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"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny."
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Gracie Nickels had never really liked Lily Evans.
It was odd, because people usually saw Gracie the Hufflepuff as a girl who liked everyone, perpetually nice and polite. Which essentially she was. Her parents had instilled good manners from an early age and she didn’t disappoint; she said please and thank you and held open doors for those behind her with a smile.
But still. Even though she gave no outward indication of dislike or even annoyance, she couldn’t deny that the girl with the sparkling green eyes and flowing red hair grated on her nerves.
Was it jealousy? If anyone knew of her problem they would most certainly think so. After all, Lily was one of the top students in the year, Queen Slug, prefect, and love interest of one of the most ‘popular’ boys in school.
But Gracie didn’t think so. After all she was one of the top students in the year too and well liked by Slughorn, although admittedly not his favourite.
No it wasn’t jealousy.
It was Lily’s entire demeanour. It wasn’t that she was cruel or malicious or even rude. It was the little things. Things that Gracie noticed, but no one else seemed to. The smug little smile when she received the top mark in charms, the way she only really interacted with those who she thought were worth her time, the way she would huff and puff when Potter would talk to her, but Gracie could tell she secretly loved the attention. The false modesty when she congratulated others on their average marks whilst proudly attaining her own top grade.
It was the way she took advantage of Slughorn’s indulgence to make inappropriate comments, knowing full well that if anyone else so much as tried it they would have detention on the spot. It was the way she revelled in his special treatment of her.
It was her bubbly personality, a kind of princess mindset where she could do no wrong. A kind of subtle superiority complex (in a different way to the Slytherins) but tangible nonetheless. Lily Evans was the girl that every boy wanted to be with and that every girl wanted to be, the problem was she well aware of it.
Perhaps it clashed with Gracie’s own wry, grounded and down to earth character. Or perhaps she didn’t like the utter lack of sincerity in a lot of Lily Evans’ gestures.
Either way. Gracie found it irritating. However, she supposed it wasn’t so surprising really. After all, there’s only so many times you can be told you’re wonderful before you start believing it. So she couldn’t really blame the girl.
The marauders on the other hand, were another story all together. Loud and garish, they had a reputation for being the resident troublemakers in the school. A very well deserved reputation. Gracie had nothing to do with them of course. After all, an introverted and sensible Hufflepuff would never show up on their radar, and she couldn't say she was particularly disheartened by this. Being in the year below also helped.
She thought of the marauders as a double sided coin. On the one hand you had the charm and the talent, as well as the amusing antics and overall feeling of fun. The flipside, however, was another story. They could be cruel, unkind, and somewhat selfish. They didn't care about the consequences of their actions or how they made others feel. She remembered the incident at the train station at the end of last year.
Davey Gudgeon, a stocky little second year Slytherin with a smart mouth and a penchant for calling muggleborns mudbloods, had been sent an anonomous parcel on his birthday at breakfast. He had opened it excitedly, expecting the Sneakoscope he had told his mother he had wanted at Christmas, but instead finding the box filled with shit. The marauders had watched from their table excitedly. It wasn't until Davey had reached his mother arms in the corner of the station did he allow himself to cry. The boys had watched him, gleefully imitating his blubbering.
Whether Gudgeon deserved it or not was an aside.
Although they were amusing and charming and entertaining on the whole, Gracie knew what they were, and she did not forget it. She was a proud and fairly righteous girl and when she had made an opinion of someone, it took a great deal to change her mind.
Ravenclaws were generally agreeable, as were the majority of Gryffindors and her fellow Hufflepuffs. Of course there were the ever prevalent dickheads and cows in every house, but none so much as in Slytherin. Gracie was hard pressed to choose five from the house she could actually stand. It wasn't helped by the fact that the rest of the school tended to stereotype all Hufflepuffs as a predisposed bunch of duffers. It amused her more than anything.
Now, starting her sixth year at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry, she supposed she would carry on as she always had. She had no idea what was waiting for her.
a/n hello all. This is just a very little taste of something that has been on my mind for a while. It is primarily a regulus/oc fic. I really would appreciate any feedback as I've come back to hpff after a long time.
So, should I continue?
(I am avoiding the marauder era cliches as best I can)
Nina Dobrev is really rather beautiful - and she is my new muse!
It was a Friday afternoon, and Grace had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was the last lesson of the day and a full weekend lay ahead, on the other, she had to endure two hours of potions before said weekend could be enjoyed.
Three weeks of the new school year had passed fairly uneventfully. Potions lessons were much the same as they had been the previous five years, except this year, classes were much smaller and mixed, so for the first time, Grace had potions with Slytherins.
“I’m not working with her.”
Regulus Black’s voice was firm and his expression was defiant, leaving no room for argument. Grace felt her face smart with humiliation. A couple of Slytherin girls snickered under their breath.
Slughorn had been making his way around the room pairing up the class to work on a new assignment, when he suggested Regulus Black and Grace Nickels as a pair.
Grace was stunned, she had never once spoken to Black and he was acting as though she was dirt underneath his shoe.
Poor Slughorn didn’t know what to do.
“That’s fine. I’d much rather work with Alison anyway.” Retorted Grace finally, just as coldly, with the bitchiest expression she could muster.
Alison Wilkes, a sweet and timid Gryffindor girl smiled warmly and moved aside her bag for the other girl.
“Ah…er… well then, I suppose Mr Black should pair with Miss Smethley?”
Slughorn phrased the statement like a question and Regulus gave a short nod of acquiesce. One of the snickering Slytherin girls from the corner rose and moved to his side, a smug smile adorning her pretty face.
Grace was quite sure her face was expressionless, but inside she was smarting, he had practically snubbed her in front of the entire class. How dare he? She thought, glaring at the back of his dark head.
“Just ignore them” said Alison suddenly, pulling Grace out of her thoughts.
“Slytherins. They’re rude to everyone” Alison added simply.
“Is he always like that?” demanded Grace.
“Regulus?” questioned Alison, looking thoughtful. “Actually he’s usually okay, as far as Slytherins go anyway.”
“Let’s agree to disagree” said Grace sourly, and Alison suppressed a smile.
The rest of the lesson passed without incident.
Hours later, completely knackered and making her way back from the library, Grace closed her dormitory door to find her dorm mate Eva poring over several pieces of parchment, her forehead deeply etched with concentration.
Eva was one of Grace’s favourite people in the entire world, but she was born in to a family of extreme overachievers and despite being very bright she was always made to feel as though she could never match up. Probably the reason she worked so incredibly hard all the time. She really over did it sometimes.
“Are you working on that horrible arithmancy essay?” asked Grace.
“No” said Eva, absentmindedly.
“It’s this article” she held up Witch Weekly “apparently the proportions of beauty have been the same since the days of Cleopatra and you can quantify how beautiful you are by taking all these measurements…”
“Really” said Grace as she kicked off her shoes, intrigued. “So what are you?”
“I’m working it out now” she frowned at the article again.
“22…plus 4… add 6… take 3… makes 29. Oh my God. 29” Eva stares at the page in dismay.
“I only got 29”
“What’s it out of?”
“100. 29 out of 100.”
“Oh Eva that’s rubbish” said Grace bracingly.
“I know” says Eva seriously. “I’m ugly. You know, I’ve always secretly known, but-”
“No.” Grace implored, trying not to laugh.
“The article is rubbish” she clarified, “I mean, just look at you, who are you going to believe, some dumb article in moron weekly or the mirror?”
Grace really couldn’t believe how insecure Eva could be. Eva who had flawless mocha coloured skin and enormous dark eyes, even if her last haircut was rather severe.
Eva made a non-committal noise and threw the article aside. She looked up at Grace for the first time, her eyes widening.
“Are you alright?” she asked concerned.
“Yeah. Fine. Why do you ask?”
“You look terrible.”
“Thanks” said Grace, amused.
Eva threw her friend a look and Grace rolled her eyes, simultaneously flopping down on to her bed.
