AN: As always, thank you readers!
This chapter was already so long that I didn’t include a scene with Peter, James, and Remus that I had planned on. Don’t fret though, they haven’t forgiven him completely about the Great Send Snape to his Death Debacle.
Also. I put this chapter up so much quicker than I normally do and buckled down and finished it because my St. Bernard had puppies yesterday!! Now, I named her first litter (naturally) after Harry Potter characters, so this time they are all Grey’s Anatomy doctors. Yay. However, they might monopolize a lot of my time from now on (you’d be surprised at how much time puppies take up), but I will try my hardest to update in a timely fashion. Until then, enjoy yourselves with this chapter!
You Hate Me
Chapter 18: The Ill-Fitting Shoes of Piper Redden
Life was going badly for Sirius Black.
The initial happiness he felt upon learning that he was not going to be expelled and sent to Azkaban was quickly wearing off and he was fading back to miserable.
The disappearance of his happiness began with his return to his dormitory after his conversation with Dumbledore. It was morning now, Sirius arrived in Gryffindor Tower just as Sanaa and Raine departed to do some before breakfast studying. They greeted him gaily, assuming he had been out all night doing something mischievous that they would learn about later. As he slowly made his way up the narrow staircase that would bring him to his room, he could envision James and Peter sitting on the foots of their beds waiting for him to arrive so they could shout at him. Remus would not be back until tomorrow morning.
Sure enough, when Sirius pushed open the door that once said Sixth Years, he was greeted by James and Peter, who both looked as if they had been rescuing an ungrateful bastard from a werewolf all evening or something.
Sirius expected that James would say something infuriating like, “We want an explanation, Sirius,” then Peter would say something like, “Yeah, you better start telling us what made you do that, Padfoot,” then Sirius would say something like, “Look, just leave it alone, guys,” then they would engage in some sort of argument and feel like smothering each other with their pillows.
Sirius did not expect the welcome James and Peter gave him.
Both of them rushed forward off the edges of their beds; at first, Sirius thought they were rushing forward to attack him for putting them through such an ordeal. He tensed and held up his fists, ready to fight back, but he realized, due to the lack of pain he was receiving, that James and Peter weren’t attacking him. They were hugging him—man hugging, of course.
Even Pumpkin, who had been dangling off the drapes, slid down and joined in the celebration by biting Sirius’ legs, mewing happily. It was only after James trod on Pumpkin’s tail, causing the kitten to go insane and start scratching the three Marauders that the three of them broke apart, somewhat embarrassed by this unusual display of emotion. All three cleared their throats simultaneously; they puffed out their chests in a bid to feel more manly and after clearing their throats for a fourth time, James and Peter both gave Sirius a rough handshake and a clap on the back.
Peter broke the silence first. “We knew you wouldn’t be expelled. I said to James as soon as McGonagall had finished yelling at us, I said, ‘Dumbledore’d never expel Sirius.’ Wait. You haven’t been expelled, have you? You look like you’ve been expelled. James, doesn’t he look like he’s been expelled? Oh God! You’ve been expelled! How could Dumbledore expel you?! Well at least you aren’t going to Azkaban.” A pause. “Oh no! They’re sending you to Azkaban!? Quick James, get Padfoot the Cloak! The Dementors will be here any second to get him! We’ll hide you, Sirius! Don’t worry.” Peter was talking so quickly that he couldn’t hear Sirius assuring his friends that he hadn’t been expelled and sentenced to Azkaban. “Aruba. Hide in Aruba. No one will look for you there.”
“Wormtail!” Sirius’ shout brought Peter back to his senses just in the nick of time. Peter paused just above James’ trunk where he was about to extract the Invisibility Cloak in order to smuggle Sirius out of the castle. Peter looked around embarrassedly and gathered from James’ and Sirius’ calm demeanors that Sirius was not going to need to go into hiding any time soon. “I’ve not been expelled and I’m not going to Azkaban.” Peter felt his nerves untangle dramatically. “I’m off the hook. Well, apart from all the House points I’ve lost, the detentions, the tutoring, the cleaning, the probation, the banishment from Hogsmeade, and the game-keeping.”
James and Peter both winced. “We only got the points, the detentions, the cleaning and Hogsmeade,” James said. “I guess she thought up some more punishments by the time you reached her.”
“I got extra because I was the mastermind.” Sirius was exhausted. He would have enjoyed prying off his robes, getting into his pajamas, and sleeping for about a week, but since he was on probation he couldn’t skive off lessons or he would be suspended. His stomach growled loudly, signaling his need for food as well as his need for sleep. Maybe he would eat a quick breakfast and then Conjure a pillow and sleep on the table. He hadn’t slept for exactly twenty-four hours and he doubted that he could make it through the day his exhaustion was so extreme. On the Marauders’ monthly excursions with Remus, they skipped lessons the next day to sleep, that luxury was no longer an option for Sirius. Peter and James were equally as tired; both were stifling yawns and their eyelids drooped for increasingly long intervals at a time.
