Chapter 10 : Lion's Roar
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The next morning at breakfast, I was still dumbfounded by what Sirius had said. Sure, he had only said my name, but that was huge. How had he found out? Well, I suppose since that he was one of the infamous Marauders, he had his ways of finding out, but I was more than willing to bet that he went straight to Lily to ask her. They might not have agreed on the treatment of Slytherins, but they usually got on just fine. So, there was no doubt in my mind he had asked her for my name and, knowing Lily, she would have gladly giving the information over to him.
Oh, listen to me! I’m talking as though I’m best friends with Lily Evans and have known her my entire life. Though it was true that we had become something of friends over the past week and a half, it was stupid of me to act like I actually knew her. I didn’t know all her little quirks, so why I would be assuming that she would willingly give him that small bit of information was beyond me. But that was beside the point, wasn’t it? Merlin, all my pointless rambling was going to get me into quite the pit of trouble, of that I was certain.
Although, it would look as though Lily and I had been friends for a while, as I was now sitting with her at breakfast. Unlike me, Lily actually enjoyed the mornings. I had never known that about her until I saw just how perky she was when I came down to the Great Hall and she beckoned me toward her. I had plopped down on the bench, giving Alice a friendly grunt when she, like Lily, had acted so bright so early in the morning.
I also discovered that Leanne Mason, one of my roommates, wasn’t as unpleasant as she appeared. Though she barely spoke to me, as her boyfriend was sitting right next to her, she said hello to me when I had dropped onto the bench and began to pile food onto my plate. Marlene McKinnon on the other hand wasn’t as pleasant. She was mad that I had taken the last of the pumpkin juice from the pitcher nearest us and practically snatched the last pieces of toast off the platter when she saw that I had the intention of taking some. I didn’t know what her problem was, but I knew that she could be quite the bitch if she was displeased, so I decided to leave her alone and stuck to polishing off my scrambled eggs.
I pushed the bacon rinds on my plate around with my fork for lack of anything better to do. I was full, but there was another half an hour before lessons started. It was pointless to go back to the common room for fifteen minutes when my class, Ancient Runes, was already on the other side of the castle. So, I decided to wait it out at the table. I barely listened to the conversation going on around me, as Alice and Lily were prattling on in their usual manner about, what else, school gossip. I didn’t even realized that the post had come until an owl bit my finger.
Giving a small squeak of fright, I nearly fell off the bench as I pulled my hand away as though I had been burned. The small cut started to bleed. Do you see now why I’m so afraid of owls? They could bloody chop clean through your fingers if they really wanted to.
“Damn owl!” I said loudly.
I could feel my companions eyes on me as they watched the scene unfold right before their amused eyes. I probably looked utterly ridiculous, shying away from the tawny owl as though it was some monstrous beast. I delved a bleeding hand into my pocket and took out the proper amount of money. Ever so cautiously, I reached out to put the money in the pouch when I realized that there wasn’t one. I looked at the owl more closely and saw that it wasn’t an owl carrying my Prophet at all; it was my Aunt Eliza’s owl, Leonidias.
Leonidias screeched at me impatiently, shaking his leg at me in annoyance. I stared at the owl, my brow furrowed as I hesitantly untied the letter. I wasn’t expecting a letter from Aunt Eliza, but it wasn’t all too surprising, seeing as how she hadn’t sent me anything for a little over two weeks. Leonidias nudged my hand away from my plate with his beak and feasted upon the remains of my bacon rinds before he pressed his tawny head against the palm of my hand, as was his odd custom, and took off flying.
“Did you get a letter?” Alice asked eagerly.
“Obviously she did, Alice,” Marlene said impatiently, rolling her eyes in an overdramatic manner. It might have been annoying that Alice always stated and asked the obvious, but Marlene didn’t have to be mean about it.
I didn’t say anything, as I didn’t want Marlene’s agitation to be taken out on me. Shady, but it was true. I’d rather not have anyone yelling at me in the middle of the Great Hall, thank you very much. So, without another thought as to those surrounding me, I broke the seal and began to read my letter.
Dear Ella ( Merlin, I hated when she started with that bloody salutation! )
When you didn’t respond to my last letter, I began to wonder if you had received it. But then I remembered that I was talking about you, my dearest niece, not my daughter who would - should, I suppose I should say - feel obligated to write me back. I can understand that you are busy with your school work and I don’t mean to sound like a pestering mother, but sometimes, it would be nice if you gave me a little clue as to what’s going on in your life away from home.
