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Chapter 1 : Cheshire Cat and Winter Eyes
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“I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.” – Jorge Luis Borges
The wind was strong, yet stifling; the sky clear, yet dark; and the castle of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry full, yet quiet. This all amounted to the fact that summer vacation was approaching for the students of Hogwarts and almost all of the students were studying their little brains out for their final exams.
Most of these students were in the common rooms, sitting in their secluded corners and filling themselves with as much information as they could handle. Older students, with more liberal curfews, were held up in the library and using its vast resources to their advantage and as for one not so older individual, she was hurrying to make it to her common room before she was caught by a prefect.
Mary, who was such unfortunate individual, was quickly running up the stairs of Gryffindor tower. It was nearing nine o’clock and she was in no mood to receive a detention tonight. She had allowed herself to become distracted in the library…again. It always happened when she was supposed to be doing something constructive. She would be trying to concentrate and then something irrelevant would wander into her mind. She would just sit in her chair and stare into space like a petrified cat until the little daydream ended or someone pulled her out of it. Today she had had no such luck of being rescued from her reverie and it had been a long one as well.
It had been a memory from when she was six or seven and her father had taken her to the London zoo for the very first time. The only reason that particular memory decided to pay a visit, was because Mary had been attempting to study for her Care of Magical Creatures exam. Blast her short attention span.
Normally Mary wouldn’t risk spending her last Saturday at school having to disinfest the dungeons with Argus Filch, the caretaker, for an exam especially when the class was Care of Magical Creature. But this was her OWLs and according to the professors, her parents and her mate Lily Evans the OWLs were the most important exams she would ever have to take. At least they were until the NEWTs would come along. Unfortunately for Mary despite all of the pressure being pushed upon her to pass all of her exams with an Outstanding she simply didn’t care. Still she however did not want to repeat the year and she was not a genius.
Mary clambered onto the landing, feeling utterly winded and nursing a stitch that had begun nibbling away at her side. Hitching up her messenger bag, she straightened her posture and walked down the corridor towards the portrait of the Fat Lady. She slowed her pace as she noticed someone standing in front of the portrait.
“Snape?” The boy turned around and yes, indeed, it was Severus Snape; there was no one else that held such dark eyes. They were two endless tunnels filled with secrets.
“Macdonald,” he greeted formerly, at once taking a step away from her. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his robes and his oily hair was framing his pale face.
Mary’s eyes widened. That had been the politest greeting Snape had ever dealt her. It was usually a sneer of disgust whenever she was in his presence; either that or he ignored her existence completely. The fact that Mary was a half-blood tended to have that affect on him. “How-“ he cleared his throat as if trying to dislodge a stubborn chicken bone from his oesophagus, “how are you?”
Like you care, thought Mary. She eyed the Slytherin suspiciously. Sure, he was not as horrible as the majority of his menacing house, but he certainly wasn’t Mr. I’ll- put-a-smile-on-your-face either.
“What do you want Snape?” The smile he was trying to portray faltered. “Well?”
“I was wondering…” He took a deep breath as if whatever he was trying to say was crushing his lungs, “if I could ask you a favour.”
“A favour?” Mary crossed her arms and tried to give the sternest face she could assemble. “That’s rich considering what you pulled the other day.” He didn’t argue, knowing perfectly well what Mary was talking about.
“That’s why I’m here. I want to talk to he-”
“She doesn’t want to talk to you.”
Mary instantly took a step back, staring down at the wand aimed accurately at her chest. She hadn’t even seen him twitch, let alone pull it out of his pocket. She did not move, scarcely breathing for fear he'd do something she regret. She saw the wand shaking and before she knew it, he had lowered it. “Sorry.” Still, she didn’t move, only staring at the wand resting loosely in his grip at his side. “Will you just tell her…that I want to apologise?” Mary pulled her gaze away from his wand and looked him in the eyes. The sincerity in his voice was what had pulled her out of her immobile state; a bigger shock than nearly being hit with a curse.
“I told you she does-”
“I will sleep out here if that’s what it’ll take.”
She couldn’t ignore the determination in his voice nor the pain in his eyes. Damn Slytherins for always achieving what they want.
