Chapter 8 : But Whoever Heard of a Giant Cake?
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((Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, but I do own... er... stuff?))
I yawned widely as the first sounds of waking arose around the dormitory. I scowled at the lock of hair between my eyes and blew at it frustratingly to no avail. Giving the cause up as hopeless, I changed into my school uniform and robes. By the time I was ready, the other four girls were barely getting out of bed. I rolled my eyes at the exhausting slowness of the others as I glanced in the mirror. My hair was still purple, though it had gotten darker, slowly adjusting back to my usual black, and was now more plum colored than vivid, electric purple, which I saw as I definite improvement. Last year, he had turned my hair neon orange, and the year before that it had been hot pink. Sighing, I turned to Mira.
"I'll wait for you downstairs."
Mira just nodded unenthusiastically and went on with pulling her robes on. I chuckled and slipped out the door, going down the spiral staircase to the common room, where I sat in the nearest armchair and closed my eyes. "Mornings suck," I told the common room.
"Yes they do," the common room replied. I snorted and spoke without opening my eyes.
"You're up awfully early. You realize we've still got about two hours before class starts, right?"
"Yes, well, I've got some things to do. I wish I were still in bed though..."
I opened my eyes and gazed at James in suspicion. "You've got what sort of things to do?" He grinned impishly and didn't reply. "Should I be nervous?"
"Well, you might want to skip breakfast today, or go early."
"You realize you'll end up in Azkaban if you've poisoned the food, right?"
James guffawed at my allegation. "We didn't poison the food," he said, still laughing quietly. "Nice hair," he commented, obviously wanting to change the subject.
I sighed. "Yes, well, better than that nasty green he did third year."
"Definitely. I still think it was boogey colored."
"Baby vomit," I countered. He snorted and shook his head.
"If you say so. I'll see you later. Skip breakfast." Without another word, he walked off, obviously having seen his friends; I watched him go with mounting irritation.
"Idiots," I muttered under my breath.
"Who are?" Lily asked as she joined me, somehow managing to look much more awake than she had five minutes before. Her brilliant green eyes peered at me curiously beneath her straightened red hair. I jerked my head in the direction James had gone and Lily seemed to understand. Her green eyes instantly became suspicious as she furrowed her brows and glared at them. "Why?"
"I'm not sure yet, I'll tell you when I figure it out." Lily scowled at me, but I just shrugged. "Sorry," I added, just in case. "James wants us to skip breakfast."
The suspicion came back immediately, now tripled across her countenance. She redoubled her efforts to shoot laser beams out of her eyes at the four Marauders, and it looked like she was very close to succeeding. "Why?" she asked again.
"He wouldn't tell me." She looked as if she were about to tackle James and force it out of him, so I hastened to continue. "He didn't poison the food," I said stupidly. The obtuse statement seemed to work, however, as Lily's impaling glare changed to a look of utmost puzzlement and settled on me instead. I found the gaze immensely uncomfortable, especially since Lily was standing above me, an easily advantageous position. I hurriedly stood, and Lily seemed to realize that she was gawking at me impolitely. She recovered and hooked her arm through mine, pulling me towards the portrait hole.
"We'd better go check it out then!"
"Er, why?" I asked, grimacing. "Is the point of a warning to make you not do the thing you're being warned about?"
Lily didn't answer as we crawled through the hole in the wall and started down the corridor.
"But, Lily," I whined, trying to think of some way to keep Lily from going down to breakfast. If James had seen fit to warn me of whatever they'd done, then I had no desire to walk straight into it. I mean honestly, Lily! "What about—"
"Mira and Olivia can catch up later. Right now, we have to figure out what those stupid gits are up to."
"Lily!" I groaned, trying to pull away from her as she tugged me down the hall by my wrist. "I'm not Head Girl, you are! I'm tired, I don't want to deal with this!"
Lily just rolled her eyes at me and tightened her grip. "Oh, stop whining," she commanded. "You're the one who told me about it, you're the one who probably knows the most about it, except those bloody idiots, and that means you've got to come and help me!"
How annoying she is! The voice was back again, sounding frustrated. So bossy! I scowled at the consciousness internally.
