius followed me. “What are you doing?”

In a low whisper I briefly related what had happened last time I heard that sound, and how it was a charm one of them had done to block out the noise of what they were doing. Sirius looked around the next bookshelf, and walked to the end of it. I followed behind him, and sure enough, there at a table were Lester Avery, Calvin Mulciber, and Severus Snape. On the table between them was a pile of useless trinkets and rubbish, including a very old looking book, an oddly shaped rock, and some pieces of jewellery.

I edged along the bookshelf even more. They didn’t seem to be practicing Dark Magic on students this time, at any rate. But why were they so keen to not be overheard?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to determine anything. After a few minutes, the noise went away, and they were only talking about Selma Yaxley. Apart from the buzzing, nothing out of the ordinary had happened at the table. I had probably been here too long anyway; it was because of me that those three had got a month of detentions last time, so if they saw me lurking again, I’d be their next victim for sure. What I needed was to find a more subtle way of finding out what they were doing. I stepped back and shrugged, and Sirius stopped looking through the shelf and went with me back to our study corner.

“I feel sort of uneasy about that,” I told Sirius once we were seated again, away from the mysterious activities of the other Slytherins. “I mean, they could just want to be quiet when they talk about girls, but given what happened last time, I bet there was more going on than it looked like.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” said Sirius with a nasty scowl. “Snivellus has never been up to anything good.”

I wondered how smart it had been of me to inform Sirius about what was going on. If anyone could find out what those three were up to, Sirius might be able to, but he and Snape had hated each other since first year, and I worried that Sirius might now try something extremely rash to attempt getting Snape in trouble.

“We can’t prove anything yet,” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder as if to stop him from suddenly leaping up and turning Snape into a buzzard. But he didn’t go anywhere. I pulled my Transfiguration textbook back onto my lap and we returned to the studying we had been doing, although now I was listening intently for any noise out of the ordinary.



Later, I sat in the common room composing an application letter for the three-year training course I’d have to take in the Department of Mysteries following Hogwarts. Gathered around me were a few crumpled bits of parchment, remnants of previous drafts of the application. It was now a week until the end of term, which meant a week until Slughorn’s annual Christmas party. That was the last thing on my mind because I was not going this year, and I had other things to think about such as this application, but Mandy had been talking about it for the past two days.

Mandy walked into the room and sat in a chair beside me, and almost instantly unleashed a string of nonsense about various boys she was considering asking to go to the Slug Club Christmas party with her. She seemed to be mulling it over to herself, but every once in a while she’d look over at me furtively. I knew from experience that this meant she wanted me to provide her with advice, but she didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. I sighed and put my quill down, careful to not leave a blot of ink in what was so far proving to be an excellent fifth try to this letter.

“Who’s the lucky man this time?” I asked. “Have you decided who to ask?”

She sighed dramatically. “I don’t know,” she said. “I want to ask Roderick Cadwallader, but I don’t think he really likes me that much. But maybe I’ll just go with someone as a friend, like I did with you last year. I have more options if I just go with someone as a friend. Russell would go with me. Or Hector. Or maybe I won’t ask anyone at all.”

“This doesn’t have to be so complicated, you know,” I said. “It’s only Slughorn’s party. Just pick someone.”

Her eyes widened and she stared at me like I was crazy. “It is complicated!”

“Well, one thing you told me ages ago, when I was doubting myself over the Yule Ball – you said it would be more fun going with James because we were friends, rather than worrying about whether Luke liked me. Maybe just ask a friend, someone you know really well.”

“So not Roderick,” she said to herself. She continued to sit there, her chin in her hands as she stared into the fire. “But… I don’t know…” Then she began picking at the upholstery of the chair.

I got the sense there was another complication she wasn’t telling me about. She usually told me everything about her love life, whether or not I wanted to hear it, so it had to be something significant. And then it hit me with the force of a stampeding hippogriff: There was one specific person she wanted to ask, but she didn’t know whether he fit into the category of friend or something more… Remus.

“What about Remus?” I asked. Her head jerked up. So that had indeed been the dilemma. “I’m sure he’d go with you; you are great friends, after all.”

“I’ll just make sure to clarify to him that it’s just as friends,” she said, looking heartened that I hadn’t thought it was a stupid idea to ask him. She grinned and stood up. “Thanks, Mel. And good luck on your application letter. What are you looking at?”

While Mandy had been speaking, I had been staring past her at Lester, Mulciber, and Snape, who were gathered in a corner again, laughing; Mulciber had affixed a thick silver bracelet on his wrist. I performed a quick charm and held my wand up to my ear. The intention was for it to magnify sound, but rather than isolating the sound of the group in the corner, I just heard a lot of amplified voices from all over the entire room.

“That’s a great one, Sherlock Holmes,” said Mandy sarcastically. “Keep it up. No one can tell what you’re up to at all.”

“What?” I asked, taking my wand down.

“He’s a detective,” she explained. “Muggle books, so you probably haven’t read them. But he’s a much better detective than you.” I scowled. Mandy looked over at the three in the corner again. “Maybe he’s just getting in touch with his feminine side,” she mused.

“No idea,” I said. They had always gathered in corners and talked in secret – they’d been friends for years – but ever since I’d seen them hurting other students I’d been increasingly more distrustful of them and even the most commonplace things they did seemed sinister.

Mandy left and headed for the girls’ staircase. On the way she passed the group in the corner and I heard her say, “Nice bracelet, Mulciber. Where’d you get it from, your grandmother? Did she give you a tiara to go with it?”

They stared up at her disdainfully as she skipped off up the stairs. If they were doing anything illegal, they certainly couldn’t draw attention to themselves, so maybe they had to keep quiet. I just wished I knew what it was they were doing.

On Monday, Mandy finally got around to asking Remus about Slughorn’s party. I could hear her from a fair distance away as I walked up into the queue for Defence Against the Dark Arts that afternoon. “I’m only asking if you want to go with me as my friend,” she was saying. “We’re still friends, right? Last year I went with Melanie – that was hardly a date.”

I suppose she must have been convincing, because he agreed to go with her. Shortly after that, Professor Thornhill let the class in, and Mandy was rather distracted during the entire class period. That was not unusual for a girl in the class, because many of them, particularly Veronica Smethley, still spent more time staring at the professor rather than taking notes, but it was unusual for Mandy to be so unfocused in class.

After class that afternoon was the last Slytherin Quidditch practice of the term. The other three houses had each reserved one of the other days for their practices, and then we’d all be gone on Friday. Usually we had several practices in a week, but all the teams wanted some last minute practice on the pitch before we all left for the holidays.

Hector worked us particularly hard since we wouldn’t be practicing together again until January. The air was freezing, and snow blew in our faces, but these were the conditions we’d likely be dealing with when we played against Gryffindor in February. At the end of a grueling practice, Hector decided to send us off with some fun, so he replaced the Quaffle with a large snowball, and charmed two other snowballs to be Bludgers. Of course, it didn’t work as well, but we ended on a good note and it raised our spirits after two hours of hard practice. Hector reminded us to play Quidditch over the holidays if we got the chance, and then, completely soaked with snow and sweat, we all went back up to the castle.

Although I still had icy water dripping from my hair, I was more hungry than anything else, so rather than stopping to change my clothes, I went to the Great Hall for dinner instead. Sirius and James were in the middle of a discussion, but as I approached the Gryffindor table, Sirius looked up at me and grinned, even though James was talking to him. “Hi,” he said. Somehow, I’d out-competed even James for Sirius’s attention. I didn’t know that was possible, particularly when I looked as disgusting as I did right now.

I sat down beside Sirius and took a piece of bread from his plate. “Don’t let me interrupt you,” I said.

“You’re not interrupting,” said Sirius. “We were just talking about you, actually. I’m staying with Prongs for the holidays, as you know, and you should come visit for New Year’s! Lily is coming for a few days too, to see Prongs. And his parents loved you, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you coming to stay.”

I was a bit surprised to hear Sirius say that James’s parents had liked me – perhaps they’d missed all the drama Mandy and I had created.

“Lily’s going to be there?” I said. “Ooh, she’ll be meeting James’s parents for the first time.” I dished an enormous helping of steak and kidney pie onto my plate, and an equally large serving of steamed vegetables. Quidditch had really tired me out today.

“I’m sure they’ll love her, though,” said Sirius. “James has told them nothing but good things about her for years.”

I laughed. “She’s got a reputation to live up to, then. I’d probably be nervous if I were her! At least the two of us will never have to be worried about meeting each other’s parents, because we’ve both been disowned.”

“Right. I think my parents would hate you, anyway; you’re not a pureblood and you’re far too outspoken. But that’s why I ran away; I don’t want to be surrounded by people like them.”

Not to mention my table manners, which must look pretty rubbish at the moment as I sat there with dripping robes and shoveled food into my mouth. Sirius’s family would probably disapprove of anyone who behaved thus. “My parents love the Blacks, because you’re a proper pureblood family, but I don’t think they’d take too kindly to a rebel like you.”

“Well, we don’t need their approval. So how about it then? Are you going to visit me?”

“Thanks, I’d love to,” I said. This Christmas holiday was looking better and better for me! I continued eating my mountain of food, and then I started to get rather cold because my hair and robes were still wet with melted snow. I wanted to sit there and kept talking with Sirius, which I did until he pointed out that I was shivering, so I finally left to go have a warm shower.



On the 23rd, I woke up with excitement. The Christmas holidays had arrived, and today we were going to catch the train back home. I looked over at Mandy’s bed and saw, with no surprise at all, that she was still asleep. Slughorn’s party had been last night, and based on the amount of mead that was usually present at these functions, I had a feeling Mandy would not be particularly sociable when she woke up.

Even though Rachel had been at Slughorn’s party as well, she was awake, having left all of her packing until this morning. She scowled at me as I stretched luxuriously and got out of bed. According to Rachel, it was never appropriate to be happy at this time of the morning.

“You have way too much energy for half seven in the morning,” she muttered. “Do you want to pack for me and let me sleep in an extra half hour?”

“Didn’t you ever learn the packing charm?” I asked. “It takes only half a minute!”

“I did learn it, but I can never get it to work properly,” she lamented. She demonstrated; items of clothing zoomed off the floor, books flew from under the bed, and they all landed in a haphazard mess in and around her trunk such that she was still not able to close it.

“That’s not so much the charm not working, it’s just that you have too many clothes.”

“I would use a Shrinking Charm, but it never seems to reverse properly when I unpack. Especially the jumpers, the sleeves never lengthen again to how they were.” She resumed packing by hand, rolling up her clothes tightly and wedging them into her trunk.

I didn’t have that much left to pack, so I took my time getting ready. I waited for Charlotte to wake up and then we went to breakfast together. Mandy was still sleeping, but I got some toast for her from the Great Hall. When we went back down to our dormitory, however, I finally woke Mandy up to make sure she wouldn’t miss the train.

After that, it was the typical hustle and bustle of all the students getting on the train, which always took a lot longer than it needed to, and always involved at least three or four people sprinting back to the castle a few minutes after they’d left it, having forgotten one item or another. But eventually everyone made it down to the train, walked aboard, and watched the snow swirl around the towers of Hogwarts from a distance as the train moved down the tracks.

I spent most of the train ride with Mandy, Charlotte, Hector, and Russell. That group always provided interesting conversation, what with Mandy’s inability to stop talking, and Hector’s weirdness. Mandy gave us a detailed list of all the things she was hoping to get for Christmas, which of her relatives always cooked the best Christmas feast, what her favourite Christmas carol was this year, and so on. Hector told us of his ambitious plans to build the most enormous snowman in existence and then charm it to climb on buildings like King Kong. I hoped he’d take a picture and owl it to all of us, but he insisted it would be so amazing that it’d be featured in the Daily Prophet at some point over the holiday and we should look for it.

Towards the end of the train journey, I left the compartment and went to join Sirius. He was sitting near the back of the train in a compartment with the other Marauders. He hadn’t seen me walk up, so I decided to do what he’d done on the train ride in September and smashed my hands up against the glass, grimacing. Then I walked in nonchalantly.

“You could have just said ‘hello,’” said Remus with a laugh.

“I could have, but I didn’t,” I said, sitting beside Sirius as he wrapped his arm around me. “How are you lot?”

It was only a few more minutes before Lily came in to the compartment as well and squeezed in next to James, and all six of us had a very pleasant last hour of the train ride. It was nice to be such good friends with Lily again – what with each of dating one of the Marauders, we’d spent a lot of time together recently. Of course, we’d been friends since first year, in that little group that had met on the train, including Mandy, Charlotte, and Snape, but that group had drifted apart halfway through second year and it was only recently that Lily and I were truly becoming close again.

The train eventually pulled into the King’s Cross station. I looked out the window happily. This was the first time I wouldn’t be getting off to face my father’s insults and glares, so I didn’t have my usual desire to remain on the train as long as humanly possible.

As it were, we couldn’t get off the train immediately anyway, because the corridor on the train was blocked. Hector and Althea had been going opposite directions in the corridor and had got their trunks stuck. Rather than fixing it, they had just stopped to talk. I smiled upon seeing them, and I made no move to hurry off the train, giving them a little extra time. That is, until Sirius wondered what was holding everyone up and charmed the trunks out of the door. Althea and Hector ran out after their belongings, and the six of us in our compartment filed out the door, trunks in hand.

“See you in about a week!” said Peter as he stepped off the train.

“A week?” I asked, confused.

“You didn’t think James would leave us to have a boring New Years by ourselves, did you?” said Remus, laughing as he walked off after me. “We’re going to be there too.”

“That’s great!” I said. New Year’s was going to be quite a celebration. We walked through the magical barrier into the Muggle world and I looked around for Mandy. I saw her waving at me from way up the platform, so I started getting ready to leave and join her.

Lily bade us goodbye and began walking towards a couple who were looking around happily at all the students carrying owl cages and broomsticks. Next to them was a thin blonde girl who looked rather similar to Lily, apart from the expression of obvious distaste on her face. As I remembered, Lily’s discovery that she was a witch when she was eleven had driven a wedge between her and her elder sister, and no matter how hard Lily tried for reconciliation, Petunia would have none of it.

My goodbye with Sirius was cut short when I heard Mandy say, “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, you’re going to see each other in a week. Come on.”

I laughed and gave Sirius one last kiss, then joined Mandy. Sirius went off to find James, which probably wasn’t too difficult given that much of the crowd of students had departed by this point. Mandy and I located her parents and hugged them in greeting, and then we set off for their flat. The city looked almost as lovely as Hogwarts did for the holidays, as we passed an ice skating rink and wound through snowy streets lined with lights of all colours and colossal Christmas trees.

Once we’d gotten home, now that we were away from the ears of all our friends and alone for the first time since before Slughorn’s party, Mandy told me about the debacle that the party had been in her opinion. Even though she and Remus had agreed they would go as friends, both of them knew that wasn’t entirely true, and still Remus kept holding back. She said all of their conversations had seemed very awkward. It couldn’t have been as bad as all that, because she came back from the party long after I’d gone to sleep. Regardless, I felt a bit guilty being so happy in my own relationship.

But having shared the whole story with me, Mandy felt much better and started to get back into Christmas mode. Christmas was Mandy’s favourite day of the year; some years she’d even start a countdown for it in September. The flat was all adorned with festive decorations, and yet there were still more preparations to be done while Mandy chattered excitedly the whole time.

Mandy’s grandparents came over on Christmas day (her mum’s parents, which meant we didn’t have to worry about the obvious magic all around the house), and there was a delicious feast and presents – it was the way Christmas was supposed to be.

After Christmas, Mandy and I passed our days baking more gingerbread, listening to Mandy’s new records, and playing Muggle games that she had around her house. She insisted Cluedo was practice for my self-appointed detective mission of spying on the other Slytherins.

And even though I’d be seeing Sirius in a week, he still wrote to me. I had been trying to avoid getting roped into a six-hour game of Monopoly with Mandy when Sirius’s owl arrived, providing me with the perfect escape. I grabbed the letter from the owl and jumped onto my bed, curling up among the pillows as I read the letter. When I got out a quill and ink to reply, Mandy finally took the hint that I’d rather not play Monopoly.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, I opened up the Daily Prophet and nearly spat tea all over it when I saw an article near the bottom of the page entitled: “Snowman Climbs Big Ben Clock Tower And Startles Muggles.” The article went on to describe how twenty-nine Muggles had had to be Obliviated after a London teenager had caused a massive snow Yeti to scale the tower. It had not made it very high up before the perpetrator, a certain Hector Branstone, was caught by the Magical Law Enforcement. That was probably a good thing – scores more people would have needed to be Obliviated had the snowman made it any higher.

I tried to read the article aloud to Mandy when she came in, but I couldn’t stop laughing and finally just told her to come read it herself. We had never expected Hector’s scheme to amount to anything. And he’d even made it into the Daily Prophet, though perhaps not in the way he intended. I was really looking forward to hearing about it again from his point of view when we got back to school.

After breakfast, as I was packing a few things in preparation to set off for James’s house, I was again burdened by guilt. I was off to spend New Year’s with my boyfriend, and Mandy was going to be here. She hadn’t been invited, even though she was just as close with the other Marauders as I was. But she seemed to be more understanding of this than I expected.

“What are you doing for New Year’s?” I asked as I packed my toothbrush.

“I’m going to visit my cousins,” said Mandy. “Don’t you feel sorry for me, because I don’t. It’s not like James and Sirius could invite all of their friends – half of Hogwarts would be there. I’ll see you in a couple of days, okay?”

“Okay,” I said with a smile. “Have a great time!”

“You too!” I gave her a hug, and then grabbed my bag to leave.

With a twirl I Apparated onto James’s front porch steps, and Sirius answered the door. I grinned and flung my arms around him, and he kissed me in greeting. Then he led me inside. We stepped through the doorway into the elegant hall; I had almost forgotten how lovely James’s house was. But I kept my head this time and didn’t gawk at the chandelier.

James and Lily came around a corner into the hall. “You’re here!” said Lily excitedly. “I was just wondering when you’d get here.”

“When did you get here?”

“Earlier this morning,” she said. “Do you want to put your bag down? You and I are sharing a room upstairs; you can drop off your stuff there.”

We walked upstairs and she led me into the same room Mandy and I had shared over the summer. I put my bag down near one of the beds and we went back downstairs where James and Sirius were talking.

Sirius wrapped his arm around my waist as I returned to the hall, and then the four of us began walking into the sitting room. James’s mum must have heard the noise of Lily and me running up and down the stairs, because she walked in, and upon seeing me, the most recent addition to the party, she greeted me warmly.

“Melanie, it’s lovely to see you again,” she said genuinely.

“Thank you so much for letting me stay here,” I told her.

“Of course.” She smiled. “We love having people over to celebrate the New Year. And with you being Sirius’s girlfriend now – of course we wanted to let you stay.”

After I’d talked with Mrs Potter for a few minutes, Sirius led me to the sitting room where James and Lily were already sitting. We joined them and talked about how our Christmases had been.

Lily informed us that her sister Petunia had just got a new boyfriend, who had visited them just after Christmas. His name was Vernon, and he seemed to be a very opinionated, controlling, and yet rather boring bloke whose greatest care in the world was that his car was shinier than that of his neighbours. This was quite a description coming from Lily, who usually could see the good in anyone. But there was nothing she liked about Vernon Dursley.

Remus and Peter showed up later in the afternoon, and it was a little like being back at Hogwarts, having so many of us back together in one place. The two of them had only come for the New Year, whereas Lily and I would be staying a couple of extra days, but it was sure to be a great time.

The hours until midnight ticked by very quickly among such pleasant company. After dinner, James’s parents had some of their own guests over as well, and we hung about in that room for a little while because they had the champagne, but eventually we left them to their own festivities. So while they all celebrated the New Year in a sophisticated manner, the Marauders, Lily, and I ran outside and whooped and set off fireworks the moment the clocks turned over to 1978.

Afterwards, we stayed up celebrating for maybe another hour and then Remus decided to go to sleep. Peter did the same about fifteen minutes later, so eventually it was just James, Lily, Sirius and me – and the murmur of voices down the hall where James’s parents were still entertaining a few guests who did not want to leave. James and Lily disappeared for a while, leaving Sirius and me alone in the sitting room.

It had been wonderful spending all day with my friends, but I had really been looking forward to some time with Sirius. After a day of excitement and people all over the house, it was nice to sit down and relax for a bit, cuddling against Sirius with his arm around my shoulders.

Our conversation began to get more sparse as I grew tired, and I was so comfortable that I could have fallen asleep right there. Despite that, neither of us wanted to leave and go to sleep, we were happy to just stay sitting there. Eventually, the Potters and two other couples left the large room at the end of the hall, having finally decided to call it a night. They continued reminiscing about their own memories from Hogwarts until they walked out the door, and I could only assume that’s why they’d stayed so late, because they were reliving their school days.

As the previously quiet sitting room was filled with the noise of the couples in the hallway saying goodbye and bringing up a few more Hogwarts memories they’d forgotten to mention during the previous six hours, Sirius and I finally headed upstairs. We kissed each other goodnight, and then he went into his room, and I continued down the hall to Lily’s and my room.

I tried to be quiet, which meant moving very slowly in the dark, but then Lily’s voice told me that she was still awake, so I stopped trying to be so quiet and quickly put on my pajamas and climbed into my bed.

“Did you have a good New Year?” Lily asked.

“Yeah, it was great,” I said. “I can’t think of any way it could have been better.”

“Me neither,” said Lily. “You know, last year I never would have thought James and I would be together now. And now I’m… just so happy.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Sirius and James have both changed a lot since last year. And so have we.”

Lily giggled. “You know, I think you’re the first girlfriend Sirius has introduced to James’s parents,” she said. “I heard them talking about you this morning – they sounded really surprised Sirius had a girlfriend. I found that rather funny.”

