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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 4: Fed up.
It had been a stupid idea to wake up early with the intention of looking nice for the first day back at school, because now I was propping myself up with my elbow and blinking repeatedly to try and stay awake.
An hour earlier than necessary, I’d dragged my sorry body out of bed and stumbled into the shower. I could’ve had a whole hour extra in bed; sure, my hair may not have been as clean, my eyelashes not as long, my foundation not as perfect and such things, but who cared? Really, when weighed up against sleep, my appearance should have had little pull. I guess it was a mark of how vain I was. Alternatively, how stupid I was because the second I looked in the mirror, it became apparent that it was going to make no real difference due to the big bags under my eyes, and the fact that they were watering slightly from sheer levels of fatigue. Oh, the woes of being a teenager.
I used to be able to go to sleep around four and get up at six. I guess I’m weaker now.
“Sleepy?” James muttered, although he could hardly talk, due to the fact that his whole face seemed to be drooping somewhat with tiredness. I couldn’t even be bothered to tell him that.
“Uh huh.” I mumbled, forcing myself to eat more toast but finding it difficult to use up my little remaining energy on something like toast. Whilst toast was actually my preferred breakfast choice and I actually only had an aversion to the stuff when annoying-Karen was involved (I never claimed to be a nice person), it seemed to be one of those morning when eating didn’t seem like a particularly efficient way to energise.
“Well, you shouldn't have visited your little boyfriend then,” Sirius said. The result of this statement was sure to be attractive – choking on my toast and laughing (with a snort added).
“Boyfriend? Did you miss when he was introduced as Professor Quigley’s fiancé?”
“You don’t seem the type to be bothered,” Sirius said idly. “Who am I to judge?”
“Precisely,” I muttered. “Who are you to make stupid assumptions? He’s my friend.”
“Well,” Sirius continued, not looking tired at all. “How come you didn’t recognise his fiancé then? If you’re such good friends?”
I had no answer to that. Maybe, to me, Nate was my friend – but, in reality I was just one of his patients that he was relatively fond of. Of course I’d never met his fiancé. Heard about her, yes.
“See? I thought so,” Sirius said triumphantly, flicking a flake of cereal at me to visually demonstrate his victory. Prat.
“Well, don’t push yourself too hard,” I muttered. “Thinking is a big step; don’t push yourself too hard this first time. You want to stagger it.”
“Are you implying I’m stupid?” His face flushed slightly as he asked.
“Implying? Sorry, was I not clear enough? I meant to call you stupid outright.”
“What’s your problem McDonald? Because my patience is beginning to run out.”
“Good,” I spat out, “and I’m not the one with the problem.”
“Right,” Sirius scoffed, turning around to look at his friend for support. “Let me know when you’ve decided to stop being irritating.”
“This isn’t about me!” I spat angrily. “My problem, I’m being irritating – God, Black, take responsibility for your own crap. I’m fed up of having people like you walking around like you’re better than me. It’s never about me, right? It’s about you with your cocky swagger and your charm and your bloody superiority. You’re not getting away with it anymore. You’re not that hot.”
“You can hardly talk!” Sirius was ready to return fire. “Just because you’ve decided you don’t want to be yourself anymore – a nice normal person – and have gone through some stupid re-vamp and are just expecting everyone to accept it. Your hair looks ridiculous.”
“I know it looks ridiculous!” I snapped back. “And you should know that isn’t a bearing on your opinion, but it’s actually what I intended.”
James elbowed Sirius, causing both of us to look up and see McGonagall distributing the timetables. Sirius fell silent, sending me a calculated look before ignoring me in favour of talking to Peter.
My timetable was dropped in front of me and I scrambled to pick it up, wondering what tortures I would have to suffer through today. I traced my finger down Wednesday’s column and felt my heart sink slightly.
Double potions, P.E., Muggle studies, Team building, Double Transfiguration.
The rest of the timetable seemed almost as bad and the only good thing seemed to be that this was only a three day week, or else it seemed prudent to speed up the process of dying and jumping in the Black Lake.
Okay, maybe that was a tad melodramatic. But with Sirius around, clouding every corner and continually making me more and more angry, it seemed like this year was going to be really difficult.
“Let’s see,” Lily said and leant over my shoulder to see my timetable.
