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Chapter 7 : Something New, Something Scandalous
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Cut, cut, cut, the voice repeated over and over in my head as Mira cut, cut, cut my long, but soon to be short, black hair. However, I was under the impression that voice had a different cut in mind than that of my hair. Mira sighed as she snipped off another long lock of hair.
"You always let your hair get so long over summer, Ar."
I rolled my eyes and stuck my tongue out at her reflection in the mirror. "That's because I like it that way."
"You just don't realize how much cuter it looks short! And your hair grows so fast; it's to your waist by the time school starts again. I like it much better chin length!"
"I bet you'd like you're hair chin length better," I muttered, scowling as another lock fell to the bathroom floor.
"I tried that, but my hair's too thick. It puffs up and I look like at big puffball, kind of like Gretchen's cat. Yours is thin enough that it makes you look beautiful!" I rolled my eyes at the mention of Gretchen's cat, which did indeed look like a puffball. Gretchen was a fourth year, and she brought her cat to school with her, where it prowled around, looking like a large dust bunny that the house elves in the kitchens had forgotten to sweep up. I had a sneaking suspicion that Gretchen made her cat look that way on purpose.
This was the yearly, well, tradition; I suppose you could call it tradition. For the first three weeks of school, ever since first year when we first met, Mira would nag and nag about my long black hair, which reached nearly to my hips. After three weeks of enduring the constant nagging, I would finally yield to her desire to cut it; she would happily do it herself, cutting my waist length hair right to my chin while I griped about it. First year's haircut had been the worst; Mira had nearly took my head off with her scissors, which had caused Sirius great amusement, of course. Madam Pomfrey had fixed my hair easily and sent me off to class. Second year, I had been very reluctant to let her shear my hair off again, but it wasn't nearly as bad as first year. It actually looked pretty good. As the years wore on, the haircut became an annual thing; I even let her trim and style it starting fourth year. Now, we were in the middle of our last annual haircut, which probably wouldn't really be the last, but we called it that anyway.
I scowled again as Mira finished up and the voice in my head scowled with me, albeit for a different reason. "Done?" I asked, looking at the mirror with a sour expression.
"Yup! This is my best one yet! Let me go get my camera!" she exclaimed, running out of the bathroom. I sighed and examined my new hair with a critical eye. It was indeed the best cut she'd given me, the layers razor cut and giving me a rough look. I shook my head wildly, just to see if it would change the look, but it settled exactly the same way it had been. I rolled my eyes at a lock that now hung in front of my eyes, running down the length of my face until it reached and tickled my nose spitefully, knowing that it was going to be a stubborn bit of hair.
Scissors! The voice in my head called to me ecstatically as my eyes settled on the scissors that Mira had left on the counter next to me. I quickly shut my eyes to the sight, imagining that the scissors didn't exist and gripping the sides of my stool tightly to keep my hands from moving. All the muscles in my body tensed, fighting against themselves as the voice in my mind tried to take control. I shook my head again, this time in an attempt to rid myself of the evil thoughts of suicide and homicide that streamed from the consciousness that wasn't mine. When I opened my eyes, Mira was staring at me.
"What are you doing, Ar?" she asked inquisitively while she gave me an amused look. "You look like a dog."
She brandished her camera and made me sit still so that she could take the picture. She even went so far as to force me laughingly to pose, which I did while laughing hysterically myself. We enjoyed ourselves for a few minutes more before Melanie entered the bathroom, shot us a don't-be-so-stupid look, and headed for the bathtub. We both laughed at Melanie's expression, but we stopped taking pictures and headed back to the dorm room, where Olivia and Lily both complimented my new haircut and praised Mira for her handiwork. We went on to discuss the very strange beings that are men; Olivia was convinced that her goal to attract Cyllarus Vanderly, the hottest Hufflepuff boy in Hogwarts, was closer than ever.
"Mira, you should give me a cool new haircut! Maybe it will help!" Olivia beamed as Mira nodded in excitement.
"Of course! How do you think we should cut it?" The two ambled towards Mira's bedside table, where Mira kept stacks and stacks of magazines, both muggle and magic. I rolled my eyes at them, smiling in amusement as they continued to plot ways to ensnare Cyllarus Vanderly's heart.
"How was today's detention?" Lily asked, sitting gracefully on the edge of my bed, watching as I started sifting through my trunk in search of a clean pair of pajamas. I looked up at her in the middle of my search with a grimace. "Sirius was there again?"
