Chapter 8 : Conversations with Another
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My notes were diligent as I paid extra attention to Professor Binns’ droning on. Focus was extra important today; it was my own sanity at risk.
“Then in 1305, Humber the Hungry and his bearded wife…”
I scrawled down the words as Binns recited them, knowing I’d never look at this page again. But if I didn’t work I’d have no reason not to talk. And if I had no reason to talk – I’d have to deal with Sirius Black.
Said boy was currently lounging in the seat next to me, chair tilted on its back legs as he observed the surrounding students. James Potter snored softly in front of us, and Lily’s own attempts at concentration were disrupted by the frequent glares she shot his way. I was overcome by a wave of self-consciousness as I wondered what Sirius’ appraising glance told him of me. He liked me, I reminded myself. Sirius liked me as at least a friend – maybe more. And I liked him. There would be no spite in his thoughts. But I didn’t fool myself that he couldn’t see straight through my sudden fascination with History of Magic.
Beyond ‘good morning’ and a brief nod when he’d asked to sit down, I’d managed to avoid all conversation with Sirius Black. Professor Binns’ unrelenting monologue had provided the perfect excuse for my distraction. I wasn’t trying to avoid him – I knew I’d have to speak with him sooner or later, and Sirius had done nothing to justify my neglect – but I simply had no idea what to say.
Did I pretend Saturday had never happened and I’d heard not one whisper of his liking me? That was the tempting course of action and had it not been for Remus, I might have taken it. But Remus and Sirius were best friends; surely Sirius knew about our conversation? Which meant he knew what Remus had told me. I felt slightly queasy at the thought.
All the whisperings had done little to convince me of the truth. What I really needed was for Sirius to tell me what was going on straight from the horse’s mouth. And if I flushed with mortification at the thought of that conversation – so what? Anything had to be better than this purgatory of wondering whether it could be true, while trying desperately to quell that unwelcome part of me that hoped that it was. Anything had to be better than trying to forget the way Sirius smiled when I blurted out my most inane thoughts, the way he could raise my spirits with just a look and what that could possibly mean… Anything had to be better than this.
“1313.” The warmth of his breath on my ear made me jump as Sirius’ whisper sent tingles down my spine. I was acutely conscience of how close he’d come. I stared ahead, wide-eyed, not daring to turn; our heads were so close the slightest movement would bring my burning skin to his. I could too easily imagine the way his cool skin would feel against mine and the way his stormy grey eyes would muddle my thoughts.
“What?” I was aware of my mouth moving, but didn’t think I’d made the word. I croaked some incomprehensible sound, but Sirius understood.
“I said, ‘1313’.” His voice had risen to a murmur but he made no move to pull away. His whole body was shifted towards me, his lips so close I could feel his every breath. His fingers beat a light, steady tap on my sheet of parchment. With a start, I realised I’d been so caught up in my thoughts I’d abandoned my meticulous note-taking. My eyes dropped to the last unfinished sentence.
“Poor Humber died in 1313 and – after a vicious battle – his darling wife assumed control. That’s what you should have written.” Had Sirius’ voice always been so low? So…enticing? I needed to get a grip; I blame Post-Remus Syndrome. “Honestly, Ara.” The teasing humour in his tone made my entire body ache. “Haven’t you been listening?”
Despite myself and the whirlwind of emotions, I smiled. I turned my head, pulling back slightly to meet his gaze.
“Why Sirius,” I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Are you telling me you have?” He grinned, and his grin was so free and happy and infectious that I found myself grinning with him. I felt lighter than I had in days and leaned forward to add in a confiding whisper. “You’ll ruin your reputation.”
Sirius threw back his head in a bark of laughter, drawing surprised looks from everyone but the ghoulish Professor. I couldn’t help but laugh with him and when he settled back down, I was still smiling.
“So you are talking to me then?” The words were careless but his expression intent. I felt a sudden flush of shame; I should never have avoided him.
“Of course I am, Sirius. Why wouldn’t I?” He shrugged.
“You haven’t been very talkative so far.” I tried to find words to explain, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say.
“I’ve been listening,” I finally said, my voice weak and feeble. “To Professor Binns.”
“You weren’t listening just now.”
“I was thinking.”
I blushed as I thought of the true answer. It had been so long since I’d let any boy other than Remus Lupin occupy my thoughts that I barely felt like myself at all. I felt slightly guilty. But I also felt younger, freer, happier… Wait – happier? How on earth had that happened?
I grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked in frustration. I’d put Remus so high on a pedestal I’d never been able to talk to him; I’d been too overawed by his presence. That was why I still yearned for him and why it couldn’t possibly have been love. Sirius wasn’t on a pedestal. So that was good, right? Surely I didn’t like him, though. Up until Saturday I’d liked Remus. Was I really that fickle? Next to me, Sirius sighed and I felt absolutely wretched. He deserved someone better.
“And what are you thinking about now, Ary?”
“Humber the Hungry,” I answered shortly.
“Really?” Sirius asked.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Lucky guy…” His wistful tone did not escape me. I leaned forward, head in my hands and that ache still in my chest. Oh God, I was fickle. But who knew Sirius Black was sweet?
The sound of the bell had me jumping to my feet, pondering my escape. My bag was packed and I was ready to leave before Sirius had even risen.
“Bye,” I called, making a beeline straight for the door.
“Ary, wait!” I considered pretending I hadn’t heard but couldn’t bring myself to do it. That was rude. And I wanted to know what he had to say. I turned to see Sirius slinging his bag over his shoulder and making his way towards me.
“Where are you going, Ary?” His eyes danced with amusement. “You’re running away from me.”
“I am not.” I lied. “I just have Herbology.”
“I know,” said Sirius, with a sly grin. “I think you’re forgetting something.” He offered me his arm, furtive eyes glinting with mirth. “I have Herbology, too.”
But this was different, that other part of me whispered. Sirius liked me back. And though it seemed impossible, that part of me that had existed forever – that part that still believed in Prince Charmings and Fairy Tales – would not allow me to give up hope. That little girl inside me was determined for her happy ending. And that little girl would not shut up.
“I think I’ll just grab a seat here,” I said, untangling my arm from Sirius and taking the remaining space on Roger Mullin’s otherwise full table. I felt guilty the moment I said it; he’d know I was trying to escape. But when I looked up Sirius didn’t seem upset. He only smiled, nodded and went to join his friends across the room. (Remus was there… I didn’t allow myself to dwell on that fact.) How presumptuous of me to assume he’d want to sit with me, anyway.
“Right class, I have a treat for you today!”
Professor Sprout’s arrival pulled me from my thoughts and I watched with forced interest as she introduced us to the wonders of the Tongue-Tearer plant. As their name suggested concealed within the petals was a (long, rather dangerous) tongue that regrew quickly when removed. These tongues were apparently great at soothing burns so our assignment was to cut and collect them. While they actively tried to tear off our limbs…
I got to my feet with a groan, not thinking about how Remus looked tired, about how – yet again – he hadn’t even noticed me. I was over him; why would I think about that? I was just about to set off to retrieve a plant when there was a loud thud. Someone had dropped one right in front of me. I jumped out of the way just in time as a slimy, pink tongue shot out in response to the impact.
“Handle them gently Sirius!” I scolded. “Do you want to get me eaten?”
“Oops.” He grinned sheepishly over the plant. “No.”
“Do you want to get yourself eaten?”
“Well you will do if you manhandle the poor thing!”
“Well before I get eaten, can I ask you a question?”
I froze. That depended on the question. And unfortunately, I was awful at Divination.
“No,” I replied, uncertainly. Sirius held my gaze over the quiet plant, a soft smile on his face. “Yes.”
“Good.” My heart raced. This was it. He was going to ask…
“Do you want to work together?”
“Oh!” I flushed. Boy, had I been off the mark. I sent a quick glance around my table and saw that everyone else had paired off. “Yeah. Okay.”
“Okay,” Sirius agreed, brandishing a pair of shears. “Who gets the honours?”
“Are you okay?” laughed Sirius. Laughed?
“You’re laughing?” I gaped. “I almost lost a finger!”
“You did not,” protested Sirius. “They’re not that dangerous, they’re only six months old. And that tongue was only two minutes old.”
“Still,” I insisted, as though that should explain everything.
“Still what?” Sirius asked patiently.
“Just – ‘still’. I shouldn’t have to say more.”
“Oh Ary,” Sirius slowly shook his head. “You do make me laugh.”
“You wouldn’t be laughing if it had been you.”
“It would never be me. I’m too quick.” It was true. The infuriating boy hadn’t been caught even once. He saw my frustration and – with a sigh of resignation – extended his hand. “Let’s see the damage.”
“You heard me. Give me your hand.”
“Oh no.” I jerked upright again, clasping my hands behind my back. “I’m fine.”
