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Chapter 16: Caught in the Act
Regulus finally caught up to Sirius, but it wasn’t too difficult. His brother had the brute strength, but he himself had the speed, one of the many traits that made them two very different people. Sirius somehow got himself cornered against a wall with no escape except for window with a twenty-foot drop below. He considered jumping.
“I just want to talk,” Regulus panted, a little out of breath. This wasn’t the first time he chased his brother around, but the last time he did, it was ages ago and they were much younger.
“If I wanted to talk I wouldn’t have left,” Sirius said with a snarl. It took a second for him to realize that this was the first time he had uttered more than a word to his younger brother since he left his “home” in Grimmauld Place at the beginning of the summer. Although it had been nearly six months ago, he felt years older than the boy who got blasted off the family tree that night. He suddenly remembered that he never had a chance to give Regulus the letter that was meant to be his parting words.
“What are you doing with Ivy?” Regulus finally asked.
“Why do you care? Afraid that I’ll steal away your little girlfriend?”
“She’s not—,” he stopped. That was beside the point. Sirius always seemed to trump him when it came to girls, but it wasn’t a worry of his this time around. “I just want to know what you want with her."
“I could care less about her.”
“I’m not blind, Sirius. I noticed you and your friends dragging her about the past couple of months.” Regulus was never fond of his brother’s overtly bored and self-entitled posse of whom the school always seemed to worship.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure. And now you’re her tutor? What are you up to?”
Sirius could feel the hairs bristle on the back of his neck. “I didn’t choose to be her tutor,” he snapped. “As if I would go out of my way to better the education of a brick like Ivy Parker.” Although, he thought, teaching a brick would have made more progress than they had in the past three weeks. “I’m not up to anything, Reg. Why do you want to know?”
Regulus’ eyes darkened at the sound of his old nickname. “I just don’t want the likes of you mucking around with another Slytherin.”
“The likes of me?” Sirius let out a laugh. “So you’re Ivy Parker’s guardian angel and suddenly I’m the bad one?” After all, Regulus wasn’t the one who saved her from her creepy neighbor or the one who nursed her in the hospital wing or the one who got her sandwiches when she complained about being hungry.
Not that it meant anything, of course.
“This isn’t a matter of good or bad.”
“Well, it looks like that to me.” Sirius stepped closer to stare down his little brother and lowered his voice, “Tell me brother – have you been fully inducted into Voldemort’s little army yet or are you just getting your training wheels?”
Regulus pushed him hard on the chest, causing him to stumble backwards. He remembered how they would always fight when they were younger, but it was different now. The brother he used to follow around all the time, the one he admired, wishing he could be like him, the one who always cheered him up for every scraped knee or cut or fall, that brother was long gone. Sirius betrayed the family, leaving himself to defend the Black family honor.
Toujours pur. It rang constantly like an angry bell in his head.
“Don’t talk about it like that,” Regulus sneered. “One of these days you’re going to wake up and realize you’re on the wrong side of things and it’s going to be too late.”
His brother laughed. “You were always the better son,” Sirius said so bitterly that he could taste it on his tongue. “Always doing what dear mummy wanted best.”
“If you don’t want to be a part of it, don’t meddle into my affairs.”
“You’re the one meddling into mine.” He paused, and then added to much of his own surprise, “Just don’t drag Ivy into any of it.”
“I thought you didn’t care about her.” Sirius didn’t have anything to say back. Regulus didn’t really expect him to reply. They glared at each other for what seemed like ages, but finally Regulus backed down. “I’m leaving.”
Something clicked in Sirius’ mind as if he had been in a daze the whole conversation and he had just awoken. “Going to run off to your girlfriend, Reggie?” he jeered after him.
Sirius fought the urge to take out his wand and conjure every hex that he ever learned, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Even though he hated his little brother for listening to the foolishness of his parents, he never wanted to actually hurt him. He couldn’t help but feel a sick aching feeling at his chest. He thought about Ivy again, of the look on her face when he came back into the classroom to find her and Regulus so closely in conversation. The way she smiled, how her eyes looked brighter momentarily before he interrupted their intimacy. His chest tightened and he shook his head wildly as if it would get rid of any uneasy feeling. As much as he hated to admit it, and as much as he kept trying to erase it all from his mind, he was jealous that for the first time ever his little brother was able to have a girl he couldn’t.