“Look Padfoot, we understand why you wanted to hurt Snape, but if you’d come to us we could have helped you come up with a—no offence—much cleverer way to do it,” James said. Sirius didn’t have time to defend himself before James continued. “I know, ‘you weren’t thinking,’” James said, which was exactly what Sirius was going to say, “Sir, we all have Gunther Johnson moments from time to time,” In the Marauders’ first year, Gunther Johnson, then a seventh year, went berserk and tried to sell himself to his N.E.W.T. inspector for a better score; after being rejected, Gunther attempted to set the Great Hall on fire, and, when that failed, he ran, stark naked, into the Forbidden Forest and hadn’t been heard from since, though the Marauders swore that, on one of their full moon journeys into the Forest, they saw Gunther running through the woods with a herd of centaurs with a bow and arrow on his naked back. Since his disappearance, when someone went crazy in Hogwarts they were said to be a ‘Gunther Johnson’ and were asked to refrain from running through the school in the nude. Sirius wasn’t sure he liked being compared to him. “But Sirius, we’re your friends. You like us, remember? We’ll always help you, even when you’re doing something incredibly dimwitted.”
“Yeah,” Peter added.
If James and Peter could have done one thing to make Sirius feel worse, it was being understanding. He wished they would yell and scream at him and make him feel like the pond scum on the giant squid’s tentacles, not tell him that everything’s okay. Everything wasn’t okay.
James’ sentimental speech was interrupted by Zane sticking his head in through the doorway. Realizing he was intruding on a personal moment between the three of them, he awkwardly averted his eyes. “Er, just checking to see if you were coming down to breakfast.” Zane grimaced, knowing he was making the scene more uncomfortable. “Um, never mind. Carry on.” Zane was in the stairwell when he came back into the Gryffindor Sixth’s dormitory. He grabbed Sirius, James, and Peter, and pulled them all into an extremely tight group-hug (James’ Quidditch regime had made even lanky Zane muscular). “Good to see you guys made up,” Zane said, smiling widely. “See ya at practice.”
Zane’s energetic appearance brought a bit of life into Peter, Sirius, and James, who were all smiling now—except for Sirius.
“Thanks guys,” Sirius said, acting as if being cheerful was suddenly illegal. “You guys really saved my ass last night…this morning?...Whatever. If you hadn’t—” Man up, Sirius told himself. “—if you hadn’t saved Snape I’d be on my way to Azkaban right now. And I appreciate you understanding why I did it, but I would feel much better if you guys would yell at me and tell me that I’m an idiot who deserves to be expelled.”
James and Peter exchanged an unsure glance. They had both agreed not to yell at Sirius in case he really did go berserk and pull a Gunther.
Sirius prompted them. “Please.”
James grinned wickedly. “If you insist, mate.” James took a step away from Sirius as if he needed room for the amount of words he was about to hurl at Sirius. He drew a long breath and in his exhale he let loose a stream of insults, threats, assertions, and swears that would have even made Sirius’ house elf Kreacher cringe. Even Peter contributed, throwing in the occasional jeer at well-timed places during James’ tirade.
“—You could have killed us all—”
“—Think of how much it would have hurt Remus if he killed Snape—”
“—Even Pumpkin has more sense than you—”
“—You’re such a stupid troll—”
And so on.
They only stopped when James’ stomach began to growl so loudly that it was making it difficult to hear his ranting. In the end, Sirius was no longer angry with James, Peter, and Remus, and they were no longer mad at him (except for Remus, since he didn’t know about any of this yet), but Sirius continued to feel extremely weak because of his inward anger. But now he had his friends to help him through it. He reminded himself never to lose such a valuable commodity again.
“It’s a good thing you aren’t going to Azkaban, Sirius,” Peter said, linking his arm around Sirius’ shoulder as they headed to breakfast, prepared for the onslaught the Gryffindors were going to have in store for them, “One of the Dementors definitely would have made you its bitch.”
* * * *
The Gryffindor hourglass had never been so empty. Thanks to Peter, James, and Sirius, the Gryffindors were now in the negative numbers in the House Cup running. There were absolutely no rubies at all in the hourglass, for the three of them had lost Gryffindor a combined total of six hundred points. They were, of course, forbidden to describe why they were shy six hundred points, and though they had no evidence, all of Gryffindor house was sure that the Marauders were responsible for their imminent loss.
The walk to the Gryffindor table was torture. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws all stood up and applauded the Marauders. Some raised their goblets in a toast, others were repeating a chant over and over. “Thank you, Potter” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. “Thank you, Black” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. “Thank you, Pettigrew” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. Others improvised the clapping by banging the table or stomping on the ground.
A first year threw a scone at Peter’s head. Sirius was tripped by a well-placed Tripping Jinx. James was pelted with a handful of grapes. The three looked pleadingly at the High Table, hoping McGonagall would come rushing forward to stop the food firing, but the deputy headmistress seemed to think that it was okay to make an exception this once. The abuse continued.