“It’s been a long week, and I’m tired and Regulus Black was a twat in potions”
“What did he do?” Eva looked genuinely interested.
“Nothing really, he just refused to be my partner for the assignment, it was a bit embarrassing”.
“Maybe he just wanted to work alone, I’ve heard he’s quite a perfectionist” said Eva sympathetically. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with you”
“I don’t think so, he was happy enough to work with Miss Big Boobs Smethley” said Grace bitterly.
There’s a beat of silence and she looked up to see Eva regarding her with a shrewd expression
“Grace, you don’t fancy him do you?”
“What? No of course not” she said quickly.
“Because I can understand why you would, he’s quite the looker…both brothers are”
“I’m not that shallow” said Grace, her tone of voice making it clear the topic of conversation was over.
“So anyway, have you decided what to wear to Hogsmeade this weekend?” asked Eva, rifling through her trunk and smoothly changing the subject.
Days became weeks in a flurry of parchment and ink, and weeks blurred into months. Before she knew it, it was late October and Grace was up to her neck in schoolwork and assignments. It was a never ending cycle of lessons, library, bed and Grace appreciated anything that broke the dreary monotony.
The step up from OWL to NEWT level was bigger and more stressful than she had expected, but she had more or less adapted to the workload by now. Nevertheless, she was, for the first time, looking forward to Slughorn’s Halloween party which provided a welcome respite from routine.
Besides she had always found dressing up and getting ready more fun than the actual party’s themselves.
It was a blustery Halloween morning when Eva looked up from her mail and breakfast to see Grace sitting opposite her, looking uncharacteristically cheerful. She noticed that Grace never got mail from home, but didn’t read too much into it. Mr Nickels was a muggle after all and from the few times she had met him, Eva got the impression he was polite but reserved and very difficult to read. She honestly didn’t know anything about Grace’s mother, but Grace never mentioned her and Eva followed her lead.
It was late in the evening once the disaster of a Halloween party was over, that Grace discovered an unpleasant home truth. It began innocently enough. Three girls getting ready in their dormitory – for the third girl Bertha, who was usually in the company of her Ravenclaw friends had decided to join them for reasons Grace was still suspicious about.
It wasn’t that she disliked Bertha, but she didn’t exactly like her either. Bertha was a renowned gossip, you had to watch every single word that came out of your mouth or it would be exaggerated and taken out of context and spread all over the school by the next morning. There was an incident last year, in particular, where she had spread around that Sirius Black was secretly in love with Lily Evans and he got really quite cross with her.
Usually though, Bertha was frivolous and harmless and more than a little ditzy.
“So I see you’re actually making an effort for once – trying to impress someone?” said Bertha slyly to Grace. She spritzed herself with perfume and threw back her blonde hair, smiling at her reflection.
“What are you on about?” replied Grace, genuinely perplexed from her spot on the floor.
“That’s the fourth outfit you’ve tried on” Bertha pointed out and Grace looked at her bed to see that there were in fact a heap of discarded clothes she had tried and thrown back. It was unusual because she wasn’t really a fussy girl, but she had managed to find something at fault with all of them. In the end she had decided to wear last years dark red Christmas dress, which had a cinched waist and fell to her knees. It was modest but still nicer than the well worn robes that she would usually wear.
Grace half shrugged.
“What’s wrong with wanting to look nice for yourself?”
Bertha looked at her as if to say ‘yeah right’, and Grace felt irrationally angry, what was it to her anyway?
Partly to change the subject and partly because she was interested, Grace broke the silence
“So Bertha, do you have a date or are you just going with friends like us?” she said gesturing to Eva and herself. And as Bertha broke off in a tirade of everyone who had asked her, and who she had considered asking in breathtaking detail, Grace breathed a sigh of relief and allowed her mind to wander.
The party was crowded and in full swing by the time they got there. Bertha had already gone off to meet her date, as she was invited as a plus one. Meanwhile, Eva and Grace dawdled near the edges of the crowded room, enjoying the music and listening to snippets of conversation.
Grace pretended not to notice, but Eva’s eyes kept drifting off to the side every couple of minutes, seemingly unconsciously towards Amos Diggory, the Hufflepuff Quidditch captain. The fifth time this happened in two minutes, Grace decided to intervene.
“Why don’t you go and say hello” she suggested, a half smile on her lips.
Eva was startled, she looked as though she were about to protest but then her shoulders drooped
“Am I that obvious?” she despaired. Grace laughed.
“No, I just know you really well!” she reassured her.
After some serious encouragement, Eva finally relented and made her way to the group. Grace watched with bated breath and her fingers crossed behind her back.
A minute or so later they were chatting amicably, and Grace turned away smiling, to get another Butterbeer. Unfortunately the food table was surrounded by a bunch of rowdy Ravenclaw boys. Squaring her shoulders, she made eye contact with no one and refilled her glass quickly.
Not quickly enough.
“Oooh look who it is, Miss look but don’t touch”
Grace looked up sharply to see a thickset boy of about 17 leering down at her; she could smell alcohol on his breath. His friends were watching the exchange, looking amused. Whether, because he was making a fool of himself or at his antics, Grace didn’t know.
Grimacing, she ignored him and turned away, wishing she’d worn the robes instead. She didn’t expect a large sweaty hand to grab onto her wrist, jostling her hand, and spilling a vat of butterbeer onto the floor.
“Let go” she said firmly, reflexively, anger rather than fear pumping through her veins. When he didn’t move, she drew her wand and pointed it at his face.
“Let go before I make you”. He looked wary now and reluctantly released her. Grace considered hexing him anyway, but common sense won out and she left swiftly, not looking back and rubbing her sore wrist as she went.
Her good mood and cheerfulness had evaporated; she felt pissed off and began to remember exactly why she hated Slughorn’s parties. The teenage swine’s and drunken louts and self absorbed ex students, bragging about how they had achieved success. The mindless small talk. How she hated small talk.
Right now, all she wanted was to go back to her dormitory, take off the bloody dress, and crawl into her warm comfortable bed. Maybe, she could convince one of the house elves to bring her a sandwich? It was thoughts of sleep and food and maybe a bath that sustained her almost to the door, until she stopped abruptly and locked eyes with the boy accidentally blocking her path. Grey eyes widened.
Regulus was shocked at the situation, and annoyed with himself. He had tried very hard to avoid her, and suddenly there she was and his legs didn’t seem to want to move.
Grace saw his eyes sweep over her form, taking in her dress, her hair, her face. His own face was quite expressionless, but in that moment, inexplicably more so than ever before, Grace knew that she was beautiful.
She smiled softly; she wasn’t sure why she did it, perhaps because his eyes were friendlier than she had ever seen them, or perhaps because he wasn’t steadfastly ignoring her like he had been in potions lessons since the beginning of the year. For some reason he looked alarmed at the gesture, and looked away abruptly as though he had just seen something indecent.
And then they appeared.
She wrapped a firm white arm around his waist possessively, and smiled at Grace contemptuously. Billowing white blonde hair spilling down her back and a very risqué neckline displaying an impressive amount of cleavage fulfilled the package.
They looked perfect together, Grace realised. Of course they did. They could have been two runaway models hitting a nightclub in Venice, rather than two kids at their school Halloween party.
It was Miss Smethley.
Miss Veronica Smethley.
Miss Veronica Bitch Smethley. She had come over with her gang of Slytherin girls, as well as Rabastan Lestrange and Mulciber.
“Why hello Gracie, don’t you look cute” she said condescendingly, taking in her modest dress.
“Hello Veronica” Grace was surprised by how calm her voice was. She felt like crying.
Veronica’s eyes sparkled maliciously.
“I was just telling Regulus here the good news about my aunt, she’s expecting you see”
“Congratulations” said Grace flatly, wondering why the hell she was telling her this.
“Oh yes, she’s very excited.” Veronica was talking in earnest now, a deceivingly innocent smile on her cherubic face.
