Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter but I do own everything you don’t recognize. So don’t steal it please. It would help me sleep at night. And I already have enough nightmares about rotten bananas, my crush, my arch nemesis, and my dogs eating my favorite pair of boots without having to worry about a tech savvy hacker stealing what takes me a lot of work to produce. Sorry, that was a rant. I’ll let you get on with your story now.
You Hate Me
Chapter 3: Red is Sirius’ Favorite Color
It wasn’t until the Halloween decorations had been adorning the Great Hall for a week that Piper even noticed it was October. The stress from lessons combined with a serious lack of attention contributed to the flying by of September. Piper had been extremely occupied with her homework—so occupied was she that she did not even notice she hadn’t seen the Marauders for quite some time. Indeed, she hadn’t seen even one pore of any of the Gryffindor sixth year blokes, and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team was equally invisible.
The momentary end of ridicule could only be blamed on Quidditch starting again. James had been made Captain and was taking it upon himself to make the team as excellent as he could by two-a-day practices and strict training rules. The team was up before dawn had even shown herself and did not return to the castle long after the stars had come out to play. Even in torrential downpours James had forced the team to weight train until even third year Timothy Daley could easily bench press James thirty times.
The prospects of the team were looking better than James could have ever expected. They had only lost one seventh year and the team chemistry had improved tenfold. Sirius and Leon Harwood, a seventh year, were strong and powerful Beaters who had harnessed the ability somewhere along their career to aim a Bludger in a fascinatingly accurate manner, which they displayed by often directing the belligerent balls at James when he wasn’t on his guard. Timothy Daley, the slight third year was a bit of an ‘oddball’ (as Peter put it) although he more than made up for it with his spectacular instincts, James swore the boy could read the Chaser’s minds. Keith Baker, a fifth year; Zane Zuev; a seventh year; and Brett Wilshin, a sixth year formed the Gryffindor team’s unstoppable force of Chasers. All in all, James had to admit he had a lot of talent under his belt—not that he stored six burly men under his trousers, it was just an expression, although he did see to it that their talents were harnessed by treacherous workouts—again, not that he harnessed his house mates in any form or manner. But it was these strenuous and exhausting practices that kept Piper far from the Marauder’s minds—not that they didn’t think about women while they were doing physical labor.
On Hallow’s Eve day, every face in the castle seemed to be grinning. Even the Professors were looking rather flamboyant: McGonagall was enjoying an article in the Daily Prophet on how to Transfigure a pumpkin into an intricate Jack O’ Lantern in a matter of seconds, Slughhorn was speaking loudly to anyone that would listen how he had just received a bottle of find scotch from the Australian Minister of Magic (“A former student of mine, you know”), even Professor Conner had stopped his paranoid searching for Dark tampering with his food and was chatting up Dumbledore merrily. Piper, however, was not grinning. She choked on a mouthful of pumpkin juice as she finished reading the letter her brother had sent by way of owl. Resisting the urge to throttle the owl that had no business dying over Piper’s temper and whispering ‘don’t kill the messenger’ Piper stormed from the Great Hall with a scowl on her face, not quite realizing it was almost sunset.
When her anger finally faded, Piper found herself on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. She developed a particularly painful stitch in her side from her angry tirade onto the grounds and was quite winded. She knew if she continued to walk no one would get hurt, so she continued her march while disgustedly re-read the letter in her hands. With every word, her ire flared more. Piper hoped there was no boy with a shotgun nearby—she must have been frothing at the mouth more than Old Yeller (she had watched the movie over the hols with Alexander in Egypt, not believing there was such thing as a ‘telaviser’ or ‘gun’).
I hope this letter finds you in good health, as I am sure it will. I imagine you are too stubborn to succumb to sickness. Sorry to disappoint, but your immunity to disease and other ailments aren’t why I’m writing (but I’m sure they will prove valuable to St. Mungo’s eventually).
A reliable source at Hogwarts informed me that you are fraternizing with a certain Mudblood named ‘Evans’. I know I told you to try to make friends this year, but I find it hard to believe that Hogwarts is so lacking in people that you have to consort with nasty filth such as that. Are you trying to give Mother a hernia before she reaches fifty? Even I thought your standards were higher. Look, I know none of those people are really your ‘type’ and quite frankly, no one in that school can compete with our lineage but that David Detweiller is nice, why don’t you try to befriend him? The Detweillers are a good family and from what I hear David is quite the charmer. Or that Grant Grey fellow? He’s nice. We met him at dinner once, remember?
Look, I don’t want to upset you, I want to help you. Even if your reputation doesn’t matter to you, at least have enough pride to uphold our family’s status. Imagine the shame Mother and Father would have to bear if the news about your ‘friend’ reached them before me. Did you ever stop to think this girl would be playing you for the fool? She’s probably just taking the piss, Piper and I don’t want my baby sister at the butt of some joke. Or she could be some money grubbing whore. But either way, I am telling you now, Piper, stop playing with that dirt and act like a pureblood. For once.