Over at the Slytherin table, there was an equal amount of pandemonium. The Slytherins were in second place in the House Cup running the night before and now they were in second to last place. The mysterious loss of two hundred points was at first greeted as a joke, but after Slughorn told his House that there had been no mistake, the bedlam broke out and the Slytherins were determined to find the culprit. None of them suspected Severus Snape, who said loudly, “I heard Reid Rivers say that he was going to sneak out with his girlfriend last night.”
At the Gryffindor table, there was no doubt that it had been the Marauders—three of them, anyway. Normally, the Marauders would have blamed the loss of the points on Piper, they would have made up some sort of elaborate tale, building off each other’s lies until there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Piper had been the one to lose the points. But since Piper had been missing in action for nearly the last week the Marauders couldn’t blame her (Piper had been showing up dreamily at the start of each lesson, drifting to the back of the class with a blank, emotionless mask on her face, and then she would let her head fall down onto the desk and stay that way throughout the entire class. No one dared to speak to her let alone blame the loss of six hundred points on her).
“Just keep smiling,” James said through gritted teeth, allowing a piece of toast to hit him, butter side up, in the back of the head. He tried to hide the anger that he felt at having his perfect hair day be ruined by a piece of flying buttered toast and kept his taut smile in place.
Peter yelped beside him, the result of a Knut to the jugular.
“Grab muffins and run.” Sirius was forced to dodge an entire plate as he spoke. The assault of food, money, and utensils was accompanied by the roar of angry Gryffindors, each of whom was demanding answers for their missing six hundred points. The Gryffindors were used to losing points because of the Marauders, but some sort of entertainment always came from it to make the loss of the points sting less. This time, there was nothing to show for the Marauders’ antics.
“Agreed,” James and Peter said. The three would have run from the Great Hall but their stomachs appeared to be magnetically attracted to the bacon and sausage and eggs and toast and tea. By using their robes as defensive shields and nimbly dodging the objects hurled at them, James, Peter, and Sirius were able to retrieve an apple, three slices of toast, one sausage link, and a waffle. While retrieving their breakfast of champions, however, Peter was stabbed with a spoon, a great chunk of James’ hair was ripped out (an unbuttered section), and Sirius was nearly choked by a napkin.
Once safe on the second floor corridor, the Marauders revealed their spoils. Their stomachs begged to be brought back to the Great Hall, no matter what the consequences were, even death –at least they would die with full stomachs—a piece of fruit, some bread, a waffle, and one sausage was not going to fill up three teenage boys who were running around all night. They had narrowly escaped the first time (a mob of angry third years had pursued them out of the Hall but thanks to their knowledge of the castle, James, Peter, and Sirius had given them the slip through a secret passageway) and they were sure their reception would be equally unpleasant if they returned.
“Well, eat up.” James began dividing the food among them. They’d been unable to grab plates and silverware and were forced to eat the food off their laps with their fingers. The three didn’t mind. It was the first meal they’d all eaten together for weeks and though the food was unsatisfying, their fingers were dirty, and they were sure that a lynch mob was still eager to find them, James, Peter and Sirius were happy.
“Lessons are gonna be a blast today,” Peter said sarcastically once his slice of toast, third of a waffle, third of a sausage link, and three bits of apple were eaten. “I say we skip, go be with Moony all day, maybe.”
“Can’t,” Sirius was eating his toast slowly, savoring every bite. “I’ll be suspended if I skip without ‘a reasonable cause’ according to Min.”
Peter hoped James would say that he and Peter should still skip and leave Sirius to be stoned by the masses as a scapegoat.
James disappointed Peter deeply when he said, “Then we all go to lessons. We stick together.”
“You two should skip, I can handle the Gryffindors myself.” Sirius licked his fingers, trying to get the last few crumbs off them.
“Marauders stick together,” James repeated so forcefully that neither Sirius nor Peter argued, though Peter still wanted to skip.
* * * *
The only person in the Great Hall who hadn’t been frantic about the loss of Gryffindor’s and Slytherin’s points was Lily Evans, who was sitting next to Grant Grey at the Ravenclaw table. Grant Grey was the one to begin the cheer that was called to the Marauders.
Lily never liked to think of herself as a high strung person. She cared about her schoolwork, didn’t enjoy breaking the rules, disliked anarchy, and always listened to what her elders told her, but she wasn’t high strung, despite what James said. But when she entered the Great Hall early that morning, saw the empty Gryffindor hourglass, and her first instinct was to hunt James Potter down and kill him, she began to rethink her theory that she wasn’t high strung and promised herself that from now on she would be more relaxed.
They were just points, she told herself. Most of them had been earned by her anyway and there was something that didn’t add up. Why weren’t the Marauders bragging about losing them and describing the entire night in depth to anyone who would listen? They were being modest. They ran away from the Great Hall instead of basking in the attention—negative attention though it was. Yes, something didn’t add up. So Lily watched while her boyfriend stood up and jeered at the Marauders; she winced as Sirius, Peter, and James were attacked with everything from food to an owl ambush set up by a fourth year and his friends.
