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Chapter 24: The Meaning of Friendship
Chapter 24: The Meaning of Friendship
Friendship is a rose. Beautiful and radiant and full of thorns. No…better yet, friendship is a buttered scone. It looks delicious from the outside, and often is for the first bite because all you taste is the butter. But then you take a second bite and it isn’t quite what you hoped for and all you’re left with is silent disappointment lathered all over bland hopes that fell flat.
So what are you truly left with in the end?
As I sprinted toward the Gryffindor common room, my legs burning and aching in the process, I couldn’t help but think back to the time I had been invisible. All of those glorious, book-filled years. What had I truly gained by pushing away that part of me?
The Fat Lady was pushed aside, complaining as always, and I made my way through the portrait hole knowing I would most likely be too late. I didn’t notice the groups of first through third years strewn around the common room with looks of curiosity on their faces as I moved, making my way up the boy’s staircase with all haste.
“Sirius!” I hollered down the hallway, rushing toward that familiar door marked with a large “6.” This door was, unsurprisingly, swung open as well. But what greeted me on the other side of the doorframe was not what I had suspected at all.
The room was completely empty except for the pale frame of a very shocked Peter. My breath was coming in short, bursting gasps and I had hardly gotten my question out before Peter glanced up.
“I don’t know where he went, but Sirius sure seemed to think he knew,” Peter squeaked. His face was completely white, and his eyebrows were plastered high onto his forehead in a residual state of surprise. It was clear that his mental state wouldn’t resume to normal until weeks after Remus’s nose healed—if ever.
Peter glanced toward the dormitory window and I caught a glimpse of something small moving very fast. Moving closer to the glass, I managed to make out the form of one Sirius Black making his way toward the quidditch pitch. I couldn’t be certain if there was anyone on the pitch, I had an incredibly bad angle, but I could be certain that if James was down there—there was nothing I could do about it.
Think, Serena, think! If James isn’t at the pitch…where is he? I took a second, pacing the room at a brisk yet agonizing speed. I didn’t want to be walking around an empty room. I wanted to be wherever James was; I wanted to find out what actually happened and clear his name. He would never have done something like that!
Vainly, I replayed all of my encounters of James in my head; searching for clues. Searching for something that would give me a hint toward where James was hiding out (which I don’t blame him for doing; I would have done the same thing had I been in his shoes). In his shoes…Where would I hide?
I bolted toward the door, leaving Peter without another word.
“Wait--!” he squeaked anxiously as I sprinted down the boy’s corridor. “Where ar—“
I could hardly make my feet move fast enough to keep up with the rest of my body. He knew. He knew about the Room of Requirement that day he found me in the corridor! Of course! Why didn’t I think of it before? I would have slowed—there’s no rush in going to find James in a room that doesn’t really exist—but if James knew of it, there was a 99.8% chance Sirius knew about it too. And it definitely wouldn’t take him long to figure out that if James wasn’t at the pitch, he was probably hiding where nobody would think to look.
“I swear to Merlin, if you did anything to Remus, James,” I muttered under my breath as I pushed my way through the portrait hole. “I am personally going to burn your broomstick, get you kicked off the team as captain…and then I’m going to kick you where the sun doesn’t shine.”
Bloody hell…now what?!
I whipped around. “Mary, I love you mate, but I just don’t have the time right now,” I explained as fast as I could before turning around and starting off again.
She followed, trying to keep up with my pace. “But I just saw Sirius,” she tried again, watching me carefully. “He was running toward the quidditch pitch muttering ‘I’m going to kill him’ over and over again. What’s going on?”
I could hear the concern in her voice, but I really didn’t have time to explain everything to her at that moment. And not only that, but I didn’t exactly want to spread around the fact that the Room of Requirement even existed. “Mary, I’ll explain everything to you tonight—back in the dorm.”
