The next day passed in a blur. My classes went unusually slow and I found myself doing head nods in Athrimancy, even though it was one of my favorite subjects. I enjoyed the professor’s lectures, no doubt, as they were always extremely interesting, but I hadn’t slept very well for the second night in a row and I could place the blame on one person. I realized that it wasn’t entirely his fault, but he certainly contributed to it. In all reality, almost all the blame belonged to me, seeing as how I hadn’t been paying attention to Slughorn in the first place and I had found it necessary to eavesdrop. If I had just gone back to my table…
You know what was irritating? I hadn’t noticed until the day after my odd meeting with Slughorn that Sirius Black was taking nearly every course I was taking, which were the classes required to become an Auror, something that I had overheard Black saying he’d like to become. There were only two classes that I didn’t share with him and they were Athrimancy and Ancient Runes, the only place I was safe from having unnecessary confrontations with him. It was already bad enough that I was partners with him in Potions, even when I didn’t want to be and hadn’t volunteered for it, but agreed anyway, since I wasn’t paying attention, but to have him in six out of eight classes? That was just torture!
Come on now, life, you could be a little bit fairer to me, couldn’t you? You know, ease up a little bit on the karma?
Ah, of course not. Apparently, life and that damn thing called luck had a personal vendetta against me and decided to hate on me at the exact same time. Why couldn’t it have happened last year? Or the year before last? Why did all this…crap have to happen now, in my seventh and final year at Hogwarts? Life and luck had been playing a fair game with me, giving doses of both good and bad throughout the majority of my life, but for some reason, it had something against me and my damn seventh year. Wasn’t the last year of my mandatory schooling supposed to be fun? If it was, then I must’ve really done something to tick off life and luck.
Was God trying to give me as sign? To stop taking Merlin’s name in vain or something…that really wasn’t a message, but it could be. Not that it would be that crucial, considering that Merlin actually was a phenomenal wizard and whatnot…
Anyway, back to the point.
Even though Friday was relatively uneventful. None of my lessons had gone by any different. I sat as quiet as a log during my classes, not once raising my hand. Thankfully, none of my teachers decided to give me the Spanish Inquisition, so I didn’t have to speak unless someone spoke to me. Which they didn’t, not that that was surprising or anything. And, like always, I sat by myself at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, for the most part, it had been an uninteresting day where nothing strange had happened whatsoever.
Although, there was one thing…
As I walked through the corridors to my classes, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. But every time I tried to find out who had been staring at me like I was some pickled specimen to be viewed at one’s desire, I couldn’t find the damn culprit. Oh well, there really wasn’t anything that I could do about it, now could I?
The weekend was much like Friday had been: uneventful. I had a pile of homework to tackle and, much to my dismay, it didn’t take as long as I had hoped it would. In fact, I had been so efficient in completing my homework that I didn’t have anything to do on Sunday. Wasn’t that such a tragedy?
Since it had been nice outside, I decided to take a turn around the Black Lake. I figured that I might as well take advantage of the good weather before it turned dreary. Of course, just because it had been nice outside didn’t mean that it was sunny. Oh no, there had been a bitter wind that drove me inside after a half hour of being outdoors, my cheeks a brilliant shade of red, no thanks to the harsh whipping of the wind.
All too soon, I found myself rolling out of bed and preparing to get ready for my lessons. I had woken up early again, so I could take a shower before my roommates woke up and decided to drain the heater of all the hot water. You’d think that there would be some sort of enchantment or another on the heater, but to my knowledge, there wasn’t. I went through the same old routine, from the tying of my scuffed shoes to the pulling of my thick, dark hair back into a low hanging ponytail.
But even as I executed my morning routine, which I’ll admit, I was a little OCD about, there was something strange in the air. I couldn’t explain it, but it was something that I just knew. Today wasn’t going to be like any other day I had even had. Which could be either a good or a bad sign. And judging by the way my life had been going over the past few days, it was most likely a bad sign. As if I needed to sink any further into that pile of shit known as trouble.
With a small shake of my head at my own stupid thoughts, I traipsed down the staircase and, miraculously, I didn’t trip at the bottom of the steps like I normally did. In my triumph, I hadn’t been paying attention and ran smack into a firm chest, stumbling backward.
But before I could fall, a hand seized my elbow and kept me steady. When I looked up to see who it was, I found myself staring into the warm brown eyes of Remus Lupin, one of my fellow Gryffindors and also one of Sirius Black’s best friend.
What the hell was with the world? Who was I going to run into next, Peter Pettigrew? The thought alone made me grimace; he wasn’t exactly the most appealing boy in the universe and he always smelled like rotting cheese. I assumed that it was because he ate a lot of cheese and passed a lot of gas, but who knew. Maybe he was just lactose intolerant?
