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Chapter 5: What's My Name Again?
You Hate Me
Chapter 5: What’s my Name Again?
Sirius wasted no time in finding James, Peter and Remus and telling him about accidentally blowing Bulbadox Powder over Piper’s face and describing her rage induced interrogation of Sirius. He whispered bits of the story out of the corner of his mouth during lessons, but it wasn’t until they were walking back to the common room after dinner that they had a chance to discuss the fiasco in depth. James thought the whole stunt was brilliant. It was even more amusing to the Marauders because the entire prank had been entirely accidental. “The funniest thing you’ve ever done to Redden and it wasn’t even intentional! I’d like to see her with boils all over her face.” Sirius then illustrated how terrifying Piper was with abscesses all over her face and that shut them up. He didn’t reveal his newfound idea of ignoring Piper to seem more mature—that would defeat the point of the plan in the first place.
James stopped abruptly, holding up his hands to indicate his fellow Marauders should stop also. Sirius swore he saw James’ nostrils flare. James closed his eyes and waited, listening keenly like Sirius had seen Chimaera hunters do in Greece. Moments after James halted, Lily rounded the corner.
“Oh, hello,” Lily said pleasantly, huffing slightly from the weight she was carrying on her shoulder. “I only just got Piper’s homework from Professor Flitwick. She must be very ill; she wouldn’t even come out of the bathroom this morning. I just hope she doesn’t fall behind in our classes.” Sirius tried not to look guilty. “Anyway,” Lily turned to the Fat Lady, “Rutilus.”
The Fat Lady did not move. Lily repeated herself but the Fat Lady remained shut. “Do any of you know the password?” Lily asked, still breathing heavily.
James, who had been staring dreamily at Lily with a goofy open mouthed smile, jumped back into reality. Sirius counted down from three in his head. James to the rescue in three….two…one. Remus and Peter both began to say the password obligingly but James covered their mouths with his hands, gruffly smothering out their words. James frowned; didn’t they know this was his chance?
“Now Lily, one would say you are in quite a predicament.” He thought of a metaphor. “Passwords are a bit like keys, wouldn’t you say? Now, I’ll give you this key,” he pointed his finger at Lily, who looked rather disgusted, “if you give me,” James changed the direction of his finger and pointed at himself, “the key to your heart. Huh? Huh?” James nodded arrogantly and winked.
Peter pulled his shirt up over his eyes to block out the vision in front of him. Remus was already grimacing and Sirius mumbled, “Bad move, mate.”
“Well James,” Lily’s lashes fluttered prettily. “Of course I’ll give you the key. Why didn’t you just ask earlier?”
Sirius took a step behind James incase he decided to faint.
James clapped his hands together. “Well then. CHERRY TARTS!” The Fat Lady opened silently behind Lily. “So Lily, I was thinking we could go to Hogsmeade and go to the Three Broomsticks and then we could walk to Honeydukes and then—” James began all in one breath, voicing the first date he had planned for him and Lily since third year. He continued to babble about what they would do in Hogsmeade, leaving out the planned topics they would talk about so he wouldn’t scare her off.
Lily made a pained expression. She had moved into the doorway as James spoke. “Er… actually, James.” James stopped talking, if Lily had something to add to their date it would only make the day better. “I just visited the locksmith and changed the lock so that key really isn’t any good. Sorry.”
James huffed grumpily as Lily closed the portrait hole. He stood motionless and with an expression of downright surprise on his face. “Damnit!” James snapped his finger angrily, but his friends breathed easier, they thought he was brain dead from rejection. “I really thought I had her that time!”
“You almost did, Prongsy. You almost did,” Sirius said comfortingly. Sirius himself thought Lily finally snapped and accepted James’ proposal for a millisecond.
They walked into the common room cautiously, expecting Piper to jump out nowhere cackling maniacally and casting spell after spell at them. After a brief investigation the Marauders found she wasn’t in the common room at all. She wasn’t hiding behind the first years, she hadn’t crawled under the couches or tables, nor was she lurking behind the curtains. The common room was completely Piper-free. Just as a precaution, Sirius used an eager second year as a human shield as he walked to the staircases. He urged the same second year to go into their dormitory first to check for any foul play. The boy came out unscathed except for a broken ankle, but that was only because he slipped on Remus’ chocolate wrappers.
November brought darker days and colder nights. First years were drafting Christmas lists to send home to their families and fifth years were planning an epic snowball attack on the Slytherins; but the Antarctic climate outside persuaded even the most enthusiastic of the bunch to stay inside rather than scout out the prime location for the battle. The common rooms were the warmest parts in the castle, which often meant Gryffindor tower was overflowing with people. Sirius decided Piper must be in her room, for everywhere else in the castle was drafty. As a precaution, the Marauders waited until Brett came inside for the night and locked and barricaded the door. It was a risky move because Piper could have been hiding in one of their trunks of wardrobes and they were essentially locking themselves in and making her job much easier, but they were willing to take the chance.
Friday morning, after a thorough investigation of their skin, hair, homework, manhood, wands, broomsticks, and clothes, the occupants of the Gryffindor sixth deemed it safe to venture out (Brett also thought the Bulbadox Powder was brilliant but he did not want to feel Piper’s wrath upon him). The meticulous nature of the checking and double checking of their safety made all of the Marauders late for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Sirius was an additional ten minutes late. Victoria wanted Sirius to walk her to Muggle Studies and although Sirius wanted to use their stroll as a chance to tell Victoria he wasn’t serious about her, she wanted to talk about shoes.