Before she could get in another word, I took off at a sprint down the staircases, jumping onto it just as it started moving. Stuck on the platform, Mary didn’t try to follow me. I could tell she was angry that I wouldn’t answer her questions, but I would beg for her forgiveness later. If there is a later…who knows what’s going to happen before this is all over…
It didn’t take long before I was pacing outside the Room of Requirement, my mind focused on a picture of James. As the door began to visualize, I yanked on the handle and slammed the door shut behind me.
The room was cold like a dungeon, and larger than I had ever seen the room before. Boxes lay everywhere, piling high to the vaulted ceiling, and I silently hoped it wasn’t some sort of obnoxious maze that I would have to navigate. Just as I put my hands on my hips, something rustled and James’ frame came into view.
“Serena?” He was breathing heavily—like he was trying to calm down—and I could see his chest moving under his shirt. He wasn’t wearing his tie, or sweater, and looked as if he had been lounging in his dorm when everything happened.
I didn’t move.
“Tell me the truth,” I said plainly, watching his face with careful scrutiny. I narrowed my eyes slightly. “Should I call for the palace guards?”
I couldn’t quite place the expression that flashed across his face. But paired with what he said next, my closest guess was defeated. “Your choice.” James plopped down on a sturdy wooden box, throwing his arms up.
My eyebrows furrowed as I crossed my arms over my chest. “What do you mean, James? Are you seriously trying to tell me that you did punch Remus in the nose?” I didn’t know what to think, but at the very least I wished he would tell me I was wrong.
Now I was pissed.
I stormed forward. “Reflex?” I fumed. “What the bloody hell kind of reflex is punching one of your best mates in the face? You broke his nose, James!”
James stayed stoic, running his hands up and down the fabric of his pant legs. “He provoked me.”
I bit my lower lip, trying to calm myself down. “I don’t care what he said, Remus is your best mate and you crossed the line.” I looked around, waving my arms at our surroundings. “And now you’re hiding away in a maze of boxes; hoping your other best mate won’t find you and kick your ass.”
Stale air hung around my head, clogging up my senses and numbing me to the situation. Why do I care so much? James can do whatever he wants—he’s not my responsibility. And Remus is smart; he can take care of himself.
I sighed. “You know what? Who cares. Deal with it yourself.” I turned, walking slowly toward the room’s single exit. “How you ruin your relationships is none of my concern.”
“But Sirius is your concern, right?” My feet planted themselves in the stone floor. “What do you think is going to happen when he comes in here? A civil conversation?” I wanted to turn, to look at him with disbelief, but I was frozen. “But if you stay…he’ll wonder why you know about this room.”
“I’ll make something up—you know me and my imagination,” I replied, my eyes flitting over the doors.
“But then you would be lying,” James pointed out. “Relationships aren’t supposed to be based on lies.”
My feet moved of their own accord and a second later I was a foot away from James, staring up into his cold eyes (he had stood to challenge me).
“Aren’t yours?” I countered, narrowing my eyes. “You lie every time you don’t tell me who the other wolf is. …Which is actually something that affects me more than it affects you, if you think about it. And what about Sirius? You’re lying to Sirius too, aren’t you? I don’t even want to think about all of the things you’ve probably lied to your own parents about!”
“Everyone lies to their parents!”
I almost said it. I almost told him ‘I don’t lie to mine,’ but even that would have been a lie. More accurately, I could have said ‘I don’t lie to mine about anything important,” but even that would have been a stretched truth. I used to tell them I had friends. They would be suspicious each year when no one showed up over the summer holidays—and when no one used to write. Actually, I think I always knew that they knew; I just never wanted to admit it to myself. I didn’t want anyone to know how much of a wallflower I was—least of all my parents.
“I put the truth first.” And I had. I thought of the telling them the truth all of those years, but I didn’t want them to think it had anything to do with the way I had been brought up—they really did try their hardest to make me sociable. They let it go because of Tyler…
James sighed, running his hands through his hair. “You’re not a saint, Serena.” He looked back at me, our eyes locking as he cocked his head to the side. “Have you taken a good look at yourself lately? Just how often have you been in…compromising situations with your boyfriend’s best mate, hmm?”
I wretched off my shirt, thanking Merlin that I had slept in my black lace bra the night before.