I laughed. “I’m not that surprised he never talked about the others, none of them were that serious.”

But then I started wondering – did that mean he was serious about me? I certainly liked him a lot, and I felt that we had something special. I loved being with him… would we be together for a while? My mind was filled with all sorts of questions, and I tossed and turned for a bit after Lily had fallen asleep. But my tiredness eventually took over my thoughts, and I finally dropped off to sleep as well.

Lily and I stayed for three more days at the Potters’, and then she went home and I went back to Mandy’s house for the last bit of the holiday. I learned how various household appliances worked, thanks to Mandy’s dad, and he, as always, enjoyed it immensely whenever we used magic around the house. And then on the fifteenth of January, after a refreshing holiday that seemed all too short, we were back on the train to Hogwarts. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for to hear Hector’s snowman story again, and he did not disappoint.

About a week into the new term, on a night like any other, apart from the fact that I was actually up to date with my homework for once, Mandy suggested we go for a walk outside. It was really beautiful outside tonight.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just feel like going outside,” she whispered, leaning against the window. “I mean, look at that. It’s gorgeous. And it’s perfectly still.”

“It is,” I agreed. “How’s your Invisibility Cloak nowadays? Do you think it’ll still work?” It certainly didn’t work as effectively as it had used to.

“It’s fine. It’s still got a few more months left in it.” She tugged the cloak out of her trunk and pulled it over her head, becoming an indistinct ghostly grey shape. “See?”

I smiled. “Sounds great, then!”

We snuck through the corridors and out the front doors of the castle onto the grounds. Apart from the crunching of snow beneath our feet, it was all silent and peaceful. In the sky, surrounded by clouds, the full moon shone brightly overhead.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Well, that seems like a good place to leave it

Feedback, my dear Watson


__________________


Captain of the HMS Arts & Crafts, co-founder of Annie Is My Homegirl, Proud member of the IBP and KEBA
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  #34  
Old November 24th, 2012, 11:41 pm
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Chapter 33: The Moonlit Knight

Mandy and I walked slowly along the snowy fields all across the Hogwarts grounds. It wasn’t fresh snow, which was a bit disappointing as I always loved frolicking in new snow, but perhaps it was better this way, since we weren’t leaving a recognisable trail of footprints behind us.

We stopped by the lake, setting the Invisibility Cloak aside near the base of a tree. The icy surface of the lake was bright and shiny with the reflection of the full moon in the sky above. The clouds drifted lazily, and a light breeze played with my hair.

Mandy grabbed a fistful of snow, making it a compact snowball, and threw it onto the ice. Upon impact, the snowball turned to powder and scattered like a splash of paint.

“I remember when we used to come out here and skip stones on the surface of the lake,” I said. “You would always win. I only did it better than you one time.”

“I still maintain that you used magic that time,” said Mandy with a grin.

“Come on, give me my one victory. It’s all I’ve got.”

A wolf howled somewhere in the distance.

“At least you’re better at hitting Bludgers than you are at skipping stones,” Mandy laughed.

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not much of a testament to my Quidditch skills, is it? I’m even better at Potions than I am at skipping stones. And you’ve seen me in Potions…”

We heard the wolf howl again, but this time it seemed closer.

“That’s not a werewolf, is it?” I asked Mandy suddenly. “I heard there are some in the Forbidden Forest.”

“No. Besides, we’re not anywhere near there.”

“Right,” I said. “I do wonder why the Marauders think it’s fun to wander about in the forest.”

“Sirius won’t tell you yet?” she asked, laughing.

“No. It’s fine though – any group of friends has their own secrets, just like us.”

“That’s true, I suppose.” She began tracing some lines into the snow with the tip of her boot. “You and Sirius have been together a while now.”

“Hmm,” I agreed absently. My mind wasn’t really on our discussion anymore. I was thinking about Sirius, and how recently I’d begun to realise just how much our relationship meant to me. I couldn’t really put my feelings about it into words.

“Hello?” said Mandy, waving her hand at me.

“Sorry. I was… what were you saying?”

“Just asking about you and Sirius – nothing important though, if you don’t want to talk.” She drew an X in the middle of the noughts and crosses grid she’d just etched into the snow.

I reached my foot out and added an O in the corner nearest me. “I think I love him,” I admitted.

“Really?” asked Mandy. “Have you said anything to him?”

“Well, no. I don’t know if it’s love. We’ve only been together about three months… I’ve never been in love. How do I know?”

“It’s hard to say,” said Mandy. “You just sort of… realise it.” She shrugged. “I can’t really help you. But you know whatever you do, I’m behind you 100 per cent.”

I heard the sound of something running on the snow, and turned to face the sound. That was when I saw it. Far off to my right, near the forest, was the wolf. I tried to recall the distinguishing features of werewolves from Defence Against the Dark Arts in third year. Something about the pupils of the eyes, which wouldn’t really help from this far away. And a tufted tail… I tried to get a good look at its tail.

“Are you sure it’s a regular wolf we heard, Mandy?” I whispered, pointing. “I don’t think it is…”

“I can’t tell, not unless we get close to it, and I don’t think I want to do that. We should keep an eye on it though… let’s get back to the castle. We’ve been out here long enough.”

We began walking back up to the castle. Even as we watched, two more dark shapes came into view. There was a stag, with magnificent antlers, and running playfully beside it was a large black dog.

“Those other animals don’t look dangerous,” said Mandy, “so I’d say that one is not a werewolf. I told you.”

“But what are they doing in a group like that? That’s really strange.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Look, they’re coming this way.”

The animals seemed to be just running around, regardless of direction, but were indeed steadily making their way up to the copse of trees to our left.

Mandy faced me suddenly. “Where’s the cloak?”

My jaw dropped. “We left it at the shore!”

Mandy sighed. “Well, let’s hurry. We can’t get back into the castle without it, we’ll be seen for sure.”

“We can’t go back and get it!” I protested. “Look how close they are!”

“Why not? They haven’t seen us. It’ll take only a minute.” She started to walk back towards the lake. But another howl came from a spot not three hundred feet away and my head shot up again. I watched the group of animals, hoping they wouldn’t see us. But then the wolf stared straight at us – there was no doubt it had seen us. And now that it was this close, I could identify the tail as being a werewolf tail. I panicked.

“Mandy!” I cried. The wolf began bounding towards us. The stag and the black dog turned and shared a look, which also seemed to be very abnormal animal activity, but at that point I only cared about getting away from the werewolf. Mandy and I left the cloak behind as we turned around again and sprinted towards the castle. We could get the cloak in the morning when we were sure we would not be attacked by vicious animals.

There was no way we could outrun the werewolf, so I leapt behind the copse of trees, still watching the scene from behind the branches. The werewolf shot around the dog and came straight towards us. Mandy climbed up in a tree and I tried to follow, but my legs felt like stone, and all I could do was just stand and stare at the werewolf and the dog chasing each other.

They were not fifteen feet from us when I finally tore my eyes away from them, reaching up for a branch and leaping off the ground just as the werewolf lunged. Mandy screamed and looked away. But the black dog leaped out from somewhere beside us and ran into the side of the werewolf; they both landed on the ground in a tussle. The dog thankfully chased the werewolf off in a different direction. I couldn’t see the stag anymore.

“Melanie!” cried a voice. “Mandy!”

I looked around, completely shocked, to find James Potter. I was still shaking uncontrollably, and since James was standing on the ground, I decided I would be safe enough to jump back down on the ground too. I let go of the branch and clumsily climbed back down, but found myself unable to stand and just sat at the base of the tree.

“James, where did you come from?” Mandy asked. “Watch out, there’s a werewolf over there!”

“I know. You have to get inside now!” he said urgently. He looked terrified. “Are you all right?”

“A little scared, but yes, we’re fine,” I said.

“Come down,” James said to Mandy, who was still clinging to the tree. She didn’t seem to want to move at all, but eventually, when she realized that getting out of the tree meant getting to the safety of the castle, we were able to coax her out of the tree, her eyes still on the werewolf the whole time.

“We don’t have much time,” said James. He grabbed Mandy’s arm in one hand and my arm in the other and started sprinting towards the castle. I don’t think I’d ever run so quickly in my life. Everything was happening so fast. And how had James shown up here out of nowhere? As far as I was concerned, he had just appeared out of thin air like a knight in shining armour to bring us back to the castle when we were too scared to move.

Only when we got back up to the castle did we slow down; we opened the doors and all three of us rushed inside. I leaned against the door and wiped the sweat off my face with my sleeve. My heart was pounding so loudly I was sure it would wake the entire castle.

“What were you doing out there, James?” I finally asked when I had caught my breath.

“I might ask you the same question,” he said.

“We were just out for a walk,” I said. “We do that sometimes, but there’s never been a werewolf out there… How did you know we were in trouble?”

“Because I saw you,” he said.

“But—” Mandy began, but stopped when she noticed Filch’s mangy grey cat skulking around a corner. “Uh-oh, look,” she said. “Filch is going to show up any minute now.” James, Mandy and I all looked at each other for half a second and then bolted so as to not be caught by Filch. Mandy and I sprinted yet again, back down to the dungeons where the Slytherin common room was.

Back in the safety of our common room, Mandy and I had the ability to breathe properly without fear of being mauled by a werewolf or caught sneaking around the castle. A few fifth-years were still awake, working on their homework in the common room, so rather than sitting down to talk about what had just happened, we walked up the stairs and into our dormitory.

When we tiptoed back into our room, we found Charlotte still awake. “What happened?” she hissed, upon seeing Mandy and I, our robes torn and dirt-stained.

“We saw a werewolf,” said Mandy. “Up close.”

“Were you in the forest?” asked Charlotte, her eyes wide.

“No, we were just by the lake,” I said. “I think the werewolf would have attacked us, but James, er, found us and saved us.” That was the only way I could explain it – I had no idea what had actually happened.

“It was lucky he was there,” said Mandy. “Although,” she added, turning to me, “what in Merlin’s name was he doing out there? I didn’t see any of the other boys.”

“I’ve been trying to figure that out too,” I said. “Let’s go visit James first thing tomorrow.”

“I’m glad you’re all right,” said Charlotte, pulling her duvet up to her chin. “Hope you can sleep tonight, too – I wouldn’t be able to.”

She was right; it took me ages to get to sleep. The past hour kept replaying itself over and over in my head. But eventually I dropped off to sleep, only to dream fitfully of various animals chasing me through a dark forest.

I woke up the next day hoping everything had been just a bad dream. But the minute I opened my eyes and saw my dirty and torn robes lying across the foot of my bed, I gave in to the fact that it had happened. I dressed quickly and then paced back and forth wondering if I should wake Mandy up or let her sleep, but she woke up on her own rather soon anyway and we decided to visit the Gryffindor common room before breakfast.

“What if they’ve already gone to breakfast?” asked Mandy as we climbed the stairs.

“Then we’ll find him there. Let’s look upstairs first.”

We had perfect timing, too. No more than two minutes after we entered the Gryffindor Tower common room, James, Sirius, and Peter came traipsing down the stairs, yawning. I noticed that all three of them were covered with scratches and looked as if they had gotten no sleep.

“Hello,” said James resignedly, looking entirely unsurprised to see us.

Sirius hurried over to me and wrapped his arms tightly around me. “I’m so glad you’re all right.”

“Will you please tell us what happened now?” Mandy pleaded.

“You know what happened,” said James. “You and I just happened to be in the same place at the same time as a werewolf.”

“But… it still doesn’t make sense,” I said, disentangling myself from Sirius’s arms. “You weren’t all out there, were you? The four of you are always covered in scratches after you go into the Forbidden Forest. What happened to you?” I eyed a long gash on Sirius’s arm.

“Where’s Remus, anyway?” asked Mandy.

“He’s visiting his mum, remember?” I told her. “She’s ill again.”

Sirius sighed heavily. “Maybe it’s time we told you.” Peter nodded in agreement.

“It isn’t really our secret to tell,” said James, “but after yesterday I think we have to, he’ll understand. You have to promise to not tell this to anyone. I mean it.”

“Of course,” Mandy and I agreed. I was getting slightly worried. It seemed we’d stumbled upon a much more serious secret than I’d thought.

“Let’s go back upstairs where we won’t be overheard,” suggested Peter. So we all went upstairs into the seventh-year boys’ dorm – the trip upstairs only prolonging the suspense of whatever James had been about to tell us.

The room was empty, and now that we finally had the privacy they needed in order to tell us, James glanced at his friends for support, and then told us, “Remus isn’t visiting his mum. He’s… a werewolf.”

The three of them were frozen in place, waiting for us to react. A few tense seconds passed. I was utterly speechless, and just stood there with my mouth hanging open.

“No,” said Mandy indignantly. “No way. He can’t be.”

I felt like my stomach had just been filled with ice. “Not… the werewolf from yesterday?” I asked, dreading the answer, which I somehow knew before James said it.

“Yes.”

Mandy sat down on the nearest bed, putting her head in her hands. “Oh, Merlin,” she muttered.

The boys looked back at me. I was still at a loss for words. More than that, I just felt awful for Remus. Did he even remember attacking us? What I’d been through last night now seemed trivial in comparison to what Remus had had to go through for his whole life, being unable to control what he did as a werewolf. I felt a rush of affection for the other three Marauders – many others would turn their back on a werewolf’s friendship, but not them.

“Thank you for telling us,” I finally said. “I can understand why you’ve been keeping it a secret, I don’t blame you for that. Poor Remus… Does anyone else know?”

James nodded. “Dumbledore, most of the professors… Lily knows, because the two of them were prefects together and he told her.”

“And Snivellus knows,” Peter added.

“You told Snape?” I was incredulous. Snape was the last person I’d think of who they’d tell a secret to. “Why?” There had been a brief period during fifth year, however, when he’d had a theory about how Remus was only ever ill at the full moon and must be a werewolf, but no one believed it.

“Well, he… found out,” said James uneasily. Peter looked shiftily at Sirius, who had a rather wary expression on his face as he watched Mandy and me.

“The same way we found out?” I asked. “Did Remus attack him?”

“Snivellus shouldn’t have been sticking his nose into other people’s business,” Sirius said to no one in particular. “He was always asking us where we went, following us around to see what we were up to… he just wanted to get us expelled.”

Something dawned on me. “That’s why you wouldn’t talk to us for a while last year after Mandy and I followed you once when you were sneaking outside? Because you thought we were doing what Snape did?”

James nodded. “Yeah, that’s what that was. We weren’t sure if we could trust you. But that was then – we trust you now.”

“You were doing what Snape did,” said Sirius quietly, scowling at the floor. “Bloody Slytherins, you’re all the same.”

Mandy had come out of her shock enough to hear that. She drew in her breath sharply through her teeth, looking uneasily between Sirius and me.

I bristled with anger. “How can you say that?” I demanded of Sirius. “Of course we weren’t trying to get you expelled! What is going on? What aren’t you telling us?”

Peter coughed uncomfortably and said, “I’m going to go visit Moony in the hospital wing.”

“Great idea,” Mandy agreed immediately, and they both ran off down the stairs, leaving me, Sirius, and James alone. Somehow, it only heightened the tension in the room. I felt like Mandy and I had inadvertently uncovered some old wound and whatever it was, it had made Sirius angry with me, when moments before he’d been glad to see me unscathed after a near miss with a werewolf.

I walked over to Sirius and took his hands in my own. “Please, Sirius,” I said calmly, “I’m not angry with you, and I’m certainly not going to tell anyone about Remus because he’s still my friend, even though he’s a werewolf. That doesn’t bother me. Why are you acting like this?”

James gave Sirius a brief pat on the shoulder for encouragement and then headed out of the room as well.

Sirius sighed and sat on the bed. He wouldn’t look at me, but he finally said, “In fifth year, I… played a trick on Snape. He’d been trying to find out where we went all the time, so I told him how to find out for himself. So he went out looking for Remus in the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, and when I told James about it, he went off and chased after Snape into the tunnel to get him out before Remus got to him.”

“You… told him to go looking for a werewolf?” I clarified, perplexed. “That’s how he found out about Remus?”

Finally he met my eyes. “Snape was winding me up. He followed me all day, saying horrible stuff about my friends, and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I snapped. Look, I’m sorry, okay? If you suppose I don’t regret it whenever I think about it, you’re wrong. I felt like Moony would never trust me again, and I don’t blame him.”

So when Mandy and I had been out there and then rescued by James, it had affected Sirius by bringing back the memory of what he’d done to Remus two years ago, so it was understandable that he would be in such a bad mood. I knew Sirius often acted without really considering the consequences, but I wouldn’t have expected him to be so thoughtless as to not realise that his idea of a prank could have killed someone.

“What’s that look for?” he asked defensively, and I realised I’d been scowling. I stopped.

“I’m sorry, it’s just a bit hard for me to hear that my boyfriend almost killed someone. I know you didn’t mean to, but… Remus could have killed James or Snape.”

“I should have expected this,” he said nastily. “Of course you’d side with Snape, you’re a Slytherin.”

“I’m not siding with him!” I said, incensed at his insinuation that any Slytherin was by definition deceitful. “Why does it matter that I’m a Slytherin? That has nothing to do with this! Don’t get so angry about it, I know it was years ago and you’ve changed since then.”

“But you haven’t.” He had that closed off look again, the look he always got when he didn’t want to talk anymore. “I trusted you! But you’re exactly what I’ve been trying my whole life to get away from. I don’t know why I ever bothered with you.”

I was crushed. My world came crashing down around me as he said those words. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – after three months together, that was what he thought? We had both left our families and were unlikely to ever speak to our brothers again. We had so much in common, and I’d thought our relationship meant something. But apparently all he saw in me was Slytherin. And Slytherins were people he didn’t trust, people who lied, people who, in his opinion, were not worth knowing. I had thought he had changed… I was wrong.

I was determined not to cry, but all the same I felt tears welling up in my eyes. “You’re giving up on me because of a label, given to me by a hat?” I asked, willing my voice to stop shaking. “I have never heard of anything more ridiculous.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” said Sirius immediately. "Any of it."

“Then why did you say it?”

“I don’t know.”

I couldn’t say anything else; all that came out was a sob. I covered my face with my hands, hoping I could just wipe the tears away and act like I was fine, but the tears kept streaming down my face. When I looked up between my fingers for a split second I saw Sirius stand up and take a step towards me, but I turned around and ran down the stairs.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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  #35  
Old December 5th, 2012, 6:21 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Thanks to PotterGirl654 and Baarney for your feedback! I present to you a chapter full of teenage angst

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 34: Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone

I should have known it wasn’t going to last. There was no reason I should have thought myself any different; I had been silly to assume that we’d had anything special even though it had felt that way to me. I had never expected it to end so soon. Sirius hadn’t dated anyone for a while before he went out with me, and then we’d been together for three months, but apparently that meant nothing. I meant nothing to him, and I was heartbroken.

It was my own fault, in a way. I had been so upset about what Sirius had said that I’d rejected his apology when he tried to give it. It had been Wednesday at lunch, the first time we’d seen each other after I’d run out of Gryffindor Tower crying that morning.

“Hi,” he’d said, chasing after me as we left Charms. “I didn’t mean what I said this morning, you know that. I just hate remembering that prank I did, and I got defensive when you asked about it – you would too if you’d done something that stupid…”

I was unaffected. “Don’t you play that game with me, Sirius Black. You want me to feel sorry for you and I absolutely do not. I haven’t forgotten that last time you spoke to me, I was the Slytherin who ruined your life.”

“I’m sorry,” Sirius implored. “That’s not what I think of you at all. I —”

“Stop,” I interrupted. “You only want to be with me when it’s convenient for you. It’s always been like this, even when we were just friends. And it’s not just me; you’ve never taken a girl seriously in your life – it’s like we’re just around for your amusement when you get bored. I don’t know why I ever bothered with you. You’re not the only boy in the school. I deserve better.” And I’d marched off to the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, leaving him thunderstruck. It had made me feel better to say what I had said, but I regretted it ever since then. Now we weren’t speaking to each other at all.

When I told Mandy and Charlotte everything that had happened, including the rant I’d subjected Sirius to, Mandy seemed even more upset than I was. It was as if she had decided that since she couldn’t have Sirius, she wanted him and me to stay together forever. Charlotte merely said that being an angry feminist rather suited me. But the two of them helped me keep my head up during those first few days after our breakup, and I was happy to have such good friends by my side.

I told myself I wasn’t going to fall apart because of this. My roommate Alanna was always a mess for weeks after breakups, pining over the bloke, but I was determined to not let that to happen to me. My happiness didn’t depend on Sirius.

But at the same time, I did miss the way he used to make me laugh, how he grinned whenever I walked into a room, the way we bickered all the time, the way he got that mischievous gleam in his eye that meant I’d have to talk him out of some stupid and reckless scheme he’d thought of… So I’d be happy for a while, when I wasn’t thinking about him, but then I’d see that one-eyed witch statue in the third floor corridor that reminded me of the first time Sirius and I had snuck into Hogsmeade together, and I’d be stuck thinking about him for a while. And sometimes we’d pass each other in the corridors and not acknowledge one another, but those few seconds would replay themselves twenty times in my mind.

My life seemed to be the stuff of gossip for all the girls of Hogwarts, who were thrilled Sirius was single once again. But Sirius was paying no attention to any girls, and rarely spoke to anyone except James, Remus, and Peter. I even saw him taking shortcuts through tapestries and claiming he’d forgotten books or other things so he could run back and evade the girls.

Another result of our breakup was that I never spent time with the other Marauders anymore. I went back to my Slytherin friends and just continued on with my life as it had been before. But at the end of the week I realized I still hadn’t spoken to Remus after finding out about his lycanthropy, and he might be under the assumption that I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore after finding out. So on Friday after Transfiguration, I joined Remus on his way out of class.

“Hi,” I said.