Vivid images of stilettos and pumps dancing in his brain, Sirius went to his seat without explanation to Professor Connor. He even managed not to smirk at Piper or whisper something cheeky. James saved Sirius his usual seat directly behind Piper. It had been their seat of choice because it meant they could toss crumpled bits of parchment at Piper’s head and when she would turn around they could whistle innocently and stare at the ceiling. This act was very amusing but Sirius was glad for the seat behind Piper for a different reason today—he wouldn’t have to catch her eye all class if he played his cards right, and that would be smashing.
Professor Connor, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, called order to the class. He was ignored and began class without his student’s attention in a monotone. After the first class of the year the students of Hogwarts discerned Professor Connor was not a hard arse like McGonagall and they found they could get away with essentially anything in the class. Korey was already looking at the new Shirtless Quidditch Players of the Year Calendar under her desk with Lily and Sanaa (Mr. November was particularly “chiseled”).
“Today we will be learning about Dementors. Who can tell me about Dementors? Anyone? No. Well Dementors guard the Wizarding prison Azkaban. Which you should all know of course. When was Azkaban founded? By whom? Does anyone know? Well it was founded by none other than…” The entire back row was already asleep. “Now you may think my lessons are boring but I suggest you pay attention because the work I received from all of you on your last assignment was complete and utter CRAPPOLA!” Professor Connor threw down a startled Hufflepuff’s graded homework assignment on his table. Everyone jumped. He had their attention now. “I will not hesitate to give each and every one of you zeroes at the end of the year!”
Professor Connor was an eccentric man with a thick accent and an even thicker moustache who was prone to mood swings. Last Monday he nearly bored the class to death about vampires and then burst into a speech about the unfairness of life. However startling his tangents were at first, the longer they went on the more comical they became. It was no wonder that every student was burying their heads in their hands or disguising their sniggers. Connor muttered something about insubordinate students and gave the class a reading assignment. Connor took the opportune silence to down an impressive amount of his “medicinal” tea.
Piper chose that moment to spin her head around as far as possible without actually moving her body and glare at Sirius. She did nothing more than glare, but in Sirius’ eyes, the glare was just as effective as pantomiming his untimely death would have been. So much for not catching her eye.
“Wait, she doesn’t think we have something to do with her face, does she?” Peter poked Sirius hard in the back of the head as Piper faced forward. He just noticed Piper’s Evil Eye and was unsure whether it was intended for all Marauders or just one. He hoped it was just meant for Sirius, he hated the Evil Eye. She was too good at it.
“I don’t think so.” Sirius wondered the same thing. They hadn’t really cleared that up when Piper was mauling him.
“Well let’s find out.” James whispered roguishly, listening to their conversation. “Pssssssst, Piper! Piiiiiiiiper!” Piper turned fully to acknowledge James’ ridiculously loud whispers. “You look hot today!” James waved his face with his hand to emphasize his feigned belief of Piper’s hotness. He winked devilishly at her.
Piper gave James the finger, holding it for a full twenty seconds and giving him the full power of her glower. “Shove off!” She hissed back at him and faced the board again. “Wankers,” She said angrily under her breath. It carried back to the Marauders.
“Well,” James said, satisfied, “if she didn’t think we were involved before she does now.”
“Whyyyyyyyyy?” Peter cried, making the one syllable word into a remarkable ten.
“Marauders stick together,” James, Remus, and Sirius said.
“Do we have to?” Peter knew the answer.
The one-sided staring contest between Piper and Sirius continued throughout the day. The Marauders knew Piper would find a way to retaliate, and the sly grins and fierce looks she gave them were scary. It was a question of when she would act and who her victim would be. James and Sirius were the most likely targets and acted accordingly. At breakfast they were cautious, by lunch James and Sirius were nervous, but by the time supper rolled around, they were completely paranoid.
James had become accustomed to carrying around his Invisibility Cloak, while Sirius continuously consulted the Marauder’s Map for Piper’s whereabouts. They did not stop these shenanigans until Remus pointed out that they were acting with less valor than the group of Hufflepuff first years passing by them.
A week passed and Piper still didn’t retaliate. The silence she was giving them was worse than outright anger. But when the days continued to dwindle by the Marauders thought that, at last, Piper had given up. Why else had she not confronted them? What other explanation was there for her sudden disappearance t to the public eye? Sirius was so exuberant. He knew his plan would work, but even he didn’t know it would be so effective that quickly. Underneath his delight in Piper’s supposed surrender was a hint of melancholy, and underneath his sadness was the smallest bit of him that was uneasy. He couldn’t trust Piper and since he had only seen her in lessons he couldn’t tell if her desire to diffuse their rivalry was sincere. Even worse, Sirius did not know if it was possible for him to be civil to her; if Piper wasn’t his arch nemesis, who was she?
“Looks like we—well you—finally beat Piper Redden.” James said during Potions the next Wednesday.
Piper was working feverishly several tables away with her head bowed and she did not hear her name mentioned. Severus Snape, who was working next to her, did. He turned his head slightly to listen more carefully. If those tossers were plotting against Piper it was his duty to tell her and offer bury them in the high banks of snow that had manifested on the grounds.