I watched James’s eyes pop out of his head, his flash draining of all its color.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking up at him with a smirk, raising an eyebrow. “Does this bug you?”
James’s face started to turn pink as he looked away. “It’s not the same thing.”
“Should I take this off too, then?” I asked teasingly, playing with my bra strap.
James looked like he was going to choke the air, he was so flustered. Feelings of what the hell am I doing aside, I enjoyed seeing James off his game.
He finally looked down at me, an expression I’d never seen before in his eyes. I didn’t know what it meant, but somehow it scared me. I calculated the space between us, and it seemed smaller than it was before. I opened my mouth to say something, but there was a noise that made both of us jump.
“I…forgot my book bag.” Sirius said in a low voice, trying to avert his gaze but to no avail.
“Oh Merlin…” I muttered, holding my shirt over my chest.
James backed up, putting some space between the two of us. “Mate!”
“Sorry!” I apologized again, still trying to untangle myself.
“Stop, stop stop,” James told me, holding his hands out, a look of pain on his face. “Hold on.” He angled himself toward me in an attempt to move his ankle which was hooked underneath me. As he did so, his face came within centimeters of mine, and I found myself holding my breath and unable to look away from his hazel eyes. James held my gaze as he slowly (and I repeat slowly) untangled the mess of limbs on the floor. Once he was able to move again, he grabbed my wrist and yanked me back onto my feet.
I watched the double doors swing open and a river of students came pouring out. Scanning the crowd, I noticed one particularly messy head of hair belonging to one James Potter. Reaching out, I got a firm hold on his sleeve and yanked him toward me, pulling him into the broom cupboard I had strategically stood in front of. Closing the door as noiselessly behind me as possible, I muttered Lumos and watched as the confused face of James came into light.
After a moment he came to his senses and his mouth twitched into a smirk. “Going to make this a new habit, Colton?” he asked teasingly. “Does dear Sirius know about your obsession of me?”
Okay… maybe we’ve gotten into a few…unconventional situations. That doesn’t mean anything. I averted my gaze, straightening my blouse nervously. “I never said I was a saint, Potter.”
James’s face fell, his eyes narrowing. “Back to a last name basis again?”
I ignored him, returning to the first topic of conversation and by far the most important. “Why did you punch him?”
“You’re crazy.” He turned, crossing his arms over his muscular chest. He walked several paces back, and then faced me again. “Is that really what you want to talk about?”
“What the hell else do you want to talk about?” I fumed, throwing my arms down. “You need to figure out how to clean up your mess and like hell I’m going to help!”
“I wasn’t expecting you to.” James looked me dead in the eyes, his voice falling flat. There wasn’t any hint of fight left in his words. “Go get Sirius. Tell him you lost me around here and couldn’t find me again. He’ll know where I am.”
I was taken aback, and stumbled a few times before finding the right words. “If you’re going to give up, why don’t you just go find him and settle this?”
“I don’t want the entire school involved, Colton.” He sat back down on the crate. “I’ll talk to Remus later.”
He saw me hesitate.
“Seriously, Colton, you can leave. It’s my mess.”
His face was cold and there would be no more conversation on the matter, so I took him at his word. I nodded solemnly, turned on my heels, and left.
It was late that night when I got back to my dorm (No luck finding Sirius) and even later when I finally managed to fall asleep. I think I heard Stella come back around three, whispering and giggling to Mary who was up studying, before slamming the door to the loo to shower. I promptly fell back asleep, unaware of their continued whispers.
When I woke the next morning, my journal was still lying open, flipped upside down on my stomach from the night before. I picked it up groggily, quickly scanning its contents—my angry rambles.
I don’t know what Potter’s problem is. Punching Remus? Is there really anything that Remus can do that would warrant such behavior? No, of course not—Potter’s just being a prick. Again.
But he’s a prick that knows me. Which is why I hate him tenfold.
I started thinking about my parents again, yesterday... Something James said, actually. I never really thought about myself as being a bad daughter…but am I? Before my first year, I never lied to them… Well, maybe a fib or two, but that’s not what really matters. I’ve kept the lycanthropy thing from them…and the lack of friends thing as well. It’s not like I want to hurt them—quite the opposite, actually….
