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Chapter 23: Protego
beautiful chapter image by aconite. @TDA!
I stared down at the roll of parchment in front of me. A large red D was marked on the very top. Dreadful. I was dreadful. Sure, I had never been Outstanding, but absolutely never dreadful. I was normally an acceptable student or sometimes exceeds expectations. I had even received a poor on a few papers, but never dreadful. Screw Professor Dearborn. He hasn’t liked me since I did so well in the dueling tournament.
It was all luck. I swear. None of it was skill.
I could feel the heavy bags underneath my eyes from lack of sleep. I could constantly feel the eyes on me for the way I looked. I didn’t care, though. I had honestly planned on skipping the whole last week of school before the break. It had been going so well until Lily had pulled me out of bed this morning. I had whined and moaned and bitched, but she said that I was going to class even if she had to drag me there in my pajamas.
And here I sit in my pajamas. Not that it mattered. At least I was there. That’s all some teachers seemed to care about.
“Ouch,” Mary mumbled, glancing over at my essay. I turned to her with a cold glare. She held up her hands in defeat.
“And what did you get, hmm? A poor?” I asked her snippily. Everyone knew Mary McDonald was not the smartest student around. She held up her parchment with a smug smirk. Acceptable. Bollucks.
“Now stop being a Ms. Downer and do something with that hair. Black has been staring at you all class,” Mary whispered. I immediately stiffened. I had been avoiding him like the plague. I had been avoiding Teddy too. Mary had somehow managed to pull my hair back into a ponytail in the thirty seconds that I had frozen to my seat.
“There!” Mary said triumphantly. I grunted in response. I didn’t allow myself to turn into Sirius’s direction. I couldn’t look at him. The ball kept flashing in my head. That wasn’t me. That wasn’t who he wanted me to be.
“Am I interrupting something, girls?” Professor Dearborn asked. Everyone’s eyes turned towards Mary and I. I sunk down in my seat, crossing my arms. Thank you, Mary. I really want everyone in the whole class staring at my hideousness.
“No problems back here, Professor!” Mary chipped happily.
“Good. I expect you pay attention and quiet down then, hmm?” He said. Mary nodded as Dearborn turned back towards the board. I will never understand how she gets this kind of power over our professors.
“You should just tell him it’s you,” Mary whispered, starting to doodle on her parchment to make it look as though she was paying attention.
“He’d run away,” I mumbled back, doing the same and doodling on my own parchment.
“He’d love you even more.”
“He doesn’t love me.”
“He does too. He just doesn’t realize it yet.”
“That doesn’t constitute love.”
“Oh, but it does.”
“You’re sounding loonier than me.”
”So you admit you’re loony for Black?”
I sighed and refused to answer her. Loony for Black? That was crazy. Then again, I did have a great time at the ball before Teddy decided to interrupt things. I was going to let him reveal my true identity. I was going to let him take off my mask. I felt a stab in my chest. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t going to happen.
Why’d you run out? If you’re afraid, don’t be. I had the most amazing night with the most amazing girl. You’re just like I pictured you would be: elegant, beautiful, modest, and kind. Not something every girl can be. You’re unique and you’re yourself. That’s what I love the most about you. Did you used to date Teddy Crowley? Is that why he punched me?
I want you to know that I don’t care who you are. You could be a bloody Slytherin for all I cared at this point. The ball made me realize why the stars gave me your initials. I was meant to get them and you were meant to get mine. We are meant for each other. I couldn’t picture someone more perfect for me than you. I want to meet you, L.C. I want to care for you. I want to hold you and kiss you every day. I think I could love you. No, I know I love you. There. I said it. Or wrote it. Whichever you prefer.
Don’t be mad, L.C. This is only the beginning for us.
My fingers were nearly tearing through the parchment. Love. Sirius didn’t even know who I was. How could he love me? How could there be such a thing out there? No, this wasn’t real. His love was for a fake girl. A girl that wasn’t me. A girl I could never be. Sirius wouldn’t love Lenny Crowley. The only girl he would love was L.C. I stared down at his words over and over again and felt tears prick at my eyes.
I heard the giggling of the girls as they neared the dormitory. They always gushed over Sirius letters and threatened to tell him who I as if I didn’t do what they wanted Panicking, I looked around for a place to stash the letter. Why did my portion of the room have to be so bloody messy all the time? Without a second left to think, I shoved the letter into Mary’s owl cage (which was empty, thank Godric) just in time for Lily, Alice, and Mary all to walk in.
