Chapter 11 : The Mask He Wears
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People were smarter than she’d thought. Most could read body language like a book, and Henna wanted to make sure that she was as blank as ever. One person in particular, however, seemed even more adequate at reading her than anybody she’d ever met. Remus Lupin. She scowled at the train floor where Happy was curled up as she thought this. Lily and Colleen’s chattering filled her absent mind.
How did he do it? How was he able to see through her with such ease? It made her uneasy, and boggled her senses. He was the worst thing that had ever happened to her, she decided. Not only did he effect her emotions, but she could hardly think straight when he was around. She couldn’t have that. She needed to be completely in control, and she wasn’t about to give that power over to somebody else. But if she did…
What would happen if she did? Would it really be so terrible? She closed her eyes at this thought, and the scar on her back began to itch at these thoughts, as though trying to remind her of the last time somebody had found out. She tried picturing Remus’ face in place of the man that had stabbed her. She couldn’t. He would never do that. He obviously cared for her. But so had her parents…or so she’d thought. And now look at what they thought of her! They had left her, as soon as they’d found out….
“You look like you’re going to be sick, are you alright?” Lily asked. Colleen turned to look, and noticed it too.
“Are you really that nervous?” she said, sympathetically.
“Uh, yeah. I’m nervous about the sorting,” Henna said, jumping on the excuse. Colleen nodded her understanding.
“I remember my first day. It’s nerve-wracking, but it’ll be over before you know it. All you have to do is put the hat on your head, it calls out a house, and then you’re done!” she said, her blue eyes twinkling behind her spectacles.
“But what if it calls out the wrong house?” Henna asked the question she’d been wondering about for days.
“The sorting hat is never wrong,” Lily stated, but she was distracted as the breaks in the train squealed on, and they slowed. She straightened her spine excitedly. “We’re here!”
“Yay,” Henna muttered sarcastically under her breath. She stood with the others as the train came to a complete stop. Picking Happy out of his slumber, she held him nervously to her, as if he would ease her nerves. Within minutes students were clambering around in the halls, trying desperately to get out into the cool September air. Voices grew and shrank in waves, mimicking the nausea that now settled in Henna’s stomach. Where everything had been calm minutes ago, now was buzzing with excitement. Henna’s heart tumbled in her chest as she followed close behind Lily and Colleen, getting bumped around in the herd of excited faces.
“Firs’ years!” came a frightening voice as her feet reached the earth. Henna leapt a foot in the air as her eyes dropped onto a man the size of a small elephant. Eyes wide, her feet slowed to a stop, and all she could do was stare.
“That’s Hagrid,” Lily informed her. “Don’t worry, he looks a fright, but he’s really just a great softy.”
“He’s a giant,” Henna assumed aloud. Lily looked slightly offended, but still nodded.
“Don’t go spreading that about, he’s only half-giant!” Colleen said defensively, her rosy lips bowed in disapproval. Henna was surprised by this bit of news. He was a half-breed too.... She felt an odd, involuntary connection with him instantly. She wondered how people treated him. Did people shun him for being a half-breed here? Or did he hide that fact from people, like she did? She noticed then that both Lily and Colleen were glaring expectantly at her, and she almost smiled over it. Did Lily really think she’d be prejudiced against a man that was no worse than she?
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” she explained quickly, giving Lily a you-should-know-better look. “I have nothing against half-breeds,” she pointed out, with a little bit of irony in her voice. The two girls looked a little more relieved, but then the carriages pulled up, and they were all distracted by trying to find an empty one. “Wait, should I go with him?” Henna asked, nodding over at the huge man.
“I wouldn’t say so,” Lily said, thinking. “You’re not a first year, you’d be in seventh.”
“Just come with us, if you get into trouble, we’ll take the blame,” Colleen said, shrugging her small shoulders. Henna nodded, and turned to the carriages that rolled towards them. She gave a small gasp, looking at the horrible creatures that pulled them along.
“What are…those?!” she whispered.
“What?” Lily asked, confused.
“I think she means the Thestrals,” Colleen said, pointing to the black, winged horses now trotting their mysterious way towards them. “You can see them then?”
“Yeah,” Henna said, thinking this a rather stupid question. Why wouldn’t she be able to see them? Colleen noticed her tone of voice, and smiled wryly.
“I ask because only people who witness death can see them,” she explained. “For example, Lily can’t see them, but I can.”
