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Chapter 7 : Thinking Twice
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“Is something the matter?”
Dollie snapped herself out of her reverie and turned to Vivian and Lily, who were staring at her oddly. She quirked a smile and shook her head in response.
“No, why would you think that?”
“Well, for one, you’ve been staring into space since Lily brought you down from the tower. Two, you haven’t inserted your usual pleasantly scathing comments about my soon-to-be conquest,” Vivian replied and purred at the last statement, while her eyes scrutinize the crowd.
They, as well as the rest of the Gryffindors and Slytherins, were on their way to their ‘Care of Magical Creatures’ class held on the lawn of the castle, just short of the Forbidden Forest. Winter was drawing near so most of the trees that littered the surroundings were bare of its leaves, swaying to the cool breeze of the season. The lush green lawn was practically covered with the discarded foliage, but it wasn’t as much an eyesore as expected as the red-gold colours of them gave a glow that green wouldn’t have achieved. Stepping on the stiff leaves and listening to the crunching was satisfying as well, as evident with some of the more eager students entertained themselves with the obliteration of the wearied leaves.
Dollie rolled her eyes at Vivian’s words but allowed herself a disinclined chuckle. “No, no. I was just… grumpy that ‘Care’ is so early in the morning. What’s this about a conquest then?”
In truth, class was the farthest possible thing from her mind at the moment. Even though weeks had passed since that night, Remus still hadn’t managed to leave her thoughts just yet. A shiver ran down her spine as she remembered her hand in his, her in his arms. She didn’t think she’d be able to sleep but it overcame her the second her head hit the pillow and she woke up with euphoria suffocating her. She couldn’t bring herself to relate to Lily and Vivian the incident; it just seemed too… personal, private. And by the looks of it, Remus didn’t inform the rest of The Marauders either. At least, Sirius hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort and wasn’t behaving any differently than usual.
“Thanks for getting her started again. Jose Marciano was all I had to hear all through breakfast,” Lily groaned but Vivian ignored her.
“Don’t you think he’s a total dream?!” Vivian squealed with excitement.
“If you count the ones where I wake up screaming for death’s sweet hand,” Dollie replied, for which she got a hard shove from Vivian and bumped into a laughing Lily.
“I can’t exactly trust you for your judgement, Dollie, since you’re completely oblivious to every boy in Hogwarts except –”
Dollie jumped at the sudden query as Sirius suddenly appeared behind her, along with James, Peter and Remus following closely behind. He immediately wedged himself beside her while keeping in step with the girls.
Vivian smirked at Sirius while her twinkling ebony eyes were directed at Dollie. “Why Black, do you even have to ask? Who else could it be but –”
“Settle down everyone, settle down!”
Dollie was so relieved at the interruption that she could have hugged the Professor. It seemed that immersed in their conversation, they’d been unaware that they had arrived at where the class was taking place and the Professor was sprucing up his teaching materials.
Professor Kettleburn was by far the oddest looking teacher on the Hogwarts Staff. Teaching ‘Care of Magical Creatures’ wasn’t very kind to him (nor was it very safe), resulting in several accidents and encounters with various dangerous beings. Because of it, he was missing some limbs while other body parts had to be replaced due to extensive damage. This resulted in mismatched parts: one leg longer than the other, fingers at irregular lengths and different shades of skin, etc. His facial features were just as irregular, all of them noticeably crooked and never symmetrical. In fact, very few of his body parts were made up of what he was originally born with. A few students had been known to advise him to find a better Healer or at least go to Madam Pomfrey. He had refused thus far and it’s rumoured that he rather liked his unusual looks and enjoyed making other people uncomfortable in his presence. Flabbergasted glances often came his way but on the whole, he was a good teacher and never shied from any sort of beasts and creatures.
He greeted the class and turns everyone’s attention to what looked to be an over-grown ferret in a pen. Its dark eyes glared at the students and to everyone’s surprise, let out a torrent of rude phrases. Kettleburn swiftly put a silencing spell on it and claps his hands to draw attention.
