Chapter 1 : Lighting the Fire
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Platform 9 ¾ was, as usual, packed with parents and students. I just happened to be one of them, along with my twin brother, Apollo Gaunt, my father, Marcus Gaunt, and my mother Lucretia. My father, as he had done since I was twelve, didn't even look at me, making it quite obvious that he was only there for Apollo. My mother, however, took the liberty of fawning over both her children. She swelled with pride whether she was hugging and kissing her Gryffindor daughter or her Slytherin son. I looked around through my mother's hair, trying to see if my mother was the only one who was acting absolutely insane just because her children were off for their last year. James Potter's parents were acting the same way, while Sirius Black stood a little ways off, rolling his eyes; Lily Evans was being cheerfully hugged by her muggle parents as her younger sister scowled with a disgusted look. Severus Snape was sitting alone, while Narcissa Black stood flirting happily with Lucius Malfoy, who had already graduated.
Deciding that parents in general were all crazy, I brought my attention back to my own family. Lucretia had finally released me, turned now on Apollo, who wore a disgusted look identical, like everything else, to mine. His black hair hung in his face as he shot a help-me look at his twin, his crystal blue eyes pleading. I just rolled my eyes at him, responding with a too-bad expression as my father finally turned his attention to me, even if it was with a scowl.
"Artemis," he said simply, "keep your grades up and don't disappoint me again." I nodded, but his attention was already gone, returned to my brother, and my mother wasn't getting back to me anytime soon.
So I just shrugged to nobody and dragged my trunk to the train, getting on and searching out a compartment. Most were still empty because there were still a few minutes until the train left. I sighed and collapsed halfheartedly onto the seat, waiting for the train to depart. Thinking angrily about my father's coldness, and about his single sentence, I scowled at the empty seat across from me. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't ever go back there again after school, except maybe to see Apollo, and of course when my mother managed to drag me back. My father had always been that way, ever since I'd left for Hogwarts first year and gotten sorted into Gryffindor. My father, as a Gaunt, was rather insane (because of all the inbreeding that had occurred before himself), and he valued his reputation above all. He wasn't a Death Eater; he didn't care for the risks that came along with it. However, he wholeheartedly supported You-know-who's cause. I didn't agree with this at all, another reason for his harsh attitude.
My four dorm mates interrupted my musings. Lily Evans entered the compartment, followed by Melanie Jordan, most popular of the five Gryffindor girls seventh, possibly even most popular girl in Hogwarts, and whom I personally despised though almost everyone else adored her; Olivia Weathering, poor Olivia, a muggle-born girl who was Lily's best friend and was always picked on by, well, everyone, mostly for her secondhand belongings and her dull sense of fashion; and my best friend, Mira Pollux, a half-blood witch whom my father disapproved of, but did allow me to hang out with away from Hogwarts. The last waved at me enthusiastically; Lily waved too, albeit not so energetically as Mira. Melanie just glared at me, obviously as unhappy to have to share a compartment with me as I was to share one with her. Mira jumped onto the seat next to me, while the other three just sat gracefully on the other seat.
"Hi, Ar, how was your summer?" Mira asked, giving me a big hug. "Guess what?" she added before I could respond, puffing her chest out to show me a shiny prefect badge on her chest. "Lily was made Head Girl, so I'm a prefect now! Isn't that cool?"
I stared in surprise at the badge before slowly nodding, picking up speed to make it look like I was really ecstatic. "That's awesome! Congratulations, Mira. You too, Lily. Head Girl, that's pretty cool."
Mira nodded quickly, a big grin across her face, while Lily also nodded and flushed in pride. Her expression, however, was quickly dominated by a frustrated look.
"You'll never guess who was made Head Boy."
"Um, Remus?" I guessed, wondering how this could possibly be a surprise.
"I said you'll never guess, not pick the most obvious answer; because that's wrong. James Potter is Head Boy."
My mouth dropped open. "What? James? But how is that even possible? He was never even a prefect!"