Piper crumbled the piece of parchment in a fist. How dare Rhett—whom Piper normally got along with—command her to stop being Lily’s friend! It was ludicrous! Was there no Muggleborns at Durmstrang? Did Rhett think that Piper’s blood would become tainted for talking to Muggleborns? And who was this ‘informant’? Whoever it was, Piper would find them and inform them where to shove it. Piper was completely overloaded with information. Here she was, for the first time in her life, actually speaking to a girl her age at her school and she gets reprimanded for it. There had to be some flaw in the system there. Being a pureblood could not mean Piper had to neglect anyone who’s, Piper regarded the letter, ‘lineage’ did not match up to their own. If that was the case, Piper wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone save her own family. Where did Rhett come off telling Piper these things? He would be absolutely smitten with Lily if he ever saw her. He confessed to Piper just six months ago his softness for redheads. It could not be so serious a matter Piper couldn’t even talk to a Muggleborn. And as for Rhett’s suggestions for acquaintances well—Piper involuntarily gagged when she thought of Grant Grey and continued to retch until her thoughts were elsewhere and as far as David Detweiller was concerned his only ‘charm’ was his ability to charm a girl right out of her robes and knickers and turn her into a school slut overnight.
So was Lily playing a cruel trick on Piper? Was it all a clever plot Korey had begged Lily to employ? No, that couldn’t be it, that idea would actually have to mean Korey could entertain an intelligent thought for more than a millisecond—and Piper knew that would only happen in Bizarreo Land. Either way, Piper would show both of them. If Lily was a money grubbing whore, so be it. Piper would be friendly toward her all the same. And if she was really just after a good laugh, at least Piper knew about it before she really got hurt. Whatever intention Lily Evans had, it paled in comparison with Piper’s intentions to piss off her brother until he spontaneously combusted. So, it was decided, Piper wouldn’t snub Evans. If anything, she would be even more amicable. Take that, Big Brother.
“That asshole!” Piper ripped the letter to pieces and threw it into the air, allowing the wind to catch it and carry it far away. Piper hoped the scraps of parchment would land on Rhett’s bedside table in Bulgaria so he could see just how little Piper cared for his opinions.
Suddenly glad that she had stolen his Divination charts and ‘forgot’ to put them back in his trunk before the beginning of the school year, Piper smirked. What were little sisters for if they weren’t going to steal your homework and put their own name on it for top marks?
She threw a kick at a stray leaf and missed, stubbing her toe on a nearby rock instead, which only made her temper worse. Stupid rock. If you weren’t inanimate I would kill you, you goddamn boulder. Look at you; you’re not even a proper rock. You’re just a little pebble. How does that make you feel you inadequate little stone? Are you not allowed to speak to other rocks that aren’t your size? Oh what, are you too good for me, rock? Are you too good to speak to me? Yeah, well take that! Piper heaved the pebble the size of her big toe into the forest. It was, perhaps best she had not encountered a living creature during her strop, who knows what else she would have tossed into the dark depths of the woods? Taking her rage out on an object that was not technically alive was shockingly soothing. Piper vowed to invest in one of those anger balls that you squeeze really hard when you’re anger that she had seen her mother use countless times. Or, she could always carry around a pillow to release her temper on—although then she would probably be known as Piper Redden: Creep that Carries About a Pillow as Some Sort of Security Devise.
The sky began to darken but Piper took no notice. With the night, however, came a powerful breeze that chilled Piper down to her bone marrow. She carried no watch and thus did not know what time it was and since she was also not in the possession of a sun dial it seemed only proper Piper went back inside…even if she really, really, really, really did not want to. Although her feet did hurt quite a bit from walking so far and it was freezing and dark and she would probably get a detention for being out on the grounds so late. Piper inhaled deeply, bracing herself. She wiggled her whole body in a manner that would have been appropriate if she was an athlete shaking off a bad play.
“I can do this,” Piper said as she took the first step on the main staircase. “I can do this. I’m civilized enough to behave properly around people.” She darted behind a tapestry that served as a detour—hoping to trick her feet into prolonging their journey. “I can be polite. I can control my temper. I can do this.” Piper crept silently down corridor after corridor and up staircase after staircase. “I can do this.” Piper was nearly at the Fat Lady.
Piper stood before the violent pink clad, obese woman and straightened her spine. “I can do this.” The Fat Lady was entertaining Snipip the Head Shrinker and the two looked up at Piper as she approached.
“Ah, don’t you see Lavinia this is what I was just telling you about.” Snipip waved his hand in Piper’s direction, suddenly taking interest in her. Snipip was generally avoided by students and Professors alike—he was widely known for his free psychological screenings. Piper frowned and realized who he was talking to. Who knew the Fat Lady was really named Lavinia. Poor woman. Piper could relate—although she would much rather stick with ‘Piper’ than change her name to ‘Fat Lady’. Snipip continued despite the lack of attention, “Classic denial syndrome. It can be inferred the young lass suffers from some sort of inferiority complex from her posture. She probably has a rival with an older brother. Ah, look at how her jaw twitches as I mention a sibling. Oh, we are making good progress. Tell me, dear, what are you trying to prove to the world. How does it make you feel that no matter how hard you try to tell your self you can ‘do it’, you probably can’t?” Snipip pressed his oval face against the portrait and widened his eyes as if he was trying to X Ray Piper right through her robes.