Lily’s earlier anger had vanished completely, affirming her suspicions that she was not high strung. A high strung person would have hunted James Potter down like a dog and made him pay for losing all of her points. A high strung person would have stomped up to the three of them as they entered the Great Hall and demanded an explanation. A high strung person would have been having a mental breakdown. Lily was doing none of those things. She could honestly say that she didn’t care that James, Sirius, and Peter had lost six hundred points for Gryffindor.
Dating Grant Grey had changed Lily Evans.
Being around someone as obnoxious and frustration as Grant Grey will do that to a person. He was always talking about how well he’d done on a test or homework assignment, speaking badly about one of his peers, or going on about one of his achievements. His favorite subject was the Reddens. He told Lily all about their house, going as far as drawing her the blueprints of the Redden manor, he’d memorized the Redden family tree and knew essentially everything about the family, he could rattle off more trivia about the Redden family than Lily suspected even Piper knew. When Lily asked Grant why he spent so much time obsessing over the Reddens, he explained that he planned on being the Minister of Magic and the only way to do so was to be on good terms with the Reddens. Grant was even knowledgeable about Piper’s disownment, but, as of late, whenever someone said Piper’s name, Grant would wince, put his hand to his cheek, and mumble something about not wanting to talk about it.
His second favorite subject was James Potter. Whenever James’ name came out of Grant’s mouth in a negative way, Lily would find herself defending James, more to spite Grant that out of any feelings for her least favorite Marauder. If Grant said that James was immature and was in possession of no self discipline, Lily would say that most of James’ antics were actually quite clever and thought out. If Grant said that James had no talent on the Quidditch field, Lily said that he was the best Seeker she’d ever seen. If Grant said that James was arrogant and self absorbed, Lily told him to look in the mirror.
Lily would have never believed that there could be someone more aggravating than James Potter, but Grant Grey taught her that she was wrong. He was constantly talking over her, ignoring her in front of his friends, telling her that she didn’t know anything, and, when he did talk to her, he spoke in a tone that made her feel like an inferior. James may have been an overzealous fool, but he respected Lily, which couldn’t be said for Grant, who was acting like Lily was no longer interesting now that he was dating her. A prize that had been won, which was exactly what she feared would happen if she ever did date James.
Piper, Lily realized as Grant began the taunting cheer directed at James, Peter, and Sirius, was right in saying that Grant Grey would drive her to levels of insanity that hardly seemed possible. She would have apologized to Piper, but Lily hadn’t seen her in days. She wasn’t even sleeping in the dormitory anymore.
Lily did not expect that her relationship with Grant Grey would last long when they began dating, she really only accepted his offer to go steady because she couldn’t bring herself to reject him. He’d been so nice before they started seeing each other, but he steadily became more and more repulsive with each minute that they were dating. But Lily had been so lonely, Piper was off in her own stoic world, Korey was now best friends with some Hufflepuff in seventh year, Remus was off visiting a sick aunt, and James finally seemed to have given up on making Lily his girlfriend, which Lily missed most of all. So she used Grant to fill that void…but he’d done a rubbish job of doing that. After dating Grant Grey, Lily understood that she couldn’t use a person to make her feel better and then throw them away. It took a torturously long several weeks for her to realize that.
Lily sighed. The noise in the Grant Hall was slowly dying down, but Grant continued to shout about how Ravenclaw was bound to win the House Cup now.
“It’s just a silly competition, Grant,” Lily said, trying to pick a fight. Oddly enough, Lily was surprised to find that, though she was always willing to engage in an argument with James, she was unable to yell at Grant—probably because he never let her say more than a sentence before he interrupted her.
“It’s not just a silly competition, Lily,” Grant said patronizingly. “It’s a contest where, at the end, the best house wins. And now, Ravenclaw, the best house, is going to win.” He high-fived Ian Snow jovially, perfectly happy to go back to ignoring his girlfriend.
“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child, Grant,” Lily warned.
Grant leaned into Lily, wrapping his arm around her. He kissed her on the neck, making her forgive him somewhat. “Then don’t act like one.”
The forgiveness flew out of the window with the morning owl post.
“That’s it!” Lily jumped up, her red hair flying every which way. She tripped over the bench in her attempt to get as far away from Grant as possible. Lily’s outburst would have been lost if she had said it moments before while the hall was still in a small amount of disarray, but what with the quiet returning, her words were heard by every person. “We are finished!” Lily’s voice rose to a shriek. “I can’t take it anymore, Grant. You’re driving me crazy!” To illustrate her lack of sanity, Lily tore at her hair. If Piper, Sirius, or James were there, they would have made some sort of remark about their predictions of Grant finally driving Lily to insanity coming true. Ian Snow discretely moved the knives and forks out of Lily’s reach. He’d seen Grant’s girlfriends have fits like this before.