“This dreadfully vulgar creature is what we will be studying today. Who can tell me what it is?”
Suzanna Milton promptly raised her hand and said in a superior tone, “It is a ‘Jarvey’. The ‘Jarvey’ is one of the few beasts that can actually talk. Its speech, however, consists entirely of rude phrases and insults. They chase gnomes and are usually used by wizards that want to live alone and shoo away potential visitors.”
“Five points to Gryffindor. They are an odd choice of pets but of course, to each his own. Physically, they aren’t very dangerous but because of their choice of words, they are usually saved for the upper years to study. I hope I can trust this class to behave maturely while dealing with this particular beast.” He especially eyed The Marauders, who were snickering at the back of the class. “There is a good chance they might make an appearance in the O.W.Ls exam so please listen carefully to my instructions. I have five ‘Jarveys’ so everyone please split into groups of four.”
Vivian immediately made a bee-line to Jose Marciano, a slick-looking Slytherin, while James managed to somehow manoeuvre Lily into grouping with him. That left Dollie with Sirius, Remus and Peter. She knew he didn’t think she noticed but through the corner of her eye, she saw Sirius toss a look to Peter and Remus. Peter took the hint and scurried to Vivian, who was beckoning for him to join her and Marciano. She was about to speak up to allow Remus in their group when Suzanna and her dim at best sidekick, Mary-Beth Richards, appeared.
“Sirius!” she began in her slippery, syrupy voice, “do you have any room in your group? Everywhere else is full. Could you possibly allow me into yours?” she gushed at him, a finger twirling in her silky hair.
Sirius recoiled slightly as the prefect tried to fill the gap between them. He gave Dollie a helpless glance, something she found incredibly amusing as it wasn’t everyday she got to see the confident, self-controlled Sirius Black nervous. “Ermm…. Well…” he spluttered, edging away from her, “I don’t care either way. Do you, Dollie? Mind that is.”
All Dollie wanted was to yell at both of them to sod off but since Remus was already shrugging and making his way to James and Lily, she relented and murmured a “whatever”. Sue gave a squeal and primly dusted non-existent dust off her robes as she gazed adoringly at Sirius.
Kettleburn gave them instructions to pick whichever of the five ‘Jarveys’ in the pen and when they did, they were to subdue them with treating them as kindly as possible while ignoring their vulgar insults. Some were succeeding while others not so much. Vivian was faring surprisingly well with them, brushing off their ‘suggestions’ of what she can do with the male population of the class. “As if I’ve never done that before,” was what she was heard muttering to the creature.
Lily and James, on the other hand, weren’t doing as well. James just kept defending Lily against the insults while Lily was telling him to put cork in it. Remus and Slayer were shaking their heads and playing referees to the pairs contradicting arguments.
“What did you just say about my mother?!”
“Don’t talk about her mother like that!”
“You stay out of this, Potter!”
“But Evans, I’m just trying to help!”
“I don’t need your help!”
“Lily, maybe we can just concentrate…”
“James, I think we have to…”
Sirius let out a chortle at the pair’s antics before turning his attention to Dollie, who was trying to suppress a snicker as the creature threw some unfavourable ‘comments’ at Sue, some of which she herself wouldn’t mind using on the self-obsessed girl.
“Those two can be too much,” Sirius mused.
“Lily and Potter?” she turned her attention away from Sue’s despair to Sirius, “Nah, I think it’s just the hormones. My guess is we’ll be invited to their wedding one day and hopelessly tease them about this. I know I will,” she said as she watched the spectacle that was Lily and James.
“You don’t even have to remind me to do it. It’ll be in my ‘Best Man’ speech,” he grinned and but with a shake of his head, his face took on a serious expression, “Dollie, are you still mad at me?"
She felt puzzled at the question and searched her mind for what could have brought on this query when he answered for her.
“You know, the tutu thing...."