“I’m not sure. Don’t you think she is trying to lull us into a sort of…false sense of security?” Sirius voiced his unease to see if James, Peter, and Remus felt similarly.
“I’m telling you, she’s done. She won’t even look at us anymore.” James tossed several porcupine quills into his potion and Peter, who was watching out of the corner of his eye, followed suit and did the same. “Besides, what would she do to hurt us? Sexual torture? I wouldn’t mind to tell you the truth.” James elbowed Sirius suggestively in the ribs, but the sudden gesture made Sirius drop an entire fire crab’s heart into his potion instead of just a teaspoon and the liquid solidified before Sirius’ eyes. “That can be fixed,” James said offhandedly.
“Sexual torture. How inspired,” Remus said dryly, not taking his eyes off of his sparking potion.
“I’ve heard she is quite promiscuous,” Peter piped in.
“You shouldn’t use words you can’t spell, Wormtail,” Sirius snapped. Stress was weighing Sirius, making him more irritable. He had never met a more confusing female than Piper. Nor had his feelings been more confused about another person. Sirius categorized things into black and white. Either he enjoyed someone’s company or he disliked it. For example, Sirius liked his Quidditch team but he disliked his family; Sirius enjoyed Defense Against the Dark Arts while he found Divination quite loathsome. He hated Piper, yet he loved making her angry, she was interesting to be around if only for the entertainment she provided, Piper proved an equal, and she sparked feelings that Sirius didn’t know existed. They didn’t have names, even. At the same time he would find himself wanting to laugh at her and punch her but found he could not because she was a girl. Sirius would think he knew exactly what Piper was thinking one second and then have her surprise him the next. He did not like it that Piper did not fit in with his carefully crafted categorizations of people. Not one bit.
Peter, who was trying to spell out promiscuous in his head hurried to fix his potion, which was slowly evaporating. When his potion was righted, he asked, “Do you really think she gave up then?”
James, Remus, and Sirius rolled their eyes. “Look, I’m telling you,” James continued, “She’s given up, we’ve won.”
Sirius nodded, but he was still unsure if he believed it. Until she confronted him, Sirius would not pay Piper any attention.
Professor Slughorn wandered around the class and shook his finger at the boys, who hurried to pretend like they were creating their potion. “Now gather round, gather round.” He called as he neared Piper and Snape’s table; the class obeyed. “I have a class full of brilliant potion makers! I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them went on to work with potions professionally,” Slughorn beamed at Piper, Lily, and Snape in turn. Piper’s lip curled. “I’ll bet you wouldn’t mind working as Potions Master at Hogwarts one day, eh, Severus,” Slughorn squeezed Snape’s shoulder. Snape looked murderous, but he held back his grimace. “Now, notice the subtle differences between these three potions.” He shook the phials filled with yellow liquid, “Severus’ produces a stronger aroma, while Lily’s is a bit denser, and Piper’s is so potent I just feel like SINGING!” At the class’ raised eyebrows, Slughorn explained exasperatedly, “The Elixir to Induce Euphoria often has a side-effect of excessive singing.” Duh.
“Ooooh, of course Snivellus has the best potion in the class.” James said in a singsong voice, going up into a falsetto that nearly broke the glass on the phials.
“Yesss, James, smell the arooooma!” Sirius sang as well, though in a deeper voice.
“Now really, boys!” Professor Slughorn frowned, yet a smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth. He looked about ready to add in his own chorus but was interrupted by the loud, ringing, bell. “We’ll have to finish our opera another time. Don’t forget to pick your essays and homework on the way out!” Slughorn called out, barley hearable over the din the students were making.
Either Sirius was imagining it or Piper was packing up as quickly as possible and positively sprinting out of the dungeon and into the corridor. The dungeon was drafty and he himself was keen to leave. She wasn’t even glaring at Sirius anymore, maybe she was feverish. Sirius did not have much time to ponder Piper running away, the moment he ascended the stairs a piercing cry echoed through the corridor. All color drained from Sirius’ face.
“Oh God.” Sirius’ voice shook, his eyes widened.
“SIRI?” The sound of clacking heels followed the voice. “Hide me!” Sirius lunged for sanctuary behind Peter, Remus and James; he pressed them together and crouched behind the bulk they provided. “SIRI WEARY?” Sirius’ efforts to hide behind his friends doubled.
“Quick, Disillusion me!” Sirius choked hoarsely. His request was met with laughter. “I’m not joking, fucking hide me!” Sirius reached adequate cover just in time by barging through Peter and Remus and hiding crouching behind the wall their builds provided; perfectly concealed, he watched as she advanced, heels clacking louder than ever.
“Hey, Victoria,” Remus acknowledged to a breathless Victoria; she was quite winded from all that running.
“Hey you guys haven’t seen Sirius, have you? I could’ve sworn he was just right here!” Victoria tried to look in between the combined shoulders of James, Peter and Remus but they wouldn’t budge.