“Lily, come on,” Grant tried to pull Lily back to her seat, but she was past being calmed down.
“No! These have been the worst weeks of my life.” Lily lowered her voice to a level where she wasn’t only heard by dogs and shivered. “As of right now, we are no longer dating.” She ripped off her silver bracelet that Grant had given her, glad to be rid of the tacky thing, and threw it down on the table. “Ugh, Piper and James were right about you.”
Grant nearly fell off the bench at the sound of Piper’s name. He looked around nervously, as if Piper was ready to attack him from behind a candelabra if he spoke about her. By the time he righted himself, Lily was gone and he was girlfriendless.
Grant slammed his fist down on the table. “Damn it!”
* * * *
“James, can I talk to you?”
James had been waiting for this. It was only a matter of time before Lily Evans tracked him down; without even turning around he could predict what Lily looked like: a bit of foam on the corners of her mouth, her red hair wild, her eyes alive with electricity, her cheeks the color of strawberries. It was how James liked Lily best. Each time James did something to incur the wrath of Evans, he went into a sort of Zen-like state and blocked out everything she said to him and concentrated on how perfect she looked when she was angry. He, Sirius, and Peter were planning on how best to enter the Great Hall and get a reasonable amount of food when Lily found them (Peter’s plan was to use their robes as nets and catch whatever food items were thrown at them). James prepared to enter this Zen state of mind when he heard Lily’s voice; when he was fully prepared he faced her and was disappointed to see that she was neither frothing nor wild.
Lily motioned to a more private section of the corridor where there was a stone bench. They sat down; James, suspicious that Lily was hiding a cleaver behind her back, chose to sit on the furthermost corner of the stone slab. He hoped that Sirius and Peter remembered that the signal for trouble was a wolf call.
“Look, I just wanted to tell you that you were right about Grant Grey and I’ve broken up with him. He was a prick.”
“Hold on. The Apocalypse must be nigh,” James looked around for any signs of an Apocalypse, but seeing no Horsemen, vortexes, or demons, he turned back to Lily. “Did Lily Evans just tell me that I was right, and swear in the same sentence?”
“Shut up.” Lily pushed James’ shoulder with her own, causing both of them to laugh.
“This isn’t some sort of distraction, is it?” James had already fallen prey to three ambushes today; the Gryffindors were serious about learning the truth of what happened the night before. This stone bench was the perfect place for a water balloon assault or a volley of crystal balls. “You’re not setting me up, right?”
Lily shrugged, almost flirtatiously. They shared another laugh. “I should go.”
“Me too,” James said, even though he didn’t.
“Friends again?” Lily held out her hand for James to shake, which he did with vigor, hurting Lily a bit. “Good. I—er—I—oh never mind.” She’d been about to say that she’d missed him, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted James to know that he meant that much to her just yet. “Well ‘bye then.”
James was basking in the glory that was Lily Evans’ friendship when— “LILY! Wait! If we’re friends again you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor…”
Twenty minutes later, the Marauders were back in their dormitory with a feast laid out before them. Lily agreed to be their food liaison for the time being. She would go into the Great Hall, eat her meal, and then smuggle the Marauders their own meals by using some clever witchcraft that, when explained, was actually very boring. It went this way for the rest of the day until James, Sirius, and Peter had to leave to serve their detentions, clean with Filch, and, in Sirius’ case, follow Hagrid around.
That evening, Sirius was too tired to think about Piper and what Dumbledore had said to him. He was grateful that the manual labor he’d just endured kept him from thinking of her; it allowed him to go to into a deep, Piper-less sleep. The next morning, however, his problems arose again, not in the form of Piper, though.
At the break of dawn, a pale Remus Lupin entered the Gryffindor Sixth’s dormitory with bags under his eyes and scratches on his arms. James, Sirius, and Peter were all snoring loudly with various limbs dangling off their beds. The opening and closing of the door woke up the three of them. “What is going on around here? Our hourglass is empty, there’s a poster that says ‘Get the Marauders!’ on it in the common room, and I’ve been asked to see Dumbledore tomorrow.”
“I think you better sit down, Moons. It’s a long story…”
“So you thought that if I ate Snape that all of your problems would vanish?” Remus said, once the three of them finished their renditions of the night’s escapades.
Sirius thought it over. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“And now Snape knows, but he’s forbidden by Dumbledore from saying anything about it?”
“What were you planning on doing if I did eat Snape?”
Sirius hadn’t thought of that. He frowned. “I guess I would have told everyone that he was eaten by river dancing hating yetis.”
“God I hate you sometimes.” Sirius wasn’t sure if Remus was joking, but Moony, at least, was wearing the ghost of a grin, which gave Sirius hope that their friendship would last. “I guess since I almost stole your woman, it’s okay.” That sentence was definitely said in jest. “You’ve been punished enough.”