“Gobble, Gobble,” said Piper.
“AHA! NOW SHE THINKS SHE IS A TURKEY! AN AILMENT I HAVEN’T YET SEEN! Please, let me have just one session with you! It only costs fifty Galleons an hour!”
“No, Snipip, ‘gobble, gobble’ is the password.” Lavinia A.K.A the Fat Lady said, imploring her friend to quiet down. “Go on in dear! Keep fighting the good fight!” She swung inward.
“I’m not crazy!” Piper hissed at both occupants of the frame in quite a lunatic manner.
“Again with that denial…” Snipip said dejectedly. “If only I could help her. Unfortunately I believe she is a lost case…”
“I’m NOT crazy!” Piper threw her hands in the air, nearly hitting them on the stone above her.
“Love, with all due respect you are arguing with a few people in a portrait.” The Fat Lady pointed out.
“Point taken,” Piper heaved the door shut behind her, blocking out the babble of the incessant portraits behind her. “I can do this.” Piper whispered to herself. She could make out Snipip saying from behind the stone, “talking to yourself…bad sign.”
Piper stepped toward the girls’ staircase, saw the Marauders, Brett Wilshin, and Zane Zuev idly playing with miniature replicas of the Ballycastle Bats Quidditch team, said “I can’t do this,” and turned on her heels to face Snipip and the Fat Lady’s possible cures for dementia than endure the tutelage of four sevenths of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
“RED!” Sirius cried jovially while dropping his figurine of Finbar Quigley on the table. Sirius casually stood from his chair. Piper wondered if he had installed a spotlight for just this occasion. It wouldn’t surprise her. “It’s about time you showed up. We were taking bets on why you left in such a tizzy. James has a Galleon on your dog dying, but I have two on you having to leave and go to Durmstrang and Zane bets a daring five that you’re mother’s entered you in a beauty contest.” For his part, Zane blushed and mumbled something about only joking. “Don’t worry though, I told old Zaney that he was barking to think that, you’d never go to a beauty contest,” Sirius said with a smirk on his face. “Come to think of it,” Sirius stroked his chin in what he thought was a thoughtful manner, “You’re mother would have to be wacko as well if she thought you’d even stand a chance against the birds who are usually in those sort of competitions.”
James, Peter, Remus, Zane, and Brett simultaneously hid their faces with their hands and looked busy playing with their dolls. Brett coughed, his hacking sounded more like “Shut up, Sirius” than it did “cough, cough.” James even threw his figurine of Barny the Fruitbat at Sirius’ head—it bounced off with a satisfying thunk. Peter did his part by kicking Sirius none to gently nor none to subtly in the shins. Even by Sirius’ standards, his words had gone too far—even if they had been taking bets on what had angered Piper so much (it was usually only the Marauders that sent her in such a tizzy).
Piper glared menacingly. She turned her head ninety degrees and looked elsewhere, thinking. Sirius saw her swallow hard and wondered what saucy insult she would throw at him. She pursed her lips, turned her head back to Sirius and smiled out of the corner of her mouth. Never a good sign. Smiles out of corner of mouth = bad.
Sirius rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming. “What are you gonna do, Red, hex me?”
He was at ‘hex’ when Piper hit him with her best Pepper Breath spell she could accomplish. Sirius was blown backwards by the force of the spell. On his back, he puffed out several smoky breaths and began to sneeze violently. Piper trudged forward, stood over Sirius and with as much dignity as she could muster she said, “I don’t have a dog, my mother is not a loony, and don’t call me Red!”
With that, she stomped up the spiral staircase to her dormitory, hoping that Sirius expelled peppery breath for a very long time. So long, in fact that not even Korey Kayhart would kiss him. That would be excellent.
Brett and Zane helped Sirius up from the floor, narrowly avoiding getting their best robes caught on fire. James and Peter clutched their sides they were laughing so hard. What were friends for if they weren’t going to go into hysterics when a highly ill tempered adolescent girl casts a Pepper Breath spell on you? “I reckon we’re growing on her.” Remus said slyly from behind ‘Hairy Snout, Human Heart
Halloween morning dawned and Piper wound her way up to the Owlery gripping an angry reply to her brother’s letter. Unfortunately, she was fresh out of Cursed paper and so, had to compensate for being especially strong worded. Piper wondered if ‘you are just a sad soul of a boy on a powertrip and have to take it out on your sister, you dickhead’ was going too far, decided it wasn’t, and continued to stomp her way up the spiral stairs of the Owlery.
As she stepped into the cold room she called down a school screech owl. This was a battle in itself: the bird wanted to sleep, Piper wanted to send a letter. However, using her astonishing hair pulling (or in this case feather pulling) talent, Piper was victorious and tied the letter to the owl’s leg (this isn’t to say the owl didn’t fight back. They aren’t called ‘screech owls’ for naught and the thing seemed to have nearly matched Piper’s hair pulling gift). She gripped the owl by its midsection, warned it what would happen if it dallied or flew around the castle until Piper was out of sight and then tossed the letter completely and when she was reassured the beast was now her minion she released it into the dull grey morning. She leaned on the windowless sill and flattened her hair. Who knew owls could be such preteen girls when it came to hair pulling? At the sound of footsteps, Piper whirled around and Sirius Black, James Potter, and Peter Pettigrew sauntered in.
