Chapter 5 : Swift
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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.
It was December. It was December first and already students were counting down the days until Christmas. It was a bother to Ophelia, who hated the idea of having to face her parents for the holidays, to see so many students (especially the first years) relish at the thought of returning home. She felt mean thinking it, especially as the holidays were supposed to be a time of generosity and kindness and other good things. She couldn't find it in her to have such high spirits.
It certainly didn't help that all of her professors were particularly irritable.
There was a general understanding amongst Hogwarts students that all the professors lost most of their sensibility as the holidays were approaching. The amount of work during these days was always daunting. Several assignments (no essay could ever be too long, Ophelia learned in her third year) were handed out, almost vindictively.
On that particular day, when Professor McGonagall stood in front of the classroom as the seventh years filed in, everyone knew that the older witch was going to let them have it. Lately, the students had been admonished for just about everything. It was a wonder that there were any house points remaining.
McGonagall was perhaps the worst. The woman was normally fierce. When she was irritated, this ferocity was alarming and terrifying and heart stopping (literally).
"Advanced Transfiguration," she said slowly, enunciating so clearly that all of the students in the front row (Ophelia was sitting in the third today) flinched. "Advanced - this is an advanced class, something I am sure all of you have forgotten." Normally during these rants, the students would turn in their seats, seeking out another student, and the two would roll their eyes or sigh or - in extreme cases - both.
But McGonagall - everyone was completely still. Even the Marauders, who were normally disrespectful and loud, were silent. In a way, all of them were trying to sum up the courage to take on whatever she would say. They were trying to grow tough skin because McGonagall's lectures always hurt someone.
"I don't know what you thought you were getting yourselves into, but the workmanship has never been so poor. Even the best students," the professor shot Ophelia an intense look and she felt her face grow hot, "have handed in assignments that are so far below expectations."
Of course after that night with Sirius, Ophelia had been a complete disaster. Alcohol wasn't something she was familiar with. After having consumed nearly her entire glass of Firewhiskey, she had felt wonderful. It was such a nice warm feeling. Sirius had told her, smirking, that he knew she would enjoy this. And she had enjoyed it. That was until she tried to move. Suddenly, her feet were not really part of her. How she managed to come back to Hogwarts, to walk all the way back to her common room (fearing she would be caught by a prefect the entire time) and into her dormitory was beyond her understanding. It was a miracle.
Of course, Sirius had been a huge help (but if he wasn't, she would've have killed him). He did promise her (the entire way back to Hogwarts, she made him repeat himself) that no one would find her. "Trust me," he said, grinning mirthfully as she gripped his arm for support, "you won't be caught."
He had been right. It had been one of the last things she thought as she sunk into her bed. He had been right and somehow, because she was drunk (she never thought she would be drunk), this didn't make much sense. How had he been right? How had she trusted him? How did she end up there? How?
She felt faint and dizzy and maybe, because of Firewhiskey, a little warm. It was an awkward feeling. Sleep was painful and she hated most of her dreams: the spinning, the quick turns and jumps, the black abyss she was kept in - even in her sleep she wished for morning to come.
But the morning after was horrible. Her head seared with pain and she couldn't help but want to kill Sirius. How could he even think that she would enjoy this? She was irritable for the entire day. Her work was considerably sloppy and below average and (this was most difficult for her to accept) wrong.
And, now, it was absolutely clear that people had noticed. McGonagall had noticed. She had seen - Ophelia was certain - something amiss in the Hufflepuff's behavior. And if McGonagall had noticed, maybe others had as well.
She considered turning to face Sirius briefly. Just to glare at him. Just to let him know that she was not happy and she was going to kill him. Just to inform him that if he thought that he was still in her good graces, he was sorely mistaken. Just to make her point.
But as she began to move, McGongall started again.
"This is not the time or place for such antics. You would think that I was talking to a group of first years instead of seventh years! Adults in the wizarding world! What would any of your parents think - that their children, who are of age, are not only handing in rubbish assignments but also failing exams? Have you all forgotten that you have NEWTs coming up? And how do you intend to pass them if you cannot manage to pay attention in class, Mr. Potter?"