"No, but Peter and Patton Wanker, er, I mean, Lexing, were. Is there some sort of evil scheme being put into action here, Lily?" Lily gave me an innocent look.
"I've no idea what you're talking about, Artemis. You were polishing trophies with Mr. Filch today, right?" I nodded. "Well, that doesn't sound too bad for a Wednesday detention. It's raining outside, so you couldn't help Hagrid today."
I smiled and changed my search for pajamas to a search for a jacket. Rain was my favorite weather; whenever I got the chance, I took a long walk in the rain to clear my mind and wash away my troubles. "Really? I didn't know it was raining. You want to go for a walk, Lily?" Lily shot me an exasperated look and shook her head.
"That reminds me, though. Quidditch practice was tonight, and the team tracked mud everywhere! I told James to clean it up, and he said he wanted to talk to you." She glared at me. "And then, being the idiot that he is, he asked me out and tried to kiss me." I showed her how I felt about that by allowing disappointment to cover my face as I drew my navy blue jacket from my trunk.
"Really, Lily, James likes you a lot. Can't see why you don't just give him a chance." I shrugged as she blushed and opened her mouth to argue. "It's not any of my business. I'm sorry. I was just saying. I'll be back in a while, okay?" I didn't give her the chance to respond before I ducked out the door and down the stairs. When I reached the base of the stairway, I glanced around the common room for James' wild black hair and saw him sitting at a table with his friends, laughing and messing around like he always did. James' and Sirius' hair was limp and wet; I couldn't tell if it was from the rain or because they'd showered. As I approached, all four of them went silent, staring blankly at my hair.
"What the hell—" Sirius started, but I interrupted him.
"Lily said you had to talk to me, James?"
"Yeah, I..." he glanced at Sirius, then at Remus and Peter. "I am starving! Moony, Wormtail, let's go get something to eat! Padfoot, tell Artemis the good news!" he said as he jumped up and literally sprinted toward the portrait hole, followed by Remus and Peter. Sirius and I wore identical expressions of suspicion and irritation as the trio disappeared. For a few minutes, we gaped after them. Finally, I got the feeling that Sirius was staring at me instead. I sighed.
"Well, Padfoot, what's the good news?"
"What the hell happened to your head?" he countered. I glowered at him.
"Don't act stupid, Sirius." He smirked and stood up so that he towered over me like normal. "You know Mira does this every year. If I remember correctly, we do this every year too."
"Yes we do," he chuckled, ruffling my hair with both hands and sneering at me.
"Let's get it over with then," I muttered. Sirius happily obliged by tugging playfully on my hair, messing it up as much as he could, and finishing by pulling out his wand and turning it a deep purple grape color while I hit him, kicked him, and otherwise tried to push him away from me without result. He stifled a burst of laughter as he looked me up and down.
"Going somewhere?" he asked out of the blue, pointing at my jacket, which no longer matched with my purple hair.
"Are you going to tell me what James was going to say?" Sirius just gazed at me steadily without blinking. "I was going to go for a walk," I snapped when he didn't move for over a minute.
"But it's raining outside," Sirius pointed out with a bedazzled expression. "Why would you go for a walk?" I growled at him to let him know that he was aggravating me; he sniggered in response. "I'll go with you; wait here." My mouth dropped open as he turned and disappeared up the boys' stairway. My eye twitched and my muscles tensed in frustration. Sirius Black was going to come with me?
Why? I asked myself. Why the hell does he want to come with me?
Kill him, the voice said. Get rid of the bloody fool!
I scowled at my mental voice as Sirius rejoined me, shrugging on his own jacket.
"Ladies, er, well, whatever you are first," he said, gesturing toward the portrait hole. I glowered at him and grumbled a little about the fact that he was coming too, but made my way out the portrait hole anyway. Sirius followed right behind me, close enough that I could smell his scent again. I grimaced at the odor, hoping that the rain would wash it away.
It did. As soon as we were through the front doors, Sirius shivered and pulled his jacket tighter around him, canning the scent inside. It would probably be ten times as strong when he unzipped his jacket, seeing how the aroma was crammed inside like sardines in a small can. I left my jacket unzipped, which seemed to make Sirius worried.
"Why are we out here?" he asked, eyeing my jacket zipper as we strolled down the front steps. I turned to roll my eyes at him.
"Well, I'm out here because I like to walk in the rain. I've no idea why you're here, though. Care to elaborate?" I asked, tilting my head sideways and giving him a false grin, blinking seductively a few times. He grinned back just as falsely and shook his head. I frowned and started down the front lawn towards the lake. Sirius caught up quickly and pointed at my jacket.
