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The Man Behind The Mask by The Black Lioness
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: The Deal
"Annie, what did you do?"
I'd been asking myself the same question since I wandered back to my Ravenclaw dormitory, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. Maybe I was dreaming?
Suddenly, my best friend reached out and pinched my arm.
"Ow!" I exclaimed, blinking in surprise. Okay, so it wasn't a dream - more like a nightmare.
I tried to focus on Paige, whose wide blue eyes were anxiously searching my face. "Do you realize what this means?" she all but shrieked at me.
"That I'm an idiot?" I said dully. It was true - kissing Remus Lupin while he was currently dating Lucy Grey probably wasn't the best idea.
"It means that you'll be dead by tomorrow morning!" Paige threw her hands up dramatically. That was the best word to describe her - dramatic. As much as I loved the girl, she did tend to blow things out of proportion.
This was probably the only time I'd ever agreed with her reaction. "Yes, well...I've had a good life." I smiled half-heartedly, but my stomach was in knots.
See, most girls at Hogwarts fancied Remus Lupin, but unfortunately he'd been off the market for two whole years. His girlfriend was the epitome of perfection itself - an all-star Quidditch player, president of the Charms club and second in our year (God bless Lily Evans). Not to mention she was tall, blonde and beautiful. Nearly everyone was afraid of her, thanks to how many people she'd publicly humiliated. What sucked was that Remus couldn't see how horrible she was.
Now, I know it's never a good idea to make out with a guy whose girlfriend is a psychopath. But really, what was I supposed to do?
"We were stuck under the mistletoe, for Merlin's sake!" I shouted, covering my face with my hands. What was the point of those stupid decorations, anyway? Being forced to kiss someone was not romantic, no matter how you looked at it.
Paige plopped down next to me on my bed. "So...how was it?" she giggled.
"It was...different than what I'd expected," I said carefully. The incident with Remus had been my first kiss - pathetic, I know - and I couldn't really explain how I felt about the whole thing. Was it supposed to be so...boring?
She gave me a look. "You don't sound particularly satisfied."
"Well...it was pretty awkward." I shrugged. "Anyway, I don't see how it matters now. Tomorrow my life will be over, and you'll have to carry on with only the memory of our friendship for comfort."
Okay, so I was pretty dramatic myself. That was probably why Paige and I got on so well. We'd been friends since third year, when we realized that we were so similar; shy, quiet at first, and unable to make friends. You could say that we'd formed a special bond.
"Maybe you could apologize?" Paige suggested timidly.
That thought hadn't occurred to me, but it seemed like my only option at the moment.
"It's worth a shot, right?" I said aloud. I wasn't a vindictive person - in fact, I usually flew under the radar, so to speak. It was never my intention to stoop that low or hurt Lucy's feelings.
Perhaps she'd be gracious and kind. Perhaps she'd understand the situation and we'd all have a good laugh about Peeves and his silly decorations.
Or perhaps not.
"H-how could y-you do th-this to m-me!" Lucy's wails echoed around the Great Hall, catching the attention of every student and professor within the vacinity. I'd had an entire speech planned out to beg for her forgiveness, but she'd burst into tears before I could utter a single word.
I stared at her in shock for a moment, tugging on a lock of hair. I had expected her to be angry, prepared for it even, but this was just too much for me to handle.
"I didn't mean - it was an accident, I just...Peeves and his stupid mistletoe..." I tried to explain, I really did, but the words just weren't coming out right. The mention of mistletoe only made her cry harder.
"You s-stupid slut! How d-dare you steal m-my boyfriend!"
Well, that was new. I'd never been called a slut before. "Lucy, I didn't mean for this to happen...I was just - "
"She was trying to meet up with me."
I turned around to find Sirius Black walking towards us, flanked by Remus Lupin. I noticed that he wouldn't look at me.
Lucy wiped her eyes when she saw her boyfriend - or was it ex-boyfriend? - approach. No doubt she was an ugly crier, which meant that she'd rather die than have Remus see her like that. I stifled a giggle and brought my attention back to Sirius, who had come to stand beside me.