Of course all the students turned to face James Potter, no longer bothered with pleasing the professor (clearly, that was something they could not achieve). James' eyes widened dramatically and Ophelia felt momentarily sorry for him. He was beyond help.
"Yes, professor," he said politely.
"This is my exact point!" Her eyes were narrowed and her face was terribly red. "None of you listen and then, when you are caught, you, well, you-"
Ophelia glanced at her wrist inconspicuously. Just how much longer was this class, anyway?
"How many more days are left?" Nancy sighed into her lunch. While she was not in Advanced Transfiguration, she was having a particularly difficult day. She had mentioned something about getting detention in Potions because Slughorn believed that her cough was an elaborate ploy to distract the other students.
"For my sake, I'm hoping one," mumbled Grace, who didn't have the heart to eat after her morning classes. "If this is the last day, I swear, I'll be really good."
Ophelia sighed and sunk into her seat. "I completely agree."
The Hufflepuff seventh years ate in the same general area at every meal. They had claimed the middle area as theirs back when they were fourth years. Ophelia and Nancy sat facing the Ravenclaw and the Gryffindor tables. Grace and Francine faced them. They were quiet in comparison to the fifth years around them.
But at that moment, Francine, Nancy, and Grace burst out laughing. They laughed so loudly that other students turned to look at them, most of them awed. Ophelia felt some curious stares linger on her, specifically. She raised her eyes to meet these glances, eyes narrowed with bitterness.
If there was one thing Ophelia was good at, it was being incredibly reserved.
"What the hell was that?" she asked irritably after her friends were done several minutes later.
Francine cleared her throat, a smile on her lips. "It was nothing, really. It's just that, well, no offense Ophelia, but this isn't as bad for you."
She raised her eyebrows. "What isn't as bad for me?"
"This entire ordeal with the professors," she said easily, still smiling slightly in the way that was almost inherent in certain Hufflepuffs. "I'm sure it's all very irritating for you, actually. Because, you know, they would never punish you. And they don't even have a reason to. But the other students, even us, I'll admit - we tend to break most of the rules during the holidays."
Grace nodded. "I know that I get lazy and I'll copy an assignment or I'll be out after hours and Ophelia, these are things you would never do."
She didn't know if she should have felt honored for this explanation or incredibly insulted. It felt almost as though because they thought she didn't do those things that she wasn't really one of them. She wasn't really a student. And if she wasn't a student, she didn't have the right to want to go home. She didn't have the right to moan and groan about essays. And she certainly didn't have the right to feel anything more than irritation for the professors' lengthy lectures.
This was what she was talking about, she realized as she took a sip of her pumpkin juice. This was what she had been referring to when she told Sirius about how she was perceived. Even her friends, even the girls she lived with, even they limited her to certain things.
She wanted to tell them that she would get lazy as well. She wanted to tell them that she had been out after hours. She wanted to tell them that she had slept in the boys' dormitories. She wanted to tell them that she had snuck out after hours with Sirius Black. And she wanted to tell them that she had her first Firewhiskey and -
But what would it prove? Would it prove that she was like them? Would it prove that she was just as human (because this was what they liked to claim, whenever Flitwick would hand out detentions)? Or would it only serve to show that good girl Ophelia Cross was trying to be something else? Would it only show that she wanted to be like them? That she wasn't comfortable being herself?
She considered it, mulling over what she could say and do and reasonably prove to her three closest friends. Giving Nancy a close lipped smile, she nodded. "I just wish they would teach the lessons sometimes." Her friends, she noticed, grinned at this. "Haven't you heard?" she asked sarcastically. "NEWTs are coming up."
With half of lunch over and one of her only breaks coming up, she excused herself from the table. "I've got to get a book from the library. I don't want to have to deal with getting some silly fifth year level explanation on goblin uprisings." Not waiting for them to respond, she pivoted and walked out of the Great Hall.