He looked rather surprised that I was talking with him, as I hadn’t spoken to any of the Marauders since Sirius and I broke up on Wednesday: I had only seen them together as a group since then, the way Mandy and Charlotte had been with me, and if I talked to one of the boys I’d have to be around Sirius too. As I spoke to Remus, Sirius sped up and walked away, and I did not look at him.

“Hi Melanie,” said Remus. He seemed very unsure of what to say next, and I didn’t blame him.

“Remus, they told me,” I said quietly. “I’m sorry I didn’t come see you when Mandy did – that’s when everything happened with Sirius – but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to talk with you.”

He said nothing, and kept walking with his head down, so I just continued talking as we climbed the stairs. “I still want to be your friend. I know what you are and it doesn’t bother me; you’re still a wonderful person.”

Remus looked pained. “I’m so sorry,” he managed to say. “I’m sorry you had to find out that way.”

“You don’t need to be sorry,” I said. I felt horrible. “There was nothing you could have done about it. I know you’re not yourself when… when that happens.”

We were headed in the direction of the library, where we’d be afforded a bit more privacy than in the corridors and would be able to talk more openly without worrying someone would overhear us.

“I’m a monster,” said Remus. “And I probably should have told you before, but, I just… I couldn’t, you know…”

“I understand why you didn’t,” I said. “And you’re not a monster. At least, most of the time you’re not.” He didn’t seem amused, but then again it had been a pretty terrible attempt to lighten the mood. I linked my arm through his and continued, “You’re a great friend who even puts up with my bad jokes.”

We walked into the library and sat at an isolated table near the back. Remus had cheered up considerably after I’d insisted that I had absolutely no intention of discontinuing our friendship, and it was almost back to normal again, until he brought up a topic that was sort of unavoidable.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

He meant how I was doing without Sirius. I had gone this far without talking much about Sirius to anyone, and I was trying to not think about him again. But I suppose it had to come up at some point when I was talking with one of Sirius’s best friends. “Fine,” I said dully.

“That’s good,” he said. But I was not fine, and he knew it.

“Remus, it’s because I’m a Slytherin,” I blurted out wretchedly, trying to ignore how pathetic I sounded. “I’ve been kidding myself the whole time if I ever thought he liked me. And there’s nothing I could have done – I can’t change who I am!”

“No, you don’t need to change who you are. No one cares that you’re a Slytherin, they like you for who you are. Just like the way you don’t mind that I’m a werewolf. Listen… well, I don’t think Sirius would appreciate me saying this, but he won’t say it himself… I’ve never seen him so unhappy. He’d never admit it, but it’s because you two aren’t talking; he misses you a lot. He’s just too stubborn to admit he’s wrong.”

I just stared at him. I felt a twinge of guilt; Sirius had tried to say he was wrong, but I had refused to listen. “You really think so?”

“Don’t tell him I said any of that,” Remus added with a hint of a smile. “I think he’d kill me if he knew I was discussing his feelings.”

“As if I would. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the two of us aren’t talking,” I said with a watery laugh. I felt a vindictive sort of pleasure in that I was not alone in my misery and that Sirius was suffering just as much. But more than that, it meant so much to hear from Remus that he liked me for who I was and the fact that I was a Slytherin had never bothered him.

Remus had always been the most sympathetic of the four Marauders, and his being a werewolf probably was a major reason for that. He knew what it was to dislike some aspect of himself, and to have others dislike him for it, so he understood me. But his reason was much more valid than mine – it really didn’t matter to anyone that I was a Slytherin, except Sirius apparently. And hearing that was what helped me be myself again.

If this past year had taught me anything, it was that I was strong enough to handle whatever life threw at me. I had already dealt with being kicked out of my own house and watching my brother follow a path I could never approve of. So Sirius was not going to upset me now. It had hurt to hear it and to see him walk away, but I knew I’d be fine. I was done doubting my identity and self-worth.

I took Remus’s words to heart the following day when I encountered Sirius again. I walked into an empty classroom to practice Charms, and was startled to see Sirius and a beaver already in the room, as I was not expecting anyone to be in there. Sirius was sitting on a desk, and there was another desk missing where the beaver sat. Sirius looked up immediately upon hearing my footsteps creaking on the floor, and then turned the beaver back into a desk.

“Er… hello,” I said, hoping that I could make amends with Sirius, if he really was as upset as Remus had said. “You all right?”

He didn’t respond, but continued to look at me. I stepped closer and set my bag down on the nearest desk, and Sirius scowled, stood up, and swept out the door right past me. I turned around and chased after him.

“Sirius!” I called, and grabbed his arm as I caught up with him, turning him around. He snatched his arm out of my grip and kept walking briskly, his head down as if to block out everything going on around him. I sadly watched him go down the corridor until he turned a corner out of sight, and then I went back into the classroom and slumped into a chair.

Sirius evidently didn’t want to bother with me. I had tried, and it hadn’t worked. That was all I could do. So I got out my textbook and my wand and concentrated all my attention on Charms.

One person in particular had been quite thrilled that Sirius and I were no longer together. On Monday morning, as I left the Great Hall after breakfast with Mandy and Charlotte, I heard Vanessa Saltz’s excited voice behind us. “Oh, look, it’s the Death Eaters!” she exclaimed.

We continued walking, but she caught up to us. “Your Love Potion stopped working, did it, Hastings?” Vanessa cried loudly. “I’m assuming that’s how you got Sirius Black to notice you in the first place. Because normally he’d never go for a Slytherin – you know, because you lot are all Death Eaters.”

I rolled my eyes. Could she not think of anything more original? I’d heard this so many times by now that it didn’t even bother me anymore.

“Leave her alone,” said another voice that was not Mandy’s or Charlotte’s; I looked behind me with surprise to find Althea Seward. “Why are you so mean to people all the time?” she said, her arms crossed and a frown on her face. I was rather impressed that she would actually interfere like this; it seemed so unlike her to stick her nose out. But I felt a sort of pride seeing such a short and quiet Hufflepuff standing up to Vanessa.

“Thanks, Althea,” I said, “but we’re fine. We can deal with this tart.”

“So is it true?” Vanessa said breathlessly, undeterred. She looked from me to Charlotte. “I heard both of your families are Death Eaters!”

I glanced at Charlotte. Somehow, Vanessa had gotten very accurate information – unless she was just bluffing, which was equally likely. Charlotte snorted. “Yes, we’re Death Eaters and if you don’t shut up and go away we’ll call for our best mate You-Know-Who to come sort you out, so leave us alone. Are you scared?”

Vanessa stuck her lip out and wrinkled up her nose in an expression of distaste and possibly disappointment that she hadn’t reduced us to tears. Charlotte put her arms around Mandy’s and my shoulders and began walking away with her head held high. I put my arm around Althea as well, and the four of us marched away, leaving Vanessa somewhat bewildered.

“I have never met anyone else like Vanessa,” said Althea. “Her friends spread rumours behind everyone’s back, but she’s so bold; she’s rude to people’s faces! I can’t decide which is worse.”

“She’s insecure,” I said. “And she likes to see the effect she has on people – I guess it makes her feel better about herself.”

“Maybe she’d feel better if she was nice to people,” Althea suggested.

“That’s a good one,” said Charlotte, laughing. It would take a miracle for Vanessa to be nice to anyone. But I smiled as we walked away – Vanessa had tried to pick on my insecurities the way she always did, and it hadn’t upset me this time. We had won.



Mandy and I couldn’t leave the common room at night anymore, as her Invisibility Cloak was now lost in the snow somewhere by the lake. We had to reserve all our explorations of the castle for daylight hours, and had little to distract us from late night homework.

One such night, when we both wanted to get out and walk for a while, Mandy and I were instead sitting in a corner of the common room surrounded by abandoned Herbology homework. I was drawing a large picture of a unicorn on the inside cover of my textbook while Mandy charmed small spindly legs onto her parchment.

“You know, I was just thinking, and there’s something I’m still confused about,” Mandy said. “About the Marauders. They never explained why the rest of them were out there the night we… found Remus.” She looked around to make sure no one was listening to us, then continued in a whisper. “They were all in the Forbidden Forest, I know it. They always look like that every time they come back from sneaking out at night. But why would they do that on a full moon when they knew Remus was outside as a werewolf? It just doesn’t make sense.”

“I doubt we’ll ever find out now,” I said. “Remus is the only one of them who talks to me anymore, and for some reason I don’t imagine he really likes to discuss being a werewolf.”

“No, I don’t suppose he would,” said Mandy. “And by the way, Peter still talks to me,” she added with a laugh. “They sure stick together, though, don’t they? Nothing could ever drive a wedge between anyone in a group that loyal to each other.”

I hadn’t told Mandy the details of the prank Sirius played on Snape during fifth year, but I thought maybe that was the one thing that had ever come between the Marauders. And their friendship had overcome even that. So despite the fact that Mandy and Charlotte and I had been such good friends with them, their friendship with Sirius came first, and they couldn’t easily remain friends with his ex-girlfriend.

“Kind of like the way you and Charlotte have stuck with me,” I said. “I really appreciate it – I know I can’t have been the best company these past few days.”

“You seem to be doing much better now.”

“I am,” I said truthfully. “I can’t sulk about it forever if Sirius changed his mind about me. But…” I sighed. “I just wish he hadn’t, that’s all. I couldn’t believe he would say such hurtful things. He said he didn’t mean it, but I don’t know. I don’t know whether I was right to refuse his apology. We haven’t spoken for over a week.”

Mandy looked at me sadly. “I thought he fell for you pretty hard. And now he’s miserable because he broke up with you for a stupid reason.”

“Sirius doesn’t fall for people,” I said dismissively. “I shouldn’t have fallen for him.”

“Someone else will come along,” said Mandy. I shrugged. I didn’t want someone else.

We sat in silence for a few minutes while I added a dragon to my artwork inside my textbook. Then, because I didn’t want to discuss Sirius anymore and I knew Mandy’s love life would provide ample conversation, I asked her, “What about you? What’s new?”

“Well… I’m actually going out with Roderick Cadwallader,” she said, looking rather guilty. “Sorry,” she added.

“Don’t be sorry,” I laughed. “There’s no reason you can’t be happy about going out with him just because you feel sorry for me. And you don’t even need to feel bad for me anymore. I don’t.”

“Okay,” said Mandy. “Well, it’s pretty recent. I didn’t want to tell you at first because you were upset about Sirius.”

“What about Remus? I thought you liked him.”

Mandy sighed. “Well, I do. But I’ve now realised why he’s been pushing me away. I don’t think he wants to go out with anyone. I think it’s a lot to do with Emily during the spring of our fifth year. You remember when she dumped him in front of the whole school and screamed at him… it was right after he finally told her that he was a werewolf. It hurt him really badly, and I don’t think he’s gotten over it. He had fallen head over heels for her, and then she wanted nothing to do with him after that. He doesn’t want to go through that again.”

“But you already know he’s a werewolf, and that doesn’t affect how you feel!”

“Right, but I don’t think it matters to him. Can’t you see how he sees it? He’s trying to protect himself by never loving anyone again. And I can’t make him change his mind.”

“But what if he thinks you’re giving up because you’ve learned the truth about him? He might think you aren’t interested in a relationship anymore because he’s a werewolf.”

“Of course not,” said Mandy. “It’s because I finally understand why he was holding back, and I’m trying to respect that. I think the best way for me to help him is just by being his friend.”

I could understand why Mandy had done what she had, but despite her best intentions, I thought she might have inadvertently hurt Remus even more.



The rest of the week passed by quickly what with multiple Quidditch practices a day in preparation for our game against Gryffindor. The first Saturday of February was the Quidditch match. I was more determined than ever to win. Fortunately, the rest of the team were equally determined, because Gryffindor were always our ultimate rivals. Besides, Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup as well as the House Cup last year. It was Slytherin’s turn now.

We started out well: although evenly matched, we stayed about one goal ahead of them for a while. At least this time there wasn’t a Gryffindor commentating on the match, which was an improvement from last year. The commentator for this game was Nick Smith, one of the Hufflepuff Chasers, who put no personal bias into his commentating because he didn’t like anyone. This made it fair for both sides.

After the initial excitement of being continually ahead, the Gryffindor Chasers scored four goals in rapid succession. I was doing the best I could to get in the way of the Gryffindor players while I hit Bludgers at them, but the game began to go in their favour. Byrd, our other Beater, accidentally hit James with his bat, although it looked intentional, so Gryffindor got a penalty shot. Andrew Derrick, one of our Chasers, collided so forcefully with Gryffindor’s Keeper that they both were knocked out and fell off their brooms, but Madam Hooch slowed their fall as they neared the ground and neither one of them was injured too badly.

The din of the voices in the stand surrounding us grew louder with the number of injuries on the pitch. Then Hector got one goal in the Gryffindor hoop with no Keeper to block it, but Gryffindor’s Seeker Roderick Cadwallader got the Snitch immediately afterwards and it was all over. Gryffindor had beaten us by miles.

Slytherin’s loss certainly didn’t help me feel any better; nor did it help Mandy, who had bet Roderick a significant amount of money that Slytherin would win. But the two of them arranged a date that night and then Mandy wasn’t too bothered about losing to Gryffindor or even losing her ten Galleons.

Charlotte and I were lying on our beds reading in the dormitory on Saturday night when Mandy walked dreamily into the room, her clothes rumpled and her lipstick very messy. “Well, well,” said Charlotte, smirking as she set her book in her lap.

“Hey,” I said. “So… I was going to ask you how your date was, but I think I’ve got the idea,” I said.

“What?” Mandy reached up to feel her hair, and then walked into the bathroom. She came back a few minutes later with tamed hair and no more smeared lipstick. “Anyway,” she continued as if none of that had just happened, “did you know there’s a room like a little cottage on the seventh floor? Roderick showed me this room that I’ve never noticed before, we were just wandering in the corridor and it was almost like it appeared out of nowhere! So we went in… it was lovely, it was this little quaint room that looked like it was from a fairy tale. I bet no one else even knows about it; we had it all to ourselves. It was so romantic. There were a bunch of candles lit—”

“Ew, stop right there,” said Charlotte, holding her hand up. “No need to elaborate on your romantic evening together.” She picked her book up again and flicked through the pages, trying to find where she’d left off.

“Hey, it wasn’t like that,” Mandy said defensively. “We were having a picnic.”

“Is that what they call it these days?” said Charlotte from behind her book. I sat there giggling while Mandy got more and more embarrassed and eventually threw her shoe at Charlotte.



The Hogsmeade day was set for the next Saturday. Sirius and I had been broken up for two weeks now, and it was clear I wouldn’t be going with him, because we still wouldn’t even look at each other. I wanted to go with Mandy and Charlotte, but Mandy had a date with Roderick, and Charlotte said she was busy. Because this trip was the Saturday just before Valentine’s Day, it only emphasized that I was single and alone. I could either stay behind at the castle and do my work, go by myself, or ask someone. And I didn’t fancy being alone and bitter in Hogsmeade on the day that the most couples would be around, so I thought I’d ask someone.

At breakfast one day that week I asked Hector if he had plans for Hogsmeade on Saturday, and thought that maybe I’d go with him, but he said he was already planning to go with Althea Seward. So then I found Octavius Pepper before Herbology and asked him instead. He looked surprised when I asked him, but he agreed.

Someone jostled my arm as I stood there talking to Octavius, and then Sirius pushed by me into the greenhouse. Octavius slipped and fell on his back like a turtle. I sighed. Obviously Sirius had overheard and was displeased that I wasn’t sulking about him anymore.

As I sat down at my seat, I saw Sirius staring straight at me, and we looked at each other for a few moments – the first time we’d really acknowledged each other in two weeks. But then he lifted up Flesh-Eating Trees of the World and stood it up on its end on the desk, essentially hiding himself behind it, and began reading.

Halfway through class, James approached my desk. “Can I have that watering can?” he asked. I handed it to him, and he remained there. “Will you two just talk to each other?” James asked quietly. “You’re both driving me mad.”

“You’re his best friend; isn’t that your job? He’s more likely to listen to you than he is to anyone.”

“I’ve tried, but… I’m not the reason he’s upset.”

“So you agree with him, then? You think it’s my fault?”

James scowled. “Melanie, he’s my best friend, so of course I’m going to stand by him. That doesn’t mean I think he’s right, though – I’ve already told him several times he’s being a miserable git for something that had nothing to do with you. But you aren’t helping.”

“Oh,” I said, surprised. “Thank you for understanding… I’ll try again, but I don’t know if he’ll listen… I’m really the last person who could help.” Especially now that Sirius had overheard me asking someone else out. I put my head in my hands and stared at the potted shrub on my desk as James went back to his seat with the watering can.

Sirius was no longer hiding behind his textbook and was dumping soil into a tray disconsolately. I hated seeing him like that, and I knew it was my fault. The situation really shouldn’t have escalated out of control the way it had since we broke up. But we’d both said things we regretted and been unkind, and out of a combination of guilt and resentment, neither of us wanted to speak to the other. For the moment, it was easier that way than trying to fix it. But the easiest thing to do was not always the best.

“You have dirt all over your face,” said Mandy. I lifted my head from my hands and went back to work, thinking of the best way to try to rebuild my friendship with Sirius.

After class I went to talk to him. I walked up to him with a smile, hoping we could start this off on the right foot rather than snarling at each other. But before I said anything, he asked, “What, you want to tell me how happy you are now that you’ve got a date with Pepper? If you’re trying to make me jealous, it’s not working.”

My good intentions turned sour; I didn’t have time for this rubbish. “It’s all about you, isn’t it,” I laughed bitterly. “Did it ever occur to you that I might be happier with someone who doesn’t snap at me for everything and hold a grudge for weeks? And stop hexing him. You dumped me, so stop trying to sabotage any other opportunities I have to be happy with someone else.”

“Fine,” he said. “You want the truth? I am jealous. Does that make you feel better?”

“No, not at all.” I had no idea what else to say. I twisted the strap of my bag with my muddy hand, realising too late that my hands still smelled of dragon dung compost, and then Octavius came out of the greenhouse. Sirius had seen him too. He looked from Octavius to me, and then strode off up the hill without another word.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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Last edited by marauderfan; January 5th, 2013 at 8:13 am.
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  #36  
Old December 7th, 2012, 8:11 pm
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Wooo! I’m on a roll with posting at reasonable intervals. Here’s the next chapter… with action!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 35: Those Who Defied The Dark Lord

Octavius Pepper and I went to the Three Broomsticks first thing to get out of the cold when we got into Hogsmeade on Saturday. Octavius was nice, but I couldn’t help feeling that he didn’t particularly want to be there with me; he kept getting distracted while we were talking. That was fine, because I would rather have been there with someone else anyway.

When we left the Three Broomsticks, the usually crowded High Street was oddly empty. With a sense of déjà vu I looked around, half expecting to see a dementor gliding towards us.

“Where is everyone?” I asked Octavius.

“Dunno,” he said. “It’s cold, so everyone’s probably inside.”

There was one other group of people in the street, and one of the guys walked over to us. “Did you hear about You-Know-Who?” he asked.

“What about him?” asked Octavius.

“Someone told me he’s here.”

“Here in Hogsmeade?” I asked skeptically. People were always thinking Voldemort was around, and this would be a silly place for him to show up. But it would explain why no one was outside.

“That’s what I heard,” he responded. “I don’t know how true it is, since I heard it from someone who heard it from someone – you know how that goes – but we’re going to go inside. You probably should, too.”

Octavius and I followed the group of people and ended up back in the Three Broomsticks again. I kept watching out the window to see if Voldemort would come strolling down the street. When I looked back at the table, Octavius was busy talking to another bloke – quite flirtatiously, I noticed. The group we’d come in with were all busy in conversation about someone I didn’t know, and I rather abruptly stood up and began to walk away from the table. Octavius looked up at me and I just smiled and waved. I figured he wouldn’t really care that I was ditching him, because he seemed to be enjoying himself now.

I was considering just heading back to the castle early and doing my homework, which I had been trying to avoid by coming here in the first place, when I saw Charlotte walking with Lester in the street. I was surprised to see Charlotte in Hogsmeade, because last I’d heard, she had other plans for the day.

Voldemort was still nowhere to be found, so I ran out the door of the Three Broomsticks and up the street to greet Charlotte. But just when she turned her head and saw me, Lester looked up too. He pulled something out of his pocket, shoved it at Charlotte’s arm, and the two of them disappeared.

I stared at the ground where they had just disappeared, intent on finding them again; something seemed wrong. Maybe it was the rumours about Voldemort that I’d just heard, or maybe it was just that I was wary of whatever Lester did, but I felt uneasy.

Suddenly I heard a scream coming from the abandoned building at the end of the High Street. The building had been empty for a couple of years since the apothecary previously there had gone out of business, and there had been plans for another shop to move into the building, but nothing had happened yet. And now, from the sound of it, Charlotte was being tortured in there. I stood rooted to the ground, staring at the building without an idea of what to do, while scenarios flew through my mind. It might be Voldemort in there, if the rumours were true. I could be tortured as well if I ran after her. I could be too late if I tried to find help. But then I heard the scream again and without another thought I ran frantically towards the old apothecary.

I burst through the door, panting, and as the wooden door swung wildly on its hinge and crashed against the wall, several faces turned to stare at me. My heart almost stopped when I realized who was in the room. Charlotte was backed up against a wall, clutching her side in obvious agony. Lester and another Death Eater were standing beside her; I couldn’t see the other person’s face behind the mask, but his wand was still in Charlotte’s face. In addition to Charlotte and Lester, there were a few more people in cloaks and dark hoods… and Voldemort was there.

“Well, if it isn’t a little family reunion,” said Voldemort. His voice was high and cold, and just hearing him speak made me feel as if the temperature in the room had dropped ten degrees. He was watching me with red snakelike eyes, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him for fear that he’d kill me if I turned around. “How touching. So you’ve both come to join your brothers.”

