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Chapter 6: Lessons Learned
Sirius was in the middle of what one would call an undesirable situation. Peter had just confessed to the entire table that Sirius was no longer part of the proud and pureblood-loving family Black: breaking news he had not wanted to be made public so soon. And he did not really know how to deal with this right now. Obviously lying was not an option, but he was not all that keen on discussing the derailed relationship with his parents with his classmates at dinner either.
Once again there was a familiar ache near his heart which he never seemed able to block out, but he successfully pushed that feeling to the back of his mind by focusing on Peter. Sirius strongly considered transfiguring him into a Flobberworm, but as soon as he looked at his little friend's anxious face, he felt his anger slip away. It was simply impossible to hold a grudge against little Peter Pettigrew.
So instead, he stared down at his goblet for a moment, whirled it around on the table while wrecking his mind to come up with an excuse and then finally decided to come clean anyway. “They didn't need to. One night I simply had enough, so I just… left. My parents were not sorry to watch me getting my stuff and leave.” He shrugged. “I reckon it must have been the happiest day of their lives to finally be liberated from their disgraceful son,” he added in a sour voice.
Once again the ache returned and he angrily shook his head to get rid of the crushing feeling. His housemates were all quiet, but he knew they were all watching him. When he finally looked up, the first gaze he met was Mary's. For once her eyes were not filled with disgust or hatred, but sincere concern. In that one second their eyes locked and he failed to completely suppress his hurt feelings, she looked right through him. “Oh Sirius,” she said softly. “I'm so sorry.”
Sirius quickly looked away. He could not take her concern or pity. No one was supposed to know that his parents turning their back on him fore good was affecting him more than he would ever admit. He firmly told himself to get a grip and shot her a daring look. “Sirius? Whatever happened to calling me Black?”
For about a second Mary seemed taken aback by this sudden change of mood. She blinked. “So you don't want to talk about it? Your call. But there's no need to snap at me like that.”
He sighed impatiently. “Fine, whatever. Look, can we just leave it?”
Sirius turned back in his seat and glanced over at the Slytherin table where his younger brother Regulus was hanging out with his friends. The boy did not seem to be the least bothered that his older, recently disowned brother was present in the very same hall. Then again, Regulus had never agreed with Sirius in the first place; the chicken preferred not hurting his dear mother's feelings. Sirius assumed Regulus had started moving his stuff into his old room the second Sirius slammed the front door shut behind him.
But despite everything, even now, Sirius could not help but feel responsible for his little brother. He feared Regulus would be foolish enough to join the Death Eaters when he graduated from Hogwarts, for the single reason that this way, he would continue impressing his parents and honor their heritage. And although Sirius loathed Regulus with a passion, he would still do anything to prevent that from happening.
Meanwhile, Mary was studying her fingernails with a moody expression on her face. Peter, Remus and Brice seemed to made a silent agreement that staying out of their squabble was the best thing to do. Once again, an awkward silence had come over their end of the table, until a black girl with a spectacular Afro-hairdo suddenly flopped down right on the edge of the table.
It was Allison Zabini, a fellow seventh year and probably the only student from Slytherin who could do such a thing without risking a nasty jinx. Somewhere down the road, Allison decided not all Gryffindors were her enemy and both Hogwarts Houses had accepted this unusual behavior. The Marauders and the girls tolerated Allison (they even liked her) and the Slytherins did not taunt her for occasionally hanging out with the Gryffindors.
“Hullo!” she called cheerfully and was greeted in return by a wall of tense silence. “Whoah, who died?”
Remus was the first one to break it. “Hi Allison, no one did. Well, unless you're talking about Professor Billings.”
Allison nodded. “Yeah, that poor thing. D'you guys hear she had the entire cover of Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed printed on her face by the time they managed to heave that closet?”
Brice burst out laughing and tried to stifle her giggle as soon as possible. “I'm so-ho-orry, that's not fun-ny.”
Allison sniggered and winked. “Actually, it is. Imagine the sight of that. Well, gotta dash. Slughorn is having another one of his Slughorn meetings.” She wrinkled her nose. “Somehow I never understood why those gatherings are supposed to be fun.”
She jumped off the table and was about to leave when she was stopped by Mary asking: “Hey, that new Defense-professor... Is that your father?”
“Uncle. Nice fellow, although he can get a little carried away when he's discussing his own achievements. Just expect lots of personal stories in class on how he defeated the Peruvian Vipertooth of Ayacucho.” She arched an eyebrow. “Sounds like fun, eh? Anyway, I'm getting late. I should go. Oh, before I forget: congratulate both James and Lily on making it as Headboy- and girl, okay?"
“Will do,” Mary nodded.
