Chapter 8 : Propositions and Protestations
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I spin around and grin at her right in the middle of the corridor. ‘All right, admit it, today has been the weirdest, the most fucked up, BEST first day of school ever.’
She just bursts out laughing all over again. ‘You’re right! You’re right,’ she finally chokes out, leaning back against a wall and steadying herself. ‘It’s been…a real eye opener, I guess. And suddenly Lily Evans is our friend? And we’ve got three blokes that you keep punching and insulting following us around… Do you think the universe is playing some sort of joke on us?’
‘That’s what I thought this morning, but now I’m pretty sure that we’re not that important. I think this is just karma, coming back to get us – you know, kicking us in the arse for being so useless and loner – ish for all those years.’
‘You mean the universe is punishing us for not having loads of friends.’
‘More for making fun of everyone else and sneaking round pulling pranks that they get caught for, but we never do…but yah, I guess you could say its punishment for ignoring the rest of the world.’
She shakes her head. ‘You’ve been spending too much time with Grace,’ she snorts. ‘Next thing you know we’ll be spending “bonding time” together –‘
‘You’d better watch out or I’ll take you down,’ I grin, throwing a mock punch.
‘And I thought you only beat up helpless hotties like Sirius Black.’
‘Oh come on – I only gave him one little black eye -’
‘He already had two SIRIUS-LY Black eyes,’ she crows.
We can’t help it. It’s the worst joke ever told in the English language. We’re both howling with laughter, sort of doubled over against the walls, and Rozzer accidentally knocks into a set of armor, which starts yelling at her. ‘What?! Am I invisible? No – I’m RIGHT BLOODY HERE! NOT that ANYONE notices!!!!!’
We roll to the side, completely helpless, and I fall over onto my stomach, tears falling down my cheeks. After a good thirty seconds of unchecked sobbing and giggling, I open my eyes and realize that there is a pair of sensible, low – heeled black shoes inches from my nose. I look up to see Lily. ‘What are you two doing?’ she asks in complete confusion.
Roz manages to sit up, grinning like a hatter. ‘Looking for you.’
‘Well, we need to have a talk,’ I say, giggling a little and managing to stifle it as I sit up. ‘I suppose it’s probably best that you know we’re completely mental right off, so that it doesn’t come as a shock later.’
‘What do you mean, later?’
‘Well, we don’t really make many friends, you see. In fact, besides one another, we’ve never made any friends,’ I explain.
‘But, we’ve just recently realized that that’s our fault for not realizing that, despite the somewhat unbalanced distribution of coolness amongst our peers, there is someone worth getting to know,’ Roz adds. ‘And that would be you.’
‘So, since we don’t know how to do this properly – ‘
‘Because we’ve never actually done it before –
‘Lily Evans,’ we chorus. ‘Would you like to be our friend?’ I suppose it’s either very appropriate, or very creepy, that we’re both kneeling on the floor as we say this, and I can tell that Lily is warring between the two sensations as well.
‘Er, that would actually, er, be rather nice I think,’ she says, sounding quite surprised at herself. ‘Yah, I think I would,’ she continues in a much surer voice.
‘Excellent,’ Roz beams, standing up.
I bounce to my feet and nod. ‘Right then, what should we do first?’
‘Oh, I think a talk is in order,’ Rozzer says brightly. ‘Don’t you?’
‘What’s a talk?’ Lily asks suspiciously. ‘Because really, I’ve got a lot of homework –‘
‘Its first night back, Lily, you’ll be fine. Now come on,’ I order, grabbing one arm.
‘Really, this is quite a lot of fun,’ Rozzer agrees, grabbing her other arm. Grinning at one another we take off running down the corridor, Lily voicing trepidation
all the way.
Long ago we realized that trying to have a decently private conversation in our dormitory is like trying to keep a straight face during a Monty Python skit – its just not going to happen. So, instead of wasting our time casting silencing spells on our bed curtains, we just found our own space…which happens to be the top of the Astronomy Tower. Not exactly the best place to get caught after curfew, but perfect if you’re tired of having your conversation interrupted by someone looking for her facial hair bleach. And if you think I’m kidding, you really should try living with four absolutely imbecilic teenaged girls.
‘Er, we’re really not supposed to be up here…’ Lily begins the moment we burst onto the roof.
‘Okay, Rule One:’ Roz snaps out. ‘You will do something against the rules at least once a week.’ Lily gives her a very hard look.
‘That’s a bit of a conundrum,’ I point out. ‘If you’re making that a rule, then all she has to do to break a rule is abide by the rules – see what I mean?’
‘Quit being so bloody clever,’ Roz growls, turning back to Lily. ‘We won’t call them rules – it’ll be a deal. You do something out of bounds, and we do something completely honest and rule – abiding at least once a week. Fair?’
Lily bites her lip and considers. ‘I get to veto the rule – breaking if I think it’s too dangerous.’