I felt a surge of anger at his taunt about Nathan. “Why are you torturing her?” I asked. I put my hand in my pocket and grasped my fingers tightly around my wand so I could defend myself in an instant if anything happened.

“She deceived me,” said Voldemort simply. “I’m trying to decide what to do with her.”

“Let her go!” I suggested uselessly. Voldemort only resumed looking at his wand, brushing off a speck of dust.

Charlotte broke the tense silence. “Are we in the Shrieking Shack?” she asked. I could hear her voice shaking, and it scared me even more than Voldemort did. Nothing ever unnerved Charlotte.

“No,” said Lester conversationally, as if he had not just transported her into a dimly lit old building full of Death Eaters and Voldemort. “Other end of the street, where the old apothecary used to be.”

There was another silence. The Death Eater in front of Charlotte was staring at me (at least I thought he was – his mask made it hard to tell, but he was facing my direction now), and Voldemort was looking between me and Charlotte. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt,” I said lightly, “so I’ll just get Charlotte and be off.”

“You haven’t come to join?” said Voldemort. “Think of it – power you can’t imagine. People would respect you. You could be great.”

“I’m not interested,” I said. “People already respect me. I’m great enough, thank you.” The hand gripping my wand was shaking.

Charlotte seemed to be more at ease now that she was no longer being tortured, and her confidence returned. “Yeah, what makes you think we’d want to join you?” she said insolently to Voldemort, defiance etched on her regal face. “You believe you’re so great, don’t you. But no one actually thinks you’re a big deal except you and your misguided bunch of losers. And those masks are hideous. If you think I’m going to wear that, you’ve got another think coming. I guess they’re not as bad as your face, though. What happened there?”

“Not the time, Charlotte,” I pleaded. She was going to get herself killed if she said things like that.

“I shouldn’t have trusted your choice, Avery,” Voldemort told Lester. “This is not what I asked for. We have no use for her. Kill her.” The first Death Eater who was not Lester raised his wand.

I screamed “Expelliarmus!” and Disarmed the Death Eater, giving Charlotte time to run. She grabbed my arm and we started running. I had inadvertently put myself between her and the Death Eater who was supposed to kill her, and he’d already picked up his wand again. Another Death Eater blocked our path, and we stopped. But the first one just pointed his wand at us, and didn’t use any spells.

“Hastings! Now!” said Voldemort. I looked up at him as I heard my name, then realized he hadn’t meant me at all. The Death Eater threatening us was Nathan. I felt physically sick. At least if I vomited it would be on Voldemort’s feet.

But Nathan wasn’t doing anything, not with me standing so close to Charlotte. I stood in front of her, blocking her from Nathan’s reach. Nathan sighed, as his disguise was useless now. “Get out of the way, Melanie,” said his voice from behind the mask.

“Don’t you dare kill my friend, Nathan,” I said, outraged. It was the first time I’d seen him after unleashing my opinions on my family the past summer, and I had finished pretending long ago – it was all out in the open now. I knew how to stand up for myself now, and I wasn’t going to cave in to Voldemort bullying my brother around.

“You hear that, Nathan?” Charlotte asked aggressively from behind me. “I am one of your sister’s best friends. If you kill me, you’re going to be hurting her more than you’ll hurt me.”

Nathan seemed to deflate and lowered his wand slightly. He couldn’t do it. Voldemort was not pleased, and raised his wand at Nathan.

“No!” I cried. As angry as I was with Nathan, I wouldn’t watch Voldemort kill him. No one was going to die in here today if I could help it.

To appease Voldemort, Nathan aimed an Avada Kedavra at the window about three feet above Charlotte’s head. It blasted a hole in the window and showered us with glass.

Charlotte fired back with an Impediment Jinx. And before we knew it, we were engaged in a battle with Voldemort and four Death Eaters. I couldn’t remember the most important things we’d learned in Defence Against the Dark Arts and resorted to using the same few spells over and over, but it was working to an extent. We were still alive, after all.

There were only two of us and five of them. Voldemort didn’t seem to be doing much fighting, but even without him helping his Death Eaters we were still outnumbered two to one. I took to hiding behind the stone columns and aiming my spells from there. “Stupefy!” I cried from behind a column.

The nearest Death Eater spotted me when the red jet of light zipped from my wand, and aiming his wand at the column protecting me, shouted “Reducto!

I hurriedly cast a Shield Charm and fled from the Death Eater who was chasing me. Fiery sparks filled the room. A Killing Curse whizzed by me and I narrowly avoided it by ducking behind a pile of rubble. Nathan was aiming spells at the walls and slowly destroying the building, but I never saw him attempt any curses on Charlotte or me. Two of the stone columns had crumbled now and the roof was falling in. If we couldn’t get out of here soon, the roof would fall and kill all of us anyway.

One of the Death Eaters seemed to be enjoying himself and exploded a large hole in the roof, then cried out “Morsmordre!” Smoky green light erupted from his wand, but I couldn’t stop to watch and ran out of the way of the debris raining down upon me.

“Not now, you idiot,” said the Death Eater nearest him. “Don’t get excited.” It sounded like Lucius Malfoy, one of Nathan’s best friends, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Lucius’s only distinguishing feature was his long blonde hair, which I had used to admire when I was younger, but the Death Eater was wearing a hood.

I heard more shouting from outside and then loud footsteps on the floor like several people running. Who would come blundering into a building like this right now? I could only hope it was Aurors here to save us.

The door banged open again and Sirius appeared, closely followed by James and Lily. All three of them had their wands out. A spell nearly hit Lily the instant she stepped in, but she ducked and ran in to join the fray. James ran after her, knocking down a Death Eater with the Body-Bind Curse as he went.

Sirius remained where he was standing. Our eyes locked; I just stood there staring at him for a few seconds as spells whizzed around us in the room. The expression on his face was a combination of relief and shock and something else I couldn’t identify. Then he ran towards me and I rushed forward to meet him. He threw his arms around me so tightly I could hardly breathe – like he never wanted to let me go again. I forgave everything instantly. “What are you doing here?” I asked.

He let go his grip slightly, but he was still holding on to me. “You ran into this building, and just now I saw the Dark Mark appear over it. What was I supposed to do, just keep walking and ignore it?”

“There’s a Dark Mark over this building?” I asked, overcome with terror. I gripped his shirt even tighter and looked towards the hole in the roof.

“Yes. I didn’t see anyone dead when I came in, though.”

“But… but what were you doing coming in here? You could have died! If there’s a Dark Mark…”

“I know. But I thought something had happened to you, and though we haven’t been on good terms for a while, I couldn’t stand to lose you. Things like this make you realize what you care about… what’s important to you. And that means sticking with the people we have, because you never know what’s going to happen, and… I love you.”

Of all the things he could have said at that moment, that was the last thing I was expecting, and I laughed, then felt badly about it. “I’m sorry, it’s just that… Sirius, I love you, but your timing is awful. Can we continue this when we don’t have Voldemort breathing down our necks?”

He grinned. I had missed seeing that, but didn’t have time to dwell on it now. “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said. “For now, let’s go fight Voldemort.” We finally let go of each other, then he grabbed my hand and we leapt out from behind the pillar, wands ready.

Sirius took down a Death Eater with a powerful Stunning Spell. Lily was fighting two Death Eaters by herself, and James was battling Voldemort. Over the din of spells crashing off things I could hear what sounded like Voldemort trying to get James to join him as well, because he was a pureblood. Obviously that was never going to happen.

I let go of Sirius and took one of Lily’s Death Eaters and repeatedly tried to blast him into the wall, but then I realised it was Nathan because he refused to fight with me and he went back to attack Lily. So I went after the other Death Eater instead.

There was a crash and a cry of pain, and I looked back to see Sirius on the floor. His leg was bent at an odd angle, and Voldemort had stopped duelling with James to come talk to Sirius. James was helping Lily fight against Nathan.

“I know quite a few members of your family,” Voldemort said to Sirius, who glared up at him, clutching his leg and gritting his teeth. I couldn’t tell if it was from pain or anger. But I was sure that if he’d been able to stand up, he would have run over and attacked Voldemort. Still with his eyes on Voldemort, Sirius reached out for his wand, which was a few inches away from him on the floor.

I attempted to Stun Voldemort but he deflected the spell without even looking. One of the Death Eaters – the one I thought might be Lucius – moved in to fight with me. I Disarmed him and then sped away to help Sirius, who was crawling along the floor in pain.

“What are you doing?” Sirius demanded as I tried to get him away from Voldemort.

“I’m getting you away from there so you don’t get killed! You can’t fight with a broken leg!”

“It’s only my leg, Melanie. I can still help!”

“You can’t even stand!”

“I can’t sit here and watch!” he insisted. I sighed; it was pointless to resist, because I knew he’d try to get back up and keep fighting if it killed him. I crouched down and he put his arm around my shoulders, and helped him stand up. He was hopping on his good leg, grimacing in pain, but determined. I remained by his side, because he wouldn’t get far on one leg, and we shot spells at Death Eaters together. And he was right – despite his painful leg injury, he was fighting admirably. Nothing could stop him.

Charlotte was across the room battling with Lester. Both of them looked furious. And Voldemort was now fighting James and Lily. I had never truly appreciated just how talented the two of them were at Defence Against the Dark Arts. I watched in awe as they fired spell after spell at Voldemort, standing their ground impressively, silhouetted by the blaze of red and green lights between them and Voldemort.

More commotion came from the doorway and I looked over to see three people. For a split second I feared they were coming to back up the Death Eaters, but the newcomers were not masked. One, I was stunned to discover, was Frank Longbottom, who had graduated from Hogwarts last year. The other two were older and I didn’t recognise them. But they ran right into the battle and fought with us against the Death Eaters.

Voldemort had had enough of people running in to help us out. “You four were supposed to get me into Hogwarts, not alert the whole world that we were here,” he said angrily to Lester. “I should have known, after your stupid plan last time that sent two people to Azkaban.” He Disapparated without another word and left his Death Eaters to continue the fight.

“He’s gone!” cried one of the newcomers. She looked back at the other two.

“Watch out, Dorcas, there’s another Death Eater behind you,” said Frank. He and the other wizard, a man with a square jaw and thick blond hair, hurried to find the other Death Eaters and apprehend them before they disappeared as well. Dorcas turned around and battled with Nathan.

Sirius let go of my shoulder and sat down on a crumbled column, holding on to his leg. His shoe was covered in blood. The duelling with a broken leg must have taken quite a toll on him.

Charlotte came stumbling around a corner. “Lester’s been Stunned, he’s unconscious,” she panted as she ran over to me. “Who are all these people?”

“Aurors, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know, but I’m sure glad they came – they scared Voldemort away.” I looked back into the main room. The Aurors, James, and Lily were still fighting the Death Eaters. “Should we go back and help?” I suggested to Charlotte.

Charlotte’s hair had come out of its ponytail, and she brushed a loose strand of hair off her sweaty face. I gasped when I saw what was on her wrist: the gold and sapphire wristwatch that had hurt Remus last year. How in Merlin’s name had she managed to get hold of that?

“What is that, Charlotte?” I asked, pointing to the watch.

“This? It’s Lester’s. He snapped it on my arm to take me here. He’s had it for ages, trying all sorts of charms on it with Mulciber and Snape. They used to think it was Rowena Ravenclaw’s, so they were trying to get it to You-Know-Who, but I guess it’s not, because then they started using it for spell practice.”

It must have been what Charlotte had meant a few months ago when she said she’d seen Lester with a feminine bracelet; she hadn’t been there when the watch incident had happened with Remus so she didn’t recognize it as anything sinister.

“That’s the watch that made Remus unconscious in the trophy room last year. It’s a Portkey now as well?”

“They’ve done loads of stuff to it; Lester said they used it for practicing putting curses on things. They used to practice in the trophy room, so they must have accidentally left it in there the day Remus found it. I didn’t think much of it when I first saw it. I figured whatever it was, it was definitely better than them practicing the Imperius Curse on shy Hufflepuffs in the library. But I was wrong. They were going to use it to bring He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named into the castle today.”

“And you knew all along?” I asked, disgusted. “You knew they were going to bring Voldemort in?”

“Of course not,” said Charlotte. “Lester told me all of this when we were walking through Hogsmeade this morning. I’ve been playing along, pretending to be interested so I could find out what he’s doing as a Death Eater. But I guess I was acting too well, because he didn’t tell me where we were going today, he just took me here… he really thought I wanted to join.”

We heard a shout and turned to see one of the Death Eaters on the floor with his arms bound behind his back. “Nice one, Sturgis,” said Dorcas. “Keep him there while I get this one.” She tried to tie up another one, the one I thought was Lucius, but he spun and Disapparated before she could finish. The ropes cascaded from her wand out onto the floor where Lucius had vanished.

The Death Eaters were giving up! Charlotte and I ran back in to help. “Where did you leave Lester?” I asked Charlotte. “We should get him tied up as well so he can’t escape back to Voldemort.”

“Back here,” she said, and we hurried into an alcove in the back. No one was there. “He was here,” Charlotte insisted. “I should have tied him up when I Stunned him, I just didn’t think of it.”

“He can’t have gotten far, he was unconscious for at least a few minutes,” I said. Joining the others, we went back into the main room to look for him.

We were so close to victory over the Death Eaters; we had already driven Voldemort and one Death Eater away, and captured another. It was a great feeling. But all I wanted right now was to be done fighting.

Frank, Lily, and James were chasing Nathan. He didn’t put up too much of a fight, although he released the ropes on the other Death Eater, who re-entered the battle, much to Sturgis’s dismay. Contrary to when the fight had begun, the Death Eaters were now outnumbered, but still hanging on. The Death Eater who had previously been tied up tried to Apparate away at least twice, but had to stop each time when curses were aimed at him mid-Apparition that would have Splinched him.

With my attention on this battle, and my attempts to stop Nathan and the other Death Eater before they got away, no one noticed when Lester reappeared. But he did, using the battle as a distraction – he snuck up behind us as we were preoccupied, and we only noticed him when suddenly Dorcas fell down and lay there unmoving. Frank went to her aid as the rest of us continued fighting, and Lester ran about the room, ahead of the rest of us as he cast curses haphazardly in every direction. The previously tied up Death Eater finally succeeded in Apparating.

“She’s all right,” I heard Frank shout from behind us. Charlotte and I were trailing a few feet behind Lester as we chased him, but we were gaining on him. I turned his leg into wood as he ran, and he stumbled on it, but without any delay he faced us. A jet of white light shot out of his wand and hit Charlotte, blasting her backwards into a column.

The spell seemed to go through her, and the column collapsed as if in slow motion. I screamed. Charlotte fell to the ground with the impact of Lester’s spell, and the pillar crumbled on top of her with a reverberating, booming crash. Dust rose up in an immense, ominous cloud around her, and she was completely obscured by debris.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thank you for reading! I realise that's another cliffhanger, sorry... Stay tuned! And any comments would be appreciated here! Thanks!


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Last edited by marauderfan; December 17th, 2012 at 5:55 am.
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  #37  
Old December 18th, 2012, 8:04 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
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Age: 27
Posts: 258
Re: The Brave at Heart

Chapter 36: Echoes

The most urgent thing in my mind was to get Charlotte out of the rubble and make sure she would be okay. Panicking, I ran over to her through the settling dust. I neither knew nor cared where Lester was at the moment – there were Aurors present, so someone else could handle him for now. The noise of the battle faded away as all my attention focused on Charlotte. My hands trembled as I attempted to extricate her from the crumbled stone where she was lying uncomfortably and gasping for breath.

“Charlotte!” I cried. I Levitated a large stone block off her chest and deposited it arbitrarily a few feet away, then knelt down beside her. Blood trickled down her face and robes. Her eyes were barely open, but when I knelt at her side, she opened them and gazed up at me.

“Don’t let them win,” she said hoarsely. “Get back in there and catch him. You can’t do anything for me.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I protested. “I’m going to get you out of here. I’m not leaving you!”

She looked directly into my eyes. “There’s nothing you can do. I’m dying, Melanie.” It sounded like each word was causing her pain.

“No!” I willed her words to not be true. I grabbed onto her hand and squeezed it tightly, as if my holding on to her could help her cling to life. Her hand was shaking as much as mine, and her grip was weak; I was overcome with a sinking sense of futility. My eyes filled with tears as I sat there helplessly watching my friend die. I couldn’t even speak; my throat was so tight it was painful.

Charlotte spoke again. “The only thing I regret is that there were still several things I wanted to do that I never got to do. I never walked under a ladder.”

“What?” I asked, not sure I had heard correctly.

“I crossed the path of a black cat and I’ve broken a mirror, but I never walked under a ladder. I always wanted to do that. But if that’s the only regret I have in my life, I think I did well.” She smiled weakly.

Her detached acceptance of the situation only made it harder for me. I squeezed my eyes firmly shut, feeling another cascade of tears stream down my cheeks, and held on to her hand still tighter. My throat stung. “Are you scared?” I finally asked her, my voice cracking.

“I’m worried about you, not me,” she whispered. “You’re the best friend I ever had. You and Mandy. I want you to know that.”

“Charlotte, no,” I sobbed. With apparent difficulty she raised her other arm off the floor and reached out to me. I bent down closer to her and hugged her tightly, my tears falling into her hair. And then I noticed that her head had lolled back a bit, and her hand thudded to the floor. I sat up slowly and through a blur of tears I looked at her face again; her eyes were staring up at the ceiling, unseeing, the sparkle gone.

I could do nothing. My whole body was shaking now as I remained there, still holding on to Charlotte while I rocked back and forth in anguish. I tried to wake up from the nightmare, because that was what it must be. It couldn’t be real. But Charlotte lay unmoving, her arm reaching lifelessly across the dusty floor where it had dropped. She would never wake up. And I couldn’t either.

I had no idea how long I sat there. But I was spurred back into action when I saw Lester run by again and the noise of the battle eventually returned to my consciousness. I stood up with renewed fury and sprinted after Lester.

Crucio!” I screeched at him, wanting to hurt him and make him suffer for killing Charlotte, but nothing happened; I didn’t know how to do an Unforgivable Curse. When it didn’t work, I ran at him in desperation, not really knowing what I would do when I got to him but I hoped it would hurt. He saw me charging at him and pulled out his wand.

“You killed her!” I cried. My voice sounded quite deranged. “You killed Charlotte!”

Lester seemed surprised, but not sad. He continued to point his wand at me and I faced him defiantly, tears still streaming down my face. “Do you feel nothing?”

“It was an accident,” he said callously, then fired another of those white-light spells at me. I cast a Shield Charm between us just in time.

“Didn’t look like it,” I said. “Try explaining that to your parents.”

He shrugged. “I’ll tell them you killed her.”

Lily and James heard me screaming at Lester and ran in to help me fight him, until I saw Nathan skirting around the walls of the building. I still wanted to hurt Lester, but if what I’d seen of Nathan’s action in this battle so far meant anything, there was still a chance for him to get out if he wanted to. “Impedimenta!” I cried, and Nathan stalled. He put a Shield Charm around himself.

“Nathan, this is really what you want to do?” I demanded as I fired more hexes at his shield. “This is what you want to become?”

“I joined the Dark Lord because I believe that purebloods are a higher status of wizard and deserve respect. I didn’t think he’d have me kill anyone – I never wanted to.”

“You aren’t even a pureblood! So why does it matter?”

“I may not be a pureblood but I’m not a Mudblood! We have some noble wizarding stock in our blood and that’s something to be proud of. Dad’s family is pureblood.”

“No one cares about that rubbish except you Death Eaters. Do you really think this is worth dying for, or killing for? Lester Avery just killed his sister – is that what you want to do as well?”

Nathan looked horrified. “No,” he admitted softly. But then my attention was drawn away once again by Lester, who shot off a few more curses at random and then ran up to Nathan, grabbed his arm and yelled “Now!” and the two of them Disapparated.

The battle had taken a serious toll on everyone. The two Aurors who were still conscious slowed their running to a halt and stood there panting and despondent where Nathan and Lester had escaped from within their grasp. Lily was lying on the floor, a painful looking gash across her face, and James bent down to help her. Sirius was not where I had last seen him – apparently he’d joined the fight again, though I had no idea how. He was now sitting in the middle of the room holding his leg. I merely stumbled over to where Charlotte’s body lay and hopelessly collapsed onto the floor again in tears. After everything, all four Death Eaters and Voldemort had managed to get away, and Charlotte had died in vain.

I became aware of a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Sirius. He was standing upright now on his right leg, a hastily made splint on the left; with his other arm he was holding onto Frank Longbottom’s shoulder to stay standing. “I’m so sorry,” Sirius said flatly, staring at Charlotte in disbelief.

“We did everything we could,” said Frank.

James and Lily walked up beside Frank, followed shortly by Sturgis and Dorcas, who was conscious once again, and no one did anything but stare down at Charlotte lying there as if asleep in the rubble of the stone column. I looked up at the somber semicircle of people surrounding Charlotte and finally stood up on shaky legs to join them. Sirius wrapped his arm around me, helping to stabilize both of us.

Lily finally spoke. “How did you find us in here?” she asked. “Are you Aurors?”

Frank took his eyes off Charlotte for the first time since seeing her on the floor. “We’re not all Aurors, no,” he said. “This is Dorcas Meadowes and Sturgis Podmore. We’re all part of the resistance against the Death Eaters. We have many sources all around Hogwarts and Hogsmeade – that’s how we knew how to find you today.”

Their words washed over me and I heard without listening. None of it mattered anymore.

Some time later Lily, James, Sirius and I were headed back to Hogwarts; Lily’s arm was around me, and Sirius was supported between her and James, hopping on his good leg. I didn’t know or care where the Aurors had gone. I was walking as if in a fog, only aware of what was happening immediately around me. Numbly I watched each step my feet took; it seemed like someone else walking with my feet, because I didn’t even feel my own legs moving.