“He is so smitten with you, Lils!” Alice said, pulling her knitted hat off of her head and setting down on her bedside table. I sat innocently on my bed, blinking at the group innocently. Yes, keep believing I didn’t do anything. Good.
“He is not,” Lily said stubbornly, but even I could hear the lie in her voice as the blush crept up her cheeks.
“Who?” I questioned. I could do innocent. Ha ha.
“Potter!” Mary chipped in, giggling as Lily’s face grew as red as her hair.
“He is not smitten with me!” Lily said childishly.
“Oh come off it. The bloke has fancied you since our first year!” Alice said, throwing a pillow at Lily. Lily caught it ungracefully, having it flop in the air a few times. I snorted slightly. If it weren’t for Quidditch I’d have Lily’s coordination, I was sure of it. I would like to take this moment to thank the Quidditch Gods for giving me the skill of Quidditch.
“He is—wait, what’s that?” Mary started, but cut herself off once she got a view of her owl cage. I froze right on spot as Mary crossed the room and opened her owl’s cage. She peered at the swirling of Sirius’s words and the large letters L.C. written at the top of the page. Then she gasped and looked at me. “A new Sirius letter?”
And that was when I leapt into action. Literally. I flew straight for Mary, knocking her against her nightstand and making us both crumble to the floor. That didn’t stop me. I spread myself like an eagle over her as I tried to grasp the letter, but Mary wouldn’t have it. She held it just out of my reach as she tried to do her best to shove me off to no avail. She pulled my hair, pinched my arms and even swatted at my face, but that didn’t mean I was getting off of her. Nosiree, she was not reading that blasted letter.
“Lenny what are you doing?!”
“Get off of me!”
“Give me my letter!”
I pinned Mary’s shoulder down as best I could, but she still managed to wiggle around enough. Somehow she managed to shove me hard and my head slammed into her bed, a shoe digging into my bottom. Immediately Lily and Alice streaked across the room and were reading the letter with Mary silently. They all looked up at me at almost the exact same time. They all had the same blank expression on their faces. It seemed as though I was holding all of their eye contacts for minutes. Hours. Years even.
“You have to tell him,” Lily mumbled, breaking the silent. She crawled until she was right in front of me. Her emerald eyes searched my own for an answer. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to say or even what to do.
“I can’t,” I whispered. Lily’s face immediately fell.
“He loves you, Len. You have to do something about this!” Lily told me in frustration. I shook my head, tears pricking my eyes.
“He doesn’t love me. He loves the girl in the letters. Not Lenny Crowley.” I found myself saying. I stared down at the cluttered ground, not looking up.
When we are little, the only love we see is that of our parents. Unconditional and forever giving. It’s what every girl wishes for when she grows old. It’s the only love I have ever seen in my whole life. My parents used to be so deeply in love that it was sickening. Sure, they were a little crazy at times and yelled, but they always made up and always found their way back to each other. So how can a love like that not prosper and survive? How did a love like that drive someone to an affair and another to murder?
“Love doesn’t exist.” I said, my voice cracking. The girls all looked at each other and then back at me.
“Don’t say that.” Mary whispered. I shook my head and let out a harsh laugh.
“It’s true. Ever wonder why the Hairy Warlock dies? Because of love, that’s why,” I hissed at her.
“Well…it’s mainly because he cut out his heart and then the witches,” Alice mumbled, immediately stopping her explanation the moment I glared her way. Before I had a chance to respond, there was a tapping at our door. Lily’s eyebrows furrowed together as she got up and opened the door to reveal Teddy still clad in his uniform.
“Can I talk to you, Lenny?” Teddy asked sheepishly. I blinked a few times before nodding.
“How’d you get up here?” Lily asked, glancing behind him and into the hall. The stairs were still in tact, I knew that.
“Being friends with the Marauders has its perks,” Teddy said with a smirk and wink at Lily. I got up and crossed the room.
“What could you possibly want?” I questioned. He sighed and pushed at his thick brown hair.
“I shouldn’t have hit him,” Teddy growled. I raised my eyebrows, crossing my arms. He wouldn’t get away with it that easily.
“You laid him out, Teddy. Plus, you don’t sound too sorry,” I told him.
“I never said I was sorry. The prick deserved it,” Teddy told me. I felt my eyes narrow into slits as I glared at him. Was he really going to be this big of a prick about it?
