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Chapter 34: grand gestures of love
I spit my pumpkin juice all over Peter.
“Gee, thanks Hope, I really was feeling a bit tired still and needed that extra wakeup call,” Peter grumbled and grabbed a napkin. I barely heard him.
James Potter and Lily Evans had just entered the Great Hall – hand in hand.
“Wha-,” I stammered. Beside me, Sirius stretched – attempting to put an arm around my shoulders, but I pushed him away. He frowned, then a smirk returned to his face when he caught sight of his best friend.
“Ah, young love.” He puckered his lips and I blushed. James slid into the seat next to Peter, and Lily followed in suit.
I was pretty proud of James for finally getting the girl of his dreams. It seemed everything was working out for the whole lot of us. Sirius and I had finally stopped being complete idiots and accepted our feelings for one another, I had forgiven Remus, and now look! James Potter and Lily Evans! Holding hands at breakfast!
A ridiculous grin was plastered across my face, and James was shooting me an annoyed, but happy, look. I think that my outward features captured his inner feelings. I didn’t speak, just stared at them in awe. Sirius pinched my arm.
“Oy,” he chuckled. “Didn’t your grandmother ever teach you it’s not polite to stare?” I swatted at him, but he merely grabbed my arm to calm me. “Walk with me, m’dear?” He stood up and offered me his hand. I checked his eyes, questioningly. We hadn’t spoken about the whole Regulus incident. I knew I should bring it up, I just hadn’t figured out how yet.
“Sure,” I muttered. I grabbed my bag and walked out of the Hall beside Sirius. As soon as we exited, I whirled to face him. “James and Lily?! When did that happen?”
“Around the same time you and my brother were chatting it up by the Black Lake,” Sirius responded coolly. I froze.
“Sirius,” I began. I immediately felt hot. I hadn’t exactly been caught in a lie, but I had withheld the truth about meeting Regulus from Sirius.
“Hope,” he countered, mockingly. He leaned against the stone wall, crossed his arms and looked at me expectantly. “I’m waiting,” he cooed. He looked like such a pompous, arrogant, aristocratic asshole. His mother would have been proud of him at that moment, because he was looking at me as if I was flith on the bottom of his shoe.
“Excuse me?” I could feel anger bubbling up inside me and I glared at him. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was allowed to speak to whomever I wanted to. Sure, the conversation with Regulus had been taken an uncomfortable turn, but it was something I had brought upon my self. I was still with Sirius. I loved Sirius. He squinted at me.
“What did you and good ol’e Reggie talk about?” He was attempting to look like he didn’t give a shit, but I could tell he did. “I mean, obviously whatever it was upset you since I found you bawling,” he ran a hand through his hair and I bit my bottom lip. What was I supposed to say? Oh well, Sirius, actually Regulus told me that I should break up with you because a life with you will only bring pain and heartbreak. It was like a mix between a psychic reading and a wonky fortune cookie.
That would go over great.
“Stuff,” I muttered, and sealed my lips shut. Sirius raised his eyebrows at me.
“Stuff?” He looked shocked. “That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“Well,” I glared at him, “I don’t know Sirius, what did you and Tabitha talk about on Halloween? Possible solutions for world peace?”
“Actually, she told me she thought you were a boyfriend-stealing slag,” Sirius grunted. My jaw dropped.
“Thanks.” I turned and stormed away from him.
“Hope,” Sirius called after me, “don’t storm off! I was being honest. Something you’re clearly not being.” I whirled around quickly to face him, throwing a finger in his face.
“Don’t you dare,” I pointed at him. A bit of a crowd had drawn at this point. “Don’t you dare call me a liar. After all you’ve put me through, don’t you dare try and make me seem like I’m not to be trusted.” I shook my head in utter frustration. “You know what, maybe you should just go back to Tabitha. You guys are perfect for one another.” I turned to walk away but another thought caught me. “How did you even know I was with Regulus anyways? Are you spying on me or something?” Sirius didn’t answer and I squealed in frustration. “You are ridiculous. He was right about you.”
“Was he?” I froze. Goosebumps popped up on my arms when I heard him speak. I had set him off. Sirius had a look of reckless delight etched across his handsome features. It scared me when I realized that it was the same look I had seen on his face when he had led Severus to the Whomping Willow. That’s how I knew that what was about to come out of his mouth was going to be especially hurtful. “Well then how about I’ll go off to Tabitha and you can go hide in corners around the Castle with my Death Eater brother?”
The tears were welling in my eyes, begging to fall, but he continued.
