Chapter 4 : Intelligent
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Amazing banner by Laurie (hopewashere04)!
Author's Note: Everything you recognize belongs to Jo. And Ophelia is an extension of myself.
Normally, students in the same house were familiar with each other. If they were in the same year, it was perceived that they had an easy friendship. If they shared a dormitory, it was almost universally accepted that they were tremendously close.
Of course, there were exceptions to this. Several times, people in the same house hardly ever noticed each other. Several times, students in the same year generally disliked each other. And several times, dorm mates hardly got along.
The girls who lived with Ophelia were nice enough. She wasn't particularly close to any of them but there were many instances when she would find herself happy in their company. While many other students felt the need and the desire to create long lasting friendships, Ophelia did not. She preferred to maintain many light friendships. She preferred the friends who would smile and joke and offer advise when asked. She did not see a need to have someone to confide in. Especially not, as she often though, when she had nothing to confide about.
The girls who she lived with, Esther Briggs, Grace Murray, Nancy Greene, and Francine Rodgers, were tolerable. Out of all of them, however, she preferred Grace. Esther, she often felt, was far too much of a dreamer. Nancy, while a more reasonable witch, often liked to discuss frivolous things. And Francine was much too eager for Ophelia.
Grace was all of those awkward things. She liked to dream and she gossiped and she was eager. But despite this, Grace was someone who noticed things. Grace was someone who liked to understand things - even if some of these things were questionable. And this was something that made her different. This was something that pleased Ophelia.
No one else, no one besides the stout blue eyed Hufflepuff, had noticed anything extraordinary about Ophelia after that particular night. No one seemed to see that there was something very different about her. They did not see the way in which she carried herself as anything unusual. But there was. There was something very different about her. The manner in which she moved about the castle was significantly slower. And every so often, just as she would sink into her seat in a classroom, she would touch the back of her neck. And then, after gently pressing down on the flesh, she would sigh.
There was something about her, if any of them had cared to notice, that reeked of shame. It was something dark that crossed her face during her meals. It happened when she would enter her Transfiguration and History of Magic classes. It happened when she walked past James Potter in the corridor. It happened when she entered her dormitory, especially when she would lounge on her bed. It happened when some other student would mention their parents. It happened so often.
Grace hadn't brought the subject up again.
But even if the others had noticed, even if the most perceptive of them had noticed, what would they have believed? What could Ophelia Cross have done that caused her to feel such shame?
If they had noticed, if by some miracle they had seen her properly, they would noticed that there was something else mixed with this shame. It was a little odd, a little ironic, a little unbelievable. It was almost as though with this new shame, with her uneasiness, there was something very likeable about her now. This did not mean that her intensity had diminished. In fact, her ferocity and her passion had only increased. But now this sort of behavior, this sort of attitude, seemed tender. And she seemed, especially in those days immediately after her neck was sore, to be more beautiful.
And this was something that Grace had noticed.
"Have you been reading Witch Weekly?" she asked one morning as the two of them walked to the Great Hall, just a few days after the change in manner and behavior.
Ophelia, who on this particular day managed to braid her hair into a simple plait, raised her eyebrows gracefully. "No," she said slowly, elongating the word. "You know I don't read things like that."
"Yeah, I know," her friend answered and then casting her a side long glance added, "but your face looks different."
Grace nodded energetically. "Yeah. I mean, I know you've looked much prettier these past couple of days." Ophelia licked her lips and then shook her head. "I just thought maybe you were reading tips or something."
"Because, clearly," she started sarcastically, "I read tips all the time."
"Well, I don't know." Thinking that this was the end of their discussion, Ophelia quickened her pace slightly. There was a very small chance that she was trying to avoid someone. There was a smaller chance that she was trying to meet someone. Grace, however, did not catch this and instead, interpreted the brunette's behavior differently. "Oh!" she exclaimed and then covered her mouth with her hand. "Is it a boy?"