“I want to see,” Charlotte said, pulling the parchment out of my hands. Rachel and Lily gathered around too. I hadn’t thought that any of them would be interested enough in something to do with my life that they’d actually want to see it, but I wasn’t going to complain (well, I probably was – but that could be saved till later).
“Could I have a look?” Alice asked me and I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t bother being polite, just grab it while you can, it’ll be ripped to shreds in a minute.” I said and she offered me a shy smile before joining the huddle.
“Something interesting?” Sirius questioned.
“A picture of one of us, perhaps?” James added, from the other side of the table.
“Probably,” Sirius confirmed, plucking the piece of parchment of Charlotte’s hand and holding it above their reach – damn summer growth spurts, they were all taller than us now, “timetable,” Sirius told James, “not half as interesting.”
“Ah, well.” James shrugged as Sirius screwed the timetable up and threw it over his shoulder.
“Hey,” I said angrily, grabbing hold of his robes and forcing him to look at me. “Pick that up.”
“Sorry, was that your timetable?” He asked, retrieving it from the ground and smiling at me. “I do apologise,” he added, before he began to rip up the timetable. I stood there, glaring at him and silently fuming. Sirius grinned and then actually went as far as eating a piece. That was beyond the scope of a quick reparo charm and therefore beyond the scope of my patience.
“What are you doing?” I demanded, reaching up to grab it from him.
“That tastes disgusting,” he commented.
“Overkill, mate.” James said.
“You might be right.”
“Give it back, Black.”
Sirius laughed and seemed to take pleasure in dropping the remaining pieces of my timetable into a glass of pumpkin juice. My pumpkin juice.
I was too angry to speak.
Sirius grinned, sending me a little wave before following Charlotte and Rachel out of the Great Hall with James in toe towards...
Crap. What lesson do I have now?
I quickly pulled out the remains of my timetable, to find that the ink had run, and the paper had disintegrated slightly. Needless to say, I couldn’t read it.
“Damn you, Black,” I muttered at the disintegrated pieces of paper, throwing the hopeless gloop back into the glass and slumping down on the desk.
“So, you’ve finally lost it?” Remus grinned.
“You don’t by any chance know what lesson I have next?” I asked frustrated.
“Sure, I’ll walk you there,” he said. “Double potions.” I groaned. He chuckled slightly, “We’ll be late if we don’t go now.”
“And that would be such a tragedy,” I said sarcastically. “Hey, can you tell Slughorn that Sirius dissolved my timetable, so I couldn’t have possibly known that I was supposed to be in Potions?”
Everyone hated a seating plan. It was the singular sure way for a teacher to ensure that everyone began the first lessons of the year feeling pissed off and irritated: even Lily, who’s never one to context one of Slughorn’s decisions, didn’t like these things – mostly because James had a rather alarming ability to end up next to her on the plan. Two hours of scheduled annoyed, on top of double Potions? No thanks.
“Lily Evans and Severus Snape...” Slughorn continued. I glanced up and caught a pained expression on Lily’s face – although Slughorn’s tendency to place his two favourites together usually was seen as a good thing by Lily, after the events of last year it seemed like she wasn’t so keen...
I glanced around the classroom, weighing up my options. He’d nearly finished the list and the only people who were left over, really, were the Marauders and a couple of girls from other years. It had been boy girl so far (a ridiculous insurance that there would be excessive amounts of flirting), which meant that it was almost definite that I’d be sat next to one of them.
Remus wouldn’t be so bad. I could deal with sitting next to Peter. James would be annoying, but not to the point that I’d purposefully blow up his cauldron... but if they put me with Sirius? Slughorn had better watch out for his dungeon, that’s all I’m saying.
“Mary McDonald and...James Potter,” he concluded, and I let out a relieved breath that I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. It could be worse. Things could always be worse (although, in my situation you had to admit that things couldn’t be much worse).
Sirius Black fell into the seat in front of me but didn’t turn around.
It was probably for the best.
I hated Professor Quigley more than I hated Sirius Black.
Not only had she yelled at me for not having kit, but she had then found me some that didn’t fit me on purpose: the shorts would have fit my eleven year old brother snugly, and yet here I was squeezing into them, then the top wouldn’t have looked big on one of my sister’s fat boyfriends, giving the altogether rather delightful impression that all I was wearing was a very baggy t-shirt. And a bra, because naturally I’d chosen to wear a black bra this morning and naturally, the t-shirt was spectacularly see-through. Joy.