Oh, bugger off! I snapped back at it. She's my friend and she's a damn good one too!
"All right then," I sighed, out loud to Lily. "But I told you already, I don't really know that much about it. James just said to skip breakfast. I probably won't be much help to you, Lils."
"Well still! It's nice to have back up, particularly with those four monsters!" Lily paused, suddenly taken aback. "Did you just call me Lils?"
I blinked, thinking back to half seconds ago. Well, shit. I had. "Er, yes? Is something wrong with that?"
Now Lily blinked. "I suppose not, you just surprised me." She paused again. "If you call me Lils, do I get to call you Ar?"
I smiled. "Yes, I reckon you do. That makes us best friends, doesn't it?"
"I guess so."
We walked in silence through the corridors for a few minutes.
"What you said is true though, about having back up. Reinforcements are always nice, 'specially if you're dealing with James or Black. Those two together spell absolute chaos. Course, sometimes you need a bit of chaos," I pegged on thoughtfully. I glanced inconspicuously at Lily with my peripheral vision. I was delighted to see that Lily's skin had a faint pink tint to it, meaning that she had probably understood my true meaning.
"No you don't!" she snapped savagely, making it quite clear that she had. "What you need in life is order, control! That's something that James Potter and Sirius Black don't understand! As soon as they get out of Hogwarts, they won't survive for long out in the real world!" Her tirade finished, Lily sniffed irately. I laughed.
"Of course! Whereas smart, reliable, beautiful young women like ourselves will most definitely thrive." I closed my eyes, trying to visualize Lily ten years from now. I discovered that I couldn't decide whether the vision was more frightening or more magnificent.
"Of course! We are the future of the world, and that future rests on our shoulders whether we like it or not, because men sure as hell can't handle the pressure!"
"Exactly! Why do you think I've sworn off them? They're absolute idiots! They don't know what they want, so they obviously rely on women to show them! And we've all seen how that ends up." Alas, poor Ginger. If I remembered correctly, her baby was due late last August. "Women get confused because now she's not only got the pressure of being the future, but she's also got a man to take care of, in some cases even a child or two."
"And that's precisely what puts all the pressure on women like us! Our attitude is what a real lady needs to survive in the world and succeed as a happy, single, independent woman!"
Somewhere amid our furious discussion, our voices had escalated to quiet yells, and somehow I'd lost the sarcastic tone. We continued to rant about how vital we were to the future of the Wizarding world, and in what seemed like minutes we had entered the entrance hall.
"And let me just say that Potter and Black will never—Ar, what's wrong?"
I had jerked to a stop at the top of the stairs, and now Lily was staring back at me with an alarmed look. As soon as we'd walked into the hall, I had gotten a suspicious feeling, and something told me that the Marauders hadn't done anything to breakfast.
"Er, I don't know, I've just got this weird feeling." I shook my head to clear my mind, and then began glancing around the hall, looking each person carefully in the face before moving on.
"What do you mean?" Lily inquired, looking around us herself, as if my sensation had somehow been transferred to her. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary: Melanie was strutting across the hall like a model, Patton Lexing was chatting with his friends next to the door to the Great Hall, Severus Snape was haunting a small corner reading what looked like a book about the Dark Arts, and most were hurrying to get to breakfast so that they could eat before classes started. If not for James' warning and for the horrible suspicion in my gut, I might have been one of those people.
But James had warned me, and I knew better than to take his advice lightly. Something in the entrance hall was off.
"I dunno, maybe I, er—you know!" I yelled suddenly, earning myself stares and scowls as the more sleepy students passed Lily and me on the staircase. Lily had almost toppled down the stairs in fright, and had only just managed to catch herself. "I, erm, I think I forgot my Charms book! We should go... back..." having surveyed the area, I realized that there was one place I hadn't looked yet. Lily gave me a bewildered stare as I slowly turned my head up to the vaulted ceiling of the hall. "Gah..." I finished my sentence lamely. Lily continued to gape at me blankly.