The sounds of merriment spilled out from the windows of the Three Broomsticks… people who were still blissfully ignorant of the unthinkable tragedy that had just transpired at the far end of the street. I had nearly forgotten it was Valentine’s Day; that seemed ages ago. Time had stopped when Charlotte died, and the seconds had become agonizing hours.

And then we were back in the Great Hall, still walking. I saw some people rushing urgently down the corridor. We kept going; I had no idea where we were headed, and I didn’t care. All I could think about was that I should have done something more. If I had thought fast enough I could have stopped Lester and Voldemort and then Charlotte wouldn’t have died.

The next time I was really conscious of my surroundings, I was in the hospital wing. Sirius and Lily were there as well. Madam Pomfrey had given me some sort of potion for shock, but so far it was having no effect at all. Slumped against my pillow, I did little but stare across the room.

After I’d been there a few minutes, or maybe a half hour – I felt wholly disconnected from the passage of time – the door was thrown open and Mandy walked into the room straight towards me, ignoring Madam Pomfrey’s insistence that I needed rest. I could see the tears in Mandy’s eyes all the way across the room. It seemed she’d already been informed, which was good in a way, because I didn’t think I’d be able to say it. That would make it too real. Seeing Mandy crying brought stinging tears to my eyes as well, just when I thought I’d cried as much as was humanly possible for one day. Mandy didn’t stop walking until she reached my bed and then threw her arms around me. We held on to each other for a long time, and neither of us said anything. We had lost our best friend – how were we supposed to ever move forward from that?

It still hadn’t really sunk in until the first time I went back to my dormitory, the following day once I’d been released from the hospital wing. Our room looked the same as ever, still had the same silly decorations, large posters of professional Quidditch players, a cactus by the window, a string of lights over the door that no one had bothered to take down after Christmas, piles of shoes on the floor… it was like she had never left. But I knew it could never be the same anymore, and it bothered me that the room gave the impression that nothing had happened.

Outside the window, it was raining under a gloomy grey sky, which oddly made me feel better, like the sky was grieving as much as I was. I blankly watched the tears of rain fall from the heavens and disrupt the surface of the lake with ripples. I opened the window and a cold gust of air rushed in, along with some rain, but I didn’t care.

I felt like an empty shell now that I’d forever lost my oldest friend, the first person I’d met on the train to Hogwarts six and a half years ago. And I’d imagined she would always be there. I had never told her what a good friend she was. I didn’t realise until she was gone just how much I had taken her for granted.

Never again would I see Charlotte’s smiling face as she came to tell me stupid gossip. To think that I had always tuned her out when she started down that road… but now I’d give anything just to hear her talk about the most mundane rubbish again. No one else would mock my love of Ancient Runes, tell me I looked like her grandmother, or jinx our own Quidditch captain to sneak me on to the team… it was funny the things you missed…

I knew that if she could see me acting this way, she’d probably have something sarcastic to say about it. She had never taken anything seriously. Not her homework, not Voldemort, not even death. I envied that about her – I doubted I could ever smile again.

“Can you shut that? It’s getting cold in here.”

I hadn’t even noticed Alanna and Rachel entering the room. They were sitting on Charlotte’s bed, Alanna holding a framed photograph. I closed the window and walked over to them to see the picture. It was one Charlotte had had on the table beside her bed, taken of all five of us as first years; Rachel and Charlotte were pushing their way to the front of the picture, and Mandy kept moving forward as well to put bunny ears on Charlotte with her fingers. Then one of us tripped and we all fell over in a heap. “I just can’t believe she’s gone,” said Alanna softly.

Rachel sighed. “And I had thought the Dark Lord really knew what he was doing. I admired him – I thought it was noble to elevate the status of purebloods. But Charlotte stood up to him… and now I don’t reckon he’s everything he says he is. All he wants is power for himself. I don’t like what he’s doing to achieve his power… You were right all along, Melanie.”

I said nothing. I didn’t care about being right; all I wanted was for Charlotte to come back.

“Well, she won’t need this any more,” said Alanna, picking up the picture as she stood up from the bed. “Do you think it’s all right if I take it?”

Rachel and I merely shrugged, and Alanna set the photo on the table by her own bed. Just then, Mandy walked into the room as well. “They told me you were out of the hospital wing,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said expressionlessly. “There’s not a whole lot Madam Pomfrey could do for me.”

Mandy nodded, then, seemingly because she didn’t want to continue talking about Charlotte, she asked us all if we wanted to go to dinner.

Rachel and Alanna agreed, but I just shrugged again. “You have to eat sometime,” Mandy insisted. So we all walked down together, saying very little, but there was nothing to say. Charlotte had always been the glue that held us all together; Rachel and Alanna had always been very different from Mandy and me, but Charlotte had been close with all of us. Now, in a way, it seemed her death had brought the remaining four of us closer together.

The Great Hall had been adorned with black banners instead of the usual four House banners, and the conversations throughout the hall seemed muted. The food looked just as expertly prepared as ever by the house-elves, but it didn’t appear appetizing to me. The few bites I took of my dinner seemed tasteless and dry.

“Dumbledore made a speech about the war at dinner yesterday,” said Alanna. “He said some nice things about Charlotte.”

“That’s nice,” I said numbly.

As I shaped my shepherd’s pie into a square with my fork, flattening it on top and then stabbing at it and then shaping it again, a trickle of people came by to speak to us, offering words of condolence. I supposed it was nice of them, but I couldn’t handle nice things at the moment. It just sounded like empty words to me, even though I knew they meant well.

I was seated next to Mandy on the side of the table that Charlotte always preferred: the side with our backs to the wall so we had a view of the entire Great Hall. It provided easy viewing of the silly things people did. Even now, someone at the Hufflepuff table had produced a number of straws, connected them, and was trying to drink pumpkin juice from someone else’s cup at the neighbouring Ravenclaw table. I had a fleeting urge to tap Charlotte’s shoulder and point out the commotion… but Charlotte wasn’t there. She would never be there again. And I had let that happen.

These thoughts burdened me until the four of us had returned to our dormitory, and I finally confided in Mandy how much it was torturing me that I was partially to blame for Charlotte’s death, and how I’d never be free of the guilt. She shouldn't have died. It could just as easily have been me, and probably should have been.

Mandy was shocked. “It’s not your fault,” she said comfortingly. “Just because you were there doesn’t mean you’re to blame. You couldn’t have done anything more.”

“I know,” I said thickly, “but I still keep feeling that I should have. She shouldn’t have had to die. It’s not fair.” What kind of world was it in which an eighteen-year-old died, at the hands of her brother, for standing up against evil?

“No, it isn’t fair. None of it is.”



The next day was Monday, and I couldn’t bring myself to attend class, not even Ancient Runes. I skipped my classes for three days, and instead hid in my room, withdrawn and forlorn. I had lost the energy to care about anything. Mandy would bring food to me from the kitchens, and I was able to eat it now, but I still didn’t have much of an appetite. Sometimes we’d just sit in the room and not say anything. Neither Mandy nor I were able to talk about Charlotte yet or we’d start crying again.

Charlotte had once told me that if she died she’d come back as a ghost to haunt me. I kept looking over towards Charlotte’s bed every now and then, half expecting to see a pearly transparent figure smirking back at me. But it never happened. And there were quite a few times I forgot for a brief, blissful moment that she had died – and then I’d remember again, and it would feel like a cold stab to the heart.

Charlotte’s belongings disappeared from the dormitory after a few days, probably back to her family. Her body had been returned to her parents as well, and if they’d held a funeral, we weren’t invited. Maybe it was for her family only… the family that probably thought her death was a noble sacrifice for Voldemort. Charlotte had resisted the Death Eaters, and everyone else in her family was a Death Eater. They didn’t understand.

According to my roommates, Lester also hadn’t come back to Hogwarts since Charlotte’s death. I wasn’t sure whether this was because he knew word would get out that he’d been the one who killed her, and dropped out because of that, or whether he’d just decided he was done with school and quit to devote all his time to being a Death Eater. Or maybe his parents didn’t want Lester getting involved with “Mudblood riffraff” as he referred to most of the students of Hogwarts. Regardless, he was gone.

On Wednesday night, Mandy didn’t bring anything to me for dinner, insisting that it was time I left the dormitory. She offered to go with me, but I refused and went to dinner in the Great Hall alone. The four black banners still hung from the ceiling, and I could see all of them from where I sat on Charlotte’s favourite side of the table.

As this was my first appearance in the Great Hall in three days, a few more people came to comfort me who hadn’t seen me since Charlotte’s death. One of the people who stopped by the Slytherin table was Althea. She reminded me that the same thing had happened to her earlier this year – and although her friend Artemis hadn’t actually died, Althea had thought so at the time. And it had been Mandy and me who had helped her through her hardest time. Now, she said, she was here to help me because she completely understood.

“You told me Artemis wouldn’t want me to be sad. Charlotte wouldn’t have wanted you to be sad either.”

“I know,” I said hopelessly in a scratchy voice that hadn’t done much speaking for days. Althea hadn’t really known Charlotte that well, apart from when Charlotte had accidentally turned Althea’s head into a watermelon, but Charlotte never wanted anyone to be sad.

“Remember you have help if you want it,” said Althea. “A lot of people care about you and are concerned for you.”

“Thanks,” I said softly. She patted my shoulder awkwardly and then continued to sit there as if not sure whether she should stay or leave, but I appreciated it all the same. Mandy had given me space when I needed it, but I would never be able to get through it alone. Althea was right.

My eyes drifted about the room until I saw Sirius, sitting at the Gryffindor table next to James and Lily. When he looked up a moment later and saw me, he stood up, leaving his dinner there; he strode across the Hall to the Slytherin table. I hadn’t seen him in three days, and upon seeing him again, all I wanted was for him to hold me tight and maybe things would be a little better. Sirius sat down beside me, and on the other side of me Althea walked away.

“You’re finally out of your room,” he said, hugging me firmly. “I hadn’t seen you since you left the hospital wing on Sunday, I was so worried about you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said into his shoulder. I tried in vain to hold myself together, but broke down in tears anyway. “This should never have happened,” I sobbed.

“You don’t need to be sorry,” he said, kissing the top of my head. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

After a few minutes Sirius suggested we go somewhere else to get away from all the noise of the Great Hall, so we meandered aimlessly outside. It was cold, but I didn’t care – it was oddly calming to stand out there in the cold, letting the wind whip against my face, while Sirius and I stood together looking out across the lake. The wind had a numbing effect and the only thing I could really feel was Sirius’s hand holding mine tightly. I felt so grateful to him just for being there. I didn't know what I'd have done without him.

“Are you going to go to class tomorrow?” Sirius asked at one point when we were headed back in the direction of the castle.

“I have to at some point,” I said. “It may as well be tomorrow. Life is never going to get back to normal, but I have to do the best I can.” I sighed. “Thank you for helping me cope with everything, by the way. I’ve just been so lost, I don’t know what to do.”

Sirius nodded. “You’ve been so strong dealing with this,” he said softly. “It’s not easy. I still can't believe it either.”

When I went back to my dormitory, feeling much better after Sirius had calmed me down, I apologised to Mandy for having pushed her away for so long. She had only been trying to help me, and had probably needed my help just as much as I needed hers. After all, Charlotte had been her best friend too, so Mandy was hurting as much as I was.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I knew you just needed time.”

“How have you been dealing with everything?” I asked.

“I’m doing all right. Not great, obviously… but I’m coping. Barely.”

We sat there in silence for a while on her bed. Finally I said, “Mandy, I’m scared to leave Hogwarts in June. It’s going to be like this all the time. We were just lucky, until Saturday, but that’s what happens in a war like this – we lose people.”

“But we’ll be better prepared,” Mandy suggested. “Not that anything can ever prepare you for the death of a good friend, but we’ll be better able to face it all. And we have got a few months until then, and Voldemort won’t be trying that sort of thing again; everyone knows he’s scared of Dumbledore, and now Dumbledore is onto him after he tried to get into Hogwarts. We still have a few months here in the safest place there is.”

“That’s a good way to think about it,” I agreed. “It’s still out there, though. June will be here before we know it.”

“And when we leave,” Mandy said with a resolute gleam in her eye, “the two of us are going to get rid of Voldemort. We’re going to do it for Charlotte.”

We looked at the spot where Charlotte’s things had been in our room. An empty hole that seemed to echo the empty feeling in my heart. It only made me more determined than ever to join the fight against Voldemort and help end the wizarding world’s suffering once and for all.

Lily was already there when I walked in to Ancient Runes the next morning, and today she’d abandoned her usual seat with her Gryffindor friends to come sit with me. We exchanged very few words in class, and it was only about the runes, but that was enough. She seemed to understand – all I needed was someone to be there who understood what I was going through and didn’t feel the need to bring it up all the time.

I had Defence Against the Dark Arts next – the one class that, on Saturday, I had wished with all my heart I’d paid more attention to. I would redouble my efforts in that class; it would be a step towards what happened to Charlotte never happening again to anyone else I knew.

As I took my seat in class, I felt a dull ache in my chest when I saw Charlotte’s empty seat. Tears sprang to my eyes again, as they so often did nowadays. And then Professor Thornhill started speaking; all I could think about was Charlotte’s silly crush on him. Everything reminded me of Charlotte now.

But Sirius came over to take Charlotte’s seat at the table with Mandy and me. Now that I was finally associating with people again, I realised just how many people cared. It wasn’t going to be an easy process getting over my friend’s death, but there were so many people to help me through it. I was surrounded by love. Sirius, Mandy, James, Remus, Peter, Lily, Althea, Hector, the countless others who had tried to comfort me… There was so much worth living for, and I was inspired. I had to pick up the pieces of my life and move forward, because that was the only thing I could do. I had never worked so hard in class as I did that day.



For most at Hogwarts, life returned to normal after a couple of weeks. Many people, particularly in other Houses, hadn’t known her and couldn’t be expected to mourn for a name they didn’t know. But it was a long road for Mandy and me.

One day, I was lying on my bed, alone in the dormitory again, when someone parted the hangings and sat down. I turned my head up away from my pillow, expecting it to be Mandy, but instead I found Sirius sitting there. “I brought you some tea,” he said, setting a cup of steaming tea down on the table beside my bed.

“Thanks… How did you get up here?” I asked. Boys weren’t supposed to be able to get up into the girls’ dormitories; Hector had said he’d tried it once and the stairs turned into a slide.

“As Padfoot,” said Sirius. “Animals can get up the stairs just fine.”

“Padfoot?” I said, confused. “An animal? I thought that was your nickname.”

He smiled slightly. “That’s right, I never told you… The nicknames all have a meaning. It’s because I’m an Animagus,” he explained. “So are James and Peter. You saw us that night, you know. When you found out about Remus. We were all out there too, in our animal forms. James is a stag, and you probably didn’t see Peter but he was there too, he’s a rat.”

My jaw dropped. “You’re all Animagi?”

“Well, Remus isn’t, but he has enough transformation to deal with. But that’s where the name came from – he’s Moony because—”

“Because he’s a werewolf,” I finished, finally understanding, and amazed that I hadn’t made the connection before. “Of course! And a stag – Prongs…” I shook my head in astonished disbelief. “And you? What are you?”

“A dog,” he said. Then he turned into a large black dog. He wagged his tail and moved his head closer to lick me.

“You’re a very convincing dog,” I said, giggling as I turned my face away. “Dog breath.”

The dog turned back into Sirius, and he was laughing too. I felt curious for the first time in weeks, and wanted the rest of the story. “So why’d you do it? And how?”

“Well, we had all noticed by early in our second year that Remus kept disappearing every month. We figured out where he was going, what was happening. So we decided to become Animagi so we could be with him when he transforms – a werewolf is only dangerous to people, not animals. It took us three years, but it was well worth it.”

“That’s brilliant,” I said, amazed. Remus could not have asked for better friends than those three – they were loyal, caring, talented, and would do anything for each other. I’d already held the Marauders in very high esteem, but now I respected them even more.

Sirius smiled at the astonished look on my face, and I realised my jaw was still hanging open and hastily closed my mouth. He was acting so nonchalantly, as if his Animagus transformation were nothing. So typical of him. But despite how he painted himself as a carefree rogue, underneath that he was such a genuinely affectionate and loving person; he had been doing everything he could to help me through the past few weeks. I felt so fortunate to have Sirius in my life.

I picked up my cup of tea and we sat there talking for a while. I still didn’t want to discuss Charlotte, and my throat would get tight every time something reminded me of her. But luckily Sirius and I could find many other things to talk about that distracted me from Charlotte, and mainly I just asked him about the adventures he and his friends had had in the forest as animals every month.

Eventually we decided to leave and head back upstairs out of the dungeons and maybe go to Gryffindor Tower with the other Marauders and Lily. Sirius took my hand and we walked towards the door. However, the instant his foot touched the stairs, they turned into a slide and we tumbled all the way down to the common room. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing out loud – a seemingly alien sound I hadn’t heard in weeks.

“It’s so good to hear you laugh again,” he said as we stood up.

Some people were staring oddly at us from their chairs by the fire, and Regulus pretended not to see Sirius and was studiously invested in his textbook. Sirius and I hurried across the common room, until I stopped along the way to invite Mandy to come along with us and visit our Gryffindor friends together. So the three of us went to join the other four Gryffindors like we had used to do.

Even though we were finally beginning to readjust to life, the war occupied more and more of my thoughts now that it had become so personal. I hadn’t really thought about it that much until I found out Nathan was a Death Eater, and then I paid a lot more attention to what was going on, reading the Daily Prophet with an obsession. And now that Charlotte was gone, another casualty of this long war, it was all I could think about.

But there was a dim ray of hope. Charlotte had been exactly the type of person Voldemort was interested in for Death Eaters – she was smart, talented, proud of her status as a pureblood, and stubborn – and she had thrown it all in Voldemort’s face, bravely defying him. There must be others like her. Her death had even brought Rachel and Alanna, who previously supported Voldemort, to have a change of heart – and Nathan, a Death Eater, was having second thoughts. Someday, Voldemort could be brought down. And I was going to do my best to make that happen.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Sorry for such a downer of a chapter - thanks for reading through it anyway. As always you can share your thoughts about it 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; January 23rd, 2013 at 7:55 am.
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  #38  
Old December 25th, 2012, 1:14 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 4127 days
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Ok - couldn't leave for the holidays with that depressing last post, so here's the next chapter, which is much lighter.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 37: The Long Road

February faded away into a dreary March. I worked harder than ever in all my classes, motivated by a desire both to pass my NEWTs with flying colours and to ensure Charlotte’s death was not in vain. As Mandy had suggested, we’d now be more prepared to face what was out there. Professor Thornhill even made a point of mentioning the considerable improvements Mandy and I had made in Defence Against the Dark Arts in the past few weeks; it was because we had been having mock duels in our dormitory for practice, much to Rachel and Alanna’s annoyance when they were trying to sleep.

At breakfast Mandy and I would read the Daily Prophet like it was our job. We had to know what was going on – and it was never good. The Dark Mark set above a house in Kent, seven people at the Ministry of Magic found to be under the Imperius Curse, a disappearance… “Nothing new,” said Mandy.

“How do we know who to trust anymore?” I asked her. “Look at this, one of the people under the Imperius Curse – his family had no idea! He would just go to work, sometimes kill Muggles, and return to his family and they couldn’t tell anything was wrong with him! How do I know you’re not under the Imperius Curse?”

“You don’t know,” said Mandy, shrugging. “I’m not, of course, but how can you be sure I’m telling the truth?”

“Well, I think we’re safe here at Hogwarts, but this is all going to be real in three months.” I looked up at her from the pages of the Prophet. “It’s going to be especially hard for you, you know – because you’re naturally such a trusting person.”

“I’ll need to keep a Sneakoscope in my pocket at all times,” she said.

I laughed. “Bet that’ll be great. It will whistle all the time and you’ll get kicked out of your job for disrupting the workplace.”

“No, it’d be well practical.” Mandy looked up and then started whistling. “See, it’d be like that. I’m a human Sneakoscope,” she explained. “Someone untrustworthy just walked by.”

I laughed; Vanessa Saltz had just walked by to sit at the Ravenclaw table. She had finally given up on trying to interfere with me and Sirius, as we were back together and contrary to her predictions, he hadn’t gotten bored of me yet. So Vanessa was now dating Nick Smith, the haughty blond-haired Hufflepuff Chaser with an upturned nose, who thought he was too cool for Hogwarts. He wouldn’t give the time of day to anyone he didn’t deem worthy of talking to. Apparently Vanessa somehow met his standards… so really, since they were both awful, they were perfect for each other. Perfect because they were too busy with each other for her to stick her nose in my business.

“Thanks for that,” I said. Mandy smiled and then picked up the Daily Prophet again so we could continue reading the news.

It was certainly odd to think about just how much had changed since last year. To think that I had once been so shy and scared to stand up for myself, and my main worry had been that I was unpopular because I was a Slytherin. I had grown up so much in the past two years. Now, of course, my worst troubles were the same as those of the entire wizarding world: Voldemort. We were at war. People were dying, people I knew. And no one knew when it would end.

The past year and a half had also provided me with some of the greatest friends I could ever ask for. People who used to play tricks on me all the time when I didn’t know them – and now, I knew the Marauders’ biggest secret… or what I assumed to be their biggest secret. I’d learned over the years that they were no strangers to keeping secrets, and as far as I knew there could be many more. But they’d entrusted me with the knowledge that they were Animagi (and illegal ones at that, because they weren’t registered with the Ministry), and I’d promised to keep their secret.

One day in the second week of March I saw Nathan’s owl fluttering above the table at breakfast; I was shocked Nathan would have the gall to write to me after showing up in Hogsmeade with Voldemort and then fleeing after my friend’s death. I opened the letter anyway, not really sure what to expect.