"We've been secretly dating for weeks now, and on her way to meet me last night, this sweet young lady - " he paused, giving me a sly glance.
"Annie," I encouraged, wondering where he was going with this.
"Annie got stuck underneath the mistletoe that Peeves likes to stash 'round the castle," Sirius continued. "Remus happened to be walking by at that exact moment, and he was suckered in as well. You see, Luce, I don't fancy the idea of my girlfriend kissing some other bloke, but you don't see me throwing a fit, do you?"
"Well - " Lucy tried to interrupt, but Sirius held up a hand.
"Now, now. I understand why you're upset. But really, this is just a big misunderstanding!" He smiled at her, gesturing towards Remus. "Moony's been really torn up about this. How about we all kiss and make up, yeah? No pun intended, of course."
Lucy turned to Remus. "Is this true? Was it just...a misunderstanding?"
Remus stepped forward, still not looking in my direction. "Y-yes, of course! You know I love you, Lucy..."
And just like that, things were back to normal. Well, almost. As Remus and Lucy ran off to get reacquainted, I was left alone with Sirius Black, who had just saved my skin. But why?
"Uh, thank you," I said uncertainly. I noticed that Paige was sitting close by at the Ravenclaw table, leaning over to catch our conversation.
"You're very welcome, Annie," he said, smirking slightly.
"Is there any particular reason you lied for me?" I asked, geniuinely curious. Although I didn't know much about this guy, I knew that he rather liked trouble. He didn't seem the type to help out when things got messy - on several occasions, I noticed that he liked to sit back and watch the events unfold.
"Absolutely." His tone was cheerful, but his eyes sparkled with mischief. "Now that I've done something for you, it's time for you to...return the favor."
I swallowed the lump in my throat, trying to appear less nervous than I felt.
"Return the favor?" I repeated. "How so?"
"Ah, now that's the question, isn't it, my dear?" Sirius winked merrily and took hold of my hand. "Let's go somewhere private so Ms. Palmer can get back to her breakfast."
Paige straightened up quickly, turning to roll her eyes at me. I just shrugged and followed Sirius out of the Hall, where he led me up the main staircase before finally stopping in front of an empty classroom.
"After you." He opened the door and bowed as I walked through, still grinning like a madman.
"Look, if you're expecting me to shag you senseless, you've got another thing coming," I told him seriously. Just because I'd kissed Remus did not mean his friends would be getting the same attention. I wasn't a slag...was I?
I guess the horror of becoming a dirty tramp overnight was showing on my face, because Sirius threw back his head and laughed.
"It's very generous of you to offer your services, but I'll have to take a rain check on that one." He leaned against the closed door with his arms folded.
"I don't have services," I mumbled.
"Not yet," he chuckled.
"Could we hurry this along?"
"As you wish." Sirius held out a hand. "It's nice to meet you, Annie. I need you to be my girlfriend."
I wasn't exactly shocked at his statement; I was more preoccupied with his attitude. Everything he said was so sarcastic, as if he'd never had a serious conversation in his life, despite his ridiculous name. He was mean and spiteful - I don't even know why I followed him upstairs. But there ws something about this boy that drew me in. He was alluring and exciting. I wanted to know more.
Instead of flying off the handle, like he was obviously expecting, I raised an eyebrow in his direction. "Why?"
This only seemed to amuse him. "Well, if you must know, my girlfriend broke up with me last week."
There was a long pause while we stared each other down. I suddenly realized that he wanted an answer. "I'm sorry?" It came out as a question, and even though it was probably rude, I giggled. This whole thing was ridiculous. I barely even knew the guy!
Sirius put a hand to his chest. "Your empathy warms my heart."
"Your sincerity warms mine," I shot back. "Either tell me what you want, or get out of my way." I moved toward the door, but he just stepped in front of me to block my path.