"What on earth are you talking about? I watched you get your book and put it into your satchel. Are you all right?" she asked, coming back up the stairs and appearing rather annoyed when I made no response but to continue staring at the ceiling. "What the hell are you—oh, bloody fucking hell," she ended nearly as badly as me as she followed my gaze. "Please tell me that's not what I think it is."
But it was: a huge, mountainous, mammoth chocolate cake. Floating. In the middle of the high ceilings of the entrance hall. The cake was tiered, with three separate layers, a bit like a wedding cake except that it was brown and simple (it had no fancy icing or the figurines of a bride and groom on top). And, of course, did I mention that it was floating?
"Bloody fucking hell," I said, copying Lily's laconic statement. It seemed enough answer for her question because she hissed like an angry cat and whirled around, looking a bit like I pictured a manticore (boy, I would have loved to have seen one of those, but unfortunately I had to rely on pictures in books).
"James Bloody Potter!" she growled as she marched back up the stairs to find the dead man, aka James Bloody Potter. And indeed, James probably would be bloody when she was done with him, though the cake had yet to harm anyone.
I remained where I was. If anyone knew how the Marauders worked their pranks, it was me; I'd had enough experiences with Sirius' to know that the Marauders just did not do simple idiotic jokes like make cakes float around the entrance hall where no one would even notice it anyways. They're pranks usually involved hideously idiotic jokes like scaring the crap out of some first year or making cakes explode or... oh.
I spun around, determined to follow Lily, or more accurately to hurry her out of the entrance hall before the cake ended up all of the walls in order to perhaps save whatever Lily left of James. Unfortunately, my enlightenment came too late. As I took my first step towards Lily, the chocolate cake blew.
First I heard the sounds. The explosion rocked the ground, shook the walls. Then there were the screams of the students and teachers in the hall, piercing through the blast like shards of glass.
Second, I was almost knocked forward onto my face as tons of cake hit the walls, floors, ceilings, and people, and most importantly my entire backside. As it was, I stumbled forward, catching Lily's arm as we both slipped and almost fell into the cakey sludge. I snorted at the sight of Lily's face.
The back of her red hair was completely covered in brown and slimy yellow sludge. The mixture was all up and down the back of her, and me, I imagine. Her face was scarlet, most likely from fury. I'd hate to be James right now, or any of the Marauders, the way Lily's complexion was still growing darker, now nearly the color of my hair.
Around us, people seemed to realize that they were coated in what could only be described as a vile sludge made from what seemed to be chocolate cake and dungbombs. Lily and I had been lucky: our backs had been turned. Most of the students, as I said before, were headed towards the Great Hall for breakfast; they had received the explosion from the front, covered from head to toe. Those who had been right beneath it (of which Melanie was included in their number) were almost completely plastered with the sludge from every side, front, back, and top. The sheer size of the cake was enough to cover the entire entrance hall and virtually every person in it with the despicable mixture, and I was almost surprised that the force of the blast hadn't knocked more than half the students over and hadn't cracked the very foundation that Hogwarts sat upon. Students and teachers were rushing into the hall from both the Great Hall and the corridors branching off into the rest of the school, only to slip and fall into the yellow-brown slime. People were still yelling, and my ears were beginning to ring.
"Well then..." I stated, deciding to keep the fact that Lily now looked like a plum, with a large red sunburn that was covered in mud, to myself. As if she could read my mind (you never know, I suppose), Lily glared at me and hissed, "Sod off!"
Without adding more, she hooked my arm and pulled me with her back out of the hall and unfortunately right into the Marauders, who were cackling about their latest prank. I barely had time to register the fact that Sirius was rather attractive while cackling, and to mentally slap myself for thinking such foolish things, before Lily started screaming at them. My eyes widened as she yelled, scolding them and insulting them with every foul word under the sun. McGonagall and Dumbledore showed up after about five minutes, but the pair of teachers seemed slightly afraid to interrupt Lily Evans mid-diatribe. So they watched on as Lily spent another fifteen minutes raging at the four guys, all four of who were cowering.
When Lily was finished, I sighed heavily and scowled at them all.
"Specifics would help next time, James." James grinned, even though it was obvious that he knew he was going to be in detention for at least a week.