“Oh,” Henna said dazedly. Only if she’d witnessed a death? She supposed experiencing death counted as well.
“Who did you see die? if you don’t mind my asking. I saw my brother, Tad die,” Colleen said, her voice coated with sadness. Henna hedged. What was she supposed to say? ‘Uh…I saw myself die.’ Lily, who knew her secret, gave a small laugh at the awkward moment.
“She saw her dog die, but she doesn’t really like to talk about it,” Lily explained, coming to the rescue. Henna gave an unconvincing nod.
“I see,” Colleen said, obviously not completely convinced. But then as she realized how long they had been talking, and she gave a groan. “There aren’t any empty carriages left,” she noticed aloud.
“Well, we’ll just have to ride with somebody,” Lily said lightly, looking around. “Where’s James?”
“Lily! Over here!” James’ voice called, as though he’d heard. They saw James’ head poking out of a carriage. “Need a lift?”
“Sure!” Lily said happily, and quickly made a bee-line for him. Colleen and Henna shared a knowing look, and Henna felt an odd feeling of acceptance, a feeling that had been running rampant around her ever since she’d met Remus. Her mind clouded then. Remus. He would be in that carriage too, as she suspected all the Marauders were. Colleen seemed to be thinking along the same lines, and they shared another look, though it was one of pained irritation this time.
“You’ve got guy troubles too?” she asked, sympathizing. Henna sighed, nodding. And so together they made their way to the carriage, and were forced into the cramped, cushioned seats. Henna was squished between Peter and Remus, while Happy climbed onto the laps of different people, trying to get as much attention as possible. Colleen seemed to be suffocating as she was stuck between Sirius and the window. Both seemed ready to leap out of the door, and kept throwing sullen glances in the other’s direction.
“It’s good to be back at Hogwarts,” James said, smiling over the loud silence that was penetrating the coach.
“Yeah,” Peter said excitedly. “I hope we get to eat soon!”
“Me too, I’m starved,” Lily agreed, grinning. “What about you, Sirius?” She smiled innocently, though she knew he was absolutely miserable. He glared at her.
“I’m not a bit hungry,” he stated defiantly. He didn’t know why he needed to be so disagreeable, but being stuck next to Colleen was driving him insane. He was consumed by pain every time he felt her sigh, and his need grew every time she accidentally brushed up against him. Now she rolled her eyes.
“How can you not be hungry?” she asked in exasperation. “You’re always hungry!”
“I am not!” he said louder than necessary, even though he knew it to be true. Colleen glared.
“Are too! You eat like a pig every meal,” she argued like a five-year-old. Sirius narrowed his eyes.
“At least I eat something! You’re always the one who picks around at your food as if it’s not good enough for you or something,” he sneered. She gasped in outrage.
“Well it’s better than being fat,” she said. She knew then she’d struck a nerve. Sirius was very touchy about his appearance, and she knew it. He was the farthest thing from fat, and instead his body was chiseled stone. But there was just some spark of satisfaction in getting him riled up. If he didn’t like her, fine. But he had to deal with the consequences.
“Are you calling me fat, Four-Eyes?” Sirius whispered, turning in his seat and pinning her in the corner with his dangerous glare. She wasn’t the least bit intimidated, however, and sat up straighter.
“What did you just say?” she hissed. Sirius grinned evilly.
“I just called you Four-Eyes,” he informed her smugly. Colleen bristled on the spot. This meant war….
Their arguing filled the small coach for the rest of the short trip up to the castle, and lingered slightly even after they had begun to climb the huge stone steps.
“Where do I go?” Henna interrupted them, confused. The words were hardly out of her lips, however, when her name was called.
“Miss Davis?” said a precise voice. Henna saw a very tall, prim-looking woman standing at the top of the steps.
“Yes?” Henna said, making her way towards the woman, her mouth going dry. A few people stared as they passed her. They had never seen Professor McGonagall single out a student before the sorting, especially an assumed seventh-year. They muttered to themselves, wondering what she had done, thinking she might have gotten into severe trouble before the school-year even started.
“I’m Professor McGonagall. I’m Deputy Head Mistress of this school, and Transfiguration teacher. I came to inform you that you will not be sorted with the rest of the first years, and will instead be sorted alone in the Head Master’s office, after the feast,” she instructed. Just then Remus came to stand behind Henna, looking inquiring. “Ah, yes. You will need to come too, Mr. Lupin,” she said, her face softening at the sight of Remus’ familiar face. She had always had great respect for the boy.