“Red, you are such a delight to see on this dreary morning!” James said, opening his arms like a lover would do to another lover that had been abroad for some time. When Piper did not rush into his arms as Hufflepuff and Slytherin probably did, (James speculated the two Founders were secretly boning in the Chamber of Secrets) he dropped his arms and looked around.
“You know, it’s quite the coincidence, seeing you here, Red,” Sirius sneered. The ‘coincidence’ Sirius spoke of was no coincidence. But Piper didn’t need to know that.
Just as Sirius, James and Peter entered the common room shrouded by the Invisibility Cloak after their latest romp in the forest with Remus in their animagi forms Piper left the common room. James stopped Sirius from tripping Piper as she crossed the threshold but could not stop Sirius from following her. They were still high off their mischievous wrongdoings and weren’t quite ready for the exciting adventures to end. What better adventure was there than to stalk silently behind Piper Redden? Well, perhaps stalking the barkeep of the Three Broomsticks as a dog, stag, rat, and (kind of) tamed werewolf was a bit more exciting (and pervy) but that was only because the boys liked the vantage point they had from their animal forms (the barkeep wore very short skirts even when it was fall).
And how boring it was to only find Piper mailing a letter. Not mischievous at all.
“Who were you sending a letter to, Red?” Sirius nimbly hopped the piles of regurgitated remains of moles and mice and landed gracefully three feet from Piper. Her lips curled distastefully. “I didn’t realize people actually communicated with you.” Sirius looked out the window as if he could magically call the owl back to him so he could read the letter. It was intriguing, Piper never wrote letters—she never even received letters.
The pellets that served as obstacles for Sirius grew little dungy legs of their own and positively sprinted out of Piper’s way as she advanced on Sirius and his comrades. Sirius’ own legs took matters into their own hands (or feet) and considered something called self preservation, then they involuntarily carried him behind James and Peter until they realized he was using their combined bulk as a human shield, then their legs considered this self preservation thing and scrambled for cover.
“Sirius Black,” Piper stepped over a cowering James in the fetal position and side stepped a paralyzed Peter that had both hands covering his face as if this tactic would serve as a successful disguise and stopped inches away from a Sirius that was retreating blindly against the wall. “If you ever” Piper poked him hard in the shoulder with a pointed finger, “And I do mean ever call me Red again I will personally see to it that you will regret it,” she snarled. Having her fill of shoulder-poking, she whipped her head around; made sure her point had been taken seriously by the three of them, nodded and left the Owlery loudly.
“What’s she going to do if we call her Red?” James said defiantly, “Give us a talking to?”
Sirius dropped his head at James’ carelessness. James did not learn from mistakes like Sirius did.
“No, Potter, I’ll do this:” Piper had returned. She wasted no time in giving her wand a lofty swish and flick, directing the spell at the owl droppings.
It would not have surprised James, Peter or Sirius if the feces that had recently grown legs also grew lips and vocal chords and emitted falsetto shrieks even a toddler could not compete with. Having Piper Redden’s wand aimed at you is no laughing matter.
Nothing happened at first.
Then, one by one, the droppings levitated off the ground and hovered before James, Peter and Sirius ominously. Like a demented old broad sicking a rabid pack of dogs on trespassers, Piper gave the universal signal for ‘onward’ and forward the carcasses and bones of animals and pellets went. Repeatedly, the droppings hurled themselves at their robes, faces, shoes, and testis (there must have been female droppings, for some of the droppings relentlessly attacked their scrotums).
As James, Sirius and Peter fought for their lives and fertility, Piper gleefully rocked against the cold stone walls. She wiped the tears of her hilarity away and waved her wand to make her army of shit retreat. Piper had to admit; they had certainly made her day—which had started out so badly—much better. It was, perhaps, the first time the Marauders (well, three fourths of the Marauders, Piper wasn’t sure where Remus was, he had said something about a sick aunt the night before) had proved useful.
“See you in Potions, boys!” Piper called sweetly, bouncing down the stairs looking entirely pleased with her wittiness.
“See you in Potions, boy!” James said, mocking Piper’s words in a high pitched, voice that sounded more like “Mah mah mah mahmah, mah!” as he held up a hand and formed a mouth with his four fingers and thumb. Peter picked a particularly slimy bone off his robes and threw it after Piper. Sirius, on the other hand, only groaned as he noticed how completely destroyed his robes were, and rolled his eyes, not bothering to disguise his call of “bitch!”
Professor Slughorn was so immersed in conversation with Brett Wilshin (his father owned a popular Quidditch supply store and had just been enlisted to design the new uniforms for the Hollyhead Harpies) he barely noticed as James, Peter, and Sirius snuck into Potions nearly an half hour late freshly showered and changed. Brett pantomimed making a noose out of his monkshood and pulled upwards on the part of the plant above his head, all the while making choking and gagging sounds with his tongue hanging out and gargling ‘Help me! Help me’ to his friends while Slughorn bantered on about how he disagreed with his good friend Alasdair Maddock and thought women’s Quidditch was not a joke at all.