Melanie, I’m so sorry about everything that happened, he’d written. I hope you’re okay. I don’t want that battle to be the last thing you remember of me, so would you come to Hogsmeade tomorrow at 3 to meet me? It’ll probably be the last time I’ll see you for a long while. I won’t have anyone else with me. Don’t tell anyone you’re meeting me. I know you’ll be thinking this is a trap, but it isn’t. Please, trust me, even though I know I don’t deserve it.

Despite Nathan’s request that I not tell anyone, I immediately showed the letter to Mandy, who was seated next to me. “Who does he think he is?” she asked angrily. “Of course you’re not going.”

It seemed like nothing but a bad idea to sneak out of the safety of Hogwarts to meet up with a Death Eater. But I remembered seeing how terrified Nathan had been after he’d watched Lester kill Charlotte, and I thought maybe he’d changed. Or maybe I was just wishing it so strongly that I’d managed to convince myself it was so. Either way, I wanted to give him a chance.

“I think I might, actually,” I admitted. “I know, it’s probably a trap. But… something tells me it isn’t. I can’t really explain it. But I think it’s different.”

She looked at me skeptically. “Okay… I suppose you do know him better than I do, so only you can say, but… be careful! I don’t want this to be a repeat of Valentine’s Day.”

Sirius had the same reaction later that day when I told him about Nathan’s letter. “You are not going into Hogsmeade to meet a Death Eater,” he said protectively. “Please don’t. It’s too reckless.”

The irony of Sirius advising me not to be reckless was not lost on me. “But what if he’s changed?” I asked. “It might be honest. What does he mean I won’t see him for a while? I have to know.”

“But right after what happened to Charlotte—” Sirius argued, then stopped, glancing at me uneasily as he mentioned Charlotte, and when I didn’t stop him from talking about her, he continued. “She was just meeting her brother too.”

I knew he’d try to play that card. And it was a valid worry – even I was unsure if it was a good idea. “I know,” I said. “But I think I’ll regret it if I don’t go. I’m not going along with his rules though; I already told you and Mandy, and he said to tell no one. What if it were Regulus, and you thought he might have changed? Wouldn’t you want to talk to him?”

He watched me silently for a moment, then said, “Let me go with you, then. If you have to go, at least don’t go alone. It’ll be much safer to have people with you and people who know where you are.”

“I’d love that, actually,” I said. “Thank you.” So in the end I decided I’d go there with Sirius, and Nathan would just have to deal with it. And Mandy, James, Remus, and Peter were all going to be hiding nearby, waiting around in case something happened. Sirius had told his three best friends of my plans and they’d all felt as he had – that if I must go, I should at least have support. And anyone who got on the wrong side of the Marauders usually ended up hurting for it, so I figured I was in very good hands. I had completely disregarded Nathan’s requests about not telling anyone, but he’d have to be crazy to expect me to comply with something like that given what had happened last time I’d seen him.

So at a quarter past two the following day, I went to the one-eyed witch statue in the third floor corridor with Sirius and snuck out through the tunnel. It seemed much longer this time, now that I was not looking forward to what awaited me at the other end. With each step I took, I became more nervous that I was walking into an ambush. But we kept walking.

We snuck out through Honeydukes and began walking up the High Street. I clung to Sirius’s hand, and with my other hand I gripped my wand in my pocket. After a few minutes, I saw a lone figure standing between Scrivenshaft’s and Gladrags, and pointed him out to Sirius. We approached cautiously, listening for the sound of movement in case anyone jumped out at us.

Nathan looked up as we walked up to meet him. Sirius had his wand drawn, watching Nathan with a stony look of distrust.

“So where are your reinforcements?” I asked Nathan without preamble. “Other Death Eaters around the corner?”

“No, just me, like I promised,” he said, eyeing Sirius warily, his eyes lingering over our clasped hands, before looking back to me. “But you brought someone else along.”

“I didn’t know if I was going to be walking into a trap,” I said bluntly. “So whatever you have to say, you can say in front of him too. I don’t trust you anymore, Nathan.”

He smiled grimly. “I expected that. I was just trying to ensure that as few people as possible knew I was here.”

“Why? What’s this all about?” I asked. “I really shouldn’t be here, it’s not safe. I almost didn’t come, after what happened last time.”

Nathan looked ashamed. “I know, I am so sorry about that, I really am. I can’t imagine… I only asked to meet today because I wanted to say goodbye.”

“What?”

“I’m leaving,” said Nathan. “I’m leaving the Death Eaters, I’m leaving the Dark Lord. I’m leaving England, probably forever.”

“Where will you go?” I whispered.

“Can’t say.”

“You can’t say because you don’t know where, or because you don’t want to tell me?”

“I shouldn’t tell you, because that’s not smart – if I told you, the Dark Lord would come after you and torture you to get the information, and then come kill me. I can’t have them find me. The fewer people who know where I am, the safer it is for me.”

“I’m not telling Voldemort anything,” I said. Nathan flinched when I said the name. Even as one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, he was afraid to hear his master’s name. “But if you can’t tell me, it’s fine… Will I ever see you again?”

Nathan sighed. “I hope so. I’m sorry things turned out like this, I just got caught up…” He sadly looked off at the horizon past me, and I realized how old and tired he looked now. “If it helps,” he continued, “I’m going to be with my friend Habib Al-Sahhar. If you write to him, your owl will find me. Don’t address anything to me though, in case the Ministry is checking letters – because you know they’re all infiltrated with the Dark L – with You-Know-Who’s people now.”

“Won’t he have ways to find you?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I hope not,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, though; nothing could convince me to stay around. I want nothing to do with them anymore. I just had to get out.”

It really did seem Nathan was telling the truth. And he had no idea what was to become of him when he left. I finally let go of Sirius’s hand and hugged Nathan tightly. “Good luck,” I told him.

“Thanks. I’ll need it,” he said, releasing me. Then he turned to face Sirius, his eyes narrowed. “You take care of my sister,” he said.

For the first time since we’d arrived in Hogsmeade, Sirius gave up his effort at an intimidating glare at Nathan, and his lips formed the hint of a smile. “Of course,” he said.

Nathan looked at me one last time, then Apparated away. To where, I had no idea. Even Nathan had no idea what lay ahead of him. I might never see him again, or if I did, it could be years away. But he had gotten out. He was free.

Sirius and I left the narrow alley and met up with Mandy, James, Peter, and Remus outside Honeydukes. “What did Nathan have to say?” Mandy asked.

“He left the Death Eaters,” I told her. “But I’m not to contact him in case Voldemort is trying to find him.”

“Good for him,” said Mandy, impressed. “That’s brave. And you always said there was still good in him.”

“I just hope he’s all right,” I said. “Other Death Eaters have tried to leave before and Voldemort has killed them, so I’m worried…”

“Well if he’s smart enough to leave the Death Eaters, he’s smart enough to know how to stay away from them,” Mandy suggested. “Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer, it’s freezing out here.”

“Good idea,” said Sirius, and all six of us went inside. We stayed in the Three Broomsticks for a while, and they all tried to ease my worries about Nathan. There was nothing I could do, after all. Maybe I’d find out in a few years what had happened.



After Quidditch practice one day later that week, I spotted the four Marauders walking out of Filch’s office as I passed by in the corridor. I grinned as I approached them. “What’d you do this time, Head Boy?” I teased James, who was closest.

Then I noticed they looked a bit more subdued than usual, and I hoped it wasn’t something serious. “What happened?” I asked again, though without the grin this time.

But I didn’t find out, for at that moment Filch stepped out from his office as well, his eyes popping when he saw the scores of muddy footprints on the floor from the Slytherin Quidditch team, but only one muddy person: me. The rest of them must have gone into the Great Hall already. Thus, Filch decided that my presence at the scene of the mud merited a detention for befouling the castle.

This cheered the Marauders up considerably, and as they walked away laughing I gave them a rude hand gesture and followed Filch into his office to receive my punishment, the whole time reflecting that James must have had the right idea that time I’d seen him flying through the corridors after his Quidditch practice – he hadn’t gotten mud on the floors.

I discovered soon afterwards what had upset the boys. When I sat with the Gryffindors at dinner, they were lamenting the loss of their map.

“Not that map of Hogwarts you drew?” I asked, shocked.

“Yes,” said Remus. “Fortunately, he doesn’t know how it works. James cleared it just before Filch showed up, so it just looks like a big piece of parchment, but Filch knew something was up the way we were all gathered around it.”

“He confiscated it,” Peter added.

“I’m sorry,” I said, knowing how much they loved that map. “I don’t suppose you could just make another one…”

“If it were that easy, everyone would have one,” said James.

“Hey, it’s not all that bad, is it?” I asked. “I mean, there aren’t that many weeks left of school. And you already know all the secret passages out of Hogwarts by now, all the shortcut tunnels…”

“But it helped let us know where people were,” Sirius argued. “It was the most useful thing we ever invented. We just looked at it a bit too late this time – we saw Filch coming and cleared the map, but it was too late, he was right there.”

“And we reckon Filch knows about one of the tunnels now,” said James. “We were standing just outside that one on the second floor when he found us.”

“Well, knowing you four, I’m sure you’ll find a way to create mischief without it,” I said consolingly. “You do still have an Invisibility Cloak, after all.”

“And it could be worse,” said Remus with a smile. “After all, you have a detention tonight, and we don’t.”

“You don’t?” I thought for sure Filch had given them a detention out of habit if nothing else.

Sirius laughed. “We weren’t doing anything wrong,” he said. “He was suspicious of us and took the map, but he can hardly give out a detention for standing around; that’s not against the rules.”

For my detention I had to clean the disgusting floor in Filch’s office without magic. Worst of all, he was there watching me, so I couldn’t sneak a cleaning spell in there like I had been prepared to do, after learning from my detention with Sirius last year that it was fine to use magic when we were told not to. Filch wanted his floor to be as shiny as the polished manacles he still kept on the wall, so I was there a while. The Marauders were at least lucky that they didn’t have to do this too, and had only lost a map.



The last Saturday of March we left for the Easter holiday. As we walked out to the horseless carriages to take us to the train at Hogsmeade Station, I did a double take upon realising I could now see the thestrals pulling them. Their bodies looked like skeletal winged horses, but the faces looked distinctly dragonish. The one nearest me turned to look at me, its white eyes shining. It might not have scared me so much if I didn’t now associate them with Charlotte’s death, but I knew that was why I could see them. The curiosity I used to feel about them when they were still invisible was gone now. I shuddered and walked past the thestral into the carriage it pulled.

Luckily, my friends pushed the thought of the thestral out of my mind, when far too many of us tried to squeeze into one carriage. Much hilarity ensued as our carriage trundled down the hill, several of us sitting on others’ laps. It was fortunate that Hogsmeade Station was not far from Hogwarts, so we were able to leave the carriages again before everyone’s legs fell asleep.

Once on the train, the Head Boy and Girl had to patrol the corridors with all the prefects. So with Lily, James, and Remus gone, Peter, Sirius, and I got a compartment together. Mandy was sitting with Roderick in another compartment, and as soon as Peter realised he would be left alone with Sirius and me, he scurried off to find somewhere else to sit. Although amusing, this suited Sirius and me quite well and we enjoyed having the compartment to ourselves until James, Lily, and Remus all finished their train patrol and joined us in our compartment; Peter returned too after he saw that everyone else was back.

Eventually the sky began to grow dark, and the familiar rhythmic noise of the train changed as we slowed down. We arrived at King’s Cross, and it was time for me to say goodbye to everyone and then find Mandy, who I was staying with for Easter.

“I’m not going to see you for two whole weeks,” I told Sirius with disappointment after I’d lugged my trunk down from the storage rack. He reached up to get his trunk too, but I ducked under his arm, facing him, threw my arms around his neck and kissed him. Sirius rapidly abandoned all thought of getting his trunk.

When we finally separated I opened my eyes to see three Ravenclaw girls staring at us through the door. I rather wished the door didn’t have such a large window in it.

“It doesn’t have to be two weeks,” he said. “You could always come stay with me for a few days.”

“You know I’d love to, but…” I sighed. “Charlotte was Mandy’s best friend too, and I can’t leave her alone during Easter.”

He nodded. “Then I’d better give you something to remember me by,” he said with a grin, “so you don’t forget me over those two weeks.” He cupped my face in his hands.

“It’d be hard to forget you,” I murmured, laughing.

His lips met mine, tenderly at first, as he wound his arms around me, and then he deepened the kiss, hungrily, passionately, a kiss to tide us over for two weeks apart.

“You’re making it very hard to leave, you know,” I said eventually, my face about two inches from his.

“Oh, I know. Can’t have you forgetting about me over the holiday.”

I feigned a puzzled expression. “Forgetting what?” I said airily. “I must have already forgotten. Maybe one more kiss will do the trick.” I closed the gap of the two inches between our faces and we continued in that manner, enjoying the last few minutes we had of each other’s company.

We were finally snapped back to reality when we heard Mandy’s voice coming from outside. “Get off the damn train,” she shouted from the platform. “Everyone’s left!”

I laughed; it sounded like Mandy was channelling Charlotte’s spirit, as Mandy had never really been one to yell things like that. Sirius reluctantly got his trunk, then we stepped out of our compartment and made our way off the train to find James impatiently pacing around waiting for Sirius (Lily must have already left with her family), and Mandy looking rather bored. Sirius and I waited until the last possible moment to let go of each other’s hands, and then we went on our separate ways for the Easter holiday.

“Sorry,” I told Mandy, though I wasn’t actually sorry I’d spent so long on the train saying goodbye to Sirius.

“It’s all right,” she said as we walked through the gate into the Muggle world to meet her parents. “I only aged about ten years waiting for you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Are you filling the sarcasm void in our friendship now that Charlotte’s not around to do it?” I asked.

“I think she’d approve,” Mandy said with a slight smile.

“I know she would,” I agreed.

It obviously still hurt that Charlotte was gone, but we had reached the point now when we were able to talk about her now without breaking down. I knew we’d never truly get over her death, but we were able to move on with our lives. And she’d always be with us in some way or another; in our memories, as a best friend, as an inspiration for us to defeat Voldemort.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Thanks for reading!!! I always appreciate feedback here if you want to leave some!

This story is really winding down to a close, which is weird for me since I started it so long ago! After this, there's going to be one more chapter and an epilogue. Maybe it'll even be finished before 2013. At least in my time zone. :P


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Last edited by marauderfan; May 18th, 2013 at 6:20 pm.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 8:26 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Chapter 38: The End of the Beginning

Easter with Mandy was not quite the fun and carefree holiday it had been last year, but we managed to have a good time despite the circumstances. And April Fool’s Day was over the holiday this year, so I didn’t have to worry about Gryffindors turning my shoes to stone in the hallway. I did, however, have to worry about Mandy setting all of the electric appliances in her house to make noise at the same time, which scared me out of the house for a few minutes because I didn’t know how they worked and couldn’t make it stop. I got her back for it though, when she tried to have her lunch and got so far as setting a plate of food on the table only to have the table swallow it all up and then belch loudly.

I then had to explain to Mandy’s parents why there were now dishes missing from the set. Mandy’s mother merely shook her head in resigned acceptance, but her father wanted me to do it again so he could see. Anything magic in the house was cause for celebration.

Aside from that, though, nothing extraordinary happened over the holiday. Mandy and I tried riding bikes again, like we had done last year, and it was much easier this time with the aid of Balancing Charms.

Sirius and I wrote to each other almost every day over the holiday. It was so much better to talk to him in person, but I knew I’d see him again soon, and I did like having those two weeks with Mandy. Somehow, with just the two of us away from all the distractions of school, it was easier to talk about Charlotte. We needed that time.

A few days after getting back to Hogwarts, a letter arrived for me in the morning owl post from the Ministry of Magic. With trembling fingers I opened it, while Mandy excitedly set down her fork and watched over my shoulder. I read the letter so quickly that I hadn’t actually processed what it meant and had to read through it a second time before it sank in. I had been accepted into the training program to be an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries!

“Mandy, look!” I said, and thrust the letter into her hands.

“I know, I read it over your shoulder!” she cried. “Congratulations!” She hugged me and then we mused on what kind of work I would possibly be doing there. But the mystery of it all was what made it so exciting.

“The one thing that bothers me is that as amazing as this will be, I won’t be out there fighting Voldemort, which I feel like I have to do. I don’t want to be an Auror, I just want to help!”

“Maybe you’ll be studying how Dark Magic works and how it’s different to regular magic, and you can make it so that Voldemort’s magic doesn’t work anymore.”

“You know, once they tell me, I won’t be able to share it all with you anymore. I have to keep it a secret.”

She shrugged. “Then I can just make up stuff I think you’re doing, and you can’t tell me I’m wrong. Besides, we’ll still be able to see each other, we just can’t talk about your job. That’s not too much of a sacrifice… And it’ll give me twice as much time to talk about myself instead,” she added with a laugh.

Mandy had gotten an apprenticeship at Gladrags and was hoping to revolutionise the clothing of the wizarding world by combining her skills at Muggle sewing with magical sewing. It was certainly an interesting idea.

Our last term at Hogwarts felt like a blur. Because we were so close to the end, and part of me never wanted it to end, the days just seemed to zip by. Professors piled the homework on to make sure none of us was caught unprepared for NEWTs, and I’d be up until the small hours of the morning writing essays on scrolls of parchment as long as I was tall. When I got tired of working, I’d distract myself with work for another class.

And on top of that, I still had Quidditch practice. Hector too seemed to be going out of his mind; he had a much more demanding position as Captain of the team, and more than once I heard him reciting charms and jinxes to himself as he whizzed by me with the Quaffle during practice.

One day towards the end of April, Sirius and I were curled up on a sofa in the Gryffindor common room working our way through a crossword puzzle. I was leaning against his shoulder, absentmindedly winding about my wrist the beautiful gold bracelet Sirius had given me for my birthday the previous week.

“I think twelve-across is Mandrake,” said Sirius, scrawling the answer into the squares.

“That means the last letter in this one is an ‘A’,” I said, pointing to the word crossing it. “Warbeck… what’s her first name, Celestana? Celestina? I don’t remember.”

“Celestina, that’s right,” said Sirius. I raised my eyebrows and looked at him – I hadn’t expected him to be a fan of the crooning tunes of Celestina Warbeck. “James’s mum likes to listen to her,” Sirius explained with a laugh.

“So you say,” I said in a skeptical tone. “But I bet you actually have all her songs memorized.”

Sirius sighed dramatically. “I guess it’s time for the truth to come out – I did write all her songs for her,” he invented. “If you listen closely to her music, you can hear me; I’m one of her backup singers.”

I laughed and we continued on with the crossword. “How was your meeting with Dumbledore this afternoon?” I eventually asked Sirius.

He set the quill down. “It was good,” he said, then sat up so he was no longer slouching. “Very interesting. I think you’ll be getting a message from him pretty soon yourself, actually.”

“Why?” I asked. “I wasn’t the one who replaced the cups on the Hufflepuff table with Nose-Biting Teacups, why should he want to see me?”

“I wasn’t in trouble,” said Sirius. “Well, that’s not what that meeting was about, anyway. It was about Dumbledore’s secret group that’s been fighting Voldemort.”

I stared at him. “He has a secret group that’s fighting Voldemort? I want to join!” I couldn’t let Charlotte’s death be in vain. Ever since then I’d wanted to help in the effort against Voldemort, and it sounded like I had a chance now. “What exactly do they do?”

“I can’t say, because Dumbledore is the Secret-Keeper. But I told Dumbledore you would want to join. See, he had asked Prongs and Lily about it originally, after everything they’ve done this year as Head Boy and Girl dealing with all the Dark stuff going on, and Prongs said all of us should be in – me, Moony, and Wormtail. And then I suggested you and Mandy, if you’re interested.”

“Of course!” I interrupted.

“I knew you’d say that,” Sirius said thoughtfully. “I almost didn’t recommend you for it though, because it’ll be dangerous, and I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you. I want you to stay safe. But at the same time, I know how much it means to you to be able to help out in any way you can because of what happened to Charlotte – you’ve been saying ever since then that you want to do something about it.”

I admired his thoughtfulness and respect for my wishes even though he disagreed with me. “Thank you, Sirius. I really appreciate it. It does mean a lot to me – thank you for understanding.”

“But I meant what I said, you know,” he said seriously, looking into my eyes. “It’s going to be dangerous – fighting Death Eaters all the time. And after last time… I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d lost you too.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve changed a lot this year, you know. You’ve changed me. Being in love was never something I thought would happen to me. There was no love in my family; they all saw it as a weakness, I guess, and growing up as a proper pureblood I was supposed to have no weaknesses, to represent the Black family name… I suppose I failed on all counts. But as a result, I didn’t know how to be close to people, how to trust anyone, other than James, Remus, and Peter – and even that took a while for me to really trust them. But now – you’ve taught me to love, and I think about stuff more, about consequences… and not just consequences for myself, but for others. For you. I have so much more to lose, and I just can’t.”

This confession from Sirius left me rather speechless for a few moments; he had never been particularly introspective before. I had, of course, noticed that Sirius seemed less reckless than he used to be, but I’d attributed this to my becoming more reckless by spending time with him. But he really had changed.

“You’ve made me a better person too,” I said finally. “I’m just so happy being with you. And you’ve given me a new perspective on life. When you care about something, you give your all, and I was never really like that before. But you… you learned the Animagus transformation for Remus, you’ve been there for me every step of the way since Charlotte died… You inspire me to be the best I can be. Everything changed for me over the summer when I got kicked out of my house, you know, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I never had much faith in myself before, but you believed in me. Even though you had every reason not to, because I’m a Slytherin with a Death Eater for a brother… you trusted me, and it made all the difference in the world to me.”