Again with the forgiveness. Sirius felt the anger that he felt with himself clawing at his stomach. Sirius chose to ignore the slight made on Piper and chose to acknowledge the forgiveness first. “No Moony, I haven’t been punished enough. And it would really do wonders for my sanity if you could just be a little bit mad at me.”
Remus didn’t seem to understand.
“Just hate me for a little while. Give me the silent treatment. Shun me for fuck’s sake!”
James and Peter shrugged at Remus. “At least he’s not making you yell at him like he did with us.”
“Remus, Remus will you shun me? Will you?”
Remus didn’t answer; he was over at his trunk, changing his clothes from his ragged travelling ones to his crisp black ones.
“I think he’s shunning you, Paddy,” James, also beginning to change, said.
“Ooooh. Right. Bang up job, Moons. Keep it up.” Sirius made a fist with his hands and pulled his elbow down into his side victoriously. He was lucky to have friends that were willing to make him so miserable.
* * * *
The next day being Saturday, the exhausted Marauders would have gladly slept all day, but, what with it being a Hogsmeade weekend and what with the amount of homework they had been putting off and what with the detentions they had to serve, sleeping was simply out of the question.
Sirius had it worst of all.
He received word the night before that he was to wake up at the ungodly hour of four o’clock in the morning and meet Hagrid at his cottage. The dormitory was still dark when Sirius woke up to the sound of his Alarm Spell; upon seeing that the sun wasn’t even up yet, Sirius was prepared to fall right back into his warm, if not somewhat smelly, bed (Sirius hadn’t changed the sheets in weeks), under the argument that if the sun wasn’t up yet, Sirius should have to be either. But then, as his head hit his pillow for a second time, he remembered that if he didn’t go meet Hagrid that he would be suspended. So Sirius groped about in the darkness for the necessities: pants, socks, shirt, coat, shoes. Not entirely sure that all of the clothing he was wearing was actually his, Sirius trudged out into the darkness of the grounds to meet the gamekeeper.
The brisk morning air did nothing to wake Sirius up. If anything, it made him long for his bed even more. His eyelids begged—pleaded to be closed. “Please, Sirius,” they said, “just close us for a couple of seconds. Rest your eyes.” Sirius rubbed his tired eyes with the heels of his palms, not sure if he was dreaming or just insane—talking eyelids fit into both categories. Somewhere along the way to Hagrid’s cabin, Sirius fell asleep standing up. He wasn’t exactly sure how it happened; one moment he was scolding his talking eyelids, the next he was swaying, unbalanced, in the wind with his shoulders slumped and a bit of drool forming at the corner of his mouth. Then a particularly strong gust of breeze came along and Sirius snorted awake and continued on his way.
He looked at Remus’ watch. 3:59. He hastened his pace and made it to the front of Hagrid’s cabin just as the second hand ticked past the twelve and the minute hand settled there.
“Git dressed in th’ dark?” Hagrid chortled. The gamekeeper looked more than ready for a day’s labor in his worn in overcoat, study boots, and tough-looking pants. Though Hagrid was easy to be frightened of with his giant bulk, wild hair, and mysterious history, Sirius and the other Marauders always held a special place in their hearts for him (it was always so cute to watch him chase them out of the forest).
In the now dull grey light of morning (if you could call it that since it was still only 4:02), Sirius saw why exactly his ensemble was making Hagrid laugh so.
We’ll start at the top: Sirius’ long head of hair was uncombed and unwashed, making him resemble Hagrid slightly. Sirius promptly tore though his hair with his fingers, trying to brush out the tangles. His shirt was not actually his shirt, as he’d guessed, but Peter’s hideously ugly magenta one that his great-aunt had given him by accident last Christmas (it was actually meant for Peter’s cousin) that said in curly letters, “The Society for Distressed Witches,” of which she was a member. What the shirt was doing out of Wormtail’s trunk, Sirius would never know. He tried to cover up with his robes, but, since he’d grabbed James’ deep red bathrobe instead of his well-insulated black robes, the effect was not the same. His jeans were, upon first inspection, relatively normal, but after a closer examination, one would have found that there was an outline of a dragon done in glittering rhinestones on the left leg of the jeans and they would have seen the words “I love dragons” wrapped around the right leg in repeating, similarly glittering ink (a joke executed by James, Peter, and Remus several nights ago). Sirius’ socks were mismatched, which couldn’t even be hidden by his jeans since the bottom three inches were cut off to reveal Sirius’—as Remus put it—skinny ankles. And, finally, Sirius was wearing slippers, giving him the appearance of a vexed housewife who spent most of her day boozing it up.
“Yeah actually, I did.”
This only made Hagrid laugh harder. Nothing made Hagrid happier than laughing at Sirius Black, except perhaps making Sirius Black follow him around for the better part of the morning carrying his supplies while laughing at him. Unbeknownst to Hagrid, the physical labor, the taunting, and the “Serves him right”s he was receiving from his peers making their way to Hogsmeade, only satisfied his need to be chastised for very nearly killing Snape, even if it was making him remarkably miserable.