“I’m sure he’d be okay with snogging on the down-low. Probably wouldn’t even try and get you to be his girlfriend since, you know, you’ve got those Muggle brothers and that would just make you too much of an embarrassment.”
Anger was boiling inside me, I felt as manic as Sirius looked. I stormed up to him and smacked him in the face. He didn’t even flinch.
“Don’t you ever speak about my brothers.” He smirked down at me.
“Run off now, Hope. Run off to Regulus, why don’t you?” He bit his bottom lip and his grey eyes gleamed at me wildly. “That’s what you do best, right? Run away from your problems?”
“You’re a right prick, Sirius Black.” I forced my lips into a stoic line. “You’re not even worth any tears.” I turned quickly and stormed off to my next class.
Could my life get any worse?
Ancient Runes. Of course I had Ancient Runes after my huge fight with Sirius. Regulus had sat next to me since our talk, but we hadn’t mumbled even a word to one another since. We just sat in silence and listened to the professor blather on. I threw my books down at the desk and put my head down. I took a few deep breaths and begged myself not to cry. I didn’t want to cry in the middle of Ancient Runes. That would be so embarrassing and only further my reputation as the crazy, mentally unstable weirdo.
As if being in a coma for a summer and being a complete social hermit for the past six years hadn’t done that already.
I felt Regulus slide into the seat next to me, early for once, and I looked up to glare at him. I wiped away mascara from underneath my eyes and bit my bottom lip. He looked a little alarmed, to say the least, but seeing his grey eyes look me over with concern only reminded me of Sirius’ similar eyes looking so manic and dangerous.
“Well,” my voice was shaky, “your wish came true.” I took a deep breath, sucking in a sob. Regulus frowned.
“It wasn’t my wish for the two of you to break up,” he said softly. “I’ve never seen Sirius happier then when he was with you.” He paused, and I looked at him curiously, waiting to crack. “It wouldn’t last though. It would only wind up breaking your heart.” He looked down at his notes, and didn’t say another word.
“Too late,” I murmured underneath my breath. Regulus clucked his tongue and shot me a sympathetic look. The rest of the class passed silently.
When I walked out of Ancient Runes, Regulus by my side, I saw James Potter waiting for me against the wall. Shocking. I assumed he was there to do damage control.
“Did you punch him?” I stumbled over to him sadly. James took my bag from me and slung it over his shoulder.
“No,” he muttered. He eyed Regulus sternly – and Sirius’ brother peeled away from my side and down a hallway towards the dungeons. “So you really are speaking to that creep.” It wasn’t a question, more of a statement. I frowned at James, and my face scrunched up in frustration.
“He’s not a creep, James.” James shrugged. We walked together towards Divination. I was tempted to skip classes, but I reasoned that Sirius was probably skipping classes – and I didn’t want to bump into him. I should have been asking James questions about Lily, but my mind couldn’t function properly at the moment. All I could think about was the fact that Sirius would probably be snogging Tabitha by the end of the night.
Oh well, at least I always had Jack to snuggle with at night.
“So, I wanted to warn you,” James finally spoke up and I turned towards him. “Um,” he sounded awkward – and that terrified me. Usually, James didn’t mind hurting my feelings. Whatever he was about to tell me was bound to be bad.
“Jeez, is it that bloody bad?” As soon as the question left my lips I thought, why yes Hope. Yes it’s that bad. You and Sirius are over. O-V-E-R. James looked at me with pity.
Sort of. How… charmingly optimistic of James Potter. I looked at him to continue. He sighed and I noticed, with a sort of comfort, that his hand was fussing with his hair.
“Sirius, ahh,” he groaned. “Why am I always the one who has to tell you this stuff?”
“Because you’re my friend,” I stated obviously. It was pretty pathetic, but James Potter was my friend. I don’t think we really liked each other all that much, but over the past year James and I had developed a sort of… relationship. We counted on each other and relied on one another. We had been there for each other when other people couldn’t be, and we had been in situations that others just couldn’t understand.
James looked at me, and nodded sternly.
“We are friends,” he repeated – as if he was trying to convince me. I guessed I was James’ 500th friend – at least. However, he was my first real friend. “So that’s why I have to tell you that I can’t really talk to you anymore.”
Why is everyone breaking up with me?!
“What?” I stopped outside Divination. James’ whole face was flushed.
“Hope,” he began, and I felt tears welling in my eyes again. First Sirius, now James? Had that Marauders decided that November just wasn’t the month for Hope Khol? What was going on? “I spoke with Sirius, and, well…” He paused to contemplate the proper wording. “Throughout your relationship, I tended to be on, well,” he swallowed. “Your side. I’ve got to stop doing that. Sirius is my best mate, he’s my brother. I’ve got to stand by him, ya know?”