I recalled what Sirius had said when he’d burst into the apothecary after me and told me he loved me, how almost losing someone makes you realise what really matters. And what mattered was that we were both there for each other, despite our trivial arguments. “Let’s not break up over stupid things anymore,” I said.

He smiled too. “Never.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”



Sure enough, a couple of days later I received a message from Dumbledore asking me to come to his office for a meeting. Mandy had got the same note, and I told her what Sirius had told me about Dumbledore’s secret resistance group. To my surprise, however, Mandy did not seem eager to join.

“It sounds like an invitation to die, that’s all,” said Mandy.

“But what about Charlotte?” I asked. “You told me that you and I were going to defeat Voldemort, and do it for Charlotte. This is how to do it!”

“If we live, you mean,” she said. “I’m not going to be doing much for her if I die too, am I? I wasn’t there when she died, so the image I have in my mind of what we’d be doing is running out and looking for a fight with Voldemort, and then dying. It was Charlotte last time, it could be me next time.”

“That makes sense, I suppose,” I said. “I’m still going to this meeting, though.”

“You could die too,” Mandy said quietly.

“I know there’s that risk,” I admitted. “And Sirius joined, and he could…” I stopped, not wanting to even consider that possibility. “The thing is, it’s not only about Charlotte. It’s about the whole wizarding world. We have to help save what we still have.”

“I’m not saying that I don’t want to help,” Mandy insisted. “I want it all to be over too. But I think the best way I can help is just to keep people out of the Death Eaters to begin with. Then while you’re out there bringing down the Death Eaters he's got, no more can join. I’m just not cut out for fighting like that. There has to be a place for people behind the scenes.”

“How are you going to do that?” I asked. “Keep people out of the Death Eaters, I mean.”

“Well, I’m a friendly person. I can just have a chat with everyone who comes into Gladrags.”

I laughed. “Welcome to Gladrags, my name is Mandy,” I parodied. “Please do not join the Death Eaters. Here’s your dress robes!”

“You could work there too, with that kind of persuasion!” she said, laughing too. “But really, if I have some sort of anti-Death-Eater leaflets or posters – you know, to help inform the people who aren’t sure if they want to join or not… Couldn’t you see that working?”

“I have no idea, to be honest. Maybe you should come to the meeting anyway and ask Dumbledore. He’ll know what to do.”

That evening, when Mandy and I were halfway to Dumbledore’s office, we ran into Sirius in the corridor. “Are you headed to the Order meeting now?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I was starting to get a bit nervous. What if they changed their minds? What if I wasn’t up to it? I had only a vague idea of what I was getting myself into, although I knew whatever it was would be dangerous. But I was going to do this, for Charlotte. “You’re going too?” I asked as he fell into step beside me. “I thought you already went.”

“He’s getting everyone together to talk about it this time, rather than having the same meeting over and over again with smaller groups. So there will be some new stuff I’m learning tonight as well.”

In near silence we walked to Dumbledore’s office, finally making our way up the spinning spiral staircase.

“We’re going to go make a difference,” Sirius assured me. He gave my hand a squeeze while Mandy knocked on the door to the office.

I’d only been here once before, the time after that watch had cursed Remus. Then, I would have given anything to know what it was… and now that I knew, and the cost I’d paid for finding out… But thinking of that only convinced me that I was doing the right thing now. The door opened and we saw Lily, James, Remus, and Peter already there, as well as Caradoc Dearborn from Hufflepuff, and the Ravenclaw prefect Marlene McKinnon.

“Welcome,” said Dumbledore, looking at us over his half-moon glasses. He gave us a friendly smile as we walked in and tried to find a place to sit, and then he began talking.

“You have all expressed interest in joining a group to fight back against the Death Eaters,” he said. “This is the goal of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret group that operates independently of the Aurors to gather intelligence about Voldemort and his Death Eaters.” He turned to face me, Sirius, James, and Lily. “The Order was, of course, the group that discovered you were in the abandoned Apothecary in Hogsmeade. They were the group that fought off the Death Eaters, with your remarkable help,” he said, inclining his head towards us slightly.

Then he turned back to face the whole group. “You are all of age, and responsible adults who have showed that you can handle what would be required of you in the Order, so I’d like to offer you the opportunity to join the Order when you leave Hogwarts. Normally we’ve tried to keep current students out of the group at least until they’ve left school, but as it’s now the first of May, I think it couldn’t hurt to give you a couple of months to get used to the idea before you’re out there in the middle of it.

“We have meetings every so often. Your tasks would be varied, and could include anything such as following or impersonating Death Eaters to get information from them, or figuring out how to prevent attacks. Our work is done when Voldemort and the Death Eaters no longer attempt to establish a pureblood-ruled society – when their side either gives up or they all end up in Azkaban.”

A long silence followed this. Voldemort would never give up, and it seemed impossible to imagine him contained in Azkaban. So the Order was likely quite a long commitment. It was all becoming real now. All of us had questions, but we let Dumbledore’s words sink in before we asked anything. And then it was question after question – who else was in it? How often would we meet? What were the rest of them doing now?

Gradually we began to get a clearer picture of what our future would hold: Meetings every now and then, whenever they were needed; a lot of information-gathering by being in the right place at the right time in the right disguise. It would be hard, but Dumbledore trusted us, which meant we were up to it. I left feeling like I had a purpose and a way to help out in this endless war.

Mandy stayed behind after the meeting to talk to Dumbledore on her own – I supposed she didn’t think it was for her now that she knew the whole story, but I’d ask her about it when I saw her again. I went back to the Gryffindor common room with Sirius and we sat in one of the spacious window seats, looking out at the misty grey evening.

“I’m going to become an Auror,” said Sirius.

I looked away from the window and back at him. “Are you going to be starting that training in the fall?” I asked.

“What? Well, I haven’t actually signed up for that yet. But I will.”

I laughed. “You better get on that – you can’t just waltz into the Ministry and join the Aurors on the spot. But I think you’ll be great as an Auror.”

“Thank you,” he said, smiling. “I have got some of my life sorted out, though. I just bought a house!”

“Wow, congratulations!” I said. I hadn’t even considered getting my own place yet; there was just too much to think about for after Hogwarts. I knew Mandy’s parents would be glad to let me stay on as long as I needed, but I didn’t want to feed off their hospitality forever. Now that I’d sorted out my post-Hogwarts job, maybe I should look into renting a flat. “Okay, so we’re even,” I said. “I’ve figured out my job for next year, but not my living situation.”

“You could always stay with me at my new house…” Sirius said with a grin.

“Now there’s an idea,” I said, smiling too. “How’d you end up getting a house so soon, anyway?”

“My uncle left me some gold when he died,” Sirius explained. “Bet the rest of the family was thrilled about that. They probably erased him from the family tree for supporting me.”

“Well, see, not everyone in your family is that bad,” I said. “One of them cared about you, at least.”

“There are a few normal ones. But so much of my family are part of the Death Eaters – my cousins Bellatrix and Narcissa are, and so are their husbands, and I’d bet you anything Regulus is too. Bella’s going to be particularly hard to send to Azkaban; she’s crazy. I last saw her a few years ago and she was already talking about Voldemort as if he were a saint. The Order of the Phoenix has no idea what they’re getting into trying to bring her down.”

“That’s why they need you,” I said. “They need people like us who know some Death Eaters personally. It’s going to help the Order.”

It had to help. Many lives depended on the Order, relied on all of us… relied on me. It was weird to think about it that way, but it was true.

Later that evening I met up with Mandy again once I’d returned to my own common room. It transpired that Mandy had stayed to talk with Dumbledore because she felt the requirements of the Order would be too much for her. Even though she knew about it and had not joined, she was still sworn to secrecy about it. And, she informed me, Dumbledore had liked Mandy’s idea about anti-Death-Eater leaflets. Mandy said she’d write a new, more detailed brochure about how to protect oneself from Death Eaters and have them all over Gladrags, if her supervisors at the job allowed it. But she had a good feeling about it – who wouldn’t want to put that information out, unless they were Death Eaters?



The last month and a half of our time at Hogwarts was the busiest time of my life. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my friends, because this was the last time it would be as easy as just strolling through a few corridors to visit. Later on, we’d have jobs and real lives and probably live in different towns, and even if we would be able to just Apparate on each other’s doorsteps, there might be no one home. And then there were people like Althea, who was a year behind me and I’d likely not see her at all next year. But my NEWT exams were fast approaching. So I tried to squeeze in a social life, Quidditch, homework, and studying for NEWTs, and even occasionally sleeping, when I could find the time.

In the beginning of May, Mandy broke up with Roderick, which surprised no one, then she decided shortly afterwards that she was taking a break from boys for a while, which surprised everyone. That resolution lasted all of two weeks, and then I wasn’t surprised anymore.

Slytherin beat Ravenclaw at the Quidditch match on the first Saturday of May. We threw a huge party in the common room afterwards, which was fun until Jasper started drawing unnecessary attention to himself, and I spent the rest of the time with better company, in the corner talking to Mandy, Russell, and Hector.

The end of May featured the last Quidditch match of the year, between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, which decided Gryffindor’s victory in the Cup for another year running. Slytherin had won two out of our three games this year – we’d beaten Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but not by enough to counteract Gryffindor’s impressive scores. Slytherin ended up finishing second overall, which was at least better than last year’s third place. And, true to form, Gryffindor had a celebration as legendary as always to celebrate their victory, and I snuck in, despite that Gryffindor’s main point of jubilation was that they had beat Slytherin. I didn’t care – I was there to see Sirius and so I could have a share of the plentiful food and firewhisky they had snuck up from Hogsmeade.

Other than that, the rest of my time at Hogwarts consisted of unceasing studying, and I reprised my habits of sequestering myself in the library within a tower of textbooks I willed myself to memorise. Mandy and I quizzed each other about Transfiguration over breakfast, discussed only Potions at lunch, and practised Charms together before going to sleep. We didn’t lead the most interesting lives that month, but it would pay off.

I rather envied James and Sirius, who were brilliant and quick to memorise things, so they still found time to turn the Great Hall into a tropical paradise one day, complete with palm trees, sand, seashells, and even a salty breeze. Filch was furious because the sand ended up getting tracked all over the castle. I wasn’t sure whether I hated it for distracting me from my tenacious studying, or whether I loved it – it was hard to be stressed at the beach.

June brought the very intense pressures of NEWTs, and then it was all over. There was a ceremony in the Great Hall before everyone left; all the parents came, and the four long tables were moved out of the way to make room for the festivities. Students mingled, saying goodbye to friends and classmates; parents congratulated their children and met up with their own former classmates… it was a very happy time for all. If only Charlotte were still here to share it with us.

Mr and Mrs Macintosh beamed at me and Mandy when they saw us, and hugged us both tightly. They repeatedly said how proud they were of both of us, and asked all about our year. As Mandy answered a question from her mother, I looked over Mrs Macintosh’s shoulder and saw Sirius. He was too far away to talk to, not with all the noise in the room, so I smiled and waved. He grinned back at me – even though I was already happy as it was such a celebratory day, that one gesture multiplied my happiness tenfold. He turned back to face Mr and Mrs Potter, whom he’d been talking to, and I looked back at Mandy.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” she said, her face alight with joy. “We did it!”

“What a journey it’s been,” I reflected.

“I’m just glad I’ve had you as my best friend the whole time,” Mandy told me. “Some day, thirty years or so into the future, that’s going to be us.” She looked out at the sea of people talking, some of whom had probably left Hogwarts thirty years ago and were still best friends, reminiscing as they were brought together again. I was reminded of the guests at James’s parents’ New Year’s party who’d stayed until late in the night remembering their Hogwarts days.

“Of course it will,” I said, grinning. We hugged each other, neither of us wanting to be the first to let go, and then we both laughed as the hug went on for an unnecessary amount of time.

Finally we let go, and I continued looking around the Great Hall at all my classmates saying their goodbyes. Rays of bright sunlight shone through the window, the sun smiling down upon us. We were on our way out into the world, a feeling both liberating and terrifying. I had wonderful people by my side and I knew we’d stick together until the end.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

(That ending seemed sort of rushed to me, but nothing important happened in the last month and a half at Hogwarts, so there wasn't much to write about! )

Thanks for reading, and I would love to know what you think! Feedback here!


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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 13th, 2013 at 5:42 am.
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Old December 31st, 2012, 3:04 am
marauderfan  Female.gif marauderfan is offline
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Re: The Brave at Heart

Well... I know I posted yesterday, but this one has been written for years so I figured I wouldn't make you wait for it. Happy New Year!!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Epilogue: Sixteen years later

Thirty four year old Melanie Wilcox sighed as she cleared a space in all the papers on the rickety wooden table. She sat down in one of the wicker chairs, resting her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands. She was on holiday, visiting Nathan and his family in their small stone house in Morocco, but was alone in the house at the moment. Everyone else had elected to go to the beach for their last day there, but Melanie hadn’t felt well that morning and had decided to stay home for the day.

A large pile of rugs occupied most of the main room. Nathan and his friend Habib owned a company that sold flying carpets, and they’d just got a large shipment in from their friend Ali Bashir, who, according to Nathan, was also trying to convince the British Ministry of Magic to loosen the embargo on flying carpets. Nathan had said he was sure Ali would start illegally smuggling carpets into Britain before long. But until then, Nathan’s house was a sort of storage for their carpets.

Outside the open window, the day was brilliant and clear, and a few trees swayed in a slight breeze. The wind ruffled several papers on the table, shifting them around a bit. Melanie’s eyes were drawn to a photograph of hers that fluttered out from under a newspaper. She supposed it must have gotten mixed in with her papers last week when she and Mandy had been looking through an old photo album, but was surprised she hadn’t noticed it until now. The picture had been taken close to thirteen years ago; a tall, handsome, dark haired young man was chasing a curly haired young woman through piles of orange leaves. She stopped and when the man caught up to her she hugged him and he twirled her around, laughing.

It had been taken during one of the happiest times in Melanie’s life. She and Sirius had been together nearly four years, and Melanie had had no doubt they would stay together for the rest of their lives. No one else had a doubt either – Lily even jokingly told them to just get married already, because everyone knew it was going to happen eventually and it was just a matter of when. But they still felt they were too young to get married, even though James and Lily, the same age, were already married and had a one-year-old son. Everyone seemed to be rushing into marriage nowadays. But Sirius and Melanie were too busy flying around on his motorbike, working, travelling, and fighting Death Eaters. They were crazy about each other and loved their life of adventure. And then it had all gone wrong.

Melanie pushed the picture out of sight; the memory of it was too much to bear. Less than two weeks after the picture had been taken, Sirius had been sent off to Azkaban for murdering thirteen people. He had also betrayed his best friends to Voldemort, who had killed them just before his own downfall.

She could still remember the day she’d found out – it had undoubtedly been the worst day of her life. Melanie had woken up in an unfamiliar place, looking around blearily at the bright white walls and ceiling, had eventually noticed other beds, and people walking around in lime-green robes, and realized she was in St. Mungo’s. The last thing she could remember before that was when she was searching for the Death Eater Antonin Dolohov and then felt a sharp pain in her neck. And now she was lying in a bed in St. Mungo’s. She touched her neck; at least it didn’t hurt anymore.

“Melanie, you’re awake!” said a voice. Melanie turned her head slightly to see Althea Branstone, who was a trainee Healer. “You’ve been through quite a lot; you were unconscious for over a week. Healer Metzger thought you were dead. But don’t worry – you’re fine, that curse has healed up nicely, though there’s a bit of a scar now.”

“Er – okay,” Melanie said, still a bit groggy. She rubbed her eyes while Althea continued to stand over her and fuss over the pillows.

“There’s… something else,” said Althea nervously after a minute. “I really don’t want to have to tell you this, especially not right away, but you need to know. While you were unconscious, a lot happened. You-Know-Who is gone.”

“He’s gone?” asked Melanie, sitting up. “Gone as in dead?”

“Yes,” said Althea.

This was thrilling news. So why was Althea not smiling? “What happened?” Melanie asked, suddenly overwhelmed with dread. There must have been a terrible cost to Voldemort’s downfall.

Althea took a deep breath. “A week ago, on Halloween, You-Know-Who… he went after James and Lily Potter, and he killed them.” Melanie gasped, but Althea kept speaking. “He tried to kill their son, too, but Harry survived the Killing Curse. And You-Know-Who disappeared.”

Melanie could only stare at her. James and Lily gone? It seemed impossible. James and Lily had faced Voldemort three times and lived. They were two of the most wonderful people Melanie knew – why did they have to die? And Sirius must be beside himself with grief, because James was like a brother to him. Melanie wished she could have been there for Sirius when it had happened, like he had been there for her after Charlotte’s death. But Melanie had been unconscious for over a week, and Sirius had been alone.

“That’s not all,” said Althea. She took Melanie’s hand in her own. “I’m so sorry… The next day, Sirius was taken to Azkaban for killing Peter Pettigrew and twelve Muggles. Everyone says he was working for You-Know-Who.”

“Sirius?” asked Melanie. “No, he would never have… You’re wrong. Where is he?” She turned her head, half expecting to see him walking into the room. Then she winced – that curse Dolohov had done to her neck was still not entirely healed.

“He’s in Azkaban,” said Althea softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to be the bringer of bad news just after you’d woken up, but you had to know.”

“No!” Melanie couldn’t understand how it had happened; that wasn’t the Sirius she knew and loved. Althea had to be wrong. She had to be. The alternative was just too horrible to consider – Lily and James were dead, and Sirius was worse than dead to her. So while the wizarding world outside was still celebrating Voldemort’s defeat, Melanie was practically destroying St. Mungo’s in anger and grief. She pushed over the little table by her bed, threw her pillow onto the floor, and then flopped back down on her bed, sobbing.

Althea had tried her best to comfort her, but there wasn’t much she could do, and she had to help other injured patients. She had sent an owl to Mandy, who left work immediately and Apparated into the hospital to calm Melanie down from her hysteria. Mandy had stayed there almost all day, hugging Melanie and trying to help her. Mandy knew there was little she could do, but she did know that what Melanie needed most was for someone to be there for her after her world had just been turned upside down.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, the day after Melanie was released from St. Mungo’s, the Ministry of Magic had been convinced that she’d had something to do with Sirius switching sides – because of course his Slytherin girlfriend would be the reason he’d join Voldemort. Melanie had packed her few belongings and fled to Cardiff before the Ministry found her again, interrogated her, and then finally decided she’d had nothing to do with it.

Afterwards, she had returned to the house that until recently she had shared with Sirius, and began to get rid of his possessions and try to make some sense of what had just happened. But, Melanie thought as she browsed through a photo album, there was no way it made sense.

The album was full of pictures of herself and Sirius – dancing, standing in front of Stonehenge, sitting together on a sofa wearing Father Christmas hats and tinsel in their hair, and balancing ornaments from the tree on their faces. In all the pictures, both of them looked radiantly happy, and their smiles were infectious. At the bottom of the open page, under the caption James and Lily’s wedding, June 1979, two pictures in particular caught Melanie’s eye. On the left was a photo Melanie had taken of Lily and James, arm in arm, with Sirius as their best man standing beside them. The one next to it was also from the wedding, and if it hadn’t been labelled, one might have guessed it was Melanie and Sirius’s wedding instead. The two of them were dancing slowly, but far enough apart to be gazing into each other’s eyes, looking completely at peace and in love. The sight of it only made Melanie start crying again. Everything had been so perfect then. How could Sirius have betrayed everyone he loved?

***

Melanie shook her head to try and forget that unwelcome memory that had just propelled itself into her mind. However, she had merely slid the old photo of them in the leaves underneath the copy of the Daily Prophet she had brought with her last Thursday, which pictured a man with long, matted black hair and a gaunt face staring back at her. He had just escaped from Azkaban a year ago, and the Ministry still had not caught him. Sirius looked so different from the picture of when he was younger that he was almost unrecognizable.

Having no wish to see this picture either, she folded the newspaper rapidly and threw it onto the chair beside her. The top paper on the pile now was a letter she’d received earlier that day from Althea and Hector, telling her how excited they were that their daughter Eleanor would be starting at Hogwarts this coming September.

Melanie smiled as she read the letter again, then stood up and prepared a glass of iced pumpkin juice for herself and went outside to sit on the front steps, away from the pictures. Sitting on the steps, she noticed a large black dog near the street. It was just wandering around, but when it saw her, it looked at her for a long time, then bounded up to her and started licking her face. Melanie laughed and stroked it behind the ears, turning her face slightly away from the dog’s tongue. The poor stray, it had probably been alone in the street for a while; it had sand and leaves and little bits of wood in its fur. It looked very thin. As Melanie glanced at the dog’s face again, she noticed that it looked incredibly like Padfoot, Sirius Black’s Animagus form. It even had the same grey eyes she remembered so well. But it couldn’t possibly be him – why would he be here, and what business could he have visiting her now? She was simply not thinking clearly after discovering that old picture.

She stood up, and the dog lay down on the step, still watching her. “I’m going to get some food for you,” Melanie told the dog. “I’ll be right back.” She walked into the house, still holding her glass of pumpkin juice, but when she had taken three steps into the house, she heard a voice say her name. She spun back around to find not a dog but Sirius Black himself, just as he had looked in the Daily Prophet photo.

Melanie screamed and pulled out her wand, dropping the glass of pumpkin juice and hearing it shatter on the floor. She backed up, but hit the wall, and had no idea what to do. In her doorway was the man she had been in love with thirteen years ago, who had gone to prison and escaped; she didn’t know what to think about him now. Overcome with emotion – grief, fear, even nostalgia – she tried to collect her thoughts.

But Sirius spoke first. “You’re alive,” he said, striding towards her. “They told me you were dead. I thought you died thirteen years ago. You’re alive!”

