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“Magically silencing the target of the spell, a Silencing Charm has many uses, one of which is… Gah! I feel like my head’s going to burst!”
Dollie, slouching in her seat with her head hovering above a copy of ‘The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 5)’
by Miranda Goshawk, after exclaiming this, collapsed on the book, her face buried in the worn parchment pages. Sirius, leaning casually against the stone wall and shooting an occasional glance outside, gave an amused chuckle at this exaggerated display of fatigue. So, a bark-like laugh isn’t the only weaponry in his arsenal of self-expression, Dollie thought wearily as her face lay atop the open book.
“Don’t give up, Doll, O.W.Ls are ages away. You’ve still got loads of time to practise,” he said reassuringly, walking over to her and bending at her side, brushing away locks of her hair so that her frustrated face was in view. This touching gesture was awarded with a deadly glare.
Dollie hadn’t felt like studying in the library that day or any other day for that matter. Once a place of tranquil refuge, ever since she’d gotten together with Sirius the library became one of many places of silent revenge as one too many ‘accidental’ books knocked into her head and vicious whispers at other tables rendered her incapable of absorbing a sentence of study. So, here she was in an empty classroom with Sirius Black, trying to get into her thick head the properties of various charm spells. Sucks to those who assumed she was in there ‘doing the dirty’ with him. She was too far in to care anymore. All she cared about was…
No. No, she wouldn’t go there. She had already spent the last several weeks obsessing over it, over the ‘Autumn Leaves’ incident, turning it over at every possible angle in her head, scrutinizing the possibilities of what it could have brought had it been correctly executed. No. She was going to stop thinking about him and start thinking about – about… Merlin, the alternative was scary. She looked at Sirius and his relaxed, mischievous face. How could he be so calm at such a crucial stage of their Hogwarts education? Didn’t his parents put any pressure on him to do well? But then, she wouldn’t know, he never did talk much about his family.
Grunting into the pages of the spell book, she reluctantly lifted her head and feeling her legs numbing up, she stood and walked to where Sirius had previously inhabited: beside the window. The classroom they were in offered a clear view of the Black Lake, its surface hardening with ice at the coming of winter. It was one of the few days where rain wasn’t pouring down and turning the grounds into a mess of slush. It was absolutely freezing but so far, rain had been the only natural occurrence to take place whereas snow had so far been a no show. Instead of a blanket of white fluff covering the grounds of the castle, brown sludge slurped through the grass and thus presenting itself as a highly unsightly picture. She was grateful that she didn’t have to look at the scene from such a high point but instead was awarded with an almost endless stretch of the Lake which possessed an extraordinary colour combination of various shades of blue, green and of course, a deep, mysterious black.
Her eyes wandered to the edge of the lake, where what looked to be a couple of first-years throwing rocks into the lake and thereby cracking the thin ice surface. One even squealed with delight when he hurled a particularly large stone into the water and made a hole in the surface. This triumph was quickly subdued when a giant tentacle emerged from the hole and started thrashing about, causing the children to run away screaming in fear.
Dollie snickered at the show, the stress of impending exams momentarily absent from her subconscious. “Ickle firsties,” she murmured, reminiscent of when she was once given that moniker. She perched herself on the stone windowsill, her forehead leaning against the glass and fogging it up with her breath while she propped her folded arms atop her knees and rested her chin.
She was so serene, in fact, that she didn’t feel even a flicker of annoyance when Sirius sat in front of her on the windowsill, lounging his head against his clasped hands behind his head and his long legs stretched out languidly and dangling on the wall. He too was staring out the window, a faraway glint in his grey eyes. Dollie knew she sometimes took for granted how very handsome Sirius was. But now, at that moment with his mask off, she saw it. She saw the appeal that so many girls saw but didn’t, couldn’t fully understand.
It wasn’t the sculpted cheeks, the strong jaw, the perfectly tanned complexion, the hair as dark as its owner’s surname whose locks would so carelessly but at the same time almost deliberately fall into his lash-framed grey eyes nor the easy confidence of which he faced anything that came his way. It wasn’t any of these things. But before it could fully shape itself, Dollie turned away sharpish, shuddering at what she thought she saw. She didn’t want to see it. Because it would have made what she was doing, what she was using him for, so much harder to do.
“What’s wrong, Dollie? Are you cold?” he suddenly asked her, concerned by the puzzling expression on her face and the shiver she had given.