If the high, loud, and squeaky soprano voice of Victoria Janx did not ensure dislike, one only had to look at her more closely. Victoria was a seventh year Hufflepuff; she was highly unintelligent despite her best efforts to hide it by acting lovably clueless, she had achieved a super skinny state by a diet of minimal food, and her dyed platinum blond hair was a salonist’s marvel—it managed to stay insanely straight, soft, and long while refusing to fall out (indeed, her salonist Raphael warned her that any further dying sessions would probably leave her bald). Fortunately, Victoria’s mind was so full of mindless knowledge and she was so preoccupied with shopping and learning cosmetic spells she had little time, energy, and wits to be cruel to others. She had closely set hazel eyes shaped like lopsided almonds which she offset with mass amounts of mascara and eyeliner; her bottom lip was full and her top lip was nearly nonexistent which she disguised by applying lip gloss and lip liner every ten minutes; she was pale yet freckles dotted her nose when a thick layer of foundation did not hide them; her jaw was full, her mind was empty, and she was completely smitten with Sirius Black.
“Come on, you guys, where is he?” Victoria playfully patted Remus on the chest. “I mean he can’t just disappear!” She giggled. Sirius wondered if she could communicate with bats at that frequency. She placed her hands on her narrow hips and beamed. “Are you playing a trick on me?” James, Peter, and Remus shuffled slightly to hide Sirius as Victoria skipped forward. “YOU ARE!” Again, she giggled. Remus, Peter, and James smiled nervously. “It’s like hide and seek! Where are you Siri?”
Just as Victoria turned to find Sirius Professor McGonagall came up behind the cluster of boys positively clogging up the corridors. She knew there must be a source for the slow pace and here it was: Black on his hams behind Potter, Lupin, and Pettigrew, who were shoulder to shoulder and legs together, serving as a sort of wall. “Mr. Black, what on earth are you doing down there on the ground?”
“He’s not technically on the ground, Professor, he’s squatting,” Peter pointed out.
James acted out flipping through pages in a dictionary until he came across his quarry. “Ah, yes, the squat: not quite standing, not quite sitting.”
“Well squat or stand or sit you boys are clogging up the corridor. Stand up this instant, Mr. Black!” Sirius shook his head vigorously, put his finger vertically to his mouth and mouthed “shhhhhhhhh.” “Don’t you ‘shhhhhh’ me, Black. Up you get, come on now, before I dock points.”
“From her own House…” Sirius muttered for Remus to hear and, grimacing, he stood. The response was instant. Victoria spotted him and, as if a Red Rover professional, she broke through his human wall and embraced Sirius round the neck.
“Oh, Siri, I found you!” If Sirius was uncomfortable it was nothing compared to the heat that was rising to Professor McGonagall’s cheeks. She loudly cleared her throat but her attempts at ending the embarrassing displays of affection were drowned out by Victoria’s voice. “Oh Sirius were you on the floor this whole time? What were you doing down there, silly?”
“I…uh…I dropped a Galleon,” said Sirius, trying to untangle his neck from Victoria’s hands. He winked at McGonagall; she rolled her eyes and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like “teenagers.” Although they had disbanded from their wall, those moving to classes continued to shove angrily past. Professor McGonagall quickly went into Reprimand Mode and rushed after those that had rudely pushed by her, forgetting about the points she was going to dock from Sirius.
In this confusion Victoria latched onto Sirius even tighter. Her voice went an octave lower and slightly more seductive as she whispered into Sirius’ ear. “I’ve just come from the library—it’s empty.” With a giggle, Victoria wove her fingers through Sirius’ and guided him through the packed corridors into the nearly empty library.
The library was dimly lit. Students without a lesson studied with lanterns at scattered tables. Stifling her giggles, Victoria led Sirius through the tables into the very back of the library where the obscure sections were. These particular crannies were used by couples who found broom cupboards uncomfortable and since the cold winter was in full gear the niches were becoming more popular. Victoria favored the biography section because there were fewer books and the carpet was softer, but Sirius always felt strange snogging with Newt Scamander looking down on him.
Sirius was about to voice his discomfort when the selfsame book fell atop his head. The sharp edge of the book had hit Sirius on the crown of his head and he was sure Newt had purposefully hurt him to punish Sirius for desecrating the sacred area that was the library. He held back a groan while Victoria stifled her giggles. She kicked the tome aside, pushed Sirius against the shelves, and pressed her lips against his.
“Vic, stop. St—Stop.” It was extremely difficult for Sirius to speak with Victoria’s lips mashed against his. With a ravenous look on her face, Victoria broke away from Sirius to pull off her heavy robe. Sirius didn’t know how she could stand there in only a jumper and jeans; he was freezing with three layers on. He took advantage of his momentary freedom nonetheless. “Look, Victoria, I—I don’t think we can do this anymore. I mean, I think we should stop seeing each other.”
Victoria stopped kissing Sirius’ neck. She searched Sirius’ face for any trace of a joke. “Oh, Siri, you’re so funny!” Undeterred, Victoria launched herself at Sirius and ruffled his hair with her hands while leaving trails of kisses along his jaw.
Sirius pushed Victoria off, which required a surprising amount of strength. He held her at his arm’s length. Victoria held an expression similar to a lion that had been put off its lunch. Stay strong, man! Sirius lowered his lashes and gazed deep into Victoria’s strangely close eyes. If Victoria had been a Legilimens she would have been hearing thoughts that were not nearly as sensitive as the words pouring from Sirius’ mouth. “Look, Vic, you’re leaving in a few months and I think if we keep seeing each other it will only make it harder for us to be apart. Besides, you’re going to have to start studying for N.E.W.T.s soon and we’ll have less and less time to be with each other. You’re better off without me anyway. I’ll only break your heart, or you’ll break mine. It’s just easier if we end it now, don’t you agree?” The sincerity in his voice was heart wrenching.