Alison waved before hurrying out of the Hall. “Well,” Remus said, “I don't know about you guys, but I'm heading to the Common Room.” He stretched lazily and got up.
“I'll join you,” Peter said.
Sirius merely nodded and followed their example, still weary of opening his mouth. Mary exchanged a glance with Brice, who shrugged and mimicked it might be best to say nothing at all. Mary rolled her eyes, but obeyed and kept her mouth shut. As the three boys walked towards the end of the Great Hall, Mary was about to say something to Brice, when something caught her attention.
“Sirius! Hey Sirius, over here!” a loud and high-pitched girl's voice resounded through the entire hall. Sirius looked around and shot his million dollar smile at -
Cassidy Donaldson, a dense, but pretty sixth year Hufflepuff. Last semester he decided that even though Cassidy did not appear to have a brain whatsoever, she looked cute. So he went out with her, for about a week or so. By then her brainless gabble about which hair ribbons were out of fashion this season started to bug him so much he had to dump her. But somehow she never really got the message.
At this very moment she was flinging her arms around his neck and pushed her lower body up against his hips. She whispered into his ear that she would love to spend more time a distant broom cupboard, and whether he was interested in meeting her later tonight?
Not particularly, no. There was only one girl on Sirius's mind at the moment. However, Cassidy did not need to know anything about that. If things did not work out with Mary in the end, he could always go back to her for some action.
For a split second he remembered his “act like Remus”-strategy, but concluded that was not going to work for him anyway. He simply could not pull it off. Besides, if Mary was ever going to fall for him, it should be because he was Sirius and not some weird Remus-clone. He tried looking at her before he realized Cassidy was still hanging from his neck. And waiting for an answer. So put her back down as gently as possible, smiled and said: “Sorry Cas, but I'm supposed to meet up with James. Maybe another time.”
And with that, he simply turned around and headed out of the Great Hall without looking back. Acting aloof to alert possibly interested girls he might be interested in was one of the best ways to ensure they would keep chasing him for attention. “I hope you were paying attention, Wormtail,” he sniggered as the three friends were heading up the stairs to the Gryffindor tower.
“Oh, never mind. You're hopeless.”
Meanwhile, Mary and Brice had also just left the Great Hall. They were just passing Cassidy, who had sat back down and placed her head on her arms. She was pouting while listening to the heartening things her friends were saying. Mary could not help but smile gleefully. “Merlin, Donaldson is such a retard. I wonder when she will finally get it into her thick head that Black simply had his fun and is moving on, just like he did with every other girl who was ever stupid enough to go out with him.”
“Me, you mean,” Brice replied dryly.
“Well... Yeah, you too. I still cannot believe he ditched you for that Beauxbatons-girl. What was her name again, Melanie?”
“Stephanie. Look, I haven't been bothered by this for a long time. I've moved on. Hello? It's been two years. What I don't get is why you're still getting your wand in a knot over this.”
Mary muttered something intelligible.
“What was that?”
“Nothing… Never mind.”
Brice sighed and they continued to climb the stairs in silence. When they had finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, Mary realized she did not know how to get inside. “Crap. We don't know the password.”
“Yeah, we do. James told me at dinner. It's Hornbeam”, she told the Fat Lady in a clear voice.
The woman in the portrait smiled down at them and after a cheerful “Welcome back, ladies”, she swung forward to let them in. When Mary and Brice entered the Common Room, they spotted all four Marauders, lounging on the comfortable couch and arm chairs near the fireplace, where the house-elves had prepared a nice crackling fire. Lily was stretched out on the ground right in front of the fire. James was just explaining their main duties as Headboy- and Girl, which mostly contained of a lot of patrolling at night, but apparently they were also in charge of organizing school parties. Mary sat down cross-legged across from Lily and leaned her back against Remus's arm chair. “How are you feeling?”
Lily shrugged. “I'm alright. This past hour with James has been really nice, actually. I hardly recognized him at first to tell you the truth. He has grown up a lot over the Summer."
She looked at James, who at that very second was proudly mentioning that as Headboy, he also had the power to give detentions and that this “gift” could become particularly useful when “Snivellus” was being a pain in the ass. Lily closed her eyes. “Of course, some of that old repulsive behavior does break through occasionally,” she muttered darkly.
Mary laughed. She looked around the room, checking out a group of shy first-years in the corner, but for some reason her eyes happened to go back to Sirius almost straight away. Normally he would have been in the centre of the conversation and demand most of the attention, but he was merely looking at James with an absent - and fake - smile on his face. Mary remembered he had walked out on his own parents and wondered if Lily knew. “Lil?”
“Can I talk to you for a sec?”