She brushed aside his comments with a “Nothing, I’m fine” but then a thought presented itself in her mind. Well, that wasn’t completely true. It was a thought that had been nagging her since the beginning, the beginning of the scheme she, Vivian and Lily had concocted together. She had always pushed it aside, biting back when it was at the very tip of her tongue. But she knew she couldn’t avoid it any longer. And what better way to express it than now? They were alone, with no one around to overhear, their respective entourages elsewhere. A lump of fear rose in her throat but her nerve, a nerve she supposed was from being a Gryffindor proved to be stronger as she looked straight on into Sirius’s face.
“Why me?” It hadn’t come out exactly as she would have liked but there, at least she said it.
“Why you what?” he shook out of his apparent trance, an expression of confusion on his face.
“I mean –” she paused, unsure of how to put it eloquently but decided to just go for it, “I mean, out of all the girls at Hogwarts, why me? You could have done a whole lot better than –”
“Stop right there,” he interrupted. Catching her off guard, an almost amused look spread across his face. “You want to know why you, Dollie?” Then, to her intense embarrassment, she could have sworn a blush was creeping into his face. He scratched the back of his head, almost not knowing where to begin. “Blast it, James is going to have at me for this but erm… It was when – when you punched me in the face,” he sheepishly grinned.
She felt her jaw slack open at this revelation. Or was it even one? “What in Godric’s garters are you talking about? Since when did I ever punch you in the face?” He had to be kidding right?
“You don’t remember? It was back in first-year. Actually,” he glanced outside the window and at the lake, “It happened right there. By the lake,” he pointed out to a spot obstructed by some trees.
She was still gawking in shock, which she supposed was probably rude not to mention highly unattractive to do so. Her face scrunched up as she tried to remember just when exactly did this happen. She was about to shake her head in defeat when something finally lit up in her head!
“Blimey! You’re – you’re the cauldron-headed toerag!” At this exclamation, she burst out laughing hysterically. It was the absolutely uncontrollable sort of laughter, the one where tears would fill your eyes and your sides would feel like they’re about to split apart and your body just can’t stop shaking. Far from a demure giggle, she was practically choking, with gurgles of laughter making an occasional appearance. She must have been a sight to behold and Sirius silently agreed but in a different way.
As Dollie tried to regain her composure, Sirius looked out the window once more. His eyes took to its previous haziness as he watched, not a tentacle flapping in the lake but of a distant memory, a remembrance of which the frosted glass acted as a not merely a sheet of glass but a window into the past.
2nd September 1971
“I can’t believe you actually went through with it! That was ace!”
The fear and pain that secretly clenched at Sirius Black’s heart after he was sorted lessened its hold, laughter proving stronger. He was looking at James Potter, his new friend, with obvious admiration as they ran out the castle and into the school’s grounds. He was tall and well-built for his age while the other was slight and skinny but his confidence more than made up for it. It was James who had been at his side when he received the Howler from home. Even now, with a grin plastered across his face and his body shaking with laughter, the curses still rang in his ear like a raging storm, striking him with bolts of ‘traitor, ‘disinheritance’ and ‘not good enough’. And those were just the age appropriate words that were used.
James saw his friend’s face fall at the memory and gave him a little shove to snap out of it, “No big deal, mate, I’ve done far worse than that,” he grinned cheekily, “Now’s my turn to dare you!”
In order to get his mind off the Howler, James had suggested a game of ‘Dare’ where each of them took turns coming up with tricks to pull on other people. Sirius thought he was just mucking about and not taking the idea of the game seriously, dared James to put a bowl of chocolate fudge pudding on the seat of the sternest-looking teacher at the table, who happened to be Professor McGonagall. The result was spectacular to say the least. After she plopped her bottom into the bowl, they quickly escaped outside whilst snickering like mad and evading possibly unpleasant punishments.
Sirius was almost, though of course he’d never admit it aloud, afraid of what his fearless friend could have in store for him. They both scanned the plush green lawns of the grounds, searching for a ‘victim’ but didn’t come across anybody suitable enough, according to James. So they walked aimlessly around, unconscious of the fact that they were heading towards the huge Black Lake which the previous day they’d ridden across on little wooden rowing boats that steered themselves. Out of the blue, James’s arm shot across Sirius’s chest, both of them coming to a sudden halt. Just a few feet in front of them was the target.
She looked around their age and was sitting on a flat stone, hunched over and reading a book in her hand. Beside her was a stack of rather worn school textbooks. Her messy blonde mop of hair covered most of her face as she scrutinized the words in the book. An occasional nudge of her sneaker-clad foot saw pebbles drop into the water. It was clear enough that she was completely unaware in her surroundings, so engrossed was she in her book.
A malign glint sparkled in James’s hazel eyes as he pored over the possible tricks to be played on this hapless girl. Finally, he turned to Sirius, a resolute grin on his face, “I dare you to kick that girl’s books into the lake,” he challenged.