“Why, Professor?” Remus asked, surprised. She shook her head.
“I’ll be more inclined to explain later. Now I have a sorting to attend,” she said briskly, walking off with the air of great importance, letting everybody in her path know that she was not one to be trifled with. Once she had left, Henna turned to Remus, frowning.
“I wonder why she wants you to come,” she thought aloud.
“Moral support?” Remus joked. “I dunno, but come on. The sorting will start any minute.” And so they made their way through the crowd, into the Great Hall.
Her breath seemed to gain a mind of its own as it danced in her throat without any particular pattern. She had never seen so great a sight, and her eyes grew in an attempt to see as much as she possibly could as they were rushed along. She was dazedly aware of Remus guiding her path, but that didn’t compare to the great, sparkling magnificence of this new place. Hogwarts, she thought with a smile. Her new home.
Four great tables filled the room, and Henna supposed they were for the four houses. It was rather entertaining just to watch the different tables, as she could see plainly the differences in personality. It was as if the great body of sorted students were melded into one. The Slytherin table was easiest to pick out, as they were loud and rambunctious, laughing raucously, seeming to gain joy in the other houses imperfections. They pointed here or there, laughing at one girl’s hair, and then turning to mimic one boy’s unfortunate buck-teeth. She frowned in disgust.
Next her eyes moved with relief to the Hufflepuff table. They sported yellow badges on their robes, and were the least pronounced of the groups. They seemed to huddle together, and most of their faces showed kindness and a certain humbleness that Henna found inviting. There was no doubt that anybody would be accepted into their family-like group, and that had it’s own appeal.
Next her eager eyes found the Ravenclaw table, and she grinned as intelligence radiated from them like a great source of light. They all seemed very cool and collected, and instead of talking amongst themselves, seemed more inclined to watch others, assessing perhaps their next moves, or simply gaining new information that they might store away in the back of their minds, readying it for future use.
But, last of all, Henna turned her full attention to the Gryffindor table as she sat down at it beside Remus. There was an instant feeling of strength and power that radiated from this group. Their presence seemed the largest in the room as they joked and laughed, greeting long-missed friends. Friendship. That seemed to be the most obvious stand-out here. There was such a strong bond between these students, and a fierce feeling of loyalty to those friends. There was an underlying certainty of trustworthiness among them.
It was then that Henna was certain she could never be in this house. Not only did she trust nobody, but she couldn’t make friends very easily. This seemed to be a large factor among Gryffindors. She gave a depressed sigh, and turned her attention away from the houses, to see that the sorting had already begun. She must have been so wrapped up in her own thoughts, she hadn’t even heard. She watched now as student after student walked to his or her doom, each encompassing the feeling of melancholy that draped itself so firmly over her own heart.
“What are you thinking about?” whispered the comforting voice of Remus. She started slightly, but found the courage to look into his deep brown eyes. Her first instinct was to lie to him, but she realized a second later that there was no danger in telling him this.
“I was thinking about what house I’ll be sorted in. I’ll bet it’s Slytherin,” she muttered miserably.
“I doubt that,” Remus chided. “You’re loyal, brave, dependant, smart…”
“How would you know?” Henna snapped, suddenly furious. How dare he name off aspects of her personality? He didn’t know her! He would never know who she was! How then, a little voice whispered in her head, does he seem to know you as if he’s known you for years?
“I pay attention,” he answered, slightly surprised by her reaction. He watched her closely, gouging her reaction to this remark.
“You pay attention to me,” she snorted. It wasn’t a question. It was an accusation. “And why the hell would you want to do that?”
“Maybe it’s because I find you fascinating,” he snapped back at her. She was taken off-guard, as she usually was around him. She opened her mouth to say something repelling, something to keep him away from her, but found that she couldn’t. This made her even more furious, so she spun away from him, glaring at Caroline Frisby as she made her confident way up to the sorting hat. Henna wasn’t able to block him out enough, it seemed, as her spine tingled when she felt his hot breath against her neck as he whispered to her; “I’m winning.”
“Now that we are all full to the bursting point, I believe I should say a few words,” Dumbledore’s voice carried across the sea of students. Everybody quieted, and the attention was focused on him. “This year, we have a few openings in the Quidditch teams. There is an opening for the place of Seeker in Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor is looking for both a beater and a keeper. Tryouts will be held in a few weeks, on the third of August. That way the teams have as much time to practice with their new teammates as possible before the first game!”