“Don’t be silly, Ara. Just let me see.”
“No,” I replied, ignoring the faint stinging on the back of my hand. “I’m fine.” He raised a sceptical eyebrow.
“I’m sure.” Sirius looked unconvinced but didn’t push the matter. Good. I didn’t think my emotions would behave in the face of actual contact. It had been such a nice lesson so far; I didn’t want to ruin it. He took up the shears from where I’d dropped them and swiftly approached the plant.
“Be careful, Sirius. That one’s vicious.”
“Don’t worry Ara –” He flashed me a predatory grin. “I’m getting your revenge.”
He picked his moment well. The tongue flashed out and Sirius’ hand shot in. With practised ease he cut off the tongue just above the root, grabbed it in his fist and threw it into the half-full bucket.
“Success.” He dropped the shears with a gesture of finality. “Feel free to applaud.”
“Thank you, Sirius. I am very impressed.”
“Yeah?” he asked, moving a step towards me. His eyes glittered irresistibly. “How impressed?”
“Err. Sirius?” He drew even closer. I wondered if Remus was anywhere nearby. “What are you doing?” All lesson there’d been no hint of romance and I’d been glad. Mostly. If the episode with Remus had taught me one thing, it was that my emotions could not be trusted. Sirius paused at the uncertainty in my voice, then closed his eyes and gave his head a visible shake.
“I’m sorry.” He looked up again. “Ara, I know Gertrude spoke to you.” Woah. Talk about unexpected… His tone brooked no argument as he awaited my response.
“Yes.” It was the only word I could remember.
“I know what she said.” My cheeks felt warm but I forced myself to keep looking at him. This was it. Moment of truth.
“Yes,” I repeated softly.
“I like you, Ara. I do.” I stared at him speechless, waiting for the ‘but’. “Will you go out with me?” I tried to force my eyebrows back to their normal position. That had certainly not been a ‘but’. Sirius’ earnest gaze bore into mine as he waited patiently for a response.
“That simple?” I murmured, unnerved by the sudden events.
“Well yes. Why not?”
True… It wasn’t like Remus liked me, anyway. “I like you. I want to go out with you. And there’s a Hogsmeade trip on Halloween.”
“You hardly know me.”
“That’s what the date’s for isn’t it, Ara? It’s for getting to know eachother better. And I know you a lot better than you realise.” He broke off, looking around to make sure we weren’t being overheard. “I know for instance, you’re the kindest, most warm-hearted girl I’ve met.” His words were more urgent now and his face determined. “What do you say, Ara? Will you go out with me?”
I looked up into those clear, grey eyes, for once utterly without guile. The corners of his mouth gave form to his vulnerability, turned down in an uncertain frown. I’d never seen Sirius so open and sincere before; it was enough to make me lose my words.
“Ary?” he whispered.
I knew what I should say – what I would have said had he asked me two days ago. But suddenly I couldn’t think. Nothing was as I’d always thought, but everything seemed so much brighter. I thought my heart would jump out from my chest, and for once it didn’t scare me. For the first time in my life, every fibre of my being was in complete accord.
“Yes,” I whispered. I was fed up of niggling doubts holding me back; I wanted to be brave and I wanted to be happy. “Yes, Sirius.” I smiled at him, unable to tear my gaze from his wonderfully excited eyes. My heart felt so light I could soar, and the little girl in me danced her approval. “I’ll go out with you.”
“Hogsmeade this Saturday, Reg.”
We were seated on a bench in the courtyard, having already eaten our lunch.
“So…” I pressed. “Can I expect the pleasure of your company?” I tried to hide my resentment, but Regulus wasn’t fooled.
“I had to meet Malfoy last time, Audrey,” Regulus reminded me, with an exasperated sigh. “Mother knew he’d invited me and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”
“I know,” I agreed quickly. “I’m sorry.” Regulus said nothing. “Reg?”
“What?” Regulus snapped. I raised my eyebrows. There was no need to get testy…
“Can I expect the pleasure of your company?” I repeated coolly. He hesitated and I bit back my annoyance.
“I take that as a ‘no’. Okay. Fine.” I tried to smile to show I didn’t mind, but the smile was a lie. And Regulus knew it.
“I didn’t say that, Audrey. Malfoy said he’d be in the Three Broomsticks at lunchtime and maybe I should go and say hello. But I would still be able to meet you.”
“Yeah?” I felt a surge of hope at the words.
“Yes.” Regulus agreed. “Or…” Here, he broke off uncertainly.