“Oh, Sirius, you’re so sweet.” Victoria had plans to ensnare Sirius in a goodbye kiss that would be so passionate it would keep him longing for her until he left Hogwarts, but just as she put her hands around the back of his head Madame Pince came down the narrow hallway and saw her favorite biography of Newt Scamander on the floor with a dent in one of the corners and a dirty shoe mark on the side; she then saw the culprits.
Sirius, ever the gentleman, gave Victoria a swift kiss on the cheek, said, “It’s over,” and then he ran for his life, Madame Pince’s books following him.
Piper did not have a lesson at the end of the day on Wednesdays and after a brisk walk to the Owlery to send a letter to her father, Piper found herself jogging back into the castle with plans to study in the common room. It was terribly cold outside, the temperature was the lowest Piper had ever felt it. It was so cold it couldn’t even snow, which was as relief; it had been snowing non stop for the past week, the constant fluttering of sticky snowflakes resulted in giant snow drifts. The shining sun against the white snow nearly blinded Piper and her she was wet up to her knees. Thoughts of a warm shower suddenly seemed much more invigorating than studying.
The sudden warmth of the castle hit Piper hard and thawed out her numb toes. The corridors were deserted, sounds of lectures carried out from under the cracks in the doors lining the hall and it wasn’t comforting to Piper when she realized she couldn’t remember half of what the Professors were talking about. Studying suddenly took a higher place on her list than the shower.
Shortly after Piper climbed the main staircase she felt a sudden pulling on her arm and robes. She was pulled, stumbling and struggling, into a side cranny. Her scream was muffled by a gentle hand over her mouth and the smooth whispering of “sh”. Piper possessed quite good reflexes when it came to grabbing a wand or dodging spells and she prided herself on that, but she was definitely lacking in any physical prowess. So it came as no surprise that when David Detweiller slammed her against the stone wall she was quite trapped.
“Have you heard the rumors, Piper, it seems like we’re a couple now. We should at least give people a show so they can have some justifiable gossip.” David slid Piper’s arms up over her head and held them there by the wrists. He pressed his body against hers.
Piper’s skin rippled with goose bumps underneath her heavy robes. “There aren’t any people here to put a show on for,” Piper pointed out coolly. David “mmm”ed in agreement while Piper squirmed uncomfortably. Her voice was lost as David tried to catch her mouth with his. By turning her head to the side Piper escaped with David’s lips brushing her cheek.
“David,” Piper warned. Her body was rigid save for her trembling legs.
“Either let me go this instant or I will report that you have attacked me to Professor Dumbledore.” Piper continued to invert her head downwards to make it harder to David to catch her lips.
David threw back his head and laughed. It echoed loudly, startling Piper. “Attack? I’m not attacking you. I’m showing my girlfriend affection.” At this moment, Piper had fleeting thoughts of head butting David, but as he towered over her she would only be ramming her head against his chest; and she wasn’t quite sure if that would be effective. His legs locked hers against the wall and she willed them to stop shaking. “C’mon, Piper. Let’s go to my room. We don’t have to do anything, we can just talk. Get to know each other. Wouldn’t you like that?” David let go of Piper’s arms though they did not fall, he placed them on either side of Piper’s face and pulled her toward him, his eyes gleaming wolfishly. Their lips touched for a fraction of a second; he took her unresponsiveness as permission to continue and pulled at her robes. It was then that Piper to came to her senses. Just as David inclined his head again for more Piper’s knee met with his groin. His eyes grew large and he fell sideways onto the cold ground.
Piper straightened her robes and breathed angrily. She was on fire inside, her rage was building. She had never been spoken to like that. Piper did not care that she may have caused David to become infertile and she thought it was perhaps best—his genes did not need to be carried on. “Do you remember how I said I would go to Dumbledore, David,” Piper asked, her voice ringing with malice. David groaned in pain. “Well, I just decided that I won’t stop there if you ever touch me again. Rest assured I will go straight to my family and tell them everything. You don’t’ want my family as your enemy, Detweiller. Now, if you have any sense of what’s good for you you’ll leave me the fuck alone!”
It was the first time Piper had ever used her family as a threat and she felt disgusted with herself. She had thought she was above petty things such as that. When Rhett told her that his professors at Durmstrang often rounded his grades up because of his lineage, Piper was sickened. Yet here she was, doing the same thing to protect herself. What disgusted Piper most was the fact that it was true. If the Reddens found out that Piper had been taken advantage of they would not hesitate to ruin that person’s life; they would never have a job, wife, or house. The Reddens had excellent connections.
Yet deep in her gut, Piper was seething with Rage. Not because she had mentioned her family name and given David some insight about her family, because she vowed that that would never happen again. Not after McClure.
Piper ran, desperate to escape the memory. She had blocked it out so well only to have the barrier come crumbling down from an encounter with one sleazy bastard. Air was escaping her; it was as if a vacuum had sucked all the oxygen out of the corridor. Piper’s head spun, her knees shook, and her heart beat out of control. Still, she couldn’t breath. Piper was exhausted, she did not know how far she had run and she did not know where she was. Piper collapsed onto the ground, using the wall to support her. The memories flooded her mind, overpowering her with their force.
