Chapter 10 : What Can Go Wrong, Will
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Halloween dawned brilliantly that Saturday, and I felt that even nature was with me today. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was unusually warm and there wasn’t a breeze, and as the sun rose the sky turned from midnight blue to dazzling pink to a lovely azure. It seemed as if the day might be just perfect. The only problem, I thought as I arrived late to breakfast, was that Sirius was going to be present in a large part of my day, and that thought was enough to conjure my own personal rain cloud. Well, really, the day was so perfect that the rain cloud hadn’t actually started raining yet. I had spent as much time in the girls’ dorms getting ready as possible, changing and re-changing my clothes, thus the reason I was late and the reason I was still in a cheerful mood.
I took my seat between Lily and Mira at the Gryffindor table and pulled a golden plate my way, grabbing some eggs and toast as well.
“There you are,” Lily said, relief coloring her countenance. “I was worried you weren’t going to show...” She raised her eyebrows.
I snorted and took a bite of my food so that I couldn’t respond. Mira rolled her eyes.
“Potter and Black already went back to the common room. They said they’d wait for us there.”
Having swallowed my food and containing no strong desire to speak of the task before me, I said, “Where’s Olivia?” Lily answered by looking down the table, where Melanie and Olivia were huddled together and chatting with dark looks. I gaped at them. “Since when—“
“No idea,” Lily said. “Just, this morning, she walked straight past us and sat down with Melanie.”
The pair of girls glanced over at us as if they knew we were talking about them, though this was impossible because they were well out of earshot. I rolled my eyes as Melanie glared at me. At the same time, I noticed that Melanie was not the only one. A lot of girls were huddled together, no matter what table they were at. They were muttering quietly to each other and were glancing at me occasionally, most of them with angry expressions, some with vaguely interested ones. For a second, I wondered if I had something on my face; then I realized why I was receiving so much attention.
“They’re all just jealous,” I said out loud, shrugging at Lily and Mira and returning to my breakfast. The other two had not noticed the rest of the girls, but now they did and Lily scowled around them. I grinned at her. “And I’m sure that I’m not the only one their jealous of. You know, Black and James are notoriously popular with women, even if we hate them.”
“I don’t understand. Why would anyone like Potter? Or Black? They’re both arrogant, pompous little bastards and I certainly wouldn’t want to go with either of them.”
I laughed. “And yet here we are, preparing for our dooms.” I raised my goblet and proclaimed, “To Lily, whose life will end the second she goes up to the common room and realizes truly that she is about to go on a date with the James Potter!”
Lily snorted as Mira raised her own goblet and said, “Lily.” Then she picked up her goblet of orange juice and said, “To Artemis, the crazy witch who tricked me into going on a date with the James Potter by agreeing to go on a date with the Sirius Black, thus agreeing to end her own life!”
I sighed dramatically and drunk to my fate.
“Well, I do hope you’ll survive the day, ladies, because I have been told that the Halloween feast is going to be most scrumptious this year!”
I jumped out of my seat and sprayed my pumpkin juice over what remained of the food on the table. “Pro-Professor Dumbledore!” I choked, glancing over my shoulder at the headmaster himself. He smiled and chuckled at my horrified expression.
“I think you’ll find that your dooms are getting impatient and are waiting in the entrance hall, as opposed to your common room. You may also find that it may not be as horrible as you’d anticipated, if you only put your doubts behind you. Now, off you go, before Mr. Potter and Mr. Black get bored and blow something up.” Without another word, Dumbledore wandered off, stopping occasionally to startle another lingering student. Lily, Mira, and I stared after him, but Lily snapped out of her confusion fairly quickly.
“He’s right, you know. If we don’t hurry up, they just might blow something up.” She stood and indicated that I should do the same. “Mira, are you—“
“I’m going, yes, with Hyper, if you can believe it! Maybe we’ll run into each other? I’ll see you two later.” She stood as well and gave me a nervous look. “Er, have fun, and, er, don’t do anything, you know, rash...”
“I’ll try...” I muttered, but she was already hurrying away to find Hyper, so Lily grabbed my elbow and steered me toward the entrance hall. Once there, we saw that Dumbledore had indeed been correct: the two guys were waiting for us by the marble staircase, dressed in their casual jeans and t-shirts. I noticed James’ eyes survey Lily’s outfit with interest; her eyes narrowed suspiciously when he hesitated for a second too long on the hem of her knee-length ebony skirt, but it was only for a second. His eyes returned to Lily’s green ones as he offered his hand to Lily. She glared at him, but I was pleasantly surprised when she took his arm. He grinned and led the way across the hall.