“So, what do you think the great Marauder Halloween Trick will be tonight?” Severus asked Piper vehemently. He had not taken his eyes off his potion, to which he was adding drops of black mamba venom with a steady hand.
The recipe for the Fire Protection Potion called only for two drops of venom, Severus added a considerably larger amount than that. Piper never called Severus out on his obscure skills at Potions, and, copying him, she added several more drops of venom to her own potion, which hissed and began to turn a nasty shade of rust.
Unblinking and unsmiling, Severus handed her a porcupine quill and the eye of a newt, which righted the potion once more once Piper dropped them in before her ridiculous mistake did any more damage.
“Whatever it is, I hope we aren’t the main focus of it.” Piper said. Severus was safe as far as Piper was concerned. After her stunt in the Owlery she would be surprised if the Marauders chose not to target her. They were ignoring her at the moment though, which was comforting. She understood Severus’ caution for she could remember only too well the Marauders bleaching Severus from head to foot the year previous and announcing that Slytherin had found a new ghost: The Smelly Snivellous.
Severus did not respond, that memory, too, seemed to weigh on his mind still. He gripped his wand white-knuckled, and Piper understood what he meant. If the Marauders tried to pull something on him, he would be ready.
They said no more the rest of the lesson, but it was not at all unusual. It was not uncommon for Severus to sit as still as a meditating monk and watch his potions simmer. Their attitude toward one another was tentative; both of them were individual creatures who relied only on themselves for protection, and who trusted only their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It wasn’t as though they met every Thursday at 7:00 to make I Hate Marauders T shirts and No More Marauders pins; they didn’t create posters and protest outside the Great Hall, they used their own wits and intelligence for protection. Who needs support systems when you have those?
Piper was wary upon leaving Potions—she had too many classes with Sirius, James and Peter, which meant too many chances for them to jinx her. Paranoia guided her through the day and it wasn’t until the James, Peter, Sirius, Brett, and Zane decided the one thousand live bats and streamers were not nearly enough decorations and were reprimanded harshly by Professor McGonagall when they turned a first year Slytherin into a pumpkin (“But Professor, I was aiming for Snape! The little first year just got in the way!”) that Piper breathed easily again. However, their confession for trying to hit Snape did nothing for their case and they were sentenced to a week’s worth of detention and ten points were taken from Gryffindor each.
The Great Hall was a sight of beauty that night. The house sized pumpkins, bats, and streamers added to the allure of the nearly full moon and bright stars. The feast itself matched the greatness of the ambiance. Those who normally would have eaten only a sandwich or slice of turkey were gorging themselves on the cornucopia of food laid out for them. The amount of food between Zane, Brett, and Sirius alone could have fed the entire population of a third world country for months.
James noticed Piper’s wrinkled nose and distasteful expression from where she sat discreetly between a first year and seventh year.
“Got a problem, Red?” He called, gesturing with a turkey’s leg which he had just taken a generous bite out of. While he was waiting for Piper to throw back an insult he washed the bird down with an amount of water that could have lasted Piper all the way across the Sahara desert.
“Apart from you going caveman on that leg, no, nothing,” Piper continued to watch James and his mates eat a revolting amount of food—it was like a broom accident, you just can’t turn away no matter how gruesome.
Brett pounded on his chest with his fists, a thigh of a chicken in one hand. “Me Brett. Me man. Me hungry!” He said in a stupidly baritone voice he must have associated with the cavemen. To accentuate his impersonation of a prehistoric human he puffed out his cheeks and furrowed his brows.
“Me Peter. Me want meat!” Peter said in the same unintelligent voice as he began to hit his pecs with his fists also, although he thankfully kept his meat on his plate.
“Me want food. Where chicken go?” Sirius hit both of his fists on the table, banging them so hard the silverware on Piper’s plate began to rattle. “You steal chicken!” He pointed at Peter who somehow managed to continue to play the part of a bewildered caveman.
“My chicken now. You get own chicken.” Peter puffed out his chest and guarded his meat protectively. Sirius took a particularly club-like piece leg of turkey and proceeded to beat Peter with it. James, Brett and Zane cheered loudly and hit their chests and the table with an impressive Neanderthal intensity.
Piper used the distraction as an opportunity to take her leave. Her worry of being humiliated was over and was now overshadowed by her fear of what her brother would say once he received her letter. If she knew her brother, and she liked to think she did, he would have a good laugh at his sister’s anger and think he got through to her and then put the subject in the back of his mind but if Piper underestimated the seriousness of the situation she would be on a train home within a week. God she hoped Rhett would understand. She didn’t know what she would do if she was sent to Durmstrang of Beauxbatons. Her French was phenomenally atrocious (“How are you?” often came out as “Go have sex with a hairy man”) and Rhett often complained of the arctic temperatures the Durmstrang castle often had (Piper absolutely detested cold weather and it would mean she would be under Rhett’s watchful eye and under Alexander McClure’s lascivious eyes). But Piper did not care to think about Alexander McClure. She had done perfectly well blocking out those memories and did not wish to have them brought to the surface again. Maybe she would write back to Rhett and say she was only having a laugh and was just seeing if he cared enough to protect his sister from ‘dirty Mudbloods.’ He’d fall for that.