There were murmurs of excitement at this news, and Henna felt an odd jolt of anticipation at this. Maybe she should tryout…she’d not been half-bad on her old team.
“Also,” Dumbledore interjected, and the noise decreased. “I have been informed by our care-taker, that there are a few notices that I need to bring to light.” Next Dumbledore began to name off certain rules, and a few of the restricted areas around the castle and grounds. Once his speech had ended, he bade everyone a goodnight, and students began making their way to their dorms, drowsy from eating so much.
“Well, I’m off to bed,” Lily finally said with a small yawn. Then she turned to Henna and said, “I’ll stay up until you get back though, I want to hear all about the sorting.”
“Yeah, me too,” Colleen said, getting up to follow her.
“If I’m sorted into Gryffindor,” Henna pointed out. But neither Lily nor Colleen seemed to think that a problem, and they walked off, their eyes dropping slightly from fatigue.
Sirius took his turn to stretch to his feet and give a loud yawn.
“Well, night then,” he said, moving from his chair, but before he left, he made a show of leaning towards Remus and whispering, “I know a nice closet, fourth floor. Great for snogging.” He ended this statement with a signature wiggle of his finely curved eyebrows and a meaningful look towards Henna, who pretended she hadn’t heard..
“Shut it.” Remus scoffed. Sirius grinned.
“Yeah, Sirius,” James joked, standing also. “You know Remus only holds hands on the first date!”
Sirius feigned realization. “You’re right,” he said, nodding. “Well, just make sure you wear gloves when you’re holding her hand. You wouldn’t want to get her pregnant.” James started laughing at this, while Remus scowled.
“I’m going to be late for my sorting. I’ll just get a head-start,” Henna said in a high-pitched voice, shooting up suddenly. Everybody stared in shock. “Just catch up when you’re ready,” she said over her shoulder to Remus, as she had already begun jogging away.
“Way to go,” Remus said furiously, glaring at Sirius. “She’s already terrified of being friends with me; do you need to scare her even more?”
“Sorry mate,” Sirius said, taken aback. “I didn’t know…”
“That’s because all you see is the outside of people,” Remus snapped. “Somebody has obviously hurt her, badly. She doesn’t trust anybody, especially guys. Some jerk probably messed with her, and now she’s afraid to get too close to me. I don’t know what her secret is, but I know it’s something deeper than anything you could know, Sirius. Unlike you, she is made up of more than vanity and lust. I’ve worked harder than you can imagine to gain her trust, and if you think I’m going to let you waltz around and ruin it, you’re wrong.”
Silence fell after these words, and Remus stood out of breath, his frustration filling every inch of his being. Sirius stared at the ground in disbelief, and James looked between the two, as if watching them throw a Quaffle back and forth.
Sirius’ gray eyes flitted to Remus’ brown ones. He began to walk away, but stopped, turning back. He couldn’t just let this drop. “I’m sorry you think all that stuff about me, but if you believe that I don’t understand what it’s like to have secrets, then you’re damn wrong,” he hissed, an unfamiliar expression crossing his face. He looked furious, and full of more emotion than Remus had ever seen. “I’d like you to remind yourself where the hell you would be if it wasn’t for me and my secrets, Moony. Maybe it’s you, Remus, who needs to look at more than just the outside of people.” With theses last words, he left, leaving a gaping silence in his wake. Remus stared after him, then turned to James.
“Well?” he said, raising his eyebrows. James gave a sigh.
“Don’t ask me to pick sides,” he muttered. “But, I think you should know, too. For the past two years, Sirius has been staying at my place over the summer.”
“Why?” Remus said, shocked by this news. James shook his head, sighing distractedly.
“His family kicked him out. You know, Remus. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’ve been a little preoccupied. Maybe you were so busy with your own problems that you forgot about the rest of us. Sirius is going through one helluva time right now. His brother, Regulus…. He was just murdered a week ago.”
Remus nearly fell over. “He never told me!” he exclaimed.
“You never gave him a chance,” James countered. “He wears a mask to escape his life, Remus. You of all people should recognize this,” he muttered in disappointment.
“What should I do, then?” Remus asked, running a hand over his face in stress. He really needed to get a grip. James put a hand on his shoulder, shaking his head.
“Look beneath the surface.”
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