Sirius, meanwhile, was staring at me with badly concealed disgust.
“Not very keen on this, are you?” he said, eyeing my ratty red t-shirt and worn jeans with a sharp look. “Not a very attractive choice of clothing. You’d think you could afford some nice clothes.”
“Well, I’d hate to tempt you, Black,” I said with a nasty smile. “I really was more aiming for comfortable than attractive.”
“As if you could pull off attractive anyway.” Lily and James were glancing back at us nervously now as we followed them out the front doors and into the courtyard, where the caretaker, Mr. Filch, was checking off students who were leaving.
“At least I can do better than you,” I mumbled, but at the same time, perhaps lucky for me, the clock tower began chiming ten o’clock and very little could be heard. Sirius just scowled at me and didn’t say anything else as we walked down the path to the gates a few steps behind Lily and James.
“James?” I asked as we entered the village. No one else was really saying anything, and the entire situation was beginning to make me feel rather strained. James looked at me over his shoulder. “Where are we going?”
He smiled and instant dread filled me.
“No!” I groaned, suddenly getting the urge to hurl. Sirius snorted.
“But, Ar, it’s just for a bit of tea, I don’t really see why you don’t—“ but now Sirius had paled considerably. He shook his head very quickly. Lily was the only one who didn’t seem to understand.
“Where?” she asked, looking adorable when she was confused, which was an expression not usually seen on Lily Evans’ face.
“Madam Puddifoot’s.” Lily blinked and positively glowed.
“I love Madam Puddifoot’s!” Lily exclaimed. “She serves the most excellent tea! And it’s such a delightful little teashop!”
James grinned and looked back at Sirius and I again. “Sirius? Artemis?”
And Lily glared at us with a look so malicious that we really didn’t have much choice.
When we entered the small shop, I nearly gagged. The place was not nearly as bad as it had been last time I’d seen it, when it had been decorated for the students visiting Hogsmeade the day before Valentine’s Day; however, it was still horrendously disgusting. Couples sat at small tables, drinking teas and coffees and holding hands or snogging each other’s brains out. The tables were all decorated with what I called fluffy colors: pinks, purples, soft blues and greens; most of them held small vases of flowers. Grimacing, I followed Lily, James, and Sirius to a table in the corner, one with a soft pink tablecloth and a bunch of frilly purple flowers that were unknown to me.
“Disgusting,” I muttered under my breath as I slumped in my chair.
The only positive thing about the place was that Sirius was quite obviously as disgusted as I was. He was scowling across the table to where James and Lily sat arguing about James not releasing Lily’s hand.
“What can I get for you, dears?” Madam Puddifoot herself was standing next to their table, looking amused at the struggle that was occurring and at the stony faces of Sirius and Artemis. Lily immediately stopped fighting with James and smiled at the woman widely. James smirked smugly as he held Lily’s hand tighter.
He was allowed to hold her hand until everyone had ordered and Madam Puddifoot had sauntered off to get their drinks. At this point, Lily shot him a glare and he released her, though he looked very morose about having to do so. He muttered an apology, another surprise, but continued to gaze at her steadily. None of us said anything. Eventually, predictably, I grew bored with the lack of conversation and the lack of anything to look at, so I focused the flowers in front of me.
They were a violet shade, though striped with a plum color every few centimeters. The flower grew bigger around the outside, causing it to droop down over the table, but still looking rather beautiful at the same time. Leaning closer, I saw that the thick purple petals were all connected and that there were thin silver rods protruding from the middle of the bloom.
“What are you doing?” Sirius hissed in my ear.
I jerked away from him, nearly falling off my chair in the attempt, and ignored his laughter as I straightened myself up in my chair.
“That wasn’t funny!” I growled, giving him a dirty look. James and Lily looked nervously between the two of us.
Sirius snickered. “Actually, it was. I’ve never seen anyone as interested in weeds as you, Gaunt!”
Heat crept up the back of my neck and into my cheeks. “W-weeds? They aren’t weeds, Black! They’re plants, and they’re a hell of a lot better to be around that you are!”