She felt the tinge of blood flow into her cheeks as she remembered. Her bumping into Remus had completely drove the humiliating affair from her mind but now that he'd reminded her, the stares, his confession to wanting to be her 'knight' and the whispers crashed into her faster than one of her back-fired spells.
An incensed response was about to escape from her mouth when Sirius stuck out his bottom lip, batted his thick eyelashes and started to pout, looking like a complete juvenile but doing it handsomely. It induced an unwilling laugh, to which Sirius beamed whilst looking triumphant.
"I... I suppose not. It's just.... I didn't like all the attention it drew. It made me incredibly uncomfortable... All those eyes staring at me..."
"For the record, I'm sorry. It was never my intention to make you feel ill at ease. I just wanted everyone to know not to mess with you."
"Just... don't do it again. Or at least warn me before hand," she added derisively, lightly punching him in the arm to show that she was joking.
"I'll remember that," he replied. He was silent for awhile, staring at the azure skies and seemingly in deep thought. He then turned to her with an unsettlingly serene smile on his face. "This is nice."
“What? Taking care of foul-mouthed ferrets?”
He rolled his eyes but still had the smile on his face, “No, I mean this, us talking. I don’t usually do it all that much with girls I’m dating.”
“It’s all just a snog-fest to you isn’t it?” she commented curtly.
“You’ve got it all wrong; I’m not this idiotic ‘playboy’ everyone makes me out to be. Truth is, it’s usually the girls,” at these words, he lowered his voice while it took on a harder edge, “They come on to me, then pretty much use me for celebrity, money, snogging, the like. Then when I eventually catch on, they dump me and cry to anyone who would listen that I was so cruel and heartless. Bloody Slags….”
She was speechless for awhile, wondering why on earth he was telling her this and said so. At her words, a smile broke across his face and before she could duck, he reached out and brushed strands of hair away from her face tenderly.
“You’re different, Dollie. You don’t want anything from me; you don’t expect anything from me. That’s what I like about you,” he gazed at her sincerely.
She was suddenly all too aware that he was closing in on her and suppressing a squeak, she bumped into Sue who was trying to cuddle the ‘Jarvey’. Sue’s scream resonated in the air as the beast used the distraction to crawl into her robes and thereby liking what he saw, judging from his remarks.
“So you two are starting to look rather –ahem- comfortable with each other.”
After the events of ‘Care of Magical Creatures’, with Sue Milton insisting on being sent to the hospital wing, lessons carried on normally. The following class was ‘Charms’, practising the Growth Charm on their own fingernails. As was per usual, it was chaotic as some of the students were ignoring Professor Flitwick’s directions and choosing instead to practising growing body parts other than their designated limb.
“Stebbins! Don’t think I didn’t see that! Same goes for you, Black!”
Dollie was feverishly concentrating on her spell, so hard that she was biting her lip and furrowing her brows trying to make the spell work. So far, all she had achieved was making the fingernails tap the tune of a popular Celestina Warbeck song (You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me) and making them shoot of sparks into Brenda Sixteen’s hair, who was sitting in front of her.
“Sssshhh! I think I’ve got it!” She hissed as she jabbed her fingers and said the incantation. She yelped as her fingernails turned to solid icicles, chilling her to the bone and cutting the blood circulation. Quick as a wink, Vivian whispered the heating charm and the ice melted into a pool of water on her desk.
“Okay, I didn’t get it,” she said, inspecting her hand for damage. She was terrible in practical magic, somehow making a complete disaster out of the smallest spell. It wasn’t just Charms either. She had the same problem with Transfiguration and Defence against the Dark Arts. She’d do it exactly as the Professor or the book said but it always came out awful. Everyone was dumbfounded at this.
“Confounding! Your father and sister were particularly skilful at spells, it’s just amazing how unlike them you are,” was the usual comment she got from Flitwick as well as McGonagall and any others who knew her family. These blunt observations were never helpful but always received with a forced smile and a sunken heart.