I sound like a condescending cow of an aunt, don’t I? Just ignore what I’ve just written, would you, Ella love? I know that Anna didn’t write to me as often as you do when she was at Hogwarts, so I shouldn’t be pestering you. It’s just that I worry about you, Ella. When I don’t hear from you, I fear that you…well, you know, after the situation with Anna, I guess I’ve just been a little paranoid that you’ll follow in her footsteps, no matter how foolish it sounds now in retrospect. Merlin, I really need to learn to shut up, don’t I? I must be annoying the piss out of you right about now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you crumpled up the letter already; I know I would’ve.
Anywho. Things at home have been good. Although, that pesky wandering dog that you fed before you left keeps hanging around the back kitchen door and I’m not entirely sure what I should do with it. I know you have an attachment to that dog - what did you name it, again? Rusty? Rudolph? Oh well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. He is rather cute, isn’t he? Suppose I’ll have a surprise for you when you come home? Although, I’ve just given away some massive clues, haven’t I? Oh, Circe be damned, I‘ll just come right out and say it - I‘ll probably end up adopting the dog. Does Rufus sound like an okay name to you? He looks like a Rufus to me.
As it is, I’m holding up here pretty good. It’s not the best thing, being alone, but it’s not always so bad. I just recently joined the neighborhood book club. They seem to be a nice pack of birds, but I don’t know about one of them. She’s called Rebecca Lyndall. She’s not very pleasant and thinks that she’s better than everyone else. I feel like socking her in the face every time she opens her mouth and her pompous voice comes forth. She’s a right cow, that’s what she is. Some of the novels they have picked out, I believe you have read before. Would you mind if I checked out the bookcase in your room to see if you have any of the novels so I don’t have to go out and buy them?
Well, I suppose your eyes are sore from reading all this pointless nonsense, but I had to get it out to someone. I’m sorry that it had to be you, love. I miss you terribly and hope that you’ll write back this time. Don’t feel like you have to, but it would be nice to have someone to talk to. I can’t wait to have you home for the holidays. A new jumper should be arriving for you in the post tomorrow morning that I believe you’ll like. So, with that, Ella, I shall take my leave.
A smile lit up my face as I quickly reread the letter. I was unable to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the words on the parchment. My Aunt Eliza was, quite possibly, the most eccentric person I had ever met in my entire life. Not only was she as random as rain in the middle of May, but the way she put things and how she could switch moods so suddenly baffled me. For a forty-seven year old, she had more energy than I could and would ever dream of obtaining.
It was with a sharp pang through my chest that I realized just how much I missed Aunt Eliza. I missed her wild, fly away strawberry blonde hair that was going gray at the temples; her bright blue eyes that seemed to dance with an indescribable fire; her brilliant smile that always managed to lift my spirits; her arms wrapped around me when she embraced me; her soft way of speaking and the curses that rolled off her tongue when she was feeling particularly vexed.
I suddenly felt horrible for not responding back to her letter, especially after the comment she had made about her daughter, Anna. The last anyone had heard of Anna was three years ago, when she had announced over the Christmas Holidays that she was going to Berlin with her latest boyfriend, Hans. Aunt Eliza and I had tried countless times to contact her, but she never replied to any of our letters. It had left my aunt completely crushed, which was why she was wanted me to reply to her letters. She didn’t want me to abandoned her like her own daughter had.
I made a mental note to reply to her letter, folding the letter up and sticking it in my pocket.
“Who was the letter from?” Lily asked conversationally.
“My aunt,” I replied, picking up a banana nut muffin and taking a massive bite out of it.
“You talk to your other family members on a regular basis?” Alice said, smiling. Before I could chew my mouthful of muffin and come up with a reasonable lie, she added, “That’s great!”
After Alice spoke, the subject was dropped and I finished the rest of my muffin. I drank the rest of my pumpkin juice and wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve. Marlene seemed revolted by the display, but didn’t say anything, much to my immense relief.
I glanced down at my watch and saw that there was only seven minutes before the day’s lessons began. I bid my roommates goodbye, slung my satchel full of books over my shoulder, and headed out of the Great Hall to what would most likely prove to be an uneventful, yet oddly stressful day. Oh, anticipation. It could be such a royal pain in my ass.
X - X - X
My hand was frantically working across the page of parchment, scribbling down the professor was dictating to the class in my cramped handwriting when something hit me in the back of the head. There was a folded piece of paper resting near my elbow. I stopped writing and looked around the classroom as discreetly as possible. No one seemed suspicious, so once I was positive that the professor wasn’t watching, I opened the note.
