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Chapter 3: I Have Life-Endangering Friends
A week had passed, slowly and uneventfully. Remus hadn’t told anyone about Regulus being my Tutor, though I don’t know why he didn’t tell me to tell the others. He probably knew the tension it would create between Sirius and me. It’s not as if they’d never find out though. I’ll have to tell them when I have my first Tutor session…whenever that was.
It was the weekend, and everyone was up, showered and dressed.
Everyone, that is, apart from me.
“I can’t believe you got ill,” Lily said sympathetically, sitting on the side of my bed and stroking my hair away from my forehead. I coughed weakly and shivered.
“C-cold,” I whispered, curling into a ball on my side, shaking, and Lily performed a heating spell, even though it was bright and shining outside. We had planned to go down to the Lake for the day, but I woke up with a temperature and the shivers and my throat was red raw. My head was spinning, even though I was lying down, and I could hardly lift my limbs.
“Y-You still g-g-go,” I stuttered, my teeth chattering with my coldness. Fliss had already run for the hills; as much as she loves me, she can’t stand germs and people being ill, and she had to get away. Lily bit her lip doubtfully.
“Are you sure you’d be alright?” she asked, pressing a hand to my forehead. “You’re burning up. Maybe we should take you to Madame Pomfrey.” My eyes widened in terror.
“I’m f-fine,” I said loudly, making to sit up but not having the effort to do so. I sighed. “I’ll b-be fine.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” Lily stood up and charmed a fake coin on the bedside next to me. “Just touch that if you need me and I’ll come running, and I’ll drag Fliss with me to freak her out.”
“Feel better soon.”
She exited the room and I lay in my bed, curled up, shivering madly. My eyelids started to droop and I realized that the medicine that she had dosed me with a couple of minutes ago was taking effect, and I fell into an utterly peaceful, dreamless sleep.
I wasn’t exactly sure where I was when I woke up. I felt disorientated and confused, and when I opened my eyes the lights were blinding. I squeezed them shut again and rolled onto my side, almost falling out of bed. I lifted my head up and looked around. I was in the Dormitory, and the light was coming from the open window. The curtains were open too, and the light breeze was gently making the curtains move. The sun was pouring in, warming up the whole room and casting light everywhere. Everyone was probably having a great time down by the Lake…
I sat up. My head didn’t swim as I did so but stayed with me, and the walls stayed in their place too. My limbs didn’t feel heavy and I didn’t feel the need to scrape my throat involuntarily anymore. I smiled. I felt better thanks to the potion Lily had given me. I checked the clock on the side of my bed and it was only just past lunch time; they’re probably still out there, by the Lake. If I got dressed and did something with my hair, I could probably go and meet them.
I got out of bed and trod tentatively across the floor to get some clothes. I decided on a pair of high-waisted shorts, a blue top and a cardigan, topped with my large sunglasses. I threw it on my bed and was about to get changed when I saw something in the pocket of my robes. I inspected closer. It was the letter, and now was as good a time as any to read it. I hesitantly reached in and took it out, noting the never changing seal of wax on the back. The Azkaban seal.
My shaking fingers slipped the envelope open and the letter slid into my waiting hand. I sat down weightily on the bed, crumpling my clothes, but I couldn’t care less, as my eyes were on the letter and they had begun to fill with tears.
How are you? I hope school’s fine, and I hope you’re feeling well. You’re in your last year, aren’t you? If I can remember dates correctly. Which would mean you’ve got exams soon? Good luck for them. You were always a bright little witch; I know you’ll do well in everything.
How’s your mother, and the little one? I hope they’re doing okay, too. Pass on my love to them. What did mum call the little one, in the end? I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet he or she.
It’s been seven years, Ophelia. Seven years, and I send you a letter every month, but not one single letter back. I don’t blame you. Of course I don’t. I deserve every last bit of punishment for what I’d done. But I wish you would. I don’t even know if you read them, but if there’s some small chance that you do, I’ll still write. I’d love a letter back, although I probably will never get one. You need to know how sorry I am, how much I miss you three, how much I hate myself for what’s happened. I know I have no one to blame but myself.