“Not only is it our right, it is our duty!” Benjamin Avery stands above us with a group of other Slytherins on a makeshift stage. Mulciber, Rosier, Snape, Wilkes, Lestrange, Regulus’ frightening cousin Bellatrix – just a few of the names of the more outspoken members of our house who stand in the front of the empty classroom where we have secretly gathered.
For some crazy reason I agreed to come with Regulus to one of these rallies that other students secretly rave about. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I just wanted to check it out to see what all the fuss was about. Maybe I’m just trying to be a good Slytherin.
…Maybe I just wanted a chance to be with Regulus.
Now that I’m here, I can’t help but have an uneasy feeling about all of this business. Not only do I feel like I don’t belong, but also it scares me how much Regulus is enamored with what is being said. I admire their passion, though somewhat intimidating, yet I don’t know how to make sense of all this.
“We are a superior race!” Silas Mulciber steps up to the stage, a murmur of agreement buzzes throughout the crowd. I don’t know much about him, except that he is a seventh year with haunting green eyes and a smile that I can only describe as dishonest. I have seen him and Ben Avery together often as some sort of cruel representation of brothers. Try as I might, I can’t look away. I feel like a fly entrapped in Mulciber’s web of words.
“We are blessed with the gift of magic,” he continues, “Why must we hide in a world over populated with muggles? Why must we mix the purity of our blood with that which is non-magical? Why do mudbloods still walk the same halls that we do everyday?”
My eyes wander to Severus Snape who is grimly nodding to everything that Mulciber says behind him. Isn’t he a half-blood?
“Would not the founder of our beloved house be ashamed to see how the wizarding world has been usurped by these impurities?”
I feel goose bumps raise on my arms. Merlin, why is this guy asking so many questions?
“This is our duty as students of the Slytherin name.”
Duty this, duty that. These people really need to relax.
“Our priority must be to follow the orders of our Lord Voldemort. We must join his forces. We must eradicate all that is inferior!”
The room breaks out in cheers and someone announces the next meeting time, where and when and how to meet. I clear my throat uncomfortably, feeling claustrophobic in this small room, shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone around me. I understand why they all are so into this, but I’m not quite sure if this is the proper method of going about things. Anyways, how could I join them so ardently if I don’t even know what’s in my blood? My mother had to be a witch, but how much of one? And my father? Gran wouldn’t be too happy if she found that I was here at the rally to begin with. A shiver goes down my back and I find my fingers tugging on Regulus’ sleeve, giving him a bit of a start as if he had just remembered that I was standing next to him.
“Is something wrong?” He murmurs, among the throng of conversation. His gray eyes, which were glistening with excitement, change to show a small sign of concern.
“Er – it’s just that—“ I feel something catch in my throat as Regulus smoothly weaves his fingers between mine. My mouth twitches into a smile. “No, nothing’s wrong.”
The room is slowly emptying. The rallies supposedly don’t last too long with the fear that other students, or worse, some of the professors, will catch us. It’s a wonder how they’ve lasted this long meeting secretly on a regular basis. Could Dumbledore even have a suspicion that something like this was going on right underneath him?
“Are you ready to go?” I ask, still feeling the uncomfortable and sinister air that hangs in the room.
Regulus looks behind his shoulder. “I just want to talk to Rosier for a second.” He pulls me towards the front of the room with him but I resist. “Ivy?”
I purse my lips. “You go ahead. I’ll wait for you outside.”
He shrugs, and as I cross the doorway, I feel like I’ve passed through an invisible wall. Suddenly I can breathe easier and the heaviness in my chest I was feeling inside the room is gone. Maybe they put a special barrier around the classroom. I wouldn’t be surprised at all, seeing that Snape is some kind of evil genius.