"I have no idea! I don't understand how he could be Head Boy! I mean, James Potter, for god's sake!"
Lily's face was growing to match the color of her red hair; she was obviously very angry about the situation, though all I felt was shock. James Potter was Head Boy. The statement was unbelievable; James had been a big troublemaker since, well, forever; him and his three friends, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. Well, there was a comforting thought.
"At least Black isn't Head Boy." Melanie giggled, and Lily tilted her head, confused at my statement until realization spread across her countenance.
"That's right! You and Black are archenemies, huh? I never understood why, though. I mean, you two are so alike." She wrinkled her nose when I glared at her. "I mean, of course, that your pasts are alike, not your attitudes. In that respect, you're exact opposites." Conversation paused as the train started moving off. "Mira and I need to head off; prefect duties and all." Lily gave Olivia a wave, nodded to me, and headed out, Mira on her heels, leaving me alone with Olivia and Melanie.
Olivia smiled at me kindly. "So how was your summer, Artemis?"
"Fine. My mum's having a big fit though. Something about her babies heading off for their last year at school."
Olivia nodded sympathetically, but Melanie laughed, a musical sound that grated against my ears. "Her babies, huh? She thinks you're a baby too?"
I rolled my eyes at the pitiful insult, although I could feel my genetically shortened temper spark. "Shut it, Melanie."
"Aw, poor baby, what's wrong?" she asked in a whiny voice. "Did big bad Melanie make you cry?" The corners of Olivia mouth twitched. Melanie smirked, showing off her perfect white teeth. I glared at the pair, deciding it would be best to leave before my temper really got out of control. "Aw, what's wrong? Don't leave!"
I ignored their giggles as I left, but the compartment door slammed hard behind me. I mumbled angrily to myself as I walked down the train, my mood darkening as the person I least wanted to see poked his head out of his own compartment, probably to see what the commotion was. A smirk spread across his face when he saw who it was.
"Hey, Gaunt. Have a nice summer?" The words were kind, but the tone was mocking. I didn't reply. "Hey, Pete, what d'you think Gaunt does in the summer? I'm thinking Dumbledore." Peter Pettigrew's face popped into the doorframe next to Sirius'.
"Dumbledore? I was thinking more along the lines of McGonagall." Pete couldn't even manage to say it seriously before he burst out laughing, followed by Sirius as soon as he heard McGonagall's name.
"Fuck off, Black, I'm not in the mood," I snapped, earning myself two shocked looks, then one smirk as Sirius stepped out of his compartment and into my path, putting his hands against the wall so I couldn't pass. After all, he was the sort to poke a sleeping dragon in the eyes.
"'S wrong with you? Wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Or were you horrified when you realized who you were next to?" He smirked at the flush that crept into my cheeks.
"Actually, I just realized that I have to see your revolting face again. In fact, it makes me rather nauseous."
"Well, yours isn't much better, I can tell you. At least some people think I'm attractive."
I rolled my eyes and ground my teeth together. As always, Sirius was being a right pain in my ass. "Of course they do," I said sarcastically, although I knew that it was true that everyone thought he was attractive, because he was. Of course, I was too, as had been proven by my increasing list of boyfriends. Not that I was a whore or anything; I was still a virgin, in fact, but that didn't mean I couldn't have a lot of boyfriends. I had my reasons, of course; if all a boy wanted you for was sex, you'd dump them all too.
Sirius smirked in response; perhaps he hadn't caught my feigned sarcasm? He leaned forward, bringing us closer, with barely inches between us. I stared at him, realizing that he'd grown quite a bit over the summer; he stood at least a few inches taller than me. His well-toned muscles could easily be seen through his cotton muggle t-shirt. "'Course. But I bet you know that better than anyone, right?" he asked, smirking wider and moving closer. Confusion blossomed in my mind; was Sirius Black hitting on me? No way.
"Sirius, what are you doing?"
Sirius looked around, dropping his arms to his sides. "Oh, hey James. Done already?"
"No, just patrolling. What were you doing just now?"