Sirius suddenly changed: his amused look become something dark and anger painted his tone. “They’re only better because they can’t tell you how much they hate you, unlike me and, oh, say, every other person in Hogwarts! If you like your stupid plants so much, maybe you should go live in the forest! If we’re all lucky, maybe you’ll get eaten by a werewolf,” he snarled viciously.
There was silence as I tried to think of a retort, but nothing came to me. Everything that did I forced to the back of my mind. Lily’s first date with James, I reminded myself. That’s why I was doing this. That’s why I was going to sit here and try to forget what Sirius had just said. My jaw clenched tightly, painfully almost, as Madam Puddifoot returned with our drinks. She set my coffee in front of me and I concentrated on nothing but the cup.
Sirius was seriously tempted to transform into a dog right there. The world just seemed so much less complicated when he was Padfoot, as opposed to when he was Sirius, and right now complicated just about summed it all up. However, revealing the fact that he was an illegal animagus in a crowded shop in the middle of Hogsmeade was probably not the best idea at the moment, especially because Artemis and him were already screwing up his best mate’s first date with the woman he loved. Shaking his head, he focused on the coffee that Madam Puddifoot had just placed in front of him, and then realized that Artemis was doing the same thing and turned his gaze to James.
“Where are, er, where are Remus and Peter?” Lily asked, her voice shaking a little from an emotion that Sirius couldn’t identify. He suspected, however, that she was either angry or nervous. Artemis continued to stare at her coffee and Sirius continued to stare at James.
“Er, well, Remus said he was feeling a little ill, so he’s stayed behind, and Peter didn’t want to come by himself...” James answered when it became obvious that Sirius had no intention of responding. Lily nodded, sipping her tea. “Er...”
“First Quidditch is in a few days,” Lily pointed out, more to the entire table than to James. After all, the other three were all in Quidditch. Surely, one of the other two would respond.
Neither looked away from the object they were staring at. James, who was starting to get creeped out by Sirius’ never-ceasing gaze, kicked Sirius under the table. Sirius’ facial expression didn’t change; he was too focused on the tip of James’ nose to concern himself with the pain in his shin. James seemed to find this aggravating; he changed tactics, snatching a buttered crumpet from the tray and tossing it at his face. This caused a bit more reaction, much to James’ pleasure. Sirius wiped the butter from his forehead with the back of his hand.
“Sorry, didn’t catch that...” he muttered, still glaring at James nose as though he were offended by it.
“Quidditch, Sirius,” James said helpfully. “Next Saturday.”
“Yeah, we’re, er, looking good. Got it in the bag,” Sirius said.
Another thump under the table: Lily had followed James’ lead and kicked Artemis.
“Ought to be interesting,” Artemis said with a hint of pain in her voice. “Definitely going to win, though.”
James and Lily shared a glance, and then looked at their friends. Both had opened their mouths to say something, but Artemis interrupted.
“Course, that means that Sirius will have to apologize before then.” Her gaze had risen to the ceiling now, but the look was identical to Sirius’. Sirius, however, had turned his stare onto her. James and Lily now looked horrified. This date was definitely not going the way they’d thought it would.
“Have to what?” Sirius whispered threateningly, his eyes narrowed and his jaw stiff.
“You heard me, Black,” Artemis snapped.
Sirius snorted. “The day I apologize to you will be the day hell freezes over! And besides,” his voice dropped to a whisper, “I meant what I said.”
His three companions gaped at him in shock, but Sirius looked only at Artemis. Emotions flashed through her ice-blue eyes: hurt, fury, some other things that Sirius couldn’t possibly recognize, but lastly her eyes turned cold, as if suddenly the soul inside them had suddenly died. Sirius knew that he was being sadistic, especially since he knew he really hadn’t meant any of it and would sorely regret it if she were to vanish, but he couldn’t help feeling happy at all the pain and suffering in her eyes. James and Lily saw none of this; they were too busy staring with open mouths at Sirius’ cold expression. They both knew what would come next, but Artemis seemed to be taking the situation quite coolly. Artemis slowly stood up, moving as if she were afraid the ground under her would collapse if she went to fast. Sirius’ gray eyes followed her sluggish movement as she picked up her coffee cup and looked at Lily and James.