“In fact the entire family is, excited that is, Auntie Leda was always a bit of a loose cannon you see”
Veronica took her time in saying the words, so she could better savour their effect on the unsuspecting girl in front of her.
Grace felt as though a heavy metal bludger had collided with her chest. Her eyes widened and shocked brown eyes met blue.
“Apparently, she went through a rebellious stage and shacked up with this muggle for a while…”
Oh dear god. No
“…and even had his brat, but eventually she came to her senses and decided to stop consorting with filth and disgracing the family name.”
“She married uncle Lester last year, and they’re going to be such a happy little family!” cooed Smethley.
“Don’t you think so Gracie?”
Grace shut her eyes in horror. When she opened them again Veronica Smethley was still there, staring straight at her. Her features were twisted into a wide gloating smile. She was enjoying this. Sadistic bitch.
They were attracting attention now, curious faces watching the strange exchange between the two girls. Mulciber and Lestrange were sneering unpleasantly. Underneath the outward veneer of calm, Grace was thrown. She could feel an odd ringing in her ears and a sickly feeling in her stomach. Without a word, she swept away from the room, making it to the exit at last.
To my readers – (if I even have any!) I know, I know. It’s been a ridiculously long time. If anyone is even reading this, I’m completely repentant. BUT, I’m back now and determined to finish this one off.
I reckon there will be about 10 chapters in total and I’ll probably have to keep coming back and editing them – I apologise in advance.
Anything you recognise is not mine.
Please let me know what you think. You have no idea what it means to me.
Last thing – I really need a beta, how do I get one? Also is anyone interested in making a new banner, this one’s a little dated.
Grace rested her damp forehead against the mirror, the cool surface soothing her headache.
She had fought tears all the way from Slughorns office, not allowing herself to cry in public, but now she was alone, the tears didn’t seem to want to come.
She felt strange. Surreal.
Her mother was a taboo subject in her home. Her father, a muggle, loathed mention of her. For months after his wife had left, he couldn’t bring himself to look at his daughter, and eventually Grace had stopped trying. Even now, they had a strained relationship; the father a workaholic and the daughter part of a world he could never understand.
Grace thought about her mother. She hated her, truly. What kind of mother turns her back on her only daughter?
She had vague memories of Leda; brushing her long dark hair after a bath, hugging her close, but the memories were eclipsed by those of Grace spending hours alone daydreaming in the garden or playing dress up from the boxes in the attic. Her parents had never had much time for her, and she had craved affection for much of her childhood.
Grace shut her eyes. She didn’t want to bring up these memories. She concentrated on what had happened.
Veronica Smethley and Regulus Black. The beautiful, pureblooded, Slytherin king and queen. She loathed them. Veronica was apparently related to her mother, ‘aunt’ she had called her, not surprising really considering all the purebloods were interrelated.
Leda was pregnant. Grace frowned, she hadn’t been aware her mother had even remarried. Veronica knew more about her own mother than she did and she took pleasure in rubbing it in Grace’s face. She didn’t want to think about this either.
Regulus. The way Regulus had looked at her was ingrained into the back of her eyelids. His expression was odd, he looked wary, afraid even. Why? They had never even had a real conversation. He ignored her completely in lessons. Grace had always assumed it was because she was a half blood, or because she was a Hufflepuff, or because she didn’t interest him at all (he typically associated with leggy blonde’s ref: Veronica Smethley)
But the more she thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. Snape and Rawle were half bloods, and he had no problem associating with them. Amber was a Hufflpuff and he had once apologised and helped her pick up her books when he accidentally knocked into her. Grace blushed, the way he had looked at her tonight did not suggest he was disgusted by her. Quite the opposite.
The only conclusion she could come to was that he was… a weirdo. Or that he was attracted to her, against his will.
Grace laughed out loud at the absurd notion. No. it couldn’t be.
It couldn’t be.
The girl in the mirrors eyebrow puckered.
Could it be?
No. no it couldn’t be, she reasoned. For one thing, if he was attracted to her why wouldn’t he make a move, get what he wanted and leave at the very least? If the rumours were true it wouldn’t be entirely out of character. Love em and leave em, as the saying goes. He wasn’t above it, he was a Slytherin, he didn’t have morals!
Ninety nine percent of the time he ignored her and basically treated her like shit, then the one percent of times, like tonight, he stared at her like she was the only woman in the world. Did he have a split personality?
The boy was so confusing! Grace had no idea what was going through his head. Ideas and half formed plans began to run through her mind…
She could confront him, she supposed, and ask him what his problem was. But of course he would coolly inform her there was no problem and that she was paranoid.
She could somehow get him alone and kiss him just to see what he would do; push her off or kiss her back? But Grace would never be so bold.
She could get a boyfriend and see if he got jealous, or if he reacted at all. But she didn’t like the idea of using some faceless boy in that way, and public displays of affection were trashy– she was quite the prude. Besides, even if Regulus did like her, she knew he wouldn’t rise to the bait and outwardly show anything but complete indifference.
The only remaining thing she could think of was to seduce him, in a classy way of course, to see if he was affected. Grace smiled wryly, knowing she would (again) never be so bold. But she indulged her imagination.
Seducing Regulus…hmmm. She’d be subtle, obviously, it just wasn’t in her nature to do something outrageous. Grace drifted off to sleep as Amber and Bertha tip toed their way into their room. She dreamed of all the possibilities.
The next morning she had potions first thing. Grace had painstakingly conditioned her hair and dried it so that it framed her face nicely, rather than the ratty bun she usually spent 10 seconds tying up. She had also put some moisturising cream on her face as well as lip balm that gave her usually dry lips a rose tint. It wasn’t like she was making an effort really. In fact most girls would consider these things as essentials. She had only bothered today because she happened to wake up early and had nothing else to do. No other reason. She considered putting on some eyeliner but the last thing she wanted was for anyone to think she was making a special effort, besides she was out of practice and would probably end up looking like a panda.
The dungeons were freezing this time of year. Grace exhaled and saw her breath condense before her eyes. Goosebumps erupted on her arms beneath her robes and her toes were tingling. She was the first person to reach the dungeons where she sat alone until the lesson started (she had woken up really early) and by some coincidence the next person to come in was a dark young man who balked at the sight of her. Grace didn’t look at him and was surprised when he addressed her.
“You’re early”. He sounded apprehensive as he slipped into his seat. Grace didn’t miss a beat.
“So are you” she responded primly, still not looking at him. He didn’t respond, she didn’t really expect him to and an extremely uncomfortable silence fell in the classroom, as both students sat with backs ram rod straight, staring ahead at the blackboard.
Grace was at an impasse, this was a perfect opportunity to get some answers out of him, but she couldn’t quite build up the nerve to say anything. She felt angry with herself. Frustrated at her own cowardice. Seducing someone sounded easy in theory, in practice she was far too reserved to ever try anything so audacious.
It was pointless anyway, of course he didn’t like her. She had seen him with the pureblood girls he liked; he wasn’t reserved, or shy. He would ask them out and that would be the end of it.
The rest of the class filed in over the next twenty minutes or so and the tension dissipated. They had a quiet lesson copying notes from the board.
Grace expected their meeting at the beginning of potions to be a one off event, a bizarre coincidence where two people randomly decide they won’t go to breakfast on the same day. So the next Friday morning, when she had potions again, and decided to skip breakfast again, she was shocked when Regulus did the same, entering the classroom a minute or so after she did.
She tried to come up with a reasonable explanation; maybe he didn’t have much of an appetite in the morning? But she had seen him at the Slytherin table every other morning for breakfast. Maybe he had homework to finish? But he simply sat at his table staring at the board the same as last week. Grace was perplexed. They exchanged ‘hello’s’ and then there was a silence as uncomfortable as silences can be.
But no, the next Friday Grace woke up early again, half wanting him to be in the classroom again, half dreading the tense atmosphere if he was.