Egypt began to lose its allure as the summer dwindled onward. The crypts were more comical than terrifying, the ancient spells became more obsolete than interesting, and the hot sun that had once felt refreshing was unbearable. Piper wished more than ever to be back at Hogwarts where everything was simple and exciting.
The McClures were the Reddens closest friends. Their constant company was tiring, for when they were near Piper was forced by her mother to be impressive. The entire sojourn was a ploy to plant seeds of romance between Piper and one of the McClure sons; either Alexander the elder or Eric were to court her . Neither Piper nor the sons knew of this, but Piper caught the attention of Alexander nonetheless.
Their romance started more awkwardly than most. Alexander was Piper’s brother’s best friend and Rhett would not appreciate his best mate and roommate at school snogging his little sister. They first discovered their mutual attraction when Rhett jokingly locked the two of them in accursed tomb to scare them. The situation was strange. After shouting very rude things after Rhett, Piper and Alexander stared stonily at one another for the next half hour. They had never spoken before. Alexander was Rhett’s best friend and if Piper tagged along with them Alexander addressed Rhett. In the enclosed and obviously magical room, Piper and Alexander had a difficult time not catching each other’s eyes and accidentally brushing bodies when they shifted positions.
A large sarcophagus took up a huge portion of the room, making it even more difficult for Piper and Alexander to navigate around each other. Piper found that by heaving herself onto the sarcophagus she avoided most contact with him—until he sat down next to her. Restlessly, Piper had begun to jiggle her leg up and down and up and down and up and down; when she grew tired of that she swung her legs like metronomes, allowing them to hit each other; and when she grew tired of that, she crossed her ankles and swung them in and out, hitting the sarcophagus with a dullthump each time. It didn’t take long for Alexander to grow annoyed with her. “Will you stop that?” He had asked her icily.
“No,” Piper said simply. There was so much authority in her voice. It was as if Alexander had asked Piper to stop breathing. Alexander had the sneaking suspicion Piper was going to stop tapping her heels against the casket eventually but since he asked she was going to do it for as long as possible to prove her resolve. Alexander thought her childish for being so unyielding. Nevertheless, the swinging, thudding, and jiggling continued. To add salt to his wound Piper drummed her fingers on the hard metal of the casket. She only hoped the Egyptian inside didn’t mind her incessant noise.
Five minutes later Alexander decided to put an end to it himself. His hand flew out and rested itself on Piper’s jiggling leg directly above her knee, the other grabbed hold of her hand. “Stop. It.” He didn’t realize that his touch made Piper’s heart flutter. And flutter it did until Alexander thought his hold on her leg had served its purpose; he slowly took his hands away, ready to snap his hands back if Piper showed any sign of movement.
Piper tapped one finger on the superimposed image of some Egyptian’s arm. She did it once. Tap. Alexander’s head turned slightly and he watched her out of the corner of his eyes and saw an impish smile playing on her lips. Again. Tap. Piper had to suck her lower lip into her mouth to keep from grinning ear to ear. For she was watching Alexander out of the corner of her eye as well and saw the irritation on his face grow. Tap, tap. If Alexander hadn’t seen her fingers moving he wouldn’t have been able to tell Piper was the one causing the noise; she looked completely guiltless. Tap, tap, tap. On the last tap he smothered her hand with his.
“You are truly irritating.”
“So I’ve been told,” said Piper dryly.
“Well maybe you should be told that more often.”
“Maybe,” Piper said sarcastically as she hopped off the sarcophagus and proceeded to hit the chamber door harder than ever, calling after her brother. She didn’t notice Alexander next to her until she gave up the knocking and leaned her back against the wall, putting her shoulder to shoulder with Alexander. At the same time their heads fell to the side and they gazed at each other.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re lovely?” Alexander asked. She thought he was joking. “Not recently,” Piper answered. Alexander reached across his body to cup Piper’s face in his soft hand; when she didn’t object Alexander drew her closer to him. Their lips were nearly touched when a laughing Rhett opened the door and they toppled onto him.
After that, their romance became invigorating and exciting. They shared quick and impassioned kisses when they were alone and they exchanged secret glances if there were others nearby. It was so wonderful to Piper to be with him; she thought he truly cared for her and that was the most she could ask for. He made her breath catch every time he looked at her.
But it was tiring. Alexander refused to tell Rhett and forced Piper to lie to him. They started to share impassioned arguments more than loving words. Piper felt horrible for lying to her brother when he treated Piper better than most older brothers. Worse, the thrill was wearing off .When Alexander was once tender and made Piper laugh he soon took to interrogating Piper about her beliefs on half bloods, purebloods and Muggles and attacking her every response.
On their last evening in Egypt, Piper and Alexander were stationed alone in the villa. Rhett and Eric were playing Quidditch with a retired professional and their parents were at the Egyptian Minister’s house for dinner. It was the perfect opportunity for Piper to talk to Alexander, for she had decided she needed to end her relationship with him. He had other plans.
Instead of listening to her reasons why they couldn’t see each other any more, he began to kiss her passionately, playing with the straps of her dress and leading her into his bedroom. Piper went stiff with fear. She pushed Alexander’s hands away in what he thought was a playful manner. If Piper had known Alexander had wanted sex from her Piper would have never gotten involved with him. She wasn’t ready for that sort of thing, not with someone so experienced, not with someone who had seen her bawling over a Magical Madeline doll when she was eight, not with someone who she wasn’t even sure she liked.