What are you doing this afternoon?
My eyebrows shot up and it probably looked like they were getting very well acquainted with my hairline. Why was Black interested in knowing what I was doing this afternoon? I double checked to make sure that he had thrown the note at the right person and that it hadn’t been meant for someone sitting near me.
I turned around in my seat to look at him, but his head was bent and he appeared to be the picture perfect student. Yeah, right. That disguise wouldn’t fool me or any other student within the walls of Hogwarts.
I dipped my quill in my inkwell and scribbled down a reply.
I was planning on getting some of my homework done. Why?
I scanned the vicinity and once I was absolutely sure that no one was watching, I tossed the note over my shoulder, hoping that it landed within Black’s grasp.
A few seconds later, I was hit on the back of the head again.
Just curious, that’s all. It’s really nice outside, why would you want to do homework?
Because I have a lot of it? And it’s the middle of October; it can’t be that nice.
Why would you care when I did my homework, anyway?
Honestly, this was incredibly confusing. Why was Black so concerned about my studying habits? I mean, I know that we had arranged to meet in the library after dinner to start our project, but that didn’t mean anything.
Sorry for making an attempt at getting to know my Potions partner. I’ll toss a note at someone who will bother being nice to me.
Oh, okay. Now I felt bad. I had been a little bit of a bitch in my last response, even if that was the last notion I had in mind.
Oh. Sorry. I have to take notes. I’m really far behind.
You can copy mine in the library.
But that’s cheating. And cheaters never prosper.
You sound like Evans.
I’m not going to write back after this.
Sure you won’t. Remus says “hi”, by the way.
My heart did this odd sort of fluttering thing in my chest as I thought of Remus. I was acting like a silly schoolgirl, but I just couldn’t help it! After our confrontation in the library, it was hard to get him out of my head. But honestly, could you blame me? Not only have I had a crush on him since fifth year, but we were actually talking like we were friends.
While it might not be a huge deal to some people, the prospect of actually having friends made me happy. I never really had a best friend. And when I say that, I mean ever. Sure, before Hogwarts, there were a few kids that I was really close to, but not close enough. There has never been that one person, outside of my Aunt Eliza and my half brother Kevin, who I felt like I could be myself around. It was hard to get through school sometimes, but I had managed thus far, hadn’t I?
Against my better judgment, I looked over my shoulder and saw Remus bent over his notes, his quill moving quickly across the page. Black, on the other hand, had his feet kicked up on his desk and was leaning back in his seat, chewing on the end of her quill. He smiled at me once he made eye contact and my stomach did an uncomfortable little flip thing. I mentally scowled myself; hadn’t I just had heart palpitations for Remus Lupin? And now my stomach was doing odd loopy things at the mere sight of Sirius Black’s smile. Oh vey, maybe I really was a tart!
He raised a brow in a very James Bond way and I gnashed my teeth together. I don’t know why I didn’t turn back around, but I didn’t. Instead, I stared at Sirius with fascination. I had never really taken the time and actually looked at him. I mean, sure, I had looked at him, but not seriously securitized his appearance. But now that I was actually looking, I could see the faint sign of purple bags under his eyes and I wondered why he wasn’t sleeping. Or if that was even the cause. For all I knew, someone could’ve socked him in the face. But even with the purplish bags under his eyes, he was still inhumanly attractive. I could see why practically every girl in the school got a little bit weaker in the knees whenever they looked at him. Hell, I’m pretty sure my knees were knocking together underneath the table right now.
Holy Circe, I am a tart! That’s the only proper explanation for this whole…well, I’m not really sure what this situation is at the moment, but I’d find a name for it. Eventually. Not only am I thinking not-so-innocent thoughts about Sirius Black, but I’m also harboring a huge crush for his best friend! But that’s not even the half of it. Oh no, I’ve been having dreams about getting hot and heavy with Sirius one minute and then the next thing I know, I’m locking lips with Remus and actually enjoying it!
Oh dear Merlin, I’ve actually admitted that they were dreams and not delusions, even though I decided a few days ago that they were delusions. At least, the first one was. The sad thing about the matter was that there had been more than one. Oh, but it gets better. Much, much better. I barely knew either of them, but out of the pair of them, I knew Remus better. Yet, I imagined that Sirius was the better snog of the two. How horrible was that? And who was I to say that he was better at kissing than Remus? First of all, I hadn’t kissed either of them, and in my entire life, I had only snogged one bloke and that was because he kissed me, not the other way around.
