Chapter 25 : Let That Ego Go
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This is a seasonal affair
So be there or be square
And the invitation said so
So just let that ego go
-Cute is What We Aim For
I felt so happy that I could skip. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. Once I had gotten onto Platform nine and three-quarters, I left my trolley to the side and skipped happily around the platform. Sirius and James joined me; Peter soon after. Remus stood to the side looking at us with a small, slightly condescending, smile on his face.
Finally, he sighed and joined us. How could he not? We were finally going back to school. The place of no rules (at least, the place where you could break the rules,) the place of the greatest food that was ever made, and the place of utter fun and surprise. I suppose it was the place of work as well, but let’s be honest, no one really cared about that.
"Seventh year! Boo ya!" yelled Sirius dramatically, and he ran, fell to his knees, and slid about two meters across the polished marble.
The girls around clapped at Sirius’s spectacle, batting their eyelashes. Wait. I was a girl too, shouldn’t I have been clapping and congratulating him in high-pitched squeals?
As compensation for my lack of squeal, though, I leap-frogged over him, and consequently fell flat on my face. I was about a foot away from a pair of shoes. Still on the ground, my eyes travelled up to see a guy. The only thing I knew was that I had never seen him before; not that that meant much, anyway. Despite the fact that I was constantly with the most well-known group of people in school, I knew barely anyone.
Ignoring the boy with the shoes, I got up, dusted myself off, and rolled my neck around once or twice. I walked back over to my snickering friends casually, as if nothing had happened, a huge grin on my face. I stuck my tongue out at them before wheeling my trolley over to the train and hoisting the baggage up onto it.
"So did you see that new kid?" Sirius, asked, lifting his baggage onto the train as well.
I looked at him. "Shouldn’t you know by now that I wouldn’t know a new kid from an old one?"
Sirius nodded. "Yeah, I should have figured. But, anyway, he was the kid you landed in front of after your graceful uh. . . thing."
I scowled at him. "Thanks a bunch, Sirius."
"No problem, love."
James, Remus and Peter caught up shortly after and we all left to find a compartment.
"Wait," I demanded, stopping on our journey to find a compartment. "Since when does Hogwarts just take new kids?"
"Wasn’t your brother a new kid?" Sirius asked, after a slight pause to think.
"Well, oh. Yeah, actually he was. I guess what I meant was that it just doesn’t happen too often."
"And isn’t Stephen going to be a new kid in his school?" asked James.
I nodded. "Oh, yeah, I guess that’s true, too." Deciding to ignore the fact that I had been proved wrong (because that is something I could never admit,) I rounded on James. "Don’t you have somewhere to be, Mr. Responsibility?"
James quickly muttered something about ‘Head Boy’ and ‘meeting,’ before turning around and walking briskly away.
"You okay?" Sirius asked, putting an arm around my shoulder as Remus lead the way to find a compartment. I guessed he was referring to Stephen.
"Yeah," I said, and shoved his arm off my shoulder. I was being more than honest. "As long as you don’t go all mushy on me; cause then I would have to kill you. That would make me sad."
Sirius held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. We saw Remus up ahead and followed him into the compartment. I breathed in the familiarity. The preserved smell of leather engulfed the compartment, with a hint of fresh air coming in from the open window. However, there was something very unfamiliar about this compartment. A person.
"What’s your name, mate?" Sirius said, going up to the kid (who I realized was the new kid who had been the topic of conversation just a few minutes previous) and repeatedly tapping him rather hard on the shoulder.
"Chill, Padfoot," Remus advised, removing his friends hand from the abnormally quiet kid’s shoulder.
He turned casually, and looked at Sirius impassively. "Darren," he said.
"Nice to meet you," Remus said politely, and Sirius nodded in greeting.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, except, well this isn’t really Hogwarts." James gestured around the compartment.
"Weren’t you supposed to have gone somewhere?" I asked James, noticing his reappearance and neglecting to greet Darren.
"Oh, yeah. Well, I was bored and came back. I’ll just be going now." For the second time, we watched James turn and leave us in a rush. I watched his retreating back. Strange boy.