Piper was so preoccupied she did not notice Sirius Black strolling silently behind her.
As Piper left, James looked brutishly about and said, “Where girl go?” while pointing to Piper’s vacant seat. “I find,” Sirius hit one fist against the center of his chest twice and jogged after Piper. Knowing what Sirius was up to, James, Zane, Brett, and Peter returned to their meals.
Sirius watched Piper quietly from behind her. He kept a good distance but still found the spy skills James had taught him over the summer from watching copious James Bond movies came in handy when Piper did a quick look over his shoulder and he had to tumble and roll stealthily behind suits of armor, and on one occasion, he had to jump underneath a particularly large tapestry to avoid detection.
As Piper climbed a secret staircase that provided a shortcut to the Gryffindor common room, Sirius screamed her name loudly. His yell rang around the stairwell and effectively startled Piper. She jumped about ten feet in the air, stumbled, then threw her arms out for balance; though as she did this, Piper took a step forward and her foot sunk into a trick staircase like a deranged traveler falling into a pit of quick sand.
Sirius threw his head back and let loose several bark-like laughs as Piper attempted (fruitlessly) to pull her leg out of the stair. The stair made several loud, squelching noises as Piper gripped her thigh and yanked. Piper’s cheeks reddened with anger and her dark brows furrowed around her long lashes and stormy eyes.
“Looks like you’re in a bit of a spicy cucumber, Red.” Sirius danced up the stairs dramatically. His steps were punctuated by his laughs and Piper’s curses. Sirius stretched his arms out, putting one hand on one side of the wall and his left hand on the other.
Piper rotated her torso around to confront Sirius, though her leg stayed firmly sunk. “You mean pickle, idiot.” Piper leaned back and pulled hard on her leg which would not give. She knew turning her back to Sirius Black was not wise, but her leg was submerging deeper into the stair with every second. She was nearly reclined at 180 degrees when Sirius spoke.
“I don’t think you’re in any position to be calling names, Red. I might be the only person coming this way for a while. Not many people know about this staircase.” He sighed and rubbed his head with one hand thoughtfully, while leaning against a tapestry. “But… I guess you could always wait for Sevvy Wevvy to come along and rescue you, Red,” Sirius said in a in an innocent tone.
“Severus is a better man than you will ever be. And. Stop. Calling. Me. Red!” Piper pulled with all her strength on her thigh, hoping to pull her leg out of the trick step, while leaning back to provide extra leverage.
“Temper, temper. Well,” Sirius said breathlessly haughty, “I’m not going to stand around and be insulted.” Sirius hopped over the trick stair while Piper was distractedly yanking at her leg. He began to climb the stairs, whistling a jolly tune to accentuate his decision to leave Piper in quite a predicament.
Pier choked on the word. She gestured ‘Stop’ while running her tongue over her teeth. Piper realized that Sirius was probably right, and asking him for help would probably be less humiliating than someone finding her stuck in the staircase in the middle of the night. Probably. Piper frowned dejectedly. God, this isn’t going to go well.
“What’s this?” Sirius gasped and sidestepped down the stairs; it was more than he could have hoped for, he had expected Piper to get in an argument with Piper, maybe hex her, then be on his way, but the blessed staircase had provided a wonderful opportunity for more scorn and now she was asking him for help. It was too good. Piper was aware of the triumphing images going through Sirius’ mind; she waited for his gloating to start.
“Is Piper Redden-- the Piper Redden asking me for help? Well I’ll tell you what,” Sirius slowly descended the stairs, “I’ll help you out of your little pickle if you say,” he squinted, thinking of the appropriate words, “I know. Saaaaaaaay, ‘I want to fuck Snape.’”
Piper scowled. She would rather have a detention and some lost points than say that to Sirius Black. He raised his eyebrows. Piper’s leg was really beginning to hurt and it was no guarantee that she would be found. Piper clutched onto her thigh tighter, for it was all she could do to prevent herself from lunging forward and wringing Sirius around the neck. He had anticipated this, though, and stayed two steps above her.
“Aaaaarrrgggggg!” Piper shook her head angrily, giving into her frustration. She threw her hands in the air to make her capitulation more theatrical. “I want to shag Snape.” She said halfheartedly.
“What was that?” Sirius cupped his ear with his hand and smirked. Piper repeated herself stonily through gritted teeth (she prayed this incident wouldn’t lead her to dentures). She spoke just loud enough to satisfy Sirius but quiet enough to be able to deny it to her conscience later on.
“Great,” Sirius nodded in approval, “Well, see ya later, Red.” He took the stairs two at a time, fleeing out of Piper’s wand range.