‘Only if we get a chance to talk you into it after you’ve refused,’ I rejoin.
‘I’m not doing anything that involves James Potter and the Marauders,’ she says flatly. ‘And they’re involved in pretty much everything that happens out of bounds.’
‘Why do you hate them so much?’
She glances over a Roz, arching a brow impressively high. ‘If you had someone following you around constantly, telling you how wonderful he is, how you’re in love with him, when you’re going to meet him for a date…its literally the most obnoxious thing in the world. And his friends encourage him, and when he’s not embarrassing you as publicly as possible, he’s causing all kinds of trouble even though he’s supposed to be Head Boy, and above all that –‘
‘Okay, I think I’ve got it,’ Roz interrupts, holding up a hand as she grimaces. ‘No need to continue.’
‘Sorry – I get a little riled up about Potter and the rest.’
‘Believe me,’ I sigh, sliding my legs through the pillars on the colonnade surrounding the roof and sitting stories above nothing. ‘We understand. They’ve been following us around since yesterday, and its old already.’
‘Why were they sitting with you at dinner?’
I glanced over at Roz. She just stared back. ‘You explain,’ I yawn, tilting my head forward.
‘All right,’ Roz says, turning to Lily. ‘Yesterday on the train, Kellyn here had a bit of a nightmare…’ She went through the whole story, even though I’d already told the train bit to Lily this morning. Lily listened attentively, questioned and commented politely, and generally enjoyed the recounting. Rozzer is a great story teller, which does make listening to it all more enjoyable than it might have been, but doesn’t change the fact that every interaction with them is just plain weird. And I’m not sure why they keep hanging round us. So I do what I always do when I feel indecisive: I analyze.
Pros: They came into our train compartment to wake me up when I was yelling in my sleep. They seem relatively friendly, if a bit annoying. They provide entertainment…sort of. James really does like Lily, even if he’s painfully inept at wooing.
Cons: I punched Sirius Black in the face. None of them is capable of consuming food in a normal, civilised manner. They terrorize people for fun, including Lily, and I suspect in the near future, Rozzer and me.
‘Kelllllyn,’ Roz is saying in a slow, wake up you eedjit sort of way. ‘You fall asleep again?’
‘No, no, just making a list of things that are decent about the Marauders, and things that are awful.’
‘Which one’s longer?’
I do a quick mental tally. ‘Surprisingly, the decents.’
‘Mmmm,’ Lily says very archly.
‘Well come on, let’s have it then,’ Rozzer sighed. It was the start to a rather long and rather involved argument – er, discussion, about the blokes and whether they were worth hanging round. Rozzer said yes for entertainment purposes, Lily no because they didn’t need any more encouragement in being obnoxious, and I abstained from an immediate vote pending further experience.
The debate ended only when Lily looked at her watch, squeaked, ‘Oh God – I’m supposed to be making sure the first years are all back before curfew!’ and took off running towards the stairs. Rozzer and I followed at a more sedate pace, smiling at the antics of our new…friend.
When we amble into the common room Lily is busy checking eleven year old bodies against her list of names. ‘Right,’ she says distractedly when we pause near her. She makes a check by the last name on the list. ‘Looks like they’re all back – no thanks to Potter, I might add. Responsible, my arse.’
‘He’s probably off terrorizing some Slytherin or other,’ Rozzer yawns, smiling toothily when Lily scowls.
‘Why can’t he just behave like a prefect?’ she growls. ‘It’s not that hard – just be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there. Even Rodger Lumpkins manages, and he’s about as thick as they come.’ Rodger is the Hufflepuff prefect, and I have to agree with Lily – when brains got handed out, he must have been standing in the corner, picking his nose. ‘And since he’s not here, I’ve got to stay and make sure nothing happens and I’ve got loads of reading for Arithmancy and I’ll never be able to concentrate with this lot yelling.’
Glancing around, she’s got a point: since its only first night back, most of Gryffindor is sprawled out in the common room, talking about summers and first days of classes and such. Its quite a lot of people, too – we’re practically having to shout to hear one another. ‘You can always read upstairs,’ I suggest.
‘Yah, but my books are still in the Transfiguration classroom – I was borrowing it for a bit of quiet and now I have to go and get them. Since Potter and I are the ones on duty tonight that would mean leaving no prefect, and I’d never make it back before curfew.’
‘So just say you’re doing some Head Girl duty thing,’ Rozzer shrugs. ‘Not like Filch is going to give you detention for that.’
She looks conflicted, staring nervously at the portrait hole, and I spot a sixth year wearing a prefect badge sitting with his friends. ‘Look, just go ask that bloke over there if he’d mind being on watch for a few minutes, go get your books, and come back. He won’t care.’
‘We really aren’t supposed to switch out with other prefects unless it’s an emergency…’ But she doesn’t sound convinced.
I shrug. ‘Well, whatever you decide, let me know in the morning. I think I’m going to bed.’