"Yeah, welcome to Hogwarts," Peter added.
I turned and looked Darren up and down. He struck me immediately as a mature person; not only his looks, but his attitude and posture was similar to someone who had already graduated and was into "the real world." In no way could I see him being fun, but, damn; he was handsome.
I nodded in a way similar to Sirius, then introduced my self as well as the Marauders.
"They pretty much own the school," I added, rolling my eyes.
"Don’t let Lily hear you say that," James warned, stepping into the compartment. "She’ll think I told you to say it."
I looked at him and sighed. "Seriously, James? Did you come back again?"
He nodded. "I decided since I’m never on time for anything, that this shouldn’t be any different."
"You do know that Lily’s the Head Girl, right, mate? And that you were already late anyway?" Remus asked.
"Of course," James replied, getting a giddy look on his face. I doubted he heard past the word Lily, and he remained in the compartment. He’s so thick sometimes, I thought, shaking my head.
I draped myself over one of the red leather benches, leaving room enough only for two people on the opposite seat next to the new kid.
Remus and James took seats next to Darren, leaving Peter and Sirius to make me get up.
"I’m not sitting on you," Sirius warned me.
"Okay?" I answered, wondering how this was incentive for me to move. "Then sit on the floor, because I’m not getting up."
Sirius looked at me defiantly, and I closed my eyes, resting. It wasn’t even ten seconds later that a pair of strong hands pushed my off the seat and I fell in a heap on the ground. Sirius looked down at me triumphantly and took a seat, and Peter clapped for Sirius and sat down next to him as well. I stayed on the ground, leaning against Sirius’s legs, too lazy to get up.
Instead, I watched Remus and James attempt at conversing with Darren. Even Remus seemed to have trouble with him. Darren brought up Voldemort; he seemed to think it was a great topic, and worthy of some real conversation, too. I quickly got up and left the compartment. Voldemort was not my favorite subject of conversation, too serious for me. I was not afraid of Voldemort, but I knew I had reason to be. I had long before that decided I was not going to grow up before my time, and I had a feeling that Voldemort (and thinking about him) would speed up the process.
I took a walk down the train, which had begun to move, and luckily found the lunch trolley. I had left most of my money in the compartment, but had a few sickles in my back pocket and bought a couple of pumpkin pasties.
It was probably fifteen minutes after I had left that I returned to the compartment to see Sirius, Remus and James missing. Peter remained, and kept shooting nervous glances over at Darren, who had pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet and was reading.
"Sirius went looking for you," Peter said quietly. I nodded at him and sat down on Darren’s seat, up against the window, rather than closest to the door, as he was.
A few minutes later, Sirius returned to the compartment. "Er, James and Remus are doing their responsible duties," Sirius informed me. I assumed he meant that James was trying to impress Lily as Head Boy, and Remus just being his Prefectly self.
A moments silence passed, and then. . . "Word association!" Sirius yelled suddenly, earning another strange glance from Darren.
We spent the rest of the train ride eating (after the trolley visited our compartment we purchased even more sweets) and yelling out random words that came to our heads after hearing a previous one. Peter played as well, and we were soon joined by James and Remus.
Darren never left the compartment, but he kept his head in his newspaper, or else was staring absently out the window. I kept glancing at him every once in a while; I couldn’t help it, he was that all-too-noticeable sort of attractive.
Kind of how Sirius is for all the girls of Hogwarts, I reasoned.
A voice sounded over the loud-speaker, I realized that only Remus and James had put their robes on. I quickly dug through my trunk to get mine out, and threw them on over the jeans and t-shirt that I was wearing. Sirius and Peter did the same. Darren didn’t until the train began slowing down; he was, it seemed, in no rush.
The train finally pulled to a complete stop, and the Marauders and I dove out of the compartment, making a mad dash to the doors. What would be our last race to the horseless carriages was unspoken. We’d been doing it since my Second year, their Third. I tried not to think about the fact that it was the last race, it was way too depressing, and instead focused all my energy on winning. Of course, I did not win, but I did get to the carriage a lot faster than Peter.