“Miss Briggs?” Professor Gilbert asked.
Eyes as wide as saucers, I looked up from the piece of parchment that I had been holding in my hand and found that the entire class was staring at me curiously. I could see Bertha Jorkins in the corner, leaning across her desk to hear the entire exchange.
I swallowed nervously. “Yes, Professor?”
“It seems as though you are too busy to pay attention in my class and have chosen to exchange notes with another one of your classmates,” Professor Gilbert began. I could tell by the look on her face that she was going to do something that would embarrass me for the rest of my life. But why she would do that when I was one of her favorite students, I have no idea. “So, I’ll give you one of two options: give me the note now and I read it in front of the entire class or wait for me after class and make sure that your partner in this minor crime stays behind with you so I can issue the both of you a detention.”
I swear to Merlin, I just pissed my pants. I could feel my cheeks flaming up. I was at a complete loss for words. I had no idea what to say to that. Not only would I be incriminating myself, but Sirius as well. What would he think of me if I chose option number two? Of course, it was much more appealing and would save me a great deal of embarrassment. Not that our note was all that embarrassing, I just seemed like an uptight priss.
That’s because you are an uptight priss, Briggs.
I ground my teeth together and willed my conscience to shut its mouth. I need to think in my head, but I couldn’t when that stupid little voice was breathing down my neck like an irritating little monkey!
“Well, Miss Briggs?” Professor Gilbert drawled. “What will it be?”
I cringed inwardly. Sorry Sirius. “I’ll stay after class.”
She smiled tightly at me and took the piece of wrinkled parchment out of my hands. “Get back to taking notes, Miss Briggs. I would hate for you to fail the next exam because of it.”
Again, I swallowed and I turned my attention back to my notes, which Professor Gilbert began to dictate as though there had been no interruption at all. Behind me, I could swear that I heard Black snickering under his breath.
X - X - X
The bell rang, signaling the end of class. While everyone gathered up their belongings and shuffled out of class, two students remained in their seats: myself and Sirius Black. Professor Gilbert herded the stragglers out of the classroom and shut the door before anyone could poke their heads in the doorjamb. She then cast a Silencing Charm around the room, so none of the pesky gossip-oholics could listen in.
With a swirl of her royal blue cloak, she faced us. But instead of looking threatening and downright frightening like I thought she would, she smiled at us.
“Come to my desk, won’t you children?” she said as she lowered herself down into her comfortable looking chair behind her desk.
I hesitantly looked back at Black to see if he was mad at me, but no anger showed on his handsome face as he gathered up his stuff, shoved them into his shoulder bag, and made his way to the front of the classroom. I started to pack up my items and, as he walked by me, he sent me a wink and I swear my knees started clattering together.
You like Remus, you little slag, not Black. Besides, he’s off limits anyway. Or do I need to remind you of what happened in the library nearly two weeks ago?
I shook myself out of my own head as I closed my satchel, slung it over my shoulder, and moved to the front of the room. I stood close to Black, so close, I could feel heat radiating off of his body. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and I could see that he was struggling to hold back a smirk.
Of course he could find humor in the situation.
“I’m sorry I embarrassed you in front of the class, Eleanor,” Professor Gilbert said quietly. “Normally, I wouldn’t have said anything, since you are always such a good student and pay attention to my lectures, but I noticed that some of the other students were, shall we say, gossiping about the passing of notes between the pair of you and I couldn’t let it go unnoticed.”
“It’s okay, Professor,” I replied, tucking a strand of dark hair behind my ear. It was another one of my nervous ticks. “I completely understand. You don’t want to seem like you favor me above other students.”
“Exactly,” smiled Professor Gilbert. Her eyes flickered over to Black and her lips pulled into an even wider smile. “And we both know how many run-ins we’ve had with one another when it comes to not paying the proper amount of attention in class, Mr. Black.”
Sirius grinned. “How could I forget a single encounter with you, Nora?”
Professor Gilbert blushed slightly. Oh my Circe! He had just charmed the teacher! She was supposed to be disciplining us and here he was, charming the pants right off of her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me to leave the room.
Okay, so that was definitely an unnecessary thought to have that welcomed unwanted images in my mind, but whatever. The sad thing is that it’s probably true.
“Nice try, Mr. Black,”
“Please, Nora, it’s Sirius.”
She rolled her dark eyes and nodded. “All right, Sirius, it was a nice try, but nothing’s going to distract me from delivering your punishment.”