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, hanging my head in apology, “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“It’s quite all right. I’m not as alert as I’d like to be in the morning, either.” Remus said, a smile gracing his lips. He had such a nice, friendly smile. If he wasn’t best mates with Potter and Black, I probably would’ve been better acquaintances with him.
Oh who was I kidding? Even if he wasn’t chums with that lot, I wouldn’t talk to him in a million years. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I probably would’ve never been able to gather the courage. Does it surprise you that I’ve never had a boyfriend? Nah, I didn’t think it would.
I opened my mouth to say something but I promptly closed my mouth as my stomach rumbled loudly. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, blotches of red coloring my cheeks in my embarrassment. Oh my Circe, that hadn’t really happened, had it?
“You seem hungry,” Remus stated, not bothering to mask the note of amusement in his voice.
Mother of Merlin, it did! Why couldn’t Zeus just send a bolt of lightning streaking down from the high heavens to strike me down and save me from this humiliation!? I know why, because life hated me! It just wasn’t fair anymore and decided that not even death was a good enough punishment for me. Wasn’t that just wonderful? I had pissed fate off so badly, death wasn’t a considerable penalty.
Crap, Remus just said something and I had missed it because I wasn’t paying attention. Again. I had a knack for missing important things because I got distracted by my own train of thought, didn’t I? Probably not the best knack to pick up on, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
I looked up at Remus to see him wearing a curious, but warm expression. “Umm, er…sure?” I said, uneasily, biting the inside of my lip to make sure that I hadn’t said just agreed to something that I would regret five minutes from now.
He laughed. “You weren’t listening to a single word I said, were you?”
I lowered my eyes and shook my head, utterly mortified. Caught. In the act. Again. Fuck me.
“Sorry,” I said softly, making him chuckle again.
“It’s not that important, Eleanor.”
I picked my head up so quickly, the crown of my head collided with his chin. My teeth rattled at the impact and I groaned, placing a hand over the spot on my head. “Oh my Merlin! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Remus said, rubbing his chin.
It’s not my fault that he was standing so close to me! It wasn’t like I had eyes on the…well, maybe I did have eyes on the front of my head, but that didn’t matter, did it? I had been observing the ground to hide my flaming cheeks and now look where it got me. I thought people knew by now to stay as far away as possible, for I often caused accidents in which either or both parties would walk away with minor to moderate injuries.
This was yet another reason why I had chosen invisibility to visibility in my first year at Hogwarts. I was unbelievable clumsy and it was one of the most unattractive attributes about me…not saying that I thought that I was a visually appealing person or had a lot to offer, but you get what I mean, right?
I found myself staring into his chocolate eyes, unable to tear my gaze away. “I…er…I’m just going to…yeah.” Without so much as a backward glance, I hurried out of the portrait hole, rushing as quickly as I could down to the Great Hall.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The strange encounter with Remus was still replaying in my head as I slowly made my way down to the dungeons. In fact, it had been playing in my mind for almost the entire day, seeing as how, like Black, he was in almost every single one of my classes; however, unlike his best mate, he actually took Ancient Runes. Could I never escape the curse of having Black’s friends follow me everywhere I go?
Wait a tick, I’m flattering myself. They’re not stalking me nor have they ever. They can’t help it that they have virtually every lesson with me. Hold on…was I actually taking pity on them? What in Circe’s name was I thinking? If I should feel sorry for anyone, it should be myself. I’m the one who is stuck with those pigheaded gits all day long.
By the time I made my way down the dungeons, there was already a crowd gathering at the door. Snape was, as always, positioned right in front of the doorway, his books clutched to his chest as though he was protecting himself with them. I didn’t know why he just didn’t get a bag to put them in, but maybe it was his own way of shielding himself. Or maybe he just didn’t have enough money for a bag? I rolled my eyes to myself, wondering why I was even bothering contemplating the reasons why Snape didn’t have a school bag. Someone must’ve put something in my pumpkin juice because I wasn’t acting very normally today. Not that I ever acted normally, though…
Just as I began to wonder if Slughorn was going to show his rotund self, the door to the classroom opened and his belly preceded him out of the doorway. Like any other day, a bright, shining smile was stretched across his mouth, shadowed by his bushy mustache. His balding head was glistening in the torch light from a light sheen of sweat and he hastily brushed his powder covered fingers on the front of his robes before beckoning the class inside.
I wrinkled my nose as I entered the dungeon, my nostrils had encountered a peculiar, but foul scent. I tried to mask my disgust at the smell, but once I noticed that nearly everyone around me had their faces scrunched up, I didn’t hesitate to let my face rearrange itself.