I hate this place, Ophelia. I hate it with everything. Hate is one of the only emotions that they don’t take away from you here. Every happy thought, every happy memory of you and Renée have been taken from me, and all I can see is what I did to you both, and I relive the experiences again and again, and it hurts me so much to know I hurt you both the way I did. And the Muggles. I dream about them every night.
There’s nothing really I can say to you, except sorry, though that word is never strong enough for me. It’ll never be strong enough.
I hope soon you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for what I’ve done, and when I get out, we can be a real family, like we were meant to be.
I love you.
It was always the same thing he wrote, always the same. I’m sorry, how could I hurt you like this, it’s shameful, unforgivable…
Yes, it is. And there’s nothing either one of us can do about it.
The memories? The fact that he can’t see the good ones anymore? Not because of the soul-sucking creatures that guard him. It’s because there weren’t any in the first place. At least, none with him in. He won’t ever get out, either. The Dementors have clearly made him delusional; the Wizengamot said he’d be in Azkaban for a very, very long time, and people in Azkaban don’t tend to live that long. I’m surprised he can still write in coherent sentences after all these years.
Making sure to keep the parchment smooth, I folded it again and slid it back into the envelope, and hastily tucked it underneath my mattress. I stood up, went to the bathroom, and washed my face, trying to make my swelling red eyes go down. I stared in the mirror for as long as I could bear without hearing his voice replay in my head a thousand times, screaming at me, telling me that I’m horrid and ugly and huge, and that he wished he never had a daughter as revolting as me.
Consider yourself lucky, I said to myself, he’s done a lot worse to others.
I turned away, blinking back another onset of tears, and clumsily slipped into my clothes. I was grateful for the sunglasses, as they hid my probably tear-marked face. I forced myself to breathe slowly and even for a minute before I left to meet them, so they wouldn’t realize I was upset. Once I had adequately calmed down, I tucked my wand into the back of my shorts and made my way out of the Dormitory, out of Gryffindor Tower, out of the Castle, and finally onto the grounds.
The sun was shining still; it was beautiful and warm and the heat was welcomed. I immediately spotted them, sitting on a chequered blanket near the Lake. They were easily the loudest people outside, screaming and laughing. All apart from Remus, who was reading a book in the shade of the tree that was beside them, sometimes looking up and smiling with our friends.
My stomach gave a funny squeeze, but I ignored it and started to make my way over. After a few seconds, James turned round and spotted me.
“Ophelia, over here!” he shouted. Everyone else turned to look at me too, and they were all grinning. I hurried over and sat myself on the floor, smiling at them all.
“How are you feeling?” Lily asked, hugging me.
“You’re not all…diseased still, are you?” Fliss asked hesitantly. I shook my head.
“I’m feeling fine. Thanks for the Potion, Lily.” Fliss smiled and promptly threw her arms round me too, squeezing me tight.
“Hi to you too. Hey guys,” I said to Sirius and James, who said hello back, and then I looked over my shoulder to Remus, “Hi Remus.”
“Hi,” he said, smiling at me, lowering his book and joining us. My stomach gave another funny squeeze as he slid into a spot next to me and marked his page. I ignored it again.
“So she can stop you reading?” Sirius asked Remus accusingly, a hint of a teasing smile on his face.
“I had to make sure she was okay,” Remus said, his voice joking, but as he looked at me I knew he was really wondering whether I was okay. I nodded slightly and smiled shyly again, and I looked around at them all.
“So what are we doing? Where’s Peter?” I asked, not seeing the little Marauder anywhere.
“Dunno,” James said unconcernedly, leaning back on his hands and closing his eyes in the sun, “weren’t there when we got up this morning.”
I looked round at everyone and suddenly felt at home, beside my friends. I was feeling much better already. This was all I needed; some sun and friendship.
“We left you a few things to eat,” Lily said, motioning to the small mound of food in the middle of the blanket we were sitting on. I picked up a sandwich gratefully and took a bite, only just realizing how hungry I was.
“How has the day been, then?” I asked between bites.
“Good. We mostly just lazed about out here,” Sirius said, mimicking James by leaning backwards and throwing his head back to catch the sun.
“And Lily wanted to check on you about a thousand times but we assured her that you’d feel better if she didn’t wake you all the time,” Fliss grinned, and Lily rolled her eyes, throwing Fliss a disparaging look.