“Don’t make it too harsh, Nora; I’ve got Quidditch practice tomorrow night and you want Gryffindor to win in our next match, don’t you?”
Professor Gilbert nodded. “Of course I do. No one wants the Slytherins to win the House Cup. Especially after that foul went unnoticed by Madam Hooch and they cheated their way to three goals against Hufflepuff last Saturday. Besides, Gryffindor doesn’t play Slytherin until December.”
Wow, this was sad. My Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher knew more about Quidditch than I did. Maybe I should start paying attention to the sport, since the whole school seems to care so damn much about it.
“But nevertheless,” Professor Gilbert continued, “I have to issue out a detention for Thursday night. Eight o’clock in the Trophy Room. You know the drill, Mr. Black, so I trust that you’ll show Miss Briggs the ropes of cleaning trophies.”
Sirius smiled brilliantly at her. “Of course I will, Nora.” He saluted her as he hitched his bag up on his shoulder. “I won’t let you down.”
“I knew I could count on you,” she replied sarcastically. “Now get out of my classroom before I change my mind about your punishment.”
Black swept into a low bow, which made Professor Gilbert chuckle, and I gave a small wave. She bobbed her head in recognition and I walked out of the door. When I stepped into the hallway, there were three girls gathered outside. I assumed they had been trying to listen in on the conversation that had just been had, but now they were consumed by the fact that Sirius Black was actually talking to them.
Merlin, some girls were so dim-witted, it was hardly bearable to watch. I actually felt sorry for them and I didn’t even know them. I shifted my bag from one shoulder to the other and took off down the corridor. I was nearly to the staircase that would take me to the seventh floor when Black fell into step beside me.
“Can I help you?” I asked, not daring to look at him. For all I knew, he would be grinning like a maniac, since happiness seemed to be the only expression that would dance across his face in my presence. That and confusion. Not to mention amusement and determination.
“What? I can’t walk beside you to the Gryffindor common room?”
“No, you can,” I replied, “I’m just wondering why you would want to.”
“Like I said earlier, I’m just trying to get to know my Potions partner,” Sirius answered, sounding serious. No pun intended.
“Oh,” I murmured under my breath, starting up the staircase.
It started to shift halfway up and I lost my balance. I would’ve fallen backward and probably broken my neck if Sirius hadn’t steady me in that oh-so-clichéd fashion that was only seen in the movies. Of course, I wasn’t dipped backward and his face was nowhere near mine. In fact, his face was buried in the back of my head in my mess of brown hair.
He spit some of my hair out of his mouth and shook his head to himself. “You know, it’s impossible to find anything out about you.”
I furrowed my brow. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, I asked around about you and no one had anything to say,” his brow pinched together in thought, “to tell you the truth, half of the people I asked didn’t even know who you were.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” I muttered to myself.
I shook my head. “Not really. Does it surprise you?”
“Sort of,” he replied. He shrugged his shoulders and stuck his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know, I just would’ve thought that someone as nice as you… well, I thought that people would know a little bit of information about you. But they didn’t, not even your roommates. So yeah, I guess you could say that it kind of surprised me.”
“I like to keep to myself,” I said.
“I can tell,” Black laughed, casually shaking his hair out of his eyes. “Why is that, anyway?”
I shrugged my shoulders. Like I would really tell him the real reason behind my “ways”. “I don’t know. I guess I just can’t relate to people our age. And they never took the time to talk to me, so if they don’t make an effort to be my friend, why should I waste my time on them?”
Sirius stared at me like I had sprouted a second hand. Maybe I should’ve put it in nicer terms; I sounded harsh and, well, like a bitch.
“Hmm, I never thought of that,” he pondered out loud. “Oh well.” We had reached the common room at this point in time and Black smiled at me, though I had no idea why. “I’ll see you tonight in the library, yeah?”
“Yeah, I guess you will,” I said as I scrambled out of the portrait hole into the common room. I started to walk toward the girls’ dormitory when Black called my name. Several curious heads swiveled in my direction and I felt myself blushing. Goddamn it! Stupid red cheeks! “What?”
“Remus wanted me to ask you if you’ll sit with us at dinner,” Sirius said. “So, how about it?”
I was eerily reminded of my encounter in the library with Remus. I pushed back the urge to shiver and I nodded my head. “Sure, I guess.”
He grinned in his wide, charming way and my knees did that stupid knocking together thing. “Perfect.”
Chyeah, maybe for you. For me, it spelt death.
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