I lean against one of the stone walls as people pass me as they exit the room. None of them notice me in the flurry of their conversations and excitement. Of one of the larger groups of people that leave, I watch as Snape straggles behind them and mutters something under his breath. He waves his wand around the entryway, confirming my suspicions, and like everyone else, he pays me no attention. In my peripherals, I see a flash of red follow him as he turns a corner.
I don’t know why, but I follow them.
It’s not long until I hear voices echoing around the corner. Snape’s low droning voice which is speaking with a surprising heat, and a girl’s voice that I don’t immediately recognize. I press my body against the cool stones and hold my breath.
“Stop following me, Lily. I told you to go away” So it’s Lily Evans. Although I shouldn’t be surprised, the two used to be joined at the hip.
Lily’s voice is sweet against the muddiness of her friend’s. “You’re getting in so deep, Severus. I’ve been worried about you, and I know we haven’t talked—”
“It is not any of your concern of what I do,” Snape spits.
“But I am your friend!”
“You made it clear in the past year that we are not.”
“I can no longer associate myself with a mudblood.”
A jolt kicks through my chest. Even though Mulciber spoke the word in his speech, there was something different about the way Snape called Lily a mudblood. This was much more intimate, more personal, and I could sense that whatever past wounds inflicted on Lily had been reopened.
I hear her sigh. A sad and exhausted sigh, as if it took all her energy even to start the conversation. “If that is what you wish.” Her voice wavers, as if she’s on the verge of tears. I don’t blame her at all. The sound of the disappointment in her voice affects even me. I hear her small footsteps shift and walk away. Then silence.
“You know, it’s rather rude to eavesdrop on other peoples’ conversations.”
I gasp and turn. James Potter stands above my shoulder, casually eating an apple with a loud crunch. “Well it’s rude to sneak up on people eavesdropping on other peoples’ conversations,” I huff. It’s felt like ages since I’ve even spoken a word to him, not since I left him dumbfounded in the Gryffindor common room.
“How was the little party you were having?” He says, ending with a wink. “I bet it was refreshing.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, my. Has our dearest Ivy become one of them? The shame of it!” He dramatically raises his hand to his chest as if cradling some sort of internal wound. “Where did I go wrong?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
James frowns, casually throwing his apple out a nearby window. I hear a muffled thunk and then a cry from below. “You sound like a broken record, Ivy. Or am I suddenly speaking Russian? It wouldn’t be the first time that happened. Once I accidentally drank a—“
“What are you doing, James? Were you here stalking Lily or stalking me?”
He stares, I can feel his every eye movement as examines my face. “I wonder what he sees in you.”
I bristle. “Who?”
I see Regulus exit the room over James’ shoulder, making him notice the shift in my attention.
He smirks. “I’ll leave you two love birds alone.”
I roll my eyes and push past him as he disappears, presumably after Lily to attempt to comfort her, even though I know she’ll only reject any attempt he makes. Everyone knows she can’t stand James.
Regulus tilts his head and puts his hands in his pockets. “Was that James Potter? What did he want?”
“Nothing. We weren’t really talking,” I mumble, shoving whatever James had said far back in my mind. I don’t bother asking what Regulus and Evan Rosier talked about, because frankly, I don’t think I even want to know.
“Shall we go to dinner?”
“Yes, I’m famished,” I lie. I lost my appetite being stuffed in that little room.
He offers his arm to me and I take it. It’s warm; as if I can feel his skin despite the layers of clothes he wears. In everything he does for me, he seems the perfect gentleman although I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Or maybe I’ve been so used to being treated so rudely all year that any sort of kindness from a fellow student seems totally alien.
We walk in silence, and I myself too buried in my own thoughts, until Regulus asks, “So… what did you think?”
He laughs. “The rally, of course.”
“Oh! Er – it was – it was…. nice.”
Nice? Nice? Of all the things in the world it was anything but nice.
He shifts his arm, letting mine fall loose and suddenly my whole side feels vulnerable without him close. Was that the wrong word? Merlin, of course it was. Maybe he heard the doubt in my voice. What would he do if I told him that I didn’t like it? That it actually scared me a little? That hearing the way Severus spoke to Lily made me feel… I don’t know – guilty?