“It wasn’t a thousand,” she muttered, picking an invisible piece of dirt off of her top.
“Okay, maybe nine hundred and ninety-nine.”
“Shut up, Fliss.”
Fliss giggled and started picking at the grass, looking suddenly like a child despite her piercing and strange attire. I only just noticed what she was wearing and stared at her, and when she noticed she stared back, confused.
“What’s wrong?” she asked me.
“…What are you wearing?” I heard Lily tut and roll her eyes, picking up Remus’ book and flicking to the front.
“Isn’t it great? I found it during the holidays, there was this amazing shop about two roads from my house that has almost everything I’d ever want to wear!” She gestured to her outfit, not that I wasn’t staring at it already.
It consisted of a black tank top that ended just above her flat tummy, so you could see her navel piercing. She was wearing a black skirt that had red netting underneath, and what looked like black lace round the rim. She topped it off with black fishnet tights, colourful arm warmers and plain black shoes that looked like they should belong to a little girl’s funeral outfit.
“Do you like it?” She asked excitedly, and to my surprise I wasn’t really repulsed by it. It looked quite nice on her.
It looks nice on you,” I said, and Lily sighed behind me. “You changed your hair to match.” I smiled as she fingered the almost scarlet streaks that had replaced her blue ones. Her hair was curly and bushy today and looked like a mess, but a very stylish and beautiful mess.
“Some people didn’t notice, which I found very rude,” she said, glaring pointedly at James and Sirius.
“Hey, we’re boys, what do you expect?” Sirius asked defensively.
“Remus noticed,” Fliss said, and Remus nodded.
“It was obvious,” he stated, and added, “and also very nice.”
“Thanks, Remus,” Fliss grinned.
“Kiss arse,” James muttered, bringing a hand to his hair and ruffling it up.
“Shut up, James,” Remus said, rolling his eyes and crossing his legs.
“Wrong arse, Prongs,” Sirius interjected, grinning cheekily, and suddenly Remus went red.
“Shut up,” he hissed, his cheeks steadily going scarlet as Sirius and James laughed. I looked at Lily and Fliss, utterly confused, who looked back at me rolling their eyes.
“Uh, well anyway,” Lily interrupted their laughing, turning to Fliss and I, “I’ve decided, we three are going to have a girly night tonight, because we haven’t had a proper night together in forever, because you know, summer and all.”
“We sleep in the same dorm every night,” Fliss laughed, but nodded, “can we get loads of food from the Kitchens and sit around and gossip?!”
“Well I don’t really want anything too much, you know, I’m still not feeling my best and I don’t want to be throwing up all night,” I said.
“Ew, germs.” Fliss made a disgusted face.
“Okay, we’ll keep the chocolate away from you,” Lily conceded, “you sure?”
“More than positive. Do you want me to puke on your bed?”
“Germs, germs, germs, STOP IT!”
I giggled at Fliss, who had covered her ears, looking like she might throw up herself.
“Okay, I’m done.” There was a moment of silence.
“Will you be dancing around in your underwear?” Sirius asked in a very serious manner, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or be scared.
“Well, obviously. That comes just before a game of spin the bottle,” Lily said in Sirius’ same serious manner. All three boys’ eyes went wide and they looked at each other as if to say, Sweet Circe, are they actually serious?!
“Oh yeah, you forgot the pillow fight and showers afterwards!” Fliss added in the same serious tone, wrapping a slender arm round Lily and pulling her closer. Lily giggled and grabbed my waist, pulling me next to her.
“How could I have forgotten?” she asked in horror.
“Can we join?” Sirius asked, and James nodded feverently. Remus realized that we were joking and sat back. I caught his eye and winked at him, and he rolled his eyes good-naturedly at me, a small smile creeping across his face.
“…can’t let you join in, Sirius, this is a girl’s only thing,” I heard Fliss saying as I tuned back in. I giggled and closed my eyes, letting the sun warm me and only half concentrating on what my friends were arguing about.
After a few hours of messing around and doing nothing, we headed back into the castle. To the Great Hall specifically. We each grabbed a seat and sat down, the boys immediately piling their plates. Lily and Fliss followed suit, though in a less disgusting manner. After everyone had started to eat I turned my attention to the conversation the boys were having.