"You should zip that up."
I frowned at him again. "Are you my mother now?"
"You're going to get sick," he warned.
"Yes, thank you, mummy. I'll make sure that I brush my teeth before bed too, okay?"
His jaw tightened. "Whatever," he snapped back venomously. "Do whatever the bloody fuck you want."
I closed my eyes, trying to let the rain wipe away the irritation and to block Sirius from my thoughts. My breathing had quickened with my rising temper and I focused on bringing my blood pressure down to normal. When I had succeeded, or at least was fairly calmed, I opened my eyes to find us strolling around the lake, heading for a tree on the shores, where the Marauders would often lounge when they had free time and the weather was nice. I thought that the Whomping Willow would have suited them better, but I suppose that would have been rather dangerous. By the time we reached the tree, we were both soaked to the skin. We hastened to shelter ourselves beneath the branches, whose leaves were turning to orange and yellow. I zipped up my jacket.
"That's not going to help now," Sirius pointed out. I did myself the favor of ignoring him, leaning against the trunk of the tree casually, and staring out at the rippling Black Lake. "Though, I do like the wet dog look." He shook his head violently, splattering my face with drops.
"Well at least I don't act like a dog," I retorted. He smiled mischievously. "What?"
"Do it," he demanded. I stared at him with a glare, gobsmacked.
"I don't think so."
He smiled wider and nudged me with his elbow. "You know you want to."
"I also know that you're a stupid prat." Sirius scowled. "Can you just tell me what James was going to say now?"
"Impatient, aren't you?" I glowered at the waves that lapped against the shore a few yards away.
"Just tell—" he pushed me roughly, causing me to fall with a splash to the swampy grass beneath the tree. I gasped as I landed on the ground and he laughed at my infuriated look.
"Temper, Gaunt. I was getting there." He raised an eyebrow at me and leaned against the tree where I had been seconds later. "You really need to work on your temper."
I scowled and hit the slushy ground beneath me with clenched fists. "Sod off, and just tell me what James—"
"All right, all right! Don't get your bloody knickers in twist. Quidditch practice is tomorrow after class and you better not be late. Now I'm going inside before I catch a cold and you'd better follow before you get one too. Not that I care; I just don't want you sneezing all over the Quaffle." He shrugged and started to walk away.
I winced, yelped, and jumped off the ground as the rainwater began to soak into my jeans. "Wait, Black—" Sirius whirled around so fast that he tottered of balance slightly for a few seconds afterward. I shot him an amazed look. "Trying to be a ballerina, Black?" He flushed slightly pink and glared at me. I chuckled at his expression and rolled my eyes at him. "Did you just try to tell me I'm back on the team?"
"You're impatient and slow? Yes, Gaunt, you're back on the team. Now can we please go back inside before we drown or catch pneumonia or something?"
Joy and excitement overwhelmed me; before I could think about it, my arms were around Sirius' neck and my lips on his cheek. Nearly as quickly, I was off him, flushing scarlet and spinning around happily until I was dizzy. Maybe doing childish and embarrassing would distract him from the fact that I'd just kissed him?
No such luck. He continued to stare at me with a sort of disgusted, shocked, irritated, bewildered, infuriated, surprised, entranced, and any-other-adjective-having-a-strange-connotation expression as his face gradually turned first a pale white and then a tomato red. I giggled girlishly at the look before cracking up and laughing at it hysterically and openly, which in turn made his face deepen a shade.
"Shut up! You're the one who—" he grimaced and then it was my turn to blush crimson, which probably looked very strange with my grape colored hair. It must have, because Sirius began to chuckle. He stopped suddenly when he realized what he was doing. We stood in the rain in an awkward silence for what seemed like forever. Finally, Sirius said, "This never happened."
"Never happened," I agreed. "Now you hurry along, Black, before you catch cold."
"Right, come on then," Sirius said, grabbing my upper arm and pulling me along with him. I smacked his hand in an attempt to make him release me, which didn't work, to say the least.
"I didn't say let's hurry along, I said you. Let go!" He rolled his eyes, ignoring me and retaining his grip on my arm as I hit him again. Irritated, I hit him harder, and this time he flinched a little and his hold on me relaxed. The reduction of grip allowed me to pull away from him, leaving him scowling at me as I walked back in the direction that we'd come from. When I looked back, he was gone, and I sighed heavily in relief.