“What is it?”
“Well, I suppose if I’m only meeting him to be polite you could come.” The possibility hadn’t even occurred to me.
“Oh.” I was allowed to be there. The thought went a long way to raising my spirits. If they could talk in front of me, Regulus wasn’t at Death Eater’s door after all. It didn’t even matter that I completely and utterly resented Lucius Malfoy.
“You don’t have to, though.”
“No!” I said quickly. “I want to. I mean – why not?” I wasn’t going to keep an eye on Regulus. I was going to spend time with my boyfriend and that was perfectly all right.
“Why do you – ”
Regulus and I looked up in surprise at the boy we hadn’t notice approach.
“Winters,” Regulus responded. My eyes went wide. It was that boy. That boy. The Hufflepuff fourth-year Nott, Avery and Rookwood had toyed with. He looked a lot healthier than the last time I’d seen him, but I didn’t forget the accusations his brother had shot our way.
“What do you want?” I asked coldly. That boy – Robbie Winters – met my gaze full on.
“It’s okay, Audrey.” Regulus seemed unperturbed by the interruption. “What is it?”
It wasn’t okay. Not at all. But I didn’t want to undermine Regulus so I held my tongue.
“We need to arrange a time,” the boy said.
“How about 7 o clock? After dinner.”
“That’s fine,” Winters agreed. What was going on? Was there going to be some sort of duel? I scanned the grounds carelessly – ignoring Gertrude Beck standing alone in the distance – when a figure suddenly caught my gaze. Over the Hufflepuff’s shoulder, the Ravenclaw banshee had just stormed out of the castle. That couldn’t be a coincidence.
“Oh look,” I intoned. “It’s the cavalry.” Sure enough, she soon spotted Winters. Her forehead creased into an angry frown as she noticed me and Regulus. Then, urgency painting her every step, she changed direction and stomped her way towards us. Winters saw her too and swore under his breath.
“Look – ” He addressed me this time, annoyance in his tone. “I had nothing to do with that scene in the Entrance Hall. I don’t ask my brother to fight my battles; they all just interfere.” Oh yes, I’d almost forgotten how easily embarrassed he was. “I could have taken care of it myself. I mean, Millie didn’t even see anything. I don’t know why she ran to Daniel.”
“What’s going on?” The glaring banshee had finally reached us and threw a protective arm over Winters’ shoulder. “You okay?”
“Get away from me, Claryce!” Robbie Winters shrugged away her arm and glared at his would-be helper. “I’m fine.” She raised her eyebrows at his tone.
“Well, what’s going on here?”
“What business is that of yours?” The fourth year Hufflepuff had a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m just trying to help!” Turner was taken aback by his behaviour; clearly, she didn’t understand. Fourteen year old boys did not want to be protected by their big brother’s loud and angry female friends.
“Then leave me alone. That would be a great help.”
The Ravenclaw stared uncomprehendingly at Robbie, then glared instead at me and Regulus.
“What have you been saying to him?” I was too dumbfounded to speak and Regulus could only scoff. “Should I get Daniel?”
“No!” Winters yelled. He glared at her again. “Just quit hounding me. I can take care of myself; I’m not Millie!”
Thin lips pursed together and forehead bunched, he turned back to Regulus.
“Seven,” he agreed again, then took off across the Courtyard. He didn’t look back. Turner stared after his retreating form, eyes wide and insulted. Then turned to us with a furious snarl.
“What was that about?” she demanded, dark eyes narrowed. I could ask the same thing. Regulus said nothing. “Look, I’ve had a really bad day and I’m not in a patient mood. I’m going to find out anyway, so you might as well tell me.” Still, we ignored her. She waited a minute more, but no answer was forthcoming. Finally, with an almighty huff, the Ravenclaw stormed back towards the castle. Off to tattle to big brother, no doubt.
“What was that about?” I asked Regulus, echoing Turner the moment she was out of earshot.
“Oh.” Regulus shrugged dismissively. “There’s this fourth-year project going on. Me and Robbie Winters – we’re Potions partners.”
“Oh.” I guess that explained that. “Saturday lunchtime then. The Three Broomsticks.”
Well, this was unexpected.
I stood under shelter, back to the walls and face to the Forbidden Forest. Making her way towards me was Arabelle Willis.
“Hi Gertrude!” Her voice was bright but her smile was nervous. “What are you doing?”
This was a nuisance I hadn’t counted on. When I’d befriended Willis I hadn’t expected her to seek me out. Her only use had been in distracting Sirius. Since I didn’t care what he did anymore, her use had run out.