“He did not deserve it, Teddy Crowley!” Mary hissed, coming up to my side and jabbing Teddy in the chest with her slim finger. Teddy look affronted by the action.
“What makes you say that?” Teddy asked her in an accusing tone.
“He loves her!” Alice chipped in, waving the letter around. Oh Godric no. This is a sick joke. No way in Merlin’s name was Teddy reading that letter.
“Apology accepted! See you tomorrow morning! Save me a seat on the train, yeah?” I said quickly, slamming the door before anyone could say another word. It was silent. Too silent. Suddenly all the girls ran back towards the letter and started to gush over it. Mary was pretending to be Sirius saying it aloud. Lily was pretending to be me falling madly in love with Sirius/Mary. Alice was pretending to be Teddy and rushed in between them. I sighed, sliding down the length of the door.
I watched him stumble around the room. He was throwing cupboards open viciously and when he found nothing in them, he would curse so loud I was sure he was going to wake up Mother. He slammed the cupboard door back in place and I was sure the door was going to split into two. Maybe Mother chose to ignore the racket like Teddy had. Teddy stopped coming down to watch Father after he and Mother got into a fight and Father stormed off, only to come back later piss drunk.
“Damn flabbit!” He cursed again, this time because he ran into a bar stool. He picked it up above his head and threw it across the room with so much force that I was afraid his arms were going to go flying with it. I cringed as it hit the refrigerator and a crack appeared in the front of it.
“Where’s all the bloody alcohol?!” Father shouted to no one in particular. His eyes scanned the room and I immediately cringed away from around the corner. “WHOSSTHERE?!”
I winced but peeked from around the corner. I was half expecting him to throw something at me, but something melted in his face when his heated eyes caught sight of his only daughter. His face softened away from the anger and he sighed, collapsing onto a kitchen chair. He placed his head in his hands and shook his head, more angry at himself than at me.
“How long have you been standing there, kid?” He mumbled. I barely understood him.
“Since you got home,” I answered him. He glanced up at me, studying my expression. I was terrified of my own father.
“Come sit,” He commanded, pulling a chair next to himself and patting it. I bounded across the room, hopping up with my seven year old legs.
“Are you gonna be okay?” I asked him as he put his arm around the back of my chair. He chuckled lightly and nodded.
“The alcohol wears off, sweetums. Don’t worry about Daddy,” He said. I shook my own head.
“I meant are you and Mum going to be okay?” I re-worded. Father froze, obviously thinking of an appropriate answer. He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.
“Darling there’s something you need to understand,” He started, “I love your mother very much. Nothing could change that. People that you love make you feel the most powerful emotions. Sometimes they aren’t good emotions. Like the way I was acting tonight. Love makes you uncontrollable. You don’t know how you’re going to feel until it is right there.”
“I don’t think I want to be in love, Daddy,” I mumbled, resting my head on his big arm. He chuckled wrapping his arm around my shoulders and letting me rest my head against his chest.
“Don’t bother with it, honey. It’ll only bring you pain.”
I groaned as I flipped onto my stomach. Bugger off, dreams! Let me sleep! I have to go see my psychotic mother in less than five hours and you expect me to not kill her with such little amounts of sleep? She was the reason Father was in prison. Damn love. Who the bloody hell needs it anyways?
I pushed myself away from my cold pillow and wrapped a duvet around my shoulders. This was no use. It was too bloody cold in this room and Mary snores too bloody loud. I’d suffocate her if I had to spend another moment in this room. Thank Merlin it was my last year at Hogwarts. I’d turn the heat on every day in my house. Even in the summer. I’d be so thankful for heat it’s not even funny. I slipped my feet into the fuzziest slippers I could find (which happened to be Lily’s). I reached under my bed and tore all of the Sirius/L.C. letters from the mattress. No way was I leaving these here with the girls. Even if they were sleeping. I didn’t trust them.
Pulling the duvet over my shoulders tighter, I tip-toed out of the dormitory. The common room below was quiet and the only noise I heard was the crackling of the fireplace. Good. I didn’t want to run into any nosy first years or giggling third years. I wouldn’t even tolerate the fifth year fan girls. I just wanted to be left alone for once. I took two stairs at a time, finally ready to collapse and possibly fall asleep.
But Merlin has other plans for me, obviously.
Curled up like a puppy next to the fire was Sirius Black.
“What the bloody hell are you doing?” I hissed. Sirius nearly jumped straight out of his skin at the sound of his voice. His eyes were the size of quaffles when he found me in the darkness of the room.