I returned to the tree, leaning back against it. I closed my eyes and listened to the rain hitting the lake, the grass, the leafy branches above me. It was such a relaxing atmosphere that I felt my consciousness slipping from me, only to be snatched back at the sound snuffling coming from nearby. My eyes snapped open and I looked around me quickly, stuffing my hand in my pocket and gripping my wand. To my surprise, I saw a large black dog rooting around at the base of the tree, not even two yards away. The dog looked up at me with curiously familiar gray eyes.
"Well, hello there, mate." I smiled at the dog. "Where did you come from?"
The dog inched closer, still staring up at me with his wide silver eyes. When he was at an arm's reach, I squatted and stretched my arm towards him; he sniffed my hand for a few seconds before licking my fingers and coming closer.
"You're a good boy, aren't you?" I cooed, petting his head softly. "I'm going to smell like wet dog, aren't I? Aw, well, that's the price we pay, I suppose. Planned on taking a shower later anyways." The dog licked my face before he tilted his head at me, looking almost imploring. I scratched his ear. "What is it, boy?" He whined pitifully, nudging my knee. I sighed. It was times like this that I wished that I could understand more than just snakes. "I don't know what you want." He prodded my knee again, harder. When all I did in response was express further confusion, the dog barked and took off up the hill to the front door. The action seemed to result in an epiphany of sorts; my mind seemed to figure something out, but for some reason, the enlightenment didn't seem to reach to my brain. I felt as if it should have been obvious.
I put the thought in the back of my head and reluctantly straightened up and followed the dog. When I reached the door, there was no one there. Double-checking that Sirius was absent, I shook my self as he had before and looked uncomfortably at the small puddle. Filch would have to clean it up later, and he wouldn't be very happy afterwards, but I eventually decided that I didn't really care.
Leaving the puddle behind, and probably a trail of water droplets, I made my path to the Gryffindor common room.
Sirius shook his entire body wildly, delighted by the effect as the water in his silky black fur flew in every direction. He shifted silently back to his human self, sidled into the entrance hall, and smiled at the puddle of water on the floor. He'd known she wanted to do it.
As he made his way through the halls, he encountered a very anxious seeming Peter. He smirked. "What are we doing, Wormtail?" For anxious was exactly how Peter got when James, Sirius, and Remus were busily preparing for a prank and Peter was keeping watch.
"Oh, Sirius! James and Remus are in the Charms classroom," he said, pointing to the next door. He chuckled, his eyes scanning the hallways nervously. "They're going to turn all the desserts we snatched from the kitchens into a giant cake, only it's not really going to be cake! It's going to be—"
"Wormtail, who's—Oh, Padfoot, there you are! Get in here, quick; you too Wormtail," James whispered, beckoning the two others inside.
Sirius' jaw dropped to the floor. Figuratively, of course. "What the hell is that?"
Peter grinned. "I told you, didn't I? It's—"
"A giant cake!" James exclaimed, grinning at his best mate and spreading his arms out toward the cake like he was going to hug it, though Sirius wouldn’t have recommended that, as it was covered in chocolate frosting. Sirius stared in awe at the mammoth chocolate pastry sitting on four of the desks, pushed together to support it's colossal weight.
"A giant cake..." Sirius repeated slowly. Remus rolled his eyes from where he had nearly climbed inside the cake.
"Yes, Padfoot, a giant cake."
"And what are we going to do with this giant cake?" Sirius asked, unable to keep the grin from spreading across his countenance. He sensed something conniving as the other three grinned in unison.
"Well..." Remus started.
"We're going to put dungbombs inside it," Peter interrupted.
James cut in, "And we're going to make them go off exactly half an hour before class starts so that—"
"We won't have to go to Charms class in the morning," Remus finished.
"Not to mention Professor Flitwick left all our graded essay's on his desk, and I didn't do well," Peter said. The other three Marauders stared at him. "Er, never mind..."
"That is," Sirius stated after a minute of respectful silence, "brilliant! But," he continued slowly, "I think I have a better idea." The other three looked at him with feigned patience while he let the suspense build.
"What?" Peter finally half-yelled. "What is it?"
So Sirius told them.
"Sirius! That's—" Remus began softly, but James cut him off again.
"The most brilliant idea I've heard in my whole bloody life!"
"Sirius, you're a genius," Remus admitted.
"Right..." James muttered before turning to Sirius. He quirked his eyebrow. "Did you go swimming, mate? You're soaking wet."
"Forget it," Sirius sighed. "It's weird."
James and Peter groaned simultaneously. "Sirius! You're just making me more curious!"
Sirius rolled his eyes at his best friends. "Bit nosy, aren't you blokes?"