Piper was paralyzed as he slid off her dress and laid her down. It proved impossible to speak or object; even so, he took no notice of her discomfort. His lips captured hers again as they heard the door to the villa open and close. Alexander jumped off Piper, threw her dress at her, and examined his reflection in the mirror before going out to meet Rhett.
That night, Alexander visited Piper in her room. He told her that he was glad Rhett unintentionally interrupted them because he wouldn’t want to consummate their relationship before they were married. Still seething with anger at him Piper responded that she would never marry him. It was then that he slapped her hard on the cheek. Piper had never been hit before in her life apart from her father spanking her when she was three for biting Rhett on the arm, but that hardly counted. “I will marry you,” he said. And Piper hadn’t seen him since.
Piper was sweating with the effort she exerted to keep from crying. She uncurled her legs from where they where pressed against her chest and stretched them far out in front of her. Her breathing returned to normal, and her mind was no longer reeling. Piper bottled up everything from her feelings to her opinions to her thoughts and over time she had made enough space in her heart to keep it all in, but the memories of the summer weighed heavier on her than anything else. Experiencing pureblood life at its fullest made Piper aware of just how weary her life would be. She appreciated Hogwarts for the precious years she was given to be normal. With this newfound attitude, she despised Black less and loathed McClure more. He was the embodiment of all things Piper hated. Alexander McClure was far more dangerous than Sirius Black would ever be to Piper. Sirius was a pesky fly bothering a giant and that giant was McClure. Piper could cope with annoying boys for seven years but she was not sure she could spend a lifetime with a highly irritable hog of a man.
Piper did not hear Sirius come sprinting down the corridor huffing noisily and Sirius did not see Piper sitting against the wall with her legs stretched out with what looked like tears in her eyes. This lack of observance from both parties resulted in Sirius tripping grandly over Piper’s legs. Sirius had never been airborne for so long without the use of magic; he flew past tapestries and thought he had sprouted wings, he was soaring. Suddenly it was over, one moment he was flying in slow motion through the air and the next he as landing painfully on the cold ground, sliding a full five feet before coming to a complete stop. Someone nearby, most likely the cause of Sirius’ flight, was swearing loudly, employing words even Sirius didn’t know. He scrambled to stand and face the girl with the impressive vocabulary that rivaled Piper Redden’s.
“YOU!” Both Sirius and Piper stood at the same time and, as if they were each other’s reflection, both pointed accusing at the other. Piper broke the stance first to wince and bend down to massage an ankle that was swelling steadily; she supported her left shoulder on the wall to relieve some pressure from her right foot. When she lost her balance Piper rotated so her entire back was against the wall and slid down slowly, which proved difficult without putting too much weight on her feet.
“I think you broke my leg,” Piper said. And it wasn’t her usual voice. Sirius had never heard Piper speak without anger and impishness laced in with her creamy voice. It was the tone she would have used when speaking to a brother or to a friend and Sirius wasn’t sure if Piper had either. “Why the hell are you running around the halls like a bloomin’ prat anyway!” And the voice Sirius was used to was back.
“Well if you weren’t sitting in the middle of the corridor I wouldn’t’ve had to’ve tripped over you and ‘break your leg,’” Sirius said, his voice rising. It was the first time he and Piper had spoken to each other since the Bulbadox Powder incident. Come to think of it, it was the first time Piper had even made eye contact with Sirius since then. Maybe this was all part of her plan, maybe she had planned on Sirius coming down this exact hallway at a break neck speed and tripping over her legs, maybe she had planned on Sirius actually breaking his neck. But he had outsmarted her, she was the one in pain, all he had was a stinging floor rash on his chest.
Piper inhaled sharply and winced while she heaved herself up without the use of her right leg. Using the wall like a cane, Piper hobbled down the corridor, away from Sirius, toward the Hospital Wing. Sirius followed, close behind, not offering his shoulder as a support like his conscience told him to do.
“In case you didn’t notice, I’m leaving because I don’t want to be near you, Black.” Piper stumbled slightly as the suit of armor she had leaned on toppled over, the metal clanging loudly, and its occupant protesting. She hopped awkwardly over the beaver with a certain quality of grace that reminded Sirius of a figure skater, only without the small, sparkly one-piece.
“You know what?” Piper rounded on Sirius, making his wish that he had not followed her. Indeed, he did not know what impulse had made him trail behind her. Maybe it was because part of him always felt safer when Piper was in his sight, she was too unpredictable to be left to her own devices. “I’ve had enough!” Piper said, continuing her thought. “I’ve had enough of you and your little pranks. I’m just tired of this whole—this whole--” Piper threw her hands up, searching for the word “—this whole thing! I haven’t done anything to deserve being treated like this!” Piper looked more formidable than usual balancing on one leg. “I can’t believe I put up with it for so long.” She scoffed, but the tears in her eyes betrayed her sarcastic voice. “I should have done this six years ago! I’m done, okay. I surrender! That’s what you want, isn’t it?” There was a note of pleading in Piper’s voice that outweighed the malice. She began to hobble away but a last remark stopped her. “God, you’re sixteen years old, grow up!”