Madame Pince was afraid of Ophelia. She couldn't understand why - she had never given the older woman any reason to dislike her, let alone fear her. But the librarian was terrified of the Hufflepuff. It was painfully clear - the minute Ophelia would walk into the library, Pince would sprint out.
Other students would notice. Had she been anyone else, someone who was teased and taunted, this would have been a source of entertainment. But she was Ophelia Cross and she knew that instead of entertainment, this detail made the others curious. What was it, they probably wondered, about her, a righteous Hufflepuff, that scared Pince? It was alarming, she realized as she walked to the library, because Hufflepuffs weren't supposed to frighten anyone. Wasn't that a characteristic of Slytherins? And it wasn't as though Ophelia was a brash person or a particularly repulsive person. And it wasn't as though she was the only righteous student in the school.
But there was something about her that frightened the librarian. And it might have been funny, if it wasn't so odd.
Of course, the minute she opened the door and Pince caught sight of her, she scrambled out. The other students glanced up, slightly confused and then, upon seeing that it was just Ophelia, they ducked their heads back into their books.
She walked towards one of the isles, knowing that the book she needed for her essay (honestly, she was going to lose count of all these assignments) was there. She turned in and saw, much to her surprise and, upon seeing clearly, her irritation, Sirius Black holding the very book she wanted.
"What are you doing?" she said, her voice a notch higher than it should've been, considering the location.
He turned to look at her, gray eyes narrowed severely. Then, maybe after seeing that it was her, he grinned easily. "I doubt that's your library voice," he whispered dramatically. "Unless, this is an elaborate scheme to get me kicked out-"
"Why is everything always elaborate when it comes to you?" she asked, her voice much lower now. She moved towards him, eyes intent on the book, that was now underneath his arm. "And, you know how Pince is." She raised her eyebrows at him.
He was still for a moment and then he nodded. "Oh, that's right. She absolutely terrified of you."
Ophelia frowned deeply. "Don't say it like that!"
"I'd ask how you did it," he said easily, "but I bet that it just sort of happened." She scowled and he chuckled. "You know, you give off the impression that you'd be a hostile drunk - but you're actually very amiable then." Her eyes widened at the mention of the night and she took a step forward, an arm raised in effort to have him lower his voice.
He stopped speaking but offered her a small smirk. She waited a moment, glancing around to see if anyone of the students had heard. And then, she rounded on him. "Would you like me to make it a permanent change?" she asked bitterly, eyes narrowed fiercely.
"Well," he said, a mischievous glint in his eyes, "it would certainly be interesting."
She looked at him thoughtfully. She couldn't believe that even after that night, even after she told him about who she was, even after everything - Sirius Black still considered Ophelia to be a character. And it wasn't even a good character. It was the character nobody else wanted to be.
She sighed, "So, now, I'm boring." She took a step away, turning on her heel, forgetting that she needed the book he had and trying feebly to convince herself that she was okay with this new realization.
Sirius grabbed her arm. "Wait," he said, moving so that he was in front of her now. "I never said-" he stopped and his face softened. "Did someone tell you that?"
She took a step away from him. "Don't treat me like that. I'm not some little kid, alright? I'm perfectly fine taking care of myself."
"I'm sorry," he started-
"I get that you think that I'm completely incapable of doing anything-"
"Did I ever say that?"
"and that I would just stand there and let someone insult me-"
"I never said that!"
"but I do have a bit more dignity than that!"
If Pince had been there, they would have been kicked out immediately. But because she was not, they stood there, Ophelia furious and Sirius more than slightly confused.
"What the hell happened?" he asked, eyebrows raised in surprise.
She opened her mouth, ready to argue again. But something sensible reeled her back in. What was she doing? Did she really just yell at him for being, well, him? Sensible and swift, she shook her head, the bitterness fading. "Nothing," she voiced, her shoulders dropping. "Sorry- it's just the pre-holiday nerves, I guess." She offered him a small smile. "After hearing McGongall go on and on, I got a bit temperamental." He nodded, eyes curious. "Or maybe just mental," she joked.