Instantaneously, Ophelia turned to face her friend. Her eyes were narrowed harshly, so harshly that Grace felt that she had crossed a dangerous line. "Why would you even consider that?" she asked, her tone hostile.
This was precisely why people tended to avoid Ophelia. She was the sort of person who took things too seriously, who cared too much about rules and order and perception. "I'm sorry," Grace said earnestly. Taking slow, careful steps towards her, she offered her a small smile. "I just thought maybe-" She cleared her throat and started again, "I know that you don't like a lot of the boys here but some of them are really very nice." Touching her arm gently, Grace added, "They might surprise you."
"I'd rather they didn't," Ophelia said with a frown but she walked alongside the other girl. "I'd rather they do exactly what's expected of them."
It had been five days since she had heard from Sirius. Five days. Five days ago, she had slept in his dormitory and his friends found out. Five days ago, she decided to do something dangerous and horrible and too reckless for someone like her.
Five days was a really long time.
On the first day, after being questioned by Grace (how exactly did she refrain from telling the epic?), she decided that she didn't want to approach him too quickly. She had been rightfully embarrassed. After all, she was in a very vulnerable position and she didn't like the idea of being subordinate to anyone. Besides, she thought logically, it wasn't as if she needed to do something reckless every day.
On the second day, she expected, as most girls like her do, for Sirius to approach her. She saw him a handful of times. In the Great Hall, he sat with his friends. Occasionally, a girl would walk by him and he would respond - grinning devilishly. She had glanced at him furtively but he had not noticed her. He did not approach her.
She started to believe that, maybe, he had taken her initiative: correspondence. Maybe he would write her a letter. She expected it. She waited for it. But the days rolled by. And she hadn't heard a word from Sirius.
If there was one thing about Ophelia that made so revered, so respected, it was her intelligence. It was an intelligence associated with Ravenclaws. But it was also a comprehension of sorts. If something wasn't happening one way, surely it would happen another way. If Sirius hadn't approached her, if he momentarily forgotten their agreement, if he wasn't doing anything, surely she would.
She didn't write him a letter this time. Instead, just as her Transfiguration class was ending, slowly approached him.
The instant class had ended, most of the students had filed out. It was general knowledge that McGonagall could (and would) assign more homework if she had the chance. The Marauders, however, were seldom afraid of extra work. They took their sweet time moving from the class, often lingering just to irritate the professor.
Ophelia, who normally was the first student to leave a class and the first student to enter, had gathered her belongings and walked right up to the four boys. For a moment, they didn't notice her. They were laughing at something (they were always laughing, it seemed). She wasn't there long - maybe fifteen seconds - before one of them (oddly enough, it was Peter that noticed her) said something.
"You lost, Cross?" He grinned and she knew that he was utterly pleased with himself for being able to come up with something that clever.
She glanced at him curiously, dark eyes narrowed. Upon lifting her gaze from him to Remus and James, she realized that they were equally amused. She suddenly felt sick. It was almost as if her stomach had twisted itself into a tight knot. Ophelia, who cared entirely too much about how she was perceived, absolutely hated being seen as a form of entertainment.
But she swallowed back her insults. "Sirius," she said, turning to face the boy, "can I talk to you?"
He nodded and, putting his bag's strap on his shoulder, said, "Sure." Just as she was about to say something, he took a few steps forward, his friends ahead of him. "We'll talk tonight," he called over his shoulder, gray eyes bright with, much to Ophelia's displeasure, amusement.
It was a little after dinner and most of the seventh year Hufflepuffs were still finishing their homework. But, Ophelia, who had already finished most of her assignments, told Grace and Esther that she wanted to go for a walk. "I need to clear my head," she told them as she put on her cloak.
"We can come with you," Esther said, pushing her homework into her bag.
She shook her head. "No, you need to finish," she said authoritatively. "Besides," she added, smiling teasingly, "you don't need to receive any more detentions."
Her friends frowned but let the matter drop. There was, as everyone knew, no use in arguing with Ophelia. Especially not if there was homework involved.