“Not much,” I replied. My look was not warm.
“Oh.” She seemed in half a mind to leave, and I hoped she’d do it. I couldn’t be bothered with pretence. “I just wanted to see if you’re okay.”
I grit my teeth. The eagerness in her expression was sickening.
“Right.” She nodded unsurely. “Good…”
And then – because I couldn’t help myself – I had to ask:
“I heard about you and Sirius.”
“Oh.” She blushed bright red. “You did?”
“Yes. Don’t forget, I was in the Greenhouse all through Herbology. And gossip travels fast in Hogwarts; especially the marauder-kind.”
“Oh,” she said again. She looked like a deer in the headlights. I wanted to shake her for being so damn transparent “Yes. And thanks for what you said on Saturday. I needed to hear it.” Oh yes, the other man. I was curious to find out about him. “And I’m glad I had some warning about this whole Sirius thing.”
“Did it make a difference?” I asked blandly.
“Well…yes. Someone like Sirius, it’s hard to believe he could like me. Especially when nobody else…” At this, she broke off and flushed deeply.
“Is this that other guy, again?”
“What?” Her eyes widened in alarm. “There is no other guy, I told you.”
Yeah, like I’d ever believed that…
“I guess I must have forgotten.”
There was a moment of awkward silence as Arabelle scuffed her shoes, looking at me from under lowered eyelids.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” she said softly. I was surprised. She was actually confronting the issue.
“No,” I finally offered. I had no reason to protect her feelings. “I don’t.” Arabelle hesitated again.
“Maybe I shouldn’t go out with him.” Her eyes flickered to mine, sad and uncertain. “With Sirius. What do you think?”
An image abruptly burst into my head, as clear as day. If I really wanted to punish Sirius here was a perfect opportunity. I could picture it so clearly it made my palms itch: Get him dumped. Before the first date…
“Why would you say that?” I had to play this carefully. “What’s changed?”
“I just – ” Willis looked genuinely pained. “I did like someone, Gertrude.” I could see how much it took for her to say the words. Her voice was practically a whisper. “Who knows, maybe I still do.”
“Surely if anyone knows, it would be you.”
“But it’s like you said… I thought I was – ” She looked around anxiously as if about to divulge a secret, “in love with him.” Her expression was completely distraught. “But how could I be? He never even notices me. Then when Sirius asked me out…I said yes.”
“Why would you say yes if you’re in love this other guy?” My voice still had that characteristic detachment, but my interest was piqued.
“I’m not!” she said quickly. “I thought I was, but I can’t be. It was a crush.”
“Why can’t it be love?” I tried not to let my disdain of the whole ‘love’ thing show. Willis was soppy; she wouldn’t understand.
“Well because I barely know him!” Arabelle exclaimed, throwing her hands up in frustration. “I know a lot about him, but it’s like I worship him! And he definitely doesn’t like me. And now I’ve agreed to go out with Sirius.”
“And what’s the problem with that?”
“Doesn’t that make me…fickle?” Ahh, now I got it. “Of all the things I’ve considered myself, fickle was never one of them. But I am. Sirius deserves better than that. Everyone deserves better than that! You’re Sirius’ friend. I know you’d want what’s best for him. Tell me – do you think I should cancel. It’s not fair is it?”
My opinion being sought; it was a novel experience.
“I can’t tell you what to do, Willis.” She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “I mean – Ara.” Well, I could. But it wouldn’t do to appear too eager. “You have to make the decision.”
“But what do you think?” I took a moment to revel in how outraged Sirius would be if he heard this conversation. I so wanted to shut him up. Ara was all ready to ditch the date. She only needed a prod in the right direction.
“I…” Ara’s gaze bore earnestly into mine.
“I don’t think you’re fickle.”
The smile that spread across her face was bad enough, but her eyes even glistened with unshed tears.
“No. I think you’re a complete emotional mess, and I think that’s your fault.” She looked slightly put out by this assessment but at least it wiped the smile off her face. “This guy? You can’t pine over him forever. Why did you say yes to Sirius? There must have been a reason.”
“I was tired of pining,” Ara confessed sheepishly. “I have fun when I’m with him. I smile. And…” She looked slightly ashamed as she admitted, “I liked that he liked me. After feeling like…that guy…had been rejecting me for years it was nice to have someone see me another way.”