Sirius’s eyebrows shot up in surprise but, as he reasoned in his eleven-year-old mind, a Black never backs down! Striding casually to where the girl was sitting, he acted as nonchalantly as possible as to not arouse suspicion. No one was watching except James and the girl still hadn’t even looked up from her book. He knew that she knew he was there, he saw her gave the faintest of twitches as he got closer but was unwavering in giving him the slightest bit of notice. This was just fine with him. With a swift kick, the tower of books crashed into the lake. Some were fortunate enough to fall into the muddy puddles while others were completely immersed in the inky depths of the water.
He could have sworn just then, time either slowed down or came to an abrupt halt. He himself was in utter shock that he was capable of doing something like that. His instinct told him that this was the part where he was supposed to run away. But it felt like his feet were frozen into the ground, trapped in invisible quicksand and therefore rendering him almost paralysed. He could hear James whispering furiously for him to move his arse but somehow these very clear and concise orders whooshed through his mind without taking any action. The girl was also in shock but probably not in the same way Sirius was.
She had been staring at her ruined books on the ground, stone still. But her demeanour in an instant changed to that of close to terrifying. She turned to him straight in the face, her pale complexion colouring itself at an alarming rate while her entire body was trembling. Her ice-shade eyes were glassy and watering up but she refused to allow them to fall while her mouth was pursed and twisted. “How – how could –” she stuttered but it came across as anything but comical. His mind, finally woken up, was screaming at him to scarper but it was too late.
Her fist shot through the air and landed directly on his nose. A blast of pain came across his entire face as he silently swore in agony, his hands flying to his nose. His eyes squinted as a result but he could still see her clear as day, her mouth an ‘O’ shape as though she herself couldn’t believe what she just did. For the briefest of moments, he saw a flash of veiled vulnerability. It was like an emotional mirror image, his buried feelings emerging to the surface in her. Covering her face, she took off, heading for the castle. At the time, he was befuddled at what he was feeling as he watched her run away from him but in a few years he would work it out. In her, he recognized an emotion all too familiar.
“Well, that went brilliantly,” James muttered sardonically as he came out of hiding and checked on his friend.
As they went back inside for evening tea, Sirius felt the oddest sensation but couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.
It was this moment that an older and wiser Sirius would later pinpoint as the moment when he first fell for Dollie Kent.
“Remus, you’re amazing, do you know that?”
“Well, I did have an inkling but thought it was best to be humble about it.”
James slung his arm around Remus’ shoulders as he laughed at the reply. They were walking down on of Hogwarts’s many corridors, searching for the fourth member of their trouble-making quartet. Sirius mentioned earlier that he was going to be with Dollie but was vague in where they would be. James gave them a few hours then insisted that the remaining three searched them out for he had been struck by an idea. Remus tried and failed to dissuade him from looking for Sirius when he casually mentioned that they had had enough time ‘alone together’ which promptly silenced Remus.
“Peter, we’ve been walking for ages! You're sure this is where Costa said Kent was going?” James exclaimed, grimacing.
“Don’t exaggerate, we’ve only been walking for fifteen minutes,” he rolled his eyes.
“I never said I was great at remembering directions,” Peter whined, his face flushing at James’s words.
“Right,” James said absently. “They can’t be far – Ooo, in one of the unused classroom probably…”
Remus's face became increasingly red at this remark but this fortunately went unnoticed by the other two boys. Up some staircases and through a shortcut or three, they arrived at the classroom but just as they reached the door, two figures emerged. The two didn’t immediately notice the oncoming group and this gave Remus ample time to take in their appearances. Dollie was unusually pink in the face, a rare smile on display as she kept shooting far too cheery glances at Sirius. Sirius was grinning gleefully and seemed unable to keep his eyes off the girl. Remus was watchful in keeping his composure in check but couldn’t stop the feeling of blood boiling in his veins.
“Oi!” James called and Remus felt gratitude towards his boisterous friend and relief that he’d broken the suspicious atmosphere being radiated from the couple.
“Wha – what?” Sirius came out of his trance though traces of it were still apparent in his face.
“Remus gave an excellent idea for a Christmas gift to give to Snivellus,” James grinned malevolently while rubbing his palms together.
“I never said exactly that!” he interrupted indignantly, “I – well – Lily isn’t going to like it at all, James. Why can’t you –”
“I’m not letting anything go!” James said but quickly shot Dollie a wary look, “You’re not going to say anything, are you, Kent?” he asked almost threateningly but Dollie held her ground.