“Me? What are you doing here?” He retorted. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have time for games.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I mumbled. “You?”
“Same.” Sirius mumbled back. I nodded, taking the favorited love seat as my bed and sprawled out on it. Sirius was silent. He returned to staring into the fire, except this time he was sitting up. He didn’t say a word and neither did I. We sat in an odd, yet comforting silent. I felt myself finally drifting away to sleep.
“Crowley?” Sirius asked, snapping me away from sleep.
“Hmm?” I questioned, staring up at the tall ceiling.
“Do you believe in love?” He asked me in a soft voice. I felt myself falter. I thought of my father. I thought of the ball.
“I think that love does crazy things to people and maybe it’s just not worth it in the end,” I mumbled. Sirius turned towards me with a pained expression.
“Love is always worth it. The pain and the sorrow that comes with it is just there to remind you that there’s something there,” Sirius said. He then turned back towards the fire, his eyebrows furrowing together. “That something is worth fighting for.”
We sat in our own thoughts again, silence engulfing the room. The letters were heavy in my hand underneath the duvet. I don’t care how many times you say the word love, you will never know the meaning until you feel it. I looked at the top of Sirius’s head and my stomach tied itself into a tight knot. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. My mind spun with so much that I wasn’t able to keep up with it all. Love. Is that what love is?
I crawled onto the ground next to Sirius. He smiled at me before staring back into the fire. I rested my head against his shoulder, letting him wrap a warm arm around me. I felt warm and safe. I felt like nothing could damage me or get at me. It was like Sirius was my own Protego charm, but ten times better. Maybe that’s what love is. Feeling the security of a Fidelius Charm. Maybe it’s that adrenalin pump you feel when you first ride a broom. Maybe it’s even that feeling you get when you look into someone’s eyes like I was and realize that the flaws you have known for so long don’t matter anymore. All that matters is them.
So that’s why I did it. That’s why I pressed my lips against his just like he had done to me the night of the ball. I put my hand on his neck. He didn’t react at first to the feeling of my lips on his, but once he did it was the ball all over again. The soft caress of his lips on my own was the best feeling in the world. My stomach flipped and my mind soared. His hand brushed my cheek and tangled itself in my hair, but it didn’t matter. He pulled me closer to him, turning the kiss into a full out snog.
I pulled away a few minutes later to catch my breath. Sirius was breathing heavily, his breath minty on my face. I couldn’t stop grinning. I felt the letters in my hand and I knew it would be all right if I showed him. He’d be all right with it all. I laughed a little, staring down into my lap. When I looked back up at Sirius, he had an expression I didn’t plan on seeing there. Confusion, but most of all sadness.
“That was a mistake, Lenny,” He whispered. I felt my whole body fall from cloud nine and smack down into reality.
“W-what? Why?” I asked pathetically. Sirius lightly pushed me off of his lap and onto the floor next to him. It didn’t make it hurt any less. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair and then over his face.
“We can’t…we’re not-“ He tried, but nothing seemed to fit the key. I felt my heart sink into my stomach with every expression that crossed his face. “We just can’t do this, okay?”
No, it wasn’t okay. It was far from okay. I felt hurt, but more off I felt pissed. Where the hell were Lily and Mary and Marlene and Alice in a situation like this? Weren’t they the ones that told me he loved me? Weren’t the letters in my hand proof of that? He wasn’t expecting me. He was expecting some beautiful and talented girl to be his L.C. He wasn’t expecting boring old Lenny Crowley with two left feet and a mouth that never stopped going.
“You know what? Fine.” I hissed. I got up, the letters heavy in my hand. I threw them straight at him. “Take all your damned letters. Burn them for all I care! You don’t care who I am my arse!”
“What are you-“ Sirius started, but when he got a look at the letters his face immediately went pale. “Where’d you get these?”
“You’re joking me, right?” I let out a harsh laugh. “Lenny Crowley. L.C! How could you not see it?”
Sirius blinked down at the letters, his mouth gaped open. “I didn’t think…” He tried, but shook his head. He looked up at me, sorrow written on his face. “I’m sorry, Lenny.”
“Yeah…me too.” I whispered before turning and dashing up the staircase. And he didn’t even try to follow or make me stop.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The moment you have all been waiting for arrived! Didn't see that coming, did you? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS! It's not over yet, though. Don't you fret! You will see more. We aren't through with Sirius and Lenny.