"Don’t worry," Sirius consoled me. "It’s hard to be as awesome as we are."
I stuck my tongue out at him and pushed him out of the way, taking his seat. "And that’s what you get for being an arse."
"Oh, fuck off," he said, and he pulled himself up and climbed into the carriage. James jumped up next, followed by Remus, and Peter finally huffed his way over.
"This is going to be one hell of a year," James said grinning, as he closed the door, and the carriage rolled off towards the school.
The Marauders had not set off their annual prank at the start of term feast. There were whispers practically everywhere along the table from students wondering what was going on. That’s how regular it was.
Unbeknownst to the gossipers, they had confided to me, as we stuffed our faces with food with usual, that they were postponing it.
"This is our last year, our last start of term prank!" Sirius had cried, through a mouthful of chicken. "This has to be flawless."
I had nodded and stuffed my mouth with some chicken as well. I didn’t offer to help; as much as I helped them on other pranks (even other start of term pranks,) this was their thing. The Marauders’ thing, and it was their last shot at it.
It was the end of dinner, when we were all heading up to the common room, that Evans came and placed her hand on James shoulder. I wanted to growl at her and make her go away; no one toyed with James’ heart like she did and got away with it. "No prank this year, Potter?"
"There will be, Lily, love, just wait."
Evans scowled; it seemed like she had been - well, her emotion was hard to describe. Kind of like she had been hoping that James and his friends weren’t planning a prank so she could congratulate him on his maturity.
Psh. Maturity. I wondered what it was with all those mature people gracing our presence that night.
"There’s always a prank, Evans," I informed the glaring girl. I looked at her as she glared back at me. I hadn’t seen her since early in the summer; she had grown her hair out, and when she whipped her head back in indignation, her hair moved, and looked like she had not used an entire bottle of Magical Meaver’s Magic Spray in one go. Her face was no longer angular, but slightly rounded. (Which meant that she had decided that food was one of lifes necessities.) She was overall not a completely sucky version of a human being anymore.
I nodded in approval "Keep going, Evans. Just a little further and you might be worthy of a real conversation with James." I patted her gingerly on the shoulder before strutting off.
Evans didn’t react in any way that I could see or hear, so I took it as a good sign. Maybe she finally was changing.
I got up to the boys’ dormitories, and was pleasantly surprised to see my stuff already waiting there for me, in front of the bed that I had slept on most of the previous year.
Dumbledore never misses a trick, I thought.
"I’m tired," I announced to the Marauders, who were arriving in the room and plopping down on their own beds.
Laying down on my favorite bed in the entire world, I closed my eyes. Uncharacteristically, I was asleep in minutes.
"Wake up," I heard. I opened my eyes to see a blurry Remus. "It’s time for you to get your arse out of bed and get ready for classes."
I grumbled and groaned, but obediently got up got ready. As an afterthought, I jabbed my wand at the dark circles under my eyes. I had never thought to do anything about them (they came with lack of sleep) until James asked if I had gotten into a fight recently.
I dug through my trunk (only to find that my clothes were all the way at the bottom) and yanked them out after a fair bit of tugging. I neglected my skirt, and stole a pair of Sirius’ far too big pants instead; I changed in the bathroom, after kicking James out.
I looked at the clock as I grabbed my pack. "Come on, you lot, we’re late enough as it is."
Luckily, our secret passageway brought us to breakfast only a little bit late, and the Marauders and I always were good at eating fast. McGonagall was looking slightly appalled; I guessed it was at our eating habits. She handed us our schedules and hurried away rather quickly.
"Just great," I muttered, as I looked it over. "Double Transfiguration, Monday morning, with the Ravenclaws. Nasty, arrogant bunch of pricks."
"You’re arrogant, and sometimes nasty and prick-like," Sirius pointed out, right before gulping down an entire goblet of pumpkin juice.
"Yes," I agreed. "But I make it entertaining."