I just want them to be happy. And I don’t want them to look at me any differently.
I sighed, closed the journal, and levitated it into my truck. Flopping back down on the bed, I groaned in annoyance. I hate mornings. Especially Saturdays without quidditch because it means I have time to go find Sirius and James.
“Good morning, Odd One.”
Mary peered over at me from her bed where she sat Indian-style, fully dressed, and pouring over her books like a Ravenclaw. I figured quidditch had set her back in her classes and therefore was trying to catch up on her studies.
“Morning,” I mumbled, trying to sit up again and failing miserably.
“It’s a good thing there’s no quidditch today. James would have your arse,” Mary mused with a chuckle.
I slammed my eyes shut, trying once again to sit up and finally achieving my goal. “It’s a good thing there’s no quidditch today or I would have his arse…” I hissed, ill-tempered.
Mary raised an eyebrow, slightly amused at my mood. “Excuse me? And why’s that?”
Realizing this wasn’t exactly public knowledge, I bit my tongue and re-considered my words.
“This is just one Saturday that I do not want to play quidditch and listen to his bitching.” I stretched, hoping she would buy it.
Mary laughed, nodding. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m so far behind on my class work; it’s ridiculous. Potter’s had us working ten times as hard this past week.”
I forced a smile, pushing my body out of bed. “Gimmie ten and we can go get breakfast.”
She laughed again. “It would be lunch by now.”
“I really don’t want to have to take away your privileges as captain of the quidditch team, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall lectured, pacing back and forth at the front of her office. “And I would hate to kick you off as beater, Mr. Black.” She paused, letting her words sink in. “But consequences follow actions. And the two of you have most definitely taken action.”
“Professor, it wasn’t my fault,” Sirius piped in his own defense. “It was him who punched Remus!”
McGonagall fixed her eyes on Sirius, peering over her glasses. “And was it not you who took vengeance for those actions by not only hanging several first years by their ankles to figure out Mr. Potter’s whereabouts but also starting a physical altercation against Mr. Potter himself?” She raised an intimidating eyebrow before shaking her head with a sigh. “No, Mr. Black, you are not exempt from consequence due to your…chivalrous nature.” She watched them both carefully, taking note of James’s silence. “And I would like to remind each of you about our system here at Hogwarts. Now, shall we discuss what would make the both of you learn your lesson?”
“Did you do your Charms homework yet?” Lily asked, still looking down at the parchment in front of her. She had been alternating scribbling and shoving food into her mouth, until a minute ago when she came to a complete halt.
I glanced over at Mary, trying to figure out who she was talking to. “Me? No,” I shook my head. “I thought Mary might have with all the time she’s spent studying in the past twenty-four hours.”
Mary said something in response, but I really wasn’t paying any attention. My eyes flicked down the Gryffindor table, looking for Remus’s sandy hair. He was only punched, they wouldn’t hold him in the Hospital Wing longer than they needed to. But it didn’t matter how much my eyes scanned the crowd; Remus was nowhere to be found.
“Who you looking for, Srenya?” The Russian voice caught me off-guard, and if I had been paying any attention to my friends, I would have noticed their wide eyes locked onto the muscular frame behind me. “Your boyfriends?”
I turned, my eyes locking with Alexei’s sparkling blue-gray ones. He looked genuinely amused and his semi-smile was probably the best part of my day so far.
“Looking for a friend, if you must know,” I teased him, rolling my eyes. “He seems to be MIA.”
Alexei cocked his head to the side. “You mean that slightly depressed chap who hangs out with your boyfriends? Ah, yes…” he nodded, not waiting for my response. “Reems or such, aye? I actually came over here to ask why his nose is blown up like a purple balloon…”
I flew to my feet, aghast. Why didn’t Madam Pomfrey fix that? Now everyone’s going to know what happened! “Why don’t we take a walk?” I suggested, pushing as much force as I could into my voice.