“Aren’t you going to have breakfast?” asked a concerned Amber as Grace took off in the direction of the dungeons
“Not hungry” lied Grace.
He didn’t disappoint. Regulus was already sat in his seat by the time Grace made it to the classroom, his long legs stretched out under the table, arms resting casually on the table. He smiled at the sight of her, a genuine smile, a first for him. She found her lips curling involuntary in response.
“Hey” he greeted softly, his eyes locking with hers.
“Hi” Grace replied, moving to her seat at the back of the room. The silence lasted for half a minute before it was broken.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” asked Grace, feeling emboldened.
“Depends what it is” replied Regulus gruffly without turning around, he sounded apprehensive again.
“Why aren’t you at breakfast?” she asked. He turned his head to look at her and raised his eyebrow.
“That’s a personal question?” he asked sceptically.
“It could be” Grace replied, a hint of a smile playing across her lips, “depending on the answer”
Regulus narrowed his eyes at her
“Why aren’t you at breakfast?” he deflected.
“I asked first” she reminded him with a wide smile. Regulus hesitated.
“I’m not hungry” he replied finally.
“Yes really” he snapped annoyed, but he then smiled back at the girl, seemingly unable to help it.
“Why aren’t you at breakfast?”
“I’m not hungry either” teased Grace and Regulus turned back to the front with a slight smile on his lips as the early birds of the class filed in.
It was not a surprise to find Regulus in the dungeons once again the following Friday morning. It was however, a pleasant surprise to find a small stack of buttered toast sitting on the table in front of him.
“Here, breakfast is important” he handed her the toast, touching her chilly fingers for split second
“Thanks” Grace replied, honestly starving. Instead of going to the back she dropped into the seat beside him. They ate quietly for a while. Despite the quasi-acquaintance, Grace couldn’t bring herself to be fully comfortable in his presence. She had an unsettly feeling in her stomach and she searched around for a topic of conversation.
“They say it’s going to be one of the worst winters we’ve had in years” she commented lightly.
Oh God. The weather. Is this the best she could do?
“But then again, they say that every year” she added, resigned. Regulus looked at her.
“Are you cold?” he asked
“A little,” Grace admitted, she examined her fingers on her free hand that wasn’t clutching toast. The tips were turning blue. Regulus’ eyes widened.
“More than a little” he murmured, ensconcing her hand between both of his own, “your hands are freezing”. He did it without thinking. He brought their hands up to his mouth and breathed warm air onto them, his brain catching up with his actions a second too late. They were both frozen, eyes locked waiting to see what the other would do first, the intensity of his gaze making Grace feel exceptionally warm despite the temperature.
Grace moved her hand so it could rest on his cheek and Regulus turned his head slightly to drop a kiss to her palm. Grace leaned forward, wanting to feel that same kiss pressed against –the bell rang and the two sprang away from each other sharply. Grace moved hastily to her seat and Regulus slumped back onto his own.
Hello all. Oh my days, I am so sorry for the ridiculously long wait. Life had been mad. If I have any readers left, I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Please review, you have no idea how much it inspires me to write more.
"Have you done your charms homework yet?" Grace asked, glancing up from the three foot essay she had been working on. It was friday morning, at an ungodly hour, and faithful to their bizarre routine, they were the only two people in the dungeon before Potions. Even breakfast had not started yet.
Regulus groaned in response, his voice muffled against the table his head was resting on. He was half asleep, his cloak slung carelessly on the neighbouring chair. Grace allowed herself to look across the classroom at him, really look at him. He had the build of a seeker; long sinewy legs, narrow hips, a trim waist than segued into broader shoulders. She remembered the first time she had ever seen him (at the sorting ceremony) and blushed deeply. There was no hint of any boyyish softness on him now. Sometime in the middle, without her realising, he had become a man. Her eyes travelled up to his face. With a jolt, she realised his eyes were open. Regulus smiled slightly watching the girl take him in. Grace looked away with a slight smile and turned a page sharply. She was embarassed at being caught staring.
"What are you thinking about?" His voice was low and gritty from disuse and he cleared his throat. He had a good idea, of course, her blush was a sure way of knowing her thoughts weren't exactly wholesome. His smile widened. She ignored him.
She reached into the clutter of books and parchment on her desk and pulled out a reference book, rifling through the pages to check some fact or figure. It was quiet for a while with only the sound of Grace's quill scratching parchment and the steady drip drip of the tap. Their encounter first thing that morning had been awkward for Grace to say the least, considering the last time they had talked she was on the verge of ki- no she would not think of that. It had been a moment of madness. The knot in her stomach squirmed. She asked herself again the question she had been asking herself constantly; what was she doing here?
She has spent all of last night worried about how to act if he did turn up, shy and abashed, or pretend it never happened? Strictly speaking nothing had actually happened. She was strangely relieved when she found him in the dungeon at half five in the morning, she was certain she'd be the first to arrive and she couldn't contain her smile at the sight of him. She had sat a table away this time, and got out her books as a welcome distraction, immersing herself in homework - largely ignoring him and Regulus had picked up the hint and relaxed in his chair, not looking the least part embarassed or awkward.
In her embarassment, Grace behaved the way she always did when she was vulnerable - she became quiet and guarded and self conscious.
"You know, I never would have pictured you as the last minute homework type", Regulus teased, breaking the silence. His head rested on the table, grey eyes open and watching the girl as she worked.
Grace smiled but said nothing, and carried on with her essay, just for the excuse of something to do, she had no idea what she was writing.
"Are you going to Slughorn's christmas party?"
Regulus cocked his head to the side.
"Why? Most people are desperate to get an invite" he asked, he seemed genuinely curious. Grace considered her answer. Despite all of the gimics, she had never really enjoyed the parties, often spending them alone in a corner with a drink, willing time to go faster so she could relax in her dorm, maybe with a nice book or a chocolate digestive. The guests there were also usually the most self aggrandising and cocky gits in the school.
"I'm not much of a party girl", she answered finally "besides, I've never really enjoyed them".
"Me neither" admitted Regulus.
It was Grace's turn to be surprised, she glanced at him.
"Why do you go then?" she demanded, curious. There was a beat of silence, Regulus suddenly became interested in twirling his wand between his long fingers. It didn't seem as though she was going to get an answer from him, but finally he spoke in a low tone, still not looking at her. His every word clear and controlled.
"To keep Veronica company mainly"
Veronica? Veronica Bitch Long Legs Smethley?
Was he kidding? But Grace remembered the disastrous Slughorn party where Veronica had been on his arm, and come to think of it - how friendly the two of them had always been. But maybe that's all they were - friends.
"Oh" Grace managed eventually, working hard to keep the smile on her face, trying her upmost to appear nonchalant "are you two close?"
"She's my girlfriend"
This time, Grace was unable to keep her face impassive, she stared at him in disbelief.
"Your girlfriend" she heard herself echoing. Surely she had misheard?
Regulus looked at her warily.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, his expression was both uncomfortable and guarded. Grace simply stared at him, she felt wrongfooted, shocked, angry, unsure of whether it was at him or at herself. There was a long silence.
Collecting herself, Grace tried to smile but found she couldnt quite manage it.
"No not at all, why would there be?" she said, very sarcastically with a steely note in her voice and narrowed eyes.
Regulus simply looked at her, studying her expression. She felt like she was on display at a museum. His face was quite impassive and Grace felt her ire grow.
"She doesn't mind you spending time with me then?" She demanded in a low voice, leaning forward, determined to get to the bottom of this. Regulus turned away to face the board and leaned back in his chair.
"It was her idea" he admitted.
Another long silence followed his statement. Nothing made sense.
"What?" Grace asked, finally. Her face betrayed her confusion .
Regulus sighed, looking straight ahead at the board, refusing to even look at her. It was clear he didn't want to have this conversation, but Grace was impatient.
"Well" she demanded, trying to save face, even though she was feeling increasingly pathetic.