Sirius snorted as if he'd just noticed me. "You look like a moldy eggplant!" he exclaimed. I valiantly resisted the urge to laugh and instead scowled at him.
"It's your bloody fault!" I complained, kicking him in the shin, an act that had little to no effect.
"All the better," Sirius countered, smirking and kicking me back, an act that had considerably more effect than mine had and that caused me to yelp and grab my shin while I hopped on one foot. He laughed, and James chuckled a little (Lily did the honor of slapping him for me). "I didn't know eggplants could jump!"
I opened my mouth to cuss at him, but McGonagall cut me off.
"That is enough, Mr. Black! As Miss Evans has kindly expressed, what you have done was extremely foolish, and you are very lucky that nothing was damaged. Each of you will receive detention, and twenty-five points will be taken from Gryffindor. Now, morning classes will be cancelled this morning, as I'm sure that no one wants to go to class layered in... well, in smelly, slimy goop."
"Well now, now that that's settled, I believe I see fit occasion for a celebration," Dumbledore said. The three women gaped at him.
"Professor, er, not to be rude or anything, but what the hell are you talking about?" I asked.
Dumbledore beamed at me. "Why don't you ask Mr. Lupin? As for me, I'm going to go and make sure that all the students find themselves where they should be." He smiled at each of the people around him and went back into the entrance hall, followed by McGonagall.
Lily and I turned to Remus for answers.
"Er," he said, glancing at his friends. James nodded in encouragement. "Well, see, today is the seventh year anniversary of our first great prank. You remember it, don't you, Artemis?"
I gave him a baffled look before enlightenment hit me. I growled. "Well, it was a repressed memory."
Remus and James grinned, Sirius snorted, and Peter laughed as they thought of the prank they'd pulled first year. They'd turned the Great Hall into a swampy lake in the middle of lunch, covering students, tables, and food in slimy green algae and muddy water, and making the Hall reek of rotting fish. They had received a week and a half's worth of detention for the stunt. "Well, you asked..."
"That's stupid!" Lily snapped, grabbing my forearm and pulling me towards the staircase. "Idiots! Like that's really any reason to celebrate!"
James caught up with us and squeezed his way between us, throwing his arms over both our shoulders. He gave Lily an upset look.
"Of course, I didn't mean to let it get you, Lily! That's why I warned Ar," he said, glaring sideways at me, "but she obviously didn't heed the warning or you two wouldn't have been down here."
Lily flushed and glared at me too. I chose to not respond to either James' accusation or Lily's glowering; instead I shrugged out from under James' arm, expecting Lily to follow the suit. She didn't. To my great, but completely gleeful surprise, Lily let James walk with his arm around her shoulder, still blubbering on about how he'd meant to keep her out of their line of fire. I smiled at their backs as Remus and Peter drew level with me, Sirius lagging behind us.
"So, Artemis, I heard you're back on the team," Remus said nonchalantly.
My smiled brightened even more. "I am! I'm actually quite looking forward to practice, even though it's pouring out. Rain's my favorite weather to play in!"
"Why?" Peter asked, giving me my own curious, sideways glance.
"Well..." I actually had to think about it, and in the end I came up with: "More risks, I suppose. Visibility's low, getting a grip on the broomstick is harder, and I guess the game is just all around more challenging. I don't think things that are easy are much fun at all."
Remus raised an eyebrow at me. "I agree."
"I don't get it..." Peter said, furrowing his brow.
"Kind of like a girl playing hard to get," Sirius put in helpfully from a few steps behind us.
"Exactly!" Then I realized what he'd said. I scowled. "Well, sort of. I reckon that's the same... I'm probably not the best judge of that..."
Sirius smirked. "I'd hope not, or most of the male population at Hogwarts would be sorely disappointed. After all, most men don't really like fucking girls with lesbian tendencies." He paused and looked thoughtful. “Or do they? Ah, maybe, maybe not...”
I gaped at him stupidly before shaking my head. "You know, men like you are the reason I'm still a virgin."