Sirius Black was speechless. Piper’s words rang in his ears. Sirius had never seen Piper cry, he didn’t even think she was capable of it. Yet here she was, tears brimming in her stormy eyes, making him increasingly uncomfortable. Far from making him angry, Piper’s outburst made Sirius feel ashamed and he had nothing to say to her. His embarrassment shone on his face and he shuffled his feet.
“I’m sorry.” He tried to hold her gaze but failed, it was too hard to look at her face. Each time he looked at her he wanted to comfort her and yell at her at the same time.
“I could have used that apology six years ago.” Piper spoke haltingly, as she tried to control her quavering voice. Her self control faltered and several tears slid down her cheeks reddened with anger. Piper hopped away, making a show of not wanting Sirius to see her cry. Once she was around the corner and far enough away from Sirius, Piper put weight experimentally on her leg; it didn’t hurt as badly as she had made Sirius believe, but a trip to the Hospital Wing wouldn’t hurt.
All thoughts of McClure were wiped away thanks to Sirius. Piper smiled widely, not believing her fortune. She had originally planned on Sirius seeing her in Hogsmeade, but this had worked just as well. Piper praised her skills as an actress; she had always been able to make herself cry, but hadn’t used the skill in a long while. It had always worked when she was younger and wanted a second cookie or a new kitten but she had no idea that it worked just as well on Sirius Black. Still smiling, Piper entered the Hospital Wing.
The Gryffindor sixth years were oddly cordial towards one another as the next week began. Even Piper and Peter exchanged kind words to a certain degree. No one was sure what had caused the sudden lack of electricity between Sirius and Piper (besides them of course). Some were blatantly angry about it, who else was going to provide entertainment for their delight? Even Lily and James had stopped arguing so profusely. In short, the Gryffindor’s were seriously lacking gossip.
“Is it just me, or is Minnie glaring more than usual?” Sirius asked James in Transfiguration Monday morning. Sirius was sure that Professor McGonagall was being viciously cold towards him, it couldn’t possibly be imagination.
James observed Professor McGonagall for several moments in which she walked right past Sirius who was holding his hand up. “Yup. Definitely snubbing you for something.”
Sirius was at a loss for what he could have done. He soon found out when he received his homework back.
Though I am not exactly up to par with what the youth are calling each other today, I am fairly certain that being called a Black-Head is not a good thing. This really is not funny, and I expect you to write your name as it appears on your birth certificate. It may have a secret meaning that I do not know, but I think that a detention this Saturday will serve as a reminder to use your proper name. Also, five points will be taken from Gryffindor for your rudeness.
–Professor Minerva McGonagall
Sirius thought for several moments that his dear Minnie was going insane, until he saw his name. In his handwriting were scrawled the words: Siriusly Bad Black-Head. Now, Sirius may have been an prick sometimes, but calling someone acne was just plain rude.
There was only one person who would have been able to pull off a prank such as this, and that person was sitting directly in front of Sirius: Piper Redden.
James was looking at his paper in a similarly bewildered way. Sirius nearly laughed out loud at what Piper did to James’ parchment. Inside hearts and in bubble letters were the words ‘Piper Redden’. The corner even housed a rather bad picture of Piper holding a flower. Sirius pointed to it, “Horrible likeness if you ask me.”
James laughed, relieved that Piper hadn’t humiliated them outright, she had only caused them to lose House points and a detention. Sirius felt similarly but he was outraged that Piper had made him feel so terribly and then did this! It was like she had never ‘surrendered,’ it was like she had never ‘cried’ in front of him.
Leaning forward, he tapped Piper on the shoulder while Professor McGonagall was writing on the board, reviewing Vanishing spells. Piper angled her head slightly to show she was listening while giving off the appearance of being attentive to the lesson.
“So what? Was everything you said to a lie? Or did you decide that you hated being on good terms with me?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Black,” Piper whispered. Sirius was sure that if he could see her entire face she would have been housing her trademark crooked smile.
“So you don’t know anything about this?” Sirius waved his and James’ blemished essays so Piper could see them.
“I’ve never seen that before in my life,” Piper said, giving away nothing in her voice. Sirius was sure she could have lied under Veritaserum.
“Did you just want to make me feel like an asshole? Is that why you said all that shit to me?” Sirius whispered even quietly as McGonagall whipped around and surveyed the class; she could hear better than Big Eared Earl, a third year that was one of Korey’s best friends because he eavesdropped so well.
“It’s amazing how powerful a woman’s tears are, Black,” Piper sighed, ending the conversation.
In no mood to even look at Piper after the lesson, Sirius left as quickly as possible. He was blocked by an angry Krissy Livingston. She had nothing to be angry about, Sirius thought. He had taken her to Hogsmeade last weekend, he bought her two butterbeers. What was she in a strop about?
A searing pain erupted in Sirius’ nose as Krissy punched him. “I heard about you and Victoria, you ass! I hate you, Sirius Black! You’ll never see these,” she held a hand up to her breasts, “again!” Behind him, James was laughing, though his laughter stopped short as well and he fell to the floor next to Sirius, holding his Nether Region. “Piper Redden? It used to be my name that you wrote all over your parchment!”
Sirius and James had been wrong, Piper had caused them outright pain and humiliation; she had just employed a minion to do her dirty work for her. James and Sirius were in pain but the other Gryffindors were elated, for they now had some thing to gossip about.