"What happened to your face, mate?" Sirius asked, changing the subject without hesitation. James didn't like it when Sirius and I argued, though I wasn't sure if it was because we usually broke something or because I was a girl. Looking around Sirius, I saw that James' face was rather red on one side, leaving me jumping to a single conclusion.
"Oh, uh, well, you know..." James muttered, ruffling his hair so that it was even more untidy than usual, a hard thing to achieve and something he only did when he didn't want to admit to something. He shook his head frantically before turning to me. "So what were you doing just now?"
Sirius scowled and glared at me, warning me not to spill. Not that I would have anyways. I mean, seriously, I had a heart, whether he thought so or not. "Nothing. I was just passing by, that's all." Not technically a lie, right? I was just passing by. James gave us a suspicious look, but shrugged.
"Right. Well, you should both get back in your compartments. I'd hate for Lily to get down here and take points just cause you're out here. You two know how Lily can be..." We all stood in silence, thinking about all the injuries she'd caused to James in the past six years. Finally, James sighed and rubbed his red cheek. "Well, hop to it! Back in those compartments!" Sirius saluted him jokingly, gave me a final smirk and headed back into the compartment. As soon as the door was closed, James came closer and gave me a glare. "So really, what was he doing this time?"
I smiled. "Aw, Potter, you make it sound like it's all his fault." Which it was, admittedly. "'S alright, really. Just typical us."
"It sure didn't look typical."
That was what I hated about James; he was so playful and mischievous that you forgot how blunt and amazingly perceptive he was. Lily really didn't know what she was turning down. "Okay, what do you think it was?"
"Well, that's why I'm asking, isn't it? I know it looked like you two were about to go shag in a broom cupboard."
I automatically made a gagging sound, which seemed to comfort James quite a bit. "Black? And me? I'd rather die." James laughed, suddenly switching back to the James Potter I knew. "So, what did happen to your face? I could take a shot in the dark and say Lily, but I rather hate jumping to conclusions."
The rest of James' face went a shade darker to match his cheek. "Well, you know, I haven't seen her all summer..." I gave him an exasperated look. "I just tried to give her a little kiss on the cheek, that's all; and she slapped me and told me to bugger off. Then we sent all the younger prefects off, and we were alone and she slapped me again even though I didn't do anything." Wow. Lily was really pissed off, obviously.
"Oh. She's probably just confused... and shocked." James gave me his own version of confusion, so I hastened to explain myself. "She doesn't understand how you ended up Head Boy. Neither do I, honestly."
James just shrugged and smiled at me. "I'd better get back to work though, before she hits me again." He laughed jovially, and I suddenly got the impression that he was enjoying her abuse. Anything would suffice for him, I suppose, when it was from Lily, the love of his life. "See ya later, Artemis."
"Sure, James." He sauntered off, still looking awfully happy for someone who was suffering major abuse at the hands of the one he loved.
It really made me wish that I were in love.
Sirius Black watched as James and Artemis conversed right outside the compartment he was sharing with Peter Pettigrew, Jonathon Bell, and Wes O'hare, all of whom were staring at his unusually quiet self. Sirius greatly wished that he could read lips; he had the sneaking suspicion that they were talking about him. James laughed at something that Artemis said, then instantly stopped, blushing a deep crimson. They talked for a few more seconds before James turned and started walking down the train, presumably resuming his Head Boy duties. Artemis stared after him with a strange look, something like... happiness, maybe? Or envy? Desire? Aw, well, whatever it was, it made something stir in Sirius' gut.
Feelings were confusing, Sirius thought angrily, thinking about both this strange feeling of jealousy and the other one that he had felt moments before, when he'd been standing over Artemis' form, realizing just how beautiful she was. Of course, she was beautiful; she was gorgeous. Sirius had snogged a lot of pretty girls, he'd admit it; but none of them had been as stunning as she. Sirius was attracted to her, even though he didn't want to be; it was purely physical. But he'd known all that last year; what had suddenly come over him to make him lean over her like that? If James hadn't showed up, he probably wouldn't have been able to stop himself from kissing her. And then they'd be in big trouble. Because Sirius really did loathe her, even if he didn't really have a great outstanding reason to. Things like that didn't change; James and Sirius had proven that with Snivelly multiple times over the six years they'd been in school.