“Alright.” She unfolded her arms and turned towards the Fat Lady, “but it’s not my fault if she won’t come out here.” He didn’t respond and she didn’t bother to look and see if he had understood.
“Password?” Asked the portrait. Mary opened her mouth and just as easily closed it again. She turned to Snape who, with a subtle rolling of the eyes, obediently placed his fingers in his ears. Mary, deciding that that would have to do, turned around and very quietly whispered the words.
The portrait swung open and without giving so much as a backward glance, Mary stepped through the entrance.
She spotted Lily the instant she walked into the room, her red hair practically glowing in the flickering firelight. She was reading in a corner of the dimly lit room, using her wand for light. Mary did not immediately approach her, having second thoughts about what she had just agreed to. She remembered the angry tears that had fallen from her best mates eyes. How angry Mary herself had felt that Snape would stoop so low as to call her, his friend, a Mudblood. And for what? Pride? Not to mention she did not appreciate having a wand pointed threateningly at her. Still, she had agreed. Damn her conscience.
She crossed the fireplace, careful not to step on the few people studying on the carpeted floor.
Lily must have seen or heard Mary approaching because she had turned to look at her.
“Hey.” She smiled, moving her bag off the chair next to her. Mary quietly took the seat. She returned the greeting.
She tried to smile, but the churning in her stomach was giving her a momentary stroke. Lily, picking up on the less than enthusiastic greeting, frowned.
“What’s wrong?” Mary took a breath and not being one for making things pleasant spoke.
“Snape’s outside. He wants to talk to you.” Lily’s face became stone and without a word she turned in her chair and stared at her text book. Mary just sat there, not sure what to do. She had delivered the message, but she still felt like she should give it another try.
“He wants to apologise.”
“And?” Lily replied, not looking up.
“Lily, he says he’s going to stay outside until you come out, even if it takes all night.” Mary could feel those emerald eyes burning into her; stubbornness threatening to spill out and pride shining brightly for all to see. “You know I wouldn’t waste your time with him, but he’s really determined.”
“All Slytherins are.” She gave a deep sigh, looking more tired than Mary had ever seen her. After a minute of silence she stood up from her seat. “He has ten minutes.”
Mary nodded, knowing that that information was meant for her as well.
“Who has ten minutes?” Both girls turned their heads to the newcomer. Lily rolled her eyes and walked away while Mary just turned away from him. “Ouch,” replied Sirius Black. He took the vacant seat next to her, grinning like a Cheshire cat in the dark.
“HellOoo Mary,” he greeted in a sing-song voice, smiling too eagerly for Mary’s liking.
“Black,” Mary replied, trying to channel Snape at the moment. She unfortunately didn’t manage to sound the least bit intimidating and instead gave the impression of having something large stuck up her rear. Not wishing to sound anymore toffee-nosed Mary quickly went into her bag and retrieved her Care of Magical Creatures notes.
“Oh, please tell me you’re not studying too.” Mary looked at the boy sitting across from her, the notes still in her hands.
“Yes, I am.” He gave a look of disgust. “What? I have an exam tomorrow.”
“So do I, but you don’t see me burying my nose in a book.” To be honest Mary had never seen this bearding boy bury his face in any book.
“Good for you.” She placed her bag on the ground and, using her wand for light, began reading. She was on the second line when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Looking up, Mary saw Black, still sitting in Lily’s seat, looking at her, his grey eyes shining. She could feel the frustration mounting. “What?”
“Ten minutes.” He held up ten fingers for added effect. Mary tightened her grip on her notes, crumpling them slightly, sat up straight in her chair and took a moment to count the fingers again. She took a deep breath and spoke very slowly.
“That’s the amount of time Lily gave you, right? So you can have a break for ten minutes until she comes back.”
“A break to do what?”
“Talk to me.” She stared at him with an open mouth, eyes wide, her thoughts bordering on what the hell. “Please? I’m bored.” His eyes were wide and shining, lips thin and pouting.
Mary didn’t reply. What a thing to say. He was bored? What was she? His play thing? Where were his friends; the ones he actually spoke to when he wasn’t bored? She turned away from him, forcibly straightened her notes, ripping the edge slightly. Ugh!