“…in place? You sure?” I heard Sirius whisper.
“Everything’s fine, just a couple of minutes…” James whispered back, hushing him.
“I suppose we’ll find out who doesn’t like them soon enough,” Remus said to them quietly, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Don’t like what?” I said quickly. They looked at me, startled, and realized I was listening to their conversation.
“Nothing,” James replied smoothly. I stared at him until he spoke again. “Really, Ophelia, it’s just a prank. You’ll find out in about…oh, thirteen minutes.”
“We had to make sure to set it off at the right time for maximum impact,” Sirius added vaguely, stuffing his face with chips, “we asked most students what time they’re usually in the Great Hall for and then added together, then divided by the total number of students we asked to find the mean time of impact where it would affect most people, allowing for illness and homework and trips to the Library and toilet, which is 7:47 precisely.”
I looked at him in shock.
“Well actually, I didn’t do it, Remus did.” I nodded in understanding as Remus tutted beside me.
“Bloody hard work it was, too…” he grumbled, going back to his dinner.
“I remember that survey…” I said, smiling slightly, but then becoming panicked, “what are you four up to?”
“Ophelia, stop worrying. Go back to your dinner.” James smiled at me and put an arm round my shoulders, directing my attention back to my almost full plate. I sighed.
“Fine.” I stared back at my plate and picked up my fork, again, digging it into my potatoes.
Around five minutes later my stomach started to clench horribly, and worsening waves of pain started to reverberate through my body. I put my cutlery down and wrapped my arms went around my stomach in a bid to stop it from hurting, but it wasn’t working.
“Ophelia, are you alright?” Someone whispered into my ear, and I felt a tapping on my shoulder.
Lily was by my side, looking at me strangely. In worry. Fliss, from the other side of the table, was doing the same.
“I…my stomach...” the pain was getting sharper and I knew I needed to leave the hall; the smell of food was making me want to vomit. I stood up with difficulty, trying to ignore the pain.
“Hey Ophelia, don’t go yet!” James cried, seeing me stand up. I shook my head and tried to make my way out, but Remus caught my hand and pulled himself up next to me, trapping me.
“What’s the matter?” he asked softly, and I could feel my hand in his tight grip and I could feel his other hand creep up on my shoulder and I knew he wasn’t about to let me go. People were beginning to look at us. My head pounded, and my eyesight was starting to blur.
“I…” I stumbled, looking for the right words to tell him to let me go, couldn’t he see that I needed to go? And I felt my stomach roar at me, the pain was undeniable.
“NOW!” Sirius yelled from the other side of the table. Sparks flew from the ceiling and all of a sudden, on the floor, were very large, and very hairy…rats.
I shrieked, and many girls and a few boys followed suit.
I hate rats!
I panicked. Forgetting the pain for a moment, I jumped on the closest thing to save me, to get me away from the rats. I threw my arms and legs around it to keep me off the floor. It would have been the long bench I was just sitting at, but unfortunately I had already moved away from it and was nearer something else.
And that something happened to be Remus. After a second I realized this, but I was too scared to let my legs down, and he let me cling onto him tightly. I felt myself shaking as he wrapped his arms around me so I wouldn’t fall off and to protect me from the rats. This was much better than him pushing me off, anyway. I was shaking terribly, clenching my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut. My breath came in gasps as the terror faded and the pain came back. After a while the screaming stopped and I heard McGonagall’s voice.
McGonagall was nearing us, and I opened my eye slightly too see that all the rats had gone. I heard Sirius and James laughing their heads off somewhere in the distance. I lifted my head off Remus’ chest gently and came face to face with him. My cheeks burnt once more and I dropped my legs to the floor automatically, and he let his arms around me fall, I pulled my arms back towards myself and we untangled in perfect unison.
I forced myself to look away from his grey eyes, and onto Lily and Fliss, who were staring at me. Sirius and James were looking at us but McGonagall, instead of yelling at them, was eyeballing us too. I felt my stomach pull and the pain rushed upwards, towards my throat, and I knew I was going to throw up. I bent over, heaving a little.
“I feel sick.” It was almost silent but I’m sure they heard it, and to everyone’s utter surprise I turned on the spot and legged it out of the Great Hall.