"Look, just forget it" said Regulus, knowing it was a hopeless case, "forget I said anything, let's just carry on the way we were before"
Grace's laugh was loud and slightly maniacal, and Regulus winced at the sound.
"Unlikely" she sneered once she had calmed down, an ugly look on her face. Regulus gave her a cold hard look, and relented.
"You're a Lestrange" He offered simply, by way of explanation.
"My mother is a Lestrange" replied Grace scathingly, "I'm a Nickels and a halfblood. Besides what has that got to do with anything?" She couldn't believe he was bringing her family into this.
"You have Lestrange blood running through your veins, you belong on our side" he said matter of factly.
Grace stared at him. Our side, he had said. The clogs in her mind began to turn. For the first time, she was distinctly aware she was sitting with a Slytherin. She felt as though a shard of ice had slipped down her throat. Grace had a feeling she knew exactly where this was going.
"The death eaters side, you know who's side" she clarified in a small voice, and Regulus said nothing but gazed at her imploringly.
"It's for your own safety, pick the right side - choose your loyalties now and you'll be guaranteed protection once we leave school" Regulus spoke earnestly, willing her to see the sense in his words. But Grace was thinking about something else, the other thing that didn't make sense;
"Smethley put you up to this?" she asked under her breath, looking down at her hands. She would have thought Veronica would relish the idea of her in danger. She looked up "and since when is Smethley so concerned for my welfare?" she asked him.
"She's only following instructions" he said dismissively. Grace narrowed her eyes, thinking about how quickly he jumped to defend his bitchy girlfriend. How had she not picked up on this before? Then she actually considered his words, and the can of worms they opened.
"Who's instructions?" she demanded. Who on earth from their lot would really give a toss what happened to her? Regulus hesitated, but answered.
"Her aunt's, who happens to be -"
"-my mother" finished off Grace, feeling nauseous. Regulus nodded. She didn't want to think about her mother. It opened up a whole new can of worms and frankly, she didn't have the energy. As far as she was concerned, her mother was a nonentity. A nonentity who made her feel sick to her stomach.
She rooted around for another question, anything else to think about.
"Why you?" she asked Regulus, dreading the answer, "Why would Smethley ask you to befriend me, why not herself?" her voice sounded weak and pathetic to her own ears.
Regulus groaned and leaned his head back against the chair, shutting his eyes.
"Does it matter?" he spat out.
"Tell me" demanded Grace, he was silent. "Regulus" she said loudly.
"She...thought you'd be more receptive to me" said Regulus.
"She..." Regulus opened his eyes and looked at her warily. "She thinks you have a thing for me"
Grace didn't know what to say. She couldn't quite meet his eyes. She felt completely and utterly humiliated. They had been laughing at her, she realised, both of them, laughing at her stupidity; for thinking that he would ever be interested in the likes of her. He had been making a fool of her from the very beginning.
It hurt, more than she cared to admit. She felt like a pathetic, transparent little girl.
Grace quickly packed away her things, refusing to look at him. Her stool made a loud 'nails on a chalkboard' screech as she pushed it back.
He was silent, watching her in his familiar way. She only stopped when she was at the door, her pride wouldn't allow her to leave without having the last word. She wanted to hurt him, to make him sting, to make him feel even a fraction of what she was. She turned to look at him, a hand on the door frame, the bitchiest expression she could muster adorning her face;
"Thanks, but I'd never be that fucking desperate"
Her fierce expression crumpling into desolation as she turned away.
For the first time in her life, she skipped potions.
The other girls in her dorm were still asleep, and she was thankful for that small blessing. She didn't feel like answering a barrage of questions. She locked herself in the bathroom when they were leaving for breakfast, sinking into a hot bath that scalded her skin. She welcomed the distraction. She didn't want to think.
After what felt like hours, she wrapped her old frayed bathgown around herself, her hair still sopping down her back uncomfortably. Hot steam flooded into the room as the bathroom door opened, making the room stiflingly warm. Grace was red faced and hot, ready to get changed and maybe make it in time for Charms.
She froze when she noticed a slim figure reclining on her bed at ease, and blanched when Veronica Smethley's lips stretched into a malicious smirk.
ahhh, sorry forgot to add an a/n.
I'm sorry its taken so long to upload - life is a pain and I am very very lazy.
please review - trust me, it's the only reason I write.
love you all.
Oh and what questions do you want answered?
Grace stood hunched a little awkwardly; she was not wearing a bra under her singlet, and her hair was steadily soaking through the material of her lower back and dripping onto the carpet. Her face was still a little red and shiny from her bath. The girl on the bed was the opposite; poised and arrogant, she watched the brunette coldly.
"I see you've finished, you took long enough" she said coolly. Grace said nothing. She had never really spoken to the blonde, had never really interacted with her, but she felt a fierce hatred at the sight of her. She had a brief vision of clawing her eyes out and felt her lips curl spitefully before she admonished herself. What kind of girl was she becoming?
"What do you want?" she asked flatly, finally finding her voice.
"Sit down" ordered Veronica and Grace raised an eyebrow, "please" the blonde sneered and Grace sighed dropping onto Eva's bed. She was curious, but she had an idea where this was going, especially after Regulus' little revelation this morning, Grace felt another little prickle of humiliation at the memory. She was annoyed with herself, she had reason to be upset after all, the two of them had been trying to manipulate her for months now, probably laughing together at her expense.
"If you've come here to, oh what was it 'convince me to join the right side', your wasting your breath, he's already told me everything" Grace said in a low voice, fury enunciated every word. Veronica looked at her with surprise and a little confusion.
"You won't consider it then?" she asked lightly, as though discussing the weather.
"NO" said Grace with feeling, "Never". Veronica made a 'whatever' face, before springing to her feet, perfectly coiffed hair bouncing.
"Oh well, I tried. I'll just have to tell Auntie Leda you're not interested" she said airily over her shoulder as she made her way to the door. For her at least the conversation was over. Grace was oddly dismayed at the sight of her leaving, she had so many unanswered questions.
"Wait - " she cried, seemingly without her volition. She frantically tried to translate her tangled thoughts into sense.
"What's going on between you and Regulus?" she blurted, asking the one question she would never have dared asked either of them, but was almost desperate to know. Veronica scoffed loudly.
"And how is that any of your business?" she asked waspishly. Grace said nothing. Veronica eyed her carefully, as though considering something. "If you must know he adores me, we'll probably get married when we finish school and before you ask, our parents are thrilled at the match". She smiled a little smugly, watching carefully for her cousins reaction, but Grace was carefully composed. She swallowed roughly, her throat itchy.
"Why did you make him do your dirty work, why not try and convince me yourself?" Grace asked, the same question she had asked Regulus only a few hours ago. He had claimed Veronica believed she had a soft spot for the Slytherin, so Grace would be more susceptible to him than her own cousin, that was the peak of their mortifying conversation. Veronica shrugged her slim shoulders,
"I didn't make him do anything, he volunteered when Auntie mentioned it".
There was a beat of silence; Grace was flabbergasted. Who was the liar; Regulus or Veronica?
"So it wasn't your idea?" she asked, just to make sure and Veronica shook her head 'no'. Her heart jumped into her throat. The pressure in her chest leaving just slightly, she was inclined to believe Veronica more than the confusing boy she just couldn't for the life of her work out. He volunteered, volunteered to spend time with her. He was lying before, he wasn't being forced. Okay so he apparently had a girlfriend but that was just a trivial detail, she was sure Veronica was exaggerating anyway, marriage pfft. Despite herself, without really knowing why, she felt her spirits lift and her lips stretch into a smile. Too late, she realised Veronica was still there, watching her every expression.
"You like him don't you?" accused Veronica, disbelief etched across her expression.
"No" said Grace automatically.
"Don't lie" shrieked the blonde, then collecting herself she smiled cruelly "So what, he talked to you for the first time in your life today and suddenly your smitten? God could you be any more pathetic?" she sneered, any thought of leaving vanished.