The minute she left the common room, her entire demeanor changed. She lost her composure. She couldn't believe this was happening, not again. And this time, while she hadn't precisely initiated it, it was her fault all the same.
She knew what he had meant. But, as though he wasn't quite sure if he was clear, a third year Gryffindor gave her a crumpled piece of parchment just before dinner started. Without saying a word, the boy disappeared, leaving Ophelia alone with the note.
Near the Hospital Wing.
How was he picking these places? Did he really want to completely humiliate her? Besides, she thought furiously, what could they possibly do in the Hospital Wing? Kidnap a first year?
Intelligent as Ophelia was, perceptive as she was, brilliant as she was, she had a horrible habit of presuming things. It was almost as though with her intelligence came the idea that she could predict someone's next move. She thought, she really truly thought, that she could read people. She read Grace and Esther and Nancy and Francine and most of the professors easily. She considered judging and reading to be one in the same. She had judged the Marauders as a group of individuals capable of certain things that people like her generally avoided. They were, in her opinion, only good for one thing: frivolity. And she, despite the recent interaction, despite how she felt about and around them, she did not think that people like her would ever really need people like them.
She had never perceived them, especially not Sirius, to be punctual. And yet, as she rounded the corner, she saw him leaning against the wall near the Hospital Wing. She considered turning on her heel and leaving - but his eyes were already on her.
"Evening," he said, the hint of a smile on his face.
She took her time in responding, not bothering to say anything until she wasn't very far from him. "Are we always going to meet at night?" she whispered, glancing at the door of the Hospital Wing nervously.
He shrugged. "You were the one who started it," he replied, tightening his cloak. "And you did say that you wanted to keep this secret-"
"I do," she interrupted, her eyes flashing.
"Well, how do you expect things to stay secret if everyone can see them?" She didn't say anything and he continued. "The night is best, Ophelia."
She licked her lips and then looked at him. "Yeah, I just- never mind."
"It shouldn't be a problem," he said, "if you trust me."
It was back to this again. She realized, immediately after she slept in the Gryffindor common room that she did trust him. She trusted him not to tell anyone what happened. She trusted him to take care of the situation because she couldn't. She trusted him to know that she would say yes if he asked her of anything - but she trusted him not to take advantage of it.
"What am I doing tonight?" she asked sarcastically, purposefully not replying to his previous statement. "Perhaps stealing Madame Pomfrey's shoes?"
He laughed loudly and Ophelia wasn't sure if she found this endearing or irritating. The boy could wake up the entire castle with the sound of his laughter alone. "Maybe next time," he said in what Ophelia hoped was a joking manner. "No, I figure that we should talk-"
Her face softened. He wanted to talk. Perhaps she had been too quick to judge him. Clearly, she had jumped to the wrong conclusions and she had read the boy wrong. She had been completely wrong.
"and have a night on the town."
"Are you insane?" she asked, her eyes wide in surprise. "What the hell does that even mean, a night on the town?"
Sirius raised his eyebrows at her and said, "We're going out."
This was getting ridiculous. They were students and it was nearly their curfew. And he expected, well, what did he expect? "And where exactly are we going to go? The Forbidden Forest?"
"Now if I asked you to go there, I'm almost positive you would cower in fear."
The thing about Sirius was that he was an arrogant person. And occasionally, because of his arrogance and because, despite whatever rumor there was that he disliked and despised and was unlike his family, there was something inherent in him like them - he sometimes said terrible, hurtful, painful things. Ophelia knew all about this. It was the general reputation associated with this particular Gryffindor. So, she tried her hardest not to take anything too personally. She tried her hardest not to let what he said hurt her or make her feel like she was beneath him. She knew that was how most of the students would see it - her house always took the backseat and his house was always gallant.
She wanted to tell him, passionately and fiercely and angrily, that she was not a coward. Her lips opened slightly but the words would not come out. Because even though Ophelia had moments of bravery, even though she had the audacity to approach someone like Sirius Black, Ophelia could not defend herself here. There was a part of her, a part of her that would keep her ordinary, that was cowardly.