So it went for the first part of Sirius’ Saturday. He helped Hagrid imprison a rogue Porlock that had been seeking refuge in the lake while guarding the local grindylows, he polished the teeth of the gargoyles standing sentry at the front gate (Hagrid made Sirius do this so he would have to watch his friends down in the village below having a joyful time), he held Hagrid’s shears for him while the gamekeeper trimmed the shrubbery, and he ran back to Hagrid’s hut at the to find the items the gamekeeper requested, most of which were wild pixie chases. But, though these meaningless tasks made Sirius ever more miserable, he knew that they would make him happier in the long run…if he survived, that is.
After this, Sirius’ tight scheduled Saturday continued with his cleaning duty with Filch, who was also reveling in the opportunity to make Sirius’ jobs as pointless as possible.
“Did you get dressed in the dark this morning,” Filch wheezed as Sirius said, “Mmm.”
Then the labor continued. From shining the frames of every reachable portrait, to changing the poses of the armored knights (they objected firmly to this treatment), to cleaning the doorknobs to the classrooms, Sirius couldn’t help but feel that his chores grew more meaningless as they progressed. But Filch had worse things in store than cleaning picture frames and brass. He reserved the worst punishment for last.
“Here’s a broom,” Filch pressed the most haggard-looking broom into Sirius’ hand; Sirius counted only nine twigs, it’s handle was broken off, leaving a jagged end, and the entire thing was so poorly sanded Sirius felt the splinters just looking at it. “You’re next job,” his toothless smile revealed how dreadful the punishment he had in store was, “is to clean the Owlery.”
Sirius dropped the already abused broomstick, breaking off one of the valuable twigs. Only four other people, in the history of Hogwarts had been sent to clean the Owlery. Only one survived (or so Hogwarts lore went). If you were lucky enough not to slip in owl dung and break your head open on the floor, and if you were lucky enough not to catch pneumonia while cleaning, and if you didn’t suffocate because of the smell, you still had to watch out for the owls. While the owls of Hogwarts generally behaved while their owners were in to mail a letter or bring their pet a treat, they always seemed to simply know when someone was there to clean. The owls would divebomb, attack, scratch, bitch, and try to eat whoever was unfortunate enough to be sent to sweep out their hay and droppings and collection of mouse bones.
But he survived even this.
Fortunately, there was an owl treat in the back pocket of his dragon jeans and by throwing it into the midst of the owls for them to fight for, Sirius was able to sweep his wand around the room and make it at least smell a bit more presentable. He enjoyed himself by watching a few moments of Owl Gladiator (a large barn owl had the treat in its beak when a vicious screech with only one ear pecked it in the eye, causing another free-for-all). Sirius faked a limp when he emerged from the Owlery, which seemed to please the caretaker and he was released to do his detention with Professor McGonagall, who must have been feeling uncreative, because she only made him write, “The only people who go outside the castle at three in the morning are dimwits like myself” a thousand times.
“Did you get dressed in the dark this morning, Mister Black?’ McGonagall said, releasing a rare chuckle while Sirius settled himself down and began to write all the while mumbling darkly about dragon pants and societies for women.
He, if not his hand, survived this as well.
Only two more Saturdays and three more Sundays just like this to go.
Sirius took the long way—the very, very, very, long way—to Gryffindor Tower; he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of getting caught in a shirt promoting a club for distressed witches who banded together, a pair of tight jeans that said “I love dragons,” a bathrobe, and slippers. He did well in avoiding the populace that wasn’t yet allowed to go to Hogsmeade, but he still had to face the common room, the thought of which was not appealing.
“Curtsying catfish,” he said to the Fat Lady—a very speechless Fat Lady. Jesus, if I scared the thoughts right out of here, there’s no telling what I’m going to do to the first years in there. Pictures of first years running, terrified, at the sight of him accompanied Sirius through the portrait hole. He wasn’t far off.
The occupants of the common room, which included four first years, seven second years, a fifth year, and a fourth year, no matter what their facial features before, now all wore the same blankly disgusted face that the Fat Lady was probably still wearing. They followed Sirius’ progress to the stairs with their eyes.
The fifth year was the first to laugh. This solitary, second long titter was all it took for everyone to join in. “Get dressed in the dark, Black?”
“Oh sod off!” Sirius said. He had bigger things to worry about than being laughed at because of his wardrobe. He didn’t look that bad. Too eager to even change (the robe was actually very comfortable, he could see why housewives wore them), Sirius rifled through the stash underneath the floorboard under James’ bed where they kept all of their most prized possessions from the Cloak to dungbombs until he felt the familiar, worn down parchment and, with a flourish, he pulled out the Marauders’ Map.
He made sure no one was in his destination and then he climbed on top of his armoire and was about to climb up through the now open ceiling when he looked at his bed—his alluring, beautiful, welcoming, empty bed. It called to him enchantingly. “Come here, Sirius. Don’t you want to sleeeeeeep?”
