“It’s none of your business,” Lily Evans said coldly. “And unless you want to be late for your next class, I suggest you hurry up.”
Abashed, they hurried along with many mutterings and Lily sighed.
The three fifth-years were only one of many groups she had broken up in the past week.
The whole school was agog with Alcyone and Regulus’ “break-up” and no matter how much she and others tried to suppress talk, rumours flew around like lightning.
“It’s alright, Lily,” a tired voice sounded beside her and Lily turned to see Alcyone.
“There’s not much we can do,” she shrugged. “I’ll be the center of attention for a bit longer and then they’ll focus on some other new scandal. One’s bound to pop up sometime soon.”
“I guess…” Lily was still doubtful as they turned the corner into the passage that led to Gryffindor Tower.
Climbing through the portrait hole, they found the Marauders lounging in front of the fire.
“Have you taken a look at the Potions essay yet Lily?” Remus asked. “If you’re not busy, do you mind helping me with this bit?”
“Of course not, I-”
“Come help me beat Peter, Lily?” James called from the opposite side of the room.
“I’ll come over after I help Remus – just a minute,” she answered.
“What-oh, sorry I didn’t hear, ok.”
James frowned as Peter took his castle and Lily drew the parchment toward her as Remus began to explain his problem.
Under the cover of their conversation Sirius took the opportunity to study Alcyone.
Dark circles around her eyes…pale skin…Sirius summed it all up in one word. She looked stressed.
It was hardly surprising considering the state of things, but despite the burst of elation he had felt when he heard of Alcyone and Regulus’ separation, her wan countenance cost him a pang.
It cost him several more pangs to see her sitting quietly, staring broodingly into the fire without saying a word.
Not that he could say that he wasn’t happy with the way things had turned out. Considering what he’d thought just a week ago, things really couldn’t have been any better.
But why? The question that the entire school was pondering occurred to Sirius for what felt like the hundredth time.
Listening to hallway gossip, amusing as it was, apparently wasn’t the answer. Sirius was certain that Alcyone hadn’t run after Regulus pelting him with peanuts and pleading with him to take her back, despite the evidence of four Hufflepuff fifth-years who swore they saw her.
He glanced at Alcyone, wondering how she’d react if he asked her, and then decided against it. No matter how miserable she might be, he doubted that any girl would be eager to produce details about a recent and undoubtedly painful breakup.
“Padfoot!” James called. “Want a game of chess? My ego needs help after Peter…”
“You shouldn’t have played him if you didn’t want to lose,” Remus said amusedly. “And I don’t think playing Sirius will help you…he’s too good.”
Sirius grinned as James swelled up indignantly.
“He is not. I’ve beaten him before.”
“In second year Prongs,” Peter reminded him. “Just the once.”
James cast an agonized glance at Lily who was laughing so hard she was holding her stomach.
“I’ve beaten him other times too,” he said in injured tones.
“Like when?” Sirius asked. “I only lose to Peter now, and he’s the best. Beating you-” He made a scoffing noise. “Easy.”
James dragged his chair forward, pushing his glasses back on his nose determinedly.
“Think again mate,” he said firmly as he set up the board. “This night is my night.”
As the last few occupants of the common room moved closer to the game, Alcyone yawned, her free hand running idly through her loose hair, and her eyes wandering until they caught the figure of Sirius, hair falling into his eyes as he prodded a figure forward, eyebrows drawn in concentration.
There certainly was a marked difference between him and Regulus, she reflected, wondering how she could possibly have mistaken him for his brother that day in the Owlery.
I know him so much better now, she thought as Sirius looked up from the game and smiled at her…a real smile that made her smile back so warmly she wouldn’t have been surprised if she looked like a Cheshire cat. The constant buzz of thought and emotion that had been running, unremitting, through her head for the past week seemed to have evaporated.
With the brightest smile her friends had seen for a month, Alcyone headed up to the dormitory, bag swinging over her shoulder as she nearly skipped up the steps.
She had a feeling she was going to have very good dreams tonight.