“Go away Black-”
“Please?” He flashed her a set of white teeth, the light from her wand illuminating them. “Come on, what’s ten minutes?” She leaned forward.
“With you?” He nodded, also leaning forward, eagerly hoping. “Disembowelment.” Then came the frown.
“Come on I’m not that bad.”
“Tell it to Snape.” He opened his mouth, and then shut it again, obviously rethinking what he was going to say. Mary took the opportunity to continue, “I don’t understand how you can treat people the way you do.” He sat back in his seat.
“Snape isn’t exactly what you would call people.” She glared at him, surprised at herself for having a sudden urge to defend Severus Snape when she had been angry with him a mere two minutes ago.
“He is too a person and you have no right to treat him, or any other person that annoys you, like a piece of trash.”
“I don’t treat peop-“
“Yes you do!” She slammed her wand on the table and on her poor notes too, which were now crushed under her palm. “Don’t even try to deny it. There may be a lot of people who admire you and your little gang, but you'll find there are many others who don't."
Sirius gave a sigh and brushed his hand through his black hair.
“I really didn’t come here to argue, you know.” Mary wanted to say something against that too, but she kept quiet. What sense was there in telling him what she thought; the only person he ever cared about was himself and maybe his friends. Whatever she said to him would go through one ear and out the other; she was surprised he was still talking to her.
“Why are you bothering me Black?” He gave a shrug.
“I don’t know I was curious. Me and you have never really spoken before.” He glanced over at the fireplace, the orange glow reflecting in his eyes. “I guess I know why.”
How did this just happen, Mary thought. She actually could feel the familiar lead weight in the pit of her stomach; the all too familiar feeling of guilt. She was feeling guilty for telling him how she felt, for telling him the truth! Damn him! She glared at him although he was too busy to notice; his attention occupied by the fire.
He was right. The two of them had never really had a conversation. Mary did her best to avoid him and the rest of his friends; even Lupin who was alright most of the time. She, like Lily, never agreed with the way the boys treated other students. The practical jokes she could live with but the random bullying of someone who got on their nerves or whom they didn’t like at the moment was more than she could stand. But Mary, unlike Lily, had never told any of them this, always choosing to keep things to herself. And now, here she was, finally speaking her mind and Black had made her feel guilty. The world was not a justified place.
“Well there’s Evans. I best be off.” He stood up from the chair, gave Mary a half wave goodbye and walked towards the boy’s dormitory.
“Wait!” Mary immediately stood up and followed him. He stopped at the stairs his right foot already resting on the first step. He watched her patiently, no Cheshire smiles or bright winter eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be so…” she fished around for a word. “Opinionated.”
He raised an eyebrow at her, but she ignored the appeal. “I meant what I said, but it probably wasn’t the best time or way to say it. That’s all.”
“Probably not.” He rubbed the back of his neck leaning slightly on the banister.
“Yeah, I mean, you just wanted to talk to me and I...well…”
“Hey,” he began the corner of his lips turning up in a smile, “as long as you give me another chance all’s forgiven.” Mary nodded, unable to look at him. What was so fascinating about her that he wanted to talk to her so badly? “Come on.”
“Ni- what?” He was standing up right, both feet on the first step, his right hand stretched out for her to take.
“You said you would give me a chance.”
“But I have to study-”
“Study later.” Mary looked down at his hand. Was she actually considering his offer? No, of course she wasn’t; she had to study; she knew nothing. Lily was waiting for her and there was also the matter of her notes and she had an exam.
“I guess that’s a no?” He didn’t look angry or disappointed. As a matter of fact, he was still smiling. What was that in his eyes? Admiration? “Good night Macdonald.”
Mary watched him as he ascended the stairs two steps at a time. She was confused at what had just taken place and very shocked that boys were not the simple things she had thought them to be. In fact, they could actually be confusing.
a/n: A large protion of this chapter has been beta'd by Justmenofear. Thank-you for reading my story now be oh so wonderful and leave me a review! They make me happy and turn me into this crazy story writer who writes and writes and gives timely updates. Tell me what you like, what you don't like. Tell me anything just be gentle ^_^.
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