“Now that we’re all here,” she said, giving me a pointed look (well, if she wanted me to be on time, she shouldn’t have spent an hour finding me kit) “I’ll begin.” She finished as I began muttering curses under my breath.
“Not fond of his fiancé then?” Sirius muttered from next to me.
“Shut it,” I muttered. Sirius smirked and made an obvious point of taking in my ridiculous kit and how he found it highly amusing.
“Why didn’t you ask for kit that fit you?”
“You say one more thing...” I warned, folding my arms.
Sirius grinned, leaning forward until I could feel his breath in my ear. “Nice bra.”
I wanted to scream, but suspected that screaming wouldn’t go with the bitch of a woman’s program of things, so instead I let my gaze glaze over and began to imagine all the things I’d like to say to Sirius if I ever got the guts.
“You there, with the purple hair, what have I just been saying?” She demanded.
“I don’t know.” I mumbled, feeling the heat crawl up my face.
“Well next time, don’t sit next to your boyfriend,” she said pointedly. Sirius stretched his arms out next to me, enjoying as the other Marauders began making a variety of comments about me, my life, my hair.
“He’s not... I didn’t want to sit there.”
“How about your sit right in front of me then, Purple?” She clicked her fingers at pointed at her feet. I heard Sirius laughing like an idiot as I stood up and sat at the front, wondering whether I should contest that he should be moved too.
“Right, as I was saying, we’re doing the beep test today, and anyone who doesn’t get above a seven has to stay behind every lunchtime and repeat the test until they do.”
Okay, I couldn’t actually hate this woman more.
She did the whole clicking and pointing thing again, indicating that we were to line up at the stupid start line she’d drawn on the ground with her wand. After giving us five minutes to ‘warm up’ (arse around pretending to jog up and down), she brought us all back to the start line.
“Ready, go!” She yelled as the first beep went off. Everyone seemed to misjudge the first beep and ended up there much too early, filling everyone with a sort of confidence. So we were all sure we would get past seven easy.
But come level 5, I had to admit, I was struggling. I couldn’t breathe, my legs felt weak and it was seemingly more and more difficult to keep running.
“Come on guys, remember your lunchtimes are at stake!” She yelled. Run. Run. Run.
“Struggling?” Sirius asked me. He wasn’t even out of breath. I blamed Quidditch. I didn’t attempt to answer, not that I could of in my state, and focused all my energy on running that little bit further. The prospect of running away from Sirius helped.
I had to get to level 7. I needed my lunch periods to eat, do homework, and go and see Nate. I needed to convince him not to marry this bitch.
“COME ON PURPLE!” She screamed and I realised I was a little behind everyone else. I still couldn’t breathe but I forced myself to catch up and turn around.
My head was starting to go dizzy due to a lack of oxygen.
My legs felt incredibly weak, weaker than ever before.
My vision began to go blurry.
My legs collapsed from underneath me and I ended up on the floor. A tad dramatic for the situation, it seemed.
“KEEP GOING!” I heard the devil-bitch-woman yell. I’d stopped. I wouldn’t be able to get up now. I was probably going to be trampled on by everyone coming in the other direction. But, instead of feeling everyone’s feet crushing my skull, a pair of hands accompanied by a pair of arms were pulling me up, supporting me.
“Looks like she can’t,” Sirius said, and I could almost feel the eye roll. I was deposited onto a bench. “Still alive?” Sirius questioned.
“Mr Black, carry on right now. You’re coming back at lunch,” she yelled and I heard footsteps walking away and I took a deep gulp of air, bringing things back in to focus.
“Drink this,” she said and I did. It instantly cleared my head more and I could feel my legs again. “What’s your name?” She asked, as her voice changed from super-bitch to nice.
“Mary McDonald,” I answered, my voice coming out shaky.
“You’re the one with the...” She began but I cut her off.
“Blood condition,” I said nodding, giving her a meaningful look. The other people in the class were still way too close for her to say what I really had.
