Chapter 4 : Crowded rooms and sticky webs
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“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its true shame.” - Oscar Wilde
“Hey star!” greeted her dad grinning from ear to ear.
“Hey da’,” whispered Mary smiling. Her father, with his broad shoulder’s and balding top, stepped out of the doorway and took Marcus out of her arms. The boy shifted appropriately, not bothering to open his eyes and see who he was clinging to. Mr. Macdonald stepped aside and allowed Mary to enter the house.
She took a deep breath when she heard the clanging of pots and running of the faucet from the kitchen. Mary knew her mother was cleaning, washing up the pots and dishes from lunch earlier. Her mother hated cleaning at night but cleaning itself was always the thing she did when she was angry or tense.
Mr. Macdonald came back down the stairs, he was just returning from putting Marcus to bed, and headed for the kitchen. Mary followed him hoping that she wouldn’t have to play peace keeper for tonight. Her mum was banging pots together as she scrubbed at them ruthlessly with the sponge.
“Good evening, hun,” greeted Mary’s dad. Mrs. Macdonald instantly stopped scrubbing and shut the faucet off. She wiped her hands on the drying rag and turned to face her husband.
“What are ya doin’ here?” Mary wanted to know the answer to that question as well. According to her mum, Mary’s dad had left four days before Mary had returned home. That would make it over a month since he vanished and they all knew where he went. Even Marcus knew although the boy didn’t really understand. Mr. Macdonald always left without notice and whenever they would least expect it, after they had assumed they would never see him again, he would return home without so much as a letter to warn them.
“I live here,” replied Mr. Macdonald taking a seat by the dining table. Mary watched her mother’s eyes narrow before she caught her daughter’s attention.
“Sweetie you should go to bed, it’s late.”
Mary wanted to protest not trusting her parents to have a civil conversation, but she kept her mouth shut and nodded.
“Goodnight mum, dad.” They bid her good night and she left them knowing very well no matter how much her eyes burned for sleep she would not be able to.
The next day the Macdonald residence was a blockade of tension. At breakfast, Mary and Marcus’ dad had joined them and their mum for breakfast. As if he had been doing so all summer. And despite Mrs. Macdonald’s tone of dislike whenever she addressed her husband she had also served him eggs and hash. Marcus was the only one immune to the tension issued by his mum and he like his dad carried on through the morning as if everything was alright. Mary remained silent through the meal and when all was done she quickly washed the dishes and took Marcus for a walk while their parents went to work.
The sky was overcast today as it had been yesterday but there was no wind and no rumblings in the vicinity so Mary hoped that there would also be no rain. Marcus skipped ahead of her by a few yards, his little arms spread out wide like wings and his little head covered in a red cap their dad had brought him.
“Can we go to the lake?” He asked before reaching down to pick up a few stones.
“Sure.” Mary glanced over to her left in the estimated direction of Marlene’s house. She wondered if she should invite her cousin to come along, but Marlene was most likely still sleeping snugly in her bed. Something that Mary still wished she was doing but she had to watch Marcus while her parents were at work and her brother was an abnormally early riser.
“What do you want to eat for lunch?” Asked Mary before tossing a stone into the water, the glassy surface rippling.
“I don’t know.” Mary rolled her eyes.
“You never know.”
“And you always ask.” He placed his hand on hips and cocked his head to the side. Mary had to suppress a smile, the boy was becoming more and more like Marlene everyday. Bad influence for a prefect, she thought before tossing another stone into the lake.
“I’ll think of something.”
The lake near their home was no way as massive as The Black Lake at school but it was fairly large and took a little over an hour to circle on foot. Marcus liked feeding the ducks that lived among the reeds but today he, like Mary, just threw stones into the lake. They also tried to see if they could spot kelpies, but they were shy little creatures who liked to stay submerged in the deepest part of the lake most of the time.
“Why does da’ go away all duh time?” Mary felt her heart plummet she didn’t really know how to answer that question.
“You know why.”
“But mum says he shouldn’t come back, why does he then?” It was a question Mary had wanted to ask their dad herself but she had always been too embarrassed to try. She had tried to answer it for herself on occasion but no answer ever seemed good enough. She had always seen it as simple, if you had a family, if you were married then you shouldn’t be with someone else. You shouldn’t leave every month to go to that other nameless person and other nameless family and if you did go you shouldn’t come back as if everything was normal. In fact, you shouldn’t come back at all. But her dad had turned simple into complicated.
Sometimes Mary believed that it would be better if her dad abandoned them and never returned home. At least then they could all move on. And her mum wouldn’t be embarrassed every time her dad showed up to a family party, acting as if he was still a devoted husband when everyone knew he wasn’t.
Mary’s mum was strong. She got up everyday went to work and provided for her children. She didn’t let heartbreak and depression keep her in bed. She didn’t let the house fall apart and she most certainly didn’t need alcohol or drugs to keep her sane. And if Mary hadn’t seen the red in her mother’s eyes one night she would even think that her mum was perfectly fine with her father’s actions, but that wasn’t the case.
Mary looked down at her brother who was still waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know.”