Now Sirius gaped at me, along with Peter and Remus. By now, Lily and James were far enough ahead that I'm pretty sure they didn't hear.
"You're... still a virgin?" Sirius asked, suddenly grinning wickedly, a look that made my skin crawl and my cheeks burn.
"Just because I've had a lot of boyfriends doesn't mean I'm a slag," I snapped.
Sirius snorted. "Actually, most guys think it does. There are exceptions, of course, but girls who have many boyfriends are the sort that are usually into a relationship for sex. As soon as it's over, she's off with another guy, or guys." I tried to keep the disgust from my face, but Sirius laughed, so I don't reckon I did a good job of it.
"I told you she wasn't doing any of that stuff," Remus said, leaning around me to give Sirius a smug stare.
"How do you know she isn't lying?" Sirius asked, smirking at my obvious distaste for the conversation. We'd finally reached the corridor with the portrait hole, so I quickened my pace.
"She has way too much pride and dignity to have sex until after she's married."
"Well, I can certainly fix that."
I had just reached the opened portrait hole, but I whirled around and whipped my wand out. "Just what the hell are you implying, Black?" I snarled viciously.
Sirius chuckled and patted my head. "I'll just leave you to surmise, shall I? You can just let me know when you've figured it out. But really, you ought to go wash; you smell horribly."
And he strode off, leaving me and Remus and Peter to stare after him open-mouthed.
"He said what?" James asked again.
"He said he could fix it," Peter piped in.
Sirius was seriously getting annoyed with them all. They'd been talking about Artemis and the guys' conversation ever since they'd returned to the common room that morning and they were now approaching their last class, Care of Magical Creatures.
"He said he could certainly fix it," Remus added, smiling in a weird way at his myopic friend. James suddenly cracked into a similar grin. He elbowed Sirius' side.
"Knew you liked her, mate. But, I think that admitting to wanting to have sex with her is a bit much. Take it from someone who has experience in that area," said James, patting his best mate on the back.
Sirius gagged out of reflex. "I do not like her! I hold by everything that I've said about her since first year. Except maybe the physical aspects because she's really developed quite—" he cut himself off when he noticed Remus and James' smug expressions. "I don't like her! There's a difference between liking her and being physically attracted to her. And right now, I'm physically attracted to her. That's not really something I can control, you know."
"True, true. You're a man, and men are physically attracted to women, especially to beautiful women, which is exactly what she is. So you're attracted to her, physically, that is to say, right now. But later on—"
"No, no later on! I'm attracted to her, physically; I'll admit that much. I'm attracted to her, right now, and perhaps for a long time, but I will never be any more than physically attracted to her, you understand? Never!"
The four were silent as they sprinted across the lawns to where Professor Kettleburn was waiting under the tents that had been constructed. The girls, namely Artemis and Lily, were already waiting in their drenched cloaks, along with the others who had decided to continue with the class after O.W.L.s. James kept a careful eye on Sirius as they entered the shelter, and he noticed that Sirius' eyes never once strayed from her face.
Physically attracted his ass.
I was glad to find my life returning to normal again, I thought as I headed to the sopping Quidditch field later that evening. I was already ready for practice and I was much too early, but that suited me just fine. I was more than content to fly around the pitch in rain, pondering what the fuck Sirius had meant when he'd said he could "fix that," and what the hell he was going to fix.
Was I broken? Well, admittedly I was a bit odd, not exactly like a normal girl but completely plain at the same time. I had a short temper, there was some strange person who continuously and unfortunately graced my conscience with its presence, and the fact that I was related to Salazar Slytherin might make some of my classmates a bit on edge.
But did that make me broken? I didn't think so. But if I wasn't broken, what did Sirius want to fix? Thinking back on our conversation, we'd been talking about my virginity, my pride, and my dignity. So there were three choices that made sense: he was going to fix the fact that I was a virgin, the fact that I was too proud for my own good, or the fact that I had any dignity left. None of these choices sounded particularly pleasant to me at the moment.
Leaning over my broomstick, I egged it on, faster and faster around the pitch. I scarcely noticed when a second broomstick joined me. In fact, I didn't notice until James nearly knocked me off my broom in order to get my attention. Slowing to a halt, I scowled at him. His lips moved, but I couldn't hear the words.