Regulus turns to face me and reaches for my hands, sending little electric signals through my fingertips and up my arm. “I’m glad you liked it,” he says with a little grin. Maybe if he doesn’t know then it won’t be a problem. But I can’t hide the fact from him forever, can I?
The thought escapes my mind as he leans down and kisses me.
Feeling his lips pressed against mine feels just as vibrant as last time, if not more. In the corridor the night of the party, I was completely taken aback, but right now it’s different. I was almost expecting for him to kiss me, I wanted him to kiss me – in fact, every time we’ve been together since that night it’s all I’ve thought about even though my brain kept yelling at me to stop being a lovesick puppy.
Lovesick. Am I lovesick?
Regulus’ warm hands slide up my back and cup the side of my neck, pulling me closer to him. Each point where we touch stings in a pleasant way. Merlin, he knows what he’s doing. He must have had a lot of practice. On other girls? Merlin, that’s frightening. Maybe he just practices with some very lucky pillows.
Why am I even thinking so much – I should just enjoy the moment for goodness’ bloody sake.
Well good job, Ivy, he’s pulling away now.
We stare at each other, the air around us still and thick. People always tell you how to start a kiss but never how to end it. Last time, we were interrupted by an exploding common room, but this time I’m not so lucky. We have all the time in the world right now and I don’t even know what to do or say.
I manage to whisper, “Thanks.”
Regulus blinks. “For what?”
Oh, shit. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Did I really just say that?
“Er – for – erm,” I stutter, just realizing I had slapped my hand over my mouth. “For kissing me?”
If my brain had hands right now it would be punching itself.
“Well, you’re welcome,” he replies with a satisfied smile. “Really – it was my pleasure.”
I laugh, a sound that rings strangely in my ears. Laughing is not something I normally do.
Regulus changes the subject. “Do you have the time? Dinner might end soon.”
“Oh, er—” I realize something and reach inside my bag, pulling out the wristwatch I found in the infirmary. “This is yours, right? I’m sorry I haven’t given it back sooner, I keep forgetting about it.”
He frowns and takes it from my hand. He takes a quick look at it, but then gives it back. “It’s not mine. I don’t wear watches, really,” he says to my surprise. “And it hasn’t been wound.”
“But I found it in the hospital wing.”
Regulus shrugs. “I think I remember seeing a watch when I got there, but I assumed it was yours.”
“Well if it isn’t yours, whose is it?”
“Beats me. Anyhow, you should keep it. It’s quite lovely.”
I shrug back. “Or I could pawn it.”
The extra money would be nice. And who knows? Maybe it’ll fetch for a good price.
I’ve been dreading today since last week’s tutoring lesson. I didn’t get much sleep last night, not that it was out of the ordinary. In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t fail the DADA exam, and no, I didn’t ace it, but I still – that’s not failing. Which is progress, right? There’s no need to mention that I was six points away from a T.
I’m sitting outside Professor Harding’s classroom. The door’s been locked for some odd reason, and no one answered the door when I knocked. Sirius is nowhere to be seen, and it’s half past seven. He’s normally late – so it’s not a surprise – but I worry that he might be angry with me. I know he’s not fond of Regulus and vice-versa but that shouldn’t interfere with him being a tutor, right? Maybe he’s too busy defiling something making him later than usual.
Sirius has been ignoring me all week, at least, that’s what seems to be happening. For some reason I can’t get the look that he gave us when he burst into the room. And what was the deal with those sandwiches? Was he actually trying to be nice to me? It seems like whatever progress we made to be able to bear with each other in the same room has been completely demolished.
Maybe I should just start studying on my own.
Oh, that’s laughable.
There’s been a little bit of a buzz amongst a small group of people about Regulus and me. I hear the occasional whisper as I walk by people, but I don’t mind it. Regulus wants to make sure whatever is going on between us is low-key, and for good reason. You don’t know what “meddling” is until you’re in a house like Slytherin.
