"You're awful close with the Marauders these days," Gretchen noticed the next morning at breakfast.
"Yeah," Lily agreed. "Like last night, you didn't come up to bed until almost 11:00. That's not like you. You were with them, weren't you?"
I nodded, "Well, I was with James at first, we had to write that essay for Potions. Then Peter came in and asked for help with Charms, so I helped him too. It was just for school stuff." I didn't know why, but I for some reason I didn't want to tell Gretchen or Lily about my fight with Dorinda. Maybe it was because I didn't want them to get involved—it was my fight, not theirs. Besides, I was learning how to protect myself so it was OK.
Lily nodded but I could tell she was a little jealous. Of what, I wasn't sure. "I thought they made you nervous."
"They did. But I'm getting to know them and they're a lot nicer than I thought they were," I explained quickly. "They really are nice."
"Especially Sirius?" Lily asked with a sly smile.
"What does that mean?" Gretchen asked eagerly. Damnit. I didn't even really want Lily to know about my crush. I'm not the type that likes to have my private business and feelings out in the open. The more people that know, the more likely it is that it will reach Sirius.
"Lore has a thing for Sirius," Lily announced to Gretchen.
Gretchen turned to me with a smile, but as her eyes fell on something past me her smile dropped. "Lore, I-"
I turned around at the concerned tone in her voice. Entering the Great Hall was James, Remus, Peter and Sirius. Nothing strange about that. Wait, scratch that. It was James, Remus, Peter and Sirius with his hands all over some girl. My heart lodged itself in my throat. Did Sirius have yet another new girlfriend?
"Oh, Lore, I'm so sorry," Lily put her arm around me in a sort of side-hug.
I looked down at my lap. I had seen it a hundred times before. Girlfriend after girlfriend. It didn't hurt less, but it didn't surprise me. "It's OK. It wasn't like we were betrothed or anything," I shrugged.
"But you like him," persisted Gretchen in the same pitying tone.
"And?" I asked rhetorically.
Lily and Gretchen exchanged looks. "And it's got to hur-"
"And nothing. He has a girlfriend and doesn't even look twice at me. Maybe a girlfriend is a good thing—it will help me get over him since he's not available." What a lie. The past girlfriends had done nothing near that, and this time wasn't going to be any different. I just didn't want Lily and Gretchen to pity me. And I was more of a silent sufferer.
"So you're OK?" Gretchen asked.
"It's just a crush. I'm fine guys, I swear." And the lies just keep on coming.
"OK, so for the record, I don't believe you. But I'm going to move on because you told us to drop it," Lily said. She heaped some more eggs on her plate and shot me a glance.
I was grateful. And Lily was true to her word. I didn't hear another word about Sirius until Potions. "Do you still want to be his partner?" she asked.
I didn't really, no. But I really wanted Lily and James to be partners, so I had to act like I still did to keep them together. "Well, it's going to be hard to get Slughorn to change back after that speech yesterday," I reasoned.
Lily grimaced. "You're right. I could still try for you," she offered.
I shook my head. "No it's OK. I'm good."
I laughed and nudged her. "Yes! I'm fine."
"OK," she said unsurely and took her seat next to James. He gave her a big smile and a polite, 'hello.' When she turned away, he looked over at me and winked.
While I waited for class to start, I thought about a few things. Sirius had been with almost every single other girl in the class. How long was it going to take for him to notice me? Maybe I should be a bit less passive about it. Sirius was never going to notice me if I always shut up around him. Guys liked confidence, right? Confidence. I would try to have confidence.
"What is that about?" Sirius slid into the seat next to me. He was looking over at James and Lily with curiosity. Obviously James hadn't mentioned anything to him about his new and improved quest for Lily's affections.
"Oh… um I'm helping James with Lily."
He turned back to me and fixed that stare on me. "What do you mean?"
"He needed some advice, so I'm helping him," I clarified.
"James needed help with girls? What are you talking about?" Sirius began laughing. "James is one of the best-looking blokes in the school. Second to me, obviously," he added cockily. "He has girls lining up to date him. Why would he need your help?"
Sirius was so condescending, that I just wanted to put him in his place. He needed to know that I wouldn't back down as easily anymore. I reminded that Sirius would never like me if I didn't have any confidence in or never stood up for myself. "Well he doesn't want one of those girls. He wants Lily-" I began.
"Don't I know it?" Sirius interrupted, rolling his eyes. James obviously talked to Sirius about Lily all the time.
"Well, if you know it, then you also know that despite the fact that he's the second best-looking bloke at school, Lily still won't give him the time of day. I'm helping him change that. Look, she's laughing," I pointed.
Sirius studied the scene. "You're right. She's never done that around him before. You did that?" he asked, turning his gaze back on me.
"Well James did it," I insisted. "I just pushed him in the right direction."
Sirius chuckled and I caught myself before I blushed. "That must have been some push. Look, she's laughing again. I wonder why James didn't tell me he'd sought outside help. He usually tells me everything," Sirius wondered idly.
"Maybe he was a little embarrassed that he couldn't handle it himself," I suggested quietly.
"Maybe. What did you tell him anyway?"
I smiled, "If he was too embarrassed to tell you, I probably shouldn't either. I want to respect his privacy," I said, avoiding eye contact.
Sirius laughed again, "I could just ask James, you know."
I laughed too, "That's true."
"I guess it doesn't really matter. All right, looks like you're stuck with me then," Sirius rubbed his hands together as he switched topics.
"What's the potion today?" he looked up at the board and down at the ingredients.
"A potion to purify liquids," I read with a small smile. Sirius and I were having a real conversation. Real! I wasn't blushing or leaving, and he wasn't coming onto me and making me nervous! This new confidence thing sort of seemed like it was working.
"All right then, let's get started. But first thing's first. We have to get one thing straight," Sirius said.
I burst out laughing. "What?" My laughter had surprised me.
Sirius grinned. "I'm serious! I get a little queasy at the sight of blood, so promise me. No bleeding. Your track record with knives isn't so good. So give me that," he took the knife and began dicing the roots.
I laughed again. "Sirius Black gets queasy at the sight of blood?" I asked incredulously.
"Hey, don't make fun."
"I wasn't," I protested, looking back down with a smile.
"Only a little queasy," Sirius continued, looking dejected. I could tell he was just playing around, but it was so cute. Imagine Sirius Black (the boy whose confidence knew no bounds) sitting there, pouting. I almost laughed again.
"It's all right," I assured him. "I promise not to bleed. But you have to do all the chopping then," I pointed out.
He laughed. "I can do that." He glanced at me sideways and remarked, "You know, you really should smile more."
This time I did blush.
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