She clutched her wand in frustration as she watched Lily perfectly grow her own fingernails while Vivian was moving on to more complicated parts, growing her hair with ease.
“Why can’t I do it?!” she nearly seethed with frustration.
“You didn’t answer the question,” Vivian pressed, inspecting her now waist-length hair, “Do you think this is a good look for me?”
“I don’t know what you’re insinuating and no, it’s overkill,” she answered snappily.
“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about and maybe chest-length would be better?” Vivian said impatiently.
“Can we talk about this another time? I’m trying to somewhat improve my supremely ghastly ‘Charms’ skills and not to ultimately crash and burn O.W.Ls. Not everyone can get effortlessly get an ‘O’ in it, like some people...”
“Pfft! With all the grooming she does, how can Vivian not get top marks for it,” Lily scoffed but turned to her with concern etched on her face. “Dollie, try not to force it. Be more at ease.”
“If only it were that easy…”
“Oi Black! Your girlfriend is having a wee bit of a bother with her spells,” Vivian suddenly hollered, prompting Sirius to go over to her.
“What’s the trouble?” he asked when he reached them.
“Nothing –” she was about to say when Vivian cut her off.
“Dollie can’t make her spell work, can you help her out?” Vivian said slyly.
She was about to insist that she was just fine when Sirius reached out and took her wand hand. She froze from absolute shock and taking advantage of the compliance, he held it gently as he laid his other hand out on the desk. His warm breath on her neck and the muscular arm encircled around her body infuriated her, him being too close for comfort. Yet, her heart beat faster at the security his embrace seemed to hold and promise. “Here, try it out on me.”
“Ermm, Black, I don’t think that’s the wisest thing to do…” Lily trailed off as the three girls exchanged morbid glances with each other, already knowing what she was talking about. When it came to her practical skills, enough trips to the Hospital Wing had prepared them for what to expect. Sirius, however, didn’t and therefore readily tried to help Dollie. His confidence in her abilities further unnerved her.
“Just do what you did just now and maybe I correct whatever mistakes you make.”
“Your funeral, Black,” she muttered before once again poring over the broad hand. She said the incantation again and jabbed his nails with her wand, more to jerk his other hand off hers than anything else.
“Oh Godric, I’m so sorry!”
‘Charms’ had just ended but Dollie, Vivian, Lily and The Marauders were taking their time getting to their next class, instead lingering just outside the classroom. Remus was inspecting Sirius’s hand, his weary but keen eye looking for potential damages. He hadn’t had a good view but from what he could make out, Sirius was trying to teach Dollie the Growth Charm they were supposed to be practicing. Instead, she’d somehow managed to twist his fingers into knots they naturally wouldn’t have been able to do themselves.
He had jumped from his seat and succeeded in undoing the spell, perplexed at how it could have happened. Dollie was hovering at the other side of Sirius, her face guilt-ridden and concerned. He tried to block out her presence, her scent that was making him light-headed though it probably couldn’t accept all the credit.
“It’s –gaaah- alright, Dollie, could’ve happened to anyone,” Sirius gasped as he moved the injured fingers.
“Is there anything wrong, Rem– Lupin? Will he be okay?” she asked him, her eyes not meeting his own and pointedly staring at the beet-red hand.
“Everything seems to be in order, nothing severe. We could ask Madam Pomfrey but it looks like nothing a good soaking in Murtlap Essence won’t fix,” he said as he handled the hand.
Peter dug into his robes and pulled out a white cloth handkerchief, handing it to him. “Here, wrap his hand up in this. I never use it but mother keeps sending them anyway, you know what she’s like.”
“Good thinking, Peter,” he took the cloth and gingerly wrapped the injured hand in it while Sirius winced with pain.
“I’m really sorry about this, Black. I did warn you though,” Dollie said wearily as she took his school books and proceeded to carry them to the next class.
“You don’t have to do that!” Sirius exclaimed and tried to grab back his books but grimaced when she swatted his hand away.