He invited me to another rally, and to much of my hesitation, I accepted. Who knows? Maybe if I go a second time it’ll be better. Although, at the back of mind I know that won’t be the case, but I couldn’t think of any excuses to not go without outright telling Regulus that all of his friends scare me. You hear about people trying to dominate the world throughout history and you know how that ended for all of them. I would rather just hide in a corner until all the fighting is over, if that’s even an option. Maybe all of this Voldemort stuff will blow over and never come to fruition.
I hate confrontation. The last time I tried to pick a fight, I killed Filch’s darling cat.
“Oi,” Sirius barks, breaking my train of thought. He stares down at me with a surly look on his face. “What are you doing here?”
I struggle to get myself up, my legs sore from being in the same position for too long. “For your information, the door is locked,” I mumble. “And what do you care anyway, you’re the one who’s late.” He rolls his eyes and tries the door, but to no avail. “See? Might as well knock too since you don’t seem to believe me.”
Sirius shoots me a sharp look. “Harding must have forgotten to unlock it.” He searches through his pockets for a few seconds – it’s always amazed me as to how cavernous boys’ pockets seem to be – and procures a metal pin. I watch as he attempts to pick the lock, looking much too comfortable and accustomed than how he should be. I stand in silence as he rattles his way through the door.
It opens with a satisfying click.
Sirius steps aside and swings his arm. “After you, m’lady,” he says not without sarcasm.
I begrudgingly drag myself past him into the room, which is unusually warm. I drop my things and myself on one of the desks and I stare up at the ceiling where Harding hung various curiosities to “decorate.”
“What are you doing? Get up,” Sirius snaps as he closes the door behind him.
“I’m tired,” I mumble.
Sirius comes over and drops my (very large and heavy) DADA textbook on my chest, making me gasp for air. I don’t bother retaliating, since I know from experience what physical damage a book can do. My face twists in a grimace as I adjust myself into a chair.
“Alright,” I say, “What’s on the lesson plan today, professor?”
He rolls his eyes and flips through the pages of his book. “Chapter fourteen. The same chapter we’ve been—”
A muffled thunk comes from the closed door of Harding’s office.
“Did you hear that?” He asks, his eyes suddenly bright and alert.
“Erm, yeah, but I don’t think it was—”
Sirius gets up and walks to the door. I think he noticed before me that the birdcage in the corner has been crudely covered with an overcoat.
“Wait!” I – for some reason – whisper. “Why are you—“
He shoots me a look to shut up. A look that says, everything today is too suspicious to not be on guard. The locked room, the birdcage, the weird noises coming from Harding’s office. Sirius presses his ear against the door, a stern crease appearing between his eyebrows. He beckons me over and I press my ear against the door as well, feeling the smooth and cool surface shock itself against my cheek. Sirius is breathing slowly, and I can feel his breath tickle my forehead.
We listen in silence until we hear more thuds and crashes and suddenly, a scream.
Our eyes lock, and before I know it, Sirius whips out his wand and throws the door open. I follow him, and it seems that, in less than half a second, both our expressions change from complete concentration to absolute shock. Books are all over the floor, drapes pulled down from its post.
And a very naked Professor Harding stands in front of us.
Did I mention very naked?
“Merlin’s underpants,” Sirius whispers.
“T-this isn’t what it looks like!” Harding sputters, grabbing a nearby copy of a book on dragons to cover his…
“Your name has suddenly become relevant, Professor.” Sirius holds back a laugh. He continues to talk but I don’t hear him. Instead, I’m distracted by a figure hiding behind a bookcase wrapped in a robe of drapes. Even more so, I’m distracted by the hat being clutched ever so tightly to mask the face behind it. A large flowery hat that looks exactly like one Gran used to wear.
Oh, Merlin help me if – no, that’s impossible.
My heart beats at an alarming rate as I run over and pull the hat away. I barely recognize her with her hair falling against her bare shoulders. She blinks at me and I blink back.
Oh my cliffhanger!
To be honest, in my original plan, Harding was going to be caught with someone else... but that was against the rules. I'll leave it to your imagination. It was about time I brought Evelyn back into the story, though.
Such drama! Such flutterings! Leave a review! :)