“As you see,” said Melanie harshly. “And I woke up in St. Mungo’s to find out that you had betrayed Lily and James to Voldemort, and killed Peter and twelve innocent Muggles.”

Sirius looked agonized, but Melanie did not allow it to affect her. “What are you doing in this house?” she demanded. “I work at the Ministry, you know. I’m going to tell them you’re here, and you’re going s-straight back to – to…”

“No, you can’t,” he pleaded.

“And why can’t I?” she fumed. “You deserve it! You killed Lily and James! You betrayed them – your best friends! You were the Secret-Keeper!” She paused, trying to collect herself and not start crying. It was all coming back now – how she had felt when she’d first been told of Sirius’s treachery thirteen years ago.

“It wasn’t like that!” Sirius exclaimed. “Please, just listen!”

“How could you?” said Melanie softly, her voice shaking. “I have no reason to believe anything you tell me. I can’t believe I ever –” she broke off and let out a tortured sob. “I thought I knew you. The Sirius I knew would never have done that. I trusted you, Sirius, I…”

She was still pointing her wand at Sirius, but it was as unsteady as her voice. She moved sideways against the door, away from him, but not taking her eyes off him. Suddenly she tripped on the corner of Nathan’s pile of rugs and fell to the floor, her wand rolling just out of reach amid the shattered glass on the floor. Scrambling in fear to get her wand back, she saw Sirius approach and reach for it, so she kicked him in the shins as a last resort. He swore. “I was just trying to get it for you.”

“I can get it myself,” she said coldly, her voice still wavering, and moved over to pick it up.

Sirius offered a hand to Melanie, but she refused it and stood up by herself. As soon as she had done so, however, her shaking knees gave way and she collapsed back against the wall. Sirius reached out and grasped her shoulders to steady her. She attempted unsuccessfully to push him away, and then with no way to get out of his reach, leaned limply against the door, looking anywhere except at Sirius. Her eyes focused on the mess on the floor, and she pointed her wand at the spilled pumpkin juice and glass and cleaned it up.

“Melanie, I didn’t kill Peter or those Muggles,” said Sirius. “Peter is still alive, he faked his own death. And I never wanted anything to happen to James and Lily. I can explain. I just had to tell Harry all of this last month, too.”

Melanie said nothing and breathed deeply in an effort to calm herself down. She finally looked up at Sirius, and his eyes reflected anguish and begged her to listen to him. At that point, Melanie could no longer hold in her tears. She leaned her head back against the door, tears streaming down her face.

Sirius gently pulled her away from the door, and this time she did not resist. They stood there for a moment, Sirius holding Melanie against him, and then she threw her arms around his neck and sobbed onto his shoulder. She could feel his arms wrapped tightly around her, one of his hands softly stroking her hair… she knew he was a convicted murderer but right now it felt like that was another lifetime – that it had never happened, and there was nowhere safer than in his arms. She wanted so desperately to be able to trust him again, and held onto him even tighter, dreading when they would have to let go.

How long this lasted she had no idea. Eventually she pulled away, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. Sirius turned around for a brief moment, and when he moved back to face her, his eyes looked a bit watery. “Sirius,” said Melanie quietly, “what happened to you?”

He looked at her for a short while before speaking, as if trying to decide how to start. Finally he asked, “Can we sit down? This is going to be a long story.”

“Okay.” They drew two of the chairs away from the kitchen table and sat down, then Sirius sighed and began his story. He had not, in fact, been the Secret-Keeper for the Potters, as Melanie had thought – they had switched to Peter at the last moment. Peter had been the traitor who had betrayed the Potters. After the Potters’ death, Sirius had gone after Peter, who faked his own death, killed twelve Muggles, and then changed into his rat Animagus form and disappeared.

Peter had been living with the family of Harry Potter’s best friend for twelve years as their pet rat. And then in June, Sirius had met Remus Lupin and Harry Potter again, and they had caught Wormtail and tried to turn him in, but Wormtail transformed and escaped. Sirius had then almost been handed back to the dementors, but Harry and a friend had helped him escape on a hippogriff.

Melanie was stunned. “You were innocent and put into Azkaban? I can’t even imagine how awful that must have been.”

“You wouldn’t want to,” he said darkly.

“I can’t believe it was Peter the whole time. He was sort of acting weird the year before that happened, but we never thought it was odd when he kept saying he was ill, or always busy… How did we not notice?”

“I still feel like it was my fault… I told them to use Peter because there would be no chance of Voldemort thinking he was the Secret-Keeper.”

“It’s not your fault, how could you have known? Oh, but Sirius, why didn’t you tell me?” Melanie asked. “If you had told me you switched to Peter as Secret-Keeper, I could have done something, told people you were innocent or something…”

“They’d never have believed you. And anyway, by the time we switched Secret-Keepers, you were unconscious in St. Mungo’s, and the Healers said you weren’t going to make it. One of them told me you had died. Then three days later Prongs and Lily died. I’d lost everything I cared about within the space of a week. I had nothing left to lose, so I went after Peter right away.”

If she’d been conscious, Melanie knew she could have stopped Sirius from rashly running after Peter without a thought or a care as to the consequences. Why did any of this have to happen?

“We didn’t even tell Dumbledore,” Sirius continued. “Looking back, I can’t believe we were so stupid.”

“You can’t change what’s happened, Sirius. If only Voldemort had never existed. But…” She stopped. “How have you been since you escaped with the hippogriff?”

Sirius looked relieved as the topic changed away from such a heavy discussion. “Well, Buckbeak and I have been travelling around here a lot recently, which has been nice… We spent a lot of time further south too, got to travel around Africa. I’ve written to Harry too – I couldn’t find any owls that looked like they were up for a long flight so I sent him a letter with a huge parrot.”

“A parrot?” Melanie laughed. “Really? And it worked?”

“Yeah.”

“Interesting, I would never have imagined that they’d carry letters too… Well, it’s wonderful that you’re in touch with Harry after so long.” She smiled. “I remember when he was little, when we used to visit Lily and James. Remember when you got Harry that toy broomstick for his first birthday?”

Sirius laughed. Melanie was amazed at the difference his smile made; he looked so much younger, almost like the Sirius she remembered. “Oh yeah, I do. He loved that. Speaking of which, his fourteenth birthday is in a week, have you got the ingredients to make a cake or something?” He glanced into the kitchen.

“Erm, sure, I think so. Are you going to send him one through the post?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “With another parrot?”

“Of course, anything else would be boring after that first bird.”

“This is the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard,” she stated as they walked into the kitchen and Melanie began getting ingredients out of the cabinets. “It’s a long way from here to England for a parrot flying with a cake.”

“How else would I get it there? The one that carried the letter did just fine with the distance. They’re big, they can handle it.”

“Okay…” said Melanie, laughing. She placed a container of flour on the counter next to the rest of the ingredients. “All right, that should be everything. Do you want me to help you make it?”

“No thanks, I’m going to make it myself.” He grinned.

“Are you sure?” she asked skeptically after a moment. “I’ve tried your cooking, and it’s… an experience.”

He raised his eyebrows. “You have no faith in me,” he joked.

“I do, just not in your baking skills. But if you’re sure, go ahead.”

Sirius picked up Melanie’s wand from the table and pointed it at a large mixing bowl, into which the ingredients mixed themselves. “So what about you, what have you been doing for the past thirteen years?”

“I work in the Department of Mysteries,” Melanie said. “That’s about all I’m allowed to tell you.” It was certainly more than her job’s worth to tell anyone about her secret work in the Planet Room on an antigravity mist project, which some of her co-workers had said would be used at a big event at Hogwarts during the year.

“You’re still there, then? That’s great!” said Sirius, pouring the cake batter in a pan. “And with you being at the Ministry, that means you can give the Aurors false information about where I am.” He placed the cake pan in the oven. “I take it the Order of the Phoenix isn’t around anymore?”

“No. I mean, Voldemort is gone – although some say he’ll come back eventually and then the Order will start up again for sure.”

“And you’d join again?”

“Probably. I’m so busy now, I wouldn’t have time for meetings, but I rarely went to the meetings last time, so I guess it’d be fine. But I hope he doesn’t ever come back. I want it all to be over.”

“Of course,” he said as they walked back to the table. “So what else have you been up to? Is this your house? Why do you live in Morocco, of all places?”

“No, this is Nathan’s house. This is where he came after he left the Death Eaters, when Voldemort was still powerful, and he moved here so Voldemort wouldn’t find him. When Voldemort disappeared, Nathan just stayed here rather than returning to England, because his whole life was here. I’m just visiting with my family.”

“Your family…” he said dully. “You’re married now.” It wasn’t really a question, he just stated it.

“Right,” said Melanie. “I married Luke Wilcox, he was a Ravenclaw in our year at Hogwarts.” It felt odd to discuss her husband with the man she would have married had everything not fallen apart all those years ago…

Sirius sighed. “I remember him,” he said quietly, scowling. He walked by the table in silence, away from her. Melanie could sense him closing off to sulk silently by the window. But she didn’t want him to be angry with her.

“Sirius.”

“What?” he said agitatedly, still evading looking at her.

Melanie walked back into the kitchen and rummaged in the pile of papers on the table. “Look. I still have this,” she said, drawing out the picture of herself and Sirius in the leaves and handed it to him. “Don’t think that just because I got married that I forgot about you. I tried to forget, but… part of me still loved you, even though I knew I shouldn’t. I hated that I kept hanging on… Even after what I’d heard you had done, I couldn’t get rid of everything. And I thought I’d never see you again. It was the worst day of my life when I learned you’d been taken to Azkaban, and for what reason.”

He frowned. “Melanie—”

“I know you didn’t do it, Sirius. But I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know what to do.”

His tone became harsh. “So you went off and married some random bloke you dated for two months when you were sixteen. I see.” He tossed the photo back on the table.

“Sirius, you can’t blame me for it!” she cried. “You were in Azkaban for life, what was I supposed to do?”

Melanie and Luke had been brought together by grief, after each of them had lost everything. Luke’s wife of one month had been killed by a Death Eater just before Voldemort’s downfall, and he and Melanie had met again shortly after that, and they’d relied on each other in an attempt to rebuild their shattered lives. But they’d never really been in love. She knew part of Luke still loved his dead wife Adeline, so Melanie didn’t feel too guilty that she’d never gotten over Sirius.

She reached out and took his hand. “If you were in my place and I had gone to Azkaban, you would have done the same, right? You would have eventually moved on?”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

Melanie sighed. She knew he was just saying that because he was bitter, but his words were probably a little bit true – if it had all been reversed, Sirius would have shut himself away for months at least.

With no idea what else to say, Melanie lifted the old photo off the table where Sirius had thrown it down, and watched the younger Sirius and herself laughing as they ran through the autumn leaves, happy and carefree. How could they ever have known then what devastation would occur less than two weeks afterwards? She set it down on the table again and watched Sirius standing by the window.

Eventually, although still with a tone of bitterness, Sirius asked her, “Are you happy?”

As much as she wished many events of the last thirteen years had never happened, mainly Sirius being sent to Azkaban, Melanie couldn’t imagine her life without the people in it now. How could she even begin to explain how she felt?

“Yes, I am happy,” said Melanie after a pause. “I mean, I would have preferred it if Voldemort had never existed, obviously… if our friends were still alive… but there’s nothing we can do about what happened, so I’ve made the best of what I had, and I’m very happy with what I have now.”

Sirius was silent and started to walk away again. “Sorry,” said Melanie blankly.

He sighed and turned around. “No, I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re happy,” he said, looking defeated. “Really I am.”

Melanie went to stand next to him, at a loss for words. His hand was resting on the worktop and Melanie put her own hand over his, giving it a light squeeze. Sirius met her eyes at last and gave her a small smile.

He looked around the room, as if trying to find something else to discuss; his gaze finally rested on a side table by the sofa where there were numerous framed and slightly dusty pictures. There was one of Nathan and his wife Amira, several of Nathan and Amira’s daughter Leila at different ages, another of Nathan and Melanie building a mud fort when they were little kids, and next to this was a small photo of Melanie and Luke and their two kids. On the left of the photo was seven-year-old Brian, who had scrunched up his face and was trying to escape from his ten-year-old sister Sylvia, who was laughing and attempting to hold him still in the picture.

“Where is everyone right now?” Sirius asked.

Melanie sighed. “Luke and Nathan took all the kids to the beach or something for the day, I think, and Nathan’s wife is out shopping.”

“I’ll have to leave before then, I suppose. Hopefully they’ll all be late coming back,” said Sirius. Melanie laughed. “So how is Mandy Macintosh doing?” Sirius continued. “I assume that you still talk to her a lot?”

“Oh, of course. Mandy Stebbins, now, actually. I just saw her a week ago; we see each other all the time, and travel together every once in a while when we can afford it.”

“Well next time you two travel you should definitely come visit me and Buckbeak on some nice tropical island, or maybe we’ll be in Australia or something by then.”

“That sounds great. Although I can hardly expect to just take a holiday from my job whenever I feel like it. How’s that cake doing, by the way? I think I smell something burning…”

Sirius turned around to look at the oven. “When did I put that in?”

“I don’t know, you said you could handle it yourself,” Melanie teased.

Sirius walked over to the oven and removed the cake, and quickly put out the flames. It was the most horrid, misshapen mass Melanie had ever seen; it did not strongly resemble a cake. Melanie burst out laughing at the sight of it. “How’d you manage that?” she asked.

“I guess that’s not really going to work, is it?” said Sirius, stifling a laugh and putting the cake down on the table.

“Lovely, Sirius. I’ve never seen a better way to tell someone ‘Happy Birthday’.”

“Hey, cut me some slack. You think I improved my baking skills in Azkaban? Or when I was hiding as a dog?”

“You never knew how to bake anyway.”

“Well, I never needed to. You were always much better at it than I was.”

“It won’t hurt you to learn, then, especially if you’re making this for Harry.” She walked over to the worktop and began cleaning up the mess of flour from the cake. “You can make another one if you want. Are you sure you don’t want help this time?”

“Yeah, I think I’ll try again,” he said, turning around next to her to face the counter. “And thanks, it would be great to have help from someone who actually knows what she’s doing. All right, what do we need?” He leaned over and reached his arm behind her, around her waist, resting his hand for a moment on the small of her back.

“Sirius!” she laughed, slapping him playfully. “What are you doing, I’m a married woman.”

He continued reaching his arm around her and grabbed the mixing bowl that was next to her on the worktop. “I’m just getting this,” he grinned.

Melanie shook her head, laughing. “You haven’t changed at all.” She picked up the container of flour, and the two of them set to work baking a cake. It was almost as if they were young again and nothing had really happened – as if Voldemort wasn’t around. They spent a wonderful, carefree afternoon baking the cake, talking, reminiscing, eating the parts of the first cake that weren’t burned, and dancing about the kitchen, their laughter echoing through the house.

It had been just like this before Sirius was taken away, Melanie thought as Sirius flicked burnt cake crumbs across the table at her. And it was so easy for her to feel the same way she’d felt then – with Sirius, everything felt like it was how it was supposed to be. Only hours ago she’d found out Sirius’s real story, and already Melanie felt as if she’d never stopped loving him. She never could.

“What are you thinking about?” asked Sirius, pausing his onslaught of cake crumbs. “You looked so… serious.” He grinned at what he clearly thought was a clever pun, even after all these years.

“Just thinking about how bad that joke is. You know, I don’t think you escaped from Azkaban at all – I think you told that joke too many times and they finally got tired of it and kicked you out.” She laughed, and then added, “I was also thinking about how I’m covered in bits of cake. Thanks for that.” She stood up and a shower of crumbs cascaded off her.

“What a slob,” said Sirius facetiously. Melanie picked up a spoon covered in icing and pointed it threateningly at him, and they passed the next few minutes chasing each other through the kitchen with icing, running around and laughing like misbehaved children. That afternoon, Melanie felt the worries and grief of the past thirteen years disappear as she was finally able to spend time with Sirius again and to know that he had been innocent. It seemed that, at least for the moment, Sirius was happy too, despite the circumstances.



The afternoon was getting late. They had just finished decorating the cake with colourful icing, and now it sat on the table ready to be sent off to England tied to the legs of a very unlucky parrot. Melanie stood up and walked towards the window, anxiously anticipating Luke’s arrival. But no one was coming yet. She hadn’t heard any noise – and with that bunch of kids, she’d hear them a mile away.

Melanie turned around and spotted the old photo of the two of them. She lifted it from the table, watching their younger selves run around again, and then handed it to Sirius. “This is for you,” she said.

“Are you sure?” he asked, surprised. He looked down at the picture and smiled. “Thank you.” He set the picture next to the cake on the table and hugged Melanie tightly.

They held on to each other for a long time, but finally jumped apart when there was a loud crack from outside. “That’s everyone back again,” Melanie said quickly, her heart sinking. “You need to go.” She pointed her wand at the cake and a box formed around it, which she gave to Sirius.

They stood and looked at each other for a moment, thinking of the things they would have said if there was more time.

“I’ll see you later sometime,” said Melanie, and then leaned in to give him a quick kiss. “Now go, before they come in!”

“I love you,” he said.

“I…” The doorknob rattled. “Impeccable timing you’ve got,” said Melanie. “As always.”

But Sirius grabbed the box and the picture, and Disapparated with a crack, leaving Melanie alone in the kitchen with Sirius’s words still echoing in her mind. In haste she seized her wand and performed a quick cleaning charm on the kitchen, Vanishing the remainder of the first cake. Everything that day had happened so fast. Melanie stood there for the next few seconds facing the stove, too emotionally drained to even think. But she had to get over it soon, because the loud party of her family had just come in through the door.

At the sound of footsteps running into the room, she turned around, and was faced with Brian carrying an enormous piece of seaweed. Sylvia followed him, covered in sand and tracking it all over the room. Nathan was carrying Leila on his back, and she had draped his hair with seaweed and was squealing in laughter as it got in Nathan’s eyes. Luke walked in after them, smiling. Melanie composed herself and forced a laugh. “Did you have a good time at the beach today?” she asked, ruffling Brian’s hair when he walked over to her.

“Yeah, we found a jellyfish,” said Brian. He put the seaweed on the worktop. “It smells like cake in here! Mum, did you make a cake? Can I have some cake?”

“That wasn’t a jellyfish,” Sylvia argued as she took off her shoes and dumped them unceremoniously in the middle of the floor along with a great heap of sand.

“Well what was it then?” asked Leila.

“It was a baby Grindylow,” Sylvia insisted. “If you’d have touched it, you would have grown fangs.”

“Eww,” said Leila.

“Really?” asked Brian, agog. “Cool! We have to go back, I want to find another one!”

“Grindylows don’t look like that, Sylvia, stop teasing your brother,” said Luke, laughing. “And Brian, you don’t grow fangs if you touch one. So don’t get excited.”

“I’m sorry, Luke,” Melanie said, laughing as well. “They spent the entire time doing that, didn’t they?”

“It was fine. Did you have a relaxing day?” he asked, hugging her. “Are you feeling better?”

“Well, it was… er… I don’t know. Not what I expected.” Honestly, she didn’t know if she was feeling better. Physically, she was fine, but the combined emotion of Sirius arriving and then so rapidly having to depart again had left her quite disoriented.

“How so?”

“Mel, what’s last week’s Prophet doing on the table?” Nathan interrupted, much to Melanie’s relief. “You don’t still need this, do you?”

“No. I forgot about it.”

Melanie took two steps towards the table and tripped on Sylvia’s shoes. She clutched the table to avoid falling. “Sylvia, please do something about your shoes,” she said. “And Brian, do you want to take that piece of seaweed outside?”

“No thank you,” said Brian, and ran after his cousin out of the room.

Melanie glanced at Luke and rolled her eyes. “I suppose it adds to the décor,” she said.

“He’ll take it away when the kitchen starts smelling like seaweed,” Luke suggested.

“Our kids are a disaster,” said Melanie. “What happens when they start at Hogwarts? I just know Sylvia’s going to lose her shoes in the Great Hall one day and never get them back.”

“Oh, she does take after her mother,” Luke teased. “You ran around Hogwarts barefoot too – you haven’t forgotten what your friends did to you on April Fool’s Day during sixth year?”

Melanie laughed at the memory. How could anyone forget that?

“You never told me that story,” said Sylvia eagerly, stepping back into the room, her eyes twinkling. “Did you get in trouble, Mum?”

“A little. I lost a few points for Slytherin,” Melanie admitted. Then she frowned slightly. “Don’t you get any ideas now,” she joked. She wouldn’t put it past Sylvia to start out her time at Hogwarts next year by hexing a Slytherin’s shoes away just to see if they’d get caught. “You’ve had enough ideas for today. A baby Grindylow, hmm?”

“At least I kept him from touching a jellyfish,” Sylvia reasoned. “You should be thanking me for that.”

Sylvia went off to play in the yard with Leila and Brian, and Melanie walked over to the window. Somewhere, Sirius was out there. She wondered when she’d ever see him again. It was unlikely that the Ministry would stop hunting him anytime soon, because the case against him was so strong with no living witnesses other than Peter Pettigrew, who everyone still believed to be dead by Sirius’s hand. So Sirius would probably on the run for a while.

And what would happen when they saw each other again? It could never be the same as it was all those years ago, and Melanie didn’t know how to adjust to whatever it was now. The truth was that she was happy, but now that she had Sirius back she didn’t want to let him out of her life again.

Maybe she’d write to him. She hoped they could stay friends, and that she could see him again when he returned to England. Eventually his name would be cleared of the crimes he had not committed, and he could go back to a normal life like he deserved. It would turn out all right in the end.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thank you so much to each and every one of you for reading!!!

I would love to know what you thought, here! All of your feedback throughout this whole story has meant so much to me.


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

Last edited by marauderfan; January 30th, 2013 at 9:22 am.
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