“So you’re breaking up with me too?” I grabbed my bag back from him. He frowned.
“I’m not breaking up with you, Hope.”
“You kind of are,” I muttered, wiping my eyes and storming into the classroom.
I skipped dinner that night, since I had a feeling I really wouldn’t be able to handle the Great Hall. Instead, I took to the library. I sat myself down at the same table that I had been sitting at since school started, but tonight James didn’t join me. I worked for hours – until the lights dimmed and I realized I was alone.
The librarian hadn’t even come up to me to tell me to get out. It seemed that without a Marauder by my side, I was invisible.
It was fine by me. Hopefully by the end of the year everyone including the Marauders would have forgotten I existed. Perhaps I’d just be a story the reminisced over when they met up at the pub when they were older.
“Remember crazy little Hope Khol,” they would muse over pints of Butterbeer.
“She was quite smitten with you, Sirius,” they would laugh.
Ugh, my thoughts had taken a depressing turn, I thought to myself in the dark, abandoned corridor. Hogwarts did have the ability to get creepy at night. I shuddered in the cool, November air and wished that I could just fast-forward to Winter Break. That way I could live in my bed, hang out with my brothers, and eat my meals in peace. I would ban Peter Pettigrew from the house to eat my meals in peace.
I found myself wandering around the different corridors, not wanting to go back to the Gryffindor dormitories just yet. It had been a big deal for me, losing both my pseudo-boyfriends. Just when I had finally accepted James as my friend, he just up and leaves me. I guess he had Lily now, and he always had Sirius, Remus and Peter. There wasn’t really any room for a nutty, wildcard girl in his life. He would study with Lily from now on. He would kiss her and give black eyes to anyone who did a mean thing to her. He couldn’t go around defending and protecting every girl in Gryffindor, after all. He was going to have to cut me off sooner or later, and it had finally just happened.
Sirius, I thought, was a bit different.
I still was completely in love with him. My heart hurt when I thought of his angry face, and the possibility that he would go directly back to Tabitha. Tabitha had a flair for the dramatic, so if she got back with Sirius, no doubt she would use every opportunity to wave their relationship in my face.
Quite honestly, I don’t think I could handle that.
He was supposed to be my Sirius. And I was his Hope. I wasn’t Regulus’ Hope. I couldn’t understand where all the anger had come from. I sat down on a marble staircase as it started to move, and placed my chin in my hands – sighing heavily. How was I supposed to explain the whole Regulus thing to Sirius without making him completely bonkers? There’s no good way to say, “Well, your brother thinks I should break up with you because you’re going to, no doubt, break my heart.” I mean, Merlin, I didn’t need his brother to tell me that. Professor Binns could have probably even told me that.
I felt like such a girlish git getting all emotional over Sirius, but this time around I could accept it. I loved him.
I loved him.
I loved him.
I loved him.
I stood up when the staircase stopped moving around and made my way towards the dorms. I needed to talk to Sirius. Love was supposed to conquer all, right? It had just been a stupid fight, but it hadn’t changed the way that I felt about him. I would shout my feelings from the tallest tower in the Castle if it made him realize that I was finally ready. I was ready to take that next step with Sirius.
A goofy grin spread across my face as I darted towards the dormitories.
I was out of breath by the time I reached the door of Sirius’ dorm room. Taking a second to catch my breath, I padded down my hair and realized that I was feeling self-conscious. This was bound to be a pretty grand gesture on my part, but I reasoned that this wasn’t just any boy. This was Sirius Black.
I had to get him back.
I nodded firmly to myself and turned the doorknob quickly, stepping into the bedroom to see…
To see Tabitha straddling Sirius.
I swallowed, and instead of bolting out of the room, I cleared my throat.
“Uhm,” I coughed and Sirius stopped making out with Tabitha to look past her at me. His eyebrows raised in surprise. “Moment of your time?” Tabitha frowned and climbed off Sirius. She made a show of fixing her hair and lipstick, then turned back to Sirius.
“I’ll let you handle this,” she muttered then stormed past me – shoulder checking me as she walked out of the room.
Sirius’ hand was immediately in his hair. His skin was flushed and bright, his eyes were almost hazy with what I’m assuming was lust. He stayed seated on his bed, while I stood awkwardly at the door.
“The Headmaster made it so the doors don’t lock,” I joked awkwardly, “such a bummer, huh?”
What in the hell was I doing? Sirius looked at me curiously, then frowned.
“You wanted a moment?” That jolted me back to reality. I made a step towards him but stopped.