The woman swore, pressing a hand against her head. “Nathaniel told me to watch out for you, and make sure you didn’t push yourself too hard... but, oh, I thought you’d be quiet,” she said and I shrugged in response. “Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital wing? No, well... how about we don’t tell Nate I nearly killed you on my first day?” She suggested with a smile. “Don’t stop now!” She yelled, turning back to the other runners and screaming at poor Charlotte Jones, who was bright red in the face and breathing heavily. She stopped, leaning against the oak tree, trying to catch her breath.
“6.8! You’re coming back at lunch!” Charlotte looked as if she might cry.
When everyone had finally finished, (Sirius and James being the last people out. Remus before that and Peter before that), she gathered everyone around and said a few nice things before returning to full on bitch status. “Okay, coming back at lunchtime are Charlotte Jones, Alice Prewett and Sirius Black. No arguments.”
The collective whispers of ‘why not Mary?’ were stifled because everyone was too bloody scared.
“I’m also the brains behind Team Building – no need to thank me.” She grinned,” I’ll be running half of your team building lessons, usually the Friday session. Basically, you’re all going to be primarily working in pairs.”
Everyone looked scared apart from me. Surely devil woman would put me with someone I wanted? Considering she nearly killed me and I was friends with her fiancé... “I’ve put you with people who I think you have a good potential relationship with, and that tends to be the last person you’d pick,” she finished. “But that’s good – it wouldn’t be Team Building if you guys were working with your best friends. So, your pairs for the rest of the year... James Potter and Lily Evans.”
“Yes!” James whispered to Sirius, though loud enough that everyone heard and Lily sent him a long irritated look.
“Alice Prewett and Frank Longbottom,” she continued, neither of them looked too bothered. “Rachel Moss and Peter Pettigrew. Charlotte Jones and Remus Lupin,” she said confirming all my worst fears.
I turned around to meet Sirius’s gaze, feeling her final words – virtually a prison centre, “Mary McDonald and Sirius Black.”
And we both groaned.
“So first, everybody grab a blindfold,” Professor Quigley said, and I knew from that moment that this would not be good. “Now, before you put it on you need to think of a call such as Hogwarts, with your partners. One of you will yell one bit, and the other one will answer it, and you will try and find each other while blindfolded.”
“How about Quid-ditch?” Sirius asked and I shook my head. “Blud-ger? Siri-us? Team-building?”
“How about arse-hole?” I suggested and his face broke out into a grin.
“Deal.” He said, shaking my hand. I moved my hand away quickly. I’d already touched him way too much for a lifetime. Not like that. Much.
“You yell ‘arse’ then I’ll yell ‘hole’,” he said, and then we sat there in silence until she told us time was up.
Then we had to place on the blindfolds and she moved us away from our partners.
“ARSE!” I yelled, trying to pick out Sirius’s voice.
“QUID,” I heard among the voices.
“HOLE!” I heard someone to my left shout.
“ARSE!” I yelled again.
“ARSE!” I yelled again, walking clumsily forward and hearing his voice.
“CHOCOLATE!” a voice yelled again and then, after a while, most of the stopped and I assumed they’d found their partner.
“ARSE!” I yelled and I got no answer.
“Arse,” I muttered into the silence of the room. “Arse, arse... arse -”
A pair of hands grabbed me around the waist. I screamed bloody murder and Sirius muttered “hole,” into my ear. I promptly fell over, repeating my half of the call over and over in his direction as I ripped off the blindfold.
He didn’t have his blindfold on. In fact, I was now the only person in the room who seemed to have had a blindfold on.
“Arsehole.” I spat viciously, folding my arms.
“Why don’t we try following my instructions this time? McDonald, Black – make up a new call. No taking your blindfold off until I say so. We’re going to continue doing this over and over until you get it right, so I hope you’re all having fun.”
“So,” I said moodily, “we have to make up a new one.”
“I don’t think she thought it was appropriate,” Sirius commented.
“Butt-head?” I suggested grimly.
“I swear you used to be good at transfiguration,” Sirius said as I desperately tried to do the correct spell. “In first year, you were better at magic than Lily.”
“Shut up,” I said darkly, poking the hedgehog with my wand.
“And you’re saying it perfectly right; it’s just as if you haven’t got the power...”
“Shut up,” I said again, louder this time.