In the last week before the start of term Mr. Macdonald took Mary and Marlene to Diagon Alley. The girls’ original plan was to go on their own this year but Mary’s dad had offered to take her and she didn’t have the heart to turn him down. Thankfully Marcus had tagged along so he occupied most of their dad’s attention.
The girls’ first stop was Flourish & Blotts which was crammed as usual. They decided to separate and get books found in the locations they were scouting instead of just retrieving their own.
“Try not to get trampled.” Was Marlene’s last word before she disappeared into the throng of robes and limbs. Mary took a deep breath; she had a love/hate relationship with Flourish & Blotts. The store always had a book that would catch her fancy or if she placed an order she would always receive it the next day. But it was always packed to the brim with patrons always making it difficult for her to breathe whenever she was in the store.
She took another breath and plunged into the crowd. She tried to move quickly, squeezing through any gaps she could find and leaving behind apologies if she had pushed anyone. It felt like an eternity before she reached the aisle she was looking for and even then she always had to move aside to let people pass. Breathe Mary, she told herself, just breathe. She closed her eyes and leaned against a shelf of books as more people passed her. She could feel their shoulders brushing against her roughly and their feet pressing onto her sandal clad toes. Boots, remember dad said he’d buy me a pair. She opened her eyes and quickly scanned the shelf in front of her. There were rows and rows of books leading up to the ceiling but no sign of the one she needed.
“Where-“ she squeezed herself to the side again to let a few more people pass. “I hate this,” she muttered under her breath. She reached down to pick up a text that someone had knocked to the floor before being knocked over herself. “OW!”
“Oh I’m terribly sorry hun!” Mary looked up at to see Emmeline Vance staring down at her. “Mary!”
“Hi.” Emmeline helped her up off the ground and instantly gave her a hug, Mary patted her back awkwardly.
“How have you been?”
“Alright. Marlene’s here.”
“Oh I know I saw her wrestling with this old bint for a copy of a Guide to Advanced Transfiguration.”
Emmeline nodded grinning widely, “looks like she was winning too.”
Mary gave a sigh. Leave it to Marlene to assault someone’s grandmother for a textbook. “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have seen Sirius would you?”
“Black? In a bookstore?” She started to laugh but stopped when she saw Emmeline’s reddening cheeks.
“Yeah, well we came in together I convinced him he should at least have the books he needs for classes.” Mary could feel a little alarm buzzing in her head telling her there was something behind the words.
“You mean…you and Black…” the brunette nodded, blushing even more.
“Since last week, we’ve been sending letters back and forth all summer. And I finally asked him out and he said yes.”
Letters? Mary couldn’t speak Emmeline was grinning at her, probably waiting for a congratulations, but she couldn’t form the words. Her brain was a jumbled mess of images; Black bothering her in the common room, him chasing her on the train, the note Marlene had handed her. She wasn’t confidant enough to believe he had a crush on her or anything but at least some amount of liking.
“Well, I have to go find him. See you next week.”
“Later.” Mary replied but the girl was already gone.
She tore up the parchment and threw it in the trash along with Black’s stupid note. It had been a letter she had been planning to send him but never got the nerve too. It wasn’t that she had been scared to send the letter. It was just that she wasn’t sure if what she had written was good enough. What did you say to someone that you hardly spoke too? ‘Hi, how is your summer going?’ That would have been a waste of a trip for Dax. So she had waited until nearly the end of summer so she could have something to write and she had.
Yes, she had asked him about his summer, but she had also written to tell him about her OWLs and about Marlene making Hufflepuff quidditch captain. She had tried to apologize about her comment on the train with a pathetic joke. And she had asked him why hadn’t he handed her the note himself.
She had been planning to send it the night before returning to school. At least that way she would most likely be free of having to endure his reply. But now that wasn’t going to happen.
He was dating Emmeline Vance. After sending letters. How many other girls had he been writing letters to? Was this what he did every summer? Hand out scraps of parchment with his address on it to any girl who would take it? Hoping to have meaningless conversations with them over the break in hopes he would get something out of it?
Mary felt like such an idiot to even allow herself to think Black liked her. A boy like him barely paid attention to the girls that looked good enough to end up on the cover of magazines. So why would he like a bookworm who got panic attacks in a crowded room?
At least I didn’t write him, she reasoned, that would have made things worst. And no one knows that I even though of it. Not even Marlene. Mary glanced at the boy sleeping in her bed. She had mentioned the letter to Marcus at one point over the summer when she was desperate for material. She had asked him what he talked about with his little girlfriend down the street. The information on the sliminess of toads versus newts was less than helpful. Mary sighed and fell back onto the bed.
This was what she got when she allowed boys to enter her thoughts, nothing but sighs and confusion. She should have seen the warning signs the moment they actually had some semblance of a conversation. He had been what he always was - agitating, and smug and a cocky, arrogant, attract-
Mary sat up eyes wide open in the dim lighting.
“No.” She told herself firmly. “None of that.” She wasn’t going to deny it, Sirius Black was handsome, and it was a nearly impossible task to not stare at him when he was present but Mary was not attracted to him. It took more then good genes to trap a person in that sticky web and Mary was not an easy catch.
It was simple - she didn’t care for boys, Sirius Black included.
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