He shrugged; I laughed at him. He couldn’t argue with me there.
After our lovely breakfast, I bid the Marauders a tearful good-bye as they set off to their Seventh year N.E.W.T. Potions class, minus Peter, who went to Divination instead. The boy must have had some talent if he was able to pass the Divination O.W.L.; i aplauded him.
I arrived in McGonagall’s classroom, pulling up Sirius’ pants, which certainly did not fit around my waist, nor were they short enough for my leg. I took a seat towards the back of the classroom and kicked my feet up on the desk. I always did hate the classes part of Hogwarts; I wasn’t in any classes with my best friends.
Of course, I must admit, it made it slightly more interesting when Darren came and sat next to me. I tipped back in my chair, counting marks on the ceiling (I made it to seven before I became bored,) and could have sworn that I saw Darren cast a look my way. I smirked to myself; of course he was looking at me. Although I didn’t cake my face with make-up or mess with my hair, I was a good-looking person.
Not that I’m conceited or arrogant or anything else like that.
McGonagall came in and started the lesson. Darren paid rapt attention, but did not take down any notes. I didn’t either, and simply made up schemes in my mind of how the Marauders prank could end up.
I jerked my feet from the desk that they had been propped up on and promptly fell out of the chair. "Yes?"
"First of all, Miss Xanthis, that would be the third time I’ve called your name. Second, I would ask you to remove your feet from the desk, but I see you’ve already done so." At this, Minnie’s lips seemed to grow thinner, but also curve slightly upward. Very, very slightly. "Lastly, I would love to know, Miss Xanthis, why you are not adhering to the school dress code."
I looked down at my shirt, my loosely done tie, and the uniform black shoes that I wore. On top of this I wore my red and gold trimmed, black robe. Unbuttoned, of course. Oh, the pants. "Actually, Professor, I believe you’ll find these are part of the uniform."
"For the boys!" McGonagall said strongly.
"But," I said, "I just love being in Sirius’ pants."
I couldn’t help myself.
Most of the class snickered, but a few laughed outright. McGonagall’s face looked close to bursting - it slightly resembled a red, thin balloon. It was impossible for me to tell whether this was in anger, or her trying to withhold her laughter.
"Miss Xanthis." Minnie sounded exasperated at this point. I almost felt bad.
"I’ll pay attention," I gave in.
She shook her head in a disbelieving manner. "I’m sure you will."
"Miss Xanthis!" It was one week after what everyone likes to refer to as the ‘Anna likes to be in Sirius’ pants incident’ (original lot, aren’t they?) and I had refused to wear a skirt to class each day. Technically, McGonagall could not get me in trouble, because pants were part of the uniform. I had even shrunk them especially for Minnie, so she didn’t have to worry her tight-haired head about me losing my bottoms.
"Yes?" I asked sweetly, taking my seat and getting ready to defend my pants.
"Please grab Mister Wood and come to the front of the room."
I looked over to Darren, whose last name was Wood, and nodded towards the front of the room. He got up and followed me to our Transfiguration Professor.
"Miss Xanthis," McGonagall started, as we approached her. "Mister Wood was formerly in a curriculum that is not consistent with the one at Hogwarts. In other words, the students at Hogwarts have learned some things that he has not.
"I’d fancy you to be a good student in this class if you could just apply yourself. Therefore, I am assigning you to catch Mister Wood up on all that he has not learned; I am assigning Mister Wood to teach you to apply yourself."
I did not like the sound of that. Actually, I did, kind of. My first thoughts were that I could spend for time with Darren, who I had found out was quite funny. He reminded me a bit a Sirius; he had girls following him everywhere and had a hilarious, slightly perverted sense of humor.
If only he was fortunate enough to act like he was five, I thought sadly. He'd be the perfect dude.
I nodded and shrugged, and Darren did the same. McGonagall sent us back to our seats and started class. Ten minutes in, I kicked my feet up and tilted my head back, only half listening to the Professor. It had not been thirty seconds of relaxation before I was poked sharply in the side.