Instead of letting the silence settle, instead of letting this comment ruin the atmosphere (which was suddenly thick with tension), instead of letting his general disposition get in the way of something that she really did want (despite all the hesitance), she rolled her eyes. "If you asked me to go there, I'd tell Dumbledore that you are certifiably insane."
Taking a step away from her, he said, "I think you might actually enjoy this." She opened her mouth to ask him to elaborate only to have him grab her hand. He pulled her towards him and the two of them walked- she felt like she was jogging- down the hallway. This was too much for her. She was afraid that a professor would catch them (what were they doing?) and she was nervous because he was holding onto her hand (why was he still doing that?) and he still hadn't told her what they were doing. It was so much that she didn't even notice that they were in a different passageway until - well, until they were there.
"Where are we?" she hissed, dark eyes narrowed at him. As she spoke, he slowed his pace and dropped hold of her hand. She considered stopping but realized that he would probably just force her to move.
He turned to look at her; his hair was slightly disheveled, but nowhere near as unkempt as James Potter's. He looked wild and free and the complete definition of reckless. Ophelia felt stunned and jealous and interested all at once. "At the moment, we are in one of the many hidden passageways of Hogwarts." He raised his eyebrows at her confidently. "Only the Marauders know all of them."
"And where are we going?" she asked exasperatedly. It must have been the fifth time she had asked the same question and she was starting to wonder if he was just trying to irritate her.
His lips stretched into a wide grin, spreading over his teeth gracefully. It was slow and easy and reminded Ophelia of melted butter. She half-wanted to reach up and touch the corners of his mouth. She half-wanted to trail her fingers over his lips. She half-wanted to feel the smile pressed against her-
"We are going to Hogsmeade."
This was madness. She didn't need to go to St. Mungo's or the Hospital Wing or her muggle doctor to know that. This was complete and utter madness.
It was a Thursday. It was a bloody Thursday and she was in Hogsmeade. She had never gone to Hogsmeade without a signed permission slip and she had never gone without her friends. And she had never gone to the Hog's Head.
"Sirius," she said softly, trying to keep the desperation out of her voice. "Sirius, I really don't think the Hog's Head is a good idea."
Just when she had started to respect him for his intelligence (honestly, hidden passageways sounded remarkable. She was envious that he knew something she did not.), he told her that they would be going to that particular pub.
"Nothing else is going to be open," he replied with such a tone that Ophelia knew that he was laughing at her. "It's only pubs that stay open this late."
"Then the Three Broomsticks," she suggested. Normally, she would never enter the Three Broomsticks either. She wasn't one for drinking; she hadn't even tried a butter beer. But the Three Broomsticks was much better than the Hog's Head.
"Professors go there sometimes," he said. They were already walking towards the pub and there were quite a few wizards and witches about. Some of the older witches gave the two of them an intense look of disapproval, clearly assuming that the outing was romantic. While they walked side by side, while she was thankful that she was here with him and not alone, while she might have considered Sirius physically, the idea that something romantic could transpire between them was so ridiculous that she felt a small smile form on her lips.
"And I bet you know everything about things like this," she said bitingly. "What, do you come out here with a different girl every night or something?"
Laughing, he shook his head and a black curl hung over his left eye. "No, I only come to escort certain damsels to their happiness."
"I'm not a damsel," she said instantly.
There was a moment of silence. He looked at her, gray eyes intent on her own. And then, he shrugged. "No, I suppose you aren’t." She exhaled. "But if ever there was a lady, her name was Ophelia."
She wasn't sure how to respond. She hadn't expected him to say something like that. Not something that was so nice. Lady was respected and honored and dignified. She was so stunned and surprised and caught off guard that by the time she wanted to say something, by the time she realized what had happened, by the time she looked up at Sirius' face, they were already in the Hog's Head.
It was scary. It was dark and many of the customers hid their faces. It was dirty and she felt sick just standing on the floorboards. Looking down, she realized that she was standing on layers of dirt.
She really did not want to be here.