Grace looked at her blankly, registering only the words that changed everything 'talked to you for the first time in your life today', she had said, Veronica did not know about the secret meetings over the last 4 months. What kind of relationship did they have? He was such a little liar. She vaguely registered the taller girls monologue, tuning in to hear -
"...please, like he'd ever look twice at a fat ugly disgusting half blood like you!"
"Piss off" cried Grace, enraged, as she threw a stray book at the other girls head. Veronica caught it deftly, throwing it back immediately, Grace ducked just in time. With a few more well aimed insults and a small tussle Veronica finally left, marching out of the dorm, nose in the air. Grace sank onto her bed, staring at the ceiling. She checked the timetable spellotaped to her wall; she only had charms at the end of the day left. That gave her 3 hours, she was hungry; she had missed breakfast and lunch was almost over. Sighing, she rolled over and buried her head in her pillow, squishing her nose. Her thoughts strayed to where they usually did, the aloof Slytherin boy.
She hated herself, she truly did. She had become the kind of girl that she had always looked down on; the kind whose life revolved around a boy. When was the last time she had read a book for pleasure, done an extra assignment or extra reading for her classes, been truly honest with Eva, Amber or any of her other friends? It was time to face facts. No more denial. She could be honest with herself at least, she thought, if not with anyone else. That was the only way to clear up the mess in her head, to gain some semblance of clarity.
Truth number 1. She liked Regulus. She repeated the notion in her head, but did she? Of course she did - she had been having awkward voluntary encounters with him for months now. No matter how often they had sat and made stilted conversation with each other, they could never be completely comfortable with each other, as friends should. She wondered if it was mutual, or whether the awkwardness was just hers. Grace had no way of knowing, she hated how impassive his face could be, he was impossible to read. Grace wondered whether she would still feel the same way if he were unattractive, or a clown. Surely she wouldn't, that meant something didn't it? She decided her feelings for him were purely physical. She wasn't a child anymore afterall, she was a red blooded woman and she was bound to notice someone like Regulus. In fact she was probably no different to any other girl in the year, most had liked one of the Black brothers at some point. She would wait it out and the feelings would go away; there, problem solved.
Anyway, it's not like Regulus was interested in her, she reasoned, feeling a deep pang at the thought. Sure he had spent some time with her, but that was only because her mother Leda had requested it. He had a girlfriend too, which he was happy to admit and despite what information he may or may not share with Veronica, Grace had to admit they made a nice looking couple. Veronica may be a silly little bitch, but she matched him somehow, in a way Grace couldn't, in the cold aristocratic pureblood way.
She didn't understand him, she didn't think she ever would. He was too confusing, too guarded and Grace was tired of it. He had lied when he said Veronica sent him to her every week, he had lied about Veronica thinking she fancied him too. Why would he do that, if not to gauge her reaction? Grace blushed remembering how she had flown into a rage and wished she had been more composed. He was a manipulative little shit and she was tired. She didn't want to play the guessing game anymore.
She would leave him alone now, ignore him completely; delete him from her world.
But there was one last thing that bothered her; she knew he was a Slytherin, but she hadn't realised just how prejudiced he was, he supported the Death Eaters if this morning was anything to go by. Grace felt a sinking sensation in her belly. He was not evil. She was certain of that, she couldn't believe he wanted to be part of that clique. She wished she could save him from it, but dismissed the thought immediately. She wasn't that stupid, she barely knew him, she could never influence him in that way.
No. It was best she forgot about him completely. She promised herself that enough was enough, starting immediately, she would not look or talk to him or have any contact with him at all. From now on he didn't exist. She frowned, what if he talked to her? Her forehead cleared, she would answer him politely like she would anyone else, no special treatment.
Decision made, she rolled over, feeling pounds lighter.
Truth number 2. She lived too much in her own head. She had always been that way, possibly because she had spent the majority of her childhood alone and neglected, or perhaps because she hated making herself vulnerable to people, hated opening up to them, giving them anything personal of hers whatsoever. She felt a trickle of dismay for Eva and Amber, her roomates. They had always been so good to her, and she had been so guarded with them. They knew hardly anything of substance about her, that wasn't friendship; it was passing acquaintance, and if she didn't change now, she would never know the meaning of having a friend. She decided she would go to Slughorns christmas party with them, she would be normal and carefree, the way she should be. She would be the new Grace. No more lies, no more omissions. Well okay, less of them...
Truth number 3. Her mother was out there somewhere. She existed. She was real and apparently she was worried for her dau......Grace couldn't do it. Her mother belonged to the blackest, darkest recess of her mind, the part she locked away and never visited. Enough self realisation for one day.
She rolled over and went to sleep. Recurring nightmares of water. She ended up missing Charms and Dinner too.
The next morning she was absolutely famished. She piled food on her plate, eating like there was no tomorrow. Her roomates eyed her carefully, their expressions ranging from amusement to mild disgust in Bertha's case.
"Carry on like that and you won't fit into your dressrobes" Bertha commented,
"Leave her alone, she didn't eat anything yesterday" admonished Eva, watching Grace with almost motherly concern, "you feeling better today?" she asked tentatively.
"Much, thanks" replied Grace, taking a swig from her milk glass and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She looked over to the Slytherin table and then stopped herself, her head jerking bizarrely. Nobody noticed except Bertha who was sat opposite. Always one for gossip, she had to comment.
"Who are you trying to avoid then, eh?
"No one" replied Grace, a little too defensively, Bertha's lips stretched into a predatory smile,
"Come on, you can tell me, I won't say anything". Grace snorted loudly, wishing the girl would drop it.
"I know," Bertha clicked her fingers, "a secret boyfriend!" she teased half joking.
"Don't be ridiculous" said Grace dismissively as she buttered her toast, inside she was crumbling. There was a telling silence, she looked up, Amber and Eva had long since left but Bertha was still sat, watching Grace shrewdly with her head cocked.
"Oh my God" she said slowly, enunciating every word carefully, "You have, haven't you? Tell the truth now" she sing songed, thrilled at the new piece of gossip. Grace forced herself to release an airy laugh, wishing her acting skills were up to par, she glanced at the exit just as Ravenclaw Sid Belby made his way through it, she considered making a run for it.
"Oh Bertha don't be silly, why on earth would I keep something like that from you?" she said, with the most sincere expression she could muster.
"That's a good point, it must be scandalous" Bertha giggled, her eyes suddenly lit up in a way Grace didn't like one bit, "is that where you've been disappearing to every morning before Potions?" she took in Grace's deer in the headlights expression with a laugh, "don't think we haven't noticed" she sing songed, delighted as Grace shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
"He's in your potions class isn't he?" Bertha guessed shrewdly, "and it's scandalous because..." she trailed off thinking, Grace felt as though she was watching an impending disaster, completely powerless. She had to do something, but no matter how much she denied it Bertha would take it as further affirmation, the girl was annoyingly persistant. Bertha was now actually craning her neck to look around the hall for the 6th year potioneers, it was a small class with only 4 boys including Regulus, Grace felt a cold sweat break out over her skin...any second now. Bertha had finished scanning the other houses and was just turning towards the Slytherin table when Grace did possibly the stupidest thing she had done in a very long time,
"It's Sid Belby" she blurted, the first name that sprung to her lips. Bertha turned slowly to face her, her predators smirk saying one clear thing; 'yes dear, now I have you'.
By tomorrow morning it was all over school.
a/n hello, so sorry for the long wait , suffered from a severe case of writers block - I'm not sure if there's anyone even reading this now, but I thought better late than never. As always please review, feedback is like the water for this little seedling of a story!!! I honestly wouldn't have gotten this far if it wasn't for the encouragement I've been getting, so thankyou so much.
A/N Hello readers (if I still have any), I know it’s been ages, I know I promised a new chapter an embarrassingly long time ago. I’m incredibly sorry. Real life has been a bit depressing of late and I’m trying to get my life sorted again. Don’t ask.