I frowned and pointed at my ears, yelling, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
James pouted a little. "I SAID, BLOODY HELL, IT'S FREEZING OUT HERE!" he roared. I chuckled. Leave it to James, Quidditch captain, to be the first to complain about the weather.
"AH, COME ON, POTTER, CAN'T TAKE A LITTLE RAIN?"
He glared at me, then exchanged the look for a smile. "I'LL SHOW YOU WHO CAN'T TAKE THE RAIN! RACE ME ROUND THE PITCH?"
I nodded, then screamed, "SURE!" just in case he couldn't see me well.
"KAY!" he shouted, holding up his hand with his fingers spread wide in his Quidditch gloves. "ON GO! THREE—" he held up three fingers—"TWO—" two fingers—"ONE—" one finger—"GO!"
Both of us shot off like rockets. We both had top of the line broomsticks, and neither of us were holding back as the rain and wind whipped our faces. We were halfway round the pitch—two-thirds—three-quarters. I had fifty feet to go—twenty-five feet—
I ran straight into Sirius, almost flying off my broomstick for the second time that night. I steadied my broom, trying to regain some semblance of balance; Sirius had whirled away at impact, laughing as he twirled and flipped upside down. He was like a wall, though, compared to me, and as I rubbed my sure-to-be-bruised-in-the-morning left arm and knee he rejoined me, looking rather amused at the damage he'd caused.
"OOPS!" he yelled, as James flew back to us.
"YOU'RE SUCH AN ASS, BLACK!"
He smirked at me. He was so bloody arrogant. I was about to say that if he didn't wipe the smirk off his face, I would wipe it off for him, but at that point the other four members of the team joined us. Silvia and Terry both glowered at me, Wes gave me a thumbs up and a bright smile, and Mike, the youngest member on the team and one of the beaters, just stared at me with wide eyes, like he thought I was going to eat him.
"KAY, CHAPS, I KNOW IT'S RAINING, BUT FIRST GAME IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY, AND THIS SHITTY WEATHER WILL JUST MAKE US BETTER! SO HERE'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO!" James bellowed, attempting to be heard over the downpour. "WES, I DON'T WANT TO LOSE THE SNITCH IN THE RAIN, SO I'M GOING TO CHUCK SOME MUGGLE GOLF BALLS EVERYWHERE AND YOU'LL CATCH THEM. SIRIUS AND ARTEMIS, YOU TWO WORK ON SOME OF OUR TATICS WITH SILVIA, BUT YOU MIGHT WANT TO START WITH SOME CATCH SINCE AR HASN'T PLAYED IN A WHILE..." he shot me an apologetic look, and the rest of the team shuffled nervously. "MIKE AND TERRY, YOU TWO JUST KEEP THE BLUDGERS FROM KILLING US! VISIBILITY'S PRETTY BAD, SO MAKE SURE YOU DON'T MISS!"
I laughed, but nobody heard me. Probably a good thing. So we all headed off to our respective positions, James and Wes practicing with golf balls, Mike and Terry whacking the bludgers, and Sirius and me trying to get a goal against Silvia.
Complying with James wishes, the three of us began with some catch: Sirius threw the ball to me, I tossed it to Silvia, and Silvia hurled it back to Sirius. I was surprised, the first time I threw the ball, how everything else, all my worries, all my problems, seemed to fall away. When we were adequately warmed up, Silvia flew off to the goal posts and Sirius and I grinned at each other.
"I WAS BORN READY!"
He tossed the Quaffle to me and I took off down the pitch, winding in and out of the tall flag posts along the sides. After a few seconds, I threw the ball back to Sirius, he caught it and sped towards the posts, where Silvia was waiting. He feinted and chucked the ball over his head to where he knew I would be and I threw the ball towards the leftmost hoop, whooping when it went through. I rolled my broom in midair, and I heard Sirius cheering with me.
I smiled. After four years of Quidditch with Sirius and James, and with Sirius and my feud still going strong, it always amazed me just how well we could work together.
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