"It has something to do with Artemis, then?" James asked. Sirius stared at him.
"How do you always jump to that conclusion, Prongs?" James responded with a confused look.
"That it has something to do with Artemis?" James made an impressive show of looking completely innocent, even though he knew exactly what Sirius meant.
"I've no idea what you mean, mate. Now are you going to help us with this cake or do we need to do it ourselves?" Sirius frowned at him but shrugged the obvious avoidance of topic off. Together, the four Marauders prepared Operation Happy Stink Day, or so James saw apt to call it. When they had concluded their mischievous actions, the guys headed off to the common room. On the way, however, and most unfortunately for Sirius, James remembered that he had been questioning Sirius as to why the latter was drenched.
"Come on, mate; just tell me."
Sirius glared at his friend. "Why is it so bloody important?"
James pouted. "I'm your best mate, right? You're supposed to tell me everything!" Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Right, like you tell me everything? Whatever," he continued before James could interrupt. "If you really need to know, Gaunt likes to take walks in the rain."
James waited for more, but nothing else came. "Walks in the rain?" he repeated. Sirius nodded. "That's... romantic." Remus laughed.
"Romantic. Sort of. Especially if, you know, you kiss in the rain. Girls like to dream about that stuff. Getting their first kiss in the rain and crap."
"Are you a girl, Prongs?" Sirius asked, turning slightly pink, though thankfully none of the other guys noticed.
James glared at him. "No! I was just saying. But, please, continue."
"Well, I wanted to keep making fun of her, so I went with her."
The other three gaped at him, Peter's mouth hanging open stupidly.
"You went with her?" Sirius rolled his eyes and nodded. "You went with her? Like, you went for a walk in the rain with her?"
"After I turned her hair purple."
"You went for a walk in the rain with her after you turned her hair purple?" James repeated, causing Sirius to turn a glower on him. "Sorry, I just wanted to make sure I heard you right. Just to be sure, you went—"
"Yes! But we didn't do anything! We argued a bit, I told her she was back on the team, I came back inside. End of story!"
The four fell into silence as they continued to walk down the corridors. Finally, James broke the awkward quiet.
"So you went for a walk in the rain with her after you turned her hair purple, and you didn't do anything?"
"Nothing makes you happy, does it?" Sirius asked, shaking his head. "What the bloody hell did you want me to do?"
James opened his mouth to reply, but Remus elbowed him in his side, shaking his head. So instead, he just opened and shut his mouth, looking a bit like a dying fish. Sirius snorted at him.
"How did she react?" Remus asked when it became obvious that James wasn't going to be speaking any time soon.
Remus rolled his eyes. "When you told her she was back on the team? How did she react?"
"She was happy," Sirius said simply, turning away so that the others couldn't see his returning blush.
"Well that was specific," Remus said sarcastically.
"I don't know, she got all happy and weird and started jumping around like she was a nutter."
James seemed to recover at this; he chuckled. "Sounds like Ar."
Sirius scowled at him. "Since when do you call her that?"
"I always call her that, just not when you're around," James admitted guiltily.
"And what do you mean, 'sounds like Ar?' She's never like that."
James shrugged. "I dunno. I guess I just know her better than you. She is like a sister to me, you know."
Now it was Sirius' turn to gape. When the Fat Lady was in sight, Sirius finally spoke again. "Are you guys trying to do something?"
Peter looked confused, but James and Remus exchanged nervous glances.
"What makes you think that?" Remus asked. "What would we be trying to do?"
Sirius just shrugged and continued to stare at them suspiciously. Their guilty looks didn't fade, and neither did Sirius' wary glare. Remus muttered the password and the four trekked through the hole and up to their dorm, rushing a bit across the emptying common room to avoid the suspicious stares of Artemis and Lily and the obsessive Melanie as she lunged towards them.
Sirius didn't mention the subject again as they got ready for bed, but he knew that, for some reason, James and Remus were trying to get Sirius to admit that he liked Artemis. Which he didn't, of course, but they seemed to think that he did. Sirius had to think of some way to show the two that there was no way that he was falling in love with his worst enemy (besides You-Know-Who, of course). So maybe he was a bit concerned about the fact that she seemed depressed and crazy and a little suicidal. There was no way in hell that he was falling for Artemis Gaunt. No way in hell.
((A/N: Thanks much great to everyone who reviewed and/or read (hopefully read, as you would be hard put to review well without reading...)! I love feeling worthy of your time and thought process! And now, you go down to that pretty little box and tell me if it sucked or was awesome!))
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