“I should… but if I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“Right,” James grabbed Sirius by the arm and made sure to keep out of earshot though snatches of “Snivellus” and “Wedgies” could be made out. Peter, intent on getting back in James’s good books, scurried over to the two plotting boys to join the fray. Which meant Remus found himself left with Dollie. In a corridor. Alone. Wasn’t that a splendid situation?
The terribly tattered sole of his sneaker tracing the groove of the stone floor, Remus made sure his face was perfectly nondescript, never mind the fact that he was furiously gnawing at the inside of his mouth, his eyebrows wanting very much to narrow, eyes that obstinately refused to leave her, clenched fists that wanted nothing more than to loosen and stroke away the strands of hair that kept getting into her eyes… Blimey, must be werewolf hormones kicking in, he thought resignedly to himself.
He hated what she did to him. He hated the way she managed to make him lose control. He hated that when their eyes met, the pause was one second too long to be appropriate. He hated that when her very rare quirk of a smile flashed at him, his heart sank to the very depths of his stomach. He hated the way she made him feel more ill than any number of full moon transformations could. He hated… so many things. But what he hated most of all was that, no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He hated that he couldn’t hate her.
“So…” Yes, such an inspiring opening.
“Uh-huh,” she nodded her head, fidgeting with the book in her hand.
“Erm, what have you got there?”
“No, uh, just catching up on Charms.”
Whose charms? That’s what he’d like to know though a sinking feeling told him it started with the letter ‘S’ and ended with ‘K’. Maybe he didn’t suck at Divination as much as he thought.
“Oh, well, that’s good. Always good to memorize the theories. It helps spell casting tremendously.” Blimey, was he babbling?
“Yes… When’s the next session by the way?”
“I’ll squeeze one in before the holiday break then we both can have some much needed ‘R & R’ to refresh ourselves,” he smiled but the tightness in his scarred skin made what was meant to be a friendly smile came across as a bent line.
“Sounds alright,” she almost demurely titled her head downwards, cascading bangs brushing against her still flushed cheek.
“Alright then,” he gave a curt nod, almost cringing at the eerie similarity of it to Professor Dumbledore after the end of one of his speeches.
A pale hand emerged to sweep away the hair that covered her face and giving him a twisted, almost cheeky smile; Dollie’s eyes were still downcast as she said rather shyly, “So what’re your plans this holiday break?”
“Nothing, well, nothing big that is. Staying at Hogwarts, making full use of an empty library, that sort of thing.” That was always his reply, always his excuse whenever the topic of holiday breaks came up. He’d been doing it since he came to Hogwarts. And nobody ever knew the wiser, except Dumbledore and maybe a suspicion or two from the other Marauders.
The pathetic truth was that his family simply couldn’t afford it. They’d barely had enough food for themselves much less feeding another mouth that happened to have cursed fangs. No, it was simply better this way. He even on occasion sent food packages back home from the daily feasts Hogwarts could luxuriously afford. Also, he was able to avoid endangering his loved ones by staying at Hogwarts, whose halls hollowed swiftly come holidays, which meant less chance of him hurting anyone.
“You’re really hardworking, Remus,” she mused admiringly. “It’s a – a great trait to have.”
“Er… thanks,” an unnatural shade of magenta attacked his malnourished face, “But, you know, you’re working really hard as well. The progress you’ve made can’t be denied…”
“That’s only because of you,” she interrupted and a silence that inexplicably made his heart start racing fell over them.
It was all so terribly mundane, so ordinary that had any eavesdropper would’ve fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. Just two housemates having a conversation about, really, nothing at all, killing time until the boy’s friends one of which happened to be the girl’s boyfriend finished their plotting. Nothing terribly remarkable. Nothing at all.
Remus held on desperately to this self-denial. Pathetic as it may be, it kept him calm, sane. It’s worked for years hadn’t it? It worked when Sirius first let the cat out of the bag about his ‘feelings’ for Dollie. It worked when Remus never revealed that he had those exact same ‘feelings’. It worked so why fix what wasn’t broken?
It had always been a point of frustration that Remus couldn’t even identify what it was that made Dollie different from the other girls, from girls like Lily and Vivian and Sue and Abby-Emma and Cassandra. It was so many things at the same time that it was all muddled up in his mind. It was how she never seemed affected by his less-than-stellar appearance. How she was unapologetic about her awkwardness. How she was genuine in the way she held and presented herself. How there was more to her than what was on the surface, that nothing was as it seemed. And so many more that it would be incredibly tedious to list down.
Wasn’t that always the case?
He couldn’t recall the very first time but whenever it had been, it endured till now and he couldn’t tell when the ‘feelings’ would go away, if they ever even would.
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