Subconsciously, I moved to sit next to Lily, who was smiling kindly at me. But when Potter lowered himself in the seat beside the vibrant redhead, sporting a noticeable black eye and a wide grin of thanks, Lily’s smile vanished and was replaced by an unpleasant grimace.
My shoulders slumped in defeat; my worst nightmare had come true. Over the past few days, I had been hoping that it had all been some crazy sort of delusion, but the sight of Potter’s bruised eye and Lily’s grimace had sent me catapulting back into reality and the cold, harsh truth was staring me in the face. I really was partnered with Sirius, much to my dismay.
I looked around the dungeon to see where Black was sitting and found him sitting by himself, a distinct pout on his face, at a table near the back of the class. Taking a deep breath, I made my way toward the table, feeling like everyone’s eyes were on me, even though I knew they weren’t. It was foolish to think that they would spare me a moment’s glance.
Black’s expression couldn’t be anymore pathetic than it was when I set my bag down on the tabletop and sat down timidly on the stool beside him. It was obvious that he was upset with the prospect of having a partner who wasn’t James, but I wasn’t that bad…was I?
He turned his head toward me as I folded my hands in my lap and stared pointedly at the front of the room. Professor Slughorn was flicking his wand at the blackboard, instructions appearing on the dark surface in scrunched, yellow writing. It was difficult to read from back here and since I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses, I had to squint unattractively just to make out the letters. It probably looked like I had just popped a lemonhead in my mouth at that precise moment and I wouldn’t be surprised if Black started laughing any moment now.
But he just continued to stare at me, an unreadable expression on his face as Slughorn gave a big, showy flourish of his wand, the invisible hand ceasing to write anymore. He turned toward the class, a smile on his face and hands on his belly, and began to ramble on about how important this project was and how it would be in our best interest to write down the rules, guidelines, and instructions for the essays we were supposed to assemble and turn in three weeks from now.
“You have the rest of the period to converse with your partner and think of the endless possibilities for your potions! Have at it!” Slughorn chirped merrily in a sing-song voice, removing his hands from his great stomach, only to reveal the yellowish outline of his handprints. The entire class began to laugh under their breath, myself included. It was hard not to laugh at the completely ridiculous sight that our professor was obviously oblivious to. The giant master of Potions smiled again before returning to his seat and a rather large stack of intimidating looking essays.
As the laughter died away, people began turning to their partners to discuss the possible potions they could brew for a grade. However, my partner and I remained silent, the pair of us staring in opposite directions. He was looking down at his hands where he was twisting a quill around his fingers and I was still staring at the front of the classroom, struggling to read the board.
I nearly leapt out of my skin in fright at the sound of Black’s low, yet oddly comforting voice, my hand flying off the edge of the desk and knocking off the piece of parchment I had placed in front of me. I’m glad I hadn’t pulled my inkwell out of my bag just yet, for it probably would’ve joined my sheet of parchment on the floor.
I sent him a side long glance and said, “For what?”
“For agreeing to be my partner,” he replied, as though he was stating the obvious.
I was at a loss of words. I couldn’t exactly tell him the honest to Pete truth, he’d probably get really offended and a nasty rumor about how big of an ice queen I was would spread around the school and I would go from a nobody to a widely known and acknowledged bitchmaster!
Instead of doing the polite and logical thing of replying as kindly as possible to him and plastering a fake, but cheery smile on my face, I pulled my bag toward me and opened it up, rifling through it in order to find my inkwell and a quill to write with. I made a show of rummaging through the mess that was my school bag so I wouldn’t have to face the music and say something back to him. After a few minutes of unnecessary searching, I finally snatched my hand out of the bag, which had been clutching my inkwell and quill for as long as I had been searching.
I had decided that I would avoid eye contact at all costs, even if it meant ticking him off. So a few rumors spread about me might be a bit hurtful, but hey, there were worse things that could happen to me, such as Lucinda finding out about this entire mess and slitting my throat while I slept in my comfortable four poster, dreaming only dreams that someone with a wildly overactive imagination such as myself could conjure.
Uncapping my inkwell, I dipped the tip of my quill in the ink and began scratching away at my parchment, which had miraculously appeared in front of me. I had a hunch that Black had pulled a gentlemanly move and snatched it up off the ground for me. Damn him! Damn him to the deepest, darkest ring of Hell for being such a nice bloke!
Though I had to lean forward on my stool and squint to read Slughorn’s writing on the blackboard, it was all too soon before there was nothing else to write down. I had written as slow as I possibly could, which was incredibly slow and I must say, my handwriting was actually halfway decent and didn’t look like I was having a stroke mid-sentence.