This was all Miss Quigley’s fault. She had told all of our teachers to seat us with our partners where possible to increase bonds, or something shit like that. I didn’t want a bond with Sirius.
“So... What’s the deal?” Sirius demanded.
“You’ve got a blood condition that affects your ability to do magic?” Sirius questioned.
“It’s called being a mudblood.” I couldn’t have told you which Slytherin said it, but suddenly their side of the room was alive with laughter and comments.
“Detention! I will not have that language in my classroom!” McGonagall snapped, her eyes narrowing dangerously. Her anger matched mine.
“Sorry, what did you just call me?” I demanded.
“I called you a mudblood, I saw you with your dirty muggle parents at the station, had an argument with your mum had you?” He was snarling now.
“That woman was not my mother!” I was angry now. “And not that it matters, but my mother was a witch.”
“Where was she, walked out on your little muggle family?”
“No,” I said flatly. “My mother is dead.”
“Well, serves her right, dirty muggle lover...” he trailed off, and suddenly my whole body shook with anger.
I lunged at him; desperately trying to hurt him anyway I could, for insulting my mother. I don’t even know why it was such a big deal. I hated my mother for passing on this condition, meaning I was going to die.
But I was blind with anger. Not necessarily at him, but at everything. My day had gone so wrong. My life had gone so wrong. The doctors constantly said how lucky I was, but I didn’t understand how I could be ‘lucky.’ I was dying, and beginning to see the affects. I’d never get out of my teens, I’d never fall in love, I’d never have a baby, I’d never have a marriage, I’d never get any of the things I’d always so desperately wanted.
And this Slytherin in front of me; he was going to live, he was probably rich, he’d get married, have the choice to have kids, he’d get to live like I’d never be able to, yet here he was insulting me because of my blood. Pathetic.
As far as I could see, my mother’s blood had done me much more damage than my fathers.
I felt hands pulling me back, and then I realised how ridiculous the whole thing was; why should I care if he couldn’t see past blood? I shouldn’t.
Tears burst from my eyes at my anger and stupidity.
There was commotion going on around me, but I ignored it, thoughts whirling round in my head as tears leaked from my eyes.
McGonagall’s scream shut everyone up, but I barely heard her handing out detentions and point deductions – hardly registered Sirius’s name amongst those who were now sentenced to detention – and James’s protests... because I didn’t care. I didn’t care at all, I was so caught up in the spinning in my head and how angry I’d felt.
I wished my emotions could be the first thing to die.
“Nice show in there McDonald,” Sirius said darkly as he walked to the Gryffindor table and sat down. “Thanks to you I’m stuck with McGonagall for the next three evenings.” Lily had filled in the missing pieces of the event: how she’d pulled me away from him (good job too, he could have killed me) and how Sirius had taken my place, furiously throwing spells and fists in his direction.
“Actually, that has nothing to do with me. I never asked you to attack him.”
“You know you’re one of the most unappreciative people I have ever met! I’ve helped you twice today, and I’m still waiting for my thank you.”
“Oh, nice one Black. You know real humans do nice things for others without needing to be thanked. How was attacking some Slytherin helpful? You’re...argh, you’re the most conceited person I’ve ever met. It’s all about you. Do you ever think about other people or do you just...?”
Instead of listening to my rant, Sirius was looking over my shoulder. I turned around half expecting to see someone underdressed or something, but instead finding myself face to face with Nate.
He did not look happy.
“Ma...” He began but stopped. He looked as if someone had died.
“What’s wrong?” I asked urgently. What if someone one was hurt? What if someone was dead?
“I need to talk to you,” he said, but I was still in full fledged panic mode.
“Who’s hurt? Is everyone okay? What’s happening?” I asked. I was border line hysterical and, at that moment, I probably wouldn’t have cared if Nate wanted to tell Sirius, or anyone else for that matter, all about how I was dying and what not.
“It’s your blood test results.”
This chapter has now been beta'd by AccioHPFF. I know this editing malarkey is taking longer than I thought it would and that people are probably fed up of this appearing at the top of their favourites lists or whatever, but it has to be done! So, sorry staffers for all the edits. Thanks to anyone who's putting up this. Welcome new readers! And, oh yeah... this story recently got to 1000 favourites! So thank you very much everyone :D