“Least I can do,” she insisted.
They all followed her as they were supposed to get to class anyway but Sirius was walking faster than the others to catch up with her.
“No! I should be carrying your books. James, you carry my books.”
“I’m carrying Evans’s books!”
“I didn’t ask you to!” Lily retorted while sulking and walking as far away from James as possible.
“I can carry them if you like,” Peter offered in a small voice.
“It’s okay, Peter, you already gave me your handkerchief,” Sirius said kindly.
“Give it here then, I’ll carry them,” Remus, fed up with all the squabbles, reached and seized the books from Dollie. He ignored the coolness of her skin and the tingling feeling it gave him and proceeded to balance the books in his arms along with his own stack.
“You’re the best, mate,” Sirius said and walked up beside Dollie, Remus moving out of the way. “Dollie, I could still help you if you like.”
She chuckled and he instantly tried to drown out the musical tinkle. “You’re one mad bloke, Black.”
“No, really, Dollie. This is O.W.L year after all. I don’t want you to fail anything. What’re the subjects you need most help in?” He asked.
“It doesn’t mat –”
“It matters to me.”
She paused for awhile and with a sigh, she said, “I’m doing alright in most of them, it’s just practical magic that I’m sinking fast in. It’s not just Charms either. Transfiguration is a pain, so is Defence against the Dark Arts. Me saying I’m a tad poor at it is an understatement.”
“I could help you out but practical magic isn’t my strongest,” he pondered and added sheepishly, “I could still try of course. But truth is, Remus here,” he gestured at Remus, “is the best in the class if not the year.”
“Don’t be so modest, you could give me a run for my galleons, if I had any that is,” he mocked genially.
Sirius laughed his bark laugh but still insisted to Dollie, “He’s being modest but if you really want to learn, you’re better off with him than me. He raised Peter’s Defence against the Dark Arts to an ‘Acceptable’ from a ‘Dreadful’, almost to an ‘Exceeds Expectations’, didn’t he, Peter?”
“That he did,” Peter squeaked loyally.
“Wow, Rem- Lupin, that’s impressive,” she said in awe, smiling at him kindly.
“Thanks,” he replied almost shyly.
“How about it then, Remus? Would you mind terribly helping Dollie get the grades she deserves?” Sirius asked him, his tone pleading and widening his irresistible puppy dog eyes.
He felt the lump of guilt in his throat get bigger as he contemplated the offer. Sirius still hadn’t a clue of his ‘feelings’ for Dollie, if he could even call them that. Sirius didn’t even know about that night where a spark seem to light between them. But maybe it was nothing after all. They hadn’t breathed a word to each other after that, resuming their places as ‘Sirius’s mate’ and ‘Sirius’s Girlfriend’ as before, acting as if their odd close encounter never happened. But it had made a difference. A few nights after it, during his monthly transformation, though it hadn’t completely erased the agony and pain of being a beast, the miniscule part of his brain where the werewolf hadn’t reached, thoughts of her swirled and seemed to keep him exultant, human.
He looked at the two of them, mulling it over. They seemed to fit perfectly together, Sirius with his carefree and light-hearted personality and Dollie with her no-nonsense attitude. They complimented each other just right. Who was he, an almost penniless half-beast? If he accepted the proposal to teach her, nothing would happen. She obviously thought of him as nothing more than a friend, maybe even less by the way she always seemed to avoid his eyes and ignore him. He could be the same. He could be just her friend.
“I wouldn’t want to be a nuisance,” she said in that same voice that echoed in that empty common room so many weeks ago. He didn’t recognize it but there something lurking in it. Hopefulness? No, just his imagination playing tricks on him…
“I’d have to take a few nights off a month but -,” he paused, hoping he wasn’t going to regret his decision, “but I’ll be more than happy to tutor you.”
A/N: I appreciate any suggestions and comments. If I made a grammar or spelling mistake, don't hesitate to point it out to me. Don't forget to leave a review on your way out! ;)
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