I frowned inwardly at the prospect of having to actually talk to Black once he noticed that I had run out of things to scribble down on the paper. Over the weekend, I had imagined that we would have so many notes and instructions to copy down that there wouldn’t be much room for conversation, but alas, I had thought wrong. There was a surprisingly small amount of information we had to copy down in our notes and unfortunately, it left another half hour of class to talk. In my mind’s eye, I hadn’t thought about the possibility that I would actually have to engage in conversation with Black. My stomach plummeted at the mere idea and I resisted the urge to vomit my lunch all over the table as my stomach gave a great turn.
“Are you all right?” Black asked, an odd and seemingly out of place note of concern in his voice.
“Huh?” I said through clenched teeth, my stomach giving an almighty lurch as I turned to look at him.
“You look a bit peaky,” he supplied, his lips quirking downward. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
I nodded my head frantically, keeping my mouth tightly closed. Why was the thought of talking to Sirius Black making me physically sick? Was I really that frightened of speaking to him? Or was the thought of Lucinda killing me just that threatening?
Black raised his hand in the air, an out of characteristic thing for him, to call Slughorn over to us. I picked up my head, which I had laid down on the tabletop, and shot him a glare.
“Don’t!” I squeaked, lunging at him and forcing his arm down. Black stared at me with an expression that could only be described as sheer shock.
A smile graced his full lips. “So it does speak.” His gray eyes glanced down at my hand, which was clamped tightly around his arm and I quickly released it, folding my hands in my lap once more.
“Yes, it does!” I growled indignantly, my teeth still clenched.
“Ah, but does it have a name?” Sirius asked, cocking a brow slyly. Damn him and his ability to raise one brow. I had always wanted to do that, but it was a seemingly impossible feat and I gave up after a few minutes of practicing in a mirror several years ago.
When I didn’t respond right away, he said, “I still haven’t figured your name out yet.”
“I seemed to have notice,” I retorted, sending a furtive look around the classroom to make sure that no one had seen us talking. But alas, they hadn’t, as they were all busy discussing their projects. Save for Lily and Potter. They looked to be arguing under their breath, Lily turning bright pink in the face from frustration.
Black laughed in his bark like way, making me jump in surprise once again, which only made his laughter continue. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and I found myself wishing that I would’ve kept my head on the desk and pretended to have passed out.
“But don’t think I haven’t been thinking about it all weekend,” Black continued, smirking when my eyebrows shot up into my fringe. “Does that honestly shock you? I figured that everyone knew that I’ll stop at nothing when there’s a mystery to be solved.”
“So you’re saying that I’m mysterious?” I shot back, grinning despite myself.
God, what was wrong with me? I was supposed to be giving him the cold shoulder so he wouldn’t talk to me at all, but I couldn’t help myself. Black was just so laid back and easy to talk to…
Oh, get a hold of yourself, Briggs! He’s nothing special, you just think he’s a fit young man. Figures you’d be just like the rest…
I scowled at my conscience, wondering if it would ever lay off and just let me think without criticizing my every thought. But I suppose that’s what your conscience is there for, isn’t it? To tell you when you’re about to do something incredibly stupid or to criticize you for doing something that could get you into a lot of trouble.
Sirius smiled in response. “I guess you could say that.” He shook his shaggy, black locks out of his eyes with such grace that made the purest of swans out there green with envy. Why couldn’t my hair look as elegant or as silky as his? My eyes widened when he pulled his stool closer to me and leaned toward me, as though he wished to tell me a secret. I scooted back onto the very edge of my stool, hoping that no one was looking at us, for it would look rather incriminating if they did. But, when I scanned the classroom, I saw that all my classmates were as close, if not closer, than Sirius was to me.
I stared into his handsome face and he smiled charmingly at me. Ah yes, that smile of his. If I had thought that Remus Lupin had a nice smile, he had nothing on Sirius Black. My stomach made a strange, swooping sort of movement. I didn’t understand it and chose to ignore it.
“So…,” continued Sirius, leaning slightly closer to me. I could see the faint dusting of light colored freckles that dotted the bridge of his nose and trickled onto his high cheekbones, that’s how close he was to me. “Care to tell me your name?”
That was it. My resolve had crumbled. If I didn’t tell him what my name was, the world that I knew around me would crumble and I would be held responsible for the destruction of the universe. Although, there was a certain appeal to having that sort of thing known about you, it wasn’t exactly something I wanted to be known as forever and always. Not that people would know, seeing as how all humanity would end due to my aforementioned destruction of the universe.
Just as I opened my mouth to speak, the bell rang, signaling the end of class. I gave Black an apologetic smile and said, “Sorry. It seems you’ll have to wait to solve this ‘mystery’.” And with that, I grabbed all my belongings and fled the classroom, an oddly pleased smile on my face.