Back at the dark castle in the mountains, where it seemed that all evil seemed to spawn from, Lord Voldemort's lip curled when a Death Eater walked into the room. The servant knew his master was obviously angry and annoyed.
"Lucan," he hissed eerily. "I believe that I bestowed an important assignment upon you."
The other wizard did not move, or even break his master's gaze. Voldemort began to circle him, as a predator circles its prey seconds before the kill.
"You have never failed to gain supporters or eliminate any, shall we call them, obstacles. If it were not for this fact, I can assure you that you would not still be standing in my presence."
The Death Eater still stood motionless.
"If your son is even anywhere near as powerful as you claim he is-"
"I can assure you that he is, My Lord," Lucan said.
"-Then I have no need to remind you how valuable and how important his service is, have I?" the Dark Lord asked menacingly, as if daring his servant to cause himself to be reminded.
"Oh, of course not, My Lord. But need I remind you that my son is not your average Death Eater-to-be? That he has an infuriating sense of justice and is strong willed with a mind of his own? And the fact that he loathes me with every fiber in his being?"
Had any other Death Eater spoken to him in that way, Voldemort would have killed him on the spot, but not with Lucan. The Dark Lord sneered, which was a good sign for his servant. It meant that he had agreed.
"I know perfectly well that your son will not be easy to recruit. I was the one who brought that matter to your attention, if you would do so well as to remember. I shall compromise with you. If at least you make certain that he and the mudblood flower are not kept apart-"
"What? Not kept apart? Never! I will make certain that he and that disgusting whore are separated!"
"If he cares for that piece of filth, we can use her to persuade him to join us, you fool!" Voldemort hissed.
"With all due respect, My Lord," he began, sarcastically, "it will not work. We tried that with his sister, and that only made things worse."
"It will work. I know that it will. I will explain the finer details to you later, but now, back to my compromise. If you make certain that he and the mudblood are not kept apart, I will give you as much time as needed. But remember, we have others to deal with, besides him. There is the matter of the young Alcantvus."
The other man's eyes lit up with a sick excitement.
"Ah, yes," he murmured. "That old crackpot Dumbledore still has not mentioned to her that she has the ability to do magic with her wand? My, my, my, we shall have quite some fun with her."
Master and servant both shared evil, blood-chilling laughs.
At Hogwarts, Lily awoke the next morning to warm sunbeams caressing her skin. She smiled and spent a few minutes in bed, basking in the beauty of the morning, until she suddenly remembered that Dumbledore had told them to tell James to see him. She then reluctantly forced herself out of bed. Aria seemed to have already left, along with Trewyn and Ebony, and Ashley was still sleeping, but shouting at someone for a pencil because she absolutely had to draw a porcupine in the next three minutes. Lily clasped her hand over her mouth to suppress her laughter, and quickly dashed into the bathroom to brush her teeth and shower. When she had finished, Ashley was whining that her fuzzy slippers had been eaten by a hinkypunk.
"Ash!" Lily shouted.
Ashley bolted up in bed and looked around wildly.
"Lily! Why'd you wake me up? I was sleeping!" said Ashley, as if Lily wasn't very bright.
"No, really? I thought you were hula dancing!" said Lily sarcastically. "And you deserve it, for waking me up in the middle of the night to take you to Dumbledore. Sheesh, does that man ever sleep? And did you tell James last night that he needs to see him?"
Ashley smiled slyly.
"Ok� um, why are you smiling like that?"
"I figured you'd want to wake him up yourself!"
Shoot! Does she know? How can she know? There's nothing to know because you don't like him! You can't! But- NO! Lily gaped at her, dumbstruck and panicking, but Ashley didn't seem to notice.
"Run along now, and go catch yourself a man!" Ashley laughed with a surprisingly good attempt at a Southern drawl, and she pushed her friend out the door.
"I'm gonna catch YOU and make you sorry when I'm done!" Lily hollered, but Ashley just smiled sweetly and shut the door.
Lily opened it to poke her head in.
"You're drawing pencils are in the desk drawer, you know, and Aria borrowed your fuzzy slippers last week."
Ashley's eyes widened and she opened her mouth to say something, but Lily interrupted.
"Sorry, dahling, I have to run now. But isn't it fortunate you didn't say anything embarrassing? Maybe about a certain grey-eyed young man you seem to gaze at day after day in History of Magic when you think no one's looking?"
Ashley looked so surprised it was funny.
"What are you talking-"
"TTFN!" Lily exclaimed, and dashed out the door.
She dashed up the stairs to the fifth year boy's dormitory and found James, Sirius, Peter, Joseph Thomas, Tobias Patterson, and Matthew Lynn all sound asleep. Remus would probably be in the hospital wing, healing the beating he had given himself. Lily made her way over to James' bed and threw the covers off of him, which turned out to be a wrong move because he turned out to be shirtless. She couldn't help but stare at his muscled physique until she caught herself and shook her head. Don't. It'll just make things harder. James groaned, still asleep, and reached for his covers, but Lily giggled silently and kept them away, hoping this would wake him up. Unfortunately, James seemed to accept the fact that his covers had disappeared due to an unknown thing, and continued to sleep. She sat down on the bed.