Suddenly, almost just as they sat down at a small table, a glass was thrust into her face. She turned to see an unattractive man sneer at her. "Enjoy, doll."
She glanced at Sirius, who had received a glass of his own. "What is this?"
"Firewhiskey," he answered before taking a slow sip. He looked at her, his eyes widening challengingly.
She looked at the glass and its contents. She knew that many students had Firewhiskey at parties. Many of them even had some in their dormitories. But she had always hated them for it. She had always said that drinking was wrong. It was against the rules. It was bad for character and it made people do foolish things. But didn't they look happy? Didn't those students and even the other customers with their covered faces- weren't they all happy? Sirius, she realized, looked pleased.
She lifted the glass tentatively and brought it to her lips. The smell was strong, she realized instantly. After taking a small sip, she realized that the taste was much stronger. It burned the back of her throat and she felt very hot.
She put down the glance and glared at Sirius - who grinned at her. "Did you enjoy that?"
"It was disgusting," she said, pushing the glass away from her.
He laughed loudly and to her surprise none of the customers paid them any attention. "I bet you'll change your mind."
"Not today," she said simply. And he shrugged but let the matter rest.
"Well, would you like to eat anything?" He offered her his best smile and Ophelia found it difficult to reply without stumbling on her words.
"I didn't bring any money," she said, giving him a pointed look. "And I'm not that hungry, anyway."
He frowned. It was a real, concerned, genuine frown. It was such a sight to see someone like Sirius Black, someone as beautiful and as privileged and as lucky as him, express concern. "I can pay for you, you know."
She smiled almost involuntarily. "No, it's really okay."
It was quiet at their table. Sirius took another sip from his glass, this one a bit longer than the first. Ophelia glanced down at her own glass and strongly considered trying it, just one more time.
"I don't know much about you," Sirius said thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair.
She shrugged, eyes snapping from her drink to him. "Well, we never really talked before, well - you know."
"Yeah, I," he cleared his throat and started again, "I really am sorry about whatever happened with your parents."
Suddenly, almost as though she had an epiphany, Ophelia realized that she had started something terrible. She had by some twist lied to Sirius Black. She had lied because her parents hadn't done anything to her. She knew his parents had; she heard about how he had run away from home and how even his own brother refused to call him a relative anymore. She had lied to him because she wanted something from him and he was willing to give it. He believed her.
Her face hardened from the shame. "My parents," she said bitterly, knowing that it was too late, "are intent on making me miserable."
"Did they raise you," he asked politely, "to be this proper?"
She rolled her eyes. "My mother isn't happy with how she raised me. In her esteemed opinion I am improper and proper in one instance. I am the bane of my family's existence." She found that most of this was easy. Most of what she said was true. Was this still lying?
He didn't say anything for a moment. His gaze didn't stray from hers and she felt as though he knew; he knew that this was a farce, that her parents weren't bad people, that she was lying. "So, you think this will be enough to piss 'em off?"
She narrowed her eyes.
"I mean, do you think that this, drinking- sorry, not drinking your Firewhiskey on a Thursday night in the Hog's Head with a Marauder - will that be enough?"
It wasn't a difficult question to answer. This would have been enough to anger her parents. It would be enough to shut her mother up and it would be enough to stop those harsh letters from coming. But this wasn't just about that. This was about how she was boring. This was about how she judged things. This was about how she was so pleased after sleeping in the boys' dormitory.
"I want to make a statement," she said clearly, leaning forward. Sirius rose one brow curiously. "I want to make a statement for my parents and my brother and my friends and my professors and my house and -" she stopped herself before her next word could leave her mouth: you.
"What sort of statement?"
She sighed, feeling slightly disappointed. "I- I don't really know." She inched her hand towards her glass. "That I'm not what I appear to be, I suppose."
He glanced at her with a half-smile. She raised the drink to her lips and took a long sip this time, feeling the burning sensation. But she welcomed it. She let it hug her insides and she felt her mouth spread into an easy smile. "That I'm not always so," she snorted, "sober."
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