I inhaled quickly at the dull pain and looked over to see Darren smirking at me and twirling his quill in his hands. I stuck my tongue out at him, as I was immaturely apt to do, and faced Professor McGonagall.
As I made a painful attempt at listening to McGonagall’s lecture, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
"Well, since I’m pretty much going to be spending my entire way too much time with this kid, tell me some stuff about him," I demanded of the Marauders one night as we each lay on our respective beds, eating chocolate and other candy.
"That doesn’t even make sense," Remus pointed out. "My entire way too much time?"
I rolled my eyes at him for being stupid - of course it made sense - and waited for someone to answer. I knew that they knew what I was asking, and the Marauders, being popular and considerably more social than myself, knew everything about everyone.
"Well," said Sirius, smirking. "He’s here because he got kicked out of his old school."
I looked at Sirius questionably, and he launched full into the story. "Darren used to go to this extremely selective school in Iceland. They’re very concerned with their reputation at the school, St. John’s Academy of Magic, I believe it is. The fact that he was in that school at all is incredible, it’s a prestigious school and-"
"I thought Hogwarts was the best magic school, with the best reputation?" I interrupted. Sirius looked only slightly disgruntled.
"It is," he confirmed. "But it’s just one of those schools where it’s so expensive to attend, that everyone assumes it’s so wonderful. Actually, I almost got sent there . . . That’s beside the point."
I nodded, understanding it. I almost wanted to laugh; it was so odd to hear Sirius so knowledgeable about something that didn’t have to do with mischief.
James decided to finish. "Anyway, word tells (word being Darren himself) that he was kicked out of his old school because he got caught shagging someone in one of the empty classrooms."
I almost laughed. That had happened, not quite often, but enough times at Hogwarts. "So why did he get kicked out for something like that?"
"Reputation of the school," Remus answered simply.
I wanted to laugh. No wonder the kid was so calm and cool; he was probably more arrogant than all of the Marauders put together. Plus myself. "This is going to be entertaining," I said with a laugh.
"Well, McGonagall wanted me to start catching him up this weekend. However, I told her that I might not be able to; when’s tryouts, Captain?" I asked, directing the question at James.
"Saturday," he answered. "Nine in the morning."
I sighed dramatically. "Okay," I said, "But just remember that it’s your fault when I die from lack-of-sleep and fall off my broom and break my neck."
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and yawned. "James I’m going to kill you," I growled to him as I hopped onto my Silver Arrow and took off into the air. I was very proud of my broom. It was the newest model out, just last year.
However, as I rose into the air, Beater’s bat clutched tightly in my hand, I caught a glimpse of the Nimbus 1000. I took in my breath sharply. I couldn’t quite make out the owner of the broom, but they must have had their connections; the Nimbus was not supposed to be on the market until next summer.
"Look, look, look," I whispered excitedly to Sirius as he rose up next to me. I pointed wildly at the broom.
He caught sight, and his eyes widened a little. Then he began to chuckle. "You’ll never guess who’s holding it."
I looked at him, my head cocked to the side.
I shook my head, laughing. "Go figure."
Sirius and I snapped to attention when we heard James’ authoritative voice ring out over the Quidditch pitch at a voice much louder than his normal one. The paying attention did not last long of course, but at least we tried. "Now. All of you trying out should know that we are looking for a Seeker, and a Keeper. Know what position it is that you are trying out for, please.
"Now, anyone who has played Quidditch before, step over to the left, those who haven’t, get on your brooms and do a few laps around the pitch."
I was impressed with James’ authority. But I soon forgot as I watched the jerky, spastic flying of the mostly younger Gryffindor students who were trying out. I was not one to judge or look down upon, but, in all honesty, it was quite funny.
Within an hour, James had weeded out the bad players, and had only three candidates for each position left; three for Seeker, three for Keeper. I wondered briefly if Stephen was trying out for Keeper at his new school, as he had planned to do here.
"Oi, Darren! Get on your broom and fly up to the goals; we’re gonna see what some old fashioned talent can do against your fancy new broom!"
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