As I was lying on the floor, my head stuck in a toilet and feeling utterly horrid, there was a knock on my cubicle door. I groaned.
“You have to come out sometime, Ophie.”
That voice sounded strangely like Sirius’…
“Sirius?” I called hesitantly. I pulled myself up and sat cross-legged on the floor. This cannot not be sanitary…I’ll have a shower as soon as I get back to the Dormitory, and probably douse these clothes in bleach.
I sounded like Fliss.
Well, if I didn't, Fliss was sure to do it for me.
“The one and only,” he said, and I could almost hear him smirking. I rolled my eyes and leaned up to unlock the door. He pushed it open gently and he eyed me sympathetically.
“This is a girl’s bathroom,” I pointed out after a moment of silence.
“Hardly,” he snorted, “no one goes in here.” It was the abandoned toilets, where that strange upset ghost haunts.
“It was the closest bathroom.” He rolled his eyes and hauled me off the floor, turning my stomach upside down again. I groaned and doubled over, and he held my shoulders.
“Just breathe through your nose, really deep and really slow,” he said quietly, gently rubbing my back, and after a while I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up but I still felt horrible.
“Thanks,” I muttered, and he led me to the sinks so I could wash my face and my hands. I splashed myself and the cold water felt good on my skin. I felt like I had a terrible fever but I was shivering in spite of it.
“You should probably go to Madame Pomfrey, you look like shit,” Sirius said matter-of-factly, leaning against the wall next to the sinks. I shook my head and it pounded and spun. I had to fight to keep my eyes focused. “What’s wrong?”
“I think I must’ve still been feeling dodgy from waking up ill earlier and eating too much didn’t agree with me.” He raised an eyebrow.
“Still, you should go to Madame Pomfrey,” he repeated.
“I’m fine,” I insisted; my stomach only hurt a little bit now, even though the rest of me felt like utter crap again, “I feel better now.”
“Whatever you say.”
I turned to look at him and squinted. He looked back at me, confused.
“What are you doing here?”
“Um, making sure you’re alright,” he answered with a raised eyebrow, and I instantly felt guilty for thinking he had an ulterior motive.
“Thanks, Sirius.” I tried to sound sincere, but my mouth was pulsing in pain and I'm not sure it came out that way.
“Plus, I thought you might not want to see Remus after you threw yourself on him, even though he was adamant on coming to find you.”
He smiled widely and I felt my face flame.
So he did have an ulterior motive. Prick.
“Sirius, don’t.” I felt my breath leave me and my eyesight disappeared for a fraction of a second. I fell to the side a little and he immediately grabbed me and let me lean on him.
“You’re welcome,” he said, smiling slightly.
“I am not ill,” I said, annoyed, ignoring how awful I felt inside. I pushed him away and stood up on my own two feet, swaying for a second, and he grabbed me again, rolling his eyes.
“Alright…” He paused for a second, and looked at me. “You fancy him.” My eyes went wide.
“Excuse me?” I choked.
“You fancy him.” His smirk grew.
“He’s my best friend, of course I don’t fancy him.”
“You just don’t know it yet,” he said, smug. I was trying hard to come up with a reasonable argument but my head was swimming. “And plus, how do you know who I’m talking about?” My mind boggled and I ignored the last statement.
“Sirius, that’s just stupid.” I failed trying to find a good argument. He was totally wrong. Completely and utterly. He’d gotten the wrong end of the stick somehow.
“I’ll keep it a secret if you tell me who the Ravenclaw was,” he said with his bloody smirk still plastered on and I sighed, letting my shoulders sag.
“Amelia Argon, she’s in my Ancient Runes class.”
“Thanks m’dear,” he smiled.
“Blackmailer,” I scowled, trying to focus on his smug face.
“But you like him, otherwise it wouldn’t be blackmail and you wouldn’t care what I said to him.”
Eurgh. I couldn’t think of a way around that and the haziness was getting worse.
“Whatever. Let’s go.” I moved away from him and took two steps, before my head went black and I fell forwards. I was out before I hit the ground.
“I can’t believe she was feeling that awful.”
“I know, she seemed almost alright yesterday…well, yesterday afternoon. I guess she felt worse than we thought.”