Figuring talking beds were at about the same insanity level as conniving eyelashes, Sirius said, “Sorry, bed,” and he wriggled his way up through the tunnel.
When he dropped down into the girls’ sixths bathroom, he decided that he wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing. At least Piper hadn’t booby trapped it. But he figured that if he ever wanted to be sane and happy again he would have to figure out this Piper problem and, since she was nowhere to be found, being near her belongings was the next best thing.
Their dormitory was pristine compared to Sirius’, there were clothes strewn about, hanging off the four posters, wrinkled up in the corners, and draped over the full length mirror. It was not hard to tell which one was Piper’s bed; it was the most untouched out of them all, her trunk was shut neatly at the foot of her bed, her bedside table was empty, her wardrobe shut tightly. It looked like she hadn’t been there in weeks.
Sirius sat on the foot of her bed with his feet resting on her trunk. He tapped his finger on the quilt. This wasn’t helping, he decided and hopped off the bed.
What had Professor Dumbledore said? “Put yourself in her shoes, dear boy, and you will understand what this babbling fool is talking about.” Right. So he was looking for shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. He never really paid attention to what type of footwear Piper wore. Boots? Trainers? Birkenstocks? Sandles? He opened her trunk. There, sitting at the very top were a pair of very brown, very small, very high, high heeled shoes. He never imagined that Piper wore those under her school uniform and, had Sirius given it a bit more thought, he would have realized that Piper obviously didn’t wear those heels, for, wherever she was, she probably needed to be shoed and that normally, when Piper walked, she wasn’t accompanied by the telltale click clack of heels. She only wore these on special occasions. Like when she was seducing peoples’ best friends.
The brown pumps might as well of been a pair of Turkish Toe-Eating Turtles for the expression on Sirius’ face.
Gingerly, he picked them up by their spiked heels and, holding them as far away from his face as possible so as not to puncture his eyes, he regarded them.
“Why?” was all he could say.
Then, almost experimentally, Sirius slid off his slippers and, with his teeth gritted and his mouth formed into a completely horizontal line and his eyes closed tightly (which his eyelids were very happy about), Sirius slid one the torturous-looking shoes onto his feet in a manner that reminded him of that Cinderella broad and her Prince Charming.
Perhaps, tried to slide would have been a better description.
Sirius was only able to get the shoes on past his toes before they would go no further. He pushed and shoved and prodded and coaxed and stomped, but, even after this process, only half of his foot was in and he was pretty sure that it would be permanently lodged inside of the brown pump forever. Right, well, halfway in is good enough, Sirius decided and, feeling more like a drag queen than he ever had in his life, Sirius tried to stand up.
He wobbled around, throwing his hands out for balance and, after a few minutes of this, he got into a sort of rhythm. By hunching over, keeping his feet as wide apart as possible, and by always using his hands and arms for balance, Sirius was able to wobble around quite comfortably—except for the fiery pain that was now in his feet, of course.
Ooooh-kay, I’m in Piper’s shoes. So now what? Have I got to do a song and dance number? Sirius tried to put himself in Piper’s position, but the shoes weren’t helping. Every time he was about to make a breakthrough, he tripped over a hair curler or a Witch Weekly and nearly impaled himself with the sharpened stick he was walking on.
He tried to concentrate. You are Piper Redden. You are in her shoes. Think like Piper. Be Piper. Sirius was now ready to find out just why Piper was acting so strangely.
Sure maybe if Sirius had been Piper he wouldn’t have appreciated it if she’d told him to marry some pureblood who’d nearly—God, who leaves a stuffed bear laying on the floor like that?—and sure, maybe if Sirius was Piper he wouldn’t have taken it kindly if she’d left him shirtless on a desk after an amazingly passionate, intense kiss. Okay, and maybe if Sirius was Piper he wouldn’t have wanted Piper telling him to go back to his family after he’d been disowned. And fine, if Sirius was Piper, he probably would have wanted to talk to someone and not have Piper try to kill that same someone simply for conversing with him. Alright, maybe if Sirius was Piper, just maybe, he would have wanted Piper to be a bit kinder to him that he’d been to her these past several months. Also, maybe if Sirius was Piper, possibly, just possibly, he would have wanted an apolo—Zeus, Agrippa, and Merlin!
Sirius took his worst fall yet just as he reached this last revelation. While he’d been clunking around in those pumps (making a tremendous amount of noise, I might add), he’d been completely oblivious to the turning of the handle of the dormitory.
So when Piper Redden emerged from the doorway looking like she’d just been harassed by a Grim, Sirius, in complete, utter, and horrified surprise, slipped on a satiny bra and crashed to the floor behind one of the other beds. The fall, thankfully, dislodged one of the shoes though the other was still planted firmly on his foot. Sirius waited in terrified silence, not even daring to poke his head out and see if Piper had heard the crash and was slowly coming towards his hiding spot to see what had just disappeared from view so quickly and with so much noise.
Which was exactly what she was doing.
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