“There’s no shame in that, Ara.” I surprised myself by meaning it. “We all want to be liked.” I thought of Logan. I liked him more than I should and certainly more than he seemed to like me. “Your problem is you’re a romantic. You fall too easily, and then you drive yourself crazy. Take a moment to enjoy it.”
“But… Isn’t this unfair?”
“Maybe. But only if you don’t really like Sirius…”
“I do!” she exclaimed, so quickly that she forgot to blush.
“Then stop over-thinking things. Just go out with him. Enjoy yourself. Put a goddamn smile on your face and stop worrying about every minutiae.”
“Do you think so?” asked Arabelle, a nervous smile on her face. “That I should go for it?”
“Why not?” I challenged. She smiled at me and nodded her agreement.
“I will. Thanks, Gertrude.”
I shrugged, suddenly feeling awkward. Had I really said that? I’d certainly never meant to help.
“Have you had lunch?” she asked me.
“I’m not hungry,” I responded curtly.
“You should eat something,” she admonished, a furrow in her brows.
“I had a big breakfast.”
She frowned, but then nodded.
Then she was eying me strangely again.
“Gertrude, are you sure you’re okay?”
“Fine,” I snipped. The perfunctory question always rankled.
“Are you sure?” The sincerity of her words took me aback. I couldn’t even manage a sarcastic response. I shrugged.
“I suppose I’ve been better.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked, big, blue eyes full of concern. I bit my lip. I suddenly felt very strange.
“You shouldn’t care so much about me.” I’d definitely not meant to say that. And that was not my voice. Arabelle’s answering smile was a little too understanding.
“That’s what friends are for.”
Oh God, cue the violins. I gaped in horror. Had she actually said that? One conversation did not equal friends. Nor did two. Gertrude Beck didn’t do friends.
“I’m telling you not to because I don’t want you to. Can’t you take a hint? Look, Willis – ”
“What’s going on?” The sound of Lily Evans’ voice brought me back down to earth. “Ara, are you okay?”
Willis was surprised by the question, and simply shocked by the glare Lily sent my way.
“Of course I am, Lily.”
“What are you up to, Gertrude?” she scowled.
“I was talking to Arabelle. Is it any concern of yours?”
“Why would you talk to her? Arabelle’s muggleborn, didn’t you know?”
I tried hard not to flinch at this, while in front of me Ara gaped. Her eyes were wide as saucers and she turned to Lily soundlessly.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” I answered politely. “And it shouldn’t matter to you either, Lily.”
“Oh shut up, Gertrude. You know what I’m talking about.” Yes, but Logan had nothing to do with her.
“Lily!” Arabelle interrupted before she could answer. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t let her manipulate you, Ara.”
“I’m not. She’s my friend.” Oh Merlin. There was that word again.
“Your friend?” Lily looked amused. “Trust me, Ara. She’s not. Has she told you about her boyfriend?”
“No.” Arabelle actually looked upset by the encounter. “But I don’t see how it matters. Gertrude and I were going to go for a walk. I’ll talk to you later, Lily.” She looked utterly thrown by all that had just happened, but turned to me and offered a small smile. “Shall we go?” Lily’s outraged expression was enough to make me nod.
Lily stood motionless, watching us leave, while Ara tried her hardest not to look back. I was quietly impressed.
“I’m sorry, Gertrude. I don’t know what that was. It was unfair. Lily’s usually so nice.”
“It’s between the two of us,” I said simply. When Ara didn’t reply, I felt the need to elaborate. “She doesn’t like the boy I’m dating.”
“Yes,” Arabelle agreed. “You like him though, right?” She seemed so positive that I had to nod.
“Yes.” In truth, ‘like’ probably wasn’t the best word. He intrigued me, he challenged me, and he made me come back for more.
“Well that’s okay then. I’m sure he’s not a bad guy.” She didn’t sound sure. “Does he go to Hogwarts? I never knew you had a boyfriend.” Her faint blush told me she’d heard the rumours about me and Sirius. I could confirm them. The truth of his experience would no doubt send her running. But sabotage didn’t hold the same appeal as ten minutes ago.
“He doesn’t go to Hogwarts.” I hesitated. I thought of the letter lying upstairs in my dorm; it had been on my mind all morning. “But I’m meeting him this weekend.”
“Oh, at Hogsmeade?” Arabelle exclaimed happily. “Where?”
“We’re having lunch at the Three Broomsticks.” Now Arabelle seemed completely delighted. I allowed myself a small smile; at least Logan wasn’t bored of me.