“It’s all my fault! I forgot that the potion I gave her said not to eat too heavily for twenty-four hours after taking it otherwise you’d be sick!”
“Lily, I’m sure she’ll be fine and she won’t be mad at you.”
I groaned and my eyes fluttered open. The bright lights of the candles were strong and blinding me and I brought a shaky arm to cover my eyes.
“Ophelia!” I heard someone shriek and I felt a weight come down on me, squeezing the life out of me. I groaned again.
“Get off me!” I croaked, feeling my limbs crack and moan under the pressure, and the person immediately let go.
“Sorry,” they said, obviously embarrassed. I removed my hand from my eyes and saw it was Lily, turning the colour of her hair.
“I’m sorry, just…tired…where am I?” I looked around, not really knowing where I was. Then it twigged.
All the white? Other beds?
The Hospital Wing.
“Well, you passed out on me,” Sirius piped up from the chair next to my bed, and I looked round at him, confused. James was sitting cross-legged on the bed beside mine and Peter was sitting next to him, swinging his short legs off the end of the bed. I noticed they didn’t touch the ground and had to suppress a smile. “So I carried you up to the Hospital Wing, and that is where you currently reside.”
“You know I hate the Hospital Wing,” I glowered at them all, but to my surprise they didn’t look sorry.
“You needed to come here, you passed out!” Fliss said, gently touching my shoulder, “we weren’t exactly going to leave you on the dirty floor of a disused, haunted bathroom until you woke up, were we? You could have gotten even more ill, and we weren’t sure how long you would be out.” I sighed and shrugged my shoulders in defeat.
“How long have I been here, then?”
“Well, we brought you here Saturday night, and now it’s Sunday night, so about a day, give or take a few hours,” James said, screwing his face up to work it out.
“Oh, you can do square root problems, sure, but counting a day ahead? How tricky,” Lily muttered sarcastically, but James didn’t hear her.
Suddenly, I counted round my bed. Lily and Fliss were sitting on the end of it. James and Peter were on the other bed, and Sirius was on the chair. But…
“Where, um…where’s Remus?” I asked quietly, carefully avoiding Sirius’ eye.
“Oh,” Lily said taking my hand and acting like she was the bearer of terrible news, “It’s, er…it’s Full Moon tonight. He’s gone down to the Shack already.”
“And we need to join him!” James said, slapping his legs and jumping up. Peter jumped up too and Sirius untangled himself from the chair.
“We’ll see you gals tomorrow. Ophie, hope you feel better.” Sirius saluted and bounded out of the room. James rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, same. Feel better soon,” he said, and started to follow Sirius.
“Same same,” Peter grinned, and toddled off to meet the others.
Lily and Fliss looked at me sympathetically and stroked my hand.
“Sorry you woke up now, he only left about five minutes ago,” Fliss started, “he hasn’t left since you were taken in here, you know. Until now, obviously. We know it would have meant a lot to you, him being here.”
“It’s okay, he can’t control the moon,” I whispered, feeling let-down. But I shouldn’t, because he couldn’t help it.
But it’s only natural to want one of your best friends there when you wake up, right? One of your best friends?
Ugh. I hate Sirius.
“Madame Pomfrey wanted to know when you woke up,” Lily said, letting go of my hand and walking over to her office. She knocked quietly and let herself in, and Fliss and I could hear them talking.
“How are you feeling, doll?” she asked me quietly, stroking my hair back off my face gently.
“A lot better now, thanks,” I smiled back softly, and she chuckled slightly.
“Yup, trust a good old fainting spell to leave you feeling your best,” she joked.
Lily came back out with Madame Pomfrey and she bustled over to me quickly.
“Let me just check a few things…”
So I laid still and let her check over me.
“Okay, now that’s done, you can go back to sleep.”
“But I just woke up,” I replied confusedly.
“You need more strength. Drink this.” She placed a bottle by my bed and glared at Lily and Fliss. “Well, you two can go back to your Dorm now. Go on, shoo!”
Lily and Fliss, looking chastised, hurried to the door. They threw a wave back at me before it clicked shut on them, and Madame Pomfrey bustled to her office.
I picked the potion up suspiciously and gulped it in one. After a second, my hand slackened and it fell out of my grasp onto the floor, but I didn’t hear it because I was already out.