Alexei smirked, enjoying my mental begging. “Now, now… I’m not sure your boyfriends would be okay with us—“
“Now.” I grabbed his arm, pulling him toward the entrance to the Great Hall. I was well aware of the fact that if he didn’t want to be moved that I wouldn’t have been able to get him a foot from where we had been standing, so I wasn’t surprised when he started to laugh—a deep, husky, Russian melody.
“You sure are a firecracker, Srenya,” he commented, leaning against the door to one of Hogwarts’ many broom cupboards.
“Don’t be so loud,” I scolded him, my eyes narrowed. I waved a hand at the door. “Get in.”
Alexei raised an eyebrow. “Get in? You want to get in a broom cupboard with me, Srenya?” Other than that, he didn’t complain. “And so soon…!” He chuckled again, but opened the door and slipped inside with me at his heels.
“Lumos,” I muttered, lighting the room with my wand. Our eyes locked. “So what was this about Remus? You said you saw him walking around purple?”
Alexei leaned back, hooking his thumbs through his belt loops. “I didn’t say I saw him walking around.”
I frowned. “Don’t play games with me, Borshevsky.”
He put a hand to his chest, looking wounded. “Please, call me Alexei. Or Lyoshen’ka since we’re close now.” He smiled, throwing on layers of charm.
“Lyo—what? No.” I shook my head in distress. “No more Russian pet names; tell me what you know about Remus.”
“I saw him in the Hospital Wing, if you must know,” he divulged, slightly annoyed as he crossed his arms over his chest. “That snake of a Black was there with him. And that…fat kid.”
I unintentionally stepped forward. “When?”
“Sometime last night. I’m sure Pomfrey’s got that cleared up by now, so no one will know your mate Potter broke his nose.” Alexei raised an eyebrow, gaging my reaction.
I didn’t disappoint. “What? Who told you that?”
He chuckled. “Well, you just did. But I heard Sirius talking—who else could it have been? I’ve been too busy training to beat your asses to spend time harassing your captain.”
“Please, ‘Lyosha.’ It’s not a pet name, I promise.” He waved his hand, as if to tell me to continue.
“Lyosha…” I started, testing the waters uncertainly. “You said no one will know…”
“Except me, of course,” he said proudly, winking. “And…”
I frowned again. “And?” Here it goes… Just when I thought Alexei—Lyosha?—wasn’t such a bad guy…
“And I would love to keep it that way!” he said with a wicked smile. “Let’s talk about payment…”
Alexei stepped forward and I stepped back, pushing my body against the broom cupboard’s wall. “Payment?”
Mary looked over at Lily as Stella joined them at the table, curious about what had just taken place.
“What in the world was that?” Stella inquired, leaning over the table with impatience. “Did she seriously just leave with that snake?”
Mary tapped her foot anxiously on the ground. “What did he call her?”
Lily shrugged, not seeing the enormity of the situation. “Srenya? I’m sure it’s just some Russian nickname for her. What’s the big deal?” When no one answered, she looked up from her parchment to their dropped jaws.
“What’s the big deal?” Stella gasped. “He has a nickname for her? Captain is going to freak when he finds out!”
“It’s almost as if she’s jumping ship,” Mary explained. “There’s only one reason why someone would have a pet-name from Borshevsky—She’s too close to the enemy.”
“And by the looks of it, she doesn’t care too much for politics,” Lily pointed out, shaking her head and looking back down at her Charms homework. “Let her figure out her own life; she’ll be fine.”
“He’s a Slytherin!” Stella exclaimed, slamming her fists down on the table in an attempt to scream the understanding into her red-headed friend. “And she just went Merlin knows where with him!”
“Who went where with a Slytherin?”
A/N: Thanks for waiting so patiently! I've been super, super busy lately and I had a major case of writer's block. Hopefully I'll be able to suffer through the block and make more time for writing now. Soooo... how do you think Sirius and James should be punished for their actions? What do you think the "payment" Alexei's talking about is? And who was it that just walked up at the end? :) Speculations welcome! Rate and review, please!