It was not hard for Piper to understand. She frowned and wished she had levitated Sirius by his tie to hang by the chandeliers instead of submitting to his terms. God she had been stupid. She pelts the idiot with shit and then expects him to say, ‘Right, well, it was all in fun and games. She really meant no harm when she pelted me with shit. I forgive her.’ It would have been more likely for Black to saddle up a centaur and go fox hunting or ask McGonagall out on a date than actually pull Piper out of the stair.
“You’re an asshole, Black!” She screamed up the stairs.
“It means a lot coming from you, Red!” She heard Sirius call back from his shelter at the top of the staircase. He disappeared down the hallway, still whistling the annoyingly happy song.
Piper growled and pulled harder on her leg.
* * * *
Piper had never been closer to becoming an amputee in her life. Two hours of pulling, yanking, heaving, jerking, and wrenching had finally freed Piper from the stair that probably could have given a Venus Fly Trap a run for its money. By moving her leg that was not trapped onto the step above her and clutching the tapestries on the opposite wall for support, Piper was able to pull herself out. She had ripped both tapestries in half in the process, but she felt it was a fair trade. No one quite enjoyed walking down those stairs and seeing Guthrie Lochrin extracting slivers from his arse from an unfinished broomstick on one side and Chauncy Oldridge dying of dragon pox on the other.
It was well past curfew by the time Piper had relaxed enough to Disillusion herself properly. The last time she used magic when she was upset she seared off all of her arm hair. Chameleoned, she waited outside the portrait hole until a first year finally arrived and hurriedly gave the Fat Lady the password.
Seething still, Piper entered the common room with great caution. She allowed herself a smile when she saw all of the members of Gryffindor sixth year still lounging in the common room doing homework or catching up on their social lives. The whole of the Quidditch team plus Peter, Korey, Lily, Raine, and Sanaa were holding court around the fireplace. Peter and Sanaa were comparing Care of Magical Creatures notes, Korey and Lily chatted idly while Sirius and James flirted with them, while Leon, Tim, and Keith tried their hands at the Muggle board game Monopoly (they were having a very frustrating time with it since, as Keith put it, ‘the bloody figurines don’t even move at all and this paper stuff is just weird’).
Just as fortune had shone on Sirius, it returned the favor for Piper. No one saw her as she snuck across the common room and ascended the stairs to the boys’ dormitories. She opened the door with the label of Sixth Year silently, her wand at the ready. She was glad her wand illuminated the room only partially, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what materials she was stepping on. Choking on her gags (the room smelt disgusting), Piper sat down in a corner and waited.
She had nearly drowsed off when five out of the six occupants of the room entered. Piper sat motionless and nearly invisible in her secluded area. Her body responded by sitting more alertly and she went rigid. If her spell wore off at any time the doxy droppings would hit the fan. What would she do if her charm broke, say, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing here, hiding in a boy’s dormitory? Whoops, guess I just forgot which staircase led to my room!’? Teenage boys are dense, but not that dense.
“So, wait, where’s Remus?” Brett came in last and shut the door behind him.
“Sick aunt,” James said simply.
“That woman must be a right old hypochondriac. She gets sick like every month.” The Marauders laughed nervously. Brett continued to speak; he didn’t notice James fidgeting, Sirius’s shifty eyes, or Peter rummaging in his trunk for an emergency distraction (dung bombs always worked well). “Remus misses more school because of that old bat breaking her hip every other week and that mad rabbit getting loose and attacking people than anyone I know.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” James, Peter, and Sirius said. Peter held the dung bomb behind him discreetly, giving James and Sirius the Wink that said, ‘don’t worry; I’ve got it under control.’ Sirius, in return, gave Peter the Head Shake that said, ‘I’ve got a better idea.’
“Did you see Holly’s tits tonight?” Sirius said. Peter dropped his dung bomb sadly (he had been dying to use it), but he had to admit that Sirius’ distraction was better than his.
Sirius, James, Peter, and Brett were so accustomed to the layout of their room they did not pause to turn the lights on as they slunk to their beds, removed their robes and shirts, and kicked off their shoes (Piper had to duck out of Sirius’ loafers’ way). She heard the distinct tossing and turning of five boys finding a comfortable position in their beds. It was so dark in the room Piper could not roll her eyes at the speaker commenting on Holly’s generous bust.
“Nah, Holly’s got torpedo tits. She nearly poked my eye out when we fooled around in the equipment shed last winter.”
Again, Piper held back her revulsion.
Piper was used to the same discussions being held in her own dorm at night. ‘Did you see how Black’s muscles just rippled under that shirt he was wearing?’ ‘Forget Black, Zane beats all of them. He’s tall. He’s dark. He’s handsome. Plus, he’s well endowed…if you know what I mean.’ ‘Is it just me or do you think Peter is kind of cute in a chubby little boy way?’ ‘Remus Lupin really is a biter. I should’ve listened to Bailey.’
“If you’re looking for bazoongas, go look up Rory Coe. Remember her. She was that Slytherin with the long legs.” Piper recognized Sirius’ voice.
“You saw Rory Coe’s hooters?” Brett did not try to hide the disbelief in his tone.