"Alright, listen. Rose dumped me because she thinks I'm shallow, if you can believe that." I could believe that, actually, but I let him continue. "In order to prove her wrong, I came up with the bright idea to date someone I wouldn't be attracted to. When Rose sees how mature I am, she'll want me back, and I'll have the opportunity to crush her hopes and dreams like she crushed mine." His smile was pleasant, as if he hadn't just insulted the living daylights out of me.
"Are you calling me ugly?" I asked, laughing a bit. I just couldn't help it - was he for real? Anyway,, I didn't get angry very often. It seemed like a waste of energy to freak out about such trivial things.
"Inadvertently, yes, but I'm not trying to be cruel." He shrugged carelessly. "I just need someone who...blends in. Someone who's not my usual type."
"Well, I hate to break it to you, but I don't exactly 'blend in' anymore." I sighed hopelessly. "Lucy made sure of that."
"True," Sirius admitted, "but don't worry. That'll die down in a few days and you'll go back to being the same old nobody that never was."
"You sure know how to charm the ladies," I quipped.
"It's a gift," he said gravely. But then his face lit up with that arrogant smile. "So, you'll do it? You'll pretend to be my girlfriend?"
"Why?" I asked again.
"I just told you why."
"No," I said, frustrated. "I mean...why me? There are plenty of other girls who would love to do this for you. What makes you think I'd be good at it, anyway?"
"Like I said, you're not my type." He shrugged again, but there was something in his eyes that I couldn't quite read. "You're smart...and you've got freckles." Another grin.
"What's wrong with freckles?" I asked, reluctantly giving him a smile.
"Nothing...if you're six years old."
I wanted to disagree with him, but he was right. I'd always looked young for my age, considering I was very short and straight as a ruler. I didn't wear makeup often and my hair matched the same dull brown of my eyes. With the splattering of freckles across my nose and cheekbones, I probably looked more like a third year than a seventh.
I was suddenly gripped with terror at the thought of leaving Hogwarts without accomplishing anything of value. Paige was my only friend, and although we'd had a blast those past few years, it was hard to accept that nothing had changed. Since I was eleven years old, I'd always been quiet, preferring to immerse myself in books and let the insults roll off my back. My mom liked to call me a 'late bloomer' but in reality, I was just...plain.
Maybe "dating" Sirius wouldn't be such a bad thing.
"Okay," I said suddenly, surprising myself. "I'll do it."
For a moment, Sirius was truly shocked. He regarded me with glowing blue eyes, and I couldn't remember the last time someone had looked at me like that. Like I was interesting.
He finally opened his mouth to say something, but I held up a hand. "Wait. There are going to be some rules."
"Rules?" He smirked. "I don't do well with rules, Annie."
I sighed wearily. "I figured as much. But if you want my help, you'll respect my wishes."
"Go on," he said, sitting on one of the desks.
"Okay, well...there will be absolutely no kissing or touching of any kind." I could feel myself blushing as I said this, but I stood my ground. I didn't really think he'd want to kiss me, but I preferred to be clear.
"If I can't hold your hand, this whole cherade won't be very convincing," Sirius pointed out. "Everyone at Hogwarts knows I like to cuddle." His smile was so wide, I could probably count his teeth.
"Fine," I relented. "You can hold my hand. But that's it."
"Duly noted," he said. "Anything else?"
I thought for a moment. "I hate nick names, so don't even try it. And you have to be nice to Paige."
Sirius wrinkled his nose. "Paige Palmer...I'll never forgive her for setting me on fire in fourth year."
"It was an accident," I said, immediately coming to Paige's defense. She'd been mortified after the incident, and the Marauders still hadn't let her live it down. "So do we have a deal, or what?"
He smirked one last time before spitting into his hand and holding it out for me to shake.
I stared at him for a moment, dumbfounded, before I finally smiled back. Why not? I thought boldly.
Our saliva squished together as we grasped each others' hands. "Alright then, Annie. You've got yourself a deal."