"You sure you're alright?" he asked after a minute of silence. "Chivalry dictates that I walk you to your next class, but only if you promise not to kill me."
Ophelia shook her head. "I'm got a free, actually. And I wouldn't kill you." She walked away from him and turned towards the tables. "Maiming, maybe," she mused, just loud enough for him to hear.
He caught up, of course, and took a seat next to the one she had already occupied. "I've got a free too," he explained when she looked at him, surprised.
"Can I see that book?" she asked, pointing at the one he was currently trying to force inside his bag.
He tsked "Ophelia, what kind of reckless behavior is that?" He saw one of the books already on the table, an old copy of Quidditch Through the Ages, and flipped through it.
She rolled her eyes. "Because Quidditch is so reckless."
Looking up at her, he grinned and raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Isn't it?"
"Foolish and reckless aren't the same thing," she said, not even bothering to see his expression. He was, of course, a fan of the sport. And really, she expected him to find offense in her statement. Her mother would have said that this reaction was exactly what she wanted. Ophelia didn't see it that way; to her, it was simply a nice little byproduct.
Sirius stiffened for a moment. While she hadn't been looking at him, upon feeling the tension, she felt compelled to have her eyes on his. It was such a brief moment; he chuckled, clearly amused, seconds later. "I would think," he said smoothly, "that they meant the same thing to you."
She began to take her parchment and quill out of her bag. "I never said you couldn't be both at once. You, of course, are solid proof of that."
"So, now, I'm foolish and reckless. Why, Ophelia, I'm absolutely flattered." He reached over and grasped her parchment. "What sort of person spends their frees doing- what is this History of Magic?" He looked up from her half-done essay to raise an eyebrow at her.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Yes, and what's wrong with that? When do you suppose I should do my work? In the five minutes before class?"
He grinned at her but there was something strange in his smile; it was a bitter amusement and Ophelia found herself attracted and intimidated all at once. "I suppose, you think," he started coolly, handing her back the parchment, "that I have as much common sense as a first year." He paused and she refused to respond to his (what was that exactly?) accusation. "Clearly, the only reason you approached me was because of my good looks."
She felt a little uneasy but, upon seeing his confidence, refused to back down. "Clearly," she said, eyes flashing with ferocity. "When I asked you to help me, what I really meant to say was, 'Oh, Sirius, why don't you just take me?' " She raised her eyebrows slightly afterwards, feeling proud of herself; stringing along that sentence was completely unlike her. But it felt good. It felt absolutely fantastic to say something like that to Sirius Black.
If he was surprised, he certainly didn't show it. Instead, with an alluring smirk, he inched towards her, head bowed slightly. "A reckless girl," he murmured, eyes glittering, "wouldn't have given me the option of declining."
It wasn't a game, Ophelia realized instantaneously. Well, it might have been a game but it wasn't one she could play. There were rules she didn't know and instructions she couldn't understand. Did she really think that she could stump this boy? She had wanted to win and she had thought it was possible to beat him. But now, with him so close to her, his latest response ringing in her ears, it seemed hopeless. He was too reckless for this, she realized. He was too experienced when it came to the game. He was too clever, too brave, too quick. She couldn't win.
She raised her eyes to meet his, all the while restraining herself from responding. She wanted to hit him for being so direct (but a better part of her brain insisted that she started the entire ordeal). She wanted to tell him that whatever friendship they had managed to form was slowly slipping (but she knew that this sort of response would only prove that he was right and she was unbelievably naïve). And she wanted to lean into him and test if he was as seductive as he made himself out to be. But the moment passed quickly, leaving her embarrassed and angry and confused. "I -"
He interrupted her, moving his body away from hers diplomatically, "Say, do you have a broom?"
She narrowed her eyes in confusion. "No," she said, drawing the word out.