"Sirius? SIRIUS!" Sirius jerked back to reality, looking back at Peter, the portly boy giving Sirius a concerned look. "You alright? You looked like you were in a trance." Wes and Jonathon stared at Sirius as well, big smirks stretched across their faces.
"Dreaming about Artemis, Sirius? Can't see why you don't just shag her already," Wes commented, flinching when Sirius gave him a deep glare and a dark growl.
"S'not funny, Wes! That's just disgusting!"
"Sure, you say that now. But you know you want her," he replied, waggling his eyebrows at Sirius. Peter stared at him.
"How do you know that?" Pete asked, looking from Wes to Sirius slowly.
"Well, Peter," started Jonathon, always the smartest of the six seventh Gryffindor boys, "it's all psychology. If Sirius truly hated Artemis, like he says that he does, he wouldn't be able to stand being around her."
"He would stay far away from her, wouldn't talk to her at all. You know, most people tease and mock each other to get their attention."
"Oh, right. So you're saying the same thing about Snivelly then?" Sirius asked, giving Jon the only thing that could possibly be more wrong than him being with Artemis. Wes snorted, but Jon just rolled his eyes.
"No. Snape's a guy, Artemis is a girl. There's a difference."
"Yeah, well, I know that."
Jon sighed and rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean."
"Well then, I guess I'm just a psychotic freak. 'Course, so is she. The Gaunt family is a pureblood family. They're famous for inbreeding," Sirius said, disgust evident in his voice. "Genetics are all messed up. She's just lucky she got her mum's genes; you've seen her dad right?" The four boys paused, mentally comparing the twins to their father. His brown eyes faced in different directions, his black hair graying.
"That's true," Jon said after a few minutes, "but she's really not a complete nutter. She's got some very redeeming qualities." He paused when three pairs of eyes turned on him. "Not physical qualities! I swear, all you three think about... in any case, she's really quite nice, and she's very smart."
"You're forgetting the fact that she's a bitch," Sirius interrupted.
"Only to you. In case you never noticed, James and Artemis get along quite well, though nothing will happen there since James is completely smitten with Lily." Jon looked around the compartment thoughtfully. "In fact, she treats the three of us quite well. I think you might be the only one that she's really bitchy with."
Sirius grimaced. "Right. Let's talk about something else now. Hey Pete, you think she really does do McGonagall?"
I was extremely relieved when Lily and Mira showed back up at our compartment, which I had reluctantly returned to after my run in with Sirius and James. It must have shown on my face because they both gave me weird looks. Mira took her place next to me.
"It wasn't that bad, was it?" she whispered quietly, looking around at Olivia and Melanie. I just shrugged. Mira gave me an apologetic look. "I'm sorry. I had to patrol, but we're almost there." She paused, as if unsure if she should say what she wanted to. "I, er, heard you saw Sirius."
Melanie giggled at Sirius' name. She was his most recent ex; I was sure that she still wanted him though. It was hard to think otherwise when she giggled loudly at any mention of his name, even if it was a small whisper. Sirius was the one who had broke it off, though none of the girls knew why. Mira ignored her.
"I'm sorry, Ar, I should've been there! I know I'm your back up and all. A woman shouldn't go into battle alone!" she exclaimed, clenching her fists and acquiring a dramatically determined expression.
"S'alright, Mira. How were you supposed to know? James saved me, anyways; but really, Black was getting a little confusing..." I hesitated, but it was too late to hide it now.
"What do you mean? James saved you? And Sirius was confusing? Come on, Ar, tell me what happened!" The other three girls leaned in closer to get the juicy scoop as well.