PLEASE NOTE; I’ve made some quite significant changes towards the end of this chapter, so you may want to reread the altered (and hopefully improved) version. If you’re reading this post September 2011 feel free to ignore this message.
And please, please review. It encourages me to keep writing, knowing that someone somewhere is reading this.
Lastly, I would just like to dedicate this chapter to Inessa, who has been faithfully reviewing every single chapter I have ever written. THANKYOU!!!!!
Sid and Grace were...friends. Not in the 'braid each others hair and tell each other secrets' sense of the word and they were not remotely close. But they did get on well with each other and there was no uneasiness or tension in their exchanges. They had sat together in Transfiguration and Charms all through second and third year, and they worked together breezily.
Sid was friendly and definitely easy to talk to; he didn’t take himself seriously at all. Grace did not worry about saying something foolish or feeling self conscious in his presence, nor did she ever feel as though her stomach was doing cartwheels whenever he so much as looked at her.
So in that sense, he was the exact opposite of Regulus.
So when she had very stupidly told Bertha Jorkins, renowned gossip and troublemaker that they were an ‘item’, she comforted herself with the knowledge that things could have been much, much worse. After all, in her desperation she could have blurted out any old prats name.
And Grace was lucky, so very lucky, that when she explained what she had done to Sid, and told him that she was so very sorry for bringing him into it, the boy had simply laughed it off and assured her it would die down in a couple of days, and that he wasn’t angry in the least.
“Are you sure?” asked Grace for the hundredth time, hardly believing her luck. Breakfast had just finished and they were taking a walk in the weak December sunshine before heading to the greenhouses for Herbology.
“Positive, Grace. I’m not angry. But…” Sid trailed off, looking uncomfortable, “never mind” he said. But now Grace was curious.
“No, go on, what were you going to say?” she insisted, he had been so understanding towards her, she would have to make up for it somehow.
“Well, now that everyone thinks we’re a couple, and Slughorn’s party is the day after tomorrow, even if we say we’ve broken up-”
“-It’ll look weird if you ask someone else out so soon” finished Grace, comprehending.
After all, Bertha had spread their pretend romance so it now resembled some sort of torrid love affair. Grace wanted to vomit. How could people believe such nonsense? Younger girls were actually pointing and whispering in the corridors. Grace had never been gossiped about before and she soon grew sick of it.
“Well yeah, and I hate going alone- none of my mates are invited.”
“ We could go together” suggested Grace, but then quickly added, “Only if you wanted to though, I don’t mind if you don’t” she could feel herself blush slightly. But Sid seemed to like the idea. They decided to meet outside Slughorns office on the night of the party and parted ways at the door to the greenhouse as the bell rang.
It was true that Grace was not a fan of the Slug Club Christmas parties, but unlike the years before, this year she actually had someone to go with. Surprisingly, she didn’t feel nervous at all. Sid was easygoing and friendly and she was almost looking forward to it. It was a far cry from the anxious dread she had often felt when making her way to the potions dungeon hours early, every Friday morning.
After a relaxing Herbology lesson and hectic Charms, and a nerve wracking Transfiguration (Professor McGonagall was shooting out revision questions), it was time for Potions. Grace arrived just in time and slipped into her seat next to Alice the Gryffindor.
They had made Draught of the Living Dead the previous lesson, and were now copying notes from the board about how to avoid common pitfalls, and little tips on how to get the best texture and characteristic smoke spirals. She was engrossed in her work and ignored the Slytherin’s entirely. Veronica turned and smiled gloatingly at Grace from her place next to Regulus, and was rewarded with a perfectly blank expression from her dark haired cousin.
Grace would have loved to gauge Regulus’ expression, but by ignoring him, she had no idea what was going through his head. Not that she had ever had any idea, she scoffed to herself inwardly. Grace decided to stop the ridiculous line of thought and concentrated on her notes. She did just that, until a piece of parchment was slid over her work, with one messily scrawled sentence:
‘Is it true you and Sid Belby are going out?’
Grace resisted the urge to roll her eyes and glanced at a sheepish Alice, she grinned and scrawled back:
‘No, we’re just friends, but we are going to Slughorn’s party together’.
And that was the end of it, no more prying or cajoling. She really did like Alice.
The next morning was hectic. Everyone in her dorm apart from her was going home for the Christmas holidays tomorrow morning. Typically it was only Amber, mother hen, who had packed before hand. They were doing it now as they would have no time this evening what with the party. Eva and Grace were the only two with invites, Amber was going as a plus one and Bertha was hoping to gate crash.
Lessons passed in a blur of excitement for most of the class, either for the holidays or the party and very little work was done, despite the teachers’ feeble remonstration. Luckily Grace didn’t have transfiguration that day, and Potions was spent chatting amicably with Alice and playing hangman.
Getting ready was fun, more fun than the parties themselves usually. Grace had decided to wear her only set of dress robes this time, which showed very little skin (she remembered the last party). They were a little old, but had a classic style that never went out of fashion. She had washed her hair and used sleakeasy potion, getting rid of the perpetual frizz. Other than that, she had done very little else, she was determined to just relax and have a good time. Even so, as she watched the other girls go all out and pull on their fanciest dresses, she felt a tad underdressed.
At 7:50, they left as a group for Slughorns office. Bertha was a sore point for Grace at the moment, and the blonde seemed to know it. In any case she kept her distance from Grace and veered off to join her Gryffindor and Ravenclaw friends as soon as she could. Amber squeezed Grace’s hand and went off to find her date (the Hufflepuff prefect in the year above – Grace could never remember his name) and Eva stalked off into the crowd without a word.
Grace frowned at her retreating back – was she annoyed because of the rumours about Sid and herself, things Grace had told Eva, her supposed friend, nothing about? Grace was about to follow and explain herself, but was stopped in her tracks by someone calling her name.
Sid looked almost transformed, he was an average looking boy in many respects; thin face, long nose, a smattering of stubborn acne on his forehead, but his friendly demeanour and good humour made him very attractive to most people. He had made a special effort tonight though; Grace had never before seen him looking so smart.
“Sid” she cried, pleased “Don’t you look dashing” she said fondly, straightening his bow tie. Just then a tall dark figure stepped past the couple, and Grace held her breath until he had gone.
“Are you alright?” asked Sid, and Grace nodded her confirmation with a tight smile. Sid had noticed, she thought with dismay, she wasn’t being convincing enough, everyone could probably see right through her transparent attempt at indifference. How pathetic. Annoyed, she fixed a smile on her face, determined to work harder, and linked her hand with Sid’s, joining in with the fray, determined to forget about the other boy.
Slughorn had outdone himself; a string quartet was playing in the corner, the office was full to the brim with guests and smoke hung heavy in the air. They mingled for a while, smiling and saying hello to the other guests, mainly listening to the older ones as they talked about anything from fashion to politics.
Grace was surprisingly relaxed. She felt content, happy even. Her problems seemed very trivial and melodramatic to her right now; she couldn’t remember why she had felt so nervous and jittery before arriving. They were crowded around Stubby Boardman (lead singer of the Hobgoblins) who was talking about their latest album success and tour, when Sid was beckoned over by his uncle, Damocles. He was gone for at least 15 minutes before he returned.
“Listen Grace, I’m really sorry, but I need to go now”
“Why? What’s happened? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, it’s just my Uncle’s here and he’s offered to take me home via apparition, rather than going on the train tomorrow” said Sid, with a slightly sheepish expression.
“Oh” she said, taken back, “Oh alright, well have a good Christmas”
Sid seemed a little relieved, was he worried she’s kick up a fuss?
“Thanks, you too”, he gave her a brief, one armed side hug and left, cutting through the crowd to where his uncle waited.