“Really? That’s where Sirius and I are going too! I guess we’ll get to see him.” I felt my heart freeze. “Lunch at the Three Broomsticks.” She grinned up at me. “Should be fun.”
I threw the Quaffle to Macey and flew low to avoid a Bludger. We both drew closer to the hoops, eying the keeper with fierce determination. Ahead of me, I saw the fair-haired boy bring something to his mouth, and let out a long, shrill whistle. I groaned as practice was brought to a halt.
“That’s enough!” The Ravenclaw Captain – seventh year Thomas Boyle – lead us to the ground. It was dark, but we all landed with ease and gathered around for his post-practise evaluation.
“Aw, Tommy,” I complained to the seventh year. “We were just about to score!” He rolled his eyes and then shook his head.
“Trust me – you weren’t.” The disappointment in his tone was obvious. “The snitch has been caught…and you lose. Too bad.” I huffed at the answer and crossed my arms in annoyance. We’d been playing three chasers (me, Macey Flint and Jenny Rogers) and one beater (Tony Mallory) against the keeper (Thomas Boyle), one beater (Jason Patterson), and the seeker (Trudy Carver). Our aim had been to score 150 points before Trudy could catch the snitch. I know – totally unfair right? We’d made it up to 100 when Tom blew the whistle.
I listened as much as I could as Tommy told us we’d all done well but there was ‘definite room for improvement’. His eyes lingered on me and I felt wounded but couldn’t object. It had been a rubbish day and this practise was the icing on the cake. First, I’d received an ‘Acceptable’ for my excellent Potions essay when even Black and Potter had got an ‘E’. Then there was Robbie’s bizarre behaviour, of which I still hadn’t informed Daniel. And finally, I had just been the weakest player on the entire team.
When Tommy was done and we began drudging towards the Castle, I felt completely frustrated and annoyed. I ran to catch up with Jason and hit him as hard as I could.
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, clutching his arm and turning to me with an amused expression. “That hurt.”
“Well if you can still smile, it obviously didn’t hurt enough.” I always took out my anger on Jason; he could take it. Jason released his arm and grinned.
“Yeah, okay. It didn’t hurt. I appreciate the effort, though. Ouch!” he yelled, as I hit him again. “Dammit, Clar. That was the exact same spot!”
“I know. I have good aim.” He narrowed his eyebrows, looking at me annoyed. I nodded approvingly. “Glad to see I’ve wiped the smile off your face.”
“What the hell was that even for?”
“What do you mean – what was it for? You nearly hit me with a Bludger!” He groaned and rolled his eyes.
“We were practising Quidditch, Clar. You’re a Chaser. I’m a Beater. It’s what we do!”
“I know,” I shrugged. He shook his head in exasperation.
“So then what’s with the violence?” He pouted slightly as he looked at me with big dough eyes. I grinned. It’s not that the look had stopped working on me – it’s that it’d never worked in the first place.
“I thought it’d be fun.”
“That’s it,” he snapped. And before I knew what was happening, I’d ducked his outstretched arms and he was chasing me across the wet grounds.
“No!” I yelled, running as fast as I could in my Quidditch robes. "Keep away from me you swine." I swerved as I ran, knowing his longer strides would allow him to reach me far too quickly if I didn’t think clever. In the background I could hear Jason roar – like, an actual roar – and Tom yelling in confusion. The roars were getting louder. Oh crap.
Jason had grabbed me from behind and I struggled in the mud, feeling the wet grass soaking my back.
“Gerroff-Gerroff-Gerroff!” I moaned, as Jason pinned me down with his knees. One look at his smug expression and he had to grab my arms too, as I proceeded to punch every part of him I could reach.
“Ouch! Ow… Would you stop that Clar? Honestly. Stop. Ouch!” He finally grabbed my arms and wagged a mocking finger in my face. Taking full advantage of the moment I punched him again, but he only caught hold of my arms once more and shook his head.
“Turner!” I shifted my head to the left to see my annoyed Captain standing there. Surely he would save me? He had one hand on his hip, and a scolding expression on his face. “What have you done to my Beater?”
“What?” I spluttered. Looking from Tommy’s expression, to Jason who was struggling to hold back laughter. “You can’t blame me.”
“Of course I can,” said Tom, with a casual shrug. “It’s always you. And you’re the one who needs to be focusing on your game. We need to talk about that, by the way.” I gave a growl and pushed Jason – who was considerably easier to move now that he was preoccupied with laughing – off my wet body. I drew to my feet with as much dignity as I could muster and stormed away, leaving them both with pointed glares. Not long after I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Jason had caught up. I frowned at the boy, but he only grinned and threw an arm over my shoulders.