"James, wake up, Dumbledore needs to see you."
"I can bake a cookie by myself, thank you."
Lily stared at him. First Dumbledore, then Ashley, and now him too. EVERYONE in this school is entirely insane.
"That's very smart of you, and I'm glad to know that, but you have to get up, Dumbledore wants to see you," said Lily, a bit louder.
James turned over.
"JAMES WHATEVER-THE-HELL-YOUR-MIDDLE-NAME-IS POTTER WAKE UP!" screamed Lily in James' ear and he awoke with a start, almost knocking her off the bed in the process.
"For the love of Quidditch, Lils, what do you want?" he said sleepily.
"Get up! Dumbledore wants to see you now!"
"Tell him I'm tired and every muscle in my body is sore from last night and that I'll see him when I'm good and ready," said James, lying back down. Lily softened a bit.
"How'd it go last night? Did it work?"
"Yea, it worked. It was actually kind of fun too, besides for when we were Remus' chew toys, but I'm glad that it worked. Now he won't hurt himself as much."
"Oh, good. Now get up! UP! NOW! Or I'll set, um, something on you!"
James groaned and complained some more, but finally got out of bed and promised to go see Dumbledore. After Lily left, he smiled despite himself and wished she was the first thing he saw every morning when he woke up. Meanwhile, the redhead collapsed onto the couch, breathing hard and trying to still the quick beating of her heart while the image of a shirtless James with bedhair ran through her head.
Aria threw open the great, oak, main entrance doors and let her feet carry her wherever they pleased, sobbing and gasping as she never had before. They could have taken her into the Forbidden Forest and straight into the jaws of a wild beast, for all she cared. All she wanted was for the pain that kept stabbing her heart without ceasing ever since he had spoken those horrible words to her to end, but it wouldn't. It was as if someone was ripping her heart out of her body or squeezing it so tightly that she could barely breathe, that they wanted her to feel the pain and realize how blind and na�ve she had been. Finally, she could run no more, and she fell to her knees onto the cold, wet, snowy ground of the Quidditch Pitch. There, she hugged herself tightly, trying to pull herself back together, but it didn't work. *How could he? How could he do this to me? GOD, to think that I actually thought I was in love with that conceited ASSHOLE! Why am I so STUPID?* Aria sobbed onto her knees and quivered because of the freezing temperature and of the pain that was suffocating her.
"Why look here, Ebs, it�s the biggest freak in school!" said a snobby, cruel voice behind her. Aria didn't have to look around to know that it was Trewyn and Ebony.
"The most pathetic thing is that she actually thought Amos was interested in her," Ebony sighed dramatically.
Aria shut her eyes as tightly as she could and prayed with all of her might for them to go away. Trewyn clucked her tongue in what would have been a sympathetic manner, had it not been coming from her.
"That'll teach her. Next time, she won't try so hard with someone so obviously out of her league."
"That's not true!" Aria said so feebly that she barely believed herself. "None of what you said is true!"
"It is and you know," Ebony snapped.
"Why don't you go out with someone more on the same level of freakishness you are, like Frank Longbottom?" said Trewyn frostily, and both turned on their heels and left.
*Maybe they're right. Amos was way out of my league. I never should have been stupid enough to think he could possibly like me. GOD I've done this to myself, haven't I?*
"THIS ISN'T FAIR! WHY is it that people who DESERVE to feel this way, like TREWYN or EBONY or that SON-OF-A-BITCH never have to deal with this? WHY ME?" she screamed defeatedly to no one and everyone at the same time, before becoming drained of any energy except to cry harder, and collapsed onto the snow, curled up in a ball.
Sirius left the hospital wing and shut the door softly behind him. Remus still hadn't awoken from his sleep, so he had left a small note for him and left. He smiled to himself, for Remus actually looked very peaceful and not as if he had just crashed into the Whomping Willow on a broomstick. True, he was still dreadfully pale, dishelved, scarred, and bruised, but not nearly as much as he would have been, had he transformed alone. Sirius left the wing for the Quidditch Pitch to warm up before Quidditch practice that would be held later that day. When he arrived, though, he was not expecting to see Aria curled up in the snow, curly black hair concealing her face and her blank, red eyes, which had cried to their extent.
"Aria?" Sirius asked softly, brushing the hair away from her face. "Aria! How long have you been out here? What happened to you?"