"Er, well, you know... he was just acting different. I couldn't really tell since he was talking and acting with the same mocking attitude, but I think he was hitting on me..."
Melanie responded with a loud and very undignified snort of laughter. "Sirius? Hitting on you? Did you fall on your head this summer, Gaunt? There's not a way in hell that Sirius Black was flirting with you!" I frowned; Melanie was right, of course. Sirius Black flirting with me was the equivalent of the Apocalypse or hell freezing over. "Besides, I'm going to get him back this year, just you wait and see! I've got a plan, and Sirius won't be able to resist me!" The rest of Gryffindor's girls seventh stared at her. I began thinking that she was way too obsessed.
"Well, I, for one, am going to find some way to force James Potter to fall out of love with me. I'm sick of it and I'm going to get rid of him."
Olivia piped in with her own romantic fantasies. "I'm going to make myself the perfect woman for Cyllarus Vanderly!"
"That Hufflepuff boy? Good choice!" Mira commented, then put on a dreamy look. "I just want gorgeous Hyper Paxley! You know, that Ravenclaw. He's so handsome!"
I rolled my eyes. The four of them looked at me for my put. "I'm just going to avoid guys altogether this year. Love is overrated anyways."
"Says the virgin who's afraid of sex. Face it, you're not mature enough to handle relationships," Melanie smirked. "You'll always be alone, just because you won't just shag a man when he wants it."
I snorted. "Right, I'm totally into only being loved for my body. I'm more of a fan of platonic relationships; no sex for me. It's not my fault I attract assholes who only want to shag."
"Oh yeah? I think you're just afraid. Afraid of getting close to a guy. I bet you'll be a virgin your whole life."
"Well at least that way I won't get screwed over with STDs or a kid! Two things I'm not into having right now. Men are impossible anyways, and really, I pity anyone who dates for sex and not for love. Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot; how old is you're son, now?"
"Alright, you two, cut it out!" Lily yelled, at which point I realized that both Melanie and myself were standing up, glaring at each other with fiery fury. "If Artemis wants to take a vow of celibacy, let her! And if Melanie wants to shag Sirius Black silly, go for it! I know you two can't stand each other, but we've got one more year to go, and either of you put a toe out of line and I'll have your asses!" She took a deep breath, rearranging her robes. "Now get changed, all of you; we'll be there in a few minutes and I'll be damned if our Gryffindor seventh doesn't look more proper than everyone else!" With that, she stormed out of the compartment, presumably to whip the boys seventh into shape.
"I bet you can't go the whole year without a boyfriend," Melanie said suddenly, her face breaking into an evil grin. "In fact, I dare you to try it." I stared at her. "I don't think you can do it. For one, you're way too kind, as long as we aren't talking Sirius. There's no way you'll be able to refuse all those guys. Second, a girl's best friend is her boyfriend. What'll you do when Mira has herself a guy and you have no one? We're in our seventh year, our last year. You can't make it to the end of the year without a boyfriend."
"Oh yeah? Watch me," I hissed, giving the evil brunette a scowl.
An awkward silence prevailed while we glared at each other ferociously, Mira and Olivia watching us in complete awe. But Melanie was trying to insult my pride; what else could I do but retaliate with something I knew insulted her just as much.
"You know what I think, though? I don't think that you have a chance with Black."
Olivia and Mira both gasped, absolute silence following right after. Melanie gazed at me with fury and pride etched in her face.
"You wanna bet?" she asked in a fierce tone. I smiled sadistically and leaned forward, whispering so that the others had to lean closer to hear.
"I bet that, no matter how hard you try, Sirius Black won't take you back." The fury in her face increased tenfold, and she seemed to struggle immeasurably to find something to come back with. She didn't get the chance, however, because our malignant conversation was cut short as Lily came back in, straightening her robes again.
"I swear, you have the right idea, Artemis. Those boys are like monkeys!"
"Like adorable, playful, lovable monkeys, Artemis," Melanie whispered in my ear.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. This was going to be a year just crammed full of fun.
((A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews would be appreciated!!))