"You'll have to use mine, I guess." Her eyes widened in shock. "Meet me at the pitch after dinner, alright?" He stood up, slinging his satchel over his shoulder. When she didn't say anything, didn't even move in acknowledgment, he touched her arm lightly. "Alright?" he repeated, something akin to amusement in his eyes.
She nodded, feeling a lump form in her throat. He grinned and walked away smoothly. She watched him exit the library with a nervous expression on her face. She had said yes to him (again) and he had touched her (again) and she couldn't help but feel that she was losing control of the situation (again).
How she managed to convince her friends that she was going to the library again was a feat of its own. Her friends, all of whom meant well, were particularly difficult to shrug off. Grace, Ophelia knew, noticed details easily.
She was lucky that she didn't have to worry about sneaking a broom out of her common room (because even the most oblivious person would notice Ophelia, a girl who detested Quidditch, leave with a broom).
She had made her way through the halls, avoiding Flitch and Peeves. She supposed that she had made it through the most difficult part of the night.
That was, until she came to the Pitch and saw Sirius flying gracefully in the sky.
Ophelia, like all the other Hogwarts students, had to take a course in flying in her first year. But, unlike most of her peers, she absolutely hated flying. It unnerved her. It scared her. The constant fear of falling to her death would always pop into her mind. After the course was over, she decided that flying, like many other things in life, would be limited to a certain period in her life. It wasn't something she wanted to continue. And, in a similar fashion, Quidditch, which incorporated flying, hardly interested her. She would be lying if she said that she went to more than one game.
Sometimes, when she would wander around the grounds, she would catch sight of one of the four teams practicing. Most of the players, although their captains claimed they were all brilliant, lacked grace. Sure, the chasers could toss around the quaffle and the beaters could hit the bludger with an alarming force and the keeper- well, the point was that the players could all play well. But most of them were not gifted flyers.
Sirius, however, was. He looked as though he was born knowing how to grasp a broom, how to ride smoothly, how to capture the attention of his audience.
Ophelia looked up at him, floored. He looked beautiful, she realized. His body, which she found herself glancing at appreciatively, moved fluidly, instead of with the strange jerks most of the players had. When he saw her and dove downwards, she turned red. How long had she been staring?
"You know, I never took you as someone who arrives fashionably late," he commented easily, lifting his legs off the broom and holding it in his hand. "But this is the second time I arrived before you did."
She shrugged, fingers pulling down on the sleeve of her jumper. It was a cold night and she was glad that she had changed out of her uniform and into the muggle sweats her mother had bought her. "Both times I considered not coming at all," she confessed, taking a step towards him, eyes lingering on the broomstick. "Although, I have to admit, the idea of getting completely drunk is slightly more favorable than falling to my death."
He laughed loudly and her eyes widened in surprise. "If I didn't know better," he said, grinning, "I would say that you just implied that you want to go back to the Hog's Head."
He offered her the broom and she took an instinctive step backwards. "Sirius," she said, her voice breaking slightly. "What will this prove? This hardly even seems- there is no point in this."
"Of course there is a point in this," he said, taking a step towards her and putting the broom within her grasp. "I've never even seen you at a game. And if you don't go to a game, how would you go to one of the after parties?"
"I could crash," she replied instantly, moving away from him. "What's more rash than sneaking in?"
"I'm pretty sure we had an agreement, something along the lines of trusting me," he said, an eyebrow raised daringly. He handed her the broom and she held it, feeling the coarse wood underneath her fingertips. She was going to die.
She swallowed, looked at the object in her hand and, then turned to face him. "I really don't think this is a good idea."
"You realize that nothing is going to happen, don't you?" She didn't say anything and he chuckled. "You know how to ride a broom. Everyone took those lessons."
"That was a long time ago," she reasoned.
Sirius grinned. "I sort of remember you from first year, actually." He looked at her curiously and she felt her face grow hot. "We weren't in the same class or anything, I don't think. But I remember you."
"I feel honored."
"You know," he said lazily, his fingers pushing her shoulders slightly (and she wasn't sure why until she found herself straddling the broom), "you haven't changed much."