“Nah, I’d never shag a Slytherin. She’s a slag—Dan, that Ravenclaw who dated Korey, told me all about her.”
“I’m waiting for the right pair of tits to come for me. My Mum always says that when I meet the right girl, I’ll know. The same’s prob’ly right for baps, yeah?”
Piper stopped listening after this.
She never quite knew how many terms there was for ‘breasts’ until she spent half her evening eavesdropping on five hormone driven fiends. She also never found out how the said hormone driven fiends could prattle about the said breasts for three…solid…hours.
Whether she was closer to death by way of torture or complete insanity did not matter when the whispers finally stopped and were replaced by steady breathing. Trying her best not to step on any creaky floorboards, Piper scooted out from under the bed. Her muscles ached and she felt as through she cricked her neck.
“Lumos” A thin beam of light lit the room up partially.
Initially, Piper was just going to take all of Sirius’ clothes and throw them into the lake, but standing in a dormitory with five half naked boys can really bring the imagination out of a person. Piper pulled her wand out of her pocket, rolled up her sleeves, and grinned broadly.
Resisting the urge to giggle like a school girl, Piper giddily waved her wand.
* * * *
“Sirius…what happened to you?”
“Whaddyamean.” Sirius, still groggy from sleep, rubbed his eyes. He yawned, stretching his arms over his head. Sirius rolled over and buried his head in his pillow, desperate to sleep every second he could. All that talk about breasts really wore him out.
“Well…you’re looking a bit…peaky.”
Sirius felt fine. What was Brett going on about? Not only did he feel fine, but he felt excellent! He could hardly remember a time when he felt so healthy. He wasn’t about to break out in song and frolic in a meadow with a German dame, but his temperature seemed a healthy 98.6, his throat wasn’t sore or scratchy, and he was relatively sure he had all of his extremities. Sirius reached blindly for an object (his face was still facedown in his bed), found the stuffed dog James had jokingly given him last Christmas, and hucked it across the room in an expert lob that found Brett’s head.
“I’m serious, mate, you should head down to the infirmary.” Brett worriedly stroked the stuffed animal.
“I feel fiiiiiine—” Sirius’ sentence was lost as James and Peter woke, looked at his friend and screamed variations of, “BLOODY HELL, YOU’RE RED!”
Sirius only then observed his skin. James and Peter were right; he was indeed looking a bit red. Not just a bit red. His entire body, from his hair to his toes was bright crimson. And since he had not been dunked in a vat of tomatoes recently, Sirius was sure something was amiss. “AAAAAAARGGGH!!!” Sirius flew to the mirror in the corner and examined his skin, flabbergasted. Yes, something was wrong.
“Who’d want to dye Sirius scarlet?” Peter rubbed his eyes, just in case he was still sleeping and this was all part of some bizarre dream.
“Yeah, why would anyone turn you re—oh. Oh!” James snapped his fingers and bounced excitedly; laughing while Sirius scowled at himself in the mirror and ran to his trunk. James continued to shake with concentration as something in his mind started to click. James was close to unlocking the enigma that was Sirius’ skin color. There was some connection between the color red and a person. A person who was red? No, that wasn’t right. A person who had red hair? No, the only ‘ginger’ (as he lovingly called them) he knew was Lily and she couldn’t have anything to do with Sirius being colored.
In Sirius’ trunk everything had transformed into a delightful shade of cherry. His robes, his hat, even his cauldron and books were colored.
“Wait…” James tottered, a look of utmost concentration on his face. “Waiiiiit.” His eye twitched. “I’VE GOT IT! It was PIPER! She turned you RED! Get it? Because we call her ‘Red.’” Looking very pleased, James patted himself on the shoulder. “Well done, mate,” he said to himself. “Aw, it was nothing.”
Sirius understood. He pulled on a pair of his now red robes, sprinted out of the room and down the stairs into the common room where Piper Redden sat with her fingers pressed together in the chair closest to the staircases.
“YOU!” Sirius pointed a finger at Piper.
“Me?” Piper innocently pressed a hand against her chest and raised her brows.
“YOU DID THIS TO ME!”
It was relatively early in the morning and the common room was not by any standards full, but the few people who were idling about turned to look at the anomaly coming out of the boys’ staircases. Once they realized it was Sirius Black dyed red, they sniggered and looked on out of the corners of their eyes.
“Well,” Piper said wryly, “I only thought that since I like it when you called me Red so much I should show it.”
“And you thought that turning me into a bloody apple was the best way to show that?!” Sirius gestured to his bodice, looking extremely hysterical. Piper had done her work thoroughly. Only Sirius’ eyes were their regular grey color, since Piper didn’t think the spell would work on irises, the rest of his body was a brilliant shade of the brightest red imaginable.
Piper shrugged. “Don’t be so angry, Sirius. Besides, red is definitely your color.” She made a face that a football player would make to a rival player on an opposite team after scoring the winning goal, stepped around Sirius and exited the common room.
Outside, Piper did a victory dance.
“Oh, bloody hell, now she’s exhibiting signs of Mermaid Madness. Someone should get her to St. Mungo’s immediately.” Snipip said from a portrait on the wall.
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