“Sirius,” I began, “I’m so sorry.” His expression didn’t change. “I’m sorry about not telling you that I spoke to Regulus. The whole situation just caught me off guard, and I was trying to figure out how to bring it up to you. I was going to bring it up to you, I swear I was, but I just didn’t know how.” I let out a breath. “Nothing happened, Sirius, I swear it.”
His lips were set in a firm line, and he didn’t speak right away. But when he did, his words hit me like tiny, piercing arrows.
“I don’t care,” he muttered. He stood up and walked towards the door, standing by my side for a moment. I reached out and grabbed his arm.
“Pick me, Sirius, please.” My voice was soft, and tears were suddenly falling down my cheeks. “I’m ready, pick me.”
Frowning, Sirius turned away from me.
“I wanted you,” he spoke clearly and carefully, “but you didn’t want me. I tried so hard, Hope, but you pushed me away. Tabitha…” He paused and swallowed, “She’s always been ready, she’s always been there.” I choked out a sob when I realized that he was slipping through my fingers.
“Please, Sirius, please?” I was pathetic, as I rubbed my sleeve against my nose. “I love you. I want to be with you, in public and everything. You and me,” I was finally saying it. I finally had the courage to say it.
“I love you Hope, I always have. But it’s too late.”
And with that he walked out of the room, leaving me alone.
I slept like a rock that night, I didn’t toss or turn one bit. The next day, I didn’t skip any classes or meals. I went through the day like a zombie. No one spoke to me, and if anyone acknowledged me – I didn’t notice. When I got back to my bed after dinner, I didn’t even attempt to do any homework. I simply crawled into my bed without changing out of my uniform and fell asleep. The next morning, and the morning after that it was the same. By the end of the week my hair was a greasy mess, my skin was dull and mascara left its debris underneath my eyes. Jack slept right by my face, and every morning I woke to see him looking at me with nervous eyes and gentle purrs.
No one else seemed to care though. Lily Evans didn’t mention my greasy hair and defeated appearance – as our small bout of friendship seemed to be just a random occurance. Remus Lupin didn’t check to see if I was eating, Peter didn’t offer me sweets during classes. James Potter didn’t punch anyone for me and Sirius Black was too busy with my cousin to notice me completely self-destructing. I wasn’t answering owls from my grandparents, and I was relieved that since Henry and Hardy were muggles – so they couldn’t reach Hogwarts and try to help me.
No one gave a shit.
I was completely broken.
I was slightly tossed out of my haze one afternoon after Ancient Runes. I was making my way to back to the dormitories to get into bed and sleep through my Study period, when a hand grabbed my arm and jolted me towards someone.
I was face to face with Regulus – who was looking at me sternly.
“You’re a mess,” he muttered. I opened my mouth to reply, but no words came out. He looked at me, his grey eyes boring into me, and he grabbed my other arm with his free hand. “Hope,” he began but then shook his head. “Come with me?”
It was a question, not a demand. He took my hand and led me through the Castle. Before I knew it, we were in front of the Room of Requirement and Regulus was pacing with a focused look on his face. He opened the door, and dragged me inside.
I was shocked to see my attic bedroom from my grandparents. All of my things were there, including my cushy bed and pillows. I turned to Regulus with a shocked expression. His cheeks flushed.
“I wanted it to turn into the place you would be happiest.” I expected him to run a hand through that jet black hair, but he didn’t. Regulus didn’t have the same bashfulness that the Marauders did when they did something great. He wasn’t overly proud; he didn’t expect the praise. He had the air about him that he had just done what needed to be done. Why else would he do it?
I walked quickly towards my bed and dove underneath my comforter. I heard him walk to the side of the bed, and he quickly conjured up an armchair to sit in. He was too polite to sit on my bed without my invitation.
“You know their map can’t see us in here,” he muttered. I looked at him in confusion.
“What map?” My voice was scratchy, as I hadn’t used it in days. He looked at me in surprise.
“Their ‘Marauder’s Map.’” He said it so casually. I assumed that Regulus knew quite a few secrets about the Marauders, being Sirius’ brother after all. It was probably one of the reasons the whole lot of them seemed to hate him so much. “You don’t know about the map?” I shook my head and he sighed. “They use it, they charmed the map to see whose walking around the Castle and such.” He paused. “It’s how Sirius knew we were talking together at the Black Lake.”
So they hadn’t planted a tracker in me. They just had a magical map they used to spy on me. It made sense. Well, honestly, it didn’t – but it just did at the same time.
“It can’t see in the Room of Requirement though, so you’re good.”