She grinded her teeth and turned her head abruptly, her dark eyes flashing at him. "That's just what every seventh year wants to hear. That in seven years, we have managed to remain as naïve and innocent and inexperienced as when we first arrived outside the castle."
"Go," he said, stepping away from her, giving her enough room to kick off.
"This isn't going to prove anything," she said, fingers tightening around the broomstick. "I'm going to be sloppy and horrible and it's going to give you another reason to gloat around me."
Sirius looked unconcerned. "I think you should try some dives. I think you'd be good at it.
"Is this where you bring all the girls," she asked mockingly, head turning away from him. She braced herself, feeling the wind push locks of dark hair away from her face. "Because I'm pretty sure when they asked for a ride, this wasn't what they meant."
There was an eerie stillness behind her and she considered turning around to see if everything was alright. But then, feeling his presence (although the sensible part of her brain informed her that he hadn't moved at all), she tossed the thought out. "If you don't kick off," he said softly, his voice gentle and charming and (she couldn't believe she thought this!) sexy.
Ophelia didn't even think about it; she kicked off and flew, leaning forward. She didn't think about the overwhelming distance between herself and the ground. She didn't think about how fast she was going. And she didn't think about the cold air that stung her face as she continued to travel upwards.
She thought about the boy who had his eyes on her.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," she said, swinging her legs over the broom and walking carefully on the ground. She felt the need, despite her logic, to verify that the ground could sustain her.
Sirius grinned and took his broom from her. "I think you know exactly what I'm talking about." He cocked his head towards the castle and she walked alongside, stifling a yawn. "You had a good time."
"It was absolutely freezing," she said, eyes trailing on the ground. The snow that fell a week ago still clung to the grass and she shivered as she felt some of the snow seep into her trainers. "You couldn't have picked a more suitable time - perhaps when the sun was out?"
He stopped walking and she followed his suit. "It's your friends that would mind," he reminded her, his tone condescending. "Did you tell them where you were going, Ophelia?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you suggesting that I care what they think of me?"
"That is the entire reason you're doing this," he said, his eyes darkening slightly. "Because you do care."
Without missing a beat, she continued to walk towards the castle, ignoring the boy walking only a few meters behind her. They entered the castle without speaking once to each other and separated to go to their common rooms.
As she approached the Hufflepuff portrait, she tried to calm herself. There was no reason to be so angry, she tried to convince herself. There was no reason to be so mad. There was no reason.
So, what if she cared what other people thought of her? She was absolutely entitled to. And, for him to look at her so haughtily, as though she was the only person who cared about such useless things? Who did he think he was? How dare he act as though he was beyond such thinking?
Ophelia knew that Sirius and his marauder friends all cared about how they were perceived. It explained how they got to be where they were. The only person who didn't care about perception might have been Dumbledore; but even this seemed completely unlikely.
She entered the common room and was surprised to find it empty. The fire, much to her displeasure, was dying. She tossed off her trainers and left them near one of the armchairs. Walking in just her socks, she sighed deeply and leaned against the sofa.
Sirius Black was good looking. He was charming and he was certainly mysterious. It wasn't the only observation she had made about the boy but it was one she made all the same. She would have had to be blind not to notice this about him. It was impossible to look at him and not know that he was beautiful. And if she hadn't known it, she was fairly certain that she would have been comfortable around him.
But she wasn't. Because, with his good looks came something else. There was something in Sirius that made him slightly dangerous. He wasn't dangerous in the same sense as the Slytherins were. She knew, in the end, that he would never hurt her. But, recalling the way his eyes would change color and the way he was able to manipulate his voice, she realized that there was something strange about him.
And she didn't appreciate it. She felt on edge around him. She felt as though he knew what she was thinking and she felt like he always had the upper hand in any situation.
Sirius may have been good looking, she thought, climbing the stairs to the dormitories and remembering his handsome face; but he was too dangerous, too clever, too swift for a girl like her.
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