‘Night,’ she says absently, still chewing on her lip. Rozzer and I exchange another shrug, and head for the stairs.
‘She’s nice enough, but we’re going to have to wear her down a bit about the rules.’
‘Indeed,’ I mutter, shoving the door open and peering round for Perfects. Looks like they’re all having a conference downstairs. Excellent. ‘So, what are we really doing tonight?’
Rozzer grins. ‘I dunno – I almost thought you were serious about going to bed.’
‘Please,’ I sneer. ‘It’s only ten o’clock – the library hasn’t even closed yet.’
‘Take a wander on the grounds?’ she suggests wickedly. I grin. This is another of our return – to – school – rituals: the first week we’re back, we “go to bed early” which means closing our bed curtains, climbing out the window, and touring the school by starlight. Everyone thinks we’re losers who’re so boring we can’t find anything to do. And then they blame Potter and Black and Lupin for the relatively harmless little pranks we pull before silently creeping back to our beds and sleeping like angels.
We change clothes rapidly, all black, and soft shoes. We’re very nearly ready to make our escape – the beds are closed up, our towels are dampened and laid out – when I realize something awful. ‘I can’t find my wand,’ I hiss at her, digging through my jeans pockets for the hundredth time.
‘What’re you on about – you had it right before dinner –‘
‘Yah, I know, it was in my pocket, and now it’s gone.’ This is somewhat muffled because I’ve laid flat on my stomach and crawled under my bed to look.
‘Just loads of dust and what looks like an old sock – don’t think the house elves get under there much,’ I say, rolling up and dusting myself off.
Rozzer pulls out her own wand, holds it up, and glances round. ‘You might want to duck.’ I drop to my knees as she says: ‘Kellyn’s wand – Transmitio!’
If my wand were anywhere in the room, it would come pelting at her face. Unfortunately, nothing projects itself. ‘Looks like it’s either in the hall outside the Transfiguration room, or on top of the Astronomy Tower,’ I sigh. ‘Or somewhere in between there and here.’
‘All right – we’ll go looking. We’ve got, what, half hour till curfew?’ We check our watches. ‘I’ll take the Transfiguration room, you take the Tower, we’ll meet back here as fast as we can. Deal?’
‘Deal.’ We both pulled on jackets over our shirts, and took a deep breath: most of the time, if you play it right, people don’t even see you if you don’t give them reason to look. Rozzer and I are masters at this – move with eyes down, stay on the edges of groups, and you become someone’s shadow, part of someone’s conversation – you never actually leave, you just blend into the crowd. We sneak down the stairs, across the common room, and out the portrait hole right past a group of fifth years coming in from the library using these clever tactics. ‘See you,’ I whisper to Rozzer as I make my way up the hall toward the stairs, and she heads down to the classrooms.
Everyone in the world must be in the library tonight, I decide after I duck behind a statue to avoid yet another noisy group hurrying along home before lights out. The farther I get from the Gryffindor common room, the more there are, too. And its not just the prefects that are out, walking first years back to their common rooms – the teachers are out too, making sure no one gets lost…or starts a fight. It’s my rotten luck that the only stairs to the Astronomy Tower are straight up the central corridor of the school, and that the Tower itself is off limits after dark unless you’re accompanied by a teacher. It’s one of Filch’s favourite places to look for students because loads of people like to go up there to snog. Personally, I don’t find gigantic telescopes and huge revolving models of the solar system romantic, but then, what do I know?
‘Bollocks,’ I groan as I’m forced to hide yet again, this time to avoid a group of Hufflepuffs talking loudly about their Herbology course – as if anyone cares…and then, of course, the staircase shifts direction, taking us all round our arses to find our elbows. I’m balanced on the bannister behind a large statue of a vulture and manage to jump off on a bit of railing before the stairs make their new destination, but it still puts me about ten minutes farther from where I’m trying to get. By the time I actually find the narrow, twisting stairs that lead up to the Tower, its two minutes to curfew and I haven’t even started looking. I sprint up the stairs, give a glance around, and groan – there’s no moon, and everything is pitch black, even to my eyes, with loads of little nooks and crannies that a wand could fall into. I’m just starting to poke around when I hear the bell tolling – I am now officially out of bounds, and my wand is still somewhere on this viewing deck. Or maybe not – Rozzer might already have it and be back in the common room, and I’m just wasting my time, possibly getting caught. There has to be a way to speed this up.
I’m just about to start calling for my wand like it’s an escaped pet when I hear the worst sound possible: footsteps on the stairs. Blasted Filch and his blasted cat. I duck into the shadow of a model of Saturn and hunker down, hoping he’ll just take a look around and leave. But then I realize that it sounds like Filch is giggling…in fact, he sounds a lot like two people tromping up the stairs together…. And when the figures burst through the door it’s not Filch at all – its Sirius Black, pulling some blonde girl along by the arm while she giggles helplessly.
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