Slowly, Aria looked up to find a panicky Sirius before her. She wanted him to leave so that she didn't have to feel anything: the pain, the hurt, the confusion. She wanted to go numb, but if Sirius was with her, she couldn't. She would have to feel, and that was the last thing she wanted to do at the moment. On the other hand, she wanted someone to stay with her, someone who would understand and who cared about her. She flung her arms around Sirius' neck and buried her face against his shoulder.
"I-I wish you hadn't seen me like this," Aria said in a muffled voice. Sirius stroked her hair and wrapped his arms around her.
"I wish you weren't like this for me to see in the first place. What happened? What's wrong?"
Aria looked up at him, tears welling up in her exotic eyes once more.
"He dumped me today," she whispered softly. "Just threw me away like an old shoe. Said I was being selfish because I didn't devote every waking hour to him! He tried to lecture ME about making sacrifices! He kept whining like the insecure little git that he is about how angry he was that I hung out with you and James and Remus. And the worst part of it is that I actually thought that I had a chance with someone like him. I-I thought I was in love. God, I can't believe I'm such an idiot!"
Aria cried softly against his shoulder, and Sirius felt himself stiffen, anger surging throughout his body.
"He dumped you? HE dumped YOU? Where is he? I'll kill him!" ^How could he do this to her? I always knew he was a moron, but I never knew he was that stupid! Look what he's done to her! I'll show HIM what happens when you break Aria's heart! I'll rip him apart, limb to limb with my bare hands if I have to!^
"That dirty, rotten, no good, son-of-a-"
"Sirius! Calm down! Please, just let it alone! I-I don't want any more trouble!" Aria pleaded. Sirius, however, was far too enraged to do as she asked.
"He doesn't deserve to be walking around the school at this very moment while you're like this! He's going to pay for it!"
"SIRIUS! Please! Don't do anything stupid! I don't want anymore trouble! I don't want him any angrier with you than he already is! Come on, don't do it, for my sake!"
Sirius opened his mouth to argue some more, but then consented. "Wait, he dumped you because of me? And James and Remus?"
"It's not your fault at all, or theirs, its-its mine. I've done this to myself!" she whispered.
He gently pushed her away for a moment and tilted her chin upwards.
"Hey, look at me. Don't ever say that it was your fault! It wasn't! If he can't appreciate you and see what a beautiful, fun, smart, amazing girl you are, then he doesn't deserve you! Its HIS fault, not yours! You deserve someone better than him, Aria!"
^Someone like me.^ He looked at her with such intensity and caring that she diverted her gaze.
"I'm tired, Sirius, I just want to forget about all of this. I think I'll go take a nap," Aria said softly, though she didn't want to leave the security she felt in his arms.
"Are you going to be all right?" he asked.
Aria smiled at the amount of concern in his voice. *He's so sweet. Why can't all guys be like that? Why is it that I end up dating conceited assholes when there are people like Sirius out there?* Startled at that thought, she shook herself mentally. *Wait, did that mean I wanted to date Sirius? No, no of course not! We're just friends. Right?*
"I'll be ok. But I wouldn't be anywhere even near there if you hadn't come along. Thanks, Sirius. How would I live without you?"
Sirius was surprised by her question, though he knew it was rhetorical. He looked down at the ground between them, heart pounding wildly.
"Actually, Aria, about that. I-um-well-you see-uh-" he struggled with the words that had been trapped in his heart for five years.
^Shit. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. I ought to just stop right now. I can't make a move on her when her boyfriend has just broken up with her! What am I doing?^
"Yes?" asked Aria, puzzled.
"The thing is that, um, I-I think I-"
"Yes?" she whispered, her heart pounding.
He finally gave up with trying to find a word for something indescribable, and kissed her gently but firmly. She was too astounded to do anything but kiss him back. She felt herself melt in his arms, and wrapped her arms around his neck to keep her steady. He was unaware of everything except the feel of her lips against his, the feel of her delicate body against his hard one. All of a sudden, it ended as she broke apart from him, dazed.
"Sirius," she gasped. "What-"
"I think I'm in love with you, Aria," he said softly, leaning his forehead against hers.
*Did Sirius just say he loves me? EEE!*
"I have ever since first year, when you slapped me before the Sorting Ceremony. Its been killing me inside for so long, being so near to you yet so far away, talking to you as if everything's normal when all I want to do is kiss you. You're the most amazing girl I've ever met in my entire life. I love the way you smile, the way you laugh, and all of your odd quirks. I know that you're trying to get over Amos right now, and now probably isn't the best time to tell you this, but, I don't know what came over me. I just had to tell you. And I know Amos was probably a better kisser, but-"
"Sirius," said Aria shakily, but she smiled. "You're a real idiot sometimes, you know that?"
Sirius looked away from her, hurt.
"I know I shouldn't have said anything, but-"
"You great prat. You're a million times better than Amos at kissing." And with that, she kissed him as hard as she could. Sirius smiled and kissed her back, pulling her closer to him and delving deeper and deeper into her mouth.
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