“Lily, James... I hope the rest of your date goes good,” she said, raising her coffee up as if toasting them. “Sorry,” she added, as if an afterthought. With an impish smile, she turned on her heel and poured her coffee on Sirius’ shaggy black head, slammed the cup back onto the table, and stomped from the teashop with her head held high.
Lily had to fight the smile that wanted terribly bad to appear on her lips. James was still gazing at his friend, presumably shocked by both what Sirius had said and what Artemis had done. Sirius, however, was steaming. Literally. And resisting the urge scream. Artemis’ coffee was still hot and his scalp felt like it was on fire. But aside from this, Sirius was also steaming on the inside.
He’d expected her to rant. He’d expected her to hex him. He’d expected her to turn either red or purple; either would have satisfied him. He’d expected her to storm out and she had. He had not expected her to dump her hot coffee on his head, and now he was definitely sorry that he’d taunted her, because he felt like his skin was going to fall off and his hair was going to fall out. And he was hideously embarrassed by the fact that it had been Artemis who’d poured her drink on his head.
Then the anger hit. Sirius was suddenly furious, his face was burning, and his head felt like it was going to explode. Artemis’ cup cracked and Sirius’ coffee began bubbling angrily.
“Sirius,” James hissed across the table, wrenching Artemis’ cup towards him. Lily seemed to have recovered her usual attitude. She leaned across the table, peering at Sirius around the vase of flowers.
“Go and find her,” she commanded in a low voice. “Before she does something stupid.”
Sirius stared at her. “What? She pours coffee on me, and I’m the one who has to find her? To hell with that, Evans, you find her yourself!” Sirius snapped, jumping from his seat and tracing Artemis’ path out the door.
Lily glanced at James, but James shook his head.
“They’ll figure it out. Besides... he’s going to find her anyways.” Lily wasn’t so sure, but his smug look inspired such confidence that she couldn’t help but agree.
With every step I took toward the castle, my fury grew. By the time I reached the doors, I was fuming, seething with it. I wrenched open the door, earning the surprised stares of people in the courtyard and in the entrance hall and all the way up to Gryffindor tower. Thankfully, the common room was empty. I marched up the girls’ staircase to my dormitory, also empty. I didn’t really notice, though. I collapsed on my bed, burying my face into my pillow; it took my seconds, however, to realize that I was in no mood to bawl into my pillow. So instead, I stood back up and started pacing. I felt like I was going to burst, like my fury was filling me up, overwhelming me, like it was going to make me explode. I ground my teeth together furiously, scowled at Mira’s bedside table, noticing something silver glinting at me...
But, something seemed funny. Something seemed out of sorts. Everything seemed to blur in and out of my focus. At once, everything faded away, and then ran back to me in a stream. I shook my head, trying to clear what felt like a heavy fog from my brain, but to no avail.
Quite suddenly, everything faded once again, but this time it didn’t come back. I wasn’t moving at all, but I was. I couldn’t see or hear anything. I wanted to snort at the irony: I’d heard the phrase “blind fury” before, but this was rather ridiculous. I mean, really, who ever actually went blind with fury?
I was brought suddenly back from the black, the numbness, by a strange, strangled yell. As my senses returned to me, I saw someone peering at me with an expression of surprised fear and pain. Their black hair was plastered to their face, which was coated with a fine layer of sweat, and their blue eyes were wide as fat tears rolled down their pale cheeks. For a second, I stared into their eyes, entranced by the flicker of frustration that was apparent there.
Then I realized that the someone was myself, my reflection in Mira’s mirror, and that the yell had been mine as well. Pain, agonizing pain, shot up my left arm. Slowly, my eyes fell downward, and a second cry burst from me, ending in an excruciating groan.
Mira’s silvery scissors, the same ones she’d used to cut my hair, the ones that had been glinting at me from her small vanity, were now embedded about half an inch deep in my left forearm. My right hand was gripping the middle of the blades as if it had a mind of its own, and as I watched in horror my body pulled the scissors up for another attack on my arm.
Blood, sweet blood! the voice cooed in my ears, back from wherever it had been hiding during the past month. Die, Artemis Gaunt...
Realization hit me almost like someone had whacked me upside the head with a broomstick. Die, Artemis Gaunt? I knew for a fact that I did not want to die, and I definitely didn’t want to kill myself. Logically, therefore, the voice in my head could not be mine.