Grace actually was a little annoyed that he had left, had deserted her awkwardly in the middle of a party. Although, she conceded, they had spent over three quarters of an hour in each others company and she was running out of small talk. Besides, this was longer than she had ever stayed at any of Slughorn’s parties before.
She exhaled a breath and her gaze swept the room, looking for something or someone to catch her attention, and that was when it happened.
They had been watching her for some time from their little alcove, nestled in the corner of the office turned party venue. Mrs. Selwyn registered the shock on the little girls face when she laid eyes on her after so many years and felt the smallest flicker of some forgotten emotion. She suppressed it. She was overwhelmed by repulsion as she looked at it, a living breathing reminder of her disgrace. Oh, how she loathed the brat.
But she had done the child wrong, yes indeed. She had needed to make amends, for her own sanity. Redemption they called it. And then it would be over, and she could rest at last, without the child and the water plaguing her nightmares. Was it her fault the child was too stupid to know what was good for it? Would she really have to approach it?
The child left and Mrs. Selwyn clutched her swollen belly, her true child would enter the world soon. She barely acknowledged Walburga’s son as he rose without excusing himself, instead looking to her beautiful niece, a true specimen of their superior race and felt a small measure of peace, that all was not lost.
The library was dark and chilly. In truth, she was a little frightened to be in there alone. The colossal room was empty save for her and she weaved through the aisles, feeling her way along the gargantuan bookcases, with shelves upon shelves of heavy volumes.
After a while, when she reached the depths of the cavernous room, she stopped and heaved herself onto the edge of a heavy oak table. Her toes barely scraped the floor, and she bent over to lean her elbows on her knees, clutching her hair painfully.
She didn’t want to think. She wanted to forget all about the woman at the party. She fell into her old habits, and focused on the sensations she was feeling rather than the matter at hand; she concentrated on the silken strands of hair in between her fingertips, the slight burn of her scalp as she tugged, the pressure of the hard table under her and the sharp edge digging into her thighs. She smelt the unique mix of dust and old paper only libraries had, and felt the satin material of her robes ghosting over her legs like water.
She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing, in, out, in, out. She listened to the heady silence that seemed to envelop her and suddenly her eyes snapped open. Footsteps. She kept completely still. Someone was approaching, someone with measured even steps. Grace felt the table behind her creak with pressure. She knew who it was without having to look.
“Leave me alone” she choked out.
And then she began to cry and his arms were around her in a second. She clung to him, feeling secure for the first time in a long time, with the comfort of a strong heartbeat thudding against her ear, and warm arms encircling her back. She was supposed to be ignoring him, but she was too upset to care about that.
Regulus rested his chin on top of her head, and stroked her hair gently from the top of her head to her waist. She could have been a china doll.
"Shhh," he murmured "It's alright"
“Why does she hate me?” Grace asked in a small voice, once she had calmed down a little, her face still mashed against his robes, “What did I do?”
“You didn’t do anything” he said quietly, “You can’t force someone to love you”
His words seemed to snap her back into herself and the situation. She leaned back a little out of his embrace, some vulnerability gone. She suddenly became acutely aware of him; how tall he was, how hard his chest was against her cheek, how his hips were nestled between her knees...she felt her cheeks heat up and she was relieved the room was too dark for him to notice. Of course, it was also too dark to see his expression.
She wasn't thinking clearly, her mothers appearance had rattled her more than she cared to admit; making her reckless, wild. That was how she justified her actions anyway. Grace slid off the high table, landing on the balls of her feet painfully, but she ignored the sting. She tightened her arms around his waist and waited for him to make the next move, willed him to do something; craved any sort of affection from him. She didn’t know why it mattered to her so much. Regulus stiffened in her arms.
She sensed his hesitation. He was at a crossroads, completely conflicted. He needed a push.
“I thought you didn’t like me” he said, his voice low. Grace knew him well enough to realise he was stalling, putting off the decision, prolonging his time on the precipice that they had both been on for months.
Grace brought her mouth to his ear, “I lied,” she said. She kissed the corner of his jaw languidly, the rough skin tickling her lips. Regulus swallowed.
“I have a girlfriend” he murmured, and Grace froze. Her smile slipped from her face and her arms dropped lifelessly to her sides. He hadn’t moved, though she noticed his eyes were closed, as though defeated.
“Fine,” she hissed, “if that’s the way it is, why don’t you go back to her”, the words felt repulsive on her tongue, “and I’ll find Sid and we can all carry on from where we left off” she smiled bitterly, eyes blazing. Regulus didn’t respond, he just looked at her with that carefully composed expression. The one that made Grace feel sure that he was dissecting her in his head, seeing past her own facades while his own mask was firmly in place. She felt like screaming.
“Urgh, you frustrate me to no end!” she said with feeling, “If you care about Veronica so much, why spend so much time with me? Why follow me in here? And for Gods sake, no more lies about following orders, I’m so sick of your little mind games”.
Despite everything, it felt good to finally speak her mind. It was almost cathartic, as though a poison was being extracted with every word that sprung from her lips.
“I felt sorry for you, that’s all” he shrugged, attempting nonchalance. It stung, but Grace knew him too well to fall for it. She wrapped her arms around his waist once more and felt him inhale sharply. She wanted to see him lose control.
“Oh stop kidding yourself, Regulus”, she said slowly, carefully. “We both know that’s not true”
“Oh do enlighten me then, why?” he said sarcastically, a little irritated. He looked down at the girl wrapped around him, he could barely make her out in the darkness.
Grace hesitated and there was a long silence. She suspected, no, she knew why, but it sounded so horribly egocentric to say it. She would never have been able to do so in any other circumstances, but she knew that if she didn’t push now, she would never have the nerve to pursue this again. It was truly make or break time.
“Because you love me” she stated baldly, as though stating a well known fact.
For a second it was as though he hadn’t heard her. And then he blinked. And then it happened.
It was as though a switch had flipped. Regulus’s face was no longer expressionless, it was contorted into a look of fury that Grace had never seen before. She was startled, she had expected denial and derision, not anger.
Regulus grabbed her arms and roughly pushed her away from him, as though she were no more substantial than a rag doll. Grace stumbled back a few steps but caught her footing. He advanced towards her, and she forced herself to stand her ground.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about” he spat aggressively; this time she did back up as he strode over to her and cringed as her back hit the wall. She closed her eyes, waiting for the blow. It never came, instead a pair of warm lips descended on her own.
She gasped into his mouth, Grace knew she should be shocked, astonished. But another, more inherent part of herself had known that this would happen ever since he had followed her into the library.
For all his anger, the kiss wasn’t rough.
Grace had always thought herself a reasonable girl, and reason told her that for she should push him away and demand an explanation from him. She ignored it, sanity could take a backseat.
Instead she focused on the sensation of her first kiss, committing it all to memory; Regulus’s full chapped lips pressing against her own, her own fists grasping the robes on his back, his hands gently cradling her face.
It burned. It was too much and not enough all at once. She wanted to be alone, so she could think on it again and again. She wanted to keep hold of him, have him in her arms indefinitely. She wasn’t sure where these feelings had come from, this intense longing; but it was tangible and strong. It was as though she had just realized something inherent but hazy, like a dream she had long since forgotten, like a past life.
How silly she had been, for ever thinking that he hated her, for thinking he cared nothing for her. This was Regulus, her Regulus.
Grace disengaged herself gently and moved to see his face, smiling warmly at her troubled, defeated young man. For once, his face reflected what he was really feeling.
“Why so miserable?” she laughed, upon seeing his expression
“Why so smug?”, he sniped back, bad tempered once more, but tightened his arms around her all the same. Before she knew him, she would have recoiled at his tone, but she was learning to understand him now. All the ways he would deflect and evade the things he didn’t want to face.
She hugged him, holding him tightly. Wondering at her own foolishness; why had it never occurred to her, that in all the time she had craved attention and affection from him, that he had craved the very same from her?
Grace smiled sadly when she felt him cling to her embrace.
Things would be different now.