“I don’t really think they care where I am,” I muttered. “Can I go back to my dormitory now?”
Regulus frowned at me, his eyebrows knitted together sternly. If I wasn’t so depressed and broken, I would notice how attractive he was. Completely different from Sirius, there was something more damaged, more private about Regulus. He didn’t want to be the hero, or the star. He just wanted to try and get through the next few days.
“You need to stop doing this to yourself.” I remained silent. “You can’t just go through every day like you’re completely destroyed. You’re better then that Hope,” Regulus moved his chair closer to me. “You’re smart and interesting and different, and if Sirius doesn’t recognize that then he isn’t worth your time. There’s going to be a guy who will do whatever it takes to deal with you, who will take your craziness and accept it fully. He won’t ask you to change, he’ll be happy with you. Forget Sirius, he’s not worth this. He’s not worth you destroying yourself.”
“I’m not destroying myself over Sirius,” I muttered.
“Bullshit,” Regulus muttered back at me. I was surprised that he called out my lie so easily. He stood up and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “You’re better then this, I know you are.”
“How?” My voice came out a whisper. Regulus frowned at me.
“Because anyone who would scare Sirius so much has to be amazing,” he grumbled. “He’s never loved anyone, and he loves you. Whether you want to admit it or not, that means something.” A tear fell down my check and I quickly wiped it away.
“I don’t think I can,” I sighed. “I just feel so,”
“Defeated?” Regulus spoke for me. He shook his head. “You need to stop, you’re stronger then this. You know you are,” he smiled softly and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” I formed my question carefully, “why are you going through all this trouble to help me?” Regulus shrugged his strong shoulders and sat down again.
“I can tell you’re important,” my cheeks flushed and his lips curved into a smirk. His smirk was something different, it was almost dangerous but still sexy, mysterious and captivating all at once. Most importantly, his smirk wasn’t at all like Sirius. It was pure Regulus, and I wanted more of it.
Regulus and I met up a few more times before Winter Break – mainly in the Room of Requirement, and mainly for my mental wellbeing. None of the Marauders had even looked my way since I spoke to Sirius, so it wasn’t necessarily an issue, but since I found out about the map, I felt like my privacy had been somewhat – well – majorly violated. I just felt a bit safer from prying eyes in the Room of Requirement.
We usually headed up there during our study periods after Ancient Ruines. None of the professors ever mentioned anything to me, and when I asked Regulus about it he just brushed it off.
“A lot of Quidditch players use study to squeeze in extra practice,” he shrugged one cold, snowy December afternoon. “I think they just assume that’s where I go.”
“Where do your teammates think you go?” I prodded. Regulus, again, shrugged.
It was sort of an unspoken thing between us – the knowledge that people would be upset if they knew we were spending time together. On my part, a Gryffindor and a Slytherin being anything by enemies was blasphemous. Even if the Marauders didn’t give a shit about me, others would. On Regulus’ side of things, Sirius was right. His crowd was more into the Pureblood, elitist ideals. They wouldn’t have taken too kindly to him attempting to help a half-blood Gryffindor get over her ex-not-boyfriend.
Therefore, the Room of Requirement was an excellent choice of places to hide.
I put a small hand up against the snow-stained glass and sighed, my breath fogging up the windowpane.
“It’s almost Christmas,” I smiled at him. His cheeks flushed, ever so slightly, and he nodded. After being with the fidgety Marauders for so long, it took me a while to get used to Regulus’ stillness. “I can’t wait to be away from here for a few weeks.”
Regulus was quiet. I turned to look at him, and saw his staring sullenly at the floor.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him, and he responded by looking directly into my eyes.
“Nothing,” he said smoothly. I felt goose bumps pop up all over my arms. I knew something was bothering him, but I knew he wouldn’t tell me. Regulus kept his feelings pretty much under lock and key – and there wasn’t much I could do to persuade him from doing anything different.
“My Gran’s planning this really delicious brunch on New Years Day,” I said lamely. “She really wants me to bring a friend,” I muttered. Regulus smirked at me.
“Got anyone in mind?” I felt my cheeks flush again.
“Um, sort of,” I grumbled. He looked at me expectantly. “Doyouwanttocomeoverforbrunch?” I offered up awkwardly. He cleared his throat and smiled at me.
“Pardon? I didn’t really get that.” I exhaled loudly.
“Do you want to come over for brunch?” I repeated. He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Just as friends,” I added on for good measure. He looked at me carefully, then, after a moment he nodded at me.
“Of course,” his smooth voice settled me once more and I went back to gazing out the window at the snowy campus. "I'd be delighted."