Someone else was inside my head.
This epiphany led me to regain control of my limbs. The voice in my head hissed as the scissors fell to the floor, leaving deep red droplets on the already scarlet carpet. I gripped my left arm, feeling the blood flowing between my fingers. My breathing was becoming more ragged as I forced the hissing to the back of my mind.
What was I supposed to do? I should not just stand here, waiting for someone to find me. There was one conclusion that people would surely jump to: they would think that I was cutting, that I was suicidal, neither of which I was. However, people would probably think the same thing if I darted down the stairs bleeding, looking like I’d just stabbed myself. The fact that I had was irrelevant, as in truth I hadn’t really stabbed myself. Someone else had done it using my body.
Wow, I was getting confused.
Looking wildly around the dormitory, I ran back to my bed, threw open my trunk, and shifted through my belongings, hoping to find something to bandage my arm with. When I found nothing, I tried to think of another plan. How did people do it when they had nothing to bandage a wound with? Acting on a whim, I stripped of my red t-shirt and tore it into strips, fusing them together and binding them around my arm firmly with my wand (the shirt was old and red; I figured no one would guess that I was bleeding if they happened to see it). That done, I pulled on a newer shirt, a sea green tunic-style shirt with long sleeves that would cover my arm. I wished strongly that I had a potion to drink for the pain, but of course, I had no such thing.
Instead, I set to siphoning the blood from Mira’s scissors and from the vanity and the carpet. Finally, the room was satisfactory enough that no one would be able tell that there had been blood anywhere and I knew that no one would figure out what had happened. I looked down at my arm, still bleeding and still painful though hidden under layers. Maybe Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t ask what had happened? I could always say that I’d tripped and impaled myself on a stick or a rock or something...
Deciding that this was the best option, as the pain was horrendous and I was starting to get rather nauseous, I started down the stairs, still grasping my arm as if it were going to fall off. I stepped off the bottom stair and into the common room, and then instantly recoiled when I saw Sirius, sitting in the armchair closest to the door, which had been pulled around to face the girls’ staircase. Sirius was lounging in the armchair as though it was a throne, but he straightened up a little when our eyes made contact. I released my arm and shrank back into the shadows while Sirius’ gray eyes bore into mine. I wondered briefly if he could see the pain in my expression, and I also remembered that I was absolutely furious with him. Then he spoke.
“S’wrong with you?” he said, giving me a suspicious look, as though my being in my dormitory was something heinous. I winced, wondering if he’d seen through me. “You changed your shirt,” he said factually after a minute. When I only replied by scowling at him, he said, “That one’s much more appealing.”
I had to work extremely hard to keep my face impassive (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to glare or to smile, oddly enough), and to keep myself from strangling him (he was such an ass). I breathed deeply through my nose, concentrating on the pain in my arm, so that I couldn’t rise to the bait he was setting for me. But I couldn’t look away from his gray eyes. I couldn’t tell what was running through his mind, but I saw his brain working, analyzing behind those silvery orbs, trying to figure out what I was up to.
With no retort to respond to, our silence continued while we stared into each other’s eyes (it sounds rather romantic, doesn’t it? It wasn’t). Finally, when my legs started to complain at me because I’d been standing in the doorway so long, and the strangeness of the situation began to aggravate me, I glared at him and asked in an annoyed tone, “What are you doing?”
He shrugged and continued to stare at me. I huffed haughtily and moved toward the portrait hole, but Sirius was already there in front of me.
“Where are you going?” he asked nonchalantly.
“To live in the forest,” I snapped caustically, losing my patience as my arm throbbed. “If you’re lucky, I’ll get eaten!”
His eyes widened as I attempted to dodge around him, but I obviously hadn’t stunned him as much as I thought I had because his hand reached out to grab mine. I gasped at the pain as he (ironically) seized my arm exactly where it hurt the most. Sirius looked even more baffled at my outburst, but he loosened his grip regardless.
“What’s wrong with your arm?” he inquired quietly, and I knew that he knew, or at least he thought that he knew, what had happened upstairs.
I responded with a cold and defiant look, which was probably not the most convincing reaction, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. His look grew withdrawn and he allowed me to pull my arm away from him. I walked out of the portrait hole, glancing back as the Fat Lady closed behind me. Sirius watched me go with that mysterious expression still on his face.
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