“Oh come on, Clarrie. It was kind of funny. Don’t you think?”
“No.” I crossed my arms and looked pointedly away. It was not funny to have my shortcomings thrown in my face. “No,” I repeated adamantly.
“Not even a little bit?” he asked, in his best little boy voice. I bit my lip to keep it from twitching. “Not even when you got to hit me?” Against my will, a chuckle escaped me. I could practically hear Jason's victorious grin as he tightened his grip on my shoulders. “That’s my girl.”
“Oh, shut up Jase. Let’s just go get dinner.”
“Of course, Clar. Now tell me: do you ever think of anything but food.” I elbowed him – hard – in the sides, watching with satisfaction as he doubled over in pain.
“Turner!” He growled as I grinned rather sadistically.
“Want to say that again, Patterson?” He looked up at my smiling face, took a few harsh breaths and walked over to me.
“I said – ‘do you ever think of anything but food?’” I stood, mouth agape, staring into Jason’s eyes with disbelief.
“My God, do you have a death wish?” He gave a low, pained laugh and threw his arm back over my shoulders. We walked slower now, as he leaned on me for support.
“You know Turner…” he groaned, as we struggled across the ground. Jason clung onto his ribs in obvious pain. “Sometimes, I think I must.”
“To be continuously goading me?”
“No – to be friends with you at all.” I slapped him on the back of the head, and he gave another pitiful moan.
“You see what I mean, Clar? I can’t seem to stop. Everything I say to you is just more provocation. Help me.” He fixed me with his best puppy-dog eyes. “I think I’m ill.”
I laughed, knowing what he meant all too well.
“I’ll ‘silencio’ you if you like. God knows nobody wants to hear you rambling on all day.” Jason gave me a look and I smirked, in silent agreement with what I knew he was thinking: I suffered the same affliction.
“So what’s wrong, Clar?” He sounded serious now.
“What do you mean?”
“Your game was a mess today.”
“I know.” I sighed. “I may have to do some intensive training this Saturday.”
“But Saturday’s Hogsmeade.”
“I guess I’ll have to miss it.”
“Are you sure?”
“You saw me today, Jase. You think I can play Hufflepuff like that?”
“Well, do you want me to stay with you? I can help you practise.” I gave a small sigh. Despite it all, Jason really was one of my best friends.
“That’s okay. You and the guys go.”
“Are you sure?” He frowned uncertainly.
“Of course!” I gave him my best smile. “You’d only get in the way.” Jason rolled his eyes.
“Fine. But if you change your mind we’ll be in the Three Broomsticks. We’re meeting Daniel and Lily there for lunch.”
“Okay.” The thought of Daniel made me frown. I would have to speak with him tonight.
“What’s wrong, Clar?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your game was a mess. And then you got violent. And now you’re frowning. I think I know you well enough to recognise the signs.”
Poor Jason, I thought. He always did get the brunt of my bad moods.
“It’s been a crap day.”
“You’re not still blabbering on about that ‘A’ are you?”
“Even Potter got an ‘E’! And you know he just scrawled something down at the last minute.”
“So work harder. If there’s one thing you’re not afraid of Clar, it’s hard work.”
“Well, it’s not just that.”
“So what is it?” I shot Jason a look from the corner of my eye, as we approached the giant doors of the Castle.
“I saw Robbie talking to Black today.”
Jason’s jaw clenched; it was exactly how I’d felt.
“What happened?” he asked as we reached the stairs, taking his arm from my shoulders and gripping the banister instead.
“Well I interrupted them but Robbie wouldn’t tell me anything. I think they were arranging to meet.”
“Have you told Daniel?” demanded Jason. I shook my head.
“No. And to be honest, I don’t think Robbie wants me to.”
“He said that?”
“Are you going to tell Daniel?”
What Robbie wanted wasn’t necessarily what was in Robbie’s best interests. And I’d never kept anything from my best friend.
“Of course I am,” I replied simply. "He would want to know."
A/N (take two): Was recently brought to my attention (thanks Amulya_HPfan!) that my note was misleading. What I meant to say was:
*Closes eyes tightly and prays the Remus/Ara fans won't abandon the STORY*
:P That seems to have been the most popular ship, but things were always supposed to happen this way! And there